Last week, everybody was left crying at the conclusion of Game of Thrones. This week, there was far less crying and even a few exciting, fist-pumping moments that were balanced out by some pretty intriguing twists. Sadly, no Littlefinger to bring us those plot twists. Westeros’s other resident master schemer did, though.
Well, all the Benjen theories were probably wrong. I’m just assuming that most people thought that Benjen would turn up as a whitewalker rather than turn up alive. However, he turned up alive in probably the most bad ass way possible. The reveal that Benjen was Benjen wasn’t a surprise. The rider even looked like he had Benjen’s eyes. The arrival on a horse wielding a spiky lantern on a chain as a weapon was about as bad ass an introduction as we’ve seen from a character.
Where we go from here is another matter. Benjen realizes that Bran is important because he’s replacing the Three-Eyed Raven. Of course, Benjen also realizes that Bran needs to do quite a bit of learning to save the realm of men in the wars to come. I still don’t understand how Bran can help unless he can warg into the dragons to burn the wights and whitewalkers or just into the wights to turn them against the whitewalkers to buy everyone more time.
In Essos, Dany persuades the Dothraki to follow her some more by showing off her dragon. That’s really how Dany operates. How many of her followers have either seen her dragon or seen her naked and followed her immediately following that? Just about the only one to whom that doesn’t apply is Varys. The Unsullied follow after they were freed by a dragon. The Second Sons are following because Daario wanted to bang Dany. The Dothraki saw her emerge nude from a fire (twice) and bowed at her feet. She has two ways of inspiring followers and the sheer number of followers is how she is able to rule through might. It’s fortunate for her that she has Tyrion and Varys to handle the less forceful part of leadership.
In Dany’s story, we keep hearing about the differences between being a conqueror and a ruler. Dany is quite clearly comfortable at the head of an army. When she is backed by might, such as her dragons or her armies or her ability to not catch fire, she is a very different person than when she’s relying on her own diplomatic savvy to see her through. Force is her favoured tool but that won’t always serve her.
We saw Arya’s time a No One last all of a scene this season. Was she ever really no one? It would have been interesting to see Arya as No One, the faceless assassin, but she was really just Arya this whole time. I was hoping that we would see Arya being an assassin before coming to the realization that she wasn’t No One. I suppose we had a taste of that last season when she went undercover as the oyster cart girl. That didn’t go well either.
So I’ve hustled through the other three major POV characters this week (Sam going home and hammering home the point that his father still hates him doesn’t count) because King’s Landing was actually interesting this week. It’s all about the Lannisters, Tyrells and the High Sparrow this week.
As teased in the episode preview, the Tyrell army marched on the High Sept to confront the High Sparrow before he could parade Maggie through the streets of King’s Landing on a walk of atonement. In losses for people looking for bloodshed and/or nudity, the atonement and therefore violence were postponed due to Maggie atoning by converting King Tommen to the side of the High Sparrow and having Tommen announce an alliance between the Crown and the Faith.
We all saw easily manipulated Tommen siding with the High Sparrow at some point. His Sparrowness looked to have Tommen pretty well converted before he ever talked to Queen Maggie. She just sealed the deal. Jaime’s attempted rescue got him banished to the Riverlands. Meanwhile, poor Loras continues to rot in a dungeon.
It’s an important part of the episode for a number of reasons. Losing Tommen to the High Sparrow does not fit within the plans Cersei, the Small Council or the Tyrells have for the Crown. Margaery’s quick conversion from begging Loras to not give in to the Faith into a professed believer in the High Sparrow was also a shocking turn for the character. No one in the audience trusts the High Sparrow and it certainly seems like the current state of the Crown makes him one of, if not the most powerful man in King’s Landing.
Of course, this is Maggie Tyrell. I liked the telling little story about how she did all these good things for the appearance of being a good person. She’s always been motivated to do what it takes to be Queen. Admitting this could be part of the long game to manipulate everyone around her to stay in that position. It’s entirely possible, and certainly within Margaery’s character, that she is manipulating the situation to her benefit by effectively lying low. There is a much more interesting tale to be told in King’s Landing after this week’s events than we have anywhere else.
Overall, this was a pretty good episode. Some moments were a little predictable like the rider being Benjen or Arya being Arya. Other moments no one saw coming like Maggie and Tommen buddying up with the High Sparrow sure livened things up though. Sometimes, Game of Thrones goes for these episodes that setup the long game in storytelling. We haven’t seen many of these narrative rather than action focused episodes this season but this is certainly one of them.
Other random points of note:
- Of all the special effects that need work, I think they need to work on green screen Dany. In the scene on the dragon, Dany looked more out of place than the dragon. It’s probably just a lighting effect on the green screen stage that they don’t have to worry about when dropping a CGI dragon into the scene.
- Leave it to Jaime to point out that we’ve been missing Bronn all season. I’ve missed that loveable rogue. It would be nice if he just dropped a one liner next week. (He turns up in the preview. BRONN!)
- Arya is pretty poor at this undercover assassin job if she’s just going to have the one costume.
- The Tarly family sword being Valyrian steel is Chekhov’s Gun levels of foreshadowing. We all know what that does to whitewalkers. Sam’s going to do a little more than read books to save the day. Of course, I say that and he’ll not make it through the end of the season.
Next time, everything starts to come to a head. Jaime tries to sort things out at Riverrun. Jon, Sansa and Davos all make it there too. Tormund begins to rally the troops to aid Jon. Lady Olenna talks down to Cersei over how she caused this whole mess to happen. And BRONN! BRONN! BRONN!