This post contains frank discussion of Season 7, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones: “Eastwatch.” If you’re not caught up or don’t want to be spoiled, now would be the time to leave. Seriously, I won’t warn you again. Skedaddle.
In a jam-packed episode filled with historical revelations, mysterious letters, dragon interactions, and exciting news for the royal family, we should spend a little time considering a familiar old face who has finally stopped rowing.
Though it had long been rumored and recently confirmed at the Season 7 Los Angeles premiere, the return of Joe Dempsie’s Game of Thrones character Gendry in Episode 5 still served as a delightful treat for audiences. Gendry Waters isn’t the only long-lost pal of Arya Stark to return to the show this season. Both Hot Pie and Nymeria had some intriguing cameos. But Gendry seems to have returned for more than a quick appearance—he’s all lined up to join Team Stark-garyen out on Dragonstone. Thanks to a tiny detail from the books and earlier seasons, there might be a very smart reason the show is keeping Gendry around for (we hope) good.
First let’s get the less likely reason for Gendry’s return out of the way. Since Dempsie was spotted around the Season 7 set way back in September, Game of Thrones speculators have been wondering why a series so invested in stripping down the cast to its bare essentials (RIP Olenna, Sand Snakes, etc.) would add someone back to an already crowded cast. Could Gendry’s heritage as the bastard-born son of Robert Baratheon come into play? This seems very unlikely to me but we can spare a second to indulge it.
Remember that in Season 1, Gendry was rushed out of the city by his blacksmithing master, Tobho Mott, because someone (cough Joffrey) was executing all of Robert’s bastard children lest they pose a threat to the king’s claim on the throne. (This is how Arya met Gendry in the first place, Mott gave him to Yoren of the Night’s Watch for his own protection.) Joffrey’s murdering spree was an overreaction, to put it mildly, because even though Gendry might be more Robert’s son than Joffrey, he’s still a bastard, baseborn, and unable to inherit the lands and titles of his father. A monarch would have to legitimize Gendry’s claims (remember that King Tommen did so for Ramsay, King Stannis offered to do the same for Jon) and neither of the two warring Queens, Cersei or Daenerys, are likely to do that if it put Gendry between themselves and the Iron Throne. Maybe the King in the North would help Gendry out, but Jon looks likely to bend the knee to Daenerys himself any second. And, anyway, Cersei isn’t exactly troubling herself with legitimacy of claims these days, so King Gendry Baratheon, First of His Name, feels like a very unlikely outcome at this point.
So if Gendry’s claim to the throne isn’t the reason for his return, then what is? Well, before we knew he had magical king’s blood running through his veins, we knew Gendry as a clever and talented smith from Fleabottom. Why would mankind be in desperate need of a smith? Well, as you might remember, Valyrian steel has become an even more precious commodity than usual in Westeros these days thanks to the fact that only Valyrian steel and dragon glass are known to be able to take down a White Walker.
We can count on one hand the Valyrian steel blades currently seeing action in the show: Jon’s got the Mormont blade “Longclaw,” Brienne has “Oathkeeper,” Jaime has “Widow’s Wail,” Samwell has “Heartsbane,” and Arya just picked up that spiffy new (old) dagger. To give you perspective, there’s a quote from Tyrion Lannister in the books that says, “Valyrian steel blades were scarce and costly, yet thousands remained in the world, perhaps two hundred in the Seven Kingdoms alone.” The magical art of forging Valyrian steel was lost when Valyria fell, but if Jon could figure out how to forge new Valyrian steel weapons, his side would be in much better shape.
Back in Season 4, we saw Tywin arrange for a random blacksmith to melt down Ned Stark’s blade, “Ice” in order to make “Oathkeeper” and “Widow’s Wail.” At the time, Jaime said in astonishment: “No one’s made a Valyrian steel sword since the Doom of Valyria.” But his father pointed out that, in the canon of the show, at least, there are three smiths who can re-work the metal (if not forge it fresh).
In the books, it’s not a random visiting Volantine smith who re-forges Ned’s blade, it’s good old Tobho Mott a.k.a. the man who taught Gendry everything he knows. We met that character in the show briefly back in Season 1.
In the books, Mott re-works the steel using not only his smithing skills, but a little magic as well. “I worked half a hundred spells and brightened the red time and time again,” the book version of Mott tells the Lannisters by way of explaining why he couldn’t get their house colors into the blade. “But always the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it.” Is it at all possible in the context of the show that Mott taught Gendry some or all of his know-how when it came to working Valyrian steel?
Once again, re-working isn’t the same as forging something from scratch. Valyrian steel was reportedly forged using dragons some way—either the heat of their fire or the magic of their blood. But, hey, Team Stark-garyen has a few dragons lying around who might be able to light up a forge for Gendry. And if it’s ancient Eastern magic he needs, well, Melisandre or Thoros could possibly help him out there. It all seems a little bit of a stretch, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Gendry is the show’s best hope for someone resurrecting the lost art of Valyrian steel smithing.
Then again, Gendry could just be there to swing his war hammer (inspired, surely, by the one his father swung back in the day) on the side of right in the Great War to Come. Before we leave the subject of the no-longer-rowing Gendry, we should at least consider one final reason Robert’s bastard son has returned to Game of Thrones. Back in Season 1, Episode 1 the Baratheon king expressed a fond wish to have his son (Joffrey) marry Ned’s daughter (Sansa).
That’s never happening, thank god, but maybe Robert’s wish could be fulfilled another way. That is, of course, if Arya would be into it.
We thought so. New dagger and Gendry back in the game? Everything’s coming up Arya.
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