‘Game of Thrones’: Know Your Strengths

Published 12 months ago by

Pedro Pascal and Lena Headey in Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 5 Game of Thrones: Know Your Strengths

[This is a review of Game of Thrones season 4, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]


It is a common thread throughout Game of Thrones that those who attempt to play the titular game outside of their area of expertise are destined to wind up a thing of the past. It happened to Ned Stark when he became the king’s hand; he learned too late that the way things were done in Winterfell, and in House Stark, was not as it was done in King’s Landing. Ned was an honorable man, he placed trust in others and that cost him his head. That way of thinking also brought ruin to his family, since believing in honor and placing trust where none should be placed earned his eldest son a knife in the heart, care of Roose Bolton.

That idea – that one should know his or her strengths – is key to what transpires all across Westeros and beyond in ‘First of His Name,’ which begins with the crowning of young Tommen but soon bleeds into a superb demonstration by Cersei that she’s keen on something in King’s Landing other than her bottomless goblet of wine. Cersei moves through conversations with Tywin, Margaery, and eventually Oberyn with a kind of lucidity, poise, and determination that hasn’t been seen in, well…ever. Perhaps it’s just that Lena Headey is thrilled to be doing something other than skulking around a darkened room swilling glass after glass of pinot noir, but giving her the chance to air Cersei out a bit and take in a seaside stroll with Pedro Pascal certainly seems to add an interesting depth to her character, and demonstrates that, for all Cersei’s faults, she has as sharp a mind for doing what must be done for the good of the Lannister legacy as Tywin does.

Cersei’s strength lies in using her name and her influence to ensure that which she can control will remain on course. She’s wholeheartedly aware that (although she loved him and partially blames herself for failing to protect him) the late Joffrey was a monster. The kingdom, and, certainly, Margaery are much better off without him. So now the extent of her power shifts to ensuring Tommen – the boy who may just be worthy of the Iron Throne – is afforded every opportunity to ensure he will rule well. If that means marrying Margaery, then so be it.

Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 5 Game of Thrones: Know Your Strengths

In a sense, Cersei is lucky. She knows her strengths and she knows her weaknesses, something not many other characters on the series are well acquainted with. As for the surviving members of the Stark clan, they’re mostly getting by on a combination of sheer luck and courage. Sansa’s been whisked away to aunt Lysa’s castle to watch Robin toss glass birds out moon doors, and listen as Petyr Baelish consummates the marriage that’s just another part of his intricate and insanely ambitious plan to have “everything.” At the moment, Sansa’s only strength is the insistence her virtue is still intact, and that she’s about as accomplished a liar as Hodor is a conversationalist. Elsewhere, Arya continues to obsessively recite the names of those who need to be killed, while she convinces herself she’s the one to do it. After a quick demonstration of her skills to the Hound proves fruitless in terms of ability, it does elucidate the young Stark that no matter her level of determination, her strengths may not lie in striking her targets directly.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow comes within a few feet of finding Bran and Jojen while storming Craster’s Keep. Jon certainly knows that he possesses the skills necessary to be a part of – and possibly lead – the Night’s Watch, but his clash with Karl shows that although he’s a bastard, he still suffers from that Stark malady of approaching situations and conflicts from a point of honor. In the world of Game of Thrones, having honor is one thing – it may even be a personal strength – but relying on it wholly, and living entirely by that honor may just wind up getting you killed.

Perhaps that’s why Benioff and Weis have chosen to bookend episodes like this with Daenerys and Jon. While the series continues to excel in demonstrating the moral gray areas and painful compromises that nearly everyone else is splashing around and even thriving in – which ‘First of His Name’ deftly manages to express time and again – Dany and Jon find themselves held to a higher standard, where their principles cannot be sacrificed simply to get ahead in the moment. Dany may be the Mother of Dragons, but she’s now responsible for thousands of people whose liberation she orchestrated and facilitated. Her eye is on the Iron Throne, and even though she’s more capable than ever of posing a serious threat to the Lannisters, she cannot forget about the part of the world she’s so radically altered.

In that sense, the show, and this episode in particular, excels at putting characters in a kind of uniquely difficult position, one where doing the right thing and living honorably may leave them vulnerable, whereas continuing to do wrong, as others do, will all but ensure them victory. In the end, it’s good to know one’s strengths, but there’s also strength in knowing how to properly utilize what others perceive as weakness.


Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below:

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Well..?

    • Is it ok to talk about that here? I definitely think I know who it is, but don’t want to discuss spoilers here if it’s going to . . . well, spoil anything.

    • My friend & I suspect that Jon Snow was a bastard of Robert Baratheon. They never really pursue his lineage in the novels & after the last book released it doesn’t seem to matter… :P

      • Eddard is haunted by the words “Promise Me, Ned” which Lyanna utters (in Eddard’s memory). If Lyanna was Jon’s mother, this line begins to take on more weight and explains why it haunts Eddard so. Now, if we try to determine who the father is – the only person who we know for sure that had sex with Lyanna is Rhaegar Targaryen who kidnapped and raped her. (It is unknown if Robert Baratheon, known to sleep around, who was engaged to Lyanna, had the opportunity to father a child through her.) If we accept that Rhaegar may be the father, then the phrase “Promise Me, Ned” is even more haunting. Not just “raise him as your own” but “protect him for he has not only your blood, but the blood of kings”. The plea is that much more urgent given Robert’s proclivity toward killing (murderering) Targaryens. My guess is extra weight is added to the plea because Lyanna utters it while dying – of giving birth to Jon Snow.

        Once I thought about this – it all starts to make sense. Jon’s increasingly important role in the tale and even the title of the series – A Song of Ice and Fire. Ice and Fire. Stark and Targaryen. Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen (equals Jon Snow)?

          • GRRM is a troll though… The more noise this theory creates, the more inspired he may be to disprove this and make Jon Snow as indispensable as Ned Stark.

            • I meant dispensable, not indispensable…

          • Weopon and X, I agree with both of you 100%. I think Jon has to be the bastard child of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. I also agree Ned kept it a secret from everyone so Robert wouldn’t kill Jon for having Targaryen blood. The only person alive that knows Ned’s promise to Lyanna is Howland Reed.

            • Guess who else has Targ blood? Robert, Stannis, and Renly. The show never told you this, but it’s common knowledge to all of the characters.


        • It’s pretty obvious from the book that R+L=J unless GRRM change it just to spite with everyone figuring it out that quickly, which he might do.

      • My friend and I theorise Jon and Daenerys are true blood brothers and sisters.

        • His hair color isn’t blonde, mon.

          All true blood Targs have it. Otherwise, the blonde yields to the coal every time.


          • The Lannister’s are blonde. Targaryen are silver. I won’t spoil it but Jon will have his Targayen moment in the later part of the story.

            Plus, the clues to Jon being the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar from the first and second book was never shown in the show.

        • Cousins*

          • Actually, Aunt and nephew* is what I meant

      • I think Jon Snow is the son of Ned Stark’s sister and Rhaegar Targaryen. Is he a dragon??? who knows! But Bran and friend can figure it out! We’ll see!

  2. I appreciate the help guys. As a non reader of the book, it’s been killing me for 2 seasons plus just who Jon Snow’s mother really was. We were left at a cliff when Ned Stark was beheaded and ive been dying to know! This show is really just something else!

  3. I thought it was stated in the show that Ned claimed Jon to be his bastard so no shame would be brought to his sister, since Jon is really the child of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen

    • OR HARM to Jon Snow!!! The Lannisters and Baratheons would have been ALL OVER that!!!!

  4. Even though I’m a bit aggravated because it means we still have a while to go before Danny sails for Westeros I’m glad the show is addressing what happens to the kingdoms she has conquered.
    I’ve had a few conversations about what happens to those who she’s left behind with friends who haven’t read the books and most of the time we just brush it off because we are more concerned with her returning home.

    Also, quite the big reveal IMO that it wasn’t the Lannister’s who killed the former Hand. I always suspected that Little Finger may be involved but I never thought he was so directly.

    • Oh, just another GIANT WTF moment after a series of other giant ones already. More to come.


    • I totally agree! He’s like the Godfather of Westeros. What is his endgame though? I mean what does Peytr Baelish really want in the end? He’ll obviuosly never be King. i am wondering though who is it that HE wants to sit the iron throne. I CANNOT BELIEVE That he was the one who killed Jon Arryns.

      • you dont have to be king to be the most powerful man in westeros – Tywin Lannister

    • Dany’s story is following the books, give or take. Remember the Black Dragon, Drogon is still around hehe—-Dragonstone!

      • What about Drogon and Dragonstone>