This is a brief review on the second episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones. This review contains spoilers.
With the exception of Arya (she has been examined quite strongly by fear), all other scenes in this episode are about men’s reactions to fearful events. Not just any general fear of war or loss, but a personalised powerful inhibited fear particular to each man.
Although we tend to judge people’s worth according to appearances and biological energy, fear doesn’t differentiate between eunuch, kings, soldiers and peasants. Men, no matter what capacity and contingencies they hold are subject to the tests of fear. It is a universal human phenomenon and by its own industry, it doesn’t pour itself fairly and equally. It doesn’t follow the politics of equality. It has its own politics.
Here at the West, we are obsessed by the politics of equality. Could it be we are examining the concept from the wrong point of view? Politicians, like Cersei, do their best to transpose their own fears upon us. They saturate and equalise an appropriate dose of fear to all subordinates to make sure everyone dances their tune. “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come” Victor Hugo has written, and adding to that no politician is powerful unless he or she imbues an idea to his “sheep.” They exercise power-over their people. People believe in their leaders when they assimilate their leader’s desires and fears. Lady Olenna Tyrell seems to understand such gesticulations. Lady Olenna advises Queen Daenerys,
“He is a clever man your hand [Tyrion Lannister] I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them. the lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No, you are a dragon. Be a dragon.”
Let me first say that Lady Olenna Tyrell is one of my favourite roles in the series. She is sarcastic, wise and cunning. She is accurate in her remarks. Behind her words, there is a hidden message proclaimed by feminists: “Don’t trust men.” In all fairness, she is 90% correct. Men’s attitudes reveal that most of the time they behave like “sheep” following blindly under another’s banner. (I wonder which allegiance will Lord Randyll Tarly pick following the threats of Jaime Lannister). Lady Olenna in her well-founded observations is appealing to Queen Daenerys not to trust men and instead manipulate them. Isn’t this exactly how women respond to the structures of patriarchy?
But Lady Olenna’s generalised judgment about men is also being challenged, specifically by Jon Snow, the King in the North. His attitude and decisions might not fit properly within Lady Olenna’s views. King Snow is not new to fear. He has been tested at the Wall and beyond, and now as King, further tests are approaching. In this episode, he faces two decisions: a political and a personal one.
Politically, he is invited to meet Queen Daenerys at Dragonstone. She has invaded the continent of Westeros with a great army and three dragons. She also carries a weighty reputation attributed to her lineage full of mad and violent kings. King Snow is faced by this dangerous proposal, and yet through sound discernment of priorities and fitting rhetorics to his lords (and sister) he chooses to risk meeting the Queen. Dragonstone holds the weapon to defeat the White Walkers. For King Snow to defeat the White Walkers is judged as a higher goal than safeguarding his status as King. He comes to such a decision because he has seen the White Walkers. He has tasted death. Lady Olenna Tyrell might still need to be surprised by some men’s deeds and acts of renunciation. But, do we need to see as Jon Snow saw to wake up to reality?
The more personal fear is in relation to the short scene with Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger). Seeing that the King is departing to meet the Queen, Littlefinger see an opportunity to woe and regain control of Jon’s sister, Lady Sanza. What does Jon do as he listens to Petyr the sly? He grabs fear by the throat. He will not allow being placed in a position of constraint. Let’s see if the script will continue to follow on these themes or differ a little, after all, we all know and love the power of surprise in Game of Thrones.
Same goes with the apparent emasculated men in the series. They have lost their balls, but they are gaining back their virility by other techniques. This episode exposes so much about these eunuchs.
This time round Vayrs isn’t the one testing others with the fear-yardstick (he was suspended when he tried to question Melisandre). This time he had to prove to the Queen (and us) his loyalty. When Queen Daenerys questioned his intentions, how did he respond? A full outburst of honesty void of diplomatic euphuisms. A total exposure to his Queen; “patti chiari amicizia lunga” (clear understanding breeds long friendships). Vayrs gives a realistic history of his marginality from society at a tender age and has no other desire than peace. This is not the first time Vayrs speaks of his purified desires. And when the Queen threatened him that she would burn him alive if he betrayed her, he courageously smiled back. Vayrs the eunuch turns out to be quite the virile one.
Same with Grey Worm, the unsullied (warrior-eunuch) in love with Missandei. Yes, in love, hence fearful of losing her or losing himself and yield her pain. Fear and love are intimately connected. But the fear of Grey Worm isn’t just the fear of losing his beloved, his greatest inner fear is rejection. It’s already weird for the over-sexualised West to even conceive how a eunuch can be in an erotic and loving relationship with another. How could she accept not being fully satisfied? We are forced to go through this “weird” scene. But it is exactly this scene, veiled under the metaphors, that exposes us to realities beyond the cliches of our popular (and boring) media. Relationships do not follow a rule. Grey Worm passes the test of fear. He takes the risk to be fully exposed and be seen by Missandei. He faced his first ever fear in life: being loved as an unsullied with the risk of being rejected.
However, not all eunuchs seem to have passed the test of fear in this episode, or at least for the time being. Theon Greyjoy, following a surprise night ambush, abandons his sister Yara as she is captured by Euron Greyjoy (his cousin). His sister outlives but we see her rage and disappointment in her eyes. Was it a moment of complete fear of being again captured and tortured by a monster that made Theon flee? We will have to wait and see how it will unfold. Theon hasn’t yet reconciled with his spectres of torture done by Ramsay Bolton. Is he indeed a “cockless coward?” Are we suppose to hate Theon Greyjoy?
This episode places us in an interrogation concerning masculinity and fear. What makes a man? Is it his sexual organs, sexual vigour, appearances, or roles? There is one essential principle we easily forget: the power-to-be; to come to a decision – free from fear – even if that involves breaking away from the norm.
The art of living is intertwined with an interior free will. And the power to choose beyond our fears entails struggle and suffering. (The scene between Sam Tarly and Jorah Mormont reveal the reality of working through fear). Unfortunately, under the so-called progression of our democratic and capitalistic societies (the mediocracy of our times), we have forgotten to hold the truly essential ingredient for true progression, one which cannot be bought or sold: virtue.
This article also appeared on The Good Men Project portal.
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