This is the fifth in a series of recaps of the seventh season of Game of Thrones. We assume you have seen the episodes if you are reading this. - editor
I could not have predicted this week better than if I had seen it in advance. When I closed last week’s recap by asking the question “Who can be trusted?” I had no idea that the very next week would put that question at the center. Trust (or lack thereof) is the tenuous thread holding this all together. Let’s break it down.
After the epic battle between the Lannisters and Daenerys, Jaime has come out alive, thanks to Bronn’s quick maneuver to save him. However, Bronn now seriously distrusts Jaime and where he is taking him. “Dragons are where our partnership ends,” he tells him. It’s clear Jaime does not want to move forward in this war either, after seeing the destruction one dragon can bring.
Tyrion, too, feels doubt. As he walks through the land filled completely with ash and the burned bodies of his family members, it’s clear he is doubting whether he is on the right side. When Daenerys gives the remaining soldiers a chance to swear fealty to her or die, both Randall and Dickon Tarley opt for death, and Dany shows no mercy. Drogon sends his flame and engulfs them both, killing them instantly. This action further pushes Tyrion’s loyalty to its limits. These new actions of “strength” do not align with the Queen he has followed thus far, and he is uncertain of how to move forward. Lord Varys echoes his concerns, remembering a time when Dany’s father, the Mad King Aerys, was burning people alive in the castle and Varys kept repeating to himself, “I’m not the one doing it, I’m not the one doing it.” But how far can these two men stand alongside Daenerys, watching these things happen, and not be considered complicit?
Meanwhile, Jorah Mormont returns to Daenerys’ service, and Jon receives a scroll from Bran telling him that he has seen a vision of the White Walkers past the Great Wall. Dany, Tyrion, Varys, Jon, and Jorah together decide that the only way to convince Cersei that there is an army of dead is to capture one of them and bring them to her. She won’t trust them any other way. But, they know she will hardly grant them an audience, and they decide that Ser Davos will sneak Tyrion in to King’s Landing to meet with Jaime, who is the only one that Cersei trusts. With that, Ser Davos and Tyrion sail to King’s Landing.
After they arrive in King’s Landing, Tyrion meets with Jaime, brought together with the help of Bronn, and he tells him their plan. Later, Jaime brings this up to Cersei, and tries to convince her to meet with them when they arrive with the White Walker. While he tries to play it off as no big deal that he met with Tyrion, whom Cersei wants dead, she tells him she not only knew he met with him, but that she arranged the whole thing. Further luring Jaime into her web, she also tells him that she is pregnant again, and he is the father. As Jaime is filled with emotion, she tells him, “Never betray me again,” and it’s clear that Cersei has only one thought in her mind, and it is loyalty.
The trust between Jaime and Cersei is tenuous at best. He does not trust her decision to march further into a war they are sure to lose, and she does not trust him to not cavort with the enemy and forsake her. It may very well be that she has made up the pregnancy to secure Jaime’s loyalty, but that is to be determined.
Meanwhile, Ser Davos finds Gendry to ask for his help in fighting this war, and Gendry immediately sets aside his work and follows him, eager to help the man who has done so much for him in the past. Finally, the two of them and Tyrion all meet back at the boat and sail for Dragonstone, where Gendry and Jon finally meet. Gendry, despite the advice of Ser Davos, immediately tells Jon exactly who he is, Robert Baratheon’s bastard son, and it is his candor and earnestness that win Jon’s trust. It is decided that he will go with Jon, Ser Davos, and Ser Jorah, and the three of them sail off for Eastwatch by the Sea. When they finally arrive, they meet up with Tormund Giantsbane, the Hound, Beric, and Thoros. It is abundantly clear that there is little to bind these men together. Ser Davos has seen Beric and Thoros do terrible things under the guise of the Lord of Light. The Hound is no one’s friend. Ser Jorah’s father killed Wildlings, of which Tormund is one. And yet, they decide that there is a greater threat than their histories and distrust, and that is the Night King and his White Walkers. Together, this motley crew puts aside their differences and decide to trust each other in perhaps the most dangerous task yet. They leave behind the wall and enter the blizzard in search of the White Walkers.
Trust has also become an issue for Sam and Arya. Sam has officially lost faith in the maesters after they receive the same scroll from Bran that Jon did, warning them of the White Walkers, and they scoff and laugh at it. They ignore Sam when he tells them what he has seen and offers a suggestion of how to move forward. Sam decides ultimately that he is tired of “only reading about better men” and leaves with Gilly. Arya confronts Sansa about the way she is leading Winterfell in Jon’s absence, and accuses her of wanting be the true leader, which Sansa does not deny. Meanwhile, Arya has been following Littlefinger around the castle, and he leads her to his room where he has hidden a scroll, written by Sansa back when she was married to Joffrey, urging Robb to swear fealty to him. This confirms Arya’s suspicions that Sansa only cares about being royalty, but it’s clear that Arya is not the only one doing the watching around the castle – Littlefinger definitely has his eye turned toward her as well. Who really has the upper hand in this scenario? Littlefinger sees the wedge of distrust being driven between the two sisters, and it is naturally in his best interest to see to it that the wedge remains.
Though the episode was clearly about trust, when we offer it and to whom, there is one giant allusion the writers are hinting at throughout, and that is the theory that Jon Snow may not be who he thinks he is. There has long been a fan theory, based on close reading of the books and careful attention to detail, that Jon is actually half Targaryen, and there were two major plot moments this episode that point to this. The first is when Daenerys, riding on Drogon, approaches Jon on a bluff. Rather than attacking Jon, as the dragons are wont to do towards anyone but Dany, Drogon begins inching towards him, sniffing him, and eventually allowing Jon to touch him. It is an astounding moment, one that does not go unnoticed by Dany. We know the dragons are only loyal to Targaryen blood, and this points definitively in Jon’s direction. Secondly, when Sam is complaining to Gilly, who is reading from several annals he has brought along, she notices that one of the Archmaesters performed an annulment for Rhaegar Targaryen, and remarried him on the same day. While Sam pays no attention to her, it is a crucial detail. Rhaegar, older brother of Daenerys, was married to Elia Martell, but it known that he ran off with Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister. The theory is that Jon is actually the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, and that Ned only took Jon as his own son when Lyanna died. If this is true, that would make Jon half Targaryen, and as the only son of Rhaegar, who was next in line for the Iron Throne, ahead of Daenerys in the line of succession.
We can only surmise at this point, of course. Can we, as viewers, really trust the underlying love story between Dany and Jon the writers are feeding us? Or is it merely a distraction? Like the characters, we have to learn to discern what has been placed before us. We cannot necessarily trust the surface of things, because, as the show teaches us, there is much that lies beneath that we cannot yet see.