The Maester List: Questions to Consider Before This Week’s Show
Russell asks: “What’s up with Roose’s wife? Couldn’t a powerful lord like Roose get someone more attractive?”
Let’s not fat-shame Walda. Even though, to be fair, her nickname is Fat Walda. Walda is a member of the Frey family, one of the numerous grandchildren of the treacherous Lord of the Crossing, Walder Frey. Walder, you probably remember, was (along with Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister) one of the conspirators behind the Red Wedding. Walder had offered Roose, who was without a wife and had only the demented serial killer Ramsay as his heir, his pick of the Frey brood to cement their alliance. The Freys are a notoriously homely family, and not well thought of by their fellow nobility, and so, perhaps cognizant of that, Walder sweetened the offer by promising Bolton a dowry of his chosen bride’s weight in silver. So Roose, ever cunning, simply picked the most corpulent Frey he could find.
Andy asks: “Not that it seems to matter, but with Robert and Renly dead and with Stannis at the Wall, who is ruling the stormlands? Is it Brienne’s father?”
Interesting question. It’s definitely not Brienne’s father, though. Not much has been said about the current state of the stormlands in the show. Under normal conditions — whatever the hell that means in Westerosi terms — Stannis would be Lord Paramount of the stormlands, and we know he still holds Dragonstone. But since he’s in open rebellion against the crown — and since, legally speaking, King Tommen is Robert Baratheon’s son — it’s safe to say the region is in dispute. If Tommen were getting good advice, one would imagine that something pretty high on his to-do list would be obtaining oaths of loyalty from the various noble houses in the stormlands, including whoever is the Castellan of Storm’s End (the traditional seat of the Lords Paramount of the region), or else he should be preparing to march on the area and lay siege to the Baratheon seat to bring it to heel. Which wouldn’t be an easy task even in the best of times. Storm’s End — located on a cliff — is a powerful, essentially impregnable castle, with thick, round walls and secret passageways for resupply or escape that run down to the sea. During Robert’s Rebellion, Stannis held the castle against the forces of the Reach for nearly a year, though his men were forced to eat the horses, various family pets, and rats before Davos Seaworth smuggled in food by sea.
Superfan Crazyperson Power Rankings of the Week: Sansa’s Unsuitable Suitors
Mallory “Mother of Dragons” Rubin: People. Why is it so hard for a pretty lady with the right family name to lock up a good man? Sansa has already suffered through so much heartache. Must you all continue to betroth her to brigands and fools, using the promise of her hand as a strategic chip as you play the game of thrones? You must? Well, in that case, I guess all that I can do is power-rank the mates to whom she’s been tethered, and in so doing seek some vicarious catharsis for her. Worst goes first!
1. Ramsay Bolton
Desirable traits: Is no longer a bastard; is the son and heir of the current Warden of the North; cares deeply about earning parental approval; recognizes the value of a loyal animal; appreciates a fine pork sausage; shows a lot of fire in the bedroom.
Problematic characteristics: Is prone to castrate and/or flay those who have wronged him; is prone to castrate and/or flay those who haven’t really wronged him, but are sort of getting on his nerves a little; considers chasing human prey good exercise; is bound to be the sort who takes a little Sally on the side after he’s said his wedding vows; is rude to obese people; is the Westerosi version of a Dementor, feeding on hopes and dreams until all that’s left is sadness and despair; is completely and totally unhinged.
Verdict: This piece of human garbage isn’t fit to marry anyone other than Reek.
2. Joffrey Baratheon
Desirable traits: Was king; had nice blond hair; knew how to name swords; claimed ties to two powerful families; had an eye for fine paisleys and painted armor; was adept at subtly employing blowjob euphemisms.
Problematic characteristics: Was a filthy inbred bastard; liked to torture whores; had a tendency to murder bastards who might one day uncover their parentage and rise up to challenge his claim to the throne; killed Sansa’s father and then made Sansa stare at his severed head; whined and cried until his mommy made the bad wolves go away; shirked his duties during battle; encouraged his manservants to beat his betrothed; used a beautiful literary treasure as a chopping block; just generally fucking sucked.
Verdict: Joffrey was even more of a sicko than Ramsay, but being king has to count for something.
3. Robin Arryn
Desirable traits: Is the rightful lord of the Vale; is only a cousin, not a brother, which in this world ain’t half-bad; is open to liquid diet cleanses.
Problematic characteristics: Never learned to fight or be a man; ruins snow castles; likes to shout loudly in favor of pushing prisoners through the moon door, jurisprudence be damned; would probably want to breastfeed alongside his progeny.
Verdict: Robin is a feeble little bunny rabbit, but he’s not a sadist or a murderer. Yet!
4. Tyrion Lannister
Desirable traits: Is a genuinely clever and curious individual who works to sharpen his mind and experience the wonders of the world; tries to protect those he loves; fights for what he thinks is right; treats his underlings with kindness; knows how to spin a good yarn to get himself out of a fix; has successfully exploited the trial-by-combat loophole in the justice system more times than we can count (OK, twice); knows how to hold his liquor; is quite experienced in the boudoir.
Problematic characteristics: Carries an unsightly facial scar; tends to fall in love with his whores; is related to the people who slaughtered Sansa’s family; is currently on the lam after, er, murdering his own father. On a toilet.
Verdict: Tyrion and Sansa actually got hitched. They never consummated the marriage, and they both objected to Tywin’s desire to make the match, but neither of them realized how good they had it. If only Westeros had Time-Turners.
5. Loras Tyrell
Desirable traits: Comes from a rich family; is a decorated warrior; has gorgeous hair; displays a keen fashion sense; knows how to guide a lady around the gardens.
Problematic characteristics: Likes men.
Verdict: Aside from being what his own loving grandmother called a “sword swallower through and through,” Loras would have made the best husband of anyone on this list. Too bad Tywin had to put an end to the schemes and plots (“schemes and plots are the same thing”) and muck it all up.
Borderline Weird Mallory Rubin Game of Thrones Memorabilia of the Week
Faces of Dragondeath: A Family Barbecue in Meereen
The “You Were Just Kidding About Feeding Me to the Dragons, Right?”
The “Maybe You Weren’t Kidding About Feeding Me to Dragons; I’m Legitimately Worried Now”
The “Yo, Check Out the Way Fire Comes Right Out of My Face!”
The “That Shit Was Messed UP”
The “Oh My Old Gods, You Didn’t Tell Us the Dragons Were Going to Eat the Dude Right in Front of Us. Can Someone Fetch an Urn of Vomiting?”
The “I Did That. I Made the Dragon Torch That Guy in Front of Everybody. Impressed?”
The “Did That Turn You On a Little, Too? Wanna Get Married?”
The “They Say People Taste Like Chicken, But They Totally Don’t. This One Tastes Like Soiled Robes and Unanswered Prayers.”
Intermission: How About a Jaunty Tune to Lighten the Mood? You All Look Like Your Best Friend Was Torn to Fiery Pieces by Magical Lizards
From Volantis to Meereen: A Travel Plan
Ben Lindbergh: Let’s say, hypothetically, that you had to transport a critically tannin-deprived prisoner from Volantis to Meereen, where your unrequited queen-crush awaits. Which way would you go? (Asking for an exiled friend.)
There are three routes available, all of them dangerous for different reasons. We’ll measure their distances in lengths of the Wall, each of which represents a span of 300 miles and looks like this:
Shortest Route: The Demon Road
Distance: 3.5 Walls
Travel Advisory From the Essos Tourism Board: “We will lose half the company to desertion if we attempt that march and bury half of those who remain beside the road.”
This is the shortest path between the two points, a little more than a thousand miles as the raven flies. That’s the appealing part. The unappealing part is that the raven will probably be flying to tell your friends and family that you died on the demon road. It’s not clear why the demon road gets such low slaver satisfaction scores — probably because of brigands, the tragic termination of the Valyrians’ Adopt-a-Highway program, and the terrible things the dry desert air does to delicate complexions — but everyone in Essos agrees that roadwise, it’s pretty much the pits. We can’t rule out the possibility that the road is getting a bad rap: Maybe one guy had a demonic experience and the nickname stuck. All I know is that this is the nicest sentence ever spoken about the demon road: “[It] might be it’s not as perilous as men say.” And here’s an example of something men say: “The demon road is death.” So, going this way might not mean guaranteed death — that’s the demon road’s upside.
Moreover, Meereen, unlike death, won’t come quickly. This is an overland route, so while it’s direct, it’s also slow. And there won’t be any way to hide a famous face, particularly one attached to Westeros’s most wanted dwarf.
Fastest Route: The Smoking Sea
Distance: 6 Walls
Travel Advisory From the Essos Tourism Board: “No free man would willingly sign aboard a ship whose captain spoke openly of his intent to sail into the Smoking Sea.”
Lannister family fun fact: The Casterly Rockers and the Smoking Sea have a history, and it hasn’t been a happy one. Tywin’s brother Gerion had all of the apathy toward politics, sense of humor, and affection for Tyrion that the head of the house lacked. Sadly, when Tyrion was 18, his cool uncle left to look for Lannister trinkets in Valyria. Half of Gerion’s crew deserted in Volantis, so he replaced them with slaves and set course for the Smoking Sea. He hasn’t been seen since, unless it was with late-stage greyscale, in which case it would have been kind of hard to tell.
Even if the sea isn’t actually smoking, the migrating dragons don’t stop to dine, and the Doom was a onetime thing, Valyria is still stone men central. On the other hand, the scenery is nice if you’re into overgrown ruins, and since no one else is stupid enough to sail anywhere near here, you won’t run into traffic.
Safest Route: The Summer Sea
Distance: 8 Walls
Travel Advisory From the Essos Tourism Board: “Corsairs and pirates hunt the southern route. … The next storm could sink or scatter us, a kraken could pull us under … or we might find ourselves becalmed again, and die of thirst as we wait for the wind to rise.”
You will have to pass through the Gulf of Grief, which sort of spoils the Summer Sea’s nonthreatening name, but the long way around is the safest possible path. Even so, there’s an excellent chance that you won’t make it to Meereen unmolested. Remember to buy a money belt before you knock out the nearest fisherman, steal his boat, and set sail.
This itinerary’s slightly decreased risk of death does come with a trade-off: 2,400 miles is a long way to sail, especially while you’re wondering whether your heart’s desire is still single, whether you’ll find her in a merciful mood or a murderous one, and whether you’ve seen the last of that hot hand-on-cheek action. No, come on, focus — you can’t think like that. She might be playing hard to get, but it’s not like she’s going to marry someone else while you’re on the way. Just take this trip one mile at a time.
ICYMI: The ‘Watch the Thrones’ Podcast
Sex and the Citadel Quiz: Are You a Charlotte, a Samantha, a Cersei, or a Melisandre?
1. What color best represents your true self?
A. Pink and white. Like peonies!
B. Purple. The color of royalty and power.
C. Gold. The real color of royalty and power.
D. Red. Or maybe black? Neither of which seem all that light, but the one true god works in mysterious ways!
2. What do you look for in a knight in shining armor?
A. Fidelity, honesty, and bravery.
B. A big sword.
C. A mirror image.
3. What’s your favorite late-night outfit to make your man’s heart stop?
A. Something classic — you can’t go wrong with silk and lace.
B. A statement necklace and a smile — the outfit’s already in a puddle in the corner.
C. A statement necklace, a smile, and a Lannister knife between the ribs. I’ll show you prophecy.
D. I just open up the wrap I already have on? It’s probably lined with tiny pockets, each containing a vial of a different untraceable poison? I don’t think I understand the question.
4. Long day! Time to relax! What’s that in your glass?
A. A cosmo made from this great Williams-Sonoma mix.
B. A Manhattan made by my 22-year-old paramour.
C. Dornish wine. Maybe having a daughter over there isn’t SO bad.
D. I … I inhale the essence of the sun and moon, or something? Basically, I vape your existence. I’m very mysterious.
5. What do you want most in life for your children?
A. Harvard, Vassar, and Brown.
B. My handbags are my children, so I’d say I want them to stay just the way they are.
C. For them to have more children who grow ever blonder until they vaporize into beams of pure light and gold coins.
D. Look, I don’t feel like it’s a lot to ask that my son retake his sooty phantasm form and start killing for me again. “Oh, sorry, Mom, I’m incorporeal and all, so I can’t clean my room.” Doesn’t he know there’s a war on?
Answer Key: If you got …
Mostly A: You are a Charlotte! That’s so nice for you!
Mostly B: You are a Samantha! Being you is its own reward!
Mostly C: You are a Cersei! Where did you learn to read the Roman alphabet?
Mostly D: You are a Melisandre! The Lord of Light is the one true god!
John Lopez: This season has taught me that no one, villain or hero, feels capable — let alone worthy — of ruling Westeros yet. The Starks were too noble to navigate the snake pit; the Lannisters, i.e., the snakes, just ended up biting themselves; and the Dornish can trash-talk defeat out of the jaws of victory. And Mace Tyrell? He’s just happy to be invited. Even poor Dany, for whom we’re all implicitly rooting, still can’t get it together down Meereen way. Jeez, even when she backtracked to reopen the fighting pits, it somehow felt like the right decision at the wrong time. Yes, I get it: Meereen is training wheels and she’s the Mother of Dragons and all that. But the longer Dany’s detour in Meereen becomes — her latest nuptials suggest her stay will be interminable — the less starry-eyed I am about a Targaryen restoration. I mean, she can’t even house-break Drogon.
All of which is to say, at this point, I’m starting to look at Stannis with new eyes. Sure, he doesn’t wow you with excess charisma of either the naively noble Ned Stark or the Vaderesque Tywin varieties. And he’s far from perfect: His fleet got outflanked by Tyrion, and he fathered a shadow demon that murdered his little brother. But by Game of Thrones standards that’s nothing, the Westerosi version of Bill Clinton smoking pot. Most importantly: He’s still around. And contrary to every other wide-eyed, would-be savior, Stannis seems to get the machinations of power. Clearly he’s no Gandhi, but at least he’s not pulling a Cersei and empowering religious fanatics who would clearly burn down King’s Landing to protect it. (And next to the Boltons, he looks positively saintly.) The worst you can fault him for is being in thrall to Melisandre’s sexual power politics, but you know what? She tends to be frustratingly right. And she seems to believe in him.
So when it comes down to the straw poll for next ruler of Westeros, I cast my ballot for Stannis. Or pledge my sword. Whichever doesn’t get me burned alive.