Sorry, fans, this week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ doesn’t feature any epic, game-changing battle scenes. What it offers instead is a lot of interesting scheming and plotting, and one important revelation that none of the characters on the show understands the importance of yet.
First things first, let’s confirm that Jaime Lannister is OK. The episode opens with Bronn fishing him out of the river, somewhere downstream of the battle site. Jaime’s fate will not be held back as a mystery for even a minute. That’s a wise decision. (How either of them could be carried downstream in all that armor isn’t addressed, but we’ll let it go.)
Jaime is a bit traumatized by the battle he just witnessed. “That was just one of them,” he says of the fearsome power of the dragon. Bronn makes it clear that he will not stick around the next time dragons enter the picture. He has no loyalty to Cersei or the throne, and his friendship with Jaime only goes so far.
Back at the battle scene, Tyrion surveys the apocalyptic carnage, disheartened at how many of his own people were slaughtered. Daenerys gives a speech to the surviving remnants of the Lannister army, offering them a choice: bend the knee to her or die. A number of men immediately kneel. Many more hit the ground when Drogon (who is also fine after his injury) looks in their direction and roars.
Randyll Tarly refuses to kneel. Daenerys calls him forward. Tyrion begs him to come to his senses, but Randyll doesn’t like foreigners and likes Tyrion even less. Tyrion believes that murdering another lord would be senseless and suggests that Daenerys could ship him off to join the Night’s Watch instead, but Tarly is a man of conviction and won’t have any of that. His son Dickon (the one who saved Jaime in battle) stands by his side, willing to die with his father. Tyrion pleads with Daenerys to show them mercy, but she’s unmoved. She threatened to kill anyone who wouldn’t kneel, and she can’t be seen as weak. She says the command word and Drogon roasts the two men where they stand. Everyone else still standing up all immediately drop to their knees.
Jaime returns to the Red Keep to inform Cersei of what happened. He’s still shaken by what he experienced and tells her that their chances of winning this war are hopeless, no matter how many mercenaries she hires to replace their army. He also tells her that Olenna Tyrell confessed to murdering Joffrey, but Cersei doesn’t want to believe it and still blames Tyrion. She also refuses to give up the throne. If her choices are to fight and die, or submit and die, she’s damn well not going to submit.
Daenerys flies back to her castle on Drogon’s back, landing in front of Jon Snow. Despite the terrifying sight of the dragon, Jon holds his ground and reaches out to touch its nose, which calms the creature. Dany seems a little turned on by this.
After sending the dragon away, Daenerys asks Jon Snow about Davos’ remark that he’d been stabbed in the heart. He dodges the question until they’re interrupted by the arrival of Jorah Mormont, cured of his greyscale disease. Jorah offers to return to the queen’s service, and Daenerys is glad to have him back.
Bran wargs and takes control over a flock of ravens, sending them flying over the Wall into the northern territory. They eventually discover the army of the undead marching in massive numbers. The Night King looks up at the ravens and causes them to scatter, breaking Bran’s warg. Bran immediately calls to start sending messages about this all over the seven kingdoms.
At a meeting of the maesters, Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) discusses Bran’s message but is skeptical of the news. Over the years, countless men have made similar apocalyptic proclamations of doom and gloom, and he feels above paying credence to such things. While tending to some menial task, Sam overhears this conversation and urges the archmaester to take the message seriously. Ebrose is still not convinced. He suspects it may even be a trick to lure the armies of the kingdoms northward so that Cersei can conquer their lands while they’re away. The best he can promise Sam is that he’ll request more information from Bran Stark in order to evaluate further. Sam thinks this is a waste of time. After he leaves the room, Ebrose tells the other maesters that he hasn’t yet broken the news to Sam that his father and brother were killed.
Tyrion and Varys have a private conversation. They’re both concerned about Daenerys’ actions, which Varys compares directly to her father, the Mad King. They both agree that she will need strong counseling to avoid following those footsteps.
Jon Snow receives the message from Winterfell. He’s relieved to learn that Arya and Bran are alive, but obviously troubled by Bran’s news that the army of the dead is marching toward the Night’s Watch castle called Eastwatch (which Tormund and the Wildlings are currently manning). He makes plans to travel there immediately, even though he knows his army is insufficient to hold off the White Walkers. Daenerys is hesitant to commit her own army to help him when she still has Cersei to deal with.
Tyrion says that Cersei believes the White Walkers are a fairy tale. However, if they could find a way to prove their existence to her, he believes she could be convinced to put the war on hold temporarily to fight their mutual enemy. The problem, of course, is getting a White Walker to her. Jorah volunteers to go north and capture one. Jon Snow insists that he go with him.
The northern lords continue to be upset that Jon Snow seemingly abandoned them in their hour of need to go south. They’d rather have Sansa as their queen. Although she asserts that Jon is still the king, she’s clearly flattered by the suggestion and doesn’t defend Jon too strenuously. Arya later accuses her of lusting for power.
King’s Landing (2)
Davos sneaks Tyrion into the capital, but then parts ways with him to deal with some business in Fleabottom. Bronn brings Jaime down to the castle basement for sword training, but this turns out to be a ruse to lure him into a secret meeting with Tyrion. Jaime isn’t pleased to see his brother again. Tyrion begs him to bring an offer to Cersei. He says that Daenerys is willing to suspend hostilities if certain conditions are met.
In Fleabottom, Davos finds Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s bastard, working as a blacksmith armorer right under the queen’s nose. Davos assumes that he’ll need to convince the boy to come with him to join the Night’s Watch, but Gendry is ready to leave on the spot, no questions asked. Although he admits to not being particularly skilled with a sword himself, he grabs a giant war hammer off a rack.
When Davos brings Gendry to his boat, a couple of nosy Gold Cloak guards come snooping by. They don’t recognize either Davos or Gendry, so Davos pretends to be a simple smuggler and bribes them to walk away. This works well enough until they cross paths with Tyrion on his way back. Fortunately, Gendry proves to be quite handy with that hammer and takes out both guards before they can cause too much trouble.
Jaime returns to Cersei and admits to meeting with Tyrion. She’s already aware. In fact, she let it happen. She acknowledges that an armistice would be advantageous right now, and of course has cunning plans to undermine Daenerys.
Cersei also drops the bombshell revelation that she’s pregnant again, and plans to announce Jaime as the father. She’s done pretending to be someone she’s not.
Davos advises Gendry to keep his nose down and keep his identity a secret for his own safety. Less than 30 seconds later, Gendry meets Jon Snow and introduces himself as Robert Baratheon’s bastard. He has no use for secrets. Jon likes him. Hearing Jon’s plan to go north and capture a White Walker, Gendry wants to join him.
Before Jorah leaves on his mission, Tyrion gives him a coin that the slaver had paid them with when they were indentured together in Meereen. Daenerys says her goodbyes to both Jorah and Jon Snow.
As Sam works on the laborious task of transcribing old texts, Gilly reads a maester’s journal entry concerning Rhaegar Targaryen, son of the Mad King and older brother of Daenerys. Almost delivered in passing is the major revelation that Rhaegar’s marriage was annulled and he secretly re-wed another woman. Sam has no interest in these old stories and doesn’t grasp the magnitude of what he’s just learned. Attentive viewers, however, will recognize that Rhaegar’s new wife must have been Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister. If they secretly wed, this means that Jon Snow isn’t a bastard at all, but a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. Confirmation that Rhaegar is his father also means that Jon is Daenerys’ nephew. I’d say that this might complicate matters should the two of them get involved romantically, but incest isn’t exactly uncommon in the Targaryen family.
Fed up with doing all this grunt work and having nobody ever listen to him, Sam steals some books and scrolls from the library, then packs up his family to leave Oldtown, giving up his maester apprenticeship. He says that he’s tired of reading about the achievements of better men.
Arya spies on Littlefinger as he holds secret meetings, making underhanded dealings, as is his way. She watches him receive a scroll from the former maester’s archive, which he is assured is the only copy. After he locks it in his room and leaves, Arya breaks and in and searches until she finds it hidden in his mattress. The text is a note that Sansa had written to her brother Robb, calling their father a traitor and urging him to pledge fealty to her beloved Joffrey. Because Arya was away at the time, she doesn’t have any of the context that the note was written under duress.
When Arya exits the room, we see that Littlefinger is in turn spying on her. He was of course aware of her watching him the whole time, and is trying to set the two sisters against one another. Whether Arya will fall for this scheme remains to be seen. I suspect that she’s smart enough to see through it.
Jon, Davos, Jorah and Gendry arrive at the castle on the Wall and tell Tormund their plan to capture a White Walker. Tormund thinks this is a really bad idea.
Tormund brings them to a dungeon where The Hound, Beric Dondarrion and other members of the Brotherhood without Banners are locked in a cell, having recently been caught outside the castle gates. Gendry isn’t exactly the biggest fan of the Brotherhood, given that they sold him to Melisandre to be killed in a blood ritual.
Nevertheless, after a brief conversation, Jon Snow agrees that they’re all on the same side now, and has the men released from their cell. The episode ends with the gate in the Wall opening and this ragtag group trudging out into a blizzard.
Following the last action-packed episode, I can understand why some fans might find this one a comedown. However, I’m so invested in the story that I find all the political maneuverings pretty fascinating, and I’m really enjoying the way this season keeps bringing back old characters and story points. This show truly rewards attentive viewing, and it feels like everything is finally all coming together.