New Show Recap

Recap: Game of Thrones, 2.3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

There’s a lot going on this week – betrayal, political maneuvering, impromptu shaves, fire, and… a thimble? Let’s start up north and work south.


Jon has got both himself and the Watch kicked out of Craster’s Keep for spying on Craster. I love Jon’s fiery naïvité: it’s so urgent to him to tell Mormont what he saw, because Mormont will fix it! But he hasn’t thought it through at all – what did he expect the commander to do, execute Craster? Mormont is pragmatic to a fault: the Watch needs Craster as both a source of information and a shelter, therefore he will do nothing about the sacrifice (?) of the baby boys.

Jon, with a blood lip and nose, confronts Commander Mormont
Also, a bloody lip almost suits him. But I’m pretty sure Kit Harington would look good in both anything and nothing

Sam endears himself to every viewer ever – a wave of AWWWs spread across the world – by giving Gilly the only thing he has of his mother’s – a bone thimble (at least I think that’s what it is). She refuses to take it, twice; first because it would get her into trouble if found, and secondly because of how much it means to him, but he insists:

“I’m not giving it away – I’m giving it to you.”

Gods, Sam, stop killing me with your sweetness already.


Jon’s little bro Bran is also having a bad day; Maester Luwin refuses to believe that his dreams about being his direwolf – and his and Invisible Rickon’s premonitions of Ned’s death – are different to your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum dreams.

“Maybe magic once was a mighty force in the world, but no more.”

Tread softly, Luwin, because you tread on… oh, never mind. I’m not sure I like how they film the wolf’s POV – it always takes me a long time to realise that’s what it is. It just feels like a trick and takes me out of the story into wondering how it was filmed – anyone else?


Theon and Yara’s relationship feels like the worst of teenage siblings who don’t get on, with added knives. And Yara is always one step ahead of him, in command of 30 ships to Theon’s one. But Theon has a point when he yells at Balon:

“You gave me away like some dog you didn’t want anymore, and now you curse me, because I’ve come home.”

For all we know, Theon has had no contact at all with his family since he was taken to Winterfell as a hostage, yet he comes home, and they hate him. I have to give props to the director on this for focusing on Balon’s reaction during that line. We got to see grief, regret, hurt, love, and resolve pass across his face, all in silence, but Theon didn’t.

Closeup on Balon's face as Theon yells at him
Also I may have left the oven on

Yara lays it on the line: Balon will not ally with Robb, and means to take Winterfell and the North for himself. Theon cannot have both his old family and his new one, like he wanted: he must choose. We see him try to defy that ultimatum with his letter to Robb. His plan seemed to have been to betray his father’s plan to Robb while going along with it, but in what will be a pivotal moment for him, he burns the letter, unsent. He has chosen his old family over his foster-family, and given the war, that choice will have consequences far beyond just the Greyjoys or the Starks. I love this scene, too: I felt like I was watching it on a stage from the front row, and even though I knew what Theon would do, I was willing him to seal and send the letter right up until the moment the flames caught. He is then baptised into the faith of the Iron Islands (another religion! We’re up to *counts on fingers* five now), blessed with stone, salt, and steel, and the words:

“What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.”

Yara doesn’t exactly look pleased that Theon made the choice to stay, but really, she would have despised him either way. As much as Theon is a tool, he’s in a no-win situation.


Renly and Margaery are playing at being King and Queen, watching her brother and his lover Loras get pwned by… a woman.

Close up of Brienne after she takes off her helmet
You may call me Brienne. Badass Brienne.

I’ve been dying to see Brienne, and so far, she’s awesome. Strong, yet awkward; seeing her walk beside Catelyn really hammers home how much she is transgressing the gender roles of the time. Renly and Margeary appear magnanimous but also patronising, though Catelyn holds her own against them and a peevish Loras (bad loser. Remind me not to play Monopoly with him):

“My son is fighting a war, not playing at one.”

Loras’s peevishness continues into the night, when he won’t have sex with Renly. Renly, accurately, guesses he is jealous that Brienne beat him and is now part of his Kingsguard, but it’s pretty clear that Loras is also pressing his sister’s agenda here:

“Not tonight, another Tyrell requires your attention.”

Though we never see them together here, this pair of scenes, Renly & Loras, then Renly & Margaery, tells us a lot about the Tyrell siblings. They trust each other deeply, to the exclusion of others. Loras knows Margaery isn’t a virgin, and keeps her secret; Margaery knows about her brother and her husband, something Loras clearly never told Renly. They seem to have a plan for Renly that is totally new to him: Margaery’s casual acceptance of Renly’s sexuality and welcoming attitude towards Loras in their bed is something Renly never even considered and he has no idea what to do.

Renly and Margaery sit on his bed; she is holding his hand
So you... and then he... No, wait.

He’s nervous (the wine!), reserved, and seems uninterested, but then also, how to say, not totally repulsed by a handjob from a lady? Margaery is the one in control here, and she spells it out for him: the path to legitimate power is through pregnancy, and however he wants to go about it,

“With me, with me and Loras, however else you like. Whatever you need to do. You are a king.”

he has to get her pregnant. As a nobleman and a would-be king, strategic marriage is part of the deal: this sexual relationship is something he chose when he married her. But already, Renly is on the defensive and he hasn’t even fought a battle yet. What did you think of this introduction to Margaery, and the whole sex thing? Are we going to see some kind of incesty ménage-a-trois next week? Confession time: I do not like Natalie Dormer as Margaery. At all. I just don’t think she’s subtle enough at all (and I’m not even referring to the cleavage).


Tyrion is the one pushing things along down in the capital, but first he has to deal with a very bored Shae, who wholeheartedly rejects his proposed career for her of kitchen wench:

“Every man who has tasted my cooking tells me what a fabulous whore I am.”

and Varys comes to the rescue by assigning her as handmaid to Sansa, who has just had to endure a dreadful dinner with Cersei, Myrcella, and Tommen. I’m so glad Cersei concentrated her limitless venom:

“Sansa will do her duty – won’t you, little dove?”

in her oldest son, as the other children seem quite sweet, if even more clueless than Sansa was a few short months ago.

Myrcella smiles at Sansa; Tommen eats
I'll have pretty dresses, and that's all that matters

We see a flash of the old, spoiled Sansa when she berates Shae and orders her about, but she’s also clearly just about holding it together. Theon might disagree now, but he probably had it a lot better in Winterfell.

Tyrion sets up the three other members of the Small Council by telling each of them three secret different marriages he has (supposedly) arranged for Myrcella: to Theon (that poor girl); to Robin Arryn (no, ok, he’d be worse than Theon); and to a Dornish prince (no information available). When Cersei rages at Tyrion for planning to send Myrcella away to Dorne “sold like a common whore” (whore/guest/hostage, what’s the difference…), Tyrion has his traitor: Pycelle, who is found with a woman (Ros has moved up in the hierarchy, clearly). Tyrion has his beard cut off and him thrown in the dungeon. And from his confrontation with Cersei, he is happy to go ahead with the plan – Myrcella is to be sent to Dorne. As we’ve previously seen, Tyrion is fond of both Myrcella and Tommen, and I believed him when he tells Cersei that sending Myrcella away is for her own good in case King’s Landing falls to their enemies. Did you? But more importantly, did Cersei?

Cersei with tears in her eyes
She just really hates pieces of paper.

Littlefinger, meanwhile, is not happy to have been played. He let Tyrion see that he wanted to be Lord of the Riverlands, and Littlefinger hates being in debt (did you notice he sounds more Irish the angrier he gets?). But Tyrion still has a plan for him that would give him Harrenhal and let him see Catelyn again, and the Lannisters would get Jaime back.

Varys, in contrast, is not offended, merely admiring of Tyrion’s savvy, but I wouldn’t trust a man who speaks in riddles:

“Power resides where men believe it resides… A very small man can cast a very large shadow”


And now on to some action: a welcome relief from awkward sex scenes and political plotting. Arya can’t sleep, and Yoren tries to soothe her with his own story, about how he couldn’t sleep after his brother’s murder, and how he eventually remedied his obsession with the murderer:

“I buried an axe so deep in his head they had to bury him with it.”

But this lovely (!) moment is interrupted by Lannister soldiers, who attack the men with crossbows and flaming arrows. Yoren is a serious BAMF, telling Arya and Gendry to hide, rallying the rest to fight, and snarking even as he’s shot in the chest:

“I’ve always hated crossbows – take too long to load.”

but dies just the same, in a manner seriously reminiscent of Boromir: Seán Bean would be proud.

Yoren gives instructions to Gendry and Arya
Run, little hobbits.

Arya and Gendry run, but Arya stops to give the men in the caged cart an axe to free themselves, Gendry fights, and they are captured. The soldiers want Gendry, but clearly haven’t been given a description of him, and Arya takes advantage. The split-second look on Gendry’s face when he thinks Arya might betray him was priceless – eeep! – but she has seen Gendry’s helmet lying near, and transforms the murdered Lommy (“Carry him, he says!”) into Gendry. So they are alive, but captured by the Lannisters, with no weapons, and on the way to Harrenhal with a commander who (at risk of terrible understatement) doesn’t seem to like children: it doesn’t take a genius to imagine things may get even worse for them now.


Spoilers note: as before, anything from the first book or TV series is not a spoiler. Please spoilerise anything else using the [*spoiler*] and [/*spoiler*] tags. (Remove the asterisks to make the tags.)

Screencaps courtesy of

51 replies on “Recap: Game of Thrones, 2.3, “What Is Dead May Never Die””

I got roasted on Twitter for saying that I didn’t understand why they made Renly gay when he wasn’t in the books but I’ll say it again – I did not see that in the books. I still don’t. It’s not that he’s gay (I’m bi) it’s that I don’t see the canon basis. But anyway….

I had a momentary twinge of sympathy for Theon until I remembered that I hate him. So, I hope the bastard cried himself to sleep.


There are references collected here and here: I don’t think they’re exhaustive but good enough. GRRM has also said that he deliberately portrayed them as lovers. Whether Renly and Loras’s relationship means that Renly is gay in the modern sense of the word is, I think, still an open question, though I’d love to pick Gethin Anthony’s brain about it!

If the writer says so, then it is so – the characters belong to him (or her – hello, Dumbledore!).

But really – rainbow cloaks and the Knight of Flowers and that’s how we know they’re gay?  GRRM, I’m disappointed. He doesn’t have any issues showing graphic sex otherwise, a little M/M would have been nice.

As far as I’ve read, GRRM did not intend the rainbow guard thing to be a gay reference:

The Rainbow Guard isn’t meant to symbolize Renly’s sexuality. It was more of a culmination of several unrelated things, such as the fact that he’d already used white for the Kingsguard and black for the Night’s Watch. A rainbow is seven colors combined together in one object – he compared it to a shamrock being a Irish Catholic symbol of the Holy Trinity, three parts which make up one thing. Plus it has seven colors and is tied to the Seven, plus worshipers of the Seven use prism rainbows in their temples.

A flower is the Tyrell symbol. I take your point about there being little actual gay sex in the books, but neither Renly or Loras (for other reasons, I’m presuming) is a POV character, so it makes sense we wouldn’t actually ‘see’ them having sex.

The show has made Theon so much more relatable.

I’m not sure I approve because I loathe Theon. Cersei is even worse, but be it in the books or the show I can understand some of her motives (one of Cersei’s main problems is that she thinks she is the smartest person ever, when she is most definitely not), whilst I’ve never been able to muster any sympathy at all for Theon.

[spoiler]Yeah, what happens to Theon later is awful (I’m actually re-reading A Dance of Dragons this week, the beginning of S02 sent me on a re-reading spree) so I’m right into it. And it is BAD. But where we’re at now, he’s still just a selfish, smirky, arrogant douche who will do anything for power/glory. For now. I don’t think you can NOT feel bad for him later, though. [/spoiler]

That part where Theon was yelling at his father was my first inkling of sympathy for him. And that made me mad, because I don’t want to be sympathetic towards him.

Overall, this episode felt more compelling than last weeks even though it was more maneuvering. I can’t put my finger on why it was more interesting, but it certainly was.

I have to say that I LOVE the way they’ve presented Margaery, smirkyface and all. They definitely changed her from the books- still the same awareness and cunning, but they swapped out the innocence for experience and ambition. I guess I see it that she’s the only female character who is truly playing the game of thrones in the same when that the men do. Cersei is crazypants and not actually very good at scheming, and women like Catelyn play because they have to, not because they want to. Whereas TV!Margaery to me is seizing opportunities the same way Tyrion or Varys would, and clearly enjoying the hell out of it.

I do like that Margaery is much more of a contender straight away, but I just don’t think the actress is doing a very good job of portraying the subtlety and the difference in behaviour she would have had to have between public and private. Maybe she will convince me!

It could be because I’ve only read the books once, as opposed to anything about the show itself. But I’m finding myself much more sympathetic to certain characters as I watch the show, compared to when I first read. Everyone from Theon to… I hate to say it… even Cersei.

But not Joffrey. Never Joffrey.

I can’t tell how I feel about Margaery at this point. She’s coming across as pretty conniving, and I feel like I didn’t have that impression of her at this point in the books. I did like the scene with her and Renly and Cat, and I am SO PLEASED with the casting of Brienne. She’s pretty much exactly as I pictured her. I sort of love that HBO doesn’t necessarily need to “pretty up” characters. (Not that the actress who plays Brienne is ugly or anything, but if they were just casting for tall, they could have gone the stereotypical takes-off-her-helm-and lets-her-tresses-flow beautiful model type.)

Also, I hate the Iron Islands storylines SO MUCH. I don’t know why, but “We do not sow” and “What is dead may never die” just make me roll my eyes a lot. It may have something to do with how much I hate Theon. WINTER IS COMING, BITCHES.

Ditto on the Iron Islands thing! In both the books and the show, I just have to grit my teeth and get through those scenes because I want to reach what’s coming after. And I think there is so much emphasis in the book on Brienne being ugly/plain that casting a model-type actress would never have been considered.  Her stature and her plainness are a large part of her character, and it’s clear that they’re trying to make the actress look as un-glamorous as possible.

As I was reading the series, every time I got to an Iron Islands chapter, my Facebook status would generally read something like: “OH MY GOD WHY ARE THE IRON ISLANDS SO BORING. WHAT IS DEAD WILL NEVER DIE. LIKE THIS PLOTLINE. FUCK YOU, GREYJOYS.”

Et cetera. I’m capsy when I’m annoyed.

Yes indeed to Margaery and to Brienne, and it’s a nice contrast. The latter is as perfectly cast as most of the other characters have been so far, and I’m the type of person who rails about this in movie/tv adaptations of books! They’ve done a hell of a job with it in this series, I think. Which makes Margaery an even more discordant note, maybe; as both you and QoB point out, I read her as much more… if not more innocent, than at least better at presenting herself that way. No need to get into spoilers (and thank you so much for the info on how to do that!), but I wonder if that has to do with her scenes so far – when we see her in situations where she’ll need to play that up more, maybe it’ll work?

I’d been wondering for a long time if Margaery was a virgin. I still wasn’t 100% sure after the episode, so I’m glad some folks are more sure about it than I am, because I am sometimes terrible at picking up subtext! (For instance, I didn’t realize Renly and Loras were a thing when I read the books…seems so obvious now…)

TBH, these scenes with them were some of the ones I was most excited to get to see, because I really wanted to get a closer view of them than we got in the books.

Also, Brienne. (eee!)

Additionally, it’s sometimes fun when something happens that I forgot about in the book. Tyrion’s scheme to figure out which of the Small Council would rat on him being the star thing I didn’t remember from this episode. Tyrion is so awesome.

And is it just me, but is Kit Harrington not really all that impressive of an actor? Maybe it’s just my grudge against Jon Snow speaking.

Tyrion’s scheme was entertaining to watch play out, but I think Varys was smart enough to know that Tyrion would never seriously try to marry Myrcella off to Theon Fucking Greyjoy, so he probably guessed something wasn’t on the level and stayed the hell out of it.

We need two spin-off series: one with Sam and Dolorous Edd, and one with Varys and Littlefinger as shadowy anti-heroes fighting the kind of crime they don’t like in the Free Cities.

ETA: also one with Arya and Gendry as child detectives, a la the Famous Five.

I spent most of season 1 wishing the actors playing Robb and Jon would swap. I think the actor who plays Robb is wonderful in the role now though. Kit Harrington… I want more from Jon Snow! I never cared that much for the character in the books (he barely ranks over Brienne who I want to love but just can’t… stop… no…) and it makes his scenes on the show a bit harder to watch. Some of the actors make their characters come alive (Maester Luwin springs to mind – I don’t barely remember him from the books but on the show? Old man is awesome! Honorable mention: Sam!) while others fall flat (that’s right emo-Jon I’m looking at you – and now Maergery). I have high hopes for Brienne! Maybe since I won’t have to listen to her internal monologue…?

I also never picked up on the Renly/Loras stuff in the books.

I actually really liked Brienne in the books. I think her character was not the most likeable, but she was fascinating to me, because I felt like it was one of the most candid depictions of what it would be like to be a person like her in a patriarchal culture like theirs that I had seen in a very long time.

And I’m with you on Luwin and Sam. Sam did grow on me over time, but Luwin would have been fairly forgettable otherwise!

I’m still not sure Renley and Loras were a thing in the books. I didn’t pick up on it when I read them, and I can’t re-read ’em at present (they are far away with the boyfriend, who I have successfully hooked on the series). But I’ll be looking for it when I do re-read. And I love that the show is going there.

Y’know, for social justice issues. Of course.

(Kit Harrington: his acting, eh. But his looks: am I the only one who thinks he looks like Orlando Bloom dyed his hair really dark?)

Learning of the relationship made a couple big things in the book make sense to me. They’re spoilery things, though, so they’re getting tagged.


1) Loras’s intensity of reaction when Renly is killed.

2) Loras’s disinterest of the droves of women interested in him, specifically the scenes where Sansa is trying to gain his attention and he doesn’t seem to give a shit.[/spoiler]

I don’t have the exact quote, but:

[spoiler] When Renly, Cat and Stannis meet to talk, Stannis makes a crack about Renly not being likely to get his wife pregnant. I took that to mean Stannis kind of knew what was up with Renly and Loras (or at least, that Renly wasn’t so keen sex with women). [/spoiler]

This is true, but I think, when it comes to some characters that we don’t get POV scenes of, GRRM has whole character backgrounds/histories in mind that affect what the characters do…but we might never see the reasons.

The Hound was a character that was always perplexing to me, and I think it is because of this very thing. We know a little about him, and I can take some stabs at what kind of person I think he is, but his motives aren’t always clear.

It might simply have been that the Renly/Loras thing was somewhat rumored, but none of our POV characters really caught wind of it?

I agree. She’s just a little TOO scheming and a little TOO smirky/knowing. I did like her conversation with poor Renly though – practical lady. Admire the writing but the actress is a little over-the-top for me.

Was surprised that I liked Brienne. Book Brienne drives me BONKERS but I could get behind tv Brienne I’m pretty sure. Theon too gains points on the show. Even though he’s still a douchecanoe.

Best episode of 3. Looking forward to next weeks! Also – am I the only one that is kind of sick of the north-of-the-wall storyline? It needs to take off and get some direction already. At least Jon doesn’t quite seem as emo this season as last, IMO.

Admire the writing but the actress is a little over-the-top for me.

Yes, this exactly. I don’t have a problem with how she’s written but the acting is… sub-par.

Agree with you about the Wall storyline, but I’m hoping they’ve paced it appropriately so that things take off now that they’ve been kicked out of Craster’s Keep.

Agree with you on every single point (well, I like book!Brienne a bit.) I really enjoy the fact that Margaery clearly knows about Loras and Renly and is ok with whatever solidifies her political position. I think Margaery and the Tyrells are smart that way, but in my head Margaery looks much more innocent than Natalie Dormer. She’s lovely, but she’s got smirkyface.

I also am sick of the North-of-the-wall plot right now. Trading that time for some time with Dany would have made this episode just about perfect for me!

This episode was the best of three, in my opinion. There was the scheming and turning what I love about ASoIaF. I sorta agree with you on Margaery, I know she was very smart in the books but less obvious than on telly.

Tyrion was best and I loved how they let that ‘whisper’-scene float together. I have more pity for TV!Theon than book!Theon, but that’s probably because I chose to forget some things I’ve read.

Leave a Reply