Game of Thrones: State of the Kingdoms Part One
By now, you should have seen the awe-inspiring conclusion to Season 6 of Game of Thrones. If you haven’t (and you’re not already in the comments telling me how ‘You don’t follow the crowd, man’) then go watch it right now! I’ll wait. Seriously, if you need to watch all six seasons then go and do that, apologise to your boss about missing a week of work, and then come back. I’ll still be here.
How good was that!? Probably the best episode of the series to date wraps up one of the most exciting single seasons in truly explosive fashion (couldn’t resist). Cersei now sits on the Iron Throne, the Starks have finally retaken the North and Daeny has set sail with a fleet of Dothraki, Ironborn and Unsullied to finally get on with the task of reclaiming her ancestral throne. However, with so much having gone on this season, not to mention the five before it, I thought it might be useful to take a moment and reflect on the state of the Seven Kingdoms as a whole so that we can see the chessboard that is set before all those previously mentioned players.
This series will be looking at each of the Seven Kingdoms in turn and trying to make sense of their current status and how they might fit in the coming conflict, starting with the Westlands (Lannister territory) and the North. I won’t be trying to guess at some of the larger plot threads, and especially won’t be trying to unravel the Machiavellian schemes of Littlefinger and how they might affect things in the future. Consider this like the Kingdom briefings at the start of a Total War game; a rough sketch of things to set you up for the coming war.
So, let the Game of Thrones begin…
The Westlands and Kings Landing
The Westlands and Kings Landing form a bracket on either side of Westeros, and provide for the power base of House Lannister who have been (more or less) the villains of GoT from the very first episode.
Undoubtedly, Cersei Lannister made the boldest move at the end of Season 6 and now sits on the Iron Throne that so far has claimed two of her sons (and, indirectly, her daughter). On the surface of it, the destruction of Balor’s Sept and the deaths of all her enemies in Kings Landing seems like a brilliant (and brutal) bit of political intrigue. However, how secure has she really made herself?
After all, even if we ignore the presence of Varys in Dorne and what this means for the future of the Tyrells, she has essentially murdered the leading members of one of the greatest Houses in Westeros and in fact has probably murdered the heads of several Houses as Lord Tully is likely accompanied by his retainers who would be high born Lords.
While Cersei may feel secure behind the walls of Kings Landing she has, by alienating the Southern Lords, cut herself off from any reinforcements that may have come from the Lannisters traditional homelands in the West. After all, there is no direct route between the Westlands and Kings Landing that doesn’t either pass through either the Reach or the Riverlands which have been in Chaos since season 2 and now, thanks to Arya’s knife, are likely to be even more treacherous.
That’s assuming, of course, that any reinforcements would even be forthcoming.
After all, it wasn’t just Tyrells and Sparrows who Cersei murdered in the Sept. She also killed her uncle; Kevan Lannister (one of the guys seen holding back Lord Tyrell). Now, in the series, Kevan has played only a muted part in proceedings but in the book it’s made clear that while he doesn’t have his brother Tywin’s flare for ruling, he is at least a capable administrator and experienced military commander who works to hold things together after Tyrion goes full Patricide on the elder Lannister.
For six seasons now we haven’t seen very much of the Westlands and their politics; the Lannisters were simply able to call on armies and armies of men. However it is made clear that this absolute loyalty from their Bannermen has always stemmed, ultimately, from their fear of Tywin. After all, people don’t sing the ‘Rains of Castemere’ because it’s a catchy tune.
With Tywin dead, Kevan at least had a chance of maintaining the status quo as a respected man and holding command of the Lannister forces. With him gone, who is there to hold the Westlands? Cersei? She’s ultimately a woman in an incredibly sexist universe and was always deeply unpopular with other Houses throughout the series. Jaime? He is known throughout Westeros as the Kingslayer and is deeply mistrusted because of that; he still has command of the Lannister army for now but how long will he have Bannermen to call on?
After all, Tywin himself told us back in Season 2 that the Lannisters other great asset, their gold, was all but spent and after 5 seasons of more or less constant conflict their own forces must be weakened and fatigued.
So the Lannisters are isolated, potentially divided and more vulnerable than they have ever been. Still, as Cersei so deftly showed, even a wounded lion can still kill.
The Direwolf finally flies over the walls of Winterfell and there is once again a King in the North, whose name is Lyanna….Oh wait sorry Stark! I meant Stark!
After 5 seasons of pretty much constant calamity for the North it may, oddly enough, be in a stronger position now than it has been for years. After all, it is now finally united again underneath the Stark banner and has been joined by the Knights of the Vale who, we are told, are the greatest Knights in Westeros. With the troubles of the Iron Islanders, there is a much reduced threat from the sea and with no forces south in the Riverlands they are secure behind Moat Caelin which is a keep that has never been taken from the South.
Of course, the newly crowned King-in-the-North will need that respite in order to face the real enemy we all know is coming: the White Walkers.
With Winter now well and truly here the main difficulties faced by the Northerners is going to be surviving the long march up to the wall (remember it’s actually several days, if not weeks, between Winterfell and Castle Black) and then however long they have to stay there to face the White Walkers. Starvation, Frostbite and Hypothermia are never an army’s friends (just ask anyone who has ever invaded Russia) and all the years of war will have taken their toll on the farming class as well, further reducing the available food.
Tactically, the Starks and their forces have problems too as (at current count) they only have two Valyrian Steel weapons (LongClaw with Jon Snow and Oathkeeper with Brienne…wherever she’s got to), no dragonglass that we’ve seen and also no Dragons. I think the Boltons in the books have a Valyrian steel knife they use to flay their enemies, which should be in Stark hands now, but as we haven’t seen it in the series there are no guarantees it’s there. Now I might be tempted to break apart one of the weapons (probably Oathkeeper) they’ve got and reforge it into a couple dozen arrowheads to take out the remaining White Walkers from safely atop the wall but I suspect HBO has more dramatic plans in mind for the final showdown. With that in mind, the Arryn-Stark-Wildling forces are going to have to figure out how to stop an enormous zombie army without the correct tools to quickly take down their masters.
Here’s hoping Daeny gets up there pretty damn quick.
Oh, and a quick note on the Vale…Yeah, it’s pretty much still super secure locked up in its mountains. Even with their military forces in the North, it’s unlikely anyone is going to fight their way through the Riverlands and try to push through the Bloody Gate to get in.
So, there we have it. The complete state of play for the first two areas (sort of three) in Westeros. Think I missed anything? Or else think I’m just plain wrong? Then let me know here or on twitter and I promise not to rip off your head like the Mountain on a Sparrow.
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