Killing is nothing new to Game of Thrones, but for characters to kill who they are? Ah, now that’s more interesting. It’s the essence of the show, really. You’d have thought that our heroes would be used to the game by now, but they constantly underestimate the world and their place in it. This paves the way for some hard truths and even harder decisions.
Daenerys herself is forced to swallow a hard truth. This world of hers cannot be controlled. Her attempts thus far have proved futile, and now fatal with the death of Barristan Selmy. He was her most trusted and loyal advisor. What did he get for it? Stabbed to death in an alley like a poor peasant. Dany now feels the cruel hand of revenge brewing. While she seems completely justified, it’s also unlike her, and unlike a Queen. If she was to round up all the masters and leave them to the fiery wrath of her dragons, would that make her any better than her father, the Mad King? If so, how could she possibly make any kind of difference in Westeros if she can’t make a change here in Meereen? Her consignment to marry Hizdahr is just one of many decisions she had to learn the hard way. No one ever said ruling was easy.
Jon Snow learns this the hard way as well. He is forced to make a decision that may turn the tide in the fight against the White Walkers, but will also divide the Night’s Watch in half. He seeks counsel from Maester Aemon, who urges Jon Snow to “kill the boy, and let the man be born.” Every character could learn a thing or two if they cultivated these words more often. Of course, this is much easier said than done.
The phrase “Kill the boy,” may or may not contain a dual meaning. It’s obviously a metaphor, but it could also have a more literal meaning in regards to the fate of Jon Snow. The show appears to have set something in motion with Olly, Jon’s steward. We haven’t forgotten his pivotal role in last season’s ‘The Watchers on the Wall,’ and he certainly does NOT let Jon forget what the wildlings did to his family. Will he be confronting the Lord Commander about his decision in time? Or will Jon manage to sway him and get him to see the hard truth he’s been dealt? Jon, you best keep Ghost and Longclaw close by.
Elsewhere in the North, Sansa is treated to the most awkward dinner in the Seven Kingdoms courtesy of the Boltons. Ramsay excessively makes a show of Reek, pointing out that he is the closest thing to a family that Sansa has left. The tables turn when Roose delivers the news that he and his wife Walda are expecting, effectively putting Ramsay in his place. I’ll drink to that! Now that Roose has a legitimate heir underway, what does that mean of Ramsay’s future at Winterfell? At this point, Ramsay has pretty much out-Joffrey’d Joffrey, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he kills his mother-in-law or his future brother-in-law. Just another day at House Bolton as far as I’m concerned.
However depraved the Boltons may be, this episode featured a tender moment between father and son, or about as tender as it could ever get beneath the banners of the Flayed Man. Roose describes the cruel circumstances that gave birth to an equally cruel Ramsay. While it didn’t do much to define Ramsay (we clearly know who he is and what he’s capable of), the scene did inspire some purpose in him. It’s a notable contrast from the heartfelt moment between Stannis and Shireen. It’s also surprisingly telling of two fathers, Stannis and Roose, both of whom never crack a smile. Two hard men on separate sides of the battlefield. Who will emerge the victor? More importantly, who is worth rooting for?
Jorah and Tyrion are still on the long voyage to Meereen, passing through the ruins of Old Valyria. Here, they discuss the doom that had befallen the land, with Tyrion concluding that the rise of such a powerful kingdom was all for nothing. Because everything inevitably succumbs to ruin. Then, out of the gloom emerges Drogon, free and determined. Perhaps it’s a sign for Tyrion that there is still magic left in this world, that maybe there’s a chance for something better. Cut to the Stone Men in all of their grotesque horror. It seems awe and terror walk a very fine line.
Now, much has been said about greyscale this season. One can’t help but wonder if the showrunners are planning an outbreak of some kind. I wonder, too, what they have planned for Jorah now that he’s contracted the disease. A cruel irony, but perhaps a necessary one. Could sympathy buy him back into Khaleesi’s circle? Or will he succumb to the cruel fate of the stone men? Jorah, you deserve better.
“Kill the boy.” Perhaps Maester Aemon is speaking to us as well. As characters are forced to make tough decisions, we can no longer depend on emotion or favor to win us over. Only the one who’s willing to do what needs to be done. Nevermind the guilt. Kill the boy. It’s the only way to survive in this world.