Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 3
What Is Dead May Never Die
Tonight, Varys offers us a riddle: does power lie with the kings, the rich, or the holy? It's a question of wherever man sees power and what power they collectively see fit to follow. One might get the impression from these last few episodes that power really is fleeting. Tyrion suggest, in that riddle, that the man with the sword has the real power. But the only violence we get in this episode underscores that greatly. Theres a tournament, the symbolism of violence without its actual repercussions. There's the ritual castration of Pycelle. And then theres the very real violence at the end of the episode. What does that result in? Well, the destruction of the bull-headed man, one of mankind's earliest idols and a symbol of weakening power among the Lannisters.

It's a curious theme for an episode, especially considering that, as a series, Game of Thrones is really content to live in that fiction where the politically powerful are the only characters worth following. We never actually hear from the small folk and the serfs of this world. Its boiled down to the emotions and cunning of the political class. And their games are vast and complicated. They each play a part in the other's schemings. Consider the masterful scene where Tyrion feeds three slightly varying bits of information to three potential rivals - Pycelle, Littlefinger and Varys - and tells each not to tell the queen. He fights the mole in his schemings, and sends Pycelle to rot in a dungeon. Littlefinger reacts with anger to know he has been tricked, though we've seen him play the game with aplomb in the past. Varys is simply amused, like a master seeing an apprentice succeed. And Tyrion - well, he must now work with his little untruth, convincing the Queen it was his true intention all along.

Tyrion talks about building alliances, where as Theon decides to break his. After referring to Robb as his brother incessantly, he switches to his father's side after a few hurtful words. Now he decides to raid the Northlands, to break his oath and fight his kin. And newcomer Queen Margaery provides the most entertaining bit of alliance building. She's Renly's new wife, and the sister of Sir Loras. She recognizes that her husband's hold of his new army is still weak, and they're marriage is necessary to hold it together. She also knows that her brother is her husband's lover, and tolerates that fact with a smiling face. Watch out for this one - she might be playing the game as well as Varys or Tyrion, or at least willing to put up with the indignities Cercei would never face.

Where in this land can we find people who don't see power as a great shifting void? Newcomer Brienne, the female knight who delivers Loras a severe beating in Renly's tourney, seems fiercely loyal to her new king, even as his other lords snicker behind his back. Without spoiling much, Brienne is a fan favorite of readers of the book, though we don't get a look at her besides her gruff exterior and her performance in battle. Jon Snow, after discovering what really happens to Craster's sons, still maintains his faith in their Lord Commander, though loyalty may mean something more beyond the wall where terrible things lurk behind every tree.

But family? Family doesn't mean much. Besides Catelyn's petitioning for aid and Margaery's willingness to invite her brother to bed, this episode shows us that love never comes into the equation of power. Theon forsakes his brother Robb not for the love of his biological family but for their questioning of his honor. Tyrion and Cercei remain enemies in everything but name. And when Pycelle begs desperately for his life, he keeps yelling that he has always served house Lannister. Not the crown, nor the king, but the family. It doesn't save him. No, in this world, sacrificing your sons is a regular occurrence. Maybe we're being too hard on Craster.

Grade: A-


-In the books Margaery is a little bit of a cipher. One doesn't know if she's totally sweet and oblivious, or playing a very dangerous game (though there are certain hints). In the show her proclivities are laid bare. The show flattens a lot of characters, but this was one I was happy to see spelled out.

-"There are no goats, half-man!" - This weeks proposed spinoff is for the Mountain Clans, who can end each episode feeding manhoods to goats as they seem so eager to do.
Tags: Game of Thrones
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