Despite the phenomenal success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the show has had a fair amount of detractors and one common complaint has been the show’s treatment of women. Rape, gratuitous nudity, and various other incidents of misogyny have occurred to both minor and major characters.
Note to Game of Thrones aficionados: I am only referring to the show in this article, not the books. So with that said, this is your SPOILERS warning!
In this article, I would argue that women are paramount to this series and are the backbone and ribs of the story, and that it occurs through a decidedly female lens.
A Mother, but not the Mother of Dragons
In January 2006, when George R. R. Martin sat down with David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for a 5-hour lunch to discuss bringing his A Song of Ice and Fire books to the screen, it ultimately came down to one question. Martin asked Benioff and Weiss who was Jon Snow’s mother. They answered correctly and Martin gave them permission to develop the show and make it into the amazing juggernaut that has lasted almost 10 years and is headed into its final season, which starts April 14 on HBO. In all my excitement, re-watching shows, and reading copiously about possible plot leaks, I realized how important women are to this story.
What Woman Hath Wrought
George R. R. Martin felt that knowing the identity of Jon Snow’s mother, a woman, was key for the showrunners to have deduced from the books, so that it would be the driving mystery through each season.
When this mystery is finally revealed and Jon’s mother is Lyanna Stark, and that his father is Rhaegar Targaryen, it becomes clear that one woman set in motion events that are still being played out and that the last act still has to be played out. This life-altering information that Jon Snow is actually a Targaryen and a Stark, and therefore the true heir to the Iron Throne and technically nephew to his lover, Daenarys Targaryen, is still unknown to him. This will complicate that love affair, not only in the revelation of the familial relation but also as it presents a credible threat to Daenarys in her quest to sit on the Iron Throne.
Robert’s Rebellion, the deaths of Brandon Stark and Rickard Stark, the marriages of Caitlyn and Lyssa Tully, Rhaegar’s death on the Trident, Jamie slaying the Mad King, the deaths of so many… All of this and so much more, all resulting from the fatal attraction of Rhaegar to his “wolf girl,” Lyanna Stark. A woman.
But wait! There’s more!
Another woman is driving the storylines of of Ice and Fire and she comes from a dark cave in the woods near Casterly Rock. In a flashback scene in the first episode of season 5, a young Cersei Lannister seeks advice from Maggy the Frog, a witch and fortune teller. Cersei asks if she will marry the prince, as she hoped to marry Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.
Maggy says, “You will never wed the Prince, you will wed the King…You’ll be Queen, for a time. Then comes another — younger, more beautiful — to cast you down and take all you hold dear…The King will have 20 children, and you will have three…Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.” These prophecies were fulfilled as Cersei did not marry Prince Rhaegar, but married King Robert Baratheon. And Baratheon, of course, had many illegitimate children and Cersei had three children with her brother Jamie. All three children died and indeed had golden shrouds as they were kings and a princess, despite all Cersei’s machinations to protect her children.
Maggy the Frog also tells Cersei that she will die at the hands of the “Valonqar.” In high Valyerian, “valonqar” means “little brother.” This could refer to Jamie Lannister, her younger twin, but Cersei is convinced that Tyrion is the little brother who will kill her and this intensifies her hatred for him and also her hatred for Daenarys Targaryen, the young queen who could usurp her throne.
Both of these prophecies still drive Cersei to lie, to manipulate and to kill, in order to protect her throne and to protect her progeny, as she claims she is pregnant. The one Lannister that survived to rule is a woman. Her powerful father, killed on the privy by his own son, all her children, two ruling and one poised to rule, dead, and her brother, stained as the Kingslayer and bereft of one hand has deserted to join the North.
This leaves Cersei, the first of her name as ruler and obstacle that regardless of how the war with the dead turns out, must be overcome if Jon or Danarys hope to sit on the Iron Throne. Currently, Cersei agreed to a truce, but in actuality, she has conspired with Euron Greyjon to enlist the Golden Company, an army for hire, to fight and defend her claim to the throne. Her plan is to ambush the combined forces of the North while they attempt to hold off the dead as they cross the Wall. All will play out in season 8.
April 14 is coming up quick and bets are being placed in Vegas and everyone has a theory as to who will win the Iron Throne. The Battle of Winterfell is supposedly the longest battle sequence filmed, with dire outcomes for many of the beloved cast predicted. But in the words of Daenarys Targaryen, ” All men must die, but we are not men.”
Who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne? Cersei? Danarys? Jon? Perhaps Sansa? My money is on a woman. Sound out in the comments who will sit on the Iron Throne when the season concludes!
Featured image credit: HBO