This episode should have been titled Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 6 “The Return of the Books”.
We pick up right where we left off with Meera pulling Bran on his sled through the paralyzing cold woods North of the Wall. Bran is still trapped in his vision, spiraling through time without the Raven to anchor him. Some his visions include Ned Stark’s beheading, scenes of the Night King making a baby into a White Walker, scenes of Catelyn’s throat being cut at the Red Wedding and the birth of Daenerys’ Dragons.
“BURN THEM ALL!”
A dark robed decrepit old man sits on the Iron Throne with wispy white hair, presiding over tire-sized jars of brilliant green dragonfyre. The unmistakable silhouette of Jaime Lannister draws his sword and steps up to the Throne, striking down the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. The scene is spliced with Robb’s Death, the Tower of Joy and the creation of the White Walkers.
SEVEN HELLS! They showed us the Mad King! Just from the brief glimpse we know it’s him because that was his ad infinum final command before Jaime killed him. He looks a bit more mundane, believable really, than he’s been described in the books. In the books he’s supposed to be OOOOOOLLLLLLD, like Walter Donovan at the end of Last Crusade old. He’s supposed to be gaunt and frail with fingernails growing a foot at least. Not to mention the centuries of Targaryen inbreeding that seemed to come out pretty severely in him. But he certainly sounded mad in the episode!
Fascinating as this vision is, Bran and Meera are still alone in the woods and the wights are gaining on them. Boy, if only we still had HODOR! To pull Bran’s BLOODY CART! Meera collapses on Bran in grief and fear. She draws her sword to fight to her last. But some black cloaked figure on a gigantic horse rides in.
He loses a flail and the ball at the end spontaneously combusts. The wights that meet it burst into flame or are trampled under his steed’s hooves. The stranger lifts Meera and Bran onto his horse and flees.
Game of Thrones never bothered to introduce this, up until now, book exclusive character as Coldhands. But it doesn’t matter because it’s F#&%ING BENJEN STARK, Bran’s uncle! Where has he been all this time? Wandering the furthest Northern reaches beyond the Wall looking for White Walkers for the Night’s Watch. He was about to be turned but the Children of the Forest saved him? So he’s not a man, but not a White Walker?
We still don’t know how the hell Brann will use his power to stop the White Walkers. But Benjen will surely be a help.
Sam and Gilly ride a carriage to the home of house Tarly, Horn Hill, which looks pretty damn impressive. For those who might not know, House Tarly lies in the Reach near the South West corner of Westeros, making their liege lords the Tyrells. Sam and Gilly discuss their story to say Gilly is from the North and that little Sam is their child. It should improve their chances of being accepted. It’s going to be tricky enough since Sam’s Father Randyll Tarly disowned Sam and hates Wildlings.
Sam’s mother and sister are just lovely to Gilly and little Sam, joyed to see Sam again and to welcome Gilly and the baby. Gilly handles herself well enough, being polite while still staring and these walls of stone and bright ornate cloth the likes of which she’s never imagined. “What’s your dress color?” Does she even know what a bath is?
Gilly in a dress. Seeing her and Sam hobble along hand in hand is absolutely adorable!
Dinner is unbearably awkward. But Gilly and Sam seem to be keeping up their story. What’s Randyll Tarly’s first words to his first son on his return? A fat joke. It’s all down (Horn) hill from there. Being a Maester of the Night’s Watch doesn’t count as a man to Randyll, not like wielding a sword or riding a horse.
But who’s killed a Thenn during the Battle of Castle Black? Who’s killed a White Walker with dragonglass? No no Gilly, we know that but White Walkers are only North of the Wall! Gilly doesn’t know and doesn’t care about decorum. Sam is shuddering in his boots. Randyll is outraged. His first son begot a child by a Wildling girl and brought them both into his house.
He points to the heirloom Valyrian Steel sword of House Tarly, Heartsbane, which rests atop the hearth. As if there was any doubt when Randyll banished Sam the first time, he makes it abundantly clear that Sam will never inherit Heartsbane. Gilly watches crestfallen as Sam sits there while his father insults and yells at him. But Sam’s mother has had enough of this abuse. She excuses herself and Gilly and Sam’s sister. Surprisingly, Randyll says he’ll let Gilly and the baby stay as servants. But he banishes Sam all over again.
In Gilly’s new chambers, they say a tearful goodbye. Sam still has a mission to become the new Maester of the Night’s Watch. Little Sam cries in his crib. Is this really going to be the end of Sam and Gilly? I didn’t think so. Sam barges back in and he Gilly and the Baby abscond in the night. They take the dress and Sam lifts Heartsbane off its pedestal and takes that for good measure. Besides, Valyrian steel swords are the only kinds of weapons south of the Wall that can kill White Walkers. Maybe the maesters can study it and make more of them.
The company of actors at Braavos is continuing the story of the Court of Baratheon and Lannister. They’ve gotten up to the Wedding between Joffrey and Margaery. Arya is the only one who laughs when the actor playing Joffrey collapses on the stage and pretends to convulse from poison. Lady Crane, playing Cersei, she cries over her murdered son. Arya notices that the younger actress is mouthing Lady Crane’s lines off stage enviously. Arya even looks sad as she watches Lady Crane actually cry over the acting dead Joffrey.
She’s still on her mission though. She sneaks into the tent to poison her rum, but as she sneaks out, Lady Crane spots her. Arya hasn’t been paying to see these shows, but Lady Crane likes her, remembers when she snuck in to see the pretty costumes and the songs. Lady Crane thinks her last monologue is poorly written. Arya has some suggestions. “The Queen loves her son, more than anything. He was taken from her before she could say goodbye, she wouldn’t just cry. She would be angry. She would want to kill the person who did this to her.”
Lady Crane pours herself some rum the other actors are giving her a hard time. Arya bursts back in and slaps the rum from her hand. They all stare. “Careful of that one,” Arya points to the younger actress, “She wants you dead.”
I love this scene! It’s playing with Arya’s feelings and motivations on so many levels. Here she is saving the life of a woman she was ordered to kill, who plays a woman she’s wanted to kill for years. But of course, the Waif sees what happened. She reports back to a man, who seems disappointed that Arya has failed again.
“You promised me.”
“Don’t let her suffer.”
This is bad. Arya is not a fully trained faceless man yet. We’ve seen the Waif is still more proficient than her. If the Waif is dead set on killing her, it won’t matter that Arya got Needle back. She could do it easily. I’m nervous! What is Arya going to do?
Tommen continues seeking the High Sparrow’s council. He’s still afraid for Margaery to make a walk of atonement like Cersei did. The Sparrow says it has to be done, but he’s also probably right that the crowds will be more lenient with Margaery than they were with Cersei. He’s also got another ace to play. He lets Tommen visit Margaery.
They’re obviously happy to reunite. But I can tell, Margaery is in her diplomatic mode. She says the faith haven’t been mistreating her, she says that Loras has to atone (?!?!) and everything will be better than it has before. How? Tommen asks. Margaery gives her impressive show of dignified sincerity, but we’ve been watching her long enough to see when she’s acting. Something about this profession of understanding her fakeness is off. “The Gods have a plan for us all”?
The Tyrell army arrives. Mace leads his host with his plumed and gilded armor, ready to liberate his children from the clutches of madness. Jaime rides ahead. At the steps of the Sept of Baelor, the faith is assembled to oversee Margaery’s walk of atonement.
The Tyrells march into the square. Olenna has her carriage parked with a good view. Margaery looks surprised, pleased perhaps, but not really relieved. Jaime spells it out for the High Sparrow. Let them take Margaery and Loras back or the Sparrows will be slaughtered. The High Sparrow affirms his faith, but says there will be no bloodshed, and no walk of atonement today. Huh?
The Tyrells stand down as the Sparrow continues. Margaery has atoned already by bringing Tommen into the faith of the Seven himself. The King walks out onto the steps with his Kingsguard around him, their armor adorned with new sigils of the crown on a seven pointed star.
The High Sparrow, Tommen and Margaery stand together and the King speaks to the people with Jaime and Olenna scowling. “The crown and the faith, are the twin pillars upon which the world rests. Together we will restore the Seven Kingdoms to glory.” The crowd, who once taunted Tommen as he stood on these very steps, cheers and applauds.
GOD [email protected]%&ING DAMMIT! This is the High Sparrow’s ultimate coup. He now has Tommen’s ear and Tommen has forged a new holy royal house of Baratheon and Tyrell. Or has he?
The High Sparrow will profit from this for sure, but I think this was Margaery’s plan. This is her recognizing Tommen becoming sympathetic to the Faith and seizing this new power base with a pretense of revelations.
Jaime is furious. He strips off his Kingsguard armor before Tommen and urges him not to make a decision only as the faith dictates. But an attack on the faith is an attack on the crown now. Jaime will no longer serve on the Kingsguard.
Jaime seethes at Cersei that he wants to hire Bronn (!!!) and the best killers he knows to storm Baelor and murder the Sparrows. But Cersei still has a lid on it enough to assuage Jaime. She’s still awaiting her trial by combat, but who could possibly beat Ser Strong now? Cersei assures her brother lover that they will still treat those who tear their family apart without mercy. But for now, Jaime’s best place is leading the Lannister forces in maintaining their rule. The Freys did sell out the Starks and bent the knee to the Lannisters after all.
How is old Walder Frey, the lecherous traitor? His sons have “lost” Riverrun. “No,” he scolds them, “You lost Brynden Blackfish after the Red Wedding. You had him right here in this hall, and you let him escape. Now he’s taken Riverrun back!”
For 300 years the Freys have been the laughing stock of the Seven Kingdoms. Walder Frey will not let the Tullys take Riverrun back while he lives. Could be tricky with the Mallisters, the Blackwoods and the Brotherhood without Banners giving them headaches. But Walder has still got Edmure as leverage.
Daenerys and her new khalasar ride through the Dothraki Sea. Getting all her loyal forces to cross the Narrow Sea is going to take a considerable navy that she doesn’t have yet. But she senses something at the edge of this valley and rides on alone to investigate.
Just as they start to get restless, the colossal shadow of Drogon passes over the valley. Daenerys lands before her riders on Drogon’s back, his head now as big as her body. For this Dragon Queen, the Dothraki will cross the narrow sea, will smash the men in their iron suits and their stone houses, will give her the Seven Kingdoms as Drogo promised her! Daario just swoons.
Daenerys will never accept Euron as her king, but he does have the navy she’ll need. Or maybe Yara will have it!
So bizarre to have plots from the books to predict the course of events in the show again! Some events anyway. Game of Thrones is drawing lines in the sand, people!