Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.
Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.
Season 2, Episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”
Original Air Date: April 15th, 2012
Director: Alik Sakharov
Written by: Bryan Cogman
Before we get to this season’s third episode, “What is Dead May Never Die,” let’s take a moment to look back at last week’s, where we reconsidered whether or not Theon was worthy of empathy, because this is the episode where he decides to betray Robb (though his decision to attack Winterfell will come later), and it has one of the most visually beautiful shots in the show’s run. It’s not subtle (it actually stands out for its theatrical framing), but it’s powerful nonetheless.
Theon sits in a dark room, rereading what he wrote to the man he just swore was his king, his friend, and then he puts the letter up to the single candle on his desk. The camera pulls out as he watches his friendship and oath to Robb literally go up in flames. It’s like a moving, breathing, Caravaggio painting. It’s hauntingly beautiful, sad and poignant, showing how alone Theon is right now, and the darkness he is embracing by doing this, and that was true even before we knew what this decision would mean for so many at Winterfell, for Bran and Rickon, for Maester Luwin, for the North, for Robb and Catelyn, and, of course, for Theon.
As for this episode, which introduces us to Margaery and Brienne, it is significantly better than last week’s unusually dull affair, and a big reason why is how many wonderful Tyrion moments we get. This is the episode where he pulls off his clever ruse to weed out anyone on the Small Council that might betray him to his sister, by telling Varys, Baelish, and Pycelle that he is sending his niece Princess Myrcella away to be promised to a noble house to ensure their loyalty. Of course, he tells all three a different destination, so he knows it’s Pycelle that betrayed him when Cersei flips out on him about her going to Dorne. That leads to the great scene where he and Bronn arrest Pycelle in his bedchamber.
(Note: Tyrion is really smart, and he knows his history, like how Pycelle told the Mad King to let Tywin and his forces into King’s Landing during Robert’s Rebellion, even as Varys pleaded with him not to. Pycelle has always served House Lannister, and it’s not exactly foolish for Tyrion to expect Pycelle to serve Cersei over himself. He was never marrying Myrcella to Theon as he told Varys, or to Robin Arryn as he told Baelish, he just needed to test their loyalty and service. He was always sending her to Dorne, regardless of who betrayed him. He just expected it to be Pycelle, so Pycelle was told the truth.)
It’s another Tyrion scene though that stands out this week, though it’s Varys who does the heavy lifting. The two smart, underestimated men sit and talk, with Varys praising Tyrion for his ruse, when the Master of Whisperers poses a riddle to Tyrion about a “curious thing,” power.
“Three great men sit in a room: a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives? Who dies?”“Depends on the sellsword.”“Does it? He has neither crown, nor gold, nor favor with the gods.”“He has a sword, the power of life and death.”“But if it’s swordsmen who rule, why do we pretend kings hold all the power? When Ned Stark lost his head, who was truly responsible? Joffrey? The executioner? Or something else”“I’ve decided I don’t like riddles.”“Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”