Sunday’s hour of Game of Thrones felt a scant 20 minutes, loaded with shock factor, upheaval and the brand of Westerosi monstrosity we’ve become accustomed to.
“The Old Gods and the New” is a phrase we’ve heard many, many times in Westeros. The Old Gods were kept by the original, ‘first men’ of Westeros. The New Gods are the Seven — the Mother, the Father, Warrior, the Crone, the Smith, the Maiden, and the Stranger.
And still newer gods come from all directions; Melisandre’s Red God, which Jaqen has invoked. Syrio’s God of Death, to whom we say, not today. And certainly not least, the Drowned God of the Ironmen, to whom payment was made on Sunday, with Rodrik Cassel’s head.
Harrenhal already seems like it could be the likeliest place in Westeros for a ghost to take up residence. Arya Stark is basically dead to the world; small wonder she finds herself in a position to be Harrenhal’s newest specter, a girl whose words can now kill.
Sunday was about Game of Thrones’ characters gaining new ground in unexpected places. Finding new sources of strength where they never imagined them to be. And naturally, having those new gains define character arcs and plots for the rest of the season. A setup episode of connective tissue necessary at this season’s midpoint.
Before all that setup could happen, and just as the show was teasing us with the prospect of an alliance between Highgarden and the North, we had to see what became of Stannis and Mel’s love-shadow. And we did.
“What is Dead May Never Die” is the pledge of the men of the Iron Islands. When they undergo this ‘baptism’ by saltwater in their adolescence, they are ‘drowned’ in the waters in homage to the old tradition — Ironmen were literally drowned, then resuscitated, and having suffered that little ‘death’, they style themselves as dead men, unable to be killed on the battlefield.
Theon Greyjoy bathed in saltwaters at the climax of Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, and made the choice to betray the North, and his foster brother, Robb Stark.