Episode Title: "What Is Dead May Never Die"
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Director: Alik Sakharov
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
Beyond the Wall, Craster (Robert Pugh) drags a disoriented Jon Snow (Kit Harington) back to his keep and rouses the Night's Watch and Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) before telling them to leave. Privately, Jon tries to tell Mormont that he saw Craster sacrificing his infant son to… something. But then Jon realizes that Mormont already knew and that he is aligned with Craster because they have so few allies on that side of the wall. Hours later, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) leaves a token with Gilly (Hannah Murray), so she can keep it safe until he returns.
At Winterfell, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is convinced that he can see through the eyes of his Direwolf, Summer when he is sleeping. However, Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) tries to convince Bran that what he describes is impossible. In the Stormlands, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) arrives in time to see Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) defeat Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) and request the honor of joining King Renly Baratheon's (Gethin Anthony) King's guard. Despite a relatively warm welcome from Renly, Catelyn seems to alienate him by suggesting that he and his forces are only playing at war while her son, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is actually fighting the war.
At Pyke, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) tries once again to convince his sister, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) and their father, Lord Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) that an alliance with Robb would be mutually beneficial. But instead, Balon makes plans to attack the North and he mocks Theon as a weakling. Theon shoots back that Balon gave him away to Ned Stark after bending the knee to King Robert. This angers Balon, but he can't deny it. At King's Landing, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) forces Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) to dine with Cersei's youngest children, Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) and Tommen (Callum Wharry).
While Cersei's children seem kind and oblivious to Sansa's torment, the Queen takes pleasure in bending Sansa to her will. Sansa soon finds herself with Tyrion Lannister's (Peter Dinklage) lover, Shae (Sibel Kekilli); whom Tyrion sent to Sansa as her new chamber maid. Although Sansa initially lashes out at her, she accepts Shae's presence because she has no one else. Meanwhile, Tyrion prepares another power play by suggesting that Myrcella be married off to form an alliance with another house currently at odds with the Lannisters.
To Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), Tyrion proposes an alliance with house Martell; to Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish.(Adian Gillen), Tyrion selects Prince Robin of the Vale and with Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) aka the Spider, Tyrion suggests Theon Greyjoy. Each time, Tyrion stresses that the Queen can not know of his plans. And yet soon enough, Cersei confronts Tyrion about his plans to send Myrcella to the Martels. In the face of Cersei's anger and threats, Tyrion points out that the Martels may actually be the best option for Myrcella in this time of war.
Later, Littlefinger angrily confronts Tyrion about being used in his deception, only to learn that the Imp wants Littlefinger to speak with Catelyn Stark and secure the release of his brother, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau). Tyrion then has Bronn (Jerome Flynn) take Pycelle to a black cell for betraying his confidence to Cersei. Some time after, the Spider congratulates Tyrion on his latest power play as the two share drinks. In the Stormlands, Renly's lover, Loras urges Renly to consummate his marriage with Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), who is also Loras' sister.
When Renly proves unable to mate with Margaery, she reveals that she is well aware of his affair with her brother and that she doesn't care. Margaery throws her support behind Renly and says that the best way to quiet his enemies is to put a child in her. In the Iron Islands, Theon writes a letter to Robb warning him about his father's plans… but he burns the letter before it can be sent. Recommitting to his family, Theon is baptized once again into the faith of the Drowned God. On the King's Road, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) asks Yoren (Francis Magee) of the Night's Watch how he sleeps at night with horrible images in his head.
After bonding with Arya, Yoren overhears riders from King's Landing approaching and he sends Arya, Gendry (Joseph Dempsie) and the other children to hide in case the confrontation goes badly. Gendry leaves so quickly that he leaves his bull's head helmet behind, where Lommy Greenhands (Eros Vlahos) soon finds it. Surrounded by men loyal to King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Yoren refuses to lay down his arms and he is killed alongside his men after a short battle. As chaos breaks out, the wagon containing Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) and two others is threatened by a fire.
Arya gives Jaquen an axe to free himself, but she is soon knocked over by a soldier who steals her sword. With the surviving Night's Watch recruits subdued, the same soldier notices that Lommy's leg is badly wounded. The soldier seems to enjoy killing Lommy with Arya's sword before he demands that the survivors tell him which one is Gendry. Before Gendry can react, Arya states that they've already killed Gendry and she points to the helmet lying near Lommy as proof.
If "Game of Thrones" was only following Tyrion around as he consolidates his power in King's Landing, it would still be among the best shows on TV. Peter Dinklage has such a firm command of his role that almost everything that Tyrion does is riveting. The editing of Tyrion's three alliance proposals was masterful and it quickly allowed the viewers to understand what Tyrion was trying to accomplish.
More impressively, Tyrion's plan not only exposed Cersei's source on the Small Council, it also seemed to be a very well thought out rationale for marrying Myrcella off to another house. Aside from Joffrey, Tyrion cares about his sister's children and Myrcella may truly be safer among the Martels while Joffrey's rule is challenged by so many. As a bonus, Tyrion found the perfect way to strike at Cersei through her love for her children. But that only means that Cersei will be on the look out for any way to avenge herself against Tyrion. That makes Shae look more and more like a potential victim.
During their confrontation, it was also interesting to see Cersei literally push her brother down while threatening him. There is truly no love between these siblings. Which makes Myrcella and Tommen so amazing in that family. Surrounded by Joffrey's insanity and plenty of Lannister cruelty, Myrcella and Tommen have somehow retained a kindness and innocence that their parents just don't have. The children actually seem to care about Sansa and Tommen pointedly said that Robb Stark's death would not make him happy.
As for Sansa, it was very telling to see the way that she lashed out at Shae. Even before her ordeal as Joffrey's prisoner, Sansa never seemed to understand how to relate to other people, especially her servants. And after so many months as a "guest" of the Lannisters, Sansa simply doesn't know how to be kind to Shae. Sansa's rudeness may be born out of her desperation, but it's that same desperation that may draw her closer to Shae simply because Sansa has no one else in King's Landing that she can even talk to without fear of reprisal from Joffrey or Cersei.
"What Is Dead May Never Die" also provided Theon Greyjoy with some of his best moments in the series to date, as he briefly stood up to his father and considered betraying his family to warn Robb. But Theon ultimately chose his family over Robb and the Starks; which will likely tear apart the brotherly connection he had with the King of the North. Theon's course of action is understandable, and he really didn't have many options. Prior to this point, Theon always took pride in pointing out that he would be the next Lord of the Iron Islands. With his sister seemingly stealing his birthright from him, Theon probably felt backed into a corner.
The Starks aren't blameless in this either. Although Robb seems to truly care for Theon like a brother, he's made it clear that Theon isn't a Stark. And Theon was simply a well treated captive in the eyes of the Stark family. I think that the best that Theon could hope for by returning to the Starks would have been an eventual Knighthood when he would much rather be a Lord or a King.
At the Stormlands, Catelyn continued the Stark family tradition of not being a very good diplomat. Catelyn may have been correct in her assessment of Renly and his forces, but if she could have resisted the urge to voice those opinions, she may not have been dismissed from Renly so quickly. At this rate, Robb would have gotten farther by sending the Great Jon Umber to negotiate for him. Or Great Jon would have started another war, but that's progress either way!
In Renly's camp, it's the two women, Margaery and Brienne that are registering very strongly. Margaery's assessment of Renly's affair with her brother was a particular stand out moment, especially because she simply accepted it and gave Renly very sound advice on how to proceed. Margaery seems particularly well suited to rule, perhaps even moreso than Renly himself.
Arya's story at the end of the episode was also very memorable, though I was disappointed to see Yoren get killed off so quickly. Yoren was a lot of fun to watch and at least he went out fighting. Arya also showed some quick thinking by identifying Lommy as Gendry, but what's to keep Hot Pie or any of those other recruits from contradicting her?
At the end of this season, I wonder if any character besides the Lannisters in King's Landing will have been onscreen more than an hour all year. I don't object to the pace of "Game of Thrones" because it juggles its characters well and its story is already laid out from Martin's novels. I've tried to steer clear of spoilers, but all indications are that the best of season two is still ahead of us.