After spending the first two episodes checking in with its sprawling cast of regulars and setting up the season, this week Game of Thrones finally got down to what you’d expect from a show so named: power, who wields it, and how they lord it over others. Tywin has taken over the small council, Mance Rayder threatens to throw Jon Snow off the Wall, and Craster belittles the weary Night’s Watch. Daenerys is buying an army, and Robb is chewing out his uncle.
But we also see that only those who have been kicked around or suffered greatly really understand the cost of power and the dangers of arrogance. First, of course, Tyrion. Littlefinger might have been clever enough to be Master of Coin in a time of peace, but the underestimated and unloved Tyrion is smarter and more pragmatic. He was correct in telling his father that a lifetime of wealth didn’t make him fit to manage money, and that scene was a rare demonstration of someone in Westeros downplaying his own abilities rather than puffing himself up. But being in debt to a foreign bank during a time of war isn’t a crisis of economics. It’s a crisis of national security, and Tyrion has proved himself adept on that front (even though his family chooses not to acknowledge that).
Daenerys, meanwhile, presents an interesting case study. She has spent her entire life on the run—and forever in debt to others. She is as power-hungry as a Lannister, but she (somewhat naively) wants vengeance only against her enemies and has a soft spot for the weak and the poor. She is swayed by Mormont’s argument that the Unsullied will wreak less postwar havoc than typical soldiers. And after what happened with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, she’s not willing to be in someone else’s debt. So she realizes she has to offer up a dragon for an army.
On the other hand (yup, pun intended), there is Jaime Lannister. He has admittedly suffered some as a captive of the Starks for the last year. But apparently not enough to temper the arrogance that allows him to believe he can trade on his powerful name to procure his freedom. And so Jaime learns a painful lesson: that good looks and a good name and the promise of gold can get you only so far.
Even with Renly dead and Theon on the run, Westeros still has too many powerful people acting with too much arrogance. They should beware. Winter is coming, and winter doesn’t care how proud you are.
TODAY IN SLATE
Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man
The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.
Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.
Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution
Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show
Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada
Now, journalists can't even say her name.
Lena Dunham, the Book
More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.