There are, once again, no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season (the final season!) and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts/dragon enthusiasts, Josh Kurp and Ryan Harkness, will answer your eight most pressing questions.
1. Who was Varys writing to?
Varys should take pride that he survived until the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones. Of course, that’s hard to do when you’re being burned to death by a dragon, but the point remains: it’s shocking that the Master of Whisperers made it this long. But once Daenerys discovered that he was spreading the word about her and Jon being related, he was executed for treason. We never get a full look at the eunuch’s letter — only snippets like, “…not the only Targaryen left,” were legible — but the intention was clear: he was writing to the various lords of Westeros that Jon, not Daenerys, is the true heir to the Iron Throne.
It’s obvious why Dany wouldn’t want this information getting around; it’s less obvious that Varys was actively trying to kill Dany before she could, well, do what she did. In the first lines of the episode, Varys and one of his little birds are discussing a certain someone who won’t eat. “We’ll try again at supper.” “I think they’re watching me.” “Who?” “Her soldiers.” “Of course they are. That’s their job.” Varys was attempting to poison Daenerys, and she either picked up on his scheme or unknowingly thwarted it by being too despondent to eat. And to think, Cersei was one poisoned date away from winning. — Josh Kurp
2. Couldn’t Tyrion have paid more money to the Golden Company than Cersei and make them switch sides?
That’s the only way they could have provided less bang for Cersei’s buck in the defense of King’s Landing. But to give them a slight shred of credit, they didn’t switch sides. The Golden Company’s reputation centers largely around their absolute loyalty to those that hire them. Their motto is, “Our word is good as gold,” and in a world where your own lord allies are one side-eye away from treason, mercenaries that won’t sell you out are a valuable commodity indeed.
Still, there was precedent for the Golden Company to turn on Cersei. In the books, they break a contract with Myr to team up with a mysterious new Targaryen that didn’t make it onto the show. But siding with Daenerys would have gone against a lot of the established backstory of the group. It was Dany’s ancestors that banished the bastard Blackfyre side of the Targaryen family tree to Essos after a failed rebellion a hundred years ago, and the army was founded by Blackfyres and made up of their ancestors and allies to this day.
In the end, the loyalty question was moot. Daenerys no longer seems interested in ploys like bribing away an enemy’s forces. The Golden Company ended up being more useful to her as human kindling for the funeral pyre she created out of King’s Landing. The terrible decision to meet Dany’s army in an open field was made even worse when Drogon hit them in the rear with dragonfire. They were routed to such a degree that a thousand elephants wouldn’t have made a difference, and their leader, Harry Strickland, didn’t even manage to swing his sword before Grey Worm took him out with a spear through the chest. We have a feeling there’s going to be more ignoble deaths like his next week as Game of Thrones continues the ruthless work of tying up loose ends. — Ryan Harkness