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Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Game of Thrones "What Is Dead May Never Die"

Non Spoiler Review:
Season two gets a few additional secondary characters as we catch up with the final king in waiting, Renly, along with his new wife and 100,000 man army. As Catelyn attempts to make alliances on behalf of Robb, Balon Greyjoy's scheme becomes clear and forces Theon to make a decision. Tyrion sets in motion a few clever plots that bear fruit. Bran struggles to interpret his dreams. Events on the kingsroad come to a head for Arya and Gendry.

What is Dead May Never Die was probably the strongest of the lot so far this season. Tyrion continues to steal the show, and his scenes with Varys were brilliant and funny. Especially interesting was the dynamic set up between Renly and his new wife. We've now seen all the king contenders, and Renly is the obvious choice for benevolent ruler. But part of the theme of this week (exemplified by a great bit of dialogue between Tyrion and Varys) is where power springs from. Could Renly hold onto power simply from the love of the people?

Spoilers Now!
Craster tosses Jon into the midst of the sleeping Night's Watch, ordering them gone. Mormont tells Jon to wait outside and later gets the explanation that he's killing all the boys. But he realizes Mormont already knows, and is told the Wildings serve crueler gods that demand offerings. Like it or not they need men like Craster to survive. Jon explains he saw something take the child. Mormont suggests they will see it again. They leave at dawn, and he warns him not to lose it again.

In the morning Sam manages to get to see Gilly, and gives her a thimble his mother used for sewing, and the only thing he has of hers left. He tells her to keep it safe until he comes back.

In Winterfell, Hodor goes to retrieve Bran for his lessons. Bran wakes to Summer standing over him and staring at him. He explains the same dream he's having to Luwin, that he's seeing through his wolf's eyes. Nan had told him stories about magical people who could live inside animals, but Luwin suggests they're all gone from the world, and just dreams. Bran protests his dreams are true. Luwin shows him a link of Valyrian steal from the chains he carries that signifies he was schooled in the secret mysteries. Luwin confesses he got no more out of it than a thousand other boys. Perhaps magic once existed, but dragons, giants and forest folk are all gone.

Renly has a new wife, Margaery Tyrell, and is holding a tournament as Catelyn and her entourage arrive. Loras, the Knight of Flowers, yields to the victor, who reveals herself as a woman, Brienne of Tarth. She asks for the honor of a place in his personal guard. Loras is not pleased at that, but Renly agrees.

Catelyn is announced as envoy and greeted warmly by Renly, who presents Margaery. He swears the Lannisters will answer for Ned's murder and will bring her Joffrey's head when he takes King's Landing. Brienne tells her she should kneel, but Renly dismisses her eagerness. Loras is equally disrespectful, suggesting Robb should have come himself. Renly goes off to walk with her among his troops, assuring her the war is just beginning.

It's obvious Renly's soldiers adore him as he treats them with respect. Catelyn suggests the war is a game to him, because winter is coming and his knights are of summer. He has Brienne escort her to her tent to rest.

Theon wants to know why Yara didn't reveal who she was when he arrived, but she counters that she wanted to see who he was first, and she got a good idea of that. Balon arrives to reveal his plans—while Robb is fighting the Lannisters in the south, the north is ripe for the taking. Winterfell may remain defiant for awhile but the rest will be theirs. He orders Yara to take 30 ships to attack one of the northern cities, while Theon will take one ship, the Sea Bitch, to raid fishing villages. Theon suggests it's wiser to wait and pledge fealty to Robb, and they'll get Casterly Rock in return. Balon repeats they are iron born, not subjects or slaves, and they take what is theirs.

Theon replies Balon gave him away at the behest of Robert Baratheon, his last boy, and now he's cursed him because he comes home. Balon storms out. Yara warns him to make his choice as their ships sale with or without him.

Shae is getting tired of staying inside. Tyrion suggests she might be brought into the castle kitchens and pose as a scullion, a kitchen wench. He warns her Cersei can never know about her. But Varys has a suggestion where she could prove useful.

Sansa shares dinner with Cersei and her other children, Myrcella and Tommen. Myrcella asks when the marriage will be, so Cersei explains after the war. Cersei presses Sansa to answer her daughter's questions. Tommen asks if Joffrey will kill Robb. Cersei muses he might, and even if he does Sansa will do her duty. But Tommen doesn't seem to be as bloodthirsty as his older brother.

In her quarters, Sansa is visited by Shae, her new handmaiden. Sansa gets uppity when Shae wants instructions of what to do. Given Shae's foreign, Sansa tells her in this city she doesn't have time to explain to her how to do her job. Shae asks if she wants her to leave, but Sansa orders her to just brush her hair.

Tyrion chats up Pycelle and asks if he can trust him. Perilous times require new alliances that must be sealed with matrimony, and the queen mustn't know, so Pycelle agrees to silence. Tyrion reveals he's brokering an alliance with House Martell for Princess Myrcella to wed its youngest son. 

He then meets with Varys and explains he plans to marry Myrcella off to Theon Greyjoy. Varys is less than impressed, given Balon loathes the Starks, but assures him he won't tell the queen.

He tells Baelish he wants to marry Myrcella to Robin Arryn of the Vale. Though she tried to kill him, he doesn't hold a grudge, and needs Baelish to broker the agreement. Tyrion offers him Harrenhal as an incentive, but Baelish suggests it's cursed. He'll be lord of the Riverlands and can tear it down if he wishes, Tyrion replies. He served the Lannisters well in the succession. However, the queen mustn't know.

Loras and Renly share some time together, but Loras is humiliated Brienne was made a member of the king's guard. He tells her there's another Tyrell that requires his attention—the reason he got his father's army. And his bride is still a virgin two weeks after their wedding night.

Renly downs a lot of wine and his wife is brought to him. Renly can't get aroused so she asks if her brother should come in and help, or she could turn over and pretend she's him. Renly is horrified but she tells him there's no need to play games. He should save his lies for court. Their enemies want to tear them apart so the best way to avert that is to get her pregnant. She'll let him decide however he needs to do it, as he's a king.

Cersei is furious with Tyrion for selling off her daughter to Dorne, given the Martells loathe them. She warns him he won't get away with it. He counters she can't stop it, and if the city falls Myrcella could be raped anyway.

Baelish next confronts Tyrion that he made him look like a fool by offering Myrcella to Martell. Tyrion explains he now wants Baelish to help in Jaime's release, by sending him to see his beloved Cat. Bronn returns with news he has found Pycelle and raids his quarters. Tyrion confronts him that he told the queen, so Pycelle tries to implicate Varys to no avail. Pycelle explains he always served House Lannister since the days of Arryn. Lord Arryn knew so Pycelle let him die. Tyrion is disgusted and orders Pycelle thrown in one of the black cells.

Theon prepares a letter to Robb warning him of the invasion, but then burns it. In the morning he's reconsecrated in his faith to the drowned god and is welcomed back into the fold by his sister and father.

Varys later chats with Tyrion that their mutual friend is doing well in Sansa's service. He compliments Tyrion for a well-played move with Pycelle. Tyrion doesn't mean to follow Ned Stark to the grave. Varys offers up a riddle about a king, a priest and a rich man, with a sell sword paid to kill two of them. Who lives, who dies? They debate the answer. Who truly killed Ned? Power resides where men believe it resides, Varys says. A very small man can cast a very large shadow.

Yoren sits with Arya late at night as she can't sleep. She asks how he sleeps having seen so many horrible things. She closes her eyes and still sees her father dying. He reveals when he was young he saw his brother killed on their doorstep. He can't picture his brother's face anymore, but he can still vividly see his murderer. One day he came back into town and Yoren killed him, and his horse got him to the Wall.

A trumpet sounds, and Yoren wakes up his men, telling them to get armed. He sends Gendry and Arya out of sight and orders them north if things go wrong. One of the boys finds Gendry's horned helmet and takes it.

The men pour out of the keep as Lannister's men demand the bastard. Yoren refuses to comply and is killed. Gendry rushes out as everyone engages the men. The men in the cage call for Arya to free them, so she does. Arya is knocked down by one of the soldiers who take her sword. The survivors are ordered rounded up and taken to Harrenhal. The blond boy who took the helmet lies wounded. He needs to be carried, so the soldier kills him. They demand Gendry or they start taking eyes. Arya tells them they already have Gendry, and shows them the helmet lying next to the blond boy.

The Verdict:
After all the talk of Renly and his vast army, he finally gets reintroduced this week with new wife Margaery. He certainly appears to be the most obvious choice for king given his easy treatment of his subjects. But Varys' riddle raises the question of whether being loved can keep him in power (especially with Catelyn's added warning about his army in winter).

He has the ideal marriage with Margaery (who sees her chance to be a queen). But he doesn't seem to be doing anything with his power or army at the moment. While Catelyn continues to come across as a bitch, she raises a valid point that only the northerners seem to care that winter is going to come and the war will be raging in much different conditions.

What is the significance of Harrenhal? It's come up a couple of times this week, with the implication it's cursed. Now Gendry and Arya will be heading in that direction, and Baelish has been offered it as remuneration for his loyalty.

I really want to believe that Theon has some secret plan to warn Robb of the impending invasion, but it doesn't look good, as he seems to have chosen his loyalties. I'm holding out hope that it might all be a grand scheme to do right by the Starks.

Once again, Tyrion steals the show, and his banter with Varys really provided the laughs this week. His set up of his niece was hilarious (including Vary's eye rolling at the notion of Theon Greyjoy). But the two of them have formed a great relationship, including Shae's installation in Sansa's orbit that is sure to provide information, as well.

Myrcella Baratheon jumps to the forefront after being in the far background all season. Is her role going to expand? It's easy to forget the lone Lannister daughter in Joffrey's shadow. And she and her younger brother don't seem to share their mother's utter hatred of the Starks. With Sansa now under the watch of Shae, the palace intrigue continues to be one of my favorite bits.

1 comment:

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