Thrones Rewatch Thoughts
Is it kind of sad how much I immerse my self in this show and book series? Probably. But that’s what’s made this story so fun: The fact that we talk about it with our friends. We discuss what we think will happen. We obsess over who’s going to die next. It consumes our lives, but also gives us reasons to interact with others, and share the excitement. The day we have awaited for so long is finally here, as Game of Thrones returns tonight.
Fatefully stumbling into the show at the very beginning, means I haven’t ever binged the show from start to its current date like other people catching up have had the opportunity to do. With encouragement of the new season coming out this Sunday, I decided to take up the endeavor. With the knowledge of reading the books, and having caught choice episodes multiple times while friends were catching up, as well as the encouragement of Binge Mode, I wanted to immerse myself through all of the current installments and see what I could find.
This isn’t a recap of what’s happened, but rather the topics I’ve wondered about going into the season. The first half is fairly basic curiosities, while the second half I put on my tin foil hat and go down Crazy Theory Road.
Where the hell is Howland Reed?
If you’re blanking on who Howland Reed is, he is the father of Jojen and Meera Reed. (A.k.a. The Guys Who Help Bran Go North To Find The Three-Eyed Crow aka The Bloodraven aka Brynden Rivers):
He is also the guy who fought alongside Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy story:
And saved Ned’s Life from Sir Arthur Dayne (aka The Sword of The Morning aka The Dude Duel Wielding Swords):
There is not really much information on Howland Reed following Robert’s Rebellion, however, we know that he returned to his home, Greywater Watch. How and why has he been missing all this time? What has allowed him to hide this entire time is the fact that Greywater Watch is built on a man-made floating island that never remains in one place as it moves throughout the swamp lands of the Neck, but we’re not sure what’s kept him on the fray of the events that have unraveled.
Given that he is one of the survivors — in addition to the maids taking care of Lyanna — to have witnessed the events at the Tower of Joy, he is really fucking important. He has the ability to verify Jon’s parentage, just like Bran, however, he doesn’t have to rely on people believing that he can see through time and space, as the new Three-Eyed Raven must.
This makes his appearance in the final two seasons inevitable. It was theorized, at points, that The High Sparrow’s true identity was Howland Reed, changed by his near death at the Tower of Joy, however, it doesn’t seem likely given that he is now literally a pile of ashes because of Cersei, and it would be fairly weak narratively to suddenly attribute the missing identity of Howland to this now deceased character.
He was Ned’s closest companion, present at the biggest point in the entire story, and has yet to be shown in the first six seasons, or the first five books. His arrival is necessary, and its interesting that he’s such an important character, yet has been stashed away, so far, in order to be the Aroldis Chapman, late innings closer, big bat off the bench who will drive R+L=J home.
White Walker Army
“Hardhome” is the second best episode of the series, thus far, behind “The Winds of Winter”. (“Battle of the Bastards” is not the best. It’s a sweet battle scene, but there have been battle scenes in the past, and this one started off solely because Jon did the one thing that he said he couldn’t do if he wanted to win the battle: charge Ramsey first. Not to mention, Sansa’s rescue was clearly telegraphed and rip straight from multiple Lord of the Rings installments.)
“Hardhome” not only features the first interactions between Dany and Tyrion, but also brings us a battle scene where we see the importance of valyrian steel, the coming together of the Wildlings with The Watch, and showed us the dead raising powers of the White Walkers.
Which brings up an interesting question: Just how massive is the army of the Others?
Consider the fact that the White Walkers have the ability to bring back to life all of those who have died north of the wall who weren’t burned. People have been living north of the wall for thousands and thousands of years, spanning hundreds of generations, since the peace after The Long Night began. That’s a lot of fucking dead people who were probably not burned, and are probably buried in the ground, and then add on top all of the dead Men of the Night’s Watch who have ranged north and never come back, and then add on top the babies Craster was sacrificing, AND THEN add on any remaining forces of the Others still around from The Long Night (if they can survive that long.)
The Crypt of Winterfell
Beneath the Halls of Winterfell, lies the dead bones of Starks who have come before.
It’s a place we are shown in the very first episode when Robert demands to be taken to Lady Lyanna’s resting place to pay his respects to the woman he was once betrothed. It was the place where Rickon and Bran hid when Turncloak Theon took the castle. It was the place where Littlefinger’s gaze lingered a little tooooo long when he was talking to Sansa about her aunt.
This place is important. Despite the fact that it has been taken by Theon, and then the savage Ramsey, the crypt remains intact. Doesn’t this seem odd? Sure there is respect in not displacing the dead, but does Ramsay seem like the respectful type of person who wouldn’t disturb the remnants of the house he is trying to replace?
For the entire castle to be burned, and yet, the burial grounds of the Starks to be left completely alone, stands out in a narrative where conquerors leave waste to all they pass over.
Is there something in the crypts vital going forward? Valaryian steel? Dragon Glass? Something like… lets say… a harp, that Ned could have carried with him North, hidden at the resting place of his sister, who loved the person known to have loved to play the harp, and is the father of Ned’s nephew? (Rhaegar Targaryean if you’re still lost).
It’s a Big World
George RR Martin (GRRM) has said that the GoT world is a sphere and that there are parts of this world we haven’t seen. Which is pretty unreal to think about that all this crazy shit has been going on, and there is still more of a world out there. Who are these people that we haven’t met yet? Will they play a part? (Hopefully not).
The rest of the world could be a point of spinoffs and such, but its just interesting that a war that could seemingly affect the rest of the lands, doesn’t involve, ya know, the rest of the lands.
Is Bronn Important?
It was a throw away line from season two, when Bronn and Tyrion first met, but Bronn admits that he has been north of the wall.
While playing a drinking game where Tyrion tries to guess true statements about the history of Bronn and Shae, Bronn mentions that he has been north of the wall, and when pressed, simply replies that it was, “for business”.
It’s an oddly specific detail to include for a sellsword. Although Bronn ends up becoming one of the more popular and important supporting characters of the story, this one line hints that perhaps there is more to the mercenary. Given that the true story of the show is the battle against the White Walkers, to give a character past experience in the north isn’t something that would just be thrown in for the hell of it.
What Bronn’s significance could be is completely unknown, and there hasn’t really been many theories involving him, at all, however, this small statement seems too relevant for it to be nothing.
The Books are Now Seperate
For years, strictly show watchers have probably grown tired of the phrase: “Well, in the books….”
Now, they no longer have to worry about what small knowledge us book readers can hold over their heads because now the books and the show have separated themselves quite a bit.
It’s not just that the show is ahead of the books, but also, they are becoming rather distinct stories.
The show has erased some characters, skip some plot lines, merged others, and fast-tracked some narratives out of necessity. Jon is what both are truly about at their core, but the method through which both reach their conclusions may look fairly different — if GRRM every actually finishes the fucking books.
Season Six setup a pretty good base for what is going to be multiple sibling rivalries down the road, and probably in Season Seven.
First, there is probably the more obvious feud that will take place: Jon and Sansa.
Long before they even reunite, Sansa has a conversation with Ramsay where she attempts to backhandedly throw shade at him by telling him that bastards can’t arise to the same heights as “pure” borns. Yeah, she’s talking to the sadistically fucked up man who has essentially taken her captive, but could this be a deep rooted belief?
The pair were already not getting along as smoothly as possibly leading up to The Battle of The Bastards — as Jon failed to even ask Sansa for her advice, and didn’t really heed it once she tried to warn him what he was in store for — and this wasn’t eased by the fact that the battle hinged on Sansa’s actions.
The fact that she chose to hide the coming of the Knights of the Vale from Jon, shows some form of discontent with her (not so) half-brother. Add into it that very clear side look to Littlefinger as the Hall of Winterfell chants the “The King of the North” for Jon, and it’s pretty obvious that these two will probably not get along this season.
Moving south to the most complex character in the show, Jaime Lannister, we see a more serious feud that could be brewing on the horizon.
Cersei is to Jaime what the Ring was to Frodo and what Horcruxes were to normal people in Harry Potter. The more Jaime is around her, the more he becomes this almost evil, spiteful person who literally shoves kids out of a window for her.
When he’s away from her for long periods of time, however, we see his true humanity come through. Throughout his entire journey with Brienne, we see his mental defenses slowly erode away. In one of the series’ best monologues, we see Jaime go into great length what it is like living with the “Kingslayer” moniker. It’s a name that immediately signifies the fact that he betrayed his king, but what it doesn’t outwardly imply is the true story of why he murdered King Aerys: to save thousands of lives.
At his core, Jaime has the desire to do good, and we see it multiple times in the series, but notably when he’s been gone from Cersei for some time, and more often when he’s with Brienne, who he feels a bond to.
The long, shocked look he gives Cersei as she takes the Iron Throne is not to be cast away. Consider the fact that Jaime killed his former king when he ordered his men to burn the city with wildfire because he felt that it was unjust and cruel. Yet now he returns to Kings Landing immediately following the woman he loves doing the exact thing that made him kill Aerys.
Part of the prophecy surrounding Cersei includes the fact that she will be killed by the valonqar — which translates to: brother. Her whole life she has believed that the prophecy was referring to her brother Tyrion (hence her deep rooted hatred for him), but could it instead be Jaime that is at this end of the prophecy that has, thus far, held true?
*And into the weeds we go*
Jon Must Be Blessed
(“Yeah, no shit. He was brought back to life. Of course he’s blessed.”)
When I say, “Jon is blessed,” I’m not simply just referring to the fact that he was brought back from the dead. I’m referring to the fact that there is significant evidence that something is always watching over Jon. In fact, it would give more credibility to some of the shows more ludicrous action sequences.
If we first take a step back and look at the types of stories that GRRM built A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) from, we’ll see some interesting plot points he may have adapted for his own epic series.
There are many similarities between ASOIAF and the hero stories passed down by man kind. Many of them obviously involve great kings, ladies, queens, castles, and battles, but many also incorporate some form of magical help or some sort of interaction with God.
Take, for instance, The Song of Roland (notice how GRRM specifically decided to also call his series a “song”). The Song of Roland is an epic poem that tells the story of King Charlemagne, and his great warrior companion Roland, who rage war against the Muslims in Spain. After being the victim of treason, Roland is forced to defend the rearguard of Charlemagne until the very instant that he dies, but not before he is able to alert his king through a massive horn. Charlemagne prevails because of Roland’s acts, but the interesting point that may pertain to GoT is the fact that throughout the poem, God is looking down and guiding the two in their fight. He protects them at points and gives Charlemagne visions of his traitor.
In another hero poem, Beowulf, we see plots directly similar to GoT. In his second fight of the poem, Beowulf is unable to slay his opponent (Grendel’s Mother) with his own weapon. In fact, he finds that his own sword will do no damage to her (sound familiar?). Right as he is about to fall, he is shown a great, ancient sword that depicts historic tales of his world, and this sword happens to posses the power to slay Grendel’s mother (again, where have we seen a specific type of blade slaying a specific type of foe?)
What do both of these have to do with GoT? Both are epic hero stories that involve divine intervention that help the main protagonist. There is certainly evidence that Jon is at the heart of TSOIAF, making it, in itself, also a epic hero story. With many similarities, and already having shown divine(?) help, is it possible that there is some being looking down and protecting Jon?
One of the most ridiculous sequences in the entire show is during The Battle of the Bastards when Ramsay looses his archers and Jon happens to stop to allow all of the arrows to fall perfectly around him. It was legitimately one of those scenes where you see it, and immediately go, “Oh yeah… okay… THAT’S likely…” Yet, looking back, is it possible that the showrunners did this on purpose? Could they be hinting at this very divine guidance/protection that is used in works GRRM would have built his series from and would have most certainly borrowed plot points from?
It’s clear how methodical and meticulous the showrunners have been with foreshadowing, and plot hints, that try to get us to see what is coming, or what is truly at work, so it sticks with me that this specific shot sequence of about 7 arrows falling perfectly around Jon wouldn’t have been just for a cool action sequence. It seems too surreal for it to be included and taken without a grain of salt, or without consideration for how the fuck he got that lucky.
There are other moments like this in the series that stand out to me where Jon seems to get lucky. Take Jon’s fight with the White Walker at Hardhome. Is it not a little weird just how many chances the Other has to kill Jon, but doesn’t? Is it also not just a tad interesting that — in an almost perfect mirror of Beowulf’s second fight — he happens to regain his sword just as it appears the White Walker is finally going to strike him down, and that the sword is the exact type necessary for defending, and beating the White Walker?
Jon being brought back to life shows us there is the possibility that there is something out there looking over these characters. But, this presence may not just be looking down on them, but actually directly interfering with their actions and their lives, as Melisandre has tried to get people to believe.
Bran and Time
Given the fact that Bran can — or eventually will be able to — visit any point in time, there must be a consideration for how much he can alter the events at the point he is looking in on.
We’ve already seen that it may be possible for the people at that point in time to hear Bran —like when Ned appeared to hear him before entering the Tower of Joy — however we aren’t sure if this is the extent of his ability. The Bloodraven tells Bran that the past is set in stone, and that he can’t alter history, but we aren’t really sure if he’s telling the truth.
Take, for example, the fact that in his teachings, the Bloodraven never warns Bran about what would happen if The Night King touched him, or if he were to warg into Willis/Hodor while looking in on the past. It seems that he’s taught Bran more by the trial by fire method, instead of through warnings and cautionary tales.
It’s said in the books that the Weirwood trees see time as a stream running around them, and that they can choose to look upon any point, at anytime, but we’re not sure if its possible to alter that stream’s path. This would lend notion to the fact that perhaps, for Bran and the Weirwood trees, time is similar to the way it is treated in parts of Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughter-House Five.
In the book, certain characters have the ability to become “unstuck in time”, where the past, present, and future all exist at once. It’s a bit tricky to wrap your mind around a concept that’s so abstract, but it would look something like the tesseract that’s constructed for Matthew McConaughey’s character toward the end of the movie Interstellar.
What does this mean for Bran and his importance to the storyline? Well, we’re not really sure because the extent to which Bran can interact with time is not one hundred percent clear. It could be that this power means he can only go back and see events, and his importance only lies in the ability to confirm Jon’s parentage, or possibly more importantly, go back and learn the secrets used to defeat the White Walkers during The Long Night.
On the other hand, if Bran has more power than he has been led to believe, he may be the guiding force throughout everything that has ever happened. In the “time is a flat circle” construct, this would mean that everything that has happened, will always happen, because “future Bran” has always had a hand in the actions taking place.
Could the voices the Mad King heard have been Bran’s whispers, or the result from Bran’s interjections in time, just like the event that originally caused Hodor to lose his mind? Could Bran be the one, throughout all of time, who delivered crucial information to allow certain people to prevail?
Its wonky and tricky to think about what effect he could have, but its clearly vital going forward.
The final topic is perhaps the furthest into conspiracy theory alley.
Unless you’re certain that GRRM is actually the huge nihilist that he has displayed at points in the story, I don’t think you can truly believe that the end of this story will be the White Walkers defeating, and killing all of humanity, in what would be a truly insane ending.
But if that’s not going to happen, then you have to wonder how in the hell these characters are going to defeat this infinitely large army, that would only grow larger as the men who’ve died in your army rise again as wights to add to the numbers of the Others.
Could there be a peaceful ending some how?
This may seem completely irrelevant to the show, but the movie Blade Runner has some oddly similar characteristics to what is going on in the show.
In short, the plot of the movie largely revolves around Harrison Ford’s character Deckard attempting to find and kill humanoid robots (called Replicants) who have gone rogue and are in search of finding a way to turn off the automatic switch programmed in them that kills them once they’ve been around for four years.
Just like how the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers in order to help fight the First Men conquering their lands, the Replicants in Blade Runner were originally created to fill some need, but this eventually backfires as they turn on their creators. Furthermore, just like the White Walkers, the Replicants are clearly physically superior to their human counterparts, and can almost dominate them at will.
Now just taking these small similarities into consideration doesn’t really complete the claim that this movie might have influenced GRRM’s writing. That is, until you notice the other similarities included in the movie.
First, there’s the massive temple like structures the people live in…
…that look oddly like…
Then there’s the fact that one of the main characters in the movie is the Tyrell Corporation, who originally responsible for the creation of the replicants. Now, Tyrell would be an oddly specific name for it to just be a coincidence that it appears in both of these works, and that’s before you take into consideration the fact that, in the book Blade Runner is based on, the corporation is actually called “ROSEnbaum” and what’s the sigil of the House Tyrell in GoT? A rose.
Add in the fact that the main Replicant villain looks like this…
…which — with the blue eyes, pail skin, and white hair — is oddly similar to these…
…and that Tyrell, in Blade Runner, is killed via skull crushing…
The connections between Blade Runner and GoT are uncanny, and even though it could be GRRM adapting some of his favorite pieces from culture (as he is wont to do), maybe its not so shallow.
The spoiler-free ending to Blade Runner largely revolves around a display of humanity and graciousness, so it makes me wonder if there may be an interesting ending between the White Walkers and Man.
The one missing link that could further complete the theory, however, is the motives of the White Walkers. In Blade Runner, the Replicants motives are obvious, and stated: They simply want to be able to live free, and escape the confines of their four-year lifetime, in order to understand what it means to be alive. In GoT, however, we’ve never really seen what the motives are for the White Walkers. It could be they are simply evil creatures, dark at the core, only hellbent on conquering man, but maybe there’s a deeper, more humanistic, desire they seek, like the Replicants.
Both stories involve what it means to be “alive” and the battle between the living and the non-living, so perhaps the end to this series doesn’t have to be death and destruction. Though I imagine if it is all killing and war, it will still be exciting to watch.