If I asked you to think of the most influential still-living characters in Game of Thrones, you'd probably come up with names like Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark, and Jon Snow. But there are some lesser-known names out there who would actually change things up quite a bit if they were to get the axe. For example, have you ever thought about how Game of Thrones would be different if Samwell Tarly had died? I'm guessing probably not, because Sam's name doesn't typically come to mind unless the question is, "which GoT character is most likely to get married to a library?" But you know what? His name should come to mind. He's actually played a surprisingly large role in getting the plot to where it finds itself today, for one big reason — dragonglass.
After the Battle of the Fist of the First Men, and after the surviving members of the Night's Watch fled from Craster's Keep, it was Samwell Tarly who was confronted by a White Walker, and who unthinkingly reached out to stab it with a shard of dragonglass. Given that there were other members of the company who also had dragonglass in their possession, after the discovery of the cache of the mysterious weapons along the route, you might think that anyone would have responded as Sam did made the dragonglass discovery. But I disagree. For one thing, he was defending Gilly and her baby, which triggered a reflexive attack that I don't think would have happened for the other men, exhausted and confused as they were by the events of their journey. I think it was an instinctive move unique to the fiercely loyal Sam, and he's the only one who could've made it.
And, of course, if Sam had frozen up in that instance, or stabbed the creature with something else at hand, he would never have seen his enemy shatter into ice as soon as the dragonglass entered the White Walker's body. I'm sure the rest of the Crows wouldn't have counted it as a devastating loss if one more member of their dwindling crew — and an awkward, unskilled one at that — had fallen victim to the undead enemy. But that's only because they didn't have the whole picture, part of which was the fact that, of all the men present, Sam was the most likely to have his curiosity piqued by the effects of the dragonglass.
As soon as he returned to Castle Black, he dove into research on the glassy substance, something that I don't think would have occurred to other members of the Night's Watch. More than anyone else, Sam alone was perfectly positioned for this discovery. He had a vested interest in protecting Gilly's baby, whom the Walker was attempting to attack, he had a dragonglass dagger in his possession, and then he had enough interest, and, more importantly, the access to the library, to look deeper into what might have caused the destruction of his undead attacker.
What we as an audience know now, going into Season 7 and what the Night's Watch is trying to convince the rest of Westeros of, is that they're poised on the brink of outright war, between darkness and light, good and evil, life and death. And, as the Night's King prepares to take on Jon Snow and the rest of the world braces for impact, literally the only thing that's been proven to have any effect on this enemy is dragonglass. Without it, those south of the Wall would be completely defenseless against the approaching threat, instead of just mostly defenseless, and that's all thanks to Samwell Tarly. If he hadn't survived the trek home after that infamous battle, and had met the same fate as so many of his cohorts, then there would be no hope for Westeros right now.
So literally the only reason we're holding on by a thread is good ol' Samwell Tarly. We should all bear that in mind the next time we feel inclined to laugh off his relevance on the show. Gilly gets it; the rest of us just need to catch up.
Images: HBO; Giphy (2)