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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Gift” (S5, E7)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Gift” (S5, E7)

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.

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Season 5, Episode 7: “The Gift”

Original Air Date: May 24th, 2015
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

On a show obsessed with whom sits on an iron throne and the brutal lengths to which people will go to ascend that chair, “The Gift” highlights the paradoxical nature of ruling, how despite being all powerful you often find yourself powerless to do what you want. And in this episode, two Targaryens, on opposite sides of the world and in two very different stages of life, exemplify why the most powerful choice you can make is to reject power entirely.

In Meereen, Daenerys‘ upcoming, politically-motivated marriage to Hizdahr zo Loraq, which she arranged entirely out of a sense of obligation and necessity, does not sit well with Daario. He thinks she should marry him instead, but she says that isn’t an option for her.

“Why not? You’re our queen. You can do as you like.”

“No. I can’t.”

“Then you are the only person in Meereen who’s not free.”

daenerys-daario

Daario is far more cynical than she is at this point (and maybe ever will be), but there’s a harsh truth to what he says. Because despite being the Mother of Dragons and controlling all of Slaver’s Bay, the demands on her and what she has to do as a result are often in direct conflict with what she personally desires. She didn’t want to reopen the fighting pits, but she did, and she wanted to kill all of her enemies, but she didn’t.

She thinks (correctly) that her responsibilities dictate her choices, making her less in charge of her own life than she probably ever expected as a queen, despite her being arguably the most powerful person in the world.

daenerys-hizdahr

Daario doesn’t agree with that either though and he says, “Everyone has a choice. Even slaves have a choice: death or slavery.” Those two dire options might not seem applicable to a person in complete power, but often the actions a ruler makes will determine if they come under attack or not. Make the wrong choice, especially the selfish one, and—as frequently happens on this show—you end up dead. Ask Robb Stark about marrying for love.

We see the terrible results for a different queen in this episode when she puts herself above her duty. Cersei’s personal desire—borne out of hatred and fear—to act in her own self interest (destroying House Tyrell and keeping her power) rather than doing what’s best for the family (being a strong ally at her own expense), gets her locked up in the Sept of Baelor and puts her on a path that ends up with her son Tommen dead, and possibly herself soon enough.

cersei

We know that despite doing what she thinks is right in marrying Hizdahr, it will blow up in Daenerys’ face (no one said the unselfish option always works, being in charge is a heavy burden), but even when she does finally gain full control over Slaver’s Bay and leaves for Westeros, she leaves Daario behind, choosing duty over love. (By then she is far more cynical though, feeling nothing but annoyance at having even speak with Daario about it. Power has hardened her, another sacrifice one must make to rule well.)

This is in contrast to the other known Targaryen in the world, Maester Aemon. Back at Castle Black he passes away (a scene still as sad as ever), at over one hundred years old. But he never had to be there at all—he could have sat on the Iron Throne himself.  Before he came to the Wall he was quietly offered the crown, but he rejected it, and rather than stay and be used as a threat against his brother Aegon (a.k.a. Egg) he took the black so he could serve the realm in anonymity.

maester-aemon

He is the only on-screen character to die of natural causes, having served under 12 Lord Commanders. As Sam says, “No man was wiser, or gentler, or kinder.” And while the world forgot he was there, and the history books will simply note him as the Targaryen who said no to being king, he touched the lives of thousands of Night’s Watch brothers and helped to protect tens of thousands more in Westeros.

He shunned power, and instead died an old man in his bed, beloved, worthy of as much honor and respect as anyone who has ever sat on the Iron Throne. Will Daenerys be able to live that kind of life? Will Jon Snow or Cersei? No one in power has been afforded that kind of end yet.

aemon-funeral

And even though he is gone, the wisdom Aemon passed on to Sam and Jon might help save all of the living from the army of the dead, and what greater power could anyone have ever wielded than that?

What did you think of this episode? Is power worth the trouble it brings with it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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