Recap: Royal funeral, Sansa’s getaway, incestuous sex scene, Lannister-Dorne geopolitical conspiracy, Oberyn bisexual orgy, the Hound’s reckless robbery, Gilly-Sam sexual tension, blood magic, senseless slaughter and an impending wilding threat, Jorah Mormont friend-zoning, and one-on-one combat for the city of Meereen. Oh, and spoilers.
“Your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid,” Tyrion warned Cersei back in season two. A Lannister always pays his debts, even debts with other Lannisters. Yet Tyrion is falsely accused, so which Lannister am I talking about?
Rather than ponder the question: “Who had the most incentive to kill Joffrey?” we should instead ponder: “Who had the most incentive to frame Tyrion?” Perhaps Lord Tywin is responsible for Joffrey’s gasping demise. After all, Tyrion is a blemish of shame on the Lannister’s Lion sigil. Lord Tywin blames Tyrion for his family’s shortcomings. Tywin’s wife died giving birth to the “hideous monster.” And yet, Tyrion and Tywin are the most alike—calculating, pragmatic strategists with an appreciation for power.
It is clear from his tone in the Great Sept of Baelor that Tywin isn’t mourning the loss of mercurial Joffrey. He knows Tommen is malleable and predictable. With a boy on the throne, Tywin is king in all but name.
What is the greatest threat to the Iron Throne? Daenerys’s Dragons, the White Walkers, Melisandre’s blood magic, betrayal, or some greater evil yet unknown? In Game of Thrones, there is no personification of good versus evil, as in other fantasy novels. Instead the battle plays out within the characters and spills out in their unpredictable and often hypocritical actions.
Humans are by nature hypocritical, and R.R. Martin constantly reveals this. To exist is to err. The characters with moral codes—the Stark Family, Tyrion, Daenerys, Davos—are categorically worse off than the sinners—Tywin, the Hound, Oberyn, Littlefinger, and Melisandre. In a dog-eat-dog world, the former group consists of moral idealists while the latter consists of balance-of-power pragmatists who operate within the harsh confines of reality. They switch sides, they murder, they rape, they steal, and they lie to live.
The Hound presents Arya with a lesson in Realpolitik when he robs a hospitable farmer of his last silver. He explains that the farmer and his daughter will soon be dead because the weak farmer wont be able to protect his land. We are reminded that the law of hospitality died at the red wedding, and now anything goes.
Sansa, perpetual damsel in distress, gets her deliverance from Kings Landing on a boat captained by Lord Baelish. There is one piece of acting on this show I cannot tolerate, and that is Baelish’s voice. Actor Aidan Gillen, who played Councilman Tommy Carcetti on HBO’s The Wire, has a politician’s voice and demeanor, so why doesn’t he use it? Lord Baelish, aka Littlefinger, sounds like Batman recovering from a cough.
In George R.R. Martin’s world, it doesn’t look like “good” or “peace” will prevail. So when we glimpse Squire Podrick Payne’s loyalty, Davos’s steadfastness, Sam Tarly’s compassion, or any forestalling of vice in favor of momentary virtue, we are captivated. In this land of might and malice, virtue is a breath of air to the drowning viewer.