Did you watch The Battle of Winterfell unfold in episode three of season eight of Game Of Thrones? Of course you did, that’s why you’re here and not bothered about the spoilers to come.
I will give you the benefit of reading this sentence before we dive head first into it… Good? Good.
The Night King is dead! The Long Night is already over, and Westeros is at peace… except of course it bloody isn’t.
Cersei screwed ‘her’ Seven Kingdoms with an epic no-show, with Jaime the only Lannister loyal to the crown in King’s Landing heading North to face the Army of the Dead.
The episode provided some answers, but also raised a fair few questions, however, before considering the possible answers let’s explore a theory.
Posted to YouTube prior to the release of season eight, ‘Apples and Dragons’ suggested Cersei Lannister had committed a serious misstep…
Not quite as clever as she thinks, nor as clever as her father Tywin, the theory goes that Cersei never should have paid her family’s debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos in full.
At the close of season seven this felt like a masterstroke – but ‘Apples And Dragons’ makes a good point. Banks don’t make money off those who pay their debt off quickly, they make it off those who continue to owe and pay interest.
Tywin Lannister had built such a debt that he needn’t have feared the bank in actuality, because without a ‘Baratheon’/Jaime-Cersei lovechild, or a Lannister on the Iron Throne, the millions owed in gold would be lost.
No, the bank continued to increase their lending to Tywin in the hope he’d lead his family to victory, stabilise the realm, pay his debt, and then likely borrow some more in the future.
Cersei paying back the debt before securing her family’s claim to the throne actually weakens her position, because the bank is now free to support her rivals, rivals with a better chance of maintaining their rule, building their own debt and paying the bank some delicious interest.
But who might have a better chance of maintaining their rule? I don’t know, perhaps a Targaryen with a dragon or two?
Now season eight is underway we can apply this theory to the context we have from the opening three episodes.
Firstly, the Iron Bank’s interests may explain why the Golden Company haven’t sent any elephants to assist Cersei’s cause when she clearly wanted them so badly. Why put elephants to the slaughter of dragon fire?
While Daenerys does have dragons, what she lacks after fighting the dead at Winterfell is an army, and this undermines her claim and ability to fight for the throne in a considerable way.
As noted by observant Redditors who have tracked the size of Daenery’s forces, before the Battle of Winterfell she had roughly 10,000 Northerners, 10,000 Knights of the Vale, fewer than 8,000 Unsullied, and fewer than 100,000 Dothraki.
The Dothraki were decimated in the opening exchange of the battle. The Unsullied lost huge numbers. The Freefolk continue to fall by the wayside, and we are yet to discover how Northerners loyal to Jon or Knights of the Vale remain.
At the moment it will be the Iron Fleet and the Golden Company, versus the Dragons plus whoever Dany and Jon can muster – but they will be hoping Yara Greyjoy and her ‘few ships’ survive a bid to reclaim the Iron Islands.
This may be where the Iron Bank of Braavos can swing matters considerably. They could finance a new army for Daenerys in the knowledge that, while still a gamble, the brutal efficiency of dragons held the realm for three centuries before, and could do so again.
Just look at Tycho Nestoris face, he’s cooking a plot twist…
What Nestoris is unaware of at this stage is the true identity of Jon as the rightful Targaryen heir. Presumably the bank are none the wiser either. If this fact comes to light maybe they would turn to him over Danaerys, he has already proven himself capable of riding dragons.
So, Lannisters always pay their debts while the Iron Bank will have its due. It seems likely the gold of one or the other will decide the fate of the Seven Kingdoms now the Night King is gone.
Imagine that ending though – all this preamble to have bankers ruling the world. Does art imitate life or life imitate art?
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