Why Samwell Tarly is Essential to the End of 'Game of Thrones'

Keep underestimating him, but he's still alive for good reason.

Why Samwell Tarly is Essential to the End of 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

People keep asking me why they still had to endure scenes of Samwell Tarly and Gilly this season while three dragons are flying together and the Starks are taking back Winterfell. On a show like Game of Thrones, where so much of the copious source material is left on the bench, why waste time on the dysfunctional Tarly clan and Sam at the Citadel? 

The answer is within the question. The Game of Thrones writers simply don't waste scenes. Nearly everything is included for a reason, even if it looks meaningless. In fact, Sam and Gilly were barely included in season six at all this year. They appear in only three episodes so their appearances are wholly important to the show. 

In "Oathbreaker," the third episode this year, Sam and Gilly are headed to Oldtown on a ship, but there's no place for a woman and child there so the couple decide to make a detour to Horn Hill, Sam's ancestral home.

In episode six, "Blood of my Blood," they arrive to a warm welcome, but the plan for Gilly to stay blows up when she reveals she's a Wildling. Sam's hateful father won't tolerate it. Unwilling to stand his daddy's shit any longer, the younger Tarly bolts for the Citadel, rules be damned, with Gilly and little Sam in tow. Oh, and for good measure he steals his father's sword, Heartsbane, a behemoth of Valyrian steel.

Finally, in "The Winds of Winter," Sam and Gilly arrive at the Citadel where Sam gets his first glimpse of the incredible library. The scene is awe-inspiring, but definitely out of place during the cavalcade of vengeance that is the season finale. Why was it included?

Why Samwell Tarly is Essential to the End of 'Game of Thrones'

Sam may be cowardly and the luckiest sumbitch this side of the Narrow Sea, but he's no dummy. His education at the Citadel will prove crucial in the war to come against the White Walkers. Remember, it was Sam who discovered dragonglass could kill a Walker (we also learned this season it created them). In the books, Sam discovers "dragonsteel" (AKA Valyrian steel) can kill a Walker as well. We see it play out on the show at Hardhome when Jon uses Longclaw to pull off the feat. In short, without Sam, the Walkers' Achilles heel probably would've stayed a mystery, at least the dragonglass part. 

Mysteries, especially the enemy's secrets, are Sam's mission. His path to becoming a maester at the side of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen is set. All he has to do is keep reading, keep discovering things, keep learning about how to kill the Night King and his army of the dead. He may be George R.R. Martin's tribute to The Lord of the Rings and Samwise Gamgee, but Sam Tarly has got more than a little Gandalf in him. It's not enough to head off to war, a hero must study and understand his enemy. Sun Tzu must've said that at some point.

Why Samwell Tarly is Essential to the End of 'Game of Thrones'
All images courtesy of HBO

Here are just a few of the questions I think Sam will answer or have a hand in answering during the final 13 episodes, making him a very important person. He also has Heartsbane, one of only six Valyrian steel weapons seen on the show thus far. It seems safe to say every piece of the precious metal will be needed.

Here are some study questions for Sam. We hope he's a quick study:

How were the White Walkers originally defeated?

How is Valyrian steel made?

What is the magic inside the Wall?

How was the Wall built?

How else can the dead be killed?

Sam is still around because he's going to come up with an important piece of strategy that'll help Jon against the dead. He's not headed out for battle. He's part of the braintrust. Hell, he and Bran are the braintrust. I can also see their paths crossing at some point. Nobody is defeating the White Walkers without them. 

Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.
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