So we’re now seven episodes into season 6 of Game of Thrones, and the show is now setting up for the finale coming in three. While each episode of this season so far has had a bunch of reveals, twists, and character development, and while I have thoroughly enjoyed it as a whole, it does feel like the majority of this season has been setting up for later events. And the more set up we get, the more it’s clear that we might not survive the next three weeks in Westeros. There are so many things that have to happen even before the official war against the whitewalkers and almost every storyline has some big thing it’s working towards. Still, this episode was a bit disappointing in that it felt as if there was much more talking and less action than usual. Of course, I’ll probably be wishing for another episode like this once episodes 8-10 destroy us.
We begin this episode somewhere in the riverlands, with what I consider the medieval version of hippies building what looks like a tower in the middle of nowhere. While it’s not really clear why they are there and what they are doing, none of that matters because THE HOUND IS BACK. I never really cared for Sandor Clegane that much, though I do think he is an interesting character and his interactions with Arya were awesome. However, I’m mostly excited because this means that Cleganebowl is most likely happening. But before all that, we see the Hound working anonymously, trying, it seems, to either repent for his sins or just work himself to death. While he tells the nameless Septon, who knows who he is, that it is hate that has kept him alive (a reference to his brother, no doubt) it’s clear that he is not the same person he was at the beginning of this show, which makes sense since he is most likely the broken man the title of this episode refers to. It seems like he’s going to get some peace until three members of the Brotherhood Without Banners come through to intimidate the group of people, who all worship the faith of the Seven. While I know the Brotherhood worships the Lord of Light, I was kind of surprised that they came back and slaughtered everyone there. It was pretty predictable plot-wise, but not only was I not really sure what the point was, but it seemed out of character for the Brotherhood who, far from being perfect, seemed much more about protecting the riverlands from the likes of the Lannister army rather than killing innocent people building a tower. Either way, it provided a catalyst to spark even more hate in the Hound’s heart, and I’m sure we’ll see him murder those three men, and maybe even more men of the Brotherhood in the next episode.
We then go to King’s Landing, where Queen Margaery is back in the Sept of Baelor, reading the Seven-Pointed Star in the High Sparrow’s “office.” The Septon comes and speaks with her. Initially, the conversation feels like more of the same. There have been so many conversations with the Sparrow in this season that almost all of them feel like they’re going the same way. However, we do see the Sparrow nosily ask Margaery about why she hasn’t had sex with Tommen yet. While, yes, she is the Queen and has a “wifely duty” to create and heir or whatever, the question was creepy and definitely overstepped a boundary. However, Margaery’s answer was telling; while she told the High Septon that she no longer had sexual desires after turning to religion, it seems like she's making it up to please the Septon. While the lie seems a little odd at first, since Margaery is the one who brokered the peace between the faith and the crown, it becomes much more clear that she is in some ways still a prisoner though she has been allowed to return to the Red Keep. When Margaery goes to convince her grandmother to leave King’s Landing and go back to Highgarden, after the High Sparrow threatened her, Septa Unella is there with her the entire time, clearly watching over her to make sure she’s isn’t going back to her “sinful” ways. Margaery ends up slipping Lady Olenna a note, which is of a rose. While I’m not sure what that means specifically, other than it being the sigil of House Tyrell, it obviously meant a great deal to Lady Olenna and convinced her that she had to go back to Highgarden. Perhaps the note meant that Margaery was still loyal to her family, that she was only acting as if she was with the faith until the time was right to overthrow them and save her brother Loras.
We also get a small scene with Cersei approaching Lady Olenna as she prepares to leave King’s Landing. Cersei has come to convince Olenna to stay and help in the battle against the faith, to which Olenna declines, pointing out that the entire situation is Cersei’s fault, which is true.
Up in the North, Jon and Sansa have the task of convincing people to fight for them against the Boltons. First, it’s the wildlings, who are apprehensive about taking Winterfell when there is a bigger fight to the North, the one against the whitewalkers. However, Tormund Giantsbane points out that Jon died for them, so they should be willing to do the same for him. Jon also tells them that in order to fight the whitewalkers, they have to take Winterfell, which is true and a great way to connect the two battles.
They then go to Bear Island to try to convince the Mormonts to fight with them. There, they speak with Lady Lyanna Mormont, a girl of ten who became the lady of Bear Island after her mother died fighting for Robb. While Jon and Sansa come in thinking that it will be fairly easy to convince Lady Mormont to fight with them, they find that things are complicated not only because the Mormonts came when Robb called the banners and then lost the war, but also because Jon is a Snow and Sansa has been married to both a Lannister and a Bolton. While Sansa lets the Mormonts know that she will always be a Stark, it is Davos who comes to the rescue. Davos lets Lady Mormont know about the whitewalkers, telling her that “the dead are coming” and that the battle against the Boltons is the first step to the war against the whitewalkers. In the end, he is able to convince the Mormonts to join, though they only have 62 fighters total. Later, they go to Deepwood Motte to try to convince the Glovers to come to their cause. They aren’t so lucky here, as Lord Glover says no. They only just got the castle back from the ironborn with help from the Boltons, and that on top of Jon and Sansa’s army of wildlings, and the fact that they already fought for Robb with no reciprocation pretty much solidifies that they won’t be getting any Glover support.
They make camp, and Jon is convinced that they have to march on Winterfell soon before the next storm comes. They are still low on numbers, with only 2,305 in their army compared to Ramsay Bolton’s 5,000. They clearly need more men, but there’s no time, a fact which Jon and Sansa argue over. Sansa doesn’t have faith in Davos, though Jon does, and after Jon shuts her down, she goes to write a letter. While it’s not clear who she is planning on sending the raven to, I have a feeling it’s to Littlefinger, and that we’ll soon be seeing the knights of the Vale in the Battle of the Bastards. However, it seems like there is some strain on Jon and Sansa’s relationship what with Sansa hiding things from her brother. I really hope they work it out – obviously people have disagreements but I would hate for Sansa to turn around and shun Jon because he’s a bastard once she has her own army on her side, especially given the larger battle that is coming.
The main thing I thought was weird was that we haven’t seen Melisandre at all. After all she did, bringing Jon back to life, claiming that he was the true Azor Ahai, and telling Davos that she would follow him anywhere, she is conspicuously absent. Given everything we’ve seen of Melisandre’s character, and especially her interactions with Stannis when she was on his side, it’s weird that she hasn’t been as present, even if Jon was giving her a wide berth. Also, where tf is Ghost???
Later in the episode, Jamie and the Lannister army arrive at Riverrun to see the struggle siege being held by the Freys. As they approach, they see Lothar and Black Walder Frey threatening to hang Edmure. However, Brynden Blackfish calls their bluff and tells them to kill him. Of course, they don’t, and are left looking like the idiots they are. Jamie comes through and takes command, and though I’m obviously not on the Lannister’s side, it was really satisfying to see him smack Black Walder in the face with his golden hand. Jamie then requests a parlay with Blackfish. During this meeting, the first thing Brynden brings up is the fact that Jamie doesn’t have Sansa or Arya, meaning that he’s broken yet another oath, this one to Catelyn Stark. Again, Jamie’s honor is called into question, though it doesn’t seem to bother him as much as is once did. He tries to convince Brynden to give up, tells him that the war is over, but Blackfish tells him that “as long as I’m standing the war is not over.” Riverrun is set for a two-year siege, though it’s clear the Lannisters don’t have that much time. Unfortunately, it seems that for now, they’re at a stalemate. We’ll see what happens once Brienne shows up, who ironically is actually carrying out Jamie’s oath to Catelyn by coming to treat with the Tullys.
We catch up with Yara, Theon, and the ironborn in Volantis, and they must have had the fastest ships ever because they sailed half the world in only two episodes. Anyway, they are in a brothel, stopping on their way to Meereen to make a pact with Dany. Yara is trying to get Theon back to normal, and tells him that she needs him to make the pact and take back the iron islands. Theon has gone through a lot of trauma in the last few seasons, and still feels a lot of guilt over how he did the Starks, but Yara feels it’s time for him to come back to being ironborn, and though he’ll most likely never get over everything that’s happened, I’m sure he’ll be able to help her in joining with Dany. They certainly have a head start on their uncle Euron – who still has to build 1000 ships – so hopefully things work out.
We are then back in Braavos, where we see Arya trying to book passage back home to Westeros. While it isn’t clear where in Westeros she is trying to go (again, my vote is the Twins and then Winterfell), Arya is successful in finding a ship that will take her west the next morning. Unfortunately, an old lady comes up and stabs Arya in the gut a bunch of times before revealing that she was the waif. I audibly gasped at this part, because I was so surprised that Arya’s guard was let down so much. It was weird, given how long she’s been at the House of Black and White, that she wouldn’t at least guess the faceless men would be after her, if not the Queen of Petty herself. Arya is able to get away by jumping into the water, but once she gets out, she is bleeding heavily, and everyone is just staring at her rather than actually offering to help. Luckily, she’s not dead yet, but I highly doubted she would go out like that. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a big showdown fight in the rain, but I know that’s not really how the faceless men work. However, with Arya still alive, I’m sure something similar will have to happen now for Arya to be able to leave Braavos. Obviously, she’s got to kill the waif now.
Like I said, this episode was a lot of set up for events happening in the rest of the season. We’ve got Cleganebowl/Cersei’s trial, some kind of Tyrell shenanigans, the Battle of the Bastards, the siege of Riverrun and the inevitable confrontation between Jamie and Brienne, the ironborn in Meereen, and the battle between Arya and the waif. And that’s only from the storylines in this episode. We didn’t see Bran, Sam, Daenerys, Tyrion and Varys, Euron Greyjoy, or whatever is going on with the Sand Snakes. There are so many moving pieces to this show, that I’m often amazed that they can keep everything straight. Shout out to this little break we got before things start to get real again.