SE Andres is a marketing graduate student, writer, feminist, environmentalist, and Thor impersonator.
Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Tormund Giantsbane, Dolorous Edd, Podrick Payne, Melisandre, & Davos Seaworth
Thankfully, we open with Jon Snow and not Rickon (because who actually cared about Rickon)? His plan is to head South to get warm. Jon, buddy, you’d have to go to Dorne (GO TO DORNE!!!!) to get warm because. Winter. Is. Coming. BUT WAIT! SANSA COMES IN WITH BRIENNE AND POD! After Brienne and Tormund look at each other with lust, Jon and Sansa look at each other in disbelief, frozen in place. But they embrace, and it’s the best thing to happen on the show since ever. Because two Starks are finally reunited. And it’s glorious. And they have never loved or appreciated each other more. Sansa’s giving out all these hugs, and I really want one. Sansa has the Night’s Watch soup to warm her up, but anything would taste good after trekking for days in the snow. (In the books, it’s feet of snow at this point.) And nothing at the Night’s Watch tastes any good. They rehash old memories of times long ago, regretting leaving Winterfell in the first place. Sansa regrets being an ass and demands Jon accept her apology for being so, while Jon jokes about brooding in the corner while everyone else had fun. It’s like a real conversation between real siblings. And Sansa, proving that she’s grown up, reaches for Jon’s ale, but she makes the bitterest of bitter beer faces. Because the Night’s Watch makes the worst ale possible, despite being there for thousands of years. Listen, no brewer was ever sent to the Wall as punishment because the world needs brewers (except for the High Sparrow). Sansa inquires of his intent, but he corrects her: it’s “we” now. Sansa wants to reclaim Winterfell with Jon at the head reuniting the North against her greatest enemy, the Boltons, and the Wildlings as his soldiers. Sansa stresses that the Wildlings are not safe if Roose Bolton continues being the Warden of the North. (Dramatic irony is so bittersweet.) And she insists that he fight for their home, their being them two and the others alive, which Sansa must have told to Jon. But Jon is tired of fighting. He’s killed a shit ton of people, but Sansa fought a different fight, and it was much more torturesome. Jon, do not sulk now. Others have had it far worse than you, and you actually helped save a ton of people. Sansa had neither the power nor agency to take to actual fighting. Sansa persists: they must take back the North for their own safety. If he doesn’t help her, she’ll unite the North her damn self.
Davos asks Melisandre what she’ll do, and she responds: “I will do as Jon Snow commands.” This is interesting in that she didn’t serve Stannis. She controlled him. She now sees Jon as the fated hero the Red God sent them—“the Prince that was Promised.” And so was Stannis, Davos points out. So he wonders about what happened to him. Melisandre reports plainly that there was a battle and that Stannis was defeated. Just as Davos is about to find out that Melisandre made Shireen into the Thanksgiving turkey no one wants to eat because it looks like piles of ash, Brienne interrupts to reveal that she saw Stannis’ army fall. Davos introduces himself, but Brienne remembers him during her time with Renly before he was killed by MELISANDRE and her shadow-demon-spawn blood magic. The scowl Brienne gives Melisandre is unfathomably delightful. But I still feel bad for Melisandre, even after all the shit she’s done to everyone. Davos says that is in the past, but Brienne says that doesn’t mean she’ll forget or forgive. And then she revealed that she executed Stannis and turns heel and departs. Mic drop.
Petyr Baelish, Robin Arryn, & Yohn Royce
Lord Arryn’s arrow still falls short of his damn target after all this time training, and Lord Royce musters a fake-ass smile because he must tolerate the Lord of the Vale and his inadequacies. “His arrow falls short of a target” should be the new way to describe Robin Arryn. Make it work, people. Robin is quick to dismiss his archery practice to hug Littlefinger, who makes up for missing Robin’s birthday with giving him a falcon. Hightower is quick to get to business, carefully questioning how Sansa ended up at Winterfell married to Ramsay Bolton when he told them he was taking her to Petyr’s homeland of the Fingers. Petyr lies his way out of it by saying they were accosted by Bolton men, which doesn’t make sense as to why they were that far south. But okay. Let’s run with it. Robin is half-listening anyway, and he’s going to make the ultimate decision. Whatever his “uncle” says, it must be true. Oh, shit. Petyr is actually accusing Lord Royce of treason by giving away the whereabouts of Sansa Stark. Royce doesn’t even flinch at the accusation. He probably expects this sneakiness out of Littlefinger. Instead, he gets in his face and threatens him with his mighty sword for slandering him in his own home. Littlefinger is quick to note that only the judgment of the Lord of the Vale matters, and ultimately this is his home. Royce then has a look of realization that he’s going to be sent out the moon door, which is exactly Lord Arryn’s first reaction. How surprising! Littlefinger deviously grins at Royce, knowing he has him under his thumb. The soldiers of the Vale begin to surround him. Royce vows his devotion to the Arryns. Robin asks Littlefinger’s trustworthy opinion on the matter. Good ole Petey suggests that to prove his loyalty, Royce can be of use as a commander in the wars to come, and Baelish knows there are wars to come, so it serves as a nice segue to his next carefully plotted plans to protect Sansa. After Robin agrees to allow Royce to live and serve as commander of the army, Petyr reports that Sansa escaped Winterfell and is likely headed to Castle Black to seek refuge with Jon Snow. She won’t be safe there, however, as he notes, with the Boltons seeking her. The Lord of the Vale says they must help her cousin, and Petyr then orders the new commander of the army to gather the knights of the Vale, for they are marching to war against the Boltons. Here, Littlefinger knows he made a mistake and probably didn’t realize how demented Ramsay actually is or he would not have put her in that much danger. This is odd, though, because Littlefinger seems to know everything, just like Varys. Varys doesn’t make mistakes, though. Baelish is more prone to actions that will affect the entire kingdom and reacts to the consequences, seemingly one step ahead because he laid the plans and knows how certain people would react, given their history of decisions and personalities. Varys, on the other hand, gathers intel and takes preventative action to sway outcomes in a quieter, less intrusive manner.
Tyrion Lannister, Varys, Missandei, & Grey Worm
In Mereen, the representatives of Slavers Bay arrive with the diplomatic Tyrion saying that a clever man once said (him, right then and there), “We make peace with our enemies, not our friends.” Grey Worm, taking the military approach, doesn’t care for this; he kills the queen’s enemies. The super-stylish-pant-wearing Missandei takes the path of history and experience when she warns that Daenerys tried to make peace with them before, but they tried to kill her. Tyrion defends his position by saying that he’s experienced slavery. Missandei knowingly questions how long he was a slave. His response: “Long enough to know.” She retorts, “Not long enough to understand.” All these mic drops so far this episode, and not one is Lady Olenna! This season has delivered a more confident, outspoken Missandei, a trait which Dany began to draw out of her before she left but came to fruition out of necessity.
In a brilliant transition, Tyrion’s former master, Yezzan zo Qaggaz, is first to speak, and the topic is of Tyrion’s rise to power. Tyrion insists that Dani won’t be there long when Razdal mo Eraz says that they should take their mercenaries and leave. Eraz says that he already offered Dany ships to leave to Westeros, and Missandei is quick to spit out the reason being that hundreds of thousands of slaves were yet chained. Grey Worm adds, “Not anymore.” But Qaggaz calls out Dany as a master, despite having a pair of tits. Here, we have a link between how women and men govern. It seems these fellas have an idea that women are no different from men but perhaps are more subversive in the way they assert power. He clearly does not know Daenerys. Tyrion tries to mediate, saying that slaves are unnecessary for profit, citing Westeros as an example. Slavery is practically nonexistent in Westeros (debatable), and he grew up richer than any of these slugs. However, Daenerys (or Tyrion, rather) recognizes that they upended the system of slavery without a system to replace it. So he offers that Mereen never return to slavery, but allows seven years for the other cities of Slavers Bay to filter out slavery and adjust to the new system. Missandei and Grey Worm don’t like that all, but the masters are actually considering it. He adds to the deal that the slavers will be compensated for the loss of their slaves at fair prices. In exchange for this deal, they will cut off support of the Sons of the Harpy. The slavers deny such involvement, but everyone knows better. Tyrion brings in prostitutes for the slavers before they leave to leave the deal on a sweet note. “Give freedom a chance; see if it doesn’t taste every bit as good as what came before,” he says and leaves the room with the rest of the council in tow.
There, it in the great hall, they find a group of former slaves, angry that the queen’s council is meeting with slavers and drinking wine with them. Until Dany returns, Tyrion is representing her. But they don’t trust him. He’s a foreigner. They trust Grey Worm and Missandei. Grey Worm reluctantly spits out that he is a soldier, not a politician, and that if there is a chance for just peace, they must take it. Then they appeal to Missandei, wondering how she can trust them? And she doesn’t. Nor will she ever. But she looks at Tyrion and says just what he told her, “But as a wise man once said, ‘We make peace with our enemies, not our friends.’” And Missandei proves once again that she’s awesome. The slaves seem to be satisfies with that meeting for now. But Grey Worm and Missandei are not. Tyrion admits he doesn’t trust them either, but he trusts in their self-interests. He insists that they will use the slavers. But Grey Worm thinks it will be the other way around. “They will use you. That is what they do.” How will Dany feel about Tyrion’s decisions concerning slavery upon her return and new and scary army?
Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont, & Daenerys Targaryen
Daario and Jorah arrive at Vaes Dothrak to save Dany, but before they enter the city, they must strip themselves of all weaponry because it is forbidden in the sacred city. Daario is reluctant to give up his favorite dagger, one in which the handle is a naked woman. As Jorah reaches for it, his grayscale flesh is exposed. He reassures Daario that it didn’t touch him. Daario doesn’t say anything but asking if Jorah knows what happens. There, then, is an unspoken understanding between the two of them that Jorah must serve out his life in helping Daenerys to his full capacity. He believes in and loves her that much. Inside, the Dothraki are all fucking in the streets, and Daario is quite jealous that he isn’t Dothraki. In an alley on their way to the temple, they run into two drunken Dothraki, one of which runs away to get help. Daario chases after him and breaks his neck before he runs into the streets. Meanwhile, Jorah is fighting and losing to the giant Dothraki. He even throws dirt in his face with no result. He just can’t believe it; this trick works in every TV show and movie! As Jorah is helpless on the ground, the Dothraki is stabbed through the chest from behind. Daario didn’t get rid of his charming dagger after all. Jorah is worried that they’ll discover the body stabbed and look for people with weapons. Daario’s solution? Take a stone and bash the wound until it’s pulp! Alright then.
In the temple of the Dosh Khaleen, Dany gets schooled by one of the elders. She’s given the story of one of the younger widows (named Ornela) who was married off at the age of twelve. The girl seems bitter, too. Dany then takes it upon herself to go tinkle with Ornela to escort her. They bond over their shared distaste of their experiences with the Dothraki. Ornela then becomes more curious about Dany, asking if it’s true that she has dragons. Dany offers her the chance to see them, but Ornela responds that she’ll never be able to leave Vaes Dothrak. Daario accosts her with his naked lady dagger at her throat, but Dany calls him off. Though they want to steal Dany away, Dany has other plans, especially since they’d never get out alive f they tried to escape.
The council of the Great Khals convenes that night in a large wooden building. They bring in Dany for her judgment. One brings up the fact that the slavers are offering ten thousand horses in exchange for Dany. Khal Moro doesn’t care. He’d rather take the horses for himself. Oh, that Dothraki pride. Dany speaks, “Do you want to know what I think?” All the men huddled there turn their heads in surprise and irritation that she’s speaking. They try belittling her and threatening rape again because that’s all this episode does, apparently. She knows where she is. She has history here. This is where the Dosh Khaleen claimed her son would be the Stallion Who Mounts the World. He may not be her human son, but isn’t that what Drogo is: her son? Moro dismisses her story, saying that Khal Drogo and her son both died. As they speak, she makes her way to the platform above them surrounded by fire on either side of her. She expounds that Khal Drogo promised to take Westeros for her and discussed with her plans far greater than the Dothraki ever consider. What do these khals discuss? Pettiness. Which villages to raid, which girls to screw, and how many horses you’ll get in exchange for something. None of them are fit to lead the Dothraki. But she is. The khals laugh, and then Moro sentences her: Oh, rape. Right. The go-to for women. Yeah, he says all the khals are going to rape her and then all the bloodriders, too. Oh and then the horses if there’s anything left. All these damn rape threats. Dany grabs the lantern at her side, and the khals see she is unfazed by the fire. Moro refuses to serve her. She says they won’t; they’ll die. She tips the lantern over and calmly watches them burn. Outside the building, the doors are barred, and the guards are dead. Daario and Jorah did their deed. All the Dothraki run to the building to see it burn and Daenerys emerge from the fires, naked, unharmed, and unafraid. And once more, all the dark-skinned people bow to the silver-haired, fair-skinned woman. The white savior complex is one that is often brought up against Dany by fans, and it was somewhat touched upon last week. It’s a fair point.
Margaery & Loras Tyrell & the High Sparrow
Septa Unella comes in to Margaery’s cell, and who knows whether it’s to beat her, to read the scripture to her, or what. But she leads Margaery to a light-filled room, which is far too bright for Margaery, who has been in a dark, dank room for too long. Waiting for her there is the High Sparrow. Unella pushes her to the floor, and Margaery is at the High Sparrow’s mercy. The High Sparrow asks what the first thing she’d do if he let her go right now. She immediately says that she’d go to her brother, which is probably not the answer he wanted, which would likely be her husband. She recovers her slip-up by adding her husband, her family. And then the High Sparrow twists that into seeking money and the material world. So he goes into a big, long diatribe about the evils of materialism and wanton ways, something to which he’d fallen victim in his previous life. But, lo and behold, he got out of it with a look at the morning after a drunken sex party he hosted like some sort of high-rolling Wall Street stock-broker. And then he probably murdered all the people there while spouting verses from the Seven-Pointed Star. Here, the High Sparrow still sits above Margaery. Note he sits level with the King, as he sees himself equal to the King. Margaery, however, is still submissive to him. He is still her captor. After he thinks she gets through to her concerning the wickedness of her materialism, he leads her to see her brother. It’s a gesture that he thinks will both bend her to his will and bend Loras to his will as well. Margaery is fully aware of that, too, and tells Loras as such. Loras, a bag of bones lying on the floor, unable to move and beaten to look like a Syphilis had gotten the best of him. The future of House Tyrell is with him, and he just doesn’t care. He only wants the torture to stop. Margaery expertly raises her voice enough for the Sparrow to hear her say that they want her to help him, and she continues her sentence at a whisper. They can’t give into what they want, or the Faith Militant wins. How will Margaery help her brother and end his misery? Will she give him up? Sentence him to whatever punishment must be fulfilled? Will that help herself in the process?
Cersei & Tommen Baratheon, Jaime & Kevan Lannister, Lady Olenna Tyrell, & Grandmaester Pycelle
Grandmaester Pycelle is advising the King on matters of the Faith Militant, telling him to leave him alone. Cersei walks in, angry that anyone but she is giving advice to her son. King Tommen dismisses Pycelle, who hobbles out at a slow pace under the weight of his chains and stops to give Cersei a devious grin on the way out, all to her annoyance. Cersei makes it known that she’s bitter about not being on the small council and wants to advise Tommen. Before she can speak, he tells her that they must tread carefully, echoing what Pycelle just advised, for the High Sparrow is a dangerous man and they must avoid provoking such a hornet’s nest. Tommen, ever the weak and indecisive king, is malleable yet, no matter how much force he puts behind his words. It’s becoming a problem in that nothing is ever actually decided. He is thinking foremost about Margaery’s safety, and he doesn’t want to risk that. Cersei all but says she doesn’t like Margaery, but that doesn’t matter. She is the Queen. Both she and the King must demand respect. And neither are getting it. He wants to knock down the establishment and reform a world where people are equal and the elite are reminders of a shameful past. I swear it’s like they’re doing a Saturday Night Live and taking direct Bernie Sanders lines and inserting them into the script. Tommen lets it slip that he spoke to the High Sparrow, and Cersei persuades him to tell her what he said.
That leads us to what would have been a small council meeting, where we get the ever-delightful Lady Olenna and Kevan Lannister. Kevan is really shaping up to a character I’m enjoying. Cersei announced the postponement of the small council meeting. Rather, Cersei and Jaime take the opportunity to have a chat with the two. Cersei is quick to point out to Olenna that Tommen has been talking to the High Sparrow about Margaery and Loras. And he’s gaining absolute authority. Soon he’ll have a trial on Cersei. Before that, Margaery will have her walk of atonement, too. Olenna perks up and vows to not let that happen. For once, Cersei and Olenna agree. For different reasons, obviously, but they must unite against a common enemy. Jaime suggests to Olenna to use the Reach’s army, which is the second-largest in Westeros, to enter the city before Margaery’s atonement. Kevan, as Hand of the King, protests that he has strict orders from the King to not take action against the High Sparrow, which is exactly why Jaime tells him to stand down when the Tyrell’s army comes. It doesn’t really matter what Kevan thinks, especially when Tommen has Margaery at his side again. Cersei then uses Lancel against Kevan. “Do you want Lancel back, or have you given him up for good?” It’s the gut punch. Of course he does. Kevan warns that if this plan does not follow through, the Sparrow has friends everywhere in the city. Many wars will come, and many will die. Olenna interjects, “Many will die no matter what we do. Better them than us.” This is exactly what the High Sparrow criticized Olenna for: not caring about the smallfolk.
Yara & Theon Greyjoy
Theon comes home to his sister Yara, who is not at all happy to see him. Suddenly, she is inhabiting her dead father. Just a bit ago, she was defending Theon while her father said he was dead. And here, she says the same thing her father did when reports came in that he was coming into the harbor. She reminds him that men died trying to rescue him from Winterfell, but he betrayed them all. He defends himself by telling her that Ramsay broke him into tiny pieces. She was aware of that: they received a piece of him, causing her to come for him. She asks why he came home. Did he come home to take the throne? He declares that he didn’t and didn’t know he was coming home right before kingsmoot. He doesn’t want to be king; he wants her to rule and insists that he help her take the throne. And now she’s not so angry with her broken brother. This is his way of making up to her. He’s already shown what a terrible leader he is, and now his mental health is beyond capability. With the lack of familial support for her to ascend the throne, she now has one’s support, and it probably means more to her than she could have imagined. She’s tried to prove that she’s a far more capable leader than her wretched father was, knowing when to cut their losses, knowing when to make treaty.
Ramsay Bolton, Osha, & Rickon Stark
Osha is led into Ramsay’s quarters where he’s peeling an apple. There, she does what she does best, seduce. But Ramsay was prepared for that, since he got intel out of Theon already on how she helped the Stark boys escape. She does her best to play along with the conversation, and she does it well. But she doesn’t do it well enough when she reaches for the apple knife. His hidden knife is already in her neck. As she lies bleeding all over the floor in front of him, he nonchalantly goes back to slicing and eating his apple. Osha just came back on the show, and she’s dead. She barely had lines in the episode. It certainly doesn’t do her character justice. I get that it serves Ramsay’s unpredictable insanity and bloodlust, but it doesn’t serve her character. However, she stayed loyal to the Starks until the end. If this was all the plot involved, it was weak for Umber. If it was all Osha’s, well, that was her fighting until the end. What a terrible ending for such a good character and a great actress.
Back to Black
A Bolton messenger arrives at the Wall while man-bun-wearing Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and crew eat. Usually I’d combine this with its other half at the beginning, but the transitions were too good in this episode to not note. As the other eat disgustingly with their hands, Brienne is a classy broad and eats with utensils. Though people typically see her as barbarous, she is the one with class and grace here. But her warrior stature doesn’t go unnoticed by Tormund Giantsbane. Dolorous is adorably uncomfortable about it, too. He apologizes to Sansa about the terrible food, but Sansa doesn’t mind because she’s with family. It seems that he’s enamored with her when he gives her a boyish smile. Everything seems to be going well for Jon and his friends at the moment. Oh, no. That doesn’t last.
Bolton’s letter makes its way to Jon, who is still being addressed as Lord Commander, though he relinquished his power unto Edd. It doesn’t work like that, Jon. There’s a whole voting system. Remember? That’s how you got to be Lord Commander. Jon reads Ramsay’s letter aloud, and it’s like a third grader wrote it. Clearly Roose didn’t care enough about his bastard son to give him a good education. Ramsay declares that Jon has betrayed the North by allowing Wildlings through the Wall. He then reveals that he has Rickon in his dungeon, and Jon and Sansa exchange glances. He goes onto read that Ramsay has Shaggydog’s pelt as a rug. Ramsay proposes that Jon give him Sansa, and he’ll leave him alone. If he does not, Ramsay will lead an army north on the Wildlings and the Wall. He guarantees that Jon will watch him flay them all. But Jon can no longer read the rest. Sansa takes it from him and reads it boldly because she knows how the rest will go: Ramsay writes that Jon will watch as his soldiers take turns raping Sansa and as his hounds eat Rickon. He will then spoon out his eyes after seeing all of that and leave his body for the hounds. Sansa immediately knows that Ramsay’s killed his father, as he’s signed the letter Lord Bolton, Warden of the North. Jon thinks he’s exaggerating and lying. But Sansa disagrees. She knows he’s telling the truth. Tormund enquires about the number of men in Ramsay’s army. Sansa thinks and responds that she heard him say five thousand once when he took Stannis’s army. Tormund only has two thousand. Sansa insists that the North will unite under Jon if he asks them to. This is not just any ordinary usurper; this is a monster, a thing far removed from humanity. And he has their brother and their home. Jon agrees to take back Winterfell.
This episode largely focuses on classism: the haves and the have-nots. Tyrion displays this perfectly in the issues with slavery as he navigated both sides. He is caught in between the haves (the rich, but still not as rich as he was, masters of Slavers Bay) and the have-nots (the slaves who never want to return to that life). Even though Tyrion was ridiculed and hated, he was born into money and enjoyed power. Briefly, he became a slave and returned to political power at Dany’s side and is now her voice in her absence. He has, for the most part, always had everything. He had to work for respect (and often does not get it, still. It didn’t take Catelyn long to see that in him as she began to debate with herself of his innocence in Bran’s crippling. That conversation between the High Sparrow and Olenna last season lingers yet as she uncaringly wants to employ soldiers, no matter the cost of lives, in order to save her own kin from embarrassment. She doesn’t care for the smallfolk and never will. She enjoys the life of an aristocrat and the games of power. Likewise, the High Sparrow points out Margaery’s reliance on her life of luxury and how it distances herself from what really matters in life. The idea of money leading people astray from the struggles of the ordinary people as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Of course, Ramsay sees the Wildlings ass less than human, even though he was born a bastard outside of royalty. Even Wildlings are treated less kindly than smallfolk. In Dany’s storyline, we see the hierarchy of the Dothraki. The Khals, then the rest of the men, then the Dosh Khaleen, then the rest of the women. She refuses to be a part of that patriarchy where the khals decide the fate of every widowed khaleesi. She sets herself up as a hero and goddess in the eyes of the Dothraki. Can she distance herself form classism? Can she continue to relate to her subjects, like she did with the young Dosh Khaleen Ornela? I'm looking forward to how her new inner circle of the High Priestess, Ornela, and Qhono will interact with Dany's existing inner circle. How will their cultures clash? How will they unite? Even Brienne is representative of classism at the dinner table. She is a knight of growing renown and of noble birth. And here are the men of the Night’s Watch, former criminals and runaways, and Wildlings, all of whom have disregarded any trained manners. It’s perhaps not classicism, but it’s a noted difference.
One of things this season is doing brilliantly is giving focus to the characters previously underserved. Like Kevan. Like Missandei and Grey Worm. Like Dolorous Edd. Like Osha…no, wait. No. Yara has had more characterization this season than the rest combined. I’m totally shipping the hell out of Tormund and Brienne. This episode was phenomenal, almost on par with the second episode. The best part is that there is no Arya! It definitely was both a satisfying and unsatisfying episode. The only things from making it greater are the constant rape threats and the quick discarding of Osha. One thing is for sure: this season is promising to upend tradition and the guarantee of anyone’s safety.
Who is winning the Game of Thrones?
© 2016 SE Andres