Warning: This article contains spoilers for the most recent Game of Thrones episode, “Stormborn.”
His letter to Jon Snow sent Jon on his destined path to Daenerys Targaryen, and now Sam’s risking everything to save a character from certain death and madness with a risky and forbidden procedure that—if successful—could be a game-changer in Westeros.
Sam first encountered Ser Jorah Mormont in the episode “Dragonstone,” or rather his greyscale-infected arm. This week we got a better look at just how far along Jorah’s greyscale has advanced. Archmaester Ebrose’s diagnosis? Jorah has six months tops before he loses his mind, and about 10 years living as a kind of zombie before he dies.
Jorah is deemed a lost cause, but because he’s a sworn knight of the Seven Kingdoms, he’s given one more night before he’s shipped off to live out his days with the Stone Men in Valyria. Samwell is sympathetic and tries to offer insight from what he knows of Shireen Baratheon’s own greyscale, but his motivation changes after learning Jorah’s name.
Sam intends to help Jorah in whatever way he can, even if it means sneaking in Jorah’s room in the dead of night to perform a risky and unsanctioned procedure. Not only does Sam barely know what he’s doing, Archmaester Ebrose told Sam that the Archmaester who cured two people with advanced greyscale using the method later died of it. The disease is highly contagious and considered a death sentence; Stannis was advised to send off Shireen to Valyria when she contracted it as an infant, but his stubbornness made him seek a cure.
Sam is also determined to at least try as he proceeds with a rather gruesome sequence that also contains one of the grosser transitions in Game of Thrones history.
We’ll have to wait to see if Sam’s gamble was worth it—at best he’ll cure Jorah, but at worst he could contract the disease himself. But his heart is in the right place, a rarity in Westeros these days.
A cure for greyscale
By the time Sam rolls his cart into Jorah’s room, Jorah’s given up; he’s even written his final, heartbreaking letter to Daenerys to tell her that he failed.
But Sam found a possible cure in Archmaester Pylos on Rare Diseases, not—as some fans believed, in a book about dragonglass. As far as we can tell, dragonglass has nothing to do with it.
Treatment for greyscale varies among maesters, but the cure in Sam’s book involves peeling off the infected skin and the application of a medicinal ointment, which Sam reviews briefly before going back to treating Jorah. It’s hard to tell what’s in the ointment, but Sam appears to understand the formula.
On another page, the book gives us more information on greyscale, saying that “the extremities of a man infected with greyscale are weakened, they feel no prickings on fynger [sic] or toe.”
Those pages also reveal an illustration of a man with greyscale on his face and a diagram of the procedure Sam is about to perform. Even on paper it looks incredibly painful, but with Jorah’s go ahead, Sam gets to work.
Why does Sam go through with it?
If Jorah is beyond help, why is Sam risking everything to help him? Because of Sam’s loyalty to Jorah’s father.
Jeor Mormont was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch when Sam and Jon arrived at the Wall. Although Sam primarily served Maester Aemon, he followed Jeor beyond the Wall during the Great Ranging. Sam was loyal to Jeor, who died at the hands of mutinous brothers on the show. In the books, Jeor dies in a slightly different manner, and he gives Sam his final request: Tell Jorah to join the Night’s Watch.
Remember, Jorah was exiled after being disgraced for selling poachers into slavery to support his estranged wife’s expensive tastes. Jeor wants Jorah to take the black to restore his honor.
Though Sam doesn’t have a connection to Jorah aside from knowing he’s the son of the late Lord Commander, Sam helps anyway. He had to watch one Mormont die, but he wouldn’t let another die under his watch.
If Sam survives, could he face consequences?
If Sam’s efforts fail, Jorah’s a goner with a one-way ticket to Valyria. And if Sam contracts greyscale while trying to cure Jorah, he’ll be right on the boat with him. But if Sam does cure Jorah—which is the more likely option—it could prove tricky.
We don’t know enough about the rules and regulations of the maesters of Oldtown to know what would happen in the case of major violation, but given that Ebrose explicitly told Sam it was forbidden, it’s probably not great. It might not be grounds for expulsion, as Qyburn’s crime of necromancy and human experimentation is much more severe in comparison, but Qyburn was a full-blown maester by then. Sam, on the other hand, is still in training, but would’ve done something forbidden for a good reason.
Expelling Sam from the Citadel after the show spent an entire season getting him to Oldtown would feel anticlimactic, but it would allow Sam to bring his knowledge to the people who need it most such as Jon or Dolorous Edd. If he’s allowed to stay he may be under closer scrutiny, but his access to the Citadel’s books could continue to help in the upcoming war. And that’s not to mention that some fans believe Sam’s ultimate fate will be chronicling the events of Game of Thrones, hopefully titled something “more poetic” than Ebrose’s A Chronicle of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I. May we suggest A Song of Ice and Fire?
As far as Jorah is concerned, if he’s cured, there’s only one place he would be heading: right to Daenerys’ side.