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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
-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.
-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.