After last week’s mind-crushing episode, this week was like a breath of fresh air, with no major deaths or betrayals. Instead, we get an hour full of new information, with some plots moving finally moving forward, giving us a clearer picture of what lies ahead.
North of the Wall, Bran is still in his trance, and we get a glimpse of the Mad King, saying “Burn them all!” his last words before Jamie stabs him. We see the wildfire he was going to use to burn down King’s Landing, and the shadow of dragon wings over King’s Landing. So obviously we are seeing, through Bran, the past, present, and future of Westeros, probably information given to him by the Three Eyed Raven. Bran awakes just in time for him and Meera to be rescued by a mysterious hooded figure with a really cool flaming flail. Spoiler alert, it’s the long-lost Benjen Stark, who was wounded and left for dead by the White Walkers.
Instead, he was found and revived by the magic of the Children, and has apparently been in contact with the Three Eyed Raven. He implies that they will be heading south, possibly being chased by the Walkers, and Bran must learn to control his powers before his next confrontation with the Night’s King. Also, it’s interesting to note that Benjen kills a rabbit and tells Bran to drink its blood. Maybe this is just supposed to be a good source of iron, but it seems sinister to me. Could Bran be allied with the Great Other, the god of Cold and Darkness the red priests talk about?
Sam and Gilly arrive at Horn Hill, and are greeted by his mother and sister. Gilly immediately stands out in her dirty rags and unkempt appearance, but the women go out of their way to make her comfortable, and we get to see Gilly cleaned up, which obviously leaves Sam a little stunned. Randyll Tarly, Sam’s father, joins them for dinner, and he makes no attempt to be civil to Sam or Gilly. When Randyll learns Gilly is a wildling, he repeatedly calls her a whore. To shame Sam even farther, he points out the Valyrian steel blade, Heartsbane, that should have been Sam’s birthright, and says that Sam will never wield it. The women leave, and Sam’s father presents his terms: Gilly can stay and work in the kitchen, and the baby will be raised at Horn Hill. In return, Sam will never spend another night in the house of his father. At first, it seems like Sam will go along with this, but then he changes his mind, leaving in the night with Gilly, little Sam, and his father’s sword, Heartsbane. This is huge! Will Sam continue to Oldtown, knowing that his father could find him there? Or will he return to the Wall, bringing a new Valyrian sword to use against the White Walkers?
In King’s Landing, Tommen meets with the High Sparrow, who lets him spend some time with his wife. Margaery seems to have embraced the Faith, and seems repentant when she speaks to Tommen. She is brought to the steps of the sept, presumably to take her walk of atonement, when Jaime Lannister and Mace Tyrell show up with several armed men. Mace is useless, but Jaime tells the High Sparrow that there will be no walk of atonement, and his men stand ready for violence. Then the High Sparrow turns the tables. Margaery has already atoned for her sins by bringing someone new into the Faith. I was expecting Loras, but it’s King Tommen. Either the High Sparrow really got into his head, or he really missed his wife, because he enters into an alliance with the Faith Militant, a move that shocks both Jaime and the Tyrells. Tommen’s first “godly” decree releases Jaime from the Kingsguard, banishes him from King’s Landing, and sends him on a mission to the Riverlands. Jaime tells Cersei he won’t go because he’s concerned about the hold the Sparrow has on Tommen, and also about Cersei’s upcoming trial. Cersei is unconcerned, saying that Jaime should go, she has the Mountain for her champion. It’s interesting that Jaime actually refers to Tommen as his son in this scene, I don’t think we’ve seen that before.
Hey look, an old friend. Just kidding, it’s Walder Frey, the creepy old guy who hosted the Red Wedding. His sons have lost the fortress Riverrun to Brynden Tully, the Blackfish. Walder has Edmure, the Red Wedding’s unfortunate groom, as his prisoner, and he tells his sons to use Edmure to retake Riverrun. This is going to be a big deal in the next few episodes, since we know that Jaime and Brienne are also headed toward Riverrun, where they may find themselves on opposite sides.
Across the Narrow Sea, Arya attends the play once again. This time we see the death of Joffrey, and a great performance by Arya’s intended target, Lady Crane. Arya poisons the actress’ rum, then has a conversation with Lady Crane, who mistakes her for just another fan. Arya has a change of heart and stops Lady Crane before she can drink the poison, and tells her that the actress playing Sansa wants her dead. The waif from the House of Black and White sees all of this, and reports it back to Jaqen. Jaqen doesn’t seem angry, but it does seem like he gives the waif permission to hunt and kill Arya. Meanwhile, Arya retrieves Needle and seemingly goes into hiding. This was probably my favorite part of the episode. Arya’s story has been moving really slow, but I feel like, in this episode, she has finally decided to be Arya Stark instead of No One. I suspect this was what Jaqen intended for her all along, not to turn her into a Faceless Man, but to teach her the skills she would need to finish checking off her list. I predict that she will defeat the waif, but it will happen very publicly, forcing Arya to stow away on a boat to Westeros.
And finally, the other story that has dragged a little, Danaerys. She is returning to Mereen with her new Khalasar behind her, when Drogon rejoins her. She gives the Khal Drogo speech almost word for word, but nobody minds the rerun because she does it while riding a DRAGON. Hard to argue with that. The good news here is that Dany finally seems to be looking toward Westeros. She doesn’t know that her fleet of ships was destroyed, but I think we will see Yara and Theon arrive in Slaver’s Bay soon. If not, we can always wait for Euron Greyjoy to finish building his thousand ships, which I just don’t see happening any time this season.