What defines you? What makes you you? If you lost it, would you still be you?
Last week’s episode ended in the swift and brutal severing of Jaime Lannister’s sword hand. For a man renowned throughout the Kingdoms as the greatest swordsman, this is a tough loss – as we get to see this week when he tries to battle Locke and his men. But it goes deeper than that. His abilities as a fighter are the one thing that don’t necessarily stem from his place in the Lannister household – that are not corrupted by his father. He is a man not interested in tactics, politics or the game of thrones. With those talents taken away, he descends into a suicidal depression – until Brienne desperately forces him to come to terms with it by making him mad. If he wants to take revenge on those who have taken how he defined himself, then he better eat and stay alive.
A lesson that perhaps Lord Varys could have told him. One of the little secrets book readers had is the tale of Varys’ circumcision. How he was a child travelling with performers. How he was sold to a strange man, who castrated him in a ritual, then fed his member to the flame – only to have a voice speak back from it. It’s a small moment that defines the Spider so starkly. What we didn’t have is his eventual revenge on the man who castrated him, but more importantly, exposed Varys to the powers from the great beyond. As Varys explains to Tyrion, he found a way to redefine himself after that event – drawing strength from his experience to gain the power to eventually bring about his vengeance. But will the lesson pass Tyrion by?
The ability to redefine themselves is how Beric Dondarrion and his men have gone from loyal Stark bannermen sent to bring the Mountain to justice to the Brotherhood Without Banners. However, it seems as if Beric’s redefinition has included a newly-found allegiance to the Lord of Light – thanks to his friend and ally, Thoros of Myr, who is a priest of the Lord of Light – just like Melisandre is for Stannis. He has also redefined his mission and the mission of his men into one of justice, in their eyes at least. But as Sandor Clegane tells them, the crimes of his brother are not his crimes. He might have gotten away with it if not for Arya’s reminder of Sandor’s murder of Mycha, the boy he ran down in the second episode of the series. Trial by combat might suit The Hound though. (And it’s interesting that they’re reminding us that this is an option in Westeros since we hadn’t seen one since Tyrion’s trial in the Eyrie).
Redefinition is what Margaery is hoping to achieve – at least as it pertains to Joffrey’s public image. You cannot have a king who is hated by his every subject and hope to sit the throne for long. So she slowly allows his desires for acceptance of his macabre interests to bring him even further into her hands. Her hard work feeding the poor and downtrodden of King’s Landing have elevated her, which, in turn, will work to elevate Joffrey. But this will mean that Joffrey’s support will be owed to his queen and her house. His mother, Cersei, sees this and recognizes it for what it is, but given how Joffrey has grown beyond her control, she finds herself powerless to stop it. Cersei has helped Joffrey define himself so well that she cannot now hope to change it.
At the same time, Varys is seeking the aid of Lady Olenna Tyrell in a quest to block Littlefinger’s growing power as well as his plans for Sansa Stark. Varys understands that Littlefinger’s desire for power and his ability to redefine who he is to get what he wants will not be of interest to the great houses. How could it? He’s a whoremonger and a minor lord. But the great lords of Westeros don’t realize that Littlefinger can redefine himself in an upward trajectory. Varys can because he’s done it also. His solution is to beat Baelish to the punch by having Sansa Stark marry Loras Tyrell. Sansa would be up for it. The Tyrells obviously would. Ser Loras? I don’t think so.
Far away from King’s Landing, two events happen that will seriously redefine the game as it is being played as well as the world as a whole. First, to the East, where Dany’s plan to gain control of the Unsullied finally comes to fruition. She gains the whip of the master in exchange for Drogon and, in so doing, becomes commander of a large army of great warriors. She played the Slave Masters perfectly – hiding her Valyrian knowledge as well as her knowledge of dragons – until she had gotten the army that she needed.. But she has taken the words of Ser Barristan from the previous episode before and freed the Unsullied from their yoke to her. Instead, she gives them their freedom and ask that any willing to follow her, do so. She won’t be a conqueror like Aegon or Robert Baratheon. She wouldn’t trade her identity as Mother of Dragons or Khalessi away. She’s set on defining herself as someone far more merciful to the innocents – and far more ruthless to the powerful enemies she faces. Just ask the Slave Masters of Astapor.
Meanwhile, to the Frozen North, where the brothers of the Night’s Watch finally have enough of Craster and decide to take by force that which they covet – his food, his shelter and, more than likely, his women. The Night’s Watch was built for the express purpose of defending the realms of men from the White Walkers. The Wall was raised to defend the realms of men from the White Walkers. Those things remain because their purpose remain, even as everyone has come to forget that purpose. In their absence, the Night’s Watch was redefined as a group to fight wildlings. But it’s one thing when you march north to deal with wildlings – men armed with sticks and swords who suffer from the cold like you do. It’s another when you encounter demons of ice and their undead legions. When death comes for you, you tend to prioritize. You tend to strip away all pretense of honor and tradition. And you kill any who stand in your way. Craster didn’t see that because he was too busy enjoying his lording over the crows. Neither did Mormont because he was a man of honor leading many men who never had any. It cost him his life and it throws the Night’s Watch into chaos. These Sworn Brothers of the Night’s Watch have betrayed it. They have lost themselves. Who will fight the White Walkers if the Night’s Watch disappears? Can they still be the Night’s Watch?