In the play-within-a-show that Arya watches in Braavos, pseudoCersei argues in favor of the rules of succession. It’s an interesting argument for this episode, which focuses on all the people who aren’t on the Iron Throne, or any throne, but have considerable power nonetheless.
On the Iron Islands, the rules of succession either failed or succeeded, depending on how you look at it: the Kingsmoot electoral process did its job, in that the Ironborn elected a new king. But Balon Greyjoy’s children—Yara and Theon—were forced to steal King Euron’s ships and sail away. (I’m not deeply passionate about this storyline, as I can never tell how it’s relevant. Will the Ironborn suddenly affect Westerosi politics?)
In Mereen, Tyrion dealt with the same problem he had in King’s Landing: nobody realizes he’s the one who made them safe. Having learned from previous mistakes, he solicits a figurehead in the personage of Kinvara, the High Priestess of the Temple, etc. etc. I am curious to see how that goes, especially now that Dany has her mojo back.
Unlike Tyrion, Sansa doesn’t need a figurehead or an escape. She aims to misbehave in the best way possible, and as Ned Stark’s oldest surviving legitimate child, she’s off to a good start. Sansa dressing down Littlefinger was delightful. It felt, in a way, like the show implicitly responding to all of the critiques of Sansa’s rape in Season Five: look, now we are dealing with the aftermath! But it also felt really vital to have an honest discussion of the pain of Sansa’s circumstances.
I especially loved this line: “You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family, and you gave me to other monsters who murdered my family.” Because that’s Sansa encapsulating what has been done to her. And she promptly followed it up with a direct command, ordering Littlefinger back to Moat Cailin. Because now Sansa does. She isn’t done unto.
This episode was directed by Jack Bender of Lost fame. He did a wonderful job in a subtle way. From Yara and Theon’s escape intercut with Euron’s resurrection, to the quick cut between Tyrion asking “Who said anyone about a ‘him’?” and the introduction of Kinvara, Bender used visual language to help us make connections between what was happening in a way that is rare on Game of Thrones. Using those complex strategies (by Game of Thrones standards) early in the episode also made the intercutting between the fight scene and Bran’s flashback feel more organic to the episode’s structure.
The last scene, which included the death of not just Hodor but also Summer T. Direworlf, was troubling. All the Stark children are trying out their powers (especially Sansa), but Bran doesn’t seem to be ready for his. Cheating his way into a flashback, thus informing the Night King where he was, and bringing the White Walkers to the Undertree—Bran really made a series of bad decisions that led to him sacrificing Hodor to save his own life. That Hodor has perhaps spent the past 30 odd years of his life with some awareness of how he would die is almost too horrifying to contemplate.
Grumpkins and Snarks:
• Sansa: “Did you know about Ramsey? If you didn’t know, you’re an idiot. And if you did know, you’re my enemy.”
• Brienne describing Jon: “He seems trustworthy. A bit brooding, perhaps. I suppose that’s appropriate, considering.”
• Does anyone else think that Jaqen H’ghar looks a bit like Sebastian Stan?
• So, the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers to fend off the arrival of humans. How’s that working out for you, kids?
• Sansa sewing clothes fits nicely into her newly-claimed power. In the books, it’s made clear that she truly enjoys sewing, and that she does it now seems like a return to a pleasant (and useful) hobby. Her doing so also emphasizes that female power doesn’t have to mean feigning “masculinity” in some sort of abstract sense: she can be a kick-ass woman who is retaking the North with her own needle in hand.
• Someone should write an academic article on the Hamlet undertones of the play Arya had to watch. They can talk about the play-within-a-show as a metaphor for this sixth season’s departures from the books, and how retelling inevitably disappoint the audience convinced they know the “true” version. They can call it “To Watch or To Night’s Watch: Starks as Audience Proxy in Game of Thrones,” and include a section on Bran’s flashbacks.
Four out of four Summers.
Reminder: The comments on these episode reviews are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so in our Season Six book spoiler thread.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)
- Next episode
- Game of Thrones season 6
- Game of Thrones home
- Watch this episode or the entire season on Amazon now