This post will be talking about a secondary character from HBO’s Game of Thrones. In the discussion, there will no doubt be references to plot points from the first five seasons of the show, so if you’re not caught up, this is your spoiler warning.
Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, the son of You-Wouldn’t-Know-Him, is one of my favorite characters on Game of Thrones. (Look, I admit that nearly every character is a favorite. It’s really hard to choose.)
I just assumed Bronn was universally liked. I mean, he’s funny, he’s a good companion to Lannisters for clever dialog, he kicks ass. What’s not to like?
So I was surprised when my show-watching non-book-reading buddy Bob (to be fair to Bob, he does read books, just not A Song of Ice and Fire books) expressed a distaste for Bronn.
Bob: I don’t like him.
Bob: He was never a true friend to Tyrion, and was just in it for the money.
Pat: Whoa, hold on. Tyrion considered Bronn a friend, and said as much. There was a certain air of regret when Bronn left Tyrion at the cell after the trial.
Bob: Don’t care.
(I might be paraphrasing Bob somewhat.)
What Bob said shook loose some cobwebbed memories I had had of Facebook conversations around the time that Tyrion was awaiting his trial by combat with the Mountain. I vaguely recalled that there were people who were really mad at Bronn for abandoning Tyrion, and Bronn’s lack of honor in regards to the situation.
Was I being too easy on Bronn? He’s one of the book characters that I really like, and it’s a personality trait of mine to really, really be invested in the secondary characters of A Song of Ice and Fire.
And I guess Bronn being a mercenary type wasn’t necessarily off-putting to me. I’ve been a fan of “if you want to get saved, I have to be paid” types of characters.
In fact, this December will see the cinematic return of the classic archetype. Bronn’s not the first guy to help a one-handed blond dude rescue a princess. (Okay, maybe there are some differences…)
Han Solo, Bronn Solo
Let’s take a high-level look at these two guys. I mean, the main difference between them is the commitment to money, right? Bronn makes it pretty clear that his continued service depends on the cash flow. Whereas Han ends up a good guy who’s not counting his cash, n’est-ce-pas?
B**** Better Have Han’s Money
From the start, Han needed financial incentives to do the right thing and bust Leia out of the Death Star’s detention center. Everyone would agree on that. Then he picked up his cash for delivering her to Yavin and bugged out with the Death Star on its way. Gah! That cad!
Okay, he comes back, but I’ll address that in a moment.
At the start of The Empire Strikes Back, Leia is furious at Han for bailing on the rebellion. He’s been paid, he needs to take care of Numero Uno and clear things with Jabba. But the Empire shows up, and he spends most of his time on the run and trying to escape notice. That doesn’t work out and he ends up frozen in carbonite.
So for ALL OF THE LEGIT STAR WARS MOVIES, Han was totally focused on the paycheck. (Some of you people are no doubt going to try and tell me that there was another movie after The Empire Strikes Back. Your lies are going to fall on deaf ears. And besides, Game of Thrones isn’t over yet so for matters of this comparison, I’m arbitrarily truncating the Star Wars saga with the end of Empire, until the final episodes of Game of Thrones have aired on HBO.)
So in general, Han hangs around as long as it’s profitable. Exactly like Bronn.
But what about Han coming back at the end of Star Wars? (Some might try to correct me by saying that it’s actually called A New Hope. They’re wrong. It’s Star Wars.)
Let’s make this clear. Han, like any good mercenary, saw the opportunity for making some bonus cash. He chilled out watching the battle while Porkins, Biggs, Red Leader, all those brave guys, gave their all trying to take out the Death Star, then he swooped in, shot once, and let Luke take the real shot. Limited risk, maximum reward.
Han: Don’t be an idiot, Chewie. When the battle starts up, we’d be blown to pieces if we were with those clowns.
Han: But we’ll hang around with the sun behind us. We might be able to show up at the last minute and demand twice our pay, just for participating. These good guys are suckers, they’ll pay. But if things look bad the whole time, we jump. We still have enough to pay off Jabba. And then some.
Bronn took his shot at the beginning of the battle and stuck around, fighting throughout.
Bronn doesn’t play games like Han. He’s very straightforward and up front…
Tyrion: Fight against Robb Stark’s army with my mountain men…
Bronn: You want me to do that? It’ll cost you.
Tyrion: Lead the strike against Stannis…
Bronn: You want me to do that too? It’ll cost you.
Tyrion: Fight Ser Gregor Clegane…
Bronn: Sorry. Won’t do that. Not enough money to do that.
Tyrion: Ah, wink wink, I see. I’m sure we can agree on a price…
Bronn: No, I literally mean there’s not enough money to pay me to do that.
And he means it. He doesn’t play around. That’s a form of reliability.
Honor doesn’t pay the bills.
(Unless Honor is a person, and they’ve hired a bunch of sell-swords named William.
Those Bills better get paid by Honor.)
As for the allegation that Bronn isn’t honorable, I don’t see how that’s really a survival trait for sell-swords. Or smugglers like Han.
Bizarrely, George Lucas tried to retroactively introduce an element of honor into Han Solo by editing the original footage from Star Wars, so it would appear that Greedo the bounty hunter shot first at the Mos Eisley cantina.
It’s a fact that Han shot first. That image was emblazened on my teenage eyes in 1977.
He totally suckered Greedo into a conversation, giving Han a chance to ease his blaster out. And to get in the first and last shot. It wasn’t “honorable” but it was awesome.
There’s not much of a discussion about Bronn and honor, or dishonor, other than in the aftermath of his fight with Ser Vardis up in the Eyrie. Bronn had volunteered to stand as Tyrion’s champion in a trial by combat. He faced off against Ser Vardis, fought with a certain amount of situational awareness, wounded the knight, got the upper hand to deliver a killing blow, and then rolled his defeated opponent out of the Moon Door. (George Lucas would have called it a Death Star Door.)
Lady Lysa Arryn: You don’t fight with honor!
Bronn: No. *He* did.
It seemed like a reasonably legit fight to me. But I’ll take Lysa’s word for it and say it was as dishonorable as Han killing Greedo. Sure, why not?
After all, there is another area where the two are on very different ends of the honor scale.
Because Bronn certainly has more honor than Han does, when it comes to respecting a buddy’s crush on a lady.
The Dude Code of Honor
You don’t hit on your buddy’s girl.
Han, even though he has no interest in Leia’s rebellion, is fine with making the moves on her. Even though he’s seen that Luke has made a connection.
Sure, Luke and Leia’s relationship was doomed, if I am to believe these baseless rumors that they are siblings (don’t argue with me – it’s a schtick I do…) but it’s just not classy, Han. You have to wait for them to break up, be the shoulder for her to cry on.
Now Bronn on the other hand, he doesn’t just refrain from making moves on Tyrion’s lady, he actually arranges the hook up.
And unlike Han, Bronn knows when to take off and give a couple some privacy. Instead of standing around glaring dumbfoundedly while they’re making out.
Bronn and the Dark Side
Okay, I’ll wrap up the Star Wars talk and focus entirely on Bronn, and not Han. After all, the two are pretty different. Han is clearly a more “May the Force be with you” Light Side type of character, and Bronn would probably be comfortable packing a Sith red lightsaber.
Speaking of the Dark Side Sith, let’s examine some of Bronn’s darker elements.
If you paid him enough, he’d kill a child without thinking much about it.
Tyrion: If I told you to murder an infant girl, say, still at her mother’s breast – would you do it, without question?
Bronn: Without question? No. I’d ask how much.
That’s kind of cold.
When Tyrion, Bronn, and Shae were playing a drinking game in Tyrion’s tent on the eve of battle, Tyrion was trying to make guesses about their pasts.
Tyrion: (Addressing Bronn) You killed your first man before you were twelve.
Bronn: It was a woman. (To Shae, who was looking on disapprovingly) She swung an axe at me!
It’s unclear what the reason a woman would have to swing an axe at a pre-teen boy. What the hell, Bronn?
Bronn’s killing of women gets brought up again, when before the battle of Blackwater, Bronn and the Hound nearly mix it up.
Clegane: You think you’re a hard man?
Bronn: I know it. It’s warm in here. We’ve got beautiful women, and good brown ale. Plenty for everyone. And all you want is to put one of us in the cold ground, with no women to keep us company.
Clegane: There’s women in the ground. I’ve put some there myself. So have you.
Clegane: You like f***ing and drinking and singing … but killing – killing’s the thing you love.
Clegane: You’re just like me. Only smaller.
Taking the Hound at his word (and based on Bronn’s reactions as the Hound was making his observations) Bronn might be as villainous as the Hound implies. Sandor Clegane is a bad guy, but at least he seems to be conflicted about it. Bronn really isn’t. And in some ways, this puts him in with the ranks of other unsavory henchmen.
Like Locke, Roose Bolton’s bannerman.
After all, in season 5 before Jaime whisked Bronn away for adventure in Dorne, Bronn was clearly contemplating murdering old Lord Stokeworth and Bronn’s fiancee Lollys’ older sister, to obtain their lands and titles. He wasn’t being paid to do so. That was just murderous ambition.
In Defense of Bronn
But I’m still a fan of the singing, swinging sell-sword. Although my buddy Bob doesn’t like him for his mercenary attitudes and for not truly being Tyrion’s friend, we’ll have to agree to disagree. In many ways, Bronn has put in extra service to Tyrion.
When Tyrion was being visited by his sister Cersei after the battle of Blackwater, Bronn was prepared to cut through two Kingsguard to get to Tyrion’s side.
That’s commendable. Bronn had already been handsomely rewarded for his role in Blackwater; he’d been made a knight (much to the irritation of Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Whoosit of Who Cares.)
There was no need to risk anything by taking on these two, but he wasn’t going to let Tyrion be perceived as powerless by the Queen and her goons.
And Bronn and Tyrion are friends. They both asserted that fact in the final scene they shared. But neither of them are the kind of friends who would risk certain death for the other. That’s kind of an unreasonably high bar.
I also have a fondness for Bronn, because in the books he’s a thorn in the side to a certain person in power, a subplot that unfortunately has not been represented in the show. (Show-watchers, you really need to read the books. I’d devour an entire book that fleshed out the hints and reports surrounding Bronn and his activities in A Feast for Crows.)
But no one cares about how I feel about Bronn, and I’m more interested in what other people think about him. Here’s a handy poll, where people can express one (or more) opinions about the up-jumped cutthroat.
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Images are from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously) and from BOTH of the Star Wars movies.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. (Obviously not the lines of show-dialogue.)
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved