Author: Sakhi Nitin Anita | Image: Polygon.com
The following review is part five in the series of seven episode reviews from the Season 7 of popular TV series Game of Thrones. Each episode will be reviewed from a feminist lens by SMIW readers. Read the previous episode reviews before you begin. Or, if you already have, move right ahead to the latest edition:
After everything that went down (including Jaime) in the last episode, GoT decided to take a breather and set the scene for the wars to come. Which ought to have been great; the essence of Thrones lives in such small,character building moments. But after seven seasons, numerous unraveling plot-lines, and no source material to anchor it, I have to confess that the show has gone slightly off-track. For my part, I’m angry. Really angry. And disappointed. So what do I do when I’m wound up about something? I write letters.
So, here’s me, sending off ten ravens (and one rant) to certain people who I wish would (have) listen(ed) to me this episode.
Letter One: Dickon Tarly.
You have a pathetic name. You weren’t so pathetic yourself though. But there’s a difference, however subtle, between gallantry and stupidity. You, my dear green boy of the Reach, were leaning on the side of stupid. If you had learnt from history – or just seen Season 1 – you would have realised that sometimes, it is better to put honour aside, and bend the knee to queens more adept at playing the game than you.
You shouldn’t have died. You needn’t have died. Not for your turncoat father, anyway. Especially after he gave you that name. RIP.
Letter Two: Davos Seaworth.
Dear Ser Davos,
I like you, I do. You’re good and kind and sensible: a trait that very few in your part of the world seem to possess. But, why risk your life and waste important screen-time bringing back a character who had ceased to matter many seasons ago? Were you getting too old to play wingman to a certain Drama King in the North, and sought a younger, cooler replacement?
I get that Gendry totally carries off millennial angst, and when you first (re) found him, the directions in which his character arc could go were intriguing. But guess what, it didn’t.
Gendry, at least for now, seems to have become just another recruit for Jon’s new Boyz Go Huntin’ club. More on that in bit, by the way. But seriously, Ser Davos, did you go these lengths just to give the fans another stupid nostalgic rehashing to get hyped over?
Ned 2.0 and Robert 2.0, y’all! #BastardsReunite! It’s going to be Le-GEN-wait for it-DRY! Except it isn’t. Imagine the awkward silence when they realise that Gendry’s father actually killed Jon’s biological father.
I’m disappointed in you, Papa Davos. Despite your ingenious fermented crabs.
Letter Three: Jon Snow.
Okay, I get that you’re majorly into the Night King these days. I get that it must be a bother, seeing as you don’t want any competition for the title of King (Queens are no problem, of course). I also get the whole Saviour of the World complex, I do. But how stupid can you be? Let me lay it out to you in a listicle form, since you seem to be the type who reads those:
1. You come to Dragonstone to mine for dragonglass, which you start doing. Alright.
2. You try to convince Daenerys to lend her dragons to your Rid-the-Walkers campaign. She demurs, and instead you decide to play it cool, using the opportunity to tease a slow romantic burn. Kinda sweet, tbh.
3. You play with some dragons in the meantime. Necessary, since #SecretTargaryen. Actually pretty cool.
4. But then, when you hear that two – not one, but two – of your beloved half-siblings have returned from their presumed dead status, instead of going home and celebrating Raksha Bandhan with them, or even staying at Dragonstone to continue the dragonglass procurement and Dragon Queen engagement, you decide to go beyond the Wall to catch a wight instead? Why, they ask? So that you can hope to persuade Cersei Lannister to call for an armistice and lend you her army to fight long-dead zombies and un-dead ice monsters. After defeating whom, you can go back to nicely fighting each other for the Iron Throne. Wait what?
Excellent plan! Except, IT SUCKS!
5. Yes, yes, I know Bran told you about the whole White Walkathon to the Wall. But consider this: in the time it takes you to sail to Eastwatch, find the army of the dead, do some fighting with the walkers to hopefully land a sample wight (Question 1: HOW, exactly, do you plan to do this?), subdue the said wight (Question 2: HOW, exactly, do you plan to do this?), sail back to Queen’s Landing, have a show-and-tell with Cersei (Question 3: HOW, exactly, do you plan to do this?), negotiate terms of peace (Question 4: HOW, exactly, do you plan to do this?), prepare the armies to travel back North, take them through the Wall (Question 5: HOW, exactly, do you plan to do this?) – do you think the NK and his AotD are going to hold their breath* patiently, playing Cards against Humanity, as they wait for your return?
*Side note: They do not breathe, as you noted earlier.
5. Also, don’t you think it’s kinda dumb to assume that seeing a wight would miraculously convince Cersei about the existence of white walkers? I mean, HEY isn’t her own bodyguard a product of necromancy, brought back from death to an un-dead, zombie like state? If that’s all it takes, then maybe just somehow sneak into her court and point frantically towards The Mountain, huh Jon? Take the Hound along for some blatant fan-service while you’re at it..
6. Wouldn’t it have been a better, and faster, plan to finish / imprison Cersei without mass destruction and death (now that the Dany + Drogon combo has already shown such an approach to be decisively possible), get the Lannister army and allies to pledge their allegiance to Dany, and then go sort the mess in the North with the team of Avengers, Justice League and Suicide Squad united?
7. Wouldn’t it have been even better to learn to ride a dragon and fly away with Dany to Dorne, get married by that nice meticulous-note-taking Septon, and live your days in the sun drinking cheap Dornish swill with those scaly beasts whom you would have collectively called your children / cousins?
Give it a thought before you go dashing away into the cold and endanger lives of Sachche aashiq Tormund and Ser Jorah.
The Hound is safe though. There’s no way we don’t get Clegane-bowl.
Letter Four: The Night King.
Yo Night King,
Firstly, what is your endgame? Like, why are you in this game? Everyone else has a motive, but you don’t. It makes you, even with your fancy blue eyes and edgy stalagmite crown, seem unnatural. Which you are, no doubt. But WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVE, DUDE?
Oh, wait, I remember. Somewhere in Season 6, it was said that you were created by the Children of the Forest as a weapon against the invading humans. So that you could stop the aforementioned humans before they destroyed the forest’s ecosystem and the Children’s way of life.
Is that your raison d’etre? Just kill them all so that they stop fighting each other and wreaking havoc on the planet? If that’s really so, I’m switching over to your side, permanently.
Now that I’m on Team WW, I must say, you guys are exceptionally slow. While Fool and the Gang cover leagues between Dragonstone and the Wall in like, less than an episode, your walk from Hardhome to the Wall is taking forever, dude. An entire season and a half, and you still haven’t made it. Admittedly, you’ve made a few pit-stops along the way to look at flying crows menacingly. But come on, your lot don’t even need to stop to eat or sleep or shit!
Or are you supposed to be late, because you are already, um… Late? 😐
Letter Five: Cersei Lannister.
Since I’m on Team Night King now, and you’re going to die anyway, I just want to say that I harbour no hard feelings towards you.
In fact, I’ve developed a rather grudging admiration for you. You’re as self-made as Daenerys, despite being without her fireproof abilities and fantastic offspring. Yet, here you are: Queen of the Andals, Protector of the Realm,doing just as you please.
You are truly your father’s daughter and rightful heir: not Tyrion, not Jaime.
Tywin, the patriarch, never realised your potential; he always cast you aside for being a woman. Not unlike Dany, you too were used as leverage for marriage in exchange of power. You were treated solely as a child bearing machine. And yet, you defied that as well, bearing children born of desire, not marital service.
If there’s any woman in Westeros who can fulfill a career ambition, it is you. And the journey hasn’t been easy. You lost everything… I mean, you destroyed everything that came in the way, including your own children. But no worries, there’s a new one on the way. Try to go a bit light on the wine, though – simply for medical reasons, not sanskar.
You turned around odds that were looking exceedingly against you. You defeated three powerful enemies and won the Iron Bank’s confidence back in a single masterstroke.
You’re focused enough to even coldly warn the one person alive whom you actually love – should they ever break your trust.
You did terrible things on the way – I can never forgive you for what you did to Margaery; you are selfish and heartless: you fail to see chains that bound you as binding on others too. You fail to liberate others as you did yourself. But still, you have never wavered from your ultimate goal of power. Even now, in the face of impending defeat, you’re still standing strong, preparing to fight and plot. And for that, you’ve earned my respect.
When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. And I don’t think there was ever a player as good as you.
I wish you good fortune and a glorious death in the wars to come.
Letter Six: Jaime Lannister.
You have two options: Either kill your twin sister or run the hell away from her.
I suggest both. Kill her first, then you can pack your bags, give the Red Keep to Bronn (he’s earned it), go to Winterfell and start a knight training academy with Brienne (yeah, there may even be a future there) and Arya.
You could even try and make peace with Bran the Westeros Google. In fact, for all you know, the Three-Eyed-Raven will probably want to thank you for pushing him towards pursuing his intended career path.
Goodbye and good luck.
Letter Seven: Arya Stark.
I’m glad you’ve come home and everything, but could you stop sleuthing all over the place and treating everyone like a suspect in an Agatha Christie novel? I thought Sansa was being nothing but diplomatic, and handling everyone like the Boss Lady she is. It may even be true that she wants power, but is there anything wrong in that? Isn’t being a faceless assassin who can massacre at will a form of power too? Isn’t knowing everything that ever happened in the past and present a form of power too? I’d think wanting some good old political power – and knowing how to wield it – is not a bad thing at all, especially for a Stark.
But, instead of empathising with Sansa and helping her deal with her new position, why are you hell bent on playing mind games with her and ruining your already fragile sisterhood? In the previous episode, I had high hopes of an Arya-Sansa dream team running the North. Her head, your hand. But can you please also use your heart for a second? Or did they petrify it in the House of Black and White during your No-Name training?
And girl, for goodness’ sake, don’t underestimate Littlefinger. Ever. He played you to get a rare win this episode.
Letter Eight: Brandon Stark.
Dear Bran / Three-Eyed-Raven / Weirdest dude in Westeros,
Why don’t you stop possessing poor innocent crows and instead hook up to the Westeros Wide Weirdwood network to get some intel on Littlefinger? He’s playing your sisters like pawns just like he played your mother and her sister before them.
Heck, he even plotted to kill you just because “Chaos is a ladder.” You know this, and you do NOTHING about it. Sure, you’re more RAM than emotion now, but trust me when I say this, 3EYDR: Littlefinger is much, much more dangerous than the Night King. He’s also easier to kill.
Also, you need to chill the fuck out a little.
Letter Nine: Samwell Tarly.
Oh Sam, Sam, Sam…
Sorry to hear that the Maesters are ivory-tower academicians who don’t care about your field action project. Activism and academics don’t always mix well. But for heaven’s sake, STOP WHINING about your miserable existence and LISTEN TO GILLY when she tells you about a super important piece of history concerning a Targaryen-Stark alliance. Which by the way, is a tidbit that you completely missed, despite spending ALL your free time reading ‘101 Ways Gryffindor Can Win’ type puff pieces.
For someone who’s been totally invested in personal self development since Season 5, with a big war looming ’round the corner all this while – your attention to detail is a 4 at best.
This is what happens when you ignore a woman’s words and wallow in your own selfish issues and lack of personal gain. You stall the plot for entire seasons.
You’re not the first man to do it and you won’t be the last, but seriously, that hardly makes it OK.
Damn you, and hey, sorry about your family, dude. Overall, a shit outing for the Tarly Boyz.
Letter Ten: Daenerys Targaryen
Dear Sweet Dany,
I’ve left your letter until the very end because I’m really, really upset with you. And I need to sort this out with you once and for all!
I’ve been watching Season 1 again and I can’t help marvel at how extraordinary and powerful your journey has been. You’ve come a LONG way from being a glorified bed-slave sold to a horse-lord.
In spite of your vulnerability, you were strategic, knowing where power truly lay and sought it, killing your damp squib of a brother for coming in the way. And when you realised that even as a Khaleesi, your claim to fame rested solely on your husband, you put him aside – lovingly, heartbreakingly, but you did it nevertheless; and looked within for the power and magic that you knew you always held.
Having first-hand knowledge of slavery, your drive to abolish it is hence rooted in this lived experience, but does it extend to a challenging of other, equally cruel, acts of power? You have been besieged with these questions since your Dothraki husband boasted of burning cities, raping women and taking slaves. In fact, I loved it when you said:
“The wheel that has rolled over rich and poor to the benefit of no one but the Cersei Lannisters of the world”
That would make Khal Marx proud.
But in the eyes of the common folk, aren’t you a Cersei Lannister in some ways too? How are you, the Breaker of Chains, any different when you give people a choice, where the only options are swearing fealty to you or death? What kind of a choice is that?
Also, what is this strange obsession with everyone bending the knee. Seriously, if that was a drinking game, everyone would a have a Tyrion-level buzz by now!
Take a minute and think about that, please?
Other than that little tidbit, you’re totally winning this thing. But then, you already knew that.
My One Rant: David Benioff and D.B Weiss
Dear D.B and D.B.W,
I’ve spent a good part of today writing fictional letters to fictional characters. To this regard, I should indeed congratulate you for making me invest so much of myself into your story and your characters. But I do have some bones to pick with you both. Especially now, after leading me (and the rest of the fans) in so deep.
Seven seasons and no new books later, I can understand your frustration, boredom and need to move on. But it bothers me that how easily almost all the secondary female characters have become expendable, now that there is no source narrative available for them. After the impressive Ladies’ Round Table in Stormborn and Olenna’s famous last words in Queen’s Justice, I had high feminist hopes for the remainder of Thrones.
Why aren’t there more Missandeis and Gillys, and WHY aren’t they being given a chance to speak more often?
This episode didn’t even pass the Bechedel test.
In fact, let’s run a gender lens across the spectrum: There are only FOUR female leads remaining – Daenerys, Cersei, Sansa, Arya. All of them are impressive characters and hold positions of importance vis-à-vis the main plot, but they are all surrounded by men. Dany especially, whose only female companion Missandei – gender eq champ she may be – spoke to her the last time about boys. Similarly, Sansa and Arya maybe together, and Arya may even have found a soul sister in Brienne, but while Brienne has hardly any narrative role, Arya and Sansa are being set up within the story – to face off against each other.
So much for your insistence on girl power at the beginning of the season. While there have admittedly been strides made forward, ultimately, it leaves a horrible taste in my mouth.
What kind of a message are you sending about girls and women who attempt to play the titular game?
That ultimately, only the ruthless sort of women will make it, while the Tyrions and Theons live on for no apparent reason, and the honourable Jon Snows are offered a chance back at life, even made (reluctant) Kings. These honourable men also get to knock some sense into their ruthless female counterparts, like Jon to Sansa, Jaime to Cersei, Tyrion to Daenerys and of course, most recently, Sam to Gilly.
On the other hand, Jon Snow sets about collecting his posse with only ONE condition for joining – you ought to be a dude who’s still breathing.
Can’t help but quote a real life world leader known for his sexism and sexual assault:
Here’s hoping the rest of the episodes this season and the final season next year would make further improvements.
Episode Rating: Three and a half menacing glances by the Night King
Episode Winners: Ser Davos, Cersei Lannister, Team Dany, Littfinger (what?)
Episode Losers: The Tarly Boyz, Jon Snow, Arya Stark
Updated Season Leaderboard: Sansa Stark (1st), Euron Greyjon (2nd), Team Dany, Jorah Mormont, Lyanna Mormont, Ser Bronn, Scorpion bow thingy, #Sheerya (joint 3rd).
Updated Season Loserboard: Littlefinger (1st), Jaime Lannister (2nd), Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly (joint 3rd)
About the Author:
Sakhi Nitin Anita is a feminist researcher, writer for hire, and magic bean buyer.