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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – “What Is Dead May Never Die”

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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – Episode 2.03 – “What Is Dead May Never Die” – Original Airdate: 4/15/12

Episode Grade: A-

One of the more prominent themes of Game Of Thrones’ second season has been power – who has it and who wants it. To that end, “What Is Dead May Never Die” examines how those who have power wield it and how those who want it go about trying to get it. Tyrion continues to settle into his role as Hand Of The King and, as he promised in “The Night Lands” is showing himself to be a much more deft political mover than the last person to hold his role, devising a clever plan to determine who in King’s Landing he can trust. He spins a tale to Maester Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger – changing details each time the story is told – about arranging a marriage for Cersei’s youngest daughter Myrcella that would be of military benefit in the upcoming war against Robb Stark. He specifically tells each man that Cersei cannot find out, knowing full well that the one(s) he can’t trust will report back to the Queen. And, indeed, it’s the elderly Pycelle who betrays him and Tyrion punishes him by not only having him thrown in jail, but also humiliating the man by having Bronn cut Pycelle’s beard off. The insult to injury is that all of this happens as Pycelle is in the company of, er… a professional woman who watches the entire scene playout. In the course of the plan’s execution, Littlefinger expresses his displeasure with being deceived but Tyrion lets him know that he has another plan for him – one that involves Littlefinger’s beloved Catelyn Stark. Watching a confident Tyrion operate in King’s Landing while flying in the faces of both Cersei and Joffrey has been one of the season’s biggest thrills to date. Between his dispatching of Lord Slynt from his position as commander of the City Watch in “The Night Lands” to his removal of Pycelle here, Tyrion is picking off any and all council members who are in things for themselves, while at the same time weakening the Joffrey/Cersei combo. His stature belies the power he now possesses, and he knows exactly how to exert it. While Tyrion is in possession of power, Theon Greyjoy and Renly Baratheon [1] are among those trying to seize power for themselves though both seem positioned to be on opposite sides of the battle. Theon’s return to his home on the Iron Islands isn’t necessarily going exactly as he’d planned after initially being sent as an emissary for Robb Stark. His father, Lord Balon Greyjoy, is not enamored of the idea of playing second fiddle to Robb and, to that end, forces Theon – his last remaining son – to choose between the family who raised him and the family whose blood he shares. He has a difficult time reconciling this choice, particularly when rightfully striking back at his father for abandoning him in the first place [2] while also noting that his sister, Yara, has lapped him in consideration of authority in the coming battle [3]. In the end, Theon makes the difficult choice to throw his lot in with his own family, completely forsaking the Starks for an uncertain future. Another who believes he has claim to the throne and may end up pitted against family in the battle is Renly Baratheon. Catelyn, on behalf of Robb, visits Renly’s camp where he is now presiding over… something. He’s also engaged/married to a woman [4], Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer, The Tudors), whose own family has pledged themselves and their manpower to Renly’s cause in exchange for the power that Margaery’s placement as Queen would afford them. Renly seems amenable to joining forces with Robb, but we also learn that Margaery isn’t exactly the passive type of partner as she has designs on power of her own. After making Renly aware of the fact that she knows of his predilections [5], she also impresses upon him the wisdom of getting her pregnant in order to produce an heir as insurance against their enemies. I’d never seen Renly as that interesting of a character during his season one run but with the reboot, of sorts, of the character here as well as the introduction of Margaery, I’m much more invested in this storyline than I’d expected I would be. With all of the internal and external conflict on display in both Theon’s and Renly’s storylines, the differing approaches taken by Robb, Lord Balon, and Renly as it relates to taking power, as well as some more awesome chess-playing by Tyrion, “What Is Dead May Never Die” was easily the strongest of the nascent second season’s episodes.

[1] Making his first appearance since midway through the first season.
[2] “You gave me away! Your last boy! And now you curse me when I come home.”
[3] Lord Balon has decided to place Yara in control of 30 ships in the offensive while Theon gets a lone ship. Which will be used to attack fishermen. Quite the stark (haha – a pun) contrast.
[4] And knowing what we know about Renly to this point, that’s kind of surprising. That he’s carrying on clandestinely with her brother? Not as surprising.
[5] Upon attempting to “consummate” their relationship, she asks him, “Do you want my brother to come in and get you started? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Or, I could turn over and you could pretend I’m him.”

Miscellany:
*One other storyline that deserves attention is Arya and Gendry’s capture by Joffrey’s soldiers. I’d speculated after their first appearance in “The Night Lands” that the soldiers would be back before too long, but I frankly didn’t expect it to be this soon. In the midst of their return, we lost Yoren, though in badass fashion as he continued to fight even after being plugged with an arrow from a crossbow. There was a bit of deft maneuvering by Arya, however, when one of the soldiers demanded to know which child was Gendry and she shifted his identity to another adolescent who had just been killed (in brutal fashion by a sword through the throat) by one of the guards. That seems to be only a temporary type of solution but I’m very interested to see where this storyline is headed.
*On the other hand, I’m still not sure where all of the nonsense with Jon, the Night Watch, and Craster (the incestuous creep) fits in with this season’s narrative. Thus far, I can’t help but feel that it’s been wasted time. Hopefully time will prove me to be wrong in that regard.
*Even with his various machinations proving to be successful thus far, Tyrion still recognizes that Shae is a potential Achilles heel and, to that end, secures a position for her as Sansa’s handmaiden. With the rapid pace at which he’s accumulating enemies, hiding her in plain sight for the time being would seem to be a wise decision.
*And perhaps Tyrion is fearful for good reason, considering what a heartless [INSERT INSULT HERE] his sister Cersei is, demonstrated by telling Sansa that even if Joffrey kills Robb – incidentally against the wishes of Cersei’s other son, Tommen – Sansa must still do her duty and marry Joffrey. I have to say, Cersei’s moving up the hitlist of people who I’d like to see die on this show.
*The title of the episode comes from some sort of pre-battle ritual that Theon completes after making his decision to fight with his family.
*When we see Renly for the first time in “What Is Dead May Never Die,” he’s enjoying a battle between two of his subjects – one of whom is his soon-to-be brother-in-law/current lover and the other is a rather monstrous woman named Brienne of Tarth who ultimately ends up winning and securing a place for herself on his Kingsguard. I sense that we’re going to be seeing more of her as the second season progresses.
*Good introduction of Natalie Dormer as Margaery. Ohai, boobs.
*”I saw something take that child.” “Whatever it was, I daresay you’ll see it again.”
*”A very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
*”When I take King’s Landing, I’ll bring you Joffrey’s head.”
*”If Robb Stark wants a pact with us, he should come himself. Not hide behind his mother’s skirt.”
*”The last time I saw you, you looked like a fat little boy.”
*”Every man who has tasted my cooking has told me what a good whore I am.”
*”Oh, thank the Gods. I haven’t had a proper shit in six days.”
*”Make no mistake — they’ll mount her pretty little head on a spike right beside yours.”
*”That’s a shame. You were to be the centerpiece of my next deception.”
*”Cut off his manhood and feed it to the goats.”
*”I always hated crossbows. They take too long to load.”

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