With most shows, the writers must pose questions like, 'What should *main character* do next?' With a show like Game of Thrones, the writers must ask, 'Who do we include next?' The series, which airs Episode 2.03: What Is Dead May Never Die Sunday, April 15 at 9 PM ET on HBO, has such an immense, sprawling cast, that main players are often absent in particular episodes, and this week is no different. We haven't seen King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) since the Season 2 premiere, and he doesn't show up this week either, although his minions and methods are put on display once more. After two weeks of minimal involvement, there is no sign of Daenerys Targeryan (Emilia Clarke) in Sunday night's episode, but, thankfully, there is plenty of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) to fill those voids.
(Be warned, spoilers from Episode 2.02: The Night Falls are contained within, so read at your own risk if you haven't watched it yet). Episode 2.03: What Is Dead May Never Die starts out shortly after the final events in Episode 2.02: The Night Falls, with Craster (Robert Pugh) telling Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo) that he wants his Night's Watch cronies out of his abode, after catching Jon Snow (Kit Harington) spying on him. Despite being warned several times, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) gives a gift to Gilly (Hannah Murray), and says he'll be back for her. Say huh? The "coward" who can barely fight plans on going back to rescue the wife/daughter of a crazed wildling? Intriguing.
We catch up with Sansa (Sophie Turner), who still seems to be a shell of a woman after her father's death. Although she manages to say the right things around her new royal family, her weary eyes convey that she really wants no part of this Lannister brood. There is a great scene at dinner when young Princess Mycella (Aimee Richardson) asks when Sansa and Joffrey will get married, a ceremony which Cersei (Lena Headey) says will happen after the war. However, it's Mycella's own wedding that gives us the most compelling scenes in this episode.
So far this season, we have seen Tyrion gleefully and cunningly wield his power as Hand of the King, to avoid meeting the same fate as Sansa's late father, Ned Stark. Tyrion is constantly testing those closest advisers around him, seeing who can truly be trusted, and he hatches the most ingenious plan in this episode. He tells three men, the aging Pycelle (Julian Glover), the ambitious Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), and the cunning Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) that he plans to form a new alliance by marrying Mycella off when she comes of age. However, he tells each man that she will be married to a different person each time, with explicit instructions that the Cersei musn't know of his plans, seeing which of these trusted advisers and small council members will betray his confidence. As I said in last week's review, Tyrion seems to be the one most worthy of sitting on the Iron Throne, with his intelligence that seems far ahead of anyone in all the Seven Kingdoms, and, most importantly, his deceptive nature and willingness to make the hard decisions. Tyrion's 'latest deception," as Baelish puts it, is carried out with brilliant precision, and yields some surprising results.
While we don't see Stannis Baratheon and his contingency, we do meet a brand new character in Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), in a way we don't see most ladies on this show... in hand-to-hand combat. While we can't see who she is right away under that suit of armor, she handily defeats Ser Lorras (Finn Jones) a.k.a. The Knight of Flowers in front of Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) and his lady, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). When Brienne asks to be a part of Renly's Kings Guard, he agrees, which causes some turmoil for Renly's secret life as Lorras' homosexual lover, which we saw in the first season, and now discover that it isn't quite a secret anymore.
This episode also takes us to the Iron Islands, with a memorable confrontation between Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and his father, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), who reiterates how weak his son has become after nine years in Winterfell. Theon has a very nice arc in this episode, and his true colors are put to the test. When he was sent back home by Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Theon believed he could talk his father into an alliance with the Stark camp. Back home, he learns that not only is his father unwilling to join forces, but his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) has become a far superior warrior than Theon ever was. Theon must choose his side in this episode, which is fascinating to watch.
We also get to see an interesting side of Cersei, after she confronts Tyrion about his plan to marry off her daughter, Mycella (which is where we learn who deceived The Imp). There is a fascinating line delivered by Lena Headey's Cersei, who refuses to have her daughter shipped off in the same way she was "sent" to Robert Baratheon. While Cersei remains unflappable 99 percent of the time, her dear brother clearly knows what buttons to push. One has to wonder if this Hand of the King will end up as the proverbial man behind the Iron Throne, manipulating his way all the way up to controlling young Joffrey. It certainly seems possible after the events in this stunning episode.
The episode ends in a rather shocking fashion on the Kings Road, with the castaways Ayra (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joseph Dempsie) in danger when the king's men return with an army, determined to find the Gendry. Let's just say they do... and don't find Gendry, in an ingenious turn of events.
If you agree, disagree, or just want to talk about this fantastic land of Westeros, you can find me on Twitter @GallagherMW.