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Game of Thrones: On learning who to kill, and why

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This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers up to the latest episode.

Well holy shit, this was a busy episode. Nearly every character was given some new meaning, if not explicitly an entirely new mission.

Arya is going to become an assassin, although we lose the great scene from the book where she eats the worm from the gentleman's face. Jaime is off to rescue his daughter in what is surely seen as a near-suicide mission to reclaim a bit of his honor. Jon Snow turns down the offer of becoming a "real" Stark but becomes Lord Commander of the Knight's Watch. Brienne finds Sansa, but it doesn't exactly turn out as well as she had hoped.

There's much to go over here, but I'm going to focus on Daenerys for this particular article because she's facing one of the more interesting problems of her rule, and is failing at every wisdom throw.

Justice and mercy

They find one of the Sons of the Harpies that has been killing the Unsullied, and instead of a summary execution Daenerys decides to give him a fair trial. When the Harpy is killed by a member of her council, who himself used to be slave, she has him executed via a very public beheading.

It sounds terrible when you explain it, but it plays out much worse on the screen.

Visarys and Tyrion can't get to Daenerys soon enough, because neither man would have had much patience for these decisions and Daenerys needs that kind of hard-won insight if she is to keep any kind of moral authority in Mereen, much less Westeros.

The Unsullied are her face for the people. They are her hand and her authority, her Sardaukar. Any group that can kill the Unsullied — especially in such a cowardly way — are a direct attack on her rule. There is no room for a trial in that situation, not in this culture.

The optics on that situation are clear; so many of the citizens remember the brutality of the rule of the masters. They won't mourn the death of someone who used to keep so many of them in chains and later struck back at their Queen from the shadows.

game of thrones arya

"They teach me what they are. Mercy, fair trial, these mean nothing to them," Daenerys is told by the man who ultimately takes matters into his own hands. Daenerys is right to be attracted to trials and the ideal of justice, but in this situation she listened to the wrong people.

When that member of her council decides to murder the Harpy with "Death to the Masters" written in blood on the wall it definitely sends a message, but for Daenerys it's the wrong one. This is vigilante justice, not the rule of law, and she sees it as a threat to her authority in a way she didn't recognize in the original murder of the Unsullied.

This was the worst possible time to put her foot down

You can see her look of fear as they hear her decision, and no one on that stage looks happy about what's going on.

She can't have someone ignore her decisions, but this was the worst possible time to put her foot down. These people know the savagery and brutality of the masters firsthand, they're going to come down hard on the side of mercy for the man who did what they wish they could have done. Daenarys' inability to see things from the point of view of those she hopes to rule is damning.

These aren't small things, and if she keeps up this level of tone-deaf decision making she's going to be just another golden statue torn down from the roof of a building, no matter how many dragons stop by to say hello.

Varys sees an opportunity for peace with Daenerys, but she's proving over and over that she doesn't have the necessary worldliness to see what her decisions will cost her, even if those around her are able to see things a bit more clearly.

This and that

  • When it comes to threats, it doesn't get much more direct than that necklace in the jaws of a snake, huh? Also, Dr. Bashir!
  • Arya's plotline is moving very slowly, and these scenes had much more personality and punch in the books
  • It's always fun to be reminded of just how good Brienne is at combat. She may not be a knight, but she's brutal when it comes time to put sword to sword.
  • I would watch a spinoff show that's just Bronn and Jaime going from town to town getting into trouble and solving mysteries.
  • That Drogon scene was some serious dragon porn, and it looked great. Even Game of Thrones has to be sparing with those moments due to the budget, but when the dragons show up the effects team really goes all out
  • Samwell Tarly, ladies and gentleman. Dude can put the smack down and give an impressive speech when the mood hits him
Game of Thrones: A sword in the darkness