‘Game of Thrones’: Where you Benjen?

Game of Thrones
“Blood of My Blood”
May 29, 2016

Oh, hey, George R.R. Martin, remember how you told your editor that Coldhands — the figure that helps Sam and Gilly escape, and who, in the books, helps Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor make their way to The Three-Eyed Raven’s cave — was not Benjen Stark? Because I remember you telling your editor he was not Benjen Stark. And I guess, technically, they could still be two separate characters in the book. But I’m guessing they won’t be.


Why you lying?

Beyond the Wall:


Poor Meera. Having lost her brother and her new pals, the Children of the Forest, and having left Hodor behind to die before he could get a single bite of those eggs and hodor she promised, now she finds herself fleeing Evil Dead: Army of Darkness, all the while dragging a sled carrying an unconscious and paralyzed 15-year-old kid behind her into the blizzarding wilderness.

Meera has had better days.

As for Bran, while he’s taking a human sleigh-ride (which sounds much dirtier than I intended) …

do not google

… he’s busy having a bunch of vision flashes. (Don’t worry, the visions are broken down shot-by-shot at the end of this post because I have The OCD.)

The wights close in on Meera and Bran, and just as it’s beginning to look like Hodor spent the better part of his life saying nothing but “Hodor” for a whole lot of nothing, a horseman arrives. This hooded figure begins flinging fire at the wights, before pulling  Bran and Meera onto his horse and riding off to safety.


The next morning, the rider squeezes a little rabbit blood into a cup (mmmm… rabbit blood), while he explains to Meera he was sent to them by The Three-Eyed Raven. When Meera protests that the Raven is dead, Rider is like, “Nope, he lives again,” just as Bran gasps awake. The Rider then tells Bran that he hasn’t seen him since he was a boy who liked to climb things and freak out his mother. He then reveals himself to be the long-missing, much-worried-about Benjen Stark.

Benjen explains to Bran that he and some of the Night’s Watch headed out to find the White Walkers, but the Walkers found them instead. One stabbed him in the chest and left him to turn, but the Children of the Forest found him first and stopped the transformation by stabbing him in the heart with dragonglass. So much stabbing!

Benjen informs Bran that he’s The Three-Eyed Raven now, but Bran protests that he’s not ready and can’t control anything. “WELP, YOU BETTER LEARN BEFORE THE NIGHT KING COMES,” Benjen warns Bran before handing him the cup of rabbit’s blood which Bran just drinks. (Wait, whaaaaaat?) Benjen then explains that one way or another, the Night’s King will find his way “to the world of men” and when he does, Bran will be there waiting for him.

At Horn Hill:


Sam and Gilly finally make it to his ancestral home, and it’s super nice! And his mom and sister who come out to greet them? SUPER NICE! Even when Sam is like, “Hey, Mom and Sister, meet my ‘son,’ This Kid,” his mom and sister are like, “This Kid! Hooray!” Sister even sends Gilly up to take her choice of dresses and bedrooms. So nice!

Less nice: Sam’s dad who couldn’t be bothered to be around when Sam arrived because Sam’s dad is a jackhole. Oh, and Gilly, THIS IS IMPORTANT: No matter what happens, do not mention you’re a Wildling, because Sam’s Dad is so racist towards Wildlings.

That night, Gilly FINALLY washes her hair — making Gilly, and all of us, feel so much better, because everything is just better with clean hair — and puts on one of Sister’s fancy dresses and she and Sam go down to dinner. There, Sam’s Dad and Brother, the unfortunately named Dickon, manage to join them. Over the deer that Dickon killed during their hunt, Sam’s Dad continues his jackholishness, poking at Sam’s bookishness, his weight — going so far as to carb shame him, GAH, LET SAM HAVE A ROLL, SAM’S DAD — and his lack of fighting prowess. Gilly informs an incredulous Tarly table that, actually, Sam killed a Thenn and a White Walker. When Dickon scoffs that White Walkers don’t exist (oh, just you wait, Dickon…), Gilly announces that saw Sam kill it herself while they were on their way down to Castle Black, unintentionally revealing that she’s a Wildling.


Sam’s Dad goes into a long rant about how worthless Sam is and how he’s never going to inherit that 500-year-old Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane, that is just sitting right there on the mantle for anyone to take, and he calls Gilly a wildling whore who give birth to a bastard half-breed, until Sam’s Mom has enough and escorts the women away from the table, yelling at Sam’s Dad that he dishonors himself. GO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF, SAM’S MOM. Once the ladies are gone, Sam’s Dad offers to let Gilly work in the kitchens and to raise Little Sam, but this is to be Sam’s last night ever at Horn Hill.

Sam goes to Gilly’s room to apologize for not saying anything when his father was such a jackhole to her, but he was worried if he spoke up, his father would send Gilly and Little Sam away, too. And with that, he says his goodbyes and marches out of her room only to turn right back around again and announce that they are all leaving, together. He just has to go grab Chekhov’s ice-zombie-killing sword, and they’ll be on their way.

In Braavos: 


Speaking of Chekhov’s swords…

The theater troupe has finally come around to telling the part of the King Joffrey story that Arya can totally get down with: The Purple Wedding.



Backstage, Lady Crane notices Arya lurking around and takes an interest in her. The two discuss writing and character motivation, and when Arya suggests that Cersei wouldn’t be sad at Joffrey’s death, but angry, Lady Crane is impressed, and asks for Arya’s name. “Mercy,” replies Arya. Lady Crane then compliments “Mercy’s” eyes and strong eyebrow game, before asking if “Mercy” likes to pretend to be other people. Girl, you have no idea how little an idea you have.

Lady Crane heads back to change and have a drinky-drink, only to have Arya come and slap the poisoned rum out of her hand with a warning that the actress playing Sansa wants her dead. The Waif, who also happens to be in the dressing room DOES NOT APPROVE. She immediately tattles to Jaqen, who thinks it’s a shame, the Girl had many gifts. Jaqen then gives The Waif permission to go after Arya, with the caveat that she not make her suffer.

Arya knows what she’s done did, and that the Faceless Men are not going to be pleased with her failing her final exam, so she retrieves Needle from the hayrock stack where she left it, and retreats to some dark basement room. No worries, she’s been blind before.

At the Twins:


As for where Arya might be headed…

Remember Walder Frey? You know, that monster who got his fee-fees so hurt when Robb Stark married someone other than one of Walder’s ugly daughters that he murdered errrrrrrrybody at the Red Wedding? Well, after the Red Wedding, the Freys took over Catelyn Stark’s ancestral home, Riverrun, only to have Catelyn’s badass uncle, Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully, take it back. (The Blackfish was also at the Red Wedding, but thanks to a fortunately timed pee break, managed to survive the slaughter.) Walder Frey is NOT PLEASED with any of this, and berates his sons for losing both the Blackfish and Riverrun, even though the Frey boys are a little distracted, what with the other Riverlords are rebelling against them and the Brotherhood Without Banners making trouble with their supply lines. EXCUSES, EXCUSES, Walder’s not having it. Walder then lays a plan to retake the castle which involves reminding the Blackfish that they still have a prisoner he might be interested in: his nephew Edmure, fresh from the set of Outlander. (Even though I’m pretty sure the Blackfish is well aware of Edmure’s captivity, and so far has shown very little interest in his well being.)

In King’s Landing:


In preparation for Queen Margaery’s naked walk of shame bells, Tommen chats with the High Sparrow, who assures the king that his wife will be protected, and she’s not like his mother, in any event. True dat. The High Sparrow then allows Tommen to pay Margaery a visit before her big coming out party. There, Margaery with suspiciously clean hair — because, as noted, clean hair makes everything better, but why go through all the trouble of washing all that hair if you’re just going to hack it off with a paring knife, Margaery? — begins talking up how awesome the High Sparrow is. Tommen is like, “Wait, what is the thing that is happening here? I thought we were so mad at the High Sparrow? About your brother and stuff?” But Margaery assures him that Loras just needs to atone for his sins, they all do. The Gods have a plan for them all… and hers involves keeping her very long, very clean hair.

As the Walk of Shame is about to happen, Jamie and Margaery’s dad, Mace Tyrell in one very fancy feathered hat, lead the Tyrell troops through King’s Landing and toward the sept. There, the High Sparrow is introducing Margaery to folks in King’s Landing, talking about how she’s going to atone and yadda yadda yadda. Jamie arrives and is like, “Alright, give us Margaery and Loras and we’ll be on our way.” But the High Sparrow protests that Jamie doesn’t have the authority to take them and he doesn’t have the authority to give them and the people of King’s Landing are like, “YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! ALSO, BEWBS!”

So Jamie rides his horse right up the steps and declares that he is speaking on behalf of King Tommen and is ready to kill him some sparrows to prevent the humiliation of Queen Margaery. High Sparrow is like, “Look, while we’re down to fight for the cause, that’s not necessary right now because there will be no boobs today. Queen Margaery has already atoned by bringing a surprise guest star into the fold: King Tommen!” King Tommen emerges from the sept, and with that, the High Sparrow announces that there is a new alliance between the Crown and the Faith. Checkmate, Jamie and Queen of Thorns!

Oh, and for good measure, Jaime Lannister, you can turn in your Kingsguard gear and white cape, because you’re hereby relieved of duty by the High Sparrow King Tommen.

Jaime has a tantrum to Cersei about how mean the High Sparrow is, but she’s like, “Look, get over it already. If you try to kill him in the sept — which I know you’re thinking about doing — you’ll get killed yourself. Instead, go down to Riverrun and help the dumb Freys take that dumb castle back and show our enemies what the Lannisters are made of.”  When Jaime reminds her that she’s got a trial by combat coming up, Cersei’s like, “Eh, it’s cool. I’ve got FrankenMountain, so I’ll be good.” And then they make out because they “are the only two people in the world.”  (Wait, is that the problem? They think they are the only two people in the world? Maybe someone should let them know that’s not actually the case? That there are like, a TON of other people out there they can choose from and they don’t have to mate with their siblings? Someone should just tell them that.)

In the Dothraki Sea: 


As Dany and Daario and a bunch of Dothraki continue to march towards Meereen, Daenerys asks Daario how many ships he thinks they’ll need. To carry all the Dothraki, the Unsullied and the Second Sons, they’ll need at least a thousand ships, he answers even though she certainly should know this by now. This is a logistical issue that she certainly should have been thinking about before now. Also, they don’t currently have a thousand ships, no one has a thousand ships, so that’s a bit a of problem. Also, too, Daario insists, she’s not meant to sit on a throne, she’s a conqueror. “I take what is mine,” is her reply, because that’s kind of her whole brand.

Daenerys then notices something, and is like, “Stay here, I’ll be right back.” And so Daario and the Dothraki stand around twiddling their scythes, wondering what is happening — wimmens always making us wait, amirite? — when a fully-grown Drogon comes flying up to them with Daenerys on his back. Daenerys then gives a big speech in Dothraki about how each khal has three bloodriders to ride with him. But she’s no khal, so they’ll ALL be her bloodriders. She then asks the Dothraki if they’ll ride the wooden boats across the sea and kill the men in the silly iron suits and tear down their stone houses and give her the Seven Kingdoms that Khal Drogo promised her? And all the Dothraki are like, “HELLS YEAH, GIRL! YOU GOT DRAGONS!”

Before we get to all the good juicy theory stuff, let’s talk about some boring narrative logistics. I know that not all of you are book readers, and some of these different houses and their allegiances can get really confusing. So a quick refresher on all these names and faces that were thrown at us this week, including Riverrun, Walder Frey, The Blackfish, the Brotherhood Without Banners, and so on. For those of you well versed in all this, I’m not going to say anything you don’t already know, so feel free to scroll down for five or six paragraphs.

Catelyn Stark was born a Tully of Riverrun. House Tully is one of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, presiding over the riverlands, and to whom the Freys, among other river houses, were once sworn. Catelyn’s father, the Lord of Riverrun, died in the third season of natural causes shortly before the Red Wedding. Her brother, Edmure, became the Lord of Riverrun, but he was captured during the Red Wedding. Their uncle, Brynden “The Blackfish,” is a knight and a great warrior, whose nickname comes from being the black sheep — or fish in the Tully’s case, as their sigil is a trout — of the family, and is now the de facto leader of Riverrun.

So, the Red Wedding, the Freys, the Tullys, and the Starks what’s that all about? Right, so, remember that the Red Wedding took place during the war between the Starks and the Lannisters. To secure the support of the riverlords, Catelyn Stark suggested that Robb marry one of Walder Frey’s bajillion ugly daughters or granddaughters, and Robb was like, “UGH, FINE, BUT I DON’T WANNA.” And sure enough, he didn’t, sneaking off to marry Talisa, a healer he met on the battlefields. This goes over poorly with the Freys, and so they renegotiate the terms, and Uncle Edmure agrees to marry a Frey to smooth things over. It’s Edmure’s wedding to Roslin Frey that becomes the Red Wedding — Catelyn, Robb, Talisa and Talisa’s unborn baby are all killed, and Edmure is taken hostage. The Freys betray the Tullys, the Boltons betray the Starks and the whole thing was orchestrated off-screen by Tywin Lannister. (In fact, in the books, the woman that Robb marries is Jeyne Westerling, of the House Westerling, which is sworn to … House Lannister. She, unlike her show analogue, does not attend the Red Wedding in the books, and is still alive and well. So put on your tin foil hats and think on that for a while.)

Blackfish, as noted, escaped the Red Wedding because he was outside for a bathroom break when the “Rains of Castamere” was cued up. In the show, Riverrun is taken over by the Freys, and Blackfish just goes missing for several seasons. In the books, he never attends the Red Wedding in the first place, staying behind at Riverrun to make plans for the next battles. After Robb dies, the Blackfish refuses to bend a knee to the Iron Throne, and refuses to give up either the castle or Robb Stark’s widow, Jeyne.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW! In the books, Jaime Lannister comes down to Riverrun to end the Blackfish’s siege of the castle, but though the Lannisters do take it back, the Blackfish manages to escape through the Water Gate, and in the books is currently missing and considered an outlaw. Now, obviously they’ve diverged significantly from the books here, but it’s clear that in the show, Jaime is headed to Riverrun at the same time Brienne will be, where there will be some sort of significant reunion of the two frenemies who are now working for opposite sides.

As for Catelyn Stark, as you certainly know by now in the books, after her throat is slit at the Red Wedding and she is tossed into a river, she is revived by the Brotherhood without Banners through the power of magic related to the Lord of Light. She becomes the Brotherhood’s leader, Hell bent on revenge against the Freys and anyone else associated with the Red Wedding. She also eventually catches up with Brienne whom she captures and demands kill Jaime. When Brienne refuses, Lady Stoneheart orders Brienne hanged. Just as the Brotherhood are about to pull the rope, however, Brienne says …. something.

On the show, Lady Stoneheart never shows up, but the Brotherhood does. They are a guerilla group inadvertently created by Ned Stark, a group of knights he sent to restore peace in the Riverlands only to find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. Eventually, they decided that no one house was better than another, and took up no banner. They capture Arya, Gendry and the Hound in season three, eventually freeing the Hound after he kills Beric Dondarrion (only to have Thoros promptly revive him with more of that Lord of Light magic). The Brotherhood sells Gendry to Melisandre who is looking for king’s blood, which infuriates Arya who puts them all on their list before running away to join the Hound.

There is much speculation that if Lady Stoneheart is going to show up on the show, now’s the time: we are reintroduced to the Freys, the Brotherhood has been mentioned again, and Brienne is on her way to the Riverlands. It could still happen, but I’m skeptical. Sansa is serving some of Lady Stoneheart’s purpose, putting Brienne and Jaime on a crash course towards each other. I think there is a strong chance Brienne will kill Jaime, but it will because of her own choices and her sworn oath to Sansa, not because a zombie lady blackmailed her with her life to do so. As for the Freys, I think Arya will do her zombie mother’s job here, which, again, would ultimately be more satisfying. Having Arya get revenge for the Red Wedding — maybe with the help from a missing direwolf? — would be profoundly gratifying.

Speaking of diverging from the books, Samwell Tarly’s story this week is a pretty huge departure. In the books, Sam and Gilly’s trip from the wall is considerably longer, and they have Maester Aemon in tow. (Jon sends Aemon with them, realizing that Melisandre was out for king’s blood for her sacrifices and he worried about the old Targaryen’s safety. Aemon was the brother of King Aegon [who was the grandfather of the Mad King], and he himself turned down the crown when it was offered to him.) They make a pit stop in Braavos, where they hear stories about Daenerys’ dragons, and it is there that Aemon makes the connection that Daenerys might be the Princ(ess) Who Was Promised. Samwell later gets them all on a boat headed back to Westeros which is where Aemon dies.

They soon land in Oldtown, and Gilly is sent on to Horn Hill, while Sam heads up to the Citadel. There, Sam tells a novice, Alleras (who might be a sand snake in drag, but that’s a whole other thing) what Aemon said about Dany and the Prince and the dragons. Alleras takes Sam to see the Archmaester Marwyn, who, upon hearing all of this, leaves the city to go seek out Daenerys, but not before warning Samwell to keep Dany and her dragons secret from the rest of the archmaesters.

It will be curious to see where Sam and Gilly go next on the show with Heartsbane. Specifically, will they head back to help Jon in the North with this Valyrian sword — the kind that can kill White Walkers? After all, the motto of House Tarly is “First in Battle.” Or will they go to Oldtown finally, and involve the Maesters in this story more?

Because one of my favorite fan theories is all about the maesters and magic and dragons. Again, this is not my theory, but one that has been floating around with books readers for some time. The gist of it is the Maesters hate magic and for generations have been conspiring to do away with it and every form it takes, including dragons and dragon-related individuals.

The maesters are a brotherhood of learned men who train at the Citadel before being assigned to a castle where they serve as an advisor, mentor and healer. They, like the Night’s Watch, are not supposed to have any political allegiances. What they do have is pretty much a monopoly on knowledge. The Citadel contains the largest library in the Seven Kingdoms and for centuries, maesters were the only people who knew how to read or write.


This theory holds that over the centuries, the maesters who are deeply rational, grew to become suspicious of magic, and set out on a conspiracy to do away with it and dragons — actual and personified — altogether. We’re talking Targaryens.

The Targaryens were originally one of forty dragonlord families from Valyrian fields over in Essos. Many centuries ago, the daughter of the head of the Targaryens had a premonition that something cataclysmic was going to happen to Valyria, so they packed up their dragons and moved to the Isle of Dragonstone right off of Westeros. And 12 years later, the Doom happened — some sort of unspecified apocalypse: earthquake? volcano eruption? some sort of attack launched by the first Faceless Men? all of the above? In any event, Valyrian knowledge, history and secrets were lost, including how, exactly, to make Valyrian steel.

While hanging out on Isle of Dragonstone, one of the Targaryens, Aegon the Conqueror, was like, “You know … we’ve got these dragons, and Westeros is just right there …” and so they conquered the Seven Kingdoms and proceeded to rule them for a solid three centuries, in large part because of their giant fire-breathing pets.

However, along the line there was a dispute as to who should take over after this one Targaryen king died, which led to the “Dance of the Dragons,” a war between Princess Rhaenyra and her half-brother Aegon II. During the war, Aegon’s dragon killed Rhaenyra while her son (just to make things really confusing here) Aegon III looked on. But Aegon II was also mortally wounded in the fighting and eventually died, and Aegon III became king. He had a bit of a thing against dragons, seeing as one murdered his mom, and he had all the remaining dragons chained up, where — as Tyrion posited a few episodes ago — they supposedly grew small and pitiful and eventually they all died. However, some people speculated that Aegon III had them poisoned, earning himself the nickname “Dragonbane.”

Fast forward to Sam meeting Archmaester Marwyn at the Citadel. What is important to know about Archmaester Marwyn is that he is known as “Marwyn the Mage” and is regarded with suspicion by the other maesters (whom he calls “grey sheep”) because of his interest and education in magic — in fact, he’s one of the only* the only maester whom we have met who has a Valyrian steel link in his chain, representing his knowledge of the occult. (*EDIT: Luwin, the maester at Winterfell, also had a Valyrian link, which we will have to return to at some point. H/T to my GoT-obsessed husband who just reminded me.)When Sam tells Marwyn of Aemon and Daenerys and dragons and prophecy, Sam insists Aemon would have wanted them to go help Daenerys:

“Aemon would have gone to her if he had the strength. He wanted us to send a maester to her, to counsel her and protect her and fetch her safely home.”
“Did he?” Archmaester Marwyn shrugged. “Perhaps it’s good that he died before he got to Oldtown. Elsewise the grey sheep might have had to kill him, and that would have made the poor old dears wring their wrinkled hands.”
“Kill him?” Sam said, shocked. “Why?”
If I tell you, they may need to kill you too.” Marywn smiled a ghastly smile, the juice of the sourleaf running red between his teeth. “Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time around? Gallant dragonslayers armed with swords?” He spat. “The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons. Ask yourself why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester. His blood was why. He could not be trusted. No more than I can.”

Now add to this a curious conspiracy theory floated by a minor character in the books that we never meet on the show, one Lady Dustin. Barbery Dustin is a Northern woman who holds a number of grudges against a number of different houses, not least of whom the Starks: for starters, she lost her virginity to Brandon Stark, only to have Rickard Stark think she wasn’t good enough to marry his son; and for another thing, her husband died at the Tower of Joy and Ned Stark didn’t bring his bones back with him to be buried in the North.

Right, so at (in the books) Ramsay’s marriage to an Arya imposter, she sits next to Theon/Reek and has plenty to say about the maesters:

“As Maester Medrick went to one knee to whisper in Bolton’s ear, Lady Dustin’s mouth twisted in distaste. “If I were queen, the first thing I would do would be to kill all those grey rats. They scurry everywhere, living on the leavings of the lords, chittering to one another, whispering in the ears of their masters. But who are the masters and who are the servants, truly? Every great lord has his maester, every lesser lord aspires to one. If you do not have a maester, it is taken to mean that you are of little consequence. The grey rats read and write our letters, even for such lords as cannot read themselves, and who can say for a certainty that they are not twisting the words for their own ends? What good are they, I ask you?”


“They heal,” said Theon. It seemed to be expected of him.
“They heal, yes. I never said they were not subtle. They tend to us when we are sick and injured, or distraught over the illness of a parent or a child. Whenever we are weakest and most vulnerable, there they are. Sometimes they heal us, and we are duly grateful. When they fail, they console us in our grief, and we are grateful for that as well. Out of gratitude we give them a place beneath our roof and make them privy to all our shames and secrets, a part of every council. And before too long, the ruler has become the ruled.
“That was how it was with Lord Rickard Stark. Maester Walys was his grey rat’s name. And isn’t it clever how the maesters go by only one name, even those who had two when they first arrived at the Citadel? That way we cannot know who they truly are or where they come from … but if you are dogged enough, you can still find out. Before he forged his chain, Maester Walys had been known as Walys Flowers. Flowers, Hill, Rivers, Snow … we give such names to baseborn children to mark them for what they are, but they are always quick to shed them. Walys Flowers had a Hightower girl for a mother … and an archmaester of the Citadel for a father, it was rumored. The grey rats are not as chaste as they would have us believe. Oldtown maesters are the worst of all. Once he forged his chain, his secret father and his friends wasted no time dispatching him to Winterfell to fill Lord Rickard’s ears with poisoned words as sweet as honey. The Tully marriage as his notion, never doubt it, he–

Later, in the Stark tombs, Lady Dustin reveals to Theon/Reek that Ned’s brother, Brandon, took her virginity, but there were other plans:

“The day I learned that Brandon was to marry Catelyn Tully, though … there was nothing sweet about that pain. He never wanted her, I promise you that. He told me so, on our last night together … but Rickard Stark had great ambitions too. Southron ambitions that would not be served by having his heir marry the daughter of one of his own vassals. Afterward my father nursed some hope of wedding me to Brandon’s brother Eddard, but Catelyn Tully got that one as well. I was left with young Lord Dustin, until Ned Stark took him from me.”

So, basically if you put these two conversations together, what you see is that Lady Dustin believes it was Rickard Stark’s maester who came up with the idea of the Stark-Tully union, and that Ned and Robert Baratheon should be fostered to the Arryns so as to create an alliance of the different major houses to stand in opposition to the Targaryens. Some believe this is the real reason Rickard and Brandon Stark were burned alive by the Mad King — not because they dared to demand Lyanna back from Rhaegar (although, I’m sure that didn’t help matters), but because the Mad King was onto their plans to dethrone him. Which, you know, kinda makes more sense. And so, if this is true, in a bid to rid Westeros once and for all of dragons and magic, the maesters are the actual “maesterminds” of Robert’s rebellion. (Pun, high five.)

OK, before we get to Bran and the rest of it, a few other quick points:

1. Cersei’s trial is getting closer and closer, and she is choosing a trial by combat, confident that FrankenMountain will take care of business. I’m going to spoiler font this next part as it’s been hinted at in news stories all year, scroll over to read: The Faith Militant will have their own weapon in their arsenal to go up against Cersei’s monster: The Hound. In Feast for Crows, Brienne, searching for the Hound, comes upon a monastery where the gravedigger is described as being “bigger than Brienne” and lame. And in fact, he bends down and pets a dog, because George R.R. Martin wants to make sure we get it: this is THE HOUND. The thinking is that the Hound survived after Arya refused him mercy and abandoned him, and was saved by some monks. “The Hound” died — but Sandor Clegane is alive and well and will represent the Faith Militant in the trial by combat, finally giving us the brother vs. brother fight long promised. 

2.Where’s Arya headed? Dunno. My guess is she’ll head back to Westeros to try  to take care of what remains of her list: Cersei, Walder Frey, Ilyn Payne for killing Ned, Beric Dondarrion & Thoros (both for selling Gendry), and Melisandre. From season three:


I doubt Arya will complete her list — a part of me thinks we will be denied the satisfaction of seeing Arya kill Cersei, for instance. But I should note that part of the prophecy Cersei received when she was young, the one that said she would marry the “king” and bury three children in golden shrouds also said she would die at the hands of the “Valonqar.” In High Valyrian, Valonqar means “younger brother,” and Cersei assumes this means Tyrion. But Jaime is also a younger brother, as Cersei was born first. And it would be awfully Shakespearean for Jaime to kill his twin and his lover. And then there’s always Tommen, the younger brother to Joffrey …

But remember what I told you about Valyrian a couple posts ago? It’s a gender neutral language — so Valonqar actually means “younger sibling.” The prophecy never says that the Valonqar will be Cersei’s sibling specifically… just that it will be someone who is a younger sibling. You know, like Arya.

3. The episode title, “Blood of My Blood” refers to the Dothraki tradition of bloodriders, which Dany uses to great effect at the end of the episode. But it also plays in interesting ways throughout the episode: Sam and his complicated dynamics with his father who hates him; the idea that the Freys are going to use the Blackfish’s blood relation, Edmure, as leverage against him; the interesting conflict that is being set up between Tommen and his parents — but also the bond between Jaime and Cersei; and finally the blood connection between Bran and his Uncle Benjen who saves him in this episode.

As noted at the beginning of this interminable post, George R.R. Martin donated the original script of Dance with Dragons to Texas A&M Cushing Memorial Library (you can drive up there and see it for yourself, fact!) in which his editor Anne Groell (whose office my cubicle was just a couple doors down from when I was an editorial assistant at Bantam, true story. Another true story, Andrew Dansby, who was the first author of this blog, tried to give me a first edition hardcover of A Game of Thrones, and I said, “NO THANKS, I DON’T READ BOOKS ABOUT DRAGONS.”)


ANYWAY,  Anne asks Martin in her notes if Benjen is Coldhands, and he wrote in emphatic red ink “NO.” So either he was lying to Anne or Coldhands will be in the books some other character to be named later or, OR, he deliberately added that in before donating it to A&M to throw people off the scent. I bet you can guess which one I think it is.

One of the reasons I think he lied is because Bran predicts EXACTLY what happened to Benjen in the very first book. In Game of Thrones, after Bran wakes up from his coma, and after The Three-Eyed Crow has gifted him with his third eye, news comes to Winterfell that Benjen has gone missing on an expedition:

“Yoren wiped his fingers on his vest. “There’s hard news, m’lords, and a cruel way to pay you for your meat and mead, but the man as asks the question must bear the answer. Stark’s gone.”
One of the other men said, “The Old Bear sent him out to look for Waymar Royce, and he’s late returning, my lord.”
“Too long,” Yoren said. “Most like he’s dead.”
“My uncle is not dead,” Robb Stark said loudly, anger in his tones. He rose from the bench and laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. “Do you hear me? My uncle is not dead!” His voice rang against the stone walls, and Bran was suddenly afraid.
Old sour-smelling Yoren looked up at Robb, unimpressed. “Whatever you say, m’lord,” he said. He sucked at a piece of meat between his teeth.
The youngest of the black brothers shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “There’s not a man on the Wall knows the haunted forest better than Benjen Stark. He’ll find his way back.”
“Well,” said Yoren, “maybe he will and maybe he won’t. Good men have gone into those woods before, and never come out.”
All Bran could think of was Old Nan’s story of the Others and the last hero, hounded through the white woods by dead men and spiders big as hounds. He was afraid for a moment, until he remembered how that story ended. “The children will help him,” he blurted, “the children of the forest!”
Theon Greyjoy sniggered, and Maester Luwin said, “Bran, the children of the forest have been dead and gone for thousands of years. All that is left of them are the faces in the trees.
And that’s EXACTLY what happens: the Children of the Forest help Benjen, plunging the dragonglass blade into his heart and turn him into a liminal being, straddling two worlds: the world of the living and the dead, neither a person nor a White Walker, not a girl not yet a woman.
I love liminal beings in stories: they serve as guides, as mentors, they’re weird and spooky and often inscrutable, and profoundly necessary in helping the hero move from one stage of his journey into another. From Joseph Campbell, father of the monomyth. It should be noted that this applies more to The Three-Eyed Raven, but in no small part also to Benjen:
“For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny. The fantasy is a reassurance—promise that the peace of Paradise, which was known first within the mother womb, is not to be lost; that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as in the past (is omega as well as alpha); that though omnipotence may seem to be endangered by the threshold passages and life awakenings, protective power is always and ever present within or just behind the unfamiliar features of the world. One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side. Mother Nature herself supports the mighty task. And in so far as the hero’s act coincides with that for which his society is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process.”

With The Three-Eyed Raven gone and the Children of the Forest gone, Bran will need Benjen to protect and guide him as he gains control over his powers. How long that protection will last is anyone’s guess, really.

What I do find curious and interesting are two things about Benjen: 1. He says The Three-Eyed Raven “sent” him, he knows how the White Walkers were created, and he knows that Bran has seen this for himself — he seems to be connected directly to The Three-Eyed Raven in some fashion. How? Dunno, but it is interesting and feels important. But 2. as he is instructing Bran that he has to learn to control his visions and be ready to confront the Night’s King when the Night’s King comes into the world of men, he gives Bran a cup of rabbit’s blood to drink. Does the blood or the sacrifice have something to do with Bran’s greensight?

Blood magic is a thing in this universe: Daenerys eats a horse’s heart — a powerful blood symbol — while pregnant with Drogo’s child; when a witch promises Daenerys that she can save Drogo with a blood sacrifice, Dany offers her Drogo’s horse (and in fact, Drogo doesn’t die, but does go into a catatonic state because the witch is still hella mad); Melisandre believes in the power of kings’ blood and routinely makes sacrifices to the Lord of Light; and when Cersei visits the woods witch, her blood has to be taken before the prophecy can be made.

And then there’s the curious question of Jojen in the books. In the books, Jojen makes it inside the caves with everyone else. However, once inside, we don’t see him again after Bran is given a curious red paste to help him tap into the visions from the tree roots. It’s supposed to be a paste made of Weirwood tree seeds, but some believe Jojen was sacrificed by the Children of the Forest, and his blood is mixed into the paste to help heighten Bran’s sight. Maybe! I don’t know!

I also think there might be an issue of blood sacrifice when it comes to births of powerful figures: Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and (presumably, if R+L = J is correct, which we all guess it is) Jon Snow’s mothers all died giving birth to them. Were the mothers the blood sacrifice that was necessary for their children’s greatness/specialness?

The point is, blood = magic, blood = power, blood = control. And with no other magical beings around to guide Bran, he’ll have to take whatever help he can get from Uncle Half-Zombie. Blood of my blood, indeed.

As for those visions, here are the things Bran sees:

  • The Pyromancers’ stashes under the Red Keep
  • The shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing
  • The “Come at Me, Bro/Snow/Crow” moment at Hardhome


  • His own fall from the tower at Winterfell
  • Catelyn’s death at the Red Wedding
  • A dragon flying in a gray sky
  • Daenerys and her baby dragons after their birth
  • The Night’s King turning Craster’s baby into a Walker
  • Mad King Aerys yelling, “Burn them all!”
  • Ned Stark’s death

Second vision

  • A sky
  • Some of the same imagery above, including dragon over King’s Landing; Daenerys; and Night’s King turning the baby
  • A bunch of crows flying out of something
  • Roots
  • Pyromancers pouring wildfire into a container under the Red Keep
  • Mad King Aerys yelling, “Burn them all!” again


  • A wildfire explosion in the tunnels under the Red Keep
  • The Pyromancers putting the container they poured the wildfire into up on a shelf
  • Jaime unsheathing his sword in front of the Mad King
  • Ned Stark asking where his sister is at the Tower of Joy
  • A hand (presumably Ned’s) covered in blood
  • Jaime stabbing the Mad King in the back in front of the Iron Throne
  • Robb Stark being stabbed
  • Jaime standing over the Mad King’s body beside the Iron Throne
  • A crow
  • Robb Stark dying
  • Leaf (creating the White Walkers?)
  • The White Walker Jon kills with the Valyrian Steel sword — moments before he kills him
  • Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne
  • Wildfire exploding in the cellars at the Red Keep
  • Dragon flying through a gray sky again; Daenerys baby dragon again; baby White Walker again; Crows again; Leaf again; Jamie about to kill Mad King again; Explosion again

Third vision

  • Falling out of the tower again; Pyromancers putting the wildfire away again; Mad King yelling again; Pyromancers again
  • More fighting at Hardhome, the hordes of wights taking over


  • Come at me Snow, again
  • Bran standing outside the weirwood tree and facing the Army of Darkness
  • Hardhome again, wights breaching the gates
  • Bran standing outside the weirwood tree and facing the Army of Darkness
  • Hardhome again, wights breaching the gates
  • Bran standing outside the weirwood tree and facing the Army of Darkness
  • Wights falling into the sea at Hardhome
  • Wights closing in on Meera and Bran in the present
  • Night’s King at Hardhome
  • Wights breaching the gates at Hardhome again
  • Child wights
  • Zombie horse
  • Hardhome wights rising from the dead
  • Wights closing in on Meera and Bran in the present

Final vision

  • Wights closing in on Meera and Bran in the present
  • Wights breaching the gates at Hardhome
  • Child wights again;
  • Jon looking up at wights on a cliff at Hardhome
  • More wights pouring through the gates at Hardhome
  • Zombie horse


  • White Walkers and the Army of Darkness headed somewhere in the snow
  • Night’s King looking down upon the destruction at Hardhome
  • The Army of Darkness headed across the snow somewhere
  • Bran assessing the Army of Darkness again, being grabbed by the Night’s King

What is important to note about the visions is that though they are a huge jumble, they can be categorized into a few categories:

1. The Stark’s deaths and tragedies

2. Baby dragons, baby White Walkers, the birth of Walkers

3. The Mad King and wildfire

4. Hardhome

Obviously it’s pretty huge that we see the Mad King for the first time on the series. He’s an important character! A super-important character! And there is a theory gaining traction — particularly after this episode — that Bran will use his time travel powers to go back and try to talk sense into the Mad King so as to prevent Robert’s Rebellion. However, the whispers are what actually drive the Mad King mad, and it all happens as it always happened. This is a decent theory, and one that I can get behind as the time travel logic is consistent.

My problem with this theory is that the Mad King didn’t need any help in going mad. He started off seemingly sane, but there were a whole host of things that happened in his life that would push him over the edge, including losing a number of babies to miscarriage and stillbirths (after being told his line would produce the Prince Who Was Promised); having a Hand who was getting all the credit for his political successes, driving him into paranoia; and he was kidnapped and held in a dungeon for six months this one time. Oh, and there’s the whole thing where he’s an inbred Targaryen who are not exactly known for their mental stability in the first place.

While there is certainly the possibility that the message that Bran will take from these visions is that he must try to stop the Mad King, I don’t think that’s what the visions were trying to tell him. Instead, I think it’s all about that wildfire. As we learned when Tyrion raided the wildfire stash to use in the Battle of Blackwater, the cellars of King’s Landing are filled with the dangerous flammable substance. The Mad King became obsessed with the stuff, using it in executions, and the pyromancers became a fixture in his court. During the rebellion, the Mad King came up with the “wildfire plot” in which the pyromancers were to create a huge stockpile of wildfire and stash it all over King’s Landing, which he would then use to burn the city to the ground with its 500,000 inhabitants, rather than allow Robert to take it.

But as we are reminded in the visions, as he yells “BURN THEM ALL,” Jaime Lannister instead kills him, saving King’s Landing and earning himself the cruel nickname “Kingslayer” in the process. (Jaime Lannister is — and I mean this both sincerely and in the classic sense — a tragic hero of this story.)

So what is going to happen with all that wildfire? There are some who think Cersei is going to use it to burn King’s Landing to punish the Sparrow and the rest of her enemies, which I suppose is possible. But then why show the wildfire to Bran? What’s he going to do about Cersei from Beyond the Wall?

Instead, think about what is juxtaposed here: the wildfire, the Mad King screaming “BURN THEM ALL!” and Hardhome. Over and over again: The Wildfire, the Mad King screaming “BURN THEM ALL!”, Hardhome. Remember, it is at Hardhome that we first witness the White Walkers’ horrific power to turn thousands of dead into wights.

And so, these visions juxtaposed against each other suggest to me something entirely different: Winter is coming. Winter is coming and the Walkers are coming to the “World of Man:” King’s Landing. The Walkers are going to come to King’s Landing, where they could potentially turn of all those 500,000 inhabitants into wights, and world will end. The only way to stop them? BURN THEM ALL.


Status of Jon Snow: STILL ALIVE! Although he wasn’t seen in this episode, so there is a small chance he might have been stabbed in the back again. He doesn’t really make friends very easily, after all.

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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