One of these days, I'm going to have to go back through all the scorecards on the @HornEsch site. Do a little housecleaning, refresh my memory of what I've said, etc.
I'm pretty sure a frequent occurrence has been my fandom for the naming of the episodes, and this one is no different. Dragonstone, where Daeny was born. Dragonstone, where she first sets foot again in Westeros. Dragonstone, referenced in Sam's studies for how to defeat the White Walkers, as there is a cache of stone on the island that should prove useful.
I've also frequently commented on the ever-changing intro sequence where they show the places of interest. Was this the first time we didn't cross the Narrow Sea?
This was a nice opening episode, as an effective stagesetter. We are reintroduced to the major storylines, we get a glimpse of some potential turning points, and everyone is now on the same continent for the first time in the show. I don't know quite what to make of the "Pete Carroll letting Snoop Dogg on the sidelines" bit we had, but for now I'm going to assume that it was a one off, and not a terrible one...for now.
What a way to kick it off! I'm sure most of you knew instantly who was behind Walder Frey's toast, and what was ahead for the celebrants. Even knowing what must be happening, it was still very satisfying to watch it play out, replete with taunting. "Leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe".
Since we last saw a disguised Arya slitting Walder's throat, of course it had to be Arya posing as Walder. She saved the young bride, but not out of any altruism. No, she needed someone to play the town crier, letting everyone know that you don't want to mess with the Starks.
"When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey."
The Red Wedding episode - "The Rains of Castamere" - played on June 3, 2013. We waited more than 4 years for this scene. Not exactly instant karma, but karma nonetheless. Suck it, Freys!
Later, Arya is moving South when she comes upon some Lannister soldiers. One of them is singing a tune, and it's a familiar voice. Ed Sheeran is on the side of the Lannisters. Prick. :)
I've deliberately not read anything about this upcoming season, so I had no idea he'd be making an appearance. Maybe it was common knowledge. As I indicated in the intro, by itself it's not a big deal to me. GoT films in Ireland, and Ed is Irish, is he not? But when GoT has introduced some star power, it's been mostly under the radar. Diana Rigg, Jonathan Pryce...Jim Broadbent, this season. Fantastic additions. Ed Sheeran? Interesting novelty, but hopefully not a sign of things to come.
And maybe he's going to get Needle in his throat. Arya sure is noticing where all the soldier's weapons are. But they seem like nice guys...will Arya kill them all?
The Wall and farther North
The dead are on the march, and several giants are in their midst. Brandon Stark is watching them via satellite (i.e. 3-eyed crow sight) as he and Meera approach Castle Black from the other side of the Wall. Dolorous Edd, in charge at Castle Black, greets them, and brings them inside, but not before a warning from Bran that the Night's King is coming for them all.
That's all we see of the Wall this episode, but several things point to the Wall being a major focal point very soon.
The Starks rule again in Winterfell. Jon has been named the King in the North, and he's holding court with Ser Davos and Sansa Stark by his side.
First on the agenda is to scour the land for dragonglass. Second on the agenda is to put together a training regimen to prepare the North for imminent attack from the White Walkers. Anyone age 10 or above is to drill daily with a variety of weapons. Not just boys...girls too. A lesson from Ygritte? You know something, Jon Snow.
Lord Glover objects to the idea of his granddaughter wielding weapons, but he gets a heavy dose of Lady Mormont in reply. Lady Mormont tells Lord Glover she doesn't need his permission to defend the North. And Lord Glover, to his credit, damn well knows when he's been put in his place. It's a small thing, but the look on Davos' face when Glover is getting a dressing down is outstanding.
Jon knows another thing, too. It's how to be in charge but not be a tyrant. By acknowledging that he has no authority to require the Wildlings to man the Wall, he makes it easy for Tormund Giantsbane to agree to go to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea...the expected initial assault of the dead. (Please send Brienne there too, Jon, just so we get more scenes of Tormund's admiration for her).
By refusing to give in to the perfectly normal desire to take revenge on families that betrayed the Starks, he potentially keeps the North unified and focused on the one true enemy. Despite Sansa's insistence that he remove the Karstarks and the Umbers from their ancestral homes and give the keeps to loyalists, Jon takes an oath of allegiance from Ned Umber and Alice Karstark, both children but both the heads of their respective houses. Is this a Ned-like refusal to see the innate treachery in people, or is this a savvy way to keep resentment and rebellion from boiling over? We shall see. But he explained his reasoning very clearly to all present, and while the assembled lords seemed to support Sansa's view initially, there was no doubt that in the end they supported the return of Karstark and Umber to the fold. And in the meantime, Ned and Alice went from being worried for their lives to knowing they owe their lives and their fortunes to Jon and the Starks.
Following the meeting, Jon and Sansa are touring the grounds, and Jon asks Sansa to stop undermining him in front of the other lords. Sansa asks if this means that his decisions can't be questioned, like Joffrey refused to be questioned. Low blow. Which she takes back by conceding that Jon is as far from Joffrey as anyone she's known. There's a very interesting point in this exchange that indicates how much Sansa has grown. Jon has a throwaway line in which he says that Ned Stark didn't cuss in front of his girls, and Sansa replies that Ned never wanted her to see how dirty the world really was, and it was a mistake to protect her.
Sansa tells Jon he has to avoid the stupid mistakes her dad and her brother made, that cost them their lives.
They are interrupted by a message from King's Landing. Cersei has told Jon to come to King's Landing and declare his loyalty to the Lannisters. Of course he won't do that, but Sansa points out that he shouldn't dismiss Cersei. In her words, Cersei has murdered everyone who has ever crossed her. Jon tells Sansa it sounds like she admires Cersei, to which Sansa concedes she has learned a lot from Cersei.
Later, Pod and Brienne spar. Tormund makes calf eyes at Brienne, and tells Pod he's lucky to get his ass kicked by her. Above, watching the sparring, Littlefinger and Sansa chat. Well, Littlefinger chats. Sansa wants none of it. "Why aren't you happy?" asks Littlefinger. "What do you want that you do not have?".
"At the moment, peace and quiet." is Sansa's chilly reply.
As Littlefinger starts to respond, Sansa says "No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish. I'll assume it was something clever."
Even in the North, that's cold.
Brienne, ever the last to the party, says that Baelish must want something. Sansa says she knows exactly what Littlefinger wants. Does she?
Cersei and Jaime meet to discuss defending the kingdom from all their enemies. First, of course, Cersei has to get a dig in about Jaime's love for Tyrion, who is the Hand for Daenerys. Even to Cersei things look fairly bleak. Daeny is coming from the East. The Sand Snakes and Dornishmen sit to their South, with no love for the Lannisters. To the West, Olenna Tyrell isn't particularly happy with Cersei's murder of her granddaughter. And Jon Snow and Sansa Stark to the North complete the directional challenge. I almost expected Cersei to start singing a Stealer's Wheel tune to Jaime.
Jaime (correctly) presumes that Daeny will stop first at Dragonstone. Even though people like the Tyrells won't be thrilled to welcome dragons and Unsullied to Westeros, Jaime points out that people like to be on the winning side, and right now the Lannisters do not look to be the winning side. So who can they get to join them to even the odds a bit?
Enter Euron Greyjoy. Is he the next Ramsay/Joffrey? Unhinged and wholly willing to do anything for a bit of amusement? He meets with Jaime and Cersei, indicates that for his help he'd like to be married to Cersei. Cersei isn't quite ready to roll over and take him for her groom, so (after a few digs at Jaime) he leaves, promising a priceless gift for Cersei to prove his worth. What will the gift be?
Poor Sam. He went to Oldtown to become a Maester for the Night's Watch. Right now all he's doing is emptying bedpans, ladling out unappetizing food for his betters, replacing books in the great library.
Incidentally, I really didn't want to watch the bedpan sequence again, so I just listened to it on my second viewing. Someone has already put it to music, I'm sure.
Sam also gets to assist an Archmaester with autopsies, which is actually far more appetizing than the bedpan scenes. Sam tries to get the Archmaester to approve his access to forbidden books, as he *must* figure out how to stop the White Walkers. The Archmaester indicates that he believes Sam has seen the dead, but he points out that winters always end, and this one will too. He is oddly aware of the threat and yet not too concerned that it will mean the end of man.
Sam is emboldened to force the issue. He steals keys to the forbidden book area, and while studying late at night comes across the reference to Dragonstone as a huge source of dragonglass. Stannis had mentioned that back at the Wall, but Sam didn't connect the dots properly. Sam writes a note to be sent to Jon, to let him know.
One final thing Sam gets to do is to stroll through the medical ward, picking up the empty plates fed to those poor souls suffering from the worst diseases imaginable. And it's there where a greyscaled arm shoots out to get his attention, a voice asking if Daenerys Targaryen has made it to Westeros yet. Jorah Mormont is withering away in a prison/hospital cell in Oldtown.
The Brotherhood Without Banners
Sandor Clegane (The Hound) rides with Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and the rest of the Brotherhood. It's snowing and promises to be a crappy night, but they come across a house that is familiar to Sandor. Way back when Sandor was traveling with Arya, he took the last of a nice man's money, reasoning that the man and his daughter wouldn't need it. Coming back to the house much later, the new, morally improved Hound knows what he's going to see, and he's not happy about it. Sure enough, there are two corpses in the house, and it looks as if the father killed the girl and then himself to stop their suffering from starvation.
Turning aside from the bodies, Clegane wants to know why Beric keeps coming back to life. What makes him so special? He's not a particularly good or bad man. Beric can't answer him, and wonders the same thing. What is his purpose?
Thoros invites Sandor to look for answers in the flames. In a great exchange, Clegane says it's just his luck to be connected with a bunch of fire worshippers (since Clegane is a burn victim and afraid of fire). Beric says it sounds like divine justice.
"There's no divine justice, you dumb c**t", says Sandor, "if there was you'd be dead and that girl would be alive."
In the flames, Sandor sees the Wall, and the marching dead where the Wall meets the sea (which is Eastwatch-by-the-Sea). He sees thousands of the dead marching past the Wall.
That night, Thoros is awoken by a noise. It's Sandor, who is just outside digging a grave for the man and his daughter. Thoros pitches in. Sandor tries to say a few words over their bodies, but he doesn't remember the proper prayers, so finally he just says he's sorry they're dead, and that they deserved better.
Danerys, her dragons, Tyrion, the Unsullied, Varys, Missandei et al have arrived in Westeros. They land at Dragonstone, and Daeny takes possession of the castle there, which was abandoned by Stannis on his way to the Wall. The invasion has begun in earnest.
Scenes from Next Week
- The same dude who told Jon that the Karstarks and Umbers needed to have their homes torn down is now saying that a Targaryen cannot be trusted. Does he know whom he's talking to (allegedly)?
- Cersei gives a pep talk to her peeps
- Yara argues for an immediate invasion of King's Landing
- Armies ride forth from Winterfell
- A wolf snarls
- Arya sees something shocking
- A woman strikes
- Yara and Ellaria play tonsil hockey
- Littlefinger has someone's hands around his neck. Jon?