As Tywin Lannister once said, “A lion does not concern itself with the opinions of sheep,” but as this episode of Game of Thrones showed, those sheep may be the key to winning the war. To further Tywin’s metaphor, a lion must still carefully tend the sheep, opinions included, lest risk starvation. Or, in the case Drunk Queen Cersei, death from an unseen killer. And as it happens, the opinions of sheep may also be the concern of Dragons, should Daenerys continue her present course.
But first, let’s talk about Gendry. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Gendry is two characters. One is Edric Storm, a bastard son of Robert Baratheon saved by Davos from certain death on Dragonstone. The other, named Gendry, is another of Robert’s bastards. He traveled with Arya for a time. While the former sailed to safety in Essos, Gendry continued found himself working as a smithy at the crossroads. He also helped Brienne out of a bind with Biter in A Feast for Crows. Because of that, I always expected the TV Gendry to resurface somewhere north of the capital. Instead, Ser Davos found him right back where he started: among the smithies of King’s Landing. And may I say that it is refreshing to see a man answer the call to adventure with no reservations? After Jon Snow’s long reign as the Prince of Indecision, it’s nice to see someone dispense with the shoe-leather and get down to hitting fools with a big hammer.
How did Gendry happen upon Robert’s hammer?
Sadly, that may never be answered as the tide comes in quicker and the Army of the Dead must be dealt with. Daenerys is finally willing to take Jon at his word. Well, now that he’s proved to be a suitable co-regent after a rousing speech about trust. She’s even willing to call a truce with Cersei to deal with the Army of the Dead. But it’s up to Jon to get the proof all of Westeros will need to know, once and for all, that an ecological disaster is at their doorstep. Not that all the sheep will believe such a disaster is coming their way, even with undeniable proof. But that’s another reason to concern oneself with their opinions. Even their disbelief is useful.
In order to suggest the plan to the Lannisters, Tyrion made a risky return to King’s Landing to treat with Jamie. And bless both Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for the most moving part of this week’s episode. There’s still love in Jamie’s eyes for Tyrion, even if he did kill their father. Tyrion, meanwhile, still carries the pain behind that murder. No matter the morality of patricide, Tyrion is correct in his surmise: Tywin hated him because he was a dwarf. Well, in the books, there’s also the supposition that Tywin blamed him for his wife’s death. Oh, there’s also the very slim possibility that Tyrion is also a Targaryen because Mad King Aerys was quite taken with Joanna Lannister. Not that possible Targaryen paternity ever matters on Game of Thrones. Although, to be honest, the show no longer has the time to seed this idea. And, dramatically speaking, Tywin’s simple hatred of his dwarf son is a cleaner and more emotional element to work with.
And for all that emotion behind that clandestine meetings — including Bronn and Tyrion meeting again — Cersei knew it was happening. Qyburn’s use of Varys’s little birds is definitely effective; it lead to one of Cersei’s few truly strategic choices. She is willing to talk to Daenerys and consider the proof of the Dead. Granted, it’s another idea she’s cribbing from Tywin, who served as Aerys’s Hand for a time, but she was always the most like him in intelligence and temperament. Also like him, she’s rediscovered the importance of an heir thanks to Qyburn confirming that she is with child. It’s clearly Jamie’s and she is no longer afraid to tell the Seven Kingdoms that fact.
Which once again makes me wonder about that prophecy. As started in the books, the prophecy Cersei heard as a child about her future included the coming of a valonqar — or “little brother” in High Valyrian — to kill her. She always presumed that was Tyrion and fans assumed it was Jamie. But now that we know translations of High Valyrian into the common tongue are questionable and genderless, could the valanqar be her own child? Any further offspring of Cersei would be the little brother or sister of Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella.
Assuming that happens, will Arya ever get to kill anyone else on her list?
Oh, speaking of Arya, it seems Little Finger has stepped away from the dagger at his back by sending it toward Sansa. I want to believe Arya saw right through the ruse. Yet, for all that she learned in Bravos, she still has that impulsive streak. It was there in her early confrontation with Sansa in their parents’ former bedchamber. Still not entirely clear on all that has transpired, Arya sees right to Sansa’s remaining avarice and has no problem using her understanding to prove her point. I mean, Sansa would be a good Queen in the North, but it would also fulfill some of her childhood wishes for finery and pampering. That is the thing Arya could see and Little Finger is still clever enough to detect it. It remains to be seen, though, whether or not he’s clever enough to anticipate all of Arya’s moves.
Meanwhile, up at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, Jon assembled the most motley of crews to ever range north of the wall. Consider: Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, Ser Jorah Mormont, Gendry, and the Hound are now an uneasy team against the Night King’s spearhead. I don’t know if you could assemble a more ridiculous or perfect band of men for this expedition. It’s also a perfect team of highly vulnerable characters. While no one would miss Thoros or Beric, I imagine Jorah or Tormund’s death would have surprising resonance. I also imagine we’ll see if that’s true very, very soon.
Much to my dismay, this episode was short on the dance of dragons … other than a few meaningful looks when Jon spotted Jorah’s closeness to his Khalessi and her returning those affections as they once again said goodbye. Granted, her growing accustomed to Jon’s presence is certainly an admission of something. I never thought I’d care about Jon and Daenerys’s courtship, but perhaps the show’s restraint with it makes it more of an appealing element.
Then again, Daenerys cannot consider such appealing things until she considers the opinions of sheep. Which, in this version of Tywin’s saying, includes lords and noble houses. For someone who talks about breaking the wheel, her continual demand that people bend the knee strikes me as being at odds with that loftier goal. Sure, she has the power to back up her demands — as we’ve now seen Randyll Tarly and Dickon reduced to ash — but it comes with a cost. Those sheepish opinions are already forming for Daenerys and they will not speak of her as the Breaker of Chains. That day on the hill will be remembered as the day the Queen spoke of freedom, but offered no real choice. Her first oaths of loyalty sworn in Westeros were out of fear. And should she finally sit the Iron Throne, that day will haunt her because if Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire have taught us anything, it’s that sheep have long memories.
Oh, and speaking of long memories, let us bid a not-so-fond farewell to the Citadel. Like Sam, I experienced the crushing disappointment that comes with learning the truth about storied institutions of higher learning. Everyone is a charlatan in the end. The wise just tell you that up front. But I hope Sam, Gilly and the baby find their next home more suitable and I definitely hope they brought the record of Rhaegar’s annulment (and wedding to Lyanna Stark?) with them.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.