Just a Game of Thrones #606: Why We Did the Things We Did
Welcome to Just a Game of Thrones, the column singing backup vocals on the Song of Ice and Fire.
Why We Did the Things We Did
After a firm reminder from the High Sparrow that “the Faith Militant are very stern with those who overstep their bounds,” King Tommen has finally been given permission to see his imprisoned Queen Margaery. He walks through the shadow of the doorway to the altar room where she is waiting, an obvious hesitancy in his gait and a look of apprehension painted across his already naturally timid face.
When he does lay eyes on his captive love, however, he’s shocked to see her as radiant as ever and donning what can only be described as contentment, maybe even peace.
We astute viewers know Margaery’s newfound devotion to the gods is simply a more strategic version of her brother Loras’ “Let them win” strategy, but during the ensuing exchange with an actually-indoctrinated Tommen, she stumbles upon a beguiling truth of the show as it bores into its sixth season:
“I’ve had lots of time to think about how good I was at seeming good…
All those stories about who I was and why I did the things I did – there were so many lies in those stories.”
We’ve already seen Bran come to learn his father didn’t, in fact, beat Arthur Dayne like the legends say#. We’ve already seen, through the eyes of Arya and via Lady Crane’s troupe, what false motives the common folk of the realm believe caused the actions that have shaped their lives#. But now, after “Blood of My Blood,” we as viewers are starting to realize for ourselves that the various stories we’re being told – about who these characters are and why they do they things they do – are full of those same kinds of lies.
In fact, there’s a chance almost everything we know about this Song of Ice and Fire is one giant, flaming lie.
Or, at the very least, a gross mischaracterization of events…
Because on top of an ominous, Song-altering revelation we’ll delve into more in the “Break the Wheel of Hot Takes” section below, this episode hinted in its final minutes to the notion that (as many an internet theorist has postulated), Daenerys Targaryen might be more than her title of “Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, and Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea” lets on…
She actually might be one of the main villains of this story.
When it comes to the art of storytelling, there’s a little parlor trick that was used extensively in what is dubbed the Golden Era of Television – back when anti-heroes like Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White unanimously won us over despite repeatedly doing things like murdering innocent people en masse, philandering unapologetically under an assumed identity, and promoting the use and distribution of Class-A controlled substances: You simply start the story with them as the main character, and you continue to shape it around their worldview as the two progress.
That way, no matter how many unsympathetic things your protagonist does, we’re still sucked into being along for the ride. That way, the corruption of Walter White becomes a thrilling adventure we can’t help but root on, even as his quest for power decays him from the inside out like the tumor he’s branded as his scapegoat.
Because The Sopranos originally introduces Tony Soprano as a quiet guy in therapy with a penchant for panic attacks and ducks in his swimming pool, it seduces us into always believing in him# despite what our rational brain might otherwise objectively think of him:
Right before Dany’s rally-the-troops speech, Daario asks her, “So we ride to Meereen and after that we sail to Westeros, what then?”
“I take what is mine,” Dany curtly replies.
Daario, however, remains unconvinced.
“You weren’t made to sit on a chair in a palace,” he tries to tell her. “You’re a conqueror, Daenerys Stormborn.”
Dany’s Sermon from the Mount (of Drogon), while inarguably stirring, was markedly littered with promises of destruction simply because of promises owed to her. And as she sits atop the world’s most devastating weapon, no longer is there talk of her messianic devotion to her people. There’s not even a passing mention of world freedom or breaking any chains.
Instead, with an eerie similarity to the blindly bloodthirsty speech Khal Drogo gave his men all the way back in Season One, the focus is on what must be done to ensure her complete and total victory.
To put it in the words of one of those those previously mentioned internet theorists, “Sailing across the Narrow Sea to have her dragons burn a few political leaders while unleashing a horde of nomadic horsemen to ransack the realm seems like potentially very bad news for the smallfolk.”
I wonder what Tyrion and Varys are going to say about all this…
Break The Wheel of Hot Takes
Last week, as we watched Bran make the heart-wrenching decision to warg Hodor, conspiracy theorists around the known world began freaking out on Reddit. Because while it is terrible we had to learn the extent of Bran’s powers by saying goodbye to one of the most beloved people on the show, that bit of greenseeing/warg combo-magic opened the door for some pretty twisted possibilities when it comes to how the Song of Ice and Fire might be resolved in the end.
You’ll remember early on in the episode, Bran is going warp-speed through a bunch of different visions…
Some are scenes we’ve seen before, some are vague shots meant to be passed over, but one scene in particular stands out for its noteworthiness, especially because of its relation to The Hodering.
After six seasons of vague allusions and half-whispered ghost stories, we finally got a glimpse of Aerys II Targaryen – the Mad King himself:
Now Aerys Targaryen is known for many things. Not only is he the father of Dany, and the (probable) father of Jon Snow, but he also happened to have gone completely, legendarily insane while on the Iron Throne. In King Aerys II, a crippling paranoia met an unquenchable pyromania, which all came to a head when, as his enemies stormed King’s Landing, he called for caches of wildfire to be released all across the city.
Fortunately, Jaime Lannister, a member of his Kingsguard at the time, prevented this massacre from happening by stabbing Aerys in the back and cutting his throat (see: above GIF).
Except there’s something a little off about the way Jaime tells the story…
At one point in Season One, then-King Robert Baratheon is prodding The Kingslayer about what Aerys Targaryen said when Jaime stabbed him in the back.
Jaime, with a smug yet tortured face, looks Robert dead in the eyes and tells him, “He said the same thing he’d been saying for hours: ‘Burn them all!'”
Obviously this would make sense if one was indeed trying to light one’s entire city on fire, but it also would make sense if someone (i.e. Bran or Brynden Rivers) was pulling a Hodor on Aerys and happened to be in the presence of someone commanding troops on what do with White Walkers. In other words, King Aerys might have been Hodoring out when he was crying out “Burn them all!” on repeat – which means he might not be as responsible for the ensuing political chaos as the history books have led us to believe.
There is a little hitch in this theory, in that Aerys devolved into madness over time, but if you look at the face Brynden Rivers gives Bran when Bran first realizes he has has this power during the Tower of Joy scene, you’ll see a look of distraught regret – the face one might make if they knew someone was going down the same tragic path they had been on themselves. Maybe Brynden had been tinkering around in the old man’s head for a while and then he finally snapped? Maybe Bran’s inexperience with his powers messed up the time-space-sanity continuum?
Or maybe, just maybe, Bran is a time-traveling Last Hero who understands all the “everything happens for a reason” butterfly effects going on at some cosmic macro level and is ultimately going to be our Neo, saving worlds he has barely even begun to comprehend…
The HoF of GoT GIFs
We Belong Together, All of Us
Threading the Needle
Jaime Lannister, White Knight
Good God, that’s King Tommen’s Music!
Just Hold On, We’re Going Home
My Uncle’s Back and You’re Gonna Be in Trouble
A Modern History of King’s Landing, Act 2:
Tooting One’s Own Horn
From last week’s column…
“In [Hamlet], our protagonist stages a performance of a play called The Murder of Gonzago in order to (yada, yada) be sure if he should proceed with his long-waited plans for revenge.
‘The players cannot keep counsel,’ Hamlet assures his compatriots. If you just look closely, ‘They’ll tell all.‘
And if you just look closely at Arya – and remember she still has Needle buried somewhere outside the House of Black and White – as she watches this historical farce and political concoction, her face will tell you all you need to know about where her path is leading…”
Sword to my Throat, I’d Bet _____ Wins the Game of Thrones
The first dethronement in the rankings since we started them this season!
Villains may get far in this story, but they’ve always seen their due comeuppance, so I’d be hard-pressed to explain how Dany is both the secret big-bad and the ultimate victor (unless GRRM is pulling some Manchurian Candidate ish on us), which means someone’s got to fill that power vacuum.
Most people might not choose to give it to the crippled kid whose currently relying on a teenage girl and zombie uncle to help escape a nigh-invincible ice demon, but stranger things have happened in this story.
Like, ya know, a crippled kid using the tree-internet to go back in time and possessing a person in the present while still in the past…
DO IT FOR HODOR, BRAN!
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