The boats and horses on “Game of Thrones” are moving faster than ever. Last week, Daenerys dispatched Tyrion and Davos to King’s Landing and, moments later, the men were rowing to its shores. But that was just the start of Davos pinballing around Westeros. During the same episode, he wandered around Flea Bottom, returned to Dragonstone and, most preposterously, made it all the way north to Eastwatch and beyond.
“Game of Thrones” has always taken liberties with the passage of time, but the itinerary Davos followed was still laughably efficient. This kind of voyage used to take characters a season or two to complete, and the journeys were harrowing, riddled with enemies and obstacles. Now, Jon Snow can snap his fingers in Dragonstone and end up next to his old pal Tormund at the Wall moments later. (The White Walkers, meanwhile, are total lollygaggers, in no apparent hurry to annihilate humankind.)
In past seasons, journeys facilitated disarmingly funny or poignant moments. For every Battle of the Blackwater, there was a lot of aimless meandering that led unexpectedly to exciting adventures or meaningful alliances: Arya and Gendry bonding while sneaking away from King’s Landing or Jon Snow searching for Benjen but meeting a spunky redhead named Ygritte instead.
During the final episodes of any action-packed series, the pace inevitably quickens. But we lose something when the story becomes entirely goal-oriented. This season, journeys have been interrupted only to introduce more action – the battle of the Greyjoys, the Loot Train rout – or throw in a prominent stunt cameo.
But in past seasons, the wandering has delivered much more. Here’s a look at some of the standout trips and what they added to the show.
Arya and the Hound hit the road. The foul-mouthed fighter and his impish captive/sidekick were on the road together for multiple seasons. First they were headed to the Twins so the Hound could ransom Arya to her brother, Robb. But, after stumbling onto the Red Wedding, the Hound had to rethink his plan. So it was off to the Eyrie to unload the girl on her aunt. But the pair’s timing was never very good: Lysa Arryn had just died, too. After everything, Arya’s response to the news of the death was understandable.The Arya-and-Hound Show became like a buddy comedy within the larger drama. It wasn’t moving the plot forward much, but it did add layers, making Joffrey’s former bodyguard more sympathetic while showing Arya’s growing thirst for vengeance. The companions found action along the way, killing some of the king’s men – and giving Arya the chance to cross a name off her list – but mostly they supplied entertainment, as they debated the merits of sword naming and water dancing, and the Hound came up with more and more inventive ways to use the mother of all bad words.
Their journey ended in an unexpectedly poignant moment when the Hound, horribly wounded by Brienne of Tarth, begged Arya to put him out of his misery and kill him. Instead, she walked away. Was her decision cold-hearted or kind? It’s hard to say, though her intentions might become clearer if the two ever meet again. (And, considering Arya can now best Brienne in a sword fight, he might want to watch his back.)
Brienne and Jaime become hostages – and friends. Going into season two, Jaime didn’t have a great reputation. As far as the audience knew, he was just an incestuous kingslayer who tried to kill a little boy. But his travels in season two, when he and Brienne were captured by Locke and Bolton’s men, changed that. If you didn’t feel bad for him after Locke chopped off his hand – just after saving Brienne from getting gang-raped – then you at least had to admit he became more likable once he explained why he murdered King Aerys. He did it to save not just his father, but the whole city, which the Mad King wanted to set ablaze with wildfire.Jaime further redeemed himself by rescuing Brienne from certain death in the bear pit at Harrenhal. It was always clear that Brienne was an honorable person who kept her promises, but it wasn’t until she and Jaime were tied up together on a single horse that his sense of moral duty came into focus.
Brienne and Podrick search for the Stark girls. Brienne and Podrick’s relationship is like a less foul-mouthed version of the Arya-Hound bond: There’s a lot of great one-liners, a bit of killing and the occasional heart-to-heart – but with fewer four-letter words. In such a dark universe, where characters will stop at nothing for a bit of power, the Lady and her squire are a glimmer of light. Their mission is clear and, although Brienne gives Podrick a hard time, they have a sweet bond that’s evolved over time. Podrick started out as the hapless helper of an ice queen, but she’s taught him to be a better fighter and even opened up about her vulnerabilities along the way. The pair have also stumbled onto some major action, first when they caught up with Arya and the Hound, and then when they rescued Sansa and Theon from Ramsay Bolton’s men and dogs.Ned and Robert head to King’s Landing. The first big journey of the show took place at the beginning of the first season when King Robert persuaded Ned Stark to leave Winterfell and become Hand of the King. On the way to King’s Landing, the men took a break so Robert could have a feast, and the old friends had a lengthy conversation that not only set the stage for many plot points to come but also gave the audience a sense of what an upstanding guy Ned was.When Robert brought up the identity of Jon Snow’s mother, Ned’s jovial demeanor suddenly shifted.
“She must have been a rare wench to make Lord Eddard Stark forget his honor,” Robert said. “You never told me what she looked like.”
“Nor will I,” Ned responded.
Of course, now we know Jon Snow isn’t really Ned’s at all, but the son of his sister and Rhaegar Targaryen. Ned would never forget his honor.
When Robert shifts the conversation to doing away with Daenerys Targaryen, who has just wed Khal Drogo, Ned says, “Tell me we’re not speaking of this.” But Robert is still set on revenge against whatever Targaryens he can find ever since Rhaegar supposedly stole away his betrothed, Lyanna Stark.
The scene ends on an ominous note that predicts the inevitable darkness to come.
“There’s a war coming, Ned,” Robert says. “I don’t know when. I don’t know who we’ll be fighting, but it’s coming.”
Sam and Gilly escape the North. Sometimes a journey – especially one north of the Wall – means crossing paths with a White Walker. That’s what happened to Sam, who defended Gilly with a dragonglass dagger. As it turned out, Sam’s a pretty heroic guy. But more importantly: Dragonglass kills White Walkers? Well, that’s useful information.