One rule I’ve picked up over the years of bloody, tumultuous Game of Thrones: If we don’t see a corpse, the character isn’t dead. My rule was confirmed Sunday night when, after a three season-long absence, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) was plucked out of Flea Bottom anonymity and enlisted to join a very important trek north of the Wall.
The last time we saw Gendry, he was strapped to a bed, covered in leeches, and about to be sacrificed by Melisandre (Carice van Houten). Being the bastard son of Robert Barathon (Mark Addy), Melisandre suspected Gendry's royal blood would help power her magic and further her cause of getting Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) on the Iron Throne. Thankfully for Gendry, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) was equally suspicious of Melisandre’s gruesome tactics, and helped Gendry escape by way of rowboat.
"He’d gone back to his old life, but there’s a restlessness in him. He bored of safety and wants adventure and he’s itching to get involved and then an opportunity presents itself. He’s got his father’s blood in him and he’s a natural born fighter," actor Joe Dempsie told Entertainment Weekly.
Ser Davos goes out of his way to rescue Gendry from this humdrum life. Still, why all the fuss over one impoverished blacksmith, born to a prostitute in the depths of Flea Bottom?
“There’s a power inside you you can’t begin to understand,” Melisandre had told Gendry in Season 3, before she strapped him to the bed and proceeded to steal his blood. And that power is the Baratheon bloodline, beating its big stag horns in Gendry's veins. With all three of Cersei and Robert Baratheon’s “children” now dead, Gendry is the only remaining link in the Baratheon bloodline (that we know of).
"Gendry’s position in this war has to have some kind of constitutional value. What part he plays in the politics has still to be seen," said Dempsie.
Cersei’s legitimate hold on the throne is tenuous, at best. In instances as cataclysmic as the Sept of Baelor exploding and the King and Queen dying without any heirs, the Great Council composed of Lords of Westeros would typically convene to choose a new ruler. Cersei essentially perched herself on the highest throne in Westeros because no one was there to say she couldn’t.
In different circumstances, Gendry's claim to the throne would be a threat a ruler (or usurper!) as reviled as Cersei. The elephant in the room, of course, is that Gendry is a bastard. In the skewed societal structure of Westeros, bastards aren’t able to inherit anything belonging to their fathers, unless they’re legitimized first, as Ramsey Bolton had been. Clearly, Robert Baratheon never legitimized Gendry.
So, if Gendry isn’t a truly viable candidate, and if the throne is likely going to revert to the Targaryen bloodline anyway, then why else might Gendry have been rescued from obscurity and enlisted to rejoin the narrative?
For their mission to defeat White Walkers, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) & Co. are searching for people with specific skills. They need people who can thwack powerfully (the Hound). They need people who can draw diagrams on maps (Ser Davos). And they need people who can forge weapons made of the only two substances capable of defeating White Walkers: Valyrian steel and dragonglass.
Daenerys' headquarters in Dragonstone is built above a dragonglass deposit, so that resource is taken care of. Unfortunately, Valyrian steel is in much shorter supply. Only a few Valyrian Steel greatswords and swords are floating around: Jon Snow has the Mormont sword Longclaw, and Samwell Tarly has the Tarly sword Hartsbane. Arya has a Valyrian steel dagger.
When Valyria fell, so too did the art of making Valyrian steel swords — an art which involved magic. As the legend goes, dragons were incorporated in the making of Valyrian steel, whether by using their blood or their fire.
While making new swords is impossible without Valyrian forgers' secrets, it’s possible to rework the steel, as we found out in Season 1 when Tywin Lannister melted down Ned Stark’s greatsword to sword to create Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail.
As Tywin told Jaime, there are only three living smiths capable of pulling off such a feat.
In the books, one of those individuals is Tobho Mott (Andrew Wilde) — the very same forger that Gendry is seen training with during Season 1. Mott had undergone his blacksmith training in the city of Qohor, where blacksmiths are trained in working with Valyrian steel. Using fire and spells, Mott was able to do what few other blacksmiths can: Create new weapons with Valyrian steel.
During their years training together, perhaps Tobho passed along his Qohorik sword-forging methodologies to his apprentice, Gendry. It's possible that Gendry could also create new Valyrian steel. Let’s not forget that Gendry has one ingredient Tobho Mott didn’t: Daenerys’ dragons.
With Gendry’s sword-forging abilities and Daenerys’ dragonglass mine at Dragonstone, Jon Snow’s young, scrappy, and hungry army has a chance at defeating at least a few White Walkers.
All that said, Gendry might just be back because Season 7 is the Era of Great Reunions. When Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark (or so he thinks) met Gendry, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon, their fathers' partnership during Robert's Rebellion was replayed through the filter of history and circumstance. They also joked with one another about Gendry's lean body (his father was rather stocky) and Jon's lack of height (Ned Stark was quite tall).
Now that Gendry has returned, the only thing we really have to look forward to is his reunion with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), his former travel companion and fellow adventurer.
Looking back, their farewell exchange in Season 3 could be interpreted as a prophecy of a potential romantic union. Trying to convince Gendry to stay with her, Arya tearfully says, "I can be your family." Gendry responds, "You wouldn't be my family. You'd be my lady." If Gendry is somehow legitimized as a Lord, then Arya could be his lady in marriage.
Though it's slightly weird to think of Arya as anything but a bloodthirsty girl-warrior motivated by revenge, some romantically inclined fans are hoping Gendry and Arya get together. There'd be poetic justice in the resolution of the Robert and Ned once promising two of their children to one another. This time, instead of Joffrey and Sansa, it would be Gendry and Arya.
When The Hollywood Reporter asked Dempsie about a potential union, he had a little more trepidation. "I think it's implied in the books that there might be a romantic element to the relationship, and in the books I think the characters are significantly closer in age. I know from my personal experience, when we were filming the earlier seasons and people would ask about that and talk about that, I would feel slightly uncomfortable. I'm acting alongside a child here. I was a 25-year-old man. I sometimes found that question a little hard to address and a little tricky to answer."
Whether he's coming aboard to wield swords or as boyfriend material, Gendry's going to play a significant role in the narrative to come.
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