Definitely hard for the show to live up to the levels of greatness established by last week’s ‘The Door,’ but this week still delivered some solid moments, did not kill any major characters (a first for this season), and set the stage for some interesting episodes down the line.
Jumping in, we start with Bran’s storyline, where Meera is dragging him away from the cave and Hodor’s sacrifice, the woman terrified and basically alone as Bran is still warging out while she is dragging him, stuck in some kind of vision/time loop (somehow suggesting he is downloading memories and facts left for him by the Three-eyed Raven). The visions are fascinating as they not only include highlights from the show’s 6 seasons (with many scenes and storylines Bran the character was not privy to knowing), but also a lot of new scenes heard about but never seen, such as the Mad King, his proclamations, and Jaime Lannister’s betrayal of the Mad King. Meera meanwhile, finally sees Bran awaken, and they realize that they are stuck in a tree root, and worse news, the Wights have caught up to them. Luckily, a hooded man on horseback arrives and drives away the first wave of White Walkers, and then takes both Meera and Bran on his horse to escape the rest. Later they make camp, and we learn the man with Cold Hands (book readers will understand) is actually Benjen Stark, a man we have not seen since the third episode of season 1. He explains that he was sent with a group of Night’s Watchmen into the North and they were ambushed by White Walkers, and Benjen was killed. However, before he fully turned into a walker himself, the Children of the Forest saved him by inserting dragon glass into his heart, thus making him another supernatural soldier in the war against the White Walkers. He had been summoned by the Three-Eyed Raven to help Bran shortly before their attack on the cave (meaning the Raven clearly knew time was short), and Benjen is now tasking Bran with going to Castle Black and helping the Night’s Watch defend against an impending attack by the White Walkers.
Meanwhile, Sam, Gilly and little Sam have finally arrived at Horn Hill, and Gilly is fascinated by all the greenery surrounding Sam’s home, and how kind and welcoming Sam’s mother and sister have been. Sam does warn her about his father, though, and tells her not to admit that she is a wildling, as his dad hates wildlings. And they have to pretend little Sam is Sam’s actual son in order to convince his dad to let them stay. Later, after Gilly has been dressed up for dinner (though she looks uncomfortable with her hair done and fancy clothes, she really is beautiful), the family convenes around the dinner table, and we meet Sam’s brother Dickon, who also seems to be rather nice and welcoming. The problem, as expected, is that Sam’s father went to the same parenting school as Tywin Lannister and Walder Frey, and is a terrible person. He immediately starts in on Sam being fat, deduces that Gilly is a wildling when she tries to defend Sam, and banishes Sam from the house once more, though he says little Sam can stay, as can Gilly, though she will be forced to work as a servant in the kitchen. Later that night Sam prepares to leave and says a mournful goodbye to Gilly, who is willing to do whatever Sam asks because she trusts him. However, he cannot bring himself to leave his family behind, so they escape in the middle of the night, with Sam also stopping to steal the Valyrian steel sword that belongs to his father, knowing that it could come in handy against White Walkers.
In Braavos, Arya continues to scout her target, watching the play yet again and enjoying the moments when Joffrey dies a little too much, as she catches the eye of the female lead actress who she is supposed to kill. Poison in hand, Arya makes her way backstage while the players are taking bows and applause, and she poisons the rum of the lead actress, but she is not quick enough as the actress finds Arya backstage, and starts a conversation with her. She says she too enjoyed the plays in her youth, and she left family and home to join the playwrights as a young woman, hinting that Arya could join them too as her face is expressive and she seems the type who can play a number of characters. Arya excuses herself and leaves so the woman can drink her poison and die, but at the last moment returns and knocks the poison out of the woman’s hand, and comments that she should be careful, as her understudy wants to kill her. Unfortunately for Arya, the Waif witnesses the whole thing, and reports it back to Jaqen, who finally (we think) gives the Waif permission to kill Arya. Arya, sensing her doom, reclaims Needle from its hiding spot, and prepares herself for the consequences of her actions.
Back in King’s Landing, Tommen has another private chat with the High Sparrow, who allows him to speak with Margaery, who seems as though she is fully converted to the Sparrow’s way of thinking (but maybe not, she is a crafty one, and she is just trying to protect Loras). Tommen knows she is still concerned for her brother, and seems very surprised by her supposed transformation. Later, Jaime and Mace Tyrell (who might be the worst motivational speaker on the planet) approach the Sept where Margaery is about to start her walk of shame, followed by the Tyrell soldiers who are willing and ready to kill all the Sparrows. Only problem, the High Sparrow says Margaery will not be taking the Walk of Shame, because a new alliance between the Crown and the Church has been established, and then out steps Tommen and his Kingsguard in full support of the Sparrow, the young man clearly having been swayed by Margaery, who in turned was swayed by Loras. The High Sparrow played it all masterfully, as Lady Olenna realizes from the head of the Tyrell army below. Later, Tommen removes Jaime from the Kingsguard for daring to act against the church and declares he will send the man to Riverrun to take back the castle. Jaime is pissed and wants to kill the High Sparrow, and says so later in a drunken rage to Cersei, who councils him to be patient, do his duty at Riverrun, as their vengeance will come in time.
Meanwhile at the Twins, home of the Frey family, Lord Frey is pissed off that they lost Riverrun, as that was their boon for allowing the Red Wedding to happen. He decides to send in his own sons to take back the castle that they lost, even though they claim they do not have the forces to do so against the Blackfish. Frey has a plan though, and pulls out Edmund Tully (the groom from the Red Wedding and family to the Blackfish) and says they will use him as leverage to get the Blackfish to back down.
Lastly, we have Dany leading her Dothraki horde back to Mereen, pausing when she senses a familiar presence nearby. She says she will be right back and gallops off on her horse, and returns a few minutes later riding Drogon (what happened to the horse? Did Drogon get a snack?). She lands and delivers an epic and inspiring speech to her new troops, asking them to ride with her to Westeros and take back the seven kingdoms, which they all enthusiastically agree to, though I’m sure the terrifying dragon looking at them definitely made them even more so believers in Dany’s cause. Now all she needs is about 1,000 ships (which just so happens to be the number of ships the new king of the Iron Islands wants to make) in order to get her troops to Westeros.
GAME OF THEORIES:
– Will Arya join up with the playwrights as she escapes Braavos? They could be a good cover for her
– The new cool and patient Cersei is kind of terrifying, before at least with her passion and anger we knew she could make some hasty mistakes. Now she is much more calculating.
– Is there a chance that Bran (or the Three-Eyed Raven) might be partially responsible for the insanity of the Mad King?
Felt very much like a bridge/ set-up episode, but the show needed that following all these weeks of action and death, and it was great seeing more dots get connected as we finally learned what happened to Benjen Stark and how he fits into the wider world. I would very much like to see how Bran will be able to fight the Night King and his hordes, but that question may not get answered till this season’s finale. See you back here next week!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.