The Moment: Tyrion and Varys talk about serving Targaryens
Setting the Scene: After Tyrion watches Daenerys burn her enemies, he returns to Dragonstone and shares a drink and some deep conversation with Varys.
Why It’s Awesome: I know, I know—But Katie, Jon Snow petted a dragon and Kit Harrington’s eyes filled with tears of awe and how can that not be your moment of the week?! Don’t get me wrong; I have re-watched that moment many times since Sunday and have come to appreciate the nuances in Harrington’s performance more and more each time. (Jon Snow is just such a good and decent human being that sometimes I cry about it—and by sometimes I mean all the time.) However, the moment I can’t stop thinking about was a quiet conversation about two people that could very well be about the world we’re actually living in—if you take out the mentions of dragons—and that’s when Game of Thrones is at its very best.
In a week where inhuman acts of cruelty were sadly not just the stuff of fiction and the idea of sitting back silently as people do horrible things in the name of “reclaiming” their place has been on everyone’s mind, this moment feels even more powerful. Although it was specifically about these two men and their relationship to the rulers they’ve served, it felt disturbingly universal in light of recent events in the United States.
“I’m not the one doing it.”
That refrain from Varys will haunt me just like it should haunt everyone who watched this episode. Although he may not have been the person who killed the supposed traitors, he was complicit in their deaths because he did nothing to stop Aerys. Conleth Hill is always brilliant, but he was especially captivating in this scene, showing that Varys will always feel a deep sense of guilt and responsibility over what happened under his watch. You can feel the weight of that refrain—“I’m not the one doing it”—in Hill’s pained delivery, and you could also feel his sense of fear that he’s watching it all start to happen again.
The men who served Aerys Targaryen—especially Varys and Jaime Lannister—bear incredible psychological scars from that time in their lives. While Jaime tried to ensure that history wouldn’t repeat itself by attempting to kill Daenerys, Varys has taken a different approach—trying to guide Daenerys on a different path than the one her father had taken. So it’s understandable that this news of what she did to the Lannister army and to the Tarly family would bring back horrible memories for him and conjure up a deep sense of anxiety that history could repeat itself.
“I’m not the one doing it.”
If that refrain showed us anything, it’s that silence makes you complicit. You can tell yourself over and over that you can’t control what people in power do, but that’s no excuse not to speak out and take action when you know something is wrong. Varys sees himself as complicit in the deaths of so many because he allowed himself to believe it was out of his hands. But as he reminded Tyrion, it’s his job to make his queen listen, to make her see reason, and to help her make the right choices. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt like Varys’s speech about the responsibilities of an advisor when a leader is doing awful things felt just as applicable to Washington, D.C., as it did to Westeros.
At a time in both the world of Westeros and the world away from our television screens in which the stakes are high and the lines of right and wrong are clearly drawn, this scene served as a reminder of what can happen when people watch those in power do terrible things but fail to speak up and fight back.
“I’m not the one doing it.”
No matter how many times you tell yourself that, it never absolves the guilt. Just ask Varys.
Honorable Mentions: Jon pets Drogon, Jon and Daenerys say goodbye, Jon meets Gendry, Davos bribes the soldiers, the “wight capturing crew” assembles
Great pick of the week, and oh so relevant to the world we live in. I frequently forget Varys past – he is such a shadowy character I forget that we actually even know his past, so upon first watch, the weight of his words didnt quite sink in, but they definitely take on much greater meaning when placed in context and I am so glad you wrote about it.
But of course my favorite moment is Jon and Drogon, its just not as meaty to write about haha. Its something as a book reader and a 7 season watcher of this show that I have always looked forward to, and it more than met my expectations. Not only did Kit Harrington knock it out of the park, but I just feel so grateful that we live in a time where special effects are this high quality and that HBO spared no expense to make that moment look as amazing as it did. The wind, the cliff, the expression in Jon’s face, even the emotions you can sense from the dragon were all spot on. I almost wish Dany wasnt there to distract from the moment, but I do think it was important for her to witness the moment as well. But seriously, kudo’s to Kit for that acting because who knows what they heck he was actually looking at when they filmed it.
I had the same thought about Varys! I always think that his origin story is still a mystery because he’s such a subtle and mysterious character, but we actually do know a fair amount about him.
And I am so happy you wrote about Jon/Drogon because someone needed to! It was such a powerful moment, especially for those of us who’ve been following this story for so long. It was done so well, and I agree that Kit Harrington should get so much praise for being able to look at what was probably a tennis ball on a pole with such awe and affection. He’s grown so much in the last few years, and it’s been a joy to watch him make this role his own.
I am so incredibly disappointed that your personal politics had to be brought into an episode review. Unless I am reading it wrong, are you comparing a fictional king who burnt people alive to Donald Trump?! People like me want to escape politics for a brief while to enjoy some simple pleasures (like reading an episode recap) , instead of walking away from your review with a smile, I walk away sad and disgusted. Its bad enough that the news keeps barraging us with hate, division, constant negativity and fanning the flames. I can’t even read a review now without personal politics being rammed down my throat. SMH
I in no way intended for this to seem like an attempt to force my political views on anyone. But NGN is a place where I have always written about why things provoke an emotional reaction in me rather than just giving a traditional recap/review, and it would be doing a disservice to my readers who expect honesty from my writing for me to ignore a moment that provoked a strong emotional reaction in me. I can appreciate using fiction as an escape, but there are times when clear parallels can be drawn between fiction and reality—it’s what the best fiction does, in my opinion. This has been a hard week that has caused a lot of people to do a lot of soul-searching, myself included, and it felt wrong for me to be quiet about something that I feel strongly about. It’s what drove me to create this blog in the first place. If you’d rather read a review or recap that leaves personal feelings out, then NGN probably isn’t the place for you.
There are a gazillion episode recaps for GoT on the internet. I like reading Katie’s pieces because her takes are different and she isnt afraid to talk about her personal reaction to things, whether I feel the same way or not. You dont have to like what she writes, but she is also has zero responsibility to cater to what YOU want on HER site.
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