This post discusses plot points from the March 31 episode of Game of Thrones. If you want to discuss the events of A Storm of Swords or subsequent books in George R.R. Martin’s series, please label your posts as such.
As is necessary with a show like Game of Thrones, the first episode of this third season is concerned both with reiterating the larger forces advancing on Westeros—it begins beyond the Wall, where Samwell Tarly is pursued by the White Walkers and ends in Astapor, where Daenerys Targaryen is contemplating the moral implications of purchasing an army of slaves as a necessary corrective to the slow growth of her dragons—and dealing with the implications of the Battle of the Blackwater, which forged new alliances and left new scars. But it’s also preoccupied with another set of related themes. Where does power come from? And what are the paths to acquiring it, particularly for people born outside of birthright claims to influence?
Some men are made great, or at least elevated to positions from which they can achieve greatness, by circumstance. Mance Rayder, the former Brother of the Night’s Watch who’s united giants and gorgeous red-heads alike into a massive encampment beyond the Wall, brought them together through a shared threat. When Jon Snow, who’s turned his cloak at the behest of his Lord Commander, faces the difficult question of why he’s come to Mance, the answer he gives appears to be the ones that united the wildlings—the real deception is in suggesting that the wildlings and the Night’s Watch don’t share the same goal. “I saw Craster take his own baby boy and leave it in the woods. I saw what took it,” Jon tells Mance. “Because when I told the Lord Commander, he already knew. Thousands of years ago, the first men battled the white walkers and defeated them. I want to fight for the side that fights for the living. Did I come to the right place?”
Back in King’s Landing, another rather disreputable fellow’s found himself elevated by circumstance: Bronn the mercenary is become Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, a promotion related by the nervous Podrick Payne to two members of the Kingsguard who find themselves doubting his bona fides. But as Bronn finds out when he attempts to claim his title and the influence that would go with it is that titles don’t automatically carry power with them. Your claim has to be recognized—just as the wildlings had to grant authority to Mance for him to lead them, Bronn is finding that deference is not an automatic affair.
And power, once granted, can be taken away by circumstance or by a decision that strips you of legitimacy. Last season, Cat Stark made the decision to free Jamie Lannister to trade him for her sons, and now she’s reckoning with the status she forfeited for a chance to have her daughters back. “Find her a chamber that will serve as a cell,” her son Robb orders his men. When his wife, Talisa, protests that “She’s your mother,” Robb explains that Cat forfeited the legitimacy that would have entitled her to deference. “She freed Jamie Lannister. He robbed [Rickard Karstark] of his sons. She robbed him of his justice.”