Episode 3 – Queen’s Justice
I have already written about episodes 1 & 2, in the article “Land and Sea”, and in the third episode of Season 7 pieces on the chessboard are positioned in such a way that the Queen (Daenerys) is checking the King (Jon). He arrives at Dragonstone at his own will, contrary to the advices of his vassals, and in Tyrion’s words, contrary to the advice he would have given him if he were his Hand. Jon comes to ask Daenerys to help him fight the Night King, since the Long Night is approaching, and, in the words of Davos Seaworth, it won’t matter whose skeleton will sit on the Iron Throne. Daenerys demands his loyalty, referring to the fact that Torrhen Stark, the last king in the North kneeled before a Targaryen, swearing his fealty in perpetuity. Jon refuses, since he believes that the Army of the Dead is the true enemy of Westeros, and that they should join forces in the fight against them.
Jon says: I am not the enemy. The dead are the enemy… The Army of the Dead is on the march… The army of the dead is real. The white walkers are real. The Night King is real, I’ve seen them. If they get past the Wall and we’re squabbling amongst ourselves… we’re finished. In his work Concept of the Political, Carl Schmitt writes that the specifically political distinction, is the discernment between friend and enemy, and all political actions or motifs may be reduced to it. At this moment, Daenerys asks of Jon to pledge his fealty, be an ally, in other words, a friend. By refusing, he is in open rebellion to the crown, in other words, an enemy. Jon wants her to wake up to the understanding that the whole Westeros has a common enemy, which endangers their very existence, and that they should unite against him.
If we follow Schmitt’s understanding, humanity could unite wihout abolishing the political friend-enemy distinction, if there were an outside enemy (an alien entity, for example) which endangers humanity as a whole. White walkers are such an enemy in the world of Westeros, but the problem lies in the fact that Daenerys and other lords of Westeros, and the other queen, Cersei, do not recognize that common enemy as being existent, and the specifically political distinction is still in the domain of internal war between humans. It is only rational to recognize the other monarch as an enemy if she endangers the very survival of Daenerys’ House. The queen from the other side of the chess board, Cersei, is winning at the moment, to make the matters even worse. Daenerys is informed that her fleet commanded by Yara is destroyed, and the remaining ships are captured, as well as her allies.
The danger that Jon is aware of, but the other lords and queens in the show are not, is a direct allusion to the global warming. The show’s screenwriter and the writer behind the novels, George R.R. Martin said in 2013: “Climate change is something that can wipe out human race. So, I wanted to do the analogue with the work, not specifically to the modern-day thing but as a general thing.” To tackle such issues, cooperation on the global level is needed, and I believe that Game of Thrones brilliantly illustrates the problems underlyign the achievement of this cooperative endeavour. To tackle global warming, all nations must limit their power in some ways to fight a “common enemy”. They will not do so because they fear other nations and the immediate threats they represent.
Jon’s warning: “If they get past the Wall while we’re squabbling amongst ourselves… we’re finished” is ominous in this regard. In other words, it is a security dilemma, as it is understood in the theory of international relations, which cannot be overcome with pure rationality, since it is rational to tackle the immediate threat of someone who takes the posture of your enemy at the very moment. Tyrion says to Jon: People’s minds aren’t made for problems that large. White walkers, the Night King, Army of the Dead – – it’s almost a relief to confront a comfortable, familiar monster, like my sister. People’s minds do not only lack the design to fully comprehend the nature of such threats, but they refuse to accept them as truths, calling them hoaxes, just like Tyrion did when he called the white walkers “grumkins and snarks”.
The other issue I would like to tackle is Daenerys being followed by the shadow of her father, the ‘Mad King’. Jon’s vassals said to him: “Don’t answer the summons of the Mad King’s daughter.” Jon says to her: “Your father burned my grandfather alive. He burned my uncle alive. He would have burned the Seven Kingdoms…” Daenerys responds: “My father… was an evil man.” She offers her sincere apologies. In other words, the question which is at stake, is whether the children are not only responsible for their fathers’ crimes, but also for the very fact that the same blood runs in their veins. While reading works of William Faulkner, one can get an idea that one’s blood cannot be escaped from, as it is illustrated in his Light in August. In this book, the the main character seems to be predestined to suffer the fate he does, only because of the blood which runs in his veins.
In The Sound and the Fury, blood also plays a crucial role, and to escape the “contamination” of family’s blood, her sister’s, Quentin dreams of incest. Tyron later says to Jon: “Children are not their fathers. Luckily for all of us.” This is a modern, individualist stance, which advocates the belief that we are not responsible for the sins of our fathers,and that we make our own destiny. It may be a comforting thought, but in the world of Game of Thrones, which is in many ways premodern, one’s heritage defines the character. This theme is further explored when Cersei punishes captured Ellaria Sand for poisoning her daughter, by making her watch the desintegration of her own daughter’s poisoned body in a dungeon. Children are, in this instance, not responsible for their mothers’ crimes, but suffered their fate because of them.
The Unsullied attack Casterly Rock; in a briliantly edited scene with Tyrion’s voice-over, we see them taking the castle, but finding it empty. Tyrion is similar to Odysseus in his guile and the ability to outmaneuver his enemies with cunning intelligence, mētis, which, for the Greeks originated from the sense, from the belly, and not Mind. They understood it, contrary to the later understanding of episteme (knowledge), as a practical intelligence which wins battles and enhances the chances of success in any practical endeavour. He managed to find a way to enter Casterly Rock, through the entry in the sewers he had built, due to the low company he had while young at the Rock. This is the moment which seems to be inspired with Illiad and Odyesseus’ ploy to conquer Troy. Yet, this time, he is outmaneuvered and while they capture the Rock, the Lannister army and their gold are elsewhere, conquering Highgarden and murdering Olenna Tyrell, thus ending the House for good.
Episode 4: The Spoils of War
Episode 4 is concerned with reunions and the regaining of former status, or its disawoval. Arya comes back to Winterfell and is Arya Stark once again, aclaiming her heritage and completing her departure from the Faceless Men. She is no longer No One, but a Stark, with rights, status and emotional bonds which accompany the title. Bran returns to Winterfell as well, but he is no longer Brandon Stark, but the Three Eyed Raven. His heritage and his memories are only a fracture of what he is now, since he possesses memories of everything that was. His former self is just a fragment of what he is now. Littlefinger gives him the dagger used in an attempt of his assassination and he gives it to Arya since it is “wasted on a cripple”. In other words, he renounces his former self, while Arya regains it.
Their father, Ned Stark, does not resemble himself in a statue representing himself the crypt, since everyone who knew his face is dead at the moment. Ned has lost his physical identity in the memory of the living since those who lived beside him live no more. Jon reveals ancient paintings to Daenerys, portraying First Men and Children of the Forest fighting side by side against the common enemy, the White Walkers. Daenerys sees the proof of the impending threat and finally believes Jon. Even a sceptic becomes convinced in things he or she sees proof of, but as we will see later, the trouble with certain humans is that even the mountain of proof cannot be enough if short-term self-interest, understood as narrowly as it can be, is paramount. This is another allusion to the current issue of humanity, the global warming.
Daenerys finds out about the fiasco at Casterly Rock and wants to fly to the Red Keep with her dragons, i.e. weapons of mass destruction, and destroy her enemies. Jon tells her that if she wants to be different from all the other rulers who destroy the lives of the people, she must not do so. Theon Greyjoy arrives at Dragonstone and Jon tells him that the only reason why he will not murder him is because he helped Sansa. Theon is a truly tragic character, not only because of the things Ramsay did to him, but because he did not really know if he truly was a Greyjoy, since he was raised by the Starks. His heritage is sharply divided. He was almost a brother Starks through bonds of affection. Through his name, which is, as Lacan teaches us, something that defines us before we develop our identity in any other way, he is completely a Greyjoy. His heritage makes him confused and he seemed to be doomed for ruin.
Daenerys decides to take the fight to the Lannisters and attacks their forces while they transport large supplies of grain. The Dothraki slaughter the Lannister soldiers with ease, and Drogon, burns the wagons of grain and the soldiers. We can see Tyrion, observing the slaughter of the men fighting for his family, and we can see how his identity and affection for Jamie, for his homeland, Westeros, is in conflict with his loyalty to his queen. He is obviously shaken and tristful, while he observes foreign savages slaughtering the men of his country. A dwarf may be forced to be without roots, since everyone else does not recognize him as an equal, or completely human, to sharpen the argument, but at this moment we see his affection for the men who would certainly despise him. In a way they are his people, and although he may not be attached to them, he is shaken when he sees them burning in front of his eyes. He says: “You idiot. You fucking idiot”, when he sees Jamie riding toward Drogon in a fruitless attempt to kill Daenerys, barely surviving it.
Episode 5: Eastwach
In this episode, an event I find to be amongst the crucial ones in Season 7 takes place. After we see Tyrion walking through the scorched battlefield half-drunk, seeing beyond recognition, Daenerys asks of the captured soldiers to bend the knee. Almost everyone bends it in the end, after hearing the dragon screech, but Randyll Tarly and his son refuse to do so. Randyll says to Tyrion: “Say what you will about your sister, she was born in Westeros. She’s lived here all her life. You, on the other hand, murdered your own father and chose to support a foreign invader. One with no ties to this land… with an army of savages at her [Daenerys’] back.” This Orban-esque discourse can also be interpreted as Heideggerian, since Randyll Tarly speaks of the rootlessness of the foreign invader and Cersei’s ties to the land. He also speaks of Tyrion’s immorality and the “army of savages” which threaten to destroy Westeros, its culture and everything it is. People can differ in their political views, but this kind of discourse is powerful, and we can see it everywhere around us. It derives its power from simple fact that someone who has lived in one country all of his or her life, has more reason to sustain its identity than a foreign invader or someone perceived to be “savage”, not cultured enough.
Daenerys respects his stance, not trading his honor for his life, and Dickon, Randyll’s son, decides to follow his father to his death. This is problematic, since he is an heir to the great house. Daenerys decides to burn them alive, although Tyrion protests against it. Many saw and are about to see the shadow of Aerys, the Mad King in this act. He too, burned people alive for opposing him; he did not resort to methods like holding in a cell to break one’s will, as Tyrion suggests, but annihilated his true or perceived enemies with one of the most cruel ways of execution imaginable. It reduces the victims to dust, denying them proper burial. In the previous episode, we discussed the meaning of heritage for the individuals and the question which everyone asks themselves, for propaganda reasons or out of genuine worry is: “Is Daenerys going to follow the footsteps of her father?”
Tyrion speaks to Varys and tells him that he cannot make Daenerys’ decisions for her. Varys says: “That’s what I used to tell myself about her father. I found the traitors but I wasn’t the one burning them alive. I was only a purveyor of information. It’s what I told myself as I watched them beg for mercy. I’m not the one doing it. When the pitch of their screams rose higher – I’m not the one doing it. When their hair caught fire and the smell of their burning flesh filled the throne room – I’m not the one doing it.” Tyrion replies. “Daenerys is not her father.” Varys replies: “And she never will be. With the right counsel.” This is problematic, how can the adviser restrain the will of the monarch? Tyrion already failed at doing it, and his counsel was right. As I recall, Daenerys burned the nobles in Meeren and she seemed to enjoy it. We will see in Season 8 if Daenerys will follow the path of fire and blood or restrain herself and become a just ruler. She seems to have both characteristics in her personality, one will have to prevail.
At the Citadel, Samwell speaks to the Archmaester and gathered maesters about the imminence of the attack of the White Walkers and their responsibility toward Westeros in trying to warn the Houses and queens, so they can be prepared. They are mocking Samwell and the tales of the supernatural they find ludicrous. This seems to be an allusion to the responsibility of the scientific community in our own world, who are in a position of great respect and trust with the people, and we might say rulers as well. They need to follow the signs of mounting evidence and warn the community about the dangers we are facing. In this episode, this kind of information seems to be hidden, there needs to be a will to find it, but the maesters don’t have the will for it. They speak in terms of realpolitik when the true danger in the North remains concealed, due to their lack of humility and arrogance. They follow the facts available, but that may not be enough at some moments, when the truth remains beyond the empirical knowledge available and there is a need to be prepared to use imagination to believe the truths one does not want to believe. Empiricism may be the doom of us all.
Jon decides to lead a raid beyond the Wall in an attempt to find proof of the White Walkers’ existence, so the wight can be shown to Cersei, and an armistice can be negotiated. Jon decides to take Gendry, a bastard son of Robert Baratheon with him, the worshippers of the Lord of Light and the Hound, a person who was mocking religion from the beginning, but seems to have a need for greater purpose and redemption. The motif appears in the series in the character of Jamie Lannister as well. Is redemption possible at all? Jamie meets with Tyrion and in a particularly emotional moment they discuss the need for an armistice and Tyrion’s act of killing their father. Cersei, after hearing it, reasons in the terms of realpolitik and decides to buy time, so she can strike and be victorious, for Jamie and herself, and the child in her womb, with the plan to establish a Reich which will last a thousand years.