I’ll say this much for Lady Margaery of House Tyrell, Queen of Renly Baratheon, she’s no dummy. She understands something that her husband and her brother both fail to see: there is great power in fulfilling the illusions of the public. They are ready and willing to believe but only if they’re given a reason. Renly is a pretender to the Iron Throne. His claim is backed by the wealth of the Reach (through his marriage to her) and his own wealth in the Stormlands. But wealth alone isn’t enough to make someone a king or Tywin Lannister would have been king long ago..
This week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” focused on the further machinations that will spill into outright war. More importantly, we saw a number of characters make major decisions or reach terrible revelations about where they stand.
So back to Margaery Tyrell. She’s the young and beautiful daughter of Lord Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden and Warden of the South. Her family is just behind the Lannisters in terms of wealth and power. A marriage to her would bind the alliance between any great house to hers. And she’s been trained to accept this role and be happy with it – as was her mother and as were Catelyn Stark and Cersei Lannister.
So a wedding union to the young lord of Storm’s End is the norm for a highborn lady like Margaery. But what if that young lord was also the King? Then she would be his Queen and her family would be elevated – as the Martells of Dorne would have been through the marriage of Elia Martell to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and as the Lannisters were when Robert Baratheon married Cersei. But in a realm where there are many kings wearing crowns, the best way for Renly to claim to be a king is to have an heir. Don’t forget: Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon are children who have yet to wed. Stannis Baratheon has no male heir and his marriage has been plagued with stillborn sons.
A son would mean more than the physical representation of the alliance between the Tyrells and the Baratheons. It would signify a royal heir and a clear line of succession that is free of doubt (Joffrey) or pretenders (Robb, Balon) or the undesirable choice (Stannis). It would make Renly the clear choice to be Lord of the Seven Kingdoms for anyone desiring a quick end to the War of the Five Kings. The rub in all these machinations is that Renly’s preference for Loras isn’t helping in making this baby happen. If Renly wants to be King, he must set aside his own desires – as Margaery is ready to do.
But Renly and Margaery weren’t the only ones forced to come to terms with their certain roles. Theon Greyjoy found himself between the family that loathes him and the family that raised him but where he had no place. It’s a horrible place to be because no matter what choice he makes, he is betraying someone. Does he betray the man who had no choice but to let him go? Or does he forskae the trust of the man who thinks of him as a brother?
Ultimately, Theon chooses to accept the role of a reaving Greyjoy. He accepts the truth of his statement (“I have no other family”) and forsakes all those vows he has taken for the King in the North and embraces the purported King of the Iron Islands. It is the only way he can be a whole person and, just as importantly, it is the only way he can fight for his title as heir, which his sister has claimed.
It is this acceptance or rejection of roles that drives the episode. Jon is forced to accept that a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch – even noble ones like Lord Commander Mormont and his Uncle – have to make deals with monsters like Craster. Shae accepts the role of a handmaiden to Sansa, in spite of her lack of knowledge on what that requires. Sansa, meanwhile, is slowly being driven into the role of the quiet, dutiful hostage of the Lannisters; unable to speak what her heart and mind desire for fear of her life. (And how ironic that Princess Myrcella speaks in much the same way that Sansa used to a long time ago). Arya, meanwhile, is embracing the role of “Arry the Urchin Boy” and learning to think quick to stay alive.
And Tyrion is embracing the role of Hand of the King and the power and opportunity it provides. He has quickly moved to remove the sycophants who bow to his sister – first it was Janos Slynt who was sent to The Wall. Now it’s Grand Maester Pycelle, sent to the black cells without much of his beard. And it wasn’t just that he did it, but how. He gave each of the other members of the Small Council a half-truth and went to see what his sister would say. Some might say that Tyrion was born to the role of ruler.
Which goes back to the oft-heard line by Varys about how “Power lies where men believe it lies.” All the players in the Game of Thrones are amassing resources and building alliances. They’re building bridges or burning them to the ground. But it’s all to make the world around them believe that they are and should be the ruler and lord of Westeros.
Or, in the immortal words of one Joseph Stewart AKA “Proposition Joe”: “Look the part, be the part, motherfucker!”