Monday, May 11, 2015

Game of Thrones: Choosing a King

Game of thrones
That's about as close as she'll get, I think.
The easy choice for ruler of Westeros has always been Daenerys. The journey of the Mother of Dragons, from crawling out of her brother's abusive thumb to proving herself as leader of the lost Dothraki tribe after Drogo's death to freeing slaves along the way has been tailor made for cheering on. On the one hand she ceases empowerment from the clutches of male opression. On the it doesn't hurt that she's sexy. But the reality becomes clear this season, that she is way out of her element when it comes to actually ruling. She's come dangerously close to losing what she's attained because she doesn't have as much self assuredness as she would think. And this latest episode indirectly told us exactly what her biggest problem is.

Game of Thrones
Things to come. . .
In a scene where Jon Snow is about to make a decision as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch that he knows he must make, he seeks the advice of Maester Aemon who bluntly tells him half the men hate him anyway and that he already knows what he has to do, so he just do it. "Kill the boy, Jon Snow, and let the man live," he tells him. Interestingly, by episode's end, Missandei gives Daenerys similar advice, but in her case, I think it might be too late. At the end of the day, though, what the advice does, what these unpopular decisions highlight, is that the true best ruler has been there all along and his name is Stannis Baratheon.

Stannis Banner
Raise the banner high!
Stannis was never popular. He was always the sullen Baratheon. Too serious. Too stern. Too humorless. But was he too harsh? No. He's never been anything but fair and measured. Every scene he's been in this season has clearly demonstrated that he's a true leader, willing to listen and even when he doesn't necessarily like a decision, he knows when it is the right one. Hence his support of Jon Snow's journey to bring the wildlings south of the wall. He thinks long term. It's really him that Varys should be seeking to assist for the good of the realm.

Game of Thrones, Stannis, Father and daughter
Father and daughter.
On a personal note I think my turn to Stannis has come because of two things. One, the fact that he was always the outcast and misunderstood hits close to home. My social awkwardness is legendary and while I'm not a megalomaniac that thinks he should be king, I do recognize the righteous indignation Stannis must feel because of this. The other thing is that Stannis is at heart a good father. His talk with his daughter a couple of episodes back is one of the most human moments in the whole series, and when you contrast that with scenes between Tyrion and Tywin Lannister and Roose and Ramsey Bolton, it's a stark (pun not intended) difference, even if Stannis seems cold. Again, he's an awkward and reserved man, but he's a human being. 

Varys may be seeking Daenerys because he wants to bring back the old glory to the realm, but at the end of the day, that old glory got them where they are now. Those old stories don't end well, as Sansa has learned first hand. What the realm needs is an even hand. A just hand. A tempered hand, not obsessed with power and status. That is Stannis. Your King.

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