By Ystyn Francis
The novels in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series approach its grand tale from the perspective of different characters. While not necessarily original, it is a highly effective process that is very well-realised by Martin because each player is given a significant portion of the respective book to establish their own voice as well as promote their agenda. It is so engaging, in fact, that it is not uncommon for the reader to fluctuate from frustration at being ripped away from one person’s story to pure engrossment when they are reacquainted with another. However, while it is incredibly hard to fault Game of Thrones on any front – except, possibly, its unnecessarily wanton moments of sexual depravity – the balance between each character’s journey that is so finely poised in the novels is not translated to the screen as consistently. In particular, having made a mental note of her one short scene in “The Night Lands” a week ago, the absence of Daenerys and her dragons in “What is Dead May Never Die” became far more prominent this time round. Instead, it is a Tyrion-heavy episode which, while hugely entertaining in and of itself, just didn’t seem to faithfully sustain the epic, multi-faceted nature that Game of Thrones has established. Yes, I understand there are many, many characters who all need their fair share of screen time, but Daenerys just seems too pivotal to the longevity of the narrative to all-but leave out for two weeks straight.
The nitpicking aside, the increasing scope of the series continues to take shape in fascinating ways as we are introduced to even more characters including the massive warrior Brienne and ‘King’ Renly’s new queen, Margaery Tyrell, a perfect piece of typecasting after Natalie Dormer’s scheming role as Anne Bolyn in The Tudors. Bran continues to suffer through disturbing ‘dreams’ where he becomes a direwolf and the king’s guards return to reign death and destruction on Arya’s group heading for The Wall in their search for Robert Baratheon’s bastards. And Tyrion’s triple-headed approach to uncovering Queen Cersei’s mole in the council is a piece of genius from both the dwarf and the writers and directors.
However, as per the books, no matter how interesting the lore and the aesthetic of the Iron Islands may be, Theon Greyjoy, who segues from being a prominent bit player in the first book/season to be an actual main figure in the outing two, is on his way to completing the impossible: could the audience possibly learn to hate him more than King Joffrey? He is a really, really unlikable man whose behaviour in this and previous episode is really starting to stink.