In “Eastwatch,” the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 7, a long-lost character made his return several seasons after he rowed his way out of the show.
Spoilers for the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 are below.
Gendry has finally come back from the longest rowing trip ever! Yes, Game of Thrones likes bringing back missing characters (the Hound was MIA from the Season 4 finale until the middle of Season 6), but Gendry’s long absence and return is perhaps the most egregious example. He was fairly prominent in Seasons 1 through 3. Then, Game of Thrones seemed to forget he existed for four damn seasons.
He wasn’t presumed dead the way the Hound was, either. He just went on a really, really long rowing trip.
So what in seven hells has he been doing this whole time? Let’s revisit his journey.
Gendry is Robert Baratheon’s bastard, as Ned Stark discovered in Season 1. He lived a humble life as a blacksmith in King’s Landing, but in Season 2 he left to join Yoren’s Night’s Watch recruits — a rag tag group that included Hot Pie and Arya Stark posing as a boy named Arry.
Arya’s reunion with Hot Pie in Season 7’s “Stormborn” was a callback to this, as Hot Pie mentioned that he should have known she was a girl.
You know who always knew she was a girl? Gendry.
He was Arya’s most benevolent travel buddy. He didn’t want to ransom her like the Hound, use her to fulfill a promise to someone else like Brienne, or recruit her for a weird assassin death cult like Jaqen H’ghar. He simply wanted to protect her and pal around with her.
In Season 3, they crossed paths with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Arya planned to move on and find her family (before the Hound snatched her up). To her dismay, instead of coming with her, Gendry decided to stay with the Brotherhood. Before they parted ways, Gendry explained how the Brotherhood offered him a chance for the meaningful family connection he lacked. Arya tearfully said that she could be his family, but he replied, “You wouldn’t be my family. You would be my lady.”
That’s when things went sideways. The Brotherhood Without Banners immediately sold Gendry to Melisandre in exchange for gold. (Her interest was piqued because of his king’s blood, of course.) Melisandre then took him to Dragonstone — back when it was Stannis Baratheon’s domain — and conducted a weird sex magic experiment on him.
Post creepy sex magic, Melisandre and Stannis planned to kill Gendry, but ultimate Westeros wingman Davos did him a solid and rescued him. He freed Gendry from the Dragonstone dungeon, led him out to the beach, put him in a row boat … and Gendry hadn’t been seen since.
In the ensuing four seasons, his absence has become a joke among the fans. Had he fallen overboard and drowned offscreen? Been abducted by mermaids? Rowed the wrong way and ended up in the Iron Islands, embracing life as a pirate? Established a floating clothing store in the sea, where Euron Greyjoy re-stocked his wardrobe between Seasons 6 and 7?
Even actor Joe Dempsie got in on the joke, periodically tweeting about “still rowin’” several seasons later.
But, at last, that question has been answered in “Eastwatch.” His rowing trip took him full circle, right back to where he started: working as a blacksmith in King’s Landing.
The major difference now is that he knows he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard (and he’s probably more wary of Red Priests and traveling soldiers than he was before). He’s also made himself a handy warhammer just like his father used to have — and seems to have inherited his battle skills.
When the viewer met King Robert Baratheon in Season 1, he was out of shape and past his prime. But in his heyday he was a legendary warrior and killed Jon’s real father, Rhaegar Targaryen, who was no slouch at fighting himself.
It remain to be seen whether Gendry’s return is of political importance. If he somehow gets his bastard status legitimized, he technically has a claim to the Iron Throne.
It also remains to be seen whether he’ll tell Jon about his time on the road with Arya — or whether in the ultimate shocking twist Arya will end up with him in a somewhat happy ending.
But, at the very least, welcome back, Gendry! It’s literally been years.