The men of Westeros like to fancy themselves as lords and kings, but it’s the women like Daenerys, Lady Olenna and Margaery Tyrell who are quietly running the show….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It’s a very delicate balance that allows those with power in Westeros to remain in power. The trick is finding the right combination of kindness and compassion while showing ruthlessness and cunning when the situation calls for it. Honor is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills and it certainly doesn’t buy loyalty. Ned Stark found out the hard way in season one of ‘Game of Thrones’ that doing the ‘right thing’ isn’t necessarily the best solution if you want to keep your head on your shoulders. Joffrey Baratheon replaced compassion with cruelty and you have to wonder as he gurgled up those last bits of pie amidst a throat full of bile, spit and blood if he realized just how awful he truly was in his time as king.
Having watched and studied this show over the past few seasons, you do find yourself rooting for certain characters. I also understand that some characters are probably meant to die and others have a better chance of surviving than others. I truly believe that King Tommen will be crowned soon enough, but his stay on the Iron Throne won’t be permanent. There are too many threats coming at him in the next few years to believe the Baratheon/Lannister stronghold won’t be broken eventually.
One of those threats is coming from the east as a group of eunuch soldiers marches city to city, freeing slaves from the hardened masters who chained them in the first place. Queen Daenerys Targaryen was born in fire and blood and it has nothing to do with her house sigil. She was sold into a marriage where she was raped and forced to be wife to a warrior king, but from there she found actual power and from small beginnings with just a few following her lead, she now has thousands. Daenerys learned the hard way in season one when her sun and stars Khal Drogo was infected and dying what mercy can cause when given to the wrong person. The witch she saved ended up killing her unborn child and she still didn’t get to have her husband back whole. Now Daenerys understands when to show mercy and when to bear the teeth of her ancestors and unleash dragon fire on those who dare cross her.
In the city of Meereen where slaves outnumber the masters three to one, Daenerys knows that winning this war isn’t about storming the city gates and engaging in hand to hand combat. Instead she gives the weapons to the people of this city to rise up and kill the masters from within. The slave revolt lasts just minutes and the city of Meereen is now hers but when she’s tasked with a final judgment for the masters who once ruled there, Ser Baristan implores her to go another way. Mercy, he says, should sometimes answer injustice. Dany would rather answer injustice with justice and so she has the masters crucified just as they did to 163 children on the mile markers leading to Meereen. Daenerys thus far has proven to be the most effective leader on ‘Game of Thrones’ because she had to fight, scrape and claw to get there. She was handed dirt and somehow birthed a kingdom. There’s a reason why the freed slaves from Yunkai and now Meereen call her ‘mhysa’ (meaning mother) and not queen. Of course they all worship her in some way, but in reality Daenerys has found a family of followers, not a city full of lowborn subjects all begging for a bowl of brown while acting as cannon fodder when the next king comes along to claim the throne.
In maybe one of my favorite shots of the entire series, director Michelle MacLaren (who was also a director and producer on ‘Breaking Bad’) captures Daenerys standing proud atop the pyramid of her new city as the flag of House Targaryen flies free for the first time in nearly 20 years since Jamie Lannister shoved a sword through the back of the ‘Mad King’ Aerys and Robert Baratheon claimed the Iron Throne for his family.
Speaking of Jamie Lannister, because he became the other central focus of this episode for me. Last week, Jamie’s lust filled assault on his sister while in front of his son/king’s fallen corpse sickened a whole lot of fans and even more reviewers of the series. Now seeing as I have read the books from George R.R. Martin and studied medieval culture for many years in school, the atrocities that take place in ‘Game of Thrones’ aren’t as shocking to me as maybe they are for other people. The world we live in now was built on the buried bones and ashes of fallen kings, mad men and tortured souls.
A great many others were upset about Jamie’s actions because this was a character who had seemingly been redeemed after months of sitting in a cell followed by the loss of his hand and a long, tenuous journey back to his family. I argued last week that Jamie’s act with Cersei wasn’t one done out of malice or assault, but instead the last gasp of a man trying to reclaim the life he once led. When he was in King’s Landing before, Jamie was a feared swordsman and the son of Tywin Lannister, not to mention holding the dubious nickname as ‘The Kingslayer’. Now upon his return with one less hand, Jamie wasn’t the man he was before, no matter how hard he tried to be him again in that fleeting moment with his sister.
This week after a hard sparring session with Bronn, Jamie realizes that the person in need right now is his brother Tyrion, who is currently languishing away in a cell for a crime he did not commit. Bronn wonders why Jamie hasn’t gone to see Tyrion, especially considering the kind of hero worship the imp holds for his big brother. Jamie finally goes to see Tyrion and while he tries to make light of the situation he realizes two things — Tyrion didn’t kill Joffrey and Cersei will take his head regardless of the outcome in this upcoming trial.
Cersei also wants Sansa Stark’s head on a pike for her part in the murder of the king. There’s a reason they call it ‘blind rage’ because you can’t see three feet in front of you for just how red with anger you are. That’s Cersei right now as she wants justice for her son’s murder, but she’s refusing to look at the people truly responsible. Cersei tasks Jamie with finding Sansa and returning to King’s Landing with her head, but he has other plans.
When he was freed by Catelyn Stark all those months ago, it was with the promise that his safe return to King’s Landing would be met with the safe return of her daughters, Sansa and Arya, to the Stark family. With Catelyn and Robb both dead, that’s no longer an option. To make matters worse, Sansa is missing and Cersei believes she’s partly responsible for Joffrey’s death.
Jamie decides to task his new friend Brienne with this mission instead — he hands her the Valyrian sword made for him by his father and a new suit of armor. Jamie also gifts her a squire — Podrick to be exact — who will assist her on the journey seeing as he needs to get far away from King’s Landing as well. Before she goes, Brienne dubs the sword ‘Oathkeeper’ as an homage to her friend (and love interest) Jamie, who despite his family’s grand plans to finish off yet another Stark and beheading Tyrion in the process, still wishes to carry out his original promise — he will deliver Sansa to safety and whether she knows it or not, she now has a killer knight watching her back.
While Brienne starts out to find Sansa, the eldest Stark daughter is currently on a boat bound for the Eyrie where Lord Baelish is set to marry her aunt Lysa. Sansa wants details on Littlefinger’s role in the death of King Joffrey to which he reveals that it was her necklace, first built a few weeks ago and given to her by the fool Ser Dontos, carried with it a small vile of a powerful poison. As gracious as the Lannisters had been to him over the years, Baelish realized that Joffrey’s vicious tendencies and ill-tempered reign could eventually work against him so he chose to team up with another powerful ally instead. That particular ally wanted one thing in return to prove Baelish’s loyalty — King Joffrey had to die.
Who benefitted the most from Joffrey’s death? Why Margaery Tyrell of course — by way of her grandmother Lady Olenna aka the Queen of Thorns. As it turns out, Lady Olenna had no intention of allowing her prize granddaughter to marry a beast like Joffrey, so he had to go. In his place now sits his little brother Tommen, a much more tolerant and kind hearted boy, who Margaery can marry while simultaneously rule as queen with real power instead of fearing that her husband might decide to shoot her full of arrows because he wanted to see what color of blood she would bleed. With Joffrey gone, Lady Olenna tells her granddaughter the tale of how she ended up marrying her husband Luther Tyrell and suggests Margaery do something of the same ilk to build support with her future husband Tommen.
So later that night, Margaery saunters into Tommen’s room in the Westerosi version of Mrs. Robinson to quietly introduce herself to the future king and her soon-to-be husband. What starts out as a slight scene of seduction quietly transforms into flirtation as Margaery sinks her pretty hooks into Tommen, but not out of pure manipulation as you might think. Margaery is marrying Tommen to become queen, but to ensure that she has his full love and support, she needs to be close to his heart before his mother and queen regent rips it out again. Like Daenerys, Margaery understands how to play this game and she never has to lift a sword to get what she wants.
And at Castle Black, Jon once again runs into opposition from Alliser Thorne, who reminds him time and again that he is a traitor’s bastard and merely a servant of the Night’s Watch and not a ranger. Thorne and his new buddy Janos Slynt decide to give Jon the go ahead to raid Craster’s Keep and get rid of Karl and his merry band of turncoats, but in reality they are just hoping the former Night’s Watch members get rid of a popular new choice for Lord Commander. Jon will have help on his quest to capture or kill the treacherous lot that killed Lord Commander Mormont — a group of volunteers who all stand with their brother, showing once again the kind of loyalty Jon has inside the Night’s Watch. Among the brethren going along to Craster’s Keep is a new member of the Night’s Watch — a man named Locke. Yep, Bolton’s rabid dog, who once cut off Jamie Lannister’s hand and tried to feed Brienne to a bear, has infiltrated the Night’s Watch with hopes of using Jon Snow to track down and kill Bran and Riccon Stark.
North of the Wall, the men left at Craster’s Keep are committing all kinds of horrific atrocities on the women who were once daughters and wives of the vile wildling outpost leader. The former men of the Night’s Watch are routinely abusing and raping the women, while Karl sits and drinks wine from the skull of Lord Commander Mormont’s butchered head. Not to mention, Karl’s rule is somewhere in the neighborhood of Joffrey as he regales his crew with tales about how he could kill any man in King’s Landing and get paid silver to do it. Karl the Cruel’s last order of business for the day is to send one of his men out to the woods where he will deliver the last of Craster’s sons to the White Walkers as a sacrifice to the gods.
The baby is left in the woods, but his cries are heard by another party camping nearby — Bran, Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed. Bran investigates by warging into his wolf Summer’s mind, but when he spots Jon’s wolf Snow captured in a pin, he’s surprised seconds later as his wolf is captured in a trap of his own. Bran refuses to leave without Summer so they move in closer to have a look at Craster’s Keep, and seconds later they are captured. A few slaps and threats force Bran to reveal his true identity and now Karl has a highborn hostage and brother to one of the Night’s Watch men who is certain to come bearing down on them within a few days.
In the woods, the White Walkers claim the baby and takes it to their secret lair somewhere beyond the wall where King Walker touches the child with its icy finger and seconds later his eyes turn blue and apparently a new undead soldier is born. I’ve read around in other blogs that there was some confusion as to what the White Walkers were doing with the sacrificed babies, but I always assumed this was how their army continued to flourish along with the bodies of the dead men left north of the Wall. Now we have actual confirmation of it happening.
The White Walkers have quietly been amassing a horde of undead soldiers who will one day march on the wall when the snow starts to move south. It’s a quiet threat that’s been building since the opening scene of ‘Game of Thrones’ and something tells me, this might be the end game for Westeros and all those who lay claim to the Iron Throne in those final hours before the show concludes. Is it any coincidence I wonder that the White Walker’s greatest fear is fire? I wonder who might have some dragons handy to battle this upcoming threat?
One thing we know for sure, winter is coming and there’s an undead army coming with it.
Next week on ‘Game of Thrones’, Daenerys finally starts setting her sights on Westeros, Arya turns on The Hound and Jon Snow battles with Karl’s men at Craster’s Keep.