Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Guy Behind The Guy: An Appreciation of Davos Seaworth

The big personalities of Westeros have entourages that would make Ari Gold blush - the lords and ladies that flit around what has become a revolving door of rulers can be dizzying, but there is one constant companion any good king or queen needs, and that is a “hand” - a first-among-equals advisor who (in theory) can give their ruler the unvarnished truth and wise counsel while executing their superior’s orders. Tyrion Lannister is clever and Qyburn is sadistic, but give me Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight himself, any day of the week and twice on Sunday. 

Sure, Davos is a flirt (looking at you Missandei), has a good heart (RIP the Princess Shireen) and he may come from nothing and have a Flea Bottom accent, but for my money, he embodies the qualities a good hand should have - he is loyal to those he serves, he has a strong moral compass, and he sees the big picture. At three critical points during Game of Thrones it is this last quality that served Davos’s superiors well:

First, it was Stannis, on the balls of his ass after getting (literally) blown out of the water at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. His army in tatters and his dream of ruling the Seven Kingdoms all but snuffed out, Stannis and Davos make a journey to the Iron Bank in Braavos. Their goal? Get a line of credit from the stoic bankers to buy an army of sell swords for a second shot at glory. Things do not go so well for Stannis. First, he is left cooling his heels for hours, growing more and more impatient, then, when he is granted an audience, the money lenders are quick to dismiss his request. 

When all appears lost, and Stannis is about to sulk away, Davos steps up. He appeals to the bankers’ logic and reason even though he himself is uneducated and barely literate. Davos understands that the Iron Bank is most concerned with making wise “investments” (or “bets” as Cersei would call them in Season 7) and in framing the ongoing battle as one between a child king (Tommen) of questionable parentage (elliptically referencing the incestuous consummation that produced him) and an experienced military leader with a much stronger claim to the throne (as the brother of the deceased King Robert), Davos’s pitch carries the day. The pair walk out of Braavos with the money they need to make another run at King’s Landing.

Next, after Stannis’s defeat, Davos latches on to the Starks, traveling with them through the North in an effort to form an army that will retake Winterfell. Jon and Sansa are flummoxed and shot down by the brassy leader of Bear Island, ten-year-old Lyanna Mormont, who has no time (or fucks to give) for their sycophantry or bald appeals for fealty. It is only when Davos steps up (again, when it appears all is lost), that the worm turns. First, he relates to Lyanna, expressing empathy for her situation as a young ruler at a time of war. He then tells his own story of being a crabber’s son now addressing a leader of a “noble house.” His flattery is not forced, rather, he is acknowledging the difficult position a young girl has been placed in. Once he has established her trust (“go on, Sir Davos”), he makes his appeal, connecting her own family and the Starks, the threat of the Night King and the need to unite the North (which, incidentally, requires removing Ramsey) to prepare for the larger battle. Again, he prevails and 62 hearty Mormonts (along with their precocious ruler) come to Jon and Sansa’s aid.

Finally, Davos returns to Dragonstone, this time at Jon’s side, not Stannis’s, to meet Queen Daenerys, whose dragons the men are quite interested in appropriating to fight the White Walkers. Of course, Dany is more interested in Jon’s submission and acknowledgment of her claim as the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Jon is not a man of many words and his hair-on-fire warnings about the Night King (about whom Dany knows nothing) are falling on deaf ears even as she is flaunting the symbols of her power - the great throne room they address her in, the dragons that swoop over the island, and the Dothraki killers who serve at her command. 

Here again, Davos has an intuitive sense of the room, turning Dany’s words back on her to underscore the similarities between her and Jon. She birthed dragons and brought the Dothraki across the sea, he united the Wildlings and the North men. She is queen by birthright, he is king because a lot of “hard sons of bitches” chose him as their leader. His praise of Jon is matter-of-fact but it has its intended effect - a first meeting that looked to be spiraling toward disaster is instead converted into something approaching grudging respect, as Dany sends Davos and Jon off to quarters with baths drawn and meals on delivery. 

Davos may not be great at rolling off titles, but he has a fingertip feel for what strings to pull at what moment to diffuse a situation, which makes him a very valuable person to have standing next to you. 

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy

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