In the latest episode, heroes return, villains gather, and games are played. The fun may just be beginning.
Jon Snow is back, returned from the dark nothing that is death. He is seen as a messianic figure by Melisandre and the Free Folk. He warmly embraces his friends. He coldly executes the ones who betrayed him. And in the end he leaves the Night's Watch. Now where does this leave Jon? Will he immediately run into Sansa, Brienne and Podrick on his way out of Castle Black? Will he try to reclaim Winterfell for the Starks by defeating Ramsay Bolton? Is he still interested in rallying the realm to fight off the White Walkers? All these things he may very well do, in addition to taking on the role of The Chosen One, but we still aren't quite sure of Jon's true motivations after his traumatic demise and sudden revival. No more than we can be sure of his true identity, it seems.
On the other side of the world, Daenerys Targaryen is also not sure of where she stands now that her entire world has turned upside down and the independent, queenly persona we have seen her cultivate over the course of the series is literally stripped away. The High Priestess of the Dosh Khaleen (rather understandably) disregards Dany's flowery titles and assertions of greatness. Because she and all the other Dosh Khaleen were once much like her. But Dany's position isn't as secure as the rest of these holy widows, since she went against the Dothraki traditions by not returning to join them upon Khal Drogo's death. She may be allowed to be one of them, but then again she may also be given to the horde as punishment for her actions. Uh-oh.
In contrast to Jon and Daenerys, the dark paths that Bran and Arya Stark are going down are becoming clearer. While the ever resilient Arya weathers the harsh and confusing training required to become a Faceless Man, shedding her ego, her blindness, her fear of death and possibly her sense of self, Bran's journey may end up being even darker.
The Tower of Joy in Dorne, where Ned Stark and his friends fought the last of Aerys Targaryen's Kingsguard, is a famous event from the first book, A Game of Thrones. I have to applaud everyone involved for getting it as right as they did. The location; cinematography; the fight choreography; the actors playing young Ned and Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning; Arthur living up to his legend by utterly decimating Ned's entourage; Ned forced to dispatch a hero like Arthur in such an unclean fashion. There were some very neat minor details as well, like the sunbeam emblem on Arthur's sword, or the circular crocodile brooch Howland Reed was wearing, signifying his house.
I especially loved the way these scenes were worked into the show via Bran's vision quests with the Three-Eyed Raven. I got cold chills the moment Bran calls out, "Father!" and Ned actually hears him, only to turn and find no one there; it's the closest poor Bran may ever get to seeing his family again.
Much as I like Isaac Hempstead Wright and Max Von Sydow jacking into trees and tripping in and out of this story's rich history and lore, these scenes feel very meta. Bran is basically the show's audience, desperate for backstory and the meaning to all this death and destruction, while the Three-Eyed Raven is like an avatar for the showrunners (and by proxy, George R.R. Martin), teasing us then closing the veil, doing it bit by bit as a means of building suspense and filling out the season; Lost did this all the time. It's a very minor criticism, since it is rather amusing.
What's not so amusing is this week's development on House Bolton's end. Ramsay meets with a crucial ally, Smalljon Umber, son of the Greatjon, the northman who first named Robb Stark as the King in the North. Though his motives are quite despicable, Smalljon seems like he's going to be an even more memorable character than his father. Even though he must die for betraying the newly returned Rickon Stark and Osha to Ramsay and decapitating Rickon's wolf Shaggydog, I still thoroughly enjoy the Smalljon. The man is just too damn hilarious. I love that he sees right through Ramsay and the new Lord Karstark's bullshit, showing zero fear and zero respect and smirking all the while; I'm actually hoping this is all a ruse meant to bring about Ramsay's downfall and restore the Starks.
Speaking of villains, the south is running rampant with them.
In Meereen, Tyrion is left to discover how dull poor Grey Worm and Missandei are outside of politics while Varys shows his inner villain by deftly manipulating a Meereenese prostitute in league with The Sons of the Harpy, thereby discovering that the slaver cities of Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis are all actively supporting the terrorist group. In King's Landing, Varys' replacement Qyburn has assimilated his "little birds" there, using them to aid Cersei's lust for vengeance. She and Jaime, however, are still undermined in politics by their elder and wiser uncle Kevan, the new Hand of the King, as well as Olenna, the Queen of Thorns. Kevan deflating their attempts to control the small council meeting with the presence of the Living-Dead Mountain, and doing so by simply leaving the room, was a great moment. At the same time, Tommen's attempts to intimidate the High Sparrow fall flat as the holy man seems to convince Tommen of his benevolence. Knowing how impressionable he is, it may be only a matter of time before the puppet king is converted to the Faith.
Schemes & Plots:
* The title Oathbreaker could refer to the Night's Watch mutineers who are ultimately executed, as well as Daenerys who broke Dothraki tradition. Though, the meaning of the word changes in the case of Jon Snow, whose oaths to the Night's Watch were literally broken upon his death; it's like a "deal-breaker." It might also be a callback to Greatjon Umber's Season 1 intro, where he responds violently at Robb Stark calling him an "Oathbreaker."
* Kit Harington was phenomenal in his return episode. The horror, the confusion, the conflicted heart of Jon's character, all of it was beautifully conveyed.
* We see Samwell Tarly and Gilly on their way to Oldtown via ship, where Sam will train to be the new maester for the Night's Watch. Sam tells Gilly he is dropping her and her baby off at Horn Hill with his family, where we may finally get to meet Sam's ridiculously abusive father, Randyll Tarly. On a positive note, Gilly puts her faith in Sam and considers him to be her child's true father. Aww.
* According to the Dosh Khaleen's High Priestess, the Dothraki are all gathering together for what they call the Khalar Vezhven: this is apparently where they all "decide which cities will be sacked and which tribes will be enslaved." Nice.
* At first, Varys and Qyburn's arrangement with the little birds felt almost Dickensian. In hindsight, though, both men are creepy, ruthless manipulators who are using various homeless kids to obtain and pass along sensitive, often dangerous information... for sweets.
* Ramsay, you evil bastard, don't you dare touch Osha and Rickon! I love Osha, and we've lost enough Starks. I'm probably being too hopeful.
Melisandre: The Lord has chosen you. Stannis wasn't the Prince that was Promised, but someone has to be.
Davos Seaworth: You were dead, and now you're not. That's completely fucking mad, it seems to me. I can't imagine how it seems to you.
Ned Stark: Where is my sister?
Arthur Dayne: ... I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.
Like last week's "Keep your shield up..." this line was a callback to the first episode of Season 5, The Wars to Come. Mance Rayder wished Stannis Baratheon "good fortune in the wars to come" before Stannis ordered his execution. We all know how fortunate Ned and Stannis were in their wars.
Arthur Dayne: And now it begins.
Ned Stark: No. Now it ends.
The Three-eyed Raven: Do you think I wanted to sit here for a thousand years, watching the world from a distance as the roots grew through me?
Bran: So why did you?
The Three-eyed Raven: I was waiting for you.
Bran: I don't want to be you.
The Three-eyed Raven: (laughs) I don't blame you. You won't be here forever. You won't be an old man in a tree. But before you leave, you must learn.
Bran: Learn what?
The Three-eyed Raven: Everything.
Now we're talking!
Cersei Lannister: Don't just stop at the city. I want little birds in Dorne, in Highgarden, in the North. If someone is planning on making our losses their gains, I want to hear it. If someone is laughing at the queen who walked naked through the streets covered in shit, I want to hear it. I want to know who they are. I want to know where they are.
Olenna Tyrell: Margaery is the queen. You are not the queen, because you are not married to the king. I do appreciate these things can get a bit confusing in your family.
Thug Life, Growing Strong.
Jaime Lannister: The same women who murdered Myrcella have overthrown House Martell and taken over Dorne. We've got a lot to discuss. All of us. Together.
Feels like Jaime's gently channeling the fans' outrage over the Sand Snakes' wackiness.
The High Sparrow: There's so much good in all of us. The best we can do is help each other bring it out.
It was funny how this line led us into Arya's Faceless Man version of an '80s training montage.
The Waif: Tell me about Arya Stark's family.
Arya: Her father was Eddard Stark. Her mother was Catelyn Stark. She had one sister, Sansa. And four brothers-
The Waif: (slaps Arya with a stick)
Arya: ... Three brothers, Robb, Bran, Rickon. And a half-brother, Jon.
The Waif: And where are they now?
Arya: They may be dead, for all a girl knows.
This was so sad.
Smalljon Umber: Fuck kneeling, and fuck oaths.
This is the third episode in a row a character has said something like this.
Bowen Marsh: You shouldn't be alive. It's not right!
Jon Snow: Neither was killing me.
Another unintentionally funny bit of dialogue.
Jon Snow: My watch is ended.
It feels like these first three episodes were all about setting up the rest of the season. I can't wait for what comes next. Three out of four poor direwolf heads.
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