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—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 2, Episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”
Original Air Date: May 6th, 2012
Director: David Nutter
Written by: Vanessa Taylor
Betrayal in the Seven Kingdoms isn’t just common, it’s a way of life. Whether the insular, clan mentality of houses gave rise to the prevalence of betrayal or vice versa, it’s the way it is. It also helps explain why kinslayers are so accursed, since to betray your own family is the ultimate sin in a world where there are so few people outside of your own home you can trust.
The sixth episode of Game of Thrones‘ second season, “The Old Gods and the New,” is all about betrayal, everywhere and in every form. In Qarth, Daenerys’s dragons were stolen and her people slaughtered (little does she know that it happened in Xaro’s house because he was responsible for it). North of the Wall Jon spared Ygritte’s life, and that will lead to him having to betray his Night’s Watch vows, and then Ygritte herself. Meanwhile, Robb learned about Theon’s treachery, and Roose Bolton told him he would send his bastard to take back Winterfell (uuuuungh). Osha managed to get herself into Theon’s bed so she could then betray him to save Bran and Rickon. Even the new to King’s Landing Shae, in hiding as Sansa’a handmaid, told the naive, trusting Stark girl to be careful who she talks to because the wrong people might hear her (Shae is a quick learner, Sansa not so much).
Betrayal, treachery, double-crosses, plots, schemes, it’s all there. It’s why friendships as true and loving as Robert’s and Ned’s are so rare, and why they were able to bring down a dynasty together. It’s why families arrange marriages, to build blood connections that mean far more than vows, which are nothing more than whispers.
It’s why the theory about Jon’s real mother and father was so important, and why having it confirmed is the most hopeful moment the story has had yet, just like the theory that Tyrion’s real father was the Mad King and not Tywin Lannister, making him yet another secret Targaryen, could be so important. A divided Seven Kingdoms, wrought by betrayal and civil war, might only be able to truly unite to defeat the White Walkers when its most important players are connected by the most meaningful bond, blood. Jon is a leader who knows the dangers they pose, Daenerys has the weapons to defeat them, and Tyrion knows how to govern. The three heads of the dragon conquered Westeros when Aegon and his sisters arrived, and it might take three heads of the dragon to save the country now.
Shae tells Sansa in this episode, “Don’t trust anybody, life is safer that way,” and it makes sense. Robb trusted Theon and Roose Bolton, Ygritte trusted Jon, just like Ned trusted Baelish and the Mad King trusted Jaime, and all of them died for that trust. But you should be able to trust your own family, otherwise the concept of trust itself wouldn’t exist.
The old gods and the new hold kinslayers accursed over all others because blood is not a promise, which can be broken. Boltons, Greyjoys, the richest man in Qarth, these are the people that will do anything to get what they want in life, at any cost to their honor and the lives of others, and they are more common than the Davos Seaworths and Brienne of Tarths in the world, but even they are loyal to their own houses.
A strong family can overcome betrayal. For everything done to House Stark it stands still, but that’s just the North. Seven Kingdoms will need something stronger, tied together by the one thing that can fight against betrayal: family.
What did you think of this episode? We think of you as part of our Nerdist family, so you know we won’t betray your thoughts if you share them with us in the comments below.