How far do you go to keep your family safe? Is blood thicker than water? What is loyalty? And do the dead ever truly die if they can’t be forgotten? Those were just some of the questions in What Is Dead May Never Die, and the answers proved rather complicated.
Tyrion was determined to wield his power this week, and successfully roots out yet another person disloyal to him by engaging in a clever little deception. Telling each of Varys, Littlefinger and Pycelle a different plan for marrying off his neice, he discovers that Pycelle has been betraying him to Cersei. Luckily for Pycelle, Tyrion decides not to go ahead with his threat to cut the maester’s manhood off, and instead just imprisons him.
However horrid Cersei can be, one thing you have to give her is that she truly loves her children. Her heartbreak over Myrcella being married into the Martell clan is clear to see, but it’s also a little hypocritical, since she is doing the exact same thing to Sansa.
It’s the Stark women who are putting on a tough show this week. In fact, the Stark women have always been exceptionally strong. Where the Stark men are ruled by their hearts – Ned wanted to do the right thing, Robb always turns to his mother for advice, Bran is too young and emotional – the Stark women have always been a little more clever.
Sansa is still suffering with the Lannisters, and fully aware that her whole life now is a lie. Every move she makes has to be carefully considered and present the right image, a fact beautifully illustrated in the way Sansa eats her meal when sitting with Cersei – slowly and with great deliberation. It’s a wonderful little moment, and says so much even though no words are spoken in those seconds.
Cleverly Sansa pledges her loyalty to Joffrey once again during dinner, even though no one is around to listen apart from her future mother-in-law. Young as she is, and as flighty as she was in season one, Sansa realises just how important a power broker Cersei is. And when Cersei points out that even if the Lannisters kill Robb, Sansa will still do her duty, we are treated to Sansa steeling herself to show no emotion. Yes, she’s definitely changed from season one, when something like this would have led to her throwing a fit like a typical teenage girl.
Still, she can’t keep herself stoic forever, and her frustrations are taken out on Shae, Tyrion’s girlfriend who has been made Sansa’s handmaiden in order to keep her relationship with Tyrion secret from Cersei. Although Sansa and Shae initially clash, their final interaction – Shae brushing Sansa’s hair – possibly signals that Sansa has found a confidant.
Sansa is not the only Stark concentrating on doing all she can to stay alive. Arya, still on the road to the Wall, is consumed with thoughts of those who killed her father. She may not say she wants to kill Joffrey, but while Yoren tells her about the time he took revenge on the man who killed his brother, Arya doesn’t stop sharpening her sword – the weapon that her father had made for her. It’s easy to see she hopes it will be the weapon that she avenges her father with as well.
With one daughter trapped by the Lannisters and the whereabouts of the other unknown, it’s a wonder Catelyn Stark can function at all. But function she does, going to see Renly and telling him off almost as soon as she gets there. Her stoicism may seem like she doesn’t care about her daughters and never thinks about them, but I interpret it as Catelyn putting her emotions to one side to ensure she does all she can to protect her children. She may seem heartless, but actually Catelyn is displaying the most motherly of qualities – a single minded devotion to keeping her children alive. And note how Sansa’s behaviour seems to mirror her mother’s.
Meanwhile Bran is still having strange dreams – closing his eyes to sleep seems to lead him into the mind of his direwolf. This is a slowly unravelling storyline, and we’ll probably have to wait a bit longer until we find out exactly what it means.
It’s the return of Renly this week, who despite his frivolous ways has managed to gather quite an army, partly through his own charm, and partly through his strategic marriage to Margaery, sister of his lover Loras Tyrell, Knight of the Flowers.
When we are reintroduced to Renly he is enjoying watching Loras being bested in a fight by a female, and his joy doesn’t slip even when Catelyn Stark – newly arrived to persuade Renly to ally himself with Robb – points out that he is just playing at battle while Robb fights real ones.
Renly’s smile does disappear, however, when Loras, smarting over losing a fight to a girl and then her being made a member of Renly’s Kings Guards, rejects Renly’s sexual advances. Instead he taunts him with the fact that people in Renly’s retinue are muttering about the fact that his wife is still a virgin two weeks after they married.
And as silly as she seems, Margaery is no fool. When she fails to seduce to Renly she asks him instead if he wants Loras to come and help turn him on. Renly’s shock is clear to see, and while he may be putting himself forward as king, Margaery is clearly the one with a cunning and ruthless side, pointing out that they should do whatever it takes to produce an heir. And that he needs to save his lies for court, where he’ll need them a lot more.
Margaery is yet another woman in Game of Thrones who seems to be cleverer and more capable of ruling than a man. Cersei used to be in this position, but as she becomes ever weaker we are introduced to other women who could easily take her place, and Margaery is one of them (see also Catelyn, Melisandre, Theon Greyjoy’s sister Yara, and even Sansa, with a bit of work).
Nothing at all from Danaerys this week. I presume she and her khalesar are still suffering in the Red Waste.
A dilemma faced Jon this week, as he realised that sometimes men are forced to do things they don’t like for the greater good.
Dragged back to camp by Craster after being knocked out by him last week, Jon succeeds in getting the Night’s Watch kicked out of Craster’s house.
His discovery that the Lord Commander Jeor Marmont knows Craster takes his baby sons out to die leaves him momentarily speechless, but Marmont’s speech shocks him more. As Marmont points out: “We have other wars to fight out there. Like it or not we need men like Craster.” Jon is slowly, week by week, discovering that sometimes you need to align yourself with bad people in order to beat worse people.
Craster’s anger doesn’t, however, stop Sam from reaching out to one his daughter-wives and giving her a gift for safekeeping. Whether he’s putting her in more harm will be something we’ll find out much, much later, if the Night’s Watch come back from where they’re going.
A new category this week, as Theon Greyjoy and his family become ever more important in Game of Thrones.
Out of all the characters this week, Theon faced the biggest difficulty. He was not only torn between his need for glory and his need to do what is right, but he was also torn between his blood family and his foster family, the Starks.
In the end, Theon picked his father and sister out of necessity. With Robb Stark hundreds of miles away, and knowing he could only go back to Robb having failed in his mission to get the Greyjoys on the King of the North’s side, Theon decided to stay with his blood family.
Still, it’s not the easy path. Theon has major abandonment issues, and rightly so. He finally loses it with his father, who has been putting him down since he arrived back at the Iron Islands, and points out that Theon never made the choice to go. Instead, Theon points out: “You gave me away. Your last boy.” In the moment he yells that, the guilt that flashes over Balon Greyjoy’s face is clear to see, but having lived a lifetime determined to not show his emotions, Balon leaves, and leaves his son to betray his friend, and brother in all but blood, Robb, for the approval of a father who gave him away.
Violence and (gratuitous) nudity tally
Just a few instances of gratuitous nudity this week. One very brief glimpse of a prostitute when Tyrion’s guard go in to capture Pycelle, and a slightly longer scene involving Margaery’s failed attempt to seduce Renyl. Put a top on girl, he’s not interested.
But while the nudity was dialed down this week, the violence was stepped up. Two particularly gruesome scenes centred on Arya’s companions in the march to the Wall.
First up was poor Yoren. Uncouth as he may be, he saved Arya’s life and has protected her even though there is nothing for him in it. His final scene lets him die a hero, taking on half a dozen or so of Cersei’s fighters, and he finally dies when a guard buries a sword slowly through the top of his head.
The second death is a little more undignified, as Lommy, a selfish little boy who has been travelling with Arya, demands that one of Cersei’s guards carry him because of his injured legs. True to form, the guard decides instead he’ll stick a sword through Lommy’s neck, leaving him to spit out a pint of blood and die.
When you play the Game of Thrones…
The title of this week’s episode is a saying in the faith of the Drowned God on the Iron Islands. When it is said to Theon, he recites back: “But rises harder and stronger.” We’ve seen the dead literally rising already – in season one someone that was supposed to be dead attacked the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch – but this week I feel “what is dead may never die” and its return phrase are a little more metaphorical.
Death is an interesting concept in Game of Thrones. No one truly dies until all their family are dead and there is no one left to avenge them if they were wronged. And since all our wronged dead have family left, it seems the dead may rise again harder and stronger in their heirs.