The episode title is a Dothraki term used to recognize when someone has pledged themselves to you as a blood rider. And that applies to the closing scenes of this episode. However, there are a number of other ways the title applies - Sam and Lord Tarly, Bran and Benjen, Jamie and Tommen (and Cersei), Brynden and Edmure. Even, in the sense that we've seen Starks refusing to kill senselessly (and thereby putting themselves in mortal danger), Arya and Ned.
For all that this week had no Tyrion, no Jon, no Littlefinger, it was still very entertaining, and we are speeding toward the endgame.
North of the Wall
Sometimes a noble sacrifice doesn't actually save the day. Hodor's last stand was a through-the-time-vortex Hail Mary to help Bran and Meera get away from the wights. But Meera can't pull the sled very fast or very far. Bran is still in three-eyed raven mode, but it's not like he could be a lot of help even if he were conscious.
By the way, three-eyed raven mode was pretty interesting. Bran flashed back to:
- the Night King
- Mad King Aerys surrounded by wildfire
- himself falling from the tower
- lots of crows flying
- Catelyn getting her throat cut at the Red Wedding
- Craster's son being turned into a White Walke
- rDrogon flying over a city
- Ned Stark's beheading
- Jaime drawing a sword to kill Aerys, as Aerys screams "burn them all"
- Ned at the Tower of Joy
- Robb being killed at the Red Wedding
- Several scenes of Hardhome, including Jon fighting a White Walker
- The dead catching up to him and Meera
- The Night King grabbing him by the arm
- (What did I miss?)
Meera collapses in exhaustion as Bran returns to consciousness and the dead catch up. But that extra time was just enough time to allow a mysterious stranger on horseback to save the day. This stranger has a firestarter on the end of a chain, and he uses it to set several of the dead on fire. He buys enough time to pull Meera and Bran onto his horse and ride off at a pace the dead can't sustain.
The mysterious stranger turns out to be Bran's uncle Benjen Stark...mostly. Within Jon Snow's first few days at Castle Black, he said goodbye to Benjen as the First Ranger took his men on a ranging, looking for threats to the Night's Watch and the realms of men. They found some threats. Benjen ended up with a White Walker sword through his guts, and it looked like he would die and become a wight. The Children of the Forest found him, though. Using the same technology that turned man into White Walker, they prevented Benjen from bcoming a wight. They apparently lodged a piece of dragonglass in Benjen's chest (cold hands, warm heart?). It remains to be seen what the implications are, but for now, the major implication is that Bran lives to fight another day.
And fight on he must. Benjen tells him that the Night King will find his way to the world of men, and Bran must be there to stop him.
Sam Tarly is the son of Lord Randyll Tarly of Horn Hill. He is a bannerman to Mace Tyrell, the father of Loras and Margaery. As part of the Reach, the lands of Horn Hill are bountiful and green, and this is where Sam wants to leave Gilly and little Sam as he continues on to Oldtown to begin his maester training.
Acknowledging Gilly and little Sam will give them amazing opportunities for education and work, far beyond what they could expect on their own, or trying to stay with Sam in Oldtown. And Sam's mother and sister are very welcoming of them. Lord Tarly himself is a different story. As Sam says, it's hard to feel welcome at home when your dad has made you renounce your title and heirship, and has threatened to kill you if you didn't.
Dinner is an uncomfortable affair. Gilly (dressed to the nines and with her hair done up real nice) isn't quite sure what to make of silverware, or of the Lord of the manor who constantly belittles Sam. She leaps to Sam's defense, pointing out that he'd killed a Thenn, and a White Walker (Sam's brother Dickon laughs and says that there is no such thing as a White Walker). Lord Randyll glosses over the whole White Walker thing, and seizes on a verbal slip Gilly makes. It becomes evident to him that Gilly is a Wildling, which disgusts him. He'd rather she'd have been a Mole's Town whore.
Sam sits there, biting his lip while the woman he loves is verbally berated and denigrated. Gilly doesn't seem mad about that, which means she's really a dude. Sorry, Slayer.
Lord Randyll has kicked Sam out of his lands, so Sam says goodbye to Gilly and little Sam...and then comes right back and says they all belong together so gather your things.
"I don't have any things, Sam", replies Gilly.
They steal away in the dead of night. Oh yeah, and they take Heartsbane (Lord Tarly's sword of Valyrian steel) on the way out.
Tommen seeks counsel from the High Sparrow. He wants to explore the idea that perhaps Margaery doesn't have to perform a walk of atonement. The High Sparrow indicates that it needs to happen, but that Margaery is making great strides in becoming ever so devout. He actually lets King Tommen see Margaery. Margaery seems to be...humbled. She speaks of herself as one who only wanted to *appear* to do good works, but she only did it when people were watching. It all sounds very heartfelt and truthful...so why am I not buying it?
You'll recall that Margaery met with Loras and counseled him urgently to not let the Sparrows win. Something isn't quite what it seems, perhaps.
Meanwhile, Mace Tyrell is a buffoon. He gives a rousing speech (impressing nobody) and he and Jamie lead Tyrell troops through the city.
There is the High Sparrow on the steps of the Great Sept, and there is Margaery looking as fetching as one can clad in a burlap sack after weeks in a cell. The High Sparrow enumerates her sins, and then the army shows up. Jamie demands the return of Margaery and Loras. The High Sparrow retorts that Jamie has no authority to demand them. Jamie says that every Sparrow will die if they make Margaery do the walk of atonement. The High Sparrow says that every Sparrow will gladly die in service to the Gods...but that won't be necessary today, because Margaery found a different way of atoning. She has brought young King Tommen the Malleable into the loving arms of the Church.
Tommen comes walking out of the Great Sept, his Kingsguard surrounding him, to announce the unification of church and state.
Jamie is stripped of the title of Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. He is ordered to lead an army into the Riverlands to retake Riverrun from the Blackfish.
Speaking to Cersei about it afterward, he rages and wants to storm the Sept and kill the High Sparrow, and Cersei (!!?) speaks sense to him. She encourages him to go retake Riverrun, and bide his time. And then the talk of revenge and mayhem gets them all hot and bothered like normal.
Good old Walder Frey has just gotten the news that his progeny have been ousted from Riverrun, ancient seat of the Tullys. Brynden Tully, little brother to dead Hoster, uncle to dead Catelyn and dead Lysa and captive Edmure, has surprised the Frey contingent and retaken the castle. The Mallisters of Seagard and the Blackwoods have also risen against the Freys, and the Brotherhood Without Banners continues to plague them.
Walder points out that they have Edmure, and that is a hostage that will get Brynden out of Riverrun.
While the acting troupe puts on the show about Ned's execution and Joffrey's assassination again (while the understudy mouths all the words of the Cersei role), Arya puts the deathwater in the rum of Lady Crane, the actress she's been commissioned to kill. On her way out the door, Lady Crane calls out Arya for being backstage, and for not paying to see the show. But then she's very kind to her. Arya and Lady Crane have a discussion about acting, and Lady Crane makes a comment about the writing being bad. "So change it", Arya advises. That's advice Arya takes, as well. She doesn't like the way this play is going, so she changes the ending. Instead of killing Lady Crane, she prevents her from drinking the poison, and warns her about the understudy who wants the leading role.
And there, also backstage, is the Waif, witnessing Arya's strike two (and no chance for a third, per Jaqen).
And while the Waif is tattling on Arya to Jaqen (who okays the death order for Arya, but doesn't want her to suffer), Arya has gone back to her hiding place, pulled out Needle (the sword Jon gave her way back when), returned to her room and blown out the candle. Whose candle just got blown out?
On the way to Meereen
Daenerys asks Daario how many ships they'll need to get the Dothraki horde to Westeros. 1,000 ships at least, is his reply. But nobody has 1,000 ships...yet.
Daario tells her that she was made to be a conqueror moreso than a ruler. Daeny instructs all of them to wait, while she rides off. After some indeterminate length of time, she returns riding Drogon. He's a big boy now (yes he is!), and he makes an impressive pulpit from which she delivers a motivational speech.
The Khals have traditionally chosen three blood riders to guard them, but she is choosing the entire khalasar to be the blood of her blood, to ride across the seas, fight and kill and die to take the Seven Kingdoms.
Daeny has the army her brother was promised by Khal Drogo. The dragon has woken.
Scenes From Next Week
- Brynden faces Jamie at Riverrun
- Olenna chastises Cersei
- Jon and Sansa plead their case to northern lords (the Mormont bear and Glover fist, it looks like)
- Yara and Theon plot to retake the Iron Islands
- Tormund rallies the Wildlings on behalf of Jon
- Bronn! with Jamie
- Edmure Tully with a Frey knife at his throat
- Davos says the dead are coming
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