Oh dear. Oh dear dear dear dear dear.
We’ve been doing it all wrong, friends. It’s all been filler. Blackwater. The Red Wedding. Baelor. It was all just window dressing.
We’ve come so far, spilled so much blood, lost so many loved ones to finally meet the best natural leader in Westeros. The leader who puts her people first. Who has an understanding of regional politics that goes back a thousand years, and who knows when to heed the counsel of advisors and when to make a command decision. Someone who lives on an island of bears, doesn’t trifle with small talk, and personally leads her soldiers into battle.
And she’s 10 years old.
Lyanna Mormont. You have my sword. Good god.
This is a born leader. She doesn’t flinch under pressure, she speaks only truth and has a knack for honing in on the wisest counsel. Her bullshit detector at 10 is already comparable to Tyrion’s. Her laconic Northern toughness is reminiscent of Ned himself. And her wisdom and bravery and intelligence is light years ahead of where it should be.
Click on that link above and watch the video. Embedding was disabled, but you should have this in your mental picture of Lyanna. Watch it and come back.
Okay, now tell me you don’t like her even more than you did a minute ago. Robb Stark was long dead when she wrote that note.
Obviously, this all means that the show will endeavor to Shireen her at the earliest possible convenience, but before they do, I’m all in. She’s the best leader anywhere.
Who would you rather have on the Iron Throne, her or Daenerys?
I know I usually jump in in chronological order, but I want to dilly dally a bit here, on Bear Island, which is lovely, by the way.
So how far did Jon & Sansa travel to get those 62 men?
Here’s House Mormont’s Sigil.
And one of the best best best things to come of this whole interaction is that when you look back at the note that Stannis showed Jon - Unless her Maester has the handwriting of a 10 year old, Lyanna wrote it herself.
Dear Nobody, We’re Stark people. Kindly go fuck yourself. Regards, Lyanna Mormont.
That resolve. That strength under pressure. She stayed loyal to the Starks when staying loyal meant possible annihilation. She spoke truth to power. She lit the way for her people and curried no favor from would-be Southern Kings. If Sansa was HALF the woman Lyanna Mormont is…well, I won’t finish that just yet.
I have a few more thoughts on the Mormonts before we tarry elsewhere.
Because it occurred to me that I never knew that Jorah’s family were Northerners. He always seemed like a Southerner to me. When we heard about his disgrace for selling people into slavery, I just thought that he came from somewhere near Dorne or Tarth or wherever Talisa Maegyr came from. But to be from the North? From the land of Lyanna Mormont, on an island surrounded by actual bears, and to be a Stark bannerman to boot and THEN to sell anyone into slavery? Well, it just feels much, much worse. Nearly unforgivably so.
Also, for those of you wondering how Lyanna is related to Jorah, she’s his cousin. And Ser Davos wasn’t kidding when he said she never expected to be in this position. She was the youngest of five children, all of whom must be dead for her to be in this position. The spectre of death must hang over this little girl like Damocles’ sword, and yet when called upon, she faces death without the slightest hesitation.
Jeor was the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. You know, it’s perplexing to me. Because I always really liked Lord Commander Mormont, even if he had a smidge of joyless Tom Coughlin about him. But he was so clearly a cut above the rest of the slime and criminal element that comprises the Night’s Watch, I always wondered why he was even there. He would have been a fierce ruler anywhere. How did a man of that quality end up at the Wall? And, looking at this family tree, he was the eldest child of Beron Mormont. I’m sure there’s an answer in the books, but as a non-book reader, it’s tough to understand how the heir of his house gets shipped to Castle Black when he’s not Samwise Tarly. Maybe the book readers’ recap will touch upon it.
Somewhere in The Riverlands
The Hound Liveth!
Usually, they roll the title sequence after the Previously On’s, so right away we knew the game was afoot. And who is carrying that big lincoln log all by their lonesome? Why it’s…
He’s sixty three ax handles high,
With his feet on the ground,
and head in the sky.
Paul Bunyan! (Paul Bunyan!)
Whoa! I’ve never seen a man swing an axe like that! Where’s your blue ox, fellah? And what happened to your face? It’s all burned up and shit. Hey, wait a minute, that’s Sandor Clegane! Holy shit! We get this reveal before the main title sequence? Is this going to be the best episode of Game of Thrones ever?
We open in the Shire Witness Protection Program. A place so happy I thought I had accidentally changed the channel. And here comes friendly friend Al Swearengen, just walking around. ‘Put your back into it, you!’ Wink. ‘Here’s an axe, lad!’ Smile.
I’m like where the hell are we?
I thought oh oh maybe these are shipbuilders on the Iron Isles, but the workers weren’t covered in distressed acid wash sacks and the sunless pallor of misery, so it couldn’t be them. It turns out we’re somewhere in the Riverlands.
“How many men did it take to cut you down?”
“He must have been some kind of monster!”
“He was a woman.”
(This is where lots of people did a little silent fist bump with Brienne).
Friendly friend Al Swearengen and The Hound spend some time chatting, and we get to hear The Hound talk for a while, and while he’s still a man of few words, we’re meant to believe that he has some sort of bond with Friendly friend Al Swearengen.
Margaery: We shoot quickly to a scene where the High Sparrow interrupts Margaery as she pleasantly absorbs religious texts.
High Sparrow: Forgive my interference, but the King tells me you’re not humping him…
Margaery: Yes, it’s amazing how captivity will curb one’s horn!
High Sparrow: Well, you’ll need to get a bebe in your belly toute suite! In the event that I need to kill the king, I’ll need another ripe cucumber to talk down to and bat about.
Margaery: Yes, your goodness. What else?
High Sparrow: Please kick your grandmother’s army out of the city, preferably with her under it.
At this point, I was kind of head twisting at the screen like a dog. So Margaery is brainwashed? No! No, she’s too smart for that. I was sure of it.
And off we go to the Queen of Thorns, where even she is convinced that her granddaughter has gone over to the dark side. Only this slipped communique convinces her otherwise.
If you’re a fan of the long con, you have to admire Margaery Tyrell. Obviously, The High Sparrow didn’t conquer the universe in bare feet by not knowing when he’s being played, but he shows his hand by sending Septa Unella (shame! Ding dong shame!) to watch over the family meeting. That’s a rough tell for him to have to give up. Margaery, on the other hand, is playing every scintilla of the game like a bauce. She has been trained by the ultimate gamer, and she’s putting all of her knowledge to good use. Why has she not shared idiot Tommen’s bed? Because once they have an heir, both she and Tommen become instantly expendable to the High Sparrow. So she sends her grandmother away - sends her family’s army away - to keep her safe. And she trusts that she can outmaneuver the most cunningly winning player of the game since Varys and Littlefinger.
We haven’t had a new coronation, but make no mistake about it: The High Sparrow sits on the Iron Throne.
Gleeful malicious thought of the day: Cersei promised to punish Septa Unella, but the punishment Margaery will exact will be a thousand times more severe.
Jon Snow is finally doing what I begged him to do and piecing together an army. First stop: The Free Folk. I kind of thought Tormund had already spoken for them, what with Ramsay having directly threatened them and all, but I guess not.
A wildling actor who has probably heretofore only played dentists or accountants says that this isn’t part of the original deal and Jon agrees. Nevertheless, this is where they are. Once Ramsay kills Jon, the Free Folk are next, and that’s all there is to it.
“He died for us!” Yells Joseph of Arimathea. Oh hang o, no, no, it was Tormund Giantsbane. My bad.
Wun Wun says SNOW, possibly because Jon Snow, or possibly because he sees snow or possibly because it’s about to snow, but that’s it. Dentist Wildling gives Lord Snow a Conan the Barbarian-esque forearm handshake and the Free Folk are in!
“Are you sure they’ll come?” Jon worriedly asks Tormund.
“Uhm, yeah! We’re not assholes like you!” Says Beerd McBeard.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think that Giant is going to come in handy.
This next scene is like a fine wine. Something to be sipped and enjoyed, because every sparkling note is ecstasy.
I WONDER IF YOU’RE THE WORST PERSON I’VE EVER MET. AT A CERTAIN AGE IT’S HARD TO RECALL, BUT THE TRULY VILE DO STAND OUT THROUGH THE YEARS.
Oh god! Oh god! ::slapping table::
DO YOU REMEMBER THE WAY YOU SMIRKED AT ME WHEN MY GRANDSON AND GRANDDAUGHTER WERE DRAGGED AWAY TO THEIR CELLS? I DO. I’LL NEVER FORGET IT.
Oh that’s the spot! Right there. Right there!
YOU’VE LOST, CERSEI. IT’S THE ONLY JOY I CAN FIND IN ALL THIS MISERY.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
There’s nothing I can say to add to this tour de force from the Queen of Thorns. She is fearless; dismembering Cersei right in front of her goon. And it’s perfect, because as we’ve seen, Olenna Tyrell has raised and trained her granddaughter so well that she can hang with the most stellar minds in Westeros. Cersei, conversely, has raised psychopaths and chum. A king so infantile and lost that it’s like a rigged season of Survivor where a cobra keeps a hamster as a voting pet, all the while telling the hamster “you’re a cobra too.”
Lovely comeuppance for Cersei, a truly vile person.
What, indeed, is her plan? She should be running for her life. Instead, as we see in the previews for next week, she’s going to sent The Mountain into battle for her.
The Lannisters arrive to music of doom and foreboding. Uh, did someone forget that Tywin is dead? The Lannisters should arrive to the Benny Hill theme music. It’s more fitting.
We get a quick scene where Bronn is back - thank goodness. It’s an interesting relationship between these two, because Tyrion is the one that has the close relationship with Bronn. It’s not like Jaime and Bronn are pals. Bronn only hangs out with Jaime because he promised him a lordship and a castle and a highborn wife. It’s not like the two of them have had the rollicking good time that Bronn and Tyrion had. They went to Dorne, failed miserably, Bronn got locked up, poisoned, and then had his jaw nearly broken. And what did he get for that? Jack shit as far as we know. So when Jaime starts to default to the “Lannister always pays-“
“Don’t say it.” Says Bronn. “Don’t fucking say it.”
You think back to what Bronn has been through since the day he decided to be Tyrion’s champion at the Eyrie and it’s enough action for three lifetimes. It has to irk him a little that the Lannister he actually likes isn’t the Lannister standing next to him.
So the Lannister army roars in, unchallenged, and frankly it’s a sight to see. If you think about the armies we’ve actually laid eyes on, none are as pretty as the Lannisters. The red adds a flair to the whole procession, and a sense memory of conquering Roman legions. Bronn doesn’t have a high opinion of their officers, but you have to admit, the Lannister army looks well outfitted and disciplined.
The Freys aren’t.
Jaime and Bronn roll up as Walder Frey Jr is trying to use Lord Edmure to get Blackfish to cede the castle. Blackfish couldn’t give two fucks about it.
God, the Freys are pathetic. It’s not their fault, totally. No human could ever look good in one of these hats. You could put Idris Elba in one of those hats and his sex appeal would vanish instantly. A word to all you would be feudal lords out there: If you’re going to make your people wear hats, pick something that’s not the worst looking thing on the planet.
Now we come to Lady Lyanna Mormont and the best scene of the night. As long as I’ve been doing these recaps - lo these many many ::ahem:: weeks - I’ve been singing the praises of the Onion Knight. He is so amazing. His voice, his tone, the angle of his head when he studies the battlefield that’s rivaled only by Doctor Doug on ER.
This meeting was a failure until Davos stepped in.
Make no mistake about it, my lady: the dead are coming.
I love how Lyanna holds up her hand to her maester and makes the decision on her own to support House Stark.
I love how fiercely Lyanna defends the number sixty-two, and says they’re worth ten mainlanders each.
And Davos, clearly taken with her, invokes a pride he reserved only for Shireen.
“If they’re half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed.” He says.
Now we’re back at Riverrun, and Jaime is riding through the ocean of red tents on his way to the parley with Blackfish.
It must be nice to be able to count on the integrity and forbearance of an actually noble house, because if Blackfish walked up to the walls of Casterly Rock I have ZERO doubt that he’d be a pincushion of crossbow bolts before he hit the moat.
What I loved about the parley was the man to man jousting. Blackfish, Cat Stark’s uncle, won every round. There’s no need to bullshit when you’re telling the truth. Why parley? Sieges are boring. I wanted to see you with my own eyes. I also found my eyes dancing over Blackfish’s outfit. Man, a fish-based sigil feels so lame to me, compared to, say, a lion or a wolf or a bear. But they make it work, bless their little hearts. Blackfish’s vestments are a skillful take on protective scaling.
“Kingslayer, I assume you’re here to fulfill the vow you gave my niece.”
Yes! This is the second time in the episode we get an example of a character remembering something that the fanbase does. It’s infuriating when characters magically forget things like someone smirking when your grandchildren are led away to jail. Blackfish is awesome. One of the last true men in Westeros.
What I despised about the parley is pretty much everything Jaime said, and his inability to grasp varied histories. In his mind, the war of the five kings is over. The Lannisters won and Tommen sits on the throne. The Starks are vanquished, as are the Baratheons and any other house worth noting. For Jaime, Blackfish’s holing up in Riverrun is a spark in an tinderless environment. Nothing can possibly come of it. It’s a fait accompli. The Lannisters will win, and it’ll be The Rains of Castamere all over again. That’s the only outcome.
More than anything, we see what a horrible mentor, teacher and father Tywin Lannister was. Because he didn’t prepare his children, (possibly because he didn’t want to end up in a Roose Bolton demise), and all they are is near-sighted, egotistical buffoons. Tywin never played any single scenario as if there was only one possible outcome, and being able to pivot at the right time is what made him outmaneuver his adversaries.
Jaime, cluelessly, offers his solemn oath. Him, whom everyone views as the least noble and least trustworthy person in the Seven Kingdoms. It’s like a fucking joke to Blackfish. Then Jaime is like “this can only go one way” and Blackfish knows what happens to armies led by men with blinders on. Then Jaime is like “you’re trespassing!” when everyone knows damn well this has been Tully land forever and ever.
And Jaime tries to invoke the will of the King, who no one here thinks is anything but the result of the unholy union between dishonorable, twisted, golden brothers and sisters.
Imagine, for a second if the man on that drawbridge was Tyrion. How would he approach it? He’d start with flattery, give that a shot:
“Blackfish, my congratulations. They said it was impossible for you to retake Riverrun, and here you stand. And I thank you for the ten golden dragons you won me from my sister in that endeavor.”
I BET ON YOU. I RESPECT YOU AS AN OPPONENT.
That wouldn’t likely have any effect on Blackfish, but leading with a compliment never hurts.
Then Tyrion would distance himself from The Red Wedding, establish that he didn’t approve and he knew nothing about it. Blackfish wouldn’t believe him, but he’d say it anyway. Then he’d speak on the heavy yoke of command, look back at his army and sigh.
“Unfortunately, we seem to be at an impasse. I am tasked with driving you out of your castle and you are tasked with seeing that I fail. Is there possibly a more decent means of ending this dispute without sending all these young men to early graves?”
There wouldn’t be.
Then Tyrion would casually scare the shit out of Blackfish by saying that they had a new weapon that could breach the walls in 22 days or that he brought a trove of wizard’s fire with him. It’s the damnedest thing. Even burns stone. Nothing is impervious to it’s heat. Smile. Bat of the eyes.
“I see there’s nothing left for us to do here, but I graciously thank you for your consideration. Though we be on different sides of this particular matter, please know that I hold you in the highest personal respect. If there’s anything I can do to make your final 22 days more comfortable, do let me know.”
It may not have worked, but it would have been something. There would have been a plan. Not just some entitled schmuck thinking the world owes him something. And Tyrion would have gone back to his tent and mulled over every single possible scenario like a cadet at war college. Over wine no doubt, but he wouldn’t just assume this battle was over. More and more, (and clouded by the coming attractions reel for next week) this seems like the place where Jaime Lannister meets his end, especially as we see the Freys marching away.
That’s where Lord Glover is. Deepwood Motte. We heard about it briefly when Yara reported to Balon Greyjoy that it had been lost. Here’s where it is.
So, high as a kite from their underdog victory on Bear Island, the Starksnow tour buss rolls into Deepwood Motte. And there’s no love for them there.
Lord Glover and Lord Tarly seem to park their cars in the same garage on the matter of wildlings. For a moment, it seems like Lord Glover might join if other houses had committed. Jon makes a good pitch, but Lord Glover is overwrought, just having retaken his own castle.
Then Sansa jumps in, calling Lord Glover’s honor into question in a tone of aloofness:
“I would remind you that House Glover is pledged to House Stark, sworn to answer when called upon by House Stark.”
…and he eviscerates her.
“Yes, my family served House Stark for centuries. We wept when we heard of your father’s death. When my brother was Lord of this castle he answered Robb’s call and hailed him King in the North. And where was King Robb when the Ironborn attacked this castle? When they threw my wife and children in prison? Brutalized and killed our subjects? Taking up with a foreign whore and getting himself and those who followed him killed. I served House Stark once, but House Stark is dead.”
If it had been able to be saved, Davos would have tried, but he kept his mouth shut. Pity that Sansa didn’t follow his lead.
Volantis (I think)
After Lord Glover turns his back on the Starks, we move to Slaver’s Bay. I think it’s Volantis but they never say. It’s tough to look at Yara after we hear what the Ironborn did to House Glover, and for what?
I guess we have to remember that House Greyjoy are pirates. Just amoral, raiding pirates. Pirates who apparently kiss people’s titays like a terrier in a groundhog hole.
I’d paste the GIF, but this is a family site.
I mentioned it before, but Yara has no idea, in any world, what it’s like to be Theon. It’s like a migrant worker trying to understand what a boring hassle it is to pick out wood finishes for a custom yacht, or a germaphobe trying to imagine boning down with a Volantis prostitute.
“You’ve had some bad years.”
Is this tough love or is this the only type of love Yara knows?
Ultimately, the point of this scene is to let us know that Yara is headed to Meereen to meet with Dany and for Theon to spiritually re-commit to the murdering, castle-stealing water weasels known as the Ironborn.
“I’ll never hurt you little brother, don’t you know that?” I mean, I’ll hurt everyone else, without reason or substance or provocation, but you’re aces.
And he does. Oh joy.
Jon and Davos are reviewing the troops.
200 Hornwoods from House Hornwood:
143 Mazins (a fake house created for the show as a hat tip to D&D’s friend, screenwriter Craig Mazin)
And as Davos runs off to break up a fight, Sansa tries to cast aspersions on him. And we see how empty Jon and Sansa’s relationship is. There’s no there there. I don’t see it. Sansa is used to looking down her nose at Jon and she’s frustrated when he says “we fight with the army we have.”
I’ll say this. First of all, when Davos runs to break up the fight and says “it’s not worth it friends.” One dude steps to him and says “who the fuck are you?”
Okay. He’s a northerner, he doesn’t know who Davos is, but holy shit. We need to borrow a scene from Outlander here and lash that man in front of the army until everyone understands who Davos is.
Second, I’m still having trouble reconciling how we got from GreatJon Umber to SmallJon Umber and the younger man is a douche. I was holding out hope that it was a feint but it’s tough to see that now. More likely, House Manderly is the one who will rise up and join House Stark, since we’ve heard very little about them other than the fact that they’re one of the four biggest houses in the North.
Here’s where the houses are from:
Sometimes it’s tough to get a picture in your mind.
So Sansa sends a raven to Littlefinger. We don’t know what it says, and we don’t know if it’ll even get there.
Hobbiton Witness Protection Program
We’re back where it all started, with Friendly friend Al giving a nice sermon, reminding The Hound that even people who have done heinous shit can decide to change. And then some Brotherhood Without Banners riders show up to remind everyone that they’re the law in this neck of the woods. Okay doke.
Ahhhhh! Back to Arya. Finally, we get to see her not being knocked around by The Waif. Instead she’s using her time to…um…walk around openly and book passage on a ship with money no one knew she had…and …um…sightsee? How’d that work out?
Yeah. That’s not great.
Fortunately, that’s not actually Arya.
I think it’s Jaqen in an Arya mask. I mean, yes, it could be the real Arya and she could have Sansa’d her way around Braavos, just learning nothing at all from the events of every day of her life, but it seems fishy to me.
I think that was Jaqen booking passage for Arya with Jaqen’s money, wearing Jaqen’s clothes.
Now, granted, this could just be my denial typing here, but it didn’t make sense to me that she’s just sauntering around Braavos in new duds and without Needle. Really?
I think Jaqen knew that he still owes Arya a life - she never made good on picking a new name - and that’s why he told The Waif not to make her suffer, because he knew it would be him. The Waif didn’t take that message to heart, judging by that polite knife twist.
Arya stumbling through the crowd, bleeding and helpless and getting only reviled or suspicious looks in return is just about the worst possible situation to be in. But we’ll see how it plays out next week. Luckily for Arya, she has the best kind of armor: plot armor.
Hobbiton Witness Protection Program
Of course, when the Hound is off chopping wood in Paul Bunyan’s great forest, the Brotherhood comes back and slays every Hobbit in the land, making sure to hang Friendly friend Al Swearengen for good measure. The Hound grabs a nearby Axe and sets out, to kill again, and presumably, to eat every chicken in the room.
So, I’ll admit, when I saw the Hound at the beginning of the episode, I raised my fists in the air like a gold-medal winning decathlete and got really excited, but when the episode was over, the reveal felt like a mistake to me.
As did the casting of Ian McShane as the friendly septon. Either he was too recognizable or so jarringly pally that I didn’t buy it. Not one iota. I think it was a rare example of bad casting. That’s just me. I didn’t like the choice.
And if the whole point of this little hobbit excursion was to unleash the Hound? Well, is that better or worse than just understanding this backstory as a showrunner and then saving his reveal for Cersei’s Trial of Combat versus his brother? I don’t know. Maybe it wouldn’t have felt fresh with all the rumors swirling around, but I’ll bet that would have been a more kick-ass reveal.
And what’s with the Brotherhood? I understood them to be a roving band of un-bound warriors whose goal was to mess up Lannister stuff in the Riverlands. Are they now just murderers and thieves? So the Beric Dondarrions and Thoros of Myrs of the world are bad guys now? And why kill the whole village? Because they worshipped a different god? Show me a protection racket anywhere that kills off its protectees and I’ll show you a business model that doesn’t work.
And what’s with the Hound’s hearing? He’s chopping wood so far away that by the time he hobbles back, the brotherhood had time to tie a noose and raise Al up and raid the entire village? And who’s going to finish that church? You don’t just leave a church half built. It’s uncivilized!
Alas, the second we saw those happy hobbits we knew there’s be a bloodbath. The world of Game of Thrones is no place for peaceniks or former soldiers who refuse to fight anymore. Something Sandor Clegane is going to refresh everyone’s memory about next week.