Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Arya IV

“Arya rolled headfirst into the tunnel and dropped five feet. She got dirt in her mouth but she didn’t care, the taste was fine, the taste was mud and water and worms and life…Arya held her breath and kissed the mud on the floor of the tunnel and cried. For whom, she could not say.”

Synopsis: Arya and the Night’s Watch arrive at the holdfast by the Gods Eye. A patrol of reavers under the command of Ser Amory Lorch besiege the holdfast, and Arya barely manages to escape, but not before she makes the choice to save the life of Jaqen H’ghar.

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 I’ve been a bit impatient about Arya’s plotline for the slow start, here’s where the payoff kicks in – all of this atmospherics about the impact of the war on the smallfolk coalesces into reality as a band of Tywin’s reavers attacks the neutral Night’s Watch in a complete abandonment of the “laws of war” as generally understood in Westerosi society. While I knew the general strokes of what happened in this chapter, it had been a while since I had re-read it, and some of the details are worth examining.

The End of the Road

To begin with, we can see George R.R Martin in his role as the Greek Fates again, ratcheting the wheels of inevitability into position. As much as it might seem that Yoren and co.’s end is a random event, the medieval equivalent of catching a stray during a drive-by, if you look more closely, you can see how Martin is herding Yoren to destruction:

“Woth reported a wooden bridge half a mile downstream, but someone had burned it up…”Might be we could swim the horses over, maybe the donkeys, but there’s no way we’ll get those wagons across. And there’s smoke to the north and west, more fires, could be this side o’ the river’s the place we want to be…we can’t go round west of the lake, like I thought. East takes us back to the kingsroad…Harrentown…we can buy new mounts there, or else take shelter at Harrenhal. That’s Lady Whent’s seat, and she’s always been a friend o’ the Watch.”

Remember, 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 riverlands by skirting westward. Now the road forward is blocked by Martin destroying the bridge; the road back leads them back to the Kingsroad and the threat of the Goldcloaks. And Yoren’s solution is to shelter at…Harrenhal, Ser Amory Lorch and Gregor Clegane’s home base. Thus, even if everything had gone well for the Night’s Watch, if they’d managed to avoid the reavers and make it safe to their destination, they still would have ended up in the same place.

While it’s true that GRRM has said that his primary interest is the “human heart at war with itself,” the extent to which we see, again and again, a running meta-theme of free will vs. fate quite apart from any consideration of prophecy and destiny. Indeed, we often find Martin’s plotting, his careful building of rows of dominoes that all have to fall just right in order to bring lords and houses as well as crows down to their doom, applied to characters who are not the Destined Chosen Ones of the series – your Neds, your Catelyns and Robbs, and here, your poor Yorens.

The Limits of Neutrality

In a way, Yoren’s fate is sealed as much by his faith in the Night’s Watch’s neutrality as it is by geography. As much as he insists that “the folks who lived here were at war, like it or no. We’re not. Night’s Watch takes no part, so no man’s our enemy,” Arya’s more cynical observation that “no man’s our friend” is more accurate. Neutrality didn’t save the Brotherhood Without Banners; neutrality didn’t protect the septons and septas of Saltpans, because the military powers driving this war have no interest in allowing anyone to stay neutral. As with the Dulles brothers during the Cold War, they will force you to choose – between sides and between principles.

The arrival of Ser Amory Lorch, preceded as it is by one of the most pointless military actions imaginable – burning an empty town that offered no resistance – makes subtext text:

“And who are you, old man? One of Lord Beric’s cravens?”

“Got no such man here…only some lads for the Watch. Got no part o’ your war.” He hoisted up the staff, so they could all see the color of his cloak. “Have a look. That’s black, for the Night’s Watch.”

“By night all banners look black…open, or we’ll know you for outlaws in league with the king’s enemies.”

In the War of Five Kings, the colors of neutrality and guerrilla warfare have bled together and become one. And in turn, the law has fallen silent in the face of military logic – the same men who burn empty villages are not making the offer to “open your gates…we’ll make certain you’re telling it true and be on our way” genuinely. Rather they make the offer so that it can be refused, giving them a figleaf that “you defy the king’s command, and so proclaim yourselves rebels, black cloaks or no” to legalize their attack on what is after all a royal institution.

Further evidence of the breakdown in the broader norms of Westerosi society – and the extreme unlikeliness that Ser Amory Lorch’s offer was worth the breath it took to speak it – comes as Yoren attempts to appeal to the logic of chivalry, saying “got me young boys in here.” While the Faith of the Seven hasn’t quite developed the same explicit theories of Just Warfare and God’s Peace, it’s clear from the knight’s oath that Ser Amory Lorch is bound by sacred oath to “defend the young and innocent.” But the same man who butchered a baby on command during Robert’s Rebellion offers only the most nihilisticly practical rejoinder imaginable: “young boys and old men die the same.” There are no limits here.

Arya’s First Battle

Another key event in Arya IV is Arya’s first battle, and the first time that she kills in earnest – as compared to her almost accidental stabbing of the stableboy in the Red Keep. It’s an interesting comparison to her later, somewhat darker, killings. Here, Arya is engaged in true battle, taking orders from Yoren, defending a fixed objective and making use of fortifications, fighting as part of a unit along with Hot Pie and Gendry, and all in the name of “Winterfell!” Unlike before, here she is making use of her training: Fear cuts deeper than swords, she remembered as the top of a pothelm loomed up behind the hand. She slashed down hard, and Needle’s castle-forged steel bit into the grasping fingers between the knuckles…the second man was bearded and helmetless…as he swung his leg over the parapet, she drove her point at his eyes. Needle never touched him; he reeled backward and fell.”

Arya Stark by Flick-the-Thief

And unlike in her later killings, Arya is emotionally engaged in both negative and positive ways during the conflict, “feeling sorry for him as she was killing him.” While it’s certainly not healthy for a nine-year old child to be killing people, there is a difference here between a spirited self-defense and the kinds of vengeful, traumatized reenactments that befell the Tickler and Raff the Sweetling. Arya will not fight in the name of House Stark then.

Jaqen H’ghar and Arya’s Choice

Another crucial moment and an example of Arya’s often underrated capacity for the same kind of mercy that her sister Sansa will show to Sandor Clegane (interesting we don’t see more examinations of the mirror image parallel there), comes with her decision to free Jaqen H’ghar and the other inmates from the black cells from burning to death.

Jaqen, Biter, and Rorge by Sir Heartsalot

Arya’s story – her meeting Jaqen H’ghar, impressing him with her lack of fear, etc. – has clearly been building up to this point, where’s she’s faced with the decision of whether or not to release the prisoner. GRRM has the decision come up twice. Before the battle, Jaqen makes her an offer: “Boy! Sweet boy! Is it war, red war? Boy, free us. A man can fight. Boy!” And yet, despite what we know about the Faceless Man’s abilities in that area, she doesn’t take him up on it. Rather than a quid-pro-quo, Arya delays, and acts instead in a much more unilateral fashion:

“Good boys, kind boys,” called Jaqen H’ghar, coughing.

“…Going back into that barn was the hardest thing she ever did. Smoke was pouring out the open door like a writhing black snake, and she could hear the screams of the poor animals inside, donkeys and horses and men. She chewed her lip, and darted through the doors…Jaqen saw her, but it was too hard to break, let alone talk. She threw the axe into the wagon.”

This decision, to render unconditional assistance to the helpless at the risk of her own life, underlines an essential quality of altruism that we can see running throughout Arya’s storyline, from Mycah the Butcher’s boy through to her saving Sam in the alleys of Braavos. It’s one of the reasons why the claim that Arya is psychopathic or sociopathic fall flat – a lack of empathy for others being a key quality of those mental disorders.

But here it’s especially important because it changes the relationship between Arya and Jaqen H’ghar, who in this deconstructionist storyline represents her most Supernatural Aid. Rather than a devil’s bargain, in which Arya trades his freedom for Jaqen’s murderous services, here Arya acts to save another person in distress, and thus is found morally deserving of a boon. That’s good news for Arya, because the former generally end badly (with the magical quid-pro-quo having some horrific unanticipated consequence) while the latter usually ends alls-well.

Historical Analysis:

I don’t have a particular subject in mind for historical parallels for this chapter, as we’ve already discussed the history of refugees and chevauchées; historical analysis for Arya’s storyline will pick up much more when we get to Harrenhal and I have more to work with.

What If?

As a chapter framed around a series of high-stakes decisions, there’s a lot of scope for some interesting hypotheticals here:

  • Yoren had made it to Harrenhal? As I mentioned above, there’s a good deal of dramatic irony in the fact that Yoren was about to walk into the lion’s den when his party was attacked by lions. However, there’s a good deal of ambiguity as to what would have happened if Yoren had made it to Harrenhal, depending on whether Tywin was present at the time, or whether Ser Gregor and Amory Lorch were left in charge. While Tywin is certainly a ruthless bastard, as we see from his dialogues with Tyrion and Joffrey in ASOS that he doesn’t believe in needless bloodshed, and he strongly believes in keeping his hands clean and making sure the dirty work is taken care of by disposable and disavowable subordinates. So, it’s possible that Tywin might have allowed the Night’s Watch caravan to leave his territory alive. He would most likely have taken the bulk of their supplies “out of military necessity,” and might well have conscripted the able-bodied adult recruits on the same logic (at least the ones who had joined willingly as opposed to convicted criminals), but I don’t think he would have been interested in the children.
  • This potentially means that Arya might make it back to Winterfell about a month after the Reeds and well before the Ironborn attack – the implications of this are quite interesting. For one thing, this reduces the likelihood of Catelyn releasing Jaime as a bid to get her daughters back; at the very least, this probably butterflies away the Karstark defection and creates the possibility for Robb to achieve a truce with the Lannisters post-Blackwater. It also increases the likelihood that Catelyn returns to Winterfell, given that the bulk of her children would now be there; this might in turn butterfly away Theon’s capture of Winterfell, which might in turn keep Robb more focused on the southern campaign and butterfly away the Red Wedding, if not the Bolton and Frey betrayal. For another, this creates problems down the road for the Boltons, because the fake Arya marriage would clearly not be a viable route to control of the north. The remaining question is where Arya goes after the sack of Winterfell; my guess would be that she gets dispatched separately from Bran, either to the Mormonts or the mountain clans, at which point we have yet another potential Stark for Stannis to back after ASOS.
  • On a side note, it would be very interesting to see what happens if Catelyn or Ser Rodrick Cassel gets sight of Gendry, given the high likelihood of them recognizing the resemblance to King Robert.
  • Yoren opened the doors to Ser Amory? I’ve suggested that I consider Ser Amory’s offer to be wholly false; had they opened the doors, the reavers would have poured in and attacked them anyway. However, given that the reavers are now dealing with surrendered people and are in the business of capturing people, it’s possible that Yoren et al. would have been taken as prisoners rather than killed. This in turn leaves open the possibility that when the Northmen seize Harrenhal, their respect for the Night’s Watch allows the caravan to continue – which would mean that the Arya chain of events takes place, but also potentially that the Night’s Watch gets about 20-30 recruits ahead during its weakest point, and that Yoren is potentially on hand as a replacement for Donal Noye and/or a more practical adviser to Jon Snow.
  • Arya never freed Jaqen? This is both the biggest change and the most ambiguous. If Jaqen H’ghar and company burn to death in this nameless holdfast, clearly Arya isn’t going to the Faceless Men of Braavos. This creates something of a hole for Arya’s storyline, post-Red Wedding and the death of the Hound, as she no longer has anywhere to go. On the other hand, and this is where the double-edged sword of Arya’s mercy kicks in, if Rorge and Biter die here, it’s quite possible the Sack of Saltpans never happens, and the Hound does not become the ominous specter haunting the Riverlands that he does in OTL. In turn, the death of Rorge and Biter means that Brienne of Tarth remains in fighting condition and may well manage to escape the Brotherhood Without Banners, which in turn might mean that Jaime doesn’t leave the siege of Riverrun.
  • Arya freed Jaqen before the fight? This is an option that also potentially changes a lot. GRRM has been very careful about keeping the capacity of the Faceless Men a mystery, never directly showing us the limits of their power. So it’s not clear whether Jaqen H’ghar could have actually prevented the forces of Ser Amory Lorch from prevailing, but given that if he’d failed the difference between that and OTL would largely have been a higher body count, let’s take the outcome if he’d succeeded. Well, Arya gets the same introduction to the mysteries of the Faceless Men that she does in OTL – this likely keeps Arya on the road to Braavos post-Red Wedding. But what’s more interesting is Yoren et al. getting to see what Jaqen is capable of. There’s no way Yoren would let a warrior of Jaqen’s capabilities escape the Night’s Watch, especially with Mance Rayder barreling down on the Wall, so it may well be that Jaqen plays a key supporting role in the Siege of Castle Black – and quite possibly replaces Mance Rayder as the special forces man dispatched to Winterfell.

Book vs. Show:

While I have many, many complaints about how Benioff and Weiss handled season 2, I actually thought they did a rather good job of condensing this section – stripping out the rather complicated section in which Arya and co. wander around before they’re recaptured and just having a straightforward movement from the holdfast to Harrenhal; wrapping up the Gendry-being-hunted plot by having Lommy steal his helmet (whereas it just sort of peters off in the books). Likewise, while I think it’s fair to say that they’ve slow-rolled Arya’s transformation, I think it succeeded. Arya’s transformation in Season 4 would not have been as moving as it was.

However, I have to give a lot of credit to their send-off for Yoren. I never really connected with Yoren before the show – he was too easily overshadowed by Jaqen H’ghar, he’s a bit of a cipher and dies off-screen, which diminishes the impact he makes on the reader. However, Francis Magee was too compelling a presence to let him go out that way, and Benioff and Weiss gave him a hell of a sendoff, with a compelling backstory that gave his character more of a three-dimensional presence (and an ongoing connection to Arya through the list of names prayer), and an epic death scene.

So here’s to Yoren, the truest brother there ever was.

105 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Arya IV

  1. Winnie says:

    Great take down as always Steve. I agree there’s definitely an element of Greek tragedy in how events unfold-and that people forget how much Martin stacked the deck against the Starks. But this chapter also demonstrates why complaints that Jon violated the Night’s Watch neutrality were so musguided-fact is the Lions had already broke with all law and tradition on the matter proving they had no respect for the neutrality of the Watch OR the Faith. Those organizations like it or not had already been dragged into the war-the question was how to deal with it. Jon was just dealing with the current reality head on.

  2. starkaddict says:

    Amazing analysis, as always.

    You raised a great point about Arya’s empathy. Even though Arya is one of the most loved characters, she is also one of the most misunderstood. And she doesn’t even suffer from the whitewashing Tyrion does.

    I have a half completed analysis, written in some corner of my system, on the Stark sisters. How they are quite similar and yet distinct in ways that makes them seem completely different. You raised a nice parallel between the mercy provided by both the sisters and the after-effects.

    Also, your points about the fate vs. free will gives a whole new dimension to the series.

    Looking forward to further posts.

  3. jpmarchives says:

    Is there a worse Knight in ASOIAF than Ser Armory Lorch? He has all the sadistic, callous tendencies of Ser Gregor Clegane and commits similar atrocities, but lacks Gregor’s animal courage – he dies a sniveling coward. I was very disappointed that we didn’t get to see him be eaten alive by a bear in the show, even if he was less morally repugnant than in the books. The way he draws Beric Dondarrion out of hiding by threatening to hang a beekeeper and his wife, then hangs all three when Beric takes the bait is one of the most overlooked wicked acts in the series.

    I don’t think there will be any argument with you Steven; Yoren and company were screwed if they opened the gate or not.

    The siege of the tower house is also compelling evidence as to why Lorch has only a hundred men when Harrenhal is taken from him; the seizing of a towerhouse for no reason racks up considerable causalities, yet accomplishes absolutely nothing. Since he started with “three hundred heavy horse” at the end of AGOT and has lost two thirds or them by the mid point of ACOK, it’s clear that this wasn’t the first pointless engagement that Lorch took part in, all while sitting on the sidelines, watching braver men die doing his job.

    • Lorch is pretty damn despicable.

      And you make a good point about the casualties – I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

    • Andrew says:

      Not to mention, he attacked the lands of a knight in the Crownlands not the riverlands, so they were also sworn to Joffrey, and he served the wife of Lord Tywin’s nephew, Tyrek.

      • Amestria says:

        Jaime was more interested in what Hogg had to say of wolves. “We had some trouble with a band of them white star wolves,” the old knight told him. “They come round sniffing after you, my lord, but we saw them off, and buried three down by the turnips. Before them there was a pack of bloody lions, begging your pardon. The one who led them had a manticore on his shield.”

        “Ser Amory Lorch,” Jaime offered. “My lord father commanded him to harry the riverlands.”

        “Which we’re no part of,” Ser Roger Hogg said stoutly. “My fealty’s owed to House Hayford, and Lady Ermesande bends her little knee at King’s Landing, or will when she’s old enough to walk. I told him that, but this Lorch wasn’t much for listening. He slaughtered half my sheep and three good milk goats, and tried to roast me in my tower. My walls are solid stone and eight feet thick, though, so after his fire burned out he rode off bored.”

        I love the detail that he “rode off bored,” as if the whole sack was a failed attempt to liven up his day.

        • Yep, good point. The boredom thing is especially interesting, because it’s a running theme with Lorch. Gregor is perma-angry which fits, but Lorch is a weird combination of ultraviolent and bored/tired. I like how the show nodded to that by having him not even bother to get off his horse to kill Yoren.

      • Andrew says:

        I was talking about Ser Hogg, I wish we had an edit button on these posts. Lorch’s own actions indirectly hurt the Lannisters as well.

  4. axrendale says:

    Great analysis as always, Steven. Looking forward greatly to the next chapter!

    Amory Lorch is the second of Tywin’s three mad dogs that we get to meet, and I think that he might very well be the most unpleasant of the bunch. Gregor Clegane and Vargo Hoat are both singularly awful to read about, but at least they have the virtue (if you can call it that) of providing occasional black comedy for the reader. All that Lorch has going for him is the deeply satisfying foreknowledge of the poetic justice that fate is going to visit on him later in the book. (Interesting to note that all of Tywin’s ‘dogs’ wind up destroying each other: Hoat feeds Lorch to his bear, then suffers an even more horrific death at the hands of Gregor, who later gets finished off by Qyburn, who once rode with the Brave Companions – very nice karmic plotting by Martin).

    Good pick-up on Yoren trying to appeal to Lorch’s oath as a knight, only to find that he was wasting his breath on the man. Lorch seems to have been taken into Tywin’s service for the express purpose of doing the dirtiest of dirty work right from the beginning, given that we now know he was responsible for throwing the last Tarbeck heir down a well, decades before his role in the murder of Rhaegar’s children.

    • Excellent pick-up on their conjoined fates.

      When did we find out about the Tarbeck heir? Was that a convention reading?

      • axrendale says:

        Yes, it was a reading from World of Ice and Fire, about the history of the Westerlands. Very good notes of it here:

        The whole thing is interesting to read, but the best part is the details about Tywin’s youth, and his extirpation of the Reynes and Tarbecks.

        After Tarbeck Hall had been stormed, this is what it says happened to the surviving Tarbecks:

        “Ellyn was hanged from the highest window of Tarbeck Hall. Her son Tion died at the age of 19, the same age as Tywin. Tywin sent the daughters to the Silent Sisters. It’s not known if he took their tongues out prior to sending them.

        Rohanne was the mother to the last Lord Tarbeck, who was three years old at the time. It was rumored that he became a bard across the Narrow Sea, but more likely is that he was thrown down a well by Ser Amory Lorch.”

        Other bits of backstory from that read that I found fascinating:

        – Tywin fought in the War of Nine Penny Kings, and may have been the one who knighted Aerys Targaryen.

        – Castamere fell when the Lannisters diverted a lake to flood the underground halls.

        – A distant Lannister ancestor was King Tyrion II, known as ‘the Tormentor’, who “enjoyed making women bleed”. Reading that made me wince.

        – When Tywin was a baby, he bit his grandfather’s finger when the old man tried to touch his head. Of course he did.

        • Right. I’d read that, but didn’t remember the Lorch connection.

        • jpmarchives says:

          “He was thrown down a well by Ser Amory Lorch”

          How does THAT become your specialty?! Did he just put “child murderer” on his CV or something?

          • I think it’s one of those things that, once you’ve shown yourself willing to do once, you get a rep for.

          • Amestria says:

            “A good commander knows his men, Tyrion. Some are good for one job, some for another. Doing for a babe, and her still on the tit, that takes a certain sort. Not every man’d do it. Even if it was only some whore and her whelp… A hard man for a hard job, is Deem. Does as he’s told, and never a word afterward.”

          • WPA says:

            I always assume it’s a variation of finding “Cheap, quick, and well-done” . There aren’t too many men out there (fortunately) in the Westerlands that are a combination of utterly amoral murderers, loyal/willing to keep quiet, and having the first two attributes without being intelligent enough to take advantage of what they know you’ve ordered or done or realize Tywin will dispose of them if things get hairy. So once you find a couple of murderous brutes among your bannermen that are willing and able to be your “black ops boys”, you’re likely to keep going back to that well rather than trying to find some other semi-controllable psychopath through trial and error.

            I presume in the North, this is why House Bolton was generally allowed (or benignly neglected without much fuss) their entertainments after they bent the knee to the Starks- to some less scrupulous Lords of Winterfell, having torture technician specialists with their own small army in the fold could come in handy when the Ironborn or the Vale come calling, all with a degree of plausible deniability. “It was not House Stark that ordered that garrison/those rebels flayed, it was merely our somewhat misguided but generally loyal friend from the Dreadfort… What can I say? “

        • Sean C. says:

          I’d forgotten about the Lorch connection. Considering that was 35+ years before the start of the series, and Lorch would have had to have already been a knight, so probably circa 20, he was certainly getting a bit old for field command. I guess even the richest lord in Westeros doesn’t provide much in the way of a retirement plan.

          • David Hunt says:

            Over-compensating for the too generous Lord Tytos, I’d say. To steal a comment that Tyrion made about Cercei, Tywin will pay you what you’re owed and not one groat more. However, an unlanded knight is unlikely to have an income that will allow him to retire. If they’re lucky and/or good enough to land some sort of job that doesn’t require them to stay in the field until they die of flu or somesuch like Ser Arlan of Pennytree, they might end up as a master of arms or captain of guard. Amory Lorch seems to be utterly unsuited to such work, however. He seems a man with no subtlety and less that no patience. Witness how sloppy his murder of Raegar’s daughter was. He’s still doing that type of work for Tywin because he’s not good for much else and he is entirely suited to the type of work we see him doing. By the time of the War of Five KIngs, Tywin knew exactly who he had and what he’d do when he set Lorch and Clegane on the Riverlands.

            I also note that Tywin seems to have a history of misreading how far his monsters will go when he first employees them. He mentions in ASOS that he had expected Clegane to simply kill Aegon and that Elia wouldn’t be harmed. He didn’t know at that time that if he wanted her to end up alive and unraped, he’d have to give Gregor explicit orders to that effect. He also places too much trust in whatever he thought was keeping Hoat in line. I think he was trusting in his own reputation for making bloody examples of men that defy him, but Hoat apparently turned out to be too stupid to get the message.

          • Lann says:

            @ David Hunt

            Personally I’m more inclined to believe the Tywin lied to Tyrion on that occassion. I think Oberyn’s version (that Elia & her children was retaliation for Rhaegar not marrying Cersei) is closer to the truth.

          • David Hunt says:


            It’s possible, but I don’t see what Tywin could have gained by lying about it to Tyrion. He was already admitting to Tyrion that he’d ordered the murders of Elia’s children. If Tyrion had let that out, he could have done as much damage with “well, he didn’t specifically order Elia to be raped and murdered, but he did reward the guy who did it,” I believe that it was unthinkable at that point that Tyrion would have blabbed anything of the sort. Tywin would never have admitted what he did if he thought there was the slightest chance the admission would become known.

            Plus, Elia was just as useful a hostage for the new regime as she was for Aerys. They could have kept her locked up in the Maidenvault and maybe sent her home after a few years. Hell, if I were Jon Arryn, I might have been planning to marry her off to Stannis. If she could bear more children I might have looked to match her with Robert once Lyanna’s fate became known, but the king needs an heir, so Cercei it is…

          • Amestria says:

            Tywin was a man who lied about himself and to himself all the time, especially about his baser nature. The lengths to which he went to to avoid being seen sleeping with whores, for example. To admit to killing Elia would have been to admit that he did something very detrimental to his family’s interest for personal satisfaction. Killing Elia’s kids can be sort of “justified” by brutal real politic (Stannis makes a similar calculation regarding Cersei’s bastards), while the rape/murder of Elia is so obviously pointless that there’s no disguising why Tywin wanted her dead. There’s no way Tywin is admitting that to Tyrion, ever. Tywin doesn’t admit things that make him look bad to Tyrion, ever.

        • WPA says:

          Interesting elaboration on the Matter of Castamere. I always assumed that young Tywin simply had them all put to the sword openly, not dispersing off some of them. The Tyrion name bit makes some awful to think about sense.

          I also wonder what Lord Tytos’ response must have been when 19-year old Twyin returns to bluntly state that the rebellion was handled…and he DESTROYED both major houses in rebellion.

        • WPA says:

          Also- after reading the summary notes there- Good Lord, what a laughing catastrophe of a Lord Paramount Tytos Lannister was- It’s amazing his anti-Reyne/Tarbeck bannermen didn’t pull some sort of coup (with the king’s backing) to install Tywin even when he was a cupbearer. (I assume something like this happened when Tywin returned from the war- he shows up with a half-dozen- or every Lannister-loyal- Westerland lords and explains to his father how things will operate from then on. I also wonder if young/teenage Tywin will make an appearance in the Dunk and Egg series if it goes far enough?

          • S. Duff says:

            He sent the Ironborn a strongly worded letter, for Christs’ sake! No wonder Tywin hated him…

        • The link doesn’t work for me.

        • JT says:

          There a passage in the history of the Westerlands about Western Lords no longer swearing fealty to Lord Tytos and House Lannister.

          Is that possible? For instance, if Walder Frey had wanted to switch his Lord Paramount allegiance from the House Tully (Riverlands) to House Stark (the North), could he do that? Could you just swear fealty directly to the king?

          • WPA says:

            It’s possible that they’re just not showing up for the periodic restatement of fealty (not sure how often they have to do it- ie the Reeds giving their traditional oath to the Starks) and Tytos is so lax that he just doesn’t follow up on it.

            Also possible that if he’s simply responding to Ironborn raids (which also brings up the point that are the Ironborn raiding officially or as independent pirate-raiders without “official” sanction from the Greyjoys. Is this how the Reave and Rule culture was preserved outside of the periodic official rebellions? Groups of Ironborn reaving without official backing or clandestine official backing?) by sending a strongly worded letter that his bannermen are appealing directly to the King to please DO SOMETHING and “we’re loyal subjects to the Iron Throne but won’t abide this idiot leaving us defenseless and allowing rebelling houses to kill loyal bannermen…etc etc. ” so they don’t swear fealty to him either on that point.

    • Winnie says:

      Good points all. It says a lot about Tywin that he goes out of his way to recruit the nasties most psychotic brutes in the Seven Kingdoms and then sets them loose. God what a bastard and no wonder nobody was mourning him at the funeral.

      • Crystal says:

        Tywin was feared, but not liked. Contrast that with Ned Stark or Jon Arryn – both of whom were liked and respected by their bannermen and smallfolk. The mountain clansmen were prepared to die for “Ned’s girl” and the Lords Declarant rallied around their sickly little lord Robert – because both Ned and Jon A. were so beloved in their realms. I somehow doubt any Westerman is going to risk his neck for “Tywin’s girl” or, for that matter, either of “Tywin’s boys.”

        To me, it also speaks badly of Tywin’s much-vaunted intelligence and acumen that he lets Lorch, the Mountain, and Vargo Hoat run amuck. Yes, they are all useful in some way, but all are loose cannons. It’s a kind of awful karmic comeuppance that Hoat chopped Tywin’s son’s hand off. Tywin could not really control those mad dogs, and this is coming around to bite his family in the butt – Jaime has no hand, and the Dornish hate the Lannisters’ guts and are plotting against them. (And Tywin’s badly-brought-up children are managing to destroy the Lannister legacy precisely *because* Tywin was such an awful father.)

        • Winnie says:

          Yeah there’s definitely an element of poetic justice in play here especially considering how Cersei’s walk of shame echoes what Tywin did to his fathers mistress. To me since Tywin destroyed two great Houses and *tried* to extinguish the Starks his own House will soon be annihilated as well. In great part thanks to his lousy parenting and also because between him and Cersei the Lions have burned their bridges with everyone in the Seven Kingdoms by this point.

        • JT says:

          Actually I think Tywin gets too much hatred on these boards. He’s flawed and so are his methods, but so is pretty much everyone else we meet (and Martin shows us that everyone’s methods are flawed).

          Tywin’s legacy is poor relationships with the other Lord Paramounts, but he created very strong bonds in the west. And while Tywin is alive we don’t get any indications of disloyalty from the Western lords, even as the Lannisters lose battle after battle during AGOT and ACOK and their forces shrink.

          In fact even after Tywin’s death, we don’t get any indications of disloyalty from the Lannister bannerman.

          Meanwhile, there are some Northern lords who would die for “Ned’s little girl”, but there are also many Northern lords who happily betray the Starks whenever they get a chance:

          – Roose Bolton, the Dustins and Ryswells hold back as many men as possible when Robb calls his banners (and this is at a time where Ned Stark is still alive)
          – Rickard Karstark kills Lannister hostages despite Robb’s orders not to and has his men covertly leave the Stark camp and abandon the Stark cause.
          – The second things go bad for the Starks politically, Roose Bolton overtly sabotages Robb’s cause by releasing Jaime Lannister and ordering a sure-to-fail attack on Duskendale (and there’s a chance Roose was covertly disloyal even earlier)
          – Roose Bolton murders Robb Stark

          • You’re forgetting that a Western family opted to marry into the Northern monarchy and some became staunch supporters of that regime even past the assassination of it’s monarch.

            More broadly, I disagree with your North v. Westerlands comparison based on that fact that we The Reader have never, ever been to the West. We’ve at least briefly visited every other realm in Westeros (Plus several of the Free Cities! Plus much of Near Essos! Plus Beyond the Wall! But never the home base of the Lannisters!) and thus we’ve never been able to get a first person perspective of the internal politics of that territory. Judging Westerland politics based on only what we’ve seen of the immediate Lannister family + Tywin’s most loyal men who followed him to war, would be like judging the entirety of Northern politics based only on AGOT. Plenty of insight, sure. But much much more lies beneath that upmost layer.

          • Amestria says:

            The thing about the Boltons and Karstarks is that they seemed like okay Bannermen when Ned was in charge and gave no cause for complaint (though in Roose’s case the reason for this was his habit of cutting out tongues). It was only after the war started and then went badly that they showed their true colors/went off the rails. Tywin in contrast knowingly employed monsters as monsters to do monstrous things.

        • All of them backfire in some way:

          – Lorch attacks Lannister bannermen, botches the defense of Harrenhal, etc.
          – Hoat betrays him, then cuts off his son’s hand.
          – the Mountain destroys his Martell alliance.

          • Amestria says:

            “– Hoat betrays him, then cuts off his son’s hand.”

            Then the Bloody Mummers become a scourge upon the countryside and wipe out Saltpans and their atrocities and looting of Septs helps get the Sparrow movement going.

            “– the Mountain destroys his Martell alliance.”

            I don’t think that’s how the Mountain backfires exactly. Like, that alliance was a bad faith effort on both sides that was doomed to fall apart eventually. It’s more the Mountain caused a massive outbreak of popular war fever in Dorne, but still its hard to tell if this really matters all that much given the plan was always to destroy the Lannisters the moment the opportunity presented itself (in which case it only cost Tywin’s granddaughter her face). I’d say the Mountain backfired in that his victory convicted Tyrion and resulted in Tywin’s assassination, but then I remembered that Tywin had probably already been poisoned…so if the Mountain backfired it was probably way back during the original sack of Kings Landing…assuming you trust Tywin’s claim that he didn’t know what Gregor was at that point, which I don’t because he sent him to kill a baby and he had something of a grudge over Arys picking Elia instead of Cersei. Maybe the Mountain never really backfires, maybe he worked exactly as he was supposed to?

          • Well, the poisoning thing is still up in the air. And certainly Tywin, had he lived, would have not liked losing the Mountain as well as the Martells.

          • Amestria says:

            The poisoning thing will probably remain up in the air. But the Martell alliance was doomed anyway, even if Tywin didn’t know that. You can’t lose what you didn’t have to begin with (though now the Sand Snakes want to kill every Lannister they can, so…hmmm). I’m just saying its possible that the Mountain really did perform as Tywin more or less expected throughout his service. That doesn’t make having an army of psychos any better of an idea, even when it works as intended it causes…problems.

          • Here’s the thing, though. Tywin wanted to keep the Martell alliance; yes, he wanted to cheat them of their vengeance, but he still needed them.

          • JT says:

            I would also point out that the Martell alliance is an alliance in the loosest sense of the word.

            The way the alliance comes about is interesting in and of itself – Tyrion has three possible alliances (Greyjoys, Arryns, Martells) on the board and he uses them as bait to smoke out Cersei’s mole on the small council.

            When it’s revealed to be Pycelle, Tyrion proceeds with the plan he told Pycelle (Myrcella to Dorne). It’s an interesting what-if: had Varys or Littlefinger been Cersei’s conspirator and gotten caught, would Tyrion have sent Myrcella to the Eyrie or Pyke?

            It almost seems like the alliance is secondary in Tyrion’s plans. Tyrion wanted a way to determine who on the small council is in Cersei’s corner. Once he determines who it is, he proceeds with his plan. In the end, the Martells contribute nothing to the war effort. Sure, they don’t join up for Stannis or Renly (but we later learn that wasn’t going to happen anyway). Doran has been plotting against Tywin for 18 years and is looking to marry Quentyn to Dany and back her.

          • I’ll go over the what-ifs in that chapter, but I don’t think the leak necessarily determined who he went with.

          • Amestria says:

            “Here’s the thing, though. Tywin wanted to keep the Martell alliance; yes, he wanted to cheat them of their vengeance, but he still needed them.”

            He never really had them though. They want to bring him down and the only reason they’re not backing his enemies is that they want to bring them down too and are secretly for the Dragons. And he doesn’t lose the fake alliance because of what Gregor does. Doran reacts to the war fever by locking up the Sand Snakes before he knows Tywin’s dead and he holds to this policy after he learns about the assassination. He never had any intention of backing Stannis, which is what Tywin was worried sick about. In terms of its effect on actual political alignments, the Red Viper’s death is a total nonevent. It makes the Dornish homicidally hate the Lannisters and it makes Cersei homicidally paranoid about the Dornish, but this is just an increase in tempo of previous attitudes (the Dornish never forgave or forgot about Elia and Cersei never liked the Dornish and never forgave her daughters betrothal). The one effect might have been a premature war, but Doran squashes that with Gregor’s skull. The Dornish alliance is a mirage the Lannisters chase to their determent.

          • Ok, but looking from Tywin’s perspective, he needs to keep them from backing Stannis or Renly, or from attacking the Reach, while he needs the Reach’s manpower. He basically gets this. And as long as he’s alive, the Dornish don’t intervene militarily – but my hypothesis is that Arianne will commit the Martells for Aegon against the Lannister/Tyrells.

          • Amestria says:

            That’s not really a change for the Dornish though. I mean, the original plan was to marry and back Viserys once he had an army. When that…didn’t work out, the plan shifted to marrying and getting Daenerys to invade, because she has an army and dragons! But she’s nowhere to be seen and instead what appears to be a third eligible Targaryen has turned up with an army. Doran will want to hang back and wait for the dragons and guaranteed victory (and the return of his son), but Arianne, if you go with the Meereeness Blots reading, is a less cautious and rather ambitious…(though it might not be as simple as that, what with the Sand Snakes and Varys, there will probably be additional *help* in KIngs Landing to get the Dornish on board).

            Still, the Dornish are just committing to an alternative version of what’s been the same secret, master plan Prince Doran’s had since Robert won, marry one of his children to the Targaryen pretender and back a Targaryen invasion and wreck vengeance on House Lannister (as opposed to the premature war the Sand Snakes and Arianne want, Dorne all alone).

            I’m not saying there wasn’t huge fallout or that a lot of dominoes fell because of the trial by combat between the Viper and Mountain. It’s one of the leading causes in the renewal of the Southern civil war (which will involve the Dornish), but it didn’t change Dornish allegiance, there was nothing to change, it never existed. Where it has probably impacted the Dornish is the type of vengeance they hope to try for. Doran’s seems to want more of the aged and poetic sort, tearing down Lannister power and Tywin’s legacy, but the Sand Snakes want Lannister/Karstark style vengeance, skulls for the skull collection. I think the Sand Snakes are probably closer to general Dornish opinion then Doran’s idea.

          • Amestria says:

            Though if Tywin/Cersei didn’t give the Dornish Gregor’s skull, Doran would have had to go to war anyway, the demand would have been just too great. But the reason he accepts the peace offer is because he wants a more favorable war in the near future. If you look at things from the Lannister perspective, it might have been “better” if the Dornish had jumped the gun…

  5. David Hunt says:

    Interesting point about the contrast to the killing Arya does here versus her other killings. I re-read that part about two months ago, but I couldn’t tell you with any certainty how many people she killed in that fight. The telling was subject to the same confusion and chaos that actual battles have. Did the man who fell off the wall after she hacked at him live or die? We’ll never know for sure. She did kill several people but they’re here and gone never to be mentioned again. This is in contrast to most of the other people that she’s killed where she approaches them with a fully formed intent to put them in the ground. Both types of killing have to be bad for a nine to ten year old girl, but I can’t say which is experience is worse. I lean to the premeditated murders, but full-out battle is highly traumatic in different ways so…

    Agree about the quiet heroism of Yoren. He’s just trying to do right by his new recruits for the Watch and the Watch itself. I hadn’t really made the association with Donal Noye, but yes. Like Noye, he’s one the really good men that the Watch is greatly diminished by losing. I don’t know how good an advisor that he’d have been for Jon in dealing with the various problems that were raining down on him as LC. It was my impression that Yoren spent most of his time away from the Wall trying to drum up recruits. I don’t know if he’d be helpful making it unnecessary for Jon to mutter “et tu, Bowen?”

  6. Abbey Battle says:

    Please allow me to compliment you once again upon an excellent article Maester Steven!

  7. Jack says:

    I think Maisie Williams’ age had a lot to do with them reducing the number of killings that Arya has at this point. The scene in season 1 where she stabs the stable boy is just laughably bad. It seems like they just wanted to rush through it rather than giving it the impact it deserved because they didn’t want to focus on such a young kid killing another one. Now that Williams is older they seem more willing to let her character kill people and not just rush through it with bad editing.

  8. JT says:

    Do we know that the Faceless men are good warriors (or even average warriors)? The MO of the Faceless men is stealth, obfuscation, and disguise; not pitched battles or fighting. I’m not certain Jaqen would have been any better in open battle or tipped the scales more than an average knight, or even an average soldier.

    We’ll see a lot of the Faceless men’s training methods in AFFC/ADWD, and there doesn’t appear to be any sort of martial training (sparring with swords and shields) component.

    • Good point.

      Going with Steve’s hypothetical “Jaqen on the Wall” scenario, Jaqen probably wouldn’t have been a great use in the battle with the wildlings. However, if the leaders of the NW wanted to assassinate Mance Rayder or some other wildlings’ leaders, he’s be a great choice. And he’d be a perfect choice to send to do away with the Boltons and free “Arya”.

      • Amestria says:

        “Great Choice” seems to assume the Nights Watch could actually KEEP Jaqen at the Wall. You know, he’s a highly trained assassin-monk-cultist guy on an unknown mission who can literally change how he looks and sounds! That does not sound like Wall material.

        • Depends; the FM seem to take oaths pretty seriously.

          • Amestria says:

            *Their oaths.* Faceless Men are nobody. If “Jaqen” makes an oath to join the Nights Watch that doesn’t mean the Faceless Man does. To take the Nights Watch oath seriously requires Jaqen to actually be somebody.

          • Yes and no. Jaqen treats his oath to Arya seriously despite being “nobody.”

          • David Hunt says:


            It doesn’t have to be that convoluted. Jaqen just needs to escape from the Wall before he’s deemed ready to take the oath. It’s been shown that he can change his face, but he’d still have the difficulty of being a man all in black, traveling alone in the North. However, it’s been my impression that he’s resourceful enough to solve that problem.

          • Also possible, but they might induct him right away – they need skilled men badly.

      • Amestria says:

        Cause she cheated the Red God of three lives and as he was one of these he owes both her and Death three lives. The lives are irrelevant (though “Jaqen” really does not want his to be one of them, but that’s probably less because he’s scared of death and more because he still has things to do). And then when Arya gets him to aid the takeover of Harranhall Jaqen calls her selfish for wanting and getting more then three lives. He makes this oath because of he’s a servant of the one god, totally different from an oath binding a specific individual to an organization. Jaqen is not a specific individual, he’s a identity-less servant of Deatj. The rules he obeys aren’t mortal (well, they probably are, but he doesn’t think they are) and in following them he only pretends to obey others.

        If you think about it, Faceless Men having to obey the oaths and promises their identities make would be a serious hindrance.

        Maybe “Jaqen” would be bound to the Wall, but “The Alchemist” or whatever form he takes wouldn’t be.

    • David Hunt says:

      We’ve seen the training regimen that Arya was put through…so far. However, it might be that she was simply not considered ready for hand to hand training or that it was decided that she would be better suited to tasks that didn’t call for that. Female Faceless “Men” are very rare according to the Kindly Man. Those women might have a somewhat different skill set that they learn.

    • Well, there is some – Arya trains with quarterstaffs, for example.

      But we don’t know what their abilities are – at least in the book. In the show, Jaqen is able to kill a whole slew of guardsmen to free Arya, so there is that.

  9. JT says:

    Slightly off-topic, but apparently Bran Stark is being written off AGOT for this coming season:

    • This is based on nothing but Kristian Nairn saying he won’t be in season 5. No Hodor does not necessarily mean no Bran, since Bran is now in the cave with BR and may not need to be shown going around as opposed to learning more about his powers.

      • I was thinking the same thing,

        • BarbreysDustyDesire says:

          Great article and great comments. Of all the great lords in Westeros I despise Tywin Lannister the most for his merciless barbarism & willingness to use the most despicable characters to do his dirty work. None of the Lords of other great houses seem to have any Lorches and Cleganes working for them. You could argue that the Boltons come close but Roose has the excuse of being a cold sociopath and Ramsey? Pretty much the same. I think the bannermen stay loyal to Tywin is because anytime they question orders or consider straying he just sends them a musician to play the Reynes of Castamere and they fall back into line.

  10. Wat Barleycorn says:

    I’m not sure if this is jumping ahead, but in the next Arya chapter where she looks for Yoren’s body, she eventually finds it with an axe sticking up out of it. I missed this, but on some message boards, people have taken that plus Jaquen/Rorge/Biter joining up with Lorch’s men to show that once they were free, the three of them joined the battle on Lorch’s side.

    I’m just wondering that with this, plus the horrors at Saltpans, is GRRM maybe making a point to all of us readers that opportunities for the characters we love come with a horrific price that’s paid by someone else? Pretty often, he’s made the point that the easy lives and power games of the nobles are possible only because of the massive suffering inflicted on Team Smallfolk.

    I’m just wondering if it reads into it too much to suggest it also says: “oh, and the nobles you love because I’ve made them the main characters, they exact this price just as much as anyone else–even if they are good and decent and don’t mean to. And it should bother you that you are OK with it. A lot.”

    He does kind of the same thing with the Miller’s Boys–I was so completely relieved that the dead kids weren’t Bran and Rickon until I was like, what is wrong with me, these are were two dead kids, why should I be HAPPY it was these kids instead of others? It was very unsettling as a reader, but it did make me keenly aware of how we care much, much more about bad things that happen to people we know. And, you know, this colors our politics and the way we see problems that need solving.

    Sorry, this may be way off field. I just wanted to try and add something because I am so profoundly grateful for your many, many deep dives into the histories GRRM is drawing upon and generally fantastic analysis of the series and its arguments. Thank you so much for making me so much more aware of the truly, fantastically subversive and challenging nature of GRRM’s writing.

    • Wow. I hadn’t thought of that, but that’s kind of brilliant, in a nasty way.

      It would explain them ending up as Lannistermen, and I wouldn’t put it past Rorge and Biter.

      • JT says:

        I wouldn’t put it past Jaquen either. He helps Arya because he owes her a debt, not because he has any loyalty to House Stark or because he feels that the Northern cause or tactics are more “just” than those of the Lannisters.

        Sure, the faceless men aren’t butchers, but if it’s a choice between killing Yoren and being able to continue his mission or getting killed by Lorch, I suspect he would choose the former.

        • Maaaaybe. But that would be a pretty big breach in the whole “you can’t kill people just because you want to” thing.

          • Amestria says:

            More you can’t kill people that you know or have a history with, you’re supposed to be detached from the whole thing. Oh, that’s one thing about Harranhall, its the one place J can actually kill people for Arya because its so big and impersonal (Tywin really dodged some irony there – presumably if she had ever told him “Lorch” he would have had to say no because they have a history).

            Rorge and Biter on the other hand love killing people they know. J might have just sat back and let it happen and taken credit.

          • I don’t think it’s just that – you’re not supposed to kill people for your own reasons. Arya didn’t know Dareon, but she killed him because she wanted to, and that was a no no.

            But yes, I can see Jaqen letting it happen. he didn’t owe Yoren anything.

          • JT says:

            Well, in this scenario I wouldn’t say it’s so much because he *wants* to, as it is to establish some bonafides with Amory Lorch and the Lannister camp and to save his own life.

            Let’s not forget that at Harrenhall, Arya marks Jaqen for her third murder. To save his own life, Jaqen enlists Rorge and Biter and kills a bunch of Lannister guardsmen (Arya’s “3 deaths” become more like 20). So there is at least some precedent of Jaqen going off script and killing to save his life.

          • That’s true, but it’s quite possible “naming another name” is within the rules.

          • David Hunt says:

            Who’s to say that it way Jaqen who killed Yoren? Rorge is the one who catches the axe and starts hacking at the wagon. I think we can safely assume that he wasn’t going to willingly give up a weapon in the middle of a battle unless he got his hands on a better. Like Yoren’s sword. I’d go with the scenario where Rorge kills Yoren and establishes the bonefides to Lorch and Jaqen takes advantage of it. Note, I’m not arguing that Jaqen wouldn’t have killed Yoren to get in good with Lorch (and thus live). I’m just saying that Rorge very likely had that axe.

          • Rorge would be my guess.

  11. Karl says:

    Rarely disagree with you, but I find it highly improbable that Jaqen would make it/stay at the Wall. He’s got a mission (supposedly in Oldtown) and I always assumed he was in the black cells because he knew that would get him out of KL to where he needed to be, on the road to the wall. Doesn’t seem likely that a faceless man would fight with the NW, or take their vows.

    • David Hunt says:

      I don’t know what Jaqen was in the Black Cells for, but they strike me as a rather poor way of getting out of the city. They’re not a healthy environment and you only get taken in by the NW if the powers that be let them take you. Plus, he was very securely locked up and was going to stay that way all the way to the Wall. If he could have gotten out of that cage on the wagon, he’d have done it before Arya tossed them the axe. Although Jaqen was highly skilled at infiltration and assassination, I think that too many people have used that to conclude that he couldn’t be caught/framed for something and imprisoned.

      The only way that I can see that his wanting to be in the Black Cells makes sense is if he was conspiring with a partner that could place him in there and get him out at need. Varys would qualify. After he learned that Ned had given Yoren the authority to clear out the dungeons, he could have smuggled the pre-Jaqen Faceless Man into the Black Black Cells with the real Jaqen and worked a switch. What agenda or Varys that would serve however, I don’t know. I expect that he and Illrio have resources to and contacts to hire one.

      • Karl says:

        I never thought it was that complex. Perhaps his target was in the NW (Aemon, maybe, would explain why he shows up in Oldtown later) and he killed a murderer, stole his face, and got himself arrested, knowing there was a NW recruiter in town and Ned as HotK.

        Maybe I’m mythologizing them, but it seems the FM are never anywhere but exactly where they want to be, and those places do not include sworn to a lifetime oath in Westeros.

        • David Hunt says:

          Aemon being the target wold make make a certain logistic sense if the Alchemist if another guise of “Jaqen.” Even so, I have a hard time with that. I can’t think of anyone with the contacts and resources to hire a Faceless Man who would want Aemon dead. He’s a hundred years old at the start of series. Heck, if we ignore supernaturally influence people like Bloodraven and the Undying, he’s almost certainly the oldest living man in the world. What would move someone to hire a FM to kill an ancient man who just sits and does his Maester’s duties when waiting a few years is almost certain to take care of it? That type of urgency doesn’t seem to go well with a cult of assassins that are across the ocean. The hiring process and getting the assassin to Westeros alone could take months.

          Oh yeah. Jaqen going to Oldtown to intercept Aemon assumes that he knew that he’d been sent there. How did that information reach him? We haven’t seen hints of magical communication in the House of White and Black. Spies and/or ravens have to know where to send messages. How do you send messages to a man hundreds of miles away who changes his identity? If the Alchemist is Jaqen, I’d say that his task in the Citadel doesn’t have Aemon as part of the mission statement.

    • Yeah, I’ve never been too sure of that. Being in the Black Cells was the least efficient way imaginable of getting anywhere he was trying to go.

    • JT says:

      I always thought it was interesting that Rorge and Biter are scared of Jaqen.

      Rorge turns out to be one of the worst, cruelest people in the books (on par with Ramsay), so I wondered what Jaqen did to scare him.

  12. Carolyn says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say, that I really like your plot. Additionally, I wanted to ask, whether you will incorporate the arrival of Alliser Thorne in the analysis of the next chapter (Tyrion III), since IMO it was one of Tyrion’s biggest mistake and a huge setback for the fight against the Others?

  13. […] this is why the story is important – it inspires Arya to move beyond her previous stance of self-defense, to commit murder-by-proxy. As I have said before, I think it’s fundamentally wrong to call […]

  14. Anne Onnie Moss says:

    Jaqen is most likely the Faceless Man who kills Balon, so the what-if-Arya-doesn’t-save-him would probably also cause a large divergence in the Ironborn plot.

  15. […] to another reason why escape is so important to Arya. Arguably, ever since she escaped from the burning holdfast, Arya has been feeling completely helpless as her guides, friends, and companions variously died, […]

  16. […] is not solely a matter of theme and subtext – just as Tywin’s orders directly affected Arya’s journey through the Riverlands, so too does the course of the war impact Brienne’s attempt to bring her prisoner to […]

  17. […] ought to see this as Arya trying to maintain a stiff upper lip by reaching back to her sources of comfort and control in a time of stress – although it’s notable that she’s now hearkening back to […]

  18. lluewhyn says:

    This is several years later, but one difference I saw between the book and the show was that the scene here in the show seemed to come shortly after the scene with the Gold Cloaks. I remember watching it and thinking that the attack on the Night’s Watch was related to the (slightly earlier) incident where Yoren defies the Gold Cloaks, and that Lorch’s men were just the reinforcements that had caught up with the group. I only saw it once, so am not sure if there’s clearer distinction.

    The book was much clearer about the two groups not being related.

  19. […] dies Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, in righteous defense of an innocent woman, in the same spirit as Yoren and all the other secondary characters who decide to risk their lives for an existential […]

  20. […] fight with Joffrey at the Ruby Ford to her escape to her escape from the Tower of the Hand to her brush with the Red God near Harrenhal. (One could argue Arya’s dance with death has only gotten faster as she’s joined the […]

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