Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Thoughts on Game of Thrones, s6e10, “The Winds of Winter.”
(1) A round of terrified applause for Queen Cersei of House Lannister, honorary of House Corleone, who last night pulled off a reverse baptism scene by eliminating nearly all of her enemies inside of a church instead of being there herself. No longer willing to simply jockey for position with Margaery, beg for mercy from the High Sparrow, and suffer the disrespect of her uncle Kevan, her vengeance is complete and thorough–House Tyrell in ruins, the Faith Militant destroyed, Pycelle assassinated and Septa Unella, most valued prey of all, left to suffer at the hands of a monster.
Throughout this entire story, however, a running theme has been the cost of any victory, and in this case Cersei’s greatest triumph exacts the terrible price of her only remaining child. But what is clearest to us now, if not yet quite clear to her, is that for as much as she loved her children she never loved them as much as the Game, at which she has now proven herself the greatest player of the current era. Perhaps she begins to recognize this in herself as she orders Tommen’s body to be burned, but it seems at most a flickering light. Compare this to Danaerys in Meereen, confessing to Tyrion that what should have been a wrenching act of sending away her lover caused her little pain at all–her willingness to interrogate that apathy in herself is both a testament to Tyrion’s influence and her own growing wisdom.
The other fallout of Cersei’s vengeance, however, seems to be in driving a permanent wedge between herself and Jaime, which is a situation bound for tragedy. It’s not only that her ascent to the Iron Throne likely puts her out of his reach as a lover, it’s that Jaime once disobeyed his most solemn vows and earned a despicable reputation in order to stop Mad King Aerys from burning the city with wildfire, and now he’s returned to the city to find his sister having accomplished that same horror. Jaime just returned from the Riverlands having sacked the Tully stronghold with only one death occurring on either side; while he might understand on some level that this move was Cersei’s best possible play, it’s likely that he has very little taste for it.
(2) Speaking of tragedies, the nod to Shakespeare’s TITUS ANDRONICUS that occurs during Arya’s successful completion of an item on her to-do lost isn’t simply gruesome, it’s a herald that Arya is something that Westeros has not seen in a long time, if at all. Faceless Men have obviously been hired by Westerosi lords and kings in the past, but presuming that all of them are devout disciples of the Many-Faced God, they are passionless, workmanlike beings. I doubt a true Faceless Man would have seen fit to butcher and feed Walder’s sons to him before slitting his throat, but Arya Stark is no true Faceless Man. The look on her face is not dissimilar to the look on her elder sister’s as she walked away from Ramsay Bolton’s cell, but she’s gone farther still into the darkness of her soul. Sansa, at least, has the knowledge that some of her family still lives, and it may temper her–for all Arya knows, she is the last of her House, and like Lady Olenna, survival will not be the motivation for the moves she makes next.
(3) All of you who didn’t know why some of your friends kept scribbling “R+L=J” on their social media accounts like it was the wall of an elementary school bathroom can finally nod knowingly. Bran’s vision of what truly happened at the Tower of Joy–as well as the cut between the eyes of a newborn and the man he’d become–answers definitively that Jon Snow was never Ned’s bastard, but was in fact the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Furthermore, the Stark story that Lyanna had been kidnapped and raped is put to rest as well, as it’s clear from the whisper to her brother that the child had been given a name, and the name was Targaryen (I’m unclear what the first name is, but I’m pretty sure there’s an “ae” in it). That’s not the action of a dying woman speaking about the child of a man who had taken her against her will.
(4) As of this moment, the most powerful figures in this world are women–Cersei as Queen of the Andals, Danaerys as the oncoming storm, Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell by blood-sworn alliance, and Sansa Stark as Lady Winterfell (I trust Jon not to let the claims of fealty and calls for ascension make him forget what he owes his sister). Even those without as much political and military power, such as Lady Mormont and Arya, are made of steel. The world has shifted away from its men and is unlikely to shift back anytime soon, assuming any of it survives the White Walker campaign to come. The Maesters will probably not take it well, but their preference is hardly something they have any real power to enforce.
(5) Speaking of the White Walkers, it was good to have Uncle Benjen clarify within this series that the wall has magical wards on it. It lets us know, in part, why the Night’s King remains north of it for now. But it remains a matter of time, now that winter has arrived, before the Night’s King makes his move against the rest of the world.