Episode 6 – Beyond the Wall
In the episode 3, the one I have already written about in the article “Mad King’s Daughter?” (covering episodes 3-5), Littlefinger says to Sansa: “Don’t fight in the North or the South. Fight every battle everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.” This is a glimpse into the mind of Littlefinger, a character who has, to this point, outlived particularly shrewd characters like Olenna Tyrell and canny strategists like Tywin Lannister, by sheer cunning, and practical intelligence. He is guile, prodigously able pretender, he rules others in shadows through plots which stir discord and conflict between families and among family members. Littlefinger is, among the few characters in the series which is thoroughly evil. He is Shakespeare’s Iago.
Cersei exhibits murderous tendencies, she is completely egotistical, prone to torture and inflicting every kind of pain imaginable to her enemies, but she sincerely loves her children. Littlefinger is a low-born whose only purpose in life is to “climb the ladder” and chaos is such a ladder, as he tells Varys earlier in the show, and Bran reminds him of it, signaling that he knows things that happened involving Littlefinger himself. He constantly claims that he loved Catelyn, but that seems to be a perversed, obsessed “love” which in the end does not resemble love at all. It is an obsession which makes the “loved on” nothing but an object of desire which must be attained, even if the whole world burns. Thus, the object of his “love” becomes Sansa, Catelyn’s daughter, because she resembles the former object of obsession.
These words also reveal the structure of paranoia, and Lacan believed that the paranoid subject is in fact functional, attaching to it a phenomenon of “paranoiac knowledge”. The paranoid subject is abundant in “hostile potentialites” and Littlefinger’s words show that for him, they are endless, “everyone is your enemy”. The capacity to acquire immense knowledge is at the crux of Littlefinger’s method. Whether he is a paranoiac or not is irrelevant, but these words reveal the structure of an imaginative way of thinking which exhibits such tendencies. The most dangerous thing in his discourse is that he tries to persuade Sansa to adopt this kind of reasoning, and since she is not trained to think in such a way, possibilities for him to manipulate her seem endless.
In episode 6, Littlefinger plots to divide Sansa and Arya, by leading the former to find a message Sansa had sent to Robb years ago, urging him to come to King’s Landing and kneel to Joffrey. Arya threatens Sansa that she will reveal the message to the Northern Lords and shows her contempt toward her weakness. So far, Littlefinger has achieved two things. He manages to turn Arya against Sansa and put the former in a position of weakness. Since he achieved this, Sansa feels vulnerable and desperate, ready to adopt a paranoid mode of thinking, perceive her sister as a threat to herself as the Lady of Winterfell, the realm, and ultimately want to destroy her. Arya is in fact a threat to Littlefinger himself, since if she is out of the picture, there is no one who can stand in the way of his goal, becoming the Lord of Winterfell through marrying Sansa.
Jon leads the small company including Thoros and Berric Dondarrion beyond the Wall to find a White Walker that hey could use as a proof of the White Walkers’ existence which could be shown to Cersei. Jon discusses the religion of the Lord of Light with Berric and he claims that death is the enemy, the ultimate evil. Contrary to the Faceless Men who worship the God of Death and give the Gift of death to those who seek it, the worshippers of the Lord of Light, like the ancient Greeks, see death as the enemy which cannot be beaten, but must be fought against nevertheless.
The Greeks felt about death in pretty much the same way and their vision of Hades is the vision of a pitiful place. Achilles longs to be the peasant on Earth rather than being a shadow in the Underworld. The religion of the Lord of Light is a strange combination of what we might call paganism, since it includes blood magic, human sacrifices etc., the Greek understanding of life, as we mentioned above and the Christian understanding of fight against darkness and ultimately, believing in one God, as opposed to all the other religions in this fictional world.
The fight against the dead bear which wounds Thoros and finally kills him, the fight against the Walkers and ultimately Daenerys’ arrival with dragons as a deus ex machina and the killing of Viserion, work very well on screen and are a true aesthetic pleasure well worth watching. These sections show the true meaning of sacrifice one has to make for a greater goal, even if it may seem fruitless, as we will see later. This is a struggle for attaining proof of the great danger, in a way, knowledge. After Benjen saves Jon from the Walkers and Daenerys sees his scars in bed, they become allies, Jon calls her his queen. In Leonard Cohen’s words: “Ah, but a man never got a woman back/not by begging on his knees/Or I’d crawl at you baby and I’d fall at your feet…“. Jon does precisely that, he bends the knee and pledges his allegiance, winning her heart in the process.
Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf
At a meeting in King’s Landing, a wight is shown to Cersei, the proof of the imminent threat which can destroy the Seven Kingdoms. Euron fakes fear and says he will depart for the Iron Islands to escape the predicament. Cersei agrees to an armistice under the condition that Jon swears that his army will stay in the North. In other words, she agrees to the possibility of the “Cold War”, the friend-enemy distinction is not eliminated, but frozen for the moment until the common enemy is defeated. Jon says that he cannot serve two queens and that he has already pledged loyalty to Daenerys.
This foolish sincerity leads Cersei to storm out of the meeting and we are back to square one. Tyrion decides to speak to Cersei alone and after a rather tense argument, Cersei returns and says that they will fight as allies against the army of the Dead. She says that she realizes that they have a common enemy, thus for the moment eliminating the friend-enemy distinction among the two queens and recognizing the other not as a friend, but as someone who she will not engage in battle against untill the “common enemy” is annihilated.
This shows that Schmitt’s distinction, as sketched out in the previous article, would remain valid even if there was an threat to the human race perceived as a common enemy, an alien entity of a sort; after the defeat of the invader threatening all humans, they would start waging war against one another once again. The distinctly political relationship does not seem to have an end since human beings always find an enemy among themselves, someone who threatens their own dominion, the way of life or whatever. This is, in fact, as we soon find out, only a trickery, as she plans to use Euron’s ships to bring the Golden Company, the mercenary army from Essos and wage war against Daenerys nevertheless.
The whole idea behind the meeting and the rational explanation that mankind is faced with a threat which can annihilate them does not mean much to Cersei. Tyrion, although he is her brother, did not realize that some people just want to see the world burn, and wouldn’t mind living amidst the ashes if they managed to survive somehow (although this is a delusion, of course). Cersei knows she is priviliged because of her status and that she might escape even the Dead, by escaping to an island perhaps. Parallels to the global warming and our own present condition are striking. Jamie is disgusted with her reasoning and leaves for the North, so he can join the fight against the Dead. His decision shows that there is some hope for a joint fight against the dangers which threaten all of humanity.
Theon talks to Jon and tells him that he admires him for being a moral person who always knows what to do and does not fail at being good. Jon replies that he regrets many things, but admits that he has never done wrongs of a kind Theon has done. While Jon considered himself a bastard all of his life, he has always had firm ground and an identity. Although not a Stark by name, he was always one, by blood. While he was in the Night’s Watch, he had brothers who would die for him. Theon was always completely confused about his identity and we may presume that the evils he did came out of his lack of firm ground and moral compass. Jon tells him that he is both a Stark and a Greyjoy.
I will not dwell into the complexities of such a position, for example, what if these two Houses waged war one against the other. Which side should Theon take? The bonds of blood and affection (he has brothers and sisters on both sides, by blood – Yara – and brothers he grew and sisters he grew up with) would prevail or the fact that his name is Greyjoy? We might never know, but we soon find out that Theon has managed to defeat his own state of being completely defeated when he fights the leader of the Ironborn who wants to pillage and rape. His journey is to follow the bonds of blood and affection and try to rescue Yara.
At Winterfell, we see the consequences of Littlefinger’s manipulating Sansa and trying to make her paranoid, and see enemies everywhere around her, more specifically in Arya. He tells her to imagine the worst motives someone could have for doing what he or she is doing (another sign of a paranoid structure of thought). If we follow this kind of reasoning, Arya’s motive for coming to Winterfell is to kill Sansa and become the Lady of Winterfell herself. Sansa sits at her table as the Lady of Winterfell and brings Arya and proclaims the convict is accused of murder and treason. We find out that she speaks of Lord Baelish. His crimes are recounted and he is sentenced to death.
Thus, the truly evil character who managed to survive this long by plotting, scheming and turning families against families, sisters against sisters has met his end. We may say that the air in the Seven Kingdoms is a bit cleaner now since monsters who, like Iago and Littlefinger, destroy by sheer cunning and not by brute force, may be even more dangerous than the latter. Littlefinger was in fact the one who started the War of Five Kings, betrayed Ned Stark, murdered and schemed all the time. Sansa says that in a way, he loved her, but that was not love, but a perverted obsession which came to an end with his death.
Drawing the Season 7 to a close, we find out that Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne since he is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen who were newlyweds when he was born and named Aegon Targaryen. Now, we have two queens and a king. In chess, there are always two kings. The queens may be taken off the board and the king can be the one left standing victorious, suppported by minor pieces. In the following weeks, we will find out the final outcome. Enjoy the Season 8!