The worst kept secret in the history of television is now confirmed. The deader than dead Jon Snow is alive again, thanks to whatever the hell it was Melisandre did to bring him back. We all knew it was going to happen. You don’t center your marketing around a character whose “deader than dead.” You also don’t center the narrative around the dead body for two whole episodes if you don’t intend on bringing him back. I mean, you don’t see the body of Stannis lying around anywhere.
But because of all the leaks and all the sad attempts to proclaim that “No, he’s not coming back,” the moment of resurrection was a bit anti-climatic. I know Melisandre was going through a crisis of confidence (a major theme throughout the episode), but could she not have done something with more theatrics other than burning hair? They tried to build suspense with everyone leaving the room dejected before the eyes opened. But it just seemed like something was missing from the moment. And what was missing was the suspense: we all knew he was coming back. The only question was how.
Despite my problems with some of the presentation, I still cheered when Jon’s eyes opened and am glad the story at the Wall will go on with him back in the fold. Because without him, there’s just not much there.
And Jon’s resurrection was not the only major moment in this jam packed second episode. Ramsey just took over the North with the killing of his family. Tyrion unchained the dragons. Hodor talked!!!! So what if it was just a flashback Hodor. He actually knew more than one word!!! And Euron Greyjoy appeared on the scene taking out his big brother, leaving the Iron Chair (not to be confused with the Iron Throne) up for debate in the Iron Islands Caucus.
Let’s get things started beyond the Wall, where Bran is seeing a vision of a happier time in Winterfell.
Beyond the Wall
After taking a season five hiatus, Bran is back!!! And our first scene tonight gives us a chance to see just what the suddenly 6’8 crippled Stark has been up to.
The Three-Eyed Raven (the old man that hangs out in that tree) has been showing Bran visions of the past. Tonight’s vision goes back to Winterfell, when his father was a young boy training a younger Benjin (remember him disappearing all the way back in the first season).
But the two most important parts of this dream are the appearances of Lyanna Stark and a young stable boy named Willis. Lyanna is Ned’s sister and she’s been mentioned many times before during the series. She was a critical character to the events preceding Game of Thrones and I suspect we will be seeing many more visions involving Lyanna over the course of the season.
And Willis is a young, fluent Hodor. He actually says more than one word as the young Starks try to get him to join their sword play. But Old Nan (more on her later) will have none of it, dragging him back inside to the stables.
Bran is not happy when we he is awoken from this dream. But the old treehanger warns him of the danger of spending too much time in visions.
We also see Meera for the first time since her brother died back in Season Four and she’s bored. It’s pretty understandable. I imagine her day is a lot of sitting in a cave while Bran gets all the attention. But the rebellious teen version of a child of the forest tells Meera that Bran really needs her, for a war is coming.
Remember that guy who stepped out in front of Cersei during her Walk of Shame? Well, of course a guy willing to do that would be bragging about it. And Robert the Strong (that’s the zombie version of the Mountain now protecting Cersei) found him and shoved his face up against a wall, killing him instantly. I do hope we get many more brutal deaths from Robert the Strong later this season.
As it turns out, today is the funeral of Myrcella Baratheon. Mild King Tommen and Jamie are standing over the body. Tommen still has a major crisis of confidence going, but at least his fath…I mean uncle Jamie is there to help. As they are discussing Tommen’s self-esteem, the High Sparrow walks in and interacts with Jamie for the first time. I expect these two to go back and forth for much of this season as Jamie threatens to shed blood in the Holy Sept. The Sparrow responds with a veiled threat as large numbers of faith militant come out the shadows, declaring that all these lowborn who’ve joined his cause could “overthrow an empire.”
Cersei was not allowed to be at the funeral. I’m not certain of Tommen’s reasons for that. Maybe he was ashamed at what his inaction allowed to happen to her. But Tommen later sees his mother and apologizes, saying he should’ve done something to prevent it all. As it all turns out, Cersei got what she wanted. I doubt she expected a nude walk through the streets of King’s Landing would be necessary, but Tommen wants her to help him take back control of the kingdom. Did Joffrey ever once ask anybody for help in regards to anything?
Little did we know that Game of Thrones was connected to the Dreamworks Universe as “How to Train Your Dragon 3” will be taking place during Season Six. The cities Dany had previously taken over have gone back to slavers and we saw the fleet of ships burning last week. So Tyrion is left with a very desperate measure, though he doesn’t present it as such.
He goes down into the dungeons to see the two remaining chained up dragons. Neither has eaten since their mother left and Tyrion knows the reign of a “Dragon Queen” cannot continue without dragons. He tells Missandei that dragons are smart and they know the difference between friend and foe. He talks to them kindly before unchaining them, and the two fly away (though not outside, but within the pit they are being held). Tyrion tells Varys “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.” I wonder what Tyrion’s second lesson will be for his new dragon friends.
Now, I really thought this would go on longer. I expected at least 3 or 4 episodes of Arya fighting blind in the streets and learning to listen to conversations from people who don’t know she’s there. But apparently, after just two short fighting segments, Arya has earned he way back into the House of Black and White. And according to Jaqen, she’s getting her sight back and everything else as he tells Arya, “A girl isn’t a beggar anymore.” So from now on, Arya is “A girl who has no name.” We will see how long she can stay in the good graces of The Faceless Men.
We have a new Warden of the North!!! Not that I’m excited about Ramsey and his sadistic urges having nothing to keep him in check, but I was truly shocked when he plunged that knife into his father’s heart. From all appearances, this seems to have been the plan all along. The other major figure in the room, Harald Karstark, did not bat an eye when Ramsey plunged the knife in. Perfect build up led to a near perfect execution as the moment Roose’s son (an event that had been foreshadowed for awhile now) is born, Ramsey’s plan goes into motion.
But killing Roose was not the sickest act Ramsey committed this evening. That would be the feeding of Walda Frey and her child to the dogs. Ramsey is like a monster heel wrestler doing everything he possibly can to get the crowd to just despise him so they really cheer on the hero when he or she appears to stop him. What heroes could be coming to take the North back from Ramsey?
One possibility (and I don’t think it’s an accident that this scene followed the changing of the guard in Winterfell) is Sansa. Though at the moment, she doesn’t have her sights on Winterfell. She wants to go to the Wall where her brother Jon can help her. But Theon worries that Jon will punish him for all he’s done. I think this is a wise move by Theon and Brienne doesn’t need his help protecting Sansa. The oldest Stark embraces Theon, thanking him for how he helped her, completing a big part of Theon’s redemption arc. Now, Theon means to go home.
The Iron Islands
And speaking of Theon’s home (loved how the scenes connected in last night’s episode), we head to the Iron Islands where Balon (who we haven’t seen since season 3) is having a heated discussion with Yara, who wants him to stop the invasions because the Ironborn can’t hold any of the places they’ve conquered. But Balon is stubborn and insists she and everyone else will do what he says.
What’s the first thing you do after having a heated argument with your daughter? Take a walk across a rickety bridge in the middle of a storm, of course. But to Balon’s surprise, a hooded figure greets him on the other side. The hooded figure is Euron Greyjoy, Balon’s brother, and he’s come to take Balon’s place on the Iron Chair. It can be inferred from their conversation that Euron has been living the lifestyle of a pirate, but has now come home. And when Balon tries to stab him, Euron shakes the bridge, causing Balon to plunge to his death.
The next day, Yara swears she will seek out the man who did this. She also thinks she should sit on the Iron Chair in place of her father. But the drowned man (a priest for the drowned god) presiding over Balon’s funeral says there must be a Kingsmoot to determine who will sit the Iron Chair. Yara will be a candidate of course. But I suspect the Greyjoy we met tonight will be appearing there as well.
For the second straight week, the Wall features our signature moment. And ironically, Allister Thorne (whose lack of honor started this whole mess) allowed honor to trip up his plans. If Thorne and his men would’ve just knocked down the door last week, they might’ve taken out all the Snow sympathizers. But instead, he gave them the chance to surrender and walk away, giving Dolorous Edd the chance to arrive with the Wildlings (and most importantly, the giant Wun Wun!!!). Thorne demands the men of the Night’s Watch attack, but they are hesitant. Then a random archer shoots Wun Wun with an arrow. That arrow to Wun Wun would be like a mosquito bite to us normal sized folks. The giant grabs the man and pounds him brutally into a wall (that’s two brutal smash deaths in one episode!!!). The rest of the men of the Night’s Watch quickly and smartly put down their swords. Thorne and the rest of Jon’s stabbers are put into cells and Thormund says he’ll get the fire ready to burn Jon’s body.
But Davos hasn’t given up on the Lord Commander just yet. He goes to see Melisandre, who for the first time, appears cold as she sits curled up in a blanket around the fire. Melisandre is another character whose confidence has been shaken recently. It’s interesting to see how everyone responds to that crisis. Tommen goes to his mommy, Ramsey (whose lack of confidence came from his concern that he would be usurped by his new baby brother) has his family killed, and Melisandre sits and mopes. Davos, however, goes over everything he’s seen Melisandre do and is insistent she can do something to help.
So Melisandre gives it a shot. I’m not really sure how all these different things she’s doing actually helped Jon. And initially, it didn’t appear like they did. After everyone walks out of the room and the door is closed, Ghost stirs. And of course, Ghost wouldn’t wake up from his direwolf slumber for just anything. Jon’s eyes open an he’s breathing heavily. Jon Snow is alive again!!!!
-I liked that Olly, when everyone else of the Night’s Watch put down their swords, was still willing to charge at the Wildlings for what they did to his family. Hate him for betraying Jon all you want, but Olly’s hatred of the Wildlings is more than understandable.
Character Callback/The Greyjoys: Balon Greyjoy had not been a major part of the story since season 2. That’s when Balon sent Theon to raid fishing villages in the North (invading Winterfell was Theon’s, not Balon’s, idea) And the Lord of the Iron Islands had only made one appearance outside of Season 2: discussing with Yara his unwillingness to help his son.
-Now, Balon’s death completes the “leach prophecy” from back in Season 3, when Stannis said three names (Joffrey, Robb, Balon) as he threw leaches into a bowl.
-The Kingsmoot referenced in this episode is how the Iron Born determine who will rule the Iron Islands. They all meet in one room and candidates make their case. The meeting goes until one candidate can get the entire room ( or a very large majority of it) to stand behind him (or her if it’s Yara, though a female has never led the Iron Born).
-The rickety bridge Balon fell from was a nice reference to how he died in the books. The only difference is in the text, we don’t know if it was an accident or if he had assistance.
Character Callback/The Karstarks: Rikard Karstark was one of the main northern lords who joined up with Rob back in Season 2. He wanted revenge on Jamie Lannister for killing two of his sons. So when Catelyn Stark freed the Kingslayer, Lord Karstark got desperate and killed two Lannister cousins in Robb’s custody. Robb had him beheaded for treason. As a result, the Karstark men abandoned Robb, forcing him to go back to Walder Frey for help. And we all know how that turned out…
-Harald Karstark makes a very natural ally to Ramsey for holding the North considering the Karstark’s previous issues with the Stark’s.
-Ramsey also mentioned the Umbers and Manderlys (two more northern houses) as allies to the Bolton’s. I’ll discuss these family names in the future if/when they come up again.
-The woman who dragged Willis/Hodor away in the vision was Old Nan. She appeared in Season One. She was a nurse at Winterfell and also told the Stark children many stories. The actress who played her, Margaret John, died before season two, and her character was not recast.
-Good to see some witty quotes from Tyrion again: “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”
-What does it all mean for the wall now that Jon Snow is back from the dead?
-Will Sam and Gilly be appearing for the first time next week?
-Who will strike the next blow in the impending battle between the Lannisters and the High Sparrow?
-What vision will we be seeing next from Bran?
-What will happen to those who betrayed Jon Snow at the Wall?
-What role will Theon play in the politics of the Iron Islands when he arrives home?
-And can we get the Sand Snakes and Ellaria in a boat and sink it so they don’t show up and wreck all the great story lines going right now?
Wow, that was a lot to write about. Though numerous locations were visited, everything that happened in those places was significant. Let’s hope season six can keep the standard going that episode 2 has set for it.