This post discusses plot points from the June 9 episode of Game of Thrones. During this week, I’ll publish a series of posts on a number of aspects of the third season, but in this piece, I’ll focus on the third season finale.
The title of the third season finale of Game of Thrones is “Mhysa,” the Ghiscari word for mother, and the title that’s given to Dany by the freed slaves of Yunkai at the end of the episode. But it’s a fitting title for an episode that’s substantially concerned with what it means to be family, whether you’re born into it, chose to affirm it, or build it from the ashes of your shattered life. And it’s also an hour of television that’s a powerful reminder that what happens in family, and who counts as family, always emotionally powerful questions, matters rather more in a system of governance based on hereditary monarchy, and one that begins to explore the emotional and governance risks of building a family that’s the size of an entire nation.
The nightmare of a family you’re born into, especially when that nightmarish family has become entwined with the state, is never more clear than in the small council meeting where Tyrion learns of Robb Stark’s death. “Write back to Lord Frey,” Joffrey says, thinking not of the implications for his nation, but of his personal vendettas. “Thank him for his service. And command him to send me Robb Stark’s head. I’m going to serve it to Sansa at my wedding feast.” Tyrion, who’s extended his protection to Sansa Stark at their wedding in the matter of their bedding, with help from his father, tries to intervene again, and provokes another nasty confrontation. “Everyone is mine to torment,” Joffrey declares. “You’d do well to remember that, you little monster.” “Monsters are dangerous,” Tyrion shoots back at him. “And just now, kings seem to be dying like flies.” And Tywin, once again, backs up his son, telling his grandon, “Any man who must say ‘I am the king is no true king,’” then sending him to bed without supper.
But the decision that follows, about the moment when Tywin decided he would accept Tyrion as a Lannister, and make him part of the family, is so painful it’s almost not worth scoring the points with Joffrey. “A good man does everything in his power to better his family’s position, regardless of his own selfish desires,” Tywin order Tyrion to get Sansa pregnant–he doesn’t care about the young woman’s trauma, just securing the Lannisters’ interests. And he finds himself musing to Tyrion about what those ties mean to him. “The day that you were born. I wanted to carry you into the sea and let the waves wash you away. Instead I let you live. And I brought you up as my son. Because you’re a Lannister,” Tywin tells him. Blood means overcoming even disgust.