Written by Dave Hill
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa
Commentary by Dave Hill, Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Liam Cunningham (Davos), and Ben Crompton (Edd)
Hey, Bran’s back! Apparently his storyline is now “cinematic” enough to be included, despite the showrunners stripping out every indication of how important and powerful Bran is/will be! In this episode, Brynden takes him back to Winterfell when Ned, Brandon, Lyanna, and Benjen were about 15-19, and he watches them train. Lyanna teases Benjen about not having anyone to spar with when Ned leaves for his fosterage at the Eyrie, and suggests Wylis, the stableboy who will become Hodor when this whole storyline plays itself out to its awful conclusion. Brynden pulls Bran out of the vision, and he whines for a bit, but Brynden tells him he’s got to come up for air occasionally. Bran calls Hodor “Wylis” and tries to ask him what happened, but one guess what Hodor’s reply is.
Hodor carries Bran out to see Meera, who’s sitting in the snow sulking. Apparently she doesn’t like hanging out in the cave when there’s a war coming (also she lost her brother and doesn’t have anyone to talk to, but we’ll just ignore those particular issues). Hodor takes Bran back inside and Leaf explains that Bran won’t be staying here forever (wait, what?) and that he’ll need Meera when he leaves.
Now, it’s entirely possible that in the books, Bran will physically leave the cave and not replace Brynden as the greenseer. However, that’s not been so much as foreshadowed in the books. Martin very much seems to be setting up that Bran will stay here, merge with the godswood like Brynden has, and do some seriously powerful stuff by warging into trees, people, animals (maybe dragons?), but never physically being involved with the rest of the world. Maybe that will turn out to not be enough, maybe the dead will get through the magical barriers and drive them out, anything is possible, but at no point in the books does anyone so much as hint that this isn’t Bran’s eternal fate.
This also sets up some very un-book issues with Bran’s visions of the past. In the books, Bran can see through the eyes of weirwood trees into the past—and that’s it. He wouldn’t have been able to see what happened in the courtyard of Winterfell because there’s no tree there. He really wouldn’t have been able to see some of the stuff that happens later in the season because it’s so far south that weirwoods don’t exist down there anymore. Also, it’s not like Brynden could be sharing his own memories, because he’s been up here under the tree for close to a hundred years and was never anywhere near Winterfell or the Tower of Joy. Also also, Bran can’t be seeing the memories of anyone who was at the Tower of Joy, because they’re all dead. If we stretched slightly, we could argue that he’s seeing Hodor’s memories of Winterfell, because it’s not like Bran hasn’t snuck into Hodor’s mind before, but that doesn’t explain the Tower of Joy visions later.
Essentially, Benioff and Weiss had no idea what to do with Bran, so they used him to set up Hodor’s death and reveal Jon Snow’s parentage without giving him his own arc, really. And what there is of this story that’s Bran’s story and not a convenient way to show flashbacks makes him incredibly selfish and stupid. We’ll get into more of that later.
Two different vigils over the dead are held in this episode, too. Down in King’s Landing, Jaime and Tommen discuss Cersei over Myrcella’s body. Tommen thinks Cersei was the one who had Trystane killed, probably as revenge for Myrcella’s death. Jaime asks why Tommen wouldn’t let Cersei come to Myrcella’s funeral (in an earlier scene, we see Lannister guards refusing to let her leave her rooms, despite Ser Robert standing right behind her, having just murdered the dude who flashed her while she was on her Walk); Tommen says if she’d returned to the Sept, they’d have arrested her again (why he couldn’t have made that clear in his orders to not let her come, who knows). Tommen feels bad about everything that’s happened to Cersei and Margaery, but continues to buckle to the High Sparrow’s decrees. Jaime and the High Sparrow have a discussion about death and Jaime points out that while the High Sparrow humiliated Cersei, he’s not strong enough to take Jaime and put him on trial. He’s got a point, too—this version of the High Sparrow seems to like picking on women (and one gay man), but doesn’t touch anyone physically strong enough to fight back. The only reason he’s getting away with any of this is that nobody wants the bad optics of attacking the Sept. If any one of these houses were to storm the Sept, with the full strength of knights and soldiers with them, the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant wouldn’t stand a chance. Get two or more of them together—like, say, the Lannisters and the Tyrells—and the whole system would crumble. But religion is important in Westeros (and is important now in Game of Thrones because the story needs it to be), so it would be political suicide to do any such thing.
Tommen goes to see Cersei and apologizes for his behavior. He tells her that he’s not strong, and he needs her help to become strong. Too bad he’s so ridiculously easily manipulated.
The other vigil is still being held over Jon’s body, because seriously these men have lost all perspective on what the risks are of keeping a dead body around. Alliser finally starts breaking the door down like he should have done last episode, and they’re interrupted by the arrival of Wun Wun and the other wildlings. Edd takes charge and has Alliser and Olly arrested.
Tormund goes to see Jon’s body and says he’ll start gathering wood for a pyre. Finally someone who knows what to do with the dead in the north! Before he can do that, though, Davos goes to see Melisandre. For some reason, he has the idea that her powers might include raising the dead. She says she’s lost her faith and can’t do anything cool anymore; he says to hell with her faith, she can do magic. Because every woman in this show needs a man to give her meaning and a reason to go on, Melisandre agrees to try. She bathes Jon’s body, trims a bit of his hair and tosses it on the fire, washes his hair, and chants in Valyrian. This goes on for a while, and finally she gives up. Everybody else leaves, and just as Davos is about to go, too, Ghost sits up, and Jon opens his eyes.
I mean, we all knew it was coming. Nobody was fooled for one second that Jon was going to stay dead and that Melisandre wouldn’t have a major hand in his resurrection. In the books, he’s not quite dead (A Dance with Dragons left him bleeding out in the snow, but not dead), but I’m absolutely certain that Melisandre will be involved in keeping him alive/bringing him back to life. The campaign of misinformation that Benioff and Weiss roped Kit Harrington and the HBO people into regarding Jon’s fate was just insulting—they could have just said, “look, we’re not going to tell you anything” rather than “nope, he’s dead, he’s totally dead, he’s really most sincerely dead and he’s not coming back” and then “OH LOOK he’s back! Trollolololol.” Forcing Harrington to lie to everybody he knows—keeping in mind that for him, this isn’t just about a story, but about his job, and as I understand it, his family was really concerned for him about whether he was going to be able to get another acting job very quickly—is just . . . rude.
We also have two major deaths that lead to a shift in power in two major kingdoms—the North and the Iron Islands. As part of their continuing culling of characters not deemed Absolutely Necessary to the “Plot,” this episode gets rid of Balon Greyjoy and Roose Bolton.
Roose we saw coming. Anybody who thought Ramsay would just take all the insinuations and attempts at manipulation regarding his position as heir to Winterfell lying down hasn’t been paying attention. Walda’s already had her baby (how long was she pregnant before they announced it? Cause it seems like this whole thing’s taken maybe six weeks). Ramsay congratulates Roose, then stabs him in the belly, and in grand tradition of lord-slaughtering on this show, the maester and the Karstarks don’t do anything about it. Ramsay then takes Walda and the baby out to the courtyard and somehow convinces her to go into the dog pens (seriously, Walda?) and sics the dogs on her and the baby. And of course we’re treated to screaming and ripping and tearing and all sorts of awful noises but not actual visuals because that might be gratuitous.
Meanwhile, Euron shows up a bit early for this storyline and man is he a disappointment! Where’s the eyepatch? Where’s the blue lips? Why is he even in the Iron Islands right now, when he needs the (very thin) plausible deniability regarding Balon’s death to keep the Ironborn from tossing his ass off the Driftwood Throne?
Yara and Balon have an argument regarding invading the mainland again; she tells him it’s over, that they’ve failed, Deepwood Motte has fallen and their last toehold on the continent is gone. He tells her if she doesn’t go back in and try to retake the north, he’ll breed an heir who will. He storms out onto one of the bridges between towers, where it’s literally storming, and Euron confronts him. He claims to be the literal embodiment of the Drowned God, as men have a tendency to start praying when he shows up. He admits to having gone completely bonkers in the Jade Sea and cutting out the tongues of his crew because he “needed silence.” Then he throws Balon off the bridge.
Dave Hill, who wrote this episode, mentions that “they” worried that the frequency of these deaths would get to be almost slapstick with how fast and thick they’re happening, and I’d say that’s a legitimate concern. For a show that started out with deaths being a) shocking; and b) earned by the person’s own actions, they’ve really just fallen into “do we need this one? Is there anyone else who could do what this character does? Good. Kill ‘em.” The showrunners have turned into the Bobs from Office Space.
Tyrion is continuing to be an overconfident ass. He’s drinking again, because apparently that’s a core part of his character—“I drink and I know things”—and not a coping mechanism for the physical and psychological pain he’s constantly in. Varys makes a disappointed noise at him, and Tyrion says that if he’d had his penis removed, he’d drink all the time. Grey Worm doesn’t find it funny, and Tyrion tries to defend himself by saying that this is just how he and Varys interact—Varys makes jokes about him being a dwarf, and he makes jokes about Varys being a eunuch. Of course, Varys doesn’t make ableist jokes, but Tyrion says he thinks them. Considering that he admitted to tormenting his brain-damaged cousin because it made him feel more like the people who picked on him as a kid, this doesn’t endear him to me at all. This version of Tyrion has some seriously internalized ableist thinking happening, and that Benioff and Weiss want us to think that he’s clever and it’s funny that he keeps making eunuch jokes at Varys is just disgusting.
Varys points out that every single thing that Dany did is now being undone—everywhere but Slavers Bay has gone right back to owning slaves (as mentioned, with the pit fights, it looks like even Slavers Bay has gone right back to owning slaves and rubbing Dany’s face in it). The fleet has been burned, and they have no idea who did it. Tyrion asks how the dragons are doing and decides that now he’s an expert in dragons despite there being two people in the room who lived with those dragons for a couple of years.
So Tyrion goes to visit the dragons and take their chains off because chaining dragons is bad for their health. In the best piece of writing all season (because it’s the only bit of Martin’s actual writing that made it into this season; they stole it from A Game of Thrones), Tyrion tells them about wanting a dragon for his birthday when he was young. He gets through the whole ordeal and then leaves as fast as he can, practically wetting himself, and tells Varys that if he ever has an idea like that again, to punch him in the face. I bet Varys would have no problem with that.
Arya’s still begging, and Jaqen offers to let her come back inside, feed her, and unblind her if she’ll tell him her name. She insists she has no name, that she’s no one. He tells her to come with him and leave the bowl behind.
Sansa and Brienne try to figure out what to do now and ultimately decide that the Wall is their best shot, since Jon’s still up there. Brienne tells her about meeting Arya, and Sansa regrets not leaving with Brienne when she had the chance the first time. Theon decides he’s done now that Sansa has a new protector and he’s going home.
Next week: The inexplicable Tower of Joy flashbacks start. Gilly and Sam make plans. The Watch reacts to Jon, and he reacts back. Arya trains. Dany joins the Dosh Khaleen.
Stills from screencapped.net; gif from makeagif.com