After a strong start, can Game of Thrones land one of the show’s biggest moments yet?
Whoo! What a loaded episode. After last week’s primary set-up episode, this one was packed with revelations and deaths. Here we go!
For reasons which should be obvious to people who’ve seen the episode, I’m putting the Wall stuff at the end.
If you haven’t caught up with season 6 of Thrones, get outta here. Massive spoilers.
Beyond The Wall
After a season without them, we catch up with Bran, Meera and Hodor in their new cave. How’s Bran’s reintroduction? Well, it’s pretty good.
We’re officially introduced to Bloodraven, Bran’s new mentor in the art of future-seeing. Casting Max Von Sydow was probably a fantastic decision for the show, and I can’t wait to see more of them. He plays a great wise old character here, although the dark, cramped cave creates a sense of unease around him. The costume designers continue to be on point in season 6, as his ragged black clothing creates a very raven-esque look.
Meanwhile, Meera’s outside the cave, waiting for Bran to be done his latest vision. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t deal with her brother Jojen’s death, but it makes sense. Meera could’ve been grieving over the course of last season. I’m liking that they seem to be setting up for her going outside the cave and acting more though – this plot could’ve been very boring otherwise.
Finally, the major plot point of this episode was probably Bran and Bloodraven’s vision in Winterfell. First off, it was absolutely lovely to see Winterfell in peacetime again. We haven’t seen its occupants so happy since the first season… in fact, since the first episode. Isaac Hempstead-Wright turns in a great performance here, sharing the audience’s nostalgia and joy. We want to stay there for a little longer too! It’s great to see Bran get a moment of happiness, as his life has been pretty terrible since being crippled.
But discussing the actual vision… Where to start? It’s fantastic to see Ned and Benjen again, but it’s most interesting to see a young Hodor and Lyanna Stark. Lyanna’s a central character in Westerosi history who I won’t talk about too much here, for fear of spoiling future episodes. Basically, she’s kind of a Helen of Troy character – she was bethrothed to Robert Baratheon (the king from season 1) but got kidnapped by the last Targaryen prince. This caused the rebellion that Robert and Ned were involved in that got Robert the crown. It’s a bit surreal to see someone who’s been so integral to the show’s backstory appear for the first time. I also quite liked her parallels with Arya in this scene – in fact, the entire episode echoed the happy Stark family scene way back in episode 1, which gave me emotions.
And of course, we see young Hodor, or should I say Wylis. They really knocked the casting out of the park here – he just looks like Hodor. It’ll be interesting to see if they explain why Hodor Hodors. It seems like an inconsequential detail when you consider what else Bran could reveal, but maybe it’ll turn out to be important. Kristian Nairn turns in a fantastic performance, providing surprising layers for a man who can only speak one word. Hodor’s relief when someone calls him by his birth name was palpable.
Overall, beyond the Wall was really good! I’m extremely excited to see where they go next with that plot. They can do some really cool exposition and flashbacks with it. It’s great to catch up with Bran and co. too.
Not much happened in Brienne, Sansa, Theon and Pod’s plotline this episode. Theon’s separation from the group is one of my favourite scenes in the episode based on acting alone. Alfie Allen turns in an amazing performance once again, and I love that Theon hasn’t just been instantly made into a whole person yet, mentally or morally. There’s a long way to go yet before he can face up to what he’s done. His seeming decision to go to Pyke was a bit odd though – there’s really nothing there for him.
Meanwhile, the Boltons face much the same fate as the Martells last week, being almost entirely wiped out. To be honest… A lot of people have complaints about Ramsay and Roose’s actions in this episode, but I’m fine with it. Show-Roose does have some overconfidence, and it was clear since Walda got pregnant that Ramsay was going to do something about the new, legitimate heir. So he does. I also found Roose’s death extremely fitting and loved how it paralleled his killing of Robb. Both were very unexpected stabbings, both came seconds after moments of happiness.
Overall, the Winterfell stuff this episode was quite good. McElhatton and Rheon delivered fantastic performances with some great put-downs from Roose. I love how unhappy Ramsay looks over the course of this episode. He knows he probably deal with the North without his father, he knows what he’s doing means the destruction of his House, but he feels he has to do it. For once, his horrible acts don’t have any real sadism behind them, just cold, brutal logic. It’s true to the character and phenomally acted.
“If you acquire a reputation as a mad dog, you’ll be treated as a mad dog. Taken out back and slaughtered for pig feed.” – Roose, baiting a mad dog
Walda’s death scene was great too. I didn’t know that Elizabeth Brewster was such a good actress! It’s unfortunate that she didn’t get more scenes before her character’s death. I don’t want to talk much about it because it was really brutal, but it was damn good. Ramsay’s one liner of “I prefer being an only child” felt a bit much though.
And we’re back with the Greyjoys! After three seasons of waiting, we go back to Pyke in a major way this episode.
Our re-introduction to the Greyjoy family comes with Balon whining to Yara about muh North war. It’s a strong scene, reminding us that Yara’s a whole lot more sensible than most Ironborn while Balon’s a crazy angry old man. Patrick Malahide does a great job in his last episode. You can really see how Theon turned out so neurotic.
The main scene of the Iron Islands is, of course, Balon’s confrontation with his newly-introduced brother. It’s very good, serving as a badass introduction for Euron while being a surprisingly kind death for Balon. All things considered, him getting a cut on Euron before getting shoved off the bridge was a pretty good way to go out. RIP the default winner of the War of the Five Kings.
What little we see of Euron is quite good. It’s disappointing we couldn’t have more of him, and the dark lighting and heavy rain make it difficult to judge him, but he seems like a great addition to the cast. An Ironborn with a god complex certainly seems like an interesting choice to rule the Iron Islands. If I have any complaints, his dialogue was a bit too speech-heavy. It was nice to see some of his book dialogue turn up, but there must have been a better way to do it.
This episode also apparently introduces Balon’s other brother, Aeron. He’s the priest of the Drowned God that sees Balon off into the ocean and ridicules Yara’s claim to the Islands. I didn’t realise this upon viewing the episode, but maybe I just didn’t catch a name-drop? He could be one to watch.
I’ve got to confess, I’ve not been thrilled by the King’s Landing plot so far. It’s been a lot of talking about doing things without actually doing them. Cersei’s got her new zombie Mountain and he’s going to do bad things eventually. Jaime’s regressed to his season 1 and 2 characterisation, and is going to do something about the Faith Militant eventually. Tommen is reaching the breaking point of his compassion and seeks help from his mother, and they’re going to take on the Faith Militant too, eventually. The High Sparrow is going to overthrow the Iron Throne eventually too? It’s a lot of talking about doing something, but not much really happened this episode.
However, the opening scene was pretty great. I always enjoy seeing the common people of Westeros’s take on events, so it was hilarious to see the blaggard brag about the traumatic events of Mother’s Mercy. The scene with zombie Mountain shoving his head into a wall was hilarious too, really good physical comedy. After that though, it just kind of fizzled.
Arya’s plot is in a similar situation to the King’s Landing one, in that nothing much is happening. She’s still training with the Faceless Men, still getting beaten up, basically the same deal as last season but with some outside scenes. Maisie Williams is a great actor, and… That’s about it. On the bright side the show knows to keep the scenes with Braavos short, which give it more momentum than it otherwise might have lost.
Meereen’s got problems – The Sons of the Harpy are still everyone’s favourite terrorist gang, the anti-slave movement of Essos is dying a slow death and the two cities Daenery conquered are now back to the way they were. Only one choice seemingly remains for Tyrion and co. and that’s to release the dragons.
Again, this is a bit of a setup episode. We get some great banter between the Meereen crew, Tyrion gets an amazing speech with the dragons and then they kind of… slither off. What we did get was pretty good, however. The aforementioned speech is fantastic, with a great display of acting by Dinklage. How he managed to act that well against CGI golf balls astounds me. It’s also interesting to see that the dragons seem to like Tyrion. Is it because they can understand him, or is it because of his (theorised) Targaryen blood? I’d prefer the former, but it’s fun to think about this stuff.
While seeing Tyrion quip is always fun, there were a few lines that felt a bit out of place, in particular Tyrion’s “If I ever get an idea like this again, punch me in the face” line. I would’ve preferred if we could have got a bit more of an emotional end to the sequence, showing a terrified but ecstatic Tyrion.
Well, nothing much happened here this week… Ha.
So, of course, Jon’s back. That’s obviously important. The Wall was pretty good this episode though, so let’s look at some other stuff first.
We finally got some payoff for Edd going to the Wildlings, and it was awesome. Tormund’s always a badass and it’s great to see he’s going to be playing a major part. The CGI in this episode was fantastic, and Wun Wun the giant once again proved that he’s going to be an incredible asset to Team Jon. I was disappointed that the Wildling’s takeover of Castle Black was so fast, but much of this season’s plot seems to be moving at a breakneck pace, so I can accept that. Quote of the episode, for me, was
Thorne: For thousands of years, the Night’s Watch has held Castle Black against the wildlings.
Tormund: Until you.
What a burn. And a painfully accurate one, too – it’ll take a hell of a lot of haggling for the Wildlings to consider leaving Castle Black. The Night’s Watch as it presently stands is screwed. Makes for some great drama though – with the Wall very much focused on internal squabbling, how can they defend against the White Walkers?
Carice van Houten turned in another great performance as a Red Priestess who’s lost all her faith. She’s probably going to be really annoying after the cliffhanger of this episode, but it’s nice to (temporarily) be able to sympathise with a child-burning fanatic.
And hey, so Jon came back too
In Game of Thrones’s first resurrection of a regular character, best Snow has come back from the dead. Personally, I found his resurrection… Alright. I liked that they didn’t fake out the viewer by having him stay dead after all that build-up, as I think that that would have made a weak ending. All the actors involved did a good job – Edd and Davos are desperate and need Jon to come back, Tormund doesn’t have much hope and this is pretty much Melisandre’s last attempt to keep faith. We’re all pretty sure her sincere ‘please’ is what brought him back, and not mystical quotes, right? Even Kit Harrington did a good job in the last scene, conveying the right mix of surprise and horror at being brought back to life.
My problem is, while the acting was great, it was all a bit… Understated. I know it’s early days in the season, but Jon Snow’s resurrection has been building anticipation for months, and a makeover and magic words doing the trick was underwhelming. A more complex solution might have taken longer to set up, but I can’t help but feel that this is a bit of a cheap resurrection for a show that prides itself on playing for keeps.
- Christ, the death toll so far is crazy. We’ve got Doran and Trystane Martell, Roose and Walda Bolton, Balon Greyjoy… If you want to count minor characters you’ve got Areo Hotah and baby Bolton.
- I actually hope they don’t do a certain other resurrected character in the show at this point. That coupled with Jon’s resurrection seems like it could really cheapen death.
- Not liking Jaime’s regression to his old characterisation. I get that he’s having a hard time and Cersei’s a negative influence, but c’mon Jaime, you were supposed to be cool!
- I’m liking the continuity in this episode. Theon mentions the two children he killed, the Karstarks are back, Varys mentions the other two slaver cities… Some of this must have gone right over the heads of a lot of people, but I liked it.
- Balon’s funeral was fantastically shot. Half the reason I love the Iron Islands and, to a much lesser extent, Dornish stuff in Game of Thrones is how striking the areas look. The rocky coasts and deserts are a great change and help create fantastically atmospheric regions, similar to the snowy North.
- I’m really happy with how good the Greyjoy stuff is, after the Dorne situation… wasn’t.
So, firstly let’s see how my predictions from last week went…
- Bran will finally come back in a short scene – to be honest I was expecting a little of him tonight but it was a short episode. He won’t be having a fun time.
- Well, this was misguided at best. Bran got a good long, important scene, and he seems to be having the time of his life (well, compared to what he’s been through lately).
- Edd will finally bring the Wildlings and we’ll have the start of loyal Watchmen and Wildlings vs. traitors. Meanwhile Melisandre will start to revive Jon, although at first half-heartedly.
- Things got tied up at the Wall a lot faster than I expected. I suppose we’re saving the big battle scenes for episode 9.
- Happy feels will be had by the Bri-Pod-San-Theon team.
- Theon ;_;
- Jaime will give Tommen some good advice that Cersei disagrees with, causing some friction there
- Jaime gave some good advice, but Cersei and him are still together… Sigh.
- Cersei does something mean
- Well there was the Mountain smashing the drunk’s head, but that wasn’t directly Cersei and was actually pretty understandable. Cersei’s relatively nice this season.
- Dorne won’t appear.
- Greyjoys will appear, and we’ll finally progress that plot
- Did we ever! I loved the Greyjoys and can’t wait to see where they’ll end up.
- Arya will either get beaten up some more or start to warg… And then get beaten up.
- She certainly gets a beating. Didn’t expect her plot to move this fast either. Jeez, this season is packed.
- Tyrion will meet the red priestess from the trailer.
- Khal Moro and his bloodriders will get a humorous bit, and Daenerys will meet the Dothraki widows.
- Once again, nope. No Daenerys scenes in this episode, surprisingly.
Let’s hope this week’s predictions are more accurate.
And for this week…
- I suppose now is the right time for the Tower of Joy, isn’t it? GET HYPE
- Euron Greyjoy will make his presence known in the Iron Islands, and Yara will react. I doubt the kingsmoot will happen in episode 3 though, it seems that the Tower of Joy will be the episode’s main setpiece. Unless they can find some way to parallel the two, it might make the episode a bit bloated.
- Sansa, Brienne and Pod will finally get a move on.
- Theon won’t appear. At the most he’ll get an emotional goodbye with Sansa, Brienne and Pod.
- Ramsay will face problems gathering support in the North, and do something sadistic which helps this. He’s probably going to have a good time next episode, to make his fall later on even harder.
- Cersei will give Tommen some bad advice and Jaime will be annoyed? Maybe?
- Jaime will do something rash against the Faith Militant.
- Arya will get a new position as some other downtrodden member of Braavosi society. Go figure.
- The dragons will break out or Tyrion will release them… I hope. Two weeks seems a long time to wait for dragon stuff to happen.
- Daenerys has got to arrive at Vaes Dothrak this week, right?
- Jon’s going to come back, and he’s going to be pissed. Some people will lose their heads, I guarantee it.
Well, this was a very good debut by Dave Hill! The creator of Olly really hit it out of the park here, delivering some fantastic dialogue and great character beats. While there are problems, they mostly are down to how the season seems to be paced. There’s some great visuals, fantastic action and no Dorne. One of the show’s best individual episodes, for sure.
Rating: Nine dead great Lords out of ten.