Spoilers ahead if you aren’t caught up on Game of Thrones.
Goodly Liverpudlian Joe Dempsie is one of only a handful of supporting characters to have survived the game of thrones on HBO’s titular drama, having played Gendry since the series’ fourth episode. That’s a long time to survive in this ruthless world of cutthroat kings, dragons, and wights. But while the bulk of Gendry’s journey occurred off screen, the latest episode just gave the survivor quite the upgrade in terms of status, power, and even heredity.
In “The Last of the Starks”, which included quite a bit of celebration (followed by the expected heartbreaking deaths because Game of Thrones doesn’t suffer enjoyment lightly), Gendry found himself on the winning side of the war against the White Walkers, thanks to lady love, Arya Stark. (Though, to be fair, Gendry’s smithing skills provided the armies with dragonglass weapons which held the dead off long enough for Arya to get in position for the killing blow, not that the writers mentioned this at all.) He also discovered that he was caught in the middle of a power play between Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen, becoming an unwitting but rather willing pawn when Queen Daenerys elevated him from bastard to Lord of Storm’s End. But how did Gendry get to this lofty position?
Way back in Season 1, Ned Stark, then the King’s Hand for Robert Baratheon, was investigating the death of the previous Hand, Jon Arryn. Arryn’s dying words to his king were, “The seed is strong,” suggesting that a Baratheon heir likely existed among Robert’s many bastards. Ned happens upon Gendry, working as a smith’s apprentice, and learns that he’s one of those bastards, but Gendry’s master sells him to the Night’s Watch before Ned learns why this is important.
It’s then that Gendry first encounters Arya Stark, though she’s in disguise as a boy. As part of King Joffrey Baratheon’s orders, Robert’s bastards are all targeted for execution, Gendry included. The Gold Cloaks of the City Watch, accompanied by Lannister soldiers, take them into custody and nearly torture them at Harrenhal. Instead, Gendry is put to work as a smith at the castle until he can escape with Arya and Hot Pie.
It’s in Season 3 when they run across the Brotherhood Without Banners and Gendry sees Beric Dondarrion fall in combat against the Hound, only to be resurrected by the Lord of Light. It’s here that Arya offers to be part of Gendry’s family, but he says that their class differences–she, a highborn lady and he, a lowborn commoner–would prevent them from ever being together, so he stays on as a smith with the Brotherhood. But when the red priestess Melisandre arrives, they sell Gendry to her for two bags of gold; some family.
Melisandre is the first to reveal Gendry’s true parentage to him as she takes him to his uncle Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone. Though the priestess wants to kill Gendry, she’s convinced to run a test by taking his blood for a ritual first, which she does by seducing him and leeching out his king’s blood. Stannis uses his nephew’s blood to wish for the death of three remaining kings, so when they die, he considers it a successful test and wants Melisandre to finish the job. Davos, a fellow commoner who grew up in Flea Bottom like Gendry, frees the boy and sends him to King’s Landing in a rowboat; this inadvertently led to the deaths of both Shireen Baratheon and Stannis himself, making Gendry the last survivor of the Baratheon bloodline.
In Season 7, Davos finds Gendry still smithing in King’s Landing, but spirits him away to the North with Tyrion to join the fight; Gendry brings his stag-headed war hammer. Gendry and Jon Snow find common ground in being bastards born of noble men and the two fight together north of the Wall. It’s here that Gendry not only interacts with Tormund, but reunites with the Hound and the Brotherhood once more, putting old grievances to rest. Forced to leave his hammer behind with the Hound, Gendry has to run all the way back to Eastwatch to warn them that the army of the dead is coming.
Which brings us to the current season, in which Gendry traveled with Jon Snow and Daenerys to Winterfell and set up a dragonglass smithing operation that exhaustively churned out weapons for the gathered armies. After crafting a double-bladed dragonglass axe for the Hound, he’s reunited with Arya, who tasks him with creating yet another unique weapon. Before the Battle of Ice and Fire, Gendry and Arya sleep together, not knowing if they’ll survive the coming fight. (Spoiler alert: They do.)
So while Gendry is distracted by thoughts of sleeping with Arya again in celebration, he’s caught off-guard by Queen Daenerys calling him out in front of the surviving masses. Here’s how the exchange goes:
Daenerys: “So who’s Lord of Storm’s End now?”
Gendry: “I don’t know, Your Grace.”
Daenerys: “Does anyone? … I think you should be Lord of Storm’s End.”
Gendry: “I can’t be; I’m a bastard.”
Daenerys: “No. You are Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storm’s End, the lawful son of Robert Baratheon, because that is what I have made you.”
And so, low-born Gendry becomes Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. (Though there’s some naming confusion here: Gendry calls himself “Gendry Rivers”, a bastard surname given to those who grow up in the Riverlands. Since the naming conventions usually apply to where a bastard grows up, not where they’re born, Gendry’s surname, if he ever had one, would have been “Waters”, for King’s Landing in the Crownlands. He could have even gone with “Storm” for Stormlands bastards, but the writers chose not to. Not as bad as a wayward Starbucks cup in a finished shot, but still an odd change to George R.R. Martin‘s well-established lore.)
His newly inflated sense of self worth inspires him to profess his love to Arya and propose to her; he’s promptly rejected. Arya turns his own words from years earlier back on him, saying that he may be a Lord now, but that she’s no Lady. (She has unfinished business at King’s Landing anyway.)
What fate awaits Lord Gendry Baratheon? Hard to say, but Daenerys didn’t grant him his lordship out of the kindness of her heart. It was part power play to secure an ally and his armies through legitimate means (especially since her own ally/nephew has been revealed to have a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than she does), and part political maneuver to win over the Westerosi people who could see that she was a just and rewarding ruler.
Will Gendry get to live out his life in Storm’s End or end up just another pawn in the game of thrones? Could he become the heir apparent to the Iron Throne should Jon and Daeny die? Will Arya kill him and steal his face to rule instead, with sister Sansa as Warden of the North? Time will tell, but we’ll have to tune in to find out.