The Game of Thrones story is really starting to gather steam, with several chess pieces moving closer and closer to a cataclysmic collision of minds and matter. The tone in Season 2 has been a little starker than in Season 1, and it manages to do that while feature fewer Starks! As always, I am low on patience and high on anticipation for Episode 4 next week.

The Players

Director: Alik Sakharov

Writers: Bryan Cogman

Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner

Episode Title: “What is Dead May Never Die”

Jon Snow gets a hard lesson on picking battles north of the Wall, while Theon Greyjoy gets thrust into an impossible position: he must choose between Greyjoy and Stark. Tyrion Lannister employs some trickery to sniff out the trustworthy from the treacherous. Renly Baratheon gains the devotion of an unlikely soldier while getting caught up in a complicated game with the Tyrells. Arya and Gendry find their lives in serious danger.

The Good:

  • Female empowerment: Westeros now has two “Eowyn of Rohans,” with Yara Greyjoy commanding the Iron Islands fleet and Brianne of Tarth emerging as an Amazonian-minded warrior in Renly Baratheon’s guard. Throw in these two with Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen and we have four strong-willed ladies capable of holding their own in any battle. What makes this so exceptional is the way these women have established themselves without being stereotyped sex objects. They are mighty, compelling characters — not some derivation of Sucker Punch or Xena: Warrior Princess. It’s refreshing and delightful.
  • Tyrion’s trickery: Following George R.R. Martin’s lead, they keep finding more ways to showcase Tyrion Lannister’s unparalleled cleverness. This time, he tests the loyalty of his counsel by telling each of them a different story about where he plans to wed off Cersei’s daughter. HBO deserves tremendous credit for orchestrating this sequence with an artisan’s hand, foreshadowing his tactic with the perfect amount of buildup and panache. This was one of the finest moments in the series.
  • Theon Greyjoy’s dilemma: You know a scene is effective when it captures the attention of the viewer and summons visceral emotions. Poor Theon is being railroaded by his biological father into betraying his good friend Robb Stark, and you can’t even blame him for choosing to go along with it. There was a fantastic moment when Theon is reading over the letter he has written to Robb Stark but decides to choose his surname over loyalty to his friend.
  • Heroism on the Night’s Watch: There were two instances of valor on the Night’s Watch in Episode 3, and they happened in different places and over different things. In the north, Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly preserve some semblance of morality by attempting to fight the depravity around them, even if it’s ultimately fruitless. Samwell’s innate kindness continues to be one of the show’s brightest lights. Conversely, Yoren (the Night’s Watch recruiter) inspires Arya with a stirring tale of his own life and then sacrifices his life for her and Gendry shortly after. His spirited defense was breathtakingly powerful and harshly sobering; it reminded us that genuine heroes can be found in unlikely places.

The Bad:

  • Where’s Dany?: This is being incredibly nit-picky, but I would have liked a scene or two with Daenerys Targaryen, just to keep us updated. Of course, the show has so many concurrent storylines that we can hardly blame them for not fitting it all in.

Rating: 9/10

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO.

What did you think of the episode?