[Review] - Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 3, "What Is Dead Can Never Die"

Photo courtesy of HBO

"It's all a game to you," says Catelyn Stark in this week's instalment. "These are the knights of summer, and winter is coming." And with that, something I've suspected since last week was verified, and I think I love this show a little more for it. But before we get to that, we get even more new characters, with actual, proper introductions (Names! Titles! Motivations!), plenty of bloodshed, and a long story that ends with an axe to the head.

Hit the jump to read the spoilery review of episode 3.

The writers know what they're doing, I can see that now. I still have some worry about the show collapsing under it's own weight, but at least now I can see that there is a method to their madness, and that, at least, is comforting.

What we're getting are theme weeks. They have a certain number of characters, and certain stories that need to be told, and a finite number of episodes to do it in. So, each week, they choose a theme, and focus on the characters that best represent that theme, plus Tyrion, because he represents every theme, apparently. Last week, it the lack of grace from those in power. This week we have something even more dangerous: overcoming weakness.

And it was all over the place. From Balon's insistence that the Starks had made his son weak, to the induction of a woman (gasp!) into Renly's guard, to Arya coming to grips with those responsible for her father's murder, to Sam leaving his old life behind. Everyone was pulling themselves up out of holes this week, and it made for the best of the three episodes we've had so far. And don't forget, that's slightly less then a third of the season gone.

It seems like Bryan Cogman had a finer handle on how to introduce characters without being heavyhandted, or too vague, then David Benioff and D. B. Weiss did with the Stannis story line. In this episode, we are reacquainted with Renly, the other Baratheon, and introduced to his court, and immediately we know both who the new faces are, and what they are about. First up was the new wife, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer, who some viewers may recognise as Anne Boelyn from The Tudors, but who I recognised as the lady who gave Captain America a snog in his film). I was immediately impressed with Ms Dormer's performance; a single line of dialogue and a single piece of body language and I instantly knew waht was important about her character. And, she was immediately introduced by name, so I also knew who she was without looking it up on wikipedia.

I'll take this moment to jump ahead a few scenes, to Renly's seduction. Margaery is the sister to Renly's gay lover, which caused a minor stir last year when the show made their relationship explicit, which it does again here. More than that, she suggests, in order to get her pregnant, they involve her brother, which brings me to an attitude the show has been developing concerning incest. Part of the reasoning behind the war is that the people of Westeros are disgusted with the idea that Joffery is the product of an incestuous relationship. And yet, Margaery Tyrell openly suggests something similar if it means getting what she wants. Indeed, the other major family we focused on this week, the Greyjoys, used a similar ploy last week, willingly allowing inappropriate touching between blood relations as a means to an end. Is this causal attitude something that is just exists within the upper classes? Are the common folk, you know, the sellswords and whores, must less accepting of this? Cause it's icky.

Everything about Margaery screams manipulation. Her style of dress is much more revealing then any of the other high born characters. Her interaction with Renly, her brother, even her short scene with Catelyn, they are all about establishing dominance, and maintaining it. She views everyone as a threat to her getting what she wants, and she's hitting it out of the park.

The same cannot be said of Gwendoline Christie, playing Renly's newest guard, Brienne of Tarth, admittedly one of my favourite characters in the books. Perhaps it was meant to be this way, as she is new in camp, and meant to be uncomfortable, but the actress seemed stiff and unresponsive, coldly reciting lines instead of inhabiting them with any emotion. As a woman, she has just secured a man's place on a royal guard, and fulfilled a life long ambition. She should be displaying some sort of emotion, even if it is repressed. We shall see if she warms any in the coming weeks. I do hope she does, as her role is intended to be quite pivotal. She is rather tall, almost frightingly so, comapred to Catelyn. I thought maybe they were using some forced perspective tricks, it was hard to tell.

On the Iron Islands, Balon revealed his plot to wage war against the North while their army is in the South, and Theon is forced to choose between the blood family who gave him to their enemies in exchange for peace, or the family that raised him. The defining attribute of Theon, I think, is that he has no power. He is only weakness. He bows to whomever is nearest. It may seem like he is growing here, but really he is cowering, as his childish outburst, no matter how valid, illustrates. He's little more then a boy who thinks he's a man. Even his sister is more of a man then he is, though her acting hasn't improved any from last week. Shame that, but they can't all be winners.

Unquestionably though, the highlight of the episode once again falls to Peter Dinklage, and the chess master approach he has taken to his own survival. The scene where he plants a lie in each of the least trustworthy people in court, to see who is the most dangerous to his plans was brilliantly shot, and as always, the acting superb. Expect a second gold statue for Mr Dinklage come next year. His scenes against Varys, heavily featured in the trailers, are delights, and his easy manipulation of Littlefinger is a joy to watch, considering how last season the role was reversed with Ned Stark. The double meaning of the small council getting smaller gave the episode it's best laugh. He's even getting a hand up on Cersei, who has seen her power over Joffery and her brother, diminish to the extent that she can only lord over children. And she does not hesitate, bringing Sansa to tears over breakfast. Sansa then, seeking her own power, takes it out on the only person she can, a poor servant.

Between the quick resolution of the cliffhanger from last week, and the setup of one this week, the script was as tight as we've seen from season two, not rushing by, but still surprising us at how fast it seemed to go past. If they can keep it at this level, and maybe illicit some better performances out of the freshmen cast, season two appears to be proceeding well.

Best line: For once, not Tyrion, but the black brother Yoren, with, "I buried an axe so deep into Willam's skull, they had to bury him with it."

B*tchslap: Balon Greyjoy giving Theon such a wallop that he knocks him halfway across the room. Obviously, young lords and ladies are given extensive slap lessons from the finest slappers from the East.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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