Game Of Thrones: the limits of loyalty

Lainey Posted by Lainey at August 28, 2017 15:04:00 August 28, 2017 15:04:00

All that’s left of Game Of Thrones now is 6 super-sized episodes coming… no time soon. What needs to be accomplished in those remaining episodes is, obviously, figuring out whether or not the wheel will be broken, how secret identities might tear lovers apart, and, yes, dealing with the dead army and the Night King. That’s a big one for me. Because right now, the Night King has no motivation beyond the fact that he’s looking for real estate in the big city where it’s not so cold. What is his big grudge? What, if anything, is he avenging? Who is he really mad at? Where are his loyalties?

Because this is a story about loyalty. Loyalty is the dilemma for every character on this show. Loyalty, at times rigid, can lead to devastating consequences. Loyalty, often broken, can be the key to survival…albeit temporary. For 7 seasons now, Game Of Thrones seems to be telling us that loyalty’s most effective form is elastic. The ones who land on their feet over and over again are the ones who are able to bend and twist their loyalties without completely snapping them – although now, as we approach the end, they’re getting closer and closer to that point. Which is why these are also the most interesting personalities: Tyrion, for example, and Varys, and, above all, Cersei, infinitely more fascinating – at least to me – than the Night King. Because of the way she’s struggled with and played her loyalties. Because her ambitions are often in opposition to her loyalties. So far, the Night King has no such conflict. And if they don’t show us soon whether or not he has any, he’s basically the meteor/asteroid/volcano/fault line in a disaster movie starring The Rock.

Which is why, yes, right now, I care so much more about someone like Theon than the Night King. Theon is a common complaint. Here’s why I appreciated the time they gave to Theon in the season finale: because if Game Of Thrones aims to examine and interrogate loyalty in its various forms (and it does), there’s no better subject than Theon Greyjoy, who’s never been able to centre his loyalties between his competing family ties. It took someone just like him to explain to him that his problem has always been belonging – that belonging must be accepted as much as it is given. But that doesn’t just apply to Theon. The reason Theon’s conversation with Jon Snow was so critical is because that same dilemma is about to happen to Jon himself. Eventually Jon will find out that he is both Stark and Targaryen. And Theon Greyjoy is probably the only person who can relate to what that feels like, to be confused between two loyalties, and to feel like he has to choose. We had to see the impact that Jon’s words had on Theon by the beach. So that, perhaps, at some point, we might see the impact Jon’s words will have on himself. 

What will be the impact on Tyrion’s loyalties now that Jon and Daenerys are incest-f-cking? I totally missed it until that final moment on the boat that Tyrion is in love with her. But now it’s all coming together. It’s why he volunteered to speak with Cersei privately. For years now, Tyrion has watched other men, like Jorah and Daario and now Jon, run straight into the path of death to prove themselves to her – that was the conversation he and Daenerys had last week when she was listing off the bravery of all the men who are in love with her. So this was his version of being the hero. He went to talk to a woman who’s more dangerous than a hundred assassins, more poisonous that the most poisonous snake. To show Daenerys that he can be a hero too. Nothing tests loyalty like a broken heart. They pretty much bashed us over the head with it. With the dark, ominous music that swelled during that shot of Tyrion in the shadows after Jon went into Daenerys’s room (suite?), the camera coming up over his shoulder sinisterly, and the look on his face – part hurt and mostly bitter. And only minutes after being manipulated by Cersei. She lured Tyrion back to the Red Keep for a private audience, she wanted him to know she was pregnant, she knew better than he did how felt about her previous children. In the short term, that convinced him that she was being sincere about wanting to help fight the army of the dead but in the long term, it gives him an anchor. If the love of my life doesn’t love me back, maybe I can find my way home. It would appear then that Tyrion’s loyalty to Daenerys will be tested against his attachment to his last name. And that may explain why we’ve had to listen to so many conversations between Tyrion and Daenerys this year about whether or not she can actually trust him. She could be breaking bad… but she could also have been foretelling that Tyrion might break bad as well, or instead.

Remember my totally inane observation about Daenerys’s makeup a few weeks ago? That she was wearing too much of it and I was reading it as a sign that she would turn dark? Well her makeup has totally calmed down since. And I’m still reading into it. It’s the influence of Jon. It’s the effect of Jon’s courage and integrity. And, duh, the way he looks at her (while he’s f-cking her). But also, it’s the loss of her children. Like Cersei, Daenerys has lost more than one child now. Every child’s death deepened Cersei’s hate and bloodlust. Daenerys was already getting super aggro. Losing Viserion could have sent her in the same direction – but it didn’t. Cersei is (allegedly) pregnant. The show keeps telling us that Jon Snow is about to become Daenerys’s baby father (the way Drogon reacted to him, the fact that she keeps repeating how she can’t have children). This, perhaps, is what might save Daenerys from going full Vader. Because that’s what we’re building to when she finds out that she’s not the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. And that, um, she just boned her nephew. Which of course sets up a loyalty vs love problem for both of them.

As mentioned earlier, Jon’s loyalty issues are about to become even more layered. He has to convince the North that he’s bended the knee to a Queen who’s worth it. And then he has to work out his identity crisis between Winterfell and Dragonstone. And on top of that, the man who’s always done the right thing has to decide whether or not he can continue to romance his actual aunt. Given that Jon’s defining attribute has always been “the right thing”, I can’t imagine that will change where Daenerys is concerned. Their love is doomed – for no other reason than he’ll refuse to let history repeat itself.

The way Sansa and Arya Stark refused to let history repeat itself, learning from the mistakes of their dumbass mother. Arya Stark has long been one of the most popular characters on this show but Sansa, many of you had no time for Sansa. For those of us who have always believed in Sansa Stark (because goddamn it we love and understand teen girl drama!) last night was the payoff. Last night was when those Stark loyalties got cashed in. It was the redemption of Ned Stark. For while his rigid loyalty cost him his own life, it was what he instilled in his children that became their ultimate salvation – and the re-strengthening of his House, his pack. Tell me why, when all this is handled, it can’t be Sansa Stark, Queen Regent to Jon and Daenerys’s child, with Arya as her Hand as the final shot on this show? Nobody needs Third Eye Bran and his crystal ball tree anyway. Can we talk about how useless Bran is? Varys didn’t get a single line this episode. And there’s Bran who “remembers everything” and he didn’t think to go checking up on his aunt’s romantic past until Samwell came in all like, um, why don’t you take your time machine back to before your aunt gave birth just to make sure you have the whole story, since you already know your dad lied to you once? God.

On the upside, Brienne of Tarth is challenging Daenerys Targaryen as the woman with the most suitors on the show. Because even if we might have lost Tormund, the Hound seemed pretty flirty with her, all dressed up in his nice clothes, and Jaime’s on his way to fight alongside her.

And finally, I see you Jorah. I see you trying to tell Daenerys to fly her dragons over to Winterfell instead of getting on Jon Snow’s f-ckboat. Where does Jorah stand in Daenerys’s love line? If Jon is in first place, and Daario’s behind him, is Jorah ahead of Tyrion, or is he way at the back… WHERE HE BELONGS.

Photos:
HBO

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