Well, this show is known for its shocking moments (especially for non-book readers, known in fan circles as the Unsullied) and Season Six has frankly had more than its share so far, and there are still four episodes left to go in the season.
First off, we pick up where the last episode left of, with Meera dragging Bran through a cold and snowy woods, until finally it appears that she either collapses from exhaustion or the sled gets caught on something, I am not sure which. Bran is apparently getting the Cliff Notes version of the History of Westeros jammed into his head, with some notably interesting snippets such as Jaime Lannister killing the Mad King and lots of images of wildfire and wights. I hope Bran has the sense to say “gosh, wights are highly flammable, and wildfire can burn anything, and there’s a LOT of it still in King’s Landing. Hmmm.” I hope someone has the sense to figure it out before Cersei uses it all up burning the Faith Militant or peasants or all of King’s Landing or whatever.
Anyway, Bran awakens just in time to tell her that the wights have caught up to them. It looks like they are about to end up dead. Or undead.
Cue the appearance of none other than “Coldhands”, a character I had previously believed was not going to make it onto the show. So his showing up at all was a surprise, but not as much as the surprise when he reveals himself to Bran and Meera. As some fans had predicted, it is the long-missing Benjen Stark.
Now, it is still possible that the identity of Coldhands on the TV show will not be the same as the books, but since his identity in the books has not yet been revealed, we just don’t know yet. But still, Benjen is a character that I myself have wondered when they were going to reveal his ultimate fate on the show (they simply spent too much time talking about him), and they finally have. Very cool to see him in such a way that even a book-reader as myself did not expect it. (ETA from Kelly- I totally did.)
Thank God for Gilly and Sam. Their relationship is one of the few things on this show that has some sense of youthful innocence and romance, and has not yet deteriorated into a backstabbing bloodbath like so many other relationships on this show. Please don’t mess it up, Duo of Death. Anyway, it was great to see where Sam came from, and to see his wonderful mother* and sister. I recognize the actor who plays his father (he played a similarly gruff character on Downton Abbey) and he did not disappoint. Randyll Tarly was every bit the cruel man I expected him to be from the books. But again, Sam surprised me – twice – by deciding to leave in the middle of the night with Gilly and baby Sam, and by taking his father’s Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane. Well, Sam, if your intent was to infuriate your borderline-madman father into rashly chasing you and your little family down and murdering you, you may very well have succeeded. But it would have been kind of cool to spend a little more time at Sam’s familial estate, because it is truly beautiful, and it would have been nice to see Gilly react to it all like a wildling Cinderella with her ridiculously adorable wide-eyed awe.
Meanwhile, in Braavos, the play-within-a-play bit was mildly interesting, if for nothing else than to see how the events of Season One got hopelessly mangled in the translation. And Arya’s reaction is definitely a clue that she is not ready yet to completely abandon her inherent Stark-ness and be No One. And this view is reinforced when she totally gives up on poisoning the actress she was supposed to kill and warns her instead. Finally, Arya is going to abandon her adventures in Braavos (which frankly, were starting to get a little stale anyway) and head back to Westeros, where I hope she eventually murders a lot of Freys. I think going to recover Needle is the icing on that cake.
And while I was hoping to see some troops wade into the Faith Militant, alas, it was not meant to be, at least in this episode. I am pretty damn sure that Margaery is playing a long con, trying to convince the High Sparrow she is converting so she can get out of there, and so far it seems to be working. But I wonder if she will lose control of it all since Tommen is also converting, and I am not sure at all if he is playing. I think the High Sparrow has totally manipulated him. So future Ser Robert Strong/Mountain/FrankenGregor Clegane mayhem is also averted for a while. Honestly, I can’t wait to see that. It will be epic.
So Jaime is out of the Kingsguard, which I guess makes him the new Lord of Casterly Rock, especially since his uncle is the Hand of the King. And he is now heading to the Riverlands, so we can get caught up on all those storylines which actually date back to Book Four. We get a little taste of this with the reappearance of Lord Walder Frey, one of the most loathsome of all the people in the books and the show, and that is saying something. In the books, it has become apparent that by murdering Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and all their followers and retainers , Lord Frey has earned the outrage of people across all of Westeros. Guest Right is considered inviolable, and by breaking it Walder Frey has all but cursed his family name, ironic since he is so obsessed with how he and his house are perceived. And it does my heart good to hear that Brynden Tully has retaken Riverrun from the Freys. Seeing Lord Edmure again makes me think that perhaps some of those scenes from Book Four will be played out now in Season Six. Perhaps that is one way the Duo of Death will try to not get TOO far ahead of GRRM and the books.
So the episode ends with Dany and her massive khalasar agreeing to go to Westeros (once they find enough ships for everyone) and the return of Drogon, who is much larger than he was when we last saw him. Wow, is he bigger. Oh, how I long to see dragons incinerate wights and/or White Walkers. Maybe one day. (ETA from Kelly- and Boltons and Freys and Ironmen, oh my!)
The preview for Episode Seven looks really awesome, and there are a few really great shots to whet my appetite for next week. First, I love this shot from Riverrun.
We see what happened to the Greyjoy siblings, as it appears they have sailed to Volantis to plot their eventual return to the Iron Islands. Whatever.
And we see Jon, Sansa, and Ser Davos trying to recruit some Northern lords to their cause. We get glimpses of their visit to Bear Island, home of House Mormont.
I am hoping that we will see the carving that was described as being on the gate to the Mormont’s keep: a woman holding a child in one arm and a battleaxe in the other.
We also see a glimpse of the Glovers, and someone I assume is a Glover, but whether he is one of the Glovers from the books or a generic TV Glover, who knows. He doesn’t look like the Galbart Glover we saw in Season One.
It sounds like Sansa has to convince some people that even though she almost married Joffrey Baratheon, did marry Tyrion Lannister and did marry Ramsay Bolton, she is still a Stark at heart and has no residual loyalty to the Lannisters or the Boltons. Maybe having Jon and Ser Davos along will help. I like seeing her sign her name as “Sansa Stark” and use the Stark seal. I don’t want to jinx myself, but this may even be the episode where Lord Manderly finally gives his speech. I do think it is coming soon.
Meanwhile, Lady Olenna gives Cersei yet another dressing down, as if it makes any difference at this point. All Cersei hears anymore is something between the “wonk wonk wonk” of Charlie Brown’s teacher and whatever her lackeys like Qyburn tell her. I think Cersei is well on her way to Crazytown by this point. No idea what will finally send her around the bend, but a good bet is that it will have something to do with Tommen. His death? Maybe. Wouldn’t it be ironic if he got killed by Ser FrankenClegane somehow? Like, Cersei orders Dead Mountain to kill all the Faith Militant or something, and he starts by turning Tommen into Lannister chum. Too bad they don’t have ShopVacs in Westeros, because all the messes that guy makes have to be cleaned up with mops, rags, and buckets. They would have nothing to put the little painted-eye stones on.
But seriously, I could almost imagine things going awry for Cersei like that. She and Jaime have gone on and on about killing the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, and now their son is one of them. Probably not going to end well. Sadly, I could actually see something like that happening. Cersei loses control of some powerful destructive thing that she created? When has THAT ever happened?
*An interesting sidenote is that both Sam’s mother and the now-deceased (at least on the show) Queen Selyse Baratheon are originally from House Florent. They are cousins.