Thursday, February 26, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 67

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, 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 65 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Sean T. Collins, well known co-host of your favorite ASOIAF podcast "Boiled Leather Audio Hour", author of the blog of the same name and freelance writer.

Who is Taena Merryweather working for and what is her objective? 
See also here.

Main Opinion: Stefan
She is certainly not an ally of Littlefinger, because he would have already bragged about it in front of Sansa. Besides, Littlefinger doesn’t have such allies. That leaves only three suspects: the Tyrells, Varys and herself. The Tyrells don’t make much sense because Taena is far too damaging for them, which leaves Varys and herself as a free agent. Granted, Brynden Bfish makes a pretty strong argument about her being an agent of Varys’ in his essay, but I prefer to think she’s on her own. She just doesn’t seem to have the level of clever that Varys would require. It’s more of a gut feeling here than a sound analysis, but not everyone can be in the pocket of one of the master schemers. The beautiful thing about the Game of Thrones is that it is constantly fucked up by people considering themselves players, pieces that are getting out of control. Taena seems to be such a piece. Her objective is sound - regain money and influence that her husband’s family lost in the rebellion - and her methodes not very refined, but sufficient for Cersei. She works best as an agent of her own cause, in my mind.

Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
I agree that Taena is unlikely to be working for the Tyrells, for the reasons listed by Justice Stefan and in Brynden’s argument. I don’t think it has to be so stark a difference to say that she is working for Varys or for herself. Having considered the arguments, I think she may be doing both: Varys is making use of her and she is making use of Varys for her own gains. In the end, Varys would have the upper hand if this is the case, as she had to leave King’s Landing rather than cement the gains she made there. I have to throw another name into the ring for consideration based off the comments on that thread: Doran Martell, who had a “friend” in King’s Landing and existing ties to the Free Cities. If Taena wasn’t already interesting before, she is now!

Dissenting Opinion: Sean T. Collins
I have to disagree with Justice Stefan. Cui bono, you know? Taena's actions fall so squarely in line with what someone hoping to sow discord in the court would want her to do that it's hard for me to imagine such a figure not being responsible for them in some way, and that's a web with the Spider at the center. It's possible that she's a free agent and the overlap between what she did and what Varys would be thrilled for someone to do is coincidental, but if nothing else her flight from the city indicates there's more to her than a troublemaker. I believe Varys backed her play.

Final Verdict: While not a direct agent of Varys, she may very well be supported by him. 

Why do you think both Aerys II and his successor as king, Robert, were both so prejudiced against significant parts of their own ancestries (Dornish for the former, "dragonspawn" the latter)?

Main Opinion: Stefan
I don’t think it has to do anything with their ancestry. Robert’s hatred is pretty clear in its source, I’d say, and the Targaryen ancestry is so buried in the family lineage that Robert most likely forgot about it until some clever maester reminded him when they tried to come up with a legitimacy during the rebellion. On Aerys’ side, the Dornish are always otherised and mistrusted, that’s not exactly a feature unique to Aerys. The Mad King also had a uniquely unqualified set of advisers playing up his paranoia, and who to fear better than a different culture that is bonded way too closely to the son you suspect intent to overthrow you?

Concurring Opinion: Amin
I concur with Justice Stefan: both Aerys II and Robert were affected by their individual circumstances and personalities. Also, given all the marriage alliances and deals that have occurred in the past, most people could be accused of being ‘prejudiced’ against their own ancestors, without any real merit or understanding resulting from that kind of accusation.

Concurring Opinion: Sean T. Collins
Justice Stefan's quite right. Certainly in Robert's case, prejudice against an ethnic group is a bit broad a brush with which to paint one dude's grudge against one family, and at any rate the reasons for that grudge are well established. As for Aerys, Targaryen distrust of the Dornish goes back all the way to the deaths of Queen Rhaenys and King Daeron I; more recently it was a prime motivating factor in the Blackfyre Rebellion. It's no harder to believe Aerys perpetuated those old stereotypes despite the presence of some Dornish DNA in his bloodstream than it is to believe that my own German or Scottish ancestors from several generations don't prevent me from identifying far more strongly with my Irish heritage.

Final Verdict: Those two have ample reason to hate, they don't need ancient ancestry in the mix. 

How involved is Varys in Jaqen's actions in Westeros? It is known now that Rugen (Varys) released him from the black cells, but did he know he was a faceless man when he released him? Any chance that Varys hired the Faceless Men or was it just a lucky coincidence he released a Faceless Man into Westeros?

Main Opinion: Stefan
It is known that he released Jaqen? That’s news to me. Yoren got the pick of the dungeons from Robert, with no need to Varys being involved. This is fairly common practice in King’s Landing. On the other hand, what would Varys have to do with Jaqen, and why would that story never have come up? Jaqen surely would have mused about it aloud, as is his style, but he never ever mentioned someone releasing him from the Black Cells unexpectedly. So I doubt there is any connection between the two. Like in the first ruling of today, I have to emphasize that there are many more players than just two or three. Their objectives may be smaller, but that also allows them some independence in not going after the thrones, but other heart’s desires.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
Jaqen’s release and actions don’t particularly tie him to Varys or Varys’ goals. I don’t know who hired Jaqen, but keep in mind that the Night’s Watch was taking him and the rest of the transferred prisoners to the Wall, before he escaped with Arya’s help. It seems that Varys would have done more for Jaqen than releasing him into their custody, if he even did that, if they were working together.

Concurring Opinion: Sean T. Collins
Yeah, Yoren was given carte blanche in that prison. There's no reason to suspect deliberation or collusion on Varys's part, or indeed to believe he was even on duty when Yoren picked his prisoners. None of that, of course, speaks to the mystery of Jaqen's presence in the black cells in the first place -- why he was in King's Landing, how he was arrested, whether he assumed the identity of Jaqen before or after "his" arrest, why he'd allow himself to be arrested if it's the former, whether getting arrested was deliberate or accidental, etc. The point is simply that imputing a role for Varys in his release to the Night's Watch isn't really borne out by the text.

Final Verdict: Varys isn't involved in Jaqen's release. 


  1. "...Targaryen ancestry is so buried in the family lineage that Robert most likely forgot about it until some clever maester reminded him when they tried to come up with a legitimacy during the rebellion." You mean Rhaelle, Robert's grandmother?
    (Also: awesome to see Sean Collins post two pages on ALMB today, and then participate her.)

  2. How did Haqen get caught?

  3. this raises a parallel question, was Varys involved in Jaqen being put in the Black Cells?

    Why would Jaqen want to get caught?

    Was he recruiting Arya? If so, how could Jaqen know that Yoren would notice Arya at Ned's execution and then decide to take her North with them?

  4. I think we have to accept that Jaqen and Varys are not likely intertwined at all. In spite of the aura he has built around himself, Varys is not omnipotent. Sean and Stefan have repeatedly emphasized the number one rule for evaluation theories: does it make narrative sense? I would nominate Stefan's point as the #2 rule: not everyone can be in the pocket of one of the master schemers. If they were, it greatly reduces individual agency and damages the narrative greatly.

  5. Heartsbane of HornhillFebruary 27, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    Re: Lady Merriweather. Doesn't she mention "knowing" a man who shares some similarities with Euron to Cersei? Or am I misremembering?
    I'll also temper this suggestion by saying I don't think Euron is capable of planning that far ahead, to have Lady Merriweather working for him, in any capacity.

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