“Fire and Blood” takes its name from the words of House Targaryen, the fallen royal family now nearly extinct and in exile across the sea from Westeros. The house values fire and blood. They call themselves Blood of the Dragon, they’re known for burning people alive and marrying brother to sister to preserve their familial strength. It’s a family credo that breeds both power and madness, and as Game of Thrones closes its first season, the world has plenty of both to spare.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.
The death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) at the hands of the Boy King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) has predictably sent shockwaves through the kingdom. His son Robb (Richard Madden) and wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) mourn him as they plot revenge against his killers. His daughters are each shattered in their own way. Arya (Maisie Williams) is whisked out of the city by a man of the Night’s Watch loyal to her father, disguised as a boy and robbed of any time to grieve. Sansa is a captive in all but name to Joffrey and his mother, Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). She walks the palace in a daze, and Joffrey delights in torturing her with reminders of her father’s beheading. On the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has learned of his father’s death and is determined to abandon his sworn duty to the Night’s Watch and ride south to meet his half brother Robb and join in the war, while his best friend Sam (John Bradley) is determined to stop him. And in Winterfell, young Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) feels something has happened to his father, but he doesn’t yet know what.
But Lord Stark’s death has implications far beyond the Stark family. Robb Stark’s defeat and capture of Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) outside Riverrun has the Lannisters rethinking their strategies. Determined to retrieve his favorite son, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) begins plans for a continued war, with his diminutive son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) at his side. But his problems have grown bigger than Robb Stark and his new army. The dead king Robert’s two brothers, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, have each declared themselves king, and each raised an army to take the crown from Tywin’s grandson. And as big as all of that is, something else is at work here.
Two events dominate the landscape of “Fire and Blood.” Two characters – Robb Stark and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clark) – who began the season subservient to others, rise to power. Robb lived in the shadow of his legendary father, and when he began the war to liberate the lord of his House, it was less for his own honor and more for the sake of having his father back at his side. Now there is no father; there is only the son who has become a lord, and now the lord will become a king. Refusing to swear fealty to anyone in the South ever again, Robb’s bannermen kneel before him and proclaim him King in the North. It seems like something his father would never have allowed, but Robb rises to accept his title, to claim it with a kind of honor his father would only reluctantly have accepted: the kind of honor reserved for men who would rather have righteous blood than manipulated peace.
For Daenerys, the rise to power is a different path. Unlike Robb, who is forced to become a leader when the head of his house is literally cut off, she has spent the season learning how to wield power from a safe distance as her husband Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) served as both her protector and lover. Now Drogo is a shell of man, the victim of a sorceress’ treachery, and Daenerys is the only leader left. It is here that all her wisdom, all her ruthlessness, all her fire and blood, will pour out.
Game of Thrones season one began amid the ice of the Wall in the north. It ends in the fire of a funeral pyre across the Narrow Sea. Daenerys burns her dead husband, the sorceress that sapped his life, and the dragon eggs that were a gift at her wedding. She wears the dress she was married in, and walks into the flames. She’s a Dragon. Dragons don’t burn. But the dress does, and so the submissive woman that was once Daenerys. It’s a cleansing, both for her and those who follow her. It’s a washing clean of any meekness that was left in her, a ritual bringing together the two things her long-dead family valued most of all. And when fire and blood mix in the world of Game of Thrones, they produce something that changes everything. When fire and blood mix, they produce dragons.