“In the light of the Seven, I now proclaim Tommen of House Baratheon, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms!”
Thus officially ends the short, cruel and terrible reign of King Joffrey Baratheon. If any historian were to study it, they would say that it was one marked in blood and war; that began in the accidental death of his father during a hunt. That it quickly devolved into the War of the Five Kings after his father’s Hand, Lord Eddard Stark, was beheaded for a traitor at the King’s command. And that it saw just about every major House and most of the minor ones suffer debilitating blows; costing much in lives and money across the Seven Kingdoms. Finally, Joffrey’s reign ended as it began: in a bloody accident during his wedding feast. Or did it?
We know that so many of those statements are no accident. Robert gorged on strengthened wine provided by his squire, Lancel Lannister, as ordered by his wife, Queen Cersei. Eddard Stark spoke the truth and he was set to be sent to The Wall as punishment until Joffrey’s bloodlust/desire to play to the crowd got the better of him. And Joffrey’s death was the result of the Tyrells and Petyr Baelish recognizing the monster Joffrey was becoming and looking to end his reign quickly, before he became another Mad King.
But the myth must remain in place in order to secure a peaceful transition to the reign of King Tommen. And so was in this episode that so many myths and lies were told in order to keep the status quo going. For many, it’s the only way they can get what they want. However, that doesn’t mean that they should remain. Without discarding childish beliefs and foolish notions, growth cannot happen.
Few are as wedded to the myth of Joffrey as Cersei. Her power is drawn from it and, even though she is able to recognize the flaws her bloodthirsty son had to her son’s widow, Margaery Tyrell, that isn’t stopping her. She moves to speak to the men who will sit in judgment of the man she believes killed her son. With her father, she speaks to his devotion to legacy and how Tyrion smashed it. With Oberyn Martell, she talks of failing to protect those loved ones taken and the desire to avenge them. Joffrey the boy may be dead but his legend will live on in Cersei’s twisted heart.
One of those who knew Joffrey for what he really was is Arya Stark. She believes the myth that Syrio Forel was the greatest swordmaster that ever lived. Who else but he could have taught her how to be a fine water dancer? Or given her the skills with which she will take revenge on that long list of names she repeats every night like a prayer before falling asleep? That crumbles down as she fails to run Needle through the chainmail and armor that The Hound wears day and night. Here stood one of the men who she most wanted to kill, giving her a free opportunity to put her dreams in action and all she could do is make him laugh at her master for failing to kill Ser Meryn Trant. When she tries to fulfill her desire, The Hound stands immobile to her thrust before angrily smacking her down. The little wolf girl still has found that it is not so easy to dispatch such a brutal killer.
So does Daenerys Targaryen, who has to face the angry masters of Essos whom she has betrayed and killed. Seeing herself as the Mother of Dragons and liberator of the cities of Slaver’s Bay, she’s not ready to abandon the freed slaves to their former lives even as she finally has the ships that can bear her armies from Essos to Westeros. So she foregoes the chance to finally live the dream that her brother thought was their birthright in favor of staying in Meereen, learning how to rule the city and defending the freed men and women who’ve rallied to her side from the vengeance of the Slave Masters of Yunkai and Astapor. The myth that is the “Mhysa”, the Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons is slowly proving bigger than the girl at the heart of it and Dany will try to live up to it…or die trying.
Another myth that is slowly growing is the one of Jon Snow. As he leads his Night’s Watch detachment against the mutineers encamped in Craster’s Keep, he’s forced to face off against the drunken, desperate and murderous Karl. Trusting on the newest brother, the treacherous Locke, Jon never knows that Bran and his friends were being held captive or that his attack saved Meera Reed from Karl and his friends. As he leads the fight and faces Karl, Locke takes his chance to capture Bran’s party. Aware of Bran’s infirmities, he threatens the young Lord of Winterfell until Bran uses his powers to take control of Hodor and uses the simple-minded giant to end Locke’s life.
Jon misses his young half-brother amidst the ruins of Craster because, as Jojen explains to Bran, if he finds him, he will never allow him to continue on his quest. And that is more important for Bran, for Jojen and for what is coming. Jojen and Bran have both shared the same vision of a tall weirwood tree atop a hill – a destination for them to find in the frozen North, where the three-eyed raven will be found. Bran lets Jon go. Instead, Jon is able to reunite with his direwolf, Ghost and bring an end to the mutineers. He also gives the women of Craster a chance at a different life, but they chose not to go with the black brothers. Too much crow for their liking, even as they’re aware of the monsters the frozen North holds.
However, no one has had the tales and myths and legends ripped from her like Sansa Stark. The girl who grew up cloistered and sheltered in Winterfell; doted on by her mother and her septa and her friends. The girl who dreamt of gallant knights and noble princes and found The Hound and Joffrey instead. She is now a guest of her crazy aunt Lysa Arryn and her new husband, Lord Petyr Baelish, at The Eyrie. Or rather, Littlefinger’s niece, Alayne, is their guest. As she is still hunted by Lannister killers – and by Brienne and Podrick – Sansa must assume a secret identity like her sister has for so long in order to survive from the constant threat of those around her.
But what if the greatest threat are the people who claim to be ready to protect her? Lysa Arryn is not all there (to say the least). And in her desire for Baelish, she’s admitted to being the culprit in the death of her first husband, Lord Jon Arryn, Hand of King Robert Baratheon. It was Jon Arryn’s death that led to Robert marching to Winterfell to ask his friend, Ned Stark, to serve. It was that trip that led to Bran finding Cersei and Jaime in the act and to Jaime rashly throwing Bran out of a window to his apparent death. That act and the letter Lysa sent in secret to her sister, Catelyn Stark, that led her and her family to come to mistrust the Lannisters. And it was after that trip that a hired killer tried to finish Bran on his comatose bed, which led Catelyn to King’s Landing – where she was told by Petyr Baelish that the blade sent to kill her son belonged to Tyrion Lannister. And it was on her way back home that she ran into the Imp, whom she arrested and, unbeknownst to her, started the War of the Five Kings.
So though she has not put it all together, Sansa now has given her fate into the hands of the two people directly responsible for the deaths of so many, the start of the war, the fall of her house and the destruction of her family. Lysa Arryn, in her desire for Littlefinger killed her husband, blamed the Lannisters, lied to her sister and ensured that the Starks and the Lannisters were put on a collision course from which neither could survive unscathed. And Littlefinger, architect of it all, is now her protector in the strange kingdom of Lysa Arryn who, it seems, will brook no rival for her new husband’s affections – not even her young, pretty niece.
Sansa has had the hardest road to walk. Because she’s the one who’s had to learn about the real world and its dangers in ways she never thought she ever would. Every dream and myth she’s ever had has been taken from her. But that is how wisdom is earned. Sansa may face darker truths still, but she’s in prime position to exact vengeance for all the evil Littlefinger and Lysa have inflicted on Westeros at large and on her family in specific.
If only she grows up quicker.