Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa III, ACOK


“What is the meaning of this?”

Synopsis: Sansa is summoned to Joffrey to answer for her complicity in the Battle of Oxcross. Despite the best efforts of Sandor and Ser Dontos, Sansa is beaten in front of the court before Tyrion intervenes.

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 in the past I have alluded to Sansa’s plotline in ACOK of abuse and survival, here is where that theme really forces itself to the forefront. Just as the strategic decisions of Tywin Lannister have come crashing down on Arya’s head, Joffrey makes Sansa pay the price for Robb Stark’s victory, in much the same way that an abuser today might have a bad day at work and make themselves feel better by beating their partner. George R.R Martin doesn’t do this lightly or pruriently – rather, this violence is an intrinsic part of a larger deconstruction of chivalry.

The Limits of Survival

Appropriately, Sansa III begins with  an exploration of her methods for survival:

“The longer you keep him waiting, the worse it will go for you.”
“Robb’s a traitor.” Sansa knew the words by rote. “I had no part in whatever he did.”
“They trained you well, little bird.”

Sansa is doing what she has learned to do to survive – she’s brushing out her hair and getting dressed nicely, because she knows that “Joff likes me to look pretty, he’s always liked me in this gown, this color.” Indeed, it’s kind of ironic that Sandor Clegane uses the term “they” to talk about Sansa’s training, when he’s the one who provided her with the script she’s had to memorize, back in her last chapter in AGOT. It’s hardly a passive process – as we can see, it requires a good deal of preparation and constant vigilance about Joffrey’s mood (another common element in cases of domestic violence) – but it is a performative one. Long before Arya is sent to Izembaro, Sansa is already learning the basics of the mummer’s craft.

The problem is, and I think this is what makes the audience so uncomfortable, is that no strategy can actually shield Sansa from Joffrey’s wrath, because Joffrey isn’t hurting her because of something she’s done, some flubbed line, but rather using her to gratify himself. Ultimately, every strategy Sansa and her allies try fails:

Kneeling won’t save you now…stand up. You’re here to answer for your brother’s latest treasons.”

“Your Grace, whatever my traitor brother has done, I had no part. You know that, I beg you please-“

“I’d shoot you too, but if I do Mother says they’d kill my uncle Jaime. Instead you’ll just be punished and we’ll send word to your brother about what will happen to you if he doesn’t yield. Dog, hit her.”

“Let me beat her!” Ser Dontos shoved forward…he was armed with a “morningstar” whose head was a melon. My Florian. She could have kissed him, blotchy skin and broken veins and all. He trotted his broomstick around her…whacking her over the head with the melon…people were laughing. The melon flew to pieces. Laugh, Joffrey, she prayed as the juice ran down her face and the front of her blue silk gown. Laugh and be satisfied.

Joffrey did not so much as snigger.

Pretending loyalty won’t work if Joffrey doesn’t want her loyalty; Ser Dontos’ attempt to distract Joffrey with cruel laughter, much as Sansa did before, won’t work if Joffrey is more interested in blood than slapstick; nor will Sandor’s refusal to beat her and his passive attempts to cut the violence short work, because Joffrey isn’t dependent on Sandor to work his will.  And as I’ve pointed out before, this kind of helplessness doesn’t sit well with some readers, all those people who insist that if they were in that situation, they’d do something, they’d figure out some tactic, they wouldn’t be passive like Sansa. It’s the same reason why so often, when people read about some horrific case of domestic violence, they ask “why did she stay? why didn’t she leave?”

But Sansa can’t leave, hasn’t been trained to fight back, and Ser Dontos is hardly Jaqen H’ghar. There is no strategy to avoid the violence, because what Joffrey is after is sexualized violence:

“Leave her face,” Joffrey commanded. “I like her pretty.”

Boros slammed a fist into Sansa’s belly, driving the air out of her. When she doubled over, the knight grabbed her hair and drew his sword, and for one hideous instant she was certain he meant to open her throat. As he laid the flat of the blade across her thighs, she thought her legs might break from the force of the blow. Sansa screamed. Tears welled in her eyes. It will be over soon. She soon lost count of the blows.

“Enough,” she heard the Hound rasp.

“No it isn’t,” the king replied. “Boros, make her naked.”

Boros shoved a meaty hand down the front of Sansa’s body and gave a hard yank. The silk came tearing away, baring her to the waist. Sansa covered her breasts with her hands. She could hear sniggers, far off and cruel. “Beat her bloody,” Joffrey said…

Joffrey’s sexuality is something of a controversial topic within the ASOIAF fandom, especially after the show shined such an ugly spotlight on the topic. Some argue that Joffrey is too young to have sexual desire, or is essentially asexual. I don’t take this position. However much he filters his sexuality through violence, Joffrey is still expressing some sort of desire and gaining gratification here – hence why he wants Sansa’s face to be kept pretty, hence why he’s focusing on making her naked, hence his threats in ASOS. Sometimes, a crossbrow isn’t just a crossbow. It reminds one vividly of Aerys II, someone whose sadistic tendencies very much fueled his sex drive, although thank the Old Gods and the New that Joffrey didn’t live long enough to make wildfire part of his repertoire.

The Question of Chivalry

One of the key questions that Joffrey’s conduct, and Sansa’s experience of it, raises is the question of whether chivalry as a cultural ideal is worth the paper it’s printed on. Joffrey’s commands work as an instant moral test:

“Is this your notion of chivalry, Ser Boros?…What sort of knight beats helpless maids?”

“The sort who serves his king, Imp.”

“Someone give the girl something to cover herself with,” the Imp said. Sandor Clegane unfastened his cloak and tossed it at her. Sansa clutched it against her chest, fists bunched hard in the white wool. The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine…

Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women, and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing. Only Ser Dontos had tried to help, and he was no longer a knight, no more than the Imp was, nor the Hound…the Hound hated knights…I hate them too…they are no true knights, not one of them.

As we’ll see with examples of Aerys’ royal sadism, knighthood does not pass this test. The only people who even try to do something, Sandor and Dontos, are not knights, as Sansa notices. As with Ser Duncan the Tall, as with Brienne of Tarth, it is the outsiders who aspire to the ideal without experiencing the social privilege that comes with it, who come closest to attaining it. The actual knights, men like Boros Blount and Mandon Moore and Meryn Trant, are cowards, sadists, and bullies – with the best of them a rather pathetic hypocrite. Thus, the symbolism of the Hound’s white cloak – on one level, it’s a symbol of purity and duty actually being used to shield and protect Sansa. On another level, it’s also an act of symbolic resignation, by a man who will renounce his king and refuse to honor any vow, who himself isn’t doing anything more than throwing a blanket after the fact to protect an innocent.

Given Sansa’s experience here, it’s quite interesting therefore, that Sansa uses the trappings of chivalry in The Winds of Winter. While it’s not yet clear to what end, “Alayne” is beginning to see chivalry as an illusion, but an illusion that can be used to change the way people behave.

The Question of Tyranny

Also in this chapter, we see Joffrey finally let loose in full Caligula mode, for everyone to see. It’s been a while for him – he’s been keeping things out of sight while uncle Tyrion was around. But even before he begins torturing his fiancee before the whole court, we see him violating the social contract again: “I killed a man last night who was bigger than your father. They came to the gate shouting my name and calling for bread like I was some baker, but I taught them better. I shot the loudest one through the throat…” It’s a little unclear from context whether he’s referring to the previous incident where he murdered his own subject, or whether it’s happened again, but it’s not a  good sign.

And thus, it comes as both a relief and a surprise when Tyrion arrives to explicitly challenge Joffrey’s belief that:

“The king can do as he likes.”
“Aerys Targaryen did as he liked. Has your mother ever told you what happened to him?”
…”No man threatens His Grace in the presence of the Kingsguard.”
Tyrion Lannister raised an eyebrow. “I am not threatening the king, ser. I am educating my nephew. Bronn, Timmett, next time Ser Boros opens his mouth, kill him…Now that was a threat, ser. See the difference?”
“The queen will hear of this!”
“No doubt she will. And why wait? Joffrey, shall we send for your mother?…Learn to use your ears more and your mouth less, or your reign will be shorter than I am. Wanton brutality is no way to win your people’s love…or your queens.”
“Fear is better than love, Mother says…She fears me.”

I’ve talked in the past about the extent to which Joffrey as a prince was shaped by his mother or his father – which is something of a controversial topic. However much his standard of personal behavior might ape Robert Baratheon, his political philosophy is pure Cersei. The problem here is that this kind of short-sighted, half-understood Machiavellianism, filtered through Joffrey’s paranoia, sadism, and desire for control, cannot jibe with Tyrion’s cautious, noblesse-oblige version of social contractualism. There can be no meeting of the minds, because Tyrion’s warning that the social contract will enforce itself violently on a monarch who thinks he’s above it comes across to Joffrey as threats to his life.

So if Joffrey is responsible for Ser Mandon Moore’s assassination attempt – and he’s certainly a prime suspect – here’s the catalyst for it. And for Boros Blount and the other toadies of the court, who can’t comprehend Tyrion’s political theory any more than their king can, here’s the beginning of a case for treason and regicide. And here’s where we see a major shortcoming of Tyrion’s political skills: as with Pycelle, he acts as if he will always have political power. On the face of it, Tyrion’s not saying anything that Tywin does not, but the loss of power will turn words into treason.

There’s another interesting theme in this conversation, the weird power relationship between Joffrey and Cersei. Cersei has the authority of both the mother of a thirteen-year-old boy and the Queen Regent, when she chooses to enforce it. And you’d think that, both as the victim of domestic abuse and someone who’s well aware that if any word of Sansa’s treatment gets to Robb Stark Jaime will pay the price, Cersei would want to clamp down on this. But that’s not how Cersei reacts; rather, she defends Joffrey. I’m not entirely sure why – is this a case of denial, stemming from the unconditional love of a mother trying to ward off a prophecy of her son’s death? Is it driven by Cersei’s paranoia about the “another, younger and more beautiful” queen, so that Cersei rationalizes any violence done to Sansa as preventing herself from being overthrown? Is it Cersei’s refracted picture of Tywin as a political ideal, such that Joffrey’s sadism turns into kingly “sternness” and “strength“?

credit to Olivia Desianti

A Question of Loyalty

If this was even more of a spy story than it already is, this is the part where the protagonist undergoes torture, where the question is whether they will be turned or whether they’ll have the strength of character and mind to keep their secrets and their allegiance to themselves. (Again, it’s not an active moment, but an interior moment) And Sansa passes this test with flying colors:

They’ve put me in Arya’s old bedchamber, from when Father was the Hand of the King. All her things are gone and the furnishing have been moved around, but it’s the same…
Robb will kill you all, she thought, exulting…
“I only want to be loyal.”
“Loyal…and far from any Lannisters. I can scarce blame you for that…they tell me you visit the godswood every day. What do you pray for, Sansa?”
I pray for Robb’s victory and Joffrey’s death…and for home. For Winterfell. “I pray for an end in the fighting.”
…Robb will beat him, Sansa thought. He beat your uncle and your brother Jaime, he’ll beat your father too.
…Ser Dontos was her only hope…if she was locked in the Tower of the Hand, guarded by the dwarf’s men, how would Ser Dontos ever spirit her away to freedom?

To begin with, Sansa doesn’t budge at all from her position. She remains a diehard Stark loyalist, who cheers for her brother’s victories and longs to be in Winterfell – and as we’ll see in “Alayne” from TWOW, she will not give up her allegiance, even after months of Littlefinger’s creepy grooming. This is something that both Stark sisters share – despite their commitment to method acting, they are not going to give in on their identity as Starks of Winterfell, at least to the extent that readers thought at the end of AFFC or ADWD. It’s an impressive show of mental toughness, as I’ll discuss in the historical section.

At the same time, Sansa is preserving her cover story as a good and loyal subject to Joffrey. But it’s important for people to understand why she’s doing it – to begin with, Tyrion is not offering her an escape from King’s Landing or even an exchange of prisoners, only that once the Lannisters have won, he’ll send her to Winterfell. Sansa isn’t interested in waiting for Lannister victory – she wants to score a victory for the Starks by escaping King’s Landing on her own terms and eliminating one of the Lannisters’ main bargaining chips. In order to do that, she needs to be where Ser Dontos can arrange her escape – even if it means having to endure Joffrey’s beatings.

It’s both an incredibly brave decision, but also a rather fraught one. Just as Arya is torn over whether to place her trust in various Northmen, Sansa will have to make decisions about which offers of escape to take. And ultimately, she will actually accomplish her aim of escaping King’s Landing, although not in the way she thought.


The War of Five Kings: The Battle of Oxcross

But enough of desperately depressing domestic violence, let’s talk about exciting military violence! Specifically the event that acts as catalyst for Joffrey’s actions:

“Using some vile sorcery, your brother fell upon Ser Stafford Lannister with an army of wargs, not three days ride from Lannisport. Thousands of good men were butchered as they slept, without the chance to lift sword. After the slaughter, the northmen feasted on the flesh of the slain.”
…”You have a right to know why Joffrey was so wroth. Six nights gone, your brother fell upon my uncle Stafford, encamped with his host at a village called Oxcross not three days ride from Casterly Rock. Your northerners won a crushng victory. We received word only this morning.”
“It’s…terrible, my lord. My brother is a vile traitor.”
“Well, he’s no fawn, he’s made that clear enough.”
“Ser Lancel said Robb led an army of wargs…”
The Imp gave a disdainful bark of laughter. “Ser Lancel’s a wineskin warrior who wouldn’t know a warg from a wart. Your brother had his direwolf with him, but I suspect that’s as far as it went. The northmen crept into my uncle’s camp and cut his horse lines, and Lord Stark sent his wolf among them. Even war-trained destriers went mad. Knights were trampled to death in their pavilions, and the rabble woke in terror and fled, casting aside their weapons to run the faster. Ser Stafford was slain as he chased after a horse. Lord Rickard Karstark drove a lance through his chest. Ser Rubert Brax is also dead, along with Ser Lymond Vikary, Lord Crakehall, and Lord Jast. Half a hundred more have been taken captive, including Jast’s sons and my nephew Martyn Lannister. Those who survived are spreading wild tales and swearing that the old gods of the north march with your brother.”
“Then…there was no sorcery?”
“Sorcery is the sauce fools spoon over failure to hide the flavor of their own incompetence. My mutton-headed uncle had not even troubled to post sentries, it would seem. His host was raw-apprentice boys, miners, fieldhands, fisherfolk, the sweepings of Lannisport. The only mystery is how your brother reached him. Our forces still hold the stronghold at the Golden Tooth, and they swear he did not pass.”

I’ve always thought it interesting that we learn about Robb’s victory at Oxcross from the Lannisters trying to defend King’s Landing, as Catelyn is too far away from Riverrun to hear the new from a Stark/Tully perspective. Part of that has to do with GRRM’s choice to have Catelyn on the scene in Storm’s End. But I think part of the reason is to show how thoroughly Robb Stark has wrecked Tywin Lannister’s plans.

  • First, the Westerlands have lost 10,000 men. What I learned in my read-through of the SoSpakeMartin archives that I hadn’t known before is that most of the 4,000 men that Ser Forley Prester rescued from the disaster of the Battle of the Camps are among that 10,000. In total, Robb Stark has killed 21,000 Westermen in about six months; a bit over half of the Westerlands forces raised to date, and probably just under half of the total number of fighting men the Westerlands can muster. This will change the balance of power for a generation – the Lannisters can no longer win the war on their own, can no longer credibly govern the Seven Kingdom on their own. No wonder Tywin Lannister will place such importance on alliances from here on out.
  • Second, as a result Tywin no longer has a second army that would allow him to gain the tactical flexibility he had in the opening stages of the war, and the numerical advantage that he has never won a battle without. That last point is very important – from the Rains of Castamere to the Sack of King’s Landing to the Lannister invasion of the Riverlands to the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Tywin has held to his own version of the Powell Doctrine. It is an open question whether Tywin Lannister is capable of winning a battle without a numerical advantage.
  • Third, the Westerlands are now under threat and this presents both political and military dangers. Considering how low Lannister morale is already, the Battle of Oxcross must have hit like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky – the army that they’ve been waiting for to win the war is now destroyed; major lords are dead on the field and fifty more are taken prisoner (and for the officers of Tywin’s army, these are their relatives); and the supposedly impregnable defenses of the Golden Tooth have been completely bypassed, such that Robb Stark is now loose in the west with no one left to oppose him. As I have said before, these are medieval, feudal armies, not professional standing armies; they fight out of political obligation, for a limited time, and they have expectations of their liege lords. It is to Tywin Lannister’s credit that he keeps his army together at all, but I honestly believe that had he not given the order to march west to relieve the danger to the lands and families of his vassals, his army would have begun to break apart.
  • Fourth, the focus of the war has been shifted from Harrenhal to Casterly Rock. For months, Tywin Lannister has tried to stay in position at Harrenhal, threatening the Riverlands and hopefully enticing the Starks into a deadly and futile assault while remaining in position to relieve King’s Landing. And now for a second time, Robb Stark has completely altered the strategic picture of the war: Tywin now has to make a choice between King’s Landing and the Westerlands that is, barring the intervention of the Tyrells (and almost, almost would have happened even with that), a lose-lose situation. If he marches west, King’s Landing may fall in his absence and with it everything he’s been fighting for and all political legitimacy. If he marches east, the Westerlands might fall, leaving him as ruler of nothing more than the capitol itself.

I’m a long-time defender of Robb Stark’s military strategy, that’s not exactly a mystery. And part of the reason why I am is that presentism seems to bite down especially hard with regards to this. The Western campaign is frequently derided as a sideshow, as a post-facto justification for pointless raiding, a futile attempt to ward off inevitable defeat. The problem with this is that this ignores everything that’s going on at the moment. The Lannisters are losing the war and have been for seven months. Robb’s stratagem broadly works – Tywin abandons his defenses at Harrenhal and the Lannister occupation of the Riverlands, and comes after Robb despite being badly outnumbered by the combined Stark/Tully forces.

It will take a truly remarkable set of events happening at the right time to make it fail, as George R.R Martin’s thumb begins pressing down on the scales of fate. As we go forward in the series, keep your eyes on all the different things that have to go wrong to make the fall of House Stark possible.

Historical Analysis:

One of the reasons why Sansa’s mental fortitude is so impressive is that it’s not that unusual for people in her circumstances to actually change their allegiances. Stockholm Syndrome, the term coined after the Norrmalmstorg robbery in 1973, was coined to describe the behavior of the hostages, who reportedly came to sympathize with their captor, despite the fact that he repeatedly threatened to kill them if the police and generally was quite violent (some accounts cast doubt on the extent of the mental shift, arguing that the hostages didn’t actually come to identify with their captor, but rather became angered by the police’s militant response that they felt exposed them to unnecessary harm). This idea was also used in the case of the abduction of Patty Hearst, who was badly abused by the Symbionese Liberation Army but who then participated in a number of robberies – again, there was a question of how genuine the “conversion” was, as Patty Heart’s life was often (although not always) threatened by the SLA during those robberies, so it’s unclear to what extent she was “brainwashed” versus doing what was necessary to survive.

Regardless of whether Stockholm Syndrome is real – and even the FBI think that it only happens in 5-8% of cases – “trauma bonding” is not an unusual phenomenon in cases of abuse. It’s essentially a survival technique, whereby the desire to avoid violence and have some sense of control over one’s environment leads to the creation of an emotional attachment with the abuser.

I bring up these recent psychological phenomena because one of the things I find interesting about the Wars of the Roses is how often you get cases of women from one side of the conflict marrying into the other side of the conflict and coming to identify with that side – whether we’re talking about Elizabeth Woodville who married Edward IV despite her first husband’s death fighting for the Lancastrians, or both Isabel and Anne Neville marrying George of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester despite both men having fought in the battle where their father was killed, or indeed Elizabeth of York who married Henry Tudor despite the fact that he had killed her uncle Richard and would after their marriage have her cousin Edward of Warwick (her uncle George’s son) executed. And lest we think that these marriages were unwilling or purely political, by all reports all of these marriages were genuinely loving and usually happy, although by no means perfect. Is this Stockholm Syndrome or “trauma bonding” at work, or politically-savvy women making choices about their allegiances? It’s hard to say.

However, it’s all the more impressive that Sansa Stark, however much she pretends otherwise, never gives in to identifying with the Lannisters.

What If?

There’s not a huge scope for hypotheticals that don’t go to really dark and unpleasant places (what if Sansa gets killed, for example), so I’m going to skip that. But next chapter will be chockablock full of them, so don’t fret!

Book vs. Show:

Adaptation is a difficult task, and it’s never more difficult when the understanding of a character’s actions depends on an internal monologue that can’t be easily moved from the page to the screen without becoming rather intrusive and usually clumsy. So I understand that adapting this scene was not easy for Benioff and Weiss. And I have to say, in the main, I think they succeeded through fidelity to the text and some great performances from Sophie Turner, Jack Gleeson, Rory McCann, and Peter Dinklage, to get this scene across to the audience.

However, I do think something was lost by excising Ser Dontos from Sansa’s Season 2 plotline after the first episode, because we lose a vital piece of information about her motivations and how they’re informing her decisions, which makes her a much more dynamic and active character than it appears on the surface. Especially in her decision-making in regards to Sandor Clegane and Tyrion, removing Ser Dontos robs the audience of vital information with which to judge her actions.


127 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa III, ACOK

  1. starkaddict says:

    Great analysis!

    You must be tired of those words.

    Anyways, I think that he reason people don’t like to consider Joffery’s sexuality is the same reason many people are uncomfortable with the domestic abuse scenes. The fact that Sansa is beaten on Joffery’s command, that nobody stands for her, her humilition advertised, is bad enough. But to think that on some level Joff gets off on it just adds another layer to the desperately depressing situation she is stuck into. Plus, it makes all his comments in ASOS a distinct possibility, while some readers preferred to think that those comments were just to imbalance her.

    As for Cersie, one of her more distinguishing trait is her lack of empathy. She cannot connect with other people on same level as her peers can. No doubt her narcissism plays a major role in it. But its not just that, there is also her disdain for the ‘fairer’ sex. She always wanted to be a man. And she honestly believed that she would be a better man than most of the men she knows. So, if a woman is crying, in Cersie’s mind,they are already weak. All women are, except Cersie of course.

    She loves her children, like a lioness loves her cubs. But she has no regrets in passing an order to kill other children. No sympathy for the dornish princess. Robert was the worst king, he beat his wife. Joffery can’t help it. Sansa is a pretty empty head.

    I never realized that Robb put such a heavy dent in the westerland army. 21,000 is no small number. It seems his war effort will have a longlasting effect on the war of three queens(or whatever they name the next skirmish)

    And at last, Starks are hard to kill. No matter how much they (Lannisters, Littleinger, Faceless Men) try to mould the girls, their Starkness shines through.

    • winnie says:

      Agreed the two Stark sisters are very, VERY different people but they are both survivors….and a testament to how tough she wolves are.

      • Crystal says:

        Ned spoke true words – that the sisters were as different as the sun and the moon, but the same (Stark) blood flows through both their hearts.

        I am so hoping for a Stark sisters reunion at the end of the series.

    • Regarding Joffrey’s sexuality, I knew that people often tried to ignore the sexual aspects of his abuse of Sansa in the books, but the idea that he was “too young to feel sexual desire” is particularly puzzling. Do people really say that?! He’s 13!

    • I’m never tired of praise!

      And yeah, agreed all around.

  2. Excellent work as usual Steve.
    Also, thank you, many people dismiss Sansa as an airhead (and she kinda was back in aGoT), but fail to see the inner strength and mental fortitude to endure all that she does without going crazy; as Sandor said, she’s a bird chirping words, she’s already acting a part while strongly staying true to her family. Also, funnily enough, people also toss hate at Sansa because she trusted Joff & Cersei in GoT, but dislike her for not trusting Tyrion after she’s wedded to him (one would think, they also read the part where Sansa says she doesn’t want any Lannister, but it appears not).

    On Cersei, she’s incapable of feeling sorry or pity for any woman or just flat out anyone who isn’t her. Prophesy aside, she’s cruel and vicious, she’s modeling herself after Tywin and Tywin isn’t exactly forgiving or caring for anything other than the Lannister cause/house. Look how she dismisses Joff opening a cat as “mischief”, Robert went overboard with the hit, but she’s treating it as if it were nothing. Not to mention the lack of sympathy towards other raped women and how she almost laughs at Margaery’s predicament (being inspected by Septas). Violence against any women is perfectly fine in Cersei’s view, so long she’s not on the receiving end. Any sign of weakness on other women? Who cares, they’re lesser beings in her eyes.

    Also, interestingly, I think that Cersei has put some ideas in Joff as to how a King should be. Robert was a terrible father, no denying it but some quotes from Joff make me think “Cersei”, the King one you quoted and the “A King acts boldly” that Tywin frowns upon and Cersei scrambles to blame Robert and only Tyrion’s backing calms Tywin down.

    Also on Joff’s sexual sadism, I think the seeds were there; and much of his violent acts towards Sansa have a slightly sexual undertone. Of course we still have the sexual threads made, so something was there. One that freaks me out and I hope with all my being that I’m misreading is Tommen’s conversation with Jaime, when he mentions that he “goes inside” when Joffrey… and is cut by Cersei. This one I really hope I’m getting wrong.

    Also, thank you for the numbers on the Westerlands and Robb’s campaign, it makes sense for Tywin’s need of the Tyrells and someone else (by marrying Cersei off) and ultimately, the Red Wedding.

    • Lann says:

      “You talk about Aerys, Grandfather, but you were scared of him.”
      Oh, my, hasn’t this gotten interesting? Tyrion thought.
      Lord Tywin studied his grandchild in silence, gold flecks shining in his pale green eyes. “Joffrey, apologize to your grandfather,” said Cersei.
      He wrenched free of her. “Why should I? Everyone knows it’s true. My father won all the battles. He killed Prince Rhaegar and took the crown, while your father was hiding under Casterly Rock.” The boy gave his grandfather a defiant look. “A strong king acts boldly, he doesn’t just talk.”

      I think Joffrey admired Robert and wanted his approval. This passage was most likely parroting something Robert or someone else said in front of Joffrey. I doubt this came from Cersei.

      • Amestria says:

        That’s an interesting question – did Tywin fear Aerys?

        • WPA says:

          A nutjob pyromaniac tyrant with the force of law and wildfire on his side… you’d have to be out of your kind or a fool not to fear him (or at least fear the consequences of his insane vindictiveness).

        • Lann says:

          If you keep reading Tywin admits to Tyrion that what he feared most was what Aerys would do to Jaime or vice versa.

          • Crystal says:

            That goes to show that Aerys probably wasn’t just thinking “ha ha I’ll put one over on Tywin and take his heir away” when he let Jaime into the Kingsguard. It was a way to get control over Tywin and make him jump – probably the *only* way.

            That’s an interesting what-if: what if Aerys did not allow Jaime into the KG? The main one probably being “King’s Landing burned to a crisp and the new regime having to figure out where to put the capital.”

          • Aerys’ thinking regarding Jaime, if his intention was to have Jaime as hostage for Tywin’s good behavior, doesn’t strike me as very smart…

            “Ha ha I’ll take this strong, able-bodied young man who’s one of the realm’s top swordfighters as a hostage, give him a sword and keep him by my side at all times, even when all of my other bodyguards are miles away, or dead!
            … Oh wait… who’s keeping who hostage here?”

      • Oh definitely, Joff wanted Robert’s, if not love, respect and it’s obvious on that quote.

        “A strong king acts boldly, he doesn’t just talk.” That’s something that while I see Robert saying, so I see Cersei. At the end, Robert wasn’t so bold, he was glad to let others take a bad rep, he didn’t care. But Cersei does, she cares how she’s seen and she’s the one who acts more strongly, she’s only meek when confronting Tywin, but she’s more forceful with others. Of course the quote itself didn’t came from Cersei, Joff knows how the Rebellion went and doesn’t see his grandfather as worthy of respect as Robert, who was by all accounts the head of the Rebellion, even if it was Jon Arryn who initially called the banners.

        Overall, I see Joffrey listening to his mother in certain aspects, but craving Robert’s approval in another ways, thus acting the way he thinks Robert would do, but with Cersei’s viciousness.

      • The Aerys part came from Robert, definitely, but the “boldly” part seems as much Cersei as anything else.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I definitely think the “acts boldly” thing comes straight from Cersei, especially in light of her thinking from AFFC.

      • Welcome. Yeah, that particular line scream Cersei; even if Joffrey wants to model himself on Robert, he’s Cersei’s son in more ways than one.

        Also for me, the giveaway was how she literally had to scramble to answer Tywin for that “acts boldly” part. And of course, her POVs in Feast.

  3. Son of Fire says:

    A fine read!!
    Spotted two typo’s,1st one in the boros beating sansa pasted text “the knight grabbed her hair and drew her sword”should be his sword.
    Next is in the tyrion explaining ox coss pasted text ” Even war-trained destriers went made” should be went mad.
    I look forward to your next chapter analysis 🙂

  4. medrawt says:

    I may be partly confounded because I’m always a bit at sea with the scale of Westeros and its various populations and institutions, but:

    Is there a precedent, in the context of the historical period ASOIAF is referencing, for the persistently lopsided destruction of life Robb has thus far perpetrated on the Lannisters? When put in the context of your estimate that Robb’s men have probably killed – not wounded or driven to desertion, but killed – half of a kingdom’s fighting men while taking much smaller casualties, and it’s happening in a pre-industrial context and from the Westerlanders’ perspective the war isn’t an existential conflict … that seems really staggering to me; I would think that any medieval commander in history suffering a similar wave of defeats would pack up and go home. (Of course, Tywin is in a very unusual position.)

    • jpmarchives says:

      Maybe a tad high but we should remember that Robb is commanding a force comprised exclusively of cavalry against predominantly infantry forces. Additionally, Robb is a shock and awe commander, using unconventionally tactics (typified in the use of Grey wind) and surprise attacks to terrify his foes into breaking. When an army panics and runs the real killing begins – Knights like nothing better than the sight of a fleeing infantryman’s back.

      Since he leads an army that shocks the enemy into submission and runs them down, Robb’s kill to loss ration isn’t unbelievable.

    • Salvation122 says:

      I’m not a historian, but off the top of my head, the Mongol invasions were probably roughly as lopsided.

      In the modern era you have the Russian front during World War II, where roughly a third of all Soviet fighting-age men were either KIA or died due to the effects of the war (disease and malnutrition at the front, died while a POW, etc.)

    • The historical parallel here is with Edward IV – Mortimer’s Cross was a complete rout, Towton was a massacre, Losecoat Field the rebels scattered at first contact, Barnet was evenly fought for a while but the death of the Lancastrian commanders led to a rout, and Tewksbury was an even more one-sided rout.

      In fact, most battes in the Wars of the Roses tended to be one-sided affairs, with one side or the other managing to panic the enemy through outmaneuvering them or killing a vital commander, and then once soldiers began running, the bodycounts exploded as cavalry rode down the fleeing soldiers.

  5. David Hunt says:

    My work doesn’t really allow me to hang around the comments section this time of year. Dropping by to say I enjoyed it. I see what you mean about viable what ifs going dark. The one that occurred to me was Joffrey deciding to push the issue after Tyrion made his death threat on Ser Boros.

  6. thatrabidpotato says:

    I do love your analysis of the military situation. Great stuff, it really is.

    But I question your sweeping condemnation of knighthood. You’re cherrypicking with this. There are PLENTY of knights in the series who are good men. The ideal of chivalry isn’t made any worse or “hollow” by the presence of bad men who don’t live up to their vows- that’s on them, not the code that they are expressly not following.

    • Sean C. says:

      Yeah, I agree that the analysis on this site tends to take it a bit far. Sansa’s chapters demonstrate that knights are not automatically better than other people, a childish notion she had, but they’re not worse either. ASOIAF’s portrayal of knights is a lot more nuanced than a Holden Caufield-esque “they’re all a buncha phonies, man!”

      Now, a lot of Sansa’s chapters can sort of be read this way, but that’s because she’s in an enemy court and surrounded by enemy soldiers. It’s obvious why she may tend to get carried away in that regard. But, to state the obvious: her uncle is a knight, so is her great-uncle, so are many of the loyal and generally good fellows in her brother’s army, whose loss she will mourn.

      The next chapter is this book gives us Ser Robar Royce, who makes a moral stand in defence of an innocent (and does so entirely on the word of another person, not having witnessed the events himself), and pays the ultimate price for it.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Yep. Barristan Selmy. Beric Dondarrion. Garlan Tyrell. The list goes on and on, and that’s just in the present era of Westeros.

        Knighthood has plenty of men who are true to its meaning.

        • Sean C. says:

          I’m not sure about Garlan, seeing as he may well have helped frame Sansa and Tyrion for murder, but the others, sure.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            On the other hand, he was the only one who was kind to Sansa at her wedding, and the only one to defend Tyrion when Joffrey humiliated him at the PW. No one made him do that. He had nothing to gain.

            And there’s good reason to believe that the Tyrells didn’t even intend for anyone to be blamed for Joff’s death. Tyrion’s arrest was a combination of Cersei being Cersei and him having the stupidity to pour out the cup. As Oberyn pointed out, it very easily could have been any number of people in that hall. Joffrey’s death couldn’t even be ascertained as murder until several days later with the autopsy.

          • Sean C. says:

            Per GRRM, they hoped it would be viewed as an accident, but Sansa was their backup plan. She would take the fall if anybody suspected anything, hence, the hairnet.

        • Grant says:

          Barristan was one of the knights who stood there and watched as Aerys drove the Seven Kingdoms to civil war, and probably was present as Aerys ordered Rickard Stark burned alive and his son choked to death. And given how good Barristan is, I find it difficult to believe that he really couldn’t have managed to put his sword through Aerys’ head before the others killed him. All of them were good, but it’s probably easier to unexpectedly stab than to guard another person from it.

          Now yes, the Westerosi system of knighthood emphasizes keeping vows and serving. But then doesn’t that mean that the letter of knighthood is followed more than the spirit? If Sansa had been there when Aerys was king and he had ordered her stripped and beaten, would Barristan have done anything to stop it then?

          And I will make it clear that I think that the Barristan who works for Daenarys has realized how he might have played a passive part in letting things go to hell and, like Jaime with Tommen as of AFFC, is trying to be a kingsguard who tries to rein in any dubious tendencies of his monarch. But it took a lot of horrible disasters to bring this change.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            That brings to mind a story I recently heard from my Russian history professor, who grew up in the Soviet Union:
            When Khrushchev had first taken power in the USSR, one of the first things he did was begin a program of deStalinization, rooting out most of the instruments of repression that Stalin had used, and denouncing them the whole way. At a meeting of the Politburo, a member asked why he was doing this, since Khrushchev had actively participated in some of these things himself.
            Khrushchev looked up sharply. “Who said that?”
            No one answered.
            He smiled. “See? You’re terrified. So were we.”

            The situation was probably the same for all those Kingsguard. It’s so easy to demand extraordinary behavior from someone else, as Steven points out in this very essay with his comments on domestic abuse. That these men didn’t hurry to sacrifice their own life for no purpose (as they saw it) doesn’t make them any less good men and good knights. We know they were good people, from what we see of Barristan’s behavior normally and Jaime’s recounting of how Arthur Dayne defeated the Kingswood Brotherhood.

            So Steven’s statement of how knighthood is universally flawed, hollow, and hypocritical is still wrong IMO.

          • “That these men didn’t hurry to sacrifice their own life for no purpose (as they saw it) doesn’t make them any less good men and good knights.” Oh, BS.

            These knights had their vows to defend women and children, they knew what they were supposed to do. It’s just that the culture of the Kingsguard puts the king’s orders above all, no matter what. Arys Oakheart tells us as much:

            Joffrey. He had been a handsome lad, tall and strong for his age, but that was all the good that could be said of him. It still shamed Ser Arys to remember all the times he’d struck that poor Stark girl at the boy’s command. When Tyrion had chosen him to go with Myrcella to Dorne, he lit a candle to the Warrior in thanks.

            That’s not fear, that’s just obedience. And consider the reaction when Jaime tells them otherwise:

            “Ser Meryn.” Jaime smiled at the sour knight with the rust-red hair and the pouches under his eyes. “I have heard it said that Joffrey made use of you to chastise Sansa Stark.” He turned the White Book around one-handed. “Here, show me where it is in our vows that we swear to beat women and children.”
            “I did as His Grace commanded me. We are sworn to obey.”
            “Henceforth you will temper that obedience. My sister is Queen Regent. My father is the King’s Hand. I am Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Obey us. None other.”
            Ser Meryn got a stubborn look on his face. “Are you telling us not to obey the king?”
            “The king is eight. Our first duty is to protect him, which includes protecting him from himself. Use that ugly thing you keep inside your helm. If Tommen wants you to saddle his horse, obey him. If he tells you to kill his horse, come to me.”

            The Kingsguard aren’t hostages, they’re not in fear of their lives. They just obey, mindlessly, ignoring all vows and ethics, watching while the king murders innocent men and rapes his wife and plans to burn the city down, obeying when he tells them to strike and strip a child.

            Yes, Arys regrets this. Barristan regrets this. But Meryn and Boros and Moore don’t give a fuck.

          • Grant says:

            No purpose? Not when it’s become blatantly obvious to everyone that the king isn’t just insane, he’s actively damaging his own country? And the idea of knights, in sweeping common opinion anyway (considering all the mentions of ‘true’ knights and the innkeeper who begged Gregor Clegane to do something), is that it is their job to do something to protect the realms and people. The moment you stop doing that, you’re giving up the social justification for knights and sinking back into them being just men who are good at killing things.

          • JT says:

            To Barristan, his oath as a member of the Kingsguard takes precedent over his oath as a knight. That doesn’t mean that he won’t display chivarly etc., but when it comes down to it, he’ll protect his monarch and foremost. If it were the reverse, Barristan likely wouldn’t have gone into Duskendale to save Aerys.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            NSTB, I was referring to Aerys’s Kingsguard, not Joffrey’s. Aerys’s was composed of some of the greatest knights of their day, I don’t dispute that Joffrey’s had a sizable contingent of maniacs.

          • Fact:JesusWasAZombie says:

            I put the issue of Barristan in front of the supreme court of Westeros:


          • James SC says:

            You could say that any Kingsguardsman would have more leeway to kill an unjust/crazy/psycotic king after Jaime became the Kingslayer. The precedent has been set to do that and not be executed or taking the Black.

            I mean yeah the Lannisters would be none too happy about it and they would still probably be killed, but removing a king wouldn’t have been as “unknightly” as it may have been pre-Aerys.

    • Yes, there are a few, but the thrust of GRRM’s thematic argument is that it’s the non-knights who are the purest of knights, whereas the people held up as the best fall short. Hence Rhaegar knighting Gregor.

      • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

        I love Jaime’s “so many vows” speech.

        The rules that constrain people from acting on the moment are a big theme. Chivalry, oaths to Lord and vassal, the Kingsguard and Nights Watch oaths, guest right and the prohibition against kin slaying. There are times when it seems best to violate all of these, but then you’re in a debate about situational versus rules based ethics.

        And yes, the literal knights generally suck, but party of that is because the system for choosing knights is so broken. Any knight can make a knight, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a process to remove the Knights who routinely fall short of knighthood’s values but can’t be proven a criminal. (And given trial by combat, it’s very difficult to prove someone like Jaime or Gregor is a criminal).

  7. djinn says:

    GRRM deconstruction of chivalry is strong in this one. I’ve enjoyed your point about the Joffrey situation: there really is no way to safely deal with it, he as reached the Aerys\Ramsay level of gratuitous viciousness that threatens everybody around him, unlike Tywin/Roose. It’s funny how some people always reason how they would do differently but never really offer a logical conclusion to such reasoning (torture and death, most likely).

    I’m not quite sure what do you mean by your defense of Robb’s strategy and your comment about presentism?

    Since GRRM gave us the Daenerys x Drogo and Robert x Cersei situations in the first book, clearly the Stockholm syndrome (it’s existence or lack of)is a factor to be counted in this world.

    • winnie says:

      Definitely. The most important example being Reek…

    • The Dany/Drogo and Robert/Cersei situations were as different as possible. And, while I’m no big fan of the Dany/Drogo relationship, I don’t think it’s an example of Stockholm Syndrome. (Scroll down for my long comment below for my explanation.)

      • new djinn says:

        But they serve to illustrate two different takes on a arranged marriages filled with potential strife: Daenerys adapts to identify with Drogo and his culture, Cersei rejects Robert and his perspective. In one case, there a ”Stockholm syndrome” thing going, in the other there’s not. So how do you explain the observed phenomena of hostages identifying with their captors? Coincidence?

        • starkaddict says:

          Dany came from an abusive situation, so it was easier for her to forgive Drogo, what’s more, to never see him as wrong. For her, the khal bought her. She considered herself sold. And the new master abused her, but so did the old. Atleast now she has agency. Even a twisted form of love, and respect. She is not just Daenrys Stormborn, sister to the begger king. But a khaleesi. She grew up into herself and it was possible due to her marriage, so the khal was not the gentlest of men. But that was because of his warrior culture. Dany justified Drogo.

          Cersie, before Robert, was with Jamie. Jamie, who worshipped the ground she walked on. and lets be real, the only person who was abused in that particular relationship was Jamie. And she hated Robert for killing Rhaegar. So there was a lot of hatred already present before the wedding started. The ghost of Lyanna didn’t help the case. And on top of all that Robert abused her. They never had a chance.

          Neither of them are victim of stockholm. Both are victim of domestic abuse. Cersie blamed Robert, Dany justified it. Even at her most sucidal, she does not blame Drogo.

        • Starkaddict has covered some of it. I said something similar in my comment below. Dany’s and Cersei’s situation were completely different. Drogo did not kidnap Dany from a loving family, she had been in a much worse situation before, growing up with her extremely abusive brother, and never having been given any respect, power or agency. And while Drogo was far from a nice guy, she had expected much worse from a Dothraki horselord she was sold to. Her marriage to Drogo allowed her to better her life and achieve a degree of agency, power, acceptance and happiness for the first time in her life. This is why she developed an emotional attachment to him, not out of any “bonding with the captor”.

          By contrast, Cersei was happy enough before her marriage, had childish hopes of being Rhaegar’s queen and dreams of perfect life, and had a loving relationship with Jaime. And, although a highborn Westerosi bride would have probably expected better from a Westerosi husband than Dany expected from a Dothraki husband, Robert, unlike Drogo, never showed Cersei any personal regard and didn’t do anything that could make her like him and offset his negative behavior (for example, compare Dany’s wedding night and Cersei’s wedding night) in spite of being heavily dependent on her family for gold he needed to spend.

          And, in the end, maybe there was simply chemistry between Dany and Drogo, which was utterly lacking between Cersei and Robert.

          Stockholm Syndrome may be a real thing*, but I don’t see it here.

          *Or not. I haven’t looked more closely into the original case that gave rise to the concept, but there are apparently opinions that, instead of some irrational bonding with the captors, it may have just been a case of hostages not being OK with the police’s aggressive actions.

          In any case, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” seems to me to be one of the most overused and misused terms in the media and online discussions (right next to “psychopath” and “sociopath”), and too often seems to be used to dismiss/criticize people for, basically, not hating someone you think they are supposed to hate. People sometimes seem frustrated that real people or fictional characters don’t conform to their black-and-white view of the world and may see some goodness/shades of grey in someone viewed as the Bad Guy, and the frustrated reaction too often is channelled as “This is Stockholm Syndrome!”, therefore explaining the undesired reaction as irrational. I see that in the ASOAIF fandom all the time.

          • djinn says:

            I’m honestly confused why do you seem to think i was saying that Drogo x Daenerys = Robert x Cersei? I clearly stated that they were contrasting situations.
            If your point is that Daenerys had lower expectations for a marriage with a Dothraki and that Drogo surpassed that and, therefore she justifies him because of it, then we both agree. I call it Stockholm Syndrome because she is forced into it, adapts and ends up defending it. She’s is sold and ends identifying with her captor, it fit the syndrome broad description.

            By contrast, Cersei instead of having lower expectations, actually has higher, Robert was a conquering charming King. And sure, the ghost of Lyanna is a problem but a word justifies adultery in the very next morning of the marriage?! Cersei is only willing to accept lapdogs for partners(and despise them for being so), and Robert(for all his other faults) isn’t one. She was even planning on continuing her affair with Jaime in KL even if she married a Targ. And the happy Cersei that you describe is the same person that killed her friend over jealousy, threaten servants, sabotages Tywin’s plans for Jaime, hurts her infant brother. When Robert still cared to make overtures to her(hunting, feasts), she rejects them. I firmly reject to subscribe to the thesis that their marriage failure was solely on Roberts, both are terrible partners.

            I will agree that the term is overly used, even in situations were it really doesn’t fit the criteria. On the other hand, since it’s a scientific attempt to describe a phenomena, a certain degree of variability could be expected, after all not all schizophrenia/bipolar/depression are the same, so why should this syndrome be?

          • You were clearly treating Dany-Drogo and Robert-Cersei as very similar situations that simply had different outcomes, probably just due to the contrasting personalities of Dany and Cersei. Which I very much disagree with.

            I’m not sure why you think that this has anything to do with whether Cersei is a nice person or a terrible person? Cersei could be happy and still be a terrible person who treats people like crap. And I never said that Robert was the only one to blame for the awfulness that was her marriage, but, even if she had been the nicest person in the world, what reasons would she have had to like Robert? When they married, he had no idea that she had been sleeping with Jaime (and never realized that she was cheating on him, through the entirety of their marriage), or that she had killed her friend, or about what kind of person she was. And what does he do on their wedding night – he gets completely drunk, stumbles into the bed and climbs on top of her, has horrible sex with her, and is thinking of another woman all the time, even calling out her name. He wasn’t being deliberately malicious, he was wrapped up in his grief and his issues, but right from the start he showed no regard for her as a person, and never stopped to think about her feelings, and what a horrible experience he just gave her (and for all he knew, she was a virgin, and he would have given her a terrible first sexual experience). Later, he comes to hate her, but still wants to claim his marital “rights”, and complains to Ned that Cersei “guards her cunt” (that’s when they already have, as far as he knows, three children, so he doesn’t need any more heirs, from his POV). He’s ready to let her dictate what happens to Sansa’s wolf or to a butcher’s boy, he lets her dictate lots of things, because he needs her father’s gold and because he just doesn’t care enough, but at the same time he isn’t strong enouggh to refrain from hitting her or raping her.

            Yes, Cersei is a terrible person. Yes, I also think Cersei would have been a bad wife to anyone, and would have probably ended up cheating on Rhaegar with Jaime, as well. But, the one thing I don’t begrudge Cersei at all for, is her treatment of Robert, because I really don’t think she had any reason to like him or “give him a chance” (and “worked harder” on her marriage), as some readers like to suggest.

          • Lann says:

            Robert had many flaws but you really think he deserves what she did to him re: his progeny? IMHO what Cersei did in that regard was downright evil (apart from it being the highest form of treason to the realm)

          • starkaddict says:

            You are making a very common mistake when it comes to Cersie and Robert. White-washing Robert, so that Cersie looks more dark in comparison. What Cersie did was high treason, and the whole incest thing didn’t help matters. But are you really calling her evil for not having children of her abuser. If you must condemn her, condemn her for the various acts she did throughout the series. Don’t blame her for not buckling against domestic abuse. It was once said that Robert has a lot of practise turning a blind eye to things he finds unpleasent. He tends to view his own actions through a selective blind lens too. He got rid of the evil king (That was Jamie too, we seem to have a theme going on here.) so that makes him the hero. He is the good king to Aerys’ bad. And let’s not forget, he too beleived that a king is entitled to one and all. So what if he beat Cersie here and there. He is the hero and she is a blasted Lannister.

            Plus Robert truly believed that Joff was his son. Nothing stopped him from being a good father to him. Aside from Joff’s tendency to commit or rather attempt murder to earn some attention, all his children seem rather lukewarm towards him. The only instance we hear about their childhood was the cat incident. And Robert’s reaction, to backhand Joff, while understandable (he gutted a pregnant cat!!!), did not really deal with the problem at all. And isn’t that his typical MO. In his mind, he punished the kid. Problem solved. Lady died, problem solved.

            Even if Cersie had, for some reason, had that show-only ‘let’s make Cersie more human campaign’ baby, Robert would still be a shitty dad and a terrible husband. Putting the entire blame on Cersie is not only demeaning but simplifies the complexity that is Cersie and Robert into little boxes of black and white.

      • I disagree. Especially in the Dany/Drogo thing, Dany’s got a weird double-consciousness about the whole event:

        “”Better to come a beggar than a slaver,” Arstan said.
        “There speaks one who has been neither.” Dany’s nostrils flared. “Do you know what it is like to be sold, squire? I do. My brother sold me to Khal Drogo for the promise of a golden crown. Well, Drogo crowned him in gold, though not as he had wished, and I . . . my sun-and-stars made a queen of me, but if he had been a different man, it might have been much otherwise”

        After their wedding night, Drogo wasn’t exactly caring about Dany’s consent or well-being for a good while. Dany’s kind of in denial about that.

        • And I’m aware of that. I don’t think of Drogo as some wonderful dude, nor am I a fan of the Dany/Drogo ship. And Dany sure whitewashe Drogo a lot.

          But you have to put things into context: what was Dany’s life before their marriage like? What did she know before? How much confidence and agency she had or thoutht she could have? What did she have to hope for? She thought she would marry Viserys. So, she had lifelong abuse to look forward to. What did she expect from Drogo? She only thought he would be worse than he turned out to be. It’s pretty easy to see the differences between Dany’s situation and Cersei’s. And while you can say there was trauma bonding on Dany’s part during her marriage, that’s not all it was – she also had other reasons to be content with her marriage, because it was better than anything she had before – it was genuinely a step up for her. Like I said, it’s not like she had a happy life and then Drogo kidnapped her and abused her and she still ended up liking him; it’s not really that kind of a situation. It’s not very surprising if people who have grown up in crappy circumstances end up bonding with someone who allowed them a chance for something a bit better, even if it’s far from perfect.

    • Milk Steak (@_MilkSteak) says:

      Presentisim being that since Robb’s war failed and he died that it was a bad strategy and was doomed to fail. Just because an idea didn’t work doesn’t mean it was a bad idea.

      • new djinn says:

        Got it. Then by that reasoning Hannibal Barca was a terrible leader since he lost. Robb strategy fails not in the military sense but in the political one. The military defeat is just the consequence, IMHO of course. Robb had all the markings of a great tactician but far to inexperienced to accomplished the strategies that he wanted.

    • Presentism refers to people looking backwards and evaluating people’s actions with perfect knowledge of what’s going to happen as if the people at the time should have had the same.

      In this case, people arguing that the Western campaign was a sideshow b/c of Blackwater.

  8. thatrabidpotato says:

    And I’d also note how Staffords host consisted of “the sweepings of Lannisport”. Here in Clash, the Westerlands have ALREADY reached the point that they must scrape the bottom of the manpower barrel for every last male who can stand up, see lightning, and hear thunder. The North doesn’t reach that point until Dance, and even then it’s only certain regions of the country.

    So much for those who say the West can muster more troops than the North.

  9. winnie says:

    Thank the Old Gods and the New another chapter!

    Great analysis as always Steve…I especially like your take on Sansa’s situation mirroring classic domestic violence and why it’s so hard for readers…and how that often causes a willful misunderstanding of her character.

    And good of you to point out that Robb’s campaign was actually working….if it hadn’t been for House Tyrell the Lannister’s would have been totally screwed. Tywin doesnt know how to win battles without numerical superiority-and the depletion of the Lannister armies I suspect will soon prove dangerous indeed.

    Word to everyone on Cersei’s empathy deficit…remember this is the same woman who was practically gloating at the thought of all her ladies in waiting being gang raped after Blackwater. She simply cannot care about the suffering of anyone but herself…and she sees other women as automatically inferior.

    I understand why you didnt go into the (very real) possibility that Sansa could have died from an internal injury but I do wonder if that might be a very big what if indeed…depending on her eventual role in events to come I suspect it could have been a complete game changer. Especially if my theory about the YMBQ is correct…and given Cersei’s attitude to Ned’ “empty headed daughter” wouldn’t that be deliciously ironic?

    • Andrew says:

      “Word to everyone on Cersei’s empathy deficit…remember this is the same woman who was practically gloating at the thought of all her ladies in waiting being gang raped after Blackwater. She simply cannot care about the suffering of anyone but herself…and she sees other women as automatically inferior.”

      This illustrates some of the potential dangers of Westerosi patriarchy. Also, her lack of empathy and humanity is what I think helps to make her a truly frightening character.

    • Yeah, it’s a gamechanger, it’s just a depressing one.

  10. Sean C. says:

    One of the thoughts I had on comparing this chapter to the book adaptation is that it accentuates the show’s preference for quasi-Aristotelian notions of scene unity. In this chapter we see Sansa informed about being summoned, her attempts to compose herself, the actual scene in court, and then her being taken to the Tower of the Hand and speaking with Tyrion. The show condenses all of these things into a single scene set in the throne room. Multi-location sequences like that are fairly rare, and especially, there aren’t many bridging bits between them (to cite another instance in Sansa’s story, the slam-cut from the snow castle kiss to her walking in to see Lysa is just completely wrong for that sequence).

    On my reread, the final bit where she rejects Tyrion’s offer of moving within the Tower of the Hand obviously couldn’t happen on the show, because since Sansa on the show is just sitting around waiting to be rescued instead of trying to escape she has no reason to refuse.

    But keeping in mind the show’s various preferences and established departures from the text, and knowing how these characters will be handled subsequently, I would suggest the better thing for the show to do would have been to have Sansa accept some version of that offer, and align her more with Tyrion. My reasoning for this is:

    (1) The writers of the show chicken out completely on the Sansa/Tyrion dynamic. They dislike conflict between “likeable” characters immensely, they dislike Tyrion being anything other than a hero even more strongly and go so far as to have Margaery lecture Sansa about how Tyrion is a great guy and there’s no reason she shouldn’t want to marry him, dismissing things like the fact that they’re actually enemies (something the writers and many fans don’t want to acknowledge).
    (2) The writers basically write out Sansa’s training arc, which properly begins when she goes to the Vale and begins learning from Littlefinger. As such, on the show her ability to “play the game” seemingly comes from her time in King’s Landing, but Sansa in the show (and in the books, really) has no opportunity to learn to play the game in King’s Landing in the manner she does in the Vale. If the writers wanted to speed up Sansa’s development, they had to do just that, but instead they cut virtually all her character development in King’s Landing. As a result, her moment in episode 408 comes pretty much out of nowhere.

    If the writers were going to insist on neutering the dram and making Sansa and Tyrion friends anyway, they might as well have had her actually learn stuff from him, instead of just using it for jokes about how she doesn’t know the word “shit”.

    • jpmarchives says:

      If I can play devil’s advocate, the Tyrion/Sansa dynamic in the show was a reflection of how clean cut Dinklage’s portrayl was up to that point. Not only is he a pint sized Brad Pitt, but his character lacks the petty anger which book Tyrion shows against the Vale and Masha Heddle.

      Also, it’s not as if GRRM didn’t play a tricky game in that regard either. Having Sansa as POV on their wedding night helps us understand her plight, but maintaining sympathy for Tyrion would have been difficult if that situation was shown from his perspective. He doesn’t squeeze her breast to take her temperature, after all.

      • Well, we do get a lot of pettiness, resentment and lust from Tyrion regarding Sansa in his POV chapters during their marriage.

      • winnie says:

        I understand your frustration with the show white washing Tyrion but I think we can expect a darker version this season. Moreover to be fair to the showrunners in a series this bleak they do need a few characters viewers can still root for or whats the point?

        • Sean C. says:

          There are plenty of characters the viewers can root for, even if you take the view that viewers won’t root for a dark antihero, which is pretty dubious given the history of prestige cable drama. Tyrion should be on the cutting edge of morally-complex TV protagonists.

          • Indeed, the idea that Tyrion needed to be whitewashed in order for people to have someone to root for goes against the facts that 1) lots of readers are still rooting for Tyrion and other morally grey or dark characters in ASOAIF, 2) there are other, morally “whiter” characters in the show/series that people could root for (e.g. Davos, Sam, Brienne – who the show, if anything, is making less pleasant than she is in the books), 3) the TV audiences of the last 15+ years tend to enthusiastically love morally ambiguous, dark and even villainous protagonists, many of whom are darker than Tyrion (who’s not even the sole protagonist).

            I wonder if some of D&D’s unwilligness to go into Tyrion’s darker aspects and moral complexities is due to the fact that he’s possibly the first major protagonist on TV who is a dwarf, aka “little person”, and one of the rare examples in the media of a “disabled” person who’s a protagonist rather than a sympathetic supporting character. Having a non-fantasy-dwarf hero in a fantasy drama may seem groundbreaking enough to D&D; but, as it was once the case with the representation of black characters or gay characters in the media, there may be some uneasiness with the idea of portraying a disabled character as anything but good, heroic and perfect, as the antidote to the traditional idea of “deformed” people as either evil, or a source of comedy, or (in the case of little people, particularly) fantasy elements (as in the “dwarfs in dreams” cliche that was wonderfully lampooned by Peter Dinklage’s character in the movie “Living in Oblivion”). Traditionally, people with any kind of disability or “deformity” were either portrayed as capable but super-evil (like Shakespearean!Richard III) or helpless, heartbreaking victims (Tiny Tim), while our modern fiction and media representation has come firmly on the side of the “good and heroic disabled person who overcomes adversity to triumph” cliche and allows little else.

          • Sean C. says:

            I expect that does enter into it.

            If you want to compare GOT to other notable cable dramas, the major figure that I think Tyrion should be most akin to is Don Draper — traumatic backstory, a lot of issues, the capacity to be both altruistic and selfish, and employed in roughly equal measure (notwithstanding, obviously, that their surroundings are vastly different and dictate a lot of other differences).

    • starkaddict says:

      That is one of my major complaints with the show. Their white-washing of tyrion in the first season was quirky. They were still finding their legs and all that. But as the story progressed, so did the ‘Let’s mke Tyrion the hero’ thing. It cheapens his character. As we wait for the fifth season. I wonder if they will even include the angry, drunk, and suicidal Tyrion.

      As for Sansa, her learning sass was enough development, it seems.

    • 1. Agreed. They don’t like the idea of having good people on both sides.
      2. Man, Season 5 is going to be interesting for you!

      • Sean C. says:

        I’m mainly interested to see what the backlash is going to be vis a vis Sansa’s now more-or-less-confirmed rape by Ramsay Bolton.

        • starkaddict says:

          That is just lazy writing. I can almost imagine the writers sitting infront of the board, imagining how to make Sansa suffer more. And let’s be honest, rape is the go-to trauma inflicting plot. Sansa needs to grow right now. D&D are sacrificing good character development for dramatic effects. The whole reaction video things, while fun, do not a good storyline make. Northern rebellion/conspiracy is my favourite part of ADWD. I hope D&D do not completely butcher it.

  11. jpmarchives says:

    I’ve rooted for Sansa from her last chapter in AGOT onward. Of all the main characters, her human decency and moral strength makes her truly deserving of a happy ending. But this
    is GRRM so…

    Let’s talk numbers. Taking into account that Tywin fights the meaningless battle of the green fork, force marches to the inn and then stays at Harrenhal whilst being constantly raided by Beric Dondarrion, Steve’s earlier estimate of 17000 (supplemented by 3000 from the crownlands) seems a little generous. In ACOK and ASOS Lannister manpower isn’t critical to their victory, but against Aegon and Dany it could be all important. Since Stafford’s army is destroyed at Oxcross and Robb appeared free to do whatever he liked short of seiging Casterly rock, Tywin’s army is likely the only force the Lannisters are capable of calling their own. And at this stage Tywin’s army still has to fight the battles of stonemill, blackwater and the devastating siege of Dragonstone so 4000 – 50000 additional causalities by the start of TWOW could be a credible guess.

    With all that in mind it comes as no surprise then that Kevan claims he lacks the strength to remove the Golden company from the Stormlands. Even if every man sent home to plant the last harvest in the Westerlands comes back into service, the Lannisters would be struggling to outnumber the GC by more than two or three thousand men, which is hardly ideal against the best trained and most varied fighting force seen in the series. I can see the Lannister dependency on Tyrell manpower being just one more strain in the Great Western Alliance… maybe the straw which breaks the camel’s back.

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      On that note, it’s emphasized several times that the men serving at Dragonstone are seasoned, crack veterans, the best the West can still offer at that late date. And they are absolutely massacred.

      • Sean C. says:

        In that case it’s because they’re ordered to storm the fortress. Even the best men cannot redeem a terrible strategy, and Loras’ frontal assault against a strongly fortified position is a terrible strategy.

        • There’s a reason they called them “forlorn hopes.”

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          Oh, absolutely, I’m not contesting that at all. My point was merely further emphasis of how much the West has bled, far more than any other region, even the North or Riverlands.

          • David Hunt says:

            I’m not sure that’s the case, but as matters stand the Riverlands are looking “good” to claim that title after the famine.

          • starkaddict says:

            oh, I wouldn’t go that far. The only northern men who seem to have returned from the Young Wolf’s war are the Boltons.

    • WPA says:

      It’s also implied in Jamie’s chapters in the Riverlands that they’re getting nickle and dimed to death by everything from the BWOB to pro-Tully partisans, and relying on Riverlords that despise them to try to keep order. Anyway you look at it, the Lannisters are a spent force.

      • Crystal says:

        And on top of all that, we have a BWB man – Tom o’ Sevens – with a cushy billet right in Riverrun as minstrel to Aunt Genna. There are going to be more Freys, and Lannisters, swinging at the end of ropes pretty soon, and possibly a Red Wedding Mark 2 if Daven’s wedding to whichever Frey goes down like many fans think it will.

    • 17,000 is a bit generous. At this point, I’m thinking 16 to 20k. It’s a wide range, but there’s so much ambiguity.

      Re: Kevan, need to remember that the bulk of Tywin’s army disbanded after his death.

  12. ad says:

    It’s the same reason why so often, when people read about some horrific case of domestic violence, they ask “why did she stay? why didn’t she leave?”

    This domestic violence analogy is interesting from a tactical point of view, but very misleading from others.

    People suffering from domestic violence usually can leave, divorce, change the locks or whatever. There are shelters all over the place for female victims. Law enforcement will very likely support her, rather than the reverse. Some jurisdictions have a policy of always arresting the male party in any dispute, even if he is the one who called the police and has just been shot or stabbed by his wife.

    Under the circumstances, it is not necessarily foolish to ask why a woman should choose to stay with an abusive man. And usually, of course, the reason is that they have positive feelings towards their spouse.

    Sansa’s position in ACOK is almost the exact opposite. She can’t stand Joffery; but all the forces of law and order, all the people around her will always overtly, and often covertly, support him against her. Her only strong allies are weeks of travel time away, across lands crawling with enemies.

    That puts Sansa in the position of a slave in the Old South. Consider, for example, the moment in Twelve Years a Slave, when it emerges that Epps is in the habit of getting drunk and whipping his slaves while forcing them to dance happily for him, sometimes at two in the morning. What could they do but try to appease this idiot? With everyones hand against you, what is left but to try to look friendly, and attempt to appease your enemies? (Incidentally, Northrops narrative has much the same spy thriller elements as Sansa’s.)

    So don’t be too surprised if people take against Sansa: in the position of a slave she has to behave servilely. And she can’t do that and look noble.

    Although I can’t help but notice that Sansa does attempt to follow the chivalrous injunction to protect those in a weaker position than herself, when there is someone like that.

    • jpmarchives says:

      True. And even though we can see her heroic inner monologue as she tries to survive, the fanbase still inexplicably turns against her.

    • Winnie says:

      Exactly. I think a BIG reason why a lot of the fanbase is made so uncomfortable by Sansa is the very, real fear that under similar circumstances we’d like her be cowering helplessly and trying to placate our tormentors too. Arya’s popular because everyone wants to believe they’d be a badass just like her, but realistically most of us aren’t trained in water dancing and we *certainly* don’t come across murder genies.

      • Jim B says:

        And, unless GRRM put his finger heavily on the scales again, Arya wouldn’t have lasted long in Sansa’s place. Or if she did, it would have been by suppressing every “badass” instinct and doing her best Sansa impression.

      • But even that’s simply ignoring Arya’s actual narrative. It’s popular to use Arya to bash Sansa and claim that Sansa should have just killed someone and ran away from King’s Landing on her own (?!) because “that’s what Arya would do”. But that’s not what Arya did – yes, she was brave and resourceful, but she had help; Syrio was the one who fought off Trant and the Lannister guards and alllowed her to escape the Red Keep. Arya survived a few days on the streets of KL, but she did not escape KL on her own – Yoren smuggled her out, disguising her as a boy. She showed tremendous courage and intelligence throughout her misfortunes in the Riverlands, but she repeatedly had help from people who were older, bigger, stronger, better trained and more experienced – Syrio, Yoren, Jaqen, Sandor.

        Arya does not mouth off to her captors in Harrenhal; that would not have been “badass”, it would have been idiotic. On the contrary, she learns to be a mouse, to keep her mouth shut and be invisible. She couldn’t mouth off to Weese, let alone Tywin Lannister, as she did in the TV show. Roose Bolton tells her straight away he will cut off her tongue if she even asks him questions. In Harrenhal, Arya learned to keep her head down, before she stabs you and runs away.

        It’s quite frustrating to see the fandom so often refer to the imaginary all-powerful Superhero Arya who beats everyone with a sword and does everything on her own, which makes Arya look incredibly unrealistic – instead of the real Arya and her real narrative, which is far more interesting.

        • starkaddict says:

          Arya and Sansa both are adept at adapting. They both know how to read a situation and modify their behavior accordingly. With Arya, there is less duplicity. She, atleast does not have to pretend infront of her mentors. Syrio, Yoren, Jaqen, even Sandor genuinely want to help her. Sansa have to be careful with everyone. There is not a single person in the entire KL that she can trust. She has to mantain her cover throughout the books. Be submissive for so long that even we readers are fooled.

          Plus there is the whole shield-sword thing the stark sisters have going on. There is this amazing article on the stark sisters by lady gwynhyfvar. Sansa is more compassionate of the sisters, and would bend to protect, while Arya would attack. Different ways of protecting but same goal.

          • Arya is capable of showing a great deal of compassion towards innocent victims – it’s what drives a lot of her actions (protecting Weasel and refusing to leave her, having Chiswyck murdered because of the gang rape of the innkeeper’s daughter), but I think the main difference between the sisters is that Sansa tends to see the shades of grey in people – which allows her to have compassion for and correctly read people like Sandor or Tyrion, or Arys Oakhart, for instance; it takes being really irredeemable like Joffrey to push Sansa into outright hatred and murderous intent. Whereas Arya is much more prone to black-and-white thinking – and particularly clings to it as a way to find some stability in her life (making the list of people she wants to kill).

            Speaking of which, that’s my interpretation of Arya leaving Sandor: he had become a moral conundrum for her that she had no emotional energy to solve, not being able to classify him into the Good or the Bad box and not being able to firmly label him as bad as she had in the beginning, which is why she just walks away from the responsibility of deciding his fate, and avoids thinking about him altogether.

          • winnie says:

            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Arya is a black and white thinker…hell she now lives in a house of black and white!

            But Sansa sees shades of grey which is appropriate because Sansa is being trained to be the politician while Arya is the living embodiment of the Stranger.

    • “Some jurisdictions have a policy of always arresting the male party in any dispute, even if he is the one who called the police and has just been shot or stabbed by his wife.”

      [citation needed]

    • Yeah….”People suffering from domestic violence usually can leave, divorce, change the locks or whatever. There are shelters all over the place for female victims. Law enforcement will very likely support her, rather than the reverse. Some jurisdictions have a policy of always arresting the male party in any dispute, even if he is the one who called the police and has just been shot or stabbed by his wife.” is really not accurate.

      To begin with, domestic violence usually begins through a process of isolation and encouraging a sense of dependency on the abuser, fastening mental chains on the abused. It’s the same thing with Craster’s daughter-wives.

      As for the rest of it, that’s getting pretty close to some MRA bullshit that I’m not going to put up with. So let’s just nip that discussion in the bud.

  13. Andrew says:

    1. Tywin no doubt knew Stafford was an idiot, given everyone else including Cersei did, yet he placed him in charge of the second army? There were other Lannister relatives who could have done the job like Daven and Damion. I think part of it is Tywin made the same mistake he did around the time of the Battle of the Green Fork: he underestimated Robb Stark. Even if Robb didn’t invade the Westerlands, Stafford would be leading the army in the field. The Blackfish or Robb could mop the floor with him easily.

    2. To add to Cersei’s inaction regarding Joffrey’s abuse of Sansa, she later says in AFfC “I let her play with my own children . . . and how did she repay my kindness? She helped murder my son.” Never mind that Cersei killed Robert partly for his abuse of her. I think it is a mixture of her lack of empathy combined with putting Joffrey on a pedestal, “he’s special, and it’s not that big a deal.”

  14. I don’t know if Sansa’s situation can really be compared to any of those examples from the War of the Roses, because, for starters, everyone involved in WOTR was either related to each other, distantly or not so distantly, or switched sides once or several times, or there was an incredible amount of infighting within the families, and sometimes the situation included all these things at once; while the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters is very sharply defined and very personal.

    Joffrey personally ordered Sansa’s father executed, and then had her abused, beaten and humiliated, while Cersei emotionally abused her, and while Tyrion was nicer to her, he was still one of the people keeping her hostage.

    That’s a far cry from, say, the situation of Isabel and Anne Neville, who were, for starters, related to Edward IV, George and Richard (through their mother Cecily Neville), and whose father Warwick had been one of the leading Yorkists (and whose grandfather had been killed by the Lancastrians) and pretty close to Edward and his brothers, before first rebelling against Edward IV with George Duke of Clarence – and marrying his daughter Isabel to George; and then switching sides to the Lancasters and becoming allies with his old enemy, Margaret of Anjou and marrying his daughter Anne to her son Edward Prince of Wales, to get Henry VI back to the throne. Loyalty was in short supply there. And Isabel married George by her father’s wish. As for Anne, she had known Richard from the time when they were kids, when he was her father’s ward for a few years (and had been previously betrothed to Richard by her father, before he turned against Edward IV).

    As for Elizabeth of York, well, since she lived in a world where her father had executed his own brother/her uncle George, and her uncle Richard had executed her maternal uncle Anthony Rivers and her half-brother Richard Grey, she probably learned early on to just tolerate that kind of thing as something kings do.

    • Which reminds me: I’ve started to think that “Stockholm Syndrome” is one of the most overused and misused popular terms in media and online discussions, in addition to “psychopath” and “sociopath”, to the point it’s lost all meaning. It’s not just the above examples from Wars of the Roses that don’t really fit the concept (the idea that Anne Neville should have hated her old childhood friend Richard for… having been betrayed by her father? strikes me as particularly odd, but also, it’s not like Edward IV personally murdered Elizabeth Woodville’s husband and took her hostage), it’s the discussions on ASOAIF forums where people overuse the term and often just seem to use it as a way to dismiss any relationship they don’t like (say, Sansa/Sandor, because, apparently, their entire relationship never existed before he put a knife at her throat); according to some of his fans, Theon supposedly has Stockholm Syndrome for the Starks (because he, in some ways, looks up to Ned and has adopted some of their values – which can’t possibly be the simple consequence of having been brought up by the Starks and spending half his life in Winterfell!), someone on Westeros even said that Edmure’s love for Roslin is “Stockholm Syndrome” – which would be true if Edmure were to develop loving feelings for Lord Walder Frey or Lame Lothar, but in this case, it’s more likely to be the consequence of Edmure being aware that Roslin was just a helpless pawn in the whole thing and in not much better position than himself. And then of course there’s Dany and her love for Drogo; I don’t agree that this is Stockholm Syndrome either – because, while Drogo was far from nice guy to Dany early in her marriage, he did not kidnap her from a loving family – she came from a much more abusive situation with her brother Viserys, and while Dany does tend to whitewash Drogo, getting emotionally attached to him seems to me to be a consequence of the fact that her marriage to Drogo allowed her to better her position and achieve some degree of agency, acceptance, and happiness.

      At this point, I’m so sick of this term, that I’m starting to doubt if Stockholm Syndrome even exists. The original situation could have very well, as you mention, been an attempt to discredit the hostages for not being down with the aggressive behavior of the police.

      • winnie says:

        I think the truest example we see in the series is Reek who clearly has been brainwashed by his captor-but that’s a very rare and extreme case and it shows how the genuine affection Theon bore the Starks was an entirely different dynamic.

        And yes sociopaths and psychopaths do exist but the terms are WAY overused for people who are just assholes and/or criminal types.

        • What I hate the most is when people in ASOAIF fandom call Arya a psychopath (as a short term for “she kills people”, I guess).

          • winnie says:

            Agreed Arya is a deeply traumatized, damaged,and disturbed child but a classic psychopath she is not.

            She is however a cold blooded killer. And no its not quite the same thing.

          • Crystal says:

            I agree! Arya is not a psychopath – she’s a victim, who is essentially forced into killing to survive. She’s more like a child soldier.

            When she’s in Braavos, Arya throws treats to the cats on the canals, instead of disemboweling them like a TRUE sociopath *coughJoffrey* would. She doesn’t try to rob or mistreat Brusco or his family who she stays with. She slings around exotic swear words with the gusto of a tween who knows she’s not going to get her mouth washed out with soap – I hope people don’t think THAT is psychopathic!

            When she offs Dareon, it wasn’t for shits and giggles – it was “He deserted the Night’s Watch, which is a crime punishable by death, and it’s what my father would have done.” With Raff, one can’t say he didn’t richly deserve his fate. Arya is not killing for funsies, as a true sociopath (Joffrey, Cersei, the Mountain, etc.) would do – it’s more as if she is taking on the role of Nemesis, an instrument of divine justice/downfall.

    • Sure, but father usually outranks cousins.

      • That’s not really the point, the point is that I really don’t see why the women of the War of the Roses were supposed to hate/resent everyone who simply happened to fight for the “other side” than their fathers or husbands, even though that would potentially include 50% of the male population they were in contact with… or 100%, if your dad was in habit of switching sides like Lord Warwick the Kingmaker.

        Which would also contradict your argument about Sansa – she doesn’t hate everyone who fought for the Lannisters or againt the Starks. She’s pretty fond of Sandor, for one, who was sworn to the Lannisters until Blackwater and participated in the killing of Ned Stark’s household.

  15. Iñigo says:

    The conversation between Tyrion and Joffrey weirdly reminds me of the conversation between Roose and Ramsay in the third reek chapter. Roose comes in to see the disaster Ramsay organized and scolds him, but very differently.
    He first makes sure that the conversation is private, while Tyrion does it in front of everyone.
    While Tyrion puts Aerys as an example, making it look like a threat, Roose puts himself as an example of what could have happened and didn’t.
    Roose is not the best moral example, but I think that he does some things Tyrion could have done.

    • winnie says:

      Maybe. Of course Roose’s scolding is completely wasted because Ramsay is so far gone. If we cant apply the word psycho to Ramsay then we cant apply it to ANYONE.

    • Sean C. says:

      I don’t think you can really compare those situations. Roose using himself as an example works because he is Ramsay’s acknowledged social superior, as both his father and his lord. Any attempt by Tyrion to use himself as a behavioral example would just run into a wall of “I’m the king and you’re a horrible little dwarf.”

      • Iñigo says:

        There are a lot of paralels between these two chapters, so I think comparing them is a must.

        And what I meant with the examples is that Roose uses a positive example while Tyrion uses a negative one. Tyrion should have told him a story of Robert forgiving, or some other positive example, instead of talking about the king who lost the throne.

  16. Nick S says:

    Well I just caught up with all your chapter analyses, I discovered them a little over a week ago and have been reading nonstop since, and I have to say I am absolutely astounded by how much I have loved them, despite not being a huge fan of politics myself.
    As someone who is still getting into the ASOIAF meta, the links you provided were really helpful when I didn’t know exactly what you were talking about or if my memory was failing me. I also think that the way you handled serious issues such as gender and abuse within the series was really well done as well, something I unfortunately see very little of.
    I can’t wait to read the rest of your chapter analyses and I’ll definitely be checking out the other essays on your blog!!

  17. […] woman wouldn’t be a threat to Cersei. Cersei doesn’t give a damn whether Sansa is brutalized in open court – in fact, in so far as it shows that Sansa can’t manipulate Joffrey, her abuse makes […]

  18. […] wish, I want to address Tywin’s westward march and what it tells us about Robb Stark’s off-screen campaign. As I’ve suggested, Robb Stark’s strategic move is a lot more successful than it gets […]

  19. […] conclude our discussion of the Battle of Oxcross, here’s where we get the explanation for how it came about and what it meant for Robb […]

  20. […] As I’ve said before, Joffrey’s sadism and hatred of the commons has been steadily wearing down the bonds of allegiance between the king and his subjects to a thread under immense tension. And with this last provocation, issued not from the safety of castle battlements but directly to their face, the people of King’s Landing see that their liege sees them as victims not subjects. The thread breaks. […]

  21. […] Landing POV, she has a vantage point on Cersei, the war effort, and the city as a whole, and her identity as a Stark means that she’s simultaneously under threat from a rampaging army if the city falls and […]

  22. […] Speaking of cursing Joffrey to defeat, Sansa is summoned by Joffrey “as if he were calling a dog,” and has to once again fall back into her performance of loyalty, while trying to keep herself safe from his deeply disturbing sexual sadism: […]

  23. […] reason if we compare it to similar ambushes like the Whispering Wood, the Battle of the Camps, or Oxcross, and if you pay attention, you’ll note that Ramsay’s six hundred men are entirely […]

  24. […] become a wolf, and any suggestions that that sort of thing happens (as in the discussions of Oxcross or the Frey’s depiction of the Red Wedding in ADWD) are usually shown as bigotry and […]

  25. […] Sansa is practically a cynic.  After all, she has had the flimsy protections of chivalry stripped from her and knows that beautiful surfaces can hide ugly interiors and vice […]

  26. […] (who suffered abuse for over a decade before putting paid to her husband) and Sansa as the weak one – hence “in your place, I would likely rip my hair […]

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