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Game of Thrones s5e8 Precap: The Maester’s Reading List, Samwell’s Greatest Hits, and How to Kill Time in Winterfell


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Crazyperson Power Rankings of the Week: Sam’s Studly Showstoppers

Samwell Tarly came into our lives as a self-proclaimed craven. Five seasons in, he’s a certified baller, having slayed, saved, and sexytimed his way to leading-man status. But which of his brave acts pumped up his street cred the most? Glad you asked.

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1. Killing a White Walker: The lowly criminals who swell the Night’s Watch ranks have earned their reputations as brigands and fools, but they reinforce their ignorance every time they mockingly call our favorite steward “Sam the Slayer.” Well, this Superfan Crazyperson has two notes for those jerks: (1) “Sam the Slayer” is a dope-as-hell nickname, and attempting to ironically dish it as an insult doesn’t make it any less amazing, and (2) while you were soiling your underthings in terror, murdering your Lord Commander, or drinking out of hollowed skulls, SAM KILLED A WHITE WALKER! WITH AN OBSIDIAN DAGGER! A DAGGER THAT HE FOUND WHILE DIGGING FOR POOP TO BURN AS FUEL! You should be puffing his pillows, stoking his fire, and begging him for tutorials, not belittling his marvelous achievement. Jealousy and poor awareness are pretty unattractive qualities, fellas.

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2. Rescuing Gilly: Sam spirited Gilly away from Craster’s Keep when things got out of hand — a damn high bar to clear at a place where the standard M.O. was “creepy old dude marries own daughters and sacrifices sons to ice men.” Finding the courage to save himself as the mutiny unfolded had to be hard enough; taking a wildling woman and her infant son back south with him required a level of fortitude that only the truest knights possess. And on Sunday night, Sam saved Gilly again, this time from two of his own sworn brothers, who were threatening sexual assault. Sam didn’t just risk a beating; he took one and would have kept taking one, even from the men to whom he’s honor-bound, because he knows right from wrong. And he knows his own heart.

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3. Making sweet, sweet love to Gilly: Admittedly, the showrunners put a real damper on Sam’s deflowering by preceding it with Gilly’s near-assault, continuing Thrones’s alarming trend of using rape as a creative crutch. But let’s try not to allow that very poor creative choice to detract from this massive moment in Sam the Slayer’s life: Vows be damned, the heart wants what it wants, and Sam’s wanted Gilly to wash his wounds, soothe his sorrows, and sheath his sword in the darkness. It wasn’t so long ago that Sam lost the ability for intelligible speech while asking Jon to describe Ros’s breasts; now he’s a man grown in every sense, and he didn’t have to patronize Mole’s Town to make that happen.

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4. Nominating Jon for Lord Commander: Sam didn’t leave Horn Hill because he was a criminal, or a bastard, or a sword-swinger desperate for danger and glory. He left because his father followed years of bullying and mockery with an ultimatum: Take the black, or suffer a mysterious accident while out on a hunt. (Does anyone else think Cersei and Randyll Tarly would be besties?) Sam 1.0 gave up his claim to lands and titles because he was afraid to speak truth to power; Sam 2.0 pulled back the curtain at the Castle Black Elementary School polling station and demanded that each voter consider casting a medallion for Jon instead of the two established candidates. Pure survival instinct drove Sam to slay the White Walker; true courage allowed him to campaign for progress.

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5. Killing a Thenn: Sticking a magical knife into a magical creature when you’re not really sure what’s going to happen is one thing; cranking up a crossbow and shooting an arrow into a charging Thenn’s head when imminent death is certain is quite another:

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Sam the Slayer’s bona fides are no longer in doubt. He’s a seasoned warrior and a true brother of the Night’s Watch. He is the watcher on the Wall, and he’s doing a hell of a lot more than most of these dickwads to guard the realms of men.

Honorable mention: Getting Jon to return to Castle Black in Season 1; helping Bran & Co. get north of the Wall; and earning Ghost’s trust. Direwolves aren’t easy to impress, people!

“Is all the history from your columns really in the books?”

Yes! If I had to make all of this stuff up, the column would take about 14 years to write. Here’s what you need to be a Song of Ice and Fire history completist:

  • The Song of Ice and Fire main series novels, of which there are currently five (keep writing, George!): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance With Dragons. The sixth and theoretically penultimate book in the series, The Winds of Winter (which Martin is theoretically very hard at work on, and for which he canceled numerous nerd-con engagements, as well as a planned script for an episode for this season), could drop anywhere between spring of 2016 and never ever.
  • The three Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel novellas: The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, and The Mystery Knight. These books cover the adventures of the young Aegon “Egg” Targaryen (Maester Aemon’s younger brother), who would later become King Aegon V “The Unlikely,” as he traveled the shires and roads of Westeros in the service of the hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall during the reigns of kings Daeron II “The Good” Targaryen and Aerys I. I leaned on these heavily for my write-up on Maester Aemon from my last column. If you’ve read the five main novels, I highly recommend reading these, as they are, first and foremost, great stories, but also provide copious historical background on important characters and events during the late Targaryen era in Westeros. The novellas can be difficult to find through non-illegal means, but they’re being released this October as a single volume titled A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • The semi-recently released The Princess and the Queen novella, available in the Dangerous Women anthology. With numerous civil wars, wars of succession, and various internecine squabbles, the Targaryen years were anything but uneventful. The Princess and the Queen covers the dynastic split and ensuing war in the years 129-131 AC, which came to be known as the Dance of the Dragons. The Dance is a particularly important event in Westerosi history because it led directly to the decline and eventual extinction of dragons. It reads like something created by Martin as a world-building sketch for his own reference that just took on a life of its own and grew into a full-on story.
  • The World of Ice and Fire world history companion book. This touches on, in varying levels of detail, the known history of the fictional world from the Dawn Age to the downfall of the last Targaryen king, Aerys the Mad, at the hands of Robert Baratheon. It’s invaluable.

Get studying!

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