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Game of Thrones Episode 203, What is Dead May Never Die

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game of thrones season 2 what is dead may never die

Sometimes you have to make tough choices, setting idealism aside. Sometimes you have to harden your heart against the harshness of the world. Sometimes you have to kill a small part of yourself so that the rest can live. Because “What is Dead May Never Die.”

We briefly visit Jon Snow north of the wall, in a direct continuation of his encounter last week with Craster’s cudgel and a baby-eating white walker. Craster throws them all out of his hovel, and Lord Mormont has a talk with Snow. The horrible truth about Craster’s infanticide doesn’t faze Mormont – he’s known about it all along. But life is cruel north of the wall, and Mormont realizes you have to put up with some of the Wildlings’ uncouth ways if there’s something to be gained in return. That’s something Jon Snow will need to learn, in time.

Moving slightly south, there’s a strange scene where Hodor wakes up Bran. Or were we seeing things from Bran’s wolf’s point of view? Or from within Bran’s own dream? Weird. Maester Luwin manages to reference two well-known works of fantasy fiction, first talking about his research into magical mysteries. “Every boy wants to find out he has secret powers and get pulled out of his boring, ordinary life,” he explains. Must have been reading Harry Potter recently. Then he talks about how all the magical things in the world are gone. Dragons, giants, children of the forest – all lost. It’s like they’re living in the Fourth Age of Middle Earth, after the defeat of Sauron and the dwindling of the Elves as they left for Valinor.


The meeting between Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark is auspicious, in that we also meet one of the most memorable Game of Thrones characters, Brienne of Tarth. The enormous, athletic blonde bests the Knight of Flowers in a melee, winning her fiercest desire: to be made one of Renly’s protectors, a true knight. I’ve always wondered at the casting calls for roles like this. “Wanted: one somewhat homely Amazon.” In this case, they appear to have taken a very attractive actor and uglied her up with make-up. Brienne joins a long list of misfits in Game of Thrones. GRRM seems to harbor the philosophy that you’ve got to be at least a little different to make your mark on the world, and his characters manifest that physically in a variety of ways.

Margaery Tyrell

Also of note in this scene is Renly’s wife, Margaery Tyrell, who has excellent taste in dresses (and, we discover later, gowns). Renly is unimpressed by his smoking hot wife, however, because he’s homosexual. This aspect of Renly’s life was not nearly as graphic in the novels, but it creates a fascinating dynamic between Renly, Margaery and Loras. As a lascivious Margaery tries to seduce Renly, it is plainly obvious he’s desperately trying to arouse himself with thoughts of his smooth-chested boy knight, his eyes affixed on the distance. She’s no fool however. She knows about Renly and Loras and doesn’t care. She needs Renly to impregnate her to cement the strength of his kingship, and she doesn’t care if it takes a kinky bisexual somewhat incesty threesome to make it happen. And honestly, there’s something about the look in her eyes that suggests she wouldn’t be doing it just out of her queenly duty either.

Theon Greyjoy is treated poorly by his father and sister. The Iron Islanders motto is basically, “We don’t work, we just steal shit.” As far as I can tell, the primary difference between someone from the Iron Islands and someone not from the Iron Islands is a distinct extra layer of grime. Theon gets grimier with each successive scene since he returned home. By the time he throws away his idealistic idea of uniting his house with House Stark, accepting his father’s Iron Price way of doing things, Theon is as grey as the sea that surrounds his home.

There are schemes afoot back at King’s Landing. Tyrion exposes the disloyalty of Maester Pycelle by seeding false tales to various people. Only Pycelle’s version of the story reaches Cersei’s ears, so Pycelle gets thrown in the dungeon. Tyrion pisses off Littlefinger in the process, but also earns a bit of admiration from Varys. It’s Varys who offers an interesting riddle: “Three powerful men stand in a room, a king, a priest and a rich man. A sellsword stands in the middle, and each man entreats him to kill the other two. Who lives?” He never offers an answer, but it’s really more of a parable about the source of power in the world. “Power resides where men believe it resides.” But then, if Varys has the power to control that perception (and he often does), doesn’t power ultimately reside with him?

The episode is finished off with a major turning point in the life of Arya Stark. I loved her conversation with Yoren – if you’ve ever had a conversation with a half-drunk, grizzled old coot with a lot of stories to tell, you probably also felt how that scene rang true. And holy hell did Yoren ever go down swinging.

Arya’s story has been compressed significantly, and to good effect. A few days of Arya and the other kids fleeing Gregor Clegane through the woods might have created some tension and even a bit of comic relief, but the plot doesn’t suffer for its loss. In an episode about pragmatism, we see both sides of that coin here. One of Clegane’s men murders a boy rather than carry him, due to his wounded leg. Brutal, cold, and heartless. Then Arya spots Gendry’s bull helmet near the dead boy and says they already got the Baratheon bastard they were looking for. Practical, smart, and, you know…not murder.

Speaking of “both sides of a coin,” who was that prisoner looking through the flames with such gratitude at Arya for her impromptu self-service rescue?

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Posted by on Sunday, April 15th, 2012. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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