Thursday, July 31, 2014

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 38

Thursday is court day! 
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from A Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to stefan_sasse@gmx.de, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
And now, up to ruling 38 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Jim McGeehin, a contributing writer to The War and Politics of Ice and Fire and regular essayist for the Tower of the Hand.


I think The Winds of Winter will be brutal. I know GRRM has said in the past that he would like to get the story back down to around 8 POV's like he had in AGOT. So who do you think will make it to see A Dream of Spring and which characters will be killed?

Main Opinion: Amin
I’ve always thought that all characters are fair targets in the final book, but it seems like the big three of Jon, Dany, and Tyrion are likely to make it until then. There is some timeframe overlap between the end of one book and another, so it is strictly possible that one of them could die at the end of Winds of Winter, but they’ll probably make it to the last book. Bran is there until the endgame as well, though we might have to see less of his POV for a while. Given the strength of her prophecy, Cersei is around until his children die (or turn away) from her, whenever that is. Davos’ ship rises and falls with Stannis – if Stannis bites the dust before A Dream of Spring, Davos will follow him. If you want a character that will not make it past the next book, I’ld say Victarion, who won’t survive to see Dany’s trip over to Westeros.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
I agree with Amin’s assessment. I want to point out, though, that getting down to eight POV characters doesn’t necessarily require killing them off. Characters like Areoh Hotah or Aeron Greyjoy, for example, could just stop being used. Others might fade back into the background as well. But eight is really a pretty small number, if you get down to it. Jon, Dany and Tyrion are givens. I also can’t imagine Sam to bite the dust, which makes four. Jaime and Cersei are unlikely to survive, so nothing on that count, there’s certainly room for only one Greyjoy. Bran will most likely have the last chapter, so that’s five. I go out on a limb and call eight wishful thinking on Martin’s part, except he really simply stops using many existing ones, but I don’t really see a reason for that. The number will certainly shrink, though.

Concurring Opinion: Jim McGeehin
I like to look to it as GRRM combining perspectives and 'trimming the fat,' so to speak. I'd say the big three (Jon, Tyrion, Daenerys) will survive to ADOS, though Jon might not become a POV character any more if he ends up being the destined Azor Ahai. Sansa's making it to ADOS, I believe. Bran's surviving, he's our only viewpoint in the Far North. Davos is surviving at least until the situation with Skagos is resolved, but I think Stannis is going to make it to A Dream of Spring. Call it half a hunch, half wish fulfillment. As far as people dying, I'd say Brienne dies in TWOW after bringing Jaime to Lady Stoneheart. Victorian dies blowing the Dragon Horn, foolishly thinking he is its master. Cersei probably dies near the end of TWOW, her breed of entitlement and incompetence is not 'end-villain' material. Jon Connington and Areo Hotah probably won't make it out of TWOW. I think Theon is dying too, but I don't think its a tragedy in that case. I think Theon's story is almost over, and it is equal parts redemption story and deconstruction of the redemption story. I give Asha 50-50 odds, higher if Theon dies, lower if he lives. One of the Greyjoys is making it to ADOS, but it could go either way with Asha or Theon.

Why does Varys approach Lord Eddard Stark in an attempt to keep King Robert Baratheon alive? Surely King Robert on the throne would make it more difficult for the Targs to reclaim it?

Main Opinion: Amin
Varys is playing the long game, which worked best with keeping Robert on the Throne for a while longer. Once he was ready for Dany to come over (and really pave the way for Aegon), then he would have no problem with destabilizing Robert or even potentially assassinating him, though having him make potential rash military decisions as a battle commander might also be useful . Ultimately, Varys was working to support Robert (and Eddard Stark) only as long as it fit into his plans.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
Varys doesn’t want to rescue either Ned Stark nor Robert Baratheon. What he wants is to keep the conflict boiling long enough until Aegon is ready. That means, another year or so, sowing alliances and meeting up with the Golden Company. I doubt, however, that Varys is banking on the Dothraki arriving. That was a longshot from day one. But he can kill Robert and/or Eddard just prior to Aegon’s invasion, instead of over two years before it.

Concurring opinion: Jim McGeehin
Varys is angling for Robert to be foolish in attacking the Dothraki. He needs Robert to be killed in battle to cement the utter hopelessness of the Dothraki invasion. If Robert Baratheon, Westeros's warrior-king, dies to the Dothraki, and Aegon 'saves' them, it makes Aegon far greater. Westeros is a martial culture. A winning general can be made into a triumphant king in Westerosi minds better than a scholar or poet. The Dothraki killing 14-year old Joffrey is hardly a powerful symbol; he's still just a boy in the eyes of many (assuming Joffrey would even take the field at all). By keeping Robert on, he can further the slow rot of the kingdom while keeping it largely intact. Varys wants an easy changeover, not a long reconquista.

Was fAegon the backup, or Dany and Viserys?

Main Opinion: Amin
Dany and Viserys were the backup, even if that. Aegon’s rule is the primary goal of Viserys and Illyrio’s plan, although one or the other may have other plans as well. I suppose it depends what you think their ultimate goal is. If it is merely to gain power or influence, then Viserys and Dany would have worked as a backup. If it is something deeper, like the Blackfyre rises and/or Aegon is Illyrio’s child theories, then Aegon is central to that plan and no other backup really fits the role if he dies.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
Illyrio states as much in his strangely honest declaration to Tyrion: he expected Dany and Viserys to die on the Dothraki sea anyway. What people tend to forget about the marriage between Dany and Drogo is that Illyrio profited from it heavily. It’s only mentioned in passing in “A Game of Thrones” because from neither Dany’s nor Viserys’ perspective it’s particularily important, but Illyrio made a shitload of money by selling Dany to Drogo. Money, I’d argue, that’ll come in handy when they push Aegon forward. I don’t even think they were intended as real backup. If it’s true that Aegon is a Blackfyre and son to Illyrio, then there is no backup. Why would you backup for a plan that centers around your own son? If Dany and Viserys, whom Illyrio really didn’t try hard to keep from joining Drogo, dies out in the Dothraki sea, there wouldn’t be any more pretenders. The marriage and alliance only comes on the table once Dany survives, gets dragons and rules Slaver’s Bay.

Concurring opinion: Jim McGeehin
I'm of a mind to say that Daenerys and Viserys were never backups, and the Spider and Cheesemonger were running the classic distraction con. Illyrio makes Daenerys's wedding to Khal Drogo nice and showy, so Robert pays attention to it, while no one pays attention when the Golden Company unusually breaks a contract, so they get to come out of left field. Politically, Viserys landing with a bunch of Dothraki screamers isn't going to be a very secure rule, especially if the Dothraki start burning down septs. There's an old Bedouin saying: "I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers." This concept applies to Westeros as well. Blackwood and Bracken hate each other, but when Gregor Clegane sacks the Riverlands, they work together. Varys incites Robert to march against the Dothraki, preferably with his power bloc doing the heavy lifting while his 'friends in the Reach' come down with a case of the slows that would make Walder Frey jealous. After Robert is defeated, Aegon lands, declares himself the rightful king, gets a few shills to march their banners behind him (another con-artist trick orchestrated by Varys, hearkening back to his two-man cons with Illyrio when they were younger), defeats the wounded Dothraki with firm discipline, defeating the mad Viserys. Symbolically, this elevates Aegon to a level above Robert (see my answer to the second question as to why this is important), while at the same time symbolically destroying the 'mad Targaryen' trope that Aerys II emphasized, ensuring that any political rivals cannot use this idea against him to launch another Robert's Rebellion.

12 comments:

  1. What people tend to forget about the marriage between Dany and Drogo is that Illyrio profited from it heavily. It’s only mentioned in passing in “A Game of Thrones” because from neither Dany’s nor Viserys’ perspective it’s particularily important, but Illyrio made a shitload of money by selling Dany to Drogo

    But he also gave her the dragon eggs, which either a) he expected to hatch, in which case Dany can't have been a distraction or a backup, or b) he didn't expect to hatch in which case they were a massively expensive present to give.

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    1. Yes, the fact that Illyrio gave Dany 3 dragon eggs is still somewhat of a problem in all the theories regarding her role in Illyrio's and Varys' plans. Why would he give such exorbitantly expensive gifts to someone who he thinks'll die or is at least a mere distraction?

      Maybe the easiest answer is the right answer here? Martin wanted Dany to hatch the dragons and didn't really think all that much on how she got them in the first place. A little plot hole maybe?

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    2. Heartsbane of HornhillAugust 2, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      How could anyone expect Danaerys to hatch eggs. She was a beggar in the wild with little or no resources. As compared to Aegon V who had all the resources in the world, but burned his family nearly to the ground. They might as well have been painted rocks to Illyrio.

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    3. The function of gifts in societies such as the ones portrayed in ASOIAF isn't to give something to the receiver that they can use, but to demonstrate your own wealth (see also the countless weapon gifts to Robert). Illyrio had to make some lavish gift to Dany in order not to lose standing among his peers. Plus, had he given her a beggar's present, it would have been obvious to anyone and their mother that he didn't give a rat's ass about her - there goes your whole decoy.

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  2. Heartsbane of HornhillJuly 31, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Without even looking at the topics Thursdays have become quite exciting. Waiting to see what theories you folks rule on. This was a solid idea Stefen. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Great in depth answers this week. Interestingly, during the POV question no one brought up Arya.

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    1. It's much the same thing as Bran. Her story has taken us to interesting places, but it hasn't developed into much for the plot. While Arya has had more world-building than most in her chapters, she still needs a narrative payoff, much like Bran. Arya's survivng until she impacts the narrative as a whole.

      -SomethingLikeALawyer

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  4. "You’ll be sewing all through winter. When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers." Jon to Arya in AGOT

    But I think she's still safe for now, all that assassin training has to pay off yet.

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  5. I don't think he needs to kill everyone to cut down POVs. If we just look at Dance of the Dragons. Jaime, Melisandre, Davos barely had any chapters - so I don't think they will have chapters in ADOS. By ADOS, I agree Jon won't have any chapters as a POV. Cersei will probably be dead. Dany, Arya, Sansa, Sam, Arianne, Tyrion, Bran, Theon are some of those POVs who will have chapters, I guess.

    'I'm of a mind to say that Daenerys and Viserys were never backups, and the Spider and Cheesemonger were running the classic distraction con. Illyrio makes Daenerys's wedding to Khal Drogo nice and showy, so Robert pays attention to it, while no one pays attention when the Golden Company unusually breaks a contract, so they get to come out of left field.'

    I like this idea.

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  6. Two quick things:

    I do tend to think Dany and Viserys had some purpose. Aegon is definitely the primary, but if it's true that Dany and Viserys are worthless to Varys, why does he have Jorah go with them, and why does he warn Jorah about the assassination attempt so he can stop it?

    As far as the dragon eggs go, while it's very doubtful Illyrio would have ever expected Dany to hatch them, if their overall plan is to have Aegon reveal himself eventually, the dragons eggs could have served a purpose, if only as a symbol of "the last Targaryen". Why give them away for no reason?

    I do keep thinking about the "Mummer's Dragon". Everyone assumes it either means "Fake Dragon" or "Varys' Dragon", but the term Mummer's Dragon is defined in the books in Clash of Kings (I believe). Dany defines it as "A cloth dragon on poles. Mummers use them in their follies, to give the heroes something to fight." I've always wondered if perhaps that was the purpose of the Dothraki...encourage them to invade Westeros (which might have been possible even if Dany died, and certainly without Viserys) while everyone is already fighting, and then send in Aegon with the Golden Company to unite the Seven Kingdoms and fight off the Dothraki.

    I also do like the idea that they were a distraction as well.

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