Full spoilers are this way…
Arya rebels, Sam’s daddy issues resurface, incest is still gross, Daenerys can control her dragons and Uncle Benjen was Coldhands all along.
“The dead don’t rest”
We open with Meera dragging Bran along as he’s sleeping (again). Jeez Bran, try to be useful or at least try to look like you feel bad about being useless. Bran’s busy warging again, or whatever it is we’re calling him travelling through time. But that’s what he’s doing, seemingly out of control, and interestingly he gets a look at events from his own life as well as his father’s beheading, Robb’s death and a look at the demise of the Mad King screaming “Burn them! Burn them all!” before his murder by Jaime Lannister. Bran snaps out of it long enough to warn Meera that the dead are upon them but before they’re overcome by wights a mysterious figure cloaked in black rides in to save the day with a sort of fire mace thing. Wait a second, that guy looks familiar. He sounds like Sean Bean. Wasn’t he in season 1 or something?
Just a thought on Bran’s visions. We get a shot of the Mad King being, well, mad. What if Bran causes this? In the same way he accidentally wargs into Hodor and causes significant psychological and neurological damage, could Bran have caused the madness of the Mad King? Just a thought.
“My father doesn’t like wildlings”
Sam has a scene confirming himself as literally the most boring person in Westeros while he and Gilly are on the way to meet the parents. Although this guy makes De Niro look like a piece of cake. Gilly, for a reason unbeknownst to me, other than pure stupidity, decides to make an awkward family reunion even more awkward by revealing herself as a wildling to Sam’s wildling-hating asshole father. Real clever. Sam gets a hell of a grilling from his dear father about how he’s ashamed of him and how he thought the Night’s Watch might make a man of him, only to be mistaken. I was hoping that Sam would stand up for himself here, but he doesn’t. He sits there and takes the abuse hurled at him and Gilly. Luckily for Sam though, his mum has balls and stands up for Gilly. It’s interesting that Sam is still obsessed with his father’s approval that he’s paralysed when around him. He’s killed a white walker but what he is still most afraid of is his father. It’s really sad, watching him sat there, taking this emotional beating. It’s well acted, too. You felt that while he hates his father and everything he still stands for, he still craves his approval.
Reluctantly, Lord Tarly allows Gilly and the baby to stay, out of respect to his wife, but banishes Sam from Horn Hill. However, Sam effectively tells his father to “Go fuck yourself” (not actually, though) and, in telling Gilly that they belong together, steals his family’s heirloom, a valerian steel sword, and runs away in the middle of the night. Good for you Sam. I mean, it seems you might have made a terrible mistake here. But good for you.
We return to Bravos, where Arya is in place to assassinate the actress she has been assigned to kill. She watches the play again and she enjoys Joffrey’s death. Funny that. What is interesting though is that she seems to feel some sympathy for Cersei. She realises that she needs the anger and the rage to avenge her family. She can’t just be a cold killer. She doesn’t go through with killing the actress. Instead, she retrieves Needle, the sword Jon had made for her, and goes on the run. Unfortunately the Waif, that weird girl who hits her with a stick a lot, is now going to try and kill her. If we can take anything from their previous encounters, I think Arya might struggle to beat her. Anyway, it’s interesting that Arya has trained for two years or whatever it is, got beaten to a pulp, been blinded, become no-one just to say “No, thanks” when she’s given a chance. It makes a lot of her journey seem a tad pointless. What has she gained from being in Bravos? Not a lot it seems at this moment in time. But it looks like she’s heading home.
“Madness has taken over this city”
King’s Landing has very nearly become interesting over the last few episodes. Cersei’s plan to overthrow the Faith Militant promised much, but delivered little this episode. Margaery is seemingly riddled with guilt about her life style and being rich and privileged while the poor suffer. She says something along the lines of “I was good at seeming to be good”. Whether this is a genuine revelation for Margaery we can only wait and see but she convinced Tommen to form an alliance with the Faith Militant and the High Sparrow. I’m not convinced Margaery has turned to religion. I think she’s probably just trying to manipulate her way out of that cell. And this is where Cersei’s plan goes to shit. The Tyrell army marches up to King’s Landing only to discover Tommen’s new union with the High Sparrow. There’s nothing they can do anymore. Tommen’s been taken in and the High Sparrow is now more powerful than ever.
For his role in the attempted coup, Jaime is stripped of his role as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and is banished from King’s Landing. Instead he’s placed at the helm of the Lannister army to retake Riverrun from the Blackfish.
“It’s a castle, not a bloody sheep!”
Here’s our first look at the Twins and the Freys for a while. Lord Frey is not particularly happy that 1) The Blackfish escaped from the Red Wedding and 2) Blackfish has retaken Riverrun from the Freys. Lord Walder Frey has an ace in the hole, however, the Blackfish’s nephew Edmure. He was the one who got married during the Red Wedding, remember? What’s also interesting about this scene is that The Brotherhood Without Banners are mentioned. We’ve not seen them for a couple of seasons but turns out they’re still busy, doing whatever it is that they do. Now I’m going to dip into a possible book spoiler here so skip ahead to the next section if you’re bothered.
Could the Brotherhood Without Banners reference be a hint towards Lady Stoneheart, the reanimated corpse of none other than Catelyn Stark, appearing at some point this season? Her body is reportedly retrieved from the Green Fork by Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria and she’s then resurrected by Lord Beric Dondarrion, who scarifies himself to bring her back to life. In coming back to life, she assumes leadership over the Brotherhood Without Banners with a mission to bring vengeance to anyone who was involved in the Red Wedding. Interestingly in A Feast for Crows, Lady Stoneheart comes across Brienne’s party and thinks she’s a traitor as she has not found Sansa as instructed and she’s also carrying the sword given to her by Jaime Lannister, which of course was forged from Ned Stark’s valerian steel blade, Ice. Stoneheart commands Brienne to kill Jaime or face death herself. Brienne refuses and faces execution but before she is killed she shouts out a word, which is unknown to the reader. It’ll be interesting to see how or if this’ll play out in the TV show. It’s certainly possible. Brienne has set off to Riverrun and that’s in the same region the Brotherhood Without Banners are operating. So, expect some variation of that meeting to happen. Or not.
Back to the episode, then.
“When I last saw you, you were a boy”
The man dressed in black, it turns out, was sent by non other than the Three Eyed Raven himself. The man tells Bran that Bran is now the Three Eyed Raven despite Bran seemingly having no idea what he’s supposed to do with that information. The man reveals himself to be long, lost Uncle Benjen Stark who went missing beyond the wall back in season 1. For the book readers, I think we’re supposed to assume that Benjen is in fact Coldhands, a mysterious figure who’s been an ally to Sam and Bran in the novels, although his true identity has been a mystery. Until now it seems. Benjen has been though some ordeal. He was stabbed by a white walker, only to be saved by the children of the forest, who stopped the white walker magic, keeping Benjen in some sort of stasis between life and death. Benjen informs Bran that the Night King is heading to the land of men and when he gets there Bran will be ready and waiting for him. I’m still not entirely sure what it is that Bran is exactly going to do. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Or maybe they won’t and everyone will die. I mean, Bran’s been pretty useless so far, right?
“I take what is mine”
Not much Daenerys this episode but she gets to steal the show with the last scene. As she rides back to Meeren with her new Dothraki army, she senses the presence of Drogon, only to disappear and reemerge seconds later riding the great dragon. Where did her horse go though? Did she feed it to the dragon? Just to really stamp her authority over the Dothraki, she delivers a Khal Drogo-esque war speech to rouse her troops. Is she finally heading to Westeros now? I feel like people on this world don’t get how long it takes to make ships. I love the way she just dismisses making a thousand ships for her army as if it’s nothing. The whole series would have ended a long time before they build a thousand ships. Maybe she might form an alliance with Euron Greyjoy after all. But he doesn’t have any ships either. Maybe not. Somebody is gonna be busy. Ship-building logistics aside, I do hope that this isn’t another false dawn for Daenerys, we’ve waited for years for her to finally make her move, lets not wait any longer.
EXCELLENT. Given that this episode focussed mainly on the storylines that have been dragging the show down over the past couple of seasons, it’s a marvel we got an episode which wasn’t terrible. With no Jon Snow and no Tyrion, this episode focusses primarily on Sam’s journey home and the events at King’s landing with major revelations from Bran and Daenerys.