Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"F**k prophecy. F**k faith." The old institutions and the new in Game of Thrones S6/E1.

Series Five of Game of Thrones ended with the the old institutions and the new asserting themselves across the Seven Kingdoms . The Faith Militant prevailed in King's Landing, the Night's Watch violently rejected the liberal interventionist leadership of Jon Snow, House Bolton took control of The North, and in Dorne, Prince Doran re-established stability after the anti-Lannister shenanigans of Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes.

In the final scenes of S5, however, were the seeds of the key political theme of the first episode of S6: the challenge to these institutions from insurgent forces (which are also novel in some cases and familiar in others).

Ellaria's poisoning of Myrcella Baratheon-Lannister, a direct betrayal of Doran's son's betrothal to her, escalated quickly into a full-on coup d'├ętat with her assassination of the Dornish ruler. It is the first time we have seen such a regime change in Thrones: brisk and by a small group, rather than a civil war, rebellion or conquest.

Dorne was the last of the Seven Kingdoms to fall under the control of the Iron Throne and remained loyal to the Targaryens during the War of the Usurper. Is it set to be an alternative powerbase again to whoever rules in King's Landing? There are allies to be made now, perhaps most obviously in Sansa Stark. 

Her escape from Winterfell with Theon Greyjoy when we last saw them, has thrown a flaying knife in the works of Roose Bolton. "I rebelled against the Crown to arrange your marriage to Sansa Stark," he tells his nominal heir, Ramsay. "We need the entire North. They won't back us without Sansa Stark. We no longer have Sansa Stark. You played your games with her. You played your games with the heir to the Iron Islands. And now they are both gone".

The Starks have regained a daughter just as the Lannisters have lost one but with Jaime back by Cersei's side and the Starks still dispersed, the immediate advantage lies with the incestuous twins and their son King Tommen. But the other Houses can wait it seems. With his declaration to "fuck prophecy, fuck faith" it is clear that The Kingslayer regards the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant as the most immediate threat.

Will there finally be a counterbalance from a reunited House Stark, as Sansa heads north to Jon Snow - whose corpse Ser Davos seems determined to keep intact for Melisandre's restorative powers, in defiance of the new old guard of the Watch - and perhaps onwards to Bran?

Dany finally got her new business cards back from the printers.

Meanwhile, in Essos, Daenerys, despite now having the longest job title in history, still can't effectively project the might of her dragons and has left a power vacuum in Meereen that threatens anarchy. Keeping order will require all of Tyrion's intelligence and Varys's, erm, intelligence.

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