We’re only 3 episodes in and it’s clear that Game of Thrones did not come to play. Things have already gotten real: there have been plenty of deaths, shocking twists, and exciting revelations. This episode was just a good as the last two, and promises even more greatness for the upcoming ones.
We start off at The Wall, only a small amount of time after we ended episode 2, with Jon alive and confused. Davos and Melisandre come to check on him and explain what happened. It seems Melisandre is once again confident in her faith; she’s back to wearing red, and tells Jon that while she was wrong about Stannis, she is sure that Jon is “the prince that was promised,” or Azor Ahai, the person who will lead them through the Long Night. While we haven’t seen the white walkers yet this season, they are always in the background, especially for Jon, and even when more personal things are happening on the Wall, that’s always something they keep in the back of their mind. We didn’t get to see Jon’s response to Melisandre’s claim, so it will be interesting to see whether he decides to take up that mantle, or if he’ll take a different route, maybe fulfilling the prophecy without taking the title. Later, Jon and the Watch hang the traitors who stabbed Jon to death, including Olly. Afterwards, Jon gives command to Edd, telling him “my watch is ended.” This was the end of the episode, so it’s not clear whether the Night’s Watch will try to make him stay, though technically his watch really is ended – men of the Watch serve until their death and Jon was definitely dead, even if temporarily. Even if they do let him leave the Watch, who’s to say he’ll actually leave? He knows better than anyone that the real fight is to the north, so he may decide to stick around to get ready for that battle. However, the other possibility is that he rides for Winterfell and kills Ramsay Bolton, gaining control of the North and assisting the Wall by getting more manpower for the battle against the white walkers that way. In the short term, I’m hoping Jon doesn’t leave Castle Black before Sansa arrives; I’m so over the Starks missing each other by minutes and while the Watch will definitely be much more reasonable under Edd’s rule, if Jon is gone before she gets there, there really is nowhere else for Sansa to go at this point.
The Narrow Sea
This episode we finally catch up with Sam and Gilly on the Narrow Sea as they travel south to Oldtown. It’s really interesting to listen to them talk about the Wall and Jon because they don’t know all that’s changed. Sam is going to Oldtown to become a Maester for the Night’s Watch, and to him, he’s helping Jon. However, at this point so many things have changed that whenever Sam does get back to the Wall, he’s going to find it much different than when he left. Anyway, Sam is seasick, and while Gilly is helping him, he let’s her know that she and her baby won’t be able to stay in Oldtown – the Citadel has similar rules to the Night’s Watch, there are no women allowed. Gilly challenges Sam, saying that while the same is true at the Wall, she was still allowed to stay. Sam explains that it is different because he won’t have Jon or Maester Aemon to help him break the rules. He then tells her that he is sending her to Horn Hill to live with his family. Horn Hill isn’t that far away from Oldtown, and Sam is sure his mother and sister will take care of Gilly though his father will most definitely disapprove. It’ll be really interesting to see Sam interact with his family, especially his father and brother who we’ve heard so much about.
Tower of Joy
While technically this part of the episode is happening beyond the Wall, where Bran is training, the majority of the scene takes place in the past, at the Tower of Joy. Much like Dumbledore taking Harry into the Pensieve, Bloodraven takes Bran to witness Eddard Stark, Howland Reed, and others go to rescue Ned’s sister Lyanna from the Tower of Joy, where she is being held “captive” by members of King Aerys’s Kingsguard. I put captive in quotes, because it seems that the whole point of Bran’s excursions into the past is to learn the actual truth of what happened, not the rumors, and we're not 100% sure Lyanna really was a captive. We get the first demonstration of this during Eddard’s fight with the three Kingsgaurd, Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent, and Lord Commander Gerold Hightower. Bran explains that he was told that Ned defeated Ser Arthur Dayne, but in reality it was Howland Reed who got the Kingsguard in the back when Ned was cornered. It was a small difference to the story Ned had told, but showed us that there were definitely things about this moment that he lied about later, so why can’t he also be lying about Jon’s parentage? Most fans know that the point of showing us the Tower of Joy is to show us what many of us have already theorized about Jon’s true parentage. However, Game of Thrones decided to play with our emotions and end the memory right as Ned is climbing the steps to the Tower of Joy, where we hear screaming (most likely/definitely coming from Lyanna giving birth). I know I am not alone when I say I was basically Bran in that moment, irritated at Bloodraven for stalling, because really what was the point? He tells Bran that it can be dangerous to stay in the past for too long because he could get stuck there, which is an interesting addition to the time travel/distortion rules of this universe that I would appreciate more if we weren’t THIS close to finding out really important information. Either way, Bloodraven explains to Bran that he won’t grow into a weirwood and be stuck in the cave forever like him, which is the second time this has been said. Where is Bran going and what is his true role in the fight against the white walkers? Also, there was this moment where it seemed like Ned heard Bran when he called out to him, so what’s up with that? Will Bran have a conversation with someone from the past at some point?
We then find ourselves back across the Narrow Sea, where Dany and Khal Moro’s khalasar have arrived in Vaes Dothrak. Daenerys is taken to stay with the Dosh Khaleen, where she is stripped and given new clothes. She is told by one of the Dosh Khaleen that because she did not come straight to them after Khal Drogo’s death, because she traveled the world, the other Khals have to decide whether she will be allowed to become a Dosh Khaleen or not. If not, it’s heavily implied that the other option is death. While this is obviously not ideal, and Dany definitely needs to get out of there, I do want to take a moment and talk about how she doesn’t really respect other cultures. As badass as Dany is, she is the ultimate colonialist. She entered the culture of the dothraki, admittedly forced by her brother, and while she began to learn the customs and love her husband, she continued to have prejudice against them and their customs. At the same time she appropriated their culture, continuing to call herself Khaleesi after she abandoned the dothraki, and using her marriage to Khal Drogo and her dragons to bolster her power while in Qarth, and then again when she arrived in Slaver’s Bay. While slavery is obviously bad, we’ve seen again and again while she was in Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen how Dany disregards the cultures of those she has conquered, often trying to replicate the rules of Westeros, a place she hasn’t ever actually lived in. And don’t even get me started on the “Mhysa” scene back in season 3. While I do want to see Daenerys get away from the dothraki and ride her dragon back to Westeros, I think it’s important to look at the ways her actions are coded as acceptable, especially in relation to the supposedly “savage” cultures in Essos. I mentioned back in my recap of episode 1 that the show could have done an interesting commentary on colonialism and the way the dothraki in particular are portrayed, but they don’t. Instead, they just take the ideas that they are backwards and savage as fact and use it as a backdrop for Dany’s story.
Back in Meereen, Varys and Tyrion continue to attempt to keep Meereen together. Varys is able to get information from a woman named Valla, who was forced to work for the Sons of the Harpy to keep her son safe. After guaranteeing safe passage for both her and her son, Varys learns that the Son of the Harpy are funded by Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis, which means that their problems are much larger than an internal conflict. They are more or less surrounded by people who want Meereen to be as it was before, and so it seems they have a difficult road ahead of them. There is a super awkward scene between Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm as they wait for Varys to arrive, which is quite funny and adds some levity to the episode. Not very much happens here, as they pretty much seem to be trying to keep things together until Dany gets back. I’m hoping things progress soon, though it’s definitely helped by the fact that they have interesting characters (and good actors) there.
In what is a great transition, we go from Meereen with Varys to Qyburn in King’s Landing, speaking with Varys’s former “little birds.” It seems Varys’s spy network may no longer exist in Westeros, as Qyburn has pretty much taken them over for Cersei, who wants them to be scattered across Westeros. After visiting Qyburn, Cersei and Jamie attempt to attend a small council meeting. While Jamie may have reason to be there as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, their uncle and the Hand Kevan Lannister is not having it, and rather than staying ups and leaves, with the rest of the council – comprising of Lady Olenna Tyrell, Lord Mace Tyrell, and Grandmaester Pycelle – close behind him. It’s a hostile and tense moment, lightened with how pathetic Pycelle is. While Cersei and Jamie didn’t exactly win this battle, I’m sure they have plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. Across the city in the Sept, King Tommen confronts the High Sparrow and the faith militant. He demands that they let Margaery go, but the High Sparrow refuses. While things almost turn to violence, the High Sparrow deescalates the situation by calling off his sparrows, and so Tommen calls off his guard. They have a conversation about the crown and faith, and because the High Sparrow is so kind it seems like Tommen has calmed down a bit, even though he didn’t get anything he wanted. As I mentioned last week, this is an interesting contrast from Joffrey, who wouldn’t have cared and who would have murdered the High Sparrow by now. While Tommen is trying his hardest to be feared and strong, it really is against his nature to be cruel.
In Braavos, we get a bit more progress in Arya’s storyline. She is back in the House of Black and White where she is being trained in a way that seems much less like bullying than when she was a beggar. She tells the waif about her past life, though she still maintains that she is no longer Arya Stark, that she has no name. While still blind, she improves and is able to pass all of their tests. By the end, she is given her sight back. After she is able to see again, I almost expected her to tell “Jaqen H’ghar” that her name was Arya Stark when he asks her name again, but she doesn’t and so far seems fully committed to becoming a faceless man. I’m still waiting on her to make her way to King’s Landing to become a faceless assassin, but it seems we’ll have to wait a bit longer. I’m excited to see where her story will go after this, and whether she’ll even make it back to Westeros or to the rest of her family.
Speaking of the Starks, we finally catch up with the only other missing Stark sibling, though not in a good way. We go back to Winterfell, where Ramsay is fully taking his new role as Warden of the North in stride. He has a conversation with Lord Umber, and while it doesn’t seem like the two exactly like each other, they are both willing to come to an alliance. This alliance is brokered when Lord Umber brings Rickon and Osha to Ramsay. While I had a feeling this was going to happen after seeing the promo for this episode last week, I was sad to find out I was right. And not only do they have Rickon, but they killed Shaggydog too! That’s half of the direwolves gone, and only two really in play now. While I’m usually able to separate the books from the show pretty well, the one thing about the show that’s always bothered me is the way they treat the direwolves. I don’t even really mean by killing them, but more in the way they show the relationship between the Stark kids and their wolves. The only ones who really get to show their connection to their direwolves are Jon, Bran, and Robb, and the only one who is able to warg into their wolf is Bran. While I understand that money-wise it’s probably difficult to always have wolves on set, it’s really conspicuous to me when the wolves are most often nowhere to be found (like Ghost in the last couple of seasons until Jon’s death, and Summer right now). Anyway, I’m sad Shaggydog is gone, and I’m really worried about Rickon, because I’m not completely sure Ramsay needs Rickon the way he needs Sansa. Rickon is a real threat to his claim on Winterfell and the North while Sansa bolstered that claim through marriage. I’m also really hoping we don’t have to watch Ramsay torture this little kid or feed him to the dogs. Hopefully word gets to Castle Black and Jon and Sansa ride for Winterfell, slay the Boltons, and take back the North with Rickon still alive.
So far this season has been great, and while there have already been some twists and turns, it feels like they’re still in the process of setting up for things to come later in the season. I’m looking forward to going back to the Tower of Joy, seeing at least two Starks reunite, seeing Jon and Sansa finally kill Ramsay, and more dragons! Hopefully the season continues with this momentum.