Season 6 of HBO’s Game Of Thrones premieres on Sunday, and fans will finally get answers to the burning questions that last year’s finale left them with. Is that guy, the handsome one, dead? What’s going on with the dragon lady? What shit is the creepy guy going to get into this year, and what inexplicable accent will he don?
I have another concern: What’s happening with my sweet boy Podrick Payne? He didn’t have much to do in Season 5's finale, but the most recent trailer for Season 6 shows Pod luxuriating in a muddy army field, before someone grabs him around the neck. Is this person hugging him or choking him? I hope it’s the former, because Podrick is one of my favorite characters on GOT.
[SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE PODRICK-ADJACENT PARTS OF GAME OF THRONES.]
Yung Podrick isn’t among the most important, smartest, or most cunning characters on Game Of Thrones. He’s spent most of his time on the show so far wandering around Westeros like he’s adrift in some RPG without a clue as to where to go next. He always has this big, dumb, happy look on his face—the one in the .gif above. He’s like he’s a Golden Retriever, content to lope across Westeros.
He has exactly two highlights to his name. At the Battle of the Blackwater, he gored Ser Mandon Moore, who was trying to kill Pod’s boss, Tyrion Lannister. As a reward for his loyalty, Tyrion treated him to a romp with a trio of prostitutes who gave Podrick his money back because he was so skilled. Game Of Thrones can be pretty hard up for happy, silly moments, and Podrick’s sex escapades were a rare funny little throwaway gag. However, his heroics in battle and his magic dick haven’t really improved his station in life. He spent Season 5 wandering around with Brienne of Tarth, who didn’t exactly feel like holding his hand and teaching him how to fish and ride horses and stuff.
After he graduated from Beginner’s Camping, his reward was to chill in a North rapidly giving way to glaciation and entombment. He hung with Brienne, made some more faces, and got rejected by another Stark daughter. His big moment for the season was using his nerd knowledge of flags to hip Brienne to the arrival of Stannis, who she most likely aced. For his services, he’ll probably just get to hang around with her while they do some sort of failed quest or another this season. I can’t wait.
Podrick’s book arc is slightly different, but his role is the same. He’s the stand-in for the smallfolk, the unseen masses who cause the Bread Riots of Season 2, make pacifying Meereen so acutely difficult, and help the Tyrells get their strategic advantage (having lots of bread). Pod has a slight air of nobility about him—his family name saves his life when he is supposed to be hanged for playing a role in the theft of a ham—but he’s the bridge between the bourgeois and the little people they rely on to fight their wars.
This is probably why he and Tyrion became such good friends. Each sees in the other the ideals of the opposite class. Podrick wants to believe that all lords are fair and offer protection and rewards to those who serve them loyally. Tyrion wants subjects who are interested in the history and politics of Westeros and will also, say, stab a would-be assassin if they need to. When Tyrion rewards Podrick with an extravagant deflowering, that’s the closest we get to class harmony on a show where even the nicest lords are doing some heavy feudalism.
Pod also plays the crucial role of map expansion in Game Of Thrones. For efficiency’s sake, the show can’t show every little granularity of Westeros the way A Song Of Ice And Fire so gleefully does, so Podrick and Brienne hiking about is the show’s way of adding texture to a show that takes place mostly in one throne room or another. You get a sense of how the law works from how Pod warily treats strangers and how loyalty is valued from the way he sticks with Tyrion and then Brienne.
If Podrick plays a role in the eventual endgame, it’ll most likely be a tangential one. He is not Azor Ahai reborn (as cool as that would be). He’s not going to warg into a dragon and melt a bunch of ice zombies. That’s fine. Game Of Thrones needs characters to fill out the sidelines and bleachers of its operatic production, and when those characters are as cool and good as Podrick, that’s as fun as the show gets. He’s the hero.