This week’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones explored the power and weaknesses in the women of Westeros. After quite a disheartening representations of women in the books as well as the show, it is refreshing to see the ladies of the Seven Kingdoms exhibiting courage and depth of character, even when faced with immeasurable odds and even when it’s off canon. From King’s Landing to the Eyrie, women such as Cersei Lannister and Lysa Arryn continue to hold precarious positions of power based in the male heirs they have sired; while Craster’s wives and Sansa Stark seem to hold no power and continue to be manipulated and abused. Still, each female character has within her the strength to accomplish what needs to be done for her own well being, and has learned how to maneuver through the patriarchal dominance of Westeros for the sake of her own survival. Let’s visit the Seven Kingdoms, shall we? (Spoilers ahead!)
At the Red Keep, Tommen is crowned King of Westeros, with his mother Cersei and grandfather Tywin by his side while the rest of the kingdom, including Margaery Tyrell, looks on. So far, Cersei has only expressed disdain for Joffrey’s widow, whom she has called a “wicked little bitch from Highgarden” but in this episode, the Queen Regent lets down her guard with the younger woman. Cersei admits, while not much shocks her (she was married to Robert Baratheon and had a long-term incestuous relationship with her brother), her son Joffrey had an appetite for violence that she could not understand. Still, she loved King Shithead unconditionally and, because she loves Tommen is why she can see that a marriage between her second son and the Tyrell house will be beneficial for both. Margaery, who knows of her family’s involvement with Joffrey’s murder, is slow to use any sort of treasonous language with Cersei regarding the Lannister house, but both women admit that Tommen is gentler and perhaps even a better fit as king. Both women also defer to their fathers’ wisdom in terms of marital discussion, understanding that, while they may be creating an alliance now, it is up to the men to fortify the relationship. Cersei, who is perhaps the most cunning and politically savvy player in all of Westeros (while Littlefinger is away) realizes that her gender lessens her in they eyes of her father and ultimately eliminates her chances at holding any true power in the Lannister household. Cersei must resort to skilled manipulation in order to gain access to her own destiny. When she goes to speak with Prince Oberon of Dorne, she does so to not only place in his ear a familiar story of vengeance in regards to her brother the murderer and his sister the murdered, but also to mourn the absence of Myrcella. The child is tucked away, for her own safety in Dorne and when Cersei asks Oberon to deliver a ship to the daughter whom Cersei hasn’t seen in two years, the man assures Myrcella’s safety, promises to give the gift and deliver a message of love. Oberon shows Cersei a mercy that her family has never given him, one that Cersei surely doesn’t deserve.
Oberon: We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.
Cersei: Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.
Although I am the first one to admit to hating Cersei, the character is at times startling and I find myself sympathetic to her even in the throes of my deep hatred for the woman. Kudos to Lena Headey for creating such a complex character sketch of Cersei.
The Vale of Arryn (The Eyrie)
While King’s Landing is preparing for the trial of Tyrion, his wife Sansa has fled to be with her mother’s sister, Lysa Arryn, mother of Lord Robin, heir to the Vale of Arryn. In the books, the Eyrie has to be my all time favorite setting. While I was excited to see the castle, all in all, the setting was a bit disappointing. The Moon Door was mentioned by the creepy Lord Robin, but there were no dizzying heights to terrify poor Sansa or me. Yet. With dear Aunt Lysa, one never knows. Sinister and intense from the first moment we meet her, Lysa is obsessed with Peter Baelish, who used to be obsessed with her sister Catelyn Stark. As soon as they have a moment alone, Lysa attacks Baelish with her tongue, forces him to marry (and fuck the shit out of, apparently) her that evening and reveals her future husband’s evil plots in one fell swoop. Lysa is insane, and when she threatens and becomes physically violent with Sansa, audiences as well as the Stark girl realize that life in the Eyrie may not be much better than life with Joffrey.
Also on their way to the Eyrie are Arya and the Hound and (squee!) we are finally privy to Arya’s recitation. As she lie next to the fire with the Hound, her captor and unlikely protector, we are reminded that Arya has made her decision on who will live and who will die in the Game of Thrones. She begins to recite the names of those on her death list prayer and is quickly interrupted by the Hound at the sound of his own brother’s name on the list. He offers to share the burden of crossing a name off of both their lists and they continue to balance this precarious relationship. Until she finishes her list. When he hears his own name, last, he doesn’t react. Instead, they both roll over to go to sleep and once again, the Hound does not judge Arya on her desire for well-earned revenge. He is a brutal man, and proves that once again the next morning when he challenges Arya to a sword fight and then slaps her when she actually needles him with Needle. They are an unlikely duo that I enjoy watching interact. I am struck by the depth of both characters, and the delicate nature of their relationship. For now, they travel in peace, poised on the edge of a mutually beneficial situation that could turn dark for either of them at any moment.
Beyond the Wall, the Night’s Watch traitor Locke scouts out Craster’s Keep, on the look out for the Stark children but keeping that secret very quiet. He finds them, and when he returns to tell Jon to stay away from a hut in the corner of the compound because there are dogs there, well, we know the only dogs are not dogs at all but Stark Direwolves, which would friggen love to see Jon Snow, and so we know that Locke has a plan. He goes to kidnap Bran while Jon is preoccupied with the mutineers. In the hut, Jojen and Bran discuss a mutual vision of the Godswood. Jojen Reed tells him that each member of their small group is meant to guide Bran to the end of the story. Jojen also tells Burn Gorman that he had a vision of Burn’s death, and when the sound of the Night’s Watch attacking is heard through the hut doors, it seems the prediction is indeed correct.
While Jon deals with the mutineers and Gorman, Locke finds Bran, flings him over his shoulder and quickly heads to his horse, seemingly the plan all along. Bran goes into a Warg trance, and suddenly he is in Hodor, occupying another human body, and he kills Locke with Hodor’s hands. Taking over the body of a human is considered taboo even by those accepting of the Warg abilities. Not only does Bran have great capacity in terms of his psychic abilities, he also is willful enough to do what he must to survive. Although Bran does not fit exactly with the female empowerment theme of the show, he has his own handicaps and weaknesses. He must do what is necessary to accomplish his ultimate goal, which is to find the 3 eyed raven. So, he leaves with his Wildling friends, who may not even be Wildling, if we are to believe the intuition of Burn Gorman.
Speaking of Burn Gorman, the leader of the mutineers meets with Jon Snow again and reveals his skill as a fighter not bound by honor. He teases Snow throughout their exchange blaming his highborn upbringing for the weak sword skills, but Gorman is ruthless and he fights dirty. Luckily, when Jon Snow is laid out and much too close to the sharp end of Gorman’s blade, one of Craster’s wives stabs him in the back. The act of bravery is shrouded in the dishonor of it–the image of a knife in the back a metaphor for the treachery happening throughout the Night’s Watch and the North. When Gorman goes to grab the woman, Snow comes up behind him with a gruesome sword-to-the-head-and-straight-through-the-mouth image that I wasn’t sure I was ready to see until after it was over. Gross! And everything that asshole deserved.
As Jon Snow tallied up the devastation, he is oblivious to the fact that Bran was even there and that Locke died trying to kidnap his brother. The focus is on Craster’s wives, who, Jon claims, will not be safe from Mance or the White Walkers. the women, who have lived through the abuse of Craster, the mutineers and life in the wild, band together and decide to stay, wary that anything could be worse than men who have deigned to control them for so very long.
Across the Narrow Sea
The Queen of Dragons is far across the Narrow Sea and, while there is discussion of sailing into Blackwater Bay and conquering King’s Landing with the Unsullied and the Second Sons, her team realizes that they are still lacking in numbers. Without enough power to take all of Westeros and the resistance from the upper class (from whom she has taken all the slaves) a legitimate threat, Daenerys decides to “do what queens do”–which is to rule those she has set free. Being Mother of Dragons isn’t enough, Daenerys Targaryen must show that she has the capability to be a true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. For the first time in the television series, it seems Dany plans to slow down and establish her role as Queen. Now that she knows Joffrey is dead and 5 Kings have been vanquished, the Queen of Dragons has chosen to strengthen her following by learning to be a just and wise leader. As long as she arrives to the party before the Lions devour the Iron Throne, I will be satisfied.
xoxo The Queen of Divas
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*all images property of HBO*