It’s here. The most anticipated season of TV of the year. After 60 hours of groundbreaking television, the tease in the first scene of the first episode is finally paying off, the biggest Chekov’s gun in entertainment is about to fire or shoe about to drop or whatever terminology you want to use is about to occur. Winter is here. It’s the penultimate season of Game of Thrones and according to every interview with the creators, writers, actors or anyone involved in the creative process of the show, it’s going to be a dead-on sprint until the finish of George RR Martin’s epic fantasy. LET’S GET IT ON!!!
Here’s a piece of information that you didn’t need to be told: Game of Thrones big and complicated. Without a doubt being the most ambitious show in television history, Thrones has multiple theaters, interweaving plot lines, characters with subtle and often hidden nuances and motivations, as well as an elaborate and almost impossibly in-depth backstory that touches the realms of magic, lore, politics, war, geography and ethnography. In short, yeah it’s hard to keep up with even if you’re watching with your phone down giving your undivided attention. Given it’s been 11 months since the show last aired, I’m sure everyone could use a quick refresher on 1) what’s happened 2) what’s can we expect to happen. Who better to clear it all up for you than we the Good Samaritans of Barstool Sports? What was that? A lot of different places that actually have “inside access” and “training in TV/film criticism” and “a grasp on grammar”? Whatever man, here’s the blog:
To The East
Refresher: Whoomp there it is. The biggest domino has dropped, the bullet has been fired, the Rubicon has been crossed. Dany is taking on Westeros. After seasons of anticipation, it has all come together for the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi.
While she had to leave her lover and company of mercenaries, the Second Sons, behind in order to keep the newly liberated social order of Meereen going, everyone’s favorite queen weirdly-born-from-incest-but-for-some-reason-no-one-ever-brings-it-up has more than enough firepower to have a shot at her throne. The Dorthraki horde and their brutal, lightning-fast West Coast Offense-style warfare, the eunuch leader of the greatest spy ring in Westeros AND Essos, Tyrion who is the smartest political operator and tactician since Tywin died, Yara who is kinda, sorta hot all of a sudden, a standing army of the lethal Unsullied and of course, the X-factor, the three dragons.
Tyrion after about two seasons of depression has seemingly rediscovered his life purpose. Varys has finally thrown back the veil of pretense that he “serves the realm” and has fully revealed himself as a Targaryan loyalist (although why he is, that’s an interesting question). Some sort of support from Dorne and the Tyrells has been sought after and can probably be assumed. Jorah is exiled rotting with greyscale somewhere, presumably now a non-factor. The stage could not be more set for some epic moments from the blood of the dragon to reclaim what is hers.
Analysis: But it won’t be that simple. It never is that simple. Tyrion might be fiercely loyal to Dany right now, but as someone who detests violence, I can’t help but think when he sees the awesome, deadly might of the dragons he won’t be struck by what (literal) monsters they might have unleashed. Dany, while having suffered untold adversity, still has a touch of arrogance to her about a seemingly inevitable victory. That’s generally when people in Thrones are knocked down a peg. Varys has been dependable for the Targs so far, but you still can’t trust him as far as you can throw him (note to illustrate the metaphor: he is fat). Anyone hoping to see the Queen steamroll her way to the Iron Throne can expect to find themselves disappointed.
There is however, the obvious and impossible-to-ignore links between Dany and Jon Snow. Born into marginalized circumstances, mother died in childbirth, both Targaryans by blood, both concerned with the realm and the people in it in a profound and sincere way, that we will see them team up to take the White Walkers seems the obvious ending to an epic sage, the literal joining of the Song of Ice and Fire (the name of the book series). It seems obvious. It seems inevitable. In fact is seems TOO obvious and inevitable. I’m not saying this won’t happen, and we won’t get to see some dragons light some White Walkers on fire. But I think there will be more than a few curveballs thrown at us to buckle our knees before we get there.
The Iron Islands
Refresher: No family is perfect, but even by Westeros standards I think the Greyjoy’s are a little dysfunctional. Euron Greyjoy returned to the Iron Islands this season, quickly reacquainted himself by murdering his brother, opposing his niece and castrated nephew in the election for the Salt Throne, won, then quickly went about hunting them down as well.
In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, Euron is out-of-his-mind nuts. He’s so insane, in fact, that his crew once had to tie him to the mast of his ship which he paid them for by cutting out their tongues. He had delusion of grandeur of being a godlike figure and even by Ironmen standards, is exceedingly violent. Euron’s original plan was to marry Dany and acquire her dragons via hand in marriage to conquer the hated lords of Westeros. Unfortunately Euron found himself in the position of having a robbery committed by his niece as she got there and charmed Dany first, probably a more castrating instance than anything that has ever happened to Reek. He claims to be building a fleet to conquer Westeros.
Analysis: Euron has found himself pitted against Dany, a tough spot to be in. He also has found himself pitted against Yara, who when she needs to be, is every bit as cold-blooded and deadly as he is. His natural ally in this case would seem to be the Lannisters as they are in a collision course with the Khaleesi, but his hatred for all highborn lords could complicate such an alliance. Some people think Euron will be really significant this season. I do not. I just don’t think there’s enough time left in the show to devote large portions of episodes to a relatively new character. But I am also not a Game of Thrones screenwriter, so who knows?
In The North
Refresher: Hopefully the 11-month break has been enough time for us to all dry our eyes from the King of North 2.0 scene. I might need a few more weeks but I guess the world doesnt’ cater to me. Jon Snow’s redemption is now complete, and he is now the King of the land where his very last name labeled and ostracized him. A stunning and beautiful ascension for who is easily the most purely-intentioned character in the show from start to finish. Meanwhile Sansa has gone through the ringer playing the Game of Thrones in a way no one else has. She has been beaten, betrayed, sexually assaulted, forced to see unspeakable things and generally served as the ceremonial whipping post for all the ills of the world she inhabits. Now she is Queen of the North (just like “all she ever wanted” way back in the first episode of the show) but it has cost her dearly. That time hasn’t been useless suffering however, given she has now emerged a sharp and savvy player of the Game of Thrones. She’ll need to be, because Petyr Baelish revealed his cards to her, something he has never done to anybody in a rare miscalculation. To him, that makes her exceedingly dangerous.
Elsewhere in the North, the second Stark girl, Arya has kicked off her own revenge tour. After slitting Walder Frey’s throat and feeding his own sons to him a la Eric Cartman and Scott Tennorman, she is on a mission to cross more names off her list. Whether she’ll do so by joining her family for the first time since the day her father was beheaded or be a lone, murdering agent is yet to be seen. Knowing Arya, either way it’ll be awesome.
And finally, the third and final man in the North, the Hound, who has just joined the pro-Stark force the Brotherhood Without Banners. The Brotherhood’s devotion to the Lord of Light could give a nice counterbalance in the fight against the White Walkers, and a chance to fight on the side of the living against the undead is a nice chance at redemption for a man who’s well, um, made a living by ending lives. So by fighting for the living the life of the surprisingly alive Hound can be livened considerably by ending lives of unliving beings which would be a life purpose that he’s never had as long as he’s lived. Got it? Great.
Analysis: Jon is the easiest character to understand in all of Game of Thrones. I guess nice guys really are more boring after all? Jon is the sword of the Starks now, but if he is going to succeed, Sansa needs to be the brains. Without her strategizing and operating to call on the Nights of the Vale, they would both be dead. Sansa is the one who saw Ramsay’s tactics with Rickard coming, not Jon. And with the biggest threat to their title of the lords of the North looming amongst them, Petyr Baelish, it’s going to need to be Sansa who defeats Littlefinger at his own game. I think she can do it. But Jon needs to not get in her way.
As for Arya, while her escaping the House of Black and White was the prediction I was most certain of last season, I am not quite sure what to make of her now. She is my favorite character I admit, but at the moment she’s pretty extraneous. She doesn’t really serve a purpose to the overall plot of the show, isn’t a driving force towards anything except her own revenge and is mostly an absurdly fun diversion from the action. Arya deserves more, and will get it. She’ll have to be more involved somehow. The safe bet is by her riding North and joining the efforts of Jon and Sansa, although it’s hard to see how talents of assassination and disguise would be of any use against an army of the undead. Finding out how to incorporate and get the best out of Arya is going to be a surprisingly tricky task for the writing staff of Game of Thrones. They have my full confidence however.
And for the Hound? Well let’s just say I’d recommend any of the uninitiated to immediately Google “Cleganebowl theory” once they’re done reading this blog, read all about it, then join the weekly prayer circle that it somehow happens. We meet on Tuesdays and refreshments are served.
At The Citadel
Refresher: In the least exciting plotline in the history of Game of Thrones, Sam is now at the citadel studying to become the maester for Castle Black. For Sam, this represents a chance to fulfill his life’s purpose and true happiness. For Gilly, this is a temporary safe haven in her tumultuous and abuse-streaked life. For everyone else, this is a chance to check your phone for a couple of minutes while they come on screen.
Analysis: Obviously Sam and Gilly isn’t the most exciting plot in Game of Thrones, and it isn’t really spiced up by the fact in a show featuring torrid, explicit affairs they (purposefully) have about negative sex appeal as a couple. HOWEVA, their story is important in the following ways:
-Sam’s study is probably going to be the expository opportunity (along with Bran’s visions) the writers take to teach us about things like the origins of the White Walkers, the cause for the change of seasons, things like that. For people interested in the lore and legends of Westeros, it’ll be interesting.
-Sam has a sword of Valaryian steel, one of the only in the world. Valaryian steel is one of the only known substances that can kill White Walkers. Chekov’s gun principle of drama is that if a gun is introduced in a story, at some point it must be fired. What does that mean? Ding ding ding, you already guessed it, somebody is going to kill a White Walker with that sword!
-Sam is going to somehow help Jon in the future defeat the White Walker with his brains. The Citadel scenes will give us a clue at some point how. That’s not a prediction, it’s a fact.
-The actress who plays Gilly is Cassie from Season 1 of Skins, something I just realized a few weeks ago. That’s not really relevant to anything but I liked that show and was surprised I didn’t pick up on it sooner.
In King’s Landing
Refresher: Cersei you are one cold, cold, COLD-blooded woman! Nobody better exemplifies the fifth and sixth seasons of Game of Thrones than her. At a time where all the major houses were knocked down to the mat and humbled, everyone had to learn to pick themselves up and mount their great comeback. Nobody, and I mean nobody, did just that more emphatically than the last of the Lannisters.
The prophesy from the opening scene of Episode One, Season Five told Cersei as a girl that all her children with golden heads would die before her has now come true, meaning she has lost everything dear to her. Everything that is, except for her brother and amassed political power. That means Cersei is finally on the Throne she has so coveted her entire life, but is on it with somehow less to lose than before. Expect her to be ruthless, unhinged, violent and unpredictable, an amplified version of herself so to speak. By the way you know who knows this? Jaime, and he’s had experience with crazy regents before. The last one he put a sword through his back.
Oh and that prophesy I mentioned before? The last two remaining parts were that Cersei would be usurped by a queen more beautiful than she, and that her younger brother would strangle the life from her. Yes, Dany is a queen about to take Westeros and yes Sansa is now a queen in the North. And yes, Tyrion is by Dany’s side, and Jaime is beside Cersei’s knowing full well who and what she is. And they might be twins, but she was born first.
Analysis: I think the facts more or less speak for themselves here. Cersei is going to be off-the-wall nuts and willing to let everyone in Westeros burn if that means her and Jaime can stand above it and rule the ashes, to borrow a phrase from Varys. And I think there’s an excellent chance Jaime has to make the same decision with Cersei he made with the Mad King and their love is a fatal attraction. I predict Cersei survives the season because I think HBO will pressure the showrunners to have all the stars still be alive for the most anticipated season in HBO network history next summer, but if one main character is going to die, it’s Cersei. By Jaime. Calling that shot now.
Beyond The Wall
Refresher: Bran is the simplest yet the most complicated story of all. One day I’m going to devote an entire blog to Bran explaining the ins-and-outs of Westeros magic, The Sight, the Three-Eyed Raven and White Walkers (at least as much that can be understood from the show, which isn’t much, and from the books which is surprisingly not as much more as you’d think). All you have to know at this point is that Bran is on a more or less divine mission in the battle against the White Walkers. He is heading South, presumably to join and aid his brother Jon. Speaking of Jon, he is also now possibly the only living person to be aware of his true parentage.
Analysis: Bran’s significance is going to be threefold. The first and most obvious is that he is the keeper of the knowledge that Jon is a Targaryan. How he employs that knowledge can no less than alter the entire course of the show. The second is that he is going to be crucial in the fight against the White Walkers. Bran’s magic has roots in thousands of years of Stark lore, which is inexorably tied to the history of the Wall, Night’s Watch and therefore the White Walkers. That’ll be huge. And third and finally, Bran’s visions will be how the show explains to us said magic. I’m mostly going to hold off on Bran here, however, because he deserves a full blog to himself. Bran is going to be huge. HUGE. And only getting bigger as time goes on.
In The South
Refresher: Oh great, the Sand Snakes might be back!
Analysis: Ya know when you throw two pick-six’s in the first quarter of a Madden game, are suddenly down 28-0 early, and you can’t win anymore but still could the rest of the game control the clock and make the score at least respectable so it’s not a totally embarrassing loss? But in the end it’ll still be 20 wasted minutes of your life just to lose so it’s better to just quit the game, take the L, and try again tomorrow? That’s what Game of Thrones should do about the Sand Snakes.
Well I’m sure you all think this blog has gone on quite long enough. Thanks for reading, I’ll be doing episode recaps all season long. I’m on Twitter @CharlieWisco if you’re interested. Mailbag blog is coming tomorrow so look out for that. Valar morghulis.