A mad queen and a promised prince

  • This episode, Bran puts a target on his head and is happy to be bait, but just how are the living going to defeat the dead?
- Thomas Heaton

Apr 23, 2019-

Game of Thrones writers have managed to keep the fight for the Iron Throne alive, despite the entire future of Westeros looming in the forests outside Winterfell. With the white walkers and their hordes approaching the Stark castle ramparts, and its residents steeling themselves for the upcoming battle, there is still a lot to be resolved in the next four episodes.

There could well be the ‘Prince that was Promised’, almost certainly a culling of major characters, and perhaps the creation of a mad queen. While the first episode of the season saw a massive and dysfunctional family reunion take place, writer David Cogman starts where the first left off.

Jaime Lannister is the first to rile Daenerys Targaryen from her loved-up stupor. Standing in front of her, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, Jaime makes no apologies for his past discretions while pleading to be accepted into the army of the living.

Seething at the absence of a Lannister army behind the one-handed knight, Daenerys Targaryen questions Tyrion Lannister’s intelligence and fidelity regarding his belief in Cersei’s promised army. The man in front of her killed her father too—he’s the Kingslayer.

“This goes beyond loyalty, this is about survival,” Jaime says, eyeing his old friend Lady Brienne of Tarth. Brienne takes the cue, and vouches for him. For Sansa, that’s enough. While she had earlier sided with Daenerys, not wanting to let Jaime join them, she trusts Brienne and lets Jaime stay. Tyrion’s foolishness has embarrassed the mother of dragons, and the lack of support from Jon and Sansa further frustrates her—a petulant Dany slowly manifests. This is the first appearance of this side of Daenerys this season, but her irritable mood will only be stoked further it seems. Hell hath no fury like a mother, of dragons, scorned.

Daenerys and Sansa only fleetingly resolve their differences, following advice from the queen’s confidant, Jorah Mormont. Sansa voicing her fear that Jon’s love will obscure his judgement, and perhaps that Daenerys manipulated him, leads to momentary warmth between the two. Daenerys abates Sansa’s fears, saying she loves Jon and perhaps she was manipulated instead. But Sansa has learned well and she is no pushover. She pushes for a truly independent north, leading Daenerys to quickly withdraw the hand she’d offered, showing that her dogged quest for the throne is still on. The scene, like so many, was cut short and left many questions waiting to be answered. But there is much room for speculation and Game of Thrones is really about the guessing game.

As the end of the show nears, fan theories have reached tinfoil hat levels, but there are some out there that could possibly predict the end.

For instance, towards the end of the episode, Samwell resigns himself to his inability to fight and delivers his family’s Valerian steel sword Heartsbane to Jorah Mormont. One fan theory regards Jorah as the Prince that was Promised, Azor Ahai, the one destined to save the world from darkness with their sword, Lightbringer. Heartsbane could, perhaps, turn into Lightbringer when plunged into the heart of a potentially deranged Daenerys, as Azor Ahai is said to done with his beloved. If Dany is going to die, it is unlikely that a smaller character will be the one to kill her. And long-suffering Jorah seems just about right for that role.

Others say Jaime Lannister could be Azor Ahai, killing his beloved Cersei. But everything realistically seems to be primed for Jon Snow to take up that mantle. The red witch Melisandre picked Jon and she had dedicated her life to finding the so-called ‘prince’. Seeing as Jon was born of ice and fire—of Stark and Targaryen stock—he could definitely be the one to bring the series to a close. But then again, George RR Martin has never been the predictable type.

At the end of the episode, when Daenerys finally finds out about Jon’s Targaryen blood, she is unbelieving, even angry, but the scene is stopped by the rallying of troops outside Winterfell. Her reaction was purely regarding the throne, and had absolutely nothing to do with the fact she’s fallen for her nephew. She gets madder with every scene, but her bitter response is no surprise, given her entire life has been dedicated to her quest for the throne. What will come of this troubled aunt-nephew game of musical chairs is an exciting prospect. Maybe Daenerys will find her spot taken when it all comes to a close.

The episode’s key character is Bran, however. Bran’s revelation that he is the enemy’s target, just like the Night King is the living’s, means he will be the bait. But how Theon and his Ironborn brethren will protect the invalid from the Night King, we can’t fathom. They have to kill the Night King to defeat the army, for he is the head of the proverbial snake. But, equally, using Bran as bait means they are risking their most important asset: the one who holds the history of man in his mind. It’s only fair to think Jon will interject somewhere, perhaps with Rhaegal, because Theon’s newfound confidence alone can’t protect him.

Bran also seems to have a plan for the man who crippled him, abstaining from saying anything during the small pseudo-trial. He’s not angry at Jaime, he says later under the weirwood tree. But Bran casts doubt over the entire war: “How do you know there is an afterwards?” he questions. Does this mean that Jaime dies in the battle or that Jaime has a specific role to play? Will he die for the Three-eyed Raven? It’s Game of Thrones—an abject failure of an ending could be on the cards.

It’s nice to see the two Lannister brothers finally together, however, where they both show their softer sides. As always, they speak about Cersei. Tyrion jokes that he could “march down to King’s Landing and tear her apart” as an undead wight, following a loss against the Night King—it may be a little nod to Maggy the Frog’s premonition that Cersei will be killed by the valonqar—the ‘little brother’—although unlikely.

Arya spends this day like its her last, taking her flirtation with Gendry further by losing her virginity to him. In the life of Arya, this is the final piece of innocence lost. Gendry also delivers the weapon she ordered before, seen in the season’s trailer, a spear with detachable blade; it seems her staff-wielding days with the faceless men will come in handy during the impending battle.

Perhaps one of the more satisfying relationships in the episode is between Jaime and Brienne, when Jaime asks to fight under her command and later, knights Brienne during a fire-side heart-to-heart between the fan favourite characters. Brienne beams with pride, revelling in the adulation of the warriors she’s grown to love and respect.

Tormund provides garish comedy while the writers are clearly tying up narratives. So it’s only fitting that they drink, be merry and atone for their sins, because each and every one of them seems resigned to the fact they will die in the impending battle. And this being the show we’ve come to know and love, they might just be right.

 

[Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers. Read on at your own risk.]

Published: 23-04-2019 11:05

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