Original Airdate: May 1, 2016
And in the realm of things EVERYONE saw coming... Jon Snow popped awake on this week’s Game of Thrones. That’s the big news. And I had to get it out of the way. But it seems like this season is actually shaping up to be one of the best we’ve had yet, and that’s due in large part to the fact that everyone is going in blind. There can occasionally be a tendency for Game of Thrones to feel like a soap opera, with constant bouncing between separate stories, but this episode certainly felt less rushed than the season opener and was not lacking in the shocker department (even if we already expected Jon Snow’s resurrection to come at the hands of Melisandre).
The episode opened beyond the wall, where we find Bran Stark for the first time since season four. He and the Three Eyed Raven are looking over a memory of young Ned Stark, his brother Brandon, and their sister Lyanna as children in Winterfell. Eventually the Raven pulls Bran out of the vision, for fear he might become lost in it, while Meera contemplates her purpose and apparent uselessness. In the North, Brienne informs Sansa that Arya was alive when last she saw her, while Theon refuses to accompany them to Castle Black, fearing Jon Snow’s wrath and feeling undeserving of forgiveness. He intends to return home to the Iron Islands. However, at said Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy, still claiming himself to be the King of the Iron Islands and the North, argues with his daughter Yara over their continued raids on the North. When Balon parts ways with her for the night, his brother, Euron Greyjoy, stops him on a rope bridge. They talk before Euron throws his brother off the bridge. At the funeral, Yara is reminded she will not automatically become queen, as the Ironborn decide their leader through a debate and vote called a Kingsmoot.
At Winterfell, Ramsay is scolded by Roose for losing track of Sansa and Theon after they find his men dead in the snow. With them is Harald Karstark, still angry with the Starks over his father’s beheading in season three, and he has pledged loyalty to the Boltons. He suggests they kill Jon Snow because the North will see him as a Stark, whether he is a bastard or not, and that will delegitimize the Boltons’ claim over Witnerfell. They’re interrupted by news that Walda has given birth to a son. Ramsay congratulates his father who assures him that he is still his firstborn son; Ramsay thanks him and then promptly stabs him. He then locks Walda and her son in the kennels where they are mauled to death by the dogs. He assumes control of Winterfell as Lord Bolton.
Down in King’s Landing, Cersei is under a sort of house arrest imposed by Tommen, who forbids her from attending Myrcella’s funeral out of fear for her well-being. While holding vigil over her body, Jaime advises Tommen to speak with Cersei and apologize to relieve him of the guilt he feels for doing nothing while she was imprisoned. As he leaves, the High Sparrow enters with his Sparrows and warns Jaime they are far more powerful than any high family in Westeros. Tommen apologizes to Cersei and asks for help in learning how to rule.
Across the sea, Arya is once against accosted by the Waif. After losing again, Jaqen appears and tempts her with food, shelter, and restoring her vision. But Arya staunchly claims to be No One and he asks her to follow him. In Meereen, Tyrion, Greyworm, Missandei, and Varys discuss the burning of Daenerys’ fleet. They also note that the dragons have refused to eat anything since Dany left. Tyrion suggests unchaining them and letting them fly free to prevent them from starving to death and costing “the Dragon Queen” her most powerful asset. In what is easily one of the best scenes of the series, Tyrion approaches the dragons, speaks to them, and removes their chains before hastily exiting the dungeon.
At the Wall, Alliser Thorne and his men attempt to break down the door to get to Jon Snow’s body, but the Wildlings arrive and overpower them. Davos and Tormund convince Melisandre to try and bring Jon back. Despite her loss of faith, she obliges only, to find it has not worked. They exit the room and seconds later, Jon awakens with a gasp.
So, with the exception of the Greyjoys, we’re pretty safely beyond the threshold of Winds of Winter. The Greyjoy plotline was evident in earlier books but was put on hold for a few seasons. Balon’s brothers are present and the longstanding theory that Balon was thrown from the bridge by Euron has been confirmed. Euron Greyjoy is a slightly mysterious character, and a very maliciously ominous one at that. Euron is captain of a ship called Silence, and if that wasn’t creepy enough, he had all his men’s tongues ripped out. He was previously banished by Balon for raping their brother Victarion’s wife and has supposedly sailed through the Smoking Sea of Valyria and beyond Asshai.
The purpose of Euron is still something of a mystery. He desires control of Dany’s dragons as he intends to use the hellhorn (a horn wrapped in Valyrian glyphs) to overpower them. And a Red Priest in the book notes that among Dany’s most dangerous threats is a figure that matches the description of Euron Greyjoy. But that plot is pretty convoluted so we might get a condensed version. Either way, Euron Greyjoy is not good news for anyone.
So, let’s talk about a thing that seems like it’s finally going to become important (though it’s been hinted at all along): the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised. This is a term that goes all the way back to the second book of the series, when it is first used in relation to Stannis Baratheon. Essentially, the prophecy is thousands of years old, possibly originating from Valyria but several cultures seem to have their own version of it (Azor Ahai, the Stallion Who Mounts the World, etc.). It foretells a savior and leader who will be heralded by a “bleeding star” and is meant to “deliver the world from darkness” (a.k.a. the White Walkers). The essential markers of our apparent Chosen One are: a Targaryen of the line of King Aerys and Queen Rhaella, a bleeding star heralds their coming just as winter approaches, and they are “born amidst salt and smoke to wake dragons from stone.”
So, we’ve got a sort of clear contender for this stuff. Daenerys is the daughter of Aerys and Rhaella, was literally “born” amidst salt and smoke on her husband’s funeral pyre the night the red comet took to the sky in season two (the comment appeared to Dany at the end of the first book and she remarked that it was “a herald of [her] coming”), and quite literally woke some dragons up from stone. What does this have to do with anything? Don’t really know yet. She has some dreams in the third book where she sees herself fighting White Walkers on the back of a dragon and several Red Priests inform Tyrion in the fifth book that they believe her to be the one the prophecy refers to. So what’s Jon Snow’s part in all this as our main White Walker fighters? Again, not really clear. The prophecy is a lot more convoluted and in depth than what I mentioned above and I’ll wait to talk about it more until it comes up again but I think the clearest point here is that Jon and Dany are destined to meet. After all, the dragon must always have three heads.
There is a 99% chance this episode included our first on-screen look at Jon Snow’s mother. If the popular theory R+L=J is true (which it is), Jon Snow’s mother is in fact Lyanna Stark, while his father is Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. With Lyanna’s first on screen appearance and clips of Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy where his sister died coming up, there’s no way we’re not finding out in this season something many people have known for a decade or more. The internet is a great place. What does this mean for Jon? Not really sure, since, blood of the dragon or not, he seems quite set on being a Stark and we know he’s going to make a bid for retaking Winterfell. I predict he’ll likely be the “ice” portion of the mysterious song of ice and fire. And, with Jon back from the dead and Ramsay now controlling Winterfell, the Battle of the Bastards seems to be a go for later in the season.
Not much seems to be going on in King’s Landing. For once that might even be the most uninteresting plot we have with just a lot of passive threats and scenes of brooding from the players down there. Not sure if Arya is going to be getting her sight back any time soon but her training is coming along, though I still doubt she can truly become No One. Meereen also seems to be at a kind of standstill with Dany gone but Tyrion’s presence does liven the conversations up a bit. And we know from filming snippets Dany will be returning to the city at some point this season to have at least one scene with Tyrion.
Two episodes in and already two lords down, Jon Snow’s awake, and I had my first surprise death in a long time while watching the show. Check back here for more recaps throughout the season!