The very last scene in last week’s episode showed “The Hound,” Sandor Clegane, grabbing an axe and walking off to find revenge, seemingly accepting who he was fated to be. After time spent with Brother Ray who began to bring some hope to the Hound that he wasn’t just the Hound, Clegane saw this hope literally slaughtered before his eyes. So he quickly surrendered to what he believed he was. What the world believed he was. He was sure of his identity.
Lot of that going around lately. One minute you think you’re “no one” (who can actually be anyone), the next moment your mood swings back to wanting to be Arya Stark and go home. That was so anticlimactic it kinda makes me feel like I spent a few seasons following a pointless character detour. Good for Arya, I guess. She ends up doing what we all knew would happen and it only took her the better part of three seasons to figure that out. She deserved better.
Her identity crisis does set the pulse for this episode, however, as we observe our characters searching, and in some cases finding, some sort of place to belong. Jaime weighs his true nature in the balance of his kingslayer persona once again. And once again it takes a true friend like Brienne to remind him he’s not what the world makes of him. Jaime is perhaps waging the largest battle for identity in the show. The entire world knows him as one thing, yet he is so much more. Conversely we see a character like the Blackfish, who knows exactly who he is and is ready to die for that. Off screen, of course. We wouldn’t want to actually show him fighting for honor after three episodes of build up for it.
This fictional world, much like our own, is a world very much swayed by what people say you are. Observe the play at the beginning of the episode in which is reiterated the false notion that Tyrion is a kin-slayer. Tyrion is smart enough to jest about his identity with Varys, because after all, he is the most famous dwarf in the world. But just as his infamy frames his path, the entirety of this story has been swayed by public opinion. Whether you’re labelled a bastard, whore, backstabber, sinner, or even a king, a great knight, first of your name and whatnot, what the public declares you to be you must become or fight against it all your life. That is the essence of our conflict. The catalyst for the game of thrones.
All of us face the same battle. This is particularly so in the church. Much of the Christian walk is a journey towards understanding who we are in Christ. Yet so many outside opinions on what is our true identity sway us in the wrong direction and lead us down a path of self loathing. That isn’t the hope of the gospel, it is the curse of religion. It is the rules of men seeking to disqualify you. While we may not wear those scars on our face as the Hound does, they are just as wounding and just as real. The choice we face is to let the scars define us or deny them and fight for something greater.
I have seen this battle play out many times, as I’m sure you have. Too often it has negative results- broken families, communities, and individuals. As the Hound is consumed by the world’s view of him, death and destruction follow. It is an extraordinarily tough fight to be sure. It’s hard to know what action to take. So I lean on what I believe is truth for those in Christ: when others tell you that you are unworthy, Christ says you are worthy. When you look inward and think yourself only a sinner, Christ says “I have saved you.” When you feel as though you’re clothed in filthy rags, Christ hands you his mirror and shows you that you are clothed in the elegant robes of righteousness. Why does this not gel with what we’re told so many times?
I think it is because we are like pantomimes, playing the parts we have chosen as our identity when underneath the elaborate mask we are what He has made us. It’s just easier, and to the public, more acceptable. As C.S. Lewis said when referring to our weak desires and distracted natures, “we are far too easily pleased.” A lot of times we just accept who we should be rather than who we are. The apostle Paul reminds of the truth as he says “it is no longer I who live but Christ in me” (Gal. 2:20).
Our characters have choices to make. Arya has decided to accept what she knew all along. Jaime chooses to continue to strike a balance between truth and perception. Cersei chooses violence, giving herself over to what the circumstances have forced her to be. It is interesting, then, that our next episode pits the two most prominent characters of illegitimate birth (I thought we could use one less mention of the “b-word”) against each other. They have each been forced to this conflict, and now they pick up the axe like the Hound and fight. Some fights are worth fighting, though. As long as we know that a rightful claim has been made for us already.