Beyond the Wall: Is loyalty a virtue in Westeros?

Game of Thrones Podrick Payne Pod

This week’s Beyond the Wall takes a look at one of the few loyal characters on ‘Game of Thrones,’ Podrick Payne, and the idea of loyalty in Westeros as a whole. Non-book readers beware: spoilers everywhere!


The third episode of Game of Thrones has generated a significant amount of controversy. The less than consensual sex between Jaime and Cersei Lannister caused the Internets to explode with righteous indignation Sunday night. Whether people were pissed about the change — or perceived change — from the books, or just unhappy to see a character supposedly in a redemptive arc completely switch course, critics — disproportionately more than fans — were not happy.

If you weren’t disappointed that Daairio wasn’t strong or Belwas-y this week, then this post is not for you.
But today is Wednesday, and that story has been written eleventy-billion times by now. Instead of retreading a topic that has been written to death (including by a number of writers that are admittedly more adept to handle that topic than Bob or Ivey), this week’s Beyond the Wall turns to an unlikely character for its topic inspiration. Podrick Payne seems to be a truly good and loyal character; but is Westeros a place where loyalty is rewarded?

Before we get into that, however, our regular SPOILER WARNING. Beyond the Wall is a column intended for readers of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. So, if you weren’t disappointed that Daairio wasn’t strong or Belwas-y this week, then this post is not for you.

Ivey: Despite the controversy “Breaker of Chains” has stirred up in the Game of Thrones fandom this week, I still think that the changes incorporated into the show have been positive, on the whole. Case in point: Podrick Payne is an infinitely more interesting character on the screen than on the page. His scene with Tyrion was easily my favorite of the episode, especially the Imp’s final words to his squire.

Ivey: Podrick Payne is an infinitely more interesting character on the screen than on the page.
Podrick is a rare character in Westeros: he is a loyal man as Tyrion points, out, but he is also one of the few truly “good” people on the show. He’s respectful, hard-working, resourceful … and knows how to protect his lord with a well placed spear. With Tyrion now imprisoned, he has the opportunity to trade that loyalty for knighthood, and turns it down.

Bob: Well, I wonder if a knighthood would have actually been given to him … though a Lannister does pay his or her debts, so it might have been his for the taking. In either case, that’s out of the question at this point. I think Tyrion knows all too well that as soon as Pod turned down the offer to testify against him, Pod was as good as dead. And how sad! Poor Pod.

I agree with you, he’s been so great on the show and I thought the scene between him and Tyrion was the highlight of the episode; there was real genuine emotion between the two of them. I think it’s the beginning of the end, so to speak, for Tyrion in King’s Landing. For the viewer who hasn’t read the books, this should serve as a nice, small moment of finality that signifies this isn’t a situation that Tyrion can talk his way out of. He’s in some deep, deep shit.

Bob: Is there is some deeper statement that can be made about loyalty in Westeros?

The whole thing makes me wonder if there is some deeper statement that can be made about loyalty in Westeros. Namely, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of it, and when someone is loyal, it doesn’t seem like things end up very well for that someone. We know Westeros is a harsh place, but can’t a little loyalty get rewarded?

Ivey: Actually, I think that Pod’s disposition might be the last thing Tyrion gets to control this season, but we’ll see what happens next week. As for your question, we haven’t seen a great many examples of true loyalty in the series, and the few that we have haven’t ended particularly well.

Davos Seaworth is a character beloved in the books that I never really connected to (though ironically the things that endears him to fans are the things that I appreciate about Pod in the show), and is probably the gold standard for loyalty in the series. Stannis is probably the last lord in Westeros that I’d swear allegiance to, but Davos has stood behind him, even as Stannis cut off his fingers, thrown him in a cell and threatened his life. Davos’ loyalty has been repaid with … well, onions.

Ivey: Nearly every single soldier we’ve seen in the series has sworn loyalty to the houses and lords of Westeros only to be used and disposed of as pawns on a board.

We’ve seen loyalty to things beyond individuals repaid in similar ways. Jeor Mormont dedicates his life to the noble institution that is the Night’s Watch only to be murdered for his trouble. The Hound was loyal to House Lannister (for reasons I never really comprehended) but was treated like trash time and time again. And nearly every single soldier we’ve seen in the series has sworn loyalty to the houses and lords of Westeros only to be used and disposed of as pawns on a board.

Bob: Even Jorah (aside from his little stint as a King’s Landing spy) has been as dedicated as one could be to Dany, only to fall into the bottomless pit of the friendzone. Poor guy. Though, I really want someone to put together a montage of all the reaction takes from Jorah whenever Dany says something great about Daario. You can practically hear his heart snapping on the screen. I love it.

The most shining example of loyalty punished, of course, has to be Eddard Stark. The only thing loyalty got him was a missing head. George R. R. Martin has certainly created a cruel world for his characters to navigate, and while it does make for good TV, I have to say it’s a bit bleak. Maybe not The Walking Dead levels of bleak, but bleak none the less.

We’re in a unique position with Game of Thrones; the books haven’t been finished, so even for the die hard fans there is mystery. I have no idea what the end game for the series is going to be. There are still a ton of moving parts, and I am not convinced they are even going to come together before the end. What I really wonder about these days, though, is if there is going to be any sort of “good” prevailing over evil. I’m not certain there will be. It seems to me that Martin has set out to break many of the stereotypes that plague bad fantasy writing, and let’s face it, the worst of them all is good triumphing over evil. So maybe at the end of the day, the loyal characters are going to be the chumps and those willing to do what it takes will win the Game of Thrones.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

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