Our hero returns from the dead, hangs a child and we all cheer. The long-lost Stark reappears only to fall into the hands of the most depraved man in the Seven Kingdoms. The formerly long-lost Stark starts to unravel some secrets about his father’s past. And Samwell Tarly reappears — as does his most recent meal.
Jon Snow is fully Jon Snow and he gets his revenge
There was never any question as to whether Jon Snow would rejoin the realm of the living. But we didn’t know what kind of state he would be in, whether he would remember everything that happened, if he would have his full abilities as before. But Jon is still Jon, just Jon. He’s rightfully shocked to be alive and breathing — Davos and Melisandre are astounded, as well — before Davos covers naked Jon up and asks him what he remembers. “They stabbed me,” he replies. “Olly. He put a knife in my heart. I shouldn’t be here.”
Davos tells Jon that Melisandre brought him back and she wants to know what Jon saw during his dead time. “Nothing. There was nothing at all,” he says. Davos asks for a moment alone with Jon, and Melisandre leaves them be. Note to Jon: In the future, when you are resurrected and brought back from eternal slumber, the polite thing to do is at least give the mysterious hundreds-year-old woman who did this a simple “thank you.” Maybe the manners are the last thing to come back.
When Davos emerges with the living Jon, those gathered at Castle Black react in the proper way: stunned silence. Tormund tells Jon that everyone thinks he’s some kind of god, but Tormund knows that’s not true because he saw Jon at his most exposed and “what kind of god would have a [word that Ben Bradlee liked to use for penis but I’m not sure if we can use it unless quoting Ben, so let’s just leave it like this] that small?” Jon also embraces with the always-loyal Eddison.
But we’re not as interested in how Jon will deal with his friends. We want to know what he’ll do with those who killed him, particularly one weasel-faced shrimpy tween. And sure enough there’s Olly, Ser Alliser Thorne and a few others lined up on the gallows, awaiting judgment from the freshly-risen Lord Commander. Jon gives everyone a chance to say some last words. Rando #1 says Jon shouldn’t be alive, it’s not right. Jon says that neither was killing him. Boom, roasted. Rando #2 says to please tell his family he died fighting the wildlings. Somehow Jon doesn’t roll his eyes like he died a second time. Next up is Thorne: “I had a choice, Lord Commander. Betray you or betray the Night’s Watch. … I fought, I lost. Now I rest.” It’s somewhat respectable, but we still have no pity for him. And finally … Olly. The little twerp can’t even manage a final statement. Jon carries out their sentence and they writhe and flail away before gasping their final breaths. And we are all brought together in the shared joy of seeing this teen killed. Man, this show has warped us, hasn’t it?
As for Jon, that was all the business he needed to tend to. He gives Eddision his puffy coat and tells him to do whatever he wants with it. Because he’s leaving. “You have Castle Black,” he tells Ed. “My watch is over.” When you get a second chance at life, perhaps you realize it’s not best spent as the celibate leader of an overmatched army fighting against a coming undead apocalypse.
Pray for Rickon Stark (and Osha)
In Jon’s old home of Winterfell, the new Lord Bolton — along with his new sidekick, Harald Karstark — is taking visitors. There’s a salty fellow from House Umber — a famously loyal house, according to Ramsay — who keeps going back and forth with Ramsay. Mr. Umber knows that Ramsay killed Roose (and doesn’t really care one way or another) and is looking for some assistance from the new Lord — Umber territory is far enough north to be on the frontlines when the wildlings start to attack. Umber is not one for oaths or kneeling or pledges or any of that traditional stuff. He’s much more direct in his negotiations — he’s got something that could be of use to Ramsay.
Ramsay hopes it’s a girl and while Mr. Umber does bring one of those — Osha, who we haven’t seen since season 3. So we know who the other prisoner is — the suddenly not-puny Rickon Stark. Ramsay wants proof that it’s really the youngest Stark child and this Umber fellow produces the bloody, decapitated head of a direwolf. These developments do not bode well for young Rickon or (especially) poor Osha. (Please let Benioff and Weiss not be such sadists to bring Natalia Tena back after two years away just to be humiliated and tortured by Ramsay.)
Ned Stark’s famous stories start to show some cracks
The latest flashback drop-in for Bran Stark and Three-Eyed Raven takes them to the Tower of Joy for a pivotal moment in the life of Ned Stark. This is where Ned and Howland Reed — father of Meera and Jojen — take on Sir Arthur Dayne in an important battle as part of Robert’s Rebellion. As Bran observes the fight, he is surprised to see that Dayne is a better swordsman than his father. “How did he beat him?” Bran asks Raven? “Did he?” Raven responds. Bran knows he does because he’s heard the story a thousand times.
But the story of Ned’s heroism doesn’t match up to the facts of what happened. As Ned was about to be killed, Howland Reed got Dayne from behind with an old-fashioned neck-stab. Bran is surprised to see the truth. (And if this story didn’t unfold exactly how Ned told it, who else knows what he has been lying about *cough Jon Snow’s parents cough*.) Bran quickly gets distracted by a scream from the nearby tower. As Ned races toward the tower, Bran demands to know what’s in there. Raven says it’s time to go, that’s enough time hopping for one day, but Bran is stubborn. He yells to his father and young Ned seems to hear him. Somewhere in a parallel universe Doc Brown shakes his head and screams, “Even if your intentions are good, it can backfire drastically!”
Back in the forest cave where Bran and Raven do their little time hopping, Bran is upset. He wants to go back, wants to learn all the secrets of his father’s past. “Stay too long where you don’t belong and you’ll never return,” Raven tells him. Raven scoffs at Bran’s impatience since he’s been there for a thousand years just waiting for Bran to show up. He promises Bran they won’t stay in the forest-pod forever but first Bran just has to learn … literally everything. So we’ll see if they can wrap that up within a few episodes.
Arya can see again
And the first thing she says is, please show me a different storyline! It’s not that we don’t like Arya. I think most of us really like Arya and we just want to see her move on from this dreadful plot that she’s been stuck in for a few seasons. This week, she at least gets her vision back by successfully proving to Jaqen H’ghar that she … oh, who even knows anymore? She respects the Many-Faced God or something.
She got whacked around by Waif for a while, interrogated about her past life as Arya Stark, basically recites the Arya Stark Wikipedia page and learns to fight without sight. This was a straight-up montage, all it was missing was “Gonna Fly Now” or maybe “Pinball Wizard” would have been more appropriate. In any case, she drank some water given to her by Jaqen and now she’s back in the sight game.
Will there soon be a battle of the little birds?
In Meereen, Varys is trying to get some information out of Vala, the Meereenese prostitute who is in league with the Sons of the Harpy. Varys knows exactly what she’s done but he helpfully says it out loud in that clunkily expository manner for the benefit of any viewers who might not remember the 54th most crucial character in the series. Vala says the Unsullied and Second Sons that she has helped murder are foreign occupiers who deserve their fate. Fair point, but that won’t help her escape being put to death for the crime of conspiring against the Queen. But Varys offers her an out — passage to Pentos for her and her son, with a hefty sack of coins.
It’s a deal she accepts, as Varys returns to Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei — not a second too soon for Tyrion, who finds the conversation … lacking — with the news that those funding the Sons of the Harpy are … the masters of Astapor, the wise masters of Yunkai and some other dudes from Volantis. Just as we all suspected! Grey Worm wants to fight everyone, but Tyrion knows that’s not the wisest move. More information is needed. Varys will gets his little birds on it.
But back in King’s Landing, there are more birds about to fly out into the world. The twisted-brilliant Qyburn is down in his laboratory recruiting the poor kids of King’s Landing into his service. All it takes are some sweets. I guess these kids never learned not to take candy from strangers who conduct dangerous medical experiments in underground lairs. Gregor Clegane, the subject of that experiment, comes crunching down the stairs and Jaime wants to know exactly what Qyburn did to him and if he’s still got his facilities and one ill-advised comment and a menacing stare through an armored mask answers that question for Jaime. As for those little birds, the revenge-minded Cersei wants them spread out into Dorne, Highgarden, the North, wherever any enemies may be.
— Daenerys arrives at her maybe-permanent new home of Vaes Dothrak. She remains defiant, insisting that she does not belong in the wives-of-dead-Khals retirement home. The elder former Khaleesi in charge is tired of hearing Dany’s protests that she doesn’t belong there. She knows exactly who Daenerys is and yes, she belongs there. “I remember you eating the stallion’s heart,” she says. I suppose that’s the kind of thing you don’t forget. She tells Dany that everyone in there thought they would conquer the world next to their Khal, and that Dany is now forbidden to go into the world and her best-case scenario is staying in Vaes Dothrak with the rest of the widows.
— Ah, the bumbling small council of King’s Landing. It’s been too long. There’s Hand of the King, Ser Kevan Lannister. The rambling old pervert, Grand Maester Pycelle. And the most oblivious man in the Seven Kingdoms, Lord of Ships and Coin, Mace Tyrell. Olenna Tyrell is also there when Jaime and Cersei crash the meeting, demanding to talk about the murder of Myrcella, among other topics. The council members refuse to sit for the conversation, but Mountain Clegane at least gets to intimidate everyone.
— Tommen and the High Sparrow have a long conversation. Tommen wants his mother to be able to see the body of her dead daughter. High Sparrow says he can’t allow that, Cersei still hasn’t fully repented for her sins. They go on and on and it’s so long and boring that the High Sparrow has to sit down in the middle of it because his knees start to hurt from standing for such a long and boring conversation.
— Sam, Gilly and Little Sam sail toward Oldtown. Sam warns Gilly that she won’t be allowed into the Citadel (where Sam hopes to learn enough to become a Maester) so she’ll be left in Horn Hill with Sam’s parents. Gilly doesn’t like this plan too much. Sam doesn’t like sea travel too much, as evidenced by his repeated vomiting.
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Episode 1: The Red Woman is an old woman