It's both the blessing and the curse of Game of Thrones: no show on television serves so many characters and storylines.
As a result, viewers must often exercise patience before learning more about their favorite Westeros residents. Consider: season one concluded on an epic shot of Daenerys and her dragons, yet she has received very little screen time so far on season two, including none at all on "What Is Dead May Never Die."
Moreover, last Sunday's "The Night Lands" cut to black on Jon Snow getting whacked over the head by Craster, only for this week's installment to barely touch upon the actions of the Night's Watch, revealing only that Lord Commander Mormont was aware of Craster's devious sacrifices all along.
Could I watch entire episodes dedicated to Dany's journey through the Red Waste? Or to Jon Snow's adventures beyond the wall? Heck, even to cute, thimble-giving Sam and his careful courtship of Gilly? Absolutely. Game of Thrones has created layered, fascinating characters across every Kingdom.
There just isn't time each week to focus on every one.
(NOTE: Remember: I review this series from a purely television-based standpoint. To read the latest take from someone who has read the George R.R. Martin novels, check out Carissa Pavlica's review of "What is Dead May Never Die.")
So... while Stannis' craving for a son and his relationship with Melisandre were pushed aside in this case, we still got to know a lot more about one Baratheon brother, Renly. He isn't exactly as cunning as his brief first season introduction would have us believe, is he?
Soon after Robert died last year, Renly was prepared to join forces with Ned and succeed his sibling. He seemed anxious, ready, confident. Here, however? Renly gave off those traits in public, but he's nothing more than a cowering mess behind closed doors.
A gay cowering mess, that is, which - within the world George R.R. Martin has mapped out - can't be a huge deal in and of itself. There are eunuchs and prostitutes and constant talk of sex; I doubt non-royal gay men would receive a second look in Westeros. But a king? One who aims to sit on the Iron Throne? Where fathering a son and continuing the line of succession is one's most pressing duty?
Yeah. It's a big problem. Which explains Renly's insecure state and which also provided the perfect introduction to Margaery. Theirs is not a fairy tale love, that's safe to say. I don't recall Snow White asking Prince Charming if he wants her brother to come in and get him started. But Margaery isn't after true love, just the power that comes along with her hoped-for future position.
It's refreshing to watch someone so open with her plans and desires. As the title of this series states, a constant game is afoot, with motivations and actions often unclear until later on. Not for Margaery, though. She wants to be Queen. She wants to sire a royal son and she has no interest in pretending otherwise.
I feel like Tyrion would like Margaery. She's straightforward. He would know how to deal with someone like that and, man, would it save him scheming time! This little Hand of the King once again provided the most entertaining aspects of a GoT episode, maneuvering his way through potential snitches; finally outing Pycelle; and then paying the poor woman who had just serviced him in bed. Twice. Because, come on, she deserved at least that much for this job.
We were then treated to a revealing scene between Varys and Tyrion, along with more mentions of power and how best to attain it. Petyr Baelish, of course, believes that knowledge is power; while Cersei tried to prove on the season two premiere that power is power. Varys? He thinks the appearance of power is power, and he sees a future ruler in Tyrion, someone with a unique skill set of verbal manipulation.
But does Tyrion actually seek power? He has always seemed content where he is, wherever that may be, simply aiming to survive and drink a lot of wine. Things can change, however, especially when one is so close to the ultimate power in King's Landing.
Finally, there's Theon. He has seemingly made his choice. He's his father's son, a man of iron. Like so much else on this episode, he's a key piece being moved in to place. He'll soon butt heads with Robb Stark, who will likely view him as a traitor.
When will that battle take place on screen? It's unclear... but something big is on the Game of Thrones horizon. We've met new characters, we've been taken to new places, we've received new insight into past favorites. But we haven't really been shocked yet. No one we know has been killed and, as hard as it may be to believe, one-third of season two is already complete. I expect the early episode simmer to reach a bloody boil any Sunday now.
Who is your favorite new season two character so far?