Meera pulls Bran as far as she can as the dead give chase. A man on horseback saves the two and takes them away. Later, he reveals himself to be Benjen Stark, saved by the wood children when he was near death years ago. In the south, Sam brings Gilly to his home, but his father, Randall discovers she’s a wildling and casts his son out. Sam leaves with Gilly and the baby with his father’s sword, made of valyrian steel. Across the sea, Arya chooses not to complete her mission forcing Jaqen to allow the girl to kill Arya for disobeying. Arya recovers needle, her sword with plans to protect herself against her. At King’s Landing, Jaime and the Tyrell army arrive to stop the High Sparrow only to find that King Tommen has been persuaded by both Margaery and the High Sparrow to join the crown and the faith as one. Jaime is sent away to deal with the Blackfish and Riverrun leaving Cersei to deal with her trial by combat alone. Near Meereen, Daenerys finds her dragon, Drogon and rides him, convincing the Dothraki horde to sail oversees and take the seven kingdoms for their Khaleesi.
At most, we’ve seen tinkerings of escalation, mostly in the background as the Blackfish retakes his homeland, yet we’re given more prominence in King’s Landing to continue telling this story about the faith and crown merging as one. When either story can be told in the background, we’re left wondering how and why they pick and choose the stories they tell. In a small way, season 6 is offering to give us olive branches sprinkled here and there while still killing off supporting characters we enjoy such as Osha and Hodor. Now, Benjen Stark is back, which I’m certain is “Cold Hands”, but that’s neither here nor there. Once more, Dany’s uplifting strokes are rammed through our eyelids making sure we know that she’s coming. For 6 years she’d been coming to Westeros, only now, she really means it this time. This episode felt very much like a temperamental flux in storylines, hashing out and switching characters to make room for some expositional arcs. I will say that this episode has given us the biggest plot spoilers yet to come given the audacity of certain characters namely Walder Frey and Cersei Lannister. The rest is as always, up to the gods.
It’s almost a fan service when we persevere and subject our minds to the criss-cross theories that have stood the test of time. BenJen Stark was never ruled out to return on the show as we only hear rumblings of his passing. But now, he’s back saved with a piece of magical wood in his heart keeping away his body from turning into a white-walker. Is it permanent? Does he have a shelf life? Or can he exist and be a part of the Stark vengeance that’s sure to populate much of the latter half of this season? In any case, it’s a welcoming sight regardless of the circumstance. Though, a bleeding and injured Hodor surviving would have been just as good. The feels are still vibrant over that insane ending last week.
I’m mixed on how this is going to play out, but for now I understand Arya’s sense of right and wrong. She can’t be neutral, she can’t let herself lose that benevolent conscious that’s guided her for so many years. Ironically, she’s chosen some very personal views and has wrought revenge in any crevice she could find, but in this case, her heart just isn’t ready to give up her senses, old senses taught by the late Syrio. In this, she’ll suffer against whatever the many-faced god has in store for her, but at the same time, should she defeat the girl and kill her, I can’t imagine that would still end with her in exile at Jaqen’s order. She may have failed her test, but I think there’s more at stake than simply following orders.
While the trial is assured to be a spectacle like when the Red Viper took on The Mountain, everything in-between has continued to play a lifeless role pitting the Lannisters against the faith, something that no matter what happens, nobody wins. It’s what Cersei’s rule of life has come to and the end of this season may make or break her ability to last as a living character by this show’s end. It’s almost routine how easily it is to see what’s going to happen at her trial. The Mountain is obnoxiously powerful, but when she’s boasting to her brother how she’ll be fine, the results have to be slammed in the opposite field. Either that trial won’t happen in the way she hopes, or The Mountain is going to be defeated. One way or another, Cersei is going to be up that creek.
When Benjen annihilated those walking corpses. It goes to show you don’t always need dragons glass to shatter the dead as he used the experience of harsh snow and steel to run them into a second death. With his covered face it was obvious who the hero was, and the reveal was a pleasant formality giving us another good guy to help with Bran’s new cause. I have a strange feeling he won’t be able to travel south of the wall though given his condition. Something about how he’s still alive is leading me in that direction of thought.
This very much could have been an entire Sam-centric episode given the screen time he shared with Gilly and his family. As such, he’s got the MVP this week. Just that moment when he comes back through the door and gathers her and the baby, you knew he’s not only doing the right thing, but that he’ll always be that character protecting his own no matter what. He wasn’t comfortable being home, and he did absorb all of his father’s insults, but the man isn’t made of iron quite yet. He needs more time to build up his fortitude against people like his father. Still, he’s the last great innocent character left on this show, now that Hodor is gone.
Inserted in Bran’s fast-flowing montage were unseen moments of the Mad King on his throne declaring death and getting kill by Jaime. Outside of that, most of what we’ve seen were brief segments played throughout the seasons of the past. I liked how they made it feel disjointed, but keep in mind that Bran should have free reign to travel whenever given his ability can be controlled. Will he return to the site where Ned went after his sister? How will he be able to use these abilities to help against the war? Or is he the true scribe with absolute knowledge of the events as they occurred? Why speak of history when you can talk to the man who has gone back to experience it?
In case anyone forgot, Edmure Tully, the one guy who didn’t get killed at the red wedding is now completely in the worst situation of his life. Whether his head appears at the gates of Riverrun, or whether he’ll be used as a bargaining device for some scheming plot, his days are pretty much numbered.
Jaime is now in charge of retaking Riverrun. This is going to be a very difficult piece to work out as Jon, Sansa, and Brienne are clearly on the opposite side of this fiasco. I think Jaime’s real integrity is going to come out if this plays out in the right way. I’m hoping he sees that Sansa is with his brother and Brienne and understands how his efforts to keep her safe were not in vane. Furthermore, if word gets back that Sansa is alive and Cersei still demands her head, that could give Jaime some incentive to defy her which will somewhat coincide with the books as he’s not on the best terms with his sister as of Book 5.
Is Margaery playing the long con on this one, or is she in fact in league with The High Sparrow now and his ideals? It’s not necessarily dangerous but it does continue to place her on opposing sides with Cersei, which isn’t new of course. She’s very adaptable as she’s changed her tactics on more than one occasion to stay at the king’s side. Only now she’s doing it alone. Hopefully by the next episode or two we’ll get to understand more about what game she’s playing or if it’s even one at all.
The one thing the last scene with Dany did unveil is her lack of a fleet capable of taking her armies to Westeros. Enter Euron Greyjoy, the new King of the Iron Islands who as we speak is building a thousand ships to take to the Khaleesi for the purposes of joining forces, which seems incredibly convenient plot timing, but if it gets her across the sea, then I’m all for it. I just think that Euron will get more than he bargained for in this endeavor.
7 out of 10. Without any real confirmation of Hodor’s fate, we’re given a short reprieve and a return of a familiar Stark that is helping Bran and Meera fight on. Beyond that, the episode spends entirely too much time showcasing Sam’s family life and dealing with political and religious themes of King’s Landing. I didn’t think it would take an entire season to get to Cersei’s trial by combat, but I can see it will be the highlight of one of the last episodes this year. No movement or scenes with Jon and Sansa which of course loses throttle on their plans, but there is hope that Blackfish can hold his own until they join forces. Not entirely an impressive episode, but it does allow us to breathe out the intensity that came with Hodor’s defiant sacrifice so that we didn’t have to deal with another crazy death in its place. Let’s just hope Walder Frey gets what coming to him before season 6 wraps up. Thanks for reading.
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