On tonight’s new episode of Game of Thrones: [inserts the complete lyrics of “Ladies Night” by Kool and The Gang]. That’s it. That’s what happened.
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers from the novels! Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
Last week on Game of Thrones, Jon Snow dropped the mic after hanging the Night’s Watch men who killed him, and strolled out of the courtyard, leaving viewers wondering what was next. This week, it seems as though Jon himself isn’t quite certain, now that he’s stepping away from the organization that’s run his life for him since he left home. Dolorous Edd rightly questions Jon’s larger moral obligation; after seeing what Jon did at Hardhome, how can he simply travel south and forget about the Wall?
But that discussion will have to wait because it’s time for the reunion we’ve been waiting for, for years. Two Starks (well, one Stark and a bastard) are finally together again.
Brienne and Pod safely escort Sansa to the Wall, and the GoT gods were not so cruel (FOR ONCE) as to send Jon away before she arrived. Though these two were the least-close of the Stark kids, they’re the first reunited. Jon’s sullen moments and Sansa’s youthful snobbishness don’t matter anymore. They’re family and we’re all sobbing like idiots.
After the reunion, Jon and Sansa catch up over drinks (she’s gonna need a lot of booze to handle this shit) and plan their next move. This creates an interesting role reversal, with Sansa gung-ho to take back Winterfell and Jon reticent to fight. Jon’s continued reaction to his recent murder is understandable, but if anyone is going to get him to snap out of it, it’s his persistent sister, who has always demanded the best. They need to fight back, and it certainly turned to disaster when the Starks were separated before.
This reunion…I mean honestly the rest of this episode could’ve been Tormund and Edd playing beer pong and I would’ve been content, after these scenes.
Sansa isn’t the only visitor at the Wall; Brienne of Tarth is there and immediately owns up to executing Stannis Baratheon to his pals. She’s also not inclined to forgive Melisandre for the blood magic used on Renly.
The Wall just gets more and more interesting, doesn’t it? And I haven’t even gotten to Westeros’s hottest new ship, Tormienne. More on that later.
In the Vale, we have another reunion, though not so tender. Littlefinger makes his first season 6 appearance, visiting with his stepson Robin Arryn who is still delightfully creepy and willing to chuck people out the Moon Door. Robin’s been staying with Lord Yohn Royce while Littlefinger is off sneakin’ and plottin’ and whatnot.
Royce questions the choice to marry Sansa to Ramsay Bolton, but Littlefinger deftly maneuvers the other lord into submission. He also nudges the little lord Robin into sending the Knights of the Vale to help Sansa up north.
Meanwhile, across the sea: Tyrion’s message last week has brought men from Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis to work out the deeply unpleasant terrorism situation happening in Meereen. (Maybe they can explain why people write on walls in the Common Tongue?)
Yezzan (Enzo Cilenti) who bought Tyrion last year is joined by Razdal Mo Eraz (played by George Georgiou) whom we met in season 3, when he offered Daenerys money and ships to GO AWAY. The third member of this festive trio is Belicho Paenymion (Eddie Jackson), who based on the name I’m guessing is supposed to be a combination of the Volantene triarchs from the novels. They represent the Consortium of People Who Really Want Daenerys to Just Get The Fuck Out. They may or may not also be funding the Sons of the Harpy.
Tyrion proposes a compromise to the situation in Slaver’s Bay that I suspect will spawn a great deal of debate among fans. In order to stop the war, Tyrion is willing to allow slavery to resume in the other cities for seven years. Grey Worm and Missandei, having more than a week’s worth of experience in slavery, think this plan sucks. The other ex-slaves of Meereen agree, and aren’t thrilled with any of Daenerys’ advisors for treating with the slavers. Missandei handles the situation with her wisdom and quick speaking, but her and Grey Worm are still justifiably pissed at Tyrion and how little he understands of slavery.
Daario and Jorah approach Vaes Dothrak and after having bants, make a plan to infiltrate the Dothraki city to find Dany. Daario is reluctant to ditch his boobie dagger but them’s the rules in Vaes Dothrak, as you may recall from season 1, when they had to get creative about murdering Viserys. Anyway, while setting aside their weapons, Jorah’s greyscale-ridden wrist is exposed to Daario. Oh dear.
Predictably, the two run into trouble in the city after coming across Ahko and another young Dothraki man who aren’t buying their ‘lost merchants’ story. Jorah takes on Ahko while Daario chases down and easily breaks the neck of the younger warrior. After a rough tussle, which Jorah is losing badly, Ahko is stabbed from behind- by Daario, who held onto that precious dagger after all.
Inside the Dosh Khaleen’s temple, a bored Daenerys waits, and meets a young Lhazareen widow. The two step outside for air, where they’re found by Jorah and Daario. Dany nicely does not let Daario murder her new pal. Instead she conceives of a new plan, apparently dreamed up while being forced to sit around listening to sexist assholes in tents for the last few weeks. I feel you, Dany. Live your fiery truth.
In King’s Landing, Margaery is brought before High Sparrow- not for confession, surprisingly, but instead to hear a rather splendid backstory monologue from the old sparrow. He was once a successful cobbler, ambitious and indulgent, until he woke up after a feast, saw everyone naked and found the Seven. That’s the short version of it- the long version sounds so much more extraordinary coming from Jonathan Pryce.
But Margaery is a smart cookie. She listens, she asks polite questions, and when she is finally brought to see her brother, she’s the one keeping it together still. It’s clear that Loras, on the other hand, has broken. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last time in this episode we see the sister is the strong one, the one who knows what to do. Loras is in trouble, and he’s not the one who is going to get them out of this.
Cersei visits with Tommen again this week, and finds the boy is getting warier, perhaps in part due to the sparrow’s cautions. He knows his mother doesn’t like his wife, and he’s conflicted. Finally she learns he’s been speaking with the High Sparrow, and has learned something useful.
Cersei returns to the Small Council with Jaime to face Olenna and Kevan, and to present her plan. Using the Tyrell army as backup, they’re going to take on the High Sparrow and get Margaery and Loras back. Kevan will go along with it since they’ve take over his son Lancel.
We pop into the Iron Islands for our next reunion of the evening.
Since Theon turned his back on Yara at the Dreadfort, we’ve been waiting for this: the day when he’d have to face his sister as himself, not Reek. The Greyjoy siblings are reunited on Pyke in tonight’s episode, but it’s not the happy affair the Stark kids saw earlier. Theon is a shattered man, and Yara is sickened and bitter by what her brother has become. And now he’s returned home in time for the kingsmoot, when Yara and men of the Iron Islands will fight for the crown.
It’s a heartbreaking moment, beautifully performed by Alfie Allen and Gemma Whelan. The years have torn these two siblings apart until there’s nothing left but the thinnest link, the bittersweet blood that binds them. The parallel between this reunion moment and the Sansa and Jon scene was so strong, with the sister leading and the brother reluctant to take his place. There were tears flowing during both, as well.
At Winterfell, Osha and Ramsay have their unavoidable one-on-one, and it truly felt inevitable. There was no way she was going to let someone take Rickon and go quietly, not as fiercely loyal as she was. And so the wildling woman made her move, attempting to seduce and kill Ramsay.
Unfortunately, when Theon revealed all his secrets about the Stark boys, he included the information about Osha, and Ramsay was ready for her. So that’s one more body to add to Ramsay’s count.
He’s in truly fine form tonight; after killing Osha, we head back to the Wall with a Bolton message and see the delivery of the show’s equivalent of the Pink Letter.
All this goes down while Jon has dinner with Sansa, Brienne, Tormund, Pod and Edd. And let me take a special moment to recognize the newest OTP of OTPs: Tormund and Brienne. I mean she’d probably stab him for even trying it but in a show this dark, you take joy where you can. And I found intense joy in watching Tormund eat in her direction with emphatic ginger eyebrows.
Tormund/Brienne, it’s where it’s at.
Alright, back to the Pink Letter.
Ramsay’s rambling missive challenges Jon and informs him that he has Rickon. The beautiful Stark reunion is now marred by the news that their little brother has been taken. Ramsay threatens everyone in his path until Jon can’t read anymore. Sansa refuses to look away from the ugliness (she’s seen everything Ramsay can do) and finishes reading the letter, his litany of threats.
Assessing the situation, we learn Tormund has 2000 wildling fighters under his command, but they need more, as Ramsay has 5000. Sansa urges Jon to fight once more- he is the son of the last true Warden of the North and they can get more help this way. The Starks need to go home.
Was it J.R.R. Tolkien, or George R.R. Martin…sorry, I think it was Nicki Minaj who said, “You could be the King but watch the Queen conquer.”
And that about sums up the last scene of the night.
More literal version: The khals meet to discuss Dany’s fate. She doesn’t care for that and offers her leadership instead (why am I suddenly reminded of that scene in Kill Bill where Lucy Liu takes over the yakuza?). But the khals don’t care for that so much and decline her offer in the grossest terms possible, as you would expect. As Daenerys no doubt expected they would.
Hey didn’t we mention something about her having a plan with Jorah and Daario? Apparently the plan is fire. Just lots and lots of fire. Turns out it’s super effective in the desert. And she didn’t even need a dragon. A book of matches would’ve brought down this flock of khals. The temple of the Dosh Khaleen goes up in flames, killing all the Dothraki leaders while leaving Dany untouched.
Finally Daenerys strides forth from the fire, the Unburnt, in a visual that calls back to the season 1 finale, even scored with the same music. The Dothraki bow to her, and are joined by Jorah. Daario sees for the first time the true power of his queen, beyond the dragons. Everyone is on their knees for her, and Daenerys has acquired another army in her path to the throne.
Though it was a visually stunning setpiece, I wasn’t very emotionally involved in Dany’s big moment. It lacked the visceral punch of the season 1 finale, and felt weirdly rushed. By contrast, the simpler personal moments between the Starks and the Greyjoys had a major impact and left me crying, and rewatching already. Though Game of Thrones can and does create incredible, large setpiece moments, its real power is usually in the quieter scenes between a few actors, and I wish the show would trust in this. The drama is found in the characters, not in the flames.