Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Davos II, ASOS

“Ser Davos, and undrowned. How can that be?”

“Onions float, ser.”

Synopsis: “Sing to me, oh muse, of the man resourceful, who, storm-buffeted far and wide…”

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:

Homer’s Odyssey, one of the oldest works of literature in the world, and arguably one of the first to focus on a single protagonist’s interior psychology, begins with a shipwreck and a lone survivor. The “man of techne” washes up on a foreign shore and before he can be given hospitality, he must tell them his name and how he came to be there. So to survive, Odysseus must tell his story and thus tell himself into existance. (Just goes to show that meta-fiction wasn’t invented on Tumblr.) And as we’ll see again and again from here through to ADWD (and incidentally I cannot recommend enough PoorQuentyn’s coverage of Davos’ arc in ADWD), Davos is Westeros’ man of techne, tossed about by the seas in his long path back to his wife and son, placed in front of men and women of power and having to save himself with his rhetoric.

Salladhor Saan as Old Nick

Speaking of the Odyssey as a model for Davos’ story, one of the major repeating beats in Homer’s epic is our hero encountering some major temptation that seeks to side-track him from his return home, whether we’re talking about the Island of the Lotus-Eaters or the charms of Circe (note: not Cersei). So right off the bat, Salladhor Saan pops up to tempt Davos into abandoning his quest. It probably wouldn’t surprise you that I agree wholeheartedly with PoorQuentyn’s argument that Salladhor Saan’s purpose in the narrative (one that Benioff and Weiss have never grasped) is to mirror Davos’ “smuggler-self” back to him:

Salladhor Saan was not aboard his Valyrian. They found him at another quay a quarter mile distant, down in the hold of a big-bellied Pentoshi cog named Bountiful Harvest, counting cargo with two eunuchs. One held a lantern, the other a wax tablet and stylus. “Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine,” the old rogue was saying when Davos and the captain came down the hatch. Today he wore a wine-colored tunic and high boots of bleached white leather inlaid with silver scrollwork. Pulling the stopper from a jar, he sniffed, sneezed, and said, “A coarse grind, and of the second quality, my nose declares. The bill of lading is saying forty-three jars. Where have the others gotten to, I am wondering? These Pentoshi, do they think I am not counting?” When he saw Davos he stopped suddenly. “Is it pepper stinging my eyes, or tears? Is this the knight of the onions who stands before me? No, how can it be, my dear friend Davos died on the burning river, all agree. Why has he come to haunt me?”

Just to show how deep this Odyssey thing goes, note that even though this is something of a side-quest to Davos’ journey, note that the first thing that Davos has to do when he encounters his old friend is to first say who he is (“is this the knight of the onions who stands before me?”) and then to explain how he got there (“Why has he come to haunt me?”).  But to get back to PoorQuentyn’s point, if Salladhor Saan’s return to the narrative was any more piratical, he’d need a curled periwig, a hook for a hand, a Gilbert & Sullivan libretto, and a ride at Disneyland. This is the world that Davos came from, a world where spices and other luxuries cross the Narrow Sea in an economic system where legality is a sliding scale rather than Stannis’ iron-clad rule. Salladhor Saan has boosted a cargo belonging to Illyrio Mopatis, but so has Daenerys Targaryen, and Illyrio himself treats laws banning slavery as more of a suggestion. And indeed, Salladhor Saan’s argument here is that the ironclad distinction between law and crime is illusory, that the two are one:

“Who has suffered more from pirates than Salladhor Saan? I ask only what is due me. Much gold is owed, oh yes, but I am not without reason, so in place of coin I have taken a handsome parchment, very crisp. It bears the name and seal of Lord Alester Florent, the Hand of the King. I am made Lord of Blackwater Bay, and no vessel may be crossing my lordly waters without my lordly leave, no. And when these outlaws are trying to steal past me in the night to avoid my lawful duties and customs, why, they are no better than smugglers, so I am well within my rights to seize them.” The old pirate laughed. “I cut off no man’s fingers, though. What good are bits of fingers? The ships I am taking, the cargoes, a few ransoms, nothing unreasonable.”

Saan’s point, that the law arbitrarily defines property rights, so that a piece of paper can turn a pirate into a privateer and (mostly) law-abiding merchants into smugglers, is deliberately hard to refute, because GRRM wants to put Davos’ dedication to the test. Indeed, one could argue that Salladhor Saan’s speech here is meant as an implicit critique of Stannis – that for all that Stannis preaches Javert-like about the immutability of justice, his servants are playing fast and loose with the letter of the law. And if even Stannis’ government has begun to sink into corruption, why not give up the whole thing as intellectually bankrupt, and return to the comparatively honest practice of crime?

The Lyseni shook his head. “Of ships, His Grace has none, and Salladhor Saan has many. The king’s ships burned up on the river, but not mine. You shall have one, old friend. You will sail for me, yes? You will dance into Braavos and Myr and Volantis in the black of night, all unseen, and dance out again with silks and spices. We will be having fat purses, yes.”

Saan’s offer fits in perfectly with this very tropey chapter, essentially proposing the One Last Job that ensnares so many criminals turned honest. But beyond the money, Davos is being offered the possibility for a simpler life, one where he can be with his family (indeed, Saan even announces to Davos that “your young Devan was among those we took off at the end. The brave boy never once left the king’s side, or so they say“) and his sons don’t die screaming in wildfire, to return to his role in this semi-legal international economy where smugglers have an integral role of reducing the incidence of excise taxes on luxury goods and prices rise and fall according to the cycle of merchants buying spices from smugglers who bought them from pirates who stole them from merchants.

As I have said before, the one virtue that characterizes Davos more than anything else is loyalty. It’s an unusual virtue that sets him apart from most dashing rogues – who tend to be humanized by a personal code of honor or putting their friends over their own benefit, as opposed to a larger, more abstract political commitment. But for Davos, “my duty’s to my king, not your purse. The war will go on. Stannis is still the rightful heir by all the laws of the Seven Kingdoms.” After so many years by his side, Davos has absorbed some of Stannis’ belief in the laws, despite his smuggler background, and so he will keep fighting the good fight.

TyrionImap

War of Five Kings: Political Update

The next thing Davos does is to get a sense of the lay of the land politically – Odysseus needs to know how Ithaka has fared in his absence  before – so that he knows how to proceed. The news, unfortunately, is not good:

Captain Khorane had told him of the end of Stannis’s hopes, on the night the river burned. The Lannisters had taken him from the flank, and his fickle bannermen had abandoned him by the hundreds in the hour of his greatest need. “King Renly’s shade was seen as well,” the captain said, “slaying right and left as he led the lion lord’s van. It’s said his green armor took a ghostly glow from the wildfire, and his antlers ran with golden flames.”

Renly’s shade. Davos wondered if his sons would return as shades as well. He had seen too many queer things on the sea to say that ghosts did not exist. “Did none keep faith?” he asked.

“Some few,” the captain said. “The queen’s kin, them in chief. We took off many who wore the fox-and-flowers, though many more were left ashore, with all manner of badges. Lord Florent is the King’s Hand on Dragonstone now.”

The mountain grew taller, crowned all in pale smoke. The sail sang, the drum beat, the oars pulled smoothly, and before very long the mouth of the harbor opened before them. So empty, Davos thought, remembering how it had been before, with the ships crowding every quay and rocking at anchor off the breakwater.

The overwhelming impression is of disaster and desolation – the fleet lost along with all of Davos’ sons, the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who Stannis forgave who repaid his forgiveness with betrayal. And with those lost Stormlords and Reachermen, we get the first mention that the Florents are now in charge, seemingly by default. Now, we’ve seen the Florents before as ambitious and self-serving in a family way, but before they were always seen in a context of other noblemen who were just as ambitious and self-serving. But now that the supporting cast has fallen away, they start to stand out now:

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67 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Davos II, ASOS

  1. Winnief says:

    I definitely think Benioff and Weiss’s opinions of Stannis and Melisandre were colored by the knowledge of Shireen’s horrific future.

    However, I did see one motivation for Mel’s speech to Davos which is that she plays up the part of her own omniscience more than she should to try to convince others to follow her. Also I think in Season 6, they added a LOT more layers and complexity to Mel while keeping her frightening as ever so kudos there.

    One part of the show that definitely worked was developing Shireen more as a character and creating her bond with Davos AND Stannis, which of course made the storyline all the more tragic.

    Agree that Edric Storm is the future of House Baratheon, (in the show it’s probably Gendry.)

    Personally think that Davos’s PTSD in this chapter is incredibly well portrayed.

    Good catch on Patchface predicting the Red Wedding.

    Wonderful analysis as always Steven. Keep these chapters coming-we all need the distraction.

    • olisimpson88 says:

      Benioff and Weiss have long made it clear in interviews that they have always hated Stannis, think he would be a terrible king and that their overall opinion is that they did a better job with him in the show.

      They were pretty overt with it via their writing of Renly and shrilling him at every possible time. Even when they actually contradict themselves doing so.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Which is yet another reason the show is terrible. Benioff and Weiss have huge egos for little discernible reason.

        • Bail o' Lies says:

          I say, its a side effect of the critical acclaim for their adaptation. Out of the reviews of the show I have read and others have mention there seems to be a general trend among them. When the critics are praising the show; they normally are praising D&D far more for their adaptation, then they are GRRM for writing the story. When the show goes south for one reason or another the critics (for some reason) are quick to forgive them and pin all the blame on GRRM. So that allowed an atmosphere for the nurturing of their egos to where they are now.

          Where they’re convinced; all the greatness and success of the entire franchise is because of them, and GRRM would be nothing more then a third rate writer with a forgettable series. If it wasn’t for them graciously turning it into the success that it is today.

          Which led to how they normally behave now a days. Where everything great about Game of Thrones is all because of them with their brilliant ideas, and anything that receives criticism is all Georgey’s fault.

          • Grant says:

            I think the reviewers themselves are under pressure to praise the show. I know of at least one (who I will not name because they might face repercussions because of it) who admitted to me that they weren’t quite as enamored with the show as they wrote they were and that for their latest episode review that I’d read, they’d been really reaching with some of the themes.

            So TV reviews are probably as unreliable (if not more so) as gaming reviews.

      • Yeah. I think they never quite got why Stannis is the one who saves the Wall.

    • She definitely does play it up, but the ADWD chapter also points out that her clairvoyance varies by proximity to herself.

  2. Ethan says:

    A minor question, but I’ve never understood the missing spice jars on the seized Pentoshi ship or Saan asking “do the Pentoshi think i am not counting?”. Have the captured sailors stuffed the jars down their pants or something? And why, are they using Saan’s piracy as cover to conduct their own little pilfering?

    • chazzgoodtimes says:

      Interesting – I didn’t give this much thought at the time. I assumed it was to add more color to the whole idea of Saan’s privateering outside of BW bay. Presumeably when captured they had to give an account of what was in their hold, but why steal a few jars of spice? and to your point where would they even put them?

      I’m wondering if this tidbit was meant to cast doubt on the loyalty of Saan’s crew, and offer a more reasonable explanation for how Mel knew Davos was arriving to kill her. I’ve always thought that her sussing that out was way to specific for her to have seen it in the flames, but at the same time on re-read I don’t feel it could have been Saan either. Perhaps Mel has spies among Saan’s crew?

      • David Hunt says:

        I’m pretty sure that I remember reading (from her DwD POV Chapter?) that Mel’s visions are at their most accurate and specific regarding her personal safety and that the first thing she does in the morning is to look into the flames to suss that out. I think it’s clear that she knew about the attempt because she saw it coming.

        • chazzgoodtimes says:

          Interesting – I’m slowly working my way through a re-read so will keep an eye out for that and for Mel’s prophecies in general. It seems like most other prophetic visions in ASOIAF generally require some interpretation – but maybe not so w/ R’hillor?

          A green-seer or someone hopped up on nightshade might see a vague vision of dread arriving from the sea, but via the flame forecast (flamecast?) it’s like, A man, specifically Davos Seaworth, is arriving… today to kill you…. with a blade… specifically a dirk.” I don’t know, I think using a network of spies and informants to create the appearance of being able to predict things through the flames is exactly the kind of thing Mel would do.

          I don’t think Mel is a charlatan, but I do think she engages in a fair amount of posturing to further her influence. It’s also entirely possible that now that I’m caught up with these chapter reviews I’m being over-analytical for it’s own sake, but something about this particular ‘vision’ of Mel’s rings false.

          • etter says:

            She does, but not in that.

            “Melisandre paid the naked steel no mind. If the wildling had meant her harm, she would have seen it in her flames. Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire.”

            She can see it.

          • chazzgoodtimes says:

            Thanks @etter – this is the confirmation from DwD referenced above, and an interesting aspect of her powers. It also puts this, and the poisoning chapter from ACOK in a new light for me. I had previously viewed Mel as little more than a ‘fortune teller’ / slight of hand artist who’s powers jumped up a huge notch after the whole comet / birth of dragons / reawakening of magic; but not in a way that she could really control or understand.

            While I still think some of that may be true, the PoV chapter from DwD basically confirms that she already had a very real gift that was way more refined than I initially believed reading ACOK and SOS.

    • Adam says:

      I gathered that, yeah, the captured crew of the ship Saan took smuggled a bit of the trade goods into their own belongings (pepper is presumably very high value and low in volume/weight), probably thinking this random pirate would be happy enough with the bounty he received and wouldn’t be able to read the trade ledgers to verify that everything that was supposed to be on the ship was still there, and they’d be dropped off at some port and left to fend for themselves.

    • Hedrigal says:

      I had taken it to mean that the spice jars were missing from the count provided by the pentoshi merchants, and that he was mocking them for thinking he wouldn’t personally verify the numbers given to him.

      As in its not actually a matter of them disappearing physically, but theyre actually appearing when previously there was no record of them.

    • Another possibility is that the Pentoshi are pilfering some of the ship’s cargo and selling it on their own account, while not putitng the “shrinkage” down in their account books.

    • charei says:

      It serves as a characterization of Salladhor. He is a pirate, he stole the ship and the cargo and is complaining about some missing jars. Its a kind of joke. Salladhor and not Illirio is the criminal in this case and Salladhor knows very well that he is.

  3. Iñigo says:

    Davos, as hand will save the world from the others.

    Of course, the others are big enough of a threat to have a lot of people taking decisive actions to save the world from them, but Davos is, by the end of ADWD the most important.

    • winnief says:

      Oh Davos is definitely Jon’s hand. And if the show is right then Davos is the one responsible for getting Mel to revive Jon.

      But yeah many people’s help will be needed against the Night King and his army. Tyrion, Jon, Dany, Davos, Sam Tarly, Bram, and I suspect both Stark sisters have roles to play as well.

      • Sean C. says:

        And if the show is right then Davos is the one responsible for getting Mel to revive Jon.

        There’s no way that would happen in the books. Davos is nowhere near the Wall, and doesn’t even know Jon.

        • Bail o' Lies says:

          I do think Davos would make a good Hand of the King when the crises is all over if not then a good master of ships.

          But by the time Mel would be reviving Jon. Davos would be on or his way to Skagos to get Rickon…What I forgotten what did they do to Rickon in the show?

          • Andrew says:

            The Umbers gave him to Ramsay, and Ramsay had him killed with a few arrows in front of Jon an his army.

      • Andrew says:

        Yeah, if Jon ever became king I would see him making Davos his Hand.

        Wouldn’t you think that when they meet they would hit it off pretty well?

    • Brett says:

      Not Jon’s Hand, but Hand to whoever is sitting the Iron Throne at the end of all of it.

    • Iñigo says:

      I’m really, really confused by the answers to the commentary I made. Where do I mention that Davos is Jons hand?

      I’m talking about him sending Stannis to the wall.

    • He’ll definitely do something. I’m more certain about him bringing Rickon back and probably becoming the Cressen to Edric Storm.

  4. Andrew says:

    1. “We were playing monsters and maidens,” he explained. “I was the monster. It’s a childish game but my cousin likes it.”

    Well, at least Edric is unlike his father in that he isn’t shitty to the females in his life.

    2. Odysseus had to deal with suitors vying for his queen’s hand when he comes home while Davos has to deal with rivals (Florents and Melisandre) vying for Stannis’s ear.

    3. Alester shows to be bad, but his brother Axell is worse. If he would allow his own brother to burn, then I don’t think he would bat an eye over the idea of Shireen being sacrificed.

    • David Hunt says:

      Re: 1 It was my impression that Robert was extremely charming to the various women in life…for a time. It was only that he’d gotten what he wanted from them and was tired of them that he discarded them. Still, I think it speaks well of him that he’s willing to indulge Shireen, Although he might not have thought he had a choice. Shireen is a Princess and King Stannis’ heir by Andal inheritance laws. She outranks him.

    • winnief says:

      Personally I thought Edric being kind to Shireen was an indication of affection on the part of the cousins that only made the whole thing more poignant.

      Shireen was lonely and wanted company and Edric liked having an audience to perform to but also to feel manly and protective of. It was just that simple.

      • Andrew says:

        Maybe, but there is also this line as Davos is smuggling him: “I have to see her then. To say my farewells. Otherwise she’ll be sad.” He does show to care about her feelings.

    • 1. Good point.

      2. Well, Davos also has a wife who’s home might well be occupied by the Golden Company.

      3. Oh, they both suck, no question.

    • Crystal says:

      I think it is ironic that Robert’s heir (who isn’t really his son, though!) Joffrey was the Worst Of The Worst, but his illegitimate sons (who were definitely his!) were decent people. Certainly Edric would have made a better king than Joffrey, but then again, just about anyone in the Seven Kingdoms except maybe Ramsay Bolton or Chett would have.

      • Andrew says:

        With Gendry, I think Stannis would find in him the son he never had: worships Lord of Light, serious, grim demeanor, and has some sense of justice.

      • Then again, Tommen and Myrcella, also not actually his children but legally his children – just younger than Joffrey – are nice kids, and while Tommen may remain a bit too much of a pushover even when he’s older, Myrcella seems like she could make a good queen regnant if she got a chance to be one (even though she actually doesn’t have a claim to the throne).

        • Andrew says:

          Myrcella is the opposite of her mother. Among her generation, she’s the brightest and strongest while when Cersei is compared to her siblings she is the weakest link. I think Cersei’s relaitonship with her children is a declension. Her relationship with Joffrey was the best, and she is abusive to Tommen and he does stand up to her. If Myrcella wears the crown (I think she will), I think she would have the worst relationship with her mother.

      • “but then again, just about anyone in the Seven Kingdoms except maybe Ramsay Bolton or Chett would have.”

        Or Gregor Clegane/Rorge/Biter/Raff the Sweetling/Chyswick/Dirk/Softfoot,,,

        Damn, there are a lot of terrible people among minor ASOAIF characters.

        • Hedrigal says:

          Also, every single one of the Bastards Boys. Yellow Dick, Spotted Tom, Daemon Dance For Me, Skinner, and Little Walder.

    • It also shows Edric is a much nicer person than Renly, who was mocking his niece’s looks (though not to her face).

      The young generation of Baratheon descendants – Mya, Gendry, Edric, Shireen – all seem nicer, better and more compassionate people than any of the Baratheon brothers.

  5. They will bend the knee says:

    Joy, a Davos chapter !

    I’ve been waiting for this sweet baby for four months… 😀

  6. Steve says:

    I always enjoy reading these analyses, especially the Davos ones, keep them coming!

  7. chazzgoodtimes says:

    First – I’m so pleased to have caught my re-reading of the series to your CBC analysis. My professional need to smash through things like memos and contracts as quickly as possible has destroyed my ability to read works of fiction as a pace necessary to truly delve into the nuance of something like ASOIAF. Your work here has allowed me to do this, so thanks!

    My initial read of this chapter was that Saan informed on Davos via a runner or some other messenger that beat Davos to the castle. That never quite jived with what seems to be a very genuine concern on Saan’s part for Davos not engaging in his suicide mission. That said, any vision that would have Davos going to kill Mel down to the weapon he was planning on using, seems way more specific than the prophecies and visions elsewhere in the text. So I guess my question is do we know for sure that Sallador Saan didn’t betray Davos?

    Also – curious if you are planning to do the CBC for Feast, than Dance, or some type of FeastDance combo?

    And finally thank you again for doing such great work with this. I’m happy to be caught up!

  8. Sean C. says:

    It is strange to me, given how much the show goes out of its way to whitewash characters they like, that Benioff and Weiss doubled-down on the Melisandre = Evil idea. Perhaps this is the influence of knowing ahead of time what happens to Shireen without access to the more complicated and nuanced inner monologue that GRRM gave her in ADWD?

    I imagine that’s part of it, but more broadly, on the show: religion = evil. In this storyline specifically, the show reframes Davos vs. Melisandre specifically as atheism vs. religion, with Davos in the show now explicitly arguing for an atheist position, whereas in the books he’s a Christmas and Easter Christian.

    You also see that in how religion is largely removed from the “good” characters. In Season 6, for instance, when the show got to its version of Septon Meribald/the Elder Brother, instead of a pious follower of the Seven we got some hippy who admits he has no idea which gods might be real. And with both of the resurrected characters the show flogs over and over the idea that there’s no afterlife (which, incidentally, I don’t understand how they can know that; if they have no memory of what happened after dying, then dying and being resurrected should be like being woken up after a sleep; if they do remember a void, then they were conscious of it, so that is an afterlife, if not a terribly pleasant one).

    • medrawt says:

      In general: the show seems very much like it’s being made by people with a run of the mill modern liberal’s perspective. That’s not a problem to me – I’m a run of the mill modern liberal, and I believe GRRM is as well – but what’s problematic is that they don’t take seriously the premises of GRRM’s setting, which is populated by characters who don’t subscribe to anything like modern liberalism; Davos and Tyrion might be the only ones who could even vaguely imagine it if you started explaining it to them. This tension breaks into the adaptation in numerous ways:

      (1) As you say, the handling of religious faith.
      (2) The attitude towards gender norms (aka, why in W&B’s Westeros, the only way women can be empowered is to be violent or convince men to be violent on their behalf.)
      (3) The attitude towards the entire political underpinning of the plot. I don’t think W&B take hereditary monarchy seriously, and I suspect that consciously or not, they don’t understand why any of the characters would either, which I believe is part of why they invert the appropriate sympathies re: Stannis and Renly, but also why they want to put onto Dany a revolutionary agenda (aside from overthrowing slavery) for which she isn’t suited.

      • poorquentyn says:

        Tyrion scoffs at the Vale clans’ democratic leanings, especially their inclusion of women; he’s got sympathy for “bastards, cripples, and broken things,” sure, but still very much cleaves to his era’s understanding of where power comes from.

      • Bail o' Lies says:

        I think the problem is the difference between the handling of the material between D&D and GRRM.

        GRRM whatever his views is a lover of history. So His handling of it is, “Yes to our eyes (and in some cases to the eyes of the pov) these are awful practices BUT they are the practices of the time, and in order to fully understand the characters you have to understand that.”

        D&D it switches between “Modern Progressives Liberals’ viewpoints, points of views and values,” and “Oh Yeah, this was a shitty time. Lets have our characters do something awful for shock value ratings.”

      • Hedrigal says:

        Three is actually a really important point beyond just the Stannis Renly feud because it also impacts a lot of things in regards to how they treat the seizure of power by someone with no “legal” right to it. Cersei might actually have a shot at ruling if leaks are any indication, Ramsay somehow commits a coup against his father, the sand snakes overthrow Doran for insane reasons, and so on. The only even slightly plausiable one is Jon as king in the north (where catastrophe and political symbolism atleast make sense, and they also have the point that Sansa is still lady of winterfell).

        • medrawt says:

          Yes, though that links up to another of my criticisms of the adaptation: in a surprisingly literal way, I don’t think W&B particularly care if things make sense.

        • Grant says:

          More on Stannis, how they wrote his treatment of Shireen shows they really aren’t thinking about dynastic politics. I don’t mean so much that Stannis sacrificed her (though I don’t at all believe he’d do it for something as small as a blizzard). I mean that she was brought in the first place.

          Setting aside general military reasons why you don’t bring little girls along with you on campaigns, Shireen is Stannis’ only child. His only heir. When lords who serve him think to themselves ‘if Stannis wins the war and takes the throne, who reigns after Stannis dies?’ he can point to his daughter and say that she and her husband will. But what if Shireen dies because he brought her to a battlefield? If that happens, the lords will wonder if they’ll just have another civil war after Stannis dies, especially since it’s known that he doesn’t care that much about his wife. So the lords will reconsider their support for Stannis because they don’t want to keep fighting war after war every 10-20 years.

          But the show writers don’t really get that. They know they have to reach this plot point that Stannis sacrifices Shireen, so they rushed it in without trying to write it making sense.

      • “Run of the mill liberal’s perspective”

        I would rather characterize it as faux-progressive. They strike me as the kind of people who think they are incredibly progressive while actually displaying a high degree of sexism, homophobia and racism (which they are completely unaware of), combined with very aggressive and intolerant anti-religious attitude (I am not religious, but this type of atheists strike me as just as fanatical and stubborn as the religious fanatics they are denouncing) and a complete lack of understanding for history or any culture different from the one they grew up in and live in. This is all best exemplified in the show’s version of the Sparrows/Faith Militant storyline, while their portrayals of Loras and Margaery are perfect examples of Benioff and Weiss trying to be pro-LGBT/feminist (and probably congratulating themselves on how they’ve “improved” the books) and instead delivering incredibly homophobic/sexist writing.

  9. Sean C. says:

    However, I think fans often miss or ignore important contextual elements: while I’m pretty sure that Stannis did not order his brother’s murder, the text is quite clear that he had no involvement in the deaths of Lord Sunglass or the Rampton boys, that their deaths were ordered by Selyse Baratheon and carried out by Melisandre in his absence and without his knowledge.

    While that’s true, he doesn’t punish anyone involved in these actions, which makes him an accomplice after the fact.

    • Keith B says:

      Indeed. The most important contextual element is that Stannis was the King and everyone else was his subordinate. Commanders have always been held responsible for the actions of their followers. The Pope refused to accept Henry II’s argument that he did not order the murder of Thomas Becket. The United States executed Japanese generals for atrocities committed by their troops, even though the they did not order those atrocities.

      When Rickard Karstark murdered the two squires, Robb Stark executed him, even though he knew it would be devastating to his war effort. For that reason alone, Robb deserves more credit for trying to be a good King than Stannis, despite his numerous mistakes.

      Even if Stannis didn’t order the murder of Renly, he employed Melisandre and continued to do so afterwards. Brienne was completely right to blame Stannis for it. Afterwards, she killed Cortnay Penrose at Stannis’ behest. Davos has the answer to Stannis’ claim that Penrose’s death was pre-ordained: it still requires someone’s willful choice to bring it about.

      And of course Stannis was indignant and offended at the thought that Cortnay Penrose refused to hand over Edric for fear of the boy’s safety, only to decide, with no apparent sense of shame, to sacrifice him in ASOS.

      Many fans are far too willing to absolve Stannis of responsibility. All of the evil that Melisandre commits in his name is with his consent and for his benefit.

    • Jack says:

      Stannis also takes credit for Sunglass’s death later in the book, “Celtigar has abandoned me, the new Velaryon is six years old, and the new Sunglass sailed for Volantis after I burned his brother”.

  10. poorquentyn says:

    Excellent work as always, and thank you kindly for the shout-outs!

    I’ve always loved the contrast between the KL and Dragonstone courts in ASOS. The former, with the Tyrells in town, is the height of pomp and prestige; the latter is a sad little king of a sad little hill. KL is full to bursting with people and money and colors; Dragonstone is drawn in blacks and grays, a handful of survivors surrounded by echoes and ghosts. But over the course of the book, Tywin’s court rots from within, while Team Dragonstone ultimately turns to save the world.

  11. artihcus022 says:

    IIRC, Benioff and Weiss didn’t know about Stannis’ endgame until between Seasons 3 and 4. So them knowing about Shireen and blackening Melisandre’s depiction for that alone doesn’t suffice as a justification. They were doing that, and ruining Stannis too, before that came.

    I think the hostility towards Melisandre comes from not only misreading the books, but also from personal agenda. I think both creators are into the millennial new atheism fad (of the Gutter-Hitchens variety). You see this with the way many characters openly talk smack about religion in a feudal setting where that kind of thing wasn’t done and isn’t done in the books out loud either. Davos is an atheist on the show while in the books he’s still a believer in the 7 and has a religious experience in Davos I ASOS. Show!Brienne has no piety either and the similarly pious Sansa has lost her faith in Season 6.

    I mean GRRM is an atheist as well, but even he doesn’t do something that shallow to represent sensibilities like that.

    • Exactly. The first season they wrote with the knowledge of characters’ endgame was season 4. Their misrepresentation of Melisandre is due to their tendency to interpret characters in the most superficial, shallow way possible, combined with their unsubtle anti-religious attitude and tendency to portray all religious figures as evil Straw Fundamentalists.

  12. Ariella KH says:

    Wonderful analysis! I never noticed the Odyssey parallels, or the idea of Salla being Davos’s dark mirror.

  13. LionFox says:

    Salladhor Saan’s remarks about the formalism of distinguishing between piracy and lawful appropriation bring to mind Augustine’s discussion of the difference between pirates and emperors in Civitas Dei. However, the story Augustine comments on there is out of Cicero’s De Officiis. I’m more familiar with the Augustinian story in which eternal, immutable justice marks the difference, but I, at the very least, do recall that Cicero’s discussion of pirates occurs near his discussion of expediency, which might be more relevant considering Stannis’s dilemma with Edric Storm.

  14. Hedrigal says:

    The whole thing about Salla being a dark mirror of Davos makes me really excited for when you start reading ADWD in 2027.

  15. Lucerys says:

    That will be in conjunction with the release of TWOW.

  16. Jim says:

    Steven– Great post as always! But I think you short-changed us a bit on the What if here 🙂 – What if Mellisandra is right about the power in kings blood and burning Edric results in some great magical feat? Maybe we find out what it means to awake a stone dragon? Baby dragon found in in the tunnels beneath?? Or maybe a magical end to an espescially well attended meeting of the small council? In short what could Mel get out of her sacrifice, and what effect would that have…

    • Hedrigal says:

      The problem is that she was right, its just that this has already been invoked. Dragons already have been woken from stone. Dany did it with Khal Drogos kingsblood, and potentially also her own unborn sons sacrifice. George described that specifically as a miracle and the implication is that it wouldn’t be a ritual that could be repeated.

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