Allow me a brief moment of book-reader freak out here. I try not to approach this review series from the eyes of the Ice and Fire reader that I am, but I simply must make an exception this week. We finally know the identity of Cold Hands, a favorite minor character to most book readers who has been shrouded in mystery since book three. It turns out that he was indeed Benjen Stark as he was always rumored to be. This is a wonderful revelation for both readers and watchers, because we see the return of a character missing since the first season, and also because he is yet further proof that our story is rounding the bases and headed home. (Cold Hands, you guys!)
Benjen is a thematic representation of the Stark family- almost dead, but revived by fate, magic, something. Regardless, he lives. The family lives. And what is more, he is ice, one half of the theme that reigns over our entire story. The fire, as we have explored in recent episodes, is undoubtedly the Targaryens. So the song will be sung of ice and fire, which in some form or other should be the Starks and Targaryens.
While this episode comes off as a bridge episode, getting us from one big story move to the next, it’s focus on family is on point. Credit goes to the writers who seem to have a better grasp of thematic pace this season more than any other. This massive story about kings and dragons and death and magic is really ultimately all about belonging. Set in a world where family blood and name carry great power, as well as great burden, the redefinition of such societal structures is what continues to resonate. Author George R. R. Martin uses this make believe world to challenge man made systems of many forms; gender roles, perceived power vs actual power, the validity of prophecy, and what we examine closely this week, relational family vs real family or community.
The theological implications are fairly straightforward. We have an earthly home, family, parents. We have a spiritual home, family, and father. In practical application, the spiritual is seen in community and family isn’t defined by blood. We see this most prominently in Samwell Tarley this week. His scenes could have ended with him walking away. Instead, his declaration to Gilly, “We belong together,” is truer connection than his blood ever could have been. An equally strong statement of true connection came from Arya as she betrays what seemed to become her new family for what she knows in her spirit is her real identity and family. The Starks continue to be reborn.
The systems of men are almost all nearly broken in Westeros and abroad right now. Those still left playing the game of thrones like Cersei and Jaimie, are grasping at straws. Their ideas of power are as false as the power claimed by the High Septon, who we see more clearly this week manipulates for his own man made system which he disguises as a religious system. Those around them have become as disenfranchised with it all as many people in the real world have become with the current political race, which at times also seems like a broken system. We’re left wondering if that tide will turn for the better. If it ever does, it certainly won’t be through creating division, which seems to be all that politics is capable of doing these days.
We’re made for community. Whatever your belief system holds, it’s undeniable that humanity is stronger together than apart. The only way to unity is through acceptance. This is at the very heart of the gospel. As much as this story seems to comment on religion with its many different iterations of it, ultimately it paints a wonderful picture of this gospel idea, which is really quite separate from religion. The cripples, bastards, and broken things find strength and power as they find where they belong. As the tide of our story turns, that’s what will bring about the betterment of Westeros. And dragons, soldiers, big swords, shape shifters, kings, septons, and even the undead are no match for that kind of power.