Walder Frey (what?!) is holding court at the Twins, having gathered all his men to tell them of his plans for House Frey now that winter is here. But first, a toast–for everyone but his wife, because he won’t waste good wine on a woman. Cheers to all the brave men who helped slaughter the Starks at the Red Wedding, butchered a pregnant woman, cut the throat of a mother of five and rained destruction on their invited guests. Walder Frey toasts to all this, but warns that they made a mistake by not slaughtering all of the Starks–leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe. He smirks as he watches his entire House succumb to poisoned wine. These sheep are not safe because it’s not Walder Frey, it’s ARYA!! She pulls of Lord Frey’s face, turns to the wife whose life she spared and calmly says, “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.” YES!!!! The music builds as Arya walks through the hall, littered with the dead bodies of House Frey, and HERE WE GO!
Bran has a vision of the White Walkers on the march with their army of the dead (including at least two giants) as he and Meera arrive at the Wall. The gate opens and Edd questions if they are wildlings. Meera gives their identities and when Edd is skeptical Bran tells him, “You were at the Fist of the First Men, you were at Hardhome. You’ve seen the army of the dead, you’ve seen the Night King. He’s coming for us…for all of us.” Edd is unnerved but allows them to pass through the gates. Thank God, because Meera looks like she’s had about all she can take.
At Winterfell, the Northern Lords are discussing strategy for the War to Come. Jon Snow stresses the importance of mining dragonglass, making weapons out of it, and drilling all Northerners aged 10-16 in the use of those weapons. He meets some resistance when he makes it clear he means ALL Northerners–male and female alike– but Lady Lyanna Mormont backs up Jon Snow and shuts down the naysayers. Barely 10 minutes in, and Lady Mormont is already killing it.
Jon Snow will send Tormund Giantsbane to shore up Eastwatch by the Sea, the Wall’s closest castle to Hardhome, with the Free Folk. However, if the Walkers breach the Wall, the closest castles are Last Hearth and Karhold, and Sansa suggests that since the Umbers and Karstarks betrayed House Stark, the castles should be given to loyal families who stood with the Starks against Ramsay. Jon Snow refuses to strip families who have been loyal to the Starks for a thousand years of their ancestral homes because of the actions of a few reckless sons. Sansa argues with him over this–in front of the whole room–and Baelish is nearby licking his lips over this obvious rift between Sansa and the King in the North. Fucking Sansa. Shut up.
Jon summons Ned Umber of Last Hearth and Alys Karstark of Karhold forward and asks them to pledge their loyalty to House Stark. After they do so, Jon proclaims that yesterday’s wars don’t matter–that to defeat the White Walkers, the entire North needs to band together. Baelish looks on in surprise and trepidation as all the Northern Lords pound their swords in approval–I’m sure he was thinking Sansa’s interference would undermine Jon Snow’s authority, but he was wrong. He’s plotting another way to go about it as we speak.
In the courtyard at Winterfell, Jon scolds a petulant Sansa for contradicting him in front of the Northern Lords and Ladies. She fires back that Joffrey wouldn’t allow anyone to question his authority–does Jon think he was a good king? Jon asks her if she really thinks he’s like Joffrey, and after a moment she admits that she thinks he is as far from Joffrey as anyone could ever get. He thanks her, and she tells him he is good at ruling. Please let that be the last power struggle between Jon and Sansa! I want them to be as they were in their moment of reunion in Book of the Stranger. I can’t take any more strife among the Starks, but even as I write this sentence I know in the pit of my stomach that there probably will be. And it will be awful–unless Sansa becomes a supervillain like Cersei and gets incinerated by Drogon. But I digress.
A raven arrives from King’s Landing, commanding the Lords of Westeros to bend the knee to the new Queen, or suffer the fate of traitors. When Sansa pleads with Jon to take heed of the danger Cersei poses, Jon points out the Lannisters are a southern army who have never ventured as far north as Winterfell. Sansa warns that Cersei is a relentless predator who has destroyed everyone who has crossed her, and–oh God, foreshadowing–Jon says Sansa sounds as if she admires Cersei. Sansa admits that she’s learned a lot from her. More foreshadowing. Hopefully Sansa will use that knowledge for good instead of evil, but I fear that she has spent too much time in the company of Lord Baelish.
Cersei and the perfectly chiseled Jaime are meeting in the new war room in the Red Keep. She asks him if he’s afraid of her and he counters, “Should I be?” Yes you should, Jaime, yes you should. With menacing contempt, Cersei does a rundown of the enemies surrounding her. Daenerys Targaryen sails toward Westeros with Tyrion counseling her as Hand of the Queen. Cersei takes a moment to once again castigate Jaime for setting him free, and when he doesn’t react, continues to analyze the threats she faces: Ned Stark’s bastard and that “murdering whore” to the North, the “old cunt” Lady Olenna to the South, and whoever murdered the Lannisters’ last allies, the Freys. Jaime tries to reason with Cersei, asking what is the point of fighting to create a dynasty when all their children are dead. I think this is the last time he will try to reason with her as her brother and lover, as his face registers his realization of her ruthlessness when she refuses to listen. Cersei is truly her father’s daughter, and Jaime can no longer ignore the honorable man that Brienne has awoken within him. He will be a military advisor to Cersei, but the human connection he has to her is gone. I hope.
Euron Greyjoy appeals to Cersei as she sits on the Iron Throne. He has a fleet of one thousand ships and two good hands (ouch!) to offer her in return for her hand in marriage. Cersei declines his proposal, citing his untrustworthiness. Euron takes her rejection in stride, and promises to return with a priceless gift to change her mind. Euron appears to be such a psycho that he and Cersei might be an actual, terrifying love match. We’ll see. I’m already afraid to think of what his “priceless gift” may be.
Sam is performing the menial tasks of a Maester in training at the Citadel,and as he does so he is repeatedly drawn to a locked gate in the great library. While assisting Archmaester Marwyn with an autopsy, Sam asks if he’s considered his request for access to the restricted area, based on his experiences north of the Wall. That area is only accessible to Maesters, and since Sam is not yet a Maester. Sam protests that he’s seen the White Walkers and was sent to the Citadel to learn how to defeat them. Archmaester Marwyn allows that Sam’s tales coincide with the knowledge contained in the books held in the restricted area, but even though he believes Sam, he doesn’t believe that the coming war signals the end of the world. Sam’s request is denied. He returns to his menial tasks, but in a move unlike the timid Sam we’ve seen thus far, he steals a ring of keys from a sleeping Maester.
Brienne is training Pod in the art of swordplay, and shows off a bit by knocking him to the ground as Tormund Giantsbane approaches. Tormund tells Pod he’s a lucky man. As much as I ship Brienne and Jaime, I think Tormund might be the man for her. Baelish slithers up to Sansa as she watches the fighting and comments that Brienne beat the Hound in hand to hand combat. Can this mean that we’re about to be treated to a Hound scene? He tries to manipulate Sansa into telling him what she needs to be happy, but for the moment, all Sansa wants is peace and quiet. She tells Baelish that he need not try to get the last word and turns to the approaching Brienne. Baelish bids goodbye to both ladies, and Brienne asks, “Why is he still here?” Sansa says they still need the Knights of the Vale but Brienne is distrustful and correctly surmises that he wants something. Sansa says she knows exactly what he wants. What would Brienne do if Sansa turned to the dark side? Would she be able to keep her oath? Or, as Jaime asked her in the bathtub scene, would Brienne’s honorable nature compel her to defy her sworn duty?
Arya comes upon a small camp of Lannister soldiers on her way to King’s Landing. They invite her to share their rabbit, and as she listens to their talk of how awful life in the Capitol is, and how they miss their families, it appears to dawn on her that even Lannister soldiers can be human. They ask her why she’s headed to King’s Landing, and she tells them she’s going to kill the queen, prompting them all to laugh at her “joke.”
It’s the Hound! He’s traveling with the Brothers Without Banners and trading insults with Thoros of Myr. They are searching for a shelter in which to spend the cold night, and they come upon a deserted keep. The Hound tries to convince the Brothers not to take shelter there, and when Beric Dondarrian cajoles him by saying they might have some ale hidden away, we know why. “They don’t,” snarls the Hound. How does he know this? Because this is where the father and daughter gave him and Arya stew, and he repaid them by stealing their silver and saying they’d be dead by winter. He was right.
Based on the placement of the bodies and the knife at their feet, Beric Dondarrion concludes that they were starving, and rather than let his daughter starve to death, the father ended it for both of them. The Hound’s guilt at seeing this prompts him to engage Beric Dondarrion in a discussion of why the Lord of Light keeps bringing him back. Beric Dondarrion doesn’t know, but he knows it’s for a reason. The Hound is frustrated that the Lord of Light hasn’t revealed the reason, and growls at the irony that he, with his fear of fire, ended up with a bunch of fire worshipers. Dondarrion chuckles that he sees it as divine justice, but the Hound says that if there was any divine justice, Dondarrion would be dead and the little girl in the corner would be alive. Thoros of Myr entreats the Hound to look into the fire and tell him what he sees. At first the Hound just sees burning logs (or hogs?), but Thoros tells him to look deeper. He does, and he sees the Wall where it meets the sea, a castle near a mountain shaped like an arrowhead, and thousands of dead marching past it. I think the Hound has been converted.
He goes into the night to bury the bodies of the father and daughter. Thoros of Myr, realizing the Hound knew them, picks up a shovel and joins him in his solemn task. The Hounds begins to say a blessing of the Seven over the bodies but doesn’t remember it. He settles for saying, “I’m sorry you’re dead. You deserved better–both of you.” I love the Hound! I hope Arya doesn’t kill him.
At the Citadel, Sam is poring over texts in the restricted area as Gilly and Little Sam look on. There is a picture of the Targaryen stronghold Dragonstone, and as Gilly peers over Sam’s shoulder she recognizes dragonglass. Sam realizes Dragonstone is built of dragonglass and determines that Jon Snow must know this. While doing his rounds the next morning, Sam reaches for a bed pan and is shocked when a gnarled arm reaches out to him. Jorah Mormont, his grey scale obviously having advanced, asks if the Dragon Queen, Daenarys Stormborn, has come “here” yet. Does he mean the Citadel or Westeros? Sam says he hasn’t heard anything, and Jorah slowly pulls his arm back.
Daenerys, Tryion, Varys and Missandei approach Dragonstone in a row boat as Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion majestically swoop around the castle! When they arrive on the beach, Dany leans down and finally touches the earth of her homeland. Her destiny is on her face as the massive gates open for her and she enters Dragonstone. As she approaches her ancestral throne Grey Worm starts to follow her, but Missandei, recognizing how private and profound this moment is for Dany, gently holds him back.
Tyrion watches as Dany traces her fingers along the stone map of Westeros in the throne room. She surveys the entire map for a moment then asks Tyrion, “Shall we begin?” The end! Aargh!!