THE NORTH DOES NOT REMEMBER
In a personal context, the last episode of Game of Thrones can be seen as one of the rare ones, because it is the episode that managed to completely derail me, which scarcely ever happens. Not even The Red Wedding managed to do that. First time it did happen though was when Ned lost his head in the King’s Landing which showed me that Game of Thrones is indeed a show that doesn’t shy away from anything. Second ties in with the loss of Jaime’s sword hand (the same hand he used to push Bran out of the window, a fitting punishment), a hand that defined him as a person, youngest knight and a member of the King’s Guard. With the loss of his hand, Jaime’s identity, as we knew it, perished into oblivion. This third event, and yes, we are talking about the death of yet another direwolf, is an event that most people will not even see as something that important, at least not the people who only watch the show, and with the good reason. But it is an event of great importance because we are talking about Shaggydog, the wolf of Rickon Stark. Rickon was first, in this new generation of Starks, able to understand the importance of wolves and why is it that they suddenly reappeared in the North, in their house, belonging to them, after all this time. Although it was not shown, or better yet, not emphasized in the show, Rickon was also the first of all his brothers and sisters, who managed to unlock his potential as a warg. Before Bran. Before Arya. Before Jon. Sansa (whose wolf is killed right at the beginning) and Robb (who was tasked with taking over Winterfell and fight the War of Five Kings), due to these reasons, never even had a chance of unlocking their hidden potentials – Sansa didn’t have enough time to connect and Robb was busy elsewhere thus clogging his mind for all things magical. This is precisely why the loss of Lady and Greywind did not hit as hard as the loss of Shaggydog because just like with Jaime, Rickon has now irretrievably lost a significant part of his identity.
However, when we put aside the tragic loss of the wild and fearless direwolf, what is actually surprising in this scene is a couple of unusual elements, illogical at best. Firstly, there is the new situation according to which the lord Umber now hates his father?! What a nonsense. Also, there is his decision to break the pledge to the Stark family, allegedly because Jon has let the Free Folk through the gates of Castle black, southwards?! Where was he when Stannis, together with the Night’s Watch fought the Free Folk? Yes, nowhere to be found. This reason therefore sounds so naive, banal and illogical, that it ends up only further sparking the imagination, asking a series of questions to which, as we have already seen, we just can’t get a proper answer. If lord Umber has actually decided to fight the Starks, why didn’t he acknowledge Ramsay as the Warden of the North, if that is where his true allegiance lies now? Because the pledge is obviously a variable, of which the Lord Umber has already seen much evidence by Roose Bolton, who also broke it in an instance? Sounds strange. However, if the Umbers (in the show) are indeed the replacement for the Manderleys, then it is certain that this is actually a game, a ploy, devised in accordance with Osha and Rickon Stark, who are cunningly posing as prisoners here.
What then is the final goal? To gain Ramsay’s trust, to get close to him, and in the right moment stab him in the back? If this is the case, who can then guarantee the Umbers that Ramsay will not feed Rickon to his dogs in an instant? A majority of the North believes Rickon to be dead, and Ramsay certainly plans on keeping it that way.
Therefore, we have two options. In the first one, the Umbers did truly join Ramsay. It is what it is, the North doesn’t remember. The wolf is dead. And Rickon and Osha are in fact Ramsay’s prisoners. In the other, a bit more positive setting, the Umbers are actually double agents, simply pretending, which would indeed make sense, because, if you may remember, in the third season it is repeated a number of times that the Northerners will never forget the Red Wedding (where lord Umber was murdered at the hands of Freys and Boltons), and that the North remembers. Neither one of these options are really packed with logic, which, after some thought, is really symptomatic of this show. What is the real truth, we should hopefully discover next week. Who knows, maybe the wolf died some other unfortunate death or he is not dead at all, which is, at this point, highly improbable.
THE TOWER OF DISAPPOINTMENT
Even the most anticipated scene of the episode, if not the entire season – the rescuing of Lyanna Stark from the Tower of Joy and the killing of the finest knight that ever walked the streets of Westeros, Arthur Dayne – couldn’t have gone without problems. Instead of seven to three, a ratio drowning in symbolism and meaning, we got six to two. Why was it so hard to add Gerold Hightwoer or Oswald Went, as it turns out, and whoever else was missing in Ned’s entourage, is not really clear? However, this is the least of the problems the scene has faced. Call me petty, but some of this story’s elements are not to be turned into a banal commonplace. Yes, of course I am talking about Arthur Dayne because when the casting call came out last year, it specifically said: “A legendary fighter with a legendary sword”. Even without a name of this “legendary fighter” or any other context given, in that moment, every single person that read the books knew not only that this call refers to Arthur Dayne and his greatsword Dawn, but also to one of the most important events in A Song of Ice and Fire – The Tower of Joy scene. This is a pivotal moment after which everything became crystal clear. Dayne, a legendary knight, with a legendary sword, who hails from Dorne, and was part of the Aerys’ King’s Gyard, best friend of Rhaegar Targaryen and a mentor to young Jaime Lannister is now just some knight who happens to wield two swords, which make him look badass. The importance of Dawn must not be lost on you because we are talking about the ancestral greatsword of House Dayne, whose wielder is always given the title Sword of the Morning. Dawn is largely the reason for House Dayne’s fame. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. It is said to be made from metal forged from the heart of a fallen star. The blade is as pale as milkglass, looking like no Valyrian blade, yet sharing all of the properties, being incredibly strong and sharp. Unlike other houses who have ancestral swords, House Dayne does not pass its sword from lord to lord. Only a knight of House Dayne who is worthy can wield it. The name of the Daynes’ castle, Starfall, and their arms, featuring a white sword and falling star, both reference Dawn. Why did Benioff and Weiss decided to deprive Dayne and their audience of Dawn by cutting it in half, also remains unknown. At this point, the only logical explanation is their possible intent to pin two great fighters (although Ned has not yet become one) together and focus on the fight instead of the events, atmosphere and context around it. This tells us that sadly they managed to miss yet another point.
The fighting scene in front of the Tower of Joy stands as the key moment not only for he development of this story, but also as something that will completely define who Ned Stark will become in the future. We are talking about Ned’s last battle in the Usurper’s war, the war that was responsible for the banishment of all Targaryens from Westeros, a battle that was at the same time and the most personal one. Therefore, it is not surprising that immediately upon lifting the siege on King’s Landing, Ned took off with a small number of soldiers, all of them his friends, with the exception of Robert who got injured on the Trident where he had just killed Rhaegar. So-called Sons of the North (besides Ned they were Howland Reed, William Dustin, Ethan Glover, Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull and Mark Ryswell), were headed towards the Red mountains of Dorne to liberate Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark, who in a way started this whole bloodshed. It is unknown how they discovered where she was being held, or for how long. Although we can assume it was at the very least since the beginning of war, if not even from the day she got abducted and taken to the Tower of Joy, Rheagar’s secret hideout, he personally named, which in the context of raping and kidnapping sounds a bit morbid, if not even sick. This alone sheds some strange light on the aforesaid events. Was this how it happened? Anyways, upon leaving for Trident, Rhaegar leaves guarded Lyanna in the hands of three of the best members of the King’s Guard. Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswald Whent and Lord Commander Gerold Hightower were tasked with defending Lyanna, Rhaegar’s hostage, with their lives. This is a strange situation indeed once we remember what is the principle duty of the King’s Guard. They are the personal army of the king, whose sole purpose is to be with the king around the clock, and, upon order, take care of the members of king’s family, and sometimes, on rare occasions, even his mistresses, concubines and bastard children. Besides that, we have to take a look at the curious disposition of the King’s Guard: Jaime Lannister was, as punishment and in spite of Tywin Lannister, kept in the King’s Landing, three members of the King’s Guard, Barristan Selmy, Lewin Martell and Jon Derry were stationed at the Trident, alongside their prince, while the rest of the Guard, Gerold Hightower, Oswald Went and Arthur Dayne, found their place in front of the Tower of Joy, which prevented them from participating in the war. This is where Ned found them. In the epic battle of seven against three only Eddard and Howland survived. However, despite the apparent success, Ned found Lyanna dying in “the bed of blood and roses”. She claimed a promise from Eddard just before she died. “Promise me Ned” were her last words, which will haunt Eddard until the day he dies.
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all nights to come.”
Although his motivation for leaving the Watch – his feelings are hurt – is strange at best, the fact that Jon has finally left this wretched, gloomy place is one of the finest moments of the episode if not the entire series. This is the moment I dreamt of ever since that time Grenn, Pyp and Sam saved his life in the first season. Who would’ve thought that the creators of the oath had to throw the resurrection in the mix, which turned out to be the loophole – it shall not end until my death – that will one-day release Jon from his wows.
Apart from being finally free and the traitors punished with a swift movement of a sword (“The man who passes the sentence should swing a sword”), it is important to focus on Melisandre’s most recent claim. Jon, and not Stannis, is Azor Ahai, or The Prince That Was Promised, which turns out is one and the same thing. Although they were never mentioned in the same sentence, and their descriptions, albeit similar are nevertheless different, many readers believed, me included, that Azor Ahai and The Promised Prince are different entities. Alas, the show has merged them (or they were always merged) and we shall honor that by referring to them as a single entity.
Azor Ahai was a legendary hero who lived approximately eight thousand years before Aegon’s Landing. It is said that during the midst of The Long Night, Azor Ahai rose up and defeated the Others, wielding a sword of fire, called Lightbringer. According to the prophecy, in the ancient books of Asshai from over five thousand years ago, Azor Ahai is to be reborn again to challenge the Others. This will occur after a long summer when an evil, cold darkness descends upon the world (meaning the present time of the Game of Thrones). It is said that wielding Lightbringer once again, Azor Ahai will stand against the Others and if he fails, the world will fall with him. Melisandre, as we know, used to believe that Stannis is the reborn Azor Ahai, however, later on when she met Jon Snow and started seeing him in the fires, she changed her mind. On the other hand, we have Rhaegar Targaryen, who firmly believed that he was The Promised Prince (a belief he acquired by reading a certain book), until later he changed his mind and started believing that The Prince will come from his lineage instead, be it his son (which Daenerys saw in the House of the Undying) or grandson.
Lightbringer is the sword of Azor Ahai made out of living fire. To fight the darkness of the Long Night, Azor Ahai needed to forge a hero’s sword. He labored for thirty days and thirty nights until it was done. However, when he went to temper it in water, the sword broke. He was not one to give up easily, so he started over. The second time he took fifty days and fifty nights to make the sword, even better than the first. To temper it this time, he captured a lion and drove the sword into its heart, but once more the steel shattered. The third time, with a heavy heart, for he knew before hand what he must do to finish the blade, he worked for a hundred days and nights until it was finished. This time, he called for his wife, Nissa Nissa, and asked her to bare her breast. He then drove his sword into her breast. Her soul combined with the steel of the sword created the Lightbringer. According to Maester Aemon, the real Lightbringer should shine and radiate heat, which was not the case with Stannis’s magical sword.
Many believe that Jon’s sword, the Long Claw, a gift from Jeor Mormont, will at some point and with the right type of sacrifice (not that Jon needs it apparently) become the Lightbringer. What contributes these allegations are Jon’s dreams in which he fights the Others wielding the fiery sword, something which is in direct conflict with the visions Daenerys sees – the Blue-eyed King who casts no shadow holding the fiery sword in his hands.
“Glowing in the sunset, a flaming sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow.”
“Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared.”
” He rose and dressed in darkness, as Mormont’s raven muttered across the room. “Corn,” the bird said, and, “King,” and, “Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow.” That was queer. The bird had never said his full name before, as best Jon could recall.”
According to Maester Aemon, however The Prince, doesn’t necessarily has to be a male, since dragons do not have gender. Right before he died, he realized that Daenerys is in fact The Prince that was Promised, while many believe that the sword she will fight with is none other than Drogon, her biggest and strongest dragon. There is also a theory that Jaime is the Azor Ahai, that he will kill Brienne and create a Lightbringer from the Othkeeper, which could align with the story of Nuada, the king of Tuatha Dé Danann, the mythical creatures from Irish mitology, Martin based his Others upon (although I am more inclined to believe that he took bits and pieces of this story and ifnused it with his own, thus making Jon Nuada and not Jaime). What is the real truth it is yet to be seen, however, so far, Jon seems to be the strongest candidate for this well, not so joyfull position.
WORST OF THE EPISODE
-Tyrion’s lack of humor that is becoming rather awkward now
-Dayne’s two swords
-Bad directing and poor montage sequence of the Tower of Joy scene
-Recent habit in the editing process that shows the lack of enthusiasm. Once we enter the King’s Landing we know that we will have several sequences bundled up together, one after the other before we move to Essos, where the same phenomenon will occur again. And I don’t know if you noticed but every episode starts and ends at the Wall. Coincidence?
-The entire sequence in Dosh Khaleen and insistence on listing Dany’s titles, even when it doesn’t really make sense, as we have seen in the first episode.
-The knowledge of the fact that Jonathan Pryce (High Sparrow) will keep on giving religious speeches in every single episode until someone finally kills him off.
-Demystification of Robert Strong, i.e. The Mountain
-Shrinking of Arya’s infamous list
-The tedious repetition of her Bravos scenes although this last one has increased considerably in quality
-Love story between Sam and Gilly
-Jon who is apparently still Jon. So, for his resurrection there was no cost whatsoever. There was no sacrifice needed, no price to pay and he is still the same character who just mopes around with more ferocity now, slightly depressed for being killed.
-Although Edd is a perfect candidate for LC (in the show), wouldn’t there have to be some sort of election going on before he becomes one?
-Bloodraven is 1000 years old?! Ok then….
-The death of direwolf
BEST OF THE EPISODE
-Tormund (granted he didn’t say member but…)
-Kit’s improved acting. Finally, now I love the show Jon as much as I do the book one
-New information that, before leaving the cave (if that is really going to be the case), Bran’s task is to learn everything
-Speaking of Bran, there is still a chance that he and Bloodraven somehow participated in Jon’s resurrection. If you remember, and I mentioned that last week, Bran woke up after Ned killed Lady. Could be a coincidence or it could mean something. We don’t know. What we do know is that Bloodraven visited him in dreams and helped him come back and that the montage sequence implied how Lady’s death possibly had something to do with Bran’s awakening. Last week I theorized that Jon came back because a direwolf died and this week we learned that Shaggydog (although his head is considerably smaller than in a regular sized direwolf, not that consistency is their forte) is in fact dead (which was also “confirmed”). Since Bloodraven was waiting for all of them and not just Bran, it stands to reason to assume that he had his fingers in Jon’s awakening too. Also, if you look closely to the way these tow scenes – Bran and Jon coming back – were shot it becomes even more curious. They are identical. Or we can simply say that I am in denial and move on.
-Jon ignoring Melisandre. Loved it!!!
-The final scene of Jon leaving the Night’s Watch. If this demonstrative act only featured Ghost, lightly threading by Jon’s side….yes, yes, CGI is expensive for direwolves, but not for dragons and agile skeletons. Ok.
-Khal Savo, for the obvious reasons
Best quote: “Now my watch has ended”
Text written by: Monika Ponjavic