This week’s episode “Home” offered an interesting contrast in the way the quest for power directly relates to how one deals with fear. As I compared the various journeys our characters began to undertake in this packed episode, it was interesting to see how this contrast is poised to fuel their individual trajectories. My hypothesis is that as these characters come face to face with their greatest fears it is their choices on how they react to them, either by overcoming their fears or by being overcome by them, that will determine whether or not they will earn true power in the Seven Kingdoms.
Let’s take a look at Ramsay and Theon’s journeys. For several seasons now we have witnessed how Theon’s poor choices fueled a quest for power which ultimately led to his current sorry state. Overcome by the fear of disappointing his father and his family name he made poor choices in his ill-thought attempt at taking over Winterfell, which led him directly into the clutches of Ramsay Snow. Debased and emasculated, Theon’s short lived power trip only led down a road to misery precisely because he was overcome by the fear of not living up to his family’s standards.
In rebelling against Ramsay and helping Sansa escape, Theon is beginning to realize that true power comes from overcoming his fear. By overcoming Ramsay’s damage and facing and acknowledging his past mistakes, he starts the journey that will bring him to reconciliation with the Starks and to face the expectations imposed by his legacy. For the first time Theon has taken responsibility for his actions and their consequences and he begins to repair the damage brought upon by his fear-driven quest for power.
In contrast, Ramsay’s thirst for power and control is fully driven by his fear of not being the heir to House Bolton. It was clear from the premiere episode that Lady Walda’s newborn would pose a threat to Ramsay, further compounded by Roose Bolton’s disappointment with the way Ramsay had handled the very delicate diplomatic situation in The North. Rather than admitting his flaws, learning from his mistakes and limitations, and accepting the counsel and wisdom of his father, her reacts like a wild animal, killing his father, his stepmother and his stepbrother for fear of losing the power he believes he has. Unable to overcome his fear, Ramsay gives into it, falling prey to the impression that he has acquired true power. Foreseeably this will be a short-term gain for Ramsay, and greater political repercussions will catch up with him soon. Remember that Lady Walda was a Frey, and the Frey’s can hold a a grudge.
We can find several more examples of this dynamic throughout the episode: Melisandre walked very closely to being overcome by her fear, yet she went through with the resurrection ritual anyway. I’m sure her confidence will be boosted once she realizes the fruits of her efforts. We also began to see how Arya is learning to let go of her fear of losing her identity as a Stark, instead accepting where she has erred on her way to becoming a faceless one and not giving in to her emotions. Tyrion acknowledges the wrongs imparted on Rhaegal and Viserion by their mother’s imprisonment, and he humbly and valiantly releases them while appearing to earn some level of their trust. And Tommen, recognizing his failures as king, reaches out and apologizes to his mother, actions and feelings which clearly were not part of his brother Joffrey’s vocabulary. In accepting his flaws I believe Tommen isn’t the only one who will grow; his actions will spark something within Cersei that will profoundly change her and will become a catalyst for the Baratheons reclaiming of King’s Landing.
I look forward to seeing how this interplay between fear and power will continue to evolve throughout the season and the remaining story. Ultimately I believe that making this important choice, to overcome one’s fear or to be overcome by it, will give a winning edge to the champions of the Game of Thrones.
What do you think? Please share your comments below!
Photo credit: HBO