Brienne of Tarth and Margaery Tyrell are better than you.
Spoilers abound below the cut.
Quick takes: If there was a Westerosi Oscar in moping around making male bitchface because everybody else at the dance is prettier than you, Loras Tyrell would win it in a walk. I think it was pretty clear in the books that he and Renly were flaming, but it doesn’t then naturally follow that their entire relationship will be reduced to quarrelling over sex. We seem to be going out of our way to make them both as unattractive as possible.
Speaking of Loras, I gotta give it up for Margaery. “Look, I will do whatever it is I have to do, up to and including my brother in our reindeer games, but quit fucking around and run the kingdom already. Unless you really do just like this for the outfits. We have a limited amount of time on this planet, fucko. Sack up.”
Other things that were awesome: Shae having absolutely no patience for it from Sansa. Sophie Fucking Turner, managing to convey not that Sansa is a petulant bitch but that Sansa is literally so far beyond the beyond, I mean she is that fucking over it, that someone offering to brush her hair or clear the table if only she could decide which one is just too fucking much. Overwhelmed, tired, punch-drunk and terrified, all in one look.
This is the part of the story where Tyrion is awesome, and manages to just maybe hold things together a little longer than they would have been held together otherwise. And it’s also the part of the story where Arya starts to figure out just how far down this goes, and how much she can get done by playing along. She was guileless, remember, in Winterfell in the beginning? She didn’t do what was expected of her, spoke her mind when it wasn’t polite? Now she’s learning subterfuge. Now she’s starting to work.
So let’s talk about secret societies, about cults, about armies and families and allegiances. About the Drowned God, Theon Go Fuck Yourself Greyjoy, Craster’s sacrifices and what Mormont knew, and taking the Black.
The first thing you hear, when you hook up with a bunch of people like this, is that they’ve got access to a secret nobody knows. They’ve got an answer no one else has. They’ve got something special, and if you become one of them, you’ll be something special too. If you love what they love, and hate what they hate, you’ll know who you are, and everyone around you who you’ve always vaguely suspected is stupid and crazy will be on the outside, then, and you’ll look down on them in pity.
Persecution theology is one of the most insidious things there is, because it preys on our one common human characteristic: We all feel alone. We all feel helpless. The world is a mystery to us all, and we’re all scared, all the time. And we’re all just dying for somebody to come along and say yes, that vague suspicion you’ve always had that you are more than what you think you are is right, and here are six other people that feel the same, and you’re home now.
And you build loyalty by saying that your clothes and your vows make you new, a Black Brother, one of a new family. You rationalize deprivation: We don’t even WANT to sow, and in fact we’re proud of not sowing, and fuck people with fields and horses anyway fornot getting it. You make a uniform and fly a flag and tell a girl who’s always been an outsider, always been a freak of nature, that she can pledge her sword to yours because then she’ll do anything for you.
You take the dark things that torment you in the night, and you make them a poem about payback, and you tell it to yourself over and over and over again, until it’s inside you like your pulse, like a lullaby rocking you to sleep. Then you’re not alone in your thoughts. Then you’re not alone in the dark. You belong to something.
And it’s not that you belong to a lie. That’s the thing. We all belong to lies. Mormont knew Craster was giving his sons to the White Walkers. Margaery knew Renly had no interest in a true marriage. Brienne knew all knights die, all knights are killed, and only the lucky are remembered in song. Theon knew his “true” family loathed him for what they did to him, and deep down I think he knows they always will. So why do it all anyway? Why go through the charade?
Because if all power is, is a shadow on the wall? If it’s all a trick? If there is no secret, if nobody has the answer, if nobody belongs? Then we’re all just alone in the dark.