Four Letter Nerd

Category - TV

Fantasy Books to Read While Waiting for Game of Thrones Next Summer

cersei-smug

The sad news, though it’s been expected for awhile now, is official: Game of Thrones will only run seven episodes next season. And thanks to the appearance of winter (finally!!) in the story line, producers will start shooting later than usual. That means our usual April start date for a new season is getting pushed back to sometime next summer.

So what do you do this extended offseason while waiting for Game of Thrones’ delayed return? How about sinking your teeth into a solidly written fantasy book series.

Here’s a couple of exceptional works to check out while enduring the long wait for Season Seven:

1. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

Kingkiller Chronicles

Patrick Rothfuss, a modern day fantasy writer whose received much acclaim from George R.R. Martin himself, wrote the first “Kingkiller Chronicle” book, “The Name of the Wind” in 2007. The story follows a great adventurer named Kvothe as he recalls the story of his life over the course of three days (each book representing a different day).

Much like Tolkien, Rothfuss really focuses on detail, emphasizing the mundane parts of Kvothe’s journey as well as the landmark events. And though the world in “Kingkiller” has political complications similar to Westeros, Rothfuss exposes the reader to situations through the eyes of someone of “low birth” as oppossed to the members of noble families Martin uses to tell his story.

Now much like Martin, Rothfuss has been slow to get his third book finished (A Wise Man’s Fear was released in 2011). But at least “The Kingkiller Chronicle” is likely to be finished before Lionsgate makes a film/tv version of the series.

2. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight Archives

“The Stormlight Archive” follows the Martin style of alternating third person perspectives as Brandon Sanderson presents a world coming to grips with both a looming threat and the reemergence of mystical powers lost thousands of years before.

But while Sanderson’s world has as similar scope to Martin’s, he centralizes it on a hand full of characters in one central location instead of bouncing around all over the map. This makes his story easy to follow, but (at least at this point) lack some of the “punch in the gut”moments that make Martin’s work so special. He also does a nice job anchoring his story with a flashback arc for one major character that provides insight into why they think and act as they do in the present.

Sanderson has currently released two of his books: “The Way of Kings” and “Words of Radiance.” The third book of five (with a possible ten if a second set of five books goes on as planned), “Oathbringer,” has a tentative release set for sometime next year.

3. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

558623 c.tiff

Yes, the artwork on the covers of these books is really cheesy. But the story absolutely is not. It also takes two books for the story to really establish itself. But once it does, “The Wheel of Time” is very hard to put down.

Robert Jordan focuses mostly on a group of central characters who begin the story together (much like Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”) only to take distinct paths as the story progresses. And like Martin, Jordan’s world is full of distinct political alliances and situations. But while Martin bounces back and forth between all these different areas, Jordan mostly uses the central characters to introduce and update us on the conditions of these diverse locations.

The downside to Jordan’s books is they are a long haul. The series is comprised of 14 books and 1 prequel book. In fact, Jordan died before the series was completed. So Brandon Sanderson (the author of the previously mentioned “Stormlight Archive”) stepped in to finish it.

But if 14 books is not too large a commitment for you, I strongly recommend Jordan/Sanderson’s masterpiece.

4. Read the Classics

Martin vs. Tolkien

Or you could just stick with GoT’s source material. If you haven’t read “A Song of Ice and Fire,” jump on Martin’s series first. Though Martin’s books can be just as long as the previously mentioned authors, they read much quicker. And the experience is a distinctly different one than the TV series, so don’t let the spoilers you already know from the show discourage you from reading the books.

The same goes for J.R.R. Tolkien, the father of modern fantasy. Yes, it is a chore to get through the first half of the first “Lord of the Rings” book, “Fellowship of the Ring.” But if you’re willing to see it through, Tolkien rewards you with, arguably, the best work of fantasy fiction of all time. And much like Martin’s work, the books are a much different experience than the movies.

And if you’ve been through all of Tolkien’s works (including “The Hobbit”), check out “The Silmarillion,” the Middle Earth origin story that is much darker than Tolkien’s previous works. 4LN’s Cam Clark wrote this piece about the Silmarillion. He also recently did a brief history of Middle Earth using “The Silmarillion” and other works by Tolkien.

I’m currently working my way through the Wheel of Time series. And I’m also hopeful “The Winds of Winter” will be available before Season Seven starts (though I’m not holding my breath on this). What are some other works you’ve been reading or plan to read while we wait on the next season of Game of Thrones?

A Song of Ice and Fire vs Game of Thrones: Which is Better?

Books vs Show

For the last two seasons, “Game of Thrones” the TV Show has taken a fairly drastic departure from it’s source material, the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin. Just how drastic is that departure? Well, until Martin (finally) gets the long awaited next installment of his series out, we won’t really know. But over sixty hours of television content and thousands of pages of Martin’s work do give us enough material to evaluate the clear distinctions between the two entities.

Books vs Show 2

(From left to right) DB Weiss and David Benoiff, producers of Game of Thrones, posing for a picture with “A Song of Ice and Fire” author, George R.R. Martin.

Now before I move forward, I’ll go ahead and make clear that I will not be directly answering that question I started the article with. I do not think one piece of creative material is necessarily better than the other. But I do think there are many things Martin did a much better job with than the HBO show based on his work. And (contrary to what some book purists will tell you) there are things the show did a much better job developing than Martin did. So first, here’s five things Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” did better than the show, followed by five things the show did better than the source material.

(Of Note: I will not be including any characters or arcs that were present in one, but not in the other. Though feel free to include those items in your comments)

What the Books Did Better


1. Jamie Lannister

Books vs Show Jamie

Martin’s transition of the Kingslayer from hated villain who pushed a young boy out a window to awesome anti-hero is one of the best I’ve seen represented in literal fiction. Using the loss of Jamie’s hand and his relationship with Brienne, Martin transforms the arrogant Lannister into someone we actually sympathize with. We see a man who’s been forced to choose between multiple oaths that left him no choice but to betray at least one of them. And by the last time we’ve seen Jamie in the text, he’s masterfully negotiated a siege at King’s Landing, channeling his father Tywin for the first time.

The television show tried to follow this arc. But a poorly directed scene where Jamie rapes Cersei in the Holy Sept, a worthless excursion to Dorne, and a lack of any real development from the character in Seasons 4 and 5 left something lacking when the Kingslayer negotiated a peaceful end (well, for everyone except the Blackfish) to the siege at Riverrun. I mean, it was still a great scene watching Jamie “influence” Edmure to take back Riverrun. But Martin did a much better job moving Jamie to the point where he was a shrewd negotiator, while the show seemed to bring Jamie’s sudden diplomatic capabilities out of left field.

2. The Wall Battle

Books vs Show Wall Battle

Season 4’s “Watchers on the Wall,” featuring the Night’s Watch defending Westeros from a Wildling invasion, is one of the best episodes the show has ever done. But while the production value of the episode is superb, the buildup and logistics of the actual battle leave much to be desired.

Martin splits the assault on the Wall up into three different attacks. The first was from the crew Jon was with that climbed the Wall and tried to take out the Night’s Watch from the Westerosi side of the Wall. After that attack was stymied, two more invasions at different times happened that the Night’s Watch was able to repel before Jon was sent out to negotiate with Mance Rayder.

The show, on the other hand, chose to save this battle for its showcase ninth episode. The problem was they did nothing over the course of season 4 to build up to this Wildling invasion. Instead, the Night’s Watch sat around the Wall waiting for the Wildlings to arrive. And the man leading the largest Wildling invasion of the North, Mance Rayder, did not appear until after the battle was over. How can you not at least show one scene of the Wildlings marching toward the Wall in Season 4 before that ninth episode? And by turning three separate invasions into one, the show confused non bookreaders as to why the Wildlings were split up into two separate forces.

So while I understand the decision to make the Wall Battle the ninth episode and the budgetary reasons for making it one battle instead of three, those decisions also made the show’s presentation of the events lack the cohesiveness Martin’s did.

3. Euron Greyjoy

Books vs Show Euron Greyjoy

Euron Greyjoy in the books: The brother of Balon Greyjoy is banned from the Iron Islands for sleeping with his brother’s (not Balon, Victarion, one of two Greyjoy brothers not included in the show) wife. Known as the Crows Eye, he goes pillaging and raping the coasts throughout the lands of Essos and beyond. He reappears after Balon’s death, is crowned King of the Iron Islands, and becomes a terror throughout the West Coast of Westeros. He sets his sites on the Iron Throne and sends his brother Victarion to secure a marriage alliance with Daenarys and her dragons.

Euron Greyjoy in the show: He shows up. He throws his brother of a rickety bridge. He wins the Kingsmoot, becoming King of the Iron Islands, and means to build a thousands ships (entirely from rocks) and ride them to make his alliance with the Mother of Dragons in hopes of ruling Westeros one day.

Which one of these characters seems a greater threat to the throne of Westeros? Benoiff and Weiss only used Euron to get Theon and Yara to Meereen. Martin appears to have a much larger plan for the character, and his development was way stronger in a “Song of Ice and Fire.”

4. Loras Tyrell

Books vs Show Loras Tyrell

In the books, Martin creates a multi-dimensional character who is a brave warrior with exceptional skills and a confidence/arrogance only rivaled by Jamie Lannister before he lost his hand. The part of him being gay is never directly confirmed, but is heavily implied.

In the show, Loras is Margaery’s brother who is gay. That’s pretty much it. Yes, characters talk about his abilities as a fighter. But the only combat we ever seen is Loras’s ability as a jouster in the first season. After seeing the one dimensional treatment the Tyrell heir (which he’s not in the books) receives on the show, I developed a much greater appreciation for the multi-faceted book character Martin created.

5. Doran Martell

Books vs Show Doran

Now, many would include the entire Dorne plot on their personal lists here. But I personally didn’t think Dorne was a strength of Martin’s books either. When his books should be moving towards an end, he opened up a whole new front in the southern part of Westeros that I believe is one of many reasons “The Winds of Winter” is taking so long to be released. Yes, he did Dorne better than the show did. But meerkats at a zoo could’ve accomplished that.

Books vs Show Meerkats

Adorable meerkats debating what went wrong with Dorne in Season Five.

But I did love Doran Martell’s character. In a world filled with people who act first and think later, Doran is a character who hides his manipulations behind his weak physical condition. Every move he makes is calculated and every one who tries to usurp his authority as Prince of Dorne is found out and dealt with immediately by forces loyal to Doran.

And while some of the plans he comes up with look a little too far in the future to be relied upon, he has prepared a plan b and moves quickly to it once his previous plan goes awry.

I believe the show was planning on moving Doran towards this character arc in season 6. But when reality set in of just how disastrous the Dorne storyline was in Season 5, the producers decided to cut their losses and the character Martin created was a victim of that.

What the Show Did Better

1. The Whitewalkers

Ranking the Seasons 5 Night's King

Martin established in the very first chapter of his series that the Whitewalkers were going to be the most significant threat to all those in Westeros. How many times in the books have they shown up since? Twice. Both times were with Sam in the third book, “A Storm of Swords.” But where were the Whitewalkers in books four and five? The gravest threat to all of Westeros did not appear in either Martin’s most recent works.

The show, on the other hand, has built-up this growing threat at least once a season. Not only did we have Martin’s opening scene and Sam’s run-ins with the Ice Zombies. We also have a pair of “Where Whitewalkers come from” scenes. And most importantly, we have Hardhomme: the most dominant showing of Whitewalker power to date.

So while Martin may be holding back his ultimate build up of the Ice Zombie army for “Winds of Winter,” it’s the show that to this point, has made a far more convincing case of just how bad ass the Whitewalkers are.

2. The Red Wedding

Books vs Show Red Wedding

This one is a little unfair to Martin. His portrayal of the Red Wedding in “A Storm of Swords” is just as much the gut punch the show’s version was. The problem for Martin is he’s restricted to his chosen medium, which forces him to simply list all the things that are happening at the Twins as the carnage ensues.

He can tell you the “Rains of Castemere” is playing in the background. But he can’t use the editing techniques of television to start the song as the doors are locked and show Catelyn Stark’s face as she suspects something is up. He can describe the brutality of everyone being slaughtered. But to truly appreciate just how awful an event the Red Wedding was, seeing and hearing the events is far more effective.

So while both portrayals of the Red Wedding were excellent in their perspective mediums, the show version packed a greater punch because of the multiple senses the medium of television can appeal to.

3. Margaery Tyrell

Books vs Show Margaery

Martin used the daughter of Mace Tyrell and the pride of Highgarden as a pawn in the “Great Game.” At least, that’s the impression we are given from the various characters we hear about her from. She’s never a Point-of-View character in any of Martin’s five books, so we only get to hear about her character and actions from others. And considering one of those POV characters is Cersei, you’re not always left with a favorable impression of Queen Margaery.

But the producers of the show saw a chance with Margaery to include a savvy game player who kept all the key figures in King’s Landing on their toes. I personally can’t imagine the last five seasons with a diminished role for Margaery Tyrell. It also helped that Natalie Dormer was the actress portraying Margaery. And the last place for someone of her quality is in the background.

4. Daenarys Meets Tyrion

Books vs Show Dany meets Tyrion

Everything was building in Martin’s last installment (“A Dance With Dragons”) to this encounter. Tyrion and Jorah were in Meereen, in reach of the Queen of the Dragons so this epic encounter could happen. But instead, Daenarys flies away on a dragon. Tyrion gets caught up in some politics involving the numerous sellsword companies in Slavers Bay, and the book ends.

To build up to that encounter only to have it taken away was a bit cruel to readers (yes, that is a Martin trademark, but still). The show recognized this and made this meeting happen before Daenarys flew away in Season Five. I’m sure this epic meeting is coming somewhere in “Winds of Winter” after Daenarys returns. But I loved how the show placed this first meeting where it did so these two characters can feel each other out. It really makes no sense for Tyrion to be named “Hand of the Queen” if they hadn’t met previously.

Now of course, Martin may be going in an entirely different direction with Tyrion’s role after he meets Daenarys. But I still like this meeting happening where the show placed it instead of making readers wait five more years (at least) before seeing this happen.

5. Winding Down the Story

One of the strengths of the first three books was the way Martin took his centralized story and expanded it, organically introducing new players and new stories to the larger narrative as he moved towards the exciting conclusion to the third book, “A Storm of Swords.”

But then, Martin followed his third book with “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance With Dragons,” two books that decentralized his story even further. The story has spread so far out that it took Martin five years to write “Dance” and we are at five years and counting waiting on “Winds of Winter.”

The television show made a clear decision with season six that they were going to move towards a conclusion. If that meant beloved characters and story lines were taken out, then so be it. And I know many disagree with some of the plots and characters who were not included at all or were taken out prematurely by the show’s producers.  But these decisions have all come with the central goal of moving the narrative to its conclusion, the fruits of which were clear after seeing the Season Six finale.

Episode 10 Dany on her way

Daenarys finally boarded the ship to Westeros in the season six finale. Will Martin have her doing the same in “Winds of Winter?”

Now, I hope Martin brings a similar effect to the book story with “Winds of Winter.” But while Martin has yet to prove he can move his story to its conclusion, producers David Benoiff and DB Weiss left no doubt after season six they can.

What are the things you think the show has done better than the books? What have the books done better than the show? Also, if you haven’t done so already, check out some of the other season wrap-up articles from the past week.

Monday, June 27th: Season Finale Recap

Wednesday June 29th: Obituaries Part 1 and Part 2

Thursday, June 30th: Why was Lyanna in the Tower of Joy?

Saturday, July 2nd: Ranking the Seasons

Today: Book vs Show: Which is Better?

 

Ranking the Seasons: What Season Has Been Game of Thrones’ Best?

Ranking the Seasons compilation poster

A popular thing to do in this generation of the internet is to take a popular TV show and discuss which season of that show was the best (and which ones sucked horribly). And with few exceptions, most shows that go for five seasons or more have their fair share of truly brilliant and just awful seasons.

Game of Thrones is no exception to this rule (though I do think there’s been more good than bad). And with season six in the books, I felt inspired to take the plunge and rank all six seasons going from worst to first. I’m sure there will be disagreement over these, so feel free to state where I went wrong in the comments.

Worst Season: Season Five

Ranking the Seasons 5

I liked Season Five better than most. Sure, it was painfully slow for most of it and took a long time to really find it’s footing (though some will say it never really did). But in a lot of ways, Season Five was better than Season Four. Unlike Season Four (which I will discuss its flaws shortly), Season Five kept a consistent flow in the story lines of all its central players. It also produced one of the best episodes in the history of the series (“Hardhomme” in episode 8) and several great moments (Cersei’s walk of shame, Dany flying on a dragon for the first time, Jon’s “death” (wink wink), and the realization of just how awesome a threat those Whitewalkers were.

Ranking the Seasons 5 Night's King

The Night’s King in the episode Hardhomme, the high point of Season Five.

However, Season Five also produced some of the show’s most controversial moments with Shireen’s death(still makes me cringe thinking about it) and Sansa’s marriage to Ramsey. But what really makes Season Five the worst is Dorne.

No other season had a central plot line that was has poorly written, acted, or executed. The results on screen were so bad that producers David Benoiff and DB Weiss decided this past season to spend as little time as possible in Dorne, restricting the southernmost kingdom to two five minute segments. Dorne was poorly done and mostly pointless, taking season five down in a heap with it.

5. Season Four

Ranking the Seasons 4 revised

 

Yes, Season Four had some really major moments. Joffrey’s poisoning got the season off to a particularly memorable start. Tyrion gave his great courtroom speech (which would have won an emmy for Peter Dinklage if not for some guy  named Walter White in his final season). Arya and the Hound produced one the best arcs of any season, an arc that would end with the epic Brienne vs The Hound battle royale.

This was also Oberyn Martell’s season, portrayed brilliantly by Pedro Pascal. His trial by battle vs. the Mountain produced one of GoT’s most gruesome deaths. Tyrion finished Season Four with another defining moment; taking out his former lover (Shae) and his father while the latter was sitting on a toilet. And there was also “Watchers Against the Wall,” Season Four’s entry for “best episode of all time.”

But in Season Four, several locations raced ahead of others, forcing the producers to hit the pause button in places like Meereen (where Dany sat in a pyramid the whole season), Dragonstone (where Stannis did what he did for all of season 3: sit on a rock and stew over his loss at the Blackwater), and the Wall (where we were constantly reminded the Wildlings were coming while seeing little evidence this was actually happening).

So while season four had some massive moments we’ll always remember, the time wasting in between those moments really hurt the overall quality of the season.

Ranking the Seasons 4 Tyrion on Trial

Tyrion’s speech at his trial in King’s Landing was a highlight of Season Four.

4. Season Two

Ranking the Seasons 2

Most of Season 2 was a season to breath for the audience still coping with the reality that what we were watching was not a traditional heroes and villains drama. Ned Stark’s beheading loomed large over most of the season’s start, with the Stark children especially struggling to deal with it’s aftermath.

It was during this bleak early part of the season that the show did a nice job introducing new, vitally important players to the game (Stannis, Davos, Melisandre, Brienne, Margaery, Roose Bolton) before charging up the engines again for the climax at “Blackwater.”

But unlike Season Four’s Wall Battle, the battle at “Blackwater” was built up strongly throughout the season, with each arc brought to a mostly satisfying conclusion in Game of Thrones’s first epic battle episode.

Overall, season two proved to be a great bridge season between the morale shattering endings of seasons one and three.

Ranking the Seasons 2 blackwater

Our introduction to Wildfire was at Blackwater, Season Two’s climax and the show’s first major battle scene.

3. Season One

Ranking the Seasons 1

I often wonder if we won’t look back years from now and point to this season, the first season of Game of Thrones as a game changer in the history of television.

If it’s not considered the game changer, it will be included among many other shows that represented a change in what we expect from the episodic television format. Before Game of Thrones and shows similar to it in this modern era, TV shows had very clear heroes and villains. The actions of heroes were always rewarded, while the dastardly deeds of villains proved to be their undoing.

But in the first season of Game of Thrones, the honorable Ned Stark, who always did the right things, always kept his vows, and was the central character in the show, got his head chopped off for it. The first season made clear Game of Thrones was going to be different. The honorable way would get you killed in this world we were watching.

Season One was also notable for staying almost entirely true to the books. All seasons following would drift increasingly farther from the source material as the producers began plotting their own course for the TV edition of Martin’s world.

Also notable: Peter Dinklage won an Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion, creating a certified fan favorite from the start.

Ranking the Seasons 1 Ned Stark's beheading

Ned Stark’s life came to a tragic end at “Baelor,” the ninth episode of Season One.

2. Season Three

Ranking the Seasons 3

No season is defined more by one single event than Game of Thrones third season. And my what an event it was!! Robb Stark’s fall at the Red Wedding was sudden and shocking. Though we all knew things would not go well when Robb and his family entered the home of Walder Frey (or when he shacked up with the foreign nurse in the first place, for that matter), no way did we think the carnage would be as sudden and effective as it was. The Red Wedding is still one of the defining (if not the defining) moments of this show. The term itself has become a synonym for shocking television moments.

Ranking the Seasons 3 Red Wedding

The Red Wedding, the climax moment of Season Three.

But Season Three didn’t just have the one shocking twist. Some of the best character moments happened in Season Three. Brienne and Jamie’s relationship developed and produced a real character change in the Kingslayer. Arya had some of her best moments hanging out with The Brotherhood without Banners and the seeds were sown for her Season Four arc with the Hound.

And the first signs of Daenarys Targaryen’s rise to power were felt when the Mother of Dragons put her beasts to use for the first time. “Dracarys” was the command that burned a slave master, allowing Dany to walk away with an Unsullied army as she began her march to conquering the rest of Slavers Bay and (one day) Westeros.

Overall, Season Three had the best balance of character moments, plot development, and shocking reveals of any of Game of Thrones six seasons. But that was not quite enough to make it the best season.

1. Season Six

Ranking the Seasons 6

The battle for the top spot went down the very end. But a lackluster 8th episode (“No One”) had me ready to declare Season Three the champ.

But then “The Battle of the Bastards” gave “Game of Thrones” its best battle scene (at least from a technical prospective) to date. To be considered the best season in the history of Game of Thrones, the ninth episode of the season must be up to par, and “Battle” certainly was. And while episode 9 got Season Six back into contention, episode 10 delivered the finishing blow.

It didn’t matter what followed those first 25 minutes of “Winds of Winter,” Cersei’s blowing up of King’s Landing clinched the title for Season Six. The technical brilliance of that scene and the bastard battle were enough to merit consideration. But midseason also had the loss of Hodor, a scene that amazingly comes in third for it’s technical presentation behind the Green Sept and the Battle of the Bastards. The increased pace kept the action moving as the show moved furiously towards an end game. And did I mention the confirmation of the long time fan theory, R + L = J?

Episode 10 The Holy Sept blown up

Cersei looks on after one of the signature moments of season six (and the series in general).

Now, Season Six was not without  flaws. Euron Greyjoy’s introduction to the narrative (though purposeful) lacked any real impact other than getting his niece and nephew to Daenarys. And there were a couple of plot holes (Arya standing on a bridge in the open in Braavos and Sansa not telling Jon she had more men for him) that had fans scratching their heads.

But I can look past those because of how overwhelmingly fantastic the great elements of Season Six were, better than any previous season in the show’s run.

How would you rank the seasons? Share your thoughts in the comments. And coming Monday, I’ll be finishing my Game of Thrones wrap-up week by comparing the Books to the Show and asking the question: Which is better? I’m sure that won’t get anybody fired up.

Monday, June 27th: The Season Finale Recap

Wednesday, June 29th: Obituaries Part 1 and Obituaries Part 2

oy?

Today: Ranking the Seasons

Monday: Book vs Show: Which one is better?

Why Was Lyanna in the Tower of Joy?

Flashbacks Tower of Joy

 

The Tower of Joy in Game of Thrones Sixth Season was a glorious moment for most of us who’ve read the books and were anxiously anticipating the big reveal of whether one of the most accurate fan theories in the history of fandom was true.

But if you are just a show watcher, the reasons for Lyanna being in that tower in the first place may have you a bit confused. Yes, Game of Thrones has mentioned the events that put Lyanna in that tower. But remembering all those references over the course of six years can be difficult, especially when most of them happened in the first season.

So here a brief synopsis of the events that led to Ned Stark finding Lyanna and a baby Jon Snow at the Tower of Joy.

Rhaegar and Lyanna

The Tourney of Harrenhal

Prince Rhaegar was Daenarys brother and was married to Elia Martell (“you raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children”) when the Tourney of Harrenhal took place about a year before Robert’s Rebellion. Rhaegar successfully won the jousting tournament, defeating Barristen Selmy and three other knights of the king’s guard to claim the championship.

At the end of the tournament, the winner was given the duty of crowning a “queen of love and beauty.” Rhaegar put the crown (made of blue roses) on the head of Lyanna Stark instead of on the head of his wife.

Lyanna’s “Kidnapping”

A year later, Rhaegar “abducted” Lyanna and took her to the Tower of Joy, a tall tower in the mountains of Dorne. Lyanna may have been abucted. She may also have gone willingly. We still don’t know for sure. Ser Arthur Dayne was one of the Knight’s of the Kingsguard that assisted in taking Lyanna to the Tower. This event was the first of several that led to Robert Baratheon (the man betrothed to Lyanna), with the Starks, Arryns, and Tullys, rebelling against the Mad King.

Tower of Joy Arthur Dayne

Ser Arthur Dayne accompanied Prince Rhaegar to the Tower of Joy and was still there when Ned Stark arrived to find his sister.

The Trident

Robert’s forces scored numerous victories during the early part of the Rebellion. When word of Robert’s progress made it to Rhaegar, he decided he needed to take action. Leaving Dayne behind with orders to guard the Tower, Rhaegar left to lead the Targaryen forces in open combat at the Trident (where the Rivers in the Riverlands meet). It was there that Robert defeated Rhaegar, striking him down and killing him in single combat.

Ned Seeks His Sister

After King’s Landing was taken with the help of the Lannisters, Ned went to end the siege at Storm’s End and find his sister. But Arthur Dayne and the other King’s Guard who had been assigned to protect that tower stood true to their oaths and fought Ned to their deaths. Only Ned Stark and Howland Reed survived the fighting at the Tower, but Ned found he was too late to save his sister, who was already dying when he found her.

Lyanna’s last words to her brother were “Promise me Ned,” words thatd invoke the vow Ned would take from that day forward: to raise Jon Snow as his own son (Robert would likely have killed him if he’d known Jon was a Targaryen) and protect him.

Ned holding a baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

Ned holding the baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

The confirmation of Jon Snow’s true parentage is a wonderful moment for book readers and show watchers alike. But I think it’s pretty obvious this information will have a significant impact on events going forward.

Questions Going Forward

-Will Jon’s Targaryen blood give him a claim to the throne of Westeros? I doubt the current queen is beloved by many after blowing up so many in the Holy Sept. But discovering that “The White Wolf” has dragon blood and the support of the entire northern region could make him a popular choice to usurp the throne from Cersei.

Episode 10 Baby Jon

Jon Snow after he was born in the Tower of Joy.

-What will Daenarys think if/when she discovers another in Westeros has dragon blood? But there’s already a dragon queen on her way to take out the Green Queen. Does she voice support for her nephew (that’s right, Jon is technically Dany’s nephew) and look to unite Westeros together? Or does she see him as a threat to her claim to the throne of Westeros?

-What about Jon’s claim to the throne in the North? Lyanna Mormont’s fiery speech voiced her support for Jon because he had “The blood of Ned Stark in him.” Well, technically, that’s true. But everyone in the North assumes Jon’s a direct male heir to Lord Eddard. Do they question their allegiance if/when it’s revealed that Sansa actually has a more direct line? I suspect Littlefinger, who already has suspicions about Jon Snow’s true parentage, to use this very piece of information when attempting to drive a wedge between Sansa and Jon Snow.

-If it is revealed, who will be responsible for revealing it? As I mentioned earlier, only Howland Reed and Bran Stark know the truth. But one of those is crippled, will need to be carried to Winterfell, and brings the risk of a Whitewalker invasion with him if he’s to reveal that information. And the other has yet to appear on the show. There’s also Meera, who doesn’t know at the moment. But I don’t imagine Bran holding that juicy information from her for long. Maybe she finds a way to get the information to Jon Snow and the rest of Westeros.

So while we can’t be for sure the reveal of Jon Snow’s parentage will make it beyond Bran’s visions, I really don’t see how it doesn’t. It has to be used in some way to move us towards the end game. The question is how. Who delivers this information? Who do they deliver it to? And what will everyone’s response be once Jon’s Targaryen blood is revealed?

It should be a lot of fun to sort out in season seven. As far wrapping up season six, I’ve got two more articles until I disappear into my own personal Tower of Joy for awhile. Saturday, I’ll be ranking all six seasons of Game of Thrones from worst to best. Be preparing your list and see if you agree with me.

June 27th: Season Finale Recap

Yesterday: Season Six Obituaries Part One

Also Yesterday: Season Six Obituaries Part Two

Today: Why Was Lyanna in the Tower of Joy?

Saturday: Ranking the Seasons

Monday: Which is better: The Show or the Books?

 

 

Game of Thrones Season Six Obituaries Part 1

Obits Hodor

It’s a bloody show we follow, Game of Thrones viewers. And this season was the bloodiest of the bloody, as we continue a tradition here at 4LN eulogizing those who’ve passed during the season we’ve just watched. In fact, so many characters fell this season that I’m going to have to split this years obits into two parts. Click if you want to read the Season 4 and Season 5 obits (there may be some photos that need to be updated, so I apologize if some photos do not appear) if you’d like to review deaths from previous seasons.

As for this season, twenty nine important characters appeared for the last time this year. Today, we recall the lives of characters that died in the first seven episodes.

Doran Martell

When:  Episode 1, The Red Woman

How: Stabbed by Ellaria Sand

Obits Doran

I have real mixed emotions about this one. Book Doran Martell is (and I emphasize is because he’s still alive in the text) a pragmatic thinker who acts when he has the resources to do so. And I would have mourned the loss of that character more fervently. But show Doran Martell sat in a wheelchair and did nothing. I think he would have been the central character of the Dorne story line. But season five butchered it so badly that the show producers decided to cut their losses and limit the Dorne narrative so that it wasted as little screen time as possible. Doran was a victim of this decision by show producers.

Doran's Death

Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, stabbed by Ellaria Sand after he discovers she poisoned Myrcella Baratheon.

Areo Hotah

When: Episode 1, The Red Woman

How: Stabbed by Tyene Sand

Obits Areo

Another misrepresented character from Dorne, Areo was the head of Doran Martell’s personal guard. Doran’s gout makes it essential that he has strong, loyal protection. And Areo was all of that in the books. But he was made weak by his only scene in season six, when a Sand Snake who should have never been allowed to get behind him stabbed him in the back.

Areo-Hotah-murdered-630x483

Good thinking, Areo. Let the fiery, rebellious niece of the prince stand behind you. Nice work.

Trystane Martell

When: Episode 1, The Red Woman

How: Stabbed through the face with a spear by Obara Sand

Trystane Obits

 

We hardly knew the only son of Doran and Myrcella’s betrothed, who seemed prime for an interesting change of scenery in King’s Landing following Myrcella’s poisoning. But the producers’ purging of Dorne left few survivors and Trystane was immediately put back on a boat, where he was stabbed through the face with a spear by Obara Sand. The purging of Dorne, with the Sand Snakes magically sneaking their way onto a boat that managed to get itself between King’s Landing and Dorne in record time, was the worst bit of storytelling in the history of the show. But at least it meant we only had to spend five more minutes in Dorne later in the season instead of wasting valuable screen time down there like we did in season five.

Trystane Martell death

Trystane Martell turning to Nymeria Sand as Obara prepares to stab him in the back of the head.

Roose Bolton

When: Episode 2, Home

How: Stabbed by Ramsey

Obits Roose

Roose Bolton was a key adviser to Robb Stark during the War of Five Kings. But as Lord Bolton started questioning Robb’s decision-making, he turned on the young wolf, helping to arrange the Red Wedding and putting the final wound into the dying Stark.

Bolton became Warden of the North and, with the help of his son Ramsey, defeated Stannis at Winterfell.

Bolton was also known for his shrewd political maneuverings,especially with Ramsey. But one of those moves (holding the threat of a true born heir over his bastard’s head) proved to be the end for Roose. Ramsey killed his father right after the announcement that the baby had been born.

Ramsey Kills Roose

Ramsey standing over his dying father.

Walda Frey

When: Episode 2, Home

How: Eaten By Ramsey’s Hounds

Obits Walda

A candidate for the season’s most gruesome death, Walda was the wife of Roose Bolton and the granddaughter of Walder Frey. Lord Frey offered a dowry of silver equal to the weight of the bride Roose Bolton chose from the available Frey girls. So the shrewd Lord Bolton chose the fattest Frey available.

Roose did grow fond of Walda and the affection she had for him. But it was the son the two had together that proved to be their downfall as Ramsey killed his father, stepmother, and baby brother to gain control of House Bolton.

Ramsey with Walda

Ramsey holds Walda’s child before committing possibly his worst act.

Balon Greyjoy

When: Episode 2, Home

How: Knocked off a bridge by his brother, Euron Greyjoy

Obits Balon

Balon, middle, talking with his children during season 2, discussing northern invasions.

The Lord of the Iron Islands was central to the plot for only season two. Balon threw his hat into the ring for the war of five kings when he sent Iron Born ships to invade and take over lightly defended cities in the North.

Even up to his death, Balon held on to his misguided notions of the Iron Born ruling a great empire again. His fathering skills were also lacking as his poor reception to a returning Theon led the latter down a path that cost him some pretty important parts.

After a two season absence, Balon returned just long enough this season to meet his end on a poorly constructed bridge in the rain. He was the last of the five kings remaining when he met his end as his brother came home to take his place.

Balon and Euron

Balon and Euron having their final conversation.

Alliser Thorne

When: Episode 3, Oathbreaker

How: Hanged for Killing Jon Snow

Obits Alliser

Alliser Thorne threatening Jon during the first season.

Thorne was the proper name for the man who was Jon Snow’s Professor Snape. Thorne never liked the Stark bastard, often referring to him as “Lord Snow” (a name that would one day be true of Jon). Thorne played the adversary of Jon with the exception of one night: the Wall battle where the two men put aside their differences to keep the Wildlings from invading Westeros.

But it would be the focus of that fight that would prove to be Thorne’s downfall. When Jon, seeing the Whitewalkers as the greatest threat of all, made an alliance with Tormund Giantsbane and the rest of the Wildlings, it was too much for the man who dedicated the last 15 to 20 years of his life defeating the ones Jon now welcomed.

Thorne conspired with other members of the Night’s Watch to kill the Lord Commander at the end of Season Five. But as we all know, Jon didn’t stay dead and came back to execute Thorne and his fellow conspirators for their crimes.

Thorne, however, stood by his choice, hoping he’d make the same decision again even if he knew it would cost him his life.

 

Thorne Obit pic

Thorne before his hanging by Jon Snow

Olly

When: Episode 3, Oathbreaker

How: Hanged for Killing Jon Snow

Obit pics

Olly’s final look at Jon before he was hanged.

We first met Olly in Season 4 when Wildlings (Led by Tormund Giantsbane) killed his entire village on their way to the Wall. He was kept alive so he could warn the men of the Night’s Watch what was coming.

Jon took him under his wing immediately, training the young man how to fight. But Olly said he was good with a bow and arrow. And this proved true with Olly’s most heroic moment: saving Jon’s life when he shot Ygritte.

Olly saving Jon

Olly after shooting the arrow that would save Jon’s life.

Olly would become Jon’s steward before the Lord Commander took the step Olly could not accept. It’s the same decision Ser Allister made with different motivations: Olly couldn’t align with men who killed his entire family.

Olly turned on Jon, leading him into the trap and being the last one to stab Lord Snow at the end of season five. But Jon’s return meant the unfortunate end for Olly, who seemed to hold onto that bitterness up until the moment he was hanged.

Osha

When: Episode 4: The Book of the Stranger

How: Stabbed by Ramsey Bolton

Obits Osha

Another victim claimed by the Bolton bastard, Osha was a wildling who helped Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell back in season 2 while Theon was in charge.

She came to Winterfell as a captive, one of a party of three who were fleeing the North to avoid Whitewalkers. But she proved herself useful in the service of Winterfell and worked hard as a servant right up until Theon’s invasion. She then used her “feminine persuasion” to give the Stark boys the chance to escape.

When Osha had no interest in staying with Bran and crew as they headed north of the wall, she agreed to take Rickon to the Umbers for safe keeping. But the once loyal bannermen to the Starks joined Ramsey and turned Osha and Rickon in to the new Warden of the North.

Though I hated for such an instrumental character to meet such a sudden end, it was a very logical move for Ramsey to take out the Wildling before she worked out another Theon-like escape.

Osha's Death

Osha right before Ramsey stabbed her in the neck.

Hodor

When: Episode 5; The Door

How: Killed by Wights Holding the Door so Bran and Meera Could Escape

Obits Hodor

A true fan favorite passed in season six and his death was as heroic as any the show has seen. Hodor was the stable boy who became of service to Bran Stark following the accident that left him unable to walk. A simple task for a simple man, it would appear. But that task would take Hodor to the very far reaches of the North where he would also serve as a deadly weapon whenever Bran would warg into him.

We all know the fateful moment when the boy named Wyllis “Held the Door” and became Hodor, losing his life and mental abilities saving the boy and friend he served loyally right up to the end.

The Three-Eyed Raven

When: Episode 5; The Door

How: Struck down by a Whitewalker in his mystical cave.

Obits Three Eyed Raven

We barely new the wise old treehanger before his time came to an end. A different actor greeted Bran at the end of the fourth season. But the show gave Bran and crew Season Five off, so we had to wait almost two years to find out what purpose this mystical being served in the story.

The Three Eyed Raven was a mentor Bran, showing him his family’s history, the origin of the Whitewalkers, and perfecting (well not quite as Bran’s training had to finish early) Bran’s ability to warg into the past.

Though the Raven was gone after only three episodes, he was responsible for a trio of the show’s biggest reveals: the events at the Tower of Joy, the Children’s role in creating the Whitewalkers, and the origin of the name Hodor.

Rey

When: Episode 7; The Broken Man

How: Hung by Rogue Members of the Brotherhood

Obits Ray

There’s a number of one episode characters that died this season that I will not be writing about. However, I felt it was important to include Rey, the man who saved and reformed the Hound before meeting his untimely end.

Rey was a reformed soldier who renounced violence entirely as he and his followers attempted to build a new village out in the country. But his stance on nonviolence proved to be the end for him and his followers. At least, I don’t believe his death will be in vain as we ended Season 6 with a newly inspired Hound and a possible team-up with the brotherhood in the works.

Episode 7 The Hound and Ray Hanging

Ray hanging from the Sept his people were building as the Hound approaches.

Tomorrow, we’ll remember all the characters we lost in the final three episodes. Also, here’s what else is planned for this Game of Throne wrap-up week.

Monday: The Season Finale Recap

Today: Obituaries Part One

Later Today: Obituaries Part Two

Thursday: The Tower of Joy Explained

Saturday: Ranking The Seasons

Monday: Book vs Show: Which is superior?

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale Recap: The Winds of Winter

Episode 10 Cersei

Two weeks ago, I asked the question of whether Game of Thrones, with so many unanswered questions heading into basically it’s final episode (because “Battle of the Bastards” was going to be so Northern Centric), could truly give us a satisfying ending in the Season Six finale. Would the show truly be close enough to a conclusion that thirteen episodes (the number of episodes rumored to be left) would be all that it takes to end the show’s run?

Well, after the longest episode in the show’s history, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes!!! All it took was a giant green explosion, a Targaryen queen setting sail, and a stirring speech from a bad ass ten year old girl to tell us that indeed, thirteen episodes is all we need to get to the end.

That’s not to say that I’m happy thirteen episodes are all that’s left. I would love to see two more full ten episode seasons before parting with the show I’ve loved for the past six years. But last night’s episode helped me to understand why showrunners David Benoiff and DB Weiss thought thirteen was possible to bring a satisfying conclusion to the show.

It makes sense because, after last night, we are basically down to three sides: Jon in the North, Cersei on the Iron Throne, and Daenarys on a boat with three dragons and multiple armies at her side. Working out the politics of Westeros between those three (along with a few other players floating around in various locales) is a much less daunting task now that the Boltons, Freys, Tyrells, and Meereen (not destroyed liked those others, just left behind in the narrative) are all out of the way.

Now, I know the Whitewalkers are looming. And with Bran about to cross that wall, the connection they need to attack the armies of men may not be that far off. But dealing with the army of the dead was going to be much more difficult with all the other factions fighting with each other for power in Westeros. And while I  don’t expect these three sides to necessarily align with each other (at least two of these groups should be fighting each other come season seven), the fight for control of Westeros has become more centralized than it’s been at any point since the first season.

And to get to that point, “Winds of Winter” began with Cersei taking out all her enemies (and I mean every stinking one of them) in one fell swoop.

And for this review, I’m going to do things a little differently. Instead of taking each of the different locations in the story and combining all their narrative parts, I’m going to recap the show as it happened (with a few exceptions), bouncing back and forth between the various locations.

King’s Landing

In a season filled with amazing technical achievements for GoT (“The Door,” “Battle of the Bastards”), the opening sequence of “Winds” might’ve been the best one yet. The slow build of the music begins with all the invested parties preparing for the morning’s trials. The build for this scene was fitting considering that the King’s Landing story line has been like bomb with a long fuse waiting to blow all season. Everything between Cersei and her enemies seemed small in scale. But all those little events lit the fire that would eventually lead to the seasons largest explosion (both literally and figuratively).

Looking back, it’s interesting to see how well Cersei dressed for a trial she had no intentions of attending. The choice to wear all black, however, was clearly not an accident.

Loras’s trial is first and he confesses to everything he’s been charged with. He wants to serve the Faith now and plans to renounce all previous holdings and titles to do so. I was saddened here by the slow death of House Tyrell. Little did I know of the full obliteration that was coming.

Episode 10 The High Sparrow and Loras 2

Loras on trial in front of the High Sparrow.

Back at the Red Keep, Tommen is ready to head over to the Sept. But Frankenmountain won’t let him leave his room (hmm…) Pycelle is called down by one of those “little birds” Qyburn hired into his service with candy several weeks ago (hmm…again) to aid the king. But instead of finding the king, Pycelle finds Qyburn and more little birds. But these little birds have knives and they stab the Grand Maester to death.

Lancel is sent to find out what is keeping Cersei. He sees a “little bird” with a torch head into the underground tunnels of King’s Landing. Lancel follows and discovers the large amounts of Wildfire being stored there before the “little bird” runs out and stabs him.

In the Holy Sept, Margaery strongly suspects Cersei is up to something. But the High Sparrow won’t have it. Ser Holier than Though insists there will be a trial, ignoring all that astute political sense that got him to where he is at this point. Margaery tries to flee with Loras, but the Faith Militant won’t allow it.

Lancel sees the small candle lit on top of the leaking Wildfire and slowly crawls over in a futile attempt to stop what is about to happen. The music that’s been building through this entire scene accentuates Lancel’s agonizing crawl to blow out that candle. Lancel is too late. The flame meets the Wildfire, creating an explosion that kills everyone inside the Holy Sept. Cersei looks on and the condescending smirk we haven’t seen since sometime last season returns to her face.

Episode 10 The Holy Sept blown up

The Holy Sept blown up as Cersei looks on.

And just like that, Cersei takes out every person that’s been opposed to her since the beginning of Season 5. Well, all but one person. Septa Unella, who tortured her frequently when she was a captive, is tied up in the Red Keep. And though the large Septa is ready to die, Cersei won’t allow it yet. Instead, she’s leaving the Septa with Frankenmountain and locking the door.

Tommen sees the carnage at the Holy Sept and is horrified. The young king as been on edge all season, doubting his abilities as king as everyone took turns using him as their puppet. Finally, the stress of being pulled between family, faith and his queen bubbles over as Tommen puts down his crown and drops himself out the window to his death.

Cersei looks over the dead body of her last remaining child, but is not weeping this time. One thing kept Cersei sane and human: her children. Now with her children gone, what kind of monster will King’s Landing be subjected to? She wants Tommen burned, his ashes laid on the Holy Sept to join those of his brother and grandfather.

The Riverlands

Completely unaware of his lover/sisters actions, Jamie is at the Twins where the Freys are hosting a party celebrating the recapture of Riverrun.  And no one in Westeros is better at taking credit for something he didn’t do than Walder Frey. His family had to be rescued by Jamie and the Lannister army, yet here he is boldly proclaiming their equal victory.

Jamie is quick to point this out to the Lord of the Riverlands saying “It’s House Lannister they fear, not House Frey.” Jamie also asks, “If we have to ride north and take them back for you every time you lose them, why do we need you?” A serving girl also takes an interest in Jamie during the dinner. But I’m sure she’s just an attractive extra cast to make googly eyes with Jamie.

Episode 10 Jamie and Lord Walder

Jamie makes clear him and Lord Walder are not the same.

Oldtown

We have a new location folks!!! Oldtown, the richest city in Westeros and home of the Citadel, where the Maesters train. But it’s a little scary that the men in charge of keeping the history of Westeros are so behind on there’s. Apparently, they stopped watching Game of Thrones after season 2, as they still think Jeor Mormount (the Old Bear) is Lord Commander. Of course, Sam’s note, coming from Lord Commander Jon Snow, is out of date as well. So I guess everyone in Oldtown needs to have a GoT binge watching party soon to get caught up.

Sam is allowed study in the library, but Gilly and little Sam are left in the lobby. It’s funny how this entire episode sees a real female empowerment movement take hold, but the Maesters are still just a big men’s club. Sam is in awe of the many shelves of books his eyes behold. I’m curious what information Sam will be finding here that could aid GoT’s end game next season.

Sam at the Citadel

Sam at the library of the Citadel. Did anybody else recognize that large golden object from the opening credits?

The North

Speaking of the former Lord Commander, Jon stands in the halls of Winterfell talking with Melisandre when Davos walks in and throws the toy stag at the Red Woman. The Onion Knight demands she confess what she did to Shireen, and the priestess admits to everything, including being wrong about Stannis. Melisandre’s had a real crisis of confidence this season and she finally admits why here. I really didn’t think after last week that Jon could sentence the woman who brought him back to life to die. But he does send her south, demanding that she never return.

At the start of this scene, a white raven was sent by the Citadel, signaling that Winter has finally come. I find it odd that this raven was sent North, where it’s been winter for two seasons. But these are the same people who revealed earlier in the episode that they are about four seasons behind in their Westerosi history.

Sansa meets to talk with Jon and apologizes for not telling him about her talks with Baelish and the Vale. To which, Jon says, ‘Yeah, I know Sansa. I mean what the hell?” Well, no he didn’t say that. And unfortunately, we never really got a good explanation for why Sansa didn’t tell her brother that more men were available. But Jon knows he can’t trust many people and he’s choosing to forgive her (or not really understanding how terrible of a thing it was not to be told that) and trusting his blood, as he doesn’t know who all he can trust at this point.

Dorne

One of the real strengths of Season Six was the lack of Dorne in the narrative. So I don’t think I imagined that very large collective groan from Game of Thrones viewers when the Dornish scenes from the season premiere were shown in the “previously on” segment.

But at least this scene had the Queen of Thorns representing the entire audience when she told the Sand Snakes to shut up. That needed to happen well before the Sand Snakes ever spoke a word last season, but better late than never.

Lady Olenna wants revenge for the death of her entire family and she’s seeking out the Dornish, who hate the Lannsiters just as much as she does. But to her surprise, Ellaria Sand has already been in talks regarding a major alliance. Two weeks ago, you’ll recall that Lord Varys left Meereen to secure an alliance for the Dragon Queen. That alliance was Dorne. And if the Sand Snakes can maintain their vow of silence established this episode, it might actually be watchable.

Episode 10 Varys in Dorne

Varys arrives in Dorne to establish an alliance between Daenarys, Dorne, and the Tyrells.

Meereen

Speaking of Daenarys, she’s finally secured peace in the former Slaver’s Bay (nice touch having her change the name to “Bay of Dragons” before she left). Now, I’m not going to analyze how rushed and simple that process became because I really don’t care. Bottom line, the Mother of Dragons is finally exiting Meereen and is on her way to Westeros.

But before that can happen, she has to tie up a few loose ends. One of those is Daario, a potential complication if she arrives in Westeros needing a marriage to secure the peace. She’s leaving Daario and his Second Sons (at the recommendation of Tyrion) in the “Bay of Dragons,” where they will be tasked with maintaining the peace she’s leaving behind. Then it’s on to talk with Tyrion, who she officially appoints as her “Hand of the Queen.” Before receiving that title, Tyrion advises Dany on the Game of Thrones, saying “You’re in the great game now. And the great game is terrifying.”

Episode 10 Dany and Tyrion

Dany and Tyrion discussing “The Great Game.”

Riverlands

Back in the Riverlands, one of those game players continues to gloat as a servant girl he doesn’t recognize walks in and gives him pie. He wonders where his sons are, and an ominous feel not felt in that hall since the Red Wedding sets in. The girl says “Your sons are right here” and another collective sound (this one of anticipation) could be heard among book readers all over in the world.

Lord Walder has been presented with a piece of Frey Pie. The ingredients; his two sons. Frey pie was a strongly suspected part of a dinner that took place in “A Dance with Dragons.” And now here it is, placed perfectly as Arya removes the face she was wearing and reveals herself to a horrified Lord Walder.

Episode 10 Arya and Walder Frey

Arya reveals herself to Walder Frey after serving him some “Frey Pie.”

I worried a few weeks ago that the two seasons Arya spent in Braavos would be wasted. If she was just going to come home as Arya Stark, what was the point of spending all the time becoming “No One?” As it turns out, it was all worth it to have her peel back that face and become the cold blooded assassin she means to be now that she’s back in Westeros. She slits Lord Walder’s throat (the very same treatment given to her mother at that ill-fated wedding) and the look on her face while Lord Frey bleeds out is just terrifying. I expect Arya’s sudden appearance to become one of the best elements of the show’s remaining episodes.

The North

While Arya is playing super assassin, her sister is dealing with creepy uncle Petyr. Despite serving her on a plate to her rapist, Baelish still thinks he can pursue creepy romantic feelings with Sansa. He does make clear his desires in this scene: he wants to sit the Iron Throne and wants Sansa as his queen. And he’s got a compelling case. Who are the people more likely to follow: a true Stark born in the North or a bastard born in the South?

Beyond the Wall

That was your cue Bran to confirm the worst kept secret in the history of literature/television. Benjen has taken Meera and Bran as far as they can go, as he reveals the Wall has magical powers that kept him (and other ice zombies) from crossing it. He places Bran in front of a Weirwood tree, where he decides he’s ready to find out what was in that tower back in the third episode.

He follows young Ned up the steps to see his sister Lyanna with blood all over her bed. He wants to help her survive, but his little sister knows better. She’s about to die and needs Ned to do something for her. Hearing her whisper “Promise me Ned,” the iconic lines Ned heard in his thoughts throughout that first novel were extremely satisfying here as a nurse put a baby into young Ned’s arms.

Ned holding a baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

Ned holding a baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

The North

Right after seeing Jon born, we see Jon today, overseeing a hall of northern lords and the Knights of the Vale as they discuss what to do now. Most seem ready to prepare for winter, but Jon informs them of the battle that is coming. Jon’s taken a season away from the looming Whitewalker threat to focus on getting Winterfell back. But now, he appears poised to play Paul Revere for the rest of Westeros, screaming “The Whitewalkers are coming!!!!”

But first, he must secure the other houses of the North. And for that, he needs the help of LYANNA FREAKING MORMONT!!!! This girl needs wrestling theme music playing every time she’s getting ready to speak with famous wrestling announcer Jim Ross screaming “LYANNA MORMONT IS HERE!!!!

The Lady of Bear Island scalds the other Northern Houses who didn’t aid Jon in his quest to take back Winterfell. She says that House Mormont will only stand behind one king, and his name is Stark (or Targaryen, but I guess we can figure how that works next season).

In response to her fiery speech, the other northern lords apologize for not coming to aid Jon when he called. They kneel, and the room raises their swords, erupting with the chant “The King of the North, The King of the North.” Sansa is pleased at first, but the smile quickly leaves her face as she looks back at Littlefinger, who is not pleased with this development as he looks on in the back of the room.

Episode 10 King of the North

Jon the “White Wolf” being declared “King of the North.”

King’s Landing

While one throne is established in the North, the first ruling queen of Westeros is crowned in the South. With Qyburn now wearing the pin for the Hand of the King, Cersei takes her seat as Jamie walks in, unsure of what he’s seeing. His men returning from the Riverlands arrived to find the Sept burning.

Episode 10 Cersei on the Throne

Cersei on the Iron Throne.

But while there’s a king in the north and a queen in the south, another queen rides the waters, her boats headed to Westeros with an army of unsullied, another army of Dothraki, and three dragons flying overhead.

Episode 10 Dany on her way

Daenarys on her way to Westeros.

Of Note

-I wonder how Jamie will respond to Cersei’s bit of “diplomacy,” especially considering how he just ended a siege without shedding any blood.

-This season has seen the development of a true “express lane” to get between Westeros and Essos. The Greyjoys and Arya both quickly transported between the two continents. But neither of them hold a candle to Varys, who made it Dorne and back to Meereen in the same episode.

-The reveal of magic at the Wall brings back the importance of Bran being touched by that Whitewalker. If Bran should ever cross the Wall, could the Whitewalkers follow?

-The Tyrells and Martells have been bitter enemies throughout Westerosi history. So for them to be meeting to form an alliance shows just how desperate both sides are and how much they desire revenge against Cersei.

-The Frey Pie scene in the books was the work of Wyman Manderly, who is strongly suspected to have killed two Frey messengers who’ve disappeared and backed them into a pie that he feeds to Bolton and Frey guests at a dinner. The Lord Manderly presented tonight did not initially resemble the master manipulator from the text. But being that he’s the Lord of the North’s richest city (White Harbor), he should be extremely important moving forward.

Questions for Next Season

-How long before Daenarys is on the shores of Westeros?

-How will Jamie and Cersei’s relationship change now that she’s blown up half of King’s Landing?

-Will Littlefinger use his knowledge of Jon’s true parentage to create friction in the North? Or will that knowledge come to Jon’s aid for the major battle to come?

-Will Arya proceed to take out everyone on her list? Or will she have other targets in mind more central to the show’s end game?

I have a huge week of articles planned to wrap up this season, including the annual season obituaries (with two parts necessary) and a look at whether the show or Martin’s book is the superior work (I’m sure that won’t get anybody worked up). Here’s the launch schedule:

Tuesday: Obituaries part 1

Wednesday: Obituaries part 2

Thursday: The Tower of Joy Explained

Saturday: Ranking the Seasons

Next Monday: Which is Better: The Show or the Books?

Thank you so much for reading my recaps throughout this season. Now let’s help each other get through another long ten months of waiting until season 7.

Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode 9: The Battle of the Bastards Review

Episode-9-Jons-Forces

While preparing for last night’s episode, I debated in my mind how “Battle of the Bastards” would rate. Would it surpass the other great battle scenes on the show or would it be a poor imitation of “Blackwater” from Season 2 or “Watchers on the Wall” from Season 4?

And while I think “Blackwater” was the most unpredictable (I mean, come on, we all knew Jon was winning last night) and “Watchers on the Wall” had more dramatic moments (such as a giant scythe cutting through people, Ygritte and important men of the Nights Watch dying, and great moments for Jon, Sam, and Ghost), the “Battle of the Bastards” was the most brutal of any of these.

Never has “Game of Thrones” featured that kind of hand to hand combat. The previously mentioned battles were about territory (Stannis getting the Throne and The Wildlings crossing the Wall). But “Bastards” was a grudge match centered around pure hate. Jon and Sansa’s hatred for all the pain the Bolton’s had caused versus Ramsey’s hatred for human decency.

And I know there’s been a lot of criticism for how the show felt this constant need to remind us just how sick a freak Ramsey is. But Ramsey was the heel that poured the emotion into Jon and Sansa’s return to Winterfell. He’s like that dastardly wrestling villain that kept escaping what was coming to him until that satisfying moment when the good guy finally finishes him off.

With “Blackwater,” there were no real good guys or bad guys. And while that is a classic Martin tactic, it gave viewers very mixed emotions on who they should want to secure the Iron Throne. “Watchers” did put that good guy moniker on the men of the Night’s Watch, but we still felt sympathetic for the Wildlings, who only fought because it was the only way to escape the Whitewalkers.

What made “Battle of the Bastards” different was Ramsey was that true villain. He “earned” Winterfell by killing his father, who earned it having Starks stabbed at the red wedding. He was brutal to Sansa and fed numerous others to his dogs for sport. And maybe the show went over board displaying his brutality the last four seasons. But that brutality is what made his defeat last night so satisfying.

But there were two battles in last night’s episode 9. And I’ll start with that first one, and it was a little more lopsided than Jon vs Ramsey.

Meereen

Daenarys has returned to Meereen and someone has some explaining to do. Well, at least I thought someone would. I mean, seriously, Tyrion really got off easy here. Daenarys, as it turns out, only wants to exact vengeance on the slavers for what’s happening outside her city’s walls.

Now, many folks on the forums have pointed out that while Dany’s been doing some cool stuff in season six, she’s also been talking a lot like a crazy Targaryen (a “Mad Queen” quite possibly?). Tyrion notices this too when Dany says she intends to hang every slaver and burn their cities to the ground (the very thing her father, the Mad King, was willing to do to keep from losing his city). He talks her out of it, and they formulate a new plan before meeting with the slavers to discuss terms.

The slavers are first with theirs, arrogantly telling the Dragon Queen to leave Slaver’s Bay, sell the Unsullied and Missandei back to them, and kill her dragons in the dungeons. Its clear the slavers haven’t been watching Game of Thrones this season.

Episode 9 Dany and Drogon

Dany and Drogon appear before the Slavers, causing them to s**t their pants.

Drogon flies up behind Dany, changing the tone of “negotiations” and shocking the slavers as she flies off to burn the slaver ships. The Harpys have also returned for the first time this season and they are butchering people once again. But the Dothraki, led by Daario, ride up on their horses and handle them easily (so that’s all it took to take out season five’s biggest threat to Daenarys?).

As Dany flies Drogon, her other two dragons burst out of the walls (they were unchained earlier this season many weeks ago). The three dragons fly in formation and, at Dany’s command, burn a number (though it didn’t sound like all of them were burned) of slaver ships.

Grey Worm (who hasn’t done anything cool in a long time) speaks up in that tough military voice we’ve missed leading the Unsullied. He tells the guards of the Slavers to leave. Tyrion and Missandei then tell the slavers that punishment for their crimes is that one of them must die. Two of the slavers push the guy in the middle forward. But he’s the one spared as Grey Worm walks up and slices the other two’s throats (good to have you back Grey Worm). The one survivor is sent to the slaver cities and is instructed to tell them all he’s seen here today.

With the slavers defeated, Dany can turn her focus on securing all the ships she needs. And wouldn’t you know it, Theon and Yara Greyjoy have just arrived. My oh my, how things are working out for the Breaker of Chains. The Greyjoy siblings tell her of Euron and his impending arrival and offer her their own terms: the Iron Islands for Yara to lead. Dany agrees only if they will respect the lands of the seven kingdoms and stop plundering and raping. The two women shake elbows and Dany has her first Westerosi alliance.

Episode 9 Dany and the Greyjoys

Tyrion and Dany meet with the Greyjoys.

The North

Before the Battle

Now it’s time for the main event, as the terms for the Battle of the Bastards are set. The two sides meet the day before to parlay as Ramsey wants Jon and crew to declare him Warden of the North. Jon wants to avoid bloodshed and have him and Ramsey fight one on one for Winterfell. Of course, nobody accepts anybody’s terms. Ramsey does point out that his dogs have not eaten in seven days, but I’m sure that won’t come into play sometime later.

episode 9 negotiations before the battle

The two sides meet to discuss terms as Jon and Ramsey speak for the first time.

Jon and crew return to camp and discuss battle plans, something Tormund is hilariously unfamiliar with. But Sansa sees a problem. She knows Ramsey and suspects strongly that he will set a trap. Her advice to Jon: “Don’t do what he expects you to do.” At this point, we all know Sansa’s warnings are correct. But could she have given advice that was any more vague?

Well, it turns out she could have. Jon goes to meet with Melisandre, who continues her season of sulking in a tent by herself. Her advice to Jon straight from the John Madden book of Military Strategy: “Don’t lose.” But Jon is not here for military council. He tells Mel to let him die if he falls on the battlefield. The red priestess, however, can’t make any promises. She says she can only do what the Lord of Light tells her. And this season, I think she believes that. I definitely think her experience with Stannis has humbled her to a point where she no longer considers herself to have any power at all that’s not granted to her by her deity. I don’t know if that was the case before.

Now let’s see if she survives to continue with this new philosophy on life. Davos, while walking around the night before the battle, discovers the peer. Remember, this is the same camp Stannis was in last season preparing for his northern invasion. Looking through that peer, Davos finds the stag he gave Shireen the last time he saw her. So now we have Davos’s next meeting with Melisandre to look forward to.

Episode 9 Davos and Shireen 2

Davos holding Shireen’s stag.

Day of the Battle

Ramsey wastes little time before playing his first game. He brings out Rickon, cuts the ropes tying him up, and tells the young Stark to run. Jon sees this, and while the rest of us go Admiral Ackbar screaming “It’s a trap, you fool,” Jon jumps on his horse and races to save his doomed brother.

Sansa has no battlefield experience, but she was clearly right about two things. The first of those was that Rickon was not going to survive. Ramsey would not let him survive with the boy’s possible claim to Winterfell. And without a line spoken all season, Rickon dies as he was finally struck down by one of the many arrows Ramsey was firing.

While watching Jon’s actions throughout the battle, I wondered if he didn’t have a death wish regarding the whole affair. First, he asks Mel not to revive him. Then, after Rickon is killed, he rides his horse alone into the entire Bolton line. I mean, he had to know he wasn’t going to survive that didn’t he? His horse is shot down, but Jon persists, this time with the Bolton army making its first charge straight at him.

Episode 9 Jon and the Boltons

Jon staring down the charging Bolton forces.

Fortunately for Jon (or maybe not so fortunately if he really wanted to die), Ser Davos had already sent men to begin their charge and they arrive just before a Bolton sword can strike him down. And as it turns out, nothing from the Bolton’s can strike Jon down as some bizarre “Jon Snow Force Field” allows him to dodge every arrow and blow from a Bolton soldier.

The fighting is just brutal. Piles of dead bodies begin to emerge with men fighting each other on top of those piles. Game of Thrones has never featured this type of close quarters fighting and it was something to behold. Now, I don’t know how Ramsey pulled this off, but somehow those stacks of dead bodies were by design. Because that proved to be the wall that set the trap (the second thing she was right about) Sansa warned Jon about.

Episode 9 Ramsey's Battle strategy

Jon and his men trapped between Bolton men and a wall of dead bodies.

The Smalljon lead another group of Bolton men into the fight. One part of the force comes with shields, trapping Jon and his men. The other part climbs the wall of dead bodies and keeps anybody from escaping. The Bolton shields march forward a few steps at a time, forcing their spears into Wildlings one line at a time. That is, until Wun Wun realizes he’s a giant and starts picking up shields one by one, slowing down the charge just slightly.

A really cool scene happens here where Jon finds himself crushed underneath men trying to get out of the trap. He finally emerges only to find that he and his men have no more room to move at all.

Then a horn sounds. We all suspected two weeks ago that Sansa was sending a letter to Littlefinger, asking for aid. And here, doing their best Gandalf impression, are Littlefinger and Sansa arriving with the Knights of the Vale, all on horseback. It’s important to remember here that, while most of the armies of Westeros lost men in the War of Five Kings, the Vale lost none. The fresh force plows into the Bolton lines, freeing Jon and his men as Tormund finishes off the Smalljon following a little biting action.

Jon eyes Ramsey and it’s like reaching the Bowser level of Super Mario Brothers. Ramsey flees back to the castle, closing the door saying, “They have no army, or anything else that could single-handedly break down that gate.” And then Wun Wun starts punching through and Ramsey says “Oh dammit, I forgot they had one of those.” Wun Wun heroically breaks through the gates of Winterfell, taking countless arrows and giving his life so Jon and his remaining men can enter. Jon fights off a couple of Ramsey arrows with his shield before knocking him down and beating his face bloody. Jon doesn’t kill him, however, and a bloody Ramsey is tied up and put into a cell.

Episode 9 Wun Wun dying

Wun Wun breaking down the gates of Winterfell and dying a heroic death.

After the Battle

The Bolton banners fall and the Stark banners have returned, hanging from the walls of Winterfell. But Sansa only wants to know where Jon is keeping Ramsey. She finds him in his cell and Ramsey remains just as arrogant even in his final breathing moments. Someone’s opened the cages keeping his hounds (you know, those beasts Ramsey pointed out hadn’t eaten in seven days). He doesn’t think his beasts would eat their master. But as they get a good sniff of him, they proceed in the most ironic death in the history of Game of Thrones: Ramsey eaten by the very hounds he’s feed so many to.

As Ramsey is dying, screaming as his dogs make him their meal, Sansa gives her own little sadistic smile as the episode ends.

Episode 9 Sansa evil smirk

Sansa walks away from Ramsey smirking as his hounds devour him.

Of Note

-A nice touch tonight showing Tormund discussing war strategy and having no idea what some basic terms meant. That is very consistent with the very unorganized way in which Wildlings fight.

-I also enjoyed the conversation between Davos and Tormund as the two men discussed how their whole purpose was built around following a failed leader, leading them to follow an unlikely leader in Jon.

-I am curious if we are going to see House Manderly appear next week, now that Jon and Sansa have taken back Winterfell. They were mentioned by both sides as a possible house that could join the fight, but decided to join neither.

-Last night’s episode really showcased why Dany and Tyrion need each other. Without Tryion to handle political negotiations, Dany has struggled to secure peace in Slaver’s Bay. But Tyrion’s deal failed when he didn’t have Daenarys and the kind of force she brings when deals aren’t followed through. It did not take long for them to secure peace once they were reunited.

-Once again, the show has done a poor job developing a new character introduced in a later season. Last season’s example was everybody new from Dorne. This season, it’s Euron Greyjoy. This guy is supposed to be a reaving, plundering pirate who motivates men to do unspeakable things. But as he sails toward Meereen, does anybody else see him as a threat at all to the alliance Daenarys has made with his niece and nephew?

Questions

-Will the North quickly unite behind the Starks now that they are back in Winterfell?

-How will Jon handle Melisandre when he hears of what she did to Shireen? And if he doesn’t take care of it, will Davos take matters into his own hands?

-Is Euron coming to Meereen next week, or must we delay his arrival until season 7?

-What is going to happen at Cersei’s trial? I mean I seriously don’t have the slightest idea what the result of that is going to be.

-Will Sam make it to OldTown next week? And will he be running into anybody else we know?

-How will that Frey/Lannister alliance function at Riverrun?

-Will Dorne be returning to the fold for the season finale? And if so, can we end it as soon as possible so we can forget that story line ever happened?

Well, great news bookreaders!!! “The Winds of Winter” comes out next week!!! Not the long anticipated next book of the series, that’s just the title of next week’s record long season finale. And there should be plenty to talk about right here this time next Monday.

Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 8 Review: No One

One episode left. That’s effectively all that’s left for Game of Thrones this season. I know technically there’s two to go, but next week will be entirely devoted to “THE BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS (Imagine horns blowing after reading that, please)!!!”

Everybody else (Cersei and the High Sparrow, Dany’s return to Meereen, The Returning Brotherhood, The Lannister’s rule in Riverrun, the Greyjoy chase to Meereen, Sam’s journey to Old Town) has just one episode remaining to move towards their season six conclusions. And as that reality set in last night while watching the preview for next week’s BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS (don’t forget to sound the horns),  I seriously questioned whether things have really progressed far enough at this point to give season six a satisfying conclusion.

Are Cersei and Loras’s trials really all that’s left in King’s Landing (other than maybe that rumor or a Jamie return to help)? At least Dany’s back in Meereen. But will episode 10 be enough time to chastise Tyrion (because you know it’s coming) for his deal with the slavers, fight off those same masters attacking the city, have Greyjoys appear to help the queen (if that even happens in season six), and reintroduce the two dragons Tyrion unchained earlier in the season? What other dramatic happenings are even left at Riverrun and the with Brotherhood? What will happen when Sam and Gilly get to Old Town? Are we done with Jorah this season, or will we see him making any progress in his search for a cure for greyscale? And surely Bran’s not sitting out episode 10. There’s at least one critical flashback (and possibly more) we need to see.

Though Game of Thrones is a show with many different threads and story lines, it’s at its brilliant best when the various story arcs are given time to breath. But the show is at its absolute worst when it rushes through key developments because it’s trying to accomplish too much.

So season six is at a very dangerous point. While the finale will be a GoT record 69 minutes long, that may still not be enough time to bring dramatic and satisfying conclusions to all the story lines mentioned above that set us up for season seven without feeling rushed. And while it’s likely not every single question we have or story arc introduced this season will be included in the finale (they could always be carried over to season seven), enough needs to happen in that one hour plus to prepare us for the ten long months between seasons that is only two weeks away.

So let us set the table for those final two hours starting in Meereen, where Tyrion’s diplomatic efforts have yielded both positive and negative consequences.

Meereen

The once empty streets of Meereen are teeming with life once again as Tyrion’s plan to have Red Priestesses praise Dany to the people is working. But before he can spend too much time praising his efforts, he must say goodbye to Varys, who is heading to Westeros to assist Queen Dany’s cause there. Before parting, Varys calls Tyrion “The most famous dwarf in Meereen.” Tyrion corrects him, declaring himself “The Most Famous Dwarf in the World.”

Episode 8 Varys and Tyrion

The Halfman doesn’t make many friends. But when he does make one, that friend’s a bald eunuch with “little birds”constantly whispering to him.

“The most famous dwarf in the world” wants to play a drinking game in celebration with “the worst drinking buddies in the world.” He tried this earlier in the season, but was unsuccessful in getting Missandei and Grey Worm to join in. But in what maybe Tyrion’s greatest diplomatic success to date, he gets both to sip some wine. They even tell a few jokes and Grey Worm cracks a smile before an alarm sounds. The masters have come with ships and they mean to take their property back.

Episode 8 Slaver Ships

The Slaver Ships arrive in Meereen to take back their former slaves.

Grey Worm means to keep the Unsullied around the pyramid since it’s the only area of the city they can defend. But their’s a disturbance on the balcony outside the pyramid. The Unsullied bow as Daenarys enters. The Mother of Dragons has returned to Meereen and someone (cough Tyrion cough) has some explaining to do.

Episode 8 Dany returns

Daenarys returns to Meereen to find a city under siege.

Riverrun

Speaking of sieges, the Lannister siege of Riverrun continues and the Blackfish is no less stubborn in his willingness to wait Jamie out. But some new players have arrived in the form of Brienne and Pod. To Jamie’s surprise, Brienne has lived up to her vow of finding Sansa alive. But she needs the Tully men to help Lady Stark. To which Jamie replies, “Have you met the Blackfish?”

The two agree that if Brienne can convince the Blackfish to help Sansa, the Lannister army will be allowed to take the castle freely, while the Tully army will have safe passage to the North. But the Blackfish will have none of it. He understands Sansa’s desire to get back her home, but Riverrun is his home, and he’s not letting it go. Brienne painfully must send a Raven telling Sansa she’s failed.

Episode 8 Blackfish and Brienne

Brienne unsuccessfully negotiating with the Blackfish.

So Jamie must go another route. And that avenue is walking Edmure Tully through the most shrewd “negotiating” we’ve seen from a Lannister not named Tywin. And his speech could easily sum up the principal themes of Game of Thrones. Every one in the game has their own interests, particularly the interests of their family. And every time Edmure tries to bring the subject back around to morality, Jamie quickly brings it back to family. And Jamie only cares about his and whatever it takes to get back to where he can help Cersei.

Episode 8 Edmure and Jamie

Jamie presenting his demands to Edmure, threatening the life of the Tully lord’s son if he does not comply.

The key here is the son Edmure conceived the night of his wedding. Jamie means to have the boy killed if Edmure does not comply because he cares nothing for the child. So Edmure complies, requesting entrance into Riverrun. And because he’s the Lord of Riverrun (I’ll explain that later), the men in the castle mean to obey his commands despite the Blackfish’s objections.

Edmure commands the men of Riverrun to open the gates for the Lannister soldiers. The Blackfish helps Brienne and Pod escape, but won’t go himself. Like a captain going down with his ship, the stubborn Blackfish dies (though rather anti-climatically off screen) fighting his capture. After Jamie hears the news of the Blackfish, he sees Brienne and Pod, floating away. Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” plays in the background as the two kindred spirits say goodbye once again.

Episode 8 Brienne waves

Brienne turns and says goodbye to Jamie as she and Pod float away.

King’s Landing

The Faith Militant have arrived to take the woman Jamie is so desperately trying to get back to. But she’s not going. And the reason is that giant undead monster always walking around behind her. Frankenmountain lives up to all the hype when he rips the head off one of the members of the Faith Militant who was dumb enough to fight him.

So to deal with the complication the undead Gregor Clegane presents the faith, enter puppet king Tommen Baratheon. He announces the trials for Cersei and Loras will happen at the Holy Sept on the first day of the Feast of the Mother. But more importantly, Tommen outlaws trial by combat as a means for defendants to settle their legal issues. Cersei is crushed not only by the announcement, but by the fact that she had to stand in the crowd with the rest of the commoners as her son refuses to acknowledge her.

Episode 8 Tommen, Kevin, and Pycelle

Tommen outlaws trial by combat as Kevan and Pycelle look on.

As the king walks out, Qyburn mentions something to Cersei about a rumor she asked him to look into. And whatever that rumor is, there’s apparently more than she expected to it. We’ll see if Cersei’s knowledge of this rumor (whatever it is) will play any part in her upcoming trial.

The Riverlands

The other Clegane gave peace a chance last week and witnessed an entire village killed because of it. So the Hound means to hunt down the men responsible. He butchers four of them who were playing some weird, “Your going to learn how to kiss a girl while I shove a finger up your butt” game. He finds three more, including their leader in the yellow cloak, about to be hung by the Brotherhood Without Banners. Thoros of Myr and Beric Donadarion have returned and as it turns out, the actions of these men was misrepresenting the Brotherhood. I don’t know if this means they were Brotherhood members who went their own way or if they represent a different group entirely. Beric agrees to let the Hound kill two of them. But much like the men last week, their preferred method of execution is hanging.  The Hound gets his revenge and seems ready to move on, but Beric (the Lightning Lord) thinks the Hound has a greater purpose. He mentions the cold winds developing in the north, a vague reference to the approaching Whitewalkers. It seems the Brotherhood could play a key role in getting the Riverlands (and maybe Westeros in general) to prepare for the coming army of the night.

Episode 8 The Hound and the Brotherhood

Thoros (far left) and Beric (middle with the eye patch) greet the hound as they prepare to execute former members.

Braavos

It’s the final performance for Lady Crane as Cersei in “Game of Thrones: The Lannister Side of Things” and the crowd is in tears once again at her stirring eulogy over a dying Joffrey. After she heads back to have her usual post performance drink (apparently she didn’t take the not so subtle hint from Arya two episodes ago), she finds Arya on the ground bleeding.

It makes sense for Arya to see Lady Crane considering she really knows no one (“A girl knows no one”) and she seemed like a motherly type from Arya’s interactions with her. Lady Crane stitches Arya’s wounds and feeds her some milk of the poppy so she can sleep through the pain.

Episode 8 Arya and Lady Crane

Lady Crane nurses Arya’s wounds.

But when Arya wakes up, she finds Lady Crane dead and a vengeful Waif wants Arya’s face next. A thrilling chase through the city of Braavos ensues. Arya is struggling to get away, dripping blood everywhere she goes and taking drastic actions, including jumping off a rooftop and rolling down some steps on the street.

Arya finally makes it back to her hideout she established in “Blood of My Blood,” and needle is waiting. The Waif exudes overconfidence convinced the wounded Arya has no chance against her.

This final scene was some of the best continuity we’ve seen on the show. If these two fought in the streets in broad daylight with Arya’s condition as it was, the Waif would win easily. So it would not be believable for wounded Arya to win that fight. But Arya spent the first two episodes of this season learning to fight blind and got pretty good at it. So when Arya slices that candle, turning the lights out, we know the advantage in this fight has shifted. It would have been nice to see have actually seen the Waif meet her end. But having Arya kill her in the dark was a more satisfying payoff because it incorporated her training from earlier in the season.

Episode 8 Arya slicing into the candle

Arya turns out the lights in the cave where the Waif met her doom.

But we didn’t know for sure it was the Waif who lost until we see her face sitting in the House of Black and White. Jaqen was lead to it by that same trail of blood Arya left throughout the city of Braavos. Jaqen says “A girl is finally no one” to which Arya replies “A girl is Arya Stark, and I am going home.”

Of Note

-I did find the ending to Arya’s time in Braavos pleasing. But I do hope the training she received will be evident when she returns to Westeros to justify two seasons spent there.

-There were several great character moments tonight (Brienne and Jamie, Bronn and Pod, Tryion and Varys) that played off the great chemistry these pairs have shared in previous seasons of the show. I especially appreciated Bronn and Pod getting screen time together to acknowledge their previous relationship in King’s Landing.

Character Callback: Beric Donadarion- The Lightning Lord was featured briefly in season one and throughout season three. He was sent on a mission by Ned Stark to capture the mountain for his crimes in the Riverlands. But he became an outlaw when Joffrey became king. So he and the men that went out with him formed the Brotherhood Without Banners and went around defending the many citizens of Westeros affected by the War of Five Kings. Beric has been killed six times, but was brought back to life by Thoros of Myr each time. He fought the Hound in a Trial by Combat and spent a lot of time with Arya in season three.

Character Callback: Thoros of Myr- Thoros of Myr was a red priest sent to Westeros to bring religion to Robert Baratheon. Instead, he drank just as much and partied just as hard as the king. But Thoros found himself with the ability to bring men back to life when Beric Donadarion died the first time. It’s an ability he’s used frequently bringing the Lightning Lord back to life while serving the Brotherhood Without Banners.

-Edmure Tully was the son of Hoster Tully, the late Lord of Riverrun. Because he’s Hoster’s son, he is the natural heir to Riverrun, explaining why the Tully men chose to obey him instead of the Blackfish.

-I would have loved to see the Blackfish command men in THE BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS (anybody else hear horns playing when they read that?). But the Blackfish is known for being stubborn (he refused to marry despite the pleadings of his brother Hoster, earning the name Blackfish), and dying defending his ancestral home may be a more fitting end for him.

-I’ve noticed the show has done a very subtle job placing Kevan Lannister and Pycelle near the king, emphasizing their influence on young Tommen even if we haven’t heard the advice they are giving.

-I give my wife credit for this one: That joke that Tyrion was telling (“I once walked into a brothel with a honeycomb and a jackass…) before the attack by the masters cut him off was the same joke he was telling in the Vale before Lysa Arryn interrupted him all the way back in season one.

Questions

-What is Arya’s role going to be when she returns to Westeros?

-If they weren’t working for the Brotherhood, who were those men that butchered the Hound’s people representing?

-Will the Hound join the Brotherhood in their future quests?

-How are the Freys and the Lannisters going to coexist in Riverrun now that Lion banners, not Frey banners, are up in the castle?

-What will the verdict be in Cersei and Loras’s trial? And what is this rumor Qyburn’s been checking into?

-How will Daenarys respond to Tyrion’s deal with the Slavers? Will her forces be able to defend Meereen?

-Do Jon and Sansa have a fighting chance at winning THE BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS????

The North takes center stage next week as Jon and his undermanned force square off against Ramsey for the rights to Winterfell. And considering GoT’s track record with battles, I expect it to be a great episode.

 

Game of Thrones Season 6; Episode 7 Review: “The Broken Man”

The title of last night’s Game of Thrones, “The Broken Man,” seemed like a clear cut reference to the returning character in the opening scene. The Hound was back Sunday Night, working for a priest of the seven named Ray. When Ray found him, The Hound was as broken as a man could be (well maybe except Theon) without succumbing to death. But as the episode progressed, it was clear Sandor Clegane was not the only thing “broken” in episode 7.

Jon and Sansa found that the North is far more splintered than they originally thought. Cersei is faced with the harsh reality of how her decisions in season five have left her broken down and with few allies. Arya dealt with the immediate consequences of her decision last week in the form of a vengeful Waif. And the Hound saw another poor decision (the unwillingness of Ray to take arms to defend his people against the Brotherhood) lead to disastrous consequences.

“Broken Man” was like a psychological evaluation of Westeros, with characters taking inventory of just how poor the mental state of Westeros currently is. And with the threat of the Whitewalkers looming, that is an unfortunate state to be in.

I’m going to start my recap in King’s Landing, where Margaery is suddenly the High Sparrow’s prized pupil.

King’s Landing

Margaery has been impressing the High Sparrow of late with her willingness to memorize the books of the seven. She quotes a verse from the book of the mother, which leads to some more psycho babble from his holiness before he gets down to business.

The High Sparrow wants Margaery to get back in bed with Tommen. An heir is essential to the strength of their alliance. But Margaery says her desires have changed since turning over a new leaf. I’ll discuss later some theories for why Margaery might actually be withholding from the King.

The Sparrow also wants Olenna Tyrell to “atone” for her sins. Ha!!! Good one High Sparrow. Look at you telling jokes. Of course the man was serious. And I say, “Good luck with that.”

Margaery then meets with her grandmother to discuss said aton…(sorry but I just can’t say that with a straight face), but Septa Unella oversees the proceedings. So while the High Sparrow is thrilled with his new “convert,” the presence of the tall Septa indicates he doesn’t trust her completely. Margaery informs her grandmother that Loras must confess his sins to be released. Of course, he will lose all titles and holdings he held previously after confessing, but what good are titles at this point in the game anyway? I mean, seriously, will that even matter when the Ice Zombies and dragons get to Westeros?

Episode 7 Margaery

Grandmother and Granddaughter embrace as the amazon in the nun outfit in the background looks on.

Olenna is appalled at what her granddaughter, the one she’s been training so carefully for so long, is saying to her. But Margaery keeps pleading with grandma to leave while slipping a note to her before she goes. The note is a picture of a rose, and Lady Olenna smiles. That note seems to be in line with my suspicions from last week: that Margaery isn’t truly reformed in the light of the seven, but is instead playing the High Sparrow for a fool. We’ll see if she can be the first to succeed in that mission.

Before she prepares to leave (we’ll see if she actually does) King’s Landing, Olenna is approached by Cersei. And the Queen of Thrones doesn’t mince words with the former queen. Of course, when has the elder Tyrell ever minced words with anyone?

Episode 7 Cersei

Cersei receiving quite the rebuke from the Queen of Thorns.

Now, nothing that Lady Olenna says is anything we didn’t already knew. We all thought Cersei would regret destroying the Lannister/Tyrell alliance and arming the men loyal to the High Sparrow. But it just seems to have more affect when The Queen of Thorns utters the words. And Cersei looks as if she sincerely regrets her actions. That is a first for the former queen, but I guess walking naked through the streets while peasants beat you can have that affect on a person. The Queen of Thorns also correctly points out that Cersei truly is alone (well other than that large Frankenstein that walks around behind her). So how exactly does Cersei, whose been pleading revenge all season, plan on exacting that payback with hardly anyone to assist her?

Riverrun

One of those allies Cersei is currently without is Jamie, who was sent to take care of the conflict in the Riverlands by Tommen last week. And Bronn is back!!! The knight is complaining about his lack of pay to Jamie. To which Jamie replies, “Dude, this is the first time you’ve appeared all season. What exactly should we be paying you for?”

Recall last week that Walder Frey informed us that Riverrun was back in Tully hands thanks to Brendan “Blackfish” Tully. The Freys are there with Edmure Tully when Jamie arrives, going about threatening to kill Edmure if the Blackfish doesn’t return Riverrun to them. Now, you have to forgive the Freys (these two are named Lother and Black Walder by the way) for lacking competence in their skills as negotiators. All they learned at the Twins was how to sit in a perfectly placed castle and collect tolls while giving birth to lots of offspring. That’s how the Freys stay in power!!!

Episode 7 Lothar

Lothar Frey, who appeared with Black Walder in their feeble attempts to take back Riverrun.

Jamie takes control of the operation from the Freys, but doesn’t have any more success. The Blackfish (which should also be a synonym for “bad ass”) means to keep his siege over Riverrun, knowing that it will mean thousands of deaths to the Lannister forces if they try to attack. He also knows Edmure is likely dead anyway at some point, which is the reason why he didn’t budge at the threat to his nephew’s life. So we’ve got a stalemate in the Riverlands. I’m sure this will end with nobody dying.

Episode 7 Blackfish and Jamie

The Blackfish and Jamie “negotiate” at the former Tully seat in Riverrun.

The North

So with the Blackfish stubbornly holding the castle at Riverrun, would that make him unwilling to assist Sansa and Jon in the North? If so, then that would be another blow to an already faltering military alliance.

Though she’s come a long way in her understanding of the world, Sansa let some of that old idealism misguide her when she encouraged Jon to take back Winterfell. Sansa assumed that just holding the name Stark would mean Northmen would run arms wide open in embracing the wolf’s head banner.

But what Sansa didn’t understand was that there were two sides to that relationship.  The people didn’t just call out to support the name Stark for the hell of it. They expected the Starks to protect them in return for their allegiance. So when Robb took many men to their deaths for what turned out to be a vain cause and left the North susceptible to attacks from the Iron Born, it left a bitterness for the name Stark that Sansa wasn’t prepared for.

Episode 7 Jon at House Glover

Jon pleading with Robett Glover, who to help Jon because they were left unprotected during the War of Five Kings.

The first visit was to House Mormont on Bear Island, a house that, thanks in part to Robb’s war, is led by 10 year old Lyanna Mormont. And Lyanna doesn’t allow fiery words to persuade her. Her mother died fighting for Robb, and she doesn’t mean to rush her fighting men off to another battle. It takes Ser Davos turning the argument towards the Whitewalkers and the need for the North to unify to defeat them to get Lyanna to pledge her 62 men. That’s right, only 62.

Episode 7 Leanne Mormont

Lyanna Mormont, grilling Jon and crew about why she should give them the men on Bear Island.

But it’s not like Jon and Sansa can be selective with what numbers they are receiving. The Wildlings are on board to fight. But after that, no major house is backing their cause. They haven’t heard from the Umberlys (who have yet to appear in the show) and the Glovers turned them down at Deepwood Motte. The Glover’s were left defenseless from the Iron Born when Robb took Glover men to avenge the death of Ned Stark, and they are still bitter.

So Sansa has no choice but to send a raven for aid. I am assuming she means to ask Lord Littlefinger, the man whose help she so confidently rejected a few weeks ago, for the men of the Vale. Now, we can’t say for certain that’s who she’s sending the raven to. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet. We’ll see if anyone else emerges to aid the struggling Northern cause next week.

Episode 7 Sansa's letter

Sansa sends a letter requesting aid.

Volantis???

Speaking of the Iron Born, it looks like Yara and Theon have docked in Volantis, they city Jorah captured Tyrion in last season. And cruelly enough for Theon, they are in a brothel, where even Yara is able to appreciate the female form.

Theon is sulking, which is mostly what he’s done since season four. But Yara is tired of it. It’s a tough love approach that would not be recommended by any psychiatric association, but it seems to work. She tells Theon that he should just end it now if it doesn’t want to fight anymore. But if he means to fight, she wants to see that fiery brother of hers again.

Episode 7 Yara and Theon

Yara giving Theon a pep talk before they make their way to Meereen.

The plan is to make a pact with the Dragon Queen. Once again, the  deal makes just as much since as it did a few episodes ago. But how far behind are Euron and his 1,000 ships they had yet to make? Logic says Daenarys should be back in Westeros by the time they’ve finished building all those ships. But something tells me that timeline will be pushed up just slightly.

Braavos

When Arya was standing on the bridge and that old nun appeared walking up behind her, did anybody else scream “danger” or hear the Jaws theme going on in the background? It was pretty clear that was the Waif in disguise. Before the attack, Arya had secured passage (with a cabin no less) for a ship departing at dawn the next day.

But the Waif cut her stomach up pretty good. I’m not actually sure how she’s living with the solid scrap and repeated stab wounds she received. But she was able to fight her way out and jump into the water, escaping the Waif. Now, is there anybody who could and would be willing to heal that stomach so Arya has a chance to escape Braavos?

Episode 7 Ayra

Arya walking through the streets of Braavos covering up the giant would she has on her stomach.

Between the Vale/Riverlands

The last we saw of the Hound, Arya had left him for dead at the end of Season Four. But someone named Ray, a reformed soldier whose now a priest for the seven, found him. He tells the Hound he was ready to bury the large man, who had bugs all around him and was starting to stink when he suddenly breathed. According to the Hound, it was hate that kept him alive. Now he’s here, working with this peaceful commune out in the middle of nowhere as they build a church.

Episode 7 Ray and the Hound

Ray and the Hound shooting the breeze.

As Ray is telling a story of a child he killed so the boy wouldn’t become a soldier one day, three men ride up on horseback. They ask if Ray and his crew have any horses or food, things his men need to “protect the people.” The Hound recognizes them as the Brotherhood Without Banners (remember them?) and tells Ray after they’ve left that he needs to protect his own people.

Of course, Ray doesn’t listen. And one afternoon while the Hound is off chopping wood, he notices silence. He walks back towards the camp and sees the entire commune has been slaughtered. I guess the near death experience must have left the Hound hard of hearing because I can’t see any other way that he completely missed all these people getting slaughtered. Ray spoke a lot about purpose to the Hound and now, after having looked at the former soldier’s dead body hanging from the unfinished church, the Hound grabs his ax and heads off seeking that purpose.

Episode 7 The Hound and Ray Hanging

The Hound finds Ray hanging there, before grabbing his ax and heading off to kick ass.

Of Note

A quick breakdown of the Northern Houses featured last night:

-House Mormont- Jorah Mormont and the “Old Bear” Jeor Mormont (the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Seasons 1-3) both come from this house on Bear Island (in case you didn’t recognize the name) But Jeor gave up any right to holdings by joining the Night’s Watch and Jorah has been banished from Westeros since the show started. So, Maege Mormont was leading the house until she was killed fighting in the War of Five Kings, leaving her daugher, young Lyanna Mormont, as the current head of House Mormont. Stannis mentioned the “young girl of 10” leading House Mormont last season when he received a note from them.

-House Glover-Only mentioned in the show to this point, House Glover had their home, Deepwood Motte, overtaken by Yara Greyjoy. But with the help of House Bolton (and I assume because Yara just kind of left her men there), the Glovers were able to take their home back.

-House Manderly-They keep getting mentioned, but never appear. They are the wealthiest house in the North and make their home at White Harbor, a major northern port. They still have yet to align themselves with either side in the North.

-So Jon and crew have made their camp in the same place Stannis did? Something tells me some evidence of Shireen’s death is laying around their somewhere for Ser Davos to find.

Character Callback: The Brotherhood Without Banners– In Season Three, Arya was captured by and then traveled with this crew of outlaws led by Beric Dondarrion (the man who kept coming back to life) and the red priest, Thoros of Myr. They had been sent out by Ned Stark back in Season One to hunt down the Mountain when Robert was king. But while out on their mission, Joffrey became king and they became outlaws. So they started traveling around the Riverlands, defending and aiding innocent civilians who had been made victims by the War of Five Kings.

-Though we don’t know for certain, it’s strongly implied that the Brotherhood is behind the slaughter of Ray and his people. If that turns out to be true, then this is a much different group than the crew we saw in Season Three.

-Ray appears to be similar to a book character named Elder Brother. He’s the one in the text that finds the Hound and claims to bury him, except that there’s this large guy walking around with a limp who uses the Hound’s horse. The man was named Gravedigger and many book readers think this is the Hound. Also, Elder Brother has healing powers, explaining the possible reappearance of the Hound in the text.

-So is Margaery holding out on Tommen because she’s still upset with how ineffective he was preventing her and her brother’s catpure? Was she using him all along and now, with Cersei powerless, she no longer needs to sleep with him to place that wedge between the boy and his mother? Or is this part of another plan we aren’t privy to yet?

-“Does it ever move or talk?” Another great line, one of many by Olenna Tyrell. I also have to give props to the Blackfish and Lyanna Mormont for their firm stances for their people when everybody else is, well, so broken.

Questions

-Who will the hound track down in order to gain vengeance for the deaths of Ray and his people?

-And if the Brotherhood butchered them, what has happened to make the Brotherhood a more militant faction than they were before?

-Will Sansa get help from Littlefinger or the Blackfish?

-Who will come out on top of the stalemate at Riverrun?

-What exactly is Margaery up to?

-Will Theon and Yara get to Meereen before Euron does?

-How is Arya going to heal the wound she received from the Waif?

-How does Cersei mean to exact revenge with few allies to assist her?

-And are they ever going to introduce House Manderly?

With three more episodes left this season, I really expect things to pick up next week. At least they better. Did I mention there are just three episodes left this season?!?

Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 6 Review: Blood of My Blood

Tragedy. Brilliant and beautiful tragedy. Last week’s “Hold the Door/Hodor” moment was one of many of these Game of Thrones has created for us over the last six seasons. But I never envy the episode that must follow a classic episode like last week.

And “Blood of My Blood” was another example of an episode that never had a chance of living up to the hour preceding it. Instead, it simply served the purpose of revisiting locations last week’s episode neglected, opening up new battlefronts in the reemerging tensions of Westeros, and the reappearing of several minor characters after long absences. And by no means was “Blood…” lacking in key moments, either. Arya retrieving needle, the return of the Riverlands to the narrative, Tommen turning on his family, “uniting” the Crown with the Holy Sept, and Drogon’s return are all pivotal to the direction the story is heading.

I’m going to get right to things this week, as we begin where last week’s episode ended: Meera dragging Bran through the North in a hopeless attempt at getting them to safety.

North of the Wall

Seriously HBO? You needed to include last week’s final scene in the “previously on” segment to remind us of that? I mean, don’t you think we all remember it well enough where it wasn’t necessary to reopen that wound? Not cool guys. Not cool.

Meera is bravely dragging Bran through the cold North and what is Bran doing? Binge watching Game of Thrones. Every major event on the show so far is playing in Bran’s mind. But he’s also took in the special features, as we see our first look at the Mad King and some other moments that happened before the time period covered by the show (more on those later).

It looks as if the Wights have caught up to the pair, but a hooded character on a horse wielding a fiery flail (or at least it appears to be some sort of ball and chain) takes down several wights before retreating with Bran and Meera on his horse.

Later, Meera confronts the mysterious man, asking who he was and why he helped them. As he pulls back the cloth around his face, we discover this man is Benjin Stark!!! The younger brother of Ned lost sometime during the first season is back to aid his nephew in his quest to become the Three Eyed Raven.

Episode 6 Benjin

Benjin Stark returns to aid Bran in his hour of need.

So while he’s been away, Benjin has been stabbed by a Whitewalker, rescued by the Children (who apparently can reverse the process they started by simply reinserting Obsidian), and been in regular contact with the previous Three Eyed Raven monitoring Bran’s journey. So what did this guy do to entertain himself while he waited for Bran to make his massive mistake? There’s not a lot of leisure activities that far north. Well, it doesn’t really matter now, because Bran and Meera needed protection for the rest of their journey and Benjin fills that vacancy.

Horn Hill

It’s time for an awkward family reunion for Sam, who is returning to Horn Hill (a really nice piece of property in the Reach) and must reunite with the man who disowned and shipped him off to the Night’s Watch. Gilly picks up on his “nervous talking” right away as Sam admits to being afraid to see his father again. He’s also lied about Gilly’s origins, claiming she was simply “from the North.” And technically, that’s true. Sam just decided to leave out the whole “by North I mean a Wildling beyond the wall whose baby is the son of her father.” And since Lord Tarly cares nothing for Wildlings, is best just to leave out those clarifying details.

Maya Rudolph…I mean Samwell’s mom greets Gilly and her baby with the utmost affection. She seems like a wonderful woman, which will be all the more amazing after meet dad.

And Randyll Tarly met every expectation I had for him. He was only on screen a short time, but that was all that was necessary to rank him up there in the top five all around assholes of Westeros. He insults Sam’s weight and bemoans the Night’s Watch failure not making Sam a great warrior. It’s interesting to see Sam’s lack of courage here considering how much we know he’s gained from his time at the Wall.

Episode 6 Randyll Tarly

Randyll Tarly, played brilliantly by James Faulkner

Gilly, however, is willing to stand up for her man. She talks of all the beings he’s killed, including Thenn’s and Whitewalkers. But she let’s slip their geography during some of these adventures, and Lord Tarly pounces. He is appalled that a Wildling is eating under his roof. He will accept the girl and her son, but Sam must never return to Horn Hill again. Good to see you too, dad.

Sam is about ready to say his goodbyes before rushing back in and telling Gilly to “pack her things.” He means to leave, but he’s not leaving without her. That’s major character development for the man who left Gilly at a brothel back in season four to”keep her safe.”

But before he leaves, Sam is going to take his own little going away present: Heartsbane. It’s the sword of House Tarly that Lord Randyll thought, “Hey let me randomly bring this up to really emphasize how my oldest son will never wield it for no good reason at all.” Not exactly the most subtle of foreshadowing. Sam takes the sword and is now off to Oldtown, except now Gilly and little Sam are going with him.

Episode 6 Sam Taking Heartsbane

Sam taking Heartsbane before sneaking off to Oldtown.

King’s Landing

I have officially lost all hope for Tommen. After this week, I’m convinced the boy king will never be anything more than a pawn. He’s in the Holy Sept speaking with the High Sparrow, who continues to “council” the king on matters of state. The Sparrow mentions Margaery and how she’s changed since being in captivity, and the Sparrow wants  Tommen to see for himself.

Now I am skeptical of this “change” in Margaery. We know right up until she saw her brother that she was still playing the game. But now, she’s a devout convert of the seven? We’ll see if she’s really turned over a new leaf or if she just found the best way to get out of her cell and improve her brother’s situation. She says that all her work up to this point has been a show to keep herself in power and for appearances and that while she loves her brother, “he needs to atone for his sins.”

Meanwhile, on the outside, Jamie and Mace Tyrell are preparing their forces to take back the Tyrell children or else!!! They interrupt Margaery’s atonement ceremony and Jamie makes his demands, but the High Sparrow will have none of it. He says “I don’t have the authority to give them to you. And you don’t have the authority to take them.” (yes you do have the authority to give them up you maniacal cult leader!!!!)

But has it turns out, the walk is not happening. Tommen walks out to announce an alliance between the Crown and the Church, and that is enough atonement for Queen Margaery. Jamie and Olenna Tyrell are appalled while Mace has no idea what’s going on. But the Queen of Thorns makes it crystal clear to Lord Oaf: “He’s beaten us. That’s what’s happenning.” The crowd initially seems disappointed because they all came to see Natalie Dormer naked. But after the alliance is announced, they cheer. The peasants are on board with this new alliance, leaving some very powerful players on the outside looking in.

Episode 6 Crown and Sept together

The Crown and Holy Sept, working together as one.

Jamie is later removed from his position as Lord Commander of the King’s Guard and for the second time this season, he asks someone very powerful if he’s to be punished. And for the second time, he will not be. Instead, he’ll be sent off to the Riverlands, where a conflict is brewing between the old and new lords of that region.

The Twins

Lord Walder Frey has returned and he’s not happy. Of course, this grouchy old fart is never happy, so nothing’s really changed here other than the fact that the his sons lost Riverrun. He also takes this time to remind us about the Blackfish, who also escaped the Red Wedding before they could kill him. Now, Catelyn Stark’s uncle has taken back the castle and Lord Frey wants it back. It looks like they will have help from Jamie Lannister. But they also still have Edmure Tully (more on him later), a prisoner Lord Walder believes could be of use in gaining back Riverrun.

Episode 6 Walder Frey

Lord Walder Frey returned last night with a new young bride by his side as he chastises his sons for their failures.

Braavos

So Arya just spent a season and a half listening to vague ramblings from people “who have no names” and completing training exercises that were either boring, confusing, or both, just to have her 100% abandon it last night? I was really hoping for a payoff somewhere with Arya becoming the assassin for the House of Black and White. And maybe her training will still play a part in whatever shape her character takes going forward. At least, it better come back into play. Otherwise, we’ve just wasted a season and a half with one of the best characters on the show doing nothing that really mattered.

It’s time for the rest of, “Game of Thrones, as told by a Lannister apologist.” This week’s it’s the death of Joffrey and Tywin, where Tyrion is the dastardly villian who killed them both out of hatred. And “sweet Cersei” (I can’t type that with out laughing) eulogizes her son’s passing while the young actress who wants her killed practices her lines off stage.

Arya witnesses all of this, but still intends to go through with the mission of poisoning Mrs. Crane. However, after putting the poison in the actresses’s cup, Mrs. Crane sees her backstage and gives her a really encouraging message. Once again, Arya questions why Mrs. Crane is the one to die here when she is clearly a wonderful person, while the young actress wanting her dead is clearly not.

The crew talks backstage and have a fairly interesting interaction (I’d be on board with a “Making of…special that goes behind the scenes with the creators of this play) before Arya knocks the cup Mrs. Crane was about to drink out of her hands. She warns her to be weary of the young actress that wants her dead, then retrieves needle (I did cheer when she went to get needle back!!!) and goes into hiding underneath the city.

Episode 6 Arya and Needle

Arya and Needle reunited.

The Waif, the Hall Monitor for the Faceless Men was watching. Of course she was watching. She’s always watching Arya. She’s kind of obsessed with her. And that tattle telling Waif runs quickly to Jaqen to inform him of Arya’s failure in completing her mission. She was promised she would get to kill Arya if she ever abandoned the faceless men, and Jaqen reluctantly agrees. At what point will these two rivals meet in the long anticipated Battle of Braavos?

Vaes Dothrak

“Blood of My Blood” closes this week with Danearys doing what she’s been doing for roughly have the time she’s been on the show: marching through desert. The subject of ships comes up and Daario says it will take 1,000 ships to get to Westeros (you mean, the exact same number Euron is building right now on the Iron Islands? I’m sure those numbers being exact are just coincidental).

Now I admit that sometimes I go easier on the execution of Dany’s all conquering scenes because, despite a few minor plot holes, they are just awesome. And here, we have Daenarys leave the Dothraki for a bit because of something she smells? Did she see something? Smell burning flesh somewhere that no one else in that large group could? But as I am trying to figure out how she just magically knew he was there, Drogon flies up and I forget all those critical notions I usually bring to my writing. Because did I mention that these “Dany is going to conquer the world” scenes are just awesome! I mean, this was not the most awesome of Dany scenes, but Drogon has returned and the Mother of Dragons is on his back speaking Dothraki (and Emilia Clark speaking a made up fantasy language is just fantastic). It really doesn’t matter how we got there, it was just great to see.

Dany claims all of the Dothraki to be her bloodriders, (meaning that once Dany dies, they avenge her death and then give their lives as well). Now Dany and her crew of Dothraki are one week out of Meereen. How will she and they respond to her return?

Episode 6 Dany and Drogon

Dany on the back of Drogon looking over her Dothraki bloodriders.

Of Note:

-Character Callback: Benjin Stark-This is why Benjin kept showing up in all of Bran’s flashbacks. The youngest Stark brother was a member of the Night’s Watch who was lost beyond the Wall way back in Season One. The show gave us a young Benjin to remind us of his existence before bringing him back tonight in Bran’s time of need.

-It appears the show is going to combine Benjin Stark with a book character named Coldhands. Coldhands directs Bran and crew to the Three-Eyed Raven in “A Dance with Dragons.” Though the timing of his appearance in the show is different, his condition is very similar to that of the mysterious man that leads the warging Stark to that mystical cave.

-Benjin gave Bran a glass of animal blood at the end of their scene. I’m curious if that will come into play as a help to Bran in his visions or if it was just to keep him warm (as someone who doesn’t drink animal blood from a glass, I’m completely unaware of it’s benefits).

-Two of the more prominent flashbacks were the Mad King and the Wildfire (that green liquid that keep showing up in Bran’s visions and was used in Season 2’s Blackwater battle). We saw the Mad King say “burn them all” right before seeing him stabbed in the back. Jamie Lannister killed the Mad King right before he was about to burn of all King’s Landing to the ground with all that Wildfire.

Character Callback: Walder Frey- Not sure why I’m even bothering considering everyone remembers this guy. Walder Frey is Lord of the Twins and arranged to have the Starks killed at the Red Wedding. He’s had numerous wives, children, grandchildren, and bastard children. And he was the Lord of the Riverlands until The Blackfish reemerged. And speaking of the Blackfish:

-Character Callback: Brendon “Blackfish” Tully- No, he’s not appearing until next week. But since he was mentioned, the “Blackfish” was the brother of Hoster Tully, Catelyn Stark’s father. He gets his name from his unwillingness to marry and certify alliances for his brother. He was helping Robb in the War of Five Kings when at the Red Wedding, he went to take the best timed piss in the history of Westeros. He escaped the slaughter at the Twins and has now reemerged, taking back Riverrun for the Tullys.

-Character Callback: Edmure Tully-You may have forgotten the man who was actually getting married at the Red Wedding. That was Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s brother, who agreed to marry a Frey to make amends for his poor tactical decisions in the War of Five Kings. We last saw Edmure heading to his bedding ceremony right before the carnage of the Red Wedding occurred. He’s been a captive of Lord Walder ever since.

Episode 6 Edmure

Edmure Tully returned to the narrative tonight after spending the last two plus seasons in captivity.

-I’m curious if the Blackfish will care at all to his nephew as a prisoner. He didn’t exactly have a high opinion of him when we saw them last.

-It’s good to see another Valyrian steel sword enter the game. And even better to see it in the hands of a character who knows of the Whitewalkers and could use it to help that cause.

-A nice reinforcement tonight of the southern attitude towards Whitewalkers. Sam’s brother laughed at Gilly’s claim that Samwell killed a Whitewalker, saying “There’s no such thing.” That’s an attitude that will have to change as the Whitewalkers draw closer.

-I also was amused and a little creeped out when Sam’s sister thought her father could learn a thing or two from Gilly’s dad. Now Randyll Tarly maybe an asshole, but no one holds a lower position has a father than the daughter loving Craster.

-I always thought the House of Black and White were killing people who needed to end their suffering or were the scum of the earth. But it seems at the moment like they are just hired assassins who will kill just to get the possession of another face. This could change before the season ends, but it’s not a good perception right now for the Faceless Men.

-I really liked Arya’s note to Mrs. Crane, adding the essential anger needed from Cersei’s response to Joffrey’s death that the writer of the play didn’t include.

Questions

-Where is Benjin taking Bran and Meera?

-How are Sam and Gilly getting to Old Town? And at what point will they be getting there?

-When will Cersei make her big move? And what is the High Sparrow planning now that he has the crown on his side?

-Where is Arya’s story left now that she’s abandoned the Faceless Men?

-How long will the Blackfish hold out in Riverrun? And will his willingness to hold onto the castle there keep him from assisting Sansa and Jon in the North?

-Will we get to see the Red Priestess in action before Dany gets back to Meereen?

The key battles that will define the rest of season six are in place. Let’s see which ones play out next week.