The world depicted in Game of Thrones – with its villainy, treachery and deceit – is not one where optimism finds its way to the hearts of too many men. Holding steadfast to a belief or a cause is a sure way to end up with one’s head on a stick, as Eddard Stark regrettably proved. And for those too young, or too idealistic to know how most make due, the notion of compromise can often be a hard pill to swallow.
‘What is Dead May Never Die’ introduces various players in the game to the notion of compromise; either that or it reminds those of a compromise made long ago. Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) learns this after his encounter with Craster (Robert Pugh) reveals that the fate of Craster’s sons is not much of a secret. The revelation that concessions have to be made in order to maintain some semblance of stability, even at the cost of innocent lives, is another in a line of concessions for Snow that suggest the road he travels will continue to darken.
Additionally, the North’s war against the Lannisters likely means more compromise by Robb Stark (Richard Madden), if he is to secure allegiance with those who would also claim Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) an enemy. Robb has already sent Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) back to his father Balon (Patrick Malahide) in an effort to win Greyjoy’s naval might. While that effort proves fruitless, it does reveal Balon’s plans to take the North while everyone is off fighting the Lannisters. This leaves Theon in the unenviable position of betraying the father he’s never truly known or betraying Robb, who entrusted him with this task. For Balon, his son’s return is a bitter reminder that he once had to bend his knee to Robert Baratheon, while it serves to remind Theon that once he was given away, and that act left him without a true home. The desire to be a part of something explains Theon’s decision to pledge loyalty to his father’s house.
Of course when it comes to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the notion of compromise is just a clever way of getting what he wants. This is made evident by his dealings with Varys (Conleth Hill), who Tyrion employs in both a plan to reveal the spy in his ranks, as well as place Shae (Sibel Kekilli) as the handmaiden of Sansa (Sophie Turner) – whose front is not fooling anyone, but likely amuses by Cersei, Joffrey and the others, nonetheless.
Perhaps more important for Tyrion, however, is spreading enough misinformation across three channels consisting of Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), Varys and Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen) that the ferrets out his sister’s spy – which sees Pycelle given a close shave and a prison cell. But again, in his cunning, Tyrion finds the element that will cause people to do his bidding. With Varys, it was sharing in deception, but with Baelish, it’s the promise of wealth and prominence. Baelish’s desires are so base that even when it’s revealed he was merely a cog in Tyrion’s deception, he is easily recruited in a scheme to free Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) at the promise of something else he wants: Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley).
Off negotiating an alliance with Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), Catelyn is introduced to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who has recently bested Renly’s lover, Loras (Finn Jones), earning her the right to serve Renly. As it happens, Catelyn is also introduced to Renly’s wife Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), who isn’t as naïve as her doe-eyed appearance would have one think. Margaery knows about, and even accepts, Renly’s relationship with her brother, offering Loras’ assistance as compromise for Renly’s help in legitimizing their marriage with a child.
Game of Thrones ends as Arya (Maisie Williams) has to watch while yet another person she cares about is struck down on an order by a Lannister. Though Yoren (Francis Magee) failed to get Arya back to Winterfell, his dying act caused enough of a commotion that Arya is able pin Gendry’s identity onto a young boy murdered by a soldier following the melee. Though now it seems she and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) are off to an even more uncertain future at Harrenhal.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Garden of Bones’ @9pm on HBO. See a preview of the episode below.