This episode contained a lot of interesting things for book readers who want a bit of closure, and also for show watchers who just want to know what happens with their favourites already.
Spoiler warning: Spoilers everywhere! Please watch the episode before reading this recap.
We begin with my favourite opening title sequence – Pyke and the Iron Islands are still in the sequence as of last episode, but we’ve also added Vaes Dothrak, home of the Dothraki! This episode’s director is Daniel Sackheim, who hasn’t directed an episode of Game of Thrones before. Nice to get some new blood in.
We begin the episode straight where we left off from last episode – Davos witnesses Jon Snow having woken up, alive and breathing after being dead since the end of season five. Which could be a couple of days to a week in Thrones time. Jon sits up and appears to hyperventilate and have a post-traumatic stress response upon waking up, remembering that he was stabbed and killed. Melisandre enters and sees her resurrection magic worked and is actually shocked. Davos asks what Jon remembers, and he only remembers being stabbed by a bunch of dicks who used to be his friends. Melisandre asks what Jon saw in the afterlife and he saw nothing. Melisandre now seems to think that Jon is the Prince who was Promised (also named Azor Ahai) according to her faith, especially since Stannis is now dead, and has been mentioned as being dead in every episode of this season thus far. This has been a theory online since the books came out so it’s nice to get some movement towards figuring it all out. Davos presses Jon to keep on keeping on, even after waking up from being dead. Jon leaves his room and all the Night’s Watch come out to see him; Tormund Giantsbane says the Night’s Watch think he might be a god, and then makes a penis joke, haha, great. Sarcasm.
I’m still pretty psyched about this element of the story because it marks at least one storyline where we get some closure from the books instead of stuff that’s made up or ruined by the executive producers. Also, Davos is the best, and probably my favourite character out of all of them. I am really happy that he hasn’t been killed off thus far.
Then, Jon’s BFF Sam Tarly, his girlfriend Gilly and her son Little Sam are off to Oldtown together so that Sam can learn to be a maester (i.e. basically a doctor slash librarian) at the Citadel. It’s the first time we’ve seen Sam and Gilly this season. Sam is super sick at sea and throwing up, and Gilly is excited to go to Oldtown but Sam tells her that she can’t come to the Citadel with him. Instead, Gilly will be going to stay with Sam’s family at Horn Hill, who are generally nice except for his dad. Gilly is understandably upset because Sam said they would go everywhere together, but Sam just wants Gilly to be safe, which Gilly understands. She also references Sam as the father of her son, which is nice (except that he isn’t).
This was a nice moment with Sam and Gilly, as most of them are, but I found myself wishing that we could move things along a bit. It’s interesting because in the books, Gilly is the one who’s sick at sea and feeling depressed and sorry for herself, and Sam is the one who takes care of her. From memory as well, this is the part in the books where she and Sam have sex, instead of getting together after Sam stands up for her against some rogue Night’s Watchmen with bad intentions. It’s interesting how the show chooses to reframe some things, but I digress.
Then we have a scene that I’ve been looking forward to since its existence was spoiled by some people who took photos of the production taking place. It’s Bran and the Three Eyed Raven (TER) – and it’s a flashback to a certain moment at the Tower of Joy. The sound is muffled as if we’re listening through time. Immediately we note someone in Targaryen armour – which means it must be a flashback because the only Targaryen left is Daenerys (or is she? Some say perhaps not!), and she has no Westerosi troops whatsoever. Then we see young Ned Stark and Howland Reed, the father of Bran’s friend Meera, who approach a soldier named Ser Arthur Dayne, who is protecting the Tower. Ned utters the iconic line from the books, “I looked for you on the Trident”, where his friend the now dead King Robert Baratheon (dead in season one thanks to getting gored by a wild boar whilst drunk) fought and usurped the Iron Throne. Dayne wasn’t there because he’s loyal to Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, who was the king at the time before Robert Baratheon took over. Ned tells Dayne that the Mad King Aerys II is now dead. Dayne says he’s protecting the Tower, but I wonder who’s in there? Ned, Dayne, and the others all fight in a nice example of swordfighting choreography – Dayne fights with two swords which is awesome to watch but seems impractical to me.
What I loved about this scene were Bran’s interactions with the flashback. He watches on and notes he has heard the story of Ned defeating Ser Arthur Dayne a hundred times, but this isn’t how it went. In the story he heard, Ned defeats Dayne in a blaze of glory. But in reality, in the flashback, Ned loses his sword and only wins the fight when an injured Howland Reed stabs Dayne in the back. It’s a nice example of a son learning the truth about his father who he held in such high regard, and the disappointing effect of this is heartbreaking. Ned hears a scream from the Tower, and Bran wants to continue watching the flashback to see what this is, calling out to his father across time. But Bran is brought to reality by the TER and his forest children friends. Bran is pretty angry about this, but the TER tells him he can’t learn everything right now; he has to take his time (i.e. pace out the episodes properly and wait for episode five where there’s a big reveal about this flashback apparently). The TER also tells Bran that he won’t be stuck in the caves and tree roots forever, but before he can leave, he has to “learn everything” – which seems like a pretty big ask to me. I am so intrigued about where this story and the flashbacks going, and I love Max Von Sydow.
Now, Daenerys and the Dothraki are marching to Vaes Dothrak. Daenerys is met by three men who lead her to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen. Dany approaches the hall where I think she ate the stallion heart back in season one and announced to Khal Drogo and the Dothraki that she was going to give birth to a boy. She is met with a group of older women, widows of previous Khals, who strip her of her clothes and jewellery. She is asked why she never went to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen after Khal Drogo, as is expected of widows of Khals, but Dany says she had a destiny to fulfil and Seven Kingdoms to eventually conquer. Normally, Dany would be taken straight to the Temple, but because she ventured out into the world instead of going straight there, which is forbidden, the Khalar Vezhven will decide on her fate. Daenerys may not end up at the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen after all. The insinuation here is that she might be put to death perhaps. We don’t yet know what exactly the Khalar Vezhven is. This storyline is getting a bit boring for me because we all know that Jorah and Daario will come in and save the day later on in the season.
Back in Meereen, Varys is fanning himself lazily, and the lady who killed some Unsullied warriors and mercenaries who were part of the Second Sons company last season shows herself. Her name is Vala and she’s an agent of the Sons of the Harpy, and because she’s given a name we know she’ll be back later on probably. Varys suggests that she give him some information and basically threatens the life of her son, but offers them another chance at life in Pentos with some money if she gives him the information he needs. This kind of tactic worked in Westeros, but I’m not sure it will work in Meereen, where the Meereenese value their culture and traditions more than a bag of coins.
We then see Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm attempting to have a conversation which is one of the more painful scenes of the season thus far. Each scene with Tyrion this season proves to be just an exercise in giving Peter Dinklage the wittiest dialogue that the writers can come up with. Anyway, Varys arrives and lets everyone know that Vala has informed him that the Masters of Astapor and Yunkai, both cities which Daenerys conquered in season three or thereabouts, are funding the Sons of the Harpy in their quest to get rid of the Targaryen presence in Meereen. Some others in Volantis are also funding this campaign. Grey Worm suggests fighting them and re-conquering Astapor and Yunkai, but this would leave Meereen undefended. Missandei expresses a wish to fight the Masters using their own language. Tyrion calls a meeting of the Masters of Yunkai, Astapor, and the leaders of Volantis.
In King’s Landing, Qyburn is trying to be Varys 2.0 by getting little kids to be his spies and giving them sweets in order to hear the whispers of the city. After the kids eat all the candied plums they can handle, Cersei, Jaime, and big Frankenstein, Ser Robert Strong, enter the room. I could have sworn they called him Ser Robert Strong in the show, but perhaps I was mixing that up with the books as they seem to be calling him Gregor now; since his body is largely made up of that of Gregor Clegane, the Mountain who smashed Oberyn’s skull to pieces in season four. Jaime wants Gregor to smash the High Sparrow to pieces too, but then they mention something about a trial by combat in relation to Cersei’s morality trial – which has me totally getting hyped for a certain bowl that may or may not happen in the book and/or show. Please see this video for more details if you’re interested, mild book spoilers though! Meanwhile, Cersei wants Qyburn’s little birds across Westeros to make sure that anyone who speaks ill of the Lannisters is murdered post haste.
Then, at a Small Council meeting, Maester Pycelle commits the ultimate social faux pas and is caught bitching about Frankenstein Gregor Clegane when Gregor is standing right near him – awkward. There might have been a fart joke here as well. Olenna Tyrell is back in the city and wants Margaery out of jail. The ongoing banter between Olenna and Cersei is hilarious. Cersei and Jaime now sit on the Small Council, as Jaime as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and Cersei seems to just sit down because she has the support of FrankenGregor behind her. Jaime mentions that the Sand Snakes have overthrown House Martell, and have taken control of Dorne. For once I’m glad that they told us something instead of showing us because more lame Dorne stuff would have been such a waste of screentime. Ser Kevyn Lannister wants Gregor out of the room but Cersei, Jaime and FrankenGregor aren’t moving, so the rest of the Small Council just gets up and leaves in a fairly petty move. This was pretty funny. Cersei and Jaime are trying very hard to make people take them seriously.
Later, King Tommen Baratheon the First of His Name approaches the High Sparrow whilst he is praying. He looks nervous and requests that Cersei see her daughter Myrcella’s final resting place, but the High Sparrow says she can’t until she’s fully atoned for her sins. She still has to stand trial before the Faith to figure out her true guilt, despite doing the walk of shame last season. I think this is a further allusion to the fact that there may be a trial by combat happening at some point this season. The High Sparrow and Tommen have a nice conversation about Cersei having a lot of faults, but having a genuine love for Tommen that could only be sent from the gods. The High Sparrow looks like he’s pretending to be a weak old man, and I’m not buying it, but Tommen appears to show some sympathy for the High Sparrow. He’s just too nice and easily swayed. This storyline is just more evidence that faith and government should never come within a hundred feet of one another.
In Braavos, Arya is fighting and talking again; she swings in the dark at an assailant, she’s interviewed by Jaqen H’Ghar as to her identity, and is shown getting progressively better at fighting whilst blind, relying on her senses to protect herself, eventually beating the waif in combat. This is a nice montage as opposed to the repetitive beatings Arya received in the past two episodes. The music in this scene is pretty glorious as it builds. With encouragement from Jaqen, Arya drinks the water from the House of Black and White, which normally provides people with the sweet release of death. But this time, she receives her sight back. She is asked who she is, and she replies that she is no one. For once, she almost sounds convincing.
I am so psyched for Arya’s storyline now that it appears to have built some momentum through the use of a fun montage. She’s no longer blind and defenseless, so I’m really looking forward to more assassin training, and to finding out who exactly her targets will be. Arya mentions the Hound, who is named Sandor Clegane, as well as Gregor Clegane being mentioned this episode, which makes me even more hyped for a potential showdown!
In Winterfell, we return to Ramsay Bolton, who is meeting with the Umbers. The Umbers refused to pledge their banners to the Roose Bolton back in the day because he was a big old C-word; their words, not mine. A man by the name of Smalljon Umber predicts rightly that Ramsay killed his father but Ramsay’s still maintaining that Roose was poisoned by their enemies. The Umbers are angry at ex-Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Jon Snow for letting the wildlings through the Wall, because now the wildlings are on their turf and there are too many to fight. They want the Boltons’ help in protecting their lands from the wildlings. Ramsay wants them to swear fealty to House Bolton first, but Smalljon says no, they have a gift for Ramsay instead. Then, in a marvellously upsetting twist of fate, Smalljon Umber presents Ramsay with the wildling Osha and Rickon Stark – the youngest Stark son, further down the line in terms of being heir to Winterfell. They present the head of Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog, as evidence of Rickon’s identity. Upsetting! The Stark theme is heard in the background, a nostalgic reminder of a once powerful House. Ramsay believes Smalljon Umber, and welcomes Rickon home to Winterfell.
This scene is particularly upsetting because the last time we saw Rickon and Osha in probably season three, Bran had sent them off to the Umbers, saying that whilst Bran and friends (Jojen, Meera and Hodor) had to head up North to see the Three Eyed Raven, Rickon should go to the Umbers as they will protect him no matter what. The Umbers were always loyal to House Stark back in the day, initially swore fealty to Robb Stark as King in the North, and refused to bend to the Boltons. So this scene is a really sad turn of events, if it turns out that Ramsay will immediately murder Osha and Rickon (which would be a dumb move, but not entirely unlike something he would do). I am hoping that this is some kind of awesome ploy to get at the Boltons from the inside, but I never get what I want with this show.
We end this episode with Jon and Night’s Watch friends at the Wall. Jon hangs four of the men who led the attack on his life – Othell Yarwyck, Bowen Marsh, Alliser Thorne, and little Olly who can go and get wrecked since not only did he deliver the final stab to Jon’s heart, but he also killed Jon’s one true love Ygritte back in the day. Jon has a chat with each of the four men about to be hanged, and Alliser in typical fashion shows no remorse for killing Jon. He says he’s basically looking forward to a nice rest in his death, however also says that Jon will be stuck with what he’s created and will fight the wildlings’ battles for the rest of his life. Jon hangs them all, and then we see a horrible lingering shot on the hanged dead face of a child. Classy, Game of Thrones!
In my favourite part of the episode probably, Jon, having achieved what he wanted of his resurrection, gives his black cloak to good friend Dolorous Edd. Edd wonders what Jon wants him to do with it, and Jon says he could wear it or burn it, whatever. He gives Edd control of Castle Black, and states, “My watch has ended” – then leaves. Boom!
I love this – this is what book readers have been predicting since Jon got pin-cushioned in the fifth book. The oath of the Night’s Watch is that they stay Night’s Watchmen until they die. Jon has died, but he has been resurrected, so technically he is freed from his oath to the Night’s Watch. As a result, he can go and do whatever his real destiny is – something I don’t know yet. Maybe getting Winterfell back for the Starks, maybe taking the Iron Throne from someone who technically shouldn’t be there? Maybe we’ll learn something of his parentage this season that changes the game completely? Hmmmm!
This episode was a bit funny, because it felt like some pockets of faff bookended by interesting developments in the story. I’m waiting for Tyrion and Daenerys to start making stuff happen since, similar to Dorne, I’m starting to not look forward to their respective stories. Still an enjoyable episode though, and I’m really looking forward to more from that very special Tower of Joy flashback, even though we will probably have to wait a couple of episodes for that.
In any case, the trailer for the next episode looks very promising indeed. Entitled “Book of the Stranger”, it looks like it will include highlights such as: Brienne, Sansa and Pod arriving somewhere, maybe Castle Black; Littlefinger meeting with Robin Arryn who has grown up a lot since his breastfeeding days; Theon, Yara, and House Greyjoy shenanigans; Margaery appearing to repent her sins, but Cersei and Olenna wanting this really not to happen; Tyrion in Meereen; and Daenerys drama in the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen.
I rate this episode: