Marriage is often a bad omen in Game of Thrones. As a strategic force meant to align, dissolve and build legacies, it holds integral power within the society. In fact, the bond of marriage is often treated with more respect than blood: the law of man has usurped the law of God. Yet, marriage is also the setting for some of the most violent moments of the series. Unlike fairy tales where the prince and princess get married and live “happily ever after,” for many (particularly women), a Game of Thrones union marks the beginning of tragedy.
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) describes a crucial part of her backstory — the era before she chose to become a knight and was a lady waiting to be married off. Her story is revealing of the politics of beauty in a world where women are seen as pawns. Burdened with self-loathing when she rejected her life of being a Lady, Brienne also rejected the interior world (the traditional domain of the woman). Her larger than life size, loyalty and valour seemingly cannot be contained by small rooms or villages. It is not because she is less of a woman, but perhaps because she embodies the struggle of all of them, reaching to be more than a pretty face contained in a gilded cage.
Arya (Maisie Williams) is similarly faced with an internal conflict in which she must erase her lineage in order to survive. While she has been in hiding for years, it is only now that she has to completely erase the ties to her former life. In a heartfelt scene, she throws her last possessions into the river, and there is promise that perhaps she can be reborn.
Sansa (Sophie Turner), on the other hand, returns to her homeland and is given the opportunity to reconnect with her former life. Yet, what does Winterfell really hold with most of her family dead? She agrees to consider marriage, but what does she hope to gain, if anything? Thus far, Sansa has been presented as the antithesis to the ambitious Margaery (they could easily be each other’s doppelganger), but perhaps they are not so different after all. As Margaery (Natalie Dormer) schemes and plots in King’s Landing (she is now Queen after marrying Dean-Charles Chapman’s Tommen), perhaps Sansa will do the same in Winterfell.
“High Sparrow” ends with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) as they make a stopover on their journey. They pause for a moment to listen to a high priestess extort the nobility of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), who will be the savior of the land. Tyrion is skeptical and prefers to head to a brothel, where he finds himself faced with a prostitute dressed as the Mother of Dragons. As all the men flock to fuck the spitting image of their savior, he tries to find solace in another woman. They have a brief discussion before Tyrion withdraws, and while his thoughts and intentions remain obscure, can we be led to believe that Tyrion can no longer see women as merely sex objects? Perhaps this a reflection of the show itself, as Game of Thrones shifts away from representing anonymous female bodies in favour of real characters.
Justine Smith (@redroomrantings) lives and writes in Montreal, Quebec. She has a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies, and a passionate hunger for all kinds of cinema. Along with writing for Vague Visages, she is the film editor of Sound on Sight and a freelance writer.