by: Geoffrey Golia and Michael Shields
Reunions, retribution, and blue dragon fire abounding as Winter falls upon King’s Landing in Season 7’s tension-filled finale, entitled “The Dragon and the Wolf”…
MCS: Fuck…where to begin? Well, I noticed you on Twitter this week mocking Vulture for touting the title of Season 7’s finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf” as “curious,” because isn’t that what Game of Thrones has been about since day one? The Song of Ice (Wolf) and Fire (Dragon)? We aren’t talking rocket science or even basic arithmetic here, and in Season 7’s finale this idea came to a heated culmination as crosscut with Dany and Jon’s long-anticipated offshore horizontal tango, was the reveal in full (via a fireside chat between Sam and emo-Bran) that Jon’s true wedded parents were Rhaegar Targaryen (The Dragon) and Lyanna Stark (The Wolf). I have a slew of questions related to Jon and Danny if I may, such as does this mean that Dany will now have to pull an about face and bend the ole knee right back at Jon (this could surely put a strain on their budding romance, no?—especially if a seed was in fact planted!)? Or, how bitter are those that dwell in the North going to be when they find out their King is a Targaryen rather than the bastard son of Ned Stark? Also, do we have to start calling Jon, Aegon right away (I’m going to need some time with that one…), and am I wrong or didn’t Rhaegar have another son named Aegon…and does this fact shine a light on a lack of creativity that young Prince Rhaegar and Lyanna possessed, or is there some deeper meaning here?
G.G: Throughout the last few episodes, I’ve been struck by how determined both Daenerys and Jon have been about striving to not only hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct and leadership than those around them, but also to create a more just social and political order. It’s as if they’ve been reading Edmund Burke and Marcus Aurelius. The World of Ice and Fire is not kind to those seeking to operationalize virtue — just ask Ned Stark. Though perhaps virtue can only be utilized, or imposed, through the threat of annihilation by dragon fire? Regardless, we can see from Jon’s inability to lie even to Cersei (whose dishonesty and treachery has reached Trump-esque levels) that he is profoundly virtuous and ethical. Dany, too, with wise counsel from Tyrion, decided not to commit a mass casualty war crime in an effort to live up to her moral compass. So, as we approach the question of whose claim is best, and how all that might all play out, we must consider each character’s ethical concerns. It’s still my view that a marriage between Jon and Dany would be the best way to mitigate or prevent what would essentially be a Targaryen civil war, and that is most likely what is going to happen, especially given their maritime lovemaking (at Denny’s they’d call that scene, “the moons over my Dany”). A union between Jon and Dany would not negate questions of royal priority (technically, Jon’s claim is better) or who would “rule” (Dany has, I would argue, more and better experience), but given their shared goal of making the world a better place, and utilizing Tyrion as Hand and royal marriage counselor, the hope is they would rule jointly, justly, and with as little drama as possible. Everything about their story arc leads me to believe that, if they both survive the Second War for the Dawn, they would avoid, as best they could, any further suffering.
As for as the North’s reaction to both Jon’s decision to bend the knee and the revelations of Jon’s true parentage, I think it’s going to be minor and irrelevant. Foremost, there is an Army of the Dead led by an ice demon riding a dragon just north of Last Hearth (seat of House Umber)—thus, there are more important things to worry about for Northerners. Second, a dragon can be helpful in this fight and Daenerys Targaryen has a pair of them. Finally, Lyanna Stark, confirmed as Jon’s mom, is fondly remembered in the North and keep in mind that half of his parentage perserves his connection to Ned as well as Sansa, Arya, and Bran (who, I know, I know, prefers to be called “the three-eyed raven”). This, I believe, will make the pill of Targaryen restoration easier to swallow, if the world of the living doesn’t come crashing down first.
In terms of Jon’s “real” name, Aegon, yes, Rhaegar’s first son with Elia of House Martell was also named Aegon. He died an infant at the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane during the sacking of King’s Landing, just before Jon was born. There are two reasons why this name is significant, none of which point to Rhaegar lacking creativity (he was, after all, an accomplished harp player and lyricist…kind of the Eric Clapton of his time). First, Aegon is the name of the first Targaryen to establish kingship in Westeros. Aegon the Conqueror cast a long shadow, and became the namesake for six Targaryen kings. Additionally, though there is no explicit evidence for this, it is thought that Rhaegar felt the name of Aegon possessed some significance with respect to the prophecy of the “Prince(ss) who was Promised.” Initially, he thought his first son Aegon may be that prince, though he lacked the whole “ice” part of the “song of ice and fire.” Given Lyanna Stark’s symbolic connection with “ice,” and add to it the fact that they used the name Aegon again, I can’t help but think the name itself has some significance in the context of the prophecy.
So does this mean we’re really going to have to start calling him Aegon? And are they really going to start calling him Aegon in the show? Lord Aegon? King Aegon? “You know nothing, Aegon Targaryen” just doesn’t roll off the tongue. I’ve been trying out Jaegon over the last few days, which seems nice. Ajon also works. I don’t know. I guess we have something like eighteen months to chew on it, don’t we?
MCS: Before moving beyond Dany and Jon, I must ask: Why do you think Tyrion was creeping when Jon and Dany were “doing the dirty dragon?” I believe there may be something pivotal in that scene.
G.G.: Because, all things being equal, Tyrion, like the rest of us, likes to listen to people having sex.
MCS: Fair enough! Moving on. Unsurprisingly, GOT Guru, you have been correct for weeks now in proclaiming that Arya was in fact “playing 5-D chess” with Littlefinger. Sansa (who was so badass this week!) and Arya have indeed been playing Littlefinger like a deck of cards, and as twisted as it may sound, I found Littlefinger’s death to be deeply satisfying, inclusive of a measure of groveling and begging that just felt oh-so-good. What is your take on how this all played out? And is their strategic advantage in Littlefinger’s absence, or is it just that that annoying fly that has persistently been buzzing around Sansa’s head (and the Stark family as a whole) has finally been swatted?
G.G.: It has been noted, accurately at that, that Littlefinger is one of the primary figures responsible for basically all the major events of the books and the show. He caused Jon Arryn’s death. His dagger, and subsequent claim that it belonged to Tyrion, led Catelyn to kidnap the Imp, setting off the feud between Houses Stark and Lannister. He aids Cersei in imprisoning and eventually executing Ned, even putting a knife to Ned’s throat. He brokers various alliances during the War of the Five Kings, sowing chaos and misery, while enriching himself…and I could go on and on. So, of course, it’s no surprise that his death was deeply satisfying to most viewers. His death also means that a divisive figure who would only impede the forces of the living in the war to come has been eliminated.
What was perhaps most satisfying about Littlefinger’s demise was that it was at the hands of the Stark sisters, and in this instance, I was right about Arya’s ability to smell a rat. (Credit goes to Sansa, as well, though I think she was a little late to the party — she says as much during Littlefinger’s “trial.”) More than a few viewers, I’d guess, have been seriously stressing about the recent events in and around Winterfell, and Littlefinger’s attempts to drive a wedge between Sansa and Arya for his own selfish and prurient gain. One thing we don’t know, but can speculate on, is Bran — I mean, Three-eyed Raven’s — contribution to the Stark conspiracy. During Littlefinger’s moment of reckoning, he threw in a few items that clearly demonstrated he knew things about Lord Petyr that no one else would know. And lest we forget the previous “chaos is a ladder” remark. I can’t help but wonder whether he spilled all the beans to Sansa and Arya. Given the surprising and dramatic nature of the encounter, it seems like all three choreographed it perfectly.
MCS: Coming into this week, I was bracing myself for what I anticipated could be a series of heartbreaking deaths. But, as it turned out, besides Littlefinger, the primary loss in the series finale was that of the Wall, which came roaring to the ground when ravaged by Viserion’s ice-fire (does this term properly quantify what he was spewing?). It was remarkable to behold the great frozen barrier that must have taken eons to forge, and has been standing for 8,000 years, be demolished with such rapidity. Is this, the fact that it was torn apart in this manner, consistant with all we know about the Wall? I know there were supposed spells involved that were placed upon it to keep the Army of the Dead from ever crossing. One thing is for certain though…the Night King isn’t fucking around at all!
G.G.: Most nerds like me thought the whole damn thing was going to come down at some point, so I was surprised when it was only a small portion (which, I’m hoping, Tormund escaped, as I am completely supportive of his courtship of Brienne and their hilarious and violent GoT spin-off). Still, the manner of its partial collapse was pretty epic. I mentioned last week that I thought Viserion had been necromanced into an ice dragon and I don’t think my prediction turned out to be correct. There’s a hilariously intense debate regarding the nature of Viserion’s elemental composition, and what exactly comes forth from his undead dragon mouth, of which the episode did very little to settle definitively. By the looks of it, it seems to be some kind of blue flame, which any teenage pyromaniac will tell you is “the hottest part of the flame.” Yet, it didn’t seem like this “flame” was melting the Wall as much as pummeling it into oblivion. I thought he would become an ice dragon and, thus, shoot ice out his mouth, but I mean, in the immortal words of Xzibit, “I heard you like ice, dawg, so we took ice and put some ice on some”— the point here being that adding ice to ice just makes more ice. The third line of thought is that the “flame” is basically the same thing the Ghostbusters use, only blue, which I think is a nice compromise.
According the various legends, the Wall was built with all kinds of spells and sorcery with the intention of stopping the Others from encroaching on the “realms of men.” The narrative of the Night King, particularly the events of the previous two episodes, seems to confirm these legends. It’s clear that the Wall needed to come down to let the Others and their army cross this threshold, replete with layers of symbolism and meaning. Otherwise, why would they go through the trouble of destroying it, when they could go over or around it? Further, it makes sense that a dragon — even an undead one — would be able to break those spells…which may lend some credence to the theory that the Night King was, in some way, luring Dany and her dragons north of the Wall with the goal of killing and raising one or more. I don’t know that I’m totally sold on this theory, but clearly the combination of the Wall’s destruction and the Night King astride an undead dragon means the Army of the Dead is so much more deadly and terrible than before.
MCS: To wrap things up, what can we expect as next season commences? The Army of the Dead has crossed the Wall, so obviously we can expect them to be laying siege upon the living. But Cersei’s deception was fascinating in its treachery and selfishness, and I am curious what that means in the larger scope of the oncoming war (“the only war that matters”). I also wonder if Theon’s thrashing of Harrag throws a wrench in her works. It seems as if the Hound will finally confront the Mountain at some point next season, and Jaime and Cersei’s rift most certainly will come to a head, but, where does this all lead? Is it, as Jaime so poignantly told Bronn at the beginning of the episode, “really all cocks in the end”?
G.G.: Foremost, everyone should listen to our podcast, which I imagine will be released Wednesday or Thursday morning at the latest. While we will discuss a lot from this season, including this final episode, we will also discuss our thoughts, predictions, and hopes for the next (and last) season. Tune in!
Additionally, I’m really hoping George can finish The Winds of Winter before the show ends. I’m not as frustrated about the spoilers and simplifications the show has engaged in since going beyond the books, and think I have what it takes to appreciate how the books will treat that which I already know…to the extent that they haven’t diverged completely from one to the other. But just to remind everyone, Jon is still dead, murdered Julius Caesar-style, currently, in the book universe.
I think, in the end, I disagree with Jaime and Bronn’s position regarding cocks. Theon taught us that not having a cock can work to one’s advantage, and Grey Worm showed us that “many things” are possible without a cock. Furthermore, by the end of Sunday’s episode, woman have come to assert and wield an unprecedented amount of power in Westeros, and beyond, which is heartening for a series that has faced a lot of criticism for its treatment of women in seasons past. Not that cocks or any other genitalia indicate a person or character’s gender but, well, you know! More importantly, Bronn is wrong because many characters demonstrate that, while sex and intimacy are, for most people, vital components of their lives, there are other values to fight for: family, loyalty, virtue, justice, and life itself. Brienne spells this out poignantly, as she beseeches Jaime to see others on a scale larger than his House and family. In the fight ahead, a hitherto unknown universalism may emerge, replacing the divisions and prejudices of the past. Except for Bran. He will remain a total weirdo and outcast forever.
Creeping Tyrion is a remarkable scene. It’s the closest the show has ever came to breaking the “4th wall”. It’s an audience driven scene. On one hand, their romance is an awkward inevitability but remember that Tyrion doesn’t know the backstory of lineage though. So, on the other hand, Tyrion is wise enough to know that romances don’t end well in Westeros, just like the audience knows. That’s a look of dread on his face in the scene, not jealousy as it seems at first.
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