I am fully anticipating that every single episode of this season of Game of Thrones will result in me talking about how much I love it when Tyrion outsmarts his sister. It has happened each week so far in season two of the much-loved show, and it shows no signs of letting up, which makes me happier than I can possibly express. There was plenty of other interesting stuff going on in ‘What is Dead May Never Die,’ but I’m too busy thinking about how much I loved Tyrion’s deception in this episode to talk about it.
Okay, fine, I guess I can push my man-crush for Tyrion aside and talk about the episode. Let’s start with…. oh, Tyrion perhaps? This was a pretty Tyrion-heavy episode (in a Tyrion-heavy season), but easily the standout scene was his triple-deception of Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger. In the book, this series of events plays out over a much longer period of time, but it was brilliantly compressed for the show into one scene, in which Tyrion told each man a different story in order to discern which of them was in his sister’s pocket. This scene was a great example of what I love about this show, as it illustrated the political machinations that our characters are prone to, without ever being confusing. It’s something I think the show struggled with a bit in season one, but it’s nice to see that they are streamlining and simplifying moments like that this time around.
Not that there’s anything simple about this story. This week, it was once again apparent exactly how many storylines the show has to juggle, and as a reader of the books, it worries me knowing how many more are coming up in the future. The show still hasn’t made any big missteps, but I don’t think that this week’s episode had the clarity or focus of ‘The Night Lands’ from last week. There were still several stories that we only checked in with once, and I prefer it when the show picks a few threads per episode and sticks with them.
Like I said already, the Tyrion segment was well done, especially his scene with his sister. It was great to see Cersei really lose her temper, and it certainly isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing that this season. It was also nice to see Littlefinger get pissed at Tyrion, only to be instantly on board when he announced a new deception that he needed Littlefinger’s help with. Just because Pycelle turned out to be the rat, though, we shouldn’t ever assume that Tyrion is going to actually trust Littlefinger or Varys. He’s a lot smarter than Ned Stark, after all. I also liked the scene where he had Bronn cut Pycelle’s beard off, cause it gave us a moment that illustrated Tyrion’s ruthlessness right alongside his kindness (when he handed the prostitute an extra coin ‘for her troubles').
I still really enjoy Tyrion’s chemistry with Shae, but it was nice to get her away from him and in some scenes with Sansa, who was a real bitch to her. Sansa is being a spoiled brat like last scene, but this time it’s coming from a place of fear and uncertainty, rather than entitlement, which I found interesting. There’s not a ton more to say about this scene, but I’m curious to see the relationship develop.
The other story in the episode that I thought was really strong was all of the stuff with the Ironborn, despite my still being weirded out by the chick that plays Yara. Balon, Theon’s dad, is great though, and if that was Aeron, his uncle, that baptized him at the end, I really like that casting too. Normally I would be weird about them inserting the scene to scene to make him more sympathetic (the part where he writes the letter to Robb and then burned it, which wasn’t in the books), but it was so well-staged that I didn’t mind. Maybe I just think shots of guys sitting at a desk by candlelight against a backdrop of total darkness are really cool, especially if they have a life or death choice to make, which considering that this is Game of Thrones, they almost certainly do. Theon’s an a**hole, you guys, but I also can’t help but feel terrible for him.
I should probably talk about the first scene of the episode, which resolved our cliffhanger from last week. Craster drags Jon back to his house, where he declares that the Night’s Watch must leave. And… that’s about it. I think that if they were going to play the Craster moment from last week as a big cliffhanger, the payoff needed to be bigger. Sam and Gilly had a big moment, setting up their weird-yet-adorable relationship, and then this plot-thread was quickly abandoned for the rest of the episode. There was nothing wrong with the Night’s Watch stuff, but it’s weird to start the episode with a storyline and then never come back to it. It set a weird tone that prevented me from settling into the episode like I did last week, despite the individual scenes probably being a bit stronger this time around.
There was no Stannis, or Robb, or Joffrey, this week, but we got to meet a few new characters during Catelyn’s mission to make nice with Renly. The Renly stuff was pretty good this week, and I heartily approve the casting for both Margaery and Brienne. Margaery’s scene with Renly was super weird and uncomfortable, but I liked that Margaery was a player and not a pawn, manipulating Renly for her own purposes and revealing that she knows he’s boning her brother, much to his surprise. Brienne didn’t have as much to do this week, but she got a great entrance, beating the crap out of Loras right in front of his lover, the King.
Then we got that long, great closing sequence, in which we bid farewell to our resident badass, Yoren. Once he gave that speech about his backstory to Arya, I knew he was a goner, and his death was a lot of fun. It wasn’t quite as cool as the Syrio fight from last season, but it was still pretty fun. I thought the staging of it could have been a little tighter, but the fight itself and the ensuing death was well-done. People have a habit of dying gloriously to protect Arya, but she always finds her way right back into trouble. Her and Gendry are off to Harrenhal now, which is another streamlining from the book, in which Arya and her friends run around in the woods for a while in between Yoren’s death and being captured by the Lannisters. My only beef with this scene is that I feel like maybe it could have been split up a bit, since it had the inverse effect of the opening scene with Jon. It was interesting to bookend the episode with isolated scenes, but I would have preferred to check in with each of these threads more than once. Like, even twice, but you know, whatever.
All in all, it was a tightly plotted episode with a few, relatively minor hiccups. We got a couple of great action scenes and some more badassery from Tyrion, and there were no scenes set in Littlefinger’s whorehouse, so I’m gonna call this one a win.
-What do you guys think of Margaery and Brienne? We know that they’re gonna be around for a while, and I myself am pretty pleased with the casting.
-Does it bother you guys how different Shae is in the show than in the books? It bugged me for a while, but I’m starting to get over it.
-I forgot to mention the Bran scene, but I’m excited for some all out warg-ness from him. I wonder if they’re gonna do the same fake-out with him and Rickon’s death that they do in the books. I bet that would really freak people out, especially if they leave it hanging for an episode.