[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Game of Thrones” Season 7, Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf.”]
In the packed “Game of Thrones” Season 7 finale, one detail may have slipped past viewers in light of all the other information that was imparted in a scene between Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley).
Bran revealed to Sam that Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) real parents were Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding) and Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi), which would make him a Targaryen bastard. But Sam set Bran straight by revealing that Rhaegar and Lyanna had actually married, which not only made Jon legitimate, but also the heir to the Iron Throne.
This crucial bit of information comes out in Episode 5, “Eastwatch.” When Gilly (Hannah Murray) is reading aloud the account of a Septon Maynard, she details the secret marriage before Sam cuts her off and goes on a rant about the maesters at the Citadel. But when Sam recounts this info to Bran, he takes credit for the discovery.
“I think that’s kind of true,” Bradley told IndieWire. “It’s true that Gilly completely by accident planted the seed of that information into Sam’s mind. He can almost subconsciously absorb it because he’s become so efficient at processing information. He can kind of feel even if he’s not aware of it at the time. He’ll store it in the back of his brain when it’s needed most.”
Although Bradley acknowledges that those actions weren’t necessarily right on Sam’s part, Sam himself has been wronged similarly by not receiving credit for another important discovery at the Citadel: the cure for greyscale, which Sam had administered to Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who made a full recovery.
“Jorah isn’t telling Jon Snow and Daenerys that he was cured by somebody called Samwell Tarly at the Citadel,” said Bradley. “So Sam is owed a debt of gratitude and owed a bit of kudos but he’s not getting it elsewhere. I think in the grand scheme of things, Sam is getting the right amount of credit that he needs, but not necessarily what he deserves the credit for… These work themselves out in the end.”
Credit might be overrated, anyway, when it comes to certain acts. Earlier in the season, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) had burned Sam’s father and brother with dragonfire when they refused to bend the knee to her. While it was not the most benevolent of acts, it’s one that Bradley was thrilled happened to Sam.
“It makes Sam feel part of the bigger story,” he said. “He’s almost been sort of like a satellite character and not really connected to the main thrust of the show. What I like about the Tarlys being involved somewhat, is that Sam feels like a player in the game this year. I can feel his presence there in amongst all of those big hitters. Sam is playing a part this year even if he isn’t appearing on screen.”
Macall B. Polay/ HBO
Although Bradley couldn’t exactly predict how Sam will react to the news of his family’s death since that is not information known to him currently, his reaction may not be that predictable.
Bradley said, “It’s tempting to say, ‘Oh, he’d be quite happy about it because his father has been a source of a constant kind of psychological abuse and he had a lot of contempt for his son and treated him very badly.’ But Sam isn’t in that world anymore, but you think that Sam has completely changed from that boy he was. His psychological scars have healed. He’s completely over all that. He has a home and a set of priorities now and whole new set of principles.”
It’s that newfound self-assurance that led him to leave the Citadel, a place that he once thought would be the perfect setting for his skills to shine.
“He had invested in a complete lie about about the Citadel. He thought it was full of people like him, who would not make comfortable lies with themselves but appreciate the power of knowledge, appreciate what it can do and work hard to earn that place on the battlefield.
“Maester Wonkin of Winterfell sent that message that said that Bran Stark has come back to Winterfell and he said that he’s seen the army of the dead beyond The Wall. This is the first time that somebody who they consider to be an equal would even comment on the army of the dead as a real thing. They ignored it, they laughed it off. It was almost as if they were looking for excuses to not act. And that’s when he finally realized that he’s not of the same mindframe as these people. For Sam Tarly, he’s in the business of saving the world. And he knows he’s going to have to leave do do that because they won’t let him. He was tired of not being listened to.”
As for what Sam thought he could do to now that he’s returned to Winterfell, Bradley said, “The reason that Jon was reluctant to let Sam go to the Citadel at all is because he knows what a wise head Sam has on his shoulders. And he knows that Sam is the perfect right-hand man to give him advice. To go back way back to Season 1, when Jon doesn’t act too happy to be Lord Commander Mormont’s steward, he wanted to be a ranger and they made him a steward, but Sam changed his mind about that and told him how important a steward is and what that means and what that could mean for his future. And when he wanted to leave Castle Black to go avenge the death of Ned and kill King Joffrey, Sam was the one who talked him out it. When Jon opens up to Sam, Sam is the one to make him see a different perspective on things. Jon will be very happy to see the return of Sam for that reason.”
There’s another reason why Jon might eagerly welcome back Sam: Heartsbane. Sam may not be a fighter, but he had helped himself to the his ancestral Valyrian sword when he had visited his old home at Horn Hill.
“He now knows the significance of Valyrian steel and he knows that in the fight against the army of the dead, they’ll need as much Valyrian steel as they can get for that purpose,” said Bradley. “He knows the potency of that and if that’s on the battlefield, that is going to swing the chances of success in Jon Snow’s favor. It’s also about him taking what he believes to be rightfully his. It’s the symbolism of feeling that he earned it and he deserved.”
Ultimately, Bradley would like to see Sam’s journey continue in a significant way in the final season. He had gone from a bookworm who was sent away by his family for being seen as useless and weak to one who’s fought back, killed a White Walker, and provided essential information that could effect the outcome of the struggle for power.
“As far as the Great War is concerned, I really want him to validate himself. I really want him to prove that he is worthwhile, somebody that is worth having around,” said Bradley. “He wouldn’t want to be a coward, he wouldn’t want to sit at home while other people fight in that war for him. I’d like him to have an impact. I’d like him to be standing there with Jon for the better part, and after that getting rewarded and live happily.”