Game of Speculation: How to Spend Early Winter in the Riverlands

Apropos of the previous post, I haven’t yet embarrassed myself, the majority of the fan community hasn’t embarrassed itself, and lots of people who’ve been hoping to see certain storylines from A Feast for Crows appear to be getting something close enough to what they want.

I’m doing this one as a multi-parter, mostly because I want to post something tonight, but I also need to go to bed at some point.

First off, the good people at HBO can just stop right now with this charade of pretending Kit Harington is spending all this time in Belfast because he enjoys the weather. Really, we can see through you. We have seen Kit Harington filming a battle scene, dressed like a Stark. We all know Jon Snow is coming back. That also means everyone covering the celebrity beat can stop pestering the cast for answers on whether Jon stays dead. He will be resurrected in S6, regardless of how many cast members play ignorant, and now we just wait to see when and how. It’s even possible that most of the cast don’t yet know in what episode Jon comes back, or how. I’ll bet Carice van Houten knows something about that. Sophie and Maisie might not, though. The question of whether Jon is staying dead or coming back, though? That’s settled. We don’t need the other actors to tell us what we want to hear.

That out of the way, most of what I want to talk about concerns those Lannister-red tents raised outside of the riverside castle which is very obviously Riverrun.

Lots of red tents on a green field with a castle front in the background. There are also sheep on the field. We’re not sure yet how the sheep pertain to the scene.

It is the most beautiful shade of red.

I’ll get right to it: these pics are big, juicy, gorgeous news for those of us who are interested in what Jaime is up to in S6. We’ve heard it strongly rumored from credible sources that Jaime is going to the Riverlands and taking Bronn with him, and before we heard those rumors, I made the case for Jaime getting the fuck out of King’s Landing, probably to head for the Riverlands, and taking Bronn with him. This basically seals it. Dealing with Riverrun is an important assignment for Lannister troops, and they need a capable commander. Tywin is dead, Uncle Kevan is busy protecting the realm, Tyrion is a fugitive in Essos, and Jaime is entirely capable and available. What other extant characters do we have who might lead a Lannister host up to the Riverlands? Precisely zero. We have Jaime. That encampment full of Lannister-red tents is where we will see Jaime and Bronn.

Something else we’ve learned about Jaime’s presence in S6—something much less squishy than my long-winded predictions and Watchers on the Wall’s anonymous sources—is that he’s still in King’s Landing in Ep6. Now, I don’t think he’s going to start out in King’s Landing, make a trip up to the Riverlands early-season, then come back to KL for that scene at the Sept with the Tyrell troops. No, I think he’ll just be in the Crownlands until he brings Margaery back to the Red Keep, at which point Uncle Kevan tells him to take the Lannister troops and deal with Riverrun, before he and Cersei kill each other. That gives him no more than Ep7-10 to spend in the Riverlands, and that limited time frame cuts way down on the places he can visit and the people he can interact with. That time restriction led me to wonder: okay, so what may be the few things Jaime does when he’s in the Riverlands?

Those red tents go a long way to answering that question. He’s going to Riverrun! He’s leading a host, which means he can’t just peel off the Kingsroad and do whatever he wants, he has to look after his troops like a responsible commander. Whatever they do between King’s Landing and Riverrun, it’ll be focused on getting the troops up to Riverrun with a minimum of drama. Of course drama may find them, but if so, it’ll have to do so quickly. I suppose there may also be a conversation or two concerning noble ladies in need of husbands to help them fill their castles. Walder Frey has daughters and grand-daughters to spare, but Jaime promised Bronn a bride with her own castle, so he needs to do better than a Frey.

Speaking of Walder Frey, he is now the lord of Riverrun as well as the Twins. We heard as much from Brienne talking to Podrick in S4:E7, after their talk with Hot Pie. The context of the conversation was deciding where to look for the Stark girls, and she ruled out Riverrun because it was under control of Walder Frey. I suppose it’s possible that she was mistaken about what happened to Riverrun following the Red Wedding, but as she’d spent all that time at the Red Keep, hanging out with Jaime, I think she knew more than most noble ladies about the situation. Furthermore, there was no narrative use in her being mistaken about the new lord of Riverrun; she cited Walder Frey as the reason not to bother looking for Arya there, and she was right that neither of the Stark girls were anywhere near Riverrun. I think the message on Riverrun was that there was no way any Tullys, Starks or their allies could be found at Riverrun, with Walder Frey as its new lord. That means the political situation at Riverrun is somewhat different from what we see in A Feast for Crows. This is Brienne’s idea of where to look for Sansa, after she and Podrick have already looked in some other places and nearly been killed in the process:

Brienne had no ready answer for him. They had come to the crossroads, quite literally; the place where the kingsroad, the river road, and the high road all came together. The high road would take them east through the mountains to the Vale of Arryn, where Lady Sansa’s aunt had ruled until her death. West ran the river road, which followed the course of the Red Fork to Riverrun and Sansa’s great-uncle, who was besieged but still alive. Or they could ride the kingsroad north, past the Twins and through the Neck with its bogs and marshes. If she could find a way past Moat Cailin and whoever held it now, the kingsroad would bring them all the way to Winterfell.

These are her candidates for Sansa’s possible location, and we know she’s right about one of them: the Vale of Arryn, Riverrun, and Winterfell. She considers Riverrun because Uncle Brynden is still in control of the castle, so he might shelter Sansa. Although Emmon Frey is the new lord of Riverrun by royal decree, he’s been unable to claim his seat because Ser Brynden the Blackfish is still inside, still in control of the castle, and none of the Freys can figure out how to force him out without wrecking the castle.

Whereas, on the show, Brienne’s read is basically: “Nah, Walder Frey’s got Riverrun now. Completely Stark-free zone.”

Which probably means that Riverrun is where we’ll get a follow-up on the Freys. We’ve heard from David Bradley that he’s coming back to the show at some point, and he’s since turned up in Belfast, so now’s the time to deal with how the Freys have been handling the Riverlands since they drove a wrecking ball through the sacred laws of hospitality. I expect we’ll see Walder Frey in control of the castle, possibly with some of his sons to help him manage the place, and maybe they’ll still be dealing with the Blackfish and his troops giving them a hard time from outside. That would explain why Jaime is leading a host up to Riverrun if Walder Frey, a trusted Lannister ally, is in charge of the castle. Their job is to break the siege, but they’ll be dealing with the Blackfish as an outsider.

That’s all for tonight. I’ll write about more Riverlands-related stuff tomorrow.

UPDATE: I seem to have gone on a little spree with Riverlands predictions.

Part 2: the Little Assassin (Arya)

Part 3: the Gruff Priest and Others

Part 4: the Warrior Maid (Brienne)