Finally! We got to see Daenerys Targaryen — the Stormborn; the Mother of Dragons; the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea; the Breaker of Chains; the Unburnt (am I doing these titles, titles, titles in the right order?); the Queen of the Andals, the First Men, and the Rhoynar; Protector of the Seven Kingdoms — meet her nephew Jon Snow … frowner of frowns, moper of mopes, saddest boy of the First Men, the undead (just don’t tell anyone), and the King in the North. What a moment.
Lots to get to this week! On to your questions.
Zito asks, "Why is Bran being such a weirdo?"
Bran has spent the past few years in a cave eating weirwood paste (a powerful hallucinogen) with a wizard and the last (as far as we know) living magical fairies while surfing the infinite oceans of time and accidentally altering the past through the roots of a tree. That tends to change a person!
Kerri asks, "Is Tyrion the worst military adviser of all time?"
As a political strategist, Tyrion is as adept a player of the game of thrones as has ever lived. As a military adviser … well, people can’t be good at everything. The problem is essentially that Tyrion, as a smart guy, tries to be too smart. He’s been taking savage L’s since Meereen in Season 6, when he misread the intentions of the masters of Yunkai and Astapor. Dany, recall, was missing at the time — a guest of the ladies of the dosh khaleen at Vaes Dothrak. In her absence, Tyrion attempted to negotiate a middle path between Dany’s stated position — "Slavery is bad" — and the masters’ "Actually it’s good." Spoiler: You can’t square those two positions! The result was a compromise deal that the masters never intended to honor and which angered Dany’s freedman supporters.
Now back in Westeros, as Dany’s Hand, Tyrion hatched the brilliant-on-paper plan to forgo an immediate attack on the capital and split the Targaryen army into THREE SEGMENTS to attack targets on either side of the continent. Bad plan! As we saw, Yara’s Iron Fleet sailed for Dorne, the Unsullied sailed for Casterly Rock (on the opposite side of Westeros!), and the Dothraki remained on Dragonstone. All this while King’s Landing, only the object of Dany’s desires since Season 1, which she has seen in various visions (in the books and the show), sat, vulnerable and lightly defended, only a short sail away. No need to overthink this, Tyrion!
Woody asks, "Can we get some backstory on Euron?"
Euron is the younger brother of the late Balon Greyjoy. He is a wild dude and a master seaman, possessed of an unpredictable personality that his followers perceive as magnetic charisma. The crew of his flagship, The Silence, had their tongues torn out at Euron’s command. AND THEY’RE COOL WITH IT! Some of that has to do with Euron’s penchant for recruiting sailors who are similarly unhinged ("Freaks and fools," says Asha, the book version of Yara) and can be easily manipulated.
In the books, Euron was exiled from the Iron Islands for raping the salt wife of his brother Victarion (who does not appear in the show). Victarion dearly loved the woman and, if not for the taboo against kinslaying, would have killed Euron. The show is fuzzy on why Euron wasn’t around until Season 6. But it’s suggested that his exile had something to do with the collapse of Balon’s rebellion against Robert Baratheon. Which is ironic. Euron’s opening gambit in that war — torching the Lannister fleet at anchor — was the high-water mark of the Greyjoy rebellion. He spent the intervening years traveling widely across the known world.
Ken asks, "How does/would the rest of the Iron Islanders feel about Euron sort of taking orders/working for the queen? I thought they didn’t ever bend the knee."
Iron Islands culture does prize wanton murder, widespread theft, and the enslavement of civilians — all under the heading of seaborne adventure — but they’ve been surprisingly governable, more or less, for the past few centuries since Aegon’s Conquest.
The very day Aegon Targaryen invaded Westeros, just over 300 years before the events of the show, the Ironborn King Harren the Black completed the great project that defined his life: the enormous castle of Harrenhal in the Riverlands. It was the high point of Ironborn independence and dominion over the Riverlands. It took 40 years, cost the lives of untold numbers of slave laborers, and basically bankrupted the region. No surprise, then, that when Aegon delivered his terms — bend the knee and be raised as Lord of the Iron Islands — Harren balked. HE JUST SPENT FOUR DECADES BUILDING HIS DREAM HOME! My dude was not about to walk away. You know how that one ended. Balerion the Black Dread came screaming out of the sky to bathe the massive towers and thick walls of Harrenhal in dragonflame, killing Harren and his sons.
Many notable ironborn nobles and captains lost their lives in the inferno at Harrenhal. More were killed by the native riverlords when they rose up to avenge centuries of oppression. Those who survived to return to the Iron Islands immediately set about squabbling over the scraps of their kingdom. All that was swept away when Aegon sailed on Great Wyk at the head of his war fleet. After some more fighting, the ironborn knelt.
Not that they had a choice. Aegon’s supporters argued for punitive measures against the defeated ironborn. The riverlords wanted the Iron Islands to be placed under control of House Tully of Riverrun. The Lannisters, unsurprisingly, wanted them put under Lannister control. Still others were like The ironborn have always been terrible; why not just burn the islands clean by dragonflame? All good options! Aegon, though, believed that raising a defeated enemy to its feet was the best, most stable non-genocidal long-term solution. Deciding on a sort of mini-kingsmoot, he allowed the iron lords to select their own leader. They chose Vickon of the venerable and respected House Greyjoy.
Under the Greyjoys, ironborn raiding was limited to the coasts beyond Westeros. Many captains took up regular work like fishing and overseas trade, which previously would have been deemed too shameful to contemplate. Since the Targaryen days, the ironborn have largely kept faith with the crown. And though they’ve occasionally been a nuisance — you know, rebelling against King Robert, burning the Lannister fleet at Lannisport, sacking Winterfell and putting its inhabitants to the sword, invading the North — they’ve lacked the strength to project their power on land. Though, with a possible Euron-Cersei betrothal in the offing, perhaps that’s changed.
Emily asks, "Is Petyr Baelish going to try to kill Sansa? Baelish did a double-take when the maester was like, ‘Maester Luwin kept detailed records and copies of every raven scroll,’ so that has to mean … something."
I loved this moment. I doubt that Baelish would try to out-and-out murder Sansa. He does love her, in his own hideous way. More than that, though, he values her as a potential piece in the great game. When Jon placed the North under Sansa’s command, Ned Stark’s once naive, star-struck daughter became, at a stroke, one of the most powerful people in Westeros. The Northern houses will take their lead from her, as will the knights of the Vale. The Free Folk are a wild card, it’s true. But they’re also the smallest and least disciplined fighting force in the region. It’s been an incredible rise for Sansa.
So what could Luwin have made a copy of that might make Baelish nervous? Luwin was long deceased by the time Littlefinger struck the deal that handed Sansa over to the Boltons, so it can’t be that. I have an idea that kind of ties in with some out-of-show speculation we’ve seen recently. It’s kind of a spoiler, so be warned.
So many murders and betrayals and plots have been unfurled over the course of the series that it’s easy to lose track of them. One of the earliest unanswered questions: Who ordered the Season 1 hit on Bran Stark’s life? Gods, that was so many lifetimes ago:
Recall that the unnamed assassin was wielding a Valyrian steel dagger, commonly referred to by fans as "the catspaw blade." It is, obviously, a ridiculously expensive, rare, and high-profile weapon for a simple knifeman to be carrying. (This raises the interesting question of leverage — what did whoever hired the catspaw have over him? Why didn’t the button man simply forget about the hit and sell the dagger?) Whoever ordered the hit wanted ownership of the blade to be easily traceable. Catelyn, who already believed the Lannisters had something to do with Bran’s fall from the tower, traveled, with the blade, to King’s Landing to warn Ned that something nefarious was afoot. When Littlefinger sees it, he says that it once belonged to him … but that he lost it in a wager to Tyrion Lannister. Knowing Baelish’s strategy — create chaos, climb the ladder — it’s possible to infer that he was continuing his efforts to set the Starks and the Lannisters at each other’s throats. Now, in the books, it’s suggested that Joffrey ordered the murder because he thought it would impress Robert. This may or may not be the case. But I’ll bet that the theoretical scroll in question (Sansa can be seen reading a scroll with a cryptic look on her face in the trailer for the next episode) links Littlefinger to the assassin. I’d further wage my full stack of silver stags that Arya, who’s seen carrying the dagger on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, is how Baelish gets paid back in kind.
Alex asks, "In a short period of time, we’ve seen the total wipeout of a number of families that seem to have been in power for quite a while. The Baratheons, Freys, Boltons, Tyrells, Martells, and nearly Lannisters are all essentially gone. Is there any precedent in Westeros for such a massive reset?"
Aegon’s Conquest ended the lines of several ancient houses.
The dynasty of the Durrandon Storm Kings, whose dominion over the Stormlands stretched back to the Age of Heroes, was brought to a close when Orys Baratheon, the founder of House Baratheon and the first Hand of the King, defeated the wizened, gray-bearded King Argilac the Arrogant in open battle. Orys took the Durrandon words ("Ours is the fury") and sigil (a black stag on a yellow field) for himself and took Argilac’s daughter Argella to wife.
It’s interesting to consider Gendry in this context. Orys One-Hand, as he was called after his troops were mutilated during the First Dornish War, was definitely a bastard and rumored to be Aegon’s half-brother. If Dany raises Gendry up to the head of a reconstituted House Baratheon, she’ll be mirroring the events of Aegon’s Conquest and possibly legitimizing her cousin (several times removed, but whatever).
Harren the Black Hoare of the Iron Islands line was ended at the roast of Harrenhal, as mentioned above. The Tullys were raised to Lords Paramount of the Trident for supporting Aegon. And the position of Lord of Harrenhal has continued to be a poison chalice, imbuing its numerous title holders with nothing but tragedy, death, and exile.
Finally, House Tyrell itself was raised to the leadership of the Reach after Aegon exterminated the ancient and legendary House Gardener at the Field of Fire. The Tyrells, for generations, served the Gardeners as their stewards. After King Mern Gardener, his knights, and many of his relatives perished in battle, Harlan Tyrell surrendered Highgarden to Aegon and was rewarded with the titles Lord of Highgarden and Warden of the South.
Keith asks, "How long does it take to become a maester? Is there any chance Sam finishes his training before all the ish starts going down?"
The books are fuzzy on this. In the prologue to A Feast for Crows, the narrator, who has been at the Citadel for more than five years without making maester, mentions that an acolyte named Alleras, widely believed to be the sand snake Sarella Sand in disguise, has forged three links in just one year of study at the Citadel. He goes on to say that a fellow acolyte had more chains, but had taken a year to forge each. So that’s a wide range. Sam is pretty brilliant, though. Assuming he doesn’t get kicked out, Qyburn-style, I think there’s a chance he makes full maester. Especially when we consider the show’s accelerated timeline.
See you next week!
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.