The original title for this installment of Game of Spoilers was, “Game of Important Shit Gets Said at the Ends of Scenes So Shut the Fuck Up, You Asshole,” but that was a bit wordy. See, as I watched this wonderful episode, I kept wanting to comment or discuss the scenes as they went by, but kept stepping on important dialogue that came just before the scene change. My wife kept reminding me of this fault, like a Westerosi queen commands an over-exuberant underling. Because, what we saw this week was female dominance on display.
This episode also had a lot of character death, violence, nudity, sex, great dialogue, grotesque visuals with jump cuts to food, and wolves. Pretty much your basic Game of Thrones episode. But what really came into stark relief as Ellaria Sand was putting the moves on Yara was the dynamics of female power relationships. And here, in Westeros, they’re nearly as fucked up as power relationships between men. Nearly.
As a side note, I would like to say that we are truly blessed to have had almost all of the Sand Snakes killed off in a single scene. Not because I’m rooting for Cersei, but because of their terrible – TERRIBLE – acting, accents, character construction, etc. Basically everything about them was uncharacteristically shallow and boring. Whew. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the feminine mystique of Westeros in this exact moment.
Currently, the rightful queen (if such a thing exists) is supported by three powerful women in control of armies and armadas. Well, until the end of the episode, when that’s down to one. The strategy session kinda blows the Bechdel Test out of the water, much as Euron does to Yara. And now, with no fleet to bring the Dornish army to King’s Landing, she will have to take the Queen of Thorns’s advice and “be a dragon.” The Dothraki horde galloping along the Blackwater. Prepare for that eventuality.
The conversation Daenerys has with Varys is incredibly telling. I think it will be important, when he is finally forced to tell her to her face that she’s started to ignore what’s best for her people, to see how she acts in that moment. Does she listen to him, or burn him? Because Varys remains the voice of reason here. Loyalty to an absolute monarch, while advisable in the short term, is historically not always best for the people of the country. Sometimes, loyalty to the people of a country requires disloyalty to the ruler of that realm. That has been a consistent theme of the novel series and the TV show from day one.
And then Daenerys calls on Jon to bend the knee. I have high expectations for their meeting in terms of dramatic tension, but I really don’t know how it will go. Jon’s really just in it for the Dragon Glass, so who knows? I think that Jon has the purer intentions, to be honest. I think that, while Daenerys is easy to root for, and while she is a marked improvement over Cersei, it is also true that what she wants is to conquer, and that does not generally go well for the people being conquered. In the universe that Martin created, there is no such thing as a “good” absolute monarch. Daenerys is “less bad,” but she has a tendency towards uncompromising demands for loyalty that gives me pause.
And now a woman is in charge of the North as well. Sansa is left in command of the North, but there is now bad blood between Littlefinger and Jon. I fully expect Littlefinger to be a dick about this. Maybe he has the army of the Vale overthrow Jon’s army while he’s away, taking the North from Sansa unless she agrees to marry him. That could certainly happen. But there are a thousand ways Littlefinger could be a gigantic asshole in this situation, and he most certainly will try. The question is, how prepared is Sansa to deal with that. Ya know who could help her? An assassin with the ability to disguise herself and hide in plain sight. Oh, look, Arya’s home!
Of all the women in charge (the North, Dragonstone, the Reach, Dorne, King’s Landing), Cersei made the best power move in this episode. She has a weapon to fight dragons, which I believe means that at least one of the dragons is going down. And she goaded Euron into bringing her her daughter’s killer without promising him anything. And this means that she has struck first in the war against the foreign invaders, which might just be enough to pull some loyalty from the Tyrells’ bannermen, in a way that Jaime failed to do. Even Euron’s military might knocking down two of the women in power is done-in by his quest for Cersei’s vag. Yes, he also wants revenge on Yara, but he’s really there to retrieve Ellaria for Cersei as the gift he promised last week. Therefore, his victory is more a demonstration of Cersei’s power than his own.
And then there’s Sam and Jorah. Ew. That was fucking gross. And the jump cut from the oozing pus of his infected skin to the white gravy of a hot meat pie was truly, spectacularly grotesque. It seems clear that Sam will save Jorah’s life. That act will likely get him in some serious trouble with his Grand Maester (Let’s also take a moment to recognize how amazing Jim Broadbent is in this role. He really Broadbents all over the screen). Sam’s situation at the Citadel is like Merry and Pippin trying to convince the Ents to go to war. The old dudes don’t believe him, so he has to do some rule breaking and trick them into seeing the necessity of quick action. But even this, the one aspect of this episode that seems disconnected from the dominance of women, is really to fulfill a promise made to Daenerys by Jorah. So, now, Daenerys’s most loyal advisor has been saved by Jon’s most loyal supporter. That must mean something.
Even the gratuitous sex scene featured the stunningly, staggeringly gorgeous Missandei more or less commanding Greyworm to show her his junk. Okay, it was a bit more romantic than that, but he is clearly in the submissive position with her. Hopefully, her beauty and love will be more motivator than distraction for him.
But, of all the women in positions of power, probably the one most certain in herself and in the best position to live her life exactly as she wants to is Nymeria, the wolf. Arya offers her apparent safety and love by returning to Winterfell, and Nymeria chooses the wilderness. I think Arya will eventually choose that path too, kind of like Caine in a medieval retelling of Kung Fu. But, for now, she has chosen family over her kill list.
But, rest assured, all men must die, and Arya’s blade will be wet with blood before too long.