This post is the second of seven posts covering the latest season (season 7) of Game of Thrones. The previous post can be found here. If spoilers, including material from the books and fan theories aren’t your thing, you might not want to scroll down too far down
When I first started jotting down an outline for this post, it was meant to be a speculations type post. Somewhere along on the way, it turned into this cross between a wishlist and an ultimatum. There is still speculation in it, though – a big part of the fun in following ongoing series is in trying to anticipate where the story is going next. The fan community surrounding A Song of Ice and Fire has come up with some intriguing and occasionally disturbing fan theories – ranging from the convincing (R + L = J), the thought provoking (the Lannister children being Aerys’ offspring – which I don’t believe but got me thinking about the possible parallels), the bizarre (time travelling fetus) and the tongue-in-cheek (Varys is a merman). It was thus, with a somewhat heavy heart, that I realized that this could very well be the last time that I get to engage in such speculation – with Season 8 coming up in the not so near future, it’s likely that what few secrets remain in Martin’s universe will be laid bare. I don’t imagine speculating over the books – should they ever be released – will be quite as fun now that we know how things are likely to turn out. Indeed, that was one of the reasons I stopped the re-read posts – at least until the next book is announced.
Anyways, in this series of posts, we will talk about:
- The Lion’s Brood
- The Pack That Survives
- The Last of Us
- Wildcards 1: The Grey, the Worthy and the Sam
- Wildcards 2: The Dog, the Witch and the Wild
- Fire Destroys, Frost Preserves
I wanted to put all of these posts into a single, epic post, but ‘The Lion’s Brood’ alone took up 3000 words and I figured seven posts, for seven episodes, for seven gods had a nice ring to it. (It was pure coincidence, I swear.)
The Lion’s Brood
One of the points I touched upon in the previous post was the shrinking size of Westeros. The southern areas of Dorne and the Reach barely received any attention outside of their respective leaders being removed from power and executed. What is going on there? Who is in charge? How do they feel about Cersei’s reign of terror? I don’t think we will be receiving answers to these questions; for better or worse, the show has narrowed its focus to a handful of key locations – this means that we are unlikely to learn much about the fate of Storm’s End and the Stormlands, Riverrun and the Trident, much less more obscure locations like Greywater Watch and the swamps of the Neck.
As such, I’m merging the fate of the ‘South’ with that of King’s Landing since I believe that is how the show will tackle it. The fate of King’s Landing at this point depends solely on Cersei and so, it is with Cersei that we will begin our speculation.
Is Cersei Pregnant?
We don’t have any confirmation that Cersei is pregnant. Yes, yes, I know she told Jaime she was and we know that Tyrion ‘realised’ that she was, but neither of that is confirmation. Cersei’s been known to lie and this would be just the kind of weird plot twist that the writers would use. Personally, I do think she is pregnant and so the next question is why?
What is the end goal, from a narrative point of view to having Cersei become pregnant again? Is it to give her something to live for? Is it so there is a continuation of the Lannister line when Jaime inevitably dies doing something stupidly heroic? Is it so that her character has some motivation to side with the living in the upcoming battle, since she’s pretty much given up on humanity as a collective at this point? In a speculation post, there are many questions and few answers. Personally, if she really is pregnant, I want her to experience the painful irony of her child being born a dwarf – she would then understand her horrible mistreatment of Tyrion and watching her struggle with her maternal instincts and her prejudices would be delicious.
Oh, you think that’s a little harsh? Ok, then what if the kid doesn’t make it at all? Miscarriages aren’t uncommon the older you get and so far Cersei’s been able to blame her children’s deaths on everyone but herself – she even blamed Tommen for his taking his own life (not technically untrue, but kind of a dick move). If she miscarries, she will have only herself to blame, which would truly fuck with her mind. As a side note, I feel awful writing that sentence – normally when people blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault, you feel sympathy for them but Cersei’s just such a terrible person that I don’t know what emotion to have in such a situation. Perhaps a miscarriage would result in her blaming Qyburn who then betrays her to save himself.
Cersei could even die in childbirth – that would technically fulfill the valonqar prophecy, since the newborn would be a younger sibling but I think that would be extremely anti-climactic. Technically, if she did die in childbirth, it would sort of be Jaime’s fault since he got her pregnant…yeah, I’d rather that not be the interpretation of the prophecy either. The truth is, Cersei is dying in Season 8 – there is simply no way she can outrun her sins indefinitely. The only question is whether it is Jaime or Tyrion who does the deed. The pregnancy complicates matters because now whoever does kill her must deal with the additional burden of having killed their child/nephew, unless it happens after the kid is born which helps, but not much.
Cersei has two cards left to play at this point and I think the smart thing would be for her to deploy them at once in an all or nothing gambit. The first card is the Golden Company. I was not a huge fan of them introducing the Golden Company into the story at this stage and I was especially disappointed that since they were introduced the way that they were, we would not establish their storied history into the show’s canon. The Golden Company could very well force the Allied forces to fight the exact same two front war that they tried to avoid in Episode 7 ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’. Perhaps the Dany is able to buy the Golden Company out as a Targaryen (after all, red or black, a draogn is a dragon) but that would mean a chunk of screen time establishing the Golden Company’s history and I don’t know if the show can spare that right now. From a different angle, it seems that the purpose of the Golden Company is to force a scenario in which the Allied forces are absolutely desperate – we know that at some point, Jon is going to have to lead a stupidly daring raid deep into the heart of Winter / on the Night King himself to stop the onslaught and right now, the situation just doesn’t seem desperate enough. If the Golden Company can force a split and even take a dragon down, that changes the situation radically.
Cersei’s other card is surprise. The Allied leadership, deep in coitus as they are, are not aware of her betrayal yet. In a series that cared about such things, by the time they learned of this betrayal from Jaime, it would be too late – Cersei might have already managed to strike a blow or two. Given the show’s attitude toward time and distance however, I have to think that we will see Jaime reach Jon and Dany right away – or if he decides not to tell them (which is dumb since they will realise something is up right away when he turns up alone and without an army)
What role does Jaime play?
Jaime has as many options left to him now as he does hands; technically two, but effectively just one. He can try to take control of the Lannister forces and risk his own men cutting him down once they learn that he has betrayed Cersei or he can go to the Allied forces with his tail between his legs and align himself with them. The latter is sensible and given the way that HBO likes to merge plot lines, it seems that we will be having some very strange bedfellows in the coming seasons. I think it was one thing for Jon to forgive Theon – which itself was rather generous given Theon’s actions (the audience knows that Theon has paid for his crimes since, but I don’t know if other characters would see it that way) – but I just don’t know how you get Dany, Jon and the Starks to accept an unrepentant Lannister into their midst. Jaime is literally responsible for Aerys’ death and was the one who shoved Bran; beyond being alive, I just don’t see what value Jaime brings at this point. He’s a decent commander, I guess, but Grey Worm can cover battlefield tactics while Tyrion has a good head for overall strategy. It’s not like the Others are known for their cunning; like traditional zombies the plan is to overwhelm with numbers.
If Jaime does align with the Allies, then he will have to tell them of Cersei’s betrayal and that brings us back to Cersei. I don’t know if Jon and Dany have the luxury of allocating all their forces to fighting Cersei and then wheeling those same battered forces (since I’m sure the Golden Company won’t go down easily (I also hope they don’t go down easily)) back up to the North to deal with the Others. One crazy idea here is that Jaime and/or Tyrion could lead a detachment of either the Unsullied or the Dothraki to taken on Cersei and force at least a stalemate while the Northern Lords try to stem the tide. It’s hardly a winning strategy, even less so when you consider that the Others now have an ice dragon on their side.
On another note, where do we see Jaime at the end of this series? If he lives, does he continue the Lannister line (normally I would say Jaime and Brienne hooking up would be too fan-fictiony but I can’t rule it out anymore)? Does he regain his honour and become Jon/Dany’s Kingsguard/Queensguard? I don’t see it, personally. Jaime goes down in one of two ways, in my view:
- Killing Cersei: I like this because of the symmetry of them coming in to the world together and going out together. It also meets the valonqar prophecy’s requirements. Having said that, I kind of also want Tyrion to be the one who ends her, for all the pain she’s put him through. It would also be poetic because her paranoid fear of him killing her would sort of lead to him killing her. At this point, Cersei has offended so many people that anyone killing her could be poetic, but I digress.
- Heroic / Suicidal Charge: I know this is vague but I can see Jaime doing something crazy beyond the Wall in a really brave final charge (sort of like he did with Dany this season) to either take down the Night King or buy the rest of the gang more time. In this option, I would like to see him journey past the Wall with Jon on that final, last-ditch mission and finally regain his honour, in his mind at least, in doing so. I could even see him dying to protect Bran to make up for his actions at the beginning of the series.
I think at this point in the post, we should stop to acknowledge that it is unlikely that every single character is going to get that perfectly ironic death that they probably have earned. It’s just not that kind of story – in the novels, I don’t think many characters died in a way that felt like perfect irony. The closest I can think of was Tywin dying in the toilet but I don’t know if that’s irony exactly either. I’m just going to hold out hope that each character gets a dignified, on-screen death, and doesn’t go out the way Stannis did.
Where does this leave the littlest Lannister?
I don’t think I would be stirring any controversy by suggesting that Tyrion is the most likely of the Lannister group to survive. I do believe he’s earned it – he’s been through some shitty patches and been a less than pleasant individual in the books – but compared his siblings, they seem like somewhat lighter sins. In a more conventional fantasy, Tyrion would likely end up as Hand of the King/Queen to Jon/Danys after The Great War ends. I don’t know if Martin would approve such a vanilla, bland ending, though personally, I wouldn’t mind it terribly if the three protagonists were to end up aligned and working together in a peaceful future.
I don’t have solid reasons for claiming that Tyrion would make it through. A part of me thinks it would be dramatically fitting for Tyrion to inherit Casterly Rock after all he’s been through. Regardless of what happens to Jaime and Cersei, Tyrion has clearly hitched his horse to the winning team. Should humanity on Westeros be wiped out, then fine, no one gets Casterly Rock, not Cersei and not Jaime – but if the Allies win, Cersei will not be surviving this latest political misstep and even if Jaime somehow makes it out, I don’t think he will want the castle. If Tyrion were to die, the Castle just kind of disappears into obscurity the way that Highgarden and Sunspear have and that just feels wrong, somehow. It’s certainly possible, I guess.
Another soft reason for my stance is that I think of Tyrion as a fighter and a survivor. He’s been in many a pickle throughout the series and for him to fall at this point in the story would be anti-climactic. Furthermore, I don’t see him being on the front lines fighting off wights with an axe and spiked helmet so if he were to die, it would have to be through a fairly catastrophic event, like the Others catching Dany and her council off-guard. Given the Others’ style, this just doesn’t seem likely.
There is a particularly wild and ‘out there’ theory about Tyrion flipping out because of Dany’s relationship with Jon. I don’t know if I believe that Tyrion is in love with Dany. He does act like it and I think when I first saw signs of it in Season 6, I wrote it off in my mind as him admiring her as a leader or visionary. Now that I see him sulk at the fire place while asking cryptic questions about her love life, I don’t know what to think. I know, however, that I would hate for him to be in love with her; the less I see of Tyrion’s self-destructive love life from here on out, the better. Shae was bad enough; it would be really difficult to see him throw it all away out of jealousy of Jon. That scene at the end of the last episode where Tyrion creepily hears them go at it could mean one of two things – either he has just learned that Jon and Dany are related but elected not to say anything because of the damage it would do their alliance or he doesn’t know it and is just unhappy that Dany has taken a new lover. I would rather it be the former, obviously, and until told otherwise, that is how I will interpret it.
The other big question is whether or not Tyrion gets to ride a dragon. Even before Viserion took an arrow to his
knee vital organs, I wouldn’t have given Tyrion very good odds, unless the story pulled some weird Targaryen birth story shenanigans. Now that Dany has only two dragons left, I can’t see one of them going to Tyrion, as much as he may want one. To be fair, the books have had lines insinuating otherwise – like how on a dragon, Tyrion would finally get to physically look down upon his tormentors – but you can’t tell me that Tyrion can make a better case for Rhaegal than Rhaegar’s son, now can you?
No, I think Tyrion’s role in the story to come, for better or worse, is rather fixed. Along with Sam and Bran, he will play the role of the Central Headquarters, strategizing and keeping all the factions aligned and on task. It’s a fitting task for a more than capable administrator though I can just as easily see some excitement coming his way in the form of some tense confrontations with Cersei and Jaime.
We’ll stop here for today, but come Monday, I’ll be back with a look at the Stark legacy and the role that remaining Stark children will play in – sigh – the wars to come. Do you see now why I need to break these up into small pieces? Tinfoil can only do so much to prevent long term brain damage.
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