‘Game of Thrones’: The ties that bind

“Game of Thrones
“The Dragon and the Wolf”
August 27, 2017

Complicated family reunions! Secret weddings! Surprise assassinations! Wight shows! Sibling break-ups! Ice dragons! Aunt on nephew sexytimes! The Wall FINALLY coming down! ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

King’s Landing

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O HAI

So, for our finale, many months or weeks or years or days have passed (who even knows, really) and it is time for Jon and Daenerys’ big “Ice Zombies Exist and They Boy Do They Suck” presentation for Queen Cersei. To prepare, Daenerys sends her Unsullied and Dothraki Screamers to menace the walls of King’s Landing. Bronn has the Lannister forces prepare barrels of pitch to drop on their heads if need be but also points out to Jaime that soldiers who are fighting for something bigger than their own cock-interest are dangerous, to say the least.

As Jon, Tyrion, Varys, Davos, Missandei, The Hound, and TheonReek arrive at King’s Landing by boat, Jon marvels at the size of the city. Jon is baffled why anyone would want to live there, but Tyrion explains that more than a million people are crammed into town, drawn by the prospect of jobs and decent brothels and not having to spend a year’s salary on furs and chapstick or having to worry about freezing to death every time they go get the mail. NOT EVERYONE LIKES THE COLD, JON SNOW, THAT’S THE ENTIRE PHILOSOPHY OF WHY ARIZONA EVEN EXISTS, DUDE.

Upon landing, the group is greeted by Bronn, some Lannister troops and Brienne and Podrick, who lead them to the Dragon Pit, where today’s team building exercises will take place. Tyrion and Pod have a nice little reunion; Brienne and The Hound a much more tense one, seeing as Brienne tried her damnedest to kill him the last time they ran into one another. Brienne explains she was just trying to protect Arya, and The Hound is like, “yeah, ME TOO.” Brienne assures The Hound that Arya is alive and well and no longer needs protecting and then Mommy and Daddy have a little smile at the thought of their murder baby all grown up.

Tyrion tries to persuade Bronn to ditch his siblings, offering him double whatever the twins are paying him. But Bronn assures Tyrion that he doesn’t need looking after: after all, he’s the one who arranged this meeting, delivering two traitors right to Cersei’s front door.

Tyrion:

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As they arrive at the Dragon Pit, Bronn conspicuously leads Podrick off stage-left because — and I can’t verify that this is true, but it is about the only thing that makes sense — Jerome Flynn (Bronn) and Lena Headey (Cersei) hate each other in real life after an acrimonious breakup, and they have it stipulated in their contracts that they will never appear in a scene together. Whoa, if true.

Jerome Flynn safely out of the scene, Cersei and Jaime and Sea Pacey and FrakenMountain and Qyburn all march into the Dragon Pit and take their places, and there are just so many awkward family reunions taking place at once: Tyrion with Cersei and Jaime; TheonReek and Uncle Sea Pacey; and The Hound and FrakenMountain.

Cersei demands to know where the hell this Daenerys character is, and everyone’s like, “Eh, she likes to make an entrance.” Which is, of course, when Daenerys swoops down on Drogon, Rhaegal accompanying them, and everyone is like, “DAAAAAAAAMN!!” Except for Cersei who is like, “Bitch, you late.”

So Tyrion begins his, “I’ve called you all here today because …” speech when Sea Pacey jumps up and starts threatening TheonReek and making dwarf jokes and literally everyone, including Team Cersei, is like, “ugh, sit down.”

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Tyrion resumes his presentation: “Look, I know we all hate one other, and killing each other would feel SO AWESOME, but frankly there are bigger fish to fry, and all we are asking here is for a temporary truce.”

“And by fish,” Jon Snow pipes up, “he means ICE ZOMBIE FISH. And if we don’t fight against them, the population of King’s Landing will become one million more ice zombies fish.”

Cersei:

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So The Hound carries out their door prize from Beyond the Wall: wight in a box. The Hound dumps it out, it immediately lunges for Cersei, but The Hound yanks on its chain, and cuts it in half, lopping off its hand in the process. Team Cersei are freaked out that the wight’s upper half and hand are still moving — all but Qyburn, who has fallen in love:

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And that’s why you always leave a note.

Jon takes the hand from Qyburn and explains that there are two ways of dealing with their particular brand of zombie:

  1. fire (lighting the hand on fire to Qyburn’s heartbreak)
  2. dragonglass (stabbing the upper torso of the wight to everyone’s tremendous relief)

Dany notes that she didn’t believe the ice zombie threat until she saw it for herself, and Jaime, asks how many wights she saw.

Dany: “One hundred thousand at least.”

Jaime:

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As for Sea Pacey, when he learns the wights can’t swim, he’s like, “WELL, I’M OUT. DANY, HIT ME UP LATER,” and he runs off to his boats.

Cersei is like, “Cool, cool, cool. So, I’m not exactly ready to commit my own troops to fight ice zombies, but I will agree to a truce … as long as Jon Snow promises to not pick a side between me and Daenerys.”

But Jon is all, “AH, BUT I AM NED STARK’S SON AND THEREFORE CAN NOT MAKE SUCH A PROMISE AS I HAVE ALREADY DECLARED FOR TEAM DRAGON AND MY HONOR IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROTECTING THE ENTIRE WORLD FROM ICE ZOMBIES OR WASTING MY FRIENDS’ TIME ON A DISASTROUS ICE ZOMBIE HUNT OR WASTING ALL OF OUR TIME BY MEETING HERE TODAY.”

Cersei’s like, “Yep, knew you’d say that, you dummy. OK BYE!” and marches out of the Dragon Pit. Brienne begs Jaime to convince Cersei to change her mind, but Jaime’s like, “Gurl, what part of ‘my sister is a dangerous sociopath with a raging narcissistic personality disorder’ did you not get?”

As for Daenerys and Tyrion, they call Jon a FUCKING IDIOT, but Jon is all, “~shrug~, I’mma Stark, that’s what we do.” Tyrion announces that he is going to go talk to his sister, and everyone’s like, “Yeah, good luck with that, hope you keep your head, little buddy!”

In Cersei’s chambers, Tyrion and Cersei bicker over whether or not it was cool that Tyrion killed Tywin, and through her own twisted logic, Cersei ends up blaming Tyrion for Tommen and Marcella’s deaths, because they somehow wouldn’t have happened if Tywin were alive? I mean, it might be argued — and it would have to be one hell of an argument — that the Sand Snakes might have been intimidated enough by the thought of Lannister retaliation to keep their hands off of Marcella, but I’m not sure how Tywin would have prevented Tommen’s face plant? Maybe the High Septon wouldn’t have been such an asshole if Tywin had lived so that Cersei would have never been forced to blow up the Sept?

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But I digress.

The point is, bringing up his dead niece and nephew does make Tyrion feel guilty, and he protests that he loved them both and regrets their death, and then challenges his sister to just have FrakenMountain kill him already if he’s such a threat to her family. And Cersei, shockingly, blinks, allowing Tyrion to live after everything that has happened in the past four seasons.

The two get down to talking about this whole mess, and Tyrion explains that he believes in Daenerys because she wants to make the world a better place. Cersei, placing a hand on her stomach, is all, “Bitch, I don’t care about the world, I only care about those I love. You think I don’t know about zombies? I know ALLLL about zombies. Have you MET MY FRAKENMOUNTAIN? Anyway, maybe Sea Pacey has the right idea…” and Tyrion is like, “ZOMG YOU’RE PREGNANT HOLY HELL.”

Back in the Dragon Pit, while they wait for Tyrion’s head to be placed on a spike, Jon and Dany make the eye sex while fondling dragon skulls and talking about Daenerys’ supposed infertility. “Girl, lemme try,” Jon Snow says with his eyeballs. His sex eyeballs.

But then Tyrion returns alive, hooray! followed by Cersei who announces that her troops will march beside Jon and Daenerys’ in the Great War.

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Sometime later, Jaime starts giving his commanders — or whatever they’re called in Westeros — instructions about moving troops north, only to have Cersei come in and be like, “Hey, stupid, that’s not happening. You seem to have forgotten I am a lying liar who lies all the time. You think a little ice zombie is going to scare me? I SWEAR TO GOD, IT’S LIKE NONE OF YOU PEOPLE EVEN NOTICE THAT MY BFF IS A GIANT ZOMBIE.”

Cersei then explains that 1. Daenerys appears to only have two dragons, 2. Sea Pacey didn’t actually peace out on them: in reality, he’s off fetching the Golden Company to help them fight, so 3. the Lannisters are going to let Dany and Jon fight the ice zombies on their own. Jaime is shocked! SHOCKED! that Cersei kept him in the dark about this whole Sea Pacey/Golden Company business, but Cersei’s like, “Bitch, please, you conspired with Tyrion, so you can shove it.” Jaime then points out the obvious: that eventually someone is going to win in the north, and then they’ll be coming for her, but Cersei don’t care.

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Jaime, finally having had enough is like, “I was cool with you blowing up thousands of innocent people including our daughter-in-law and her entire family, but not telling me about your little plan with Sea Pacey is a STEP TOO FAR. I AM OUTTA HERE.” Cersei yells that she’ll have FrankenMountain kill him as a traitor if he leaves, but Jaime is like, “Yeah, I don’t believe you,” and just walks right past Cersei’s zombiepet.

Dragonstone

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Back at the Targaryen place, Jon and Daenerys make plans for their trip north. She could either march with the Unsullied, fly in on her dragons, orrrrrrrrrr, take the sex boat with Jon.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS.

Daenerys: “Wait, which is the one where I make the sex on a boat with Jon? I’m going to go with that one.”

Later, TheonReek asks to speak with Jon. He was impressed that Jon told Cersei the truth when he didn’t have to — AND WHEN HE SHOULDN’T HAVE — and goes on to say that Jon always seems to know what is “right.” Jon insists that he has a regret or two, but notes that however many mistakes he’s made, it’s not as many as TheonReek. TheonReek whines that he always felt torn between the Starks and the Greyjoys, and Jon is like, “DO NOT EVEN WITH ME. Our father was more of a father to you than yours ever was and you betrayed his memory, WHICH WAS SOME BULLSHIT. But you never lost what part of you was Ned.” Jon goes on to tell TheonReek that it’s not his place to forgive him, but what he can forgive he does, before adding, “You don’t need to choose: you are a Greyjoy and a Stark.”

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TheonReek, all inspired by Jon, goes out to the small group of Ironborn who are still with him and is like, “I’m gonna go save Yara, who’s with me?”

The Ironborn:

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Instead, the new leader of this pirate crew declares, they’re going to go rape and pillage. TheonReek is like, “But Yara said we don’t do that anymore?” So Pirate begins beating the everliving shit out of TheonReek, because why not. And it’s not looking great for TheonReek … until Pirate kicks TheonReek where his balls used to be, and LOL NOPE. This turns the tide for TheonReek who proceeds to beat Pirate to death.

The Ironborn:

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Winterfell

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Sansa receives news that Jon has bent the knee to Daenerys, and is like, “GOD DAMMIT.” But Littlefinger points out that he’s heard that Daenerys is super-hot, so, you know, who can really blame him.

Sansa begins to worry how Arya is going to take this news, seeing as Arya’s always loved Jon more than her, and especially now that Arya is a murdering murderer and everything. Littlefinger encourages Sansa to do what he does: ask herself what is the worst possible reason someone would do something, and assume that’s why they’re doing it.

For instance, what is the worst possible thing Arya could do? Sansa decides it would be to murder her for marrying their family’s enemies, and then using Sansa’s letter as her justification. And why would Arya do that? To become Lady of Winterfell, uh duh, it’s what she’s always wanted.

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Sansa has Arya brought to the great hall, where she stands before her sister and brother at the great table, surrounded by Stark soldiers, Stark and Vale lords and Littlefinger. Arya asks if Sansa really wants to do this, and Sansa insists that it’s not about what she wants, justice is demanded against those that would harm the North. Sansa then begins reading the charges: “You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges … Lord Baelish?”

Sansa then begins reading the charges: “You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges … Lord Baelish?”

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Littlefinger is all, “I HAZ A CONFUSED,” so Sansa clears it up for him: he pushed Aunt Lysa through the moon door, he conspired to kill Jon Arryn, he set the Starks and Lannisters against one another creating this whole decade-long war that cost her mother and brothers’ lives, and he conspired to kill Ned. Oh, and also, too, he sold her to the Boltons.

Littlefinger tries to deny all of this, but the Three-Eyed Bran is all:

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Littlefinger attempts to convince Royce, the head of the Vale to back him up, but Royce is like, “Nah.”

Littlefinger drops to his knees to beg Sansa for mercy, he’s loved her more than anyone! But the kneeling just makes it easier for Arya to slice his throat with his own catspaw dagger.

R.I.P. You Lovable Asshole.

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Sansa and Arya then go stand out in the snow even though there are nice comfortable fires inside. There, Arya tells her sister that she would have never survived what Sansa’s been through, but Sansa disagrees, because Arya’s the strongest person she knows. And she’s not saying that just because Arya could slit her throat without thinking about it twice. They then recite their father’s poem: “When snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” Regular Mother Goose, that one.

Sometime later, Samwell and Gilly arrive in Winterfell, and Sam goes straight to see Bran, who is all, “I’M A BIRD NOW.” Sam is like, “Yeah, I don’t know what that means. Anyway, I’m here to help Jon in his fight against the dead.” Bran informs Sam that Jon is on his way back to Winterfell, and that Bran needs to share Jon’s Pop Secret with Sam: Jon’s the illegitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and his aunt Lyanna Stark, and was born in Dorne. Jon’s last name isn’t “Snow,” it’s “Sand!”

And that’s when Sam is all, “WAIT A MINUTE, I ALSO HAVE A POP SECRET ABOUT JON! I (Gilly) FOUND IN A SECRET DIARY THAT THE SEPTON MARRIED RHAEGAR IN A SECRET CEREMONY! HE’S NOT A SNOW, OR A SAND, HE’S A SECRET TARGARYEN!”

The Three-Eyed Bran is like, “yeah, I’m going to need to check your math on that.” While he hops back in history to check on Sam’s claims, we are shown Jon and Daenerys FINALLY making the sex on the sex boat, while Tyrion lurks around outside Dany’s cabin, looking seriously bummed by this development.

After seeing Lyanna and Rhaegar’s secret marriage, The Three-Eyed Bran comes back to the present and is all, “Yep, Jon’s a Targaryen and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, he’s probably going to want to know about this.” And he probably would have wanted to know this before he boned his aunt. But sure, OK.

Eastwatch

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Tormund and Dondarrion are shooting the shit on top of the wall when three horn blasts are heard, and the army of ice zombies comes pouring out of the forest. However, they stop just short of the wall and Tormund and Dondarrion are like, “WHEW!”

But they aren’t safe yet, because here comes the Night King on his new ride, FrankenViserion, blasting some blue fire at the wall, and collapsing it. Tormund and Dondarrion scream at everyone to run, and apparently according to things I read and not my own eyeballs, they make it safely to a western chunk that still stands, which yay. However, now the Wall has a giant dragon hole in the middle of it and the ice zombies are pouring through and everyone is good and fucked until 2019.

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Let me begin, again, with getting a pair of very minor complaints out of the way. First, the Winterfell — Littlefinger “TRICKED YA!” plot. Here’s what: I loved the twist, it was absolutely gratifying to see the ultimate player get played by the Stark kids, A++++ conclusion of Littlefinger’s fate.

However. Personally, I feel the storytellers sacrificed logic just so they could trick the audience. I like a plot twist and a gotcha! as much as the next viewer, but for the twist to work, it has to make sense. And as evidenced by my last post, I just never quite believed that the Stark girls, after having lost so much family and having been separated for so long, would be so easily duped by Littlefinger.

And because of the baffling choices the writers made, we still don’t know for sure if Sansa and Arya’s suspicions of each other were real or feigned as a means to trick Littlefinger. I assume the tension between the sisters was real, if only because of the timeline we are working with suggests the events of the past two episodes took place over the course of weeks, not days. Why would they need to trick Littlefinger into believing they were suspicious of one another for weeks on end, especially when they end up charging him for crimes he committed years before?

Apparently, there was a scene from this episode that was cut in which Sansa goes to Bran and asks him for his help with something. Seeing as he is sitting at the great table with Sansa during the execution scene, I think it’s safe to assume that she was looking for confirmation that Littlefinger was being a lying liar who lies — which sure! He’s The Three-Eyed Bran, and can definitely clear up any lingering questions Sansa might have! The problem is, few people know better than Sansa that Littlefinger is a dangerous liar, having been there when he killed their aunt and the fact that HE SOLD HER TO THE BOLTONS TO BE RAPED AND ABUSED.

And so I am of mixed feelings about this deleted scene: on the one hand, I am irritated that they chose to cut this Sansa and Bran scene because they worried it would give away the big twist, but on the other hand, the scene is complete bullshit for the reason cited directly above: Sansa already has ALL THE PROOF SHE NEEDS that Littlefinger is a snake and that she shouldn’t trust him over her own flesh and blood SO WHY ARE THE STARK GIRLS EVEN FIGHTING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Dumb. So dumb.

The second point: while I thought the use of the zombie dragon to bring down the Wall was undoubtedly cool and made for some spectacular visuals, I still think that the Night King should have been able to bring down the Wall through a much simpler, less visually-stunning means: his connection with Bran.

Here’s the thing: the Wall doesn’t keep the wights and White Walkers out merely because it is tall; it also keeps them out with the help of magic. And the show went out of its way to explain that when the Night King touched Bran, it allowed the Night King and White Walkers to break through The Three-Eyed Raven’s magical protections around his cave. Therefore, it would have been more logically consistent and more satisfying storytelling if the Night King and Bran’s bond also broke the magic of the Wall once Bran passed through it.

If the Night King and Bran’s bond worked like a magic key on the cave, why couldn’t it work on the Wall? If it had worked on the Wall, not only would it make The Three-Eyed Bran and Night King’s connection that much more important to the story as a whole, but it would also add layers of complication to Bran’s return home to Winterfell and pose interesting questions about fate and destiny. And just from a structural storytelling point, if the magical bond between Bran and the Night King is only ultimately going to be used as a means to explain how the Night King got access to the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, that’s a pretty lame deus ex machina. Either apply the logic to all magical barriers or come up with a less convenient way for the Night King to kill the first Three-Eyed Raven, Leaf and poor Summer and Hodor. Sure, having the Night King just be able to walk through the Wall because of “magic” is a lot less exciting than ICE DRAGONS! But in this universe, it actually makes more sense.

In a related point, as for that Bran is the Night King theory that everyone is bouncing around these days: Cool idea, but ultimately I think, nope.

In case you aren’t familiar with this theory, the idea is that because Bran can see through time and can warg into people, he might have tried to use these powers to go back and change history. And instead, by fucking around with time, he inadvertently sets all of the events on the show into motion. The theory argues Bran makes three attempts to fix things:

The theory argues Bran makes three attempts to fix things:

Attempt number one: He is behind the voices driving the Mad King crazy, and tells him to “BURN THEM ALL,” meaning the White Walkers. Mad King being mad, misinterprets this and orders Jaime to burn the city.

Attempt number two: Bran goes back in time, becomes Brandon the Builder and builds the Wall.

Attempt number three: Realizing that the Wall is ultimately just a stopgap measure, he goes back in time to warg into a First Man in an attempt to talk some sense into the Children of the Forest and convince them to not create the Night King. But ha ha, he gets trapped in the First Man’s body and becomes their sacrifice/Night King. And then as the Night King, Bran decides he’s hellbent on revenge on The Three-Eyed Raven for not giving him the heads up that all this bad shit was going to happen to him or something. Clearly this is part of the Underpants Gnome theory that is demarcated with a question mark before you get to PROFIT!: Bran becomes the Night King/ ? /Night King goes on an eons-long revenge spree against humanity.

There are several problems with this theory, aside from the part where we are never given a decent reason why Bran would suddenly hate all of humanity after he got himself into this predicament. For instance, the idea that Bran was the voice telling the Mad King to “Burn them all,” is an interesting one, but it’s important to remember that the Mad King wanting to burn down King’s Landing wasn’t the cause of the war that unseated the Targaryens — it was his son Rhaegar “kidnapping” Lyanna Stark. The Mad King only wanted to burn down the city after he’d already lost the war and Robert’s forces were closing in on King’s Landing.

So, no, Bran is not the cause of the events on the series, even if he did do the things that comprise the theory. The only way Bran could be the cause of the events on the series would be if 1. he were the one who convinced Rhaegar that he needed to have three children and if 2. he were the one who convinced the Children of the Forest that the only way to stop the First Men would be to turn one of them into the Night King via magic. And who knows? Maybe in the final season Bran will come to the realization that for the greater good these two events must happen and he goes back in time to ensure they do, finds himself stuck in the body of the First Man, is sacrificed and is turned into the Night King. Still doesn’t solve that “?” part of the equation, though.

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Bran himself, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, has shot down this theory, which doesn’t mean much of anything when you consider Kit Harington spent a year swearing up and down that Jon Snow was definitely absolutely for realsy dead. But when you look at what he says exactly, it is much more interesting and revealing: “I think it’s less that they’re the same person and more that they’re two of the ancient beings of Westeros.”

I think ultimately this makes the most sense, that the Night King and The Three-Eyed Raven are two separate entities representing the dualistic nature of universal forces at work. It’s the oldest, most basic conflict: light vs. dark, good vs. evil. The God of Winter versus the Summer Child.

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Now that all said, it is important to remember that just as Bran was a normal person before becoming The Three-Eyed Raven, the Night King was once only human, too. And it’s possible that he was a Stark. In the books, he’s called the Night’s King, and his origin story is quite different: he was the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who fell in love with a woman “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars.” The couple move into one of the Night’s Watches’ castles, The Nightfort, where he declares himself king. He and his queen rule there for 13 years, supposedly making all sorts of trouble and sacrifices to the Others (White Walkers). And Bran’s nanny, Old Nan, suggests that his name was originally “Brandon.”

In addition to all of that, I don’t know what to make of this, but many people thought that as they made their way past the wall in this episode, the wights appeared to make a direwolf formation:

So either that’s cool or it could just be a case of pareidolia.

But if this Great War is actually between a Stark and other Starks, it’s very interesting symbolically, representing the duality, the conflict within the self: that there is good and bad within all of us and that we must conquer our own darkest impulses. Families fighting amongst themselves is one of the biggest themes of this entire series — and in fact, it’s one of the drivers of this particular episode. But what is interesting is that the Starks have always managed to avoid fighting with each other in any sort of significant way. (Which is why the Sansa and Arya story rang so irritatingly untrue.) So for the Great War to be between generations of Starks, that is an interesting and metaphorically significant development (if it comes to be).

But here’s the thing: the flip side of duality as conflict is duality as balance. While dualistic conflicts serve as the most basic building block of any story, myth, and even religion, duality doesn’t always have to be a negative, including in our particular narrative. It’s not “A Song of Ice Versus Fire,” it’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Opposites can balance, not just oppose: Daenerys and Jon, female and male, fire and ice, serve as each other’s yin and yang.

And this duality extends to the individual himself, which is the lesson that Theon learns in his conversation with Jon: He doesn’t have to choose between Greyjoy and Stark, he can be the best of both parts of himself. He can both be a Stark and do the right thing (insist that his men save Yara) and be a Greyjoy and fight anyone who stands in his way (pummel the shit out of that raping motherfucker). It’s only when he denies one part of himself in favor of the other that he falls out of balance and bad things happen, like burning children to death and stealing his childhood friends’ home.

Presumably Jon’s own advice will come back to him when he learns his Pop Secret, and he will eventually embrace being both a Stark and a Targaryen. Which brings me to my next point and series of questions: Jon’s name is actually Aegon Targaryen? How does that work?

First of all, we all knew that he was a secret Targaryen. R + L = J is the worst kept secret of the series and always has been. The “hero has a secret identity” trope is well-worn, and though not a necessary component of the Hero’s Journey, it might as well be at least in the modern Western canon. So like Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, Jon is from a much more powerful family and is of much more prestigious standing than he previously believed. He’s not a Stark bastard, he’s not a Targaryen bastard, he’s not a bastard at all: in fact, he’s the rightful heir to the entire kingdom.

And so every fundamental thing that identified Jon, none of them are real: his bastardness, his being Ned Stark’s son, his very name.

Let’s begin with the bastard thing: in the penultimate episode, Gilly has us believe that Jon’s father, Rhaegar, received an annulment from his Martell wife and mother of his two children, Elia so as to marry Lyanna. The idea here was that Rhaegar needed three children to fulfill the “dragon has three heads” business, Elia could no longer have children, he has a kid with someone else. Which is all well and fine, except it seemed both out of character and self-defeating for Rhaegar to delegitimize his two older children, which an annulment would TOTALLY do, in favor of Lyanna’s unborn child. If he needs three Targaryen children, turning his first two kids into Sands would be counter-productive. And the Martells CERTAINLY wouldn’t be cool with Rhaegar annulling his marriage to Elia in favor of marrying some other woman — so why would Rhaegar not only marry Lyanna in the Martell’s own homeland of Dorne, but then also hide her there so that she could give birth? If you’re not trying to piss off the (former) in-laws, wouldn’t you hole up your new wife and baby in Dragonstone?

Unless … he didn’t annul his marriage to Elia before marrying Lyanna, and in fact, had Elia’s blessing to take her as a second wife. It would be one thing if Rhaegar married Lyanna someplace else, but to marry her and keep her in the homeland of his first wife (whether or not he annulled their marriage first) would be such a spectacular insult to the Martells that I don’t believe he would actually do it without their consent and blessing.

And, in fact, the Game of Thrones folks might have tossed us a scrap with an image of the Septon’s diary:

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It’s hard to read, and some words are carefully concealed, but it reads:

One to unforeseen events and … from setting down my record for … an annulment to Prince Rhaegar … marriage to Elia Martell … marriage to Lyanna Stark in Dorne. He forbid me to tell anyone of the ceremony so I shall not.

Here’s what’s important: “an annulment to Prince Rhaegar” not “an annulment for Prince Rhaegar.” Now, between “from setting down my record for” and “an annulment to Prince Rhaegar” could be any number of possibilities, including something along the lines of “I granted” (an annulment to Prince Rhaegar) OR! or it could be: “I suggested” (an annulment to Prince Rhaegar).

The Faith of the Seven isn’t cool with polygamy, but it’s not unheard of in Westeros, especially with the Targaryens. So it is possible that the High Septon felt compelled to put annulment as an option on the table, and for the High Septon’s Gods’-appointed ruler to have rejected it out of hand, leaving the High Septon with only one option: marry Rhaegar to a second wife in secret.

That, or Rhaegar annulled his marriage to his first wife, delegitimized her children and married her replacement in her hometown.

Which seems more likely?

In the end, the more important part of all of this is that Jon was never a bastard nor Ned Stark’s son — the latter, I suspect, will be more shocking to Jon. And, just as it took Jon a while to listen to his own advice that he offered Mance Rayder about putting aside his pride, it may take him a moment to take the advice he gave Theon: that though Ned wasn’t Theon’s biological father, he was his the only real father he ever had, and that, ultimately, should be the thing that defines him.

davos jon snow king jon game of thrones

As for his real name, before we move on to that, I just wanted to make a quick note about Bran calling Jon “Jon Sands.” So, as you have probably noticed, bastards of high-born families are given distinctive last names: Snow, Sand, Rivers, etc. (Bastards of smallfolk are not given a distinctive last name at all.) Now, without having given much thought to is, I always assumed the last name depended upon the high-born family you are a bastard of: Jon Snow is a Stark bastard, therefore he’s a Snow. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the fact that Ramsay Bolton was also a Snow — which suggests the actual way the names work: it is determined by which kingdom you’re raised in.

Crownlands = Waters
Dorne = Sand
Iron Islands = Pyke
North = Snow
Reach = Flowers
Riverlands = Rivers
Stormlands = Storm
Vale = Stone
Westerlands = Hill

Except even this isn’t a consistent rule. Take the Sand Snakes, for instance: Obara grew up in the Reach and Nymeria was born in Volantis, but they both used the name “Sand.” And there are other examples of this with characters that you’ve never heard of. My point is, I was very confused by the Jon Sand thing. Even if he were born in Dorne, he grew up in the North, so either his “real” bastard name should reflect where he was raised (in the North) or his high-born family (either the Targaryens or the Starks). So chances are he still probably would have been Jon Snow … with a smaller possibility that he could have been Jon Waters.

john waters mustache.gif

But in the end, it doesn’t much matter, because we know his name is really Aegon Targaryen.

Just like his half-brother, the son Rhaegar had with Elia.

What the what?

I suppose it is possible that Lyanna chose the name herself. When she gives birth, Rhaegar is already dead, having been killed by Robert in the Battle of the Trident. She may have chosen the name to pay tribute to the baby’s father’s family.

But aside from giving her son a name that could potentially mark him for death, it seems strange that of all the Targaryen names available to her, she would choose one that was currently being used by her own child’s half-sibling.

Instead, I suspect Rhaegar insisted that if the child were a boy, he be named Aegon, and that this has something to do with whatever prophecy was guiding Rhaegar, be it something he read or a dream he had or something a witch told him, WHO EVEN KNOWS. That Rhaegar believed so strongly in this prophecy, he managed to convince Elia, Lyanna and possibly the High Septon of the following: that 1. he had to father three legitimate Targaryen children, one of whom would be the Prince That Was Promised, 2. the Prince That Was Promised would be named Aegon and (maybe) that 3. not all of his children would survive to adulthood.

Note: in Daenerys’ vision of Rhaegar in the House of the Undying, there is a strong undercurrent of sadness, as if Rhaegar knew that what was to come was both imperative and tragic:

Viserys, was her first thought the next time she paused, but a second glance told her otherwise. The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. “Aegon,” he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?”
“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.
“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said,” though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.

Excerpt From: George R. R. Martin. “A Clash of Kings.” Bantam Books, 1999.

Sweet sadness. And thus both boys were named Aegon, a name for a king, because one was destined to become so — Rhaegar just wasn’t sure which one. Prophecies only go so far, after all.

A couple of quick book notes about this whole Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen reveal:

In the books, there is a guy running around claiming to be Rhaegar’s other son named Aegon, the one whose head was supposedly bashed in by the Mountain during Robert’s Rebellion. If he is the real Aegon, he would have more claim to the Throne than Daenerys (just like Jon), but considering the showrunners did away with his character altogether, it’s unlikely he’s going to be legit. Instead, I suspect they intend to consolidate this conflict between Daenerys and Aegon over the throne into this story with Jon.

There is also a disturbing story in the books that sort of foreshadows what happens with baby Jon that the showrunners did away with, I think in part because it is a little confusing, but mostly because it doesn’t paint Jon in the best light. But in the books, when Mance Rayder and the Wildlings arrive at Castle Black, Mance has a baby roughly the same age as Gilly’s baby, Samwell. When he sends Sam and Gilly to Oldtown with Maester Aemon, Jon swaps the babies because Melisandre is going around looking for king’s blood to sacrifice to the Lord of Light. So to protect Prince Rayder, he is willing to sacrifice Gilly’s Sam. We don’t actually know what happens with Gilly’s baby BECAUSE GEORGE HASN’T FINISHED THE NEXT BOOK YET. But it’s interesting that this idea of hiding a baby’s kingly heritage for his own protection is, essentially, Jon’s own story.

A few final notes: I barely mention the Lannisters in this recap, partly because I think we are nearing the end of their story. Tyrion gives a strange look as Dany and Jon go off to have their sexy times, which left many viewers confused. The most plausible explanation is that he’s in love with Daenerys, and maybe feeling a bit jealous. But the most interesting explanation I’ve seen is that Tyrion is concerned because he promised Cersei that her baby would be the successor to the Iron Throne after Dany. It makes a certain sense: Tyrion was worried about who would follow Daenerys on the Throne, and if he was convinced that Cersei is really just concerned about her baby and not her own desire for power, such an arrangement would make sense to him. But if Daenerys isn’t as infertile as she thinks and she and Jon make themselves a baby dragon, this could throw a wrench in Tyrion’s plans.

And if Tyrion did make such a deal with his sister behind Daenerys’ back so as to win Cersei’s support — support she has no intention of giving — Dany might be SUPER PISSED to learn this at a later date.

As for Cersei and Jaime, some people believe their breakup and Jaime riding away from King’s Landing suggests that the Valonqar prophecy won’t be fulfilled by Jaime, to which I say, PSSSHT. Here’s my best guess: Jaime joins Dany and Jon, fighting beside Brienne who ends up dying in some tragic and heroic fashion. In fact, Brienne is just one of the many who

Here’s my best guess: Jaime joins Dany and Jon, fighting beside Brienne who ends up dying in some tragic and heroic fashion. (~sob~) In fact, Brienne is just one of the many who are lost in their fight with the Army of the Dead, and as the Night King and his forces descend south, the Golden Company abandons Cersei — after all, they are literally only fighting for gold and their own cocks — Westeros isn’t even their home. (Alternatively, but leading to the same result, Daario could be leading the Golden Company when Euron comes to pick them up and he turns them on Cersei.) Cersei has her Mad King “BURN THEM ALL” moment, and Jaime kills her with his own hands, dying in the process. Maybe by FrakenMountain? Who can say.

Finally, there was a bit of dialogue that I thought was meant to foreshadow something, but I’m not sure what, exactly. Daenerys tells Jon that the Dragon Pit was the beginning of the end for the Targaryens, that “dragons aren’t slaves” and that by chaining the dragons and making them smaller, the Targaryens lost their own importance. I keep rolling this around in my head, as I’m not sure what it means for Daenerys and the dragons’ future in King’s Landing. The dragons are too dangerous to be allowed to roam freely: eating a kid was why Daenerys had to lock them away in her pyramid in Essos. But if she is unwilling to chain them for the safety of the one million plus people who live in King’s Landing, how can she rule from there?

Once again, it’s this problem of duality: the dragons represent her power, her claim to the throne, but they are also far too dangerous to leave unchecked. Somehow, if she and her dragons survive the Long Night, she will have to find some sort of balance between her “childrens'” needs, and her people’s, and I’m not convinced that solution will be found on the Iron Throne.

Annnnnnnd that’s all I’ve got, people. It’s going to be a long, painful slog between now and the final season which will air sometime in 2019. If I thought I had the discipline to do it, I would recap the first five seasons between now and then, but considering it took me two weeks just to do this episode, who are we kidding? Until then, geros ilas, my friends.

rupaul-byeeee-drag-race

Game of Thrones airs on HBO, but not again until sometime in 2019, God dammit.

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One thought on “‘Game of Thrones’: The ties that bind

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