Last week Jon Snow came back to life. And even though everybody knew that was going to happen we all still totally lost our goofballs when he opened his eyes. This week, we get answers to the real questions everyone had; not whether they were going to bring Jon back, but what is he going to do once resurrected? Alongside that, we get more insight into just how fed up most of the rest of the characters are with the status quo and another Bran/Max Von Sydow flashback which inches us closer to a titanic revelation and gives us one of the coolest freaking sword fights in the fantasy TV and movie history.
We pick up right where left off - Lord Commander Snow has just woken from his brief, stabbing induced nap, and is having himself a 'WTF?' moment. I know it was probably difficult to focus with naked Kit Harrington touching himself on screen, but the general freaked out vibe he puts off is pretty spot on. Melisandre’s eyes almost glow with renewed faith as Jon answers her questions about what death was like with a simple “nothing.” Davos’ line about the entire experience being “fucking mad” is hilarious in an episode that is both intriguing and entertaining in a way few recent GoT episodes have been. After everyone in Castle Black joins for a 'he is risen' moment, Tormund informs Jon that they all think he is some kind of god (big surprise! coming back from the dead will do that) but Tormund knows better because he’s seen Snow’s wiener. Jon’s last surviving buddy in the Night’s Watch, Dolorous Edd also has a decidedly uncharacteristic cheerful moment. This might be the only time we’ve ever seen this guy smile in the whole series. Almost makes me a little weepy.
After a brief update on the status of Samwell Tarly (puking on a boat, saying cute things to his girlfriend, more puking) we’re treated to one of the most exciting scenes in the series so far. Bran and The Three Eyed Raven are continuing their ghost-tour of the Stark family’s past as they watch a young Ned Stark ride up on some guys in Targaryen armor. It’s kind of like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at this point, just with fewer moral lessons and more stabbing with swords. Speaking of stabbing, hot damn is this scene intense! Taking place right after Robert Baratheon’s victory at the Trident, in which he smashed Prince Rhaegar with his warhammer, effectively winning his war to depose the Mad King and get his ladyfriend, and Ned’s sister, Lyanna back after her alleged kidnapping. Bran watches as Ned and Meera’s Dad, Howland Reed, approach the two Targaryen Kingsguard, one of which is the infamous swordsmen Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. Ned says he looked for them on the Trident and informs them that their prince and king are both dead. They don’t seem all that upset as Ned continues, asking where his sister is and not getting any answers.
Since these two badasses were ordered to protect the tower by Rhaegar himself, even beyond his own death, it’s safe to assume that Lyanna Stark is up there. Whether or not she is being held against her will or not is a prime point of debate among Thrones
nerds and if you’ve read the books, you also know that Ned goes up there and comes back down with a big secret.
The ensuing sword fight is seriously, so freaking cool. The six on two odds and Dayne’s twin sword technique give us a fight like nothing ever seen in the show before and one of the best fight scenes in all fantasy. Dayne has been mentioned a few times in the past as one of the most badass swordsmen in Westoros’ history and he does not disappoint. His double handed method isn’t exactly original in idea but in implementation, it is unparalleled. Instead of wild flourishes and needless twirling, each movement of Dayne’s blades is a functional part of the fight while still being cool as hell to watch. As the fight goes on it becomes clear that Ned and his friends are in over their heads. Bran notices that his dad doesn’t have a chance, which is confusing for him because he knows his father survived and has heard the story of this battle 1,000 times. Just before Dayne finishes Ned off, a wounded Howland Reed stabs him in the back. Nobody appears to be happy with this sort-of-dishonorable-but-hey-we’re-alive outcome and to punctuate the moment a woman’s scream echoes from the windows of the tower. As Ned heads up the steps, Bran calls out to him and Ned seems to hear him, stopping and turning back to look. Then, the Three Eyed Buzzkill pulls Bran back to the real world before he can follow his father and see what’s in the tower. Bran, and the viewers, are both pretty miffed at being denied answers to one of the biggest questions in the franchise.
Meanwhile, back in Essos, Daenerys has arrived at Vaes Dothrak where she is to become a Dosh Khaleen, as do all the widows of Khals, and just sort of hang out and knit or whatever they do. She’s not really feeling it though and it’s easy to get the feeling that she won’t be sticking around there long. In Meereen, Varys is hard at work trying to cut off the insurrectionist Sons of the Harpy’s funding. Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm are awkwardly waiting for him in one of the goofiest and funniest scenes since the show started. Tyrion while trying to pass the time, learns that trying to play drinking games without drinking doesn't work and also that the two former slaves don’t really get his humour. Varys arrives and announces (surprise!) the other cities of Slaver’s Bay are funding the bad guys in Meereen and Tyrion devises a plan to send Varys’ ‘little birds’ to Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis and pay their wise masters a visit.
And then we’re back in King’s Landing, where mad scientist Qyburn is taking to his new position as master of whisperers and is tending to a flock of his own ‘little birds’ which just so happened to have previously belonged to Varys. Cersei, Jaime, and the undeadish Ser Gregor Clegane arrive to discuss their next move, including sending Qyburn’s birds to every corner of the world to find those that would speak ill of the Queen Mother. The Lannister twins and The Mountain proceed to a small council session, attended by Kevan Lannister, the Hand of the King, Olenna and Mace Tyrell and Grand Maester Pycelle who is in the middle of talking shit about Qyburn and his “beast.” The terrified fart that squeaks out of either Pycelle or that bozo Mace during this scene is another point that makes this episode oddly hilarious.
The Lannister Twins pull their typical tantrum stunt but instead of appeasing them, their uncle simply leaves. Kevan’s got some balls. King Tommen then goes to the High Sparrow to convince him to let his mother visit Myrcella’s grave and the High Sparrow isn’t having it, claiming she needs to atone further by being tried by seven Septons, which Cersei hopes to subvert by demanding a trial by combat. Tommen backs down after being placated, just like he always does.
Arya, who’s arc so far this season is moving at a breakneck pace, undergoes what amounts to a training montage and learns to fight, smell stuff, and finally becomes ‘no one’ and regains her sight after drinking from the creepy murder well in the middle of the House of Black and White. She also recounts her murder list for the first time in a while, revealing that it’s actually been truncated quite a bit. Why is that? Did the writers just think that nobody would remember them all or is it just to focus on The Hound, who if the sweaty internet nerd theories are true, might be coming back this season after his supposed death. After all the characters we’ve lost over the last five seasons it seems like the show isn’t necessarily opposed to bringing some of them back, so who knows.
In The North, Lord Creep Ramsay is holding a meeting with Lord Umber, who adorably refers to the late Roose Bolton with the c-word (can I say that on the internet?), who’s requesting help fighting the wildlings that Jon Snow let through the Wall. After Umber refuses to honour tradition and kneel before Ramsay, he reveals a present: Osha the wildling and Rickon freaking Stark! We haven’t seen Rickon in a loooong time and it looks like things aren’t going too well for him. They even decapitated his direwolf, those bastards! Hopefully Rickon is spared more terribleness after his return to Winterfell but, this is Ramsay we’re talking about.
At the Wall Jon is about to execute his murderers, including Alliser Thorne who speaks to Jon about his own oath to the Night’s Watch. All the murderers speak, expressing disbelief at Jon’s resurrection, asking Jon to write to their mother, but not Oli. The boy that once looked up to Jon for taking him in after his family was murdered by wildlings just looks at Jon with cold fury in his eyes and Jon can barely meet his gaze. After he swings the sword and sets the men dangling from their necks, as Ned always insisted “the man who passes the sentence swings the sword,” he hands the Lord Commander’s cloak to Edd and tells him to do whatever he wants with it, because Jon’s watch is over. As he heads out of Castle Black to who knows where (possible to meet up with Sansa?) I can’t help but think, “does he not feel cold anymore? Are they just not showing him getting warm clothes to keep up the drama?”
Season 6, so far, has been a massively satisfying bit of television and if it keeps it up and continues to move at such a frantic pace, Game of Thrones will re-cement itself as one of the greatest shows ever after the lackluster performance of last season.