Watching the Throne: What is Dead May Never Die
You can just call this recap Brienne if you like…it’s no lady. I’ll begin recapping What is Dead May Never Die by addressing the burning question on everyone’s minds: just how tall is actress Gwendolyn Christie? The wise and all-knowing Google has her at 6’3, but walking along side Lady Stark she seemed like she was pushing 7’0. Yet despite Brienne’s tremendous physical presence, one can help but get the sense there is a deep well of pathos and self-doubt whirling within her. As this episode impressed upon us, the power one wields is not always determinate upon their battle savvy.
In the South
Take Tyrion for instance, he is the smallest (and arguably the most physically weak) character on the show. Yet, next to Joffery, he commands the most power in the seven kingdoms as Hand of the King. And Tyrion knows that title his father Tywin bestowed (temporarily) is just that…a title; one that will not protect him from the rampant treachery at King’s Landing. Tyrion takes aggressive action in this episode to root out those in the capital who would betray him. His cleverly designed scheme, telling each of the two-faced trio (Varys, Pycelle, Littlefinger) a different story, involving different noble houses of Westeros, and a different suitor for Princess Marcella, reveals that Grand Master Pycelle is loyal to the queen, and not Tyrion. Tryion’s retribution is swift and brutal; he has Bronn and a rather nasty looking member of the hill tribe’s storm into Pycelle’s chambers…and cut off his luxurious beard. As a proud, bearded man myself….this scene was almost too hard to watch. Then he has Pycelle thrown into a black cell, and pays the old slimy worm’s prostitute double for her trouble; a simple gesture that officially earns him a spot in the pantheon of onscreen bad asses until the end of time.
Tyrion’s final scene in the episode is with Varys, where we hear him give the monologue we all heard in the trailers, like, a billion times: “Power is a trick, it’s a shadow on the wall, etc.” but actually being able to place into context gives the speech more dramatic weight. In many ways, Varys’ riddle about the illusion of power works as both a cautionary tale to Tyrion and as the show’s thematic mission statement for the reminder of season 2 (and the rest of the series really). The idea of power as a fleeting, nebulous, and ultimately illusionary fixation fits very well within the universe of GOT.
There is also some going’s on with Sansa’s in this episode. We see to Cersei’s delight in torturing her at the dinner table, she may not be as outwardly sadistic as Joffery is towards Sansa, but don’t think for a minute that she is any less cruel. In turn, this causes Sansa to be cruel to Shea, which will probably make Shea take it out on Tyrion, who will then take it out Cersei….it’s just a vicious cycle of cruelty in the south.
The Storm Lands
While scheming and plotting goes on in the south, up North a little ways, Renly Baratheon plots to take the Iron Throne for himself. Even though his claim to the throne is a very tenuous one at best, as he the youngest brother of the late King Robert, his older brother Stannis is next the line of succession and the true heir to the Iron Throne. However, Renly believes that compared to Stannis, he is far more marketable as a king, and there for the Iron Throne should be his. He’s married Margaery Tyrell, and now has the considerable support of House Tyrell as well. His armies and resources are vast, though it appears Renly is more interested in having tournaments and celebrations than waging war. When Lady Stark comes to talk with Renly about joining forces to bring down King Joffery and the Lannisters, she appears rather unimpressed with what she sees at Renlys Camp. Save for Brienne of Tarth, who Lady Stark appears to be developing a begrudging respect. We also find out that Margaery Tyrell knows about the relationship between her brother Ser Loras and Renely…and that she is super cool with it, as long as Renly plays his part as a dutiful husband and gets her preggers, so that they can consolidate their power and take king’s landing with the full support of Westeros.
On the King’s Road
Okay, I need everyone to go queue up some Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust”, specifically. This week we lost yet another awesome mentor/protector of Arya, Yoren of the Nights Watch. Their scene together in the abandoned farm house was the dramatic high point of the episode. Arya talks to Yoren about not being able to sleep, and reliving her father’s execution again, and again. Yoren’s story to her about losing his own brother to a villain named Willem, and his obsession/revenge upon Willem, doesn’t serve as comfort to Arya, but rather a reminder that her father’s execution was the defining moment of her life. The inescapable memory of that dark day will give her the will she needs to survive, and eventually take her revenge against all those who have wronged her and her family. Yoren dies shortly after relaying the story about Willem to Arya; he goes down fighting and takes many of the Lannister soldiers with him. After the fracas is over, a cruel knight kills a wounded boy, allowing Arya to save Gendry by telling the leader of the knights that the dead boy was Gendry. So…who was the ultimate badass of the week: Tyrion or Arya? Tough call if you ask me.
The Iron Islands
Theon whines about being abandoned as a child again. Theon’s sister calls him a bitch. Theon’s dad slaps him. Theon cries some more and calls his Balon out for abandoning him as a child. Theon is giving an ultimatum by Yara: He must choose between the Starks and his own family. Theon writes a letter to Rob. Theon decides not to send it to Robb. Theon decides to betray Robb and sides with his family. He goes through a baptism of sorts and has salt water poured on his head by a hippie/water warrior/priest guy. This scene was very effective and powerful, and the music featured in it was awesome. However, I think they are blowing through Theon’s storyline way too fast. Hence my fast recaps of Theon’s scenes. What do you all think?
In the North& Beyond the Wall
We got quick hits from Jon Snow and Bran’s storylines this week, and a very tender scene between Sam and Gilly. Jon Snow survived his attack by Craster to find out that The Lord Commander has always known about Craster offering up his sons as blood sacrifices to the cruel gods worshiped in the far north. Jon realizes for the first time he is truly out of his depths, and how dangerous the lands (and people) beyond the wall are. Sam gives Gilly the thimble he got from his mother before him, and the other members of the Night’s Watch head further north. Next to Arya and Yoren’s scene, this was the other emotional highlight of the episode. Bran appears to be having Wolf dreams, in which he takes control of his direwolf summer. The visual transition from Summer’s point of view to the close up of Bran waking up was a very good way of selling the magic, without it becoming cheesy.
A very strong episode overall, and it looks like were about at the top of the roller-coaster story-wise, and about to take the drop in the furious, thrilling, and terrifying remaining stretch of the season.
Here is a preview for next week’s episode.