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What is Dead May Never Die

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"What is Dead May Never Die" is the third episode of the second season of Game of Thrones. It is the thirteenth episode of the series overall. It premiered on April 15, 2012. It was written by story editor Bryan Cogman and directed by cinematographer Alik Sakharov.

Catelyn Stark treats with King Renly in the hope of winning an alliance. Tyrion undertakes a complex plan in King's Landing to expose an enemy. At Winterfell, Bran's dreams continue to trouble him.



Beyond the Wall

Craster drags his captive Jon Snow back to his keep. He had caught Jon spying on him while he left a baby in the forest for the White Walkers and has beaten him bloody. Craster orders the men of the Night's Watch out of his home, blaming Jon. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont questions Jon about his actions. Jon realizes that Jeor has known all along that Craster is sacrificing his sons. However, Mormont considers Craster too valuable a contact to risk offending, as he is one of their few sources of information and shelter beyond the Wall. Mormont himself is disgusted by Craster's human sacrifices (not to mention his incestuous relationships with his own daughters), but he will not interfere, and forbids Jon from doing so. Jon reveals seeing ​something taking the child. Jeor predicts that whatever it was Jon will see it again.

Samwell Tarly gives Gilly a thimble that once belonged to his mother. He promises to come back for her when they make the return journey to Castle Black.

In the Seven Kingdoms

Bran Stark continues to experience strange dreams where he sees the world from the perspective of his direwolf Summer. He follows Hodor into his own bedroom and looks down on himself sleeping. Later, he confides in Maester Luwin who is dismissive of their significance.

Catelyn Stark arrives in the camp of King Renly Baratheon during a tournament. She watches Brienne of Tarth defeat Ser Loras Tyrell and claim a place in Renly's kingsguard. Renly introduces Catelyn to his new wife Margaery Tyrell. Renly shows off his 100,000 strong army. Catelyn warns Renly to take the war seriously.

Theon Greyjoy is included in his father Balon's war council. Balon reveals his plan to attack the lightly defended North while their armies are fighting against House Lannister. Theon is emasculated by being assigned a single ship to raid the Stony Shore while his sister Yara is put in command of thirty ships and told to take Deepwood Motte. Theon challenges his father's lack of faith in him and reminds him that he gave him up as a ward. Balon reacts by hitting his son and storming out. Theon considers warning Robb about his father's actions but ultimately reaffirms his loyalty to House Greyjoy by being baptised by a Drowned Priest.

Shae complains to Tyrion Lannister about being confined to his chambers. He liaises with Varys to find her a job that will give her some freedom. Cersei Lannister hosts an awkward dinner for her children and her captive Sansa Stark. Sansa maintains her facade of loyalty to her captors. Shae reports as Sansa's new handmaiden allowing Sansa to vent some frustration about her inexperience.

Tyrion tests the loyalty of the small council by feeding them each a different plan for a marriage alliance involving Princess Myrcella Baratheon. He uncovers Pycelle as an informant to Cersei when Cersei confronts him about the plan he fed to Pycelle. Tyrion insists on pursuing the exposed plan to marry Myrcella into House Martell of Dorne over Cersei's protests. He has Bronn arrest Pycelle for his treachery. Petyr Baelish is furious about being involved in Tyrion's deception. Tyrion placates him by offering him an opportunity to act as an envoy to Renly and Catelyn.

Renly tries to initiate sex with his lover Loras but is rebuffed. Loras reminds him of the importance of fathering an heir and goes to fetch his sister Queen Margaery. Margaery fails to seduce Renly. She is pragmatic about his homosexuality, and suggests including her brother in their love making, asserting the importance of producing an heir.​

Arya Stark struggles with insomnia and takes advice from Yoren about coping with her painful memories. He tells her to focus on retribution. They are interrupted by the arrival of Ser Amory Lorch with a force of Lannister men and gold cloaks. Yoren marshals the recruits for a battle. He confronts Ser Amory and refuses to comply with his demands that he surrender the Royal bastard Gendry. Yoren dies fighting bravely but his recruits are overcome. During the fight Arya rescues Jaqen H'ghar from a fire near the prisoner wagon. Lommy Greenhands picks up Gendry's helm and is wounded by a crossbow bolt. Arya is incapacitated by Polliver who takes Needle from her. Gendry and Hot Pie are also captured. Lommy begs Polliver to carry him but Polliver stabs him in the throat with Needle instead. Arya convinces her captors that Lommy was Gendry because he was carrying the helm. Ser Amory orders the prisoners taken to Harrenhal.


Main: What is Dead May Never Die recap

A detailed recap of the episode scene by scene.


  • The episode covers material from chapters 9, 15, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29 and 45 (Tyrion II, Arya IV, Tyrion IV, Arya V, Tyrion V, Catelyn II, Jon III, Theon II, Tyrion VI, Bran IV and Tyrion X).
  • This episode introduces House Martell of Dorne.
  • "What is dead may never die" is a common saying in the religion of the Drowned God on the Iron Islands. The answer to the phrase is "But rises again harder and stronger." In the episode the phrase is begun by Theon Greyjoy during his baptism and completed by the Drowned Priest conducting the ceremony.
  • This episode is the first director credit for Alik Sakharov, who has previously worked on the series as a director of photography.
  • Even though they are not featured in the episode, Dragonstone and Essos appear in the title sequence.
  • Renly's sexual relationship with Loras was implied in the books, but happened largely "off-screen". Author George R.R. Martin has confirmed that they were lovers.
    • When Renly departs from Catelyn to share an intimate moment with Loras in his tent, he tells Catelyn that he is retiring for the evening to "pray". In the books, this is an excuse which Renly and Loras frequently use to explain away their romantic trysts.
  • Tyrion finds out which member of the small council is spying for his sister by giving each suspect a unique piece of information, and then seeing which one his sister finds out about. This method, commonly known as a "Barium meal test", has been used in intelligence agencies for decades. In the novel Patriot Games, author Tom Clancy calls this a Canary Trap. The film Patriot Games features cast member Sean Bean.
  • In the books, Tyrion's three "interviews" to discover which of the Small Council members is secretly working for Cersei happen sequentially, and involve a large amount of "inner monologue" from Tyrion's point of view as he contrasts each interview with the previous one. The TV series instead intercuts each of the three interviews, showing each of the men's reactions to Tyrion's questions.
  • In the books, Tyrion never considers Theon Greyjoy as one of the (fake) marriage-alliance proposals for Myrcella. In both versions, Tyrion meets with Pycelle first, but in the books he met with Littlefinger second and Varys last (in the TV version, Varys went second and Littlefinger went last). Instead of proposing to marry Myrcella to Theon, Tyrion tells Varys that he intends send her brother Tommen to Dorne as a ward (and possibly for a later marriage alliance). Moreover, through his spy network, Varys seems to be already aware that Tyrion told Littlefinger that he intended to marry off Myrcella to House Arryn; rather than contradict this, Tyrion tells Varys that in addition he also intends to send Tommen to Dorne. Notice that, in the TV version, Varys seems visibly confused when Tyrion says that he intends to marry off Myrcella to the Greyjoys; the TV producers may be intentionally implying that - as in the books - Varys already knew of Tyrion's previously announced marriage-alliance plans (in this case, telling Pycelle that he intended to marry her off to House Martell), and is confused that Tyrion is informing him of a completely different plan.
  • Cersei becoming so angry with Tyrion about "selling" Myrcella into a marriage alliance that she shoves him, knocking him down backwards against some steps, was not in the script. It was ad-libbed by actress Lena Headey on the spur of the moment, and both she and Peter Dinklage just acted through it.[1]
  • As originally scripted, for the scene in which Tyrion and his guards burst into Pycelle's quarters to arrest him, Pycelle was being pleasured by the prostitute Daisy, and Pycelle was entirely naked (except for his chain of office). Actor Julian Glover objected to this, as did his wife (who said he would "be on Facebook in five minutes"), and ultimately the writers relented and modified the scene so he is still wearing his robes while sitting in bed with the prostitute.[2]
  • In the books, Shae is not made a handmaiden until much later. First she's placed inside a "safe house" and guarded by members of the mountain clans.
  • In the books, Ser Amory and his men attack Yoren and the Night's Watch recruits during their hunt for Beric Dondarrion.
  • Daenerys Targaryen and her associated storyline do not appear in this episode.
  • This episode marks the first time that Cersei's two younger children, Myrcella and Tommen, have significant dialogue. Tommen never had any speaking lines before this episode. Myrcella had only one brief line in all of Season 1 (asking "Is Bran going to die?" in "The Kingsroad"), and a brief line to Tyrion in the Season 2 premiere (saying "I'm glad you're not dead"). Thus this episode marks the first time that either of them has multiple lines of dialogue exchanged back-and-forth with other characters.
  • The scene in which Margaery Tyrell tries to seduce her husband Renly Baratheon was the first scene that Natalie Dormer shot for the TV series.[3]
  • Despite the fact that King Renly's camp is supposed to feature light-hearted "knights of summer" acting like war is a game and holding a tournament, it is very dark and overcast during this scene. Due to production delays, filming of this scene had to be pushed back to September 2011, even though it was originally intended to be filmed about a month earlier when it was sunnier. Just then, the remnants of Hurricane Irene swept in across the Atlantic Ocean and battered Ireland, though by that point it had degenerated into a front of severe storms. Even when it was not raining, the sky was filled with stormclouds and cold winds blasted through the location. As they were already behind schedule, it was not possible to postpone filming the scene any further, so they were forced to film the "knights of summer" scene in cold and stormy weather. This was something of a problem for the cast, who were still wearing the summer clothing that their characters should have been wearing in Renly's camp. Many cast members were at least wearing their armor, but Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) was wearing a light summer gown with a plunging neckline, and as a result was freezing during the filming of this sequence. Between takes, the costume department would rush to cover Dormer in blankets and give her hot water bottles. Dormer recounted, "that tournament scene was just unfortunate."[3]
    • It is so cold that the breath of many of the cast members is visible in this scene, particularly when Margaery says "you are very welcome here, Lady Stark".
    • At one point the high winds got so severe that the entire extras tent, a massive tent containing a thousand people and all of their costumes, blew away into the air. Luckily, no one was significantly injured. Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell) said, "It was actually terrifying with things swinging down and people getting knocked out. It was absolute chaos. So that was a real disaster but luckily everyone was OK in the end."[4]

Memorable Quotes

[After a day of being tormented by Joffrey, Sansa Stark attends an awkward dinner with Cersei, and her younger children Myrcella and Tommen. Everyone eats wordlessly until Myrcella finally breaks the awkward silence]
Princess Myrcella Baratheon: (to Cersei) "When will Joffrey and Sansa be married?"
Queen Cersei Lannister: "Soon darling, when the war is over."
Myrcella: (to Sansa) "Mother says I'll have a new gown for the ceremony, and another for the feast." (Quickly thinking of something nice to say to Sansa) "But yours will be ivory, since you're the bride."
(Sansa sits in a stunned silence after being reminded that she will be forced to marry Joffrey)
Cersei: (to Sansa) "The princess just spoke to you."
Sansa Stark: (to Cersei) "Pardon, your grace." (to Myrcella) "I'm sure your dress will be beautiful, Myrcella. I'm counting the days until the fighting's done, and I can pledge my love to the king in sight of the Gods."
Prince Tommen Baratheon: (to Cersei) "Is Joffrey going to kill Sansa's brother?"
Cersei: "He might. Would you like that?"
Tommen: (pausing to weigh the question) "No...I don't think so."
Cersei: (smiling coldly at Sansa) "Even if he does, Sansa will do her duty. Won't you, little dove?"

[At Pyke, Balon Greyjoy looks over a map with Yara and Theon.]
Lord Balon Greyjoy: "The wolf pup has gone south with the entirety of the northern army at his back. While he's tangling with the lion in the Westerlands, the North is ripe for the taking. The ironborn will reave and pillage as it was in the old days all along the northern coast. We'll spread out dominion across the green lands securing the Neck and everything above. Every stronghold will fall to us one by one."


Main: What is Dead May Never Die/Appearances


First appearances




Guest starring


Cast notes

Image gallery

Promotional video


  1. Game of Thrones Season 2 Blu-ray - "Inner Circle" featurette
  2. FlicksAndTheCity Julian Glover interview
  3. 3.0 3.1 Seattle Post Intelligencer article on filming season 2 and the interference of Hurricane Irene
  4. Finn Jones Q&A
Game of Thrones Season 2
#01 "The North Remembers"#06 "The Old Gods and the New"
#02 "The Night Lands"#07 "A Man Without Honor"
#03 "What is Dead May Never Die"#08 "The Prince of Winterfell"
#04 "Garden of Bones"#09 "Blackwater"
#05 "The Ghost of Harrenhal"#10 "Valar Morghulis"

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