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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Kill the Boy” (S5, E5)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Kill the Boy” (S5, E5)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 5, Episode 5: “Kill the Boy”

Original Air Date: May 10th, 2015
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: Bryan Cogman

Shireen Baratheon introduced greyscale to viewers in season three, but it became a major topic on the show during season five, culminating in Ser Jorah Mormont contracting it in the season’s fifth episode, “Kill the Boy.” Jorah’s illness on its own is an important moment, an apparent death sentence for a major character who has been involved in the story since the pilot. But considering how much time was dedicated to greyscale during this season, and the final order Daenerys will give to him in season six about finding a cure, the disease’s biggest role on the show might still lie ahead. It may promise salvation for mankind, or be very similar to another “affliction” that threatens the living.


While sailing through the ruins of Valyria, Jorah and Tyrion are attacked by Stone Men, whom Jorah warns Tyrion not to come into contact with. Tyrion is apparently fine following their escape, but Jorah hides that he was touched on the wrist, and the disease has already begun to affect him.

Earlier in the season Gilly told Shireen about her sisters who had greyscale and how they had to be quarantined. She says towards the end they “started to sound…not like themselves” and they “acted like animals” before Craster killed them. Greyscale is a horrible skin disease, one that leads either to forced euthanasia or to expulsion in distant and abandoned lands. However, it is feared by many–even more than death–in large part because it eventually leads to madness. People with fully developed greyscale are in many ways no longer human; they are something entirely different, something other.


Which is why Jorah tells Daenerys in season six, after saving her life for the second time after he was banished by her, that this time he will truly have to leave her. He says he will “end things before” he becomes like the Stone Men. She doesn’t accept that, though. She says to him, “I command you to find the cure wherever it is in this world. I command you to heal yourself and then return to me. When I take the Seven Kingdoms, I need you by my side.” Because it’s her, and he loves her, it’s reasonable to expect him to do just that.

We know it can be “cured” of Stannis’ story of how he called on every healer in the world to save an inflicted Shireen. They did stop the spread, though it scarred her face. But with so many different people trying so many different methods, it’s impossible to know what was actually responsible for saving Shireen. This is not the only time in season five someone talks about treatment, though.


In episode three, Tyrion hears a red priestess of R’hllor in Volantis say how the Lord of Light hears the prayers of kings, slaves, and Stone Men the same. Tyrion replies, “Stone men. Good luck stopping this spread of grayscale with prayer. You’d have better luck dancing away the plague.” While we can’t speak to the merits of dancing away the plague, praying away greyscale doesn’t seem like the best hope for Jorah.

Put all together and season five dedicates a remarkable amount of time to a single disease that hadn’t been particularly important before. It’s possible it all could have been in service to Jorah’s story, to set up the illness before giving it to him, but why would show runners Benioff and Weiss need to create a reason to keep Jorah away from Daenerys when that had already happened twice? We’ve already seen him return to her side and be redeemed–why use up valuable time on an otherwise unimportant ailment to do it yet again?


Which is why the role of greyscale feels far more important to the larger story than just what happens to Jorah. If he returns, we would expect him to do so having found the cure, since he would never endanger Daenerys. But where could he find it? In Asshai, the mysterious dark city on the far side of the world where the Lord of Light is followed most passionately? What other secrets might come with him from there that could be in service to Daenerys and the great war against the White Walkers? Could Jorah’s sickness ironically help lead the living on a path to victory against the army of the dead?

An army made up of people that are no longer humans–beings who are something else, something other. An army that has a lot in common with the Stone Men themselves.


Because the destructive madness and the loss of control shared between the Stone Men and the wights raised by the White Walkers make them far more alike than different. They both were once alive, but now pose a great danger to the living.

Which also means that if Jorah returns, and the cure is nothing more than a temporary abatement and not a true reprieve, instead of bringing a way forward he might bring yet another army to threaten the realms of men. The dangers of greyscale and the potential harm it can cause feels much more menacing when viewed in that context.

Stone can be just as cold to the touch as ice.

But what do you think? What roles might greyscale and Jorah play going forward? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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