Game of Thrones Recap: The Re-Watch
Like most of you, I’ve been going through serious Game of Thrones withdrawals (and Bayana’s recaps) while obsessing over the future of Westeros. Coming off of the show’s best season yet, I decided it was time for my first proper series rewatch. There are favorite episodes I’ve revisited before now (“And Now His Watch Is Ended” most notably), but this marks my first time going back through the whole lot. With the perspective of six seasons and everything that’s happened since the pilot, it’s amazing to see how much deeper the well of character motivations really ran.
Season 3 Daenerys is easily my favorite portrayal of the character. The post-Dothraki, pre-Mysha version of the Queen was just a badass; fully confident in herself after escaping Qarth, but not so invested in the white savior myths and imagery that overpowers later seasons. She took sexism to the face and smirked, knowing she had already outmaneuvered them. She had no qualms about burning you to ash with her dragons, but she was getting a head start on the Great Game, out-thinking her enemies and using their arrogance against them before the show grounded her in Meereen. I miss the Dany who deferred to Grey Worm and Missandei for their opinion (something Tyrion should have done this season), but reminded Jorah and Barristan Selmy to never presume to contradict her in public. She’s back to what she does best and finally setting out to conquer Westeros, so we’ll see if Dany found her groove again.
And now that R+L=J is confirmed, the tale Maester Aemon tells Jon Snow of his vows being tested as Targaryens were murdered takes on even greater meaning. Everyone points to the “Targaryen alone in the world” line, but even earlier than that Jon was commiserating the loss of a family he never knew he had. The new lens of knowledge puts a greater sense of appreciation of building a family in an almost Harry Potter-esque light. Raised by his uncle, it’s instructive just how much Ned's reluctance to kill Dany on Robert Baratheon’s orders is projecting his protectiveness towards his adoptive son. Jon was made Lord Commander of the Night's Watch by his great-great grand uncle, and in lieu of the mother he always wondered about, he had a Lyanna to crown him King (in the North).
The fact that Jon took on both of those commands reluctantly, may inform his relationship with his Aunt, Daenerys. As a united force, they could avenge both their families and lay siege to King’s Landing and the Lannisters from both sides. Two power hungry monarchs battling over the remnants of the Throne however would fall to the true threat of the White Walkers. The show has gone through such great lengths to show us that Jon is so much like Ned, a partnership seems much more likely than conflict. And don’t forget Dany’s vision in the House of the Undying at the end of Season 2.
One of the things rewatching this series cemented for me is just how much I hated Theon from jump. A lot of people are on board with his redemption arc after everything he endured under Ramsay, but I’m petty and The North remembers. He was violent, abrasive, and a murderous bully from the very first time we meet him. He wanted to gut the direwolves before Jon stopped him, and would have murdered Osha if Robb hadn’t ordered him not to. If Theon couldn't fuck you, he wanted to kill you. All that is even before we get to him murdering and burning two innocent children for a cause he knew was lost. The show mostly ignored the Iron Island subplot and Balon Greyjoy ended up living so much longer than he did in the books that I forgot he was also named as one of Stannis’s usurpers to die. Finally on the right side for the first time in four seasons, Theon may yet have an important role to play, but there’s a hell of a hole he needs to dig his way out of. And what does he do if Daenerys and Yara end up opposing Jon & Sansa?
Sidenote: I didn't pay attention when Bran gave the two orphan boys to the farmer to work the first time around, and it was a gut punch here. The heir to Winterfell stays taking Ls.
I’ve never been as pro-Stannis as a lot of people seem to be. If he were a changed man after the Blackwater and Melisandre left, and had been redeemed by his daughter I could have gotten behind a Theoden-like arc. Instead he goes even further off the deep end, and is driven more by his ego than anything else. We know what King Robert was and Stannis is an even more abrasive Ned Stark without all of the warmth and love. Renly might really have been the best choice to further that line. Davos is the only one I respect in that council, and it’s no wonder he’s joined up with Jon now.
ne of the subtler recurring themes is the role Stannis has to play against the Long Night. His seat was on Dragonstone (where Daenerys was born) and mentioned how much dragonglass they have there. He also encouraged Sam to continue reading and may have further encouraged his notion to become a maester. I’ve long been on board with the idea that Sam will figure out a way to defeat the White Walkers so in that way Melisandre’s visions may not be completely wrong.
Oh, and WHERE IS GENDRY?!
Robb Stark and Grey Wind were probably my two favorite characters in the series (with Prince Oberyn 3rd), and it was so heartbreaking to see them again. Robb managed to win every battle in a war against the greatest strategist in the Seven Kingdoms, but lost the war due to honor. I go back and wonder how different things would have been if he hadn’t broken his marriage vow (or killed Lord Karstark), but when it comes to lying Boltons and treacherous Freys I’m not sure it would have been a happy ending either way. And by the way, how did I not know Talisa (Oona Chaplin) was Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter and Eugene O'Neill’s great granddaughter?
But really Robb, you should have known to watch you back around a guy who keeps asking to flay people. Where they do that at???? Coming off of season six it was extra salt in the wound having Bran send Rickon, Osha, and Shaggydog off to the Umbers (and their death) in the same episode as the Red Wedding. We might need a counter for how many times Bran screws over everyone.
Titus Arya forever! They really did plant the seeds for Walder Frey’s fate with the tale of the Rat King the episode immediately after the Red Wedding, and it finally paid off 3 seasons later. No Crying Jordan gave me more pleasure than that desiccated ratbag Frey, not even hating ass Alliser Thorne.
Lannisters always pay their debts, but Starks don't keep their promises. Three times a Stark was moved to swear on his honor: Ned promised Jon to tell him about his mother, Benjen promised Jon they'd talk when he returned from the wall, and Robb promised he'd visit Volantis with his wife and son. Each time they were cruelly murdered before they could keep their word. Benjen/Coldhands might still get a chance if the Wall comes down, but I don’t know if there will be time for cozy chats then. Ned did at least keep that one vow, though wouldn’t it be just like GRRM if the Prince That Was Promised turned out to be a lie?
Going through the series as a whole, it’s even clearer no character has grown more in six seasons than Sansa Stark. Seeing the young, innocent, and yes spoiled little girl she was at the start coming off of a year where she fully came into her own was powerful. Sansa still receives far too much hate from the fan community at large, which ignores her starting the show as a high born, fourteen year old who had barely left Winterfell. She was a child, and behaved as most children do, however that immaturity was gone by the end of season one. While she was tortured at every turn, she was also learning how to play the game from the greatest manipulators in the Seven Kingdoms. Littlefinger is still in the picture being as creepy and conniving as ever, but given the development of her character Sansa may be the more dangerous one. Never count out a wolf.
Jamie's interactions with the Starks (particularly Ned and Jon) in the first season read completely different now that we know why he's the Kingslayer. From the very first time he sees Ned, he tries to make friends and it comes off now as a man desperate to be understood and respected. Lord Eddard has everything that Jamie feels should be his; the honor and respect of all the Seven Kingdoms, the adoration of the King. Instead he is insulted at every turn by friends and enemies alike. He's almost begging for Ned's approval, and yet he hates him for it at the same time. Jamie’s desire for honor will be surely be tested with Cersei now on the throne after burning King’s Landing à la the Mad King, and the last of their children dead.
Meanwhile he first meets Jon practicing in the courtyard of Winterfell and it's like looking at his past self. Jamie sees a young man, already with a legend as a swordsman forsaking all rights to legacy and lineage as Jon is taking the Black at almost the same age Jamie became a Kingsguard. I’m not sure if it was lingering resentment towards Ned, or bitterness of his own life choices, but there are deeper levels to that relationship than I ever guessed at the first time around. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a fateful encounter left in this series. Could Jamie be the counterpoint to Jon, as Daenerys is to Cersei?
I completely forgot Dean-Charles Chapman played one of the Lannister kids (Martin) that Rickard Karstark killed before he took over as the adult Tommen. Given his eventual ties to the High Sparrow and Faith Militant, I chuckled hearing the first thing he mentioned when Tywin quizzed him on what makes a good King was that he should be religious. You already played yourself and you didn’t even know it. And then there’s an extra bit of tragic foreshadowing as Cersei talks about her children being the only thing keeping her alive.
As rewarding as it was watching him die after everything he put Tyrion through, I miss Charles Dance as Tywin so much. He just elevated everyone he shared a scene with. That cat and mouse he played with Arya in season 2 was flawless. I don't care if it wasn't him in the books, it was a master class in acting. I only wish we had gotten more battles between him and Lady Olenna. Instead the Lannister revenge tour pushed away the alliance with the the Tyrells, and sent them into the open arms of Daenerys. As much as Cersei wanted to prove to her father that she was his most worthy heir, her vengeance may be what dooms her house to fall.
And with that I prepare for the Long Night as we have to wait until Summer 2017 for season seven! The Night is dark and full of terrors.