By it’s title, HBO’s Game of Thrones is about the play for power. And that competition is at the heart of the events so far in Season 7.
Of course the White Walkers are coming, and the Wall will fall, but the answer to the question that problem brings will be answered, well or poorly, depending on who wins and loses in the meantime, and the stakes for these Kings and Queens are everything.
Like the episode before, a tremendous amount of information and moments were packed into the hour, and I cannot touch on all of it. For this post I want to focus on the wielding of power, particularly for Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.
This isn’t the first time we will have seen a clash of Kings on the show, but it is the first time we will see both Jon and Daenerys in Westeros with the new and greater stakes. Jon commands the North, the Wildlings, and, seemingly, the army of the Vale. Daenerys commands the Unsullied and Dothraki, and has the loyalty of the Greyjoy’s, Tyrell’s, and Dorne rulers (I won’t call them Martells…). And yet, despite having the same Targaryen blood, they rule almost entirely differently.
Jon in this episode, like the one before, seeks minimal, if any, counsel. He will speak a few words to Sansa about a situation or dilemma, but won’t give her or any other advisers a heads up or warning on his opinion, to either hear their feedback or allow them time to mediate on it and support him. As a result, Jon announces his decision, again, in front of everyone, allowing Sansa and his lords to openly question and dissent him. While Jon is able to still command power despite this, it provides would be enemies (see: Littlefinger) with information of loyalties and disagreement; and these enemies will take advantage of these wedges, pry them further open, and exploit them.
I think Jon ultimately makes the right decision, has he has before, but his process about doing it makes him far more vulnerable that it needs to be, sadly.
For Dany, we see her surrounded by many counselors, again, offering different opinions and solutions. After and hearing from many, she accepted and implements a plan from Tyrion that has the aim of harming the least amount of people as possible (though, still harming many). While noble, the plan, ultimately, is folly. She argues that she doesn’t want to use a foreign army to take the Iron Throne, so she uses Westerosi. Meanwhile, she will use a foreign army to take Casterly Rock (which, to me, is the same thing and will be received that way). Indeed, we see Randall Tarly join forces with the Lannisters before a foreign army marches a single step, just the idea of them coming was enough. So, at this point, why not just them and win?
Where Jon suffers from too few counselors, Dany suffers from too many, each with their own hidden agenda. She would be far better off with Mormont and, if he were alive, Barristan Selmy.
At least one of these two will face the White Walkers and their undead army. One of these two will be the “prince or princess that was promised.” And both of these two have a substantial amount of growing to do before they are able to lead their armies and defend Westeros from the coming Winter.
It’s a reminder, just like the scenes with Arya, of how young these characters are. We’ve seen them go through some horrible, painful events, it’s no wonder they are scarred and jaded. They don’t deserve, and indeed didn’t ask, for the challenges that face them, but they need to accept and answer the call all the same.