Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and, therefore, with more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.
Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.
Season 1, Episode 10: “Fire and Blood”
Original Air Date: June 19th, 2011
Director: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
This is the one when Daenerys Stormborn got to add “The Unburnt” and “Mother of Dragons” to her lengthy name. It wasn’t shocking—the moment had been heavily foreshadowed all season—but man, was it powerful. However, the take away from “Fire and Blood,” the emotional season one finale that saw House Stark learning about the death of Ned, is about remembering the real war, and the many traits required of a great leader.
Jon decides he will desert the Night’s Watch and ride south to join with Robb, but he is stopped by Sam, Grenn, and Pyp, who recite the vows they all spoke (no YOU got emotional watching it), which reminds Jon of his duty. It’s a sacrifice Jon doesn’t want to make, his heart is with his brother and dead father, but one he knows is right. It’s the first time we truly see Jon Snow become the leader the world needs him to be.
When he serves Lord Commander Mormont his breakfast he is shocked to learn that Mormont knew all about his almost-desertion, but he doesn’t care. They all run away for a night at some point, but Jon came back and that’s what matters. Especially because Mormont has bigger plans, and a bigger battle to fight than the one Robb will wage for the Iron Throne.
Mormont: When dead men and worse come hunting for us in the night, do you think it matters who sits on the lron Throne?
Mormont: Good. Because I want you and your wolf with us when we ride out beyond the Wall tomorrow.
Snow: Beyond the Wall?
Jeor Mormont: I’ll not sit meekly by and wait for the snows. I mean to find out what’s happening. The Night’s Watch will ride in force against the wildlings, the White Walkers and whatever else is out there. And we will find Benjen Stark, alive or dead. I will command them myself. So I’ll only ask you once, Lord Snow, are you a brother of the Night’s Watch or a bastard boy who wants to play at war?
Jon goes with him because Mormont is right. The dead rising, the strange actions of the wildlings, the disappearance of Benjen Stark—it all means that the brave, nameless men of the Night’s Watch must take on the only fight that matters.
But to do so they must remain focused, united. He needs to know if Jon Snow is one of them, because they need men like him. Remembering your duty is what a good leader does, and Jon learns here what serving and duty really requires. Robb is named King in the North in this episode, and he is brave, smart, and noble, but Robb will lose when he breaks his vow to Walder Frey in the name of love. Just like Maester Aemon said last episode, love and duty are often at odds with one another. Jon already made that sacrifice here, and will again with Ygritte, and when Stannis offers him the Lordship of Winterfell as Jon Stark.
There is another scene in this episode that builds on this theme: when Pycelle, faking his ailments, tells Ros about serving many kings. Aerys was charming, but done in by madness. Robert was strong, but never took off his battle visor. Joffrey is stern, but you need more than sterness to rule.
They all had good traits, but all were bad kings, because a king must be many things at once, and the cost of doing so is knowing that duty must usurp want.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys is learning lessons too. She euthanizes Drago and steps into the fires because somehow she knows this is what must be done. Her few remaining followers bow to her when she rises unharmed from the ashes, and the world once again has dragons—possibly the only thing that can one day save the living from the White Walkers. Like Jon, she knows the cost of ruling, and it is great.
So there seem to be two honorable, smart, capable leaders that can fight the great fight, ones that know sacrifice, and what must be done in the name of duty, even at the cost of love (adios Daario, right?).
However, can they remember that. Jon is now Lord of Winterfell, the bastard is now King in the North. And Daenerys has longed for the Iron Throne for so long, will she be able to adjust when the real battle calls her away from it?
Pycelle never finishes his statement when he says, “The thing you need to understand about kings is—” but he didn’t have to. Kings (and queens) are flawed, because they are human, and to be good leaders they must possess many traits and great wisdom, a wisdom usually earned through sacrifice. Westeros has one, and will soon have a second, that fit that description. The question is whether or not they will remember it when the real war comes.[brightcove video_id=”5105102426001″ brightcove_account_id=”3653334524001″ brightcove_player_id=”2bfa565b-5412-4cfd-9211-6269880b8a5e”]
What did you think of the season one finale? What about season one? Tell us in the comments below.