Focused mostly on intention and the promise of what is to come, the latest chapter of Game of Thrones, “Sons of the Harpy,” ends with a spectacular scene of violence. However, the lead up is a slow burn centered on the nature of heroism, mistaken identities and questions of the future.
Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) has been embraced by the public as the inevitable hero of Game of Thrones. He’s the show’s heartthrob; the Seven Kingdom’s answer to Edward Cullen. As handsome as Snow is, his beauty is often undercut by his seriousness and downcast humility. He was born an underdog, but in the spirit of American idealism, it is difficult not to believe Snow may be destined for great leadership. In spite of his dedication to the Night’s Watch, which wants no part in the wars, there are mounting hints that Snow will eventually give up that role and embrace his duty as a possible leader of the Seven Kingdoms. In many ways, his fate with the Night’s Watch already feels sealed due to his failure to maintain abstinence. While no man is perfect (I hardly believe this should be held against him), it does show that he maybe doesn’t belong among them.
Game of Thrones plays on the ideas of mythological archetypes. In this episode, we see jokes about Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) attempting to rescue his “niece” as a ploy to have songs written about him. While it seems unlikely Jaime feels that way, the only approval he seeks is from his sister/lover Cersei (Lena Headey); a self-reflexive understanding on the nature of storytelling. This is further played into during Snow’s adventures when he is tempted by Melisandre (Carice Van Houten). While he resists her, Snow does allow himself to be tempted for a moment. As Melisandre unveils her breasts and stomach, he cannot resist touching her exposed skin and seems pained as he turns her away, though it is not necessarily her body he longs for. Snow has loved before and has been tempted once again, which makes it seems likely that his path will similarly be set by a woman — for better or for worse.
In the tradition of Shakespeare, George R. R. Martin’s heroes often fall by their greatest virtue. The question then is whether love is Snow’s greatest virtue or greatest downfall. He seems like the obvious hero, but maybe that is why he will fail.
Maybe our great mistake is believing that Game of Thrones obeys mythological standards rather than refuting them — or believing that just one man will stand, if it will be a man at all. Heroism is perhaps not a solitary affair and also unlikely something that happens on the battlefield in the war between kingdoms. The episode’s final moments — a vicious massacre by the Sons of Harpy — remind us that heroes don’t lose the war. The sons of Harpy have thus far been painted as villains, yet a reading of history tells us that revolutionaries rarely fight for chaos. They are the true underdogs, and perhaps framing them thus far as monstrous figures will be later undermined in the face of the (presumed) nobility of their ambition. Perhaps our understanding of the Seven Kingdoms itself will transform, as outside parties like the Sons of Harpy and Faith Militant gain increased power.
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.