It’s cold out here.
It’s cold out here in the nowhere, where time seems to have slowed to a glacial ebb of almost no forward movement and precious little hope.
The Game of Thrones is over. For now.
And even beginning to try to do the math until the next episode would require a Will Hunting understanding of numbers. It’s…too much. It’s too long. Like trying to imagine how many Stannis Baratheon Funko dolls laid end to end it would take to get to the center of the galaxy.
Too fucking many, that’s how many.
A number that barely exists it’s so large. An amount so confounding that all the ghosts of undergrads who went insane contemplating the Riemann hypothesis still couldn’t come up with a number that big.
Even if you laid them end to end.
It’s cold here. Where we are.
We look out over a frozen tundra in every direction. The landscape is…confusing.
Usually there are plenty of people talking by now. Chatting. Congregating. The smartest members of our society, we call them “book readers” are usually mingling outside by now, giving us the lay of the land, explaining what’s on the other side of the horizon, and magnanimously, like we’re idiots, dropping morsels of information which we hungrily gobble up. The morsels make us wink at each other and feel like we’re in on something.
Because we’re idiots.
But from time to time, even the book readers were surprised. Like when they expected the arrival of the Undead Stone Woman of Revenge or when they yelled “huh? That’s not supposed to be Coldhands!” or “Goddamnit! Book Doran is nothing like show Doran.” Game of Thrones surprises everyone. Even the wisest among us.
We blow in our hands to fight off the chill.
We remember those days, when there were morsels. When the book readers graciously bequeathed their testimony to us. When they said things like “you think that was bad? Just wait.” And our favorite: “you’ll see…”
But those days are gone. The book readers hide in their animal skin yurts and there isn’t a single morsel to be had anywhere in the world. They know as little as we do. Which is nothing. Nothing at all.
It’s cold here.
It’s cold and the days seem to last forever. And somewhere out there, we know that there is a thing called ‘joy’ because we have felt it. We have felt it sixty-seven times. Some of us more than others.
These days we have to fight to remember. We show watchers linger at the edge of camp, the icy wind blowing over us, just to try to figure out a way to go, a direction to head. Somewhere to focus our love and attention. Anywhere, really.
Yes, they told us that Winter was Coming. They never minced words about that. It may have been the first thing we ever really believed.
Winter is Coming.
But they never said that it would come so hard or feel so cold or last so long. They never told us what we would become when Winter arrived, how it would alter us and make us use words like sigil and eunuch and imp and weirwood and ‘milk of the poppy’. Whatever the hell that is. They never told us that instead of saying things like “you remind me of your grandmother” we’d instead say things like “Damn, girl! You got your Cersei on!” They never told us that we would fall in love so many fucking times, with so many people, both men and women, just to watch them torn to shreds or eaten or burned or flayed or poisoned or betrayed or overwhelmed or beheaded or hung or blinded or bowhunted or disemboweled or slashed or felled or gutted or hogged or knifed or maimed or neutered or drowned or blown the fuck up before our very eyes.
“I’m good, I am. I’m still good.” We mumble to ourselves sometimes, when no one else can hear.
But it’s a lie. Because after experiencing true joy sixty-seven times, we have a bloodlust that would make Attila’s toes curl. Our outlook has become so dour and misery-based that we’re nearly dwarven. And we’re right to be, we think, as we blow in our hands to warm them. Just look around. Look in any direction. We are nowhere.
There is nothing. In any direction.
And that’s where we begin, in this ramshackle community of catatonic book readers in animal skin yurts who thought they knew a thing or two and confused show watchers who didn’t mind knowing nothing (like a certain cunniligual crow on his north-o-the-wall spelunking holiday), blowing in their hands and staring at the horizon for any sign of hope.
The ghost of William Blake mocks us. We will never truly know innocence again. We have witnessed almost everything there is to see with human eyes, from concubines slaughtered with crossbow bolts to sorcerers in vented crates to black vagina ghosts to dog shaped helmets to a boy that could run straight for what seemed like forever. We have seen children murdered and tweens murdered and teens murdered and queens murdered and scenes murdered.
R.I.P. Dorne. You never had a chance.
We have listened to whispered promises and shouted lies. We have admired fools and crowned idiots. We have postulated and prevaricated and peppered and plied and pounced. And most importantly, we hated a boy named Dickon, and then willingly gave our love to him, and then smoked his still-warm ashes from a bong to calm our fragile nerves.
R.I.P. Dickon. You never had a chance.
But the joy of it leaves us like a hastily departing Ironborn storyline and we’re back were we are.
In the now.
Looking at the yurts to see if the smarties are coming out. Looking at the horizon to see if there’s any happiness left in the world.
But there is none. The sky is bleak with a lingering frost. The grey clouds in the distance portend a growing doom of vacuous, ubiquitous superhero shows and soul-rending network laugh track comedies.
Because there’s nothing else to do but drink in the long, cold suck and wait. It’s col-
Hang on! Did you see something?
Over there…I could have sworn…
And for a second…
Wait, I thought I saw…
Is that a raven???
You guys! You guys! A raven! It’s a raven!
It’s a raven. The thickest fucking raven you’ve ever seen. It looks like a pitbull fucked a condor, but by god that’s a raven. Jesus that thing looks stupid. How does it even stay in the air? For a split second, you wish that you had a camera to instagram this wacky, double-jointed, flapping motherfucker, but then you remember that this is a winter dread yurt fantasy, and never shall the efficacy of technology pierce the noble membrane of such a construct.
The hefty raven will have to live forever in your thoughts alone. You swear you can hear it grunting as it approaches. That thing better not take a dump on me, you think. The turds that would come out of it, you imagine, would look like fresh baked loaves of Rowlesian canned bread. You back off a bit.
The raven passes low over the yurts and from his maesterly talons he drops something…directly into your hands.
A scroll that shouldn’t really exist in this world. Not anymore.
A scroll with heft and girth. A scroll so thick and weighty that, if you chose, you could knock your pervy uncle into the gutter with it in one glorious, home run swing.
Everywhere you look, all across the Known World scrolls are only getting smaller. Thinner. The kids can’t deal with long scrolls. Everything is a quick-twitch featherscroll world. Hot take scrolls. Limited character scrolls. Picturescrolls. Why would you ever mire yourself in a longform scroll when you could do something worthwhile like tab through what your archnemesis from high school is wearing or take naked scrolls of your hambone and raven it to people?
No, this scroll looks like it came from your grandfather’s era. It is a bygone thing: a unicorn, a centaur, proper punctuation. It’s something your mom’s mom might tuck into if it weren’t for all the cussin’.
You almost can’t believe it’s here. In your hands.
You roll it over, seeking the wax seal. It’s unbroken. Your heart leaps.
It’s not joy itself, you know that. There are only seven joys left in the Known World, and this is not one of them.
But it is…something. A relic of that age. An age which is vanishing.
As book reader and show watchers alike come running out of yurts and gathering around you to see the scroll, your heart rate picks up a bit.
This scroll is for you. It was dropped to you.
You look up, trying to see where the tubby raven has gone, perhaps to yell some sort of greeting or word of encouragement, but you can’t make it out. A pale mist has settled in over the encampment. The grunting flaps are there, but where did it go?
On the other side of camp, you hear an agonizing scream as an old lady is plastered by a forty pound fecal depth charge dropped from six stories above by the departing pitcondor. It knocks her full over and sends her tennis-ball-bottomed walker skittering across the frost at the edge of camp. For a second, everyone stops. Is she dead?
“Ooooohhhhhhh” the old lady moans.
You and the other watchers pause for a moment and then bust out into laughter. Someone fist bumps you.
Oh, please, old lady, you think. You’re alive! Old Nan got peeled! Your injury ain’t sheeeeeeeeeiiiiit. We only get fired up when people are killed!
You wanna get the breres and freres of the Thrones’ Watch invested? You gotta come with something better than an aerial shit-contusion.
Because we’re the A team, yo. We’re veterans.
We can’t get off to mere pissant ‘violence’!
We need our violence ‘graphic’!
We need our language crude and our imagery shocking.
Oh, and take a hike with your NatGeo level ‘nudity’ unless it comes in a Chinese finger-trap with ‘strong sexual content.’ Even then, who can even get it up anymore unless it’s like dwarf sex or zombie sex or brother-on-sister sex?
Because we’re too busy breaking the seal of the scroll in our hands and unfurling it to read the title.
It’s finally here.
It’s a week late and a dollar short and a mere shade of it’s better cousins, but at least for a while, it will stave off the gloom and put us back where we belong, wedged like a five dollar bill in the crack of Jonathan Sneaux’s perfect ass.
So pour yourself a flagon of Tormund’s sour goat’s milk, find the comfiest yurt you can, and let’s get diving.
A mere eight weeks or so ago, waaaaaaaay back in July of 2017, we waited with hopeful hearts for Daenerys to land in Westeros. We waited for her to finally use her dragons, and we joked about how the half-smart thug Cersei Lannister was hopelessly outmatched and would surely be rolled over like a frog on the highway.
And yet, lo these many weeks later, more than half of a baker’s dozen, we finally have all the answers. We finally know the real name of the King in the North. We finally got to see some long awaited incest and we finally know where the dead are going.
I mean, we always knew, in general, but now we’ve seen the how of it.
We open this week with the stupid-talented Ramin Djawadi chanting and horning us over a vista of wienerless phalanxes.
And above it all, two knights of the realm marvel at the sight. A lake of men as wide as Lake Erie and nary a cock amongst them.
But that’s not where this episode really begins, is it?
It really begins in Cersei’s chambers, where all diabolical schemes begin.
Qyburn is whispering something in her ear, because he’s done that like six times this season, and we’ll basically never know what he’s saying. I think he just likes how she smells and uses the subterfuge of secrecy to get a whiff of that White Linen by Liz Taylor.
Qyburn backs off to pick hair off that atrocious army-navy surplus rag he wears and takes a position on the side wall of the room where Tywin Lannister used to hold court. Remember when Tywin invited Olenna here and coerced her into agreeing to Loras marrying Cersei or he’d officially draft the Rose Knight into the Kingsguard? Oh god that was high art, watching Charles Dance and Diana Rigg work. I know there are some Tywin haters out there, and while I certainly admire people who dare to be wrong, on the show, at least, there were two periods in Westeros: before Tywin’s death and after it.
Also Qyburn, bud: meet me at camera two real quick.
Dude! Congrats on being the single most competent, hardworking and consistent person on the show. Who would have thought when they drop-kicked your twisted, lawbreaking, necromancering ass out of the Citadel that you would have risen to be the very picture of success. I can imagine you there, standing out in front of the Citadel doors, where Sam was when he and Gilly and Craster’s weird looking kid got into that wagon a couple of weeks ago? What were you thinking? Did you raise up those skeletal, gnarly arms of yours and give the Maesters the double middle finger? Did you shake your fist at the light atop the tower and swear to the god of the darkness that you would have your revenge?
Whatever you did, It got you here, to the Red Keep. Your lack of scruples and basic human morality have placed you in the company of the most blithely evil Disney villain in the Seven Kingdoms. It really is true that there’s someone for everyone.
But they give you a stipend, right?
So, can we take like 20 minutes one day to upgrade that vintage woolen hairshirt that you’ve been rocking since season three? I start itching every time you’re on the screen. How about to something like a Dark Lord vibe or a Necro build from Runescape or Guild Wars 2? Or are you just rolling all of your personal earnings back into Scorpion R&D? Don’t get me wrong: your single-mindedness is impressive. But you’re the only person on the show to look at the High Sparrow and think “Now there’s a sharp dresser.”
You’re the MVP of Team Lannister. Come on, playa. Dress the part. M’kay? (I think you’d look smashing in a hood.)
So Qyburn hovers nearby, contemplating his wardrobe for the first time ever as the Mountain leads Euron Greyjoy into the room.
He is smiling in a Heathers-era Christian Slater sort of wanderer’s cockiness. He was ready to die a long, long time ago and there’s no earthly reason he didn’t so now he’s just in it to mess with people and grab the Iron Throne. Not that he even wants it. It’s just something fun to do while he’s not raping and murdering and pillaging and cackling.
He bows to Cersei, head cocked, rooster-like. The greeting is tongue in cheek for him. She follows his bow with a curt smile.
“Commander Greyjoy. I’ve asked you to-“
“Please, Your grace, Euron. Call me Euron. I’m your lover, soon to be your husband, after all. Why bother with formality when we both know where all the pieces fit?”
Euron winks at Qyburn, who stares at him like a toenail on a dinner plate.
“Commander Greyjoy. I’ve asked you to come here before we meet with this delegation-“
“Fuck the delegation! I have a thousand magical ships, all made of the tears of women and slaves! When they sail in I’ll just FUCK THEM UP THE ASS!!!”
“You will do no such thing.”
“In my experience, there’s very little a good assfucking can’t fix.”
He raises his eyebrows at Cersei.
“Either control your libidio or I’ll have Ser Gregor control it for you.”
Behind him Ser Gregor pulls his sword out a few inches. Ostensibly to prove that it’s an actual sword and not just a fake hilt he carries around.
Euron holds up his hands like he’s so scared. “Oooohhh a sword! That’s terrifying! I’ve never fought anyone with one of them before! Relax Biggun! Where I come from, we take ugly fuckers like you and we use them as URINALS.”
Ser Gregor doesn’t flinch. Euron is impressed. He thinks it’s because Ser Gregor has self control, but really it’s because Ser Gregor is a zombie and an idiot and he’s deaf in his right ear because weevils ate his eardrum a while back.
Euron takes a seat, leg thrown over an armrest. He’s trolled enough. He looks over his shoulder at Qyburn.
“Get me some wine, boy.”
Qyburn is shocked.
“That’s my Hand you’re speaking to.” Cersei says through a clenched jaw.
“Voonderbar! Then he can use his fucking HAND to get me some wine.”
Cersei nods and Qyburn clenches his jaw and walks out.
“I want you to behave.”
“I AM behaving! This is me behaving! Greyjoys aren’t meant to sit in stupid rooms and talk. We were put on this world to fuck and kill! Not necessarily in that order.”
“I want you to behave the day of the meeting. I have no idea what will happen. I assume it’s a trap of some kind but considering my self-important brother is involved it might just be some bloated reason to show off his stupid brooch.”
“Fucking dwarf. I’ll chop him in half for you, my buttercup.”
“Later. What I want is - no matter what they say - figure out a way to dismiss yourself and pretend to be a coward and quit. Say you’re going back to the Iron Isles. And just walk out.”
“And then what?”
“And then sail to Braavos and pick up the Golden Company. I’ve hired them to protect our interests here.”
“I see. I see. Or…how about this? As they sail in to Da Red Keep I fucking KILL THEM! Eh? Eh? Then we don’t have to sail anywhere and you and I can spend the next fortnight peeling me out of my Calvins. Better?”
“No. We stick to the plan.”
“What about your cripple brother? Y’know? The glamour shots one. Can I finally kill him?”
“We still need him in the field.”
“Why, so he can ride another thirty thousand men into an oven? Come on! He’s not that special.”
“I said no. Not until the time is right.”
Euron shrugs. He can’t wait to kill Jaime. Fucking Golden Boy. Euron plans to eat his heart while he watches. Euron looks back at the Mountain and lowers his voice.
“I’ve missed your body, Your Grace.”
“And I yours. Too. Also.”
“Maybe we could-“
“I’m pregnant. With your child.”
Euron sits back. Huh! Shit that was easy. Fuck, now he has to keep her alive for ten months. Details details.
“We should drink! Let’s celebrate!”
“Not now, I’m feeling a bit ill.”
“OUR CHILD WILL RULE THE SEVEN KINGDOMS! AHAHA!”
“Keep. Your. Voice. Down.”
“I’m just happy! You know what, fuck it! I’m gonna go get the Golden Banana’s right now!”
“No! I need you to do it in front of them. I want my brother to look back on this and know that I’m more clever than he is. I’ve worked really hard to make it look like I’m a master strategist lately. People have such short memories. It was just a few months ago when my Uncle Kevan was Hand and he wouldn’t even let Jaime and I in to sit with the Small Council. Without my father we were exposed for being the ignorant dopes that we actually are. Everyone knew I was this half-stupid boob. Wine-soaked.
But somehow, recently, I’ve managed to con all of these people into believing that I’m my father’s daughter. That I’m fucking Sun Tzu in stitched black harlequin. For example, I spent my entire life being a nasty, hateful, entitled bitch from hell. That was what I was. Every day, all day.
My brother Tyrion, conversely, spent his life travelling and reading and talking to people and trying to understand things like power dynamics and economics and the marginalization of the underclasses. He read every book ever written. And yet, if you polled the people of King’s Landing, the people that he saved and I Wyldefired, the people he charged to the Mud Gate to protect and the people who spit on me as I walked naked through the streets, they’d say I was the smarter sibling.
Because I smirk and I make plans and would crucify them as fast as you could say Flea Bottom. Because no one remembers what they ate this morning, much less how I murdered hundreds of people and stole a throne. They’re believing this current narrative that I’m smart, when I promise you, I’m not smart and everyone in my family knows it. But I like it this way, and so I need to keep orchestrating plans. It doesn’t matter if they make factual sense. It doesn’t matter if they work. It only matters that I’m seen planning, and then I get the reputation as a planner and someone to be reckoned with, even though I’m basically a third grade bully.”
“Riiiight. So, go get the Golden Whatevers now orrr?”
“No! Go get them…during the meeting. Now I must rest a bit.”
“Should I rest on top of you?”
“Thank you, no.”
The Mountain opens the door. Euron laughs.
“Okay then, my daffodil. I’ll leave. Your monster doesn’t scare me but I’ll go. Soon, though, I’ll be back, and when I do, you’re gonna get a finger in the bum!”
Cersei smiles without any degree of warmth. “Sounds very cosmopolitan.”
Euron leaves and the Mountain exits. Cersei is alone in the room for a blessed minute. She quickly drafts a letter…
And with that, the Game of Thrones can truly begin. We are on the ramparts of King’s Landing, looking out over the nubshakers and the screamers and Bronn watches as what’s left of the Lannister unburnt carry barrels of pitch up to the top of the hub.
“Oil?” Bronn asks.
“Pitch, My Lord.”
Look at this officer answering questions. He’s either born of a noble family or nobility-adjacent. No less than an Equite class. He speaks properly, unlike Bronn who is gutter trash. He’s like a John Gielgud having to answer to Kid Rock. But he My Lords it the fuck up because he has faith in the system. Because he has a code. Goddamn I respect the hell out of that.
“How many barrels?”
“500, My Lord.”
Bronn looks out over the assembled foe. Let’s see…ranks of 10 x 24 columns, figure a fire rate of one ball per minute for a period of sixty-six minutes if we’re lucky…allow for shrinkage, theft, user error…carry the one and:
“Better get 500 more.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
I’m already in love with this scene. Because I have children, and never once have they ever agreed to any order of mine without requiring like a graduate level thesis on the why of it all. I’m crazy about Mr. ‘yes, M’lord’. I may laser print a laminated card I can carry in my wallet that I can thumb-rub a bit when shit gets tough that just says YES MY LORD. Give that Lannister Captain the fucking MVP. My god.
“How many barrels do we have? 500?”
“Yep. That’s all of them.”
“Okay now double it! Double what we HAVE. Run along!”
“OKAY SURE! YOU GOT IT BOSS!”
And then the dude has to just figure it out. Okay let’s check the quartermaster budget…aaaaaaand we’re in the negative. Fuck. Okay okay. Shit. The Lannister Captain looks around and thinks.
Where the fuck am I going to get five hundred barrels of viscoelastic polymer on short notice?
And I like to think that he figures it out. I like to think that there’s a creed and a can-do kind of esprit de corps that lives in the Lannister ranks powered by the ghost of Tywin in the same way that Ned’s family values and integrity ghost haunts the Starks.
I’d like the think that The Lannister Captain sends a contingent to the port to forcibly remove every barrel of rosin they have. And in the name of the Queen he loots warehouses for various pine casks and fish oils and what have you to make this happen. And he commandeers sections of his regiment to light fires and purchase barrels from greedy coopers who jack up the prices and they have to mix all this resin and shit at a moment’s notice while things like fucking DRAGONS are flying menacingly overhead.
And they have to haul all this shit up to the top of the wall double time. There’s pitch spilled everywhere. The mixers, who are all just low-ranking infantry or indentured servants from the poor farm have pitch in their beards and arm hair and it’s a complete bitumin nightmare, brought on by a quick order from Bronn.
And in the end, it’s all for naught.
The Unsullied don’t rub their Ken-doll fronts against the rungs of long ladders trying to crest the wall. Dothraki screamers don’t ride the periphery of the armaments blaring horns and trying to bring down Jericho.
In the end, a thousand barrels of heavy-ass plant effluence have to be lugged back down the stone steps of King’s Landing and be stored somewhere. Somewhere double the size of the place where they were stored before Bronn’s Order.
Do you know what pitch is? Do you know what a fucking nightmare it is? Put it this way: There is an ongoing experiment at the University of Queensland where they put pitch in a glass cone and monitored how long it took to drip.
Since 1930, it’s dripped 9 times.
So while it’s an ideal tool for repelling sieges, it’s an absolute biiiitch to make and keep and work with.
But the Lannister Officer did his job, and while everyone else is busy with things like dragons and alliances, he’ll be trying to re-negotiate with coopers and having people chisel pitch drops off the steps to the bailey and explain to shipmasons how they’ll need to aquire more terpenes from trees, even though all the trees are outside the walls of King’s Landing, which, coincidentally is exactly where the Dothraki screamers are who started this whole fiasco in the first place.
All because of a half-serious command by Bronn. Born on a nameless shitheap somewhere and now, magically a noble lord.
This is why all officers, no matter how they’re elevated, should have at least a passing knowledge of basic supply chain economics.
Instead, Bronn just heads up to the top, oblivious. There he finds handless David Chokachi, admiring both the dongless and the mounted predators alike.
Up above it all, he and Ser Jaime ponder the very meaning of Cocks.
Dicks? Cocks! I like it.
It’s the type of urbane banter you’d find at any Beat Generation salon. What’s it all about if it isn’t about cocks? I’m sure the 60% female readership of Pajiba won’t have anything to say about that particular chestnut.
Maybe it really IS “all cocks in the end.”
There are two of them standing right there on the wall.
I’LL NEVER ROOT FOR YOU AGAIN JAIME LANNISTER YOU DISAPPOINTING SHITLORD. I have suffered through seven seasons of this goddamn show sniffing the glue of your coming redemption and no more! I’M FUCKING DONE WITH IT. YOU’RE NEVER GONNA LEAVE HER. NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES SHE BETRAYS YOU OR THREATENS YOU OR SHOWS YOU WHAT A SCHEMING, VILE ANTICHRIST SHE IS. You refuse to see it and act appropriately!
Can we just fast forward to another scene? I have nothing left to believe in about you, Kinsgslayer.
Although…the way you just said “family” in this scene was very…sad. And weirdly hopeful somehow.
When you and Bronn were talking about “what’s the point of fighting if you have no cock” and you said gold and Bronn said he knows what soldiers spend their gold on and then you took a beat, and without looking away from the host of Mordor in front of you, you quietly said…
And Bronn said “not without a cock you don’t.”
Which is, unfortunately, true.
But Bronn’s relative rightness shouldn’t diminish the quiet intensity of your response. It shouldn’t diminish the suffering of a father who never really got to be a father and maybe now has the chance. It shouldn’t diminish the perspective of a man who, at one point, seemed to have everything only to grow old and infirm enough to see it be taken from you. All of it. Everything from the very breath of your children to the ground underneath your feet.
Because, frankly, it doesn’t matter how many barrels of pitch your officer corps can scrounge. You cannot beat the opponent in front of you.
And when that point is so obvious, just standing there in front of you like a bellicose reminder of all of your many poor choices, maybe that’s where your brain retreats to. The dull certainty of relation.
In the face of such an army, that one word is so small. But it’s the very reason to dig your heels in and refuse to capitulate.
That one small word is what makes men and women stand up to overwhelming odds like that. It is the reason. And sometimes, it even works.
But what a view, from the top of that flanking tower of that vast, wide open plain directly outside the capital city. No one loves wide open spaces like people who are pressed into rat-infested urban hell. I mean, you’d almost imagine that someone, anyone trapped on the street of piss in Flea Bottom might venture outside the wall and build a shack there! You might think that in a city of about a million people, a whole group of people might think, let’s make a small settlement outside the main wall in that endless, rolling field where we can move around a bit.
Not in King’s Landing. In King’s Landing the peer pressure to stay ‘wall side’ it just too great.
And thus, not a single hut or pissbucket stands in the way of a daunting formation of Unsullied and Mongols from massing below. How did they even get here?
Remember that we last saw Grey Worm on the ramparts of Casterly Rock. He was looking out to sea (‘See’ if you’re Gilly) and watching as the Ironborn trash fleet that done brung him to the best coast of Westeros was destroyed by…an even bigger Ironborn trash fleet.
And we got that look from him that was like OH DARN! DARN DARN DARN.
But you think something like a little fleet annihilation deters a warrior like Le Ver Gris? Un un uh. Then you’d be a monkey’s uncle.
Because in the belly of that great rock beast, The Worm paced around. Obviously he didn’t talk to anyone else because in the entire run of the show we’ve never seen even a basic planning meeting among the Unsullied. We don’t know the name of Grey Worm’s #2, for example.
It’s not like, ‘oh if Grey Worm eats it, you know Purple Jackrabbit is the obvious choice to replace him.
We don’t know Purple Jackrabbit or Peuce Platypus or Mauve Dogballs. We know no other Unsullied. We just know that they’re badass, that they try to use 14-foot spears in close quarters combat and have no ships to get home.
The Unsullied stand at attention as Grey Worm considers his options, and without so much as a nod, he starts to jog. Like Forrest Gump. The thousands upon thousands of Unsullied who were not slaughtered like guppies by the Sons of the Harpy or sacrificed on the feint of climbing the inner curtain walls of Casterly Rock begin to jog behind him in formation.
They don’t say “wait, what’s going on?”
Or “hang on, we’re jogging?”
They just wordlessly follow their leader. If he’s jogging? Well I guess we’re jogging. It beats having your nipple sliced off.
For all of their discipline and stoic resolve I always feel badly for the Unsullied. Unlike Captain Lannister, who probably has friends and will tip back a pint from time to time and takes quiet moments to read or sit with his wife’s head on his shoulder, the Unsullied feel like empty souls. Their entire training regimen was to face their worst fears or die. You get the sense that dying was the more sensible option for many of them.
Because what do they have? What do we ever see from them that signifies thought or passion or an interest in the world? They’re like humans who have had their daemons intercised from them. We did hear, anecdotally, that while in Meereen, I think it was, many of the Unsullied would pay hookers to just hold them.
To hold them.
Goddamn if that isn’t the saddest, most heartbreaking thing ever. Dear god.
So, I tend to root for the Unsullied a bit. Despite their pillowtop armor, I tend to hope that they can have an easier existence and do things like listen to birds singing, and playfully swimming in the ocean, and maybe even jump into a pick up game of soccer from time to time.
But for now, at least, they’re standing. Having jogged across the entire continent of Westeros.
Meanwhile, the Dothraki have totally been behaving themselves since the battle of the Epic Loot Train. They’ve been roaming around the wide open badlands that abut King’s Landing and absolutely HAVE NOT been attacking, raping and murdering any traveler unlucky enough to be rolling to the capital.
Because these are Dothraki 2.0! They’ve all had the Daenerys upgrade. Now when, say, a weak farmer rolls toward King’s Landing in a rickety old wagon full of boysenberries, a hundred thousand Dothraki DO NOT laugh and shoot arrows into him and drag his carcass behind their horses. That was the OLD Dothraki.
Now they line up on either side of the road and just doff their caps to the pants-shitting farmer.
“G’day, gov!” says one Dothraki former rapist and pillager.
The farmer nods uncertainly. He looks at their Kopeshes. He’s going to be cleaved by one of them any second. He knows it.
“Top of the morning, gov.” Says another.
And the farmer goes on his merry way, the mellifluous smell of juicy berries drifting away under the noses of the Dothraki warriors who let him pass. Yes, they’re hungry. But take berries they do not dare. They have made a solemn pledge to the Mother of Dragons! The very Khaleesi of the GREAT GRAWSS SEA itself! Of course they’ll restrain several thousand years of genetic selection designed to make them bigger, stronger thieves and marauders and killers! Now they do guard duty on Dragonstone and comprise the secret service detail for international summits. Oh, and one of them is an elderly woman who makes all the outfits.
One drawback of not having attended “school” or having no formal “book learnin’” is that you don’t plan all that well.
For example, the Dothraki brought no women with them.
That seems to me to be an…oversight.
I’ve gone back to watch every Dothraki scene since they left Essos and there’s not a single woman anywhere.
Maybe then, the seamstress is a Dothraki grandfather.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good boy’s night out! I’m writing much of this deep dive from my annual trip out west to hang with my West Coast friends for the weekend. It’s fun to have a sausage fest from time to time. But the Dothraki left all of their women behind? All of them?
That’s nearly a ‘The Leftovers’ level of missing persons. On both sides. Because in Essos, you know the Second Sons are sweet talking the Dothraki women like “what’s yo man got to do with me?” Men, they might add, who are thousands of miles away. For god knows how long in a place it took them years to get to.
And in the picturesque, rolling fields outside King’s Landing, confused, braided killers are kind of just riding up to each other and having little conversations:
Ugath: Hey, how long was this trip supposed to be again?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: I think she said it was like ten years? Maybe?
Ugath: What’s a ‘year?’
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: I seriously have no idea. I was just kind of like, yeah okay, there’s killing at the end of the rainbow, I’m in, you know? But I gotta be honest: I’m starting to wish I brought my woman.
Seepeer: Hey what are you guys talking about?
Ugath: Crossing the Narrow Sea.
Seepeer: What’s a ‘sea’ anyway. I thought a ‘sea’ was a field.
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: That’s a grass sea, I think.
Seepeer: I’m seriously getting super fucking horny over here, guys. How long before we get home?
Ugath: Ten years.
Seepeer: What’s a year?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: You got me.
Bruunloo: Hey what are you guys talking about?
Seepeer: How we’re sick of fucking our horses.
Seepeer: Wouldn’t you prefer your woman?
Bruunloo: I don’t know. What I do want is more killing! I thought this was going to be the Dothraki mission to end all missions and we’ve done how many charges? Total?
Bruunloo: One! For like four minutes against guys who were already fleeing. And the Dragon did most of the killing, let’s be honest. I’ve spent most of my time guarding the Northern King’s boat on Dragonstone. I’m like how did this happen? How is this my life?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: I wish I brought my woman. I also I wish I knew what a year was.
Brunloo: A what?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: A year.
Bruunloo: What’s that?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: None of us know.
Axot: Hey assholes, what’s the rumpus?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: What’s a year?
Axot: A what?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: We’re here for ten years. How much is a year. Or how much is two years or …um
Axot: Three years?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: Right! Three. How much is it?
Axot: No idea.
Ugath: We’re fucked. We should kill something to feel better.
Seepeer: We’re not allowed to.
Ugath: Fuck allowed! We’re Dothraki! We fuck and kill! Not necessarily in that order!
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: Yeeeeeaaaaaah, that was the old us. The new us is peaceful unless we charge. We sew polar zebra coats and sweep the skybridge at Dragonstone and like do our job and shit.
Seepeer: But who are we supposed to have sex with?
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: Just your horse I guess.
Seepeer: Only fucking my horses? Jesus. That’s dour.
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: Don’t look at me. I don’t make the rules.
Axot: Oh man, look at this dick riding past us with a wagon full of boysenberries. Oh my god I want to stab him in the face so fucking bad. G’DAY GOV!
Kholo d’Hrgrsh: Top of the mornin’, gov!
Seepeer: Look at us. Look at what we’ve become. God.
Axot: So depressing.
Ugath: I’m gonna go see if I can find out what a year is.
They are a brand new kind of force, and it’s totally believable.
Meanwhile, while Euron’s still-gigantic fleet swarms the southern narrow sea like a cloud of illiterate gnats, Tyrion is just trying to get away from Theon, who — no offense — is a mega downer to party with.
The plan is taking shape. One of Tyrion’s brilliant plans that he studied his whole life to devise. None of which have worked at all.
At this point, Euron’s plan of just sinking their ship would have actually been a pretty smart tactical move, simply because of the number of key advisors who would have been killed, but he behaves, as the queen bade him, and he stays out of the way. For now.
“How many people live here?” Jon asks Tyrion, even though his own unofficial Hand is standing next to him.
Flea Bottom born and bred, ya’lls! But no, Tyrion answers.
“A million, give or take.”
The King in the North takes that in, and comments that there are more people in that city than all of the North. Why, he wonders, would anyone ever live that way? When Wyoming is so lovely in February? And why wouldn’t they just move outside the walls into that gorgeous rolling field directly outside the city gate?
“There’s more work in the city, and the brothels are far superior.” Says Tyrion.
Inside, Jon is like “I never have to pay for it, Sancho. Look at me. I wear women like parrots.”
In the hold of the ship, The Hound, who apparently has volunteered to be the Trashman on this voyage, taps on the wight’s cage even though zoo policy strictly forbids it. The undead thing flips out from the sheer injustice of it, and also because he was having a great nap and was just about to get to the part where the pretty lady wight knocked bones with him. As the wight’s pissed of screams tear through the vessel we cut to:
THE RED KEEP
Where Cersei is suspicious. Of course she is! She’s a master planner. Every bit as good as her father! She wants to know where that upstart Targaryen hussy is at. WHERE SHE AT? Qyburn doesn’t know. No one has seen her, he reports.
So Qyburn is human after all. I’ll be damned.
Cersei asks where everyone else is.
“They’re on their way to the Dragonpit now.” Says Qyburn.
THE DRAGONPIT? What the hell is that? It sounds cool.
“And my brother?” Cersei verifies.
“Yes, Your Grace.” Qyburn says.
Cersei walks to the artist formerly known as Ser Gregor.
“If anything goes wrong, kill the silver-haired bitch first, then our brother, then the bastard that calls himself king.”
Ho HO! Why the name calling, Circe? Bitch, bastard. Why is she a bitch? You want to kill her? Fine, kill her. But let’s not flame another woman here with misogynist titles. That’s boy shit. You’re better than that. You don’t have to like each other but at least stick to the international code of the sisterhood of the travelling pants or whatever.
And Jaime is like, “Hang on…um…should we be a little more specific about part B of that order, or….no? Okay then. Okay. Heh heh. I’m sure it’ll all work out.”
I’ve always been a little foggy about how The Mountain got to be Cersei’s exclusive show pony. I know he was her champion in the trial by combat against Tyrion’s champion. So is that where this unbreakable seal occurred? Then Oberyn poisoned him, and Qyburn put years of cadaver-experiments to good use. Cersei visited the Mountain when he was ill and urged Qyburn to save him. While the woolen warlock coaxed dark life back into Gregor Clegane, or what was left of him, Cersei empowered the Faith Militant who turned on her. She endured her walk of shame and was mercifully lifted from the ground and the sting of her torn feet by the newly reconstituted Mountain. We saw that his skin featured a new bluey-blue pallor, as if Qyburn had replaced the blood in his capillaries with Aqua Velva. And the Mountain hasn’t left Maleficent’s side ever since. But I don’t think we’ve ever really understood why The Mountain is personally loyal to Cersei, rather than say, the person who pulled him back from the brink (or animated him from past the brink), Qyburn.
Cersei was able to choose the Mountain to be her champion because House Clegane is a Bannerman of House Lannister. It’s right there in black and white.
So why, for example, wouldn’t the zombie Gregor be equally loyal to Jaime? Or to someone like Kevan, who was the patriarch of House Lannister after Tywin got himself kilt.
How did Qyburn imprint on the monster that Cersei was his sole master?
When she initially recruits him to be her champion, we get a tasty clip of her walking over the entrails of recently slain peasants that Ser Gregor is just hacking through for no good reason. She doesn’t even bat an eye. When he turns she welcomes him to the capitol and thanks him for arriving so quickly. So we can assume that he was notified about why he was coming before he arrived, and thus, the command may have come from Tywin himself, which is the most likely scenario.
We know, in general, that The Mountain was Tywin’s muscle. The evidence seems to suggest that he violated Elia Martel and murdered her and her children on orders from Tywin. But until this scene, as show watchers, we have no sense that the Mountain really even knows Cersei. She would just be the kid of his Sith Lord, basically, and the wife of that pig Robert.
But this is the moment where they begin what would ultimately blossom into a beautiful, lifelong friendship; built on trust, loyalty and the fact that somehow Gregor is Cersei’s undead slave.
I don’t understand it, but there it is. Cersei sets up the batting order of his hit list if shit goes south.
Dare I point out that THIS is the contingency plan of the *new* Tywin? The Reborn Tywin? Tywin II?
“If shit gets bad, it goes bitch, dwarf, bastard? Got that, zombie?”
Wow! What a grand, insightful tactician Cersei is! Truly the brains of Clan Lannister.
The Fire and Blood wight-grabbing contingent is walking in a pack like fourth graders in a science museum. At the rear, The Hound is rolling a big fucking box on a wagon. There’s some polite banter about the heyday of the Dragonpit, where once again we’re reminded that Ser Jorah isn’t just a pretty face who can stay mum while his epidermis is shorn off in divot-sized clumps. He’s also a dragon scholar.
“Dragons can’t distinguish between what is and isn’t theirs.”
Neither can my three year old. But you don’t see me locking her ass into a custom made stone amphitheater. Though, admittedly, that would solve that particular problem.
Eventually the dragons, who don’t thrive in captivity, went from Balerion the Dread sized dragons itty bitty cutey-pie dragons with heads as big as hummingbirds. They were super adorbs. Chefs in King’s landing used them to dracarys a braised candy shell onto creme brule’s way back when. And then they just died out. (Book readers are always irked by that name change, by the way: IT’S BALERION THE BLACK DREAD YOU FUCKING MUTTS. BLACK DREAD. WHY TAKE OUT THE BLACK? IT’S JUST ONE WORD AND SOUNDS WAY COOLER!)
So we’re walking and we’re walking aaaaaand we’re stopping.
Because Ser Davos is like maybe this is still the most dangerous place in the world!
Ser D, babe, shnookums, you gotta relax! I know most of your life has been spent hiding in the shadows and bringing legumes where legumes should never be broughten and bribing low level law enforcement entities. And yes, I you’re a liiiiiiiittle wonky with a cutter. I get that. But you have a new crew now. You’re pimpstepping with the king of the motherfuckin’ Nawth. And behind him is The Hound. And the fucking Bear of Bear Island. Winner of the 14th annual Meereen slave pen gladiator invitational! I like to think that Missandei would fight like Trinity if shit went down, even though she’s a protocol droid, and that Varys is a faceless man. I mean, there’s a lot of meat on this squad, so for once, you don’t have to play it to the side. Your bung doesn’t have to tighten up like a hydraulic vice at the sight of a few approaching deputies. You can roll straight up to people now, even a Lannister walk squad in decorative plate and not worry about getting dead. Breathe a little, mon capitan!
Look at this team!
Oh! And I never even mentioned the Dothraki murderers you’re dragging along with you. God I hate the Dothraki. They’re such a bunch of bloodfiends. I’ve never met one that I-
OH HELLO! (::laughs stupidly and quickly fixes hair::wishes I wore a cooler outfit::) And who might you be? You look like you just merengue’d straight off the Latin dance charts. How does a tall drink of water like you end up in a Dragonpit like this? HA HA HA HA HA ::hair flip:: ::head tilt:: ::sly smile:: Whattya say we peel off several layers of that mildewy reindeer hide and see what pops up? HAW HAW HAW. Oh you flirt! ::eye bat:: ::playful whack:: ::show Starbucks gold card:: ::stand over air grate and kilt blows up while looking fake shy and pretending I didn’t mean it:: ::offer to purchase a pre-owned PT Cruiser for him:: It’s been a while since I’ve dated, yo.
And what’s wrong with your buddy back there? Does he need a bathroom break? He looks constipated as all hell, and also like he’s determined to hold it in for some reason. Get that boy some therapy! Like, pronto.
But the leader of the opposition is none other than one of Tyrion’s bestest buddies.
He welcomes them to the debate and shows them that their “friends” have already arrived.
And that’s when Brienne and Sandor’s eyes meet.
This is a big moment. They handle the holy shit of it really well. But part of me wanted Brienne to preemptively grab her hilt, like WHAT THE-
I’ve rewatched the entire show twice now, and if I asked most people what the most epic fight in the series was you’ll hear a lot of ‘The Mountain and The Viper’ or ‘The Battle of the Bastards.’ Or Hardhome. We all like the bigness of pitched battles or the pomp of staged combat where a man’s life (an innocent man) hangs in the balance.
But for my money, Brienne vs. The Hound was the most startling and terrifying and truly cathartic fight in the whole run of the show.
You have Brienne of Tarth, this noble person in an ignoble world, and for much of her life, everything about fighting is pure theory. Sure, there are the practice fights in front of bedecked courtiers, but we really hadn’t seen Brienne square off against a true killer until Jaime Lannister swiped one of her swords.
And we certainly never saw her life on the line in a fight before. Well, with a human anyway. We did see her about to be eaten by a bear.
The most terrifying thing about this original encounter between Brienne and The Hound is how they both backed into it. And how there was no true bad guy. Yes, at that point, season 4 episode 10, we had been trained to think of the Hound as a Lannister ally. For several seasons. It’s tough to find redemption when you spent much of the show as the murdering stooge of Good King Joff.
But by then, something had actually changed between Arya and The Hound. He clearly cared about her wellbeing, no matter what he claimed. And they were both fighting on the side of the right.
For Sandor: He’s just minding his own fucking business, taking a morning deuce behind a rock, as people do, and when he comes out hitching up his britches, there’s some fucking dimwitted dogooder who tries to steal Arya from him — against her will, I might add. So he tries to intimidate her, but she refuses to back off. And then she has the fucking gaul to draw on him! What’s he supposed to do?
For Brienne: She’s on a mission of honor, trying to live up to the high ideals of her desired station and she finally, magically, stumbles across one of the two people in the Known World that she was sworn to protect. Out in the middle of the wilderness, no less! She wouldn’t have even known that the man was The Hound had she not had a squire who was drilled in this exact skill by his previous master. It’s…serendipity. But when she explains to the girl that she’s acting on behalf of her own mother, the girl refuses to listen. Like she’s in shock. And then this filthy ogre claims to be “protecting” her. Right. She’s no fool. She knows what happens to little girls under the protection of men. You don’t have to be a greenseer to read that situation. But she has a sworn duty, and despite the odds or even the opinion of her charge, she must do what is right. Honor demands it.
I don’t know if you remember it, but it begins with a smiling Arya, Brienne pleasantly offering Seven Blessings, introducing herself and Pod and then everything swirls downward until like two minutes later, she’s about to die.
That kind of shit keeps me up at night.
She disarms him.
And then she starts to talk. Nobly. Like a noble. “Errr, I deeply regret this altercation my good man, and I have no desire for further conflict…what? Now see here! I suggest you let go of my weapon postehaste!”
In the blink of an eye, she, herself is disarmed. And then The Hound really lays into her. He kicks her in the vagina. When she yells in pain he kicks her in the head as hard as he can. Then he sits down on her recumbent, reeling body and just tees off on her face. There is no gender in this fight. He’s treating her like an opponent and The Hound is a killer. He pulls his dirk to end it and she’s only able to barely fend the thrust and she uses his momentum to rise up and TEAR HIS EAR OFF WITH HER TEETH.
This is where Brienne of Tarth is born. The real Brienne.
Because you know a real fighter not by the punches they dole out, but by the punches they take, and then still fight on. It’s amazing to see how many people in this world can’t take a punch. Both literal and figurative. In the words of Mike Tyson, who I never ever thought I’d quote for any reason:
“Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.”
Brienne doesn’t just get hit, she gets mauled by a 6’8” unwashed behemoth and she still keeps going. Using a rock. Screaming with every punch. A valkyrie at the very precipice of life and death and she comes out the victor.
Not since Patricia Arquette’s Alabama vs. James Gandolfini’s Virgil in ‘True Romance’ have we seen a victory like this. When all hope was lost, when our hero, somewhere during the fight, lost all humanity and became an animal at bay.
It was…staggering. Just visually shocking and horrific and believable. Every step of the way.
So now, years later, in King’s Landing, Brienne and The Hound meet again. And now they’re technically ‘friends’ as they’re on the same general side.
The last time they met, Brienne tore his fucking ear off with her teeth.
So how’s this gonna go?
Before we get to see, Pod walks up to his old master, Tyrion. They’re both thrilled to see each other. Goddamn it’s a nice moment. We don’t get enough of those in Game of Thrones and they always seem to involve Tyrion, somehow. Like when he and Jon reunited.
But Bronn is on a timeline. He barks at Tyrion, Daenerys’ Hand:
“Come on! You can suck his magic cock later.”
Fucking Bronn. That’s old school boy talk right there. And even though Tyrion gives him an eye roll, he likes still being one of the guys.
Now we’re on The Hound, guiding his mysterious wooden box to the Dragonpit. One Lannister flunky asks him ‘what’s in there’ and The Hound tells him to fuck off.
Brienne waits for him. Neither of them seems intent on making a ruckus.
And then we get this scene, this very underrated scene between arguably two of the most beloved characters on the show. For years, literal years, we have been herded through certain turnstyles of thought by the showrunners. Jon Snoo is who you should love. Cersei is who you should hate. But Brienne and Sandor never get that top billing. They’re never the main course. They are these characters, built from scratch by outstanding, consistent actors who were each born to play this role, respectively.
For me, there is no one other than Rory McCann who could ever be the Hound and there is no one other than Gwendoline Christie who could be Brienne.
They are, in a word, perfect.
And while the great and noble fight with dragons and hatch long term plans and murder hundreds of thousands of people for nothing more than the pursuit of a certain metal chair, here we have two true heroes, who both wanted nothing more than to protect a certain, very compelling little girl.
The scene which follows is nothing short of life affirming.
Brienne: I thought you were dead.
Sandor: Not yet. (beat) You came pretty close.
Brienne: I was only trying to protect her.
Sandor: You and me both.
Brienne: She’s alive. Ayyyya.
The Hound looks at her, surprised.
Sandor: Who’s protecting her if you’re here?
Brienne: The only one who needs protecting is the one who gets in her way.
And then we get this smile from the Hound. Reminiscent of the luminous smile that Brienne had when she was sparring with Arya. Profound satisfaction. If there’s a thing that Brienne and Sandor share, other than having spilled the blood of the other with impunity, it’s that they care for Arya. And hearing that she’s a badass now makes Sandor proud. Their little girl is all grown up.
They walk together in silence after that, somehow, more connected than ever.
Now it’s time for another pair of fan favorites to jabber at each other for a bit. We’ve long wondered, or at least I have, why Bronn didn’t make for Tyrion the second those dragons showed up. He clearly has more affinity with the younger Lannister brother. And as of a couple of weeks ago, it seems that Cersei has cast at least part of her gaze on him. And we know by her own admission that she lays awake at night, planning the demise of her enemies.
Tyrion leads with a little jab at the noble lord know as ‘Ser Bronn’ whom he plucked from obscurity with an offer of Lannister gold in the Eyrie. Tyrion has been actively recruiting Bronn, we find out, with a standing offer of double whatever Jaime is paying him.
So it doesn’t really add up, this whole dynamic, does it?
Because Bronn is ONLY with Jaime because Tyrion set the two of them up together. Jaime was maimed and Tyrion needed someone who would retrain Jaime to fight without blathering about it in the local bars. You may remember the liddle hidden lanai by the sea where they began training, away from prying eyes.
But at no point was there any suggestion that, like, Bronn is yours now.
Once the family fractured and Tyrion was forced to elope with Varys to Essos in a rough-hewn crate, Bronn had to make do. So it would make sense that he’d just keep on keepin’ on with Ser Jaime.
But now Tyrion is back. And Bronn’s last bag of gold got dragon fired.
And Bronn is always honest that he’s only in it for the gold.
Which Tyrion is offering more of.
It feels like we missed a beat somewhere. Or maybe it’s just me.
Nevertheless, Bronn suggests that his real motivation is that he’s offering up the heads of Cersei’s enemies on a silver platter. It’s a shitty thing to say. But Bronn is Bronn.
“It’s good to see you again.” Says Tyrion.
“Yeah, you too.”
With that, the contingent arrives at the famed Dragonpit, with the music of Ramin Djawadi playing us in. Fanfare for the beginning of the end. In a place where no dragon has perched for five centuries.
That’s all the server can take, folks. Any server. I was having trouble just refreshing my own page because the whole recap is so long. If I try to post it, iPhones the world over are going to spontaneously combust. Thus, I’ve been forced to split this recap into smaller pieces because it’s so big and there are so many graphics in the next part. Like a fucking Peter Jackson movie.
In the meantime, as I edit the next section, please cast your vote for best ruler and we’ll take a look at the answers when I post the remainder of this deep dive. I’m working on it this very second.
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