Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Arya II

“Arya thought about running, but she knew she wouldn’t get far on her donkey when the gold cloaks had horses. And she was so tired of running.”

Synopsis: Arya travels with the Night Watch caravan up the Kingsroad, learns about Nymeria a mysterious she-wolf, encounters Jaqen H’ghar, hides with Gendry, and watches Yoren face down the Goldcloaks.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

If Arya I gave out some teasers,  Arya II is a salvo for her arc for the series, both in terms of showing how the War of Five Kings is coming to the smallfolk and coming after Arya herself. First in bits and pieces and then in a flood, the youngest Stark daughter witnesses the war’s homefront:

“Morn, noon, and night they came, old folks and little children, big men and small ones, barefoot girls and women with babes at their breasts. Some drove farm wagons or bumped along in the back of ox carts. More rode: draft horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, anything that would walk or run or role. One woman led a milk cow with a little girl on its back. Arya saw a smith pushing a wheelbarrow with his tools inside, hammers and tongs and even an anvil, and a little while later a different man with a different wheelbarrow, only inside this one were two babies in a blanket. Most came on foot, with their goods on their shoulders and weary, wary looks on their faces. They walked south, toward the city, toward King’s Landing…”

In a feudal agricultural society, there can be few sights more emblematic of disorder and disruption than that of a refugee train of people desperately trying to save their belongings from the war (belongings they’re about to lose to Littlefinger’s tax), marching hopelessly from one war-zone into the next. And in this little cameo, we can see gradations of prosperity already, between the people with livestock and those who walk, between the people with skills and tools to their name and the people with only mouths to feed.

George R.R Martin puts an even finer point on his statement here by having Arya’s caravan not only encounter the nobly suffering poor, but also the people who are exploiting them in a time of crisis – “The next morning, a sleek merchant on a grey mare reined up by Yoren and offered to buy his wagons and everything in them for a quarter of their worth.” – and the reality that the desperate poor are not so noble as to be above a bit of exploitation themselves“Many of the travellers were armed…they fingered their weapons and gave lingering looks at the wagons as they rolled by, yet in the end they let the column pass. Thirty was too many, no matter what they had in those wagons.”

As the Night Watch caravan travels up the Kingsroad, we move from poverty to exploitation to danger to death, and the dramatic question of the end of the chapter is prefigured as the caravan tries to hang on to as much dignity and humanity as possible: “Arya noticed the first grave that same day; a small mound beside the road, dug for a child. A crystal had been set in the soft earth, and Lommy wanted to take it until the Bull told him he’d better leave the dead alone.” The crystal is a small sign of humans trying to cling to pre-war human customs, religion as a source of solace – one can only imagine how expensive a grave crystal must have been to acquire at this time and place – and that brief ripple of faith is followed up by rows of blank graves where either the crystals were stolen or the survivors had simply given up on pricey ritual in favor of practicality. In the end, even the Night’s Watch has to bend to practicality to some extent: “they dug a grave of their own, burying the sellsword where he’d slept. Yoren stripped him of his valuables before they threw the dirt on them…tossed a handful of acorns on top of Praed’s body, so an oak might grow to mark his place.”

But as the gesture indicates, like the protagonists of so many post-apocalyptic dramas, the Night’s Watch has drawn a line and will go no further. But what happens when this resolve is tested?

Rumors and Encounters

Along the way from the asking of the question and the answering, Arya hears some rumors and meets someone new, and both of these events are important enough to take some time to puzzle over them. In the first case, it’s quite clear that this is Nymeria the smallfolk of the Riverlands are terrified of:

“the packs have grown bolder’n anyone can remember….they kill as they like and they got no fear of men…there’s this great pack, hundreds of them, mankillers. The one that leads them is a she-wolf, a bitch from the seventh hell…this hellbitch walked into a village one day..and tears a baby from his mother’s arms….Lord Mooton, him and his sons swore they’d put an end to her. They tracked her to her lair with a pack of wolfhounds, and barely escaped with their skins. Not one of those dogs came back, not one.”

Two things to note before I do some speculation as to why GRRM spends so much time telling us what Nymeria has been up to: first of all, I think this is symbolic in that the wolves are not going to be kind to the Riverlands, however well-intentioned Robb might be. Second, it’s heartbreaking how Arya simultaneously stands up for wolves (in much the same way that she’ll do the same for the Starks and Winterfell! in general) and has convinced herself that she would be rejected if she met Nymeria/her mother again (“she probably wouldn’t even know me now…or if she did, she’d hate me”).

As for Nymeria…well, at the moment she’s acting as a tether for Arya, keeping her true to her Stark identity despite the Faceless Men’s programming (although I think the fandom was a bit over-emphatic on that topic, given the suggestion in “Mercy” that this was less Manchurian Candidate and more method acting). However, I do think GRRM’s going to do more with the wolf than that – if not exactly have a giant army of wolves show up a la the Eagles in the Hobbit, at the very least unite with Arya to prompt her to go North, young woman.

And now – Arya’s first encounter with Jaqen H’ghar (oy, that name is going to be misspelled so many times over the next book)! A rather momentous event, but one that in this re-reading has some interesting comparisons to Sansa’s meeting Ser Dontos that I hadn’t noticed before. In both cases, a Stark sister is encountering a potential guide and ally who is initially hardly promising in appearance, in a dangerous situation, and makes a connection that will be important later. However, the differences are rather instructive – here, the key quality that is demonstrated is not morality, but rather “more courage than sense,” although I would argue that self-possession and a good eye for distances are involved as well. While I would disagree that masculine-presenting characters don’t get their own share of bile directed at them, there is something to the argument that one of the reasons why Arya is often preferred to Sansa in the fandom has to do with the fact that her story leans into more conventionally heroic (and conventionally masculine, unfortunately) traits.

At the same time, it’s an interesting difference that Jaqen H’ghar presents himself as a figure in need (as opposed to Ser Dontos, who is far more in need but who doesn’t know it until too late): “A man could use another taste of beer…A man could use a bath too…A boy could make a friend.” Given what we know about the capabilities of a Faceless Man, there is something deliberate in the way that he’s positioning himself as harmless (emphasizing the “heavy bracelets“) and friendly (disassociating himself from “the company he keeps,” and emphasizing his own “courtesy“). Often, I feel the emphasis on the Faceless Men is on their magical capabilities or their skill at killing; equally important to me is their acting skills, their focus on understanding human interaction both from a performative and observational standpoint. And the interesting thing in this scenario is that, apart from instigating this encounter, making his requests, and making introductions, Jaqen spends much of the encounter not doing anything, observing how Arya reacts to his companions.

Neutrality in a Time of War

Finally, the answer to the question. At the inn, Yoren is confronted with the seeming impossibility of continuing to travel North and of staying neutral, but stays true to the ideals of the Night’s Watch, insisting “stubbornly” that “That’s nothing to us…Tully or Lannister, makes no matter. The Watch takes no part.” And while in the moment, Arya is still drawn to the Tully side, I think there is something in Yoren’s stand that sparks a certain respect for the Night’s Watch as an institution – something that will drive Arya to save Samwell Tarly and execute Dareon the singer.

Indeed, I think we get as good a sense in this chapter as we do in any Jon chapter what the Night’s Watch stands for at its best. First, we get an intriguing mention from the innkeeper that “I had a brother took the black, years ago. Serving boy, clever, but one day he got seen filching pepper from m’lord’s table.” Rather than reacting to the Night’s Watch as an oppressive institution, the innkeeper reaches past that to see it as an institution that his brother is a part of, a source of common identity and interests. Which is not something you expect from a relative’s interactions with a carceral system.

Second, and more importantly, we get the arrival of the Goldcloaks and their conflict with Yoren:

 “they were riding up the kingsroad, six in the black ringmail and golden cloaks of the city watch….They drew up in front of the inn. Look with your eyes, Syrio’s voice seemed to whisper. Her eyes saw white lather under their saddles; the horses had been ridden long and hard…

“You men,” one of the gold cloaks shouted. “You the ones left to take the black?…I have a warrant for a certain boy-“

Yoren stepped out of the inn….”Who is it that wants this boy?”

…”The queen wants him, old man, not that it’s your concern,” the officer said, drawing a ribbon from his belt. “Here, Her Grace’s seal and warrant.”

…Yoren fingered the warrant ribbon with its blob of golden wax. “Pretty…thing is, the boy’s in the Night’s Watch now. What he done back in the day, don’t mean piss-all.”

“The queen’s not interested in your views, old man, and neither am I…”

“You’ll have no one,” Yoren said stubbornly. There’s laws on such things.”

“”The gold cloak drew a shortsword. “Here’s your law.”

Yoren looked at the blade. “That’s no law, just a sword. Happens I got one too.”

It’s a fairly short passage, but there’s incredible depth here (behind everything else, we’re also seeing Cersei’s execution of the bastards in action and how desperate she is to remove all possible evidence of her crimes and how that policy affects people on the ground). What we have here is a conflict between two kinds of authority – on the one hand, an autocratic authority of royal decrees, which rests merely on the will of “Her Grace” without reference to any kind of precedent and which is ultimately backed up by naked force; on the other, Yoren’s appeal both to legal precedent and historic custom, backed up by an appeal to solidarity. Faced with the question I described above, Yoren is so devoted to the Night’s Watch’s promise of neutrality and amnesty that he’s willing to draw steel against a royal officer.

The contrast to Jeor Mormont’s last stand at Craster’s Keep is quite instructive. At this place and time, when the Night’s Watch is put to the test, ordinary men like Tarber, Cutjack, Kurz, Koss, Reysen, Dobber, and Hot Pie (for the most part, non-entities who will be dead in a few chapters) step up to the challenge, Spartacus-style in a show of soldiarity. For all that Yoren warned Arya that these ex-prisoners and castoffs were only a danger, we get a rare moment where the better angels of human nature prevail. It’s very much an underdog triumph, as Yoren takes advantage of the momentary loss of concentration on the party of authority, and brings what power he has to a point – up against “the apple of the officer’s throat.

And just as we’ve seen before, it’s an existential triumph – a momentary victory that buys the Night’s Watch only a head start – but the act of standing up is what matters.

Historical Analysis:

The kind of mass refugeeing we see in Arya II is one aspect of the War of Five Kings that didn’t come from the Wars of the Roses – which, while they did see quite a bit of banditry and occasional pillaging of various towns, didn’t focus heavily on the chevauchée as had the Hundred Years War. After all, both sides were hoping to win the throne of England and give their enemy’s land to their followers, so despoiling the countryside in a thorough fashion was good for business. And while the commoners of England were not best pleased by the banditry and pillaging, they tended to respond either by demanding better police service from the monarchy or starting local rebellions, rather than decamping to somewhere else. However, there is a good historical parallel for the scale of devastation that did cause this kind of mass migration – the Thirty Years War.

Both a religious war over the futures of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation and a continental power struggle about the power of the House of Hapsburg (who controlled both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire), the House of Bourbon ruling France, and the ambitions of both the Danish and Swedes to become dominant regional powers in the Baltic, the Thirty Years War devastated Germany for decades on end. Given the size of the armies involved vis-a-vis the crude systems for logistics, the religious impulse to either expel or convert the population belonging to the wrong faith, and the sheer duration of the conflict, total war was brought to bear on the civilian population. As a result, historian Günther Franz estimates a 30% loss of population in urban areas and a 40% loss of population in rural areas, much of which was due to either the actions of soldiers; epidemics of typhus, dysentery, and bubonic plague; and a 40% drop in birth rates. However, as historians have pointed out, much of those declines marked mass migrations of people away from centers of conflict – and thus a mass refugee crisis was born.

“In sober fact, civilian prisoners were led off in halters to die of exposure by the wayside, children kidnapped and held to ransom, priests tied under wagons to crawl on all fours like dogs until they dropped, burghers and peasants imprisoned, starved, and tortured for their concealed wealth to the uttermost of human endurance with the uttermost of human ingenuity.

The more rapid and widespread movements of the troops in the last six years and increased the  ravages of plague and hunger and uprooted the population of Central Germany from the soil, turning them into a fluctuating mass of fugitives. This the only explanation for the total desertion of villages…

The fugitives who fled from the south after Nordlingen died of plague, hunger and exhaustion in the refugee camp at Frankfort or the overcrowded hospitals of Saxony; seven thousand were expelled from the canton of Zurich because there was neither food nor room for them; at Hanau the gates were closed against them; at Stasbourg they lay thick in the streets through the frosts of winter, so that by day the citizens stepped over their bodies, and by night lay awake listening to the groans of the sick and starving until the magistrates forcibly drove them out, thirty thousand of them.”

(C.V Wedgewood)

As we can see from the chapter quote I put up top, the parallels with the Thirty Years War are especially strong with the the way in which the back and forth of the conflict puts smallfolk (either settled or refugeed) in the position of being labelled a collaborator for either the “wolves” or the “lions” – much in the same way that the Imperial army would persecute Lutherans and Calvinists (or people suspected of being Lutherans or Calvinists, or Catholics who supported their Lutheran or Calvinist liege lord, or who supported the Swedes), and then the Swedes would swing back through the area and persecute anyone who was a “Papist” or a supporter of the Emperor, or who had collaborated or opportunisticly sided with the same to survive, and vice-versa.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: there is no scene of violence or violation that George R.R Martin has written that humanity has not written a thousand times before in its own history.

What If?

There’s not really a huge scope for hypotheticals here, as much of the episode boils down to one decision, but I have a few things in mind and I’m sure more will turn up in the credits.

  • Gendry had been taken? I don’t give a huge weight to this one because it’s not in Yoren’s character to give up a recruit, but let’s say more than five goldcloaks had been sent and he’d been taken by main force. Well…the most likely outcome is that Gendry dies the same brutal death meted out to all the other royal bastards. However, if Gendry is brought alive back to King’s Landing, it’s possible that Tyrion’s accession to power might have saved his life and he’d seen out the siege making iron links; smiths are valuable after all. Given that Tyrion already knows about the bastards thing, Gendry wouldn’t be that vital to his storyline – but Varys probably would have continued to keep an eye on him. Without Gendry in the main plot, it’s quite possible Arya doesn’t manage to escape Harrenhal since she wouldn’t have had weapons to hand; likewise, it’s quite likely that Brienne would have died on the floor of the Inn at the Crossroads, which means Jaime never disappears…
  • Arya had revealed herself? Arya comes rather close to saying who she is in a fit of emotion in this chapter. Given the rather large audience, it’s interesting to think what would have happened if it had become widely known that Arya had escaped the capitol and was running around in the Riverlands – for one thing, given that the Starks still have armies in the field, it’s quite possible that Arya gets found by one of them and is reunited with her mother. Either way, I think Catelyn is much less likely to release Jaime in a bit to save her daughters. On the flip side, if the Lannisters found out, it might have actually aided diplomacy since the Lannisters would actually have had both Stark daughters to work with.
  • Arya stayed away from Jaqen H’ghar? Now here’s an interesting one. Let’s say Arya does as she’s told and doesn’t befriend Jaqen here – there’s a chance that the Faceless Man burns to death in a cage in a nameless holdfast in the Riverlands. In which case, besides Chyswyck and Weese surviving, there’s a possibility that Harrenhal never falls to Roose Bolton – which in turn might butterfly away the Red Wedding, Duskendale, and the Ruby Ford if Roose is never able to make contact with Tywin. Likewise, it’s quite possible that Jaime keeps his hand, because without Harrenhal under Roose Bolton, Vargo Hoat doesn’t have the opportunity to switch sides.

Book vs. Show:

The show kept this one pretty much on par, with the only real difference being that the Goldcloaks arrive when the Night’s Watch are camped out by the side of the road rather than staying at an inn, and that most of the wartime devastation is “shown” rather than “told.”

In general, if there’s one bright spot in Season Two, it’s the Arya plotline, in which the writers went in many ways above and beyond the text (especially in the Harrenhal material with Arya and Tywin) to construct some really amazing television.

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151 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Arya II

  1. Andrew says:

    Good job, Steven

    As to the FM and acting skills, like the assassins of the Order of the Assassins at the Alamut, also a religiously inspired order of assassins,the FM were required to learn different language and cultures so as to blend in.

    As for Cersei killing off Robert’s bastards, that draws attention, and would have people wondering why she is killing off Robert’s baseborn children if they pose no threat to her children whom she claims are trueborn.

    It is a bit humorous that Gendry’s father is the man he thinks of as a “big fat sot.” On the outside he resembles his father in his youth, but on the inside not so much, he manages to have discipline and self-restraint Robert lacked when it came to wine, women and basically being the personification of the id.

    • David Hunt says:

      “As for Cersei killing off Robert’s bastards, that draws attention, and would have people wondering why she is killing off Robert’s baseborn children if they pose no threat to her children whom she claims are trueborn.”

      True, but something being poorly thought out, counterproductive, and morally reprehensible never stopped Cercei from doing anything before. Why would it stop her now? People might have thought that Cercei was slaughtering the bastards simply because Robert having bastards offended her. She’s obviously a proud woman. Few (no one?) outside those enmeshed in the politics of the court would know that Cercei preferred Robert nailing any woman that wasn’t her.

      Yes, slaughtering a bunch of low-born bastards would do poor things to how the smallfolk saw her, but Cercei has inherited her father’s snobbishness. I don’t recall, but suspect that none of the slaughtered kids had even bastard names. If she’d gone after someone like Edric Storm or Mya Stone, she might have encountered some pushback. As it is, I don’t think there’s anyone left that has Cercei’s ear that would care about the killing of no name nobodies or what the smallfolk think.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        It is worth noting that while the bastards were killed in the name of the queen, Cersei never claims she gave the order. Furthermore, when Tyrion questioned Janos Slynt on who gave the order, he refuses to divulge a name, and claims Tyrion is trying to trick him when Tyrion says “queen.”

        The only other obvious candidate with motive and authority is Joffrey, which I believe is the route the show takes. He certainly has the pettiness to pull it off, but it would be an admission to himself that he isn’t really Robert’s son.

        Honestly, I kind of feel like there is another shoe to drop, perhaps related to Tyrek Lannister’s disappearance.

        • Except that we know that Cersei has had Robert’s bastards killed before. So she’s got form for it.

          I’m convinced that Tyrek will reappear to testify to Cersei’s actions, when Aegon gets to KL.

          • Sean C. says:

            I always thought Tyrek was just killed in the rioting and characters speculating on what happened to him was just them looking for order in what was truly just a chaotic situation.

          • Too much time spent after his death talking about the search for him for that not to have some payoff.

          • Petyr Patter says:

            Oh, Cersei is certainly meant to look guilty. However, the fact we haven’t gotten confirmation makes me curious. I wonder if we have a “Ser Hugh” situation, when we were led to believe Hugh poisoned Jon Arryn, but later we learn it was a conspiracy with Lysa and Littlefinger.

            I’m not saying it wasn’t Cersei who gave the command, because it certainly fits her m.o., but lacking confirmation I think one should at least consider other candidates. Otherwise, why not have Janos Slynt just say, “yeah, your sister gave the order and a followed through, see how helpful I am to royal family and House Lannister?”

            I read one theory that Varys actually arranged the deaths, apparently to draw a divide between Tyrion and Cersei, though I find this doubtful.

          • I’ll take a closer look at it when I get to the Tyrion chapter with Slynt.

          • Erin says:

            Not to mention it fits with Varys’ pattern of swiping (or purportedly swiping) people from the capital. I can’t remember if Tygett or Kevan was Tywin’s next-youngest brother, but either way, if Tyrek Lannister is alive, he’s a lot closer to inheriting Casterly Rock than he was at the start of the series.

          • Andrew says:

            In think you men if Aegon gets to KL. Tyrek could have been/be Varys’s planned puppet Lord of CR.

          • Chris says:

            If we were to consider other candidates than Cersei, wouldn’t Littlefinger be a more likely suspect than Varys? He already has a history of using Janos Slynt and the goldcloaks, after all. And he’s definitely not averse to murdering children.

          • LF doesn’t have motive.

          • I’ll also add that when Robert wanted to bring Mya to KL, Cersei threated to have her killed. So there’s that.

          • Yeah. Honestly, I think it was a major misstep to have Joffrey rather than Cersei send that order in the show. It’s not as if Joffrey didn’t do tons of vile shit during Season 2 (and they even left out some of his peasant-killing antics), and the whole tack of having Cersei recognize her son’s monstrosity has only muddled things (her reaction to Joffrey’s death, then her scene with Margaery, for ex).

            It’s going to make for a very wrenching transition to Season 5 – but maybe that’s what the showrunners want, less gradual transitions and more dramatic ninety-degree turns. After all, they are casting Maggy the Frog…

          • I think the show has muddled some important things. (Please don’t get me started on Sansa’s arc) Has done a whitewash on many characters, Cersei being a prime example of it and it’s a mistake, because they are loosing important character development. And honestly, watching show!Margaery feels like I’m watching Anne Boleyn from the Tudors take 2.

            Also, I think they are starting to feel the backlash. That Cersei/Jaime scene sent off waves of anger. Did you see Martin’s reply to it? It’s quite interesting. I know many book readers are stopping to watch the show. Some friends of mine are just waiting for Rory to be off the show and they are done.

            And seriously? Maggy the Frog? I fear what’s to come.

          • I think Maggy the Frog is a good sign in regards to Cersei – that they’re moving away from the whitewashing.

            And Margaery is pretty much Anne Boleyn in the text.

            And yes, I did see Martin’s reply.

          • Let’s hope so! Cersei and the characters are interesting the way they are.

            What I meant on Anne Boleyn, was how she was portrayed in the TV show.

            Good 🙂

          • Petyr Patter says:

            Really? Maggy the Frog?

            I’m not sure how that would work, considering the show’s absence of flashbacks. We have Bran’s dreams and the occasional “vision,” such as the House of the Undying.

          • I think they’re breaking with that rule.

          • Sean C. says:

            Given how firm they’ve been on not having flashbacks, I doubt they’re discarding it now. More likely they’ll have Maggy appear in the present in some capacity (either to give her the prophecy then or to remind her of it).

          • I think they are going to do flashbacks, but more in the sense of Cersei hallucinating Maggy there as in the books.

          • Sean C. says:

            The series has a pretty set visual/narrative style at this point, and that sort of scene is really outside of it. They didn’t use anything like that for the snow castle scene, for instance, where it would have been rather useful (and was quite underwhelming and rushed).

          • Why would they use it for the snow castle scene? That’s not a flashback.

          • Sean C. says:

            Sansa’s memories of Winterfell and her family are rather important to the power of the scene. Even a silent montage would have helped.

          • John says:

            Cersei in the book is a misogynistic cut-out. Turning her into a plausible person is a good thing.

          • I disagree. I think Cersei in the books is a fascinating villain, the product of the patriarchy – and more than a few people have critiqued the show for trying to “soften” her image to make her more acceptable to viewers as removing a lot of her agency.

          • Tom says:

            Sharp changes are just lazy writing

        • Roger says:

          In the show, Robert’s bastards are killed by Joffrey’s orders (not Cersei’s).

          • Maddy says:

            Sometimes I feel like they have good intentions and want to make Cersei more sympathetic but I really wish they would just let her be the complex villainous character she is supposed to be. I hope we see that next season.

          • Agreed. Although I wonder how much of it is Cersei-specific, and how much of it is their preference for sharp changes in characters over gradual transformations (see: Arya).

    • I’ll get into the historical hashashim later, when Arya gets to the House of Black and White.

      Re: Cersei, I was always disappointed that they took this element of her character away.

      And yeah, Gendry’s daddy issues are interesting.

      • Roger says:

        I wonder if Gendry will ever meet his uncle Stannis. Stannis is one of the few who know his parentage. They are also very similiar in personality.

        • Andrew says:

          I noticed that too. Gendry has his uncle’s discipline, and a bit of a chip in his shoulder as well, at least in his interactions with Arya. Stannis is devoted to duty, and Gendry to his profession.

          I wonder when Gendry will learn his heritage TWoW or ADoS? Could Brienne and/or Jaime finally tell him? I also wonder about his reaction.

        • You mean in the books? I doubt it. I think they’re too far apart by this point.

  2. S. Duff says:

    A running theme whenever the Night’s Watch is involved is that even when it is a collection of thieves and rapers, you can count on ordinary people to step up to the plate and do the right thing. I think that’s one of the overarching themes of ASOIAF that people often overlook when they brand it as “cynical” or “nihilistic”. Yes, it’s a horrible, horrible world, but there are truly good people in it.

    • Yes and no – the Night’s Watch breaks at Craster’s Keep, after all.

      I think GRRM believes that ordinary people can surprise you, but they’re not infallible underdogs either.

      • JT says:

        That’s not totally surprising though – after all not all of the criminals in the NW are bad people. You have thieves who stole to feed their families, poachers who did the same, “rapists” who had consensual sex with highborn girls etc etc.

        Sure there are truly despicable people associated with the NW (Rorge had he made it to the wall, the cook who branded himself with a seven pointed star every time he raped a Septa etc etc), but some of the criminal class are just ordinary people trying to survive in a world with no opportunities and very harsh justice.

        • S. Duff says:

          There’s also volunteers, like Jon and Waymar Royce.

        • Oh absolutely, I’m just pointing out that GRRM is not trying to replace one stereotype with another.

        • WPA says:

          Right- and even when they break, it’s after a combat experience (major battle leading to defeat and high casualties) unusually stressful even by battle standards followed by a disorderly retreat south. Far better supplied soldiers in other wars have broken facing a provocation even without encountering supernatural snowman monsters and walking corpses.

          Part of the solidarity bit in this chapter is also laudable courage by new quasi-volunteers (presumably even the criminals signed up for this when faced with a worse option) with decent leadership. Veteran troops will have superior training and experience but veterans exposed to too much combat/hardship for too long will also be more brittle.

          It makes me wonder how half the Gold Company isn’t incapacitated by battle fatigue unless all those still serving (and alive) after more than 5 years or so have literally no emotions left whatsoever.

          • As for the Golden Company, well they need to work to live, and they have an overarching identity and ideology that binds them together.

            And as usually the case in premodern war, there’s seasons to conflict, so they’d have a good bit of downtime.

          • ajay says:

            Furthermore, being a mercenary for five years doesn’t mean five solid years of fighting. You’ve got the downtime outside the conflict season, or when you don’t have a contract. You’ve got all the time you spend marching from place to place. You’ve got all the “battles” you win by just showing up and forcing a demarche.

            Current belief is that soldiers become combat-ineffective after between 90 and 120 days of combat; most Allied soldiers in WW2 went through the entire war without getting close to this point. Even modern war involves only a tiny proportion of actual fighting and mostly is just sitting around, digging, driving around, marching around, maintenance and training.

            A friend of mine had a plan for Guaranteed Realistic WW2 Re-Enactment Weekends. You’d turn up on Friday evening, get your replica battledress and rifle, get into the back of a lorry and spend two days driving aimlessly around the south of England and occasionally drinking tea. On the Sunday afternoon you’d get a talk from a WW2 veteran who would say “Yep, that’s pretty much what I spent most of the war doing.”

          • Very true. Although the 90-120 day thing might well be a product of modern war – the role of modern artillery especially. A medieval war would involve a lot more marching, some set-piece battles but fewer sustained-contact engagements, and a lot of sieges – less in the way of sustained living under artillery bombardment, for one thing.

          • WPA says:

            The old saw that most of active wartime service even in an infantry company consists of long periods of mind-numbing boredom and routine punctuated by moments of sheer terror. But yes, that whole modern artillery business/ the advent of extended contact between armies even without set piece battle extends that strain.

          • ajay says:

            Exactly. Even five years in a modern war might not get you 90 days of actual combat; five years of being a mercenary in Essos, far less so.

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          This is a heck of a necropost but can I just say that it never ceases to anger me when someone calls Dareon innocent? The only evidence we have that he didn’t rape Mathis Rowan’s daughter is….. wait for it…. Dareon’s word. Yeah, sure, we should totally take that at face value. Especially considering how innocent and upstanding he acts later on.

  3. juan manuel says:

    IIRC, the Northern prisoners in Harrenhall were waiting for a rescue. So I think it’s implied, and lampshaded by Jaqen, that their capture was a ruse previously orchestrated between Roose Bolton and the Bloody Mummers. Arya acted before the mercenaries (and changed the way the people at Harrenhall saw her) but, had Arya not acted, the mercenaries would have released the Northerners and taken Harrenhall from the inside anyways.

    • That’s true, although “would have” is a bit strong. It’s not like Vargo Hoat was above going back on his word.

      • Andrew says:

        I think Vargo Hoat would have kept his deal with Roose Bolton. If Hoat double-crossed Roose, I imagine Roose would have taken Harrenhal by storm. He has 10,000 men, Hoat and Ser Amory have only 200. Not really good odds for any sellsword captain.

        On a side note, Bolton would probably place his Dreadfort men in the rear of the assault, so any Northmen who died wouldn’t have been one of his Northmen.

      • John says:

        But why would he go back on his word? I think it’s fairly clear that Arya “rescues” a bunch of dudes who were just about to get rescued anyway.

  4. winnie says:

    Great analysis as always Steve. Good to remember that even as early as book two the Lannisters weren’t respecting the Night Watch’s neutrality, (a taboo not even the Targaryens ignored) and why with the current regime in power it’s impossible for the NW to stay neutral-not only is the current power block not helping in the present situation they are actively hindering them.

    It also reminds you once again of what makes everyone hate the Lannisters-they have no respect for ANYTHING except their own ambitions.

  5. gavinbyrnes says:

    I think you missed the What-If of “what if Hot Pie kills all the Gold Cloaks in single combat and nobody chases after them at all because they’re all too scared of Hot Pie”

  6. hjtuffs says:

    I’d place the Theon and Tyrion arcs as bright spots of Season 2 as well, actually. Season 2 possibly gets a worse rap than it deserves (I’d argue the first half of Season 4 was worse, though thankfully there’s been a dramatic rise in quality).

    • JT says:

      If you evaluate the show on it’s own (i.e. not in comparison to the books), season 2 is quite good. Blackwater (episode 9) is a high point of the series, and yes, Theon and Tyrion’s arcs are really good. The stuff in KL with Sansa/Cersei/Joffrey is also good.

      The wall/north of the wall (which IMO is the weakest plotline in the show) is much better in season 2 than season 3.

      Really, Dany’s arc stalls out in season 2, and the stuff with Stannis/Davos/Melisandre (aside from Blackwater and the smoke monster) is so-so.

      • Wow, I feel very differently. I think KL and Theon are quite good, but Jon and Dany are both botched, and there’s massive problems with Robb and Cat, and I would argue that most of Bran’s storyline is mishandled.

        IMO, North of the Wall is better in 3 than 2, although better in 4 than in 3.

        • Maddy says:

          Yep pretty much. Arguably Clash of Kings is probably one of the harder books to adapt but they made some weird decisions. For some reason it only became especially evident to me that they were messing up Cat and Robb’s relationship in season 3, but it all started in season 2. And I will never understand why they decided to have Bran and Rickon’s ‘death’ be ambiguous – it just makes things more needlessly complicated.

    • As I said elsewhere, I think Season 2 is the weakest so far, and I disagree wholly about Season 4: Arya getting Needle in Ep 1, the Purple Wedding in Ep 2, the Baelish reveal and Dany’s epic speech in Ep 3, the fall of Meereen and the babyOther in Ep 4, the Lysa reveal and the attack on Craster’s in Ep 5. Much more action than usual in the first half.

  7. Amestria says:

    I have some thoughts.

    The refugee crisis is also a regular part of warfare in modern Africa. The culture of most African armies is extremely predatory and there warfare is often very irregular. Combatants will deliberately engineer refugee crisis’s to burden and terrify the opposition. African governments tend to be very autocratic and dangerous but ineffective at exercising control over their cities and countrysides. In the Congo, one of the largest wars in the last 100 years, the armies were rather small when compared to the size of the country and the size of the noncombatant populations. The armies struggled over resource extraction points and exercised control by supporting local strongmen and terrorizing the civilian populations.

    The armies in Westeros are rather small when all is said and done and they are incapable of exercising real control of the countryside (or protecting it, as an army that protects the countryside, as opposed to various strong points, is one that disperses and ceases to be an effective fighting force). To exercise control they need to establish local relationships – impose new lords, get old ones to bend the knee, bring communities into line. One way is through favors, alliances, and other positive acts that generally give people cause to support you. If that’s not an option, the army can cause damage and inflict terror to bring local submission.

    There’s also a purely Westerosi aspect which intensifies the scale of the war and the damage it does. When the War of Five Kings begins, Autumn is at hand. In Autumn things begin to wind down as a few last harvests are eked out to bolster Winter stores. Soon there will be lots of unneeded draft animals that would likely be slaughtered. Now it’s a loss to use this surplus animal power to move ones armies about instead of using them in the harvest and for these animals to die in war or feed soldiers rather then go into the stores, but its not as great a loss as it would be during the Summer, when replacing dead and confiscated animals would cut into the production of the most productive years.

    With Winter on hand there’s also a very heavy incentive to go on the attack and fight as far away from your home country as possible. Armies live by seizing and eating the food stores of the surrounding countryside. As its Autumn there will be quite a number of such food stores available. Having armies on your soil also means its your Winter supplies being pillaged while your opponents are safe and sound. When Winter comes you will suffer greater losses and emerge weaker then your opponent.

    So armies have greater mobility then they might otherwise, every reason to take the war to their enemy, and commanders have numerous incentives to be as predatory as possible.

  8. Amestria says:

    Not that the various rulers don’t have a choice. Stannis (at Davos’ urging) explicitly rejects waging the type of war being fought in the Riverlands when he refuses to decimate Claw island. That was probably one of the most moral decisions in the books.

  9. Maddy says:

    It always makes me sad when Arya thinks that Catelyn wouldn’t want her back, because of course she would. I hate when people talk about Cat as though she’s a terrible mother – she loves all of her kids. I never thought about parallels between Jaqen and Ser Dontos before. It just makes me extra sad for Sansa – all of her ‘mentors’ have ulterior motives (although obviously Arya is in a terrible situation too)

    • Of course she would – those statements are more about Arya’s lack of confidence and identity issues than Catelyn’s actual parenting.

      And yeah, Jaqen in KL would have been very interesting.

      • Maddy says:

        Definitely. And her guilt over killing the stable boy if I remember correctly. Arya has some real self esteem issues 😦

        • Chris says:

          And the irony of that guilt is that Catelyn has already shed blood herself by this point (she slit that clansman’s throat when she was attacked in the Vale).

          Oh man, I just realized how great it would have been to get a beautiful mother-daughter bonding moment where Cat and Arya talk about what it’s like to kill a man!

          • Maddy says:

            Forever sad. I really hope none of the Stark kids learn about or see Lady Stoneheart. I’m so not a fan of the Lady Stoneheart thing but I guess I have to wait and see how it resolves.

    • And it’s even sadder than some people actually think Cat would reject her daughter. I’m sure that Cat would understand everything both her daughter have gone through. Because, I really think she was a great mother.

      And co-sign me on the Sansa part, all want something from her. Or want to get something through her. Which is terribly sad that’s she’s all on her own without someone to truly lean on.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        I’m not sure Lady Cat would understand EVEYTHING, Your Grace (I’m not sure I understand everything and I’ve been sharing headspace with Lady Arya throughout her misadventures), but I do agree that she would never reject her younger daughter or indeed any of her children unless they had done far, far worse things than they have been obliged to or felt obliged to do.

        • Perhaps I did not made myself very clear, I meant that Lady Cat would understand that her daughters did what they could to survive. Both her daughters are out there on their own, with no one to guide them. I think she would be more upset at knowing that her daughters had to witness such horrors than knowing they had to lie and even kill to survive.

          And yes, Lady Cat would never reject her children, I mean, none of them are terrible people. They’re children who sadly are living things that she, I’m sure, would’ve prefer them to never know.

  10. Excellent analysis Steven.

    On Arya and Nymeria, even if Nymera is walking on the wild side for the time being, I think it’s a permanent link for Arya in Westeros. And I seriously doubt the warging is going to go away.

    And Arya nearly revealing herself in a fit of emotion, I’ve been doing some thinking and it reminds me of something Cat later does when talking to Jaime.

    On the Night’s Watch being attacked by the GC’s: I think we’re seeing the Tywin Lannister “No one sheds Lannister blood” in action. Yes, the NW hadn’t done anything to them, as Yoren has said “It takes no part”, the Lannisters don’t care. It’s a way to trample over whomever stands in their way of getting what “they deserve”.

    And like I mentioned above, they want all bastard Baratheon’s gone, specially Cersei. Robert wanted to bring Mya to Court, but Cersei forbid it.

    And the people leaving their lands, it’s as usual a sad example of war. And of course, there will always be opportunistic people to take advantage (LF’s taxes) of it.

    • Maddy says:

      I’ve always thought that despite their physical appearances, Arya is more similar to Catelyn in personality, while Sansa is like Ned. People always discount the influence Cat has on Arya.

      • Yes, this. I agree, the sisters might physically resemble one parent, but they take after the other character-wise.

      • Crystal says:

        Co-signed. I’ve always thought that the sisters’ respective physical resemblance to their parents was deliberately misleading. Arya is so much like Cat, in personality, and Sansa is so much like Ned. And, ironically since they are the most distant of the siblings (or raised-as-siblings), Jon and Sansa are very much alike in personality as well. (Jon has all those romantic ideas and idealization of what life in the Night’s Watch would be like, and he is cruelly disillusioned…remind you of anyone?)

        • Maddy says:

          I think all the Stark kids have romanticised ideals and naivety initially (it’s just more obvious with Sansa because her romanticised ideas are ‘girly’ and more harshly judged by readers). I think Bran and Sansa are quite similar but I never really thought about Jon and Sansa. It would be interesting for them to meet again – Sansa thinks she is a bastard like Jon in her last chapter. I’ve learned not to get my hopes up about Stark reunions at this point though 😦

          • Crystal says:

            Bran certainly had that same idealism Sansa and Jon had, yes. (And I surmise that Sansa was probably closest to Bran of all her siblings, though in many ways Jeyne Poole filled in the sibling role for Sansa – very ironically!) I recall Bran wanted to join the Kingsguard and had the same idealized vision of knights and life in the South that Sansa did. I wonder…if Jaime hadn’t pushed him, and Bran had gone south with Sansa and Arya, would he have idolized Jaime like Sansa did Cersei? Or, more probably, Ned would have sent him to squire for Barristan Selmy – the idea that Bran could have gone to meet Daenerys is very interesting.

  11. Mathyoucough says:

    Arya’s season 2 storyline was terrible, besides the Tywin material.

    By keeping the lions in charge of Harrenhall during her stay there, the show fails to demonstrate how the wolves and lions are equally brutal to the common people – one of ACOK’s most important themes and one of the most important lessons that Arya learns in the book.

    The show also neuters Arya’s storyline in other ways, removing much of Arya’s agency (weasel soup) and a major milestone in her violent development (the murder of the guard on the way out). In general, show Arya is less scrappy than book Arya, who has to deal with several abusive superiors throughout the second book and so whose perseverance is much more impressive, and too normal.

    ACOK is my favorite Arya storyline, where we really see how war is beginning to shape her as a person, so I guess I can’t help but be dissapointed by it.

    • Maddy says:

      As much as I appreciated the actors performances in the Tywin/ Arya scenes I do kind of agree. Her storyline in ACOK was one of the strongest and they seemed strangely reluctant to go to certain places with her storyline in the show. It’s weird how they were so reluctant to have her kill people before the RW but after that event they seem to be going a bit overboard.

      • Chris says:

        My guess would be that the age of the actress has something to do with it. Now that she looks a little older, they’re willing to give her more ‘adult’ action.

      • I think it’s more that they wanted the RW to be more of a catalyst event; she’s certainly started to kill more people now.

    • Roger says:

      I liked Tywin/Arya’s scenes, but I completly agree with you. It was a total train wreck.

      • Andrew says:

        I think the scene with Tywin asking Arya about Robb being invincible was out of character for the Tywin in the books. Tywin looks down on smallfolk, and likely wouldn’t even look a servant girl in the eye.

        • Maddy says:

          I’m still annoyed at her line “other girls are idiots”. I know it’s nitpicking but I don’t think Arya would ever say that. They had Brienne say a similar thing whereas in the books neither of those characters look down on more traditionally feminine women. Arya wants to be strong like her mother.

          • Arya resents more traditionally feminine women like Sansa and Jeyne Poole because she has a harder time perfoming femininity, which is a different thing than “girls are idiots.”

          • Sean C. says:

            That’s one of the differences between how Arya is presented in the show versus the books. In the show she’s a plucky tomboy — her agonizing self-doubt and sense of inferiority at her inability to do feminine stuff properly isn’t shown at all (I’ve heard from a number of people who started with the show and then read the books that they found Arya’s early chapters quite jarring for that reason).

          • Crystal says:

            I agree. Arya has something of an inferiority complex because she compares herself to Sansa and her mother, who are much closer to the ideal of Westerosi womanhood. Arya doesn’t think girls are stupid; she doesn’t think that *she* is good at Westerosi female arts like needlework. (We see her in her first chapter thinking that Sansa took all the beauty, grace, and accomplishments and didn’t leave anything for Arya by the time she was born.)

            I think that her ongoing worry about whether Catelyn will want her back is colored by the fact that Arya feels like her mother is disappointed in her. I think she feels that Catelyn favored Sansa. Now that is childish insecurity talking – while I do think that Catelyn was closest to Sansa and Bran of all her children, it is without a doubt that she loved all the kids fiercely.

            *Cersei*, not Arya or Brienne, is the one who always wishes she was a man, and expresses contempt for womanhood. It’s a fine irony that someone who presents in such a stereotypically/traditionally feminine style hates being a woman.

          • I think that’s absolutely what’s coloring her thinking about Catelyn – she thinks of herself as the bad child.

          • Erin says:

            Yes! And it made Tywin laugh, which gave me the feeling that as a viewer I was supposed to think Arya had said something exceptional – certainly I think that the audience was invited to agree with that line. Combined with the handling of Sansa’s and Catelyn’s plots, and lines about things like women “wasting their lives with parties” just makes me think the show has a fair amount of contempt for its more traditionally feminine characters. There’s almost a “Problem of Susan” vibe to it, IMO.

            Totally agreed on how Arya sees Catelyn. Arya would have cheered her mother on if she heard her tell Stannis and Renly she wanted to bang their heads together and lock them in a room until they sorted things out.

    • I wouldn’t say terrible. Arya’s agency is in forcing Jaqen to do what she wants rather than what he wants. I agree that you lose the thematic material, although I would argue the increased prominence of the Boltons and the Karstarks murdering prisoners in S3 makes up for that.

      Likewise, her murdering has really accelerated – her murder of the Frey who sewed on the wolfhead, her fight in the tavern, and murdering Rorge.

    • John says:

      The books, likewise, fail to demonstrate how the wolves and lions are equally brutal to the common people, because the only “wolf” we see being brutal to the common people is Roose Bolton, who is a traitor.

  12. Roger says:

    Despite Yoren’s opinion about his men, none deserted while he was alive.
    Joining the Watch is a good option for a poor man. But many people thinks of them as thieves and rapists. Even a bunch of farmers dare to threat Yoren when his angry men steal some corn.
    In fact, until XIX century armies were considered invaders for any peasant. Armies lived from the field. Unpaid troops stole food and women and sacked villages. In Catalonia the ill-treatment of peasants by Spanish troops lead to a national revolt (the Reapers’ War).
    During the Spanish bad-named Reconquista, Christian armies stole Muslim’s crops regulary. in fact, the treat of cuting fruit trees and burning the fields lead many cities to surrender. After James I conquest of Valencia, there were so many Muslim refugees fleeing south that a Christian knight said “he hadn’t seen so many people together since the battle of Navas of Tolosa” (where fought about 30.000 men).

  13. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, as ever a most excellent analysis; I’ll just add that while some may sympathise with her, I rather hope the wolf Nymeria is hunted down and destroyed for the havoc she has wrought across the River-Lands.

    I don’t care if she’s Arya’s soulmate, she’s a ravening, man-eating beast with too much of a taste for livestock and human flesh for me to think of her as anything but a monster; remember that it’s cattleman and shepherds, not men-at-arms who’re feeling the bite of this wolf’s displeasure!

    • With pain, I am forced to agree. I think that Nymeria being how she is right now is a reflection of Arya and the emotions she’s going through. All her anger, hate and desire for vengeance takes shape in Nymeria. Unfortunately, innocent, truly innocent people are feeling that bite.

    • And Bloody Mummers and Freys and Lannistermen. Let’s give the shewolf her due.

  14. Chris says:

    Does anyone else think Nymeria pulling Catelyn’s body out of the river could be a foreshadowing of Arya ‘saving’ Lady Stoneheart? Not physically saving her, but psychologically/existentially

    • Sadly, I think not. I think Martin’s emphasis is that resurrection is not a 100% fix – Ser Beric lost huge parts of his humanity, LS is a force of pure vengeance, etc. While Jon Snow might escape the worst of this thanks to his warging abilities, I expect his resurrection to be a traumatic experience that will leave him permanently changed.

      • Andrew says:

        I think undead fits what happened to Beric and Cat better than resurrection. As for Jon I think the unintentional sacrifice of Asha in front of the heart tree in the Battle of Ice combined with Mel possibly burning Gerrick Kingsblood, a combination of ice and fire could revive him.

        He will be permanently changed, as I think he will have learned that he isn’t Ned’s son, but Rhaegar’s, a Targaryen not a Snow from Bloodraven.

        • IMO, Cat and Beric are resurrections, they both died. No shadow of doubt. Jon may linger in Ghost and that would fit into undead more. Beside’s Martin’s cheeky answer about Jon being dead.

          • Andrew says:

            Undead since a corpse is reanimated by supernatural forces, but not brought back in the way the person was before.

          • It could swing both ways, really. Vampires are considered undead (just an example), but those are literally brought back to life. I’m sure we could be here all day with this. Martin has left it ambiguous enough for it to swing either way.

      • Have you seen Martin’s reply after being asked if Jon was dead? It was rather cheeky and it will cause you to side eye the possibilities.

        • I did. But I think the Prologue points pretty heavily toward resurrection.

          • Yeah, it should be interesting who is the death that will pay for his life.

          • Andrew says:

            My guess is Asha in the Battle of Ice when she is killed on the island with weirwoods, and her POV title was “The Sacrifice” even though she wasn’t being sacrificed.

            Then there is Mel always looking for someone with kingsblood, and there is Gerrick, whose name is literally “Kingsblood.” I think Mel will burn him as on offering to R’hllor or some spell, unintentionally as a sacrifice for Jon.

            Two sacrifices: one by ice and one by fire.

          • TakatoGuil says:

            @Visenya: I’m pretty sure that the death will be Ghost’s. I think that would be the best way for GRRM to have a mostly-intact Jon-personality while not violating his claims that he hates easy resurrections (because Jon would be *very* upset).

          • Ghost will almost certainly have to die to get Jon out of him and into his own body. I would also bet it would be the end for Lady Stoneheart. We’ve only seen one resurection which was then passed on to another person. I find it more likely that the one resurrection will be passed on to a third person than Mellisandre not being a bit of a screw up and getting something right.

          • Andrew says:

            Actually, I don’t think Ghost has to die, as wargs go in and out of their animals all the time without killing the animals. I think the sacrifices at the Battle of Ice and Gerrick are more likely to revive Jon.

          • TakatoGuil says:

            @Andrew: The death of a warg’s body kills the ability to warg. Once you don’t have a human form to retreat to, you’re stuck. So pulling Jon out of Ghost could easily be a more unique situation.

          • John says:

            What death paid for Beric Dondarrion’s resurrection?

          • That’s a good point – R’hlloric resurrection doesn’t seem to obey the same rules as the blood magic of the Maegi (which, given that MMD learned it from Marwyn, was probably Valyrian in origin).

            On the other hand, Melisandre doesn’t know about Thoros’ miracle in the books, and her methodology is heavily centered on sacrifice.

          • David Neff says:

            Do you have links to Prologue and Martin’s comments? Haven’t seen either.

          • The Prologue of ADWD, and no I don’t.

        • Andrew says:

          Jon’s body will be revived so he can warg back.

          • Probably, I’m just trying to guess who is the death that will pay for his life.

          • The show may well be hinting that it’s Shireen.

            I hope not.

          • If it’s Shireen I will cut someone. My take it’s going to be either Asha or Theon.

          • Melisandre is hundreds and hundreds of miles away from either of them. It would have to be someone at the Wall.

          • You’re right of course. Unless we get another sad possibility, Jeyne Poole is in route to the Wall. And I’ve been wracking my brain over this myself and at the end all I can do is just wait and see. I just really, really hope it’s not Shireen 😦

          • Andrew says:

            I think Asha would be by the sacrifice by ice, by being killed in front of the weirwoods on the island in the lake. She has said that the trees were not her friends in her POV, and she was cornered against one tree where she was struck with a finishing blow and her enemies disguised themselves as trees. If her blood is spilled onto the weirwood then it could count as sacrifice to be used by Bloodraven.

            I don’t think Selyse would allow Melisandre to sacrifice Shireen, but rather Gerrick Kingsblood. His name is literally the exact ingredient Mel is looking for in her spells, and he claims descent from a King-Beyond-the-Wall. He has the same red hair as Ygritte or as it is called “kissed by fire.” A little hint?

      • Andrew says:

        GRRM said he doesn’t do clean resurrections. I think it is more akin to Pet Semetary in the creed: “what comes out isn’t what you put in.”

        What would you say to people sayin Marsh did the right thing in stabbing Jon, and his stabbing was an execution?

        • Marsh had clearly planned the assassination before Jon went off the deep end and was acting out of a reactionary fear of change, so no I don’t think he did the right thing.

          • Andrew says:

            I agree Marsh was planning it. In the chapter where Jon sends off Val, Marsh refuses to accept any food from Jon, and in his last chapter didn’t even touch the wine poured for him, a telling sign.

            What conditions would there need to be for an execution in this environment?

          • Some formal legal process within the Night’s Watch to accuse and then convict him of betraying his oath.

          • WPA says:

            I somewhat doubt Marsh even gets to a trial if the pro-Jon brothers block/Tormund’s guys get to him first.

            Though I do like a lot of Meerenese Blot’s critiques of Jon’s leadership style. Him getting a lot of big ideas right but keeping the rest of the Watch too out of the loop, sending his more politically adept friends away (where as Sam could have been a sort of chief of staff/ personal relationships envoy), and freaking out the rank and file with things like the rescue mission sacrificing ships and finally the Mance deception/being seen as cheering on Stannis. In some ways, Jon gets the strategy right but falls to the teenage leader mishandling the people part of politics on his own side. Basically too much of the “I have a secret plan!” public face of problem solving, except he actually did have a semi- secret plan. Totally agree that Marsh was probably planning to kill him before the Pink Letter debacle, he just took that opportunity when momentary chaos reigned.

          • Tom says:

            Once more proving there is nothing worse than poor communication. I feel he inherited that from his father….I mean, one raven would have solved everything

    • Personally, I think that Nymeria pulling Catelyn’s body was the result of a forshadowing: In AGoT, Jon complains about Joff’s quartering of arms and Arya replies “The woman’s important too!” and Jon goes to tell her about her arms having a “Wolf with a Trout in it’s mouth.” Fast forward to Nymeria pulling Cat and there you go.

  15. Roger says:

    the wargs have their own premonitions. That’s how Grey Wind knew the Spicers and the Freys were traitors.

  16. lann says:

    I agree that the changes made to this story line in the show actually enriches it. Not that the book version was bad of course but there was a lot of traipsing around to get there.

    Probably this was already pointed out but the Gendry what if needs a small adjustment in this part:
    “it’s quite possible Arya doesn’t manage to escape Harrenhal since she wouldn’t have had weapons to hand”
    From ACOK:
    “The sheepskin map was on the table, beside the remains of Lord Bolton’s supper. She rolled it up tight and thrust it through her belt. He’d left his dagger on the table as well, so she took that too, just in case Gendry lost his courage”
    “She had not taken the sword Gendry had brought her, not yet. For this the dagger would be better. It was good and sharp.”

  17. […] of survival come to the fore. Whereas before the traditions of the Night’s Watch held in a tavern in the Crownlands, here they break almost […]

  18. […] ever since the incident at the inn, Yoren’s been trying to avoid the repercussions of his actions as well as the war in the […]

  19. […] thing is that both men are clearly capable of goodness – Cutjack took up arms at the inn to protect the Night’s Watch, and helped to save the injured woman and her child later; Tarber was the first to pick up a weapon […]

  20. […] we got glimpses of the impact of the War of Five Kings on the smallfolk of Westeros in Arya’s travelogue with the Night’s Watch, here the audience’s view is directed (almost compelled, a la Clockwork Orange’s […]

  21. […] without having to work for a living, are funded by feudal taxes extracted by threat of force (or out in the Riverlands, the actual use of force) from the unarmed, unarmored, shoeless mass of civilians who are going to […]

  22. […] I’ve written a bit before about the incredible brutality of the Thirty Years War, how the great powers of Europe carried out a holy war in Germany through parallel efforts at brutalizing anyone deemed of being of the wrong religion. But this aspect of it, with mercenary armies switching sides and using their knowledge of the civilians who collaborated with them (out of a desperate desire to survive) to punish them, could come straight out of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage. Just as religion created a Catch-22 for civilians during the Thirty Years War – remain a staunch Catholic or Lutheran and you’ll be massacred if an army from the opposing side comes through, convert and your former side will massacre you as a traitor and heretic – the people of the Riverlands are caught between the Starks and the Lannisters. Remaining loyal to their local liege lords and the Starks means you get killed by the Mountain, serve the Lannisters to save yourself from the Bloody Mummers and they’ll murder you anyway. […]

  23. […] all but certain that this wolf-pack is Nymeria’s, and that Arya has her own ships-crossing-in-the-night moment that Bran will have with Jon here. […]

  24. […] GRRM unrelentingly accounts for each separate harm suffered by specific smallfolk as a result: a refugee crisis and widespread hunger, enslavement, torture, sexual violence, and executions on a mass scale. The smallfolk of Westeros […]

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