Before I begin, if you haven’t heard of Game of Thrones, have you been living in a dungeon under the Red Keep? Whether your exposure is the TV series, the fantasy novel series, “A Song of Ice and Fire”, on which it is based, or a good ol’ Ned Stark ‘Winter is Coming’ meme, there is no denying Game of Thrones has become a force to be reckoned with in popular culture. Chronicling the fight for the ‘Iron Throne’, and therefore control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Game of Thrones follows nine noble families (and many not-so-noble) as they play, well, the game of thrones. Here I present to you a part-review, part-summary of the story so far.
A watcher from the start, this is the first re-watch I’ve done, after a challenge was thrown my way by a certain idiot (don’t worry, it’s okay for me to say that, he knows) over at @nerdschatting. The challenge originally being 60 episodes in 35 days, I finished with 6 days to spare. And what a thrill it has been!
Something that Game of Thrones does exceptionally well is blend genres. Yes, dragons, and shadow magic, and the icy undead put it firmly in the realms of fantasy. That said, there is grand romance, epic action sequences, thrilling dialogue spoken among friends and enemies, and more chilling adventures being had than you could send Indiana Jones on.
Rather than write a deep analysis on the first six seasons, which I feel would end up being as long as one of George R. R. Martin’s books, I’m going to present my spoiler free* summary (opinions and bad summaries are all my own) of each major House, as well as an ‘In Memoriam’ for those we have lost along the way.
*not even close to spoiler free – do not continue if you haven’t watched
House Stark – From whom we learn ‘Winter is Coming’…
A house by any other name would still smell as sweet, right? Wrong. The Starks of Winterfell are my favourite noble family. In the first season we are introduced to the Starks, whose sigil bears the symbol of a grey direwolf, and who across the series have seen family members named ‘Warden of the North’, ‘Lord of Winterfell’, and ‘King in the North’. In Westeros, the Starks are synonymous with the North.
Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean) was the head of the House Stark. Father to five children with his wife, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), he was the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, before becoming Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). He is portrayed as an honourable man, and his public beheading at the order of Robert’s “son” Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) would be the catalyst for the War of Five Kings. Joffrey promised Sansa, Ned’s daughter and his own betrothed, he would be merciful. He was not.
The North Remembers…
Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Ned’s oldest son, waged war against the Crown and the Lannisters for an independent North, winning many battles and gaining traction as the ‘King in the North’. His undoing would be marrying for love, thereby breaking an oath to the deplorable Walder Frey (David Bradley). Few scenes in televisual history are as shocking as the Red Wedding – made all the more impactful by a distinct lack of end credit music. No matter how many times I watch Robb, Catelyn, and the Stark army lose their lives as “the Lannisters send their regards”, I am not ready.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Tuner) suffers greatly at the hands of the worst bastards in the Seven Kingdoms, namely Joffrey and her late husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), both of whom delighted in torturing and tormenting her. The end of season six saw a triumphant return to Winterfell for a hardened Sansa, and a wary alliance with Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen).
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was crippled in the very first episode after discovering Jaime and Cersei Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey) incestuous activities. He is both a powerful warg, meaning he can enter the consciousness of an animal and even another human, seeing through their eyes and controlling their movements, and also has ‘The Sight’, meaning he can see past, present and future. It is he who discovers Ned’s secret that Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), believed to be Ned’s bastard son, is actually Ned’s nephew. Jon’s true lineage (Targaryan) could mean he has the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne.
No one has been through as tumultuous a journey as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in my opinion. She is the epitome of a survivor, something she had to be from a very young age as she had no other choice. By the end of season six, she has been trained as a Faceless Man at the House Of Black & White in Braavos. She has served her own kind of justice to several men for wronging her or a member of her family, with only Cersei and The Mountain remaining on her kill list.
The final member of the Stark clan who has gone through his own personal journey, and still has much potential to make an impact (sorry Rickon, may he rest in peace) is Jon Snow. He left Winterfell to join the Night’s Watch at the Wall. He left the Wall to look for his uncle Benjen, and met the Wildling love of his life, who knew just how little Jon Snow knew (nothing; he knew nothing). He rose to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and made an unlikely alliance with the ‘free folk’. He was literally stabbed in the back by his ‘brothers’ of the Night’s Watch. He was literally brought back from the dead by the Red Priestess (more on her later). His return to Winterfell, and triumphant defeat of Ramsay Bolton (even if I did tweet how Jon had long periods of standing around doing literally nothing in the Battle of the Bastards), was so satisfying, I happy cried. His watch has ended. Winter is here. He is home.
House Lannister – From whom we learn “A Lannister always pays his debts…”
House Lannister’s sigil is a gold lion. And as the late Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) once said, “a lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep.” I respected Tywin, because in spite of his clear disappointment in and contempt of his spawn, he always wanted what was best for the family name.
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) was not what was best, in Tywin’s eyes. The dwarfish son of Tywin, his mother died whilst in labour. Known across Westeros as ‘The Imp’, a name he prefers not be used, he is blamed for a great many tragedies that befall the Lannisters, and not credited enough for his successes. Without Tyrion, the Battle of Blackwater would have been lost to Stannis Baratheon’s naval fleet long before Tywin and the Tyrells came riding in to claim victory. Without Tyrion, Catelyn Stark would not have released Jaime. Without Tyrion, Cersei wouldn’t have someone to blame for Joffrey’s glorious demise (#sorrynotsorry). Tyrion drinks and he knows things, and now as Daenerys Targaryan’s (Emilia Clarke) Hand of the Queen, he is the highest ranking advisor to what is sure to be one of the most formidable threats to the current occupier of the Iron Throne.
And who occupies the Iron Throne? Cersei Lannister of course. By no right. She just bad-ass decided to take it after losing both of her illegitimate sons whilst they were ‘Protector of the Realm’ – her youngest taking his own life after her mad-cap scheme to blow up the religious court she was due to answer to meant his wife saw a wyldfiery end. She is the most power hungry of all the Lannisters. In a flashback scene, it is clear all she ever wanted was to be a Queen. And as the last episode of season six proved, she’s willing to burn everyone and everything to the ground to keep her well-manicured grip on power.
Will her lover-brother, Jaime, be forced to be a Queen-slayer, as he was once a King-slayer? Across the series, Jaime has moments of profound cruelty (pushing a 10-year-old boy out of a window to his death, for one), but he also has moments of true compassion. He loses a hand whilst in captivity in the North, to be replaced with a golden prosthetic when he returns ‘home’ to King’s Landing. And though he loves his sister, one gets the feeling he is bearing witness to her descent into madness with a heavy heart – he’s been through it before as Hand of the King to the ‘Mad King’.
House Targaryan – From whom we learn Daenerys has too many titles!
Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons… Just rolls off the tongue. So let’s tackle each of these titles in turn.
Daenerys uses the name Stormborn as Daenerys Targaryan would not be ‘First of Her Name’, a predecessor living a century before her. She is known as the Unburnt as in the final episode of the first season she emerged from the flames with nary a blister or singed hair. She is technically a claimant to the Andals and the First Men, but believes her claim is a strong one as the last living child of the “Mad” King Aerys Targaryan (who was usurped by Robert Baratheon and slain by Jaime Lannister). Khaleesi is a reference to her husband, Khal Drogo, and a title she keeps out of honour to him. She is, in fact, neglecting Dothraki tradition by not living out her end of days as a widow in Vaes Dothrak. Since burning all the remaining Khals and uniting the Dothraki clans, there are no challengers to this title. Breaker of Chains has brought her much support and may enemies, as she has overthrown the ‘Masters’ who keeps slaves in many eastern cities, including Meereen and Astapor. The slaves who were granted their freedom call Dany ‘mhysa’, meaning mother.
Which bring us nicely to her most infamous of titles: Mother of Dragons. When Dany stepped out of the flames breastfeeding a dragon, with two more on her shoulders, she was the picture of feminine strength and power. She is a woman without fear. She does not recognise any man’s apparent advantage over her. She listens, not only to her people, but her advisors. In her own words, “I was born to rule to the Seven Kingdoms, and I will.”
What about the waifs and strays?
I hear you. The above summary is not even vaguely comprehensive, and filled with Stark bias, but here are some honourable mentions all the same, i.e. characters I just bloody love:
- Bronn of the Blackwater – always there with a wise-ass quip, the only man to say about his King “there’s no cure for being a cunt.”
- Tormund Giantsbane – crushing hard on Brienne of Tarth, this red-headed, full-bearded man-beast is the only leader of the Wildlings for me.
- Lyanna Mormont – I saw a meme that said if she had three dragons, the series would have been over after two seasons; she is a tiny person with a will so loud it strikes fear in the men around her.
And now, this…
IN MEMORIUM (AKA the deaths I cared about) ROBERT BARATHEON (S1 E7) - Lord of the Seven Kingdoms; gored by a boar SYRIO FOREL (S1 E8) - Master sword fighter; died in a sword fight EDDARD STARK (S1 E9) - Hand of the King & Warden of the North; beheaded by the bastard King Joffrey DROGO (S1 E10) - Dothraki Khal & Dany's husband; smothered by Dany as a mercy killing (believe me, it was a mercy) RENLY BARATHEON (S2 E5) - Claimant to the Iron Throne; killed by a shadow with Stannis Baratheon's face JEOR MORMONT (S3 E4) - Lord Commander of the Night's watch; stabbed to death during a mutiny ROS (S3 E6) - Prostitute in Littlefinger's brothel; shot by the bastard King Joffrey with a crossbow TALISA STARK (S3 E9) - Pregnant wife of Robb Stark; slaughtered at the Red Wedding ROBB STARK (S3 E9) - King in the North; slaughtered at the Red Wedding CATELYN STARK (S3 E9) - Lady Stark; slaughtered at the Red Wedding JOFFREY BARATHEON (S4 E2) - Lord of the Seven Kingdoms; poisoned at the Purple Wedding (cue ALL THE LAUGHTER) OBERYN MARTELL (S4 E8) - Prince of the House Martell; skull crushed by the Mountain PYP (S4 E9) - Brother of the Night's Watch; arrowed down in the Battle of Castle Black by Ygritte YGRITTE (S4 E9) - Wildling lover of Jon Snow; also arrowed down in the Battle of Castle Black TYWIN LANNISTER (S4 E10) - Head of House Lannister & Lord of Casterly Rock; shot on the toiler by Tyrion SHIREEN BARATHEON (S5 E9) - Stannis' daughter; burned alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light at the order of Stannis (yup, WTF) STANNIS BARATHEON (S5 E10) - Lord of Dragonstone & claimant to the Iron Throne; executed by Brienne of Tarth (OR WAS HE? Just saying, we didn't actually see him die...) THE FLASHER (S6 E2) - Man who flashes Cersei during her 'Walk of Shame'; head smashed against a wall by The Mountain HODOR (S6 E5) - Loyal servant to House Stark, especially Bran; torn apart by Wights (actual tears - lots of actual tears) WUN WEG WUN DAR WUN (S6 E9) - Giant in the Wildling army; shot through the eye with a crossbow by Ramsay Bolton RAMSAY BOLTON (S6 E9) - Self-proclaimed "Warden of the North"; eaten alive by his own dogs at Sansa's orders MARGAERY TYRELL (S6 E10) - Queen of the Seven Kingdoms; burned alive alongside her brother, Loras, and father, Mace, in a wyldfire explosion orchestrated by Cersei TOMMEN BARATHEON (S6 E10) - Lord of the Seven Kingdoms; jumped out of a window following Margaery's death
So, my seven questions for season 7:
- Where in the freakin’ world is Gendry? Did he row off the end of the universe?!
- Will The Night King claim them all for his undead army? Literally all of them? Let’s be honest, they kind of deserve it.
- Who else dare ride a dragon? Also, can I ride a dragon?
- Can Brienne get over her disdain of Tormund and get aboard that ship I have built for them? ♥
- What the what is going on with that ‘look’ between Littlefinger and Sansa? I saw that! #Snakes
- When will someone tell Jon he wasn’t actually a bastard?
- Why is Jaime still in love with Cersei? She’s changed, man. Move on!
Are you looking forward to Season 7? What questions do you have? Sorry if you got this far and are none-the-wiser.
Love, BWB x
THE DEETS Release Date: 18 Apr 2011 No. of Episodes: 60 Episode Length: 56 mins (ish) Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Drama