Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa VIII, ACOK

tywinhorse

“The Lord of Casterly Rock made such an impressive figure that it was a shock when his destrier dropped a load of dung right at the base of the throne.”

Synopsis: the Battle of Blackwater is over, so it’s time to spit up the goods. Tywin is back as Hand of the King, Mace Tyrell is on the Small Council, Loras Tyrell is on the Kingsguard, and Margaery Tyrell is Joffrey’s new betrothed. And Sansa gets a hairnet. 

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:

As I said last time, Sansa VIII is a bit of a weird chapter in that the main arcs of plot and theme that Sansa has been involved with throughout A Clash of Kings are essentially over, and this chapter is largely concerned with describing the new status quo post-Battle of Blackwater and setting up Sansa’s plot for ASOS – which you think would be the job that Sansa I of ASOS would have, especially if you compare it to Sansa I of ACOK. However, there’s so much fascinating political stuff going on here that I don’t begrudge this chapter’s location here, because it means I get to cover it sooner than would be the case otherwise.

So let’s get into it.

Ain’t No Party Like a Lannister Party

The tone for this chapter is set right at the outset as the royal court at the Red Keep assembles for its self-congratulation parade:

The denizens of Joffrey’s court had striven to outdo each other today. Jalabhar Xho was all in feathers, a plumage so fantastic and extravagant that he seemed like to take flight. The High Septon’s crystal crown fired rainbows through the air every time he moved his head. At the council table, Queen Cersei shimmered in a cloth-of-gold gown slashed in burgundy velvet, while beside her Varys fussed and simpered in a lilac brocade. Moon Boy and Ser Dontos wore new suits of motley, clean as a spring morning. Even Lady Tanda and her daughters looked pretty in matching gowns of turquoise silk and vair, and Lord Gyles was coughing into a square of scarlet silk trimmed with golden lace. King Joffrey sat above them all, amongst the blades and barbs of the Iron Throne. He was in crimson samite, his black mantle studded with rubies, on his head his heavy golden crown.

It’s as if the paranoia, back-biting and betrayal, and incompetence of the past year has been swept under the rug and everyone is pretending that the King’s Landing riot never happened. And so the whole court, from King Joffrey and Queen-Regent Cersei and the High Septon, down through court fixtures like the Rosbys and the Stokeworths, even down to the court jesters, get together to put their collective blessings on a lie, while the actual architect of victory lies dying in some horrific field hospital.

At the same time, there is a marked difference between this pageantry and how things were carried on when Cersei or Joffrey, because now Tywin’s running the show. And if there is a grand political statement that all of the pomp and symbolism is meant to get across, it’s that Tywin is back in charge and things will run the way he wants them to:

Squirming through a press of knights, squires, and rich townfolk, Sansa reached the front of the gallery just as a blast of trumpets announced the entry of Lord Tywin Lannister.

He rode his warhorse down the length of the hall and dismounted before the Iron Throne. Sansa had never seen such armor; all burnished red steel, inlaid with golden scrollwork and ornamentation. His rondels were sunbursts, the roaring lion that crowned his helm had ruby eyes, and a lioness on each shoulder fastened a cloth-of-gold cloak so long and heavy that it draped the hindquarters of his charger. Even the horse’s armor was gilded, and his bardings were shimmering crimson silk emblazoned with the lion of Lannister.

The Lord of Casterly Rock made such an impressive figure that it was a shock when his destrier dropped a load of dung right at the base of the throne. Joffrey had to step gingerly around it as he descended to embrace his grandfather and proclaim him Savior of the City. Sansa covered her mouth to hide a nervous smile.

Joff made a show of asking his grandfather to assume governance of the realm, and Lord Tywin solemnly accepted the responsibility, “until Your Grace does come of age.”

Words cannot express adequately how much I love this scene. All of this smug self-congratulation, all of the unearned praise being heaped on a psychotic boy-king, all of Tywin Lannister’s obsession with image and reputation, brought back down to reality and shown for what it really is: a giant pile of horseshit. So kudos to Tywin Lannister’s horse, who plays the same role as, during triumphs in Ancient Rome, slaves who held the laurels of victory over the head of the conquering general while whispering in their ears “remember that thou art mortal.” It’s unfortunately a lesson that Tywin isn’t going to learn before he meets his own inevitable death, with all of his attempts to wind up the War of Five Kings left unfinished upon his death and promptly undone by his squabbling and paranoid children.

Getting What’s Coming to You

The second major political statement of the day is that Joffrey’s regime now rests on an alliance between House Lannister and House Tyrell (note that no one’s even pretending any more that Joffrey is a Baratheon):

Pride of place was given to Mace Tyrell, the Lord of Highgarden, a once-powerful man gone to fat, yet still handsome. His sons followed him in; Ser Loras and his older brother Ser Garlan the Gallant. The three dressed alike, in green velvet trimmed with sable.

The king descended the throne once more to greet them, a great honor. He fastened about the throat of each a chain of roses wrought in soft yellow gold, from which hung a golden disc with the lion of Lannister picked out in rubies. “The roses support the lion, as the might of Highgarden supports the realm,” proclaimed Joffrey. “If there is any boon you would ask of me, ask and it shall be yours.”

And now it comes, thought Sansa.

“Your Grace,” said Ser Loras, “I beg the honor of serving in your Kingsguard, to defend you against your enemies.”

…Lord Tyrell bowed his head. “There is no greater pleasure than to serve the King’s Grace. If I was deemed worthy to join your royal council, you would find none more loyal or true.”

Your Grace,” Garlan said when the king approached him, “I have a maiden sister, Margaery, the delight of our House. She was wed to Renly Baratheon, as you know, but Lord Renly went to war before the marriage could be consummated, so she remains innocent. Margaery has heard tales of your wisdom, courage, and chivalry, and has come to love you from afar. I beseech you to send for her, to take her hand in marriage, and to wed your House to mine for all time.”

This is the first time since Catelyn II that we’ve seen House Tyrell’s political style on display, and it’s notably the first time that Garlan and Mace Tyrell make an appearance. And already, we can see some important differences in style between the Tyrells and their new partners: first, as we could see from Renly’s campaign for the Iron Throne, the Tyrells have much better public relations skills than the Lannisters do, and are especially good at presenting a united front (although anyone looks good when compared to the Lannisters on that score). Second, the Tyrells understand feudal politics at a bone-deep level, getting their people on the Small Council, the Kingsguard, and in the royal bed – just like the Lannisters did with the Baratheon dynasty. All of which makes Cersei’s hatred of them all the more explicable – after all, they’re doing exactly what she did, but better, and Cersei’s paranoia and sociopathic tendencies mean that she can only interpret those moves as hostile, even when Tywin tries to explain that this is how dynastic alliances work. More on that in ASOS.

House Tyrell by cabepfir

The Tyrells’ good fortune, however, is only the tip of the iceberg of a reordering of political and economic power throughout Westeros:

“It is His Grace’s wish that these good men be rewarded for their valor. By his decree, Ser Philip shall henceforth be Lord Philip of House Foote, and to him shall go all the lands, rights, and incomes of House Caron. Lothor Brune to be raised to the estate of knighthood, and granted land and keep in the riverlands at war’s end…

A more significant lordship by far was granted to Ser Lancel Lannister. Joffrey awarded him the lands, castle, and rights of House Darry, whose last child lord had perished during the fighting in the riverlands, “leaving no trueborn heirs of lawful Darry blood, but only a bastard cousin.”

One of the advantages of a civil war is that, providing you win, you can disinherit the losers and take their lands to rebuild a strong feudal constituency behind the new regime. And Tywin Lannister is familiar enough with Machiavelli’s maxim that “of what does not belong to you or to your subjects you should, therefore, be a lavish giver, as were Cyrus, Cæsar, and Alexander; for to be liberal with the property of others does not take from your reputation, but adds to it. What injures you is to give away what is your own,” to ensure that the rewards for winning the Battle of Blackwater isn’t coming out of his own treasury or his own lands – by contrast, he’s planting Lannister loyalists in the Stormlands and the Riverlands, which in the future will ensure that those provinces will find rebellion more difficult, but also means that someone else bears the cost of actually bringing these provinces back into line rather than having to leave Lannister garrisons scattered across the continent.

At the same time, civil wars also offer the possibility of social mobility within the nobility. Hence Philip Foote, a complete nobody who we’ve never seen before, becomes the lord of one of the principal Houses of the Stormlands – although if Joffrey falls, he might have to deal with Rolland Storm’s claim. Likewise, Lothor Brune, one of Littlefinger’s men in King’s Landing, gets an unspecified landed knighthood in the Riverlands – although we’ve yet to see what consequences will flow from this bit of social leveling. However, the greatest prize goes to a Lannister because some things don’t change, as Lancel Lannister, the son of a landless younger son, gains a lordship and castle by stepping into dead men’s shoes. (Yet another unforeseen consequence of Gregor Clegane’s approach to non-combatants in warfare.)

Bit of a fixer-upper.

However, if we’re talking about social mobility, we have to talk about Petyr Baelish’s big moment:

When the herald called, “Lord Petyr Baelish,” he came forth dressed all in shades of rose and plum, his cloak patterned with mockingbirds. She could see him smiling as he knelt before the Iron Throne. He looks so pleased. Sansa had not heard of Littlefinger doing anything especially heroic during the battle, but it seemed he was to be rewarded all the same.

Ser Kevan got back to his feet. “It is the wish of the King’s Grace that his loyal councillor Petyr Baelish be rewarded for faithful service to crown and realm. Be it known that Lord Baelish is granted the castle of Harrenhal with all its attendant lands and incomes, there to make his seat and rule henceforth as Lord Paramount of the Trident. Petyr Baelish and his sons and grandsons shall hold and enjoy these honors until the end of time, and all the lords of the Trident shall do him homage as their rightful liege. The King’s Hand and the small council consent.”

… She did not understand why that should make him so happy; the honors were as empty as the title granted to Hallyne the Pyromancer. Harrenhal was cursed, everyone knew that, and the Lannisters did not even hold it at present. Besides, the lords of the Trident were sworn to Riverrun and House Tully, and to the King in the North; they would never accept Littlefinger as their liege. Unless they are made to. Unless my brother and my uncle and my grandfather are all cast down and killed. The thought made Sansa anxious, but she told herself she was being silly. Robb has beaten them every time. He’ll beat Lord Baelish too, if he must.

Now, in the past, I’ve made no secret of my belief that Littlefinger is overrated as a conspirator. And while I don’t take any of that back, I do have to say that this is Littlefinger at his best. For undertaking one mission, Baelish gets himself one of the richest fiefs in Westeros, which he will springboard off of to make himself the husband of the Lady Regent of the Vale, and from there the Lord Protector in his own right. And that’s a real strength he has as a conspirator – he always, always, ekes out the maximum profit from his opportunities. At the same time, this is also another case of Tywin playing the Machiavellian game – he’s giving away his enemy’s land, he’s given Littlefinger a cursed castle in a blasted land, and he’s managed to screw over the Freys by giving them Riverrun but not the title that historically comes with it. So kudos to the heartless bastards.

Prisoners of War

Another way that the Lannisters demonstrate that the war is over is to present Stannis’ former bannermen to the court, in the grand old tradition of parading your enemies in chains:

…the captives were ushered in. 

There were great lords and noble knights in that company too: sour old Lord Celtigar, the Red Crab; Ser Bonifer the Good; Lord Estermont, more ancient even than Celtigar; Lord Varner, who hobbled the length of the hall on a shattered knee, but would accept no help; Ser Mark Mullendore, grey-faced, his left arm gone to the elbow; fierce Red Ronnet of Griffin Roost; Ser Dermot of the Rainwood; Lord Willum and his sons Josua and Elyas; Ser Jon Fossoway; Ser Timon the Scrapesword; Aurane, the bastard of Driftmark; Lord Staedmon, called Pennylover; hundreds of others.

…Those who had changed their allegiance during the battle needed only to swear fealty to Joffrey, but the ones who had fought for Stannis until the bitter end were compelled to speak. Their words decided their fate. If they begged forgiveness for their treasons and promised to serve loyally henceforth, Joffrey welcomed them back into the king’s peace and restored them to all their lands and rights.

This is not an insignificant political moment – with the exception of Dragonstone itself, the Crownlands are unified under Lannister control; likewise, with the exception of the besieged Florents at Brightwater Keep, the Reach is once again unified under Tyrell control. Moreover, much of the Stormlands, with the exception of the Seaworths, Horpes, Peaseburys, Fells, Wyldes, Morrigens, Wensingtons, and Rolland Storm, is nominally returned to compliance with the Iron Throne – however, I share BryndenBFish’s beliefs that much of the Stormlands (especially those houses who fought for the loyalist side in Robert’s Rebellion) will end up siding with Aegon.

Unfortunately for the Lannisters, this kind of symbolic display breaks down due to an unexpected factor – namely, the incredibly fervent loyalty of some Stannis supporters. Despite the perception that much of the fandom have that Stannis is inherently unqualified to be king because he is popularly disliked, he does have the ability to inspire profound devotion in a few. Likewise, devotion to R’hllor is usually seen by many fans as devotion to an evil religion – but consider how it inspires incredible bravery in these men:

A handful remained defiant, however. “Do not imagine this is done, boy,” warned one, the bastard son of some Florent or other. “The Lord of Light protects King Stannis, now and always. All your swords and all your scheming shall not save you when his hour comes.”

“Your hour is come right now.” Joffrey beckoned to Ser Ilyn Payne to take the man out and strike his head off. But no sooner had that one been dragged away than a knight of solemn mien with a fiery heart on his surcoat shouted out, “Stannis is the true king! A monster sits the Iron Throne, an abomination born of incest!…Joffrey is the black worm eating the heart of the realm! Darkness was his father, and death his mother! Destroy him before he corrupts you all! Destroy them all, queen whore and king worm, vile dwarf and whispering spider, the false flowers. Save yourselves!” One of the gold cloaks knocked the man off his feet, but he continued to shout. “The scouring fire will come! King Stannis will return!”

Speaking of religious allusions, it’s hard to ignore the allusions to the long tradition of martyrdom in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, with the lowly prisoners speaking truth to a tyrant king. At the same time, it’s interesting to note how these nameless soldiers combine the R’hlloric gospel with Stannis’ letter from early in ACOK, showing that as much as the Lannisters attempt to repress it, his de-legitimizing story continues to spread.

Even more troubling for the new Lannister regime, they have a basic problem that Joffrey will always screw up the stage directions:

Joffrey lurched to his feet. “I’m king! Kill him! Kill him now! I command it.” He chopped down with his hand, a furious, angry gesture…and screeched in pain when his arm brushed against one of the sharp metal fangs that surrounded him. The bright crimson samite of his sleeve turned a darker shade of red as his blood soaked through it. “Mother!” he wailed.

With every eye on the king, somehow the man on the floor wrested a spear away from one of the gold cloaks, and used it to push himself back to his feet. “The throne denies him!” he cried. “He is no king!”

It’s bad enough that Joffrey can’t appear in public without acting like a bloodthirsty sadist, undoing everyone’s best efforts to pretend that’s not the case, but here he shows himself to be a coward and a mommy’s boy as well. And in the wake of WOIAF and ASOS, we know that the King being denied by the Iron Throne is one of the worst kinds of political symbolism for the Lannisters – it puts Joffrey in the same category as Maegor the Cruel, Rhaenrya the “Usurper,” and “King Scab,” as an unworthy king who is being denied legitimacy by the monarchy itself. In a political culture where there is little alternative to kingship, this is grounds for legitimate opposition. As we’ll see, the Lannister regime’s legitimacy rests on a shaky foundation that can be shaken to cracking by Faith and the Golden company alike.

by Natascha Röösl

Sansa and Freedom

While I’ve argued against a lot of complaints about Sansa’s narrative in ACOK, I do understand the frustration of people when it comes to Sansa’s struggle for freedom, because this chapter leaves the oldest Stark sister in pretty much the same place she started the book, which does seem contrary to best practices of character development:

“I want to go home.”

The queen was irritated by that. “You should have learned by now, none of us get the things we want.”

I have, though, Sansa thought. I am free of Joffrey. I will not have to kiss him, nor give him my maidenhood, nor bear him children. Let Margaery Tyrell have all that, poor girl.

“…The queen will never let you go, never. You are too valuable a hostage. And Joffrey…sweetling, he is still king. If he wants you in his bed, he will have you, only now it will be bastards he plants in your womb instead of trueborn sons….”

While on the surface this does seem like Sansa’s spinning her wheels – she’s still a prisoner in the Red Keep, she’s still in danger of horrific abuse from Joffrey – I would argue that, underneath, there’s an enormous amount of character and thematic growth here. To begin with, I think endurance and resistance can be a form of growth; as we see through Sansa’s interior dialogue here, she has managed to escape her position as Joffrey’s kidnapped-bride and has successfully resisted every attempt to break her will and make her accept said position. Cersei may have “warned her; no matter what she felt inside, the face she showed the world must look distraught,” but inside Sansa remains free to despise Cersei’s darling boy. That’s a level of strength of will and self-knowledge that she simply didn’t have in Sansa I of AGOT.

Moreover, on a thematic level, I think that simply dismissing Sansa’s storyline because it makes the reader feel frustrated is something of a failure of analysis. I would argue that George R.R Martin wrote this chapter not just to set the stage for Sansa’s marriage and escape in ASOS, but also to make the reader feel frustrated just like Sansa (which, along with boredom and loneliness has to be one of the defining emotions of imprisonment). And this brings us to an important point about how media should make us feel – as a fan of Extra Credits, one of the things I’ve learned from them is the danger of assuming that media should be fun, because that’s an incredibly limiting way to think about the uses of art.

I’ve said before that there’s deep value in media that makes us feel sad, and I would also say that there’s value in media that makes us feel frustrated. When we feel frustrated that Sansa can’t escape King’s Landing, we’re empathizing with Sansa’s own feelings, and thus drawing closer to the character. I would argue that if people genuinely didn’t care about Sansa’s character at all, they wouldn’t express themselves as vocally or passionately as they have been doing. It’s something of a dangerous strategy when GRRM has Sansa fall into Littlefinger’s captivity once she’s out of Joffrey’s, akin to narrative auto-asphyxiation, but if I’m right about where Sansa’s going, it’ll make the high when she does finally break free so much higher.

Speaking of Sansa’s issues with freedom, in this chapter she meets with Ser Dontos, who continues to gaslight her on behalf of Petyr Baelish:

“Be brave. I swore to see you home, and now I can. The day has been chosen.”

“When?” Sansa asked. “When will we go?”

“The night of Joffrey’s wedding. After the feast. All the necessary arrangements have been made. The Red Keep will be full of strangers. Half the court will be drunk and the other half will be helping Joffrey bed his bride. For a little while, you will be forgotten, and the confusion will be our friend.”

Looking at this scene from hindsight, Ser Dontos feels even more sketchy. We know that Ser Dontos is somewhat shading the truth in order to get Sansa to feel isolated and under threat and therefore more trusting. (In fact, Joffrey’s treatment of Sansa in ASOS will be arguably more restrained than it has been, because of both Tyrion and Tywin’s influence.)

However, I’m also intrigued by the fact that Ser Dontos characterizes the time for Sansa’s escape as planned for “the night of Joffrey’s wedding. After the feast,” which is much later than what takes place in ASOS. Is this a sign that Littlefinger’s plan changed before it was executed, which is after all a part of his style as a conspirator? Or is Ser Dontos gaslighting her so that she couldn’t give away the Purple Wedding no matter what because she just wouldn’t see it coming? One clue may be found in the introduction of the hairnet here:

Ser Dontos fumbled in his pouch and drew out a silvery spiderweb, dangling it between his thick fingers.

It was a hair net of fine-spun silver, the strands so thin and delicate the net seemed to weigh no more than a breath of air when Sansa took it in her fingers. Small gems were set wherever two strands crossed, so dark they drank the moonlight. “What stones are these?”

“Black amethysts from Asshai…Lovelier than you know, sweet child. It’s magic, you see. It’s justice you hold. It’s vengeance for your father.” Dontos leaned close and kissed her again. “It’s home.”

With foreknowledge of the Purple Wedding and Littlefinger’s later conniving in the Vale in mind, one thing that becomes clear is that that Littlefinger doesn’t want Sansa not as she is now, but as someone whose social position is compromised by being known as a fugitive kingslayer. Not only does this further isolate Sansa and make her more dependent on him, but it means that she can’t use her knowledge of his role in the murder of King Joffrey or Lysa Arryn against him.

Historical Analysis:

One of the historical themes that’s absolutely at the center of this chapter is the way in which political spoils got redistributed during the Wars of the Roses. In part because they had their roots in dynastic claims between the House of York and the House of Lancaster and in local feuds between the House of Neville and the House of Percy, the Wars of the Roses led to unusual degrees of redistribution of land, as whenever Yorkists were in the ascendancy they disinherited Lancastrians, and vice-versa. Thus, when Edward IV was acclaimed as king and achieved his victory at Towton, in his first Parliament:

Acts of Attainder were passed against 150 Lancastrians, including “the usurper” Henry VI, Margaret “late called Queen of England”…Somerset, Exeter, Decon, Wiltshire, Northumberland, Fortescue, Beaumont, Roos, Clifford, Hungerford, Welles, Neville, Dacre, and Trollope. Many of these were dead and beyond human retribution, in which case their relatives would suffer confiscation of all their property…the confiscation of so much Lancastrian property meant that Edward could reward his supporters well, and there followed a large-scale redistribution of lands, titles, offices, and estates among the Yorkist hierarchy. The duchy of Lancaster was also declared forfeit to the crown…

(Alison Weir, The Wars of the Roses, p. 308)

These confiscations and redistributions went on and on – when Warwick the Kingmaker rose up against Edward IV, he would redistribute lands once again, taking the Duchy of York from Edward and giving it to Clarence; when Richard III took the crown with support from the Northern aristocracy, he rewarded them with lands and offices that had formerly belonged to the Southern aristocracy. But one of the consequences of all of these redistributions is that, in each round, a little bit more land stuck to the monarchy itself. Thus, when Henry VII was acclaimed King in 1485, he personally owned all of the lands belonging to both the House of York, the House of Lancaster, and the House of Neville, making him far more powerful than had been most kings prior to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. (Which in turn helped to prevent any further outbreak of civil war.)

And arguably, we can see a similar process here. If, for example, King Tommen’s reign were to continue into adulthood, he could by rights claim Casterly Rock, King’s Landing, and Storm’s End by right of inheritance, far more land than any of the Targaryens held in the past. Likewise, if the decisions made here (and soon in Tyrion’s POV in ASOS) hold, House Lannister would have influence in the Riverlands that it never had before, and House Tyrell would have a much greater sway within the Reach with the acquisition of House Florent’s lands.

Something to keep your eye on for the future.

What If?

There isn’t really a hypothetical for this chapter, so check back next time!

Book vs. Show:

And so Sansa’s Season 2 plotline comes to an end. And…I have to say, I feel mixed about the outcome. I’ll talk about the royal court scene in a minute, but the shoehorning in of Littlefinger really makes me think of the way in which Littlefinger and Sansa’s Season 3 just does not work at all. Likewise, the decision to completely cut out Ser Dontos’ interactions with Sansa toward the end of Season 2 now seems like a huge mistake – because of Littlefinger’s extensive interactions with Sansa in Season 3, I know very few people who were actually surprised when he turned out to be her abductor in Season 4 or who particularly cared when Ser Dontos got whacked.

However, I can’t be totally condemnatory because, sometimes, the show handles things so right that it becomes genuinely difficult to tell apart the book from the show. For  example, the scene where Tywin rides his perfect white horse into the throne room and it drops a giant turd on the floor, is perfectly executed – the way that the horse’s size makes Tywin absolutely loom over everyone else in the room, the offhanded way that Tywin takes the Hand of the King pin from Joffrey as if he’s reclaiming something he owns by right rather than being given royal patronage, and of course, the in-your-face cinematography of the horse’s ass making a mute commentary on the obviously stage-managed conversation between Joffrey, Margaery, Pycelle, and Cersei, etc. I can’t fully hate a show that pulls that off.

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112 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa VIII, ACOK

  1. winnief says:

    Brilliant analysis Steve. ITA on all the politics.
    And yeah, Tywin might give the Freys Riverrun…but there was no way in seven hells he was gonna make them Paramount Lords whatever they may have thought. And yeah, no matter what the Lannisters do they just can’t seem to get any legitimacy. Even if Tywin can’t admit the Twincest he has to be aware of how persistent the rumors are and how much that undermines their whole dynasty.

    I agree that the show did lose a lot of the Dontos/LF setup but Tywin on his white horse was just so good….and I ADORED Margaery and Loras’ s machinations. Plus Sophie was as always fantastic.

    I also agree that Sansa’s suffering and confinement is to make her eventual rise seem all the more satisfying. Now as you know I think she’s the YMBQ but I know you believe differently Steve. I’m curious as to what you think will happen since Harry the Heir seems to be out.

    And now there are only four to go…

    • Andrew says:

      The Freys would have been crazy to believe that Tywin would give them the riverlands after the RW. Even Tywin knew that would be a bad move, as it would further damage the Lannister brand.

      I agree about the rise being more satisfying as she gradually becomes more independent and gains more control over her own life. D&D just makes her go through more suffering without any payoff, or any empowering message.

      • winnief says:

        It might be crazy but they believed it. Emmon Frey in AFFC was all hyped to rule the Riverlands until Jaime put him in his place. In fact Jaime was putting quite a few Freys in their place. Its like they thought were now part of the Lannister/Tyrell coalition until the Kingslayer made it clear exactly what even their Lannister allies thought of the Freys. And they were stupid enough to send a mass delegation and half their troops up to the *North*.

        Can’t argue that D&D have a real sadistic streak where Sansa’s concerned. I HOPE they’re finished slaking it.

        • Chinoiserie says:

          Emmon Frey might have believed that since he was married to a Lannister he might get better treatment. It was still stupid however.

          I saw people complaining in season 2 how Sansa’s suffering was not shown enough, and how strong her character is really suffered as a result. Funny how now D&D are sadist for making Sansa suffer… And I am sure she will be taking Stannic’s role form the books in season 6.

          • Who ever complained that “Sansa’s suffering wasn’t shown enough” as the main problem in season 2? You know what people who said something to that effect were actually complaining about? That Sansa’s POV wasn’t shown enough. That Sansa’s personality wasn’t shown enough. That Sansa’s actual story was missing, that they took away her agency in her own escape, her relationships where she got to show her compassion, empathy, strength, character development, as well as her ability to influence people (Sandor) and convincingly lie (to Tyrion, for instance). No, giving her a friendship with Shae was no substitute – that served Shae’s character, not Sansa’s, and actually made Sansa look more naive (they even had Shae explain things to her that book Sansa understood on her own).

            Show Sansa suffered when it was needed to be rescued by a man, and then the focus was not on her. And contrary to what you are claiming, they gave her an almost gang rape scene during the riot. In the book, it only went as far as someone trying to pull her off her horse. The only reason they didn’t go further and show even more sexual violence against her was that she was 15, so they were not allowed. They were waiting for her to turn 18. As soon as she did, Sansa got raped. They said themselves they were planning to “put her wity Ramsay” since season 2.

        • Andrew says:

          Being a Star Wars fan, I always thought Frey enacting the RW was like Grand Moff Tarkin blowing up Alderaan. Of course, admittedly unlike Frey, Tarkin was a guy you could actually respect with wits to match Leia’s, an air of elegance and a confident, regal posture with a mix of English condescension.

          Tarkin destroyed an unarmed planet like Alderaan thinking it would inspire loyalty to the Empire through fear whereas Walder Frey orchestrated the RW, killing unarmed wedding guests, thinking he would send the message of “don’t mess with House Frey” and inspire respect through fear in the same vein as “the Rains of Castamere” helped to give Tywin his formidable reputation. However, the Rebel Alliance received more support after the destruction of Alderaan given the act inspired anger rather than fear. Likewise, the Red Wedding inspired more anger and revulsion rather than fear with the name “Frey” becoming a dirty household name, and people calling for justice for the Red Wedding. The main force fighting the Freys, the Brotherhood without Banners, is receiving help against the Freys with more Freys dying as a result of the Red Wedding than in the War of the Five Kings.

          • winnief says:

            Walder Frey *wishes* he was Grand Moff Tarken!

            Personally I think Roose (particularly show Roose) is a MUCH better match with that same icy smooth sociopathy and wit.

            Also unlike the Death Star, the Red Wedding was the kind of stunt that by definition you can only pull once since now everybody knows the Frey’s can’t be trusted on *anything * even guest right.

        • Steven Xue says:

          The Freys are still technically the de facto rulers of the Riverlands even if they don’t have the title. But then again I seriously don’t think it was a smart long term move to make Baelish the LP either. I doubt he is really that well loved either for the way he use to sniff around Cat and impregnate Lysa. Not to mention betraying Ned to the Lannisters who people think he currently works for. But I suppose if the Riverlords had to choose between a slimy, backstabbing upstart or the Freys. Most of them may just pick the former.

          • Sean C. says:

            I doubt he is really that well loved either for the way he use to sniff around Cat and impregnate Lysa. Not to mention betraying Ned to the Lannisters who people think he currently works for.

            Only his childhood crush on Catelyn is public knowledge.

          • Mr Fixit says:

            Rewarding LF with the whole Riverlands seems a bit much, even for Tywin. Yeah, the guy was a vital asset for the Lannister cause, but that’s why he got Harrenhal and its attendant lands, by all accounts one of the richest fiefs in the region. By holding Harrenhal, LF essentially became the top tier lord below Lords Paramount, the equal of Yronwoods, Vances, Karstarks, Tarlys and the like. A huge move up by a petty lord of insignificant blood.

            I’m not certain why Tywin felt he should elevate LF to the rank of almost-royalty. To be on equal standing with the houses thousands of years old like Lannisters themselves, Tyrells, or Arryns. Honestly, feels like the hand of the plot a bit too much.

          • On the contrary, Littlefinger frequently publicly announced he had taken the virginity of both the Tully girls. Tyrion was aware of this in AGOT, so it wasn’t something confined to the Small Council, but a matter of King’s Landing gossip that Littlefinger was eager to spread around. He probably didn’t do it in front of Jon Arryn, but I’d bet that was his only limit.

          • David Hunt says:

            Fixit,

            I think Tywin gave LF the LP title was that he was going to send him to the Vale to woo and wed Lysa. Snob that he was, he figured LF needed the boost in status, not realizing that Lysa would have taken him no matter what. The other Valelords, on the other hand…being LP of the Trident, even in name only, makes him a more fit guardian for Robert Arryn. I can’t make up my mind whether he intended LF to keep the title when the War was one and it would have meaning.

          • Laural H says:

            God, you unknowingly impregnate one girl…

      • Bail o' Lies says:

        The Freys killed the King of the North and scattered his army. “Winning” the war against the North and “ending” the the rebel secessionist movement for Lord Tywin, and King Joffery. While Petyr was a mere coin counter from the Vale that was marrying Lysa to secure the Vale for the Lannisters. They were the most powerful of the “loyal” Riverlord who had just done the realm a great service. Roose got the North for helping them. They probably figured they would get Riverlands.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      The show did shoot a scene with Sansa and Dontos for season 2 but it was cut for some reason, I wonder why.

      • Sean C. says:

        That’s one of those things that’s only rumour, I believe. But if they did cut it, I expect it was because they decided in the course of production on how they were going to do Season 3 and Dontos didn’t fit into that.

  2. Steven Xue says:

    I have often wondered how much Littlefinger’s empty title as the newly appointed Lord Paramount of the Trident actually holds waters? I mean he has no allies or armies or loyalties of any kind in the Riverlands. Besides once being Hoster Tully’s ward and being raised at Riverrun, I don’t get why the Lannisters would make him of all people their new overlord of a place they currently don’t have dominion of. I can understand why they rewarded him with Harrenhal but seriously making him an LP is really jumping the gun. They could have parleyed the title to any ambitious Riverlord who would gladly betray the Starks and Tullys or to a family member their trust like Kevan.

    Also about Joffrey cutting himself as proof that he’s losing the divine right to rule. Well didn’t Viserys I also cut his hand pretty badly on the Iron Throne and was hospitalized for a while? Nobody questioned his legitimacy as king even though he stopped sitting on the Iron Throne after that incident.

    • winnief says:

      I agree that in practice LF probably can’t rule the Riverlands….which I think for the Lannisters was precisely the point. They don’t want ANY new overlord for the Riverlands….unless that lord is a Lannister.

      It might not have damaged Viserys I but…Joffrey already has a MAJOR legitimacy issue which makes anymore symbolism even if its just a folk superstition a problem. Especially when it occurs at an occasion like this and ends with Joffrey calling for his mama. You just know THAT story will be all over KL by the end of the day and all through the Seven Kingdoms in a matter of weeks.

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah, didn’t Viserys I master Balerion in his youth before the dragon died of old age? Claiming the Conqueror’s own dragon as your own would have been a powerful sign of his right to rule.

      • Steven Xue says:

        I suppose like the Boltons, Littlefinger’s tenure as LP of the Riverlands was meant to be temporary, just as I doubt he wasn’t supposed to permanently hold Harrenhal which Tywin had dibs on for himself.

        I bet had the Purple Wedding not happened and Tywin wasn’t killed, at some point in the future Littlefinger would have been framed (accurately) for trumped up charges of embezzlement, treason and whatever else the Lannisters can think up.

        • winnief says:

          Certainly if Tywin had survived he would have gotten concerned when Lysa’s death made LF Sr’s guardian and acting Lord Protector of the Vale.

        • Sean C. says:

          just as I doubt he wasn’t supposed to permanently hold Harrenhal which Tywin had dibs on for himself.

          That was just a wild rumour flying around Tywin’s men. There’s no indication Tywin had any interest in the place; he’s a Lannister, who takes total pride in Casterly Rock. There’s no reason he’d want to move his seat to Harrenhal.

          • Laural H says:

            They thought that bc he had ordered it to be fixed up completely, Lady Whent neglected most of it (it’s impractical to keep up even if you have all those rents, lucky thing Tywin got all those slaves!)

  3. S. Duff says:

    My two favorite moments from this chapter are Josmyn Peckledon and Goodman Willit. Jos is a squire who kills two knights, wounds a third, and captures two more. He gets promised a knighthood.

    The Willit is a man-at-arms who defends Harys Swyft, incompetent as ever, when he gets pinned beneath his horse. He fight off a dozen men, and his sons are both set up to be trained as knights.

    Aside from being complete basdasses, it’s also a sign of social mobility at the lowest level. Phillip Foote and Lancel are knights who get more lands, but Willit is a commoner, a nobody, and now his sons have the opportunity to jump up into the lower ranks of nobility, a huge boost.

    • winnief says:

      And of course Lother Brune is steadily climbing the ranks as well….and may soon be husband to Robert Baratheon’s own daughter.

      • David Hunt says:

        Well, my impression of the Lother’s reward was that they promised him lands in the future when the war was over. I wouldn’t be at all surprised is Cercei conveniently forgot that promise after Tywin died. Remember the old saying: “Any Lannister not named ‘Cercei’ always pays their debts.”

  4. Brett says:

    There isn’t really a hypothetical for this chapter, so check back next time!

    I guess. . . . Joffrey could get an infection from heavily cutting his arm on the Throne and die?

    • winnief says:

      If only. That would butterfly away the Purple wedding and Tyrion’s trial.

      • Brett says:

        That’s the type of thing that would happen in real life, but not in a story like this – it would just be too anticlimactic.

        The effects would be pretty wild. No purple wedding, no Tyrion trial, Tommen engaged to Margaery, and Littlefinger’s plans to get Sansa out of King’s Landing foiled. Who knows what would happen?

        • David Hunt says:

          I think Littlefinger could get Sansa out of King’s Landing pretty much whenever he wants. He’d need a distraction, but I’m confident that he could manage something. He waited for the wedding so she’d be implicated in regicide and had no one to turn to for aid but him. Classic isolation tactics.

          • winnief says:

            Agreed. And without the regicide LF doesn’t have a ‘hold’ so to speak on the Tyrell’s. ..or an easy way to get rid of Tyrion by making him the fall guy.

          • Sean C. says:

            He waited for the wedding so she’d be implicated in regicide and had no one to turn to for aid but him.

            I’ve argued against this before here, I believe, but I find this line of argument unconvincing. Who has the regicide charge cut Sansa off from? The one time she considers revealing herself to somebody, when she meets Yohn Royce, it doesn’t enter into her thinking at all.

            Sansa would be a wanted fugitive whenever she fled, with capture leading to a return to King’s Landing. Regicide increases the stakes a bit, maybe, but I haven’t seen any evidence of anyone who might otherwise have been inclined to offer her protection being turned off by it. If you’re an enemy of the Lannister regime (and only enemies of the regime would ever be willing to lend her aid), killing Joff is a recommendation, if anything.

          • @Sean C: I don’t think this is as unimpirtant as you think. Secretly supporting Starks or hating the Lannisters is one thing, but not that many people are ready to openly commit treason against the Iron Throne. There is a difference between “Cersei would pay to get Sansa back, and the Lannisters will be angry at you, but can’t really charge you with anything” and “not only will Cersei pay really well to deliver her Sansa, but you are committing treason against the king if you are harboring a kingslayer, and will be executed if found out,”

          • Sean C. says:

            “Cersei would pay to get Sansa back, and the Lannisters will be angry at you, but can’t really charge you with anything”

            They can, though: withholding a ward of the Crown from their rightful possession (as they see it).

          • Is that legally a crime?

          • Sean C. says:

            When the Crown makes the law and wants somebody in their custody (particularly from an attainted family), why would it not be?

          • Sean C. says:

            Damn, I wish we could edit. Anyway, the charge is giving aid and comfort to enemies of the Crown, which an on-the-run Sansa would be, regardless of whether she was a regicide or not.

        • Wat Barleycorn says:

          Alexander of Greece and the monkey bite!

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah, because Cercei would go crazy and make sure Tyrion died in his bed. It might save Tywin’s life, though.

    • HTB says:

      What if Tyrion is not injured during Blackwater? Is he publically honored or get crapped on just because he’s Tyrion?

  5. thatrabidpotato says:

    Part of me is always stunned that anyone continues to serve Joffrey after he cuts himself on the throne like Aerys and has get carried out crying by his mommy. I mean, I know the logical reasons why, but I still can’t imagine being willing to fight and die for this guy.

    • Andrew says:

      That is not an uncommon problem for the Lannisters with the exception of Jaime, and to a smaller degree, Tyrion. Could you really imagine yourself fighting for Cersei? Their inspirations for loyalty are largely gold and fear.

      • winnief says:

        And even in the books where the Lannister mines haven’t run dry, they are certainly running low on gold these days which makes it hard to hold KL much less the Realm. So even if Tywin *hadn’t* died they were in real trouble

        Of course a lion is always most dangerous when its wounded.

        • Andrew says:

          It does make me wonder, should Casterly Rock fall with Cersei no longer having access to the gold, what measures would she resort to with a bankrupt royal treasury?

          My guess is either forced labor or selling a crown.

          • winnief says:

            I think the former iver the latter knowing Cersei and her love of crowns. Though that will be difficulty as she loses more and more swords…

  6. Andrew says:

    1. “Lord Tywin was looking at his grandson. Joff gave him a sullen glance, shifted his feet and helped Ser Garlan Tyrell to rise ‘The gods are good. I am free to heed my heart. I will wed your sweet sister, and gladly, ser.'”

    It basically shows when Joffrey the king is basically pressured into breaking a marriage by Tywin that he clearly doesn’t want who wears the pants in this relationship as well as Joffrey being a boy.

    2. Regarding Rolland Storm, I can see him challenging Ser Philip Foote for Nightsong in single combat, and avenging his half-brother.

    3. “leaving no trueborn heirs of lawful Darry blood, but only a bastard cousin.”
    I’m willing to bet 100 dragons that Ser Tristan Rivers, a captain in the Golden Company we met, is that bastard cousin.

    4. Regarding Hallyne being raised to lordship, remember the last monarch who did that? Cersei is trying to emulate her father, but rather emulates the king he served.

    5. The Tyrells do seem to know how to play the game of thrones like the Lannisters, only without the dysfunction that would earn them a place on Dr. Phil. Like the Starks, the Tyrells are a loving family united in their cause. The only problem is, the head, Mace, is the Fredo Corleone of the Tyrell family.

    • winnief says:

      I’d say the bigger problem than even Mace’s foolishness is that the Tyrells now have Cersei for an in-law.

    • Sean C. says:

      Mace isn’t really that foolish. He’s openly venal in a way that makes him less dignified than he imagines himself to be, and not a genius by any means, but he’s played his cards pretty well from what we see, even without Olenna’s interventions.

      • winnief says:

        Mace does lack military acumen though which could be important now that the GC have arrived.

        He’s also hilariously gauche nouveau riche with the hand shaped chair and new oversized tower of the hand.

        • Sean C. says:

          He’s got talented subordinates and knows enough to let them do their jobs, though.

          • winnief says:

            True. Most notably Randyll Tarly. But Randyll might switch sides especially since his wife’s Florent blood gives his family a potential claim to HG.

          • Andrew says:

            And Tarly likely didn’t forget that Mace hogged all the credit for the Battle of Ashford when everyone knows it was Tarly’s work.

          • Sean C. says:

            As you say, everyone knows; we haven’t really had any indication Tarly cares if Mace likes to brag. And Mace has, in fact, rewarded Tarly pretty amply for his services through the years, from what we’ve seen.

          • Andrew says:

            Dunno, from what we’ve seen of Tarly I just can’t see him letting that go.

            My opinion? The man is a hardbitten soldier, loyal and rigid. He keeps his mouth shut about his proud oaf of a lord because that’s what’s expected of him… but he does not forget. Ever. Not only did Mace “steal” the victory over Robert, but he also “stole” Brightwater Keep- IIRC Tarly’s wife has a better claim. But, the biggest reason, IMHO, is because the Tyrells just *have* to take losses for Aegon, Euron etc. to amount to anything. There’s been too much buildup on Tarly, too many background grudges, for him *not* to play a prominent role. Or put another way- if Aegon, the bright, dashing, brilliant warrior prince- a man of *ACTION* who took STORM’S END- offering him Brightwater Keep, glory, the LP of the Reach- versus a disgraced and bloodied overlord who led them first to Renly- a foppish fool- then Joffrey and then Tommen, the weak doormat. Add in the possible defeats of Rowan at Storm’s End, Mace Tyrell at King’s Landing (courtesy the Faith and/or Cersei), and Oldtown and/or Highgarden falling to Surprise Krakenz! and will he remain loyal then?

            He’s going to remain dutiful and obedient. Right up until he snaps.

            Just my two cents.

        • winnief says:

          Also I wonder about what’s going to happen with the IB invasion of the Reach. That could seriously hurt House Tyrell too especially with their army otherwise occupied and poor Loras now maimed.

          I just have this nasty feeling that Winter won’t be kind to the Roses..

    • Crystal says:

      Regarding your #4 – Tyrion calls Joffrey “Aerys the Third” but I agree that Cersei fills that bill as well, or even better. And her eyes and personality have been compared to wildfire…I am sure she will be the one to go Aerys one better and actually make King’s Landing go kaboom. Or possibly Jaime will kill her to keep her from kabooming KL – just as he did with Aerys.

      I do not think Aerys sired any children on Joanna Lannister – no secret Targs! TYRION IS TYWIN’S SON, DAMMIT! that is their tragedy! – but you could say that Cersei is a spiritual child of his. She’s certainly hopped on the same train to Crazytown. Another thing she does that is just like Aerys is having anyone she wants to thrown in jail or even put to death (poor Falyse and Senelle) without trial or due process of any kind. As Steven and the people on warsofasoiaf and others have pointed out, monarchs can’t do that, not if they want to keep their thrones.

      • Andrew says:

        Tyrion says that just after Cersei leaves the room tellingly. I would also add that like Aerys, Cersei had a certain Lannister Hand (that is compared to Tywin) that served her ably but had been mistreated and now fears his wrath for the abuses suffered. I think it will be both, Cersei manages to ignite the wildfire and Jaime manages to strangle her.

        I don’t buy any of Joanna’s children are Aerys’s either. Senelle was one of the smallfolk, and we know Cersei’s attitude towards them. Falyse OTOH, was highborn, and she was sent to the dungeons without trial when she had committed no crimes or offenses against the Crown. She was homeless and widowed as a result of Cersei’s scheming, but Cersei expresses no fault or guilt over Falyse’s situation. Cersei has no regard for the feudal contract, which is a recipe for rebellion.

        • winnief says:

          For the Lannister storyline to have any real meaning, Tywin’s kids (especially Tyrion) have to be his. But yeah, I agree that Cersei is definitely set up as the heir to Aerys and/or Rhaenyra. She even practiced the Targ incest tradition…she just didn’t get any of the occasional genius/greatness that appeared in the Targaryen line much less the dragon riding genes.

  7. Sean C. says:

    – This is where the hairnet is introduced, so it’s a good place to bring up the big question mark I have around the whole Purple Wedding plot. We’ve gotten a lot of details about it from various sources — and indeed, for a plot where we don’t have POVs from any of the main actors, there’s a remarkable amount of independent confirmation of what otherwise might be questionable assertions by Littlefinger (e.g., both Tyrion and Sansa’s POVs confirm that Olenna had to have been the one to touch the hairnet; the Ghost of High Heart confirms that there was poison in the hairnet; Penny’s tale confirms that Littlefinger was behind the jousting dwarves) — but there is, to me, a real confusion around how the plot took shape. Littlefinger deploys the poison here, which would seem to indicate things have already been agreed upon; but if that’s the case, what is the point of the scene where the Tyrells interrogate Sansa for information about Joffrey’s behaviour later? (setting aside that this sort of information should be fairly easy to get from other sources) While the show portrays Baelish and Olenna as openly in cahoots, it’s far less clear that that’s what happened in the books. I’ve wondered if, after sending ACOK to publication, GRRM simply had the idea for Sansa’s first ASOS chapter and figured he could fudge the details since there’s no POVs from the conspirators.

    – This chapter also sees a momentous occurrence for Sansa: the end of her betrothal to Joffrey. This is as good a place as any to talk about another plot-related question I have: why does Tywin leave her unattached in the manner that he does between now and the shotgun wedding to Tyrion?

    Because if the whole Tyrell/Littlefinger scheme had not intervened, Sansa would, as far as we know, still have been unbetrothed at the time Roose Bolton murdered Robb and thus made Sansa the de jure Lady of Winterfell. This seems like a bizarre risk given that, as Tywin later acknowledges, he cannot refuse a request from a major ally for her hand; hence, all the shenanigans to spring the wedding before the Tyrells can ask. Even without advance knowledge of the Red Wedding, her heir status, given that Robb is clearly doomed at this point, is obvious to any well-informed observer. Was Tywin just assuming that the Tyrells wouldn’t bother being interested in this clear dynastic opportunity? For that matter, given that Tywin was expecting Prince Doran to come to town in the near future, what would he have done if Doran had shown up and demanded Sansa as a bride for Oberyn or Quentyn (the latter he has other plans for, of course, but Tywin doesn’t know that)?

    In the realm of “stuff that probably wasn’t intended by the author but it basically fits into continuity anyway”, I briefly wondered if Tywin was originally intending for Sansa to be a bride for Jaime when he got him back. When Jaime does eventually return, Tywin immediately tries to marry him to Margaery (which for some reason he thought the Tyrells would go for).

    – As regards the show: ah, Sansa Season 3 — so much stuff gotten wrong (on a lot of levels, I would actually argue Season 3 is a much worse betrayal of the character’s story than Season 5 was).

    • winnief says:

      I think that was just a continuity goof on Martin’s part.

      Good catch about Sansa’s singlehood…maybe Tywin *did* originally plan on Jaime (who he already planned to have leave the KG) until he heard about the Tyrell plot and had to improvise.

      Frankly the strangest part to me was that Catelyn and Robb never considered Sansa’s claim…and what meant for the prospect of the Lannister’s giving her up.

    • Because Rob is not clearly doomed at this point. Duskendale hasn’t happened yet. If Rob get’s wind of Roose and the Freys he can save enough of his army to be a threat and perhaps link up with the Vale and possibly even Stannis. It’s still a good idea to have a hostage, especially when Jaime is not yet safe in Lannister hands.

      • Also Tyrion may be on his deathbed.

      • Sean C. says:

        Robb is absolutely doomed at this point. The Tyrells and the Lannisters have over 100,000 soldiers in the field, all of whom can be turned against him, and he has no means of retreat, since the Greyjoys hold Moat Cailin. If the Vale were to join him, they already would have; Stannis is a strategic non-entity, as far as peope are concerned.

        And betrothing Sansa to somebody wouldn’t negate her being a hostage; he was still a hostage while betrothed to Joffrey.

        • Mr Fixit says:

          Well, they don’t really have over 100,000, I don’t think. More like 75-80k, but yeah, it’s still a huge advantage in numbers.

          On the other hand, Robb does command around 25-30k. With the defensive multiplier of the Trident, it’s not as clear cut as it might seem.

        • Andrew says:

          Numbers alone aren’t enough to win a battle.

          Robb pre-Duskendale (and Karstark…) has his twenty thousand or so Northmen plus as many Riverlanders. Likely he would *have* to ally with either the Vale or Stannis or both, which given the dire straights of his dynasty and the necessity of quashing Roose and/or Walder would possibly happen…

          also, those hundred thousand men aren’t going to get past the Neck, and they certainly aren’t going to survive the winter even if they try.

          Beyond that, the Greyjoys are going to invade the Reach (they’re really like Imperial Japan, aren’t they, bullrushing two/three great powers on the back of “super warriors vs decadent foreigners!”), and Aegon and Dany are both on the horizon.

          If Robb hadn’t died at the Twins he would still be a big threat to the Lannisters.

        • Renly had 100,000 soldiers. By the same logic, that meant he had already won the throne.

          Add to this the fact that the Lannisters were losing every battle to Robb, that he was invading the Westerlands while Stannis was also planning to attack King’s Landing, presumabky by sea, while Renly was to attack it by land (and no one was expecting them to turn on each other first before dealing with the Lannisters first – Tyrion and Cersei sure were pleasantly surprised by that!), while Balon was not expected to attack the north, either, and certainly no one exoected Winterfell to fall to Theon… and early to mid-ACOK, the Lannisters were “absolutely doomed at that point”. And we know how that turned out.

          Thinking that anyone could have been sure Robb was “absolutely doomed” strikes me as presentism,

    • Laural H says:

      Remember that LF actually had praised Joffrey to Olenna when he was setting up the betrothal. He gave Sansa the hairnet before fixing the assassination simply because he was overconfident. The assassination contract was probably like, “we want him dead”, ” well fortunately I have an opportunity for you” etc. Even Sansa might have been suspicious if she got the hairnet right after telling the Tyrells about Joffrey being a monster. Whereas this way she just thinks it’s a lucky or magical charm. And if the Tyrells don’t agree to the assassination, well, no harm done.

  8. blacky says:

    “what is the point of the scene where the Tyrells interrogate Sansa ”

    Maybe they needed to know if Sansa was loyal to Joffrey and the Lannisters. If she would be an ally…?

    • Sean C. says:

      Do they really need to know that? It’s not like Sansa has any say in who she marries; in the books, even telling her about that is arguably superfluous to requirements. And frankly, nobody of any intelligence would need to conduct an interrogation to assess Sansa’s loyalty to Joffrey and the Lannisters.

      • blacky says:

        You may be right. But it doesn’t feel like an interrogation to me. No bright lights or a waterboard. Seems like asking a few questions is SOP for everyone anywhere. And being friendly with an aristocrat no matter how down and out might pay dividends. Isn’t that the long game?

        • Sean C. says:

          There’s nothing wrong with befriending her. But you don’t need to press her for details about Joff’s behaviour (which makes her uncomfortable) or anything like that.

          • winnief says:

            Could be they wanted independent corroboration for the stories they’d already heard about Joffrey.

          • Crystal says:

            Winnief – I think that was it. They wanted to know what Joffrey was really like, and didn’t think Littlefinger was going to give them the whole truth and nothing but (and I wonder why?). Who better to ask than Joffrey’s former betrothed?

            I think it was also a way for them to get to know what kind of a wife Sansa would be for Willas. (Ironically, I think the two of them would have been very well suited, except for Sansa’s age. If the impression of Willas as kind, scholarly and cultivated is true.)

          • winnief says:

            Yeah Sansa/Willas would have been a great dynastic match…and probably compatible as well. The worst LF could think to say of him was that Willas was boring.

            And I love how the disgraced daughter of a dead traitor and sister to a rebel warlord was considered suitable…but Cersei Lannister mother to the King and from the richest family in Westeros was immediately a no go for Olenna.

    • David Hunt says:

      “what is the point of the scene where the Tyrells interrogate Sansa ”

      Thinking back on that scene, I suspect that the point wasn’t to get confermantion on Joffrey (at least not entirely) but to inspect Sansa as a possible bride for Willis. IIRC, Loras may be Mace’s favorite, but Olenna favors Willis. She wants him to have a bride worthy of him as well as one that comes with ridiculous wealth.

      It’s a thought

  9. Crystal says:

    Yay! Thank you, maester Steven! I always look forward to another Sansa chapter.

    – For the second time, Sansa is in the gallery watching political proceedings. It’s interesting to see how she’s grown from when she was first watching Ned as Hand back in AGOT. I think this foreshadows her career as a political actor in her own right.

    – Do the Lannisters splash out on bling or what? Yes, I’m sure there is a lot of gold under that thar Casterly Rock, but you don’t win over a starving, or at least having-to-tighten-belts, populace, by handing out gold and ruby medallions to your fellow Richie Riches. The Tyrells are right that you want to at least pay lip service to noblesse oblige; not that Cersei or Tywin would know noblesse oblige if it bit them you-know-where.

    – As Steven points out, there is not a stag to be seen. Stannis’ accusations appear to have fallen on fertile soil, but Cersei, at least, helped fertilize it. You’d think that Cersei and Tywin would want to shore up the idea that Joffrey is a legitimate Baratheon – which, after all, is *his claim to the throne* – by using at least some Baratheon iconography, but no, it’s Lannister lions all the way down. It’s like they are saying, “I triple dog dare you to say ‘incest bastards!'”

    Olenna is the one to raise an eyebrow at this in AFFC when Margaery marries Tommen, “shouldn’t he use the Baratheon marriage cloak?” All in all, I don’t think Cersei or Jaime has been as careful or discreet as they think they have been.

    – Sansa wonders what Littlefinger has done to merit a reward, and why would anyone want Harrenhal when everyone knows it’s cursed? (A real fixer upper indeed!) This shows she has good instincts. She’s not all, “Oh cool, Littlefinger gets Harrenhal! What a great reward for a gallant man!” She has the instincts and the intellect, she just needs to know what to do with them and LF, ironically, is the one to show her. I cannot wait to see this come back to bite him, hard. Sansa will be his Nemesis, appointed divine retribution.

    – And she’s not entirely passive as some fans think – she desperately wants to leave KL, and urges Dontos to take action – but she’s twelve and doesn’t have the skills or manners that Arya has to survive as a commoner. So she’s stuck. That’s realistic. As for Dontos – I don’t think he’s bright or capable enough to have approached LF as a double agent. I think he’s sincere in a way about wanting to help Sansa (who he owes his life to), but I think LF got to him and said, “I’m an old friend of the Tully family, pals with Catelyn Tully from way back, blah blah blah, I’m Sansa’s friend too, won’t you help me help her? Here’s some money!” Dontos would be the perfect dupe – alcoholic, friendless, and not too bright.

    • I think it’s another example of how Tywin letting pride get in the way of smart decisions happens more often than people like to admit.

      • Crystal says:

        I agree with you. Tywin is overestimated by some of the fandom. I think Charles Dance’s (superb!) portrayal contributes. In any event, you’d *think* that the Lannisters might want to tamp down their pride just a bit and emphasize Joffrey’s Baratheon descent, without which, his tush does not belong in that throne – especially with all the rumors about his being an incest bastard. (People were very quick to shout “Brotherfucker!” at Cersei during the KL riot. Again, I think it’s not just Stannis fanning the flames, but Cersei and Jaime not being careful about covering their tracks.) Lannisters are not the royal family, and being a Lannister gives Joffrey exactly 0 legitimate claim to the throne.

        Pride, stupidity, or, I think, both, has blinded Cersei and Tywin to the fact that Joffrey (and later Tommen) has NO claim to the throne without being Robert’s legitimate, Baratheon offspring. And that making the iconography surrounding him all Lannister all the time just emphasizes the “Hmm he really must be an incest bastard” idea. By the time Tommen is king in AFFC, Olenna’s pointing out that a Baratheon king ought to cloak his bride in a Baratheon marriage cloak is met with griping on Cersei’s part, not “maybe Olenna is right and I should be more careful and start defusing all those rumors about Tommen’s parentage.” But then Cersei has never been the brains of the Lannister outfit.

        • LadyKnitsALot says:

          Tywin and his ideals of legacy and Lannister superiority are what fuels Cersei’s narcissism. She’s never had the concept that the Lannisters are top dogs challenged in her mind, so she fails to see the need to hide her children’s Lannister lineage – and interestingly, Tywin doesn’t stop her.

          They should be mindful that they need to maintain the fiction that the children are from Robert Baratheon’s seed, even though we all know they aren’t. Olenna’s bitchy comment about Tommen’s marriage cloak made me laugh so hard.

          Maybe Tywin is justifying it to himself as distinguishing these “Baratheon’s” from the rebelling Renly and Stannis?

          Cersei doesn’t give two shits and doesn’t try to justify it. She wants everyone to know that House Lannister, and specifically Cersei Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, is in charge. Even when she’s not.

          • Winnief says:

            “House Lannister has no rivals.”

            One of the show’s great original moments that perfectly encapsulates Cersei’s blind spot there. Intellectually she understands she needs the Tyrell’s support but it doesn’t penetrate her brain, that this means she also needs to placate them. She really thinks she can imprison Loras and Margaery and then *still* get gold, wheat, and troops from the Reach.

            I think Tywin’s personal justification is that Robert was just a lecherous drunkard anyway and unfit to rule, while the Lannister heritage matters more since he the great Tywin Lannister practically ruled under Aerys for so many years and will do so again in the future, so really why emphasize the “Stag” side of the family?!? Of course the fact that the Stag side is the only justification his grandkids have for the crown in the first place is something that on some level offends not only Cersei but Tywin as well. Robert Baratheon had a claim to the IT, and Robert Baratheon won all the *real* battles but he the great Tywin Lannister did not and deep down I think he resents that and that’s one reason he’s not reigning his daughter in on this even though, its clearly a bad call.

          • LadyKnitsALot says:

            That’s a good point – Tywin’s resentment that Robert is praised for overthrowing Aerys when Tywin ruled the kingdom for most of Aerys’ reign. Also Tywin has no one but himself to blame for not entering the Rebellion earlier – he was too worried about Jaime’s safety, and arguably staying out of it in case the royalists won.

          • David Hunt says:

            I think Tywin didn’t have any stag symbols at the ceremony because it was all about Tywin Lannister. Everyone else, even the King, is just another piece in the tableau that he has set up to honor himself. Everyone in the room knows who the real power is…except Joffrey and maybe Cercei.

          • LadyKnitsALot says:

            Excellent point.

            I’ve had an indepth look at Cersei’s narcissism – https://ladyknitsalottheoriesoficefire.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/character-analysis-cersei-the-mad-queen/ – but I have to admit I glossed over Tywin’s own narcissism.

            He wants to be hailed as the conquering hero of the War of the Five Kings, to be known and feared as the REAL power behind the Throne as Hand of the King – just as he was with Aerys.

            Tywin chooses to forget that the real reason he got pushed aside as Hand until he quit was that Aerys hated that the realm knew Tywin ruled the kingdom. Joffrey, who really was the Mad King the Second, would have come to the same conclusion. That scene in the books and the show where Joffrey tries to tell his grandfather off – “My father was winning the war while you sulked in Casterly Rock!” – was an early harbinger of this.

            Tywin never learned from his mistakes because he assumed he never made any. That arrogance he passed to his daughter. Jaime (slowy) and Tyrion are willing to admit when they’ve made mistakes and will do what they can to repair their family’s errors without publicly condemning their father for making the error to begin with… I wonder how long that will last? If Jaime survives the BWB, will he come back to King’s Landing and chuck a fit about the state of the Riverlands, and how **it’s all Tywin Lannister’s damn fault**….

          • Jim B says:

            Cersei is so frustrated with having had to live under the restrictions associated with her gender that, when she finally gets a chance to rule openly on her own, she can’t accept that there are still restrictions on what she can do, just as any king has limitations.

            Joffrey didn’t get that “I am the king! When the king speaks, people obey!” attitude from nowhere. And whatever his other flaws, Robert didn’t communicate that by word or by example.

            And I agree that Tywin — even though he’s the one to correct Joffrey’s misguided view of kingship — has a dose of that imperious arrogance himself. Look at how he dies: so assured of his power and inviolability that he continues to taunt Tyrion even when Tyrion is pointing a crossbow at him and has nothing left to lose.

          • LadyKnitsALot says:

            Tywin’s arrogance comes through so clearly in that final scene for him. “I would never let YOU have Casterly Rock” – uh, why on earth would you say that to the son who hates you, who has a crossbow pointed at you, when you are totally defenceless with your pants down (literally!)???? Moron.

    • winnief says:

      Yeah the excesses of the Lannisters and Targaryens have left me thinking that some Northern style austerity is needed in whomever finally gets the IT. Ahem.

      Good point that Tywin at least ought to want to play up Joffrey’s “Baratheon” blood more. Another time when Tywin’s pride overrides his good sense.

      The notorious Harrenhaal curse is yet another reason why I don’t think Baelish is gonna die of old age.

      • Crystal says:

        I’m old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s first term in office, and how much flack Nancy caught for splashing out on expensive china, redecorating the White House, and designer clothes, when the US was in a big-time recession. People compared her to Marie Antoinette.

        An ostentatious display of wealth was expected of medieval rulers, but they were also expected to look after their subjects – and no way the Lannisters were going to do that. What was spent on the medallions could have gone to feed people or repair the city and surroundings after the Battle of Blackwater, and would have been better spent that way. I think this is a lesson that Sansa is absorbing.

    • Grant says:

      She doesn’t have a lot of reason to be thrilled that Baelish brokered the alliance and it’s pretty much universally known that Harrenhal is cursed (though whether it is or not is something I think left deliberately uncertain).

      • Crystal says:

        She doesn’t know that Baelish brokered the Tyrell/Lannister alliance yet. All she knows at this point is that LF didn’t do anything (visibly) noteworthy in the Battle of the Blackwater to merit a reward. And that what he’s getting is not really a reward, but a white elephant (to say the least) – so she wonders what is up. She does find out long after the fact, in AFFC, that 1) LF brokered the Tyrell alliance and 2) being lord of Harrenhal means he can marry Lysa.

    • I think it’s a mix of motivations for Dontos. Yes, he is a drunk and he needs money and Baelish is offering money, but I think he also is genuinely grateful and likes Sansa and is naive enough to buy the idea that LF has her best interests in mind – and, while LF clearly fed him the lines about Florian and Jonquil (since he already knew about Sansa’s love of songs/chivalric romances), I think a part of Dontos really warmed up to the idea that he could, perhaps, play the part of the knight, finally, even though he never was able to when he was actually a knight.

      I think we’re supposed to see him as a sad, pathetic but tragic character – which is why we get the sad story of his family in AFFC when he’s already dead. What Baelish says about him is not the whole truth, it’s only one side of the story. Baelish had an agenda – he wants Sansa to mistrust everyone except him, and he wants to convince her that she can’t have faith in people’s goodness and can’t rely on anyone else to help her.

      And great comments about Tywin, everyone! Yes, fandom tends to ignore just how many of Cersei’s bad traits – narrow-minded arrogance, especially – come from Tywin.

  10. Excellent as always! I did wonder, as a “what if”: had Tywin sent a few dozen or hundred Stannis partisans to the wall instead of pardoning them, how would that butterfly the Wall plot of ASOS and ADWD, and the fallout in the Stormlands when Aegon and Connington invade.

  11. Mr Fixit says:

    ” I can’t fully hate a show that pulls that off.”

    Sigh. Almost having to apologize for not hating the show enough does you no credits.

    That said, a great essay and always fun to read.

  12. I really like the bit where Stannis’ supporters are brought forward and the image starts to slip. Good analysis of this scene, low men bravely speaking against the usurping tyrant and dying for it, while Joffrey weakens his image. It would have been nice having some of that in the show, but D&D are very focused on hating Stannis so they probably didn’t want to show there were people loyal to him.

  13. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you hate on the show! 😉 One thing I really disliked about the scene in the throne room is that they gave LF Sandor’s line (because characters are interchangeable, right?) “They are all liars here, and each one is better than you”, just changed to “we are all liars here…” So, LF is warning Sansa against himself?! Wby would he do that? He wants her to trust him!

    A tiny nitpick about the historical section: the northern nobility didn’t actually play much of a role in Richard III gaining the crown, which didn’t involve battles anyway and northerners only got to London when Richard was already crowned, and I don’t think there were major redistributions of land after his coronation. I’m guessing you wanted to keep it simple ( and streamline the story ;)) because redistributions did happen a few months later when Richard crushed Buckingham”s rebellion, and attained quite a few southern lords who participated in it, giving lands to his loyal northmen. So what you wrote is correct if you substitute “gain” by “retain the crown.”

    • Crystal says:

      Hah, I’m still bitter about Sandor’s lines given to Littlefinger – LITTLEFINGER! – where he tells Sansa how he got the burn scars on his face, and Sansa touches him on the shoulder and says that Gregor was no true knight. That was an Establishing Character Moment for both of them! They might as well have left it out entirely as give it to Littlefinger! GRAAR!

  14. Crystal says:

    I just thought of something: The medallions that were presented to the Tyrells were of gold decorated with ruby lions. The sigil of the extinct House Reyne, the one that was Castamere’d by Tywin, was a red lion. In fact, Roger Reyne was *called* The Red Lion. Was this on purpose by GRRM, to foreshadow that Tywin’s house was going to meet the same fate as the Reynes (Karma’s a beeyotch, Tywin) or was it just a case of Look At Our Very Expensive Largesse In Lannister Colors?

  15. […] sudden arrival to “save” Theon’s outnumbered defenders parallels the end of the Battle of Blackwater, with Tywin and the Tyrells coming in as the literal cavalry. It’s a technique that […]

  16. […] all symbolize death. The contrast with Ser Dontos’ description of the Tyrell charge and the Lannister celebrations could not be stronger; the rich colors exposed for the romantic lie that hides the awful reality of […]

  17. […] defeat at the Blackwater has changed the balance of power in Westeros, by creating the Lannister/Tyrell alliance, but doesn’t connect the dots between his actions turning back Tywin and Stannis losing the […]

  18. beto2702 says:

    What if Joffrey trips while walking to his grandfather and falls face-first into the dung? I know it doesn’t change much but boy was that a missed opportunity haha.

  19. […] undercurrents both here and in the previous Tyrion chapter is that, with the arrival of the Lannister/Tyrell alliance, King’s Landing politics is fundamentally different: here we see the Tyrells making a nicely […]

  20. […] I haven’t made myself clear on this subject before, allow me to rectify that error: I consider Ser Dontos one of the most needlessly vile […]

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