‘Game of Thrones’: What is dead may never die

Game of Thrones
“Home”
May 1, 2016

OMG JON SNOW LIVES. THERE’S NO TIME FOR NICETIES. NO TIME!

Beyond the Wall: 

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Hey, remember Bran? When we last saw him a full season (and a final onslaught of puberty) ago, The Children of the Forest were introducing him to the Three-Eyed Raven, this old cave-dwelling guy who is 2/3rds weirwood tree. Bran, who found the Three-Eyed Raven with the help of Meera and Jojen and a series of visions, was pretty sure he was brought there to regain the use of his legs, but the Three-Eyed Raven was like, “NOPE. Sorry, you’re never going to walk again, but you will fly.”

What “flying” means, apparently, is that with the help of The Three-Eyed Raven (who spent his season off getting a haircut and a beard trim), Bran will learn to connect with the weirwoods so as to see visions from the past (and perhaps the future). First up: a quick trip to Winterfell so that Bran can watch a young Ned spar with an even younger Benjen while a young Lyanna rides around on a horse. Also there: a young Hodor who 1. is actually named Wylis and 2. could, at one point, say things other than “Hodor.”

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Though Bran would like to continue to hang out with the Starks and Hodor/Wylis, The Three-Eyed Raven brings him back to reality, because if Bran stays too long he could “drown.”

Hodor carries Bran outside where Meera is having a pout about her dead brother and being stuck in some cold cave watching Bran go on vision quests and being Vitamin D deficient, and no, Bran, she does not care one bit about Hodor’s real name or this war that the Three-Eyed Raven claims is coming. What are they going to do about it from here? Bran wisely retreats back into the cave, but one of the Children of the Forest, whose name according to imdb.com is “Leaf,” so I’m pretty sure she might be one of Joaquin Phoenix’s sisters, sticks around to warn Meera that Bran isn’t going to stay here forever, and he’ll need her help “out there.” Well, color me intrigued.

King’s Landing:

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Some drunk peon in Flea Bottom in King’s Landing tells a group of other drunk peons that when Cersei was on her walk of shame, he pulled out and waggled his man bits at her, and he’s preeeeeeety sure she was impressed. His friends laugh and laugh at this because hahahahaha penis. However, Waggle’s story doesn’t go over well with one listener, and as Waggle relieves himself in an alley, FrankenMountain picks him up with one hand and bashes him against the wall so hard his head shatters like a ripe melon. But yeah, cool story, bro.

Meanwhile at the castle, Cersei tries to go to Myrcella’s funeral, only to be stopped by a bunch of Tommen’s soldiers who explain she is to stay in the Red Keep per the King’s orders. Cersei and FrankenMountain don’t like it, but do as they’re told.

Over Myrcella’s body in the Sept, Tommen asks Jamie if they’ve caught Trystane’s killers yet, before being like, “I mean, we all know mom did it, right?” Jamie is all, “Uh…. no? Probably not?” Jamie then wonders if Tommen is keeping Cersei from the funeral out of anger. Tommen explains that the Sparrow threatened that Cersei was not allowed in the Sept, lest she be rearrested, before telling his father-uncle that he feels really really really bad about the whole Mom being arrested, given a pixie cut and marched naked through the streets thing.

That’s when the High Sparrow pops in for a visit. King Tommen demands to see his wife, Queen Margaery, but the High Sparrow is like, “How about no?” After Jamie urges Tommen to go see his mom and ask for her forgiveness, he turns his attention to the holy man, asking why he hasn’t been punished for his sins? After all, he’s broken sacred oaths, you know, like that time he stabbed a king right in the back? The High Sparrow picks up on the not-so-subtle hints that Jamie is threatening him, and reveals to Jamie that he’s brought his back-up band with him. As a bunch of monks step out of the shadows, the High Sparrow warns Jamie that he might be able to kill some of them, but the Faith Militant are many, unafraid to die and powerful enough to topple empires. So check yoself, Blondie.

Meanwhile, in Cersei’s room, Tommen regrets not executing the High Sparrow, and asks his mother to help him be strong. Cersei is all, “BABY, YOU DON’T HAVE TO ASK ME TWICE.”

Braavos: 

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Meanwhile, over in Braavos, Arya is still blind and still begging and still being beaten up by the Waif for laffs. But Arya is a tough cookie, and she continues to fight (poorly) back until the Waif disappears and Jaqen takes her place. Jaqen asks who she is, and Arya responds, “No one.” When Jaqen suggests that if the Girl will just say her name, she can sleep under a roof that night, Arya insists that “the Girl has no name.” Jaqen then tries promising her a nice juicy steak if the Girl will just tell him her name, but Arya’s like, “Nope, the Girl has no name. Like I already said.” Jaqen then promises to give Arya her sight back if she would just say her name, say her name.

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But Arya’s like, “I’m not falling for it. The Girl has no name. Seriously.” And so, having passed her tests, Jaqen tells her to come along with him, but leave her begging bowl behind, she won’t be needing it any more.

Meereen:

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Tyrion and Varys are struggling to hold down the fort over in Meereen, what with their fleet being set on fire and previously conquered cities reverting back to their old slaving ways now that they know Daenerys is missing and her dragons are locked up in a dungeon somewhere. Speaking of, the dragons haven’t eaten since Daenerys left, a situation that Tyrion attributes to them being held in captivity. He explains to the audience that the dragons Aegon Targaryen used to conquer Westeros ranged thousands of miles. But then the Targaryens began chaining them up and within several generations, the dragons were no bigger than Ser Pounce.

I'M A DRAGON! RAWR!
I’M A DRAGON! RAWR!

Tyrion decides that he’s going to make friends with the dragons and heads down beneath the pyramid to see them for himself. As he approaches Rhaegal and Viserion, they growl and grumble, but he explains he’s a friend of their mother, here to help. As he reaches up to unlock their collars, he gently tells them a story about how as a child he begged for a dragon for his name day, only to learn they had died out a century before. But now, here these two are. Released, the dragons slink back into the darkness and choose not to flambé their new friend.

Winterfell:

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Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton is busy trying to explain to his unimpressed father that he’s got a plan to get Sansa back: attack Castle Black. Roose is like, “Let me get this straight, you want to go to the wall, and kill the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who also happens to be Ned Stark’s bastard son, and you think this is going to win you friends in the North?” Ramsay points out that he doesn’t need all of the North to love him, just some of the North, like the Karstarks who are still sore Robb killed Lord Rickard Karstark for illegally murdering some Lannisters.

Roose warns his son that if he goes around acting like a mad dog, people are going to treat him like a mad dog, and he’ll end up slaughtered and being used as pig feed. Not that Ramsay needs any inspiration or encouragement, but MAYBE DON’T GIVE YOUR PSYCHOPATH OF A SON IDEAS, ROOSE. And that’s when the maester arrives with big news! Lady Walda has given birth to Roose’s son, happy day! Roose promises Ramsay that he’ll always be his first born, and Ramsay is like, “Cool, but I’m going to kill you anyway.” STAB STAB STAB. !!!

Ramsay then instructs the maester to send word that Roose was poisoned by their enemies, before demanding that Lady Walda and the baby come see him.

Which she does, even though she JUST MADE A BABY AND MAYBE DOESN’T FEEL LIKE WALKING AROUND SEEING AS SHE STILL HAS A BUNCH OF STUFF COMING OUT OF HER BODY RIGHT ABOUT NOW, RAMSAY. Anyway, Ramsay, the crazypants he is, admires the baby before leading Walda and the infant into the kennels where he releases his man-eating dogs on them. Which would have been the most shocking moment in any other single episode of Game of Thrones, for sure.

But not this one.

Meanwhile, out in the woods, Brienne explains to Sansa that she last saw Arya with some guy, but otherwise ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. (Which is a little weird: when Brienne found Arya, Pod identified the man she was with as being the Hound — information you’d think someone might think to share with Sansa.)

And then TheonReek is like, “Hey, guys? It was fun, but I think I’m going to have to leave y’all here and head back to the Iron Islands. BYEEEEEEEE.”

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Iron Islands:

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You remember the Iron Islands, right? Gray, wet, full of disagreeable pirates? Theon’s sister, Yara tries to talk some sense into her disagreeable father, Balon, and convince him to end his not-winnable war against the North. But he’s all, “I’M KING, I DO WHAT I WANT.”

He then goes outside in a driving thunderstorm — because there are no other kinds in this miserable kingdom — and out onto a not particularly stable-looking rope bridge. There he’s blocked by a man who reveals himself to be Balon’s younger, much-hated disagreeable brother, Euron, who announces he’s here for Balon’s throne, thanks. Balon is like, “LOL, I heard you lost your mind in a rainstorm, what kind of pansy does that?” But Euron is all “I AM THE STORM,” before throwing his much older brother off the bridge.

At Balon’s funeral, Yara announces to her Drowned Priest uncle, Aeron, that she is going to avenge her father’s death, she swears upon the Salt Throne. But Aeron is like, “That’s great, but you do know you’re not just going to take the throne, right?” Yara insists that her father would have wanted her to have it, but Aeron informs her that NOPE, they’re going old school way and holding a Kingsmoot — i.e., the Ironborn ship captains will take a vote on who should be king next — and if she’s the first woman to rule the Ironborn, then cool.

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The Wall:

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Finally, at the Wall, Thorne has had perfectly enough of Davos’ and the Jon Snow groupies’ stonewalling, and he and his men begin bashing the door in. However, just as they are about to break through, who should arrive but Edd, a giant and a bunch of wildlings. After one foolish Nights’ Watchman fires an arrow into Wun Wun’s shoulder, the giant casually grabs him about his ankles and bashes his head in. This serves to discourage the rest of the Night’s Watch who all promptly drop their weapons. Thorne, Olly and the rest of the murdering traitors are then grabbed and then thrown into a cell, where I hope they spend some time thinking hard about their choices.

Davos then pays a visit to Melisandre, and asks if she could, you know, maybe, possibly, do some of that crazy magic of hers and bring Jon Snow back to life. Melisandre, who is still in the middle of a religious crisis, is like, “I mean, I have met a guy who came back from the dead, but it shouldn’t have been possible…” Davos reminds her of all her other tricks: drinking poison, giving birth to murderous shadow babies… why not at least try, right? What’s the worst that could happen: Jon Snow stays dead?

So Melisandre breaks out the scissors and a bowl of water and some rags and begins washing Jon Snow’s naked-but-for-a-tiny-loincloth body, whispering magic words, and giving his corpse a nice haircut and beard trim. And then everyone stands back and …. nothing. Nothing happens. They wait all of like half a minute, before just being like, “WELP, I GUESS THAT DIDN’T WORK. LET’S GO.” And then they all march out of the room, leaving Jon Snow’s corpse with a sleeping Ghost. Except it doesn’t stay a corpse for long, as Jon Snow comes gasping back to life. Because of course he does. Because we all knew he would. BECAUSE WHY WERE YOU LYING, KIT HARINGTON?

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Alright, TONS to talk about with this episode, LITERALLY TONS. Now, I’m just going to warn you, I’m going to talk about the books in here, and you might think it’s a little spoilery. But I’m not going to spoiler font it, because either the things I discuss are definitely NOT going to happen on the show, or it’s just rank speculation at this point, because who even knows what the show is going to keep from the books. My point is, if you are reading the books, you’ve been warned.

First, let’s talk about the Iron Islands. I think it’s fair to say the Ironborn are nobody’s favorite characters, but they have to ultimately serve some sort of purpose, right? Otherwise, why are we spending so much time with them?

So, in the books, Euron, Ser Pushy on the Bridge, returns to the Islands and Balon dies mysteriously right around the same time. They hold a Kingsmoot, (slight show spoiler) Euron becomes King, and he’s like, “Next step, we take over Westeros. I happen to know where we can get ourselves some dragons.”

Now, in the books, he sends his brother Victarion to Meereen to woo Daenerys on his behalf, but Victarion gets ideas about marrying her himself. By the end of Dance of Dragons, Victarion’s fleet has reached a besieged Meereen, but we don’t know what happens to him.

As to what will happen in the series, my best guess is that to simplify the storyline, they will do away with Victarion altogether. Instead, Euron will be chosen king in the Kingsmoot and his first order of business will be to take the Ironborns’ fleet of ships to Meereen to go get them some dragons, which will be how Daenerys, the dragons and her Dothraki horde (which she will convince to join her with a little assistance from Drogon) will eventually return to Westeros, now that her own fleet has been burnt. Now, I don’t know if it will be a friendly alliance, but I strongly believe the pirates’ ships will be how Daenerys makes her way back home.

But there’s another element to the Iron Islands story that I believe ties into some of the larger themes of the series, particularly the feminist ones I mentioned last week. So, this Kingsmoot business, I’m not sure how much they are going to get into it on the show, but in the books and in the history that George R.R. Martin has created, the Kingsmoot is something that the Ironborn don’t really use anymore. The Kingsmoot was invented thousands of years ago to keep the disagreeable pirates of the Iron Islands from killing each other over the Salt Throne and it worked, for a while. However, around the same time the Targaryens took over Westeros, the Greyjoy family turned the Salt Throne into an inherited right, holding Kingsmoots merely as a formality.

And so, while Balon probably did want Yara to take over the throne — and says as much to Theon when he returned to the Iron Islands that one time — it’s not going to happen. (At least not for now) Because once the men of the Iron Islands are confronted with the very real possibility of a woman being their leader, they start thinking the Kingsmoot tradition doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea anymore.

However, it doesn’t mean Euron will keep the throne. Once before in Iron Islands’ history, a Kingsmoot was found to be illegal. Centuries before, this one king died, and his brother called a Kingsmoot which got some other guy elected. And his first act as king was to kill all of the previous king’s kin. Except! The previous king’s son was off raiding at sea which kept him safe. So he comes home a couple years later, and because the current king is such a bloodthirsty nightmare, the Ironborn decide that the Kingsmoot that elected him was invalid since the previous king’s son wasn’t home and able to put his name up for consideration. And with that, they deposed the king and raised up the previous king’s son.

A similar set of circumstances are being set up here: Euron is calling a Kingsmoot which he will presumably win. However, Theon is probably not going to be able to return to the Iron Islands in time to add his name for a vote, and as a result this Kingsmoot might later be rendered illegal. The thing is, Theon is so broken, so damaged now, that I doubt he will be or even wants to become king, and in the end, the Ironborn will elect Yara, their first queen. This, of course, will be in keeping with all the other women around Westeros coming into power, including Daenerys, Ellaria in Dorne, and, (fingers crossed) Sansa in Winterfell, and some sort of power struggle between Cersei and Margaery almost certain to take place in King’s Landing. Westeros’ age of kings just might be slowly giving way to queens.

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As for the other, far more interesting stories from this week, how about that Jon Snow?! Look, Jon Snow’s resurrection was the worst kept secret in television in recent memory — the only question fans had was how, exactly, was he going to come back to life. Was he going to warg into Ghost or would Melisandre use her Lord of Light hoodoo to revive him?

Here’s where I’m probably going to make some people mad, but I have to say I was a littttttttle disappointed by his resurrection — not that it happened, but how it happened. So, by now you’ve undoubtedly heard the R+L=J theory about Jon Snow’s parentage: Jon’s mother is Lyanna Stark, his father Rhaegar Targaryen. In the Stark and Baratheon version of events, Rhaegar kidnaps Lyanna and takes her away to Dorne. (But there might be a different version of events wherein the two were in love and ran away together, who knows.) When Brandon Stark, Ned’s older brother, went to King Aerys, Rhaegar’s father, and demanded that his sister be released, Aerys had Brandon, and his father, Lord Rickon Stark killed. This set off Robert’s Rebellion, which ended with Robert Baratheon defeating the Targaryens and taking the Iron Throne. However, in the final battle of the Rebellion, Ned defeats a last contingent of Targaryen Kingsguard protecting the Tower of Joy. Inside, he finds a bleeding Lyanna, and he makes her a promise before she dies. Though the promise is never divulged, many assume that it’s to raise her child as his own; to protect her son, Jon Snow from Robert Baratheon, and any others who might want him dead because he is a Targaryen. From the looks of this week’s preview, this theory will probably be confirmed soon enough.

Hence, my problem with Jon’s resurrection. I had been hoping that for symbolic purposes his rebirth would come about through a combination of Melisandre’s magic and through fire. When Jon didn’t immediately come to after Melisandre’s incantations, I was certain his body would be placed on a pyre and burned, and he would, like his aunt Daenerys, emerge alive from the flames. For one thing, such a resurrection would all but confirm for us that he is, indeed, a Targaryen. And the symbolism of fire as a powerful force of destruction and creation is significant. But more so, had he been brought back through a combination of magic and fire it would demonstrate that Jon Snow is not your average man. There have been multiple characters on the show who have been brought back from the dead using some form of magic, including Beric Dondarrion and the Mountain, and famously in the books but not the series, Lady Stoneheart. But the chosen one, the Prince That Was Promised, Azor Ahai’s reincarnation, was prophesied to be reborn “amidst salt and smoke.”

So maybe this means Daenerys is our Azor Ahai, having been burned alive on Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre: the salt from her tears, the smoke from the flames that did not consume her, reborn as The Mother of Dragons. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In any event, Jon Snow’s resurrection, not unlike Daenerys’ rebirth, is a singularly important moment on his hero’s journey. In the monomyth, after the protagonist has been tested and tried on his adventures, but before the he can return to his people and be their “hero,” he must undergo a symbolic — or, as in the case of Jesus, whose body is explicitly alluded to in this scene, a very literal — death, and rebirth. This moment is called the “apotheosis,” which means “to deify.” It’s a moment of rest and fulfillment in which the hero’s consciousness is expanded and he can see beyond rudimentary dichotomies.

Jon Snow, whose watch has now ended, is alive and free to be the hero his people need. Even if Jon might not be Azor Ahai himself, I do believe he will be the one to wield the Ultimate Boon — the symbolic (?) sword “Lightbringer” — and be a significant part of the war against the threat from the North.

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What do we say to the God of Death, Jon Snow?

And so, we (probably, most likely) have two powerful Targaryens running around the Known World, having been reborn. The thing is, “the dragon has three heads.” The Targaryen coat of arms bears a three-headed dragon, Daenerys is the mother of three dragons and when she was in the House of the Undead, she received a vision of her brother who tells her that the “dragon has three heads.” So if Jon is our second dragon, who is our third?

In the books, there is a character running around named “Young Griff” who is hinted to be Prince Aegon, the son of Rhaegar who was presumed — but not confirmed — to have been killed by the Mountain during Robert’s Rebellion. However, in the books, there are a number of suggestions that the boy is an imposter, and the fact that he hasn’t materialized on the series at this point suggests that the show is doing away with the entire storyline.

However, I believe this episode may have finally shown us who the third dragon is: Tyrion Lannister.

In the books, there is a long, somewhat boring storyline involving the Dornish Prince Doran’s son, Prince Quentyn Martell, who goes in secret to Meereen to try to convince Daenerys to marry him, arguing that he’s part Targaryen, too! Daenerys is like, “That’s sweet, but I’m betrothed to this other guy, Hizdahr zo Loraq. Feel free to can hang out here for a while, if you’d like though.” And so he’s in attendance when the fighting pits are attacked by the Sons of the Harpy and Daenerys takes off on Drogon. Realizing that he’s not going to be marrying a dragon queen anytime soon, Quentyn decides that he can’t return to Dorne empty-handed. So — again believing that he’s part Targaryen and he’s got this — he goes beneath the pyramid to try to steal Rhaegal and Viserion. But the joke’s on him, and he’s burnt to a crisp by Rhaegel. Quentyn’s buddies flee in terror, and Rhaegel and Viserion go free.

As you might have noticed, the showrunners did away with Quentyn Martell’s storyline altogether, and instead chose to have the dragons released by Tyrion — who lives through the encounter. This is not insignificant.

There are a number of hints and moments of foreshadowing throughout the books and the series that Tyrion Lannister is not Tywin’s son, including the moment when Tywin literally says to Tyrion, “You are no son of mine.” In fact, one of the first moments we ever meet Tyrion, he’s offering Jon Snow some advice:

Tyrion: Let me give you some advice bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.
Jon: What the hell do you know about being a bastard?
Tyrion: All dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes.

The thinking goes that Mad King Aerys Targaryen raped or otherwise had some sort of relationship with Tywin’s wife, Joanna. In the books, rumor had it that King Aerys took Joanna’s virginity the night his father became king, and rumors continued to abound that Joanna was one of his mistresses throughout their respective marriages. In fact, when she returned to court with twins Cersei and Jamie, King Aerys asked her if nursing had ruined her breasts. THAT’S PERSONAL.

you-are-very-rude

So in this version of events, Aerys fathered Tyrion whose birth kills Tywin’s beloved Joanna, which not only gives him two excellent reasons to hate Tyrion, and reason to deny Tyrion the inheritance of Casterly Rock, but also a very solid reason to participate in the rebellion against Aerys, with whom Tywin was once dear friends.

While there are some who wonder at the political implications of Tyrion being Daenerys’ older half brother — would he challenge her claim to the Iron Throne? (The short answer is no, probably not. Tyrion is smart enough to know that as a dwarf, he’s not exactly someone the common people would rally behind, unlike a gorgeous silver-haired Targaryen with a strong sense of justice and a few dragons. And Tyrion has always understood that the true power of the Throne lies in the Hand of the King.) — I’m more interested in what it means for these three particular people to be the three heads of the dragon.

All three are Targaryens, obviously, but Tyrion and Jon are the sons of women of powerful Westeros houses (Joanna Lannister is Tywin’s first cousin on the Lannister side). And yet, all three are outsiders in their own worlds. Jon is a recognized bastard who leaves the known world, his family, to live among Westeros’ other outsiders at the Wall, only to go even further into the unknown, and live among the Wildlings. This experience changes him and causes him to question his identity and what it even means to be an “other.”

As for Tyrion, he can’t escape his appearance, his physical “otherness.” Though he is born legitimately of a great house, he is never treated by his family or others as though he truly belongs among them. And like Jon, he ultimately exiles himself, leaving Westeros to live in a foreign land among foreign peoples.

And then there is Daenerys, who was never intended to be a great queen. Had her family lived, she would have been just another Targaryen at court — her older brother Rhaegar would have assumed the crown after Mad King Aerys died. And even after he and her father died, and a plan was put in place to return a Targaryen to the throne, as a woman, she was never the one anyone intended to take power. At most, she might serve as her brother Viserys’ queen — had he not sold her to the Dothraki. Her very gender is her outsiderness — and her source of power. As with Jon and Tyrion, Daenerys is routinely underestimated by those around her, but as we’re seeing, the world underestimates these three at its peril.

thats-what-i-do-i-drink-and-i-know-things

Status of Jon Snow: ALIVE! Who could have guessed our little game would have ended so soon!

Game of Thrones airs on HBO and will return in the summer of 2017.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site chron.com.

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