The way to a Thrones’ episode’s heart is through its title. The episode titles point directly to the themes being explored in that hour: most often, they mark a thread that weaves through the show’s various disparate plot lines, trying its best to make the ep seem less like a collection of unrelated scenes, and more like a standalone piece of storytelling that actually means something on its own. But, for the first episode in a season, this can be a challenge. The canonical unit of this sort of television is really the season, not the episode, and as such the first few episodes tend to function as the first act, setting up the board and moving pieces around in ways that, while they don’t seem that exciting right now, will be setting up for big moves later on. Fitting that the episode actually features two scenes with maps of the game board, the continent of Westeros, with the characters only getting started.
“Dragonstone” is the episode title and it represents the most significant dramatic action that occurs in this hour, right at the end: Danaerys Targaryen and her army finally land in Westeros. To her it represents her home, and the culmination of six seasons dicking around in the east. In King’s Landing, to Mad Queen Cersei and Ser Jaime the Exasperated, it signifies a huge new threat from the east, joining the others that surround them: Dorne and the Reach to the South and West, respectively, and the newly resurgent Starks in the North. Euron and his magnificent fleet arrive; he’s a potential, much-needed ally, but he wants to marry Cersei! The feeling is not mutual, so Euron leaves to bring her a “prize” of some sort (start your theories).
Down in Oldtown, we are treated to a surprise shit-and-gruel montage featuring Samwell Tarly and the restricted area in the library, which he finally breaks into and reads about…. Dragonstone. Which is indeed a repository of obsidian, one of the two things that can kill the White Walkers.
Up in Winterfell, Jon knows about obsidian but not Dragonstone, and orders a search for the rare material, before Sansa publicly and vociferously disagrees with the new King in the North about how best to use the castles of the Karstarks and Umbers, the Northern houses who sided with the Boltons against the Starks. Sansa thinks the castles (and titles) should be given to lords who didn’t betray them, while Jon points out the traitorous lords have already died on the battlefield, and he does not wish to punish the sons for the sins of their fathers. Jon gets his way, but the simmering Jon vs. Sansa feud bubbles on, starting to embody a particular thematic obsession of the show: different models of leadership. Jon is the noble hero who rules justly but is statistically a great deal likelier to lose his head; Sansa is the cold-hearted player of the game who “learned a great deal” from Cersei, the most cold-hearted of them all.
We also get two storylines that have not much to do with Dragonstone but do say something about those who pay the highest price for the games the nobles play. The Hound is now traveling with the Brotherhood without Banners, and they run across the property – and the long-dead corpses – of a farming family he last met when he was traveling with Arya. Then, he took their silver and left them for dead; now, he struggles with the results of that decision. He’s a rich character, well on his way toward the back half of the patented Thrones Villain-to-Hero Redemption Arc™, and the Brotherhood is helping him along. When Thoros gets him to gaze at the flames in the fireplace, The Hound sees the Army of the Dead passing through Eastwatch. Beric asks, “Do you believe me now, Clegane? Do you believe we’re here for a reason?”
The other storyline is Arya, and she provides a rare cold open. Wearing the face and voice of the always charming Walder Frey, she encourages his entire family to drink a toast… of poisoned wine. Boom. Later in the episode, she’s traveling to King’s Landing to continue her revenge quest when she runs into a small group of Lannister soldiers who have been sent to keep the peace in the Riverlands. Initially she wants to kill them, but they’re such friendly and kind-hearted lads she gives them a pass. From the cold open we’d deduce she’s of the Sansa/Cersei school of cold-hearted score-settling throne-gaming – literally killing the sons for the sins of the father – but from the other scene? It’s not so clear. She may have a heart left.
If I can sum up, which I can, it was an above average episode of graceful board-setting.
Look at that, I fucking forgot about the Bran scene. He arrives at the wall – that’s it. You know what, Bran? Get off your ass a little and maybe I’ll remember your scenes next time.
The costuming is excellent as usual. Euron looked like a Biker Lord.
That was maybe the most artful “previously on” recap I’ve ever seen. Did they do an original score for it?
The dagger that was used in the attempted murder of Bran Stark back in the first season shows up as an illustration in one of the restricted books Sam and Gilly look through. Interesting! I didn’t remember it, but here’s some stuff about it: it’s Valyrian steel, it was owned by Littlefinger, I can’t tell if it’s the same one he uses to betray Ned Stark in the first season, but it’s supposed to be in the book. I wonder what its future holds!
Sure enough, as I predicted in my preview, Jorah Mormont is in Oldtown and he’s already met Sam. Although Jorah is NOT looking good.
Eastwatch. Sounds like that’s where it’s going down. It’s the fort on the wall where the wildlings will be posted, plus one can surmise the Brotherhood will head there.
Here we are, concluding our action-packed and laboriously wordy recap of where we stand before Game of Thrones Season 6! For previous posts, see here. To wrap things up, I’m going to throw an assortment of hanging plot chads in this post.
As the last season ended, Sam, Gilly and Sam Jr. arrive in Oldtown for Sam’s Maester Training. Given that the show is even including this potentially dull-as-fuck storyline from the book, I’m going to guess there’s more going on here. As dragons scorch Westeros, we’re not going to cut back to Sam learning how to feed ravens.
The most likely explanation is that Sam is going to learn vital knowledge about the Others that will need to be transported, or transmitted, north. This is the big library, after all, where the Maesters hoard ancient knowledge. In the books, there is the character of Marwyn the Mage who may or may not be the vessel for such knowledge in the show. Sam’s also carrying his dad’s sword, which is one of the few Valyrian swords in Westeros. Like Jon’s sword Longclaw, Valyrian steel can kill Others.
The vital knowledge could have to do with the Others’ motivation or something, but more likely it’s details of how to kill them. One possibility: Sam learns how to forge Valyrian steel. It’s a lost art, but if it were to be found, would it not be in the citadel? According to legend, it requires spells and dragonfire. So Dany and her dragons would become all the more crucial to stopping the Others.
Although it hasn’t happened so far in the books, it is healthily foreshadowed that the Iron Islanders are going to attack Oldtown. They were already raiding along the coasts of the Reach, and Oldtown is a coastal city and likely a tempting target. In the show, Euron will probably learn his chances for an alliance with Daenerys are slim now as she’s sided with Theon and Yara, so attacking Targ allies like the Tyrells is certainly on the menu. It would give a backdrop of urgency to Sam’s story, especially if he is captured.
Speaking of the Tyrells
There’s not much Tyrell or Martell in the trailer, which isn’t a good sign for them. We can assume the Tyrells will be attacking the Lannisters, who did just wipe out their line after all (or do Loras and Margaery have other siblings in the show? They do in the books). However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Randyll Tarly again, Sam’s dad, the asshole. He’s an asshole, but he’s also supposed to be a legendary warrior, and he’s pledged to the Tyrells, so it seems that if there are any Tyrell war scenes, he may be there.
When last we saw Mr. Mormont, he had been tearfully dispatched by Dany to find a cure for his greyscale. I’m going to go ahead and bet that Jorah also winds up in Oldtown, and that he winds up teaming up with Sam and the gang.
How many white walkers are there?
“How to kill them” is already known (obsidian, Valyrian steel) and isn’t that big a deal considering that so far, we’ve only seen like a dozen of them. Obsidian from Dragonstone and whatever Sammy might learn in Maesterville would only really be necessary if there are many, many more. I mean, we’ve already seen how they make new ones – they just press on a baby’s face…? Not hard!
Mr. Forever Rowboat
Gendry is the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Davos sent him away in a rowboat in Season 3(?) to avoid sacrifice at the hands of Stannis, and legend says he’s been rowing ever since. I wound up thinking about him because I figured he’d make a pretty good addition to Jon’s team of legendary badasses we see fighting in the snow in the trailer. Indeed, I think that’s the most likely role if he shows up again: he had already been a willing member of the Brotherhood without Banners, so it’s possible he’d rejoin them, and they appear to be well represented on Jon Snow’s latest snow expedition. But! Gendry actually has a claim to the Iron Throne, as all Robert’s other kids, and the Lannister pretend-kids, are now dead. I mean, that’s not going to happen. But as the last surviving person with Baratheon blood, I believe he would be entitled to rule the Stormlands. I think he’s owed that much, don’t you?
That’s about everything I can think of – if you think of more, get in touch via twitter or the contact form (twitter deets in the footer). I need to credit the subreddit r/asoiaf for being the most fertile online breeding ground for both sane and crazy theories about everyone’s favourite dragons n’ incest themed entertainment. The work of BryndenBFish is essential, and this essay in particular about the future of Dany’s storyline was important to my thoughts on her. I also love Alt Shift X and his analysis of the second trailer informed a number of my points.
Hi, it’s Ser Exposition again, refreshing your memory and doing some theorizin’ ahead of the new season of everyone’s favourite swords-n-realpolitik TV show. So far we’ve covered the Lannisters and Dany and the Gang. Today it’s House Stark, and it’s a long one because there are so many Starks still alive! That can’t last, can it?
Partway through Season 6, Jon states his goals succinctly: he wants to unite the North so he can face the White Walkers with a united front. Sure enough, by the end of the season, Jon and Sansa are in Winterfell, having defeated Ramsay Bolton. Jonny Snowpants, working his way through the checklist!
In the trailer, Jon’s at to-do list item #2, as we see Jon and an assortment of legendary badasses (Beric Dondarrion, the Hound) fighting wights and Walkers. The presumption is that this is north of the wall: is it? Winter is here, after all, and if the walkers don’t breach the wall at some point, they’re not the existential threat they’re made out to be. This could be further south.
Season 6 ends with Littlefinger trying to convince Sansa that she’s the rightful leader of House Stark, not Jon. (I’m so tempted to just call her Salsa from now on: sometimes autocorrect is right.) How far will this potential conflict go? The trailer itself seems to downplay it, as it ends on a line from Sansa, repeating something her father said: “the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives”. But only a fool judges a show by its trailer. They wouldn’t have set up this storyline if it wasn’t significant.
Let’s not forget about Mystic Stark, the Branster. Season 6 ends with Cold Hand Benjen dropping him and Meera off near the wall, and in the trailer – shocker – he’s going through the gate. We also see him at a Godswood, but who knows if it’s the one by the wall, or the one at Winterfell. Bran is carrying a knowledge bomb, after all: that Jon is the bastard son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and thus the rightful heir to the Targaryen line, not Dany. Will Bran get to deliver this payload, and when? It seems almost too simple that he would team up with his remaining siblings and have a big group hug. But clearly, from the trailer, he’ll be needed to fight the Walkers by warging into crows and shit.
Just a little idea bubble: what if he tells Salsa about Jon’s parentage, and she keeps it to herself?
And then there’s Face-stealing Ninja Stark, Arya. At the end of last season she’s back in Westeros, having just thrown House Frey into disarray by assassinating its head and baking his two most likely successors into a pie. Is she part of the group hug too? Even if so, she’s got to get up to some other stuff – it sure will be dull if she hangs around saying, “yeah, good idea” to whatever Jon and Salsa say. I would expect some assassination missions instead, and the likely target is Cersei.
Before I move off the Starks, I’m a little curious about what will happen in the Riverlands, the war-torn area caught geographically between basically all the other areas (see map below). It was ruled by the Tullys until the Red Wedding put the Freys in charge, supported by the Lannisters. We just saw Jaime take Riverrun for that alliance in Season 6. The likely move is that Littlefinger and his army of Vale Knights kindly volunteer for the job of wresting the Riverlands from what’s left of House Frey. If Edmure Tully can be found, liberated and trusted, they could install him as a Stark-aligned leader. But will that ensnare the northern forces in the battles of the south? Riverrun is likely to get caught in some back-and-forth between Lannisters and Targaryens.
Final thought. Do we really think four Starks are going to make it to the finish line? I don’t. But I’m basically stumped at which ones are most likely to drop off. No, I don’t think Jon’s legendary status gives him plot armour; in fact, I think it makes him a liability. If you have thoughts, hit me up on twitter! Link in the footer.
Welcome back to a bit of table-setting for the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. So far I’ve covered the Lannisters. Today we dragon.
There’s a lot in the trailer for the Targaryens. Dany lands in Dragonstone, engages with the Lannister forces, and fights a naval battle (maybe against Euron?) that looks like a Targaryen loss. Reading between the lines, it looks a lot like a secondary force led by Tyrion captures the Lannister home base of Casterly Rock, way over on the west side of Westeros, using Tyrion’s insider info. For all we know this could be Dragonstone or Storm’s End or some other eastern castle, but Tyrion did dangle the prospect of attacking Casterly Rock rather enticingly in Season 6.
And oh yeah, Drogon is fuckin’ HUUUUUGE now.
Dany’s inner struggle is two-sided. On one side she is the responsible, caring ruler, “Mhysa”. On the other, she is the vengeful, bloodthirsty conqueror (team slogan: Fire and Blood™). The responsible ruler, once getting the lay of the land in Westeros, would immediately go to the aid of the Northerners, who are fighting the true threat to the realm. Dragonfire would be invaluable against wights, and dragonglass – the obsidian that is mined on Dragonstone – is needed to kill the White Walkers. Not only that, there is a shot in the trailer of Jon and my boy Davos on a southern beach somewhere, which could indicate the Starks trying to forge an alliance with Dany for exactly that purpose.
I don’t think it’s gonna happen – at least, not this season.
Game of Thrones is full of villains becoming, if not heroes, then at least a lot more sympathetic to the average viewer. Think Jaime, or Theon. It’s a little light on heroes becoming villains. But think of how the Targaryen forces will be viewed when they show up in Westeros. You have the daughter of the infamous Mad King. She has actual dragons, which are the GoT equivalents of nuclear weapons. She has an army of slave soldiers, a number of mercenaries – of low repute in Westeros – plus the Dothraki, known for rape, pillage and enslavement, and a force of equally rapey Iron Islanders. Her main advisor is the infamous Tyrion Lannister, publicly considered a demon and blamed for killing his nephew, the king. Many Westerosi are going to see her as an invading villain – and are we so sure she isn’t? The lore of the show and books features a few occasions of “dances of dragons”, meaning rival Targaryen claimants destroying themselves fighting for the Iron Throne. Typically these feature a Blackfyre, whose sigil is a black dragon. Guess who else dresses in black and is kind of a dragon really? Right guys? In many ways the main point of the show is how we humans fight amongst ourselves while the real threat, environmental catastrophe, creeps inexorably closer. What could sum that up more perfectly than Dany and Jon fighting, despite being kin?
That said, Dany’s dark side, and Tyrion’s, gets a lot more play in the books than has happened in the show so far. I think Danny will waste a season torching up pretty much everyone in Westeros, but eventually she’ll come around.
I’m going to do episode recaps of GoT this season. Why? To see if I can, and plus I’m totally obsessing about it anyway.
Before we get there, I just want to go over where we stand before the season starts, what we can deduce from a close reading of the trailers released to date, what the books might hint about things, and where we might imagine things will be going.
So: don’t read this if you aren’t up to date in the show, or if you’re trying to avoid the trailers, you precious trembling jewel you.
I’m going to break this into separate posts by house. Let’s start with the Lannisters.
For your reference, here’s the latest trailer, which contains the most stuff:
Cersei has eliminated all her enemies in King’s Landing, lost her remaining child, and taken the crown herself, with Jaime standing grimly by her. Now she must defend herself from her various external enemies: the Starks to the north, the Martells and Tyrells to the south, who are now allied with Dany Targaryen, who is closing in to the east. Plus we have Euron Greyjoy’s Iron Islands to the west. That said, smart money is on a Lannister-Greyjoy alliance, as in the trailer we see Greyjoy ships in King’s Landing, and they don’t look like they’re fighting. We do see multiple shots of Lannister forces fighting Targaryen-allied Unsullied and Dothraki. And we see a field of fire with Jaime galloping through it alone, not happily, which makes me suspect at least one battle goes poorly for the lions.
In the books, the witch’s prophecy about Cersei states that a) she will see all her children die and b) she will be killed by her brother. Given a) has borne out, if b) happens, which brother? In the books she assumes it’s Tyrion, but consider the irony if Jaime does it. It would make him a king-killing kinslayer twice over. What fresh atrocity must she be planning for him to go through with it? And how long does she have left?
My guess is Cersei lasts until the final season. This season we can look forward to Cersei taking on the Tyrells, Martells, and Dany. Think how nasty things are going to get between her and Tyrion, and how torn Jaime will be.