Is it better for a story to be predictable or should it throw a few curveballs at you along the way? If every story was plot twists for their own sake, it would be Vince Russo booking and that put WCW out of business (among many, many, many other things). Some of the various characters had some pretty big twists in their stories while other big stories just went the way we expected. It’s a nice mix and probably the way that the stories needed to go.
Note: Spoilers! But you also already guessed that if you read any of our other Game of Thrones reviews.
So everyone got their wish this week. Jon Snow is back. Try as they might, no one could make this seem like anything but inevitable. I’m not sure if it’s disappointing to not be swerved by this show. They teased Jon not coming back with Melisandre having lost faith in the Lord of Light and Davos having to play cheerleader for the Red Lord in a role reversal. It was a nice play on what we’ve seen on the typically fervent supporters of the Lord of Light and the dismissal they received from people who believe in the countless other gods worshiped in Game of Thrones.
To be honest, as cool as the whole sequence was, the whole thing played out beat for beat as you would expect. The only question was whether or not the men locked in the room with Jon would have to start defending themselves before Edd came back with the Wildling army. Nothing else was ever in question. It’s funny that this story arc went the exact way everybody wanted, fans got hyped over it and I can’t help but feel as though this plot is underwhelming. I would hope that the exciting part of the story comes after Jon’s resurrection because what happens to people who come back from the dead hasn’t been explored yet.
The other big moment from this week’s show is the return of Bran. Okay, nothing particularly interesting happened this week except that we met young Hodor in a not-really-a-flashback scene. It turns out that Hodor’s name is Willis, he responds happily to that name and he was able to speak at one point in time. The problem with Bran is that going north of the Wall to learn more about his powers for the battle against the dead is important but we don’t get to see how any of his warging or visions of the past will help in any way. I was sort of expecting Bran to go from Empire Strikes Back Luke (has powers but is still learning) to Return of the Jedi Luke (pretty kick-ass but still not the strongest in the galaxy).
Right now, Bran is just a depressed teenager, really. He can escape to his alternate reality as a warg and not have to worry about being a cripple in a sh*thole world. He’s being called upon to save the living but the same accident that awakened his power makes him want to use them to escape his reality. The repeated reminders to Bran to not let himself get trapped in the warging world would indicate that his story is heading in that direction but would anyone care if Bran was trapped in Hodor’s body for the rest of his days.
Once again, we got some lighthearted moments (or maybe I’m just insane). A former brother of Night’s Watch got splattered by a giant in your “well, that escalated quickly” moment of the night. One of the shame flashers from last season got Mountain’ed. And we had the usual banter between Tyrion and Varys which will always make me happy.
I’m not sure if you can call this a theme but regicide was in the cards for this week. Jaime threatening to kill the High Sparrow could have qualified. You knew that Ramsay wasn’t going to take being replaced as Roose’s heir lying down. The only surprise was that he did it so quickly and that nobody questioned it. And we also saw Balon Greyjoy getting tossed back to the sea rather than waiting for the inevitable fatal pneumonia from standing out in a storm to set in.
It was a little too much, too soon in some respects. While we expect everybody to die in this show (happy endings are nearly non-existent in this show), Balon Greyjoy is a pretty minor character, especially compared to Roose Bolton, so his death was a complete afterthought. It clearly happened to setup Theon’s return to the Iron Islands to claim lordship of the Ironborn but they could have done more than “Remember this character from three or four years ago? He’s dead now and you should care.” Granted, they didn’t pull the old Walking Dead trick (I haven’t watched in three or four years) of giving a background character a personality so they can kill them) but it’s still a waste of a death when we knew that Theon was going home anyway. It doesn’t compel him to come home any more than it did with Balon alive.
At this point, I think we’re down to two major characters that we haven’t seen this season. Both Littlefinger and Sam are MIA through two episodes. Sam is off doing maester things so he’s setup for a triumphant return eventually but given the passage of time at Castle Black, he’s probably not made it to the Citadel yet. Littlefinger’s absence is a bigger matter to address since there is political turmoil engulfing the Seven Kingdoms with Ramsay taking over the North, a power gap in the Iron Isles and the Sand Snakes trying to instigate war with the Iron Throne. It’s all pieces that Littlefinger can exploit to reach the throne but he’s nowhere to be seen to take advantage.
Overall, I thought this was another really good episode. While last week’s episode wasn’t great on paper but great on TV, this one works everywhere. The Jon storyline gets to the fireworks factory and the fun will start now that he’s back. Bran is back and exploring the history of the Seven Kingdoms which is probably going to be relevant to the upcoming war with the dead. Ramsay is doing Ramsay things. It’s the things fans were looking forward to and it’s also driving the story forward.
There will only be one or two more seasons after this so there is a lot of work to be done to go from the current state of the Seven Kingdoms to a war with the dead. In order to get there, a lot of story needs to be covered and the producers are doing so rather quickly. Whether this season is going by too quickly will be entirely dependent on whether there is enough content in the next 18 to 28 episodes to justify powering through the story this quickly.
Other random points of note:
- I really thought that the episode should have ended on Ghost perking up. That was the giveaway that Jon was alive. While I don’t have a problem with the gasping for breath scene that the episode ended on, I think that Ghost would have been enough to answer about the resurrection of Jon without actually seeing him this week. The meaning would be obvious but it would let everyone carry on that “Jon Snow is totes dead and we’re super serial about it” story that the cast and producers have been giving us since last season.
- Was anyone else hoping that Olly was going to be impaled on the business end of Tormund’s sword?
- Now that we know that Hodor is really Willis, will we find out what he’s talking about?
- As well put together as this week’s action in King’s Landing was, nothing really happened yet. It looks like we’re in a game of chicken between the Lannisters and the Faith Militant with Dorne waiting in the wings to strike. Given what’s happened elsewhere, something big is going to happen. It’s a matter of when and what the payoff will be.
- Similarly, nothing really came of the Meereen scene either. Tyrion unshackled the dragons so I think we can upgrade them to Chekov’s dragons status. Granted, after Drogon saved Dany from the fighting pits last season after being wounded by spears, the dragon army saving Meereen from the Sons of the Harpy and/or Dany from the Dothraki is the comeback story that is telegraphed.
- If Dany is the Breaker of Chains, is Tyrion the Unshackler of Chains?
- Note: Rickon doesn’t count as a major character since he’s been missing for the last two seasons and you haven’t noticed.
Next week, Jon Snow walks around without his shirt on which should more than make up for old lady Melisandre last week. Arya is brought back into the fold at the House of Black and White. At opposite ends of Westeros, Ramsay and Cersei look to consolidate what little power they actually have. And Bran does some more time travel with the Three-Eyed Raven.