I hope you’ve all come out from behind the sofa after last night’s incredible episode of Game of Thrones. Picture the scene: I usually watch Game of Thrones with my housemates on a Monday night, with a cup of tea and some lovely chat. Last night I watched it alone, I felt a bit like Jon Snow. Nobody should have watched that episode alone.
There’s nothing like an episode of The Walking Dead, er, I mean Game of Thrones to make you feel prepared. Since season one we have been told that ‘Winter is coming’ and, yes Ned, we get it, but in this latest episode, we finally got a taste of what it will be like when winter is actually here. We can learn several lessons from being prepared, the Stark motto teaches us that we should always be ready should the worst happen (…perhaps Robb should have suspected that something was afoot at the Red Wedding).
With only two episodes left in this season, last night really set the ball rolling for what promises to be another nail-biting finale. The message of episode eight was that alliances are essential to survival. We finally got to see Daenerys and Tyrion discussing tactics together, it felt like that scene was what we had been waiting for for five seasons. And after having watched the trailer several times, hearing Daenerys finally declare, ‘I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel’ was just too exciting. However, Tyrion is the angel on her shoulder, offering her not just advice, but a reality check. Who is she going to rely on for allies when she finally mounts an assault on King’s Landing? Yes, she may have a legitimate claim to the throne, but there are several others who also believe this. I won’t lie, my heart broke somewhat when my love, Jorah was banished AGAIN from Meereen, can that guy not catch a break? Nevertheless, in the cut-throat business world of Game of Thrones and arguably the Square Mile, knowing your strategy and who you can trust is essential if you’re going to be successful climbing that corporate ladder. The alliance between Daenerys and Tyrion is one of equal minds and equal nobility but Jon Snow’s alliance with the Wildlings was one of necessity and desperation.
I think you’ll agree that Jon’s meeting with the Wildlings escalated quickly. Never was an exodus more hurried or needed than in the final twenty minutes of the episode. Perhaps Jon should have left some of the Dragon Glass back at Castle Black with Sam because now all he has to fight the White Walkers is his magic Valyrian steel sword (who saw that coming) which is great but not everyone has one of those. In what was possibly the best sequence of Game of Thrones so far, Jon proved himself not only as a worthy Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, as someone who understands the need for diplomacy and negotiations but also as a leader on the battle field, scrambling together an effective defence when it looked like there was no chance. The name of Snow marked Jon as an outsider from the beginning, forcing him to the Wall and cutting off many opportunities that he would have had if his birth had been legitimate. However, Jon’s strength of character has on many occasions throughout the series enabled him to rise above his illegitimacy and prove himself as a worthy son of Ned Stark and a leader capable of leading much more than the Night’s Watch.
In the past seasons, the tipping point has come in episode nine, so I will make sure that I am not alone to watch that one. Though we’re sure that Jon and Daenerys are more than capable of making their own strategies, they might do well to read Game of Thrones on Business, which could offer some helpful tips when winter is here.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was more Gladiator than Westeros but the pace was picking up for the key characters. While Jon headed off to recruit the Wildlings, Samwell had a very good and very bad time, and Sansa’s situation has gone from bad to worse. Tyrion has finally come face to face with the queen across the sea and we will have to wait another week to find out whether our personal hero, Jorah will be forgiven by Daenerys.
Forgiveness is not a theme that appears often in this series and characters are more likely to get their heads chopped off before experiencing redemption. However, we are hoping that Daenerys forgives Jorah for his treachery, it would seem that though his past sins had come back to haunt him, he has more than atoned for them since.
A character not so familiar with atoning for her sins, though, is Cersei, Queen Mother and, until recently, the most powerful woman in King’s Landing. In an earlier blog post, we wrote about how her alliance with the High Sparrow was a dangerous one to make, forging alliances with those in haste for a quick fix are likely to end in disaster. With Queen Margery in jail and King Tommen powerless before the mighty High Sparrow, Cersei is beginning to regret sending her only ally, Jaime to Dorne. We ended last night’s episode with Cersei locked in a jail cell, where she now has plenty of time to think about all the cruel things she has done over the past few seasons, to name a few: lying to Westeros about the paternity of her children; sleeping with her twin brother; torturing Sansa and conspiring to have her husband killed.
Cersei has never been the most rational of women and has failed many times to put her people before her own interests. It’s tough at the top, when you’re top dog, there’s lots of pressure to remain there, rather than be usurped by those who are against you. It is undeniable that Cersei has never been the easiest character to warm to, but one has to admire the way she has handled herself in a man’s world.
There is no way out, it would seem, for the once-powerful Lannisters. Gone are the days when Tywin’s arrival at a battle saves the day, or when Jaime can get away with pushing Ned Stark’s son out of a window. As Lady Olenna learnt last night, the High Sparrow cannot be bought with jewels and riches. He does not want material things. I suspect that this series will end with the fate of King’s Landing much worse off than it was with two boy kings in succession.
This latest episode began at Castle Black in snowfall, winter is definitely coming and its arrival in imminent. With King’s Landing in turmoil, Strannis marching on Winterfell and Jon heading north of the wall, the future of Westeros is on the edge of a precipice and only one thing is certain, not everyone will make it to season six.
Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones season 5 could have been the most disturbing yet. I am currently in mourning thinking of the fate of my future husband Jorah and his current sidekick Tyrion, who is heading for sale by cock-merchant. The only light relief in episode 6 was Bronn and Jaime’s bromance which looks likely to end very soon.
However, it is Sansa’s fate that is the cruellest of all. It is clear that Lord Baelish never had her best interests at heart when he sold her to Roose Bolton as a daughter-in law. Her engagement to Ramsay Bolton (/Snow) is the third in the series and the worst yet. The only redeeming quality that Ramsay has is to make King Joffrey look desirable. So she is now married to the most sadistic man in Westeros and her luck is running out. As she remarked to her new husband, though she did not want to marry Tyrion, he was at least kind and did not touch her. The same cannot be said for Ramsay, who raped her in front of her sort-of brother Theon/Reek. It was then, more than ever, that Theon should have remembered himself and finally avenged the hurt that Ramsay had caused him.
Though living in King’s Landing was incredibly unpleasant for Sansa, Rebecca Clare, co-author of Game of Thrones on Business suggests that, “In the vicious world of Westeros, where professional development is scarce, the King’s Landing mentoring programme may be [Sansa’s] best chance of survival”. Under Cersei’s guidance, Sansa was being prepared for a marriage of convenience and learnt how to live as a woman in a man’s world.
Of course, arranged marriages are nothing new, you only have to look at a history of the British Royal Family to see that marriage was another tool in their arsenal to ensure political harmony, financial gain and an excellent line of succession. Sansa has been a victim several times over. Now that she is back in her home of Winterfell, she is more vulnerable than ever. Sure, her marriage to Ramsay should, in theory, keep her safe, but it was clear from this episode that Lord Baelish has no qualms about selling her out for his own gain. Little Finger is playing the long game, he is in this for all he can get and has perfectly manoeuvred his pawn Sansa into the Bolton’s hands. What choice did she have but to walk down that aisle?
Only Theon knows that the younger Stark boys are still alive and given that Bran has not appeared in this series yet, I think it’s safe to say that he is not really a threat to taking back Winterfell. Sansa’s other brother, the illegitimate Jon Snow is too preoccupied at The Wall to help out his sister, that is if he even knows she’s alive. Perhaps it would have been better for Sansa if Jon had accepted Stannis’ offer of legitimacy and marched on Winterfell. Only time will tell how Sansa’s story will end, but if the fate of her other family members is anything to go by, she doesn’t have long.
However, Sansa is not naive. In the past four and a half seasons, she has survived some pretty dire situations. She has been mentored by the ultimate matriarch, Cersei Lannister, and is incredibly strong. From the first season, she has been separated from her family, she has had to think for herself. She is a singular unit, a city-state. By all accounts, she should be dead already, but she isn’t. She has a price on her head and is wanted for killing King Joffrey, but yet still she endures. Though her wedding night to her new husband was difficult to watch, we haven’t seen the end of Sansa yet. But, then again, all men must die, so perhaps her end is nigh…
Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was a rollercoaster of action and plot developments. The series is finally picking up momentum with uprisings in King’s Landing and across the sea in Meereen. While Daenerys’ servant leadership style worked well in the beginning, those who disagree with her management style have finally begun to rise up. The episode had a religious-extremism quality to it, with the Sons of the Harpy avenging the toppling of their idol in Essos and the High Sparrow commanding his followers to begin to stir up the status quo in Westeros. It was an emotional finale, finally confirming that this series has divorced itself from the books and killing off two important characters. Poor Grey Worm. Daenerys is going to be left with little leverage to refuse Jorah when he returns. The unsullied are dwindling in numbers. (Sidenote: we really liked Jorah’s skirt; it takes a real man to pull off such an outfit when at sea!)
So back to King’s Landing where Cersei seems to have sold her soul, quite literally, to religious extremists. It’s one thing to want to take revenge against the daughter-in-law from hell, but it’s quite another to make a deal with the devil (ahem, the High Sparrow) in an effort to assert one’s superiority over the King’s Court. Now that the numbers of the Small Council have fallen to just two (and what influence does doddering Grand Maester Pycelle really have?) Cersei is running the Court of the King with an iron fist. Now that Sir Loras has been imprisoned, Margery is compromised and Cersei has the upper hand.
However, the danger of making a deal with one as powerful as the High Sparrow is that alliances of convenience can turn on you just as quickly. Unless you hold the power, you are at the mercy of your alliance. The followers of the High Sparrow, weird monk-like extremists, are the unsullied of Westeros, willing to maim themselves for their master. Even the King is powerless before them. Though the alliance was convenient for Cersei in the beginning, this is a dangerous coalition as Cersei is now alone in the court. With Jaime gone and her father dead, her list of allies is very small indeed. What would the High Sparrow make of the (true) rumours about her and Jaime? Will Cersei survive this season? With only a week left of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition of 2010, and the political parties of the UK gearing up for polling day, it would seem that coalitions are forming everywhere. David Cameron was outed as having confessed that he did not believe that his party would again win the election outright. If we’ve learnt anything from the last coalition, it’s that it was a marriage of convenience, much like Cersei and Robert Baratheon. Eventually cracks will begin to show if you cannot work alongside your ally. Cersei’s latest partnership could prove to be more destructive than the last.
Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: Cersei is about to pay for having too much power for far too long.
We learnt several things from last night’s episode of Game of Thrones (season 5, episide 3). Firstly, and most disturbingly, Sansa is to marry Ramsay Bolton, the most evil man on television. Secondly, we learnt that no matter how dirty he gets Jorah’s neck-ties always look in pristine condition. And the final lesson from episode three is that Jon Snow is becoming more and more powerful.
May I just say that I am really pleased that Jon rejected Stannis’ offer of making him officially a Stark. ‘You know nothing, Jon Stark’ just doesn’t roll as easily off the tongue, does it? It takes a confident and self-assured person to turn down Stannis. Who knows what that creepy red witch will do to you? However, Jon’s rejection of the offer to be king of Winterfell and stay with the Night’s Watch demonstrates loyalty to his men and a commitment to lead them when they are weakest. Yes, he could be much more powerful, but he is loyal to those who took him in when he had nowhere to go. In last week’s episode the men of the Wall voted Jon to be their new leader. In the battle against Mance Rader’s army Jon proved that he has strong leadership qualities and an instinct for battle (besides being a clever little twat).
Well, clever little twat no more. Last night Jon proved not only worthy as leader of the Night’s Watch, but as having the potential for much much more. If taking Winterfell had been offered to many other characters (we’re looking at you, Lord Baelish) they would most likely have jumped at the chance, not looking ahead at the repercussions or how limited their time in power may end up being. Jon can see the bigger picture. He understands that taking Winterfell would not have ended his troubles; by now he too is aware of the Mother of Dragons.
So, in the latest instalment Jon enacted his first act of discipline as leader of the Night’s Watch. After Janos Slynt refused to obey orders Jon was forced to execute him in the courtyard of Castle Black with all eyes of the Night’s Watch upon him. Just two episodes earlier Jon showed mercy when it came to the death of Mance Rader. He had pleaded with him to surrender to Stannis and when he refused Jon spared him from the agony of being burnt alive. However, Jon’s execution of Janos not only shows him as a powerful leader who is not to be messed with, it demonstrates how much has changed in Jon since the first series. Ned Stark said at the very beginning that ‘the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword’. Jon was echoing the rhetoric of his father and proving that he was a truer son of Winterfell by rejecting Stannis than he would ever be had he accepted the offer. When Janos begged for mercy, Jon did not show it (much like Daenerys in episode two). Being an effective and trustworthy leader does not mean always keeping those you lead happy. It is about setting an example and knowing what is in the best interest of the future of your company and the safety of those you protect. For Jon Snow, the journey is just beginning.
In our ever more connected world it can be hard to know what is private and what isn’t. Recently many people have discovered to their horror that what they thought were private messages or photographs have been hacked and shown to the whole world. Perhaps it’s time to take some lessons in circumspection from Game of Thrones.
Sony Pictures learnt the lesson the hard way a few months ago when its IT system was hacked and private emails published online. Many stars that you thought were loved the world over were picked apart and scrutinised by Sony executive Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin. Never mind the trouble with the film The Interview, even Angelina Jolie, the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, was not immune from being a victim, having been the subject of a derisive email by Rudin. With all the bankable power that Jolie has, not to mention the influence (she is part of the ultimate power couple, has inspired many women to get their breasts checked and includes international politicians among her close friends) surely it is better to keep her on side? But clearly Pascal and Rudin, perhaps naively, assumed that their emails were private, otherwise there’s no way they’d have made low jibes about President Obama, joking about ‘black’ films he might enjoy. It has been revealed that Amy Pascal has quit her job after the fall out. Clearly her granny never told her that if she couldn’t say anything nice it was better not to say anything at all.
There are no emails in Game of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean there’s any such thing as a truly private conversation. As Petyr Baelish points out to Ned soon after his arrival in King’s Landing there are three major networks of spies operating (and who knows how many minor ones). Varys, Cersei and Baelish himself all run sophisticated spying operations and nobody, however innocent they may appear, is above suspicion – he points out that a small boy, a gardener and even a Septa (a holy women) are all listening on somebody’s behalf. But it’s hard to hatch plots if you can’t talk to anybody for fear of being overheard and just as Scott Rudin clearly had to get his frustrations with Jolie off his chest somehow, Ned has to share his qualms about the legitimacy of Joffrey’s inheritance of the throne with somebody. Unfortunately Ned did pick just about the worst co-conspirator he could. Naively believing that he can trust Baelish he shares his thoughts with him – this is despite initially thinking him untrustworthy and being told by Baelish himself not to trust him. Unless you’ve been asleep for the last four years you’ll know the truly devastating consequences of Ned’s unwisely shared secrets. While the Sony execs have kept their heads we’re guessing that Scott Rudin will be avoiding any parties attended by Ms Jolie for some time to come.
A final side note here is that if you know that you’re being spied upon you can control the game yourself by sending out a little misinformation. Tyrion demonstrates this by placing a different rumour with each of several people he suspects of working against him. By finding out if the rumours travel and where they end up he is able to work out who the spy is (it’s that snivelling old weasel Grand Maester Pycelle). So if Rudin wants to get back in Ms Jolie’s good books perhaps he could find some way to ‘accidentally’ let it be known how much he admires Angelina for her charity work – unguarded Tweet (oops did I really say that?) or careless conversation in Chateau Marmont perhaps …?