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Magic is reborn in "Fire And Blood" as Game Of Thrones wraps up its first season

Illustration for article titled Magic is reborn in Fire And Blood asi Game Of Thrones /iwraps up its first season
Photo: Game Of Thrones (HBO)

Month Of Thrones

We’re counting down to Game Of Thrones’ final season by distilling the fantasy epic to 30 essential moments. This is Month Of Thrones.

The moment

Daenerys Targaryen “gives birth” to her dragon babies.

The episode

Fire And Blood,” season one, episode 10

After establishing that no one is safe by slicing off Ned Stark’s head with a single stroke of the executioner’s broadsword, Game Of Thrones changed the rules once again by reintroducing creatures previously thought to be extinct to the A Song Of Ice And Fire universe. “Fire And Blood” is the motto of House Targaryen, the former rulers of Westeros who, as the series begins, have fallen far. And the last remaining member of this once-glorious dynasty, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), not yet the Mother of Dragons, is in a desperate position. Her husband, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), is in a vegetative state, and their son was not only stillborn, but deformed. Both tragedies severely threaten Dany’s position as khaleesi of the Dothraki horde, and, therefore, her chance at getting the army she needs to retake the Iron Throne.


Both of these calamitous events are the direct result of a fatal mistake on the part of the young queen: Trusting Lhazareen godswife Mirri Maz Duur (Mia Soteriou) to perform a blood magic ritual to save Khal Drogo’s life. “Only life can pay for life,” Mirri Maz Duur tells Daenerys, leaving out that not only does Dany not get to decide which life is used as payment, but that “life” can mean a number of things. Technically, Drogo is still alive. But he can never ride or fight again, which makes him good as dead in the Dothraki’s eyes. But what Mirri Maz Duur doesn’t realize is that Dany has some magic of her own, which we see for the first time as she transforms from a frightened girl to a powerful monarch capable of great miracles—and great cruelty.

After putting poor Drogo out of his misery with an embroidered pillow, it looks like Dany is preparing to immolate herself and the dragon eggs she received as a wedding present on her husband’s funeral pyre, a practice that was performed in our world for millennia. “I won’t watch you burn,” exiled Westerosi knight Jorah Mormont tells her; “is that what you fear?” she responds, a faraway look in her eyes. After tying Mirri Maz Duur to the pyre, Dany lights it with a torch, setting its two interconnected rings ablaze. Then, she walks into the fire, unbothered by her diaphanous dress literally burning off of her body.


The next morning, Jorah and the small band of Dothraki still loyal to Drogo who gathered to watch his funeral wake up, expecting to see nothing but a pile of ashes. But there’s Dany, sooty and naked but completely unharmed, her platinum hair still bound up in elaborate braids. And with her are three baby dragons, crawling all over her like a litter of puppies. Someday, these dragons will be a terrifying destructive force on par with nuclear weapons. But today, they’re no bigger than little rubber monsters you might find in a child’s toy box.

Stunned, Jorah and the Dothraki fall to their knees in awe. And just like that, the dragons are born, the dragon queen is born, and magic is reborn in the world.


What we said then

Todd VanDerWerff waxed philosophical in his original recap of “Fire And Blood”—not on the nature of magic in the A Song Of Ice And Fire universe per se, but on the idea of consequences and the more specific question of enslaved priestess Mirri Maz Duur’s intentions:

“If the great theme of Game Of Thrones is how fragile the idea of nobility is, then the secondary theme is probably the idea of consequences and just how unpredictable they are. You can never be quite sure what will happen when you do something ... Really, you can only trust yourself. It’s Dany who learns this the hard way. She’s lost her child, and her husband is in some sort of deep coma, thanks to the witch’s blood magic ... She trusted that her act of saving the witch would lead to some sort of added advantage. Instead, her act of saving the witch prolonged a life that had already grown miserable. Without her village (or her temple), without her people, living in a world where she had to be around the men who had raped her, the witch wasn’t too thankful for Dany’s gift, and Dany was too blinded by her own ideas of her generosity and power to realize that.


Plus, by ridding the world of Rhaego before he was born, the witch kept her eye on the long-term, taking away the child who would have overrun the world and burned more villages and led a force that would have raped more women. The strength of the books is that it takes one event and forces you to see how different people feel about that event. Increasingly, that’s a strength of the series too. The witch isn’t exactly too kind about expressing her opinion, but it’s also hard to miss her point. More war, more destruction, how could that be a good thing? And yet that’s Dany’s destiny, as she all but acknowledges when she chains the witch to the funeral pyre and marches in herself. She’s either going to unleash hell or die. There’s not really middle ground.”

Elsewhere in the episode

Arya Stark becomes a boy with no name, beginning her path to Faceless Manhood. Robb Stark is named King In The North, and begins to plot revenge for his father’s death. Catelyn Stark really hates Jaime Lannister, and tells him so. Sadistic little shit King Joffrey forces Sansa to look at her father’s head on a spike. Tywin Lannister orders Tyrion to go to King’s Landing and serve as Hand Of The King; against his father’s wishes, Tyrion decides to bring Shae with him. Jon Snow leaves the Wall to avenge his father, but is persuaded to return by his brothers in black. Grand Maester Pycelle is not as much of a feeble old man as he’d like everyone to think. Varys and Littlefinger verbally spar in the Iron Throne room; Varys wins the day by asking Littlefinger, “do you lie awake at night fearing my gash?”


Previously: The execution of Ned Stark
Next: Melisandre gives birth to a shadow monster

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