Bran and the Three Eyed Raven (TER) are time traveling again. They are watching as Ned Stark and six of his bannermen go to fight three Kingsguard members, including Arthur Dayne, at the Tower of Joy. After some boasting from both sides about what they're going to do to each other and some leading questions about why the Kingsguard weren't at the battle with Rhaegar and why Rhaegar instead ordered them to be at the Tower of Joy, the fight begins. It's not anywhere near as epic as I imagined it but nonetheless it's soon evident that the Kingsguard are more skilled than Ned and his men. But numbers tell. Eventually it's Ned, Howland Reed and two others against the last standing Kingsguard, Arthur Dayne. Just because he apparently wants to signal to viewers that he's a bada$$, Dayne fights with two swords. Dayne takes out Reed, kills two others and then turns his considerable talent against Ned. Bran, like most young children would be, is a little discomfited to learn that dear old Dad is not actually the best in the world at everything. There is a significant skills gap between Ned Stark and Arthur Dayne when it comes to swordsmanship. Ned's no punk but he's just not on Dayne's level. Dayne has disarmed Ned and is about to go in for the kill, when just like a WWE wrestling match here comes the wounded but not dead Howland Reed back from the mat! He stabs Dayne in the neck from behind; Ned finishes him off. The whole thing gets Bran upset since that's not how he heard the story. Ned hears a woman screaming from the tower. He runs into the tower but temporarily stops as he seems to hear Bran yelling his name. The TER intervenes and pulls Bran back to the present. He again reiterates that the past is the past and can't (or is that shouldn't) be changed. Ned only heard Bran's voice as wind. The TER also says that if you stay too long in the past you will get lost there. To Bran's objections the TER says that Bran is there to learn. He doesn't have to like it or like TER. He just has to learn. The TER says that he's been there for a 1000 years which is a pretty interesting statement as it would seem to rule out someone I thought the TER was.
Daenerys reaches Vaes Dothrak. She is stripped of her clothes by the other widows (as with the opening scene with Jon Snow this is done with no frontal shots) and informed that if she's lucky she will get to live out her days with them. There is a Khal council about to start. No doubt Daenerys' status will be on the agenda. And no the other widows do not care one bit that she is Daenerys Stormborn, Breaker of Chains, First of Her Name, blah, blah, blah. Here's a quarter. Call someone who cares, honey. They all used to be bigshots. In Meereen Varys is showing his worth. He has identified the woman who set up the Unsullied and Second Sons for their massacre last season. It's a prostitute named Vala. In what seems like a shout out to any number of Western wars in the Third World, most obviously Iraq and Afghanistan, Vala and Varys go back and forth about Daenerys and her foreign (colonial) intervention. But Varys mentions Vala's son and offers her money and safe passage to Pentos for information. Meanwhile Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei wait. Tyrion learns that Grey Worm and Missandei are not big on small talk with him, don't drink or appreciate his wit, take everything literally and don't completely trust him. Well that's awkward. Finally Varys arrives and informs the group that the slaveowners of Yunkai, Astapor and Volantis are funding the reactionary Sons of the Harpy. Thank you Captain Obvious. It's questionable as to whether Meereen has the muscle to go back and conquer all three cities. But Missandei says the slaveowners understand only one thing. Tyrion says that we will send a message.
In King's Landing Qyburn has taken over Varys' network of child spies or little birds. Cersei approves. Cersei wants to know anything and everything that happens in King's Landing. Anyone who speaks against her needs to get got. In fact she wants this intelligence program expanded throughout Westeros by yesterday. With that made clear, Cersei and Jaime and FrankenGregor crash the Small Council meeting. Pycelle has transferred his loyalty from Cersei to her uncle Kevan. Pycelle is talking greasy about Qyburn. No one is happy to see the Lannister siblings or their pet monster. Kevan just stares while Olenna Tyrell makes incest jokes and reminds Cersei that the Queen Mother is not the Queen. Mace Tyrell is his usual blustery ineffective self. But the incest doublemint twins aren't leaving. They cite precedent for each of them to be on the Small Council. They also want to know what Kevan and the group intend to do about Dorne where as we saw not only have Ellaria and the Sand Snakes murdered the Martells but apparently now rule. Since he can't make his niece and nephew go away Kevan decides to leave the room. Everyone else departs with him. Tommen, accompanied by Kingsguard and soldiers, goes to see the High Sparrow. He wants to know why his mother and wife must still be tried and why his mother can't see Myrcella's resting place. King Tommen is very angry. Fortunately for the High Sparrow King Tommen is of an age and personality type such that the last person to talk to him gets to change his mind. The High Sparrow plays humble, claims that none of this is personal and that true wisdom comes from the gods. He's on Tommen's side you see. He says he appreciates Cersei's love for Tommen. Once again Tommen doesn't use the force that he has at his disposal. The overall experience was exactly like someone walking into their boss's office angry about being underpaid or disrespected and walking out 30 minutes later feeling happy at getting a 10% pay cut. The High Sparrow is quite the game player.
In a montage that will be familiar to anyone who's seen a kung fu movie in the past half-century Arya is finally learning to fight blind, despite some horrific beatings from the waif. In fact, to the waif's evident surprise Arya not only holds her own but gives it back a few times. She's also learning how to identify and mix potions by smell alone. After being tested again over the whole no name thing and telling the truth Jaqen H'ghar gives her a drink. This drink restores Arya's vision. The Umbers, led by their new lord, have come to see Ramsay at Winterfell. Presumably this new lord is SmallJon Umber? In any event Lord Umber refuses to kneel or pledge to Ramsay. He reminds Ramsay of Roose's oaths to the Starks and his treachery at the Red Wedding. He plainly states that Ramsay murdered Roose. He insults Lord Karstark as a homosexual pedophile. All the same though Lord Umber apparently intends to support Ramsay as he has brought Asha and Rickon Stark to give to Ramsay. As proof of Rickon's identity Lord Umber provides the head of Rickon's wolf, Shaggydog. It seems that Lord Umber is very upset with Jon Snow's decision to let the wildlings through the Wall. As one of the families closest to the Wall the Umbers expect to bear the brunt of any problems that arise. Speaking of Jon Snow, at Castle Black Jon Snow is about to execute the four ringleaders of his murder. Obviously this includes Alliser Thorne and Olly. Jon is not really looking forward to this. Jon gives all of them a chance for last words. One man says it wasn't fair because Jon was dead. Why didn't he stay dead. Another says get word to my family that I died fighting wildlings. Alliser says you won I lost but if I had it to do over again I'd do the same thing. Do what you gotta do. Alliser is at peace with his decisions. Olly doesn't say anything. As Melisandre watches from the balcony like Stannis before her in a similar situation, Jon cuts the rope. The drop is not long enough to cleanly break the neck. All four men dangle, choke and kick. It's nothing less than they deserve. After the four die and we see their blue bulging faces Dolorous Edd reminds Jon Snow that he needs to burn the bodies. But Jon has had enough. He tells Edd that Edd can burn the bodies. Jon gives the Lord Commander's cloak to Edd. He's quitting. As he says his watch has ended. Jon leaves. Technically this is not desertion as death ends all commitments.
What I liked
- I liked the High Sparrow's ability to gauge whether a rival needs to be threatened or cajoled. He very quickly sized up Tommen and correctly chose the later approach. He's not afraid of Tommen. He just recognizes what will work.
- Cool competent Kevan. He's no Tywin but neither is he Cersei. I'm looking forward to seeing how he interacts with a rejuvenated Cersei.
- Jon leaving the Night's Watch.
- Sam and Gilly as a reminder, albeit a queasy one, that not everything is horrible in Westeros.
What I didn't like
- Forget about the books. Just in the show we've have both Roose and Ramsay worried about the possibility of a Stark showing up and having the other Northern Houses rally around a Stark. A unnamed Northern Lord was willing to be flayed and burned rather than deny a Stark King in the North. We had the peasant woman muttering that the North Remembers. She was also willing to die to help Sansa Stark. The Umbers have been one of the Houses most loyal to the Starks and most in support of Northern Secession. And now we're supposed to believe that the Umbers, who have just about as many men as the Boltons and had a Stark whom no one knew about, just hand over Rickon Stark to Ramsay Bolton? It doesn't make any sense. Even if the Umbers have some self-interest to play out wouldn't it seem that they would keep Rickon's identity and location a secret from Ramsay. I hated this. I think it's a result of bad writing and bad decisions from earlier seasons to not name and detail the other Northern Lords who were murdered at the Red Wedding. It wasn't just Robb Stark and his personal retainers and soldiers. The entire North is supposed to hate and despise the Boltons. And once again another wolf dies. My only hope is that I didn't see what I just saw and the dead wolf is not Shaggydog. But that seems unlikely. Seriously though why does Ramsay keep going from success to success or Stark to Stark. I don't want to see a season of Ramsay "playing" with Rickon Stark or Osha. What happened to all this fierce Northern loyalty to the Starks? Maybe we're supposed to be like Bran watching his father lose a fight, shocked and upset to learn that the truth never was the story we were told.
- The whole point of sending Mace Tyrell to Braavos was to try to make a deal with the Iron Bank. Well what happened? Also per Tywin, Casterly Rock was broke? So how are the Crown and the Lannisters paying troops? Are the Tyrells still helping? The Iron Bank is supposed to be relentless about recouping debts.
- Again, doesn't it seem that Davos would want to know exactly what happened at the battle with the Boltons and where Shireen is and hey why is Melisandre still alive?
- No Littlefinger
- I thought the Arya stuff all could have been done in one episode.
- Another short episode.