Daenerys Targaryen has picked a complicated time to invade Westeros. It’s not like anyone is really all that desperate for the daughter of the Mad King, specifically, to come back and take up residence in the Red Keep. Very few are necessarily happy with Cersei but she seems to have the grudging edge with “better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know.”
When Randyll Tarly refused to recognize Dany’s authority, saying that she wasn’t his queen (and therefore couldn’t send him to the Wall – a claim that seems rather unsound) Tyrion commented that Cersei only recently had become Tarly’s queen.
That’s kind of a tricky deal, as Cersei became Tarly’s queen when she married Robert Baratheon, so she’s historically been his queen possibly as long as Dickon Tarly has been alive.
With all of the churn of the War of the Five Kings, Daenerys is left with a fractured realm to try to impress.
Not that it’s been easy for Cersei in getting the realm to acknowledge her authority either.
Cersei: Hey Seven Kingdoms! Cersei’s on the Throne!
The North: We’ve seceded. Again.
The Iron Islands: LOL. We’ve been independent since Season Two. But if you’re up for [INSERT INNUENDO HERE]…
The Vale: We’re kind of backing the North. But I don’t think we’ve fully seceded from the other kingdoms. Maybe we’re just being neutral in regards to King’s Landing? But still supporting the North’s independence? No one around here cares. We have Lord Robin in charge. So who knows?
The Riverlands: Don’t you have us under martial law? Ed Sheeran’s here. No other context will be provided.
The West: Team Cersei! May Casterly Rock never fall to foreign invaders!
The Crownlands: Wait, we get a vote?
The Stormlands: We’ve just been hoping no one notices us, after Renly and Stannis both failed in their bids.
The Reach: House Tyrell! (Which is just an old lady… hmmm)
Dorne: Lannisters? Ptui!
The Iron Bank: While not part of the Seven Kingdoms, the Iron Bank would like to remind the crown that the crown owes our financial institution vast sums. A queen better have our money.
This seemed like an opportune time for Daenerys to invade Westeros. Her most prominent competitor had meager support, Dany had considerable military resources, and had allies in Westeros who at least shared a common enemy in Lannister-held King’s Landing. And she’d been in Meereen like forever, am I right?
The forces of these two queens have engaged in several battles this season, with Cersei’s Ironborn fleet dominating the seas, Dany demonstrating terrifying coordination between light cavalry and flaming-death-from-above air cavalry, and a few castles exchanging hands.
The West: Wait. Casterly Rock?
The Unsullied: Look, just give us some food, and no one gets speared.
The Reach: Wait. Highgarden? Lady Olenna?
Lady Olenna: Shhh, don’t tell Ser Jaime. Thanks to a magical red locket from Asshai, I’m immune to poison and now look like Natalie Dormer.
The Reach: Really?
Lady Olenna: No, I’m totes dead, you idiots.
They seem to be moving somewhat towards an impasse, with Cersei planning on hiring Golden Company mercenaries –
The Iron Bank: We’d like to remind both queens that whomever wins, it’s the crown that owes the bank, not the actual royal personage wearing it. Carry on.
– and Dany hesitant to rain fire and destruction down on King’s Landing.
But in many ways this is all a distraction. Daenerys, after hearing about an army of the dead from Jon Snow, after seeing some convincing paleolithic artwork, and after getting a note from Three-Eyed Raven Bran Stark, is starting to come around to the idea that she should take the undead threat seriously.
Daenerys Targaryen: Of course I’ll take it seriously! The very idea of an animated corpse disgusts me! Gross!
Ser Davos: Well, there’s no need to be so extreme in your views, your grace. Why, Jon Snow took a knife-
Daenerys has warmed up to the idea of bringing her forces to the North, but she’s concerned about withdrawing from the southern theater of war and giving Cersei any opportunities. The current plan of the loose Stark-Targaryen cooperative is to bring back proof of the army of the dead in the hopes that Cersei will agree to an armistice so the long-term survival of the realm can be assured.
This is an interesting plan. I’m not sure I’d put much stock in Cersei being reasonable. But there seems to be a different group that Daenerys and Jon should be showing evidence to.
In the most recent episode Sam Tarly entreated the ruling council of archmaesters to take Bran Stark’s raven-delivered account of the army of the dead seriously.
Archmaester Ebrose: Of course we’ll take the scribblings of a child seriously.
Archmaester Snape: Perhaps now would be prudent for me to teach the Defense Against the Night is Dark and Full of Terrors Arts class.
Ebrose laid out what might happen if the Citadel believed that north of the Wall, ancient malevolent creatures had assembled a vast horde of the undead. The maesters could send ravens to all the lords of Westeros, recommending that superfluous squabbles be set aside and reinforcements be sent northwards to assist the hardy yeomen at the Wall. The combined-kingdom forces would be on hand to repel any supernatural threats.
Archmaester Ebrose: We academics wield considerable influence here in Westeros.
Archmaester Scribblius: They do say that the pen is mightier than the spear.
Archmaester Ebrose: The spear? Shouldn’t that be sword?
Archmaester Scribblius: Are you kidding me? Swords are awesome.
Let’s take Archaester Ebrose at his word and assume that the Citadel could, as an impartial and apolitical unit, execute direct positive action in unifying Westeros, at least in regards to defeating the White Walkers and making it through the upcoming Long Night and into morning. Huzzah for higher education and the enlightened elites!
There’s really one issue. The skeptical maesters have employed Occam’s razor (look it up) and have concluded that it’s far more likely that the raven from Bran Stark is some subterfuge orchestrated by Daenerys Targaryen, to soften up the Seven Kingdoms by having the fighting men sent north on a wild grumkin chase.
Archmaester Grumpus: It would just be typical of someone employing fire monsters to try and distract us with rumors of ice monsters!
Daenerys probably didn’t help matters in the minds of the maesters with her attack on the Rose Road caravan, and the dramatic execution of Randyll Tarly and his son, Dickon. This time “the devil you know than the devil you don’t know” works against Dany. The White Walkers might be a threat. Dany legitimately appears to be one.
Taking a step back, it might have been the best thing for the realm had Dany not left Essos and come west to the Seven Kingdoms, looking to reclaim her birthright. Her dragons might be ideal weapons of mass destruction to be deployed against the wights of the White Walkers, but if she’s stuck in the south and the realm won’t be independently mobilized by the Citadel to respond to the threat, Dany pressing her claim has cut the defenses of the Seven Kingdoms, and possibly enabled the White Walkers to push into the under-defended North.
The North: Thanks a lot, Daenerys.
The Night King: *emotes agreement*
Dany: This is hardly a fair judgment.
Daenerys wouldn’t be the first monarch, sitting at Dragonstone, who more-or-less assisted the White Walker cause by pressing their claim.
Stannis: Wait. You’re talking about me?
Me: Yes. I’m always talking about you.
Stannis: Fine. This is fine.
After being stymied by Tyrion and Tywin Lannister in his bid for King’s Landing, Stannis Baratheon took a different approach in pressing his claim. Rather than taking King’s Landing to secure the Iron Throne, Stannis sailed his remaining forces north beyond the Wall, to attack wildling king Mance Rayder’s Free Folk forces who had been probing Castle Black for weakness in preparation for a full-on assault.
Castle Black’s Maester Aemon had previously sent ravens detailing the desperate need of the Wall, and Stannis concluded that to be a king, one might merely be kingly. That to be trusted with the realm, one can earn that trust by defending the realm. (Actually, Stannis felt he was totally entitled to be king, but he figured some public relation successes would help out.)
Stannis was wildly successful in routing Mance’s forces. Although greatly outnumbered, Stannis’s cavalry destroyed the cohesion of Mance’s horde, capturing thousands (including Mance Rayder) and scattering many times thousands more who fled into the forest to avoid being run down or captured by the Baratheon horsemen.
Stannis: You’re welcome, North.
The North: Yeah. But we’re just not that into you.
Stannis: Whatever. I’m into you. Get used to it.
Sounds like a major win, right? I mean, Stannis did prevent the North from being flooded with a huge population of wildlings. Including non-combatants like children and the aged. Mostly families. Families terrified of being turned into wights by the White Walkers.
Stannis did blunt an invasion, but he also created a refugee crisis. Unable to escape through the Wall, many fled to Hardhome on the coast. We know what happened at Hardhome. How many countless more stragglers and scattered groups of wildlings, now lacking the protective numbers of their migration army, were set upon by bands of White Walkers as they fled through the woods?
By stopping most of the wildlings from obtaining safety south of the Wall, Stannis added thousands and thousands of shambling, murderous bodies to the army of the dead.
The Realm: Thanks, Stannis.
Stannis: You’re welcome.
The Night King: *gives ironic thumbs up*
Daenerys has now found herself in a similar place. The real enemy, the real threat is coming from the White Walkers. Anything done to make the supernatural danger stronger should be something to be avoided or carefully managed.
Stannis made the White Walkers stronger by pressing his claim.
Dany has effectively weakened the realm’s ability to respond to the White Walkers by pressing her claim.
Cersei: I’m completely blameless in all of this. If these losers would stop attacking King’s Landing, and just move on, then everything would be perfectly serene.
But Dany and her allies do have options. Capturing a wight or two might convince Cersei to an armistice.
Cersei: *smiles and takes a sip of wine*
But the better bet would be to ferry some bound and chained undead further south to Oldtown, to the Citadel. Let the maesters actually see that the threat is real, and that they should do something about it.
Archmaester Ebrose: Very well, we’ll start writing to all of the lords immediately. It would not do to have these creatures roaming about willy-nilly. Wouldn’t be proper.
Jon Snow: Whew!
Archmaester Ebrose: Would you mind leaving these animated corpses with us? They’ll make for excellent pranks on my first-year anatomy students. Oh, the shenanigans I’ll get up to!
After all, what was so important that we followed Sam Tarly’s story down at the Citadel?
Finding the mountain of dragonglass was good, although it had been brought up before by Stannis to Sam.
Curing Ser Jorah of greyscale was a fine accomplishment, although Jorah getting greyscale in the first place and then having it cured seems a bit of a treading-water plot for the northern knight.
Sam almost heard some interesting news about some prince with a weird name getting a marriage annulled so he could marry another woman in Dorne. Maybe that will come into play (but honestly there are other sources for that information).
But the commentary on the Citadel’s influence, and their reaction of “show us, don’t tell us, Tarly” in regards to the threat in the far north, that seems like worthwhile information. Worth a full-on poop and soup montage. This could be game-changing in scope.
Daenerys: Okay! I’m sorry I invaded early. But it’s not like everyone was yelling at me to stay in Meereen for another season.
Me: That’s fair. Our bad.
Daenerys: THANK YOU!