Original Airdate: May 22, 2016
Season six of Game of Thrones just continues to up the ante episode after episode. I’d argue that we’re in for the best season of the show since the first, and at this halfway point, I think I’d have a pretty strong case. Though it hasn’t broken any new viewership records for HBO, the last two episodes have each earned a 100% from Rotten Tomatoes, with the first three earning well into the low and mid-90%s. Plus there’s the general wham factor of watching live as characters get killed off week-to-week and things get revealed.
My theories that this would be the week we learn about Lyanna Stark were dashed and easily set back many more episodes as Bran is now on his own learning how to navigate his warging into the past without the help of the Three-Eyed Raven. That is possibly my one criticism so far, that Max von Sydow’s Three-Eyed Raven ended up being a fairly pointless character for all the build-up, unless he’s brought back sometime in the future. Meanwhile this episode overall felt like a set up into our next arc of the season with people generally talking strategy and moving out rather than facing action (though the final scenes were nothing but consequences realized).
The episode opens with Sansa confronting Littlefinger, with Brienne as back up, after he sends her a letter from Mole’s Town. He informs her the Knights of the Vale are waiting to come to her aid and her uncle Bryndyn has retaken Riverrun and garrisoned forces there which she could also use. She refuses direct help from Littlefinger and interrogates him about his foreknowledge of Ramsay’s cruelty before ordering him to return to the Vale. Jon and Sansa weigh their odds and what houses remain possible allies to them. They identify House Manderly and House Mormont as their best options when combined with the Tully forces. As they depart the castle, Sansa sends Brienne to Riverrun to recruit her uncle, not trusting a raven to get past Ramsay.
In Braavos, Arya is given a second chance at an assignment: the assassination of a local actress named Lady Crane, whom Arya suspects has been marked for death by another actress in their troupe who is jealous of her status. Jaqen informs her it is not her place to question the who or why of assignments. She is also disturbed to find the play in question is a comedic retelling of the events of the first few seasons of the show, which casts her father as a power hungry and unintelligent man. In Vaes Dothrak, Dany consolidates the khalasars and Jorah reveals his greyscale to her. Tearfully, she orders him to find a cure so he can be at her side when she conquers Westeros. In Meereen, a Red Priestess named Kinvara meets with Tyrion and Varys to pledge her support of Daenerys. She explains Dany is the Lord of Light’s chosen one that they have been seeking but Tyrion and Varys are skeptical. She unsettles them, however, by revealing intimate knowledge of their past and claims that while humans (Melisandre) can be wrong, it was fate that Varys and Tyrion underwent so much duress to end up in Dany’s service.
In the Iron Islands the kingsmoot is held and it initially seems like Yara will be proclaimed queen with Theon’s support. But their uncle Euron appears and wins over the undecided men of the island who are wary about being led by a woman. He then proclaims his plan to offer his fleet to Daenerys and her dragons in exchange for marriage and the conquest of Westeros. Theon and Yara take the Iron Fleet and flee while Euron is ordained and he vows to build another one to track them down.
Up beyond the Wall, Bran continues his training with the Raven and learns the White Walkers were the creation of the Children of the Forest, who turned the First Men into soldiers to help fight back the invasions in Westeros. Later, Bran enters a vision without the Raven’s guidance and finds himself surrounded by wights and the four horsemen, one of which is the Night’s King (revealed to be the first White Walker). The King touches Bran who awakens screaming, now bearing an icy handprint on his arm. They’re forced to flee as the King’s mark means he can enter the cave. Before leaving, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven enter a vision of young Ned heading off to the Vale to transfer knowledge so Bran can become the Three-Eyed Raven himself, but the army of the dead appears outside before they can finish. Several Children of the Forest, Bran’s direwolf Summer, and the Raven are killed to buy Meera time to get Bran, who wargs into Hodor to help escape. As they escape out the back and try to bar the door, Bran, still in his vision, wargs into the young Hodor who suffers a seizure and hears the echoes of Meera’s command to “hold the door.” Bran watches as he slurs a repetition of these words while convulsing on the ground until all he can say is “hodor.”
So, as it turns out, Hodor’s backstory is one of the very specific things Martin informed showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss about. Which is crazy. However much else of this came from directly from the future book remains to be seen (chances are it’s a lot more than what HBO and Martin want to admit is the case). To be fair, the show is its own entity in a lot of ways at this point, but something as gutwrenching as Hodor’s backstory has now been revealed via the show and rather than the books. And you can take that how you will.
Euron’s story was basically the last one left behind in the minor Dance With Dragons catch up and is now essentially to where it is — ish — in the books. So from this point on things are pretty much completely blind after Euron winning the kingsmoot. Some characters could still pop up to fill in missing roles but for the most part we seem to be charging ahead, well into Winds of Winter territory. The character of Kinvara may be taking the place of Quaithe, another Red Priestess from the books (seen for a hot second in season two) who offers Dany support (or tries to). Or maybe she’s a new character entirely, as she does seem to have a malicious and/or eerie feel to her that Quaithe lacked.
So, no idea where Bran is going or what he’s going to be doing. Without the Raven and with only Meera as an ally I’m not sure he can delve too deeply into visions of the past on his own and may be unwilling to after the incident with the Night’s King. It may be possible he’s still on the run from this guy for quite some time. And this is a good time to talk about something the show hasn’t mentioned yet: the Great Other. This guy (or gal, or whatever, it’s basically just a force for evil) is the antithesis to our Lord of Light, R’hllor. His true name is never spoken (Voldemort style), but it is the god of darkness who seeks to drag the world into eternal night. Considering “night” is a synonym for winter in this world, it’s seems our NIGHT’S King is a likely candidate for this. Further, in the book Melisandre has a vision of Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven together and believes them to be “champions” of this Great Other.
If that’s true it would have to be unwillingly so, considering Bran’s efforts to put a stop to the White Walkers. But with the King’s mark on Bran’s arm, it’s possible he may find himself an unwilling ally to him and his army.
As for Theon and Yara, it’s possible they’ll sail their fleet up North to Sansa and deliver what aid they can there. They may make good on Euron’s plan and try to get to Dany first (as in the book Victarion Greyjoy sailed with the Iron Fleet to Meereen to find her). In the North I’m not sure rallying troops will be so easy but the Battle of the Bastards is imminent and hopefully so is Ramsay’s slow and painful death. One interesting thing I’m wondering is what retaking Winterfell will gain Jon and Sansa in the long run? They’ll have their home back and regroup their forces but it is doubtful the Lannisters at court will allow them to simply retake their ancestral titles back. It also offers little help in forming a defense against the White Walkers. But home is certainly a start for them.
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