Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was light on highlights, and served mainly to set up the conflicts for the rest of the season after last week’s (not quite so) shocking resurrection.
John Snow is alive, and all is well at Castle Black. Mostly. Ser Davos gives Jon a speak that convinces him to try again. The Wildlings think he is some sort of god but his friends know that he is just a man. He follows this up by executing his assassins and declaring that his watch is over, effectively leaving his mantle as Lord Commander behind.
This was actually surprising for a scene that literally involved lords pledging themselves to Ramsay Bolton. Smaljon Umber presents himself to Ramsay Bolton and although he does not trust the words of a Bolton, one of whom killed his own father and the other betrayed his lord and murdered him at his own wedding, he is angered at Jon Snow’s decision to let wildlings through the wall. An uneasy truce is formed and in order to strengthen it Smaljon presents Ramsey with Rickon Stark, Osha and what’s left of Rickon’s direwolf Shaggydog.
Cerci and Jaime plot with Qyburn and discuss, among other things, Ser Robert Strong who is revealed nonchalantly to be Ser Gregor Clegane, something that everyone pretty much knew already. Meanwhile Tommen, fresh off of his pledge of renewed loyalty to Cerci, goes to speak to the High Sparrow where he is quickly manipulated into submission… again.
Aria comes ever closer to being a master assassin and you know what that means: We’re gonna need a montage. Montage! Essentially Aria’s training involves being beaten by a stick while blind until she is able to block an attack, at which point she is no one, apparently, and gains her eyes back.
Meanwhile we are treated to Sam and Gilly on the boat to Bravos (well it’s going to Bravos in the books but I suspect they’ll go straight to Oldtown). Sam is seasick but he is able to tell Gilly (in between barfs) that he is going to take her to his family so that they will raise the baby and take care of her.
Varys is being sinister while Tyrion tries to bond with Grey Worm and Missandei in small talk, which works about as well as trying to engage a eunuch and his girlfriend in small talk. Well actually…
Anyway, we learn that all of Daenerys’ former enemies are funding the Sons of the Harpy, a revelation that all of the characters seem to genuinely not have realized was a possibility until Tyrion explains that it is a logical behavior.
Daenerys is brought before the former wives of the Khals. She is told that since she did not immediately take her place with the Dosh Khaleen, instead all of Vaes Dothrak will vote to decide her fate.
The Tower of Joy
Here we have the meat of the episode. Bran and MAX VON SYDOW aka the three eyed raven witness Ned Stark arrive at the Tower of Joy to rescue his sister. Some trash talk occurs and a battle begins, two Kingsguard against 6 northerners. After a truly excellent fight scene (in which Ser Arthur Dayne duel wields instead of using his ancestral sword Dawn as in the books). In the end Ned Stark and Arthur Dayne face off, while Bran remarks that Dayne is better than his father. “Far better,” MAX VON SYDOW responds, and we are left to wonder how it was that Ned survived when suddenly Howland Reed (father to Jojen and Meera) stabs him in the back. Ned finishes him off, then hears a woman cry out. He rushes to the tower as Bran calls out to him. Suddenly Ned turns, as if he had heard his son’s call, before MAX VON SYDOW calls Bran back. He tells Bran that he must learn “everything”.
This episode was a bit of a letdown compared to last week’s episode. We were teased with finally learning the true story of what happened at the Battle of the Tower of Joy, without finding anything out worth mentioning. Namely: is Lyanna Stark actually Jon Snow’s mother. Which of course makes sense for the third episode of the season, those type of reveals will probably be saved for episode five or six. The only truly surprising event from this episode was the reintroduction of Rickon Stark. This was something that came completely out of left field, and I’m actually very glad of that. Sadly, it seems that Rickon is going to play the same part that Sansa played last season: that of the helpless captive.
Aside from a few reveals that fell short of the mark, mainly the Rickon reveal, the Tower of Joy non-reveal, and the casual revelation of Ser Robert Strong’s true identity, I think this episode’s biggest problem was that it suffered from storyline fatigue. Frankly: there are too many storylines squeezed into a 60 minute show. If the writers were willing to cut a few more storylines I think that they could have fleshed out some of the more important scenes.
The scene where Tyrion tries to make conversation was entirely useless, and although it did help to add a little bit of levity to the episode, levity isn’t really something that Game of Thrones needs. The scene with Sam, while probably necessary in order to let us know that we are going to be seeing Oldtown soon, seems like it ate up too much airtime that would’ve been better served elsewhere. Also, where is Maester Aemon?
After Jon Snow left the Nights Watch, saying that his watch had ended, I was left with the question of why exactly he was brought back to life? The problem with John Snow’s resurrection is that if he’s going to leave the Nights Watch, what part exactly is he going to play in the war to come? Is he going to ride south and rally the banner men of the north under his flag? Although most of the north is still loyal to House Stark, it seems unlikely that they would follow a bastard. Unlike his tenure as Lord Commander, where he made all of the logical decisions, regarding how best to preserve the Night’s Watch and ensure that the white walkers do not breach the wall, now that he is risen from the dead Jon Snow is making probably one of the worst decisions in his life. His command of the Night’s Watch should be secure, considering that he has killed all of his assassins and the wild wildlings appear to think that he is a god.
Interestingly enough, Jon Snow’s behavior is actually bringing the character a little bit more in line with the books, despite the show having surpassed the books. In the books, the plot to assassinate Jon Snow is not hatched until after he decides to lead his army of wildlings south in order to rescue his sister Aria (really Jeyne Poole) from the hands of the Boltons. It is directly after he makes his intentions known to the Night’s Watch that he’s killed, although probably the conspiracy to assassinate Jon Snow had been festering for sometime before this.
My assumption is that in the following episodes Jon Snow will take the wildlings south and engage in some warfare against the Boltons. Whether or not Sansa will ever reach her brother again is unknown, but probably unlikely.
Aside from this plot line, however, the rest of the episode fell short. It is finally revealed to us that Ser Robert Strong is in fact The Mountain in a reveal that was very much a letdown. Of course, we all knew that Strong was The Mountain, he’s portrayed by the same actor, but I would’ve liked to have the reveal have been more memorable. Perhaps during Cerci’s trial by combat where The Hound is called by the Faith Militant to fight Strong and The Found finally kills his brother.
In all this episode served to further set the stage, something that is probably necessary judging by the story development so far. There are a lot of things that are going to be happening soon and I only hope that next episode finally has something important happen.