So from what I’ve heard from people who read the books (Tom included, in the last post’s comments, but not him exclusively), Jon Snow getting killed is basically where the most recent book that Martin has finished ended, and while the showrunners have moved things around so that there are still things from the book showing up in the show, from now on it’s pretty much their deal, with Martin’s input but not necessarily direct influence. This led some people to decry the final few seasons, but we’ll see what I think about them, starting now! As always, SPOILERS ahoy!
Season 6, Episode 1 (51), “The Red Woman” (first aired 24 April 2016). The sixth season of Game of Thrones picks up right where last season leaves off, as Jon Snow is lying dead in the snow. Davos finds him and the few loyalists to Jon get him inside, but yep, he’s still dead. Ser Alliser admits to the Watch that he killed Jon, because Jon was doing bad things – why, he thought other humans would be good allies against the undead army coming to kill everyone! How dare he! Later on, he tries to convince the men guarding Jon to come out of their room, but Davos knows that he’ll just kill them all, so they stay put. Davos also wonders if Melisandre can do something about Jon’s, um, condition. Melisandre, however, is too busy being old. Like, ancient. She takes her choker off and we see that she’s not really a nubile young sexpot but an extremely old woman – something that had been hinted at but never revealed. So that’s interesting. A bit south of the Wall, Sansa and Theon, who aren’t dead, are fleeing through the forest. Just as a group of Ramsay’s men catch up to them, Brienne and Podrick show up and all of Ramsay’s men end up dead. Brienne finally gets to do something useful, and she finally gets to pledge herself to someone who might not die in the next ten minutes. Of course, given this show, you never know. Moving south, Jaime returns to King’s Landing with the corpse of his daughter, and Cersei, who thought she was getting some good news, gets even more bad news. Man, Cersei is having a bad time these days. Meanwhile, on the ship that brought Myrcella’s body back, her now ex-fiancé, Trystane, gets murdered by two of the three Sand Snakes of Dorne. Wait, where did they come from? They were very clearly on the dock when the ship cast off, and they walked away with Ellaria after she poisoned Myrcella. How did they get onto the boat and stay hidden all the way to King’s Landing? What the heck, man? Either way, just prior to this, the third Sand Snake and Ellaria murder the prince of Dorne, mainly because he doesn’t want to fight a crippling war against the Lannisters. Man, Ellaria and Alliser should get together – they like fighting for almost no reason! Luckily for the prince, he’s Ra’s al Ghul, so he can just come right back to life, right? Right, Alexander Siddig? Over in Braavos, Arya is begging, but the snooty sidekick from the House of Black and White won’t leave her alone, as she keeps attacking her. Sucks to be Arya. Finally, way out East, someone burns the ships that Daenerys was going to use to invade Westeros (wait, don’t they want her to leave?) and Jorah and Daario find out she was taken by the Dothraki. In the Dothraki camp, she tells her captor who she is, and while he does cut her loose, he also tells her that she has to live in the house of the widows of the leaders until she dies. Yeah, I doubt that’s going to work out well for him. (We do get some comedy, though, as you can see below when the Khal talks about how beautiful Daenerys is.) This is a decent episode, but it is, of course, the standard check-in early in the season, just to get us all up to speed. They throw in a little violence, and we’re all good. Onward!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 2 (52), “Home” (first aired 1 May 2016). Hey, it’s Bran! Bran’s back, after taking last season off. I mean, once he reached the three-eyed raven (played now by Max von Sydow after briefly showing up in Season 4, when he was played by Struan Rodger), his story was going to hit the “pause” button for a while, but it’s still fun to see Isaac Hempstead Wright, who was 11 or so when he filmed the pilot and is now 16, so of course he’s grown up a bit. He and von Sydow are traveling through time, as the Raven is showing Bran scenes from the past, and we see young Ned (Sebastian Croft) sparring with young Benjen (Matteo Elezi, and hey, where’s Benjen, by the way?) and young Lyanna (Cordelia Hill), their sister whose abduction by Rhaegar Targaryen is one of the inciting events of the show. And hey, it’s young Hodor – a kid named Wyllis (Sam Coleman), who hung out at Winterfell because his parents worked in the castle. He can talk, too, which means we’re probably going to find out why he only says “Hodor” these days – they wouldn’t introduce him if they didn’t want us to find out! The show doesn’t like flashbacks, so this is a way around it – nobody is experiencing a flashback, Bran is literally walking through the past. Von Sydow doesn’t let him stay too long, though, because one can easily get lost in the past. Down at Castle Black, Alliser is still trying to get into the room where Jon is lying dead, but before he can chop it down, Edd – who slipped out last episode – brings the Wildlings, who owe Jon a great deal, and they seize control of the castle. Jon’s still dead, though. So sad! Down in King’s Landing, Jaime threatens Jonathan Pryce, making a pretty good point about the High Sparrow’s sexism (why isn’t Jaime being punished for his sins?), but he doesn’t kill the Sparrow because he has too many followers around him. Tommen makes up with Cersei for denying her access to Myrcella’s funeral. In Meereen, Tyrion decides to unchain the dragons, which is nice of him. He still doesn’t let them out of their prison, though – small steps! In Braavos, Arya is still trying to become “nameless,” and she convinces Jaqen that she’s serious, so he takes her off the street. And Theon decides to leave Sansa, because he’s sure Jon will kill him once they get to Castle Black. He tells her he’s going home to the Iron Islands, where things themselves are afoot. Balon is angry at Yara because she doesn’t want to keep fighting small battles that earn them nothing. He tells her that’s what the do, damnit! He goes outside onto the rickety wooden bridge that inexplicably links the towers of Pyke (“inexplicably” because it’s on a stormy island and no one thought to build better walkways between the damned towers). Some dude stands in his way, and it turns out its Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk, who’s apparently buddies with fellow Dane Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Balon’s brother, who’s been missing for some years. Euron says he’s come home because the Ironborn need a change of leadership, and he chucks Balon off the bridge to his death. Oh well – Balon was unpleasant anyway. I’m sure Euron will be far better! At Winterfell, Roose seems to be growing increasingly concerned with Ramsay’s craziness, but, I mean, where do you think he learned it? A maester announces the birth of Roose’s son, and while Roose tells Ramsay he’s always be his first-born, that’s not good enough for Ramsay, who shivs Roose and leaves him dead on the floor. Man, Roose, that sucks when someone you trust stabs you like that, doesn’t it? Roose’s wife, Walda, and son don’t last very much longer, as Ramsay lures them into his dog stables and sets the dogs loose on them. Ramsay is pretty awful. Finally, Davos asks Melisandre to bring Jon back to life. She tries it and everyone thinks she fails, but of course she doesn’t, as the episode ends with Jon opening his eyes and taking a big breath. Welcome back, Jon!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 3 (53), “Oathbreaker” (first aired 8 May 2016). This is not the greatest episode, as the show continues its tradition of following momentous episodes with ones where things percolate for a while. “Home” wasn’t an all-time great, but a lot of stuff happened, so now we sit around and watch the consequences. We check in with Sam and Gilly, who are on a ship to Oldtown … or that’s what Gilly thinks. Sam is actually taking her to his ancestral home, because he can’t protect her in Oldtown and he thinks his mother will be nice to her even if his dad won’t. We also get another flashback with Bran, as he sees his father, now a young man (and now played by Robert Aramayo), fighting with a group of his friends against Arthur Dayne (Luke Roberts), who’s the best swordfighter in the kingdom. Ned Stark is trying to get into a lonely tower, but Dayne won’t let him. Bran always heard that Ned killed Dayne in single combat, but it turns out to be a bit different than that. After Dayne is dead, Ned runs to the tower and Bran calls after him. Ned seems to hear him, but does he? DOES HE?!?!?!? Anyway, we check in with Daenerys, who’s taken to the widow house and told she’s never going to leave, Varys convinces the prostitute who helped the Sons of the Harpy to betray them because he can get her and her son out of the city and to a new life, Tommen is still trying to assert himself with the High Sparrow but Jonathan Pryce is not to be trifled with, and Arya finally gains some measure of trust from Jaqen, who restores her eyesight. We do get the return of Rickon and Osha, who have been captured by Smalljon Umber (Dean Jagger), one of the Stark vassals who is trying to curry favor with Ramsay Bolton. We haven’t seen them since “The Rains of Castamere,” which was in Season 3, and as there are better candidates to carry on the Stark legacy (Sansa has become more than capable, it seems, and Jon Snow is back among the living), I don’t have high hopes for their survival. Smalljon Umber has killed Rickon’s dire wolf, too, which is just rude. Finally, Jon Snow proclaims judgment on Alliser Thorne, Olly, and the other two conspirators, and hangs them. This is largely distasteful to him, and he also realizes that he can’t be Lord Commander anymore, so he quits. Technically, he didn’t break his oath (despite the title of the episode, which concerns the Umbers as well), as he did actually die. Loopholes are awesome!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 4 (54), “Book of the Stranger” (first aired 15 May 2016). For the first time in a long time (since Bran and Rickon broke up in Season 3, I suppose), two Stark kids are reunited, as Sansa arrives at Castle Black and has a nice meeting with Jon. Sansa has grown up a lot since the first season, when they were last together (although in the show, they never shared a scene in episodes 1.1 and 1.2, after which they went their separate ways), and she realizes what a bitch she was toward Jon when they were younger. She also convinces him to help her take back Winterfell despite his weariness of killing. I mean, she’s not wrong – Ramsay is going to come to Castle Black eventually, so they might as well get ready and try to do something before that. Ramsay does send them a letter telling them that he has Rickon, and there’s no reason to disbelieve him. Brienne also ends any speculation that Stannis might be alive (we never saw the body!), telling Davos and Melisandre that she executed him. Brienne don’t play, yo. Littlefinger is back, showing up in the Vale to tell everyone that he thinks it would be a good idea for the knights of Robyn Arryn to ride north and help the Starks. Littlefinger always has a scheme, and as we saw last season, he wants to be Warden of the North, so presumably this is part of that scheme. In King’s Landing, we’re catching up with Margaery, who’s still in prison. She is brought to Jonathan Pryce, who feels she’s made a little progress, so he lets her see Loras, who’s not taking things as well. Cersei is still scheming, but she brings her uncle, Kevan (Ian Gelder; he’s the current Hand of the King), and Motherfucking Emma Peel into the revenge circle, because they both have stakes in the game – Emma Peel obviously wants to save her grandchildren, and Kevan is Lancel Lannister’s father, and he probably doesn’t enjoy seeing his son parade around with a circle carved in his forehead. Theon returns home, where Yara thinks it’s just to claim the kingship, but he insists it’s to support her claim. Theon hasn’t been redeemed, exactly, but it’s nice that he’s trying. Ramsay continues to be a monster by killing Osha, who attempts to seduce him and stab him, but whom Theon told Ramsay all about. Poor Tonks. She’s a bad-ass character in the Harry Potter movies and a bad-ass character in this show, but both times she goes out with a whimper. Damn it, showrunners (#BetterDeathSceneForOsha)!!!! In the East, Tyrion meets with the slave traders of Astapor and Yunkai, who are funding the Sons of the Harpy. Missandei and Grey Worm think this is a terrible idea, and while Tyrion agrees that slavery is horrible, he knows they can’t fight a war against the slavers at that moment, so he negotiates. He allows them to transition out of slavery, giving them seven years to do it, if they’ll stop funding the Sons of the Harpy. It’s the best he can do. Daenerys, presumably, wouldn’t like that, but she’s up north in the Dothraki city, where Jorah and Daario have tracked her. They get in touch with her and urge her to escape, but she says she has to do things her way and that they should trust her. So that night, she goes to the conclave of Khals (Khalclave?), who insult her a lot (it’s not as much fun as their comedy routine in episode 1, but it’s not bad), and then she tells them they’re not worthy to stand in the presence of Alice Cooper … wait a minute, that’s something different – she tells them they’re not worthy to lead the Dothraki, but she is, so she begins tipping over the giant braziers lighting the place and burning them to death. (There’s a problem with that, according to Martin – Targaryens aren’t immune to fire, it’s just that the birth of Daenerys’s dragons was a magical event, so she should be putting herself in as much risk as she puts them into.) As the big tent burns, Daenerys once again walks out of the fire unscathed, and the entire Dothraki nation sees it and bows down to her (as do Jorah and Daario, because you don’t want to be fucking with Daenerys when she’s going all “Unburnt” on you). It’s a very cool visual, and a good way to end the episode.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 5 (55), “The Door” (first aired 22 May 2016). Dang, this is a good episode, with a lot of cool stuff happening, even though it’s largely overshadowed by the tremendous ending. We begin with Sansa receiving a letter and going to a secret meeting with Littlefinger, to whom she is not well inclined. He apologizes for leaving her with Ramsay, but she’s not buying it. She suggests having Brienne cut him in half, but he says he’ll go. He does mention, however, that her great-uncle, Brynden Tully (the “Blackfish,” who was last seen at the Red Wedding, from which he escaped because he had to pee before Walder Frey and Roose Bolton killed everyone), has re-organized the Tullys and has a strong army in the Riverlands, which isn’t too, too far south of Winterfell, so he might be an ally. Later on, during a strategy meeting, Sansa mentions this, but lies to Jon about where she heard it. It’s good news, though, and the contingent of big-name actors decide to head south and rally the North against Ramsay. Jon leaves Edd in charge of the Night’s Watch, and everyone leaves the castle. See ya later, Castle Black! Out in Braavos, Arya’s seemingly endless training continues, but at least Jaqen gives her another assignment. He also gives her a history lesson about the Faceless Men and the founding of Braavos, which I found fascinating because I love shit like that. He sends her off to watch a play, which happens to be about events in the very show we’re watching! So we get to see “Ned Stark” get beheaded, and it’s obvious that Arya isn’t happy about it. Could it be reminding her of home and the fact that by becoming “nameless,” she’s giving up on revenge? Oh, the subtlety of the show!!!! She hangs out backstage to scope out her target, the lead actress (Essie Davis), who seems like a decent person and is a good actor, and it’s clear Arya’s heart just isn’t in it. She tells Jaqen that it is, but I’m not sure if he believes her. In Essos, Daenerys doesn’t know how to thank Jorah, but he stops her by showing her that he has greyscale and so he has to leave. She tells him to find a cure, because he’s back in her good graces. He rides off to an uncertain future. In Meereen, Tyrion tries to get the people on his side by appealing to a Red Priestess (Melisandre isn’t the only one), who can influence people. She’s fun! On the other side of the world, Yara makes her case for leadership of the Iron Islands, with Theon backing her, but Euron shows up, admits that he killed Balon, and insults Yara for being a woman and Theon for being a castrato. He says he’s going to have them build a fleet to transport Daenerys back to Westeros (Euron has been traveling the world, so he knows what’s happening), and he’ll marry her and make sure the Iron Islands take their rightful place at the Westerosi table. Yara can’t compete with that, so while Euron is being “baptized” (new kings are essentially drowned, and if they survive, good for them!), she and Theon takes a bunch of loyalists and steal the best ships in the fleet. It’s for the best – after coming to, Euron says, “Where are my niece and nephew? Let’s go murder them.” All of that is very good, but of course, beyond the Wall, Bran’s world comes crashing down. He finds out that the Children created the White Walkers to defend themselves against the incursions of men, which didn’t work out too well for them. Later, Bran enters the “dream world” by himself, because he’s a Stark and is therefore kind of dumb. Come on, Bran! He finds himself surrounded by Walkers, but he doesn’t think they can see him until the Night King looks at him. Oh, snap! Then the Night King grabs him, and Bran “wakes up,” but there’s a mark on his arm where the King grabbed him. Max von Sydow tells him the King can get in now, and instead of doing anything about it, he takes Bran into the past while the Children and Meera are left to defend the cave against the Walkers. Hodor isn’t doing anything, as he seems too scared to move. In the past, Bran is standing in the courtyard of Winterfell, looking at Wyllis, and he hears Meera telling him to go into Hodor’s mind so that he’ll get up and help them. The Children blow up a bunch of Walkers, Meera manages to kill one with obsidian, but then, in the past, Max von Sydow disappears as the Night King kills him in the present (Bran’s dire wolf is also killed, sadly). Bran, desperate, jumps into Wyllis’s mind, and Hodor gets up and drags the unconscious Bran away. In the past, Wyllis starts having seizures. They reach the door to the outside, and Meera drags Bran through, while Hodor stays to, um, hold the door. Meera and Bran escape, and as the Walkers tear through the door and begin to rip Hodor apart, Wyllis in the past shouts “Hold the door” over and over until it elides into … “Hodor.” Damn. What a fucking ending.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Season 6, Episode 6 (56), “Blood of My Blood” (first aired 29 May 2016). This episode picks up almost right where “The Door” left off, as Meera is dragging a still-warging Bran through the snow, with the zombies chasing her down (Bran has a lot of visions during this stretch, some definitely from the past, but others with no context, so who knows, and I’m not even going to try to sort them out). As they reach her, a figure on a horse rides out of the forest and begins killing them, and he eventually picks them both up and rides the hell out of there. Later, when the figure is making some rabbit for them, he reveals himself to be Bran’s uncle Benjen, whom we last saw in “Lord Snow,” the third episode of the damned series. Benjen rode north of the Wall for reconnaissance, and he was attacked by White Walkers. The Children found him and stopped the spread of the “coldness” by jamming obsidian into his heart, the same way they made the Walkers in the first place. So he’s kind of half-human, but it’s still good to see him after so long! Way down south, Sam and Gilly reach Horn Hill, Sam’s home, and dang, it’s a big palace that looks a bit out of place among all the castles. I mean, the Tarlys are rich, I get it, but their palace is really immense. Anyway, Sam’s mother and sister are happy to see him and Gilly, but his dad is away hunting, so we don’t know his reaction yet. Of course, later they eat dinner, and Gilly lets it slip that she’s a Wildling, which pisses Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner) off even more than he already is (and he is; he seems like an unpleasant dude). He tells Sam he has to leave, but he’ll let Gilly work in the kitchens and raise her son, probably because he believes it’s his grandson. Sam doesn’t like this arrangement, so that night he tells Gilly they’re all leaving. He takes the Tarly sword, which is forged from Valyrian steel, for good measure. Tommen, meanwhile, is still trying to get Margaery released, and Jonathan Pryce lets him see her. She seems extremely repentant, but who knows if she really is. The Tyrells and the Lannisters are still plotting to rescue her, so when she stands on the steps of the big church (the Sept) to make her walk of atonement, they show up with an army and demand her release. Jonathan Pryce pulls a fast one on them, however, as Tommen has come over to his side thanks to Margaery, so there’s no need for her walk. You can just see the disappointment on Jaime’s and Emma Peel’s face – “Hey, they can’t manipulate the king – that’s our job!” Later, Tommen fires Jaime from the King’s Guard and tells him he needs to go north and help Walder Frey’s sons retake Riverrun from the Blackfish (Frey makes a cameo in this episode, and he’s as douchey as ever). Jaime doesn’t want to go, but Cersei convinces him that it’s for the best. Arya, meanwhile, is still watching the play about Westeros. She does poison the lead actress’s rum, but then the woman talks briefly to her and Arya changes her mind, knocking the poisoned rum out of her hand and implicating the younger actress who hired the Faceless Men. Of course, this means she’s in trouble, and Jaqen allows his snooty sidekick to kill Arya. Arya has retrieved her sword, so she knows she’s in trouble. The episode ends with Daenerys finding Drogon in the desert, flying him around, and making a big speech to the Dothraki about invading Westeros. It’s fine, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Let’s move on!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 7 (57), “The Broken Man” (first aired 5 June 2016). It’s rare to get a before-credits scene in GoT, but we get one here, as if we saw the opening credits, we’d know that this episode marks the return of the Hound! Yay, Sandor Clegane! We haven’t seen him since he fell off a mountain after Brienne kicked his ass and Arya left him to die. But he survived! Even before that, we get the latest cool casting choice by the show, as Ian McShane shows up as an itinerant preacher who’s called Ray, even though I don’t think he’s ever named in the show. Ray found the Hound and nursed him back to health, and he knows who the Hound is – he was a soldier once, so perhaps that’s why he knows him? He keeps trying to get through to Clegane that life doesn’t suck, and it seems like he’s built a happy little community in the wilderness. But this is Game of Thrones, and some of the Brotherhood Without Borders show up and not-so-subtly threaten them, and later, while the Hound is in the forest chopping wood, the three knights show back up and kill everyone, hanging poor Ian McShane from a beam in his not-quite-finished church. That was a mistake, as the Hound grabs his axe and prepares for some mayhem. So that’s a nice little vignette sprinkled throughout the show. In King’s Landing, Jonathan Pryce tells Margaery she needs to produce an heir (the sexism of the High Sparrow comes through again; it’s been nicely handled throughout Pryce’s time on the show, because it’s never too obvious) and also that she can see her grandmother to try to sway her to their side. Motherfucking Emma Peel isn’t having any of it, so Margaery tells her she should go home, and when they part, she slips Emma Peel a paper with a hand-drawn rose on it, implying that she’s not under the sway of the High Sparrow as much as we thought. Later, Cersei seems surprised that Emma Peel is leaving, but it’s probably for the best. Emma gets some nice barbs in at Cersei, which is always fun. It appears that the Ironborn have made it to Volantis, which is some impressively fast sailing, and Yara seems to get through to Theon, laying some tough love on him to bring him out of his funk. We’ll see. At Riverrun, Jaime and Bronn arrive to take command, because Walder Frey’s sons are spectacularly bad at besieging the Blackfish, and the threat of killing his nephew, Edmure (the dude who actually got married at the Red Wedding and whom Walder Frey has been keeping in the dungeon ever since) doesn’t faze him at all, as Edmure is a bit of a tool. Jaime tries to parley with Blackfish, but that doesn’t go well (Tully reminds him of his oath to bring Sansa and Arya safely out of King’s Landing, which, of course, he never did), so it looks like it’s time to fight! Arya is trying to book passage back to Westeros, but while she waits for the ship to sail, Jaqen’s snooty sidekick sidles up to her, in disguise, and stabs her repeatedly in the gut. Arya manages to get away, but she’s still bleeding from her damned stomach! The highlight of the episode, however, is in the North. Yes, it’s just Jon Snow, Sansa, and Davos wandering around trying to gain support for their war (the Wildlings will help, but the Glovers – lousy stinking Glovers – tell them to pound sand), but when they visit Bear Island in the northwest, we get … TINY GIRL!!!!!!! Yes, the ruler of Bear Island and the head of House Mormont (now that Jeor, her uncle, is dead beyond the Wall, her mother died fighting for Robb Stark, and her cousin Jorah is off wandering around the East in exile) is Lyanna Mormont, a ten-year-old ball of fire (played by Bella Ramsey). She has no time for small talk, cuts right through the bullshit, dismisses Sansa’s claims that the Starks are still around (she asks whether Sansa is a Bolton or a Lannister, but Sansa gives as good as she gets, telling her she’ll always be a Stark and she did what she had to do), and finally listens to Davos when he tells her of the White Walkers. All this for a grand total of 62 men, to which Davos replies, “If they’re half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed.” FUCK YEAH LYANNA MORMONT!!!! She elevates a decent but not great episode, as we’re once again gathering the pieces together for some epic showdowns. Bring it on!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 8 (58), “No One” (first aired 12 June 2016). At the end of the previous episode, Arya managed to escape the assassination attempt of Jaqen’s snooty sidekick (she’s officially listed in the credits as “The Waif,” but she’ll always be the snooty sidekick to me!), and she ends up at the theater where the actress she was supposed to kill (Lady Crane) performs. Lady Crane finds her and stitches her back up, but a kind woman in this show is not long for this world, and the snooty sidekick finds her and kills her (to be fair, she did do something nasty to the younger actress who hired the Faceless Men in the first place – we don’t find out what it is, but Lady Crane implies she ruined the girl’s face – so it’s not like Lady Crane is all sunshine and roses, either) and then sets her sights on Arya. Oh dear! Also at the end of the previous episode, the Hound went looking for the three dudes who killed Ian McShane. He slaughters some random dudes he happens across, then finds the three about to be hanged by Beric Dondarrion and Thoros for the crime of … killing Ian McShane! Hey, good to see Beric and Thoros again! They allow Clegane to kick the logs out from under two of their prisoners, even though the Hound wants them to suffer more. Then Beric tries to convince Sandor to come with them. We’ll see how that goes. In King’s Landing, a bunch of Sparrows try to get Cersei to come with them to see Jonathan Pryce, but she’s not that stupid, and she tells them to hit the bricks. They say that there will be violence if she doesn’t, but she has the zombie Mountain on her side, and he rips one dude’s head clean off, so the others decide that discretion is the better part of valor and take off. Later, Tommen makes an announcement that trials will no longer be decided by combat, which Cersei was counting on because of zombie Mountain. She says something to Qyburn about a rumor she heard, and it’s apparently her back-up plan. That can’t be good. At Riverrun, Brienne shows up and asks Jaime to let her speak to the Blackfish and try to convince him to leave. It’s nice to see them back together, because they obviously like each other and it bothers them that they’re on opposite sides. She heads into the castle but the Blackfish won’t surrender. Jaime threatens Edmure Tully’s son (it’s fascinating how easily Coster-Waldau goes from charming to pure evil – it’s one of the hidden strengths of the show), so Edmure walks out and demands that the soldiers lower the drawbridge. He’s the rightful lord, after all, as he’s the son of the previous lord. His uncle knows he’ll just turn it over to the Lannisters, but what can they do? Edmure comes in and immediately surrenders. The Blackfish helps Brienne and Podrick escape, and then dies in the delaying action. He was a fun guy – too bad for him. Jaime spots Brienne rowing away, and she sees him, but he doesn’t chase her. They both give each sad waves. Over in Meereen, the slavers have decided that enough is enough and attack the city, catapulting fireballs into it and causing a ruckus. Tyrion realizes that he made a mistake, but what are you going to do? Luckily, just then, Daenerys – the woman with the dragons can probably clean this up in a few minutes – comes back. Nice to see you, Mother of Dragons! Back in Braavos, Arys is chased through the streets by the snooty sidekick. Now, this is someone who just got stabbed repeatedly in the gut, and while her wound opens up again, she doesn’t seem to be hindered by it all that much. She manages to lure snooty sidekick into her little hidey-hole where she went after she broke with the Faceless Men, and she gets rid of the light because she knows how to fight in the dark, having been blind and all. We cut to Jaqen in the face gallery, where he finds snooty sidekick’s bloody face and Arya standing behind him, holding the sword on him. He says she’s finally become no one, but she says she’s Arya Stark, and she’s going home, and then she peaces right out of there. A lot of people complained about Arya’s sojourn in Braavos, but it did seem necessary for her to grow up a little. She’s now even more bad-ass, and that’s what the Starks needs moving forward!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Season 6, Episode 9 (59), “Battle of the Bastards” (first aired 19 June 2016). The show continues its tradition of the best episodes being the most tightly focused, as in this one we visit two places – Meereen and Winterfell. In Meereen, Daenerys isn’t terribly happy that Tyrion has messed up, but he talks her down from her plan to burn the cities to the ground and call it a day. Tyrion tells her to parley with the slavers, but it’s all a ploy. They dictate terms, but Daenerys says that they’re the ones who will surrender, and she has a giant dragon to back her up. Grey Worm kills two of the slavers, and Tyrion tells the third to go home and tell everyone he knows that the new order is here. Daenerys climbs onto Drogon and, with the other two dragons (who finally get to fly again!), burns a few ships to show that she’s serious (she needs the rest to sail back to Westeros, but her point is made). After the battle, Yara and Theon show up, and Daenerys makes an alliance with them. Tyrion reminds Theon that the last time they saw each other was in Winterfell, back in season 1, episode 4. Good times! The bulk of the episode concerns the battle for Winterfell, though. Jon and Ramsay meet on the future battlefield, and Jon challenges Ramsay to single combat, which he wisely declines (Ramsay is many things, but he’s not really stupid). That night, Jon and his advisers strategize, and afterward, Sansa gets all pissy because they didn’t consult her, the one person who has spent significant time with Ramsay and knows how twisted he is. Jon thinks they can still rescue Rickon, but Sansa, having become a harsh pragmatist, basically says he’s dead already, even if he’s still alive, because Ramsay will never let him live. I mean, Sansa sent a letter to Littlefinger for help, so even if she doesn’t know he’s coming, she could mention it to Jon, so she’s not totally blameless here! Davos, meanwhile, discovers the pyre on which Stannis’s daughter was sacrificed, and although he knew she was dead, he didn’t know that Melisandre had her burned, so he’s a bit peeved. Then comes the day of the battle. Jon is outnumbered, but he thinks his plan will work. But like Sansa said, Ramsay will do something to fuck with you, and in this case, he brings Rickon out, sets him free, and tells him to run to the other lines. As he does, Ramsay starts shooting arrows at him. Jon rides out to try to rescue him, but right before he gets there, an arrow nails the youngest Stark kid, killing him. Why didn’t Rickon zig-zag? Why make it that easy for Ramsay? Serpentine, Rickon!!!! Oh well – at least he got to see Alexandra Daddario up close in San Andreas. That’s something! Jon, naturally, gets enraged, and it’s at that moment that Ramsay tells his cavalry to ride forward. Tormund reluctantly leads the Wildlings forward, and right before Jon is about to get trampled, the two sides smash into each other. This is probably one of the best battles ever filmed, as the budget was much higher than for other battles in the show and probably for most in the past. We get a terrific sense of the chaos of battle, as Jon simply hacks at anyone who comes near him, and Ramsay keeps raining arrows down, caring not if they hit his own men. It becomes a horrible slog, as horses and men die almost randomly, and the bodies start to pile up. Ramsay sends in his infantry, and they form a shield wall to hem Jon’s forces in, pinning them against a pile of bodies, and then advance with their spears sticking through the thin gaps in the wall. Jon’s men try to climb the pile, but Ramsay’s men block that way, too. It’s pretty devastating, and Jon goes down in the push, getting overwhelmed (Kit Harington is apparently claustrophobic, so his panic is real, and apparently Daniel Craig is in one of the shots for a few seconds as a dead soldier, because he’s such a big fan of the show). Jon manages to climb to the top of the crowd, but things still look dire. Then we hear horns blowing, and a large army of knights appears. It’s Baelish with the knights of the Vale, and they come crashing into the mess, turning the tide of battle very quickly. Ramsay rides back to Winterfell, but the giant from north of the Wall – Wun Wun (Ian Whyte) – busts down the door, his last act before he finally succumbs to the many spear thrusts and arrows sticking out of his body. Ramsay tries to shoot Jon with arrows, but Jon has a shield and he blocks them all (a bit unrealistically, as he has the shield down and raises it in the time the arrow crosses the distance between them, which seems impossible because the arrow would be too fast, but it’s a cool visual, so I’ll allow it), until he reaches Ramsay and starts beating the ever-loving shit out of him. Before he kills him, though, he sees Sansa and stops. Did he do it because he didn’t want Sansa to see him beat a man to death, or because he thought Sansa would like to do the honors? Probably the former, but later, when Ramsay wakes up, he’s tied to a chair in his kennels, and Sansa has released all of his dogs. He thinks they’ll be loyal to him, but she points out that he hasn’t fed them in a week (which he told them the day before, and many people have pointed out that she didn’t hear that particular nugget of information, but oh well), and starving dogs will choose eating over loyalty any time. They rip him to pieces (we don’t see much, just a tiny bit, which is bad enough) as Sansa watches for a moment and then walks away, allowing a chilling smile to cross her lips. Dang, woman!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Season 6, Episode 10 (60), “The Winds of Winter” (first aired 26 June 2016). The first twenty minutes or so of this episode are among the tensest in the show’s history – perhaps the build-up to the Red Wedding or Ned’s execution match it, but in the latter instance, viewers at that point honestly didn’t think anything bad was going to happen to poor old Sean Bean, and in the former, it seemed like everything was fine, so while there was tension, it was more like the “oh, everyone doesn’t like each other and they’re trying to get along” kind of tension rather than the “dear God everyone’s going to die and we don’t know how” kind of tension. In this episode, we know Cersei is going to do something, but we have no idea what it is. So we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, as everyone gets ready for the trials and everyone convenes at the Sept of Baelor – well, not everyone, as Cersei is absent and the zombie Mountain keeps Tommen in his room, which certainly can’t be good. At the church, Loras confesses everything, and Jonathan Pryce allows him to live out his days as a Sparrow, giving up his name and his title. He gets the Sparrows’ symbols carved in his forehead, which Margaery objects to. We’ve seen that she’s not under the spell of Jonathan Pryce, but there are still things out of her control. Meanwhile, Grand Maester Pycelle gets a message from a little kid that the king wants to see him, so he follows. We know the street kids of King’s Landing are working for Qyburn and therefore for Cersei, though, so that ain’t good. Back at the Sept, everyone wants to know where Cersei is, so Jonathan Pryce sends Lancel to fetch her. He spots a kid running away and follows him, which makes no sense. Sure, the streets are empty, which is odd, but why would you just follow a random kid running along, especially once he ducks into a door? Don’t you have a task to do, Lancel? We cut between him and Pycelle, who has been lured to Qyburn’s laboratory, where the kids attack him and stab him to death. Deep in the sewers Lancel is stabbed by the kid, but he doesn’t die, he just topples. He’s right where he can see a huge cache of wildfire about to go up – candles that will ignite it are just about burned down. He crawls forward to stop it, but we know he’s not going to make it. Margaery has figured out that something is wrong – she tells Jonathan Pryce that Cersei knows the consequences of not showing up, which means she doesn’t care about the consequences. She tries to leave, but Jonathan Pryce doesn’t yet believe her, so he and his men keep her (and everyone else) from leaving. Well, that was a mistake, as Lancel reaches the candles just a moment too late, the napalm ignites, and everyone in the Sept is blown straight to hell. Julian Glover – already dead. Lancel – dead. Jonathan Pryce – dead. Natalie Dormer – dead. Margaery’s ineffective father – dead. Kevan Lannister, Cersei’s uncle – dead. Cersei watches the explosion and smiles, but she shouldn’t be too happy, because it turns out that Tommen really did love Margaery, and he very calmly steps off the balcony to his death. Dang, what a beginning to the episode! It’s too bad about Margaery – she never quite became the adversary for Cersei that she should have been, but Natalie Dormer did a nice job with her. Still, she tried in a fairly subtle way, which more than can be said for a lot of schmucks in King’s Landing!
Of course, that’s not all to the episode! In Walder Frey’s castle, he celebrates the recapture of Riverrun while Jaime broods. Jaime doesn’t brood quite as well as Jon Snow, but he’s still pretty good. He misses his sister-lover! The next day (or just later – it’s not the same night, at least), Walder is getting served meat pie by a serving wench when he wonders where his sons are. She tells him they’re cooked into the pies, which he confirms by finding a finger in one. Why would the serving wench be so mean? Why, she pulls off her face, and it’s Arya, back in Westeros! Yay, Arya! She slits his throat, and she gets her revenge. Man, the Stark ladies are cold-blooded killers these days, aren’t they? In the North, Davos confronts Melisandre about Shireen’s death, and Jon exiles her instead of killing her. He and Sansa talk, and Jon tells her she’s the true ruler of Winterfell and that they have to trust each other. Later, Littlefinger admits he wants to rule Westeros with Sansa as his queen, but she’s not having it. Still later, the assembled lords, with Lyanna Mormont shaming them all (BECAUSE SHE’S MOTHERFUCKING AWESOME!!!!!), proclaim Jon the King in the North. I wonder how Sansa feels about that? Prior to the meeting, Benjen dropped Bran and Meera off within sight of the wall but says he can’t cross it because it’s protected against White Walkers (and White-ish Walkers, which he is) by magic. Bran decides to go back into the past, and he checks out his father at the tower where he was earlier. Up in the tower, Ned’s sister Lyanna (now played by Aisling Franciosi) has just given birth, and she makes Ned take care of the boy. Could it be … Jon Snow? Yes, this confirms the long-held theory that Jon is not Ned Stark’s son, but the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. That should make Daenerys’s pursuit of the throne a bit more interesting. Wrapping up the season, we head back to Dorne, where Motherfucking Emma Peel is trying to forge an alliance with Ellaria. Who should appear to help but Varys, who made it there from Meereen rather quickly, I think. Back in King’s Landing, Jaime and his army return to see the smoking remains of the Sept (someone should really put the fires out), and Jaime fears the worst. When he arrives at the Red Keep, however, he finds Cersei being crowned queen. Well, dang. Finally, Daenerys is ready to leave Meereen, and she tells Daario he needs to stay behind and keep the peace in the East. He doesn’t want to, of course, but tough shit, New Coke Daario! I like how Daenerys is divesting herself of the people who were useful to her in the East – first Jorah, now Daario – as she starts a new chapter of her life. She names Tyrion Hand of the Queen, and then they all set sail for Westeros. It’s a dramatic scene, and the season ends with Daenerys on the deck of the flagship, surrounded by Tyrion, Missandei, and … Varys? Wait a minute, he was in Dorne five minutes ago! What the hell? It’s very weird, but it doesn’t ruin a terrific episode!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
All right, let’s get to the breakdown!
Ranking of Season 6 episodes:
1. “The Battle of the Bastards” – Holy cow, down goes Ramsey!
2. “The Winds of Winter” – Holy cow, that beginning!
3. “The Door” – Holy cow, that ending!
4. “No One” – Arya goes home.
5. “Book of the Stranger” – Daenerys kills a whole bunch of people … again.
6. “Blood of My Blood” – Jonathan Pryce wins?
7. “Home” – Jon as Jesus!
8. “The Broken Man” – Ian McShane!!!!!
9. “Oathbreaker” – Jon peaces out of the Night’s Watch.
10. “The Red Woman” – The comedy stylings of the Dothraki!
Average Rating: 7.35/10 stars
Median Rating: 7/10 stars
Ranking of all the episodes so far:
1. “Blackwater” (S2E9)
2. “The Rains of Castamere” (S3E9)
3. “The Battle of the Bastards” (S6E9)
4. “The Lion and the Rose” (S4E2)
5. “The Winds of Winter” (S6E10)
6. “Hardhome” (S5E8)
7. “The Door” (S6E5)
8. “The Dance of Dragons” (S5E9)
9. “Mother’s Mercy” (S5E10)
10. “And Now His Watch Is Ended” (S3E4)
11. “Baelor” (S1E9)
12. “Kissed by Fire” (S3E5)
13. “The Laws of Gods and Men” (S4E6)
14. “The Mountain and the Viper” (S4E8)
15. “Fire and Blood” (S1E10)
16. “No One” (S6E8)
17. “The Wolf and the Lion” (S1E5)
18. “A Golden Crown” (S1E6)
19. “Walk of Punishment” (S3E3)
20. “The Watchers on the Wall” (S4E9)
21. “The Children” (S4E10)
22. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (S5E6)
23. “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S3E2)
24. “A Man Without Honor” (S2E7)
25. “The Old Gods and the New” (S2E6)
26. “Lord Snow” (S1E3)
27. “You Win or You Die” (S1E7)
28. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (S3E7)
29. “Kill the Boy” (S5E5)
30. “The Gift” (S5E7)
31. “First of His Name” (S4E5)
32. “The Climb” (S3E6)
33. “Mockingbird” (S4E7)
34. “Book of the Stranger” (S6E4)
35. “Second Sons” (S3E8)
36. “Valar Morghulis” (S2E10)
37. “Blood of My Blood” (S6E6)
38. “Home” (S6E2)
39. “What Is Dead May Never Die” (S2E3)
40. “The Kingsroad” (S1E2)
41. “Garden of Bones” (S2E4)
42. “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (S2E5)
43. “The Pointy End” (S1E8)
44. “The Broken Man” (S6E7)
45. “Sons of the Harpy” (S5E4)
46. “Two Swords” (S4E1)
47. “Valar Dohaeris” (S3E1)
48. “Oathbreaker” (S6E3)
49. “Breaker of Chains” (S4E3)
50. “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (S1E4)
51. “The Prince of Winterfell” (S2E8)
52. “High Sparrow” (S5E3)
53. “Oathkeeper” (S4E4)
54. “Winter Is Coming” (S1E1)
55. “The Red Woman” (S6E1)
56. “The Night Lands” (S2E2)
57. “Mhysa” (S3E10)
58. “The House of Black and White” (S5E2)
59. “The North Remembers” (S2E1)
60. “The Wars to Come” (S5E1)
Average Rating for Season 1: 7.1/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 2: 6.9/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 3. 7.35/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 4: 7.3/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 5: 6/95/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 6: 7.35/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 1: 7.25/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 2: 7/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 3: 7.25/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 4: 7.25/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 5: 7/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 6: 7/10 stars
I’m a bit surprised by this – based on average rating, this is tied for the best season with Season 3, but the median is the worst (both being relative terms, as we’re talking about such minor differences – the show has been very consistent). So far, both this and Season 5 have three episodes in the Top Ten, but I think both Season 3 and Season 4 were a bit more consistent – Season 5 also has three episodes in the Bottom Ten, so its median probably got pulled down a bit, while Season 6 doesn’t have too many “bad” episodes but its weaker episodes aren’t quite as good as the weaker ones in other seasons. Still, it’s splitting hairs. This is a very good season, ending with a lot of table-clearing (too much? but that’s a question for the next season!), and we move on to the penultimate season, the first of two with fewer than 10 episodes. We’ll see how that goes!