Valar Morghulis my friends and welcome to Season Six of Game of Thrones. Every week, I will recap Sunday’s episode and answer any questions that readers may have in a midweek mailbag that I will update as questions come in right up to when the new episode airs. Send all questions to @FawkesCulture, @Matwellsays, FawkesDotCom@gmail.com(awful email, I know), or post them in the comments section below. You could also catch up with all of Fawkes’ GAME OF THRONES coverage here.
In a show like Game of Thrones, it is necessary every once in a while to have what I’d call a “posturing” episode. With so many moving pieces, it is essential to re-set the board.
I’m not saying to have a throw away episode but rather have an episode widely void of action, in which there is still character progression but nothing crazy.
Sunday was the perfect time for Thrones to do this as a follow up to one of the wildest (and possibly the best) episode of the series. Many were still reeling in the aftermath of Hodor’s final moments and still hadn’t had a chance to process the fact that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers. Not to mention, SUMMER DIED, ARE YOU KIDDING??
For the most part, the show widely succeeded in doing this Sunday night.
Episodes like this allow the show to spend extended time with a storyline that hasn’t been visited very much this season, and maybe isn’t the audiences favorite. In this case, it was Sam and Gilly, who we have seen just once in the third episode of the season, “Oathbreaker,” which is totally fine as I don’t believe anyone was really interested in watching Sam get sick on the open seas repeatedly. While Sam’s storyline isn’t the most important, it is significant, as he is one of the few character’s who has a chance to learn how to, and eventually help, defeat the White Walkers.
We caught up with the two lovers and little Sam as they approached Horn Hill, where Sam was reunited with his family. Sam’s mother and sister welcomed him with open arms, while his father was a very different story. Now, Randyll Tarly is a known hardass, as well as one of the strongest soldiers and military leaders left in the Seven Kingdom’s. So, to see how he treated his son, who Randyll sees as a source of weakness, was not surprising as the man is obsessed with emulating an image of power and justice (which is why he’d be so opposed to allowing a wildling to roam free south of The Wall).
Again, there is not a ton of action to be had here. This is just a stop on Sam’s journey to essentially the Harvard of Westeros. We see Sam get berated, whimper over his meal, and then display the backbone that we know is hiding deep down. Thanks to some truly great acting by John Bradley, these scenes were especially poignant, which made the time at Horn Hill even more worthwhile. Nothing that happened in this corner of The Reach was unexpected until Sam decided to steal House Tarly’s ancestral Valyrian steel blade, “Heartsbane.” This is a departure from the books that I haven’t quite decided how I feel about yet. Sam understands the importance Valyrian steel holds, so I am happy he has it for that reason. However, I was really looking forward to watching Randyll Tarly, ultimate (hard)badass tearing up the battlefield with the sword. We’ll see how this goes. I just hope it doesn’t mean the show is going to marginalize Lord Tarly and not allow his character the greater prominence it deserves.
Speaking of Valyrian steel, I predicted in my mailbag that someone would show up wielding a Valyrian blade to assist Bran and that person would be an undead Benjen Stark. While I was off about the Valyrian steel, so far as I can tell, I was right about Uncle Benjen, who appeared just in the nick of time to help out Meera and Bran, under instruction from the old Three-Eyed Raven to help the new Three-Eyed Raven (Bran). You know what they say: What is dead may never die. What I’m curious to see is if Bran’s power to manipulate the past played a role in deciding Benjen’s fate of joining the Night’s Watch and forging his destiny in becoming the show’s version of “Coldhands” but that is something for a later date.
Even though this was the first week of the Season that we missed Jon Snow’s awesome man-bun, the streak of multiple Stark children in an episode remained intact. Arya returned to the second showing of “The King’s Hand,” sneaking in for the matinee. When she heads backstage to poison Lady Crane, she is stopped by her target, who ironically tells Arya that she would make a great actress, as Arya has been pretending to have no name for quite a while. However, the conversation and friendly advice of Lady Crane is too much for her morals, and Arya warns her of the poison before retrieving Needle and finding herself a nice little Braavosi corner to squat in. Meanwhile at the House of Black and White, a disappointed Jagen H’ghar orders the Waif to track down and kill Arya. Will she see her coming or will the Waif disguise herself? My guess is that the waif is a little too cocky to do so, and hey, Needle has been dying for some work.
It seems that No Name has turned back to Arya just in time as the first name from her kill-list was brought back into the fold this week. Good old (and I mean old) Walder Frey makes his first appearance since the end of Season 3 and old Walder is not pleased. We find him receiving news that a few of his many many offspring have lost Riverrun to Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully and a ghost crew made up of a few remaining River Lords and the Brotherhood Without Banners, which means we will be reuniting with Thoros of Myr (another thing I touched on in my mailbag) soon. However, will Beric be with him? I hope not and hopefully you’ll understand why soon enough.
Lord Frey believes his captive Edmure Tully will help in wooing the Blackfish out but I wouldn’t be too sure Brynden will sacrifice his home for one man, even if it is his nephew.
In King’s Landing, just as it seemed things we’re coming to head between the Faith Militant and the Crown, King Tommen is allowed to visit his newly reformed wife, Queen Margaery. It appears that the High Sparrow was wise to allow her time with Loras, as it led her to convert to a life of the Faith. Margaery then waists no time in converting Tommen, just as Jaime Lannister and the Tyrell army appeared at the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. As Jaime threatens violence, Tommen appears, announcing a newfound alliance between the Faith and the Crown, meaning a full on confrontation will have to wait for another day. To when? Well, Cersei has stated she plans on a trial by combat with her champion Ser Robert Strong, The Mountain so it can’t be too far off. The only question is who the Faith will choose. Lancel Lannister? Possibly but I think not. I am pretty confident I know the answer but, as I promised I’ll keep my spoiler-y theories to myself.
Tommen the Holy’s (too soon?) first action after announcing the alliance is to strip Jaime of his Gold Cloak, thanks to the precedent created by his big bro in dismissing Barristan Selmy. Jaime is then commanded to ride to Riverrun to help the Frey’s take back the castle from the Blackfish. It would seem he’ll be reunited with his old friend Brienne soon enough.
All of these things worked extremely well for a to reset the board for a posturing episode. The only issue I had came in the Dothraki Sea, which truthfully I think could have been totally skipped this week as Dany makes her way back towards Mereen. Weiss & Benioff (I know they didn’t write the episode but they’re the showrunners – they decide what happens when) could have taken a note from Greg Popvich and let their big guns rest for a week. However, it seemed they dreaded a total lull in the action and so over-compensated by shoving Dany riding on Drogon into the action and having her deliver a speech that felt tonally unnecessary. She already displayed that she had the power to lead the Dothraki by making sure the other Khals feel the Bern (sorry I have to meet my one politics joke per week quota), why force action by CGI-ing a post-his-third-growth spurt Drogon? Nothing was gained from it but oh well. I don’t sit on couches of money so I don’t make the big decisions.
The theme of this season to me is a line I already threw out: What is dead may never die. After Benjen was revealed to be among the kind of living, I expect several more this season, perhaps as early as (two) next week. I’m also looking forward to next week’s episode, “The Broken Man” to deliver two legendary speeches from the books, although in a different fashion… Stay tuned!
What did you think of the episode? Wondering who some of those character’s were and why they matter? Send these questions and more to me on Twitter @FawkesCulture or @MatwellSays, to FawkesDotCom@gmail.com, or leave them in the comments sections below and I’ll answer them all the way up to Sunday’s episode.
By Matt Atwell