Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
There are multiple oathbreakers in this episode, some more understandable than others. Jon breaks ties with the Night’s Watch. His murderers are punished. Sam twists the meaning of his promise to Gilly to stay with her. Bran finds out that Ned wasn’t nearly as honorable as he thought he was. The Umbers break any remaining oaths to protect the Starks.
So, Jon’s alive, but he remembers being murdered, and the evidence of that murder is still on his body, so he’s understandably freaked out. Melisandre wants to know what there is after death, but Jon says there’s nothing. She says she was wrong about Stannis but that R’hllor bringing Jon back means he’s Super Special. Davos kicks her out because Jon’s still getting his bearings, for goodness’ sake. He tells Jon that they may never know why Jon got murdered for doing the right thing, but he needs to get up and “go fail again.” (Huh?)
Jon goes outside and gets stared at. Tormund tells him that the other wildlings think he’s a god, but Tormund knows he’s not, because a god would have a bigger penis. Edd just remarks that at least his eyes are still brown so they don’t have to burn him as a wight.
Later, Jon executes the murderers—by hanging. I wonder if Benioff and Weiss decided that beheading each of them would take too much screen time, or if the fact that Jon, who passed the sentence, isn’t swinging a sword (remember that in the books, he almost hangs Janos but then remembers Ned’s advice and beheads him instead) says something about how broken he is. (Personally I doubt they put that much thought into it.) So Jon’s last act as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is getting his revenge on his murderers, then tossing the cloak at Edd and leaving Castle Black.
Technically, since Jon was dead, his oath to the Night’s Watch no longer holds. But keep in mind that this whole story has been told out of order, probably to make Jon look way better than he is in the books. (So much for “gray” heroes.) In the books, Jon is killed because he’s about to break his vows to the Night’s Watch, possibly taking several other brothers with him, and as Lord Commander, that can’t be allowed. Sure, the wildling thing and the way he’s been handling restaffing the castles were unpopular and built up some animosity, but the final straw is him deciding to march south and fight the Boltons. He’s already demonstrated a resistance to listening to the council of the other leaders of the Night’s Watch—the heads of the various factions—so it’s easily understandable why they thought they had no other choice but to kill him. The show boils everything down to intolerance and racism and has the conspirators murder Jon before he goes to fight the Ramsay, thus giving him a technical out on the oathbreaking thing. This is yet another way in which Benioff and Weiss fail to understand why Martin put the plot together the way he did and instead revert to the “clichéd” fantasy tropes that Martin was purposefully trying to avoid.
Meanwhile, Sam and Gilly are on a ship bound for Oldtown, and they’re completely skipping the whole Braavos storyline, which would have given them another oathbreaker if they had remotely followed the book story (not to mention that this oathbreaker’s actions indirectly led to Aemon’s death). Instead, Sam’s decided he’s going to “stop by” his family’s holdings and drop Gilly off there before continuing to Oldtown.
I have questions.
Here’s a detail of the map of Westeros (borrowed from this resource) that shows Oldtown and Horn Hill. On this particular map, major ports (Casterly Rock, King’s Landing, White Harbor) are marked with the same big stars that we see on Oldtown. These are places where lots of ships stop. In order to “stop by” Horn Hill to drop Gilly off, Sam would have to get the captain to sail up the Mander to Highgarden (note that it’s not a major port) and hike south. Also notice how far off the main road Horn Hill is; that’s not an insignificant trip. And the chances that the captain would be willing to do that are very low. Heck, the chances that Sam could have gotten on a ship going straight from the Wall to Oldtown are very low, which is why in the books they have to take a cart from Castle Black to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, take a small ship from there to Braavos, and then try to book passage on a ship going from Braavos around the southern tip of Dorne to Oldtown. I think Benioff and Weiss seriously underestimate just how big Westeros is, hence the super weird travel times and casual stops at places that would actually add weeks to the trip. Or, like so many other things, they just ignore it when it doesn’t fit the story they’re trying to tell.
Anyway, Sam tells Gilly he’s going to leave her with his family, because that’s a great idea. She says he promised to stay with her, and he claims that he promised that in order to keep her safe, and now keeping her safe means becoming a maester. I don’t understand what part of keeping her and baby Sam safe means leaving them with a man who abused Sam to the point that he hates himself, a man who hates Wildlings (despite never having met one). Even claiming baby Sam as his own isn’t going to help this at all. Not to mention that Sam didn’t promise to keep her safe, he promised to never leave her. No amount of weaseling is going to change the fact that he’s technically breaking his promise. Also notice how Gilly just accepts that rather than pushing back like she constantly did at the Wall. Apparently her personality—much like Sansa’s—can be changed to fit the current needs of a male character’s story.
Brynden is showing Bran the fight at the Tower of Joy for some reason, despite that making no sense, as I mentioned in the last post. The best I can figure with all of this is they’re aiming to make Bran one of Jon’s staunchest supporters for King in the North (if not king of Westeros as Dany’s husband) by making sure that he knows that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna and thus has both Stark and Targaryen blood. Since the only other people who knew that—Lyanna, Ned, and presumably Rhaegar—are all dead (Howland Reed likely does, too, but he’s been mentioned all of once in the show before these “flashbacks”), if they’re going to use this as leverage, somebody has to know it, and that somebody might as well be Bran, even if his method of discovering it is ridiculous.
Ostensibly, the reason Bran’s watching the fight at the Tower of Joy is to see how things “really” happened rather than the legend he’s been told his whole life (this according to Weiss in the “Inside the Episode” thing). And apparently how things “really” happened include Ned not being the bastion of honor that everyone always believed he was. The trouble here is that, once again, this is entirely Benioff and Weiss’ invention. The only thing we know about the Tower of Joy is what we get from Ned’s fever dream in A Game of Thrones, and his frequent quick flashbacks to Lyanna dying. Other than the outcome—eight men die at the Tower of Joy, including three Kingsguard and five of Ned’s companions; only Howland Reed and Ned survive and Ned buries the bodies—we know nothing about how that battle went down. I find it confounding that while they twisted Jon’s storyline into knots to make sure he looked better, they then throw this utterly non-canon fight into the mix to make Ned look bad—or, at least, not as good as we thought he was.
That’s leaving aside the utter ridiculousness of the fight itself. I mean, just look at this nonsense.
I just . . . I can’t even. They had a chance to do an actually really cool fight scene with a really cool sword—Dawn is supposed to be a legendary sword, after all, seeming to glow with its own internal light because, well, it’s Excalibur—but instead we get . . . this. (If you’re interested in a historian who specializes in medieval martial arts breaking down just how stupid this scene is, go here. It’s like 30 minutes long and he rambles a bit at the beginning, but it’s worth watching.)
Daenerys is still in the clutches of the Dothraki, and they’re still treating her like a slave (making her walk) despite knowing who she is. The leader—Weiss refers to her as the “high priestess”—of the Dosh Khaleen asks why Dany didn’t come back when Drogo died, like she’s supposed to, and Dany says she’s been kind of busy. The high priestess says that she’s not even sure Dany’s going to be allowed to stay with the Dosh Khaleen because she didn’t come back right away, and it’s going to be up to the Khalar Vehzven—the council of the khals. Which makes no sense, but whatever. Nothing that happens in the Dothraki storyline at this point makes any sense.
Meanwhile, the people Dany’s left behind are trying to keep a city from imploding. Or, rather, Varys is trying to keep the city from imploding by negotiating with the prostitute who’s been working with the Sons of the Harpy while Tyrion plays drinking games and tries to get Grey Worm and Missandei to loosen up instead of doing their jobs. Grey Worm says games are for children, while Missandei remembers the kind of “games” her former master used to make them play. She also says she doesn’t drink and doesn’t intend to start now. Tyrion, however, has no respect for anyone or their boundaries, and starts pushing. Grey Worm and Missandei are rescued by Varys coming in with the information he got from the prostitute, that the masters of Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis are the ones funding the Sons of the Harpy. Grey Worm wants to reconquer the cities, and Missandei agrees that they only understand violence, but Tyrion pish-poshes their experience and instead gets Varys to send a message to the various masters.
Over in King’s Landing, Qyburn has taken over Varys’ little birds, and the Small Council tries to put Cersei in her place by refusing to discuss anything with her. Tommen tries to negotiate with the High Sparrow to allow Cersei to visit Myrcella’s grave, but he won’t allow it and Tommen still won’t unleash the Kingsguard on the Militant. It’s interesting that a man who preaches humility so hard has no trouble claiming to speak for and serve the gods with ultimate authority, even over the secular leaders of the land.
In Braavos, Arya is still blind and still training, but she’s getting better, which seems to make the Waif angry, which makes absolutely no sense (as I’ve mentioned before). Finally, Jaqen sits her down at the well and again asks her name; she says no one. He offers her a drink from the well, telling her that if she truly is no one, she has nothing to fear from death. She drinks, and her eyesight returns.
Finally, in Winterfell, the Umbers meet with Ramsay. They refuse to swear fealty to him, but as a sign of good faith and in exchange for help fighting the Wildlings Jon let loose in the Gift, they bring him Osha and Rickon. To prove that he’s really Rickon, they also brought Shaggydog’s head, which makes it abundantly clear that Rickon’s not going to survive the season, either. After all, when it comes to the Starks, they are their wolves, and the wolves are their Stark-ness and their connection to the North. Of course, in the show, the direwolves are a CGI money-sink and since they can’t really get rid of the dragons, sidelining the wolves is one way to cut that budget.
In flashback: Willam Dustin, Ethan Glover, Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull, Mark Ryswell, Arthur Dayne, Oswell Whent, and Gerold Hightower
Next week: Stark family reunion. Tyrion tries diplomacy (it is not very effective). Dany sets a fire.