‘Game of Thrones’ Precap: Missing Bastards, Bad Moms, and Indecent Proposals
The Maester List: This Week’s Burning Question About the Whereabouts of a Missing Bastard
Everyone asks, “Where’s Gendry?”
This is a popular question! Gendry, as you will recall, is perhaps the last living bastard of the late King Robert Baratheon. After being taken to Dragonstone and used by Melisandre for his king-positive bodily fluids, Gendry was rescued from the dungeons by Davos, who placed the young blacksmith in a rowboat. Davos gave Gendry a pack with bread and water, advised him not to stop at Rook’s Rest or fall out of the boat, and told him the general direction that would, if the Seven be good, bring him back to King’s Landing after a journey of several days.
So, where’s Gendry? Possible answers:
1. He drowned. Gendry had never been in a boat before Davos placed him in one, and he cannot swim. He is being asked to make a multiday solo rowboat journey. There’s a really excellent chance he’s down below with the Drowned God right about now.
2. He made it to King’s Landing. Assuming the weather held out and Gendry knew where he was going, we’re talking about a journey that would take three days and nights,1 give or take, of ROWING. Straight-up rowing all day and night FOR THREE DAYS. For Gendry to actually make it back to King’s Landing, he’d need good weather, he’d need his bag of bread and water to last him, and he’d need to not get tired/confused/fall asleep. I think it’s a long shot that he made it to King’s Landing.
3. He’s on Driftmark. It’s the closest land to Dragonstone, so you have to consider it. Problem: Driftmark is the seat of House Velaryon, who are vassals to Stannis. If he had landed here, we’d likely have heard about it.
4. He landed somewhere between the dotted lines on the Crownlands coast. Say you’re in a boat for the first time ever. You’ve been pulling at the oars like a deck slave for 48 straight hours. Your hands are raw blisters interspersed with fingers. Your arms are quivering bundles of pain with the tensile strength of cooked ramen noodles. As a first-time sailor, not used to the discipline that solo sea journeys require, maybe you drank all your water on the first day. You’ve been warned not to stop at Rook’s Rest, but you’re past there now and though you’re not sure exactly where you are, you’re tired and thirsty and you see land stretched out behind you and you really want to get out of this boat.
Here’s a Google Map of Westeros, Because You Wanted to Know What That Would Look Like
Superfan Crazyperson Power Rankings of the Week: The Worst Moms of Westeros
Mallory “Mother of Dragons” Rubin: Do you know what Sunday is, my darling Sparrows? Other than the highest of holy days, when a new episode of Game of Thrones will blow into our lives like a reviving gust of wind sent by the gods themselves? It’s Mothers’ Day! Hopefully you’ve already sent your matriarch a thematically appropriate trinket via raven. If you’re behind on your gift-giving and need some inspiration, though, perhaps this week’s rankings will spark a newfound appreciation for the loving mama in your life. After all, what’s a little tiff about who’s hosting Thanksgiving dinner compared to catacomb imprisonment?
The Frightful Five
1. Selyse Baratheon: Gods, Selyse sucks. The only Mother’s Day gift she deserves is a wooden doll laced with greyscale, amirite? Selyse is open-minded enough to let Stannis boink Melisandre and to let Melisandre burn her kin alive, but she draws the line at letting her charming, mildly disfigured daughter do things like hug her father and be seen in public. Selyse is totally cool displaying her three stillborn sons in glowing jars, but the thought of taking Shireen up to the Wall offends her delicate sensibilities. What a cow. All Shireen wants to do is teach Gilly and Davos to read, play with her carved boats, and forge an emotional bond with dear old dad. But if Selyse had to choose between inviting Shireen to dinner and offering her up as a blood sacrifice, she’d pull out the leeches quicker than you could say “smoke baby.”
2. Daenerys Targaryen: I took Dany to task two weeks ago for her garbage child-care instincts, so I won’t waste time rehashing all of her maternal affronts. I’ll merely offer a quick reminder that her human child died, her dragon children are either missing or in jail, and her adopted children are being slaughtered in the streets. Even Frank Gallagher would rate better with Child Protective Services.
3. Cersei Lannister: Our girl Cers is a tricky case. She deserves credit for prioritizing her children above all else, including both the actual law and the laws of common decency. Lest we forget, Cersei is so committed to protecting her kids that she was prepared to poison Tommen herself rather than see him die by an enemy’s hand. Such love! She deserves scorn, however, for failing to ever look more than one step ahead. She armed the Faith Militant to remove perceived threats from Tommen’s life, but she hasn’t paused to consider that she might be putting her clan in harm’s way by handing weapons to holy men who consider certain personal choices, like twincest, to be abominations. Cersei likes the taste of power, but her chief motivation has always been protecting her children and advancing their interests. And for a time, she was inarguably successful. Now, however, her eldest son is dead, her only daughter is a glorified hostage in Dorne, and her baby boy is way more interested in stroking Ser Pounce and/or Queen Margaery than in hanging out with his mom.
4. Lysa Arryn: The freakiest among you might argue that Dear Departed Lysa’s willingness to let Sweetrobin breastfeed into his preteen years points to an unrivaled nurturing instinct. The sane among you would surely counter that Lysa’s perverse tendencies turned the rightful Lord of the Vale into a twisted, malnourished softie who never learned to hold a sword and who’s going to have some very unnatural proclivities in the bedroom one day. Also, you’d think a woman who spent so much of her time talking about the more “elegant” way of life at the Eyrie would have invested in some soundproof doors.
5. Catelyn Stark: Putting Cat on blast isn’t easy, but the truth hurts as much as a traitor’s blade to the jugular. There’s no denying that Lady Stark loved her children; she literally fought off a dagger with her bare hands when the assassin’s knife sought Bran’s throat. But Cat’s decision to free Jaime Lannister in an effort to get her daughters back did irreparable harm to her son, damaging Robb’s credibility and paving a part of the road that ultimately led him to the Twins, and his fate. Plus, for all of her talk about wanting to get back to Bran and Rickon … she didn’t. In the end, Osha, Hodor, Summer, and Shaggydog were better moms to those boys than Cat.
A Quick Shout to the Good Moms!
Ellaria Sand: The only thing cooler than birthing a Sand Snake is encouraging her to go avenge her dead father. Baller!
Lady Olenna: Anyone who put up with that dolt Mace deserves flowers every day of the year.
Gilly: Sure, Gilly had little Sam at Mole’s Town during the massacre and at the Wall during the battle, but she spirited him away from the horror of Craster’s Keep — and White Walkerdom.
Melisandre: Smoke. Baby.
Borderline Weird Mallory Rubin Game of Thrones Memorabilia of the Week
Faces of Snow: An Indecent Proposal
The “I Am Intrigued by Your Unexpected Visit, Mysterious, Scantily Clad Red Woman”
The “Very Interesting, Tell Me More About the Incredible Untapped Power Within Me”
The “Hold on a Minute, Are You Suggesting That I Have Sex With You in My Dimly Lit Chambers?”
The “So You’re Saying We DON’T Have to Tell Stannis About Whatever We Wind Up Doing in Here? That’s a Thing We Can Not Do?”
The “No, I Swore a Vow, and This Would Definitely Be a Vow-Breaker”
The “Excellent Point, Maybe The Dead Don’t Need Lovers. But I Still Loof Her.”
The “Hold on a Second, Who Told You the ‘I Know Nothing’ Thing? Can You Check With Ygritte and Get Back to Me? Maybe We Can Actually Do This, Feels Like a Pretty Solid Loophole If She’s Giving Consent Through You”
The “No. Wait. Don’t Ask Her. A Vow Is a Vow. Right? Right.”
Intermission: When Worlds Collide
Tale of the Tape: Ser Barristan vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Ben Lindbergh: We knew from the moment we met them that their paths ran parallel.
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Obi-Wan and Barristan: Two wizened, white-bearded warrior-knights cast out of an ancient order, entering self-imposed exile in arid, dragon-infested environments in order to guard the children of madmen they were once sworn to protect. Obi-Wan saves Luke from Tusken Raiders.2 Barristan rescues Daenerys from a manticore in the market. Both men become valued advisers and dispensers of stories about dear old dad. So we should have known that Barristan, like Obi-Wan before him, would be cut down by a masked attacker in a selfless act of sacrifice.
We can’t establish which one was better at being a mentor or more haunted by memories of people being burned alive, because it’s clearly a tie. But we can decide who made the more memorable exit. So who did dying better: Obi-Wan or Barristan?
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Winner: Barristan. Lightsaber beats sword, but casual impalement beats staring contest with someone wearing a helmet.
Obi-Wan: Darth Vader.
Barristan: Several Sons of the Harpy.
Winner: Obi-Wan. The most menacing villain ever, seeking payback for past amputations, trumps any number of anonymous, golden-faced rejects from the Foot Clan.
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Winner: Barristan. Obi-Wan’s lightsaber skills obviously atrophied significantly in the years between the first fight on Mustafar and Round 2. That’s the most unnecessary spin move I’ve seen since the last time I tried Madden.
Obi-Wan: “Only a master of evil, Darth.”
Winner: Barristan, by default. Obi-Wan’s comeback is only a little bit better than, “Your mom is the master.”
Winner: Obi-Wan. Barristan may have saved one soldier. Obi-Wan helped overthrow an empire. Factor in Kenobi’s claim that his sacrifice makes him more powerful than Vader could possibly imagine, and the Jedi wins in a walk. Admittedly, the Sith Lord must be a small thinker if he can’t conceive of a power greater than interrupting Luke’s inner monologue or visiting Dagobah without walking through mud. But even if becoming one with the Force isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it beats being dead.
Overall winner: On the strength of his superior swordsmanship, Barristan Selmy — an elegant man for a more civilized age. You were taken too soon, Ser. Geros ilas, fonas chek, and may the Force be with you.
Fantasy Road Trips of Westeros
Dave Schilling: If there’s one plot device Game of Thrones loves more than trotting out naked people to mindlessly recite exposition, it’s putting two mismatched characters together and sending them on a road trip. Season 5 has more than its share of medieval versions of Midnight Run — Brienne and Pod, Tyrion and Varys, Tyrion and Jorah, Tyrion and a bottle of Dornish wine, and Jaime and Bronn. Last week’s episode added perhaps the most unlikely duo of them all: Westeros’s ultimate beta male, Mace Tyrell, and the mother f’er himself, Ser Meryn Trant. This isn’t going to be a fun road trip where the destination is an amusement park and everyone bonds over a shared experience, like in National Lampoon’s Vacation. No, this is going to be a shitty road trip where the vehicle breaks down, everyone runs out of money, and someone dies, like in National Lampoon’s Vacation.3
With at least a couple more seasons of Game of Thrones left before HBO wraps up this epic tale, there’s plenty of time to get around to dramatizing the following tantalizing buddy combos:
Melisandre and Samwell Tarley
Melisandre makes everyone on Game of Thrones uncomfortable. She speaks in apocalyptic riddles and dresses like she’s going to the Met Ball every day. Not exactly someone you want to share a carriage ride or grab a quick meat pie at the inn with if you can help it. Samwell Tarley, on the other hand, would get nervous traveling with a sack of dirty undies if he found out they belonged to a high lord of the realm. This would not end well.
Cersei Lannister and Tyrion Lannister
We’d at least get a couple fun scenes of passive aggressiveness before one or both of these characters ended up dead from a dagger in the back or one too many glasses of vino.
Shireen Baratheon and Ser Pounce
God, this would be TOO CUTE.
All of the Sand Snakes
I just want to see them casually hang out for a few episodes. What do they do for fun? Do they practice fighting all day? What do they talk about when strolling in the Water Gardens? Do they have hobbies? What are their plans for the future? Did they come up with this whole “Sand Snakes” gimmick? When is their first album dropping? I don’t know, this sounds like a hoot to me.
Melisandre and Grand Maester Pycelle
Pycelle is the grossest man in the Seven Kingdoms, which is quite a feat considering there are people in Fleabottom who have to eat rat droppings to survive. Every time he takes up space in a scene, I get kind of nauseated, like I just looked at a photo of the 10 million pounds of leftover McDonald’s “chicken parts.” He’s a deviant, filthy sleazeball, so I’d be overjoyed if the second he tries to make a move on the Red Woman, he gets killed by a smoke monster with my face on it.
ICYMI: This Week’s ‘Watch the Thrones’ Podcast
What Cersei Could Learn From the Sketchy Popes of History
John Lopez: As Cersei tête-à-têted with the High Sparrow over the first of what one assumes will be many glasses of pinot, she had that gleefully evil smile unique to 12-year-olds given their first slingshot. Now, most viewers probably take the view that Cersei is uncorking a Pandora’s box of fanatical fires — and you can’t help but burn yourself playing with matches. And, sure, given the current track record of religious extremism across the modern world, that would often seem to be the case. But the popes of yore, those consummate practitioners of power politics and self-aggrandizement, proved that you can sure have one hell of a ride before the auto-da-fé comes for you.
After all, the incestuous legitimation of state by church (and implicitly vice versa) goes all the way back to Leo III crowning Charlemagne emperor and creating that Holy Roman Emperor that any freshman discovering Voltaire for the first time will remind you was none of the above. But you know what? It kept Italy firmly in the hands of the papacy. And religious authority was a great font for all kinds of pretexts necessary to sanctify the subjugation of any troublesome or questionable territories that looked good: Hell, the Catholic church used the clearly forged Donation of Constantine for almost 700 years not only to establish its primacy in Christendom but pretty much lay claim to whatever prerogatives it wanted in Western Europe. If anything, that religious zeal will prove pretty useful whenever Cersei has to come face-to-face with Stannis and Melisandre’s erotic power plays: Innocent VIII’s papal bulls against witchcraft would definitely come in handy there. In fact, stripped of Tyrion’s ability to buy off enemies of all stripes and sizes, Cersei could follow the lead of Sixtus IV, who let Torquemada turn Spain into his personal purifying fire pit throughout the Spanish Inquisition. In short, with the High Sparrow as her drinking buddy, Cersei can basically burn anyone who opposes her on grounds of heresy. Or she could take the alternative tack and follow the lead of Leo X to sell off Westerosi Indulgences to refill King’s Landing’s coffers. (Before you get all Martin Luther about that, how do you think the popes paid for the Renaissance?)
Sure, in the long run, all of that started off a bitter and bloody cycle of Reformation and Counter-reformation and plunged an entire continent into a 30-year religious war that would forever alter its geopolitical fault lines. But man, it was good while it lasted — and at over 1,000 years, it lasted long enough for those like Cersei to get their dirty business done right.