Five Essay Prompts for Game of Thrones 3×1: ‘Valar Dohaeris’

Eat crow. (HBO)

Eat crow. (HBO)

These questions regard last night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Imagine you are Tyrion Lannister’s (extremely expensive) lawyer in probate court. Present your opening statement contending that your client should be given control of Casterly Rock. Do you cite the Westerosians With Disabilities Act in your argument? Why or why not?

As you know, your honor, the case of Lannister v Lannister presents several pieces of difficult, and seemingly conflicting, evidence. First of all, what court are we in? Are we in present-day New York, in which case my client has no claim? He will not be able to provide a receipt of probate to the Lannister estate as presently owned by his father, who:

a) has not died;
b) made it very clear that his “waddling” dwarf son will never shame the family name by turning their “castle” into a whorehouse;
c) would never be as careless as not to have at least four wills already drawn up in case of any occasion of one his three conniving children try to King Lear him out of the supposedly richest estate in Westeros. (Yeah, four wills. One is a dummy, and laced with poison, probably.)

Or are we in Westeros, trying to rally smaller houses to pledge their allegiance to my client as he takes up a dispute with his father, Tywin Lannister? Since there aren’t any courts in Westeros, just a Draco Malfoy-looking king who hates his uncle almost as much as his grandfather does, I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation, your honor, since you wouldn’t exist and primogeniture. Not to mention it’s a no-go on that route as well. And honestly, we’ll be very hard-pressed to find anyone in Lannisport to rally for the black sheep son to be Lord of the West. It’d be like if Kim Jong-un’s newly-discovered kid popped up in 20 years–with his dad still alive–and told North Korea he was its Supreme Leader .

ON THE OTHER HAND, YOUR HONOR: There are no other heirs to Casterly Rock, since Jaime is in the King’s Guard and Cersei is a woman. He might be loathed, but Tyrion is no bastard, meaning that under Westeros law he does have the rightful claim to the family home and all his father’s inheritance. Westeros is actually pretty strict on its land-tenure laws: if you’re the oldest heir, even if your family disowns you, you can have probably their stuff when they die. The exceptions being the King’s Guard and Knight’s Watch. Though if you want to get technical about primogeniture, it would be Jaime’s kid who gets the Rock before his uncle does, but seeing as that kid is the king, who was secretly born out of incest, I don’t see Tywin bringing that fact to light.

Unfortunately, there is no one to enforce my client’s rights, as Game of Thrones is basically one long guide on how to shirk other people out of their claims to stuff in a feudal government. (See: the Iron Throne, which I think technically belongs to Edric Storm?) So I’m actually just going to go back and try to support my client’s bitter grape theory: living in a shitty fortress in Lannisport would suck, and the daily mundanity that being Warden of the West entails wouldn’t be worth all the gold in … Casterly Rock.

Oh, now I get it.

2. There are a notable number of scenes in this episode involving children, either actual children onscreen or children being referenced, most often in the context of a character being concerned about their murder or ill-treatment: Jon Snow tells Mance Rayder about Craster’s infanticide, Ygritte notes that the kids who throw stones at John are orphans, Margaery Tyrell visits a King’s Landing orphanage, Dany freaks out over the Unsullied’s required infanticide. But do any of these characters actually care about children, or are they just using sympathy for kids to their own ends? Is this Dany being upset about dead babies in general, or is she just thinking of her own dead baby? Is Jon Snow really calling Child Protective Services on Craster, or is he just feeding the King Beyond the Wall an effective line of bullshit? And is Margaery really as sweet as she seems, or does she just need to be on a bunch of charity gala committees to fill her time and plan elaborate bashes to wear all those amazing gowns, too?

I wish they’d make a spin-off of a spin-off that was just Law & Order: SVU: Westeros. The number of child murders, molestations and mistreatments in Game of Thrones is enough to fill, like, five books.

And a lot of it is really due to parental neglect: Cersei, the biggest hen mother of all time, cares about approximately one of her kids. She let Tyrion convince her to send to her pre-tween daughter Myrcella to to get married to a Martell, and Tommen is basically just there as the adorable personification of Chekhov’s gun. Dany is already a headcase of attachment issues: she treats her dragons like they are the Realdoll equivalents of the child she lost and the kids she will never have, so putting a bunch of motherless eunuchs in her grasp is about as irresponsible as giving Angelina Jolie keys to a third world orphanage. Who knows how much Jon Snow really cared about the baby the Craster was sacrificing last season; he was too busy studying the White Walker carrying it away. Margaery is totally building her own version of Lord’s Resistance Army with all those orphaned boys.

It’s a lose-lose situation for the kids in Game of Thrones: A bunch of Mommy Dearests acting out some deranged Oedipal/Mama Rose fantasy, and, as Ygritte pointed out, pretty much no father figures. Sadly, as we saw in Question One, even the best-case scenarios–involving a legitimate child with a rich dad who isn’t actively trying to kill him–can be pretty psychologically damaging. Hopefully maesters double as therapists out in the seven kingdoms, because the next gen in Westeros will have some major parental issues to work out.


3. You are the (fingerless) right-hand man to one of the leading candidates for the highest office in the land, but your boss has become not-so-secretly involved with an evangelical cult and/or Scientology. Do you stage an intervention, or do you cut your losses and go straight to the press? If the former, do you bring a knife?

Ah, the old “Davos Seaworth is a suppressive persons” smear campaign. The worst. While it’s true that the guy who just lost his son in battle probably shouldn’t be the only one whispering in the ear of a deposed ruler, having Melisandre, the Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, on the other makes the Onion Knight the best council Stannis has right now. So, of course, the only thing to do is lock him in a dungeon.

Ironically, it was Seaworth’s quixotic attachment to Stannis that keeps him fighting: he is like the Janice Hart to the Baratheon brother’s Lyndon LaRouche. Or no, he’s Adlai Stevenson is Seaworth and Hart is Melisandre to the Lord of Light’s LaRouche. And Stannis is the Democratic party? I don’t know. Next.

cabinzombie Five Essay Prompts for <em>Game of Thrones</em> 3x1: Valar Dohaeris4. Which of the characters north of the wall has the best chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse? Things to consider: Sam improbably turns out to be a survivor; the high commander of the Knight’s Watch has clearly never seen a zombie movie or he’d know the raven network in the area has clearly already been overloaded and gone offline by now; John Snow, on the other hand, is following classic horror-film cliche by going off with a girl and turning on his friends; there are actual fucking giants, and they’re on Mance Rayder’s team.

Well, you’re forgetting the most important and distinctive of the Others (sorry, “White Walkers”): they aren’t real zombies. They have brains. Like, they can organize traps and use weapons and retain memories. Really the comparable model of survival would be those creatures from Cabin in the Woods, in which case I’ll put my money on everyone dying during the return of the Old Gods. And maybe Varys. I always put money on the Spider.

5. The title of this episode is Valar Dohaeris, which, according to the novels, means “all men must serve” in Valyrian, and is the traditional response to the title of last season’s finale, Valar Morghulis (“all men must die”). How does this premiere serve as an answer to that finale? What aspects of that episode are answered by this one? And who in this episode serves whom?

Spoiler alert, dude. Technically, “Valar Morghulis” hasn’t been translated for the audience yet; it’s just some weird thing that the face-shifting Jaqen H’ghar kept repeating to Arya last season. Even if you knew the reference, who did it apply to in that episode? Jon and the Knight’s Watch, okay, but who else? There was no Ned Stark beheading or loss of a major character, so the phrase comes off as just that. A meaningless axiom. And the translation of “Valar Dohaeris” is actually debatable: It’s either “All men must serve,” OR “All men must live.”

Either way, that’s just life, isn’t it? You live, you serve and then you die, hopefully not by zombies.