A fiery, scaly battle leads to a fiery, scaly Mailbag Of Thrones

Photo: HBO
Photo: HBO

In Mailbag Of Thrones, A.V. Club contributor Michael Walsh answers your pressing questions about the Game Of Thrones universe. Wondering about the show, novels, theories, characters, past episodes, or Game Of Thrones/A Song Of Ice And Fire lore? Have questions about the current season? Forget using a raven, send them to us at mailbagofthrones@avclub.com.

We learned a lot from season seven’s fiery fourth episode, “The Spoils Of War,” like how strangely deep the Blackwater is along the shore, and how the name Dickon is just as funny in Westeros. But the episode raised plenty of questions, too, and in this week’s Mailbag Of Thrones we’re tackling your inquiries about Arya and Baelish, Varys’ loyalties, using dragons in battle, and whether Daenerys has any plans for a post-war Westeros.

Baulderstone Mishyana comments: What does Arya know that Sansa doesn’t? They were both there in King’s Landing. Was there something specific Arya witnessed?

Sophie Turner (left), Maisie Williams (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)

Not really. They both got the gist of what was happening, but Arya didn’t see or know that Baelish specifically betrayed Ned, which is the question many people are asking. Arya did witness Littlefinger plotting with Tywin against Robb when she served as Tywin’s cupbearer, but that’s it. Thanks to his visions, though, Bran might know—or will learn—just what role Littlefinger played in Ned’s imprisonment, which will hopefully lead to Arya adding Baelish to her list.

Joe emails: When Cersei is negotiating with her bank rep she argues that the Iron Bank shouldn’t want Dany on the throne because she frees slaves and that’s bad for business. We know that the Iron Bank is based out of anti-slavery Braavos, but does the Iron Bank actually finance slavery? Why would Braavos allow this?

Mark Gatiss as Tycho Nestoris, envoy of the Iron Bank (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)

Slavery is outlawed in Braavos because the city was founded by escaped Valyrian slaves. That’s why they kept the city’s existence a secret for 100 years.

But while the First Law of Braavos says no person can ever be a slave, the Iron Bank is a ruthless, moneymaking machine. It might not directly fund the slave trade; it does make loans to men who need ships and a crew, many of them slavers. But even beyond its questionable lending practices and harsh recoupment efforts (“The Iron Bank will have its due”) it’s still a bank, and interruptions and chaos in the market are bad for business. Steady, dependable governments mean steady, dependable payments, even if that means slavery. Traditional war is profitable, but rebellions are not in a bank’s best interest. Dragon-less Cersei is far more dependable for its bottom line than Dany and her wheel-smashing, worldwide upheaval.

Moflicky comments: Do we know yet what the voice in the flames told Varys [when he was castrated]?

Conleth Hill (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)

No answer yet, but Melisandre’s ominous comment to Varys about how she’ll return to die in Westeros just like he will might be a clue to what he heard as a child. The red priestess Kinvara who met with Tyrion and Varys in Meereen somehow knew all about that voice in the flames. Melisandre might know what it said too. Either way, it certainly seems like “Chekhov’s creepy flame voice” will be a factor at some point.

Joseph emails: If Drogon had been shot down in battle, are the other two dragons big enough for Daenerys to ride yet? Will they ever be? I partially remember from the books that some dragons keep growing forever and some stop. I think the important question here is if Tyrion is a Targaryen, will one of the dragons stay relatively small so only he can ride it?

Emilia Clarke (Photo: HBO)

Drogon is the largest of the three, but Viserion and Rhaegal are full-sized. Some dragons never stop growing and Aegon The Conqueror’s dragon Balerion lived to 200, so they can get really big.

Dragonriders never have more than one mount at a time, though. There’s a special connection between a dragon and the person it bonds with, and dragons won’t let anyone else ride on them so long as that person lives, and vice versa. Drogon would have to die for Daenerys to ride one of the others, but there’s no guarantee they’ll let her, especially if they take other mounts first—like Jon Snow, maybe.

As for Tyrion, many dragonriders make their connection as kids and grow up riding, so his size shouldn’t be a problem. Though we might suggest he use a special saddle for safety, like the one he had designed for Bran to ride a horse.

Oh, and maybe both he and Daenerys should wear some armor when they ride a dragon. Unlike dragons with their thick, tough scales, humans can be killed by a normal arrow.

Criss emails: Do you think Jon Snow ends up raised by the Night’s King and that this, his dual resurrection, is the “song of ice and fire”?

Kit Harington (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)

I don’t know if I would bet money on it, but I wouldn’t bet against it. Why would we think George R.R. Martin has anything planned for us but the most soul-crushing outcomes?

As someone who always roots for Jon this possibility worries me, because in a story where the dead are marching on the living, it does seem likely Jon came back from the dead and it will all work out perfectly. A resurrection of ice and fire is exactly the type of twist we’d expect from Martin, but we can take comfort that as the son of a Stark (ice) and a Targaryen (fire) that would seem to account for his song.

I do wonder if Jon’s parentage makes him impervious to the Night’s King, though, or at least capable of escaping his control. It would be a great double switch, where we think Jon has been lost to the dead, but he manages to overcome it again.

Clark emails: What do you think brought Tyrion to the battle at the loot train?

Peter Dinklage (Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO)

Except for Varys, there was no one else left on Dragonstone with any knowledge of the land Daenerys planned to attack, so she couldn’t go in blind. His presence also makes it possible for him to be a recognizable figure after the battle, where hopefully some diplomacy/reasoning can save lives.

The downside was he had to witness his family’s loyal soldiers and countrymen burned by dragonflame and killed by the Dothraki, which he didn’t want to have happen (hence his planned siege on King’s Landing and his covert plan to take Casterly Rock).

But now that he’s there and Jaime didn’t go up in flames, Tyrion has a chance to broker peace. If Jaime, who knows Tyrion is innocent of Joffrey’s death, doesn’t escape and is captured by Daenerys, Tyrion could use him to convince Cersei to give up without more bloodshed, the way Jaime did with Edmure Tully at Riverrun. She won’t accept, but Tyrion can still have Jaime try.

Malcolm Warner comments: What is Daenerys’ plan for re-establishing the Targaryen dynasty? She’s infertile, so it’s not clear to me who would eventually become her heir. What does she intend to do with the Dothraki after winning the war?

Photo: HBO

She has to win the Iron Throne before she can worry about who she would pass it on to, so I doubt she’s ever worried about an heir. As for the Dothraki, she’s been so focused on winning she doesn’t seem to have any exit… err, “enter” strategy for what to do if that happens. She talks a lot about making the world a better, more peaceful place under her reign, but that doesn’t seem possible if every Dothraki in the world is running free in Westeros.

The difficulty of ruling well has always been one of the show’s biggest themes, how winning power and wielding it are not the same. Robert—a good man, a great conqueror, but a bad king—proved that. Daenerys keeps talking a big game but doesn’t seem interested in how she’ll pull it off. The Dothraki in the Seven Kingdoms is a pretty big problem to ignore, which is why I don’t know why anyone in Westeros would support her over Cersei.

Dale Sims comments: Is there a traitor at Dragonstone? Who knew all the plans? Who didn’t die or get captured? Who wasn’t at Dragonstone when Dany took off and caught the Lannisters by surprise and has a history of betrayal?

Peter Dinklage (left), Conleth Hill (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)

I’d be all in on this whole “Varys isn’t who he says he is” theory (like he is in the books), but considering even Jaime and Randyll Tarly were too dumb to use advanced scouts or lookouts, we’re chalking it up to incompetence. Apparently no one in this war ever said, “Hey, like, five of you guys go make sure a Dothraki horde or 1,000 giant ships don’t catch us off guard.” Even if Varys, or someone else in Daenerys’ inner circle, is a double agent, that doesn’t account for how the Unsullied let the Iron Fleet sneak up on them in broad daylight.

Cátia Oliveira CaptainAmerica-Man comments: The dragon weapon is called a scorpion—so that means the arrows are poisoned, no?

Steve-O The Authority comments: If Euron The Sex Machine could get 1,000 pirate ships made presumably in a few months, why didn’t Qyburn make at least a dozen scorpions?

Jerome Flynn (Photo: HBO)

Like I said, this is a war being fought by very stupid people. The only thing more obvious than using poisoned arrows on a dragon-killing machine is building more than one of them. Euron built all those ships without any wood, but Qyburn didn’t think to make more than one scorpion? Sometimes it feels like the only ruler who has a clue is the Night’s King.