What Is Dead May Never Die (Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 3)

1 What is Dead May Never DieWatching Game of Thrones, it’s easy to focus on the big moments – the fallout from Jon Snow following Craster into the woods with the baby boy, the trap that Tyrion Lannister sets to see if Lord Varys, Petyr Baelish, and Grand Maester Pycelle will betray him, or Catelyn Stark approaching Renly Baratheon at the tournament. But upon this re-watch of What Is Dead May Not Die, there were two very quiet, low-key scenes that I found extremely compelling.

Theon Greyjoy’s Choice

In this episode Theon continues to be on the outside looking in on his family. The fact that he is the only male heir, the fact that he has returned home, means little to his father. His attempt to broker an alliance between his father, Balon Greyjoy, and Robb Stark has been rejected. Worse, it becomes apparent that Balon Greyjoy views the war as an opportunity to get back at the Starks and take key areas of the North. Balon’s strategy includes Theon leading a series of attacks on fishing villages to serve as bait to draw any remaining men to come to the defense of the villages; while Yara and her ships then take the undefended strongholds.

There is a quiet scene of Theon, alone in his room, holding a letter he’s written to Robb which tells of Balon rejecting the offer to join forces with the Starks. The scene ends with Theon holding the letter to the candle’s flame. His choice has been made – he will reject his surrogate family and assist his father in hopes of gaining his affection and birthright.

2 What is Dead May Never DieHow do you sleep when you have those things in your head? Arya Stark

The second scene that was very quiet and very moving is a discussion between Arya and Yoren. Arya can’t sleep because she is haunted by Ned’s death: she sees all of the people standing on the platform and can’t get them out of her head.

Yoren shares the story of how he came to wear the black; finally gaining revenge on Wilem (who had murdered Yoren’s brother) by sinking an axe into his head.

Yoren speaks to Arya as an adult. He doesn’t coddle. He doesn’t feel sorry for her. And there’s something honest, true, and comforting in his story. Much as Tyrion and Yoren became fast friends at The Wall, so does Arya – but sadly it’s a friendship that won’t last. Before going out to meet certain death at the hands of Lannister bannermen, Yoren gives Arya on final piece of advice to “head north and don’t look back.”

In the confusion of the fighting, the cage holding Jaqen H’ghar has caught on fire and he calls out to Arya for help. She supplies him with an axe to free himself and this will have future implications.

The Power Riddle

Lord Vayrs: Three great men sit in a room: a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies?
Tyrion Lannister: Depends on the sellsword.
Lord Vayrs: Does it? He has neither crown, nor gold, nor favor with the gods.
Tyrion Lannister: He has a sword, the power of life and death.
Lord Varys: But if it’s swordsmen who rule, why do we pretend kings hold all the power? When Ned Stark lost his head, who was truly responsible? Joffrey? The executioner? Or something else?

The death of King Robert Baratheon has left a shaky power structure. Balon Greyjoy isn’t the only one who is taking advantage of the uncertainty. And Tyrion is well aware that weak alliances need to be strengthened; that is what makes his deception to Varys, Littlefinger and Pycelle so convincing – any of the alliances (with the Greyjoys, Arryns, or Martells) would make sense strategically to grow the forces of the Lannisters and better unite the kingdom. (Side note: the only match that is a nonstarter is marrying Theon to Myrcella. Though it’s something that we, the audience, are in on, that the other characters aren’t aware of. We’ve seen what Balon has in mind and there appears to be nothing that would attract him to an alliance with the Lannisters. It’s an interesting bit of history that we get from Theon on how quickly Balon ‘bent the knee’ to Robert Baratheon.)

In the telling of the riddle, Lord Varys seems to be telling Tyrion that he can wield much power: “a small man can cast a large shadow.” But is that really what Varys believes or wants? Could Varys, in fact, be talking about himself as the small man who casts a large shadow? While Tyrion has sniffed out Grand Maester Pycelle as a spy for the Queen, it doesn’t mean that Petyr Baelish and Lord Varys are trustworthy. It just means they haven’t betrayed him yet.

3 What is Dead May Never DieMy dinner with Cersei

Poor Sansa Stark. Every day in King’s Landing must be long and torturous. We get a glimpse of what life with the Lannisters is like at the dinner table with Sansa, Cersei, Myrcella and Tommen. Young Tommen asks if Joffrey will kills Sansa’s brother (Robb Stark) and Cersei chillingly answers “He might. Would you like that?”
Tommen replies, “No, I don’t think so.” Tommen has probably heard Joffrey talk about the war, and must understand that Robb is the enemy. It’s a brave reply from a little boy, and it seems to indicate that Tommen is fond of Sansa.

Cersei then turns her attention from Tommen and says, “Even if he does, Sansa will do her duty. Won’t you, little dove?”

Cersei doesn’t seem to have any sympathy for Sansa, even though Sansa’s life is very much like hers; both of them have been required to marry to further a royal alliance. Later in the episode, when Cersei is furious with Tyrion for brokering a match for Myrcella, she screams that she won’t have Myrcella shipped off the way she was shipped off to marry Robert Baratheon. This seems to contradict what she told Ned Stark (You Win Or You Die), “Hated him? I worshipped him. Every girl in the seven kingdoms dreamed of him, but he was mine by oath.” And, speaking of Ned Stark – I still miss him. So here’s a snippet of Cersei and Ned from Season 1:

“My dreams are different. They come true.”

It’s a brief little scene back in Winterfell but it serves to expand the idea of Bran (like Daenerys and her dragons) experiencing a developing magic within him. Maester Luwin sends Hodor to wake Bran for his lessons. When Hodor enters, Bran sits up in bed and looks straight into the face of his direwolf, Summer. Maester Luwin is so gentle and thoughtful in his explanation. The relationship between him and Bran (as well as his growing responsibilities at Winterfell in Catelyn and Robb’s absence) is well depicted by Donald Sumpter’s wonderful acting:

Sigil Notes:

Stag (Baratheon)
We meet Brienne of Tarth for the first time as she defeats Loras Tyrell in the tournament and requests a place on Renly’s king’s guard.

Both Loras and Margaery are impatient with Renly’s procrastination in the matter of creating an heir.

Direwolf (Stark)
“They are the knights of summer and winter is coming,” Catelyn Stark tells Renly. She has gone to Renly’s camp to broker an alliance and is understandably salty about Robb fighting a war while Renly and the Tyrells “play at one.”

Lion (Lannister)
As always, Tyrion steals the show. But one of my favorite lines comes from Grand Maester Pycelle who has provided Tyrion with a laxative, “The stresses of power often have this insalubrious effect…”

Further Reading:

The North Remembers (Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 1)

The Night Lands (Game of Thrones, Season2, Episode 2)

AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/what-is-dead-may-never-die-for-experts,72049/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_Dead_May_Never_Die

Watch along with me Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season

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