Benjen Stark is back. (Hooray!) Walder Frey is back. (Boooo!) Drogon is back. (Hooray!) Edmure Tully is back. (Um, okay?) And how about the Mad King making an appearance in one of Bran’s visions?
As always, check out Alyssa Rosenberg’s review on Act Four. We won’t be doing Facebook Live on Monday, so please be strong in our absence and we will be back at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 6.
The High Sparrow wins this round
The expected clash in King’s Landing never materialized. As Queen Margaery prepared to make her walk of atonement, the Tyrell forces (as ordered up by a tenuous Olenna/Cersei/Jaime alliance) descended upon King’s Landing to confront the Faith Militant and ensure Margaery didn’t suffer the same indignity as Cersei. Jaime, speaking on behalf of the Tyrell/Lannister alliance, demanded the release of Margaery and Loras. The High Sparrow says he does not have the authority to hand those two over and Jaime does not have the authority to take them. Just when it looks like things might get ugly, the High Sparrow reveals that everyone can relax. There will be no walk of atonement, because Margaery has atoned for her sins. How? By recruiting someone into the Faith — that someone being King Tommen, who announces a holy alliance between the crown and the Faith.
Jaime is not happy at this development. Neither is Olenna. Mace Tyrell, as is his wont, is just kind of confused. “What’s happening?” he asks Olenna. “He’s beaten us, that’s what’s happening,” she informs her dull-witted son. The fallout from this alliance will send Jaime away from King’s Landing, as Tommen strips his uncle/father of his position on the King’s Guard. “I’ve been a member of the King’s Guard before you were born,” Jaime says, but to no avail. You see, Tommen answers to the Gods now, so Jaime won’t talk himself out of this one. But at least he won’t have to be stripped naked and paraded around town or kept prisoner in the Red Keep. He’s being sent to the Riverlands to deal with the newly resurgent Blackfish. (More on him later.) It’s not ideal, but Cersei is willing to see the big picture. She’s all for showing no mercy to those who tear their family apart, but it’s important to know when to strike. She says to go to the Riverlands and show them how the Lannisters roll. Jaime is worried about Cersei’s upcoming trial, but it’s a trial-by-combat and she’ll have Robo-Mountain on her side. They share a passionate kiss, reminding us that these two really are the most devoted-to-each-other couple in the entire show.
So what to make of this crown and faith alliance? The High Sparrow is smart and manipulative, but it’s hard to see how Margaery isn’t the one who’s really pulling the strings here. Her meeting with Tommen was what triggered this new direction, and she convinced him to fall in line with the Faith Militant. But there’s no chance that she has seen the light herself. This seems like a way for her to: 1) avoid being forced to walk naked before the entire town while a scary lady shouts “Shame!” right behind her, and 2) make it seem like High Sparrow has influence on her. We don’t know her endgame, but we also know that Margaery is one of the most cunning characters in the GoT universe. She seems to be in control now.
Benjen Stark is alive and so is Bran, thanks to Benjen
When we last saw Bran and Meera, they were fleeing the undead and it’s taking its toll on Meera, who is dragging a still-warging Bran through the treacherous snow, now without Hodor. (Hodor.) Bran’s visions are extremely intriguing. We see many of the events that have happened over the show’s six seasons, including his paralyzing fall from the very first episode, the events from Hardhome and more. The most intriguing sight is that of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, shouting “burn them all!” (Does this give legitimacy to the theory that Bran’s time traveling is to blame for the Mad King’s madness? That Bran’s is the voice that drove him mad? Well, it doesn’t not lend it legitimacy.)
Just when it seems that Bran and Meera are goners, a mysterious hooded man on a horse saves the day. It’s soon revealed that this man is none other than Benjen Stark — brother of Ned, uncle of Bran, Night’s Watch ranger and last seen way back in the first season when he went North of the Wall on a mission and never returned. Turns out he got shanked by a White Walker but was saved/semi-resurrected (?) by the Children of the Forest, who used some handy dragonglass to get him fit and working again. Benjen sees an upcoming encounter between Bran and the Night King in the future, and that Bran will be ready when it happens.
Dany has Drogon back
Daenerys is leading her khalasar through the middle of nowhere — she’s still a week or so from Meereen and about a thousand ships short of what she’ll need to transport her new army to Westeros. (Isn’t that exactly the number Euron Greyjoy said last week that he’ll have in short order? Hmmm.) As they ride along, Dany senses something ahead and rides off to investigate. The next time we see her, she’s swooping down from above on the back of the long-lost Drogon.
When it comes to making inspirational speeches, it’s hard to top emerging naked from a burning temple after mass murdering every single Dothraki leader. The one way to top that is to ride in on a real, live, fire-breathing dragon. She tells the assembled that she will buck tradition and not choose blood riders; she chooses the entire khalasar. (Very on brand for the of-the-people Khaleesi.) She will ask a lot of her warriors — to ride the wooden horses across the sea (the Dothraki are famously terrified of water), to kill the enemies in the iron suits, to help her conquer the Seven Kingdoms as Khal Drogo promised. It’s all very inspiring — I wouldn’t be surprised to see this speech played on some Jumbotron at a hockey arena when the home team is down a goal late in the third period and is trying to get the crowd hyped. Unleash the fury, Khaleesi.
Arya is not a cold-blooded killer
So after alllll of that drawn out — so very drawn out — training, it turns out that Arya doesn’t have what it takes to be a Faceless Man. Which is fine — she’s a killer, but she is a killer with a conscience. Taking the life of someone who doesn’t deserve it isn’t something she is cut out to do, whether the Many-Faced God likes it or not.
She’s back watching the meta-Thrones play, which is now into season 4 and the Purple Wedding. Actor Joffrey drops dead, and Lady Crane (the actress playing Cersei) delivers a pretty moving monologue over actor-Joffrey’s body. Arya seems to be moved — maybe she’s feeling a hint of empathy for Cersei because of the fine acting of Lady Crain? Arya manages to sneak backstage and poison Lady Crane’s rum, as is her mission, but on her way out is spotted by the veteran actress. Turns out she’s not just a fine actress, but a nice person, too. Arya pays her skills the highest compliment — the play “would all just be farting, belching and slapping without you.”
Lady Crain is beloved by fans but hated backstage. Her entire cast seems to have it in for her, but just as she is about to take a fatal sip of her drink, Arya knocks it away and tells Crain that she’s wanted dead by those around her. This development couldn’t be more pleasing to Waif, who is also hanging around backstage and sees Arya shirk her assassin duties.
Arya immediately races to dig up her long-lost Needle (buried in the rocks on the Braavos shore), knowing that she might need it shortly. Waif gleefully reports back to Jaqen that Arya couldn’t carry through with the killing. “Shame. The girl had many gifts,” he says before okaying Waif to take Arya out. “Don’t let her suffer,” he tells her.
Samwell’s unhappy homecoming
Sam and Gilly (and little Sam) return to Sam’s home of Horn Hill, and Sam is understandably nervous. There’s a lot to lie about — the fact that Gilly is a wildling and the fact that little Sam is not their child together, but instead Gilly’s child with her incestuous/rapist Father. (Ugh.) There’s also the fact that Sam’s dad never thought much of his oldest son and sending him off to The Wall was as much to make him a man as it was to get him out of his sight.
Upon arrival to scenic Horn Hill, Sam and Gilly get a nice welcome from mother Melessa and sister Talla. The good vibes don’t carry over to dinner, though. They eat in silence as Lord Randall Tarly scowls at everything and everyone, seemingly on the verge of shouting, “I drive a Dodge Stratus!!!” Soon enough the secret is out — in defending Samwell against her father by saying how he killed a White Walker and a Thenn, Gilly lets slip that this happened on the way “down” to Castle Black. This is the giveaway that she is a wildling, which does not go over well with Grumpy Randall and sets him off on a rant. He points out the family sword, Heartsbane, which has been in the family 500 years and is one of the few Valyrian steel swords remaining in the world. It was supposed to go to his first son after he died, but Samwell will never get that sword, because if he became Lord Tarly, that would be the end of House Tarly. And Samwell is banished from Horn Hill after tonight.
Which is fine by Sam — and he’s taking something to remember home by. He tells Gilly that they are leaving together and before exiting, he takes on giant and imposing Valyrian steel sword for the road. Won’t dad come for his beloved sword, Gilly asks? “He can bloody well try,” Sam says.
Walder Frey is still alive, still bad old man
We haven’t seen Walder Frey since the Red Wedding and its fallout. (He actually calls it the Red Wedding, which I find amusing.) He’s in a bad mood because his good-for-nothing sons have lost Riverrun (once Tully land, but then taken by the Freys) to the Blackfish, Brynden Tully. Frey (who has yet another pre-teen bride, it seems) demands his sons get Riverrun back in order. And he has something that could help make that happen — Edmure Tully, who was the groom at that infamous Red Wedding. And who has apparently been held hostage ever since.
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