September 05, 2011

The Discarded Knight

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
Barristan stands in the throne room as Hizdahr holds court. The king had two thrones made and erected, carved in the shape of dragons. He is still among the king's guards, and he dislikes the new commander of the Brazen Beasts, the king's cousin Marghaz zo Loraq. There is great unease in the hall, since the freedmen demand knowledge of Dany's whereabouts and don't acknowledge Hizdahr as king. Reznak's permanent assurances that she is searched for don't help, obviously. Looking at Quentyn Martell at the back of the hall, Barristan thinks he better should leave since Hizdahr might take him as a scapegoat.

Suddenly, Barristan nourishes the notion that Quentyn might have been the poisoner, aiming at Hizdahr, to shatter the peace and present himself as the only choice left. He is not sure, however. When embassadors from the Yunkai'i enter the hall, Barristan shifts his focus again. It's Bloodbeard, the leader of one of the free companies and with the death of the Yunkish commander now the big man in the camp outside the city. He has a big sack with him, producing the severed head of Admiral Groleo from it, throwing it at the feet of Hizdahr. Barristan, accustomed to such sights, closely watches Hizdahr, comparing his reaction to the kings he served so far. Hizdahr is stunned, not able to do anything.

Barristan is not sure why they killed Groleo. Bloodbeard claims that they had to take blood for blood and that it is no breach of the peace, since Meereen is responsible for the death of the Yunkish commander. They release three relatives of Hizdahr's, keeping only Hero, Jhoqo and Daario. They say they will be released once the dragons are dead, since they endanger the peace. Then they leave. Barristan is convinced that Bloodbeard wants to sack Meereen and tries to shatter the peace with all measures possible. When the court dissolves, he intercepts Quentyn, advicing him not to return to his quarters since Hizdahr will try and take him. Barristan then tells Quentyn of the poisoned locusts, believing the surprise of the Dornish is genuine. Quentyn is not persuaded to flee the city, however, since he doesn't want to return to Dorne defeated.

This is a fairly long chapter, again not shedding much light on the past of Westeros but only driving forth the Meereenese storyline which keeps to be rather unengaging. Yes, the peace is threatened, but then this peace never felt right anyway. I was, for my part, never invested in this peace with Yunkai. The peace Jon tried to forge with the wildlings however caught me fully. I don't know exactly why this is, if it connects to the general uninterest in the matters of Essos or just because Martin intended it to be so, but here I stand, to quote Ser Jorah.

For the political situation, we gain some information, however. Barristan notes that neither the Tattered Prince nor Brown Ben Plumm belong to the delegation of Bloodbeard, a clear sign that they are not exactly in a consensus with the mercenary brute. It may even be possible that Plumm protects the three remaining hostages to a degree since they represent the three pillars of Dany's military might: the Stormcrows, the Unsullied and the Dothraki. Hizdahr himself, on the other hand, can utterly be dismissed as a failure. He brokered a peace as an aristocrat with other aristocrats where the rules of gentlemen applied, but he has no clue how to react to force or how to rule in general. It doesn't seem like he ever hat to really solve problems of his own, but that he is more of a puppet in reality. A possible puppeteer would be the Green Grace, of course.

The whole murder attempt remains remarkably unresolved. Strong Belwas has a chance of surviving, we learn, but we came no closer to know who poisoned the locusts in the first place. Was it Hizdahr, to rule alone? He doesn't even know what to do with the rule, so this seems more unlikely. Was it the Shavepate, since he doesn't profit from the new order? The murder attempt would then have been either Hizdahr or them both to take control afterwards, but the latter doesn't seem likely since after all we've learned about the Shavepate one thing has become clear: he isn't exactly popular except among the Brazen Beasts. He would need someone in the front if he wanted to rule. Up to now, we have no certain clue.

We also learn some things about Barristan. As already discussed in his last chapter, he is more of a ruler than Eddard ever was, despite of being only a knight. He learned much watching at court while he guarded kings. We evidence it when he looks at Hizdahr instead of the severed head, when he thinks about mud and water and the potential benefits of a marriage with Quentyn, when he calculates the probability of a Dornish murder attempt (and dismisses it) and when he instantly sees the need of Hizdahr for a convenient scapegoat. If he embraced these skills more instead of denying them as he does, he might be more valuable to Dany than he is anyway.


  1. Oh Barristan! What a brave and noble man, and unflinching in the face of death. I think he was angry about Groleo's death, and I think his assesment of Bloodbeard is right. The man wants plunder and is trying to instigate the war he wants.

    Drogon should eat him first!

    I loved learning about the enigmatic knight, and his hopes for his new proteges. I hope he continues to have a pov in TWOW.

  2. Just to come off the Barriston is better than Eddard, and keep in mind that I really like Eddard, I think his failure is not that he is too honorable. It's more to the fact that he was out of his depth, kind of like a person coming from PEI to New York. He was very successful in the wars before and in the north. He just did not know the politics. This is something that a Kings Guard, serving some pretty crazy kings would be home in despite his narrow attitude.