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Game of Thrones: Allies & “The Gift”

The Gift - Lady Olenna“You are the few. We are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few….”

With this phrase, the High Sparrow shuts down the normally vocal Queen of Thorns.  Usually quick with a verbal repost to any challenge coming her way, Lady Olenna Tyrell found herself unable to sling one last arrow at the old, poor man, dressed in rags and holding her grandchildren prisoners.  Was it because she recognized she’d been bested? Or could it be that her normal weapons – her family’s wealth and her ability to determine just what an opponent coveted – failed her against a man who really wanted nothing from her?  Whatever the case, it served as a contrast of where fault lines are forming in the power structure of Westeros and served to put forward the idea that, to be able to wield power and survive chaos, one needs allies.

Could Lady Olenna have made the High Sparrow her ally?  Perhaps.  It’s doubtful given that he knows she wants Loras and Margaery freed from his cells.  Even so, her acid tongue and sharp barbs failed her because the High Sparrow knows that key secret: in times of conflict, have a large group of allies behind you.  And he has the peasants of King’s Landing and across the Seven Kingdoms with him.  So certain is Olenna and the other nobleborns of their position, that it never enters their mind that the poor folk toiling and dying beneath them could one day rise.  The High Sparrow has the largest army in the Kingdoms with him.  The Queen of Thorns’ threats do nothing to help sway him to her cause.

Threats fail Lady Olenna like appealing to Theon’s decency and humanity fail Sansa Stark.  The abused young woman who’s kept locked in her wedding chamber by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton, tries desperately to reach the once proud and haughty son of Balon Greyjoy.  She appeals to his name, to their shared history and relationship, to his pride.  But what she fails to understand is that Theon has been broken into a thousand pieces by Ramsay.  He naturally does what Reek would do and spills the beans to his lord.  He, in turn, finds out the old Northern woman who had promised to help Sansa.  “You are not alone,” was her promise, but the old woman died alone; flayed and tortured by the new Lord of Winterfell.  Sansa manages to keep the fires of doubt in Ramsay growing over the trueborn son that Walda Frey carries, but she finds herself again all alone in her old home.  As alone and friendless as she was in King’s Landing.

The Gift - Gilly & SamBeing friendless is nothing new to Samwell Tarly.  In a weird sense, joining the Night’s Watch has given him more than he ever had before.  He had friends in Jon, Edd, Pyp and Grenn.  He was being tutored by Maester Aemon.  He had even found a library full of ancient books and a cause to use his passion for reading towards.  And he had Gilly.  Except that Pyp and Grenn are dead.  Jon is Lord Commander by his hand and both he and Edd have left to go beyond The Wall to find the remains of Mance Rayder’s wildling army.  As he watches Maester Aemon die and is forced to say goodbye, Ser Alliser Thorne makes his position clear: he’s got no one else to look out for him.  This is put in stark contrast when two new Sworn Brothers assault Gilly and beat him up when he tries to defend her. It is by the intervention of his one ally left in Castle Black – Jon’s direwolf, Ghost – that Sam and Gilly are made safe.  Gilly chooses that night to finally consummate her relationship with Sam; perhaps recognizing in him the one true and noble ally that she has ever found in her life.  Sam genuinely cares for her like no other has before.

For Stannis Baratheon, the one ally he’s had in his quest for the Iron Throne has been the Red Priestess, Melisandre.  But as the march south to Winterfell begins to take its toll on his army and sellswords begin defecting, he begins to have doubts about her.  He knows he’s thrown everything he’s got into this campaign and either victory or death will be their result.  It is in this moment that Melisandre asks Stannis to make the ultimate sacrifice: her magic is more powerful when used with king’s blood and, as they were denied Gendry by Davos, only one alternative remains.  And that alternative is Stannis’ young daughter, Princess Shireen.  Stannis’ massive gambit may rely on him willingly surrendering that which is most precious to him to the one ally he can call upon when things grow dire.  But will the Red God value Shireen sufficiently to help Stannis become king?  Can he turn Melisandre away after doing so once before and failing at the walls of King’s Landing?  And is that price too much to bear for Stannis?

There’s less interest for allies in Dorne, on the other hand, as neither Jaime nor Bronn have much success dealing with the women facing them off.  Jaime is unable to explain why he came to Dorne to his niece/daughter, Myrcella, who is all bent out of shape that they interrupted her innocent romance with Trystane Martell.  Stating she’s in danger isn’t enough and Jaime cannot bring himself to reveal the secret truth that might – that he’s her father, that her mother is losing control – and she storms out.  Meanwhile Bronn is facing off against the Sand Snakes and trying to put them in their place, but it is Tyene who has the last laugh as the poison she coated her blade with starts running fast through the mercenary’s system as she disrobes in front of him.  The Sand Snakes spare the former sellsword’s life but only after humiliating him.  It’s been that kind of trip for the men who thought they were rescuing a princess.

Perhaps that’s also the fate that will befall Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister.  Sold at a slave market to a master, it takes Tyrion’s wits to ensure they’re not separated.  When they are meant to be put through their paces, serendipitously Danaerys Targaryen and her fiancee, Hizdahr zo Loraq turn up to take in the traditions of Meereen.  Choosing to forgo the plans presented by Daario Naharis to simply butcher all the old Masters of Meereen, Dany is forced to sit in and watch as slaves kill themselves in order to prove themselves worthy of the Great Pits of her city.  That’s when Jorah seizes the chance and deftly ends the combat without taking a life.  Her smile turns ashen when he reveals his identity, but it is at this moment that Tyrion lucks into making a grand entrance.  The daughter of King Aerys and the son of his Hand finally come face to face – and none of them know if they will be allies or enemies.The Gift - Dany & Hizdahr

Allies is how Cersei thought she could see Petyr Baelish, but Littlefinger is ally to no one but his current cause.  And while the Queen Mother deftly calms the fire within King Tommen’s heart to go rescue his bride, Littlefinger meets with Lady Olenna in his former brothel to hash out how to respond to the High Sparrow.  The thing about alliances is that they’re sometimes built on crimes, as theirs is.  And the Queen of Thorns has no problems reminding Littlefinger that he’s as guilty of Joffrey’s murder as she is and Cersei will have no qualms in killing him for it.  Baelish responds with a plan. So when Cersei goes to the Sept of Baelor to laugh in Margaery’s face while pretending to assist her, she is brought face to face with her cousin, Lancel by the High Sparrow.  The same cousin Lancel she incestuously broke her wedding vows with and the same cousin Lancel she bade make her husband, King Robert, drunk with strong wine during his hunt to guarantee his death.  Their history hangs in the air between them as the woman who has been Queen for nearly 20 years is dragged by septas to a prison cell.  Her trap for Margaery snapping her up as well.

Cersei long thought that she had made an ally of the High Sparrow.  She thought he could do for her what no sword and no lord could do: remove away the treacherous Tyrells and allow her to rule from the perch of power she had long coveted.  But instead what she did was unleash a power long held dormant by the rule of the Targaryens: the power of the Faith. And in that power there is no need for allies. No use for brokering truces or seeking friends.  In this, the Faith is a lot like Melisandre: they ask for total sacrifices for their friendship. And like the acolytes of R’hllor, the Faith recognizes the strength of their numbers.

“And when the many stop fearing the few….” is both a warning and a rallying cry.  Who will join the many?  Who will come to aid the few?


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