by: Geoffrey Golia
Across the Margin’s Game of Thrones Guru returns to make sense of this week’s episode entitled “Oathbreaker”…
One of the most compelling aspects of A Song of Ice and Fire is the multi-directional nature of the narrative – that, as the story progresses from the present towards the future, we are forced to consider the past, and the deep mysteries throughout Planetos that remain unsolved. So, as we watch Season 6, and anticipate the coming of the next book, The Winds of Winter, we are not simply preoccupied with the end game, and what will become of the characters we have grown to love (or hate), we are also holding our collective breath for answers to the vexing, fascinating, and frustrating historical questions that have come up. How will the past, with its various revelations, impact the future? How will those who discover the secrets of the past communicate them to the living? And will any of this help Jorah Mormont ever emerge from Friendzone Level 3000? Answers to these questions and more….eventually!
ATM: The Tower of Joy. Tell us everything. We are no doubt on the cusp of the confirmation of the famed R + L = J Theory it seems, and Bran’s vision journeys are fascinating. Also, can you tell us something about the Double Sword Dude, so that we can stop calling him the Double Sword Dude? He was quite a badass until he got stabbed through the throat by Howland Reed, Ned’s BFF and Meera and Jojen’s father.
G.G.: Was I the only one that didn’t want that “vision journey” to end? And thank you for not referring to it as a “vision quest,” as I am sensitive to both cultural appropriation and Matthew Modine films. I believe we are on the cusp of said theory, but goddamnit, the show-runners are going to make us wait for that! So let’s talk about The Tower of Joy.
The Battle of the Trident is over. Rhaegar is dead, killed by Robert Baratheon. King’s Landing has been sacked by The Lannisters and the Mad King dispatched by Jaime’s golden sword. While Robert is consolidating his power, Ned and his companions, including Howland Reed, descend on the tower, located where the Reach and the Stormlands meet Dorne. What they find here is telling: three Kingsguard knights (although in this week’s episode there were two), and these are not just any knights of the Kingsguard, these are the Golden State Warriors of Kingsguard: Lord Commander Gerald “The Bull” Hightower; Ser Owell Whent; and Ser Arthur Dayne, the ‘Sword of the Morning’ (more on him later). Why, if King Aerys and Prince Rhaegar are dead, would the Kingsguard be guarding Lyanna Stark in the desert? Ahem, do the math.
So, from what I could gather, “Double Sword Dude” is Ser Arthur Dayne, the ‘Sword of the Morning.” Here’s the 411 on him: Hailing from House Dayne of Dorne, Arthur Dayne is perhaps the greatest swordsman ever. Having proven his mettle, he earned the ancestral Dayne Title ‘Sword of the Morning.’ Yes, in Dorne, if you’re a Dayne who is good with a sword, you not only get that awesome title, you also inherit the Dayne’s ancestral sword, ‘Dawn’ (I know there are a lot of D-sounds going on here: Dayne, Dorne, Dawn, etc. but bear with me!). Dawn is not a Valyrian Steel sword, as most great swords are, but was fashioned many dawns ago from a fallen star, which makes sense because the Daynes come from Starfall, from all reports a truly lovely city in Dorne.
I’m sad ‘Dawn’ wasn’t featured more prominently, but I feel pretty OK with that fight sequence regardless. And, true to the books, Ned would have indeed been a goner if it wasn’t for Howland Reed, who, from most accounts, is still alive. I just thought he’d be shorter.
ATM: The Jon-Tormund bromance (“I saw your pecker; what sort of god would have a pecker that small!?) was damn touching to us nerds. As was Jon’s moment with Dolorous Edd. Everyone seems to be taking this defiance of death fairly well. How often does this happen in Westeros?
G.G.: It’s about time Tormund mentioned someone’s penis. It’s basically all he talks about in the books. “Me member this, me member that, har har har har!” By the old gods and the new, I love that Wildling. The philosophical book-readers like to talk about the line, in the ASOIAF universe, when the realms of rationality and mythology meet. Consensus is that it is at the Wall, but clearly other geographical locations lend themselves to a certain magical quality that upsets the (Maester’s) notion that the age of miracles has passed. So, tl;dr, this is not a common experience for Westerosi, or most other people in this universe.
Also, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around “Dolorous” Edd Tollett’s future plans as Lord Commander. He’s basically the Steven Wright of Night’s Watch.
ATM: Sam and Gilly are as cute and endearing as ever….but seem too pure for this world. Are they this way in the novels?
G.G.: Honestly, yes. But with sexy results.
ATM: Is there anything you can tell us about Dothraki legal proceedings that can prepare us for what Dany is about to face?
G.G.: There’s no canon (i.e. explicitly laid down in the books) that spells out the rules of this “trial,” or any specific statutes of Dothraki jurisprudence, other than, if you’re a Khal’s Khaleesi, and your Khal dies, you are commanded, by tradition and a deep sense of misogyny, to retire to Vaes Dothrak and reside for the rest of your life with the Dosh Khaleen. So, despite the fact that Daenery’s has a pretty damn good de jure argument to the Iron Throne, and is the de facto head of state of Meereen, these claims come into direct conflict with the Dothraki’s systemic marginalization of women (and, well, everyone else).
But, I mean, ask the folks in the House of the Undying what happens when you fuck with Dany. No justice, no peace.
A.T.M: Rickon! I am curious if you can tell us more about Smalljon Umber, the man who handed Rickon so brazenly over to Ramsey. If I am right, when we last saw the youngest of the Stark children he was leaving Bran and with Osha and his direwolf Shaggydog (who we saw only in part this week) was heading towards the Last Hearth to find sanctuary with those loyal to the Stark family. What went wrong there?
G.G.: Psychoanalysts refer to denial as one of the most primitive ego defenses, so it’s appropriate, given Rickon’s and Shaggydog’s reputations as ungovernable badasses, that I will employ this defense with respect to Shaggy’s untimely demise and Rickon’s captivity. Not to mention Osha, who has an incredible talent for survival. So maybe I’m totally wrong, but I’d like to think that something more subtle and interesting is happening here….
….and, when you think about it, the Umbers have a dog in this fight. SmallJon Umber is the son of Greatjon Umber, the die-hard Stark loyalist who essentially crowned Robb the King in the North. The GreatJon, last we checked, was a captive of the Freys, though SmallJon reports that he is dead. SmallJon goes on to state that, had the GreatJon not died, he may have killed him anyway to claim Lordship over House Umber. This all sounds good to Ramsey, whose father, we know, hatched the plot to kill Robb and his bannermen, including the GreatJon. So, sure, SmallJon could be as big a douchebag as Ramsay, with similar patricidal urges but longer, silkier hair. Or he could be reinstalling Rickon as Lord of Winterfell as part of a long and complicated revenge fantasy against House Bolton, which means the real Shaggydog is in fact alive and ready to do some seriously fucked up things to the Northern usurpers. Or am I just projecting?
ATM: Jon Snow wakes up to find a pretty cool squad has his back: Davos, Mel, Tormund and the Wildlings, Dolorous Edd, and the rest of the Night’s Watch that remained. As the kids say these days, those are #squadgoals! So where does Jon think he is going? He stormed out of Castle Black like a brooding, angst-ridden teenager. Where is he headed?
G.G.: I honestly have no clue! He makes a good point, though, on the way out: his watch is over. Your watch ends when you die. He died. So he’s coping with some deep ambivalence. I think. He does not feel he ought to be alive, or should have been brought back, and yet, as Tyrion once said, “Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities.” Jon, for the first time ever it seems, is free to basically do what he pleases. For me, this would involve maybe never wearing pants ever again, amongst other things. That is out of the question for Jon, what with being in the North and so on, but maybe, just maybe, he’ll be looking for that special somebody in the world who happens to also have a magical affinity to a mythical creature.