What Is Dead May Never Die

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"What Is Dead May Never Die"
Game of Thrones episode
GOT-S02-E03 Iron Islands - What Is Dead May Never Die.jpg
Theon Greyjoy being baptized in the name of the Drowned God
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 3
Directed byAlik Sakharov
Written byBryan Cogman
Featured musicRamin Djawadi
Cinematography byP.J. Dillon
Editing byKatie Weiland
Original air dateApril 15, 2012 (2012-04-15)
Running time53 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Night Lands"
Next →
"Garden of Bones"
Game of Thrones (season 2)
List of Game of Thrones episodes

"What Is Dead May Never Die" is the third episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, first airing on April 15, 2012. The episode is written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Alik Sakharov,[1] who worked previously as the director of photography on four season one episodes.

The plot continues events built up in previous episodes: the aftermath of Jon Snow's investigation into Craster, Catelyn Stark's journey to the Stormlands in order to ask for Renly Baratheon's assistance in fighting the Lannisters, Theon's internal conflict as to where his allegiance lies, Tyrion Lannister uses his cunning to find his sister's spy within the Small Council, and Arya is consoled by Yoren before being confronted by soldiers looking for Gendry. The episode's title is taken from a prayer used on the Iron Islands, by worshippers of the Drowned God.


In King's Landing[edit]

Tyrion Lannister tries to hide Shae in the kitchens as a scullery maid, but she refuses. Queen Regent Cersei Lannister eats dinner with Sansa Stark, Princess Myrcella Baratheon, and Prince Tommen Baratheon, where they discuss the war, and Sansa's betrothal to King Joffrey Baratheon. Afterwards, Sansa is greeted by Shae, who is posing as her new handmaiden.

Later, Tyrion tells Grand Maester Pycelle of his plans to forge an alliance with House Martell by marrying Myrcella to Doran Martell's youngest son Trystane. Soon after, he has the same discussion with Lord Varys; however, in this version, he plans to marry Myrcella to Theon Greyjoy. Finally, he has the same discussion once more, with Lord Petyr Baelish, this time having Myrcella marry Robin Arryn. In all three cases, Tyrion makes them swear to keep the discussion a secret, especially from the Queen. Cersei later confronts Tyrion about sending Myrcella to the Martells, confirming that Pycelle is Cersei's spy; Tyrion has him arrested and sent to the dungeons, but not before Pycelle confesses that he told Cersei that Jon Arryn knew of her incest with Jaime. When Baelish realizes he has been fooled, he angrily confronts Tyrion, who is nevertheless able to convince him to meet Catelyn Stark in the Stormlands and convince her to release Jaime.

Beyond the Wall[edit]

Craster returns with Jon Snow and orders the Night's Watch off his lands. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont admits to Jon that he already knew of Craster's sacrificial offering of his sons, arguing that he is an indispensable part of the Night's Watch's campaign beyond the Wall.

At Winterfell[edit]

Bran Stark has another dream in which he is his direwolf, Summer. When he asks Maester Luwin about the dreams, Luwin replies that while he studied magic as a boy, he believes that magic is no longer real, the dragons are dead, and dreams do not always come true.

In the Stormlands[edit]

Self-crowned King Renly Baratheon and his newly-wedded wife Margaery Tyrell watch a tournament in which Margaery's brother Loras, the Knight of Flowers, battles with the imposing female warrior Brienne of Tarth. Catelyn arrives in time to see Brienne win. Brienne requests a place in Renly's Kingsguard, and Renly immediately agrees, to Loras' annoyance. Renly is confident his army of 100,000 can beat the Lannisters, but Catelyn reminds him his men are still inexperienced. Later, Loras refuses to have sex with Renly until he consummates his marriage with Margaery. When Renly is unable, Margaery reveals that she is fully aware of her husband's relationship with her brother, but insists that they keep trying in order to get her pregnant and secure the alliance between the Baratheons and the Tyrells.

On the Iron Islands[edit]

Balon Greyjoy plans his war on the North with his daughter Yara and son Theon. Theon protests in favor of an alliance with the Starks, but Balon refuses and reminds him that Greyjoys "do not sow". Yara tells Theon he must now choose where his loyalty lies: with his adopted family, the Starks, or his real family, the Greyjoys. A conflicted Theon writes a letter to Robb Stark warning him of Balon's plans to attack the North, but burns it, deciding to instead serve under his father. As a sign of his newfound loyalty, he undergoes a ritual baptism in the name of the Iron Islands' primary deity, the Drowned God.

In the Riverlands[edit]

Yoren tells Arya Stark the story of how he became a member of the Night's Watch. Soon, they are startled by a nearby war horn. Lannister bannerman Ser Amory Lorch demands Yoren hand over Gendry. When Yoren refuses, a battle ensues, and Yoren and his men are killed. During the skirmish, Arya helps the prisoner Jaqen H'ghar free himself and the other two captives in the cage before they can be burned alive, and loses her sword Needle to a Lannister soldier, Polliver. Lorch orders the survivors taken to Harrenhal, but when wounded Lommy Greenhands says he cannot walk, he is killed by Polliver. Lorch demands the survivors point out Gendry, but before he can give himself up, Arya tells him that Lommy was Gendry.



"What Is Dead May Never Die" was written by the story editor Bryan Cogman, based on George R. R. Martin's original book A Clash of Kings. Cogman, who is responsible for keeping the show's bible and had already written the first season's fourth episode, was on set for the filming of all the scenes of his episode.[2]

The chapters of the book included in the episode are Arya IV, Tyrion IV, Arya V, Catelyn II, Tyrion VI, Bran IV, (chapters 15, 18, 20, 23, 26 and 29) and also the parts of Tyrion I, Tyrion II, Tyrion V, Jon III and Theon II that had not been included in the previous episode (4, 9, 21, 24 and 25).[3]

"The 'burning the letter' scene was interesting—it wasn't in our outline. (...) But there was something missing—and ultimately, it had to come back to Robb. In our version of the story, Theon is very close to him—he's the brother he never had. And I wanted to take him right up to the point of betraying his own blood—so that's where the warning to Robb scene came from. And at first, it was more elaborate—he was going to write it, take it to a rookery, nearly give it to a maester—(...). It was going to be more of scene/scene. But it never worked, so we just went with the simple act... Now it helped that Alfie is so bloody fantastic in the scene and that Alik Sakharov directed it as if he was directed a huge setpiece—meaning he gave it the same time and attention as a 'big' scene. He did take after take after take with Alfie trying it all kinds of different ways—perfection."

— Bryan Cogman, interviewed by Westeros.org[2]

The scenes set in the Iron Islands were created specifically for the show, as the books jump directly from Balon's revelation that he intends to attack the North to Theon overseeing the preparations of the attack. To flesh out the transition and flesh out Theon's feelings on his change of loyalties, Bryan Cogman included a scene of Theon writing a letter to Robb only to burn it afterwards, and the ritual baptism on the shores of Pyke. Cogman noted that, while those scenes have nearly no dialogue, they are the ones he's most proud of in his episode.

Another scene created for the show was the dinner between Cersei and the children. The scene was included to remind the audience who Myrcella was, since her potential marriages were discussed in the episode. Aimee Richardson, the actor playing Myrcella (who has appeared in many past episodes as a background character), sent a note to Cogman thanking him for her "lines" in this scene.

The final scene also had to be redesigned in relation to the books, due to the constraints imposed by the location, the schedule, and the time restrictions for the child actors. Cogman's first draft was more similar to the books, with Arya, Gendry, Lommy, and Hot Pie first fleeing and then being captured, but finally it was decided to combine both scenes. Cogman was also dismayed that he had to cut one of his favourite scenes in the books: Arya and Hot Pie charging while shouting the battle cries "Winterfell" and "Hot Pie."[2]

In the audio commentary for this episode, included on the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Season 2, Cogman revealed that his initial script was over three hours long and had to be cut significantly (for example, Cogman mentioned that before the cuts he had included a long, drawn out fight scene between Jon and Craster, which was changed at the suggestion of director Alik Sakharov to a shot of Craster dragging Jon back to his keep). Cogman revealed that the sequences between Tyrion and Pycelle, Varys, Littlefinger, and Cersei were among his favorites.


This episode marks the first appearance of two new characters: Lady Margaery Tyrell, the new queen of King Renly Baratheon and sister of his lover, Loras Tyrell; and Brienne of Tarth, a member of Renly's guard.

Natalie Dormer was cast as Margaery; her character was aged in relation to the book's counterpart (Dormer was 29 during the filming of season 2, while the Margaery from the books was 15), and her role was significantly expanded from a background, though important, character in the novels to a main character in the show. Dormer was also added to the series' main cast.[4] Margaery is the youngest member of the Tyrell family in the novels, but as Dormer is six years older than Finn Jones, who plays Loras, Margaery is older than Loras in the show.

For the role of Brienne the producers chose the English actress Gwendoline Christie. According to the character's creator George R. R. Martin, when he saw the first batch of auditions he saw "a dozen actresses who were reading for Brienne and one actress who was Brienne," and it was one of the cases when there wasn't any debate.[5] Due to her outstanding height (6 ft 3 in, 1.91 m) she was earmarked early on by fans of the books as a good fit for the character, and one of them even emailed her agent. Christie already knew about the role and felt that she could relate to the character after having been bullied for her height and androgynous looks. After deciding to "go all out for it," she read the books, started building up with cardio-vascular exercises and kickboxing practices, and even started to wear unisex clothing in order to increase her own masculinity. After she had been cast, she continued to train and received extensive sword fighting and horse-riding lessons. Her last step in the process of transformation was cutting off her long hair, which she found deeply upsetting because she felt it was her last bond to her old self. The day after her hair was cut off, she went to her hotel room and cried.[6]

Filming locations[edit]

Renly's camp was built at the Larrybane Bay.

To reproduce Renly's camp, the production built a set at Larrybane chalk quarry beside Carrick-a-Rede.

On September 12, 2011, while filming was taking place in Renly's camp, the high winds caused by Hurricane Katia destroyed a steel-framed marquee and five extras received minor injuries.[7] Furthermore, the extreme weather conditions made some of the footage unusable, and they had to rebuild the set in October to reshoot some scenes. Among the scenes that had to be repeated there was the duel between Brienne and Loras and Catelyn's arrival.[8]

In the audio commentary for the episode, Bryan Cogman revealed that only 200 extras were used in scenes in Renly's camp, though there appeared to be many more.



The viewership of the episode consolidated the ratings obtained in the second season, matching the previous week's 3.8 million viewers in the first run of the night and reaching a total of 4.5 million with the two airings.[9] In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 0.815 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received critical acclaim; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 14 reviews of the episode and judged 100% of them to be positive with an average score of 8.5 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Superbly written and directed, 'What is Dead May Never Die' evokes a range of emotions as uneasy alliances are forged, past traumas are explored, and the stakes grow ever higher."[11] Matt Fowler of IGN rated the episode 8.5 out of 10.[12] The A.V. Club gave it an A-.[13]


  1. ^ "Episode Guide". Winter is Coming.net. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Garcia, Elio (April 16, 2012). "Season 2 Interview with Bryan Cogman". westeros.org. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  3. ^ Garcia, Elio (April 16, 2012). "EP203: What is Dead May Never Die". westeros.org. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  4. ^ Garcia, Elio (June 23, 2011). "Natalie Dormer now a Tyrell Rose". westeros.org. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  5. ^ Martin, George R. R. (July 7, 2011). "The Maid of Tarth". Not a Blog. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Davies-Cole, Andrew (April 11, 2012). "Game Of Thrones: Gwendoline Christie Interview". SFX. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  7. ^ "Five hurt as Game of Thrones marquee is torn up by hurricane winds". The Belfast Telegraph. September 13, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "Day 108: Filming in N. Ireland winding down". winter-is-coming.net. November 7, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  9. ^ Hibberd, James (April 16, 2012). "HBO's 'Girls' starts modest, 'Thrones' ratings steady". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  10. ^ "Top 10 Ratings (16 - 22 April 2012)". BARB. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  11. ^ "What Is Dead May Never Die". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  12. ^ Fowler, Matt (April 15, 2012). "Game of Thrones: 'What is Dead May Never Die' Review". IGN.
  13. ^ Sims, David (April 15, 2012). "'What is Dead May Never Die' (for newbies)". The A.V. Club.

External links[edit]