Remember how, in the run-up to Game of Thrones Season 6, I accurately predicted what Brienne would be doing by lining up a bunch of questions and putting one answer at their center?
Based on the first two episodes of Season 7, it’s time to do that again.
1. What does Brienne do with herself this year?
Brienne spent the better part of two entire seasons just trying to become Sansa’s protector, and she eventually succeeded. Clearly, the protector relationship plays an important role in the story, but now that the Starks have retaken Winterfell, we’re not quite sure what that role will be. On the one hand, Sansa seems to like having Brienne around. On the other hand, Sansa is as safe as she’s ever been since before her father was executed, and there are plenty of people she could employ to shield her back.
Furthermore, for as long as Brienne has been on-screen, she has never spent an entire season in the same place. She’s always had something to do that involves going somewhere else. What could her assignment be now? Will she spend all of Season 7 hanging around Winterfell and running interference between Sansa and Littlefinger? I doubt that very much. Now that she has a cushy job in the North, she’s due for another trip south.
Seasons 4 and 5, she spent just trying to connect with Sansa. Season 6, she tried to secure an alliance for the Starks, and that didn’t work out, but she did meet up with Jaime. I think Season 7 is a good time for her to try again at securing allies for the Starks, and this time, succeed. She can reconnect with Jaime at the same time, and not have to say goodbye.
2. How does Brienne resolve her concerns over Sansa engaging with Littlefinger?
Brienne is loyal as ever to her lady, but loyalty does not mean free of concerns. She wants to know why Littlefinger is still at Winterfell, still spending time with Sansa, and she’s not satisfied with Sansa’s assurance that she knows what Littlefinger wants.
That said, there is the small matter of the Starks owing their recent victory to the timely arrival of the Knights of the Vale, and Brienne can’t deny that the Starks are still vulnerable without them. Therefore, to get Littlefinger out of the picture, Brienne will need to show Sansa how her family can be sufficiently defended without the Vale forces.
She was able to convince Jaime to offer favorable terms to the Tullys to benefit the Starks. If she could do that much, she could give him other ideas about what to do with the army at his command. Ideas such as, getting out of Daenerys’s crosshairs while maintaining House Lannister’s autonomy, helping the North deal with the White Walkers, and not letting Cersei drag him down with her.
3. Who will fight for the Starks if not the Knights of the Vale?
Brienne asks Sansa: why is Littlefinger still here? Sansa answers: they need his men. The Knights of the Vale made all the difference in winning Winterfell back from the Boltons. Ergo, the Starks are beholden to Littlefinger and his army, so they can’t just kick LF to the curb.
Therefore, in order for Sansa to get LF out of her life, the Starks will need to be allied with another faction, that has its own army, which is big enough to defend them from any other usurpers who want to displace the Starks as the rulers of the North.
The Lannisters have an army. Plenty big enough to let the Vale forces go home, and also big enough to keep the Vale nobles from joining any alliances to subdue the Starks.
4. Where does Jaime go to escape Cersei?
“Are you angry at me?”
“Are you afraid of me?”
“No. Should I be?”
Pretty much every time Cersei said anything in “Dragonstone,” Jaime’s reaction was somewhere between appalled and horrified. For instance, he didn’t like it when she mentioned Sansa Stark among their enemies. Her entertaining Euron Greyjoy’s overtures at alliance didn’t help, either. Jaime doesn’t know what to do with his sister anymore, but in order for him to get away from her, he’ll need somewhere to go. What options does he have?
For example, he could take the army and go north. The Lannisters have never ranged as far as Winterfell, but by the same token, Cersei won’t be prepared to have anyone follow them that far. Brienne is in a position of trust with the half-sister of the King in the North. She’s there because Jaime provisioned her for a quest, and she promised to perform that quest for Jaime’s sake as much as Catelyn’s. Sansa isn’t getting along so well with Jon, but she doesn’t seem to mind that Brienne carries a Lannister sword and works with a Lannister squire. Now that she’s there, she could help Jaime negotiate a mutually beneficial alliance with the Starks.
5. Who will be the Lannisters’ new, reliable allies?
Jaime asks Cersei who’s on their side now the Tyrells have joined up with Daenerys. They need allies, he says. New, powerful allies to keep them from being obliterated by their enemies, of which they now have more than ever.
Cersei’s answer to that is Euron Greyjoy, but that’s clearly not a good answer. He killed his own brother and isn’t the least bit sorry about it. Jaime does not trust King Euron to be aligned with the Lannisters’ interests, but Cersei does not care about her brother’s concerns.
For now, it looks like the Tarlys are willing to swear fealty to the Iron Throne, but that seems more like taking whatever they can get. Randyll Tarly seems like an impeccable ally compared to Walder Frey, but the Reach is still aligned with Daenerys. Jaime tells Cersei, no one wants to fight for the losing side, and right now they are the losing side. As long as Cersei is the Queen of Three Kingdoms At Best, while the other kingdoms have dragons, the Lannisters are on the losing side, and the Tarlys are not enough to change that.
In order to keep their House from going the way of the Reynes of Castamere, Jaime will need to get his army out of the line of dragon fire.
One way to do that is to take them north. Farther north than they’ve ever gone.
6. Why did Arya spend time with those Lannister troops?
Fresh off of massacring the Freys, Arya comes across a handful of Lannister soldiers making camp in the Riverlands and enjoys a very pleasant meal of roasted rabbit and blackberry wine with them. It was possibly unique in the first episode for being a scene that didn’t do anything to move the plot forward. The argument could be made that it was a stilted, forced way for the show to write an appearance for Ed Sheeran, but there are plenty of people in the Riverlands who might camp along the road and sing pretty songs, and most of those people do not wear Lannister armor. If the producers simply wanted Arya to hear a song, there was no reason she had to hear it coming from Lannister soldiers on their way to the Twins. The scene was not forced, and it was not pointless; it was a nice bit of foreshadowing for the Starks and Lannisters to become allies later on.
Therefore, what form might such an alliance take? Cersei would rather feed herself to a dragon than make peace with the Starks, and she’s given them no reason whatsoever to trust her.
However, Jaime is the one who commands the army.
ADDENDUM: I wrote the above questions following Episode 1. With Episode 2, we have even more material. Possibly my favorite part was when Yohn Royce announced, “A Targaryen cannot be trusted. Nor can a Lannister.”
Which means both Team Dragon AND Jaime’s army will make excellent allies to Team Wolf!
ADDENDUM 2: When Archmaester Ebrose was piling books on Sam in the library, there was only one book whose cover was shown on-screen. It was this one:
That cover says: “An History of the House of Lannister,” followed by a worn-out lion sigil.
Why, I wonder, would the show want to draw attention to Sam being asked to study the history of the Lannisters?