Here is a link to an article I contributed to Winteriscoming.net. I have identified a theme throughout literature that I call the “Absent Mother.” I am particularly sensitive to it because my mother died when I was eight and her absence shaped my life. The Brienne post is the first in a series, and I’d love to hear what people think and if an absent mother has affected other people’s lives as it has mine.
I can’t believe the season finale is already upon us! In some ways it seems like not a lot happened, but maybe that’s just because everything happened so fast. And because Season 7 was setting the stage for the Great War in Season 8.
Grey Worm and the Unsullied are gathered outside the walls of King’s Landing. I guess they marched there since Euron destroyed their fleet. Bronn and Jaime are on top of the city’s walls preparing for a siege by directing the Lannister footsoldiers to gather boiling oil. What is Bronn still doing in King’s Landing? Jaime must not have told him that Cersei wanted him punished for setting up the secret meeting with Tyrion, so Bronn still thinks he’ll get his castle and his gold from the King’s Landing Lannisters.
The Dothraki come thundering over a ridge to join the Unsullied, and Bronn thinks Dany’s combined forces are a sign of imminent defeat for the Lannisters. While Bronn and Jaime contemplate their chances, the Dany contingent (minus Dany) sail toward King’s Landing. The Hound goes into the ship’s hold to make sure the captured wight has survived the journey. He kicks the crate holding the wight and the wight’s unearthly screeching confirms that it’s still “alive.” Imagine if they went through all that just to have the wight die in captivity.
Cersei wonders why Dany didn’t travel to King’s Landing with her other advisors. Because she’ll ride in on Drogon to show Cersei what’s up, that’s why. As she leaves for the summit in the dragon pit, Cersei tells the Mountain that if anything goes wrong, kill “the silver-haired bitch” first, then Tyrion, then Jon Snow. The rest he can kill at his discretion. I hope Drogon incinerates Cersei’s Frankenstein before he can carry out his orders. Jaime is uneasy as he listens to this exchange. Jaime has been uneasy all season long–in fact, he’s been uneasy since he saw Cersei crowned at the end of Season 6–what has to happen before he finally admits what she is and leaves her?
Everyone is trekking to the dragon pit. The two envoys meet at a crossing, Bronn leading Cersei’s people and Tyrion leading Dany’s. The Hound and Brienne are shocked to spot one another. At first I was shocked to see Brienne among Cersei’s contingent, but I guess that’s because she’s there in Sansa’s stead as Cersei’s invited “guest.”
Tyrion and Podrick greet each other (aww!), and Brienne approaches the Hound to say she was just trying to protect Arya (when she fought him and left him for dead). He tells her he was trying to do the same, and they tacitly bond over their mutual sense of responsibility for the younger Stark sister.
Tyrion reminds Bronn of his offer to pay him more than whoever is paying him now. Bronn declines, saying he’s doing just fine for himself. He explains that Cersei has promised a bag of gold to the person who brings her Tyrion’s head, and thanks to Bronn, that head just walked through the gates of King’s Landing. Of course Bronn won’t be the one to kill Tyrion–but Bronn-like, he’s just being a dick. Tyrion understands and appreciates Bronn’s Bronn-ness. He tells him it’s good to see him again, and Bronn says likewise. These two have always been an entertaining pair, so it’s good to see them together again, however briefly.
After escorting everyone into the dragon pit, Bronn calls Podrick aside and invites him to get a drink while the “fancy folk” talk. Oh, for the days of Tyrion, Bronn and Podrick lounging around the Master of Coin’s chambers in the Red Keep, swilling wine and bedding whores! Good times.
As Cersei’s inner circle enters the dragon pit, the Hound confronts the Mountain. He warns the Mountain that “he knows who’s coming for him” and Cleganebowl appears on the horizon. Cersei is annoyed that Dany is not there. Cue Drogon and another of Dany’s grand entrances. No matter how many times they’ve done this, it still hasn’t lost its impact. But seeing only two dragons is heartbreaking.
Cersei says through gritted teeth, “We’ve been here for some time.” Dany offers a perfunctory apology, and the summit commences. Tyrion begins to explain the purpose of the meeting but Euron interrupts him almost immediately to taunt Theon. Tyrion says they should concentrate on larger concerns; Euron retorts that Tyrion is “the smallest concern here.” Tyrion makes a comment about the predictability of dwarf jokes, and Theon sulks, “his wasn’t even good.” Ha!
Jaime tells Euron to sit down and surprisingly, Cersei backs him up. Tyrion returns to the matter at hand, setting up Jon Snow, who takes over to explain the threat posed by the Night King. Cersei has only contempt for Jon Snow and his tales of an Army of the Dead–she thinks it’s all just a ruse to convince her to stand down while Dany amasses a larger army in preparation of marching on King’s Landing. Her reaction is not a surprise to anyone, which is why Tyrion has something to show her.
The Hound brings out the crate carrying the wight and opens it. At first–nothing. Did the wight somehow survive the journey from Beyond the Wall to just outside King’s Landing, only to “die” in transport between the ship and the dragon pit? I wouldn’t put it past Game of Thrones. But this is Season 7, so after a tense moment the wight bursts from his crate and, shrieking, lunges toward Cersei. The Hound cuts him in half but his torso still crawls along the floor of the dragon pit. Qyburn is fascinated of course. Jon demonstrates the two ways wights can be destroyed: he sets fire to the wight’s severed hand, and stabs its torso with dragonglass.
Euron asks Jon if wights can swim. Upon hearing that they can’t, he decides to take the Iron Fleet back to the Iron Islands and hole up there until the Night King is defeated. In all his travels, this is first thing he’s seen that has terrified him. He advises Dany to follow his lead and go back to her island to wait out the winter, then walks away. Cowardice apparently runs in the Greyjoy family (except for Yara).
Cersei has been converted. She accepts the truce on the condition that after the Night King is defeated, Jon Snow will retreat to Winterfell and remain neutral in the fight between Dany and Cersei. She asks this of the King in the North because she knows Ned Stark’s son will be true to his word. She’s right–Jon Snow cannot serve two queens, and he has already pledged himself to Queen Daenerys of House Targaryen. This is news to Davos and Tyrion. Cersei, displeased at Jon’s refusal to play ball, tells him good luck in fighting the Night King without the Lannisters’ help, and stalks away.
Brienne catches up to Jaime, who tells her it’s good to see her but the next time they meet will probably be across a battlefield, since he is loyal to Cersei and she is loyal to Sansa. Brienne tells him to f**k loyalty–there are bigger things at stake here. Jaime is shocked to hear her say this, because to Jaime, Brienne is the embodiment of loyalty and honor. She urges him to talk to Cersei, but he brushes her off and follows his sister out of the dragon pit.
Everyone is now dealing with the fallout from Jon Snow’s inability to lie. Dany thinks Jon’s alienation of Cersei means Viserion died for nothing. Tyrion, although he’s pleased that Jon bent the knee to Dany, observes that they are f**ked. Davos asks if there might be a way to remedy this, and Tyrion responds that their only chance is for him to meet with Cersei. Dany thinks she’ll kill him, and Jon offers to go instead, since it was his diplomatic blunder that put them in this position. Tyrion says she’ll definitely kill Jon, so the only way is for Tyrion to negotiate with her, face to face.
Tyrion nervously walks through the Red Keep, shadowed by the Mountain. He runs into Jaime, who tells Tyrion that his own attempt at reasoning with Cersei has failed. Tyrion and Jaime both know what it means for Tyrion to enter the lair of “the most murderous woman in the world,” and Jaime supposes they should say goodbye since the odds that Tyrion will successfully reason with Cersei are not good. Jaime tells Tyrion he’s an idiot to go into Cersei’s chamber, then stands aside to let him pass.
Not surprisingly, Cersei and Tyrion’s meeting is not going well. Cersei is convinced that Tyrion has destroyed their family, but when he urges her to say the word and have the Mountain kill him, she doesn’t do it. Why? Tyrion heads to the sideboard and pours himself a steadying glass of wine, then pours one for Cersei. She tells him that he’s destroyed their family’s future–why did she agree to meet with him then? Why didn’t she say the word and have the Mountain kill him? She tells Tyrion, while caressing her belly, that the only thing she was thinking about as the wight charged her was keeping her family safe. He realizes she’s pregnant, and I guess she must be, since her children have always been the only things that tether her to the human race.
Back in the dragon pit, Dany tells Jon that even though she wishes he hadn’t been honest with Cersei, she respects him for it. Dany looks down at the tiny dragon fossil she is holding and laments that her family killed off their dragons by imprisoning them in the dragon pit. “A dragon is not a slave,” she says in High Valyrian. She thinks that without the dragons, the Targaryens became nothing special. Jon disagrees–she is something special, and her family’s story is not over. But, Dany says, she can’t have children. FORESHADOWING. Jon wonders why she thinks that and she tells him about Mirri Maz Duur. He suggests that maybe the witch who murdered Khal Drogo was not the most reliable source. Again, FORESHADOWING.
To everyone’s surprise, Tyrion returns to the dragon pit, followed by Cersei. She offers her full support for the coming Great War and asks for nothing in return. She has to be up to something.
At Winterfell, Sansa receives a message from Jon and discusses its contents with Littlefinger. What does it mean for the North now that Jon has pledged his loyalty to Dany? Littlefinger thinks since they are both young and unmarried it would be natural for them to get together and plants the seed that Jon can’t be unnamed King in the North. Sansa protests that she can’t betray Jon because Arya won’t have it, and Arya is a killer. Littlefinger engages Sansa in a little game he likes to play–what is worst reason Arya could have for saying what she says and doing what she does? To kill Sansa. Why did Arya procure the scroll Sansa sent to Robb? To have proof of Sansa’s betrayal of the Starks to show the Northern Lords after Arya has killed her. And what would Arya gain by doing all that? She would become the Lady of Winterfell.
Except Arya does not now and has never had the desire to be the Lady of Winterfell, so I’m thinking (hoping!) that Sansa is laying a trap for Littlefinger.
Back at Dragonstone, Dany’s war council is discussing how to get to Winterfell. Jon proposes that the Dothraki will take the King’s Road from King’s Landing, and the rest of them will sail with the Unsullied to White Harbor and join the Dothraki on the King’s Road. Jorah suggest that Dany should fly to Winterfell, since, as the daughter of the Mad King, she has many enemies in the North. Jon thinks it’s important for the Northerners to see Dany with him so they will understand that Jon and Dany are allies. Dany agrees to Jon’s plan–she is not coming to conquer the North; she is coming to save it.
Theon asks to speak with Jon in the throne room at Dragonstone. He admires Jon for being truthful with Cersei, and for always knowing the right thing to do, even when they were children. Jon says he’s done plenty of things he regrets, but agrees with Theon when he says, “not compared to me.” Theon has always felt torn between being a Greyjoy and a Stark, but admits that Jon is right–Ned Stark was more of a father to him than his own father ever was, and Theon betrayed his memory. Disarmed by Theon’s candor, Jon tells him that Ned is a part of him, just like he’s a part of Jon. Jon tells Theon he doesn’t need to choose–he is a Stark, and a Greyjoy. Hopefully Jon will take his own advice when he learns he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Theon wants leave to rescue Yara instead of going to Winterfell, and Jon grants it.
Theon meets resistance when he tells the other Ironborn of his intent. They are going to sail to some island, kill all the men and take the women as their wives. Theon reminds them that Yara pledged to no longer live that way. A particularly mutinous Ironborn attacks Theon and appears to be getting the better of him when, in an attempt to finish Theon off, the Ironborn repeatedly knees him in the groin. But of course it has no effect since Ramsay castrated him, so Theon prevails, and he and the other Ironborn set sail on a mission to save Yara. Hopefully Reek has been exorcised, once and for all.
At Winterfell, Sansa tells her guard to bring Arya to the great hall. Sansa must defend her family from those who would betray them and protect the North from those who would harm it. Arya looks around at the guards and Northern Lords surrounding her and tells Sansa to get on with it. Sansa looks at Arya and says, “You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges…” And then she turns her head and says, “Lord Baelish?” YES!!!!!!
Littlefinger is stunned and pretends to be confused by the accusations. Sansa clarifies them for him. He murdered their aunt, Lysa Arryn, so he could take control of the Vale. He conspired to murder Jon Arryn by giving Lysa Tears of Lys to poison him with. He started the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters by convincing Lysa to tell Catelyn that the Lannisters murdered Jon Arryn. He conspired with Cersei and Joffrey to betray Ned Stark, causing him to be imprisoned and executed on false charges of treason. Rather than try to justify his actions like he did with the other charges, Littlefinger flat out denies betraying Ned Stark, claiming, “None of you were there to see what happened! None of you knows the truth!” None of them except the Three-Eyed Raven, who recounts, “You held a knife to his throat. You said, ‘I did warn you not to trust me.'” Littlefinger stares at Bran, shocked into speechlessness.
Now it’s Arya’s turn. “You told our mother this knife belonged to Tyrion Lannister,” as she pulls Littlefinger’s dagger from her belt, “that was another one of your lies.” Littlefinger knows he is in a dire situation and has the nerve to appeal to Sansa, telling her that he protected her. Protected her, she asks, by selling her to the Boltons? He is still arrogant enough to think he can manipulate Sansa if he can just speak with her alone, but Sansa pulls out her trump card. Sometimes, she tells him, she likes to play a little game. What is the worst reason Littlefinger could have for saying the things he says and doing the things he does? To turn her against her sister, because that’s what he does–turns family against family, sister against sister. Realizing that Sansa is not going to give him a chance to defend himself (because he doesn’t deserve it), Littlefinger weasels over to Yohn Royce and demands to be escorted back to the Vale. Royce refuses, causing Littlefinger fall to his knees and throw himself on Sansa’s mercy, abandoning all dignity in a last ditch attempt to save himself.
“I loved your mother,” he pleads, but Sansa is implacable. “And yet you betrayed her.”
“I loved you,” he cries, “more than anyone.”
“And yet you betrayed me.”
Sansa thanks Littlefinger for his many lessons and tells him she will never forget them, then Arya strides over to him and slits his throat with his own dagger. And that’s the end of Littlefinger. YES!!!! Do not mess with the Starks. What an awesome, gratifying scene!
Cersei interrupts Jaime as he’s planning the Lannister troops’ mobilization to Winterfell, and disabuses him of the notion that she has any intention of joining the fight against the common enemy. She plans to let the Starks and Targaryens fight them in the North while she takes back the southern lands. Jaime is incredulous. He explains that if the dead win the battle, they will come South and kill them all; if Jon and Dany win the battle and Cersei has betrayed them, they will come South and kill them all. The Lannisters cannot beat the Dothraki, the Unsullied and the dragons.
Cersei hits on this and wonders where the third dragon is. Jaime tells her it could be anywhere, but Cersei is sure that Dany brought everything she had to King’s Landing in order to intimidate Cersei. If she still had the third dragon, it would have been there. I absolutely hate it that Cersei is right. She deduces that the dragons are vulnerable, but Jaime insists they still can’t beat Jon and Dany without the support of the other Westerosi houses. Cersei is contemptuous of Jaime’s protestations–they don’t need the other houses because they have the Iron Bank. Unlike Jaime, she listened when their father said that gold, not men, wins wars. She has engaged the services of the Golden Company, who will sail from Essos to fight with her.
When Jaime points out there is no way for them to get across the Narrow Sea, Cersei reveals that Euron’s retreat to the Iron Islands was a ploy–he is actually sailing to Essos to ferry the Golden Company to Westeros. Jaime can’t believe Cersei conspired with Euron behind his back. She shoots back that she can’t believe Jaime conspired with Tyrion behind her back. Cersei just can’t let anything go, can she?
Cersei may renege on her oath to fight the Army of the Dead, but Jaime is not going to renege on his. Oathbreaker no more! Cersei warns him that she considers his decision to be an act of treason. He asks her if she’s going to order the Mountain to kill him, and at her barely perceptible nod, the Mountain unsheathes his sword. Jaime looks at her, fully realizing how little he means to her, and challenges her one last time by saying, “I don’t believe you.” And then he turns his back on her and FINALLY! AT LAST! walks out on her.
Cut to Jaime riding away from King’s Landing! He’s traded his elaborate Lannister armor for simple clothing and covered his golden hand with a glove so he can travel incognito–presumably because Cersei, treacherous bitch that she is, has put a price on his head. He takes a last glance back toward King’s Landing, where the snow has begun to fall, before he begins riding north. Brienne will be so proud of him when he arrives at Winterfell–the noble man she knew was in him has triumphed at last!
A horse and wagon enter the courtyard at Winterfell. It’s Sam! He finds Bran and asks what happened to him Beyond the Wall. Bran cryptically replies that he became the Three-Eyed Raven, but Sam doesn’t know what that means. Bran explains that he sees things that happened in the past and things that are happening now, all over the world. He asks Sam why he came to Winterfell, and Sam says he came to help Jon defeat the White Walkers. When Bran informs Sam that Jon is on his way back to Winterfell with Daenerys, Sam asks if he saw it in a vision. No–Jon sent a raven. Ha.
Bran says Jon needs to know the truth about who he is, and tells Sam about Jon’s true parents and that he was born in a tower in Dorne, thus making him a Sand instead of a Snow. It turns out that Sam was listening to Gilly prattle on about the Septon’s diary, because he tells Bran about Rhaegar’s annulment and secret marriage to Lyanna. He asks Bran if that is something he can see. It is. As Bran watches Rhaegar and Lyanna exchanges vows before the Seven, he realizes that Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie.
Bran’s narration is interspersed with scenes of Jon and Dany on the ship headed to White Harbor. “Rhaegar didn’t kill my aunt,” says Bran as Jon approaches Dany’s chamber. “He loved her,” as Jon knocks on the door. And, as Dany opens it, “And she loved him.” Dany steps aside to let Jon enter, and closes the door behind him as Tyrion watches with trepidation from the shadows.
“And Jon,” continues Bran, “Jon’s real name is…” And we’re back in the Tower of Joy to hear Lyanna whisper, “…Aegon Targaryen.”
Bran intones, “He’s never been a bastard,” as Jon and Dany are having hot, HOT sex, and, as they stare into each other’s eyes, “he’s the heir to the Iron Throne.”
Well done, show runners, well done!!
Sansa and Arya look upon the North from the ramparts of Winterfell. Arya assures Sansa she did the right thing, but Sansa gives Arya all the credit. Arya denies this, saying she was just the executioner; Sansa was the one who passed the sentence. What a great throwback to “Winter is Coming,” where we first learned of Ned Stark’s code–the one who passes the sentence should be the one to swing the sword. He instilled that in his sons, but probably not his daughters. The Stark girls’ unification in this moment has brought Ned Stark, his code, and his honor back to life.
Sansa and Arya are solid, but they can still engage in a little sisterly banter. Sansa thinks Arya is the strongest person she knows, even though she still finds her strange and annoying. Arya laughs at this, but reminds Sansa that they must protect each other now that winter is here. They remember what their father said: when the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. They miss him.
Bran has warged into a raven. Tormund and Beric Dondarrion are surveying the territory Beyond the Wall from the lookout at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea when a White Walker emerges from the trees far below, followed by the Army of the Dead. They sound the horns, but can’t stave off what happens next. Devastation, destruction and chaos of nightmare proportions. The Night King rides in on Viserion who, shooting streams of blue fire, utterly annihilates the Wall. I can’t even watch. Tormund and Beric are trapped on top of the Wall as it crashes to the ground. Not Tormund!
And that’s the end. The Wall is no more, the White Walkers are marching south, and everyone appears to be doomed. The good news is we have at least a year to hope for the best before the final season premieres and shatters our illusions.
I will always be a die hard Game of Thrones fan, but even the elastic bounds of my belief are being strained by the repeated arrivals of fortuitous saviors just in the nick of time. “Beyond the Wall” employed the deus ex machina device a little too liberally to be credible, even within the rubric of fantasy. That said, this traumatizing episode was still epic.
We begin with a shot of the war room at Dragonstone, the camera panning north along the stone map. From there we immediately go Beyond the Wall, where Jon Snow’s ragtag band of Wight hunters are trudging through the snow. I’m not really sure what the initial shot is supposed to accomplish–is it establishing that the next scene takes place Beyond the Wall? Is it juxtaposing the roaring fire in the fireplace against the icy bleakness of the Far North? Viewers don’t need any help ascertaining that Jon Snow & Co. are Beyond the Wall; nor do we need Gendry’s hammer to clobber us on the head with the ice and fire theme. So that first shot is pointless, and maybe even a little insulting.
As Jon & Co.’s journey takes them deeper into the North, they engage in the type of casual conversations that have been missing in Season 7–sacrificed, surely, for the accelerated pace necessitated by the truncated season. When I say casual, I don’t mean mundane cocktail party chitchat–although Jon, Tormund and Gendry do talk about the weather. I mean the opening up that occurs among characters to fill the time on their many journeys and elucidates their motivations and points of view. Welcome back, exposition!
Tormund asks Jon about the Dragon Queen and Jon grumbles that she wants him to bend the knee. Tormund recalls Mance Rayder’s refusal to bend the knee, and the dire consequences that decision had for his people. Has Tormund Giantsbane become the moral arbiter of Westeros?
Gendry dresses down Beric and Thoros for selling him to the Red Woman until The Hound tells him to stop winjing (sp?). According to The Hound, winjing occurs when someone’s lips are moving and they are complaining. Faced with The Hound’s succinct expression of contempt, Gendry stops his winjing and takes a swig from Thoros’ proffered flask, and the Gendry/Brotherhood conflict appears to be resolved. The Hound should be a diplomat.
Jon tells Jorah that the first time he went Beyond the Wall he was with Jorah’s father. Jorah asks if Jon was with his father at the end, and Jon explains that he was a captive of the Wildlings at the time, but the Watch eventually avenged Jeor’s murder. Jon offers Longclaw to Jorah, saying that it belongs in the Mormont family, but Jorah declines to take it since he brought shame on his House and broke his father’s heart. Jeor gave Longclaw to Jon, and it should stay with him. Now that Jorah has seen Jon Snow’s earnest and noble character, will he cease to consider him a rival for Dany’s affection and get on the shipping train? Another potential conflict avoided.
Sansa listens as Arya recounts a story about their father. Arya tells of the time when Ned applauded her for hitting a bull’s eye with one of her brother’s bows and arrows. She knew it was against the rules for girls to shoot arrows, but because Ned was smiling at her in that moment, she realized that she wasn’t wrong–the rules were. And then she goes off the rails, noting that now Ned is dead, killed by the Lannisters with Sansa’s help. This is where Season 7’s pacing makes the show suffer. What exactly has happened at Winterfell to make Arya so thoroughly convinced that Sansa cannot be trusted? It can’t just be the scene where the Northern Lords were questioning their selection of Jon as King in the North and Sansa failed to make a definitive stand for Jon. If that alone made Arya go from embracing her sister in the crypts to viewing her as a venal opportunist, then Arya has somehow become unhinged. But how? Are all her experiences finally catching up with her and manifesting themselves in this aggression towards Sansa? Did her discovery of the scroll confirm her darkest suspicions of Sansa’s motives?
Arya reads the scroll to Sansa and Sansa tries to explain the position she was in at the time. Arya refuses to give her sister one iota of the benefit of the doubt, and when Sansa asks to whom she’s shown the scroll, Arya accuses her of being scared of losing favor with the Northern Lords. She probably has a point, but why is Arya so completely antagonistic towards and distrustful of Sansa? Something is missing here. There is a legitimate basis for conflict between Arya and Sansa, but that conflict is more subtle than it is being portrayed. Arya’s behavior is making me more sympathetic to Sansa, and since Sansa’s motives are murky, it is an uncomfortable place to be.
Sansa correctly points out that nothing would make Cersei happier than to know that Arya and Sansa are at each other’s throats, but Arya will not give her sister a break. She accuses Sansa of doing Cersei’s bidding and walks away, causing Sansa to turn to–who else?–Littlefinger. It just keeps getting worse.
Thank God for a little comic relief courtesy of Tormund and The Hound, two of the most delightful characters in the Thrones-verse. When The Hound snarls that he hates gingers, Tormund retorts that gingers are beautiful–they’ve been kissed by fire, just like The Hound, and points to his scar. Tormund asks The Hound if he fell into a fire as a child and The Hound tells him he was pushed. Tormund deduces that is the root of The Hound’s choleric personality, and further analyzes that he’s not really mean because he has sad eyes. When did Tormund become so sage and sensitive? Do they have art therapy classes at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea?
Tormund describes the beauty he has waiting for him at Winterfell and The Hound recognizes he is referring to Brienne. He growls, “You’re with Brienne of fucking Tarth?” Tormund lights up and asks The Hound if he knows her. Tormund clarifies that they’re not together yet, but he sees the way she looks at him. The Hounds responds that she probably looks at him like she wants to carve him up and eat his liver. Tormund is excited. “You do know her!” He wants to procreate with Brienne–he is convinced their children will be “great big monsters” that will take over the world. The Hound asks him how a man like him has survived this long. Tormund assumes it’s because he’s good at killing.
Beric observes that Jon does not resemble Ned Stark and assumes that he favors his mother. Foreshadowing, people. They speculate about the Lord of Light’s purpose in bringing them back from the dead, but come to no conclusions. They settle on the notion that perhaps it’s because they are soldiers and able to defend people who cannot defend themselves. Death is the enemy, and they must fight for life even though the enemy always wins in the end. Valar Morghulis, after all.
The Hound recognizes the arrowhead-shaped mountain he saw in the fire and they realize they are getting close to encountering the Army of the Dead.
At Dragonstone, Dany tells Tyrion she’s glad he isn’t a hero. Heroes do stupid things and they die. Drogo, Jorah, Daario…and Jon Snow. All heroes, all either dead or in perpetual danger. Dany LOVES Jon Snow. Her need to manufacture a way to bring him up in conversation is a dead giveaway. She and Missandei need to sit down with a bottle of wine so they can gush unabashedly about Jon Snow and Grey Worm to each other.
Tyrion points out that all four of the heroes Dany mentioned fell in love with her, and Dany scoffs that isn’t the case with Jon Snow. Please, girl, you brought him up in hopes of hearing that very thing. The talk turns to Cersei. Dany is concerned that while Cersei is probably laying a trap for them, they have not discussed any reciprocal plans. Jaime has assured Tyrion that he will keep the Lannister forces in check when the Dany contingent comes to King’s Landing, and Tryion has promised Jaime that he’ll dissuade Dany from doing anything impulsive. Uh oh. Dany demands to know when she’s been impulsive and Tyrion refers to the Tarly barbecue. That wasn’t impulsive, she says, it was necessary. Dany accuses Tyrion of arguing on behalf of his family and he admits it–she needs to understand things from their perspective so she can anticipate their moves and defeat them. He believes she can break the wheel, but what then? Her vision for a different kind of world can’t be achieved in one lifetime, so who will be her successor? Tyrion needs to recalibrate his sense of timing. Of course Dany takes offense, proving Tyrion’s point that she loses her temper when she’s provoked. She will not discuss succession until she sits on the Iron Throne.
Jon & Co. press forward through a snow storm. A giant bear appears through the gloom–a bear with icy blue eyes. It attacks the group and they fight it off, but not before it mauls Thoros. The Hound is incapable of rescuing Thoros from the burning bear, and it does some damage before succumbing to the flames. Will there ever be a situation in which The Hound is forced to overcome his fear of fire?
Sansa is consulting with Littlefinger, which is never a good thing. She is worried about the Northern Lords’ reaction should Arya show them the scroll, given their ever-shifting loyalties. Littlefinger suggests Brienne might be of some help. She is sworn to protect both Stark girls, and if one of them was in danger–even from the other–she would be forced to intervene. Sansa agrees. What is Littlefinger’s game here? Brienne knows a creeper when she sees one and doesn’t trust Littlefinger. He benefits from the rift between Sansa and Arya so cannot be advocating for Brienne to step in and mediate between the sisters. WHY does Sansa confide in him? Is she trying to out-Littlefinger Littlefinger? What is she up to? Scenes like this make Arya’s antipathy towards Sansa more understandable, but as far as we know, she isn’t privy to them, so…?
Jon Snow and Tormund spy a small group of Wights plodding through a valley with a White Walker in the lead. Jon & Co. ambush them and when Jon kills the Walker, the Wights crumble to the ground. So now we know that when a Walker is killed, the Wights he created are destroyed. Except one of the Wights survives and is captured. Weak. Why would this Wight survive when all the other Wights collapsed after their Walker was killed? Because they need one to bring to King’s Landing. Again, weak.
Jon hears a rumbling in the distance and realizes shit is about to go south. He tells Gendry to run back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys. He leads his party onto a frozen lake. The ice cracks under their feet but they cannot retreat to shore–thousands of Wights are streaming towards them and they run for the temporary safety offered by a rock island. They all brandish their weapons in preparation for a futile attempt at fighting off the scores of Wights bearing down on them, when–deus ex machina number one–the ice gives way and Wights begin mindlessly plunging into the lake. Eventually they realize what’s happening and stop advancing. Jon & Co. are stranded on the rock while the Wights are kept at bay by the open water. And now we know that Wights can’t swim. It’s a standoff for now.
Gendry collapses from exhaustion just outside the gates of Eastwatch, but–deus ex machina number two–somehow he has been spotted approaching the castle in the dark, and he manages to tell Davos to send a raven.
Jon & Co. have survived the bitter cold night, except for Thoros. He survived the ice bear attack only to succumb to the elements. It’s not a surprise. His strength was too compromised from the years of drink to withstand this grueling mission. RIP, Thoros.
Sansa receives a raven carrying an invitation to King’s Landing. She refuses to go, but sends Brienne in her stead. I understand why Littlefinger wants to get rid of Brienne, but what does Sansa have to gain by sending her away? This does not bode well for the Stark sisters. Brienne is concerned that Sansa and Arya won’t be adequately protected in her absence, but Sansa haughtily cuts her off. It’s a long journey to King’s Landing–even longer now that #winter is here–and Brienne had better get started. Ever the faithful servant, Brienne complies.
Daenerys, sporting a very becoming and appropriate winter white ensemble, mounts Drogon. She and all three dragons set off to rescue Jon Snow over Tyrion’s objections.
The Hound is bored. He starts throwing rocks at the Wights, and when one of them lands on the ice right in front of them, the Wights realize the lake is frozen again. Standoff over. They resume their advance on Jon & Co., singly at first, then in a massive rush. There is no way Jon & Co. can fend them off. They’re doomed. Except they’re not, because–deus ex machina number three–Daenerys and the dragons arrive to incinerate the Wights.
Drogon lands on the rock to allow Jon & Co. to climb onto his back and fly away. Everyone scrambles aboard, managing to wrestle the captured Wight along with them. Everyone, that is, except for Jon Snow, who inexplicably lingers to kill a few more Wights. Big mistake, because this gives the Night King–who has been watching from a cliff–the opportunity to launch his ice spear at Viserion. It lands, and Viserion, in the most horrific scene since the Red Wedding, plummets to his death as a stunned Dany watches him sink into the icy waters. It’s awful. I hate this show.
After witnessing this sickening spectacle, Jon runs toward Drogon but is knocked into the lake by some Wights. Dany, heartsick at the loss of Viserion and now Jon Snow, cannot wait any longer and takes off. The Night King takes aim at Drogon and misses, thank God. This might even be worse than the Red Wedding. People are expendable, dragons are not.
With a signature gulp of air, Jon Snow emerges from the lake and struggles to the shore. He is injured and very weak, but girds for battle as a horde of Wights descends upon him. There is no way Jon Snow can get out of this one, except–deus ex machina number four–Uncle Benjen comes charging in, spinning his fiery mace and destroying all the Wights in his path. He pushes Jon Snow onto his horse. Jon begs Benjen to come with him but there is no time. Benjen swats the horse and it takes off for Eastwatch, while Benjen faces the dead. He is quickly surrounded, and it looks like Uncle Benjen is a goner.
The Hound loads the captured Wight into a boat headed for King’s Landing as Drogon and Rhaegal screech mournfully overhead. Dany is at the top of The Wall, searching for a sign of Jon Snow. Jorah gently tells her they need to go, but she doesn’t want to give up her vigil just yet. After another moment of staring at the barren expanse beneath her, she turns, resigned–but wait! A horn sounds and she looks back to see a lone figure on a horse approaching the gates. A barely conscious Jon Snow is taken to Dany’s ship and tucked into bed.
Sansa is snooping through Arya’s chambers looking for the scroll. Instead she finds Arya’s faces. Of course Arya catches her, and creepily taunts Sansa about her game of faces. When Sansa refuses to play, Arya describes the power the faces give her. She can live inside another person’s skin, feel what it’s like to be someone else. She grabs her dagger and approaches Sansa, wondering aloud what it would be like to be the Lady of Winterfell. All she needs to find out is Sansa’s face. Sansa is terrified but stands her ground. Instead of carving up Sansa’s face, however, Arya flips the dagger around so the blade is no longer pointing at Sansa, and hands Sansa the dagger. What was the point of that scene? To crush any hope of peace among the Starks? It worked.
Jon awakens to see Dany sitting by his side. “I’m sorry,” he breathes, “I’m so sorry.” You should be, Jon Snow. Dumbest. mission. ever. He takes her hand and tells her he wishes they’d never gone, but she shakes her head. She’s glad they went because now she’s seen what he’s seen. She tells him the dragons are the only children she’ll ever have and asks him if he understands. Is she asking him if he understands how profound the loss of Viserion is to her? Or is she asking him if understands that she will be unable to give him children?
Dany vows that she and Jon will destroy the Night King together. “Thank you, Dany,” says Jon. She is taken aback by the nickname–no one since her brother Viserys has called her that, so it doesn’t have a good connotation for her. Jon suggests “my queen,” and for a moment Daenerys looks as if she thinks he is pledging his love to her. Then he says he can’t bend the knee in his current condition and she is even more moved. What about the men who have pledged their allegiance to Jon Snow? He assures her they’ll come to see her for what she is, as he has. She tears up and takes his hand, wondering if she deserves it. He tells her she does as he earnestly gazes into her eyes. Dany looks down at their entwined hands and gathers herself, telling him to get some rest as she pulls away. The Targaryencest is going to be HOT! Bring it on!
The Wights are using massive chains to drag Viserion out of the water. The Night King lays a hand on him and his eyes open–then turn blue. And there it is. Even though we all knew it was coming, it doesn’t make it any less horrible.
This was a tough one. Hopefully there will be a juicy Jaime/Brienne scene in Episode 7 to soothe the despair of Viserion’s death and conversion. I wish you could RIP, Viserion. *sniff*
I knew Jaime wasn’t going out that way! Please, show runners–everyone knows he has to kill Cersei! Bronn surfaces, gasping for air, then drags Jaime out of the river. By my calculations Bronn has just saved Jaime’s life twice in quick succession, yet Jaime still has the nerve to complain, “You could have killed me.” Bronn is incredulous at his petulance and asks him if he noticed the dragon standing between him and Daenerys. Until Bronn gets what he’s owed, no one–not even a dragon–gets to kill Jaime except Bronn. Oh, Bronn, I’m sorry I wished you would die before you got to the Scorpion last episode. I’m happy you’re still alive and unafraid of calling Jaime Lannister a cunt.
The awesome power of the dragons dawns on Jaime. If Daenerys decides to use all three of them–“you’re fucked,” says Bronn. Jaime qualifies that “they” are fucked, but Bronn begs to differ. Dragons are where their partnership ends. He’s not going to be hanging around King’s Landing when Dany decides to rain hellfire on the Red Keep. Jaime’s primary concern is getting to Cersei and telling her what they’re up against. His continued misguided devotion to his sister is rendering him less hot with each passing episode. He needs a good dose of Brienne.
Tyrion looks deeply troubled as he walks through the annihilated landscape of the Reach. Dany has gathered the surviving Lannister soldiers and gives them a choice: they can bend the knee or they can die. Only a few of them fall to their knees at first, but after a little encouragement from Drogon, several more bend the knee. Randyll and Dickon Tarly do not. Dany beckons Randyll forward and he explains that he will not pledge loyalty to a foreign invader backed by savages. At least Cersei was born and has lived her entire life in Westeros. Randyll Tarly is an unreconstructed idiot. Cersei has lived her entire life in Westeros wreaking havoc upon its people.
Tyrion tries to persuade him to bend the knee–after all, it wasn’t so long ago that he was pledged to House Tyrell. Since Cersei obliterated the Tyrells and ordered his rightful queen, Lady Olenna, murdered, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him to switch allegiances once again. He refuses and Tyrion asks Dany to send him to the Wall. Has Tyrion failed to learn that Dany is displeased when her advisors question her decisions in public? He should trod carefully. I think Tyrion was surprised by his dismay at seeing Jaime so spectacularly defeated and the Lannister army blown to kingdom come.
Dany can’t send Randyll Tarly to the Wall because she is not his queen. Dany respects that he will not trade his honor for his life and accepts his decision. Dickon pipes up and tells her that she’ll have to kill him, too. Tyrion implores him to bend the knee–this war has already wiped out one great house and he is the future of another. Dickon will not. His father is dismayed but, along with the resignation flickering across his face over his son’s decision, there is pride.
Tyrion tries once again to dissuade Dany from her course of action. Take them prisoner, he pleads, but Dany is not there to put men in chains. She calmly explains that she gave them a choice, and they’ve made it. Dothraki guards lead the Tarlys to the side and Dany sentences them to die before she quietly says, “Dracarys.” And that’s that for Randyll and Dickon Tarly. Too bad about Dickon, but Randyll shouldn’t have been such a prick to Sam.
Jaime is striding through the corridors of the Red Keep, anxious to warn Cersei about the threat Daenerys poses. Smug as always, Cersei thinks that with the Tyrell gold and the Iron Bank’s support, they can raise an army of mercenaries. Jaime, however, has just seen the Dothraki fight. He explains that to them, slaughtering the Lannister forces was not war–it was sport. He is correct. He describes Drogon’s mighty powers of destruction and that Qyburn’s Scorpion couldn’t stop him. And that was just one dragon. He tells Cersei they cannot win this war.
Cersei suggests that Tyrion intercede on their behalf as a way of apologizing for killing their father and Joffrey. Jaime delivers Lady Olenna’s message. At first Cersei doesn’t believe it, but Jaime convinces her. It doesn’t really matter who killed Joffrey–Cersei will never let go of her hatred for Tyrion. Cersei is pissed that she listened to Jaime and let him kill Lady Olenna painlessly with poison. She should have died screaming. Jaime points out that she’s dead, her son and grandchildren are dead, and her entire house is gone. Cersei’s had her revenge. Jaime warns that if they don’t find a way to get out of this war the same thing will happen to them. Since Cersei is incapable of listening to reason she chooses to fight and die rather than submit and die. WHY, Jaime, WHY are you so enthralled with this woman??
Drogon and Dany approach Dragonstone as Jon Snow stares out to sea, no doubt brooding about the Night King. He takes in the awesome sight of Drogon coming in for a landing, and barely flinches when Drogon walks toward him, roaring in his face. Drogon knows a Targaryen when he sees one! Dany watches anxiously from Drogon’s back as Jon Snow removes his glove with a flourish and reaches out to stroke the dragon’s snout. Drogon allows the caress. Dany watches them in wonder and I think she falls in love with Jon Snow in that moment. What single mother doesn’t want to find a suitable father for her children?
Dany says, “they’re beautiful, aren’t they?” When Jon replies that “beautiful” isn’t the word he was thinking of, he realizes he’s hurt her feelings and immediately backtracks, agreeing that they are indeed beautiful–“gorgeous,” in fact. Jon notes that Dany wasn’t gone long and she says she has fewer enemies today than she did yesterday. Jon is conflicted about either her tactics or the outcome of the battle–I’m not sure which, and I don’t understand why. She reminds him of the thousands of men he killed during the Battle of the Bastards and says that they both want to help people, but they can’t do it unless they are in a position of strength. And sometimes strength is terrible.
Dany asks Jon what Davos meant when he said Jon took a knife to the heart for his people. Jon tells her that sometimes Davos gets carried away. Why doesn’t he just tell her? What is the significance of his reticence? She presses him, asking if it’s just a figure of speech. Earnest Jon Snow can’t lie, but he is saved from answering by the Dothraki, who approach Dany with someone claiming to be her friend.
It’s Jorah! Dany is greatly moved to see him, cured of greyscale and ready to serve. I’m glad Jon gets to see firsthand the kind of loyalty she inspires. He’s heard of it from Missandei, but witnessing Dany and Jorah’s heartfelt reunion should drive it home for him. I hope so, because now I’m hardcore shipping Dany and Jon Snow.
Bran has warged into one of a flock of ravens flying north. He sees the army of the dead on the march, and tells Maester Wolkan they need to send ravens.
The Citadel maesters scoff at the missive from Winterfell. Sam urges them to take it seriously and send ravens instructing the Westerosi lords to send men to reinforce the Wall. He implores them to consult the ancient scrolls to find a way to defeat the Night King once and for all. But Sam is doomed to be frustrated by the sluggish inertia that plagues the Citadel. The Archmaester allows that Bran’s message might be authentic, but it could just as easily be a ploy of the “dragon queen” to lure Westerosi soldiers north so she can take the lands they’re currently defending. The maesters will do nothing until they get to the bottom of it. Sam leaves the room and the maesters discuss the recent demise of his father and brother. They haven’t had the heart to tell him yet. I wonder how he will take it, given his estrangement from his family?
Tyrion is justifying Dany’s actions at the Reach to Varys. Varys thinks she’s getting dangerously close to Mad King territory and warns Tyrion that he needs to make her listen. Jon asks Varys about the scroll he’s holding and asks if he’s read it. Varys feigns indignance, saying that it’s a sealed scroll for the King in the North. Tyrion asks him what it says. HA! I love how Tyrion and Varys have no illusions about each other’s questionable ways.
The scroll finds its way to Jon Snow and he realizes that Arya and Bran are not dead like he thought. But being Jon Snow, he can’t take even a moment to rejoice over this news and instead dwells on Bran’s vision of the Night King’s army. He needs to go back to Winterfell and fight with the insufficient men he has, unless Dany will lend him her forces. She thinks if she does this, she will be handing Westeros to Cersei.
Tyrion comes up with a plot to prove the White Walkers’ existence to Cersei by capturing a wight and showing it to her. She only listens to Jaime (except she doesn’t) and Jaime might listen to him. Davos will smuggle Tyrion into King’s Landing and Tyrion will try to convince Jaime of the looming threat Beyond the Wall. Ser Jorah volunteers to go north and capture a wight. Jon says the Free Folk will help them. Davos points out the Free Folk won’t follow Jorah, but Jon Snow knows they will follow him. Dany looks alarmed at the prospect of Jon Snow participating in such a dangerous mission (ship, ship, ship) and tells him she hasn’t given him permission to leave Dragonstone. Jon Snow doesn’t need permission–he is a king. Dany was a stranger to him when he came to Dragonstone, but still he trusted that she wouldn’t burn him alive or otherwise kill him. Now he asks her to place her trust in him. She agrees.
At Winterfell, the Northern Lords are complaining about Jon Snow’s prolonged absence and thinking maybe they should have chosen Sansa to rule over them instead. Sansa weakly defends Jon while Arya surveys the scene with consternation. She thinks Sansa should have made more of an effort to stand up for Jon. She notes that Sansa is now ensconced in Ned and Catelyn’s chamber and that she always liked nice things because they made her feel better than everyone else. There are a lot of unresolved issues between these two.
Arya thinks Sansa should keep the Northern Lords in line by chopping off a few heads, but Sansa explains (a bit patronizingly) that while chopping off heads may be satisfying, the only way to survive is to work together. Arya adds that if Jon doesn’t return, Sansa will need the Northmen’s support which is why she doesn’t want to do anything to incur their wrath now. Sansa
acts is appalled at Arya’s analysis of her motives but Arya doesn’t back down. There is more than a leftover childhood rivalry going on here–there is a complete lack of trust and maybe even a little hatred. It scares me.
Tyrion and Davos land on the beach at King’s Landing. Tyrion is going to meet Jaime in secret while Davos tends to business in Fleabottom. Bronn leads Jaime into the Red Keep’s catacombs under the guise of weapons training. Jaime is angry with Tyrion for killing Tywin but the soft spot he has for him is still apparent. Poor Jaime is so torn–I think he hates himself for loving Cersei and knows he should join forces with Tyrion and Dany, but he never will. Tyrion tells Jaime that Dany will win the war, but she is willing to suspend hostilities while Westeros deals with the Night King–if Cersei will play ball.
Davos finds Gendry(!) plying his trade in a smithing shop in Fleabottom. Gendry has been waiting for something to happen–he’s tired of making Lannister weapons–and is packed and ready to go with Davos. A couple of guards catch them as they load up their boat and shake Davos down for a payoff. All seems to go well until Tyrion approaches the beach and the guards recognize the dwarf with the scar on his face. There is a moment of tension until Gendry grabs his hammer and unceremoniously kills the guards. Gendry is a badass. Welcome back, Gendry!
Jaime tells Cersei that Dany wants to meet to discuss an armistice. Cersei wants Jaime to punish Bronn for setting up the meeting with Tyrion without Jaime’s knowledge or consent. God, can she just stop with the power trip? Of course she can’t–she’s Cersei. She is unmoved by tales of armies of the dead and vows they will defeat any obstacle that faces them because–ugh!–she’s pregnant. Just gross. Now she and Jaime have a legacy to fight for once again. She will tell the world that Jaime is the father of this child and just like that, Jaime is completely sucked back into her web. Is she lying? Will she have a sudden miscarriage a couple of months down the road, after she has secured Jaime’s total devotion and is satisfied that his affection for Tyrion will never trump his loyalty to her? I don’t put anything past her.
Against Davos’ advice, upon meeting Jon Snow Gendry immediately tells him he’s the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. They seem to bond over their fathers’ relationship and Gendry offers to go North with Jon. As Jorah prepares to leave for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, he and Tyrion reminisce about their adventures in Essos. Tyrion gives him the coin the slavers gave them, and tells Jorah to bring it back. Aww!
Dany exchanges farewells with Jorah, then it’s time to say good-bye to Jon Snow. She says she’s grown used to him and he wishes her good fortune in the wars to come. Dany looks forlorn as she watches Jon Snow take his leave. Ship!
Gilly is reading fun facts from High Septan Maynard’s journal to Sam as they study by candlelight. Apparently High Septan Maynard recorded endless minutiae about his daily activities, including an annulment and secret marriage he performed for RHAEGAR TARGARYEN in DORNE! JON SNOW IS NOT A BASTARD! He is the legitimate son of Rhaegar and Lyanna! Oh my God–I can only anticipate the identity crisis Jon will have once this information comes to light. Fresh fodder for brooding once the Night King is (hopefully) defeated.
This bombshell doesn’t register with Sam. He has had it with the Citadel and is sick of reading about the “accomplishments of better men,” tm Randyll Tarly. He steals a bunch of scrolls and books and he, Gilly and Little Sam leave the Citadel in the middle of the night. Hopefully they’re headed to Winterfell.
Arya is spying on Littlefinger. Maester Wolkan gives him a scroll and assures him it’s the only copy at Winterfell. Arya breaks into Littlefinger’s chamber and searches for it. She finds it tucked into a slit in the mattress. It’s the scroll Cersei made Sansa send to Robb, telling him to pledge his fealty to Joffrey. Littlefinger watches as Arya steals out of his room, satisfied that his little plot has worked. Wow, he’s good. He set it up so that Arya would hear him thank Maester Wolkan on Lady Stark’s behalf, and Arya would think Sansa wanted to remove the scroll from Winterfell’s records. And of course instead of confronting Sansa about it and getting the real story, Arya will remain silent while her suspicion and distrust for her sister just grow and grow. The rift between these two has just become a gulf. I hate Littlefinger. I thought between Bran and Arya, he wouldn’t be able to get away with his games at Winterfell. I was wrong. Bad things are indeed coming, Ser Davos.
Jon Snow and Davos are explaining their plan to Tormund Giantsbane at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He points out they don’t have enough men for the mission, but he’s just disappointed they didn’t bring Brienne. He brings them to the cells where the Brotherhood is being held. They explain they are there because the Lord of Light showed the Hound the army of the dead. Jon recognizes the Hound and Gendry recognizes Thoros and Beric. Thoros recognizes Jorah and calls him by his full name. This does not sit well with Tormund, since as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jeor Mormont hunted down wildlings like they were animals. Jorah retorts that the wildlings returned the favor.
The Hound is tired of the chitchat and asks if the Brotherhood will be allowed to accompany Jon and Co. Jon agrees, because they’re all on the same side–they’re all breathing, after all. The gate lifts and everyone ventures into the swirling snow Beyond the Wall.
Next week: an apparent ambush by the wights, and I will spend this week in a low state of terror.
The Lannisters are looting Highgarden. All the Tyrells’ gold is headed to King’s Landing to pay the crown’s debt to the Iron Bank, and the Reach’s stores are being sent there to fortify the capitol since #winterishere. Jaime tosses Bronn a saddlebag full of gold coins while Bronn complains that the Lannisters have not, in fact, paid their debt to him because he still doesn’t have a castle. Jaime points out that the Seven Kingdoms are at war, and while Bronn could have Highgarden today, Daenerys could take it from him tomorrow. Bronn remains disgruntled.
I need to point out that while Jaime, like Tyrion, is linguistically facile and able to engage in witty repartee with Bronn, there is an unpleasant undercurrent to his verbal jousting. Bronn and Tyrion respect each other. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship–each of them has something the other doesn’t have. Tyrion has gold, and Bronn has brawn. Both of them see themselves in the other. Bronn is a hard-nosed sellsword with a hardscrabble upbringing; Tyrion is the despised dwarf of a landed family. Both of them are outcasts in their own way, and the relationship they forged is genuine.
Jaime treats Bronn like a minion–a highly respected and valued minion, but a minion nonetheless. His attitude is that the Lannisters lifted Bronn out of the gutter, gave Bronn riches and a title, and because of that Bronn should do their bidding. Tyrion understood the quid pro quo nature of his and Bronn’s relationship–he wasn’t giving Bronn handouts, he was paying him for extremely valuable services rendered. Jaime doesn’t get it. Doesn’t he remember how Bronn trained with him after he lost his hand?
The Iron Banker is ecstatic that Cersei will be able to pay her debt in one gargantuan payment. He thought Tywin Lannister was an efficient man, but he is even more impressed with Cersei. He eagerly assures Cersei the Iron Bank will be willing to support any and all of her endeavors–that is, as soon as it receives the gold. Hopefully this is foreshadowing, and the Tyrell gold will not reach King’s Landing.
At Winterfell, Littlefinger unsheaths the dagger the cutthroat used to try and kill Bran in Season One. He gives the dagger to Bran, along with his eely spiel about how he would have given his life to protect Catelyn, he wasn’t there when Catelyn needed him most, now he can only be there for her children, etc., etc. It’s all bullshit. It may have worked on Sansa when she was a tween, but Littlefinger doesn’t know what he’s dealing with here. Sure enough, when Littlefinger says the dagger started the War of the Five Kings and brought Bran to the chaos by which he’s now surrounded, Bran cuts him off with his own line: “Chaos is a ladder.” For once, Littlefinger is speechless. And caught off guard. And wary. Littlefinger can navigate the politics of King’s Landing like a champ, but when faced with the mystical Three-Eyed Raven, he’s at a loss. And it’s awesome.
Meera interrupts to tell Bran she’s leaving. She doesn’t want to, but her job is done and when the White Walkers come she needs to be with her family. Bran coldly thanks her. Meera can’t believe that’s his only reaction after all they’ve been through. Bran remembers what it’s like to be Brandon Stark, but he is no longer that person. Meera tearfully tells him he died in the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave and leaves.
A figure on a horse approaches Winterfell. It’s ARYA!!! The guards don’t believe she is Arya Stark and refuse to let her in the gates. She tells them to call for Maester Luwin or Ser Roderick–either one of them can confirm her identity. The guards have never heard of these people and tell Arya to “fuck off.” Arya tells them they turn her away at their own peril, so they let her inside the gates. While they’re arguing about who is going to tell Sansa about her, she slips away.
The guards report the incident to Sansa, who knows it’s Arya as soon as they tell her the visitor mentioned Maester Luwin and Ser Roderick. Sansa knows where to find her. Arya is staring at Ned Stark’s sculpture when Sansa enters the crypts. “Do I have to call you Lady Stark now?” Arya asks. Sansa replies, “Yes.” Sansa goes to her sister and hugs her, but Arya does not return her embrace.
Sansa tells Arya that as happy as Jon was to see her, when he sees Arya his heart will probably stop. Yes, it will. This is how I fantasize the Arya-Jon reunion: Jon returns from Dragonstone and notices Brienne sparring with someone in the courtyard. He recognizes Needle and stops in his tracks. He slowly approaches the duo. Brienne looks up and sees that the King in the North has returned and sheaths her sword. Arya wonders why Brienne has stopped what she’s doing and follows her gaze. She turns around, she and Jon see each other, and all the pain and strife and horror that has made Arya the killer she is today fall away, and she is that little girl at Winterfell again. And there is her brother, who had Needle made for her because he always understood who she was. There are no vestiges of sibling rivalry like with Sansa, there is no question of trustworthiness. Jon Snow and Arya have been allies from the beginning, they have both been on Odyssean journeys. Their reunion might be too profound for a hug, but I hope there will be one, because for just a moment I’d like to see Arya able to let her guard down and just feel safe. That concludes the fanfic portion of this recap.
Sansa and Arya engage in a stilted conversation, but the ice breaks when they bond over their shared hatred of Joffrey. Sansa admits that unfortunately she was not the one who killed him, and Arya shares that he was always at the top of her list. Sansa is puzzled and Arya explains that her list is comprised of people she’s going to kill. This cracks Sansa up, probably because she’s finally able to recognize her pugilistic little sister in this composed stranger. Sansa has no idea what a badass Arya has become. They acknowledge that they’ve both had long, unpleasant journeys then Arya gives Sansa a real hug. *sniff*
Sansa solemnly tells Arya that Bran is home too, and the three remaining Stark children reunite in the Godswood. Somebody tweeted “Not now, Starks are reuniting” during this scene and it is my new go-to phrase. Arya hugs Bran and he just sits there, then tells her that he saw her at the Crossroads. Sansa explains that Bran has visions. Bran thought Arya might go to King’s Landing because Cersei is on her list. Sansa asks who else is on her list and she answers that most of them are already dead.
Bran takes out the dagger Littlefinger gave him. Sansa is alarmed because Littlefinger is not a generous man, and would not have given Bran a Valyrian steel dagger if he didn’t think he would get something in return. This gives me faith in Sansa. Bran gives the dagger to Arya, because it’s “wasted on a cripple.” It won’t be wasted on Arya, I’m sure.
Brienne and Podrick watch the three Starks enter the courtyard at Winterfell. Sweet Podrick tells Brienne that Catelyn would be proud that she kept her vow. Brienne, incapable of accepting a compliment, says she did next to nothing. Pod says, “You’re too hard on yourself, my lady.” Brienne starts to say she’s not a lady, but stops herself and just replies with a simple thank you. Good for you, Brienne!
At Dragonstone, Dany and Missandei have a little girl talk about Grey Worm before Jon beckons Dany into the caves beneath the castle. He wants to show her the dragonglass before he starts mining it. And something else. The Children of the Forest made cave paintings depicting their allegiance with the First Men against the White Walkers. Jon tells Dany that they need to fight together, just like the Children and the First Men. Those cave drawings sure are convenient. Dany tells him she will fight with him, as soon as he bends the knee. The sexual tension between them is riveting.
We don’t know if Jon bent the knee, because the next shot is of him and Dany exiting the caves. It looks like they’re holding hands–what exactly did happen in that cave? Jon Snow is no stranger to cave couplings! They’re not holding hands after all–rats. Tyrion and Varys deliver the bad news about Casterly Rock and Dany throws a little tantrum. All her allies have been taken from her while she sits on Dragonstone. She wants to fly the dragons to the Red Keep, but Tyrion counsels against it–again. Dany’s had enough of Tyrion’s clever plans and asks Jon Snow what he thinks she should do. People follow her because she’s made impossible things happen, and they believe that maybe she can create a better world than the one they’ve always known. But if she uses the dragons to “melt castles and burn cities,” she’ll just be more of the same.
Brienne and Pod are training in the courtyard when Arya approaches. She wants to train with Brienne because she beat the Hound. They spar to a draw, and Brienne is impressed with Arya’s fighting prowess. She wonders who taught her how to do that. “No one,” says Arya. Sansa looks on, seemingly troubled by what she sees. Arya stares at Littlefinger like she’s wondering if she needs to put him on her list. Littlefinger is (hopefully) going to find himself at a disadvantage with Arya and the Three-Eyed Raven.
Now it’s time for Jon Snow and Ser Davos to have some guy talk. Jon thinks Dany has a good heart. Davos has noticed him staring at her “good heart,” but Jon says there’s no time for that. He wonders how many Northmen they have to fight the Night King–ten thousand, less? Davos pulls a Stannis and replies, “fewer.”
They greet Missandei and she asks why Jon is named Snow when his father was a Stark. He explains that he’s a bastard, but Missandei is confused. In Naath, where she’s from, there is no marriage so the concept of a bastard does not exist. Davos finds this liberating. He is smitten. Jon notices a Greyjoy ship approaching Dragonstone–it’s Theon. The only reason Jon doesn’t kill him is because of what he did for Sansa. Theon has come to ask for Dany’s help in rescuing Yara from Euron. Jon tells him that the Queen is gone.
Back to the Reach, where Bronn and Jaime are overseeing the Loot Train. Randyll Tarly rides up to inform Jaime that all of the Tyrell’s gold has arrived safely in King’s Landing. Damn it! Why does Cersei keep getting all the breaks??
Dickon Tarly is a little shaken from his first real-life battle experience. He didn’t realize it would smell so bad. Bronn confirms that men shit when they die and asks Dickon, “Didn’t they teach you that in fancy lad school?” Bronn is awesome.
Bronn hears something in the distance. It’s about to go down, people! It’s the Dothraki! The Lannisters get into formation as the horde rides over the horizon, all war cries and pounding hooves. Bronn tells Jaime to get back to King’s Landing because they’re about to be swamped. Jaime thinks they can hold off the Dothraki. Famous last words, because…who comes swooping in? DROGON!! With Dany on his back! Here we go–DRACARYS! Drogon blows up part of the Lannister line and the Dothraki stampede through it, wreaking havoc as they go. Dany and Drogon blow up the Loot Train, along with a good portion of the Lannister army. It’s AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME! Take that, Cersei!
Jaime looks around, disbelief and panic on his face, but is still able to command effectively. The archers make the mistake of shooting Drogon with their arrows, so he incinerates them. YES! Oh no–Jaime is telling Bronn to get Qyburn’s Scorpion–the dragon killing machine. No way are they going to kill off Drogon. I’ll kill myself if they do.
I have loved Bronn since the first season, but I am actually hoping he dies before he gets to the Scorpion. I never thought I’d see the day. But if it’s between Bronn and Drogon, I am going to take Drogon every time. Shit–he made it to the Scorpion.
Tyrion is watching the scene from a ridge. He looks pained as he watches Jaime at a loss, taking in the utter destruction around him. Drogon barely misses Jaime as he breathes another stream of fire. Bronn is manning the Scorpion. I can’t watch! HE HIT DROGON! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Drogon screams and begins to plummet downward. He doesn’t crash–thank the Seven!–but lands safely and lets off another blast, just missing Bronn. Dany gets off and is trying to pull the bolt out of Drogon when Jaime charges her.
From his vantage point, Tyrion calls Jaime a fucking idiot. Dany turns around just in time to see Jaime riding toward her, spear at the ready. Before he can get to her, Drogon swings his massive head around and opens his mouth. Jaime can see the fire in his throat, about to roast him alive, but a second before Drogon lets loose, Bronn pushes Jaime out of the way and into a lake.
The last shot of the episode is Jaime, in full armor, sinking to the bottom of the lake.
Jaime is NOT going out that way! I hope Cersei thinks he’s dead and cuts her own throat. Of course she won’t, but a girl can dream.
It just keeps getting better.
Jon Snow and Ser Davos arrive at Dragonstone, and this awesome exchanges ensues:
Tyrion: The Bastard of Winterfell
Jon: The Dwarf of Casterly Rock
And then Jon Snow almost cracks a smile. This episode is already epic. And that’s before the dragons swoop overhead as Jon and Ser Davos are being escorted to the castle, causing them to duck for cover.
The Red Woman is watching their arrival from a cliff when Varys approaches her. She admits that she did not part on good terms with Jon and Ser Davos because of terrible mistakes she made. Varys warns her that she shouldn’t return to Westeros again, but she calmly tells him that she will return, one last time, because she has to die “in this strange land. Just like you.” Varys, like me, is unsettled.
Jon and Ser Davos enter the throne room and Missandei introduces them to Dany, rattling off her many titles. In response Davos says, “This is Jon Snow. He’s King in the North.” Brevity is the soul of wit, Ser Davos. Dany embarks on a typical power play in an attempt to get Jon Snow to bend the knee. When he refuses, she reminds him that she is the last Targaryen (she’s not!) and that the Starks and the Targaryens were allies for centuries–centuries during which Westeros enjoyed its most peaceful and prosperous era. Jon reminds her of her family’s crimes against the Starks, and although she apologizes, he is not there to bend the knee. He is there to tell her they need each other’s help in the coming war against the Night King. She is skeptical and launches into a monologue about how she was forced to flee Dragonstone as an infant to escape Robert’s assassins. She points out that Ned Stark was Robert’s best friend. I wish she knew how vehemently Ned counseled against assassinating her, and at what risk to himself.
Jon listens to her speech and her declaration that she will rule the Seven Kingdoms–it’s a stirring speech, that’s for sure–but Jon is unmoved. He stands his ground and tells her she’ll be ruling over a graveyard if they don’t defeat the Night King. Jon Snow just keeps getting hotter and hotter.
And now it’s time for Ser Davos to pull out the big oratorical guns and explain that if Dany is an instrument of destiny, so is Jon Snow. Jon stops him when he’s about to say that Jon Snow died for the Night’s Watch, but Dany and Tyrion catch it. Tyrion implores Jon to bend the knee and fight alongside Dany to defeat Cersei. Jon Snow refuses once again and calls Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne into question. Jon Snow is now approaching Kingslayer hotness.
Varys enters and Dany abruptly ends the conversation by offering Jon and Ser Davos baths and supper. Jon asks if he’s her prisoner and she says, “not yet.” They leave and Varys breaks the bad news: Dany’s fleet, sunk or captured. The Greyjoys, dead or captured. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, dead or captured.
Everyone except Theon, who is being pulled out of the sea. He lies and says he tried to save Yara from Euron, but the salty Ironborn who asked about her knows that if he had really tried, he wouldn’t be alive. Why does Theon try to pass himself off as having courage? It just reveals his cowardice that much more.
Euron Greyjoy is being lauded by the huddled masses of King’s Landing. It is a mystery to me why the denizens of King’s Landing are loyal to Cersei. She inflicted the odious Joffrey on them, then blew them up along with the Sept of Baelor. But for some reason they are, and are cheering for Euron as he yanks a captive Yara along behind his horse through the streets of the capitol. He’s eating it up. Defiant Ellaria spits in the faces of the crowd as they boo her.
Euron presents Ellaria to Cersei–he’s given her justice for her murdered daughter. Ellaria spits on the floor in front of the Iron Throne–she’s got balls, that one! No wonder Oberyn loved her. Cersei promises Euron that he will have what his heart desires when the war is won. She proclaims that with Euron as the head of her navy and Jaime as commander of her armed forces, the Lannisters will prevail. The assembled sheep cheer–seriously, what is wrong with these people? Euron asks Jaime a gross question about Cersei’s sexual preferences, and we’re done with the Greyjoy psycho for now.
Cersei has Ellaria and the surviving Sand Snake chained to the walls in her dungeon. She taunts Ellaria about Oberyn’s death and delivers a bone-chilling monologue explaining her fantasies about destroying the woman who took her only daughter from her. I hate Cersei, but Lena Headey is awesome. Cersei kisses the Sand Snake and wipes her lips. It’s the Long Farewell, of course. Ellaria will remain chained to the wall as she watches her daughter die, then rot in that cell. If she refuses to eat they will force-feed her. She will spend all her remaining days there, with her daughter’s corpse. Cersei is a monster.
Perpetrating such horror obviously turns Cersei on, because she bursts into her chamber and lays a passionate kiss on Jaime. In a throwback to the Joffrey’s coffin scene in Season 4, Jaime half-heartedly tells her no, but succumbs to her sexual advances almost immediately. I wish Jaime would channel the honorable man Brienne brought out in him, but, like any man, all it takes is a simple blow job and all morality goes out the window. Oh, well.
The next morning, a brazen Cersei allows her chambermaid a glimpse into the room, where Jaime is lying naked in her bed. Jaime warns against it, but Cersei is the Queen and she’ll do as she pleases. I can only hope this bit of hubris signals the beginning of the end for her.
Now Cersei is meeting with a representative of the Iron Bank. The crown is deeply in debt and its coffers are empty. The Iron Bank wants to be paid and Cersei assures her visitor that the Lannisters always pay their debts. God only knows the havoc she’ll wreak to accomplish this.
Jon Snow is brooding on the cliffs at Dragonstone. Tyrion points out that Jon Snow’s brooding puts his own brooding to shame. That is does, Tyrion, that it does. It is a testament to the bond Tyrion and Jon Snow formed way back in Season One when Tyrion tells Jon he believes him about the White Walkers. Then regretfully tells him that it’s unreasonable to ask for Dany’s help against the Night King. When Jon Snow begins to walk away, Tyrion asks him if he has anything reasonable to ask. God, Tyrion’s the best! Of course Jon Snow has a reasonable request–he needs the dragonglass that lies beneath Dragonstone.
Tyrion is convincing Dany to allow Jon Snow to mine the dragonglass when she brings up Ser Davos’ aborted statement about Jon giving his life to the Night’s Watch. Tyrion brushes it off by saying she must allow certain flights of fancy because it’s dreary in the North. Tyrion is witty as always, but the fact that it’s been brought up again means that Jon Snow’s death and subsequent resurrection must have a significant part to play as the season unfolds. What could it be?!
Dany and Jon Snow share an intimate moment–let it be the first of many!–on the parapets of Dragonstone. She dodges his question about whether she believes him about the White Walkers, but she will allow him to mine the dragonglass. What a power couple these two could be!!
Sansa is discussing the (lack of) stores for the winter and other administrative issues regarding the operation of Winterfell. Baelish creepily tells her that command suits her then offers the cynical advice we saw in the Season Seven trailer–fight every battle, everywhere, etc. She appears to be taking this in, but it’s hard to tell with Sansa. I feel like she’s listening, but at the same time trying to determine Baelish’s angle in telling her these things. They are interrupted with the news that someone is at the gate. It’s Bran! Another Stark reunion! The Stark theme begins to play as Sansa tears up and runs to embrace Bran…who just sits there. I get that Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven, but he feels zero emotion at being reunited with his sister? What a letdown!
In the Godswood, Bran tries to explain to Sansa what it means to be the Three-Eyed Raven. His explanation echoes Baelish’s counsel. Baelish told Sansa to fight every battle, all the time–to consider every move that people could possibly make because everything that is possible is happening all the time, everywhere. Bran tells her that he can see everything that’s ever happened and everything that’s happening now, everywhere. Hmmm. Bran says he’s sorry for everything that’s happened to Sansa and tells her how beautiful she was on her wedding night. Why does he bring this up? He knows what happened to her that night–what is he trying to convey to her? That he understands the magnitude of what she’s been through? Even though he appears to be devoid of emotion, is he trying to let her know that if he could feel, his heart would ache for her? I just don’t know. Sansa appears to be shaken as she walks away. Who can blame her? Not only is her little brother the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven, he’s just told her that he saw Ramsay brutalize her. That would unnerve anyone.
Ser Jorah is cured of greyscale! He is free to leave the Citadel and Sam shakes his hand before he goes. Aww! Jorah hasn’t shaken anyone’s hand since he was touched by the Stone Men in Old Valyria! Archmaester Marwyn lectures Sam about how dangerous it was for him to treat Jorah before congratulating him on a job well done. Sam may have cured Jorah’s greyscale, but he’s still expected to perform the menial tasks of a maester-in-training. At least copying ancient scrolls is better than changing bedpans!
Dany’s war council (what’s left of it) is meeting in the map room at Dragonstone. She wants to use the dragons to destroy Euron’s fleet but Varys and Tyrion tell her it’s too dangerous. What about Casterly Rock, then? The Unsullied should be there soon. Tyrion’s explanation of what’s in store for them is brilliantly cut with the action at the Rock. Tywin Lannister built Casterly Rock to be impregnable–and its walls are–but he couldn’t be bothered with building the sewers. He gave that job to the lowest creature he could think of–Tyrion. Since Tywin wouldn’t let Tyrion have his whores there, Tyrion built a secret passageway so he could smuggle them in. Cut to Grey Worm and a small contingent of Unsullied approaching an opening in the sea. They use Tyrion’s secret passageway to enter Casterly Rock and open the gates for the rest of the Unsullied to flood in and take the castle.
Tyrion warns that Cersei will be ready for them, and that the Unsullied will be outnumbered by the bulk of the Lannister forces. But people fight for Cersei out of fear; the Unsullied fight for Dany out of love–which is why the Unsullied will triumph.
But something is wrong. The Unsullied aren’t outnumbered and handily defeat the sparsity of Lannister soldiers stationed at Casterly Rock. Grey Worm wonders where the rest of them are, and looks out to sea to see Euron’s fleet setting the Unsullied’s ships on fire. He grabs a not-quite-dead Lannister soldier and asks him where the rest of the Lannisters are.
Strings play the Rains of Castamere as we get a sweeping shot of Jaime leading the Lannister army to Highgarden. Lady Olenna watches them approach from the castle tower, and Jaime strides through the courtyard, which is littered with dead Tyrells. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is so beautiful. Sigh. Lady Olenna is waiting for him in the tower, knowing the Tyrells have been defeated and that her time is nigh.
She and Jaime engage in some discourse about strategy, and she warns him that Cersei is a monster and will be the end of him. Jaime concedes that this is possible, but he’s done with the conversation. Lady Olenna gets down to business and asks how he’s going to kill her. Cersei of course wanted to drag her through the streets of King’s Landing and inflict all sorts of horrible things on her, but Jaime talked her out of it. It will be poison, and Jaime has made sure that it won’t be painful. Every once in awhile Jaime’s better nature surfaces–he’s going to do what he has to do, but he’s going to do it in the most respectful way he can think of. Imagine how amazing he would be if he could get out from under Cersei’s spell!
Jaime pours the poison into Lady Olenna’s wine glass and she drinks it. She’s not done though–she still has a major ace up her sleeve and she’s going to fuck Jaime with it. She recounts Joffrey’s gruesome death and how she didn’t intend for it to be that way. It dawns on Jaime that she was the one who poisoned Joffrey, but just in case he doesn’t fully understand, Lady Olenna says, “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.”