Usually, “Game of Thrones” episodes leave fans wanting more, as soon as possible. After last week’s mind-melting trauma, however, the week between episodes felt like a much-needed break so we could process our grief for Hodor while figuring out how this whole time travel thing is going to work. Oh, and don’t forget all the “Hold the door” memes we shared.
But back to pressing matters, even though this week’s episode ultimately feels like a deep breath before the big plunge coming down the home stretch of season 6. It appears as though Bran is stuck in psychic time space. He’s zipping through the past, from when he was pushed from the tower at Winterfell to even the Mad King Aerys yelling “BURN THEM ALL!” in the Red Keep, before the big war that started everything. He wakes just in time for the wights to show up and attack, only for a mysterious cloaked rider to show up and cut down all the zombies. The rider looks suspiciously like Benjen Stark, who, in season 1, brought Jon Snow to join the Night’s Watch. Benjen has been missing since early that season.
Before that mystery is fully resolved, though, the show cuts back to Samwell Tarly, Gilly and Little Sam as they ride to meet Sam’s father, the dreaded Randyll. The last time Sam was home, he wasn’t treated so well, so it’s an understatement to say that Sam is pretty nervous. The Night’s Watchman has a cover story in mind: Little Sam is his son, and Gilly is a gal he met up North. She can’t be a Wildling, though. Randyll Tarly hates Wildlings. Sam’s mother and sister give them a warm welcome, sure, and Gilly is blown away by it all. But what’s Randyll going to say? And what is the importance of this story line, anyway? Is it just a set up for something horrifying? Here’s hoping Little Sam is one of the young ones that actually make it through this series unscathed.
When it comes time for dinner, Sam and Gilly put on their best appearances, but Randyll gives them the stink eye. The old man isn’t too pleased to hear that Sam isn’t even good at hunting squirrels and rabbits. Nor is he happy to see Sam opt to take more bread. “Not fat enough already?” he tells the young man. “I thought the Night’s Watch might make a man out of you,” he piles on, clearly implying that, no, Sam isn’t measuring up after all. Gilly sticks up for him, though, telling the Tarlys that Sam has killed both a White Walker and a Thenn. Unfortunately, she also reveals that she is from north of the Wall. Randyll doesn’t care for hosting a Wildling in his hall, so an awkward dinner party becomes threatening. The ladies split, and Randyll lays down the law: Gilly will stay on to work in the kitchens, and Little Sam will be raised there. Sam is only allowed to spend one more night there, though.
On second thought, Sam isn’t going to take it, anymore. He comes back for Gilly and Little Sam, and they split, but not before Sam grabs Heartsbane, the family sword. Randyll will try to take it back, but Sam now welcomes it. Is Sam tempting fate?
In King’s Landing, Tommen and the High Sparrow talk over Margaery’s penance. The holy man tries to assuage the young king’s fears by suggesting that the common folk would be more forgiving of Margaery than they were of Cersei. The queen is an ace at public relations, after all, while the queen mother has arguably the worst reputation in all of Westeros. Well, except for maybe Ramsay Bolton.
Finally, Tommen gets to meet his wife, and Margaery starts telling the boy about how she’s been swayed by the High Sparrow’s. “I’ve had lots of time to thinking about how I was good at seeming good,” she says, when Tommen insists she was actually a good person. “It’s such a relief to let go of those lies.” When it comes to her brother, Loras, she insists that the young man will also have to atone. Is she playing a bigger game here?
In Braavos, we catch up with Arya, who is back watching the play that satirizes the skullduggery in King’s Landing. Lady Crane, her intended target, gives an impassioned monologue (as Cersei), and it appears to play on the young would-be assassin’s sense of pity. If she truly is No One, it won’t matter. Backstage, she tips the poison into Lady Crane’s rum, and on the way out, the star herself bumps into her. The target becomes even more human, and the older woman sees a potential new player in the troupe. Acting is another form of facelessness, so it would make sense. Arya will be acting for the rest of her life if she becomes a Faceless Man. Arya even gives Lady Crane advice about rewriting that final monologue, suggesting she adds in a touch of murderous rage.
Now comes time for the suspense. As the acting troupe starts kvetching, Lady Crane oh-so-perilously comes close to drinking the poison, but Arya pops in at the last second to smack the cup away. That’s it for being No One. Too bad for her that the Waif was there to witness it. Now the spiteful older girl has orders to kill Arya. The young Stark recovers her sword, Needle, and the chase is on. Will Arya’s face become part of the wall below the House of Black and White?
If you’re into Game Of Thrones, we recommend that you check out our Game Of Thrones section here on the blog.
From the dramatic version of King’s Landing to the real one, Jaime Lannister meets up with Mace Tyrell and his forces in a bid to confront the High Sparrow and his zealots as they begin to initiate Margaery’s public penance. Even Lady Olenna, the Queen of Thorns, is there to witness it all. It’s one of the many showdowns fans have been waiting for. The High Sparrow is unbowed, but Jaime isn’t going to listen it. “Every last Sparrow will die before Margaery Tyrell walks down that street,” the lord commander of the Kingsguard says. The High Sparrow pushes back, and just as it looks like there’s going to be an explosion of violence, the holy man declares there will be no Walk of Atonement. Instead, the Sparrow says, she has atoned by bringing in a convert: King Tommen himself, who is flanked by the other members of the Kingsguard. A new alliance between the crown and the faith is forged, and it looks like Jaime and Cersei’s plan has gone poof. “What’s happening?” Mace demands. “He’s beaten us!” Olenna admits.
Before the Iron Throne, Jaime is stripped of his rank as head of the Kingsguard, and Tommen won’t listen to him, at all. Jaime will have to serve the crown another way: to go help the Freys take back Riverrun. He doesn’t want to do it, though. He wants to destroy the Sparrows with Bronn’s help. (Remember our favorite sellsword, Bronn?) But Cersei talks him out of it, and tells him that he needs to rally the Lannister armies. She’ll have the Mountain to stand for her, so he should go and demonstrate their strength.
In the riverlands, Walder Frey holds court with his inept sons, who have lost Riverrun, the Tully stronghold, to Brynden Tully, aka the Blackfish. Walder wants results, and that means using Lord Edmure Tully as leverage. Poor Lord Edmure, still in the Freys’ dungeons ever since the Red Wedding.
Back north of the Wall, Bran and Meera learn of their hero’s true identity. It is indeed Benjen Stark, Bran’s long-lost uncle. He had been stabbed by the White Walkers and was going to die, but the Children of the Forest saved him by stabbing him with a shard of dragonglass. Oh, and it’s official now: Bran is the new Three-Eyed Raven. Benjen insists he’ll be ready once the Night King makes his play to destroy the realm of men. Bran isn’t so confident, though.
Over in Essos, Daenerys leads her Khalasar and ponders how many ships she’ll need to sail to Westeros. A thousand, easy, says Daario, but something distracts the queen. Turns out it is none other than her largest dragon, Drogon, whom she rides, triumphantly into their presence. Drogon is bigger than ever, and she uses the dragon-bully pulpit to coax all of her Dothraki warriors to be her blood riders as they seek to take Westeros in her name. It’s a rousing scene. There is no big twist, no complicated plot or character development. Just the Mother of Dragons getting ready for the war to end all wars.