If you've been a fan of Game of Thrones for any length of time, you've probably heard and/or read about the prophecy of Azor Ahai, a legendary hero meant to return from death to save the fantasy land of Westeros from the monstrous White Walkers. You may have also heard the intertwined prophecy of The Prince That Was Promised, another (the same?) figure, who will also save the Seven Kingdoms. And if you watched the most recent episode of Thrones, after seven seasons it's finally clear who the prophecies are referring to: Hot Pie.
The portly baker played by Ben Hawkey made a surprise return to the show this past week after being absent since Season 4's "Mockingbird," the same week that Melisandre (Carice van Houten) returned to coincidentally recap the dual prophecies. Previously, the red priestess had thought Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) was the Prince (who, in her mind, is the same as Azor Ahai). He died though, so oops on that guess.
This week, she confronted Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) with the info, now that she believes the resurrected Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is the L'il Prince. And Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) dropped another surprising bit of info, that the word in the prophecy used for Prince actually has interchangeable genders, meaning it could indicate either prince, or princess. In the context of the scene, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Daenerys is actually Azor Ahai reborn. You're wrong. It's Hot Pie.
Let's review the prophecy from the books, shall we?
"When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone."
It's no coincidence that Hot Pie returned the same episode as the prophecy, so let's break it down. First, he's a baker. What do bakers work in? Kitchens, baking bread. And what comes out of bread ovens? Smoke, and bakers bake with salt. Hot Pie was lost, scared, traveling with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) before settling into his new life as a baker. When we catch up with him at the Inn at the Crossroads, he finally seems settled and happy. Reborn amidst smoke and salt, if you will.
The "dragons out of stone" bit is a little trickier, because Hot Pie is most famous for making Stark-wolf shaped breads. But the first one he made for Arya, back in Season 3's "Walk of Punishment," was misshapen and strange: She notes that the tail looks like a head, meaning the bread has two heads. This ties into ANOTHER prophecy, that "the dragon has three heads," which many take to indicate Daenerys and two others will ride her three dragons to stop the White Walkers. It's not too much of a stretch to guess that — as Hot Pie perfected his recipe in the years since he last saw Arya — that he's figured out how to make an additional head, meaning his wolf bread was really dragon bread the whole time. 2+1=3, in case you weren't aware.
Oh, and he's baking things in a stone oven, so there's your dragons out of stone.
We've got one more crucial key though, and that's Missandei's line about gender confusion. You're meant to think she's talking about Daenerys, but that's a misdirection. That's like a magician asking you to look at the explosion in his right hand, while the real trick is happening in his left hand. Who else gets confused about genders in the episode? Hot Pie, who tells Arya he can't believe he didn't realize she was a girl all those years ago (she was pretending to be a boy so no one would figure out she was a Stark and kill her), because she's so pretty. But he still also calls her Arry, her boy name, despite knowing she's a girl.
Hmmm, someone who doesn't know the difference between a Prince and a Princess? Sounds like Azor Ahai to me.
But wait, you say, what about the first part of the prophecy? This is where a throwaway line from Hot Pie becomes important. Arya tells him how delicious his bread is, and he mentions that's because he browns his butter first — adding that not many people take the time to do that. I don't know how much you know about browning butter, but as you heat it, the butterfat and milk solids separate, as the solids sink to the bottom of the pan and begin to brown. Literally, the butter bleeds out part of its basic makeup, and darkness gathers. We can also definitely assume it's "Red Star" brand butter, so that covers that.
Not only that, but Hot Pie is giving us a real clue to his identity when he says that not too many people take the time to do this — just like many people wouldn't take the time to write a nine hundred plus words about why a random minor character on Game of Thrones is going to save everyone. And that's the real key, right? Melisandre has been repeatedly wrong about the identity of Azor Ahai. And though plenty of characters could step up, Thrones has never been about the straightforward "chosen one" myth. Ultimately it needs to be about all of Westeros — not one awesome dude with a flaming sword — stepping up to save themselves. Seven Kingdoms working as one, instead of bitterly fighting each other. All the time and energy spent talking about Azor Ahai, and the Prince That Was Promised is a distraction, a misdirection to point you away from the real solution; one that, unlike the focus one hero, is more true to the characters and themes of the show.
And anyway, Gendry is Azor Ahai, everybody knows that.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.