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Essential primer, Game of Thrones, Season 7
As we head into the weekend, it’s time to start preparing for the Game of Thrones episode 3. In episode 2, things really started to heat up, and we can only expect the pace to increase.
So, with this rapid acceleration in mind, we are here to keep everything in perspective, and to follow the events and characters with the attention they deserve, providing insight and commentary where appropriate (or inappropriate, as the case may be).
If you want to stay informed, please read on.
[WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND – IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED GAME OF THRONES SEASON 7 EPISODES 1 & 2 READ NO FURTHER]
Jon is already on his way to Dragonstone after a somewhat contentious debate at Winterfell. Jon wants to meet the Dragon Queen, but the Northerners have already lost one king that way – they are having none of it. King Jon is able to convince them of the necessity though, for they need both allies and dragon glass to face the White Walkers as they move south. He seals the deal by giving Sansa the power to rule (there should always be a Stark in Winterfell, and all that).
By the way, I find the contrast between the way the North handles the decision-making process vs. the South intriguing.
In the South, you do what the King – or Queen – tells you (especially when Cersei is sitting on the throne). In the North, the King issues a statement and everyone grumbles. What’s the deal here? It’s like a Grecian senate has overtaken Winterfell. Jon is King of the North. When he says a thing, you do a thing. End of discussion.
More on Winterfell
So far I’ve heard a lot about the machinations at Dragonstone, the Arya-Nymeria meeting, and, of course, the Euron Greyjoy slaughter. But not much about Jon’s decision to hand over the reins of power to his sister. Half-sister. Sister in spirit, really. Well, It’s complicated. There has been so much talk of Jon ignoring or not appreciating Sansa. And now here we have a clear case of Jon doing the exact opposite – of his acknowledgement of her abilities and her right to rule.
It was an incredibly moving moment (at least I thought so). And the look on Sansa’s face when she realizes Jon believes in her, that he trusts her enough to rule Winterfell and the North, was an amazing thing to watch.
Now, finally, Sansa has the experience and the position to utilize some of the skills she has acquired along her incredibly tortuous (and torture-filled) journey. Or so I hope.
And I do hope she has become smart enough to understand just how much a threat Littlefinger truly is, and dispose of him accordingly. But more on that in a later post. For now, it is enough that Jon and Sansa trust one another enough and have formed a sufficiently strong bond to collaborate and share the duties that come with ruling the Northern kingdom.
Alliances are formed, plans are made, and we begin to see what happens when a number of strong personalities enter a room (hint: they clash). Even so, the war council does arrive at a strategy of sorts, if only to have it dashed to smithereens later in the episode. The Tyrells and Dorne are to strike at King’s Landing, and Daenerys’ Unsullied and Dothraki will hit the Lannister stronghold of Casterly Rock. Daenerys Stormborn has a sit-down with Lady Olenna, who tells Khaleesi she need not listen to clever men, for she is a dragon.
It will be interesting to see how Daenerys responds to Lady Olenna’s pep talk in the next episode. My hope is that she by this time knows who she is, and will not be swayed by the Tyrell matriarch and her revenge-filled pessimism. Hers is clearly an example of a woman who has become jaded in her old age, and one can hardly blame her, given what she has lost. But Dany shouldn’t allow that pessimism to enter into her way of thinking. She still needs to think in terms of the best way to help the people of Westeros after so much war and strife.
Now that the White Walkers are on the move, Dany will have to think larger than simply revenge; she will need to think in terms of what is best for the realm.
Dany’s True Purpose
Daenrys is an incredible character, but as a ruler of Westeros, she has serious flaws, and represents a step backward rather than forward.
What Martin, Beinoff, and Weiss have done with Dany’s storyline is interesting. But at a basic level, Dany is a populist with autocratic tendencies (and some might argue, visions of grandeur). She wants to do what is right by the people. Only problem is, conquest is her primary way of attaining it.
Yes, she is a believer in ideals, but she falls back on war and conquest as a way of attaining her goals. Others have mentioned Dany’s resemblance to Napoleon, and I think the comparison is solid.
Much like Napoleon (again, Dany’s closest historical analogue), I have to think she is doomed to fail. The traditions of the East (both in Slaver’s Bay and the Free Cities) and Westeros are too ingrained for her to represent anything more than yet another noble queen ruling by what can only be approximated as divine right.
She has no underlying philosophy, other than she wants to break the ruling class in Westeros. True, she has abolished slavery in the East (a remarkable feat), but there are no slaves in Westeros.
And so, Dany is set to rule there as Queen Empress, but presumably, once she has defeated those who oppose her, Westeros will look much like it did in Aegon Targaryen’s day (when he originally conquered the Seven Kingdoms with his three dragons). The reality is, Dany offers nothing new to the lands of Westeros. In fact, her rule of the Seven Kingdoms is really a step backward rather than forward.
Dany brings no new technology either. Her dragons are in a way a kind of advancement, but only in terms of her ability to wage war against the ruling houses.
So, without any underlying philosophy other than her bland flavor of idealism, and no new significant technologies to pull Westeros out of its deeply rooted medieval feudalism, Dany’s true purpose can only be the defeat of the White Walkers (in the books they are called the Others) to fulfill the prophecy of the Prince who was Promised (to see a great rundown of the Prince who was Promised, check out this video).
The presence of the White Walkers is one of the primary reasons I think Dany will not sit on the Iron Throne, or if she does it won’t be for long.
I do think she (along with Jon) will defeat the White Walkers, but this defeat will prove an incredible drain on her resources and will see her army destroyed and her position much weakened. In the aftermath what will be left is a Westeros that looks nothing like it did previously. Understanding that she is both a savior of Westeros and a primary threat (given her family history, her Targaryen nature, and the fact that she offers very little new in the way of political structure), she will either voluntarily step down or be retired into exile, much like Napoleon was retired himself.
It is possible that she will jumpstart a revolution; that is, a true revolution, a revolution in thinking, but I doubt it will be her to oversee it. Dany’s role is that of a breaker of chains, as she is known to be, but what Westeros truly needs is someone more like Tyrion, or perhaps even Varys. Someone clever enough to understand the politics of the realm, and yet ethically minded to maintain the importance of the people (who have suffered horribly under the despotic lords).
It will be important to watch out for hints of these developments in the episodes to come (or perhaps I’m completely wrong – only time will tell).
Now, on to Kings Landing
When last we saw Cersei and Qyburn they were formulating battle plans, whipping the lords and ladies of Westeros to their cause, and in general getting up to their old tricks. In a land of villains, they truly do rise to the occasion. And wildfire does not even enter into their plans this go-round. No no, now they’ve gotten hold of a giant dragon-killing crossbow. The two really couldn’t be more devious, could they? (I can almost hear there evil cackling as they chat over a mulled red)
To raise herself on the villain meter even more, Cersei has taken to using xenophobia as a means to convince the other lords the Targaryen upstart must be excised from the realm. Chances are she’ll pivot to even more devious devices in episode 3.
Jaime entices Lord Tarly of Horn Hill with an offer few Westeros lords could refuse – a wardenship. But even with the offer on the table, Lord Tarly still can’t help but take a few jabs at Jaime and the Lannisters into the bargain (at this point, this is just par for the course).
Time will tell how Tarly responds to Jaime’s offer, but chances are he will be keeping a sharp eye out for his own interests, as any good Westerosi would.
The true wild card in King’s Landing though is not Tarly, but Jaime himself. At present, Jaime is going along with Cersei’s plans, at least for now (she really is a terrible influence). But when the time comes, it will no doubt be difficult for Jaime to choose between the two people he cares most about on Planetos. Yes, a tough decision, but I still say he defies Cersei and sides with his brother, for once he sees firsthand how diabolical Cersei truly is, he will reject her once and for all. At this point, I think everyone is rooting for the ol’ boy to breach the shared placenta, and set out on his final, redemptive arc.
The Battle of the Greyjoys
In this fiery ship battle of uncle vs. niece, the Sand Snakes at long last meet their ignominious end.
This whole sequence was incredible, ending as it does in fire and blood, and the gruesome killing of Nymeria and Obara Sand, along with the capture of Ellaria, Yara and the other Snake (what’s her name again?). To make matters worse, Theon has reverted back to officially the worst alter ego of all time (“Reek, Reek…rhymes with weak”).
Euron boarding the ship via the wooden drawbridge is indicative of just how much of a madcap he truly is. He also demonstrates what a fierce warrior he is, and he no doubt commands the respect of the ironborn through his battle prowess. The showrunners have called Euron a psychopath, but I think this doesn’t sufficiently get to the heart of who and what Euron represents for the ironborn, and is a glaring oversimplification of the character.
Within the context of the ironborn, Euron is quite sane. In fact, he is only doing what his people have done for centuries; waging war and acquiring prestige through battle and spoils.
The ironborn have ever been a people held together by their belief in the Kraken and the need to pillage. So, within the confines of this belief system, Euron’s behavior is acceptable and even worthy of admiration.
In such a world, it is the weak who deserve to die, and indeed Yara’s coddling of Theon in and amongst the ironborn is the less sane stance.
Euron and the other ironborn are doing exactly what they were born to do, what their culture expects them to do, and this recent most victory over Ellaria and her Sand Snakes, as well as his niece, is a callback to former Greyjoy glories.
Here the question is: how will Dany respond? If she doesn’t wish to be perceived as weak, it is imperative that she hit back – and hard. For if we’ve learned one thing about the Game of Thrones, weak rulers do not last long (in fact, arguably, all of the weak players have already been swept off the board).
Arya Stark encounters a wolfpack
In terms of Arya’s meeting with Nymeria, I thought it was anti-climactic (but maybe it was supposed to be), and I can’t help thinking there will be more. In the struggles to come, a super-sized wolf pack could definitely help with either the white walker problem, or the Lannister problem.
What we still haven’t seen, and what we might expect to see…
The Strange Case of the Missing Howland Reed
Much has been said about it, but as the series draws nearer to its conclusion, Howland Reed the crannogman has still yet to play a significant role. There is still time to bring him into the fold, and I have a feeling that this plot point will develop as one of the surprise arcs this season. Howland Reed is arguably the only person with the bona fides to validate Jon’s Targaryen lineage.
I think such a development would be a great way for Jon to find out about his true parentage. And by the way, how else will his being a Targaryen be substantiated? That is, I doubt legally speaking Bran’s visions will be sufficiently binding to convince the other lords of Westeros of Jon’s birth. No, what is needed here is an outside witness. That witness is Howland Reed.
The Stark Reunion
It has been a long time coming, but the Stark reunion now seems eminent, with both Bran and Arya making a beeline to Winterfell. Jon will no doubt be in Dragonstone (or nearing it) when they arrive, so the question is, what will they do in his absence? What actions will they take, and how will the three of them feel about the bastard of Winterfell having established himself as King of the North?
Sansa will have a small window of opportunity to establish some plans of her own while Jon is traveling to Dragonstone and her siblings make their way to the Stark stronghold. It is the first time in the series that Sansa is in total control and can implement what she has learned throughout her journey. My guess is that her lasting and most impactful decision will be the elimination from Littlefinger from the board (a character whose influence is decidedly on the wane).
The chaos-maker supreme finds himself in a pickle. As someone who typically thinks so far ahead, it is strange that he has let his emotions and passion for Sansa take over. Will he be able to utilize what advantages are still available to him to leverage more opportunities, or is it truly the end for the schemer?
Once he arrives at the Stark stronghold, how will the true heir of Winterfell set up shop? Will he take over some of the duties from Sansa (and is there potential for conflict there?), or will he focus more on his status as the new Three-Eyed Raven?
Will she stick with Bran, or will she travel to Greywater Watch to meet with her father and tell him all that she has seen, which will in turn flush the mysterious Holwand Reed from his nest?
Sam and Ser Jorah get Friendly
Sam has perhaps found a cure for Jorah’s bad case of grayscale. I would guess these two have some adventures ahead together once they leave Old Town.
His spiritual journey seems set to continue. Will it bring him closer to the Lord of Light? And what role does he have to play in the coming wars?
Whatever happens, the next episode seem poised to thrust many of the primary characters in Game of Thrones into ever more precarious and desperate situations.