There are at least three types of “gifts” in Episode 7 (“The Gift”): actual gifts or presents, the Gift of death (to borrow the phrase from the House of Black and White), and the Gift or region of land where Jon intends to settle the Wildlings.
In the “The Gift” episode, the game really begins to change for all of the would-be kings and queens. Some listen to bad advice. Some may be swayed by bad advice. Some reap the consequences of being their own advisors. And, perhaps, Daenerys gets the greatest gift of all.
The Wall: Moving Wildings to the Gift & Aemon’s Gift
Jon leaves with Tormund to bring the Wildlings south of the Wall, so they can help the Night’s Watch fight the White Walkers. The plan is to settle the Wildlings in the abandoned areas of the Gift, the land the Stark ancestor Bran the Builder donated to Night’s Watch.
Not everyone likes this plan. Ser Alliser Thorne openly disagrees with Jon – even though Jon puts Ser Alliser in charge of Castle Black. And, as little Olly watches Jon leave, the boy looks like he just bit a lemon.
The unwaveringly loyal Sam wishes Jon good luck. Sam gives Jon a black leather satchel filled with dragonglass daggers in case Jon needs to fight the White Walkers when he goes north of the Wall.
Master Aemon is on his death bed, where Sam and Gilly keep vigil.
Aemon delights in hearing the laughter of Gilly’s son, who reminds Aemon of his brother Aegon “Egg,” who eventually became king in Aemon’s stead.
Aemon warns Gilly to get herself south before it is too late – presumably, before the heavy snows trap her in the castle. He soon falls into a delirium. He hallucinates he is talking to his long-dead younger brother Aegon, who had Aemon’s place as king of Westeros. Aemon’s last words are to his brother, “Egg, I dreamed that I was old.”
Losing Aemon is a blow to the Night’s Watch; Aemon was their wisest counselor. The Night’s Watch are now in the same situation as Cersei and Daenerys (although this is about to change in Dany’s case). The erudite Aemon had advised generations of commanders. With Aemon’s death, the largest repository of wisdom for the Night’s Watch vanishes. Potential secrets of how to ride or tame dragons disappear. And, Aemon had lived through more long winters than anyone. Who would know better how to figure out how to defend against the White Walkers?
Losing Aemon is also a blow to Sam. Aemon was his friend and mentor.
When Sam gives the eulogy, he notes his wise counsel. “He was the blood of the dragon, but now his fire has gone out and now his watch has ended.”
As they watch Aemon’s funeral pyre burn, Ser Alliser murmurs ominously in Sam’s ear, “You’re losing all your friends Tarley.” With Grenn, Pypp, and Aemon dead coupled with Jon being away, Gilly is the only friend Sam has left at Castle Black – and as we shall soon see, she can’t protect him.
Late at night, two men corner Gilly in the dining hall. They want “a little affection” from her – and they mean to take it whether or not she wants to give it. Perhaps, this is why Aemon was warning Gilly to head south; being the only woman trapped in a castle full of criminals and former rapists might not be such a great idea.
Sam warns the men to leave Gilly alone and draws his sword.
When they ignore him, Sam attacks. The men beat him until he is bleeding on the ground.
When Sam doesn’t move, they go back to their attempt to rape Gilly.
Sam rises to his feet and commands them to stop. The men scoff and dismiss Sam as a coward.
Sam gets a cold resolute look in his eye and tells them, “I killed a White Walker. I killed a Then. I’ll take my chances with you.”
As Sam speaks, a low growl ripples through the air. Ghost pads up to Sam’s sides, fangs bared.
The men flee.
Sam passes out.
Later, we see him lying in bed as Gilly nurses his wounds in more ways than one.
Ramsay has imprisoned Sansa in her chamber for days. Every night he comes to rape and abuse her. When Theon enters Sansa’s room to bring her food, she is curled up in bed sobbing. The room must be icy cold; the windows are open and snow is blowing in.
Sansa begs Theon to put a candle in the broken tower for her. Theon tries to explain that he can’t. But, Sansa extracts a promise from him that he will help her by reminding him that he is Theon, not Reek.
When he leaves Sansa, Theon goes directly to Ramsay, candle in hand.
Later, Sansa walks outside with Ramsay. Ramsay is all charm – and that’s never a good sign.
As they walk along the stone battlements, unbeknownst to Ramsay, Sansa swipes some keys or something sitting on a ledge.
After the dinner two episode ago, Sansa now knows Ramsay’s weak spot. So, perhaps to keep him a little off-balance, she goads him over his pregnant stepbrother and illegitimacy. She points out the royal decree naturalizing Ramsay it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. “Tommen Baratheon? Another bastard.”1 Ramsay replies that bastards can rise high in the world, just like her half-brother Jon Snow. And, Sansa learns some potentially valuable information: Jon Snow is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Ramsay remembers the reason for their stroll. He shows Sansa her kindly old woman servant. The woman hangs on a pole. Ramsay has flayed her entire body except her face. The woman refused to talk and her heart gave out before he could continue his work.
He commands his men to bring Sansa back to her chamber, but not before he kisses her on the cheek and tells her, “You can hold onto your candles. The nights are so long now.”
Stannis’ men are freezing, sick, and bogged down in the snow. Forty of their horses died in the night. They are running out of food and they can’t open the open the supply lines until the snow clears. And, they lost 500 men – sellswords – the night before.
Davos counsels Stannis to hold off on attacking Winterfell; they should return to Castle Black.
Stannis refuses. He says that if they don’t attack Winterfell now, they will have to spend heaven only knows how many years at Castle Black – they will be stuck there until winter is over. Plus, given his retreat at Blackwater Bay, Stannis will become known as the “king who ran.”
After Davos leaves, the real reason Stannis refuses to turn back emerges: Melisandre has foreseen a great battle in the snow. The flames revealed the House Bolton banners lowered to the ground.
Stannis questions her vision. The situation with the snow is terrible.
Melisandre caresses him and suggests they sacrifice his daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light to ensure victory. Stannis is aghast. He jerks away from Melisandre’s touch, and orders Melisandre leave. Stannis may be disgusted now, but Melisandre’s arguments about Stannis greater role fighting the White Walkers are very persuasive. Shireen is not safe yet.
Jorah and Tyrion
Jorah and Tyrion’s captor auctions them off as they stand on a stage in neck irons.
Jorah is an easy sell after his captor boasts of his background as a knight and spins a romantic tale. A Meereenese fighting pit owner snaps him up.
Suddenly, Tyrion realizes his life is worth about as much as dust if he’s separated from Jorah. He shouts to Jorah’s new owner that he and Jorah are a great fighting team. To prove it, he beats up the other slave chained to him much to the laughter of the crowd.
Jorah’s new owner lays down some coin for the Imp.
Snuggled beneath Daenerys’s gold silken sheets, Daario and Dany make love while Daario counsels her. He suggests Daenerys marry him instead of Hizdahr zo Loraq. She says she can’t. In response, Daario baits Dany by saying she is the one person in Meereen who isn’t free.
Daario then suggests that, on the day of the Great Games, Daenerys gather all the wise and worthy masters of Meereen she can find and slaughter them all.
Dany is appalled. She’s “a queen, not a butcher.”
His reply? “All rulers are either butchers or meat.” A profound statement to be sure, but what’s Daario’s real agenda?
Jorah and Tyrion wait to enter the fighting pit’s arena. When Jorah discovers Dany is there, he watches the arena from inside the waiting room.
When he sees that Dany is about to leave, Jorah charges into the pits and begins fighting.
Tyrion desperately struggles to free himself—he is still changed to the walls in the fighter holding area. And, he wants to go join Jorah in the arena.
Jorah quickly kills all of the fighters.
Meanwhile a guard in the holding area hacks off Tyrion’s chains.
Jorah stands before the Dany and removes his helmet. Dany trembles when she sees him and commands him to be taken out of her sight.
Jorah pleads that he has brought Dany a gift, which arouses her curiousity.
Tyrion runs into the arena and cries out that he is the gift. When Tyrion reveals his identify as a Lannister, Dany is astonished.
Although Dany may not realize it yet, this “gift” is truly a game changer. Tyrion may be the best advisor or Hand in Westeros and her own top advisor Jorah is back. Having a Lannister at her side indicts the Baratheon/Lannister rule and could truly change the balance of power.
Jaime meets with Myrcella to persuade her to return to Dorne. She refuses. The princess points out that she has done her duty and gone to a land she didn’t want to go to. Now she is in love with Trystane and does not want to leave.
Jaime tries to tell her she is in danger, but she just leaves.
Meanwhile, Bronn is jailed in a prison cell across from the Sand Snakes. To pass the time, Bronn is signing about “The Dornishman’s Wife.” This is a somewhat ironic choice given the song is about a man who slept with a Dornishman’s wife and is dying of wounds he received in a duel, which he considers a fair exchange.
Apparently charmed by Bronn and his song, the youngest Sand Snake, Tyene, applauds as her sisters roll their eyes at her.
Bronn then makes the mistake of telling the Sand Snakes that they didn’t beat him.
Tyene Sand begins to flirt with Bronn. She opens her dress and fondles herself to turn him on. Once Bronn’s blood starts to pump faster, he collapses.
This reveals what we’ve suspected all along. The blade that cut Bronn when he fought with the Sand Snakes was tipped in poison.
The poison is called “The Long Farewell,” so it is slow acting. But, Tyene deliberately made it work faster with her little striptease.
Just before Bronn is about to lose consciousness, Tyene makes him say that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. He just manages to get the words out of his mouth. Tyene tosses him the antidote. He drinks it and begins to instantly recover .
Olenna Tyrell visits the High Septon in an attempt to persuade him to free her children. The High Septon replies that the Gods’ laws must be applied to all, equally.
Olenna offers the High Septon gold. She threatens to stop sending their crops to King’s Landing – and if she does, she will makes sure that the “hungry know who to blame.”
None of this works. Perhaps because Olenna is missing the point. The High Septon’s agenda is to attack the rich to gain the poor’s support.
The High Septon asks, “Have you ever sowed a field, Lady Olenna? Have you ever reaped the grain? A lifetime of wealth and power has left you blind in one eye. You are the few. We are the many. And, when the many stop fearing the few — ” and he just smiles and walks away.
What better way to get the many to stop fearing the few than show that punishment applies to them equally and they are not so powerful after all? The High Septon is clearly hinting at a revolt. Because we see the story from the great house’s perspective, such a revolt sounds terrible.
It’s interesting because, as much as I’ve love Olenna, she blithely uses the potential starvation of the smallfolk as a political lever. It’s an amoral act, but we see the world through her eyes so we don’t notice. Olenna is no different than most of the other nobles playing high politics.
As Lady Olenna leaves the Great Sept, she receives a message stamped with the black mockingbird wax seal of Littlefinger.
Littlefinger and Lady Olenna meet at his brothel. After much one upmanship, Olenna makes it clear that if he betrays her they will never find his body.
Littlefinger offers Olenna information, a gift. He has other other information of which Cersei is unware.
He then cryptically says, “I have a gift for you. The same kind I gave Cersei. A handsome young man.”
Tommen is deeply frustrated by his inability to get Margaery released from the Great Sept. He rants that he is the king and threatens to start a war to kill the High Septon and the Faith. Cerei shrewdly points out that the moment he attacked the Faith would kill Margaery.
Even though Cersei caused this calamity, she is sincerely distressed to see her son unhappy. Cersei says he would do anything to keep Tommen and Myrcella safe. “She would burn cities to the ground.”
To soothe Tommen – and control the situation, Cersei offers to go negotiate with High Septon on Tommen’s behalf. She tells him he shouldn’t sully himself with negotiations.
At the Great Sept, Cersei pays Margaery a visit. But, Margery sees through her and is having none of her crap – or the day-old venison Cersei brought her to eat.
“Get out you hateful bitch,” Margaery yells at Cersei as she throws the venison at her.
On her way out, Cersei pays the High Septon a visit and thanks him for giving the Tyrell siblings “whatever justice they deserve.”
As she begins to leave, the High Septon starts talking about the simplicity of the altar and praises a simpler faith. He then says all high and low alike will have their finery stripped away. He then asks Cersei, “What will we find when we strip away your finery?”
He reveals that the Lancel came to the Great Sept to unburden himself and he has confessed all of this sins. During this confession, he revealed a great deal about Cersei.
At this point, Lancel emerges and stands at the High Septon’s side. Perhaps, Cersei shouldn’t have been so arrogantly dismissive of Lancel during the first episode.
Two of septas grab Cersei and throw her into a cell, not unlike Margaery’s.
As one of the septas begin to close the door on Cersei, she threatens these women: “Look at me, look at my face. It is the last thing you will see before you die.”
And, so Cersei is undone by the man she put in power. As the showrunners note in Inside Episode, the High Septon told her all along what he intended to do – stamp out corruption, cleanse the faith – but she was too cynical to take his words at face value. Cersei brought her predicament on herself by not listening to the truth somebody told her.
The most valuable gift in this episode is wisdom. Cersei’s lack of wisdom and unwillingness to seek it out brings about her downfall. Castle Black will suffer because Aemon’s wisdom is gone. And, Stannis may fall because he is substitutes prophecy for wisdom.
Rather than listening to his best advisor, Davos, he listens to a woman who claims to see the future. Knowing what will happen is not the same thing as wisdom. Just because somebody can see the future, it doesn’t mean they will truly understand their visions. Prophecy and wisdom are not the same gifts.
The biggest game changer may be Daenerys getting truly great advisors. Right now, the advice that Daario gives her is questionable, as are his motives. (He always counsels Daenerys to take the most violent approach.) The question is how will the Game of Thrones end? Will the Faith and the People triumph over rulers who feel they are entitled to the throne just because their parents had it?
- 16:12 [↩]