Those are not just the immortal words of Highlander. They are also the unspoken truth at the heart of the fifth episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones, “A Nest of Vipers.” The penultimate installment of the series ended with an impossible choice, forcing the player to save one person’s life over another, completely changing the course of the story moving forward.
But before we get into all that, let’s talk about the journey toward the most brutal moment of the series thus far.
Episode five begins where episode four left off, with Ramsay Snow sitting in the great hall of Ironrath, the home of House Forrester. Ramsay toys with both Rodrik and Talia Forrester, warning them of the consequences of disobedience, and offering a brutal demonstration as he flays and eviscerates Forrester ally and Rodrik’s prospective brother-in-law Arthur Glenmore. Ramsay announces that he’s officially washing his hands clean of the Forrester/Whitehill conflict, gleefully saying that the last house standing wins.
Winning against the Whitehills will be easier said than done, however, if Rodrik can’t amass an army in time. Good thing his brother Asher is busy in Essos looking for that very army. Unfortunately, Asher’s attempts win over the Mother of Dragons and her Second Sons failed, because he helped his ally Beskha kill the slave master who owned her once upon a time in Meereen. While Asher’s loyalty to his close friend might impress some people, it did not impress Daenerys.
Once Dany denies Asher’s request for the Second Sons, it’s time to pursue a backup plan. At Beskha’s behest, Asher confronts a woman named Amaya and her contingent of pit fighters, hoping to bring them to his cause. He succeeds, but only after fighting and killing a spear-wielding champion named Bloodsong. Asher becomes their new champion, and after promising them the opportunity to paint with blood on the largest canvas of all — war — the pit fighters agree to sail back and fight on behalf of the Forresters.
Elsewhere in the world of ice and fire, another Forrester isn’t having nearly as much luck as Asher. In King’s Landing, Mira Forrester finds herself friendless and alone, abandoned not just by Margaery Tyrell, but also by her handmaiden friend Sera. (In Sera’s defense, Mira totally told Lord Tarwick that Sera is a bastard, ruining their romance forever… so turnabout is fair play.) The only person willing to engage Mira right now is Queen Cersei, who tasks her with meeting the imprisoned Tyrion Lannister and finding out who he plans to call upon as witnesses for his upcoming trial.
Mira complies with Cersei’s request, but her attempts at getting the information out of Tyrion don’t exactly end well. She opts for an “honesty is the best policy” approach, telling Tyrion that she’s acting on Cersei’s orders, but the approach fails, yielding no real information, and getting Mira in hot water with one of Cersei’s guards. Looks like she’s in as much immediate danger as the rest of her family.
“The final choice of episode five is an anguishing one — but it’s also a choice that perfectly embodies the grueling, frustrating and unfair course of life so often found throughout Westeros.”
But at least Mira does not have to fight White Walkers, unlike Gared Tuttle, the Night’s Watch runaway traveling far north of the Wall in order to find the legendary North Grove. After abandoning the Watch, Gared and his companions Cotter and Finn killed a whole slew of Wildlings, but that was just the start of their fight. Gared and his friends meet up with Cotter’s Wildling sister Sylvi, who knows where the North Grove is — but before they’re able to make any real strides, the dead Wildlings return as Wights and attack Gared’s group, killing Finn and forcing the others on the run. Will they make it to the North Grove, or will they become further food and fuel for the White Walker army?
In the end, we have to wonder whether or not Gared reaching the North Grove is even a positive thing, given that the man who charged him with the task — Duncan Tuttle — is a traitor against House Forrester. (At least, that’s the experience for my Rodrik. Your traitor’s identity will depend on whom you selected as your new Sentinel.) Duncan confesses that he’s been passing information to the Whitehills, because he believes Rodrik’s recklessness is going to destroy Ironrath and everything the late Lord Gregor Forrester built.
“You’re not a leader,” Duncan spits at Rodrik. “You’re a wounded soldier trying to prove he’s still a man. I’m trying to save this family!”
In a display of his own maturity, and in defiance of Duncan’s assessment, Rodrik decides to let Duncan live, imprisoning him instead of executing him. After all, even though Duncan betrayed House Forrester, he has crucial information, including the fact that the Whitehills are planning to ambush Asher and his army as soon as they arrive in Westeros.
Fearing for his brother, Rodrik and his companions rush to greet Asher before the Whitehills arrive — but in doing so, Rodrik falls right into House Whitehill’s trap, as their forces surround the two Forrester brothers and start killing their soldiers. In order to survive the situation, one of the two Forresters must decide to stay behind and open a gate, allowing the other to flee while the other stays and dies.
It’s an impossible choice, but a choice must nevertheless be made. There can only be one Forrester brother left alive moving into the final act of Telltale’s Game of Thrones. How do you choose? Do you pick the man who survived all odds at the Red Wedding, and has directly dealt with the Whitehill conflict? Or do you pick the sellsword who became a man, recruiting an army and returning to Westeros to fight for his house’s honor?
In the heat of the moment, I allowed Rodrik to live, and left Asher to die the warrior’s death that felt inevitable for him at some point in his life. And yet, the choice feels deeply unsatisfying. This does not feel like Asher’s time to die. He spent several weeks sailing across the Narrow Sea, only to arrive in Westeros and perish immediately, abandoning his army and his good friend Beskha. There feels like so much more for him to accomplish. And yet, Rodrik’s story would feel just as incomplete if it ended here…
Whether you allowed Rodrik to live and Asher to die, or vice versa, the fact remains that the final choice of episode five is an anguishing one — but it’s also a choice that perfectly embodies the grueling, frustrating and unfair course of life so often found throughout Westeros. Like iron from ice, however, we will endure – at least as long as those Whitehills suffer the full wrath of Ironrath by the end of the final episode.