Biggest Twist This Season On Game Of Thrones? The Economy, Stupid

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Death by gold got Viserys, and it'll get Cersei too.
Death by gold got Viserys, and it'll get Cersei too. Creative Commons/HBO

“A Lannister always pays his debts.” This maxim is part of the bedrock of Westeros. And in the upcoming seventh season of Game of Thrones , this bedrock will be shattered by the will of the Iron Bank of Braavos. Remember the Iron Bank? It’s OK if you don’t, like most global financial powers it is so boring on its surface as to be utterly, but intentionally, forgettable. But it is also incredibly powerful, and one of the few things Tywin Lannister truly feared. Especially because the Lannisters are actually broke.

In that clip from Season 4 episode 5, Tywin lays it out for Cersei. “The crown owes the Iron Bank of Braavos a tremendous amount of money.” Owing money to the Iron Bank is not like owing money to some obese noble or middling merchant’s collective. The Iron Bank is a cold, hard business. If you can’t pay your debts, they will loan money to your closest rival and collect both payments once you’re off the throne. The Iron Bank has a maxim, too: The Iron Bank always gets its due. Based on these screengrabs from the trailers, it appears that due will be collected by Daenerys and her Dothraki. It’s clear her soldiers are fighting Lannisters … but where?

Lannister troops ready to throw down ... because they're getting paid, of course.
Lannister troops ready to throw down ... because they're getting paid, of course. HBO
A Dothraki giving some Lannister troops the traditional greeting known as "an arakh to the dome piece."
A Dothraki giving some Lannister troops the traditional greeting known as "an arakh to the dome piece." HBO

A raid on Casterly Rock makes absolute sense. Setting aside Tyrion’s legitimate claim to his family home, it is the perfect place for Daenerys to send a statement to Cersei. We have your home (bitch) and, more importantly, we have your money (bitch). Only there is no gold in Casterly Rock, and the economy of Westeros will likely head into a tailspin. A bankrupt government makes the current Game of Thrones mess even messier, and the unrest will crescendo in unexpected ways.

If the Iron Bank backs Daenerys, how will it “get its due?” The Iron Bank could perhaps make a claim that House Tyrell, second wealthiest in Westeros, are on the hook for the money since it is linked to the Lannisters through Queen Margaery’s marriage to King Tommen. Although I can’t imagine feisty old Lady Olenna will acquiesce to that, unless it helps her in her quest for revenge. House Tyrell is in ruins after Cersei killed every significant member, along with dozens of other nobles, when she destroyed the Sept of Baelor with wildfire in the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale.

We saw hints of a Tyrell/Dorne alliance, too. Perhaps the Tyrells and the Iron Bank sponsor a Dornish insurgency? The most notable Westerosi shit-stirrer, Varys, did arrive during those negotiations to represent Daenerys. So it seems unlikely House Dorne and House Tyrell won’t be acting in her best interests.

But what’s in the Iron Bank’s best interest? It is now 0 for 2 with Westerosi Kings, having also loaned Stannis a chunk of money. How will it recoup its losses? By doing what it does best and being ruthlessly capitalist. Until now, there hasn’t been room for the Iron Bank to establish a branch in the Westerosi market. Now there is, and what better place than the gold-first fortress of Casterly Rock. It has empty vaults, infrastructure and built-in prestige as a financial center. The Iron Bank will do a hostile takeover of its own, fighting with coins instead of swords.

And that’s why I think economics, more than anything else, will be what finally causes the downfall of Cersei Lannister. All of her misdeeds and cruelty were suffered as the whims of an untouchable aristocrat. There are approximately 22 other great houses aligned with the Lannisters. It’s unclear how many were in attendance during her attack on the Sept of Baelor, but those that remain have an ethical, and now financial, incentive to betray her. Her attack on the Sept of Baelor makes The Red Wedding look like a quinceañera, and in the aftermath the allies who sold their souls to her will realize she is more than just morally bankrupt.

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