Writers: Bryan Cogman.
Directors: Jack Bender.
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gwendoline Christie, et al.
Synopsis: An old foe comes back into the picture. Gilly meets Sam’s family. Arya faces a difficult choice. Jaime faces off against the High Sparrow.
After the absolute shit-storm that we left Bran, Meera and Hodor with at the end of ‘The Door,’ along with a whole load of heartbreak, I was wary of one of two possible scenarios that would play out. The first is that we wouldn’t see them for a few episodes, and would be left completely uninformed as to their fates. It wouldn’t be the first time that Game of Thrones has done this, but thankfully, due to the traction and pacing of this particular series, it seemed unlikely. The second scenario was that this episode would start with a direct follow-up, meaning Bran, Meera and Hodor are the first ones we would see, and I was glad to see that to be the case.* In a swift, cool pursuit, the onslaught of wights are on the tail of ‘The Little Warg that Could,’ and his driver, Meera, after leaving our favourite half-giant at the cave.
First of all, whether Hodor is actually dead remains to be seen – for a show that loves to make a point out of a character’s death, I feel Hodor’s situation was far too ambiguous to be explicitly absolute. There was no gratuitous violence, and last we saw of him, his face had been clawed, and he had been seemingly stabbed in the abdomen. Numerous characters throughout the series have sustained far worse and still live to tell the tale. What we have to ask ourselves is this: Were the show-runners simply being considerate by not showing him getting mauled to death? Or, is this ambiguity intentional – and we will see him return? Six seasons into Game of Thrones, and I think we’ve all come far enough to realise there is no use hoping for a character, no – my uncertainty is simply rooted in the facts. He is half-giant after all.
Back to the events at hand, though! Bran experiences a flurry of visions, still seemingly trapped in his warg-state, and Meera is quickly becoming exhausted. Things aren’t looking good when a stranger appears out of the bittered trees of the far-North. Turns out, little Olly was half-right when he intentionally lied to lure Jon Snow to his assassination, Uncle Benjen IS still alive. Or is he? After saving them both from the wights, he pulls his hood back and it’s confirmed – Uncle Benjen has returned. However, he isn’t how we remember him, having been brought back from the brink of White Walker Syndrome by the Children of the Forest, he seems permanently stuck between Man and White Walker, or as readers of the books know him – Coldhands. He explains that Bran – the new Three Eyed Raven – called for him in his warg-state, and that he must learn to control his powers before the Night King comes for them all. Knew that little warg could.
(* – Two out of three ain’t bad.)
Meanwhile, we’re on the road with Sam, Little Sam and Gilly as they approach Sam’s birthplace, Horn Hill – the home of House Tarley. It’s here we get a real look into the life that Sam led before he became a Watcher, and his relationship with his family. Off the bat, Sam tells Gilly that they must lie to his family about Little Sam – stating that he is Sam’s son – and that she cannot identify as a Wildling, due to his father’s – Randyll – hatred of them. When they arrive, they are all welcomed – and rather warmly – by Melessa and Talla, Sam’s mother and sister, respectively. They both are excitable to meet Gilly and Little Sam, and very convincingly portray the look of joyous Grandmother and Aunt. Whilst watching this, I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly what I had hoped Sam’s family would be like, loving, encouraging and warm. Then, we meet Randyll for the first time during dinner. At first, it’s an awkward sight, with estranged small-talk and a tension in the air that might portray a dysfunctional familial unit. The silence is soon broken though, albeit only by the ignorance of Sam, and insults fly soon after as Randyll’s obvious disapproval and disgust for Sam solidify before us. He notes that Sam’s nose is always buried in the pages of books that tell of men far greater than he’ll ever be, directs insults at his weight, and lack of prowess on the battlefield, and pointing out how sending him to the Wall failed to make him into a man.
Before long, Gilly – and her fiery penchant for doing the right thing – defends Sam’s honour, pointing out the fact he killed a Thenn and a White Walker. Dickon – Sam’s brother – scoffs, stating there’s no such thing, but Gilly tells them all she witnessed it herself past the Wall. Obviously, Randyll has something to say at the sudden revelation of Gilly’s heritage. His disgust seems to rival, and perhaps even surpass that of his Son prior to finding out, and ashamed by her husband’s action, Melessa and Talla leave the room, taking Gilly with them. Randyll turns to Sam, noting that Gilly and Little Sam can both stay at Horn Hill, but he can never come back again. In a semi-emotional farewell, Sam goes to Gilly’s room, and they kiss, but he quickly changes his mind after leaving and decides to bring them both with him to the Citadel. Sam returns to the dining hall, where he takes the Valyrian steel sword – Heartsbane – that has been passed down through his family. When Gilly asks whether his father will come for it, he states, ‘he can bloody well try.’ THIS is the Sam we want to see.
Next, we open to strangely alienated versions of King Tommen and Queen Margaery, though not before Tommen and the High Sparrow discuss and prepare for the inevitability of Margaery’s walk of atonement. Tommen is clearly worried for her, and sincerely believes – it seems – that he must abide by the laws of the Gods, and is overjoyed when the High Sparrow offers to take him to see the Queen. It’s here that Margaery – who, after talking with her brother in the previous episode – may be acting extremely well, that she has adopted the Faith of the Seven and is fully prepared to repent her sins.
Later, we cut to Jaime and the flamboyantly-equipped Mace Tyrell; leading the Tyrell army through King’s Landing to Margaery, who is awaiting judgement and the commencement of the walk of atonement. The High Sparrow speaks to the people of King’s Landing, who oddly – are all for the reunification of what is essentially the Westerosi church and state, but I ask: If it worked before, why did it ever stop? It’s implied that Westeros has fallen ill and has lost Faith in the Seven, but clearly that must have been for a reason. I for one would like to see and understand the potential implications of a mass (re)indoctrination of religious beliefs across Westeros. Makes me wonder if their Gods work similarly to those in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Regardless, Jaime orders the High Sparrow to release Margaery and Loras, threatening to end the Faith Militant in that very moment. In a bizarre twist of events – and in a move that clearly asserts The High Sparrow as a very intelligent political player – he declares that Margaery will not have to perform a walk of atonement because she has already converted another to the Faith of the Seven – King Tommen, who proceeds to announce the aforementioned reunification of the Faith and the Crown.
Apparently, Tommen’s first act of a newly conjoined holy kingdom is to relieve Jaime of his position and duties as the Kingsguard. Later, Jaime laments to Cersei and reveals to her (and us) that his orders are to combat the threat that Blackfish presents in Riverrun and to assist Walder Frey. Jaime is clearly disgruntled at the circumstances, as he would rather storm the Great Sept of Baelor and massacre the Faith Militant, but Cersei tells him to go to Riverrun instead, because staying and combating the forces in King’s Landing would result in a pointless death. Long overdue is a bit of Lannister lovin’ as the two start to consummate their shared anger and tolerance – expected, considering this season’s been a little low on incest. (Not that we forget the very uncomfortable circumstances of their relationship last season)
We cut to Arya as she is once again watching Lady Crane perform in the play, and the events that play out within it, regardless of accuracy. Before the play’s last act, she sneaks backstage in an attempt to poison Lady Crane’s rum, and is half-caught leaving when she is mistaken for what I assume to be a coat-girl. Attempting to sneak off again, Lady Crane notices her and asks her who she is, and whether she has paid for the play, noting she has seen her in the audience earlier in the week. Their conversation quickly turns into a personal one, as they talk of Lady Crane’s early life and flirts dangerously close to discussing the life that Arya lead before she became ‘No One.’ Arya realises this, of course, and leaves before she compromises her cover, and perhaps even her own intentions.
A short while later however, Arya – listening in after apparently leaving, decidedly stops Lady Crane from drinking the poisoned rum, warning her that one of the other actresses – Bianca – wants her dead. The Waif – who spies on her in order to see whether or not Arya would follow through with it – returns to tell Jaqen H’ghar of Arya’s failure. It’s here that an unfortunately realisation comes to pass. Just as we discovered last episode, where it was implied that if Arya failed this final opportunity given to her from the Many-faced God, she would die, Jaqen gives Waif permission to ensure that Arya dies, provided she doesn’t suffer. Whilst this conversation is occurring though, Arya seemingly understands the implications of her actions, and goes to retrieve Needle from the rocks where she had hidden it upon first arriving at the House of Black and White.
Clearly a couple of things are going to play out from this. Most notably, Arya is in all likelihood going to attempt to try to slay whoever she believes is coming to kill her, and in a bout of poetic justice, she will probably succeed in killing Waif – who has been beating on her all season. Next, retrieving Needle and failing to kill Lady Crane is a clear indication that Arya is not yet ready to turn her back on herself and her past, which means that she may soon be leaving Braavos and return to one -or more – of her family members.
In the first appearance of the season, we’re very briefly reintroduced to Lord Walder Frey, who is perhaps now one of the most hated characters still alive in Game of Thrones after the events of The Red Wedding. Frey receives word that Riverrun has been retaken by Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully, and as such berates his sons Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers, who previously held the castle, and commands them to retake it immediately. We do however, learn that this event was possible because several Riverlords, including House Mallister and Blackwood have risen against the Freys and the Brotherhood Without Banners are intercepting their supply runs and their various encampments.
In an eerily calm endeavour, Walder Frey sends for Edmure Tully, who has been held captive since the events of The Red Wedding, and together with the reminders of the death they bestowed upon the Stark family, he orders his men to retake Riverrun.
Obviously there are several fairly new – and familiar – elements being foreshadowed for potential involvement in the series here, such as the reintroduction of the Brotherhood Without Banners – by name – who, if you don’t remember, was led by Beric Dondarrion, the man who has been restored to life time and time again by the Lord of Light. Similarly, we may be seeing more of Houses Mallister and Blackwood in the Battle of Bastards, one of the upcoming episodes – where presumably, Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton finally declare war upon one another.
Finally, we return to the Dothraki Sea, though only for a few moments, as we see Daenerys discussing with Daario as to how many ships she will need to cross the Narrow Sea with her new khalasar and their horses, the Unsullied, and the Second Sons. Daario estimates that at least 1,000 ships will be needed for all of her followers and she indicates that she will get her ships one way or another. This obviously plays into the plan that Euron Greyjoy seeks to employ.
As Daenerys looks into the distance, she sees huge gusts of winds and presumably, Drogon soaring across the lands. She commands the Dothraki and Daario to stay present, and that she will ride out alone. Soon after, Daenerys returns atop an extremely powerful looking Drogon with a wonderfully exhilarating score to match, and speaking Dothraki states that she does not require three blood riders, for all the Dothraki are her blood riders, and that with her, they will all cross the Narrow Sea to conquer Westeros – just as Khal Drogo promised her.
We want to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to discuss with us, and enjoy the seven sleeps between this episode and the next but remember, the night is dark and full of terrors. Until next time.
Game Of Thrones airs on HBO in North America, and Sky Atlantic in the UK and Ireland.