Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr As GAME OF THRONES Season 7 hurtled toward its conclusion, season 7 became about one succession of reunions after another. Characters with long-held grudges and estranged relatives collided. Some for the first time in years, others for the first time period. Fans occasionally had mixed reactions to these long awaited moments of catharsis and confrontation. The journey of the audience, operating without a source text, reflects the journeys of the characters in GAME OF THRONES Season 7. We return to this place with expectations for the future. Old friends and places are rediscovered and changed, while our expectations for the future upended. In GAME OF THRONES, no one can truly go home again. Home has either changed too much, or the people trying to return are not who they once were. It’s within that struggle that GAME OF THRONES Season 7 unearths one of the most interesting themes of George R.R. Martin’s original books. For all of our petty squabbles, it’s where we make our home that will help us to survive the long winters to come. *** Spoilers ahead for GAME OF THRONES Season 7 ***Perhaps the reunion fans wanted the most was to see the Stark children all under one roof again. We certainly received that gift this season. But with their return came a reminder of just how much the journey throughout Westeros has changed them. Their new roles represent a world that lives outside the rigid constructs of civility that Ned reinforced.Bran’s newfound abilities leave him detached from his once beloved family. His power as the Three-Eyed Raven makes him aloof and indifferent to ordinary concerns. For years, we’ve watched as Arya has grown into a super cool magical assassin, but it’s terrifying for the people who knew her as a child. In the middle of all this madness is Sansa Stark; the woman forged by the fires of the patriarchal abuses she has suffered. The writers tortured us with a plot line that bafflingly pitted Arya and Sansa against one another. Sure, the girls had difficulty getting along, but it frustrated viewers to see these characters grow so much only to get played by Petyr “Littlefinger AKA How Was I Not Immediately Thrown In a Cell By Everyone At Winterfell” Baelish. Luckily, this whole scheme ended up being a ploy on the part of the Stark sisters (thank the old gods and the new). Ultimately, the Starks beat Littlefinger at his own game, leaving him sniveling and begging for his life before his execution.Listen: Like GAME OF THRONES? Then check out our podcast on the awesome fantasy comic MONSTRESS!As the Stark women look out at the snow, following Littlefinger’s death, they remember the words of their father: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives”. Earlier in the season, Arya reflected on a memory of her father when he told her that she would someday become the lady of a castle. She simply responded, “that’s not me”. It was on that day that Ned introduced Arya to her “dancing instructor” Syrio Forell and set her down a new path. Sansa, meanwhile, learned how to lead wisely and fairly from her father, but also learned cunning and manipulation from Littlefinger. Together, the sisters have returned to Winterfell different from when they were children, but ready to face the challenges of ruling. Rising Again, Harder and StrongerThe lessons of Ned Stark echo through the most unexpected reunion in GAME OF THRONES season 7. Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy’s meeting was surprising, but it provided both with needed catharsis. Much of the Stark family’s suffering has been, in part, due to Theon’s betrayal. Jon’s words help to relieve Theon’s struggle to find redemption. Jon reminds Theon that Ned Stark treated Theon as if he was a part of his family. His real home wasn’t the Iron Islands; it was Winterfell. Those words help Theon find the bravery to tell his men that they’re going to free his captured sister Yara. When one of the men brutally beats Theon in an act of defiance, Theon refuses to stay down. The man tries to knee Theon in the groin, only to hit nothing but flesh. Theon’s castration, the very thing that has haunted him, has suddenly become his advantage in battle. He seizes the moment to overcome his enemy and inspire his men to rescue Yara.The moment seems like it’s trying to get humor out of Theon’s horrific experience. In reality, it provides insight into one of the major themes of the series (stay with me here). GAME OF THRONES, the books especially, is a meditation on how patriarchal structures damage all levels of society. Characters like Sansa and Cersei, for example, are products of a social structure that treats women like political currency rather than people.CLICK: Check out our analysis of the role of religion in GAME OF THRONESOn the reverse, most male characters in the series are driven by a desire to prove themselves in combat or to conquer others as a show of might. Bronn says of the Unsullied, Daenerys’ fighting force who were all enslaved and castrated at a young age, “You wouldn’t find me fighting in an army with no cock. What’s left to fight for?”Theon perfectly represents how patriarchal structures can damage the male psyche. For much of his life, Theon saw himself as a glorified hostage. Theon became the ward of Ned Stark following his father’s failed rebellion and defeat at the hands of Winterfell’s armies. This always made Theon feel like he had to compensate to live up to the brutal ethical code of his homeland, the Iron Islands. The Iron Islands are what would happen if you mixed pirates with frat bros and they all worshiped a Cthulhu-esque aquatic god monster. It’s their belief in the Iron Price, that all things should be paid for not in gold but with force and theft, that forms the foundation of their amoral code. Theon believed that acceptance by this society and by extension, his father would reassert his masculinity that had been shattered by being Ned Stark’s ward. This desperation led to his betrayal of the Starks and began the trauma he would undertake at the hands of the Boltons.When Theon triumphantly refuses to stand down against the man beating him, he answers Bronn’s question. What’s left to fight for if not for yourself? Everyone else. Theon is no less of a man without a fleshy bit between his legs. What he needed to discover was that honor comes not from who you conquer, but who you’re willing to protect. The Debts of the LannistersIt’s that very question of who to protect that plagues each of the Lannisters. In spite of the obstacles and enemies they have faced, the Lannisters still remain. It’s a testament to that family’s greatest trait: a lack of concern for honor. Cersei, in spite of all her malicious schemes, is a woman who cares about her children and her brother Jamie more than anyone else in the world. If she weren’t diametrically opposed to our heroes, we would praise her as one of the greatest anti-heroes in pop culture. For Cersei, home is the people she loves and the control she craves. This season, we saw Cersei at the height of her power. As queen of Westeros, she managed to wipe out the Martell and the Tyrell houses. At the same time, she reveals to her brother Jamie, and eventually Tyrion, that she is pregnant. Cersei’s greatest loss as a player in the great game was the loss of her children which occurred before GAME OF THRONES Season 7; a new child for her represents a new start. It’s her chance to return her life to some semblance of normal again (or at least as normal as you can get when your brother is your lover). However, Jamie will likely never be able to see his sister the same way again. He’s watched her destroy all of her enemies with an escalating ruthlessness. Remember, Jamie is no stranger to watching royalty descend into madness. Jamie was the one who killed the Mad King when he wanted to burn King’s Landing rather than surrender the city.CLICK: Will GAME OF THRONES work without a book to adapt? ComicsVerse investigates!Jamie has cared more about honor than his family. It was his belief in protecting the realm that compelled him to kill the Mad King. In doing so, the people of Westeros branded him the “Kingslayer” as a tarnish on his honor. The tragedy of Jamie Lannister is that he acted in service of the greater good, but the rigid codes of honor in Westeros will always label him an oath breaker. It’s that label that ultimately pushes him away from Cersei in the GAME OF THRONES season 7 finale. Cersei claims she will not only honor a truce with the North but also send Lannister troops to help them fight against the Night King’s armies. Cersei’s promises end up being false, and she plans to use the pretense of helping the North to retake Westeros. For Jamie, this is one broken oath too many. He is tired of people believing his word means nothing and finally realizes that the honor of the Lannister name truly matters to him. In his final moments, he covers his golden hand, the ultimate symbol of Lannister opulence, and rides north to join his brother.Return of the QueenThe biggest homecoming that seemed almost impossible was the return of Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister to their birthplace of Westeros. Both Tyrion and Daenerys arrive in Westeros as targets of Cersei’s propaganda. People believe Tyrion is the killer of Joffrey Baratheon (one of Cersei’s lies) and Tywin Lannister (100% true). Daenerys is portrayed as the second coming of her father, the Mad King. The people of Westeros have no reason to trust either of them, so they find themselves facing both a physical war and a public relations battle as well.Daenerys continues to learn that the most difficult part of ruling is keeping her own power in check. Her dragons give her a proverbial gun at a knife fight. Despite this military advantage, Tyrion advises her against deploying the dragons for fear it will paint her in the eyes of the people as an insane destroyer like her father. As a certain uncle would advise, Tyrion believes that with great power comes great responsibility. Tyrion faces a similar burden to Daenerys. His family name also carries the weight of fear, specifically of his sister, Cersei. In GAME OF THRONES Season 7, he wants to be a more compassionate ruler that puts the well being of the people before the scramble for power. We also see that Tyrion’s own compassion for his family still runs deep. In episode six, Tyrion looks mournful as he watches the Dothraki slaughter and Drogon burn Lannister troops. He also mutters warnings to Jamie, who attempts a desperate run to kill Daenerys as she stands beside her dragon.CLICK: Is Cersei Lannister the best player in the game? Short answer: yes. Long answer: Click here!It’s easy to imagine that Tyrion’s vision of the perfect world would be with Daenerys on the Iron Throne and his brother Jamie beside him. As Jamie travels north in the finale, perhaps Tyrion will get his wish. But Tyrion’s lesson to come will likely be that idealism doesn’t last long in the harsh winters of Westeros.For Daenerys in GAME OF THRONES Season 7, her greatest challenge is bringing the disparate elements of Westeros together. Finding a way to unite all of the many houses and customs under one unified banner seems foolhardy. Daenerys fails to understand that bending the knee could be another form of the subjugation she fought against in Essos. Jon helps Daenerys to understand the importance of the North’s independence. Jon Snow’s Struggle in GAME OF THRONES Season 7For people like Jon Snow, loyalty isn’t something given because of a title, it’s something you have to earn. Ned Stark once said, “the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword” and we see that lesson in Jon’s interactions with Daenerys. It’s not enough for Daenerys to make bold proclamations about how she “deserves” the Iron Throne, she has to prove she deserves it. Daenerys gets her moment when Jon is stranded north of the Wall and surrounded by White Walkers. She flies north, dragons in tow, to obliterate a chunk of the undead forces. The rescue becomes a pyrrhic victory as the Night King strikes down one of Daenerys’ dragons and adds it to his army of the undead. Jon sees this sacrifice and bravery, and in that moment he knows she is worthy of being queen. Daenerys sees that the world of Westeros will not simply bow down because she has a claim to the throne. The saying “you can’t go home again” means that people change but the circumstances around their home changes as well. For Daenerys, the once united seven kingdoms have been splintered and cracked. By choosing to rescue Jon, even without his fealty, she finally acknowledges that her old home is gone. Her actions will build a better home where the old one once stood.