Kill the boy to give birth to the man. That concept is a central theme in both the television series and the novels. Perhaps, given Daenerys, we should rephrase that as kill the child to give birth to the adult, but whatever, we get the idea. The connection between this thought and both Jon Snow and Daenerys is obvious. But this episode, more than any previous one in this season, really revolves around that one central theme, and even minor characters go through the same conflict.
Obviously, Jon needs to kill the boy to do what he knows is right as a man. That allows him to free Tormund Giantsbane and rally the wildlings over the objections of the Knights’ Watch. While there is clear logic to that decision, Olly’s reaction is both troubling and telling. Jon has to bring the wildlings in, both out of mercy to avoid them all dying, and as a means of reinforcing his own depleted army. But his own men will never be at peace with that decision, as Olly is not. How he handles that discontent will become increasingly important.
But let’s not forget that Jon forced Tormund into the same situation. To fulfill Jon’s request, Tormund must kill all the old resentment and mistrust and put his own neck on the line to convince the free folk to change their allegiance. Unchaining Tormund’s wrists is essentially unchaining a man where a boy existed before (the symbolism, she burns).
Daenerys kills the girl, but not when she kills the head of a Meereenese family. In fact, that is childish. It’s the slippery slope Ser Berristan warned her about when he told her of the Mad King’s actions. It seems like wisdom, but it only serves to create more Sons of the Harpy. By finding that third path, reopening the fighting pits, and taking a husband as a king would take a wife, she stands a chance of making peace, despite her own distaste for both endeavors. That is the more adult move, although even that may not work.
But I would like return to the North. Ramsay Bolton goes through the same conflict, but I would not expect peaceful results. In a way, the scene in which Roose describes Ramsay’s conception and delivery to his father is a twisted version of the one between Stannis and his daughter, Shireen. Stannis described Shireen’s birth with his own pride in her and unconditional love. It’s a touching scene. And, if you strip away the details, it’s the same scene between Roose and Ramsay. But the details matter. Because, as crazy as Ramsay is, this story suggests that he doesn’t fall far from the rape-y tree. Far from simply allowing Ramsay to exert his sadistic, violent tyranny, Roose clearly approves of it. He sees himself in Ramsay’s violence and wants to nurture it, tempering it only as a means of maintaining power. For Ramsay, killing the boy will not reduce his violence, it will only allow it to flourish. Just like his daddy.