Further doings are afoot in Westeros and Essos. In addition to recapping events from last week, the “previously” tells us:
- We’ll return to Bran’s storyline. You remember Bran, from two years ago?
- Some sort of dragon-ation or dragon-osity will be undertaken
- The Karstark clan will put in an appearance. You remember them, from three years ago?
- We’ll be revisiting the Iron Islands for the first time since…season 3.
When we last left Bran, he was in a Cave: North of the Wall. We rejoin Bran and an older man, who is entirely enclosed in a tree. They both have the white eyes of those whose minds are somewhere else entirely, and we then flash to Winterfell, about 35 years ago or thereabouts. Two kids, one a few years older and a head taller, are sparring with wooden swords and shields, as Bran and his new mentor (apparently the three-eyed raven himself) watch from a balcony.
As it happens, the two are Ned Stark and his brother Benjen (lost beyond the wall at the beginning of our story). As Ned allows Benjen to beat on his shield, a girl rides in on a white horse, circling them. This is our first look at Lyanna Stark, sister to the boys. Ned’s about to be sent to the Eyrie to be fostered with Jon Arryn (which means that he’s either eight, or the timeline is slightly different here–he seems a touch older). Lyanna asks who Benjen will spar with then, and turns and suggests not the apparently invisible Bran, who’s come down for a closer look, but the person behind him–a very large stable boy named Willis.
This is clearly Hodor, who sheepishly accepts the sword and shield (and speaks in full sentences!!) before Old Nan tells him to leave the fighting to the little lords, and drags him off.
Just like that, the vision ends, despite Bran’s protests. His mentor warns that if you stay “beneath the sea” too long, you’ll drown. Bran turns to Hodor and addresses him as Willis, relating what he’s seen. When he asks what happened to him, why he can’t speak, the reply (not surprisingly) is just “Hodor”. He asks where Meera Reed is, and Hodor nods at the entrance to the cave. Hodor carries him out to speak to her, and finds her staring off into nothing. Bran tells Meera about his exciting morning, but she’s melancholy and dismissive. She thinks this is all a useless waste of time, and is clearly still mourning her brother. After Hodor and Bran retreat, one of the People of the Forest tells Meera that Bran won’t be at the cave forever, and will need her help.
At Castle Black, Thorne comes to Davos’s room and repeats his dubious offer of freedom for Davos and Jon’s loyalists, should they rejoin the watch (and even Ghost). Davos, resigned to his fate, draws Jon’s sword, leading Thorne to order the door chopped down.
Just before they get through, a tremendous pounding is heard at the south gate, and a giant bursts through, along with Tormund, Edd, and the rest of the wildlings. Tormund kills one member of the watch, and when another inadvisedly puts an arrow in the giant’s back, the giant smashes him against a wall and throws him at Thorne’s feet.
Most of the Watch put down their weapons, save for Olly–after Edd and Thorne call one another traitors, Olly charges, only to be disarmed by Tormund.
Tormund enters Jon’s chambers, and says he’ll gather wood for a funeral pyre.
In King’s Landing, someone doing a Michael Palin “wink wink, nudge nudge” routine about Cersei’s walk of shame wanders off from his adoring crowd of fellow tavern goers to relieve himself against a wall. To his confusion, an enormous member of the Kingsguard (one Ser Robert Strong) finds him and smashes his head into a wall. It bursts in a rather disgusting fashion. Back in the Red Keep, Strong comes to lead Cersei to Myrcella’s funeral, but their way is blocked by a troop of Lannister soldiers, who tell her that for her own protection, Tommen has ordered her to remain. After a tense moment, she reluctantly retreats.
In the Sept, Jamie and Tommen look down at Myrcella. Tommen asks if they’ve caught Trystane’s killers, and Jaime says they haven’t. Tommen nearly accuses Cersei of having Trystane killed. After protesting that she wouldn’t do that (oh come on, she might) Jaime asks why Tommen had not allowed his mother at the funeral–turns out it’s the High Sparrow–he apparently would have forbidden her to enter the Sept. Tommen hasn’t been to see Cersei since her return because he’s ashamed of having failed both her and Margaery. Jaime sends Tommen to see Cersei, as the Sparrow enters (and denies Tommen a chance to see his wife).
Jaime and the Sparrow have a bit of an encounter–Jaime essentially threatens to kill him, and the Sparrow, while admitting fear, invites him to do it–saying all are sinners. However, at that moment, members of the Faith Militant enter. They’re too far away to save the Sparrow, which he knows, but he points out that while many of them would die in a retributive attack on the Kingslayer, what would it matter—they’re all anonymous pious souls. Jamie thinks better of it, for now.
Cersei stares out her window, and Tommen finally comes to her, begging her forgiveness, and asking for her counsel. He shall have it of course, for better or worse.
In Meereen, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, and Grey Worm are hanging out, you know. After a eunuch joke or two, they get down to what appears to be a council meeting. They don’t know, and likely won’t ever know, who burned the fleet. Astapor and Yunkai are back in control of the slave masters. Tyrion asks after the remaining dragons, and Missandei tells him that the dragons have refused to eat in Dany’s absence. Tyrion, what with his book learnin’, knows that once the Targaryens started to keep dragons in captivity, they became less vital, smaller, until the last ones were “no larger than house cats”. Something must be done to maintain these valuable assets.
He asks if Missandei how often she’s been in the dragons’ company. Many times, apparently, without being harmed. Tyrion counts on dragons being intelligent, and able to understand who their friends are, and descends with Varys to the chamber where Rhaegal and Viserion await. Tyrion, carrying a torch, creeps down the stairs carefully and peers into the darkness. A chain rattles, and a dragon approaches, with a flame building. Tyrion retreats and shows deference, then talks softly to them–and offers to help. He relates a story about having wanted a dragon as a child. As he talks, he slowly reaches out to touch one of them gently on the neck, and then removes the iron collar.
The other presents its neck to Tyrion. He removes the second collar, and the dragons retreat into the darkness. Tyrion briskly returns to the steps, and suggests Varys hit him the next time he has such a terrrible idea.
In Braavos, a disheartened Arya sits begging, when the waif appears again, and asks her her name. Arya says “no one”. While Arya’s attempts to fight her off with a staff aren’t quite as pathetic as they were last week, she still gets nowhere, and is beaten mercilessly for her troubles. As she flails about wildly, not realizing that waif has departed, “Jaqen” catches the staff, and makes several enticing offers–if she says her name, she’ll have a place to sleep, food, her eyes…Arya simply repeats “a girl has no name”. She seems to have passed her test–when she goes to retrieve her bowl, she’s told “a girl is not a beggar anymore”.
At Winterfell, Harold Karstark makes a report to Roose and Ramsay about the demise of Ramsay’s hunting party. Karstark says that the north can’t be united under the Boltons as long as a Stark can still walk through Winterfell’s gate. Ramsay argues that Castle Black is undefended from the south (except that we know that “was” might be a better choice there), and unsurprisingly is in favor of leading a force to take it, and kill Sansa and Jon, who is, of course, thoroughly dead. Roose is taken aback at the idea of murdering the Lord Commander, but Ramsay says they’d only need to maintain alliances with a few houses to make it work and consolidate power in the North.
The Maester enters to announce that Lady Walda has given birth to a healthy boy. Ramsay embraces his father, and when Roose announces (uh…before witnesses) that Ramsay will always be his firstborn, Ramsay stabs him right to death. Roose dies, seemingly incredulous. Ramsay tells the Maester to send ravens announcing Roose’s murder (poisoned by his enemies, mind you). The Maester agrees, and after briefly resisting Ramsay’s next demand, agrees to summon Lady Walda and the baby.
Walda approaches Ramsay in the courtyard, newborn in her arms. Ramsay admires the boy, asks to hold him, makes appreciative noises, and returns him to Walda. Walda says that “Lord Bolton” sent for them, and asks if Ramsay’s seen him. He bids her follow. To the….kennels. Well that can’t be good. As Walda repeatedly asks “Where is Lord Bolton”, Ramsay walks to each pen and unlocks it, then turns and announces “I am Lord Bolton”. Walda, rightly terrified, asks to be set free, to go back to her family—the babe is Ramsay’s brother…surely…
“I prefer being an only child”, says Ramsay, before setting the dogs on them. Thank heavens for small favors–we stay focused on Ramsay’s face as the savagery commences. Man, this kid. There is going to have to be some SERIOUS UPPANCE that comes for this bastard.
In the woods north of Winterfell, Theon gathers wood for a fire. Brienne reports on having last seen Arya with the Hound, but doesn’t name him, then admits having lost track of her. Sansa regrets not having gone with Brienne when she’d had the chance (as opposed to remaining with Littlefinger, who delivered her to the Boltons).
As Pod tries to start a fire, Theon tells Sansa they shouldn’t take the risk. When Sansa mentions the trip to Castle Black, Theon says Jon will kill him on sight. Even when Sansa says they’ll tell him the truth about Bran and Rickon, Theon believes he’s done too many terrible things. He doesn’t want forgiveness, or to join the Watch–he’s not coming. They share a tearful embrace, and Theon asks for a horse–he wants to go home.
Pyke, where Asha Greyjoy reports that the Iron Islanders last holding in the north, Deepwood Motte, has been retaken. Balon says they’ll capture more territory. Asha points out how foolish it is to try to fight on land–the last time they tried, Ned Stark came and beat down their walls. Balon tells Asha that when she rules, she can “wage all the peace [she] wants”, but for now, she should shut up and do as he says, lest he make another “heir” (uh, see below) who will.
He strides out of his chambers into a storm, intending to cross a rickety wooden bridge leading to the next tower. As the bridge sways, and he stops to catch his balance, he sees a dark figure at the other end. He orders the other man to “move aside for your king”, and gets the response “haven’t I always, brother?” This is indeed his brother Euron Greyjoy, a fearsome sailor and warrior who Balon had assumed dead. When Balon accuses him, Euron admits that once, raving mad during a storm, he had to be tied to the mast, and that he cut out his crew’s tongues afterwards to ensure silence. To the insult “what kind of ironborn loses his mind in a storm”, he replies that he is the storm, and Balon is in his way. Balon draws a knife and slashes out, but Euron grabs him and hurls him to his death.
On the shore, another of Balon’s brothers, Aegon (aka Damphair, a priest of the Drowned God) leads a brief invocation, before Balon’s body is sent out to sea in a giant lobster trap, to feed the creatures of the deep and so forth. Asha tells Damphair that vengeance will be hers (lots of vengeance to go around in this story, lass), and tries to swear it by the Salt Throne. Not so fast–it’s not hers to swear by, he tells her–it will be only if she’s chosen at the Kingsmoot (uh…a caucus with bribes and swords and debating and such). The odds don’t sound great–a woman has never ruled the Ironborn-she doesn’t seem optimistic..
We return to Castle Black, where Davos visits a disconsolate Melisandre. Davos knows that red priests have, in the past, managed to bring people back from the dead. Melisandre admits that she’s met one man who’d been brought back, but that only a few have the power–certainly not her, not when she’s lost her faith. Davos, who’s seen her drink poison and not die, and seen her give birth to a demon, appeals not to any of the gods (eff all of the gods, in fact), but to the woman who he’s seen work miracles. When she says she does not have this gift, he presses her once more–has she tried?
We cut back to Jon’s chambers. He’s stripped but for a loincloth, and Melisandre gently wipes the blood off of him with a cloth. After the body is cleansed, she begins an incantation/invocation, and at various times cuts off bits of his hair and beard, dropping the clippings into a brazier, and pours water over his hair. What, no hot towel treatment? As Davos, Torrmund and Edd, look on, she places her hands on Jon’s torso and repeats her prayer several times, to no apparent effect, despite the swelling music. It’s to no avail. They all depart, resigned to Jon’s death.
At that point, Ghost, apparently in a deep sleep at his master’s head, wakes. A moment later, JON’S EYES POP OPEN AND HE GASPS IN ALARM!!!