Game of Thrones Recap: Good Dads, Bad Dads And Dead Dads
It's all about the daddy issues (with a bit of how's your father).
This is a recap of the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. That means spoilers.
So far, Stannis Baratheon has pretty much been a humourless dick. But as we discovered this week, he’s actually a decent father.
In this episode’s most moving scene, Stannis explains to his daughter Shireen how it was sort of his fault she caught greyscale, because he’d indulgently bought her what turned out to be an infected doll. Refusing to exile her to die among the ‘Stone Men’, he called in all manner of healers to save her life.
Could Daddy Stannis be the best possible king of Westeros? (Littlefinger’s certainly betting on it.) His bonfire-happy religion now looks quite moderate compared to the rampaging Faith Militant loosed by an extremely shortsighted Cersei. Tommen’s paternity is obviously illegitimate – Bronn tells Jaime so, and the Sparrows throw it in Tommen’s own face. And just before Daenerys reaps the bloody harvest of her unnecessarily rigid governance, she learns from Ser Barristan that her dad Aerys really did go mad and ruin the country.
“I should have given you a son,” Selyse says bitterly to Stannis, noticing how approvingly he’s watching Jon Snow. Unlike her husband, she despises her daughter’s “weakness and deformity”, and actually told Shireen she wasn’t wanted at the Wall.
But royal blood runs in Shireen’s veins. And for Melisandre’s purposes, that means the little princess is in exactly the right place. The red priestess has an uncanny radar for royalty – remember how she seduced and leeched King Robert’s bastard Gendry, back in season three? (Unlike the prudish, homophobic Sparrows, the Lord of Light’s clergy are rather sex-positive.)
But it’s more revealing still that Melisandre shows Jon Snow her Norgs of Light, hoping to get knocked up with another shadow baby because “there’s power in you”. It’s not just a spooky callback to Ygritte when she tells him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Yep, this episode is throwing up some massive hints about Jon’s parentage, which is a fervently debated fan theory. According to the sour Selyse, Jon is “a bastard by some tavern slut,” conceived during Robert’s Rebellion against the Targaryens.
“Perhaps,” replies Stannis. “But that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way.”
And in the gloom of the Winterfell crypt, Littlefinger tells Sansa (and reminds us) how Prince Rhaegar Targaryen notoriously chose her aunt Lyanna as Queen of Love and Beauty at the Tourney at Harrenhal, rather than his wife, Elia Martell.
“Yes, he chose her,” says Sansa, “and then he kidnapped her and raped her.” Well sure, that’s the official narrative.
Littlefinger’s heading back to King’s Landing – but not before another smooch with the girl he promises will soon rule the north in her own right. In public, Littlefinger’s relationship to Sansa is paternal, or at least avuncular… but not down here, where even the dead can’t hear. Sansa seems into it, and they share a long moment when she complains she’ll be married by the time he gets back.
Who knows when that’ll be, given Littlefinger is riding into an epic clusterfuck of Cersei’s making. We’ve seen, thanks to Olyvar’s pathetic protests, that the name Petyr Baelish basically means ‘degenerate heretic’ in the capital now.
Cersei’s loving herself sick – and pouring herself more vino – now she’s dispatched Westeros’s most embarrassing dad, Mace Tyrell, to Braavos to petition the Iron Bank for better repayment terms. Given Mace is accompanied by Cersei’s pet thug, Ser Meryn Trant, he may well be dispatched in Braavos as well. Will they run up against Arya, or is she still in her gloomy training montage? After all, Ser Meryn is still on Arya’s death list…
Cersei’s decision to re-arm the Faith Militant has paid off in the short term. They’ve arrested Ser Loras Tyrell, enraging Margaery, who demands her new husband Tommen fix this shit.
“Aren’t you and Mother getting along?” stammers Tommen. Oh, little buddy.
He means well, and he could still be a good king. But this episode reminded me just how foolish Cersei has been to deny Tommen any training in statecraft, considering his claim to the Iron Throne is looking shakier by the day. (Does he even know that Uncle Jaime is really his dad?)
It looks bad for the Lannisters when the Sparrows boss the king around. Joffrey was a nasty little turd, but at least he would have put on a show of defiance rather than slinking meekly home. As matters stand, Margaery must call in the big guns to free her brother – grandma Olenna, the Queen of Thorns.
Meanwhile, Tommen’s real dad has landed in Dorne, looking longingly at a certain island along the way.
Stung with guilt over his role in his own dad’s death, Jaime hopes to redeem himself on this mission, which he believes is a super-smooth infiltration. “We’re not here to start a war,” he says.
“Two knights off to rescue a princess,” says Bronn ironically. (His own ambitions are much more prosaic: becoming a dad and watching his sons squabble for his fortune.) I hope they won’t be called upon to do much fighting – Jaime just barely kills a Dornish soldier by accidentally trapping his sword in his upraised fake hand.
The snake that nearly kills Jaime in his sleep is an omen. It foreshadows his clumsy vulnerability here in enemy territory, and the ease with which Oberyn Martell’s vengeful bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes, are hunting him.
The rather clunky introduction to Obara, Nymeria and Tyene Sand couches them as products of Dorne’s ‘fighting and fucking’ culture. They have different mothers, but Oberyn trained them all in combat. Obara, the eldest, wields the spear that was her dad’s favourite weapon. Can Jaime’s golden high-five stop that?
In Meereen, Ser Barristan is Dany’s most valuable link to her homeland. He’s a fatherly figure offering wise advice (which she habitually ignores) and sharing his rich store of cultural memory. Without him, Daenerys basically knows nothing of Westeros except the misinformation of her cruel, resentful brother Viserys.
Daenerys’s continued refusal to acknowledge Meereenese customs has now sparked a bloodbath as the masked Sons of the Harpy ambush her men. Trained for formation fighting on open battlefields, the Unsullied drop like flies in urban guerrilla combat. Grey Worm fights valiantly, but is wounded and outnumbered — when in strides Ser Barristan.
At last, we see something of his legendary swordsmanship as he slashes and stabs his way through a swath of enemies… until they finally overpower him, and Grey Worm slumps to the ground beside him. I desperately want to believe they’ll both survive somehow, but this looks like eye-pebbles for Ser Barristan. He was the good dad Daenerys never had, and he ultimately paid the price for her callow stubbornness.
With two of her most trusted retainers out of action, Ser Jorah might now find a warmer welcome when he shows up with Tyrion. And the former Hand of the King might be just the canny politician this fatherless queen needs.
Game of Thrones airs on Foxtel’s Showcase on Mondays at 11am, with an encore broadcast at 7.30pm on Monday evenings.
Read her recaps of last season’s Game of Thrones here.