With a tease of death, the return of a familiar face, and the buildup to the remaining Starks taking Winterfell back, Cersei and the High Sparrow, and Jamie against the Blackfish, the episode rebounds from the mundane nature of the last one.
Main Plot (with Commentary)
Topic 1: Returning To Where They Belong (Arya & The Hound)
After disappearing for more than a season, and presumed dead, so appears The Hound. Someone who seemingly, after what arguably was an embarrassing defeat, has taken to just being one of a small little village. One rather peaceful and of no harm to anyone. A change of pace The Hound seems to appreciate for now all his aggression is taken out on cutting wood and doing hard labor. That is until outsiders see this defenseless group and are denied food and accommodations. Leading to them killing them all but the Hound. Someone who was in the distance during the massacre and despite seemingly turning over a new leaf, he is ready to take revenge on those who destroyed his attempt at normalcy.
As for Arya? She is ready to get out of Braavos and head back to Westeros, but she needs a ship. Something she seemingly easily gets with a bag full of coins, but then comes the Waif. Someone you’d think Arya would have been more prepared for since she knows Jaqen’s abilities, and that of the followers of the Many Faced God. Yet, she ends up stabbed multiple times in the stomach and damn if it didn’t seem like another Stark bit the dust. In fact, the shock was so great I was surprised it wasn’t how they ended the episode. But, thankfully, rather than leave us wondering if Arya may have been killed we see her rise from the river the Waif pushed her into and take a long walk, holding her bleeding abdomen, and see her eyes dart with paranoia. Making it seem, while she may have survived that one ambush, we shouldn’t consider her free just yet.
Topic 2: The Situation in King’s Landing (Margaery, Cersei, and Olenna)
With Margaery aligning herself with the High Sparrow for her own safety, she finds herself asking her grandmother to leave for her own. After all, there is but so much Margaery can do as she sacrifices her comforts. So with a warning to Olenna that her march on the Great Sept will not be forgotten, and that perhaps her freedom and safety are in danger, Olenna finds herself at a crossroad. On one hand she has no desire to leave her granddaughter and grandson, the future of House Tyrell, at the mercy of a fanatic religious sect, yet with it seeming Margaery is but playing a game, doing as needs to be done, Olenna finds herself having to trust her granddaughter has her wits and penchant for politics. Otherwise, their house is in serious trouble.
But while Olenna may not be happy to find herself having to retreat, it does bring some pleasures. The main one being that Cersei, despite all her airs and graces, is as weak as she ever will be. Her allies have dwindled to few, her brother is in a whole other part of Westeros, and the people utterly hate her. This is one of the few things Olenna has to smile about, but despite their bad blood Cersei tries to feebly convince Lady Olenna for her continued help. Alas, Olenna denied this and takes with her a slight smirk in knowing Cersei’s days could be numbered. Even if just being able to step outside without shame.
Topic 3: Preparations for War (Sansa, Jon Snow, Ser Davos, Theonn, and Yara)
Starting small and growing big, it seems just as Jon and Sansa are bonding once more, trying to learn how to work with someone they have been separated from for what feels like a eons, so are Yara and Theonn. As we know, Theonn has been tortured, maimed, and essentially broken and while him standing up for Yara is a beacon of hope that old Theonn remains in there somewhere, sadly Reek is more seen than Theonn Greyjoy. Something which isn’t sitting well with Yara for while she understands, she plans to make an alliance with Daenerys and whether it is by offering Theonn as a partner, alongside their ships, or just the ships alone, she needs Theonn to be himself. She doesn’t need a soft spoken and shakey second, she needs a potential king. Someone who could possibly rule the Iron Isles by her side, if not do conquest upon their return.
Shifting to the Starks, while the North remembers Ned Stark, they also remember the defeat of Robb Stark. Something which makes gaining allies wishful thinking for while house Mormont is won over, thanks to Ser Davos, House Glover rejects them and speaks of how Robb let them lose their home while the Boltons helped them recover. Leading to the question of who will really side with a house which, yes, they may have pledged allegiance to, but has no male heirs? As noted, Jon is a bastard and Sansa a Lannister or Bolton depending on who you ask, so how much does that oath matter anymore? But still, even with just the 62 of House Mormont, in combination with the free folk, to Jon it is either make a move now or never. Even as Brienne tries to convince the Blackfish to join them.
Things To Note
Jamie finds himself coming face to face with the Blackfish who seems to have no intention of backing down and releasing Riverrun back to the Freys. Even as Edmure Tully’s life is threatened in eye shot by a rope and a knife.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
With Yara being open about her sexuality, I am left wondering if lesbianism in their world is looked upon with less prejudice than homosexuality?
There is talk about the extinction of Free Folk in the episode, and it led me to wonder if that giant maybe the last of his kind? Also, what does a female giant look like? Much less, can you even imagine a white walker giant?
I must admit the idea of Arya dying was a bit shocking, yet for a moment welcomed. Not because I’m not enjoying the various theories of her character merging with Lady Stoneheart, but because it feels like a 2nd major death is on the horizon. Which within a season which has killed off characters like chickens on a farm, you can only hope the death is a real hit to the abdomen.
Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) perhaps has had the most interesting performance seen on this show in ages, since Tyrion was in King’s Landing.
There is something quite tickling watching the gears in Cersei’s mind turn as she realizes her plans and methods of fighting off the High Sparrow and his men dwindle.
I quite like how the relationship between Theonn and Yara is being built. As opposed to Jon and Sansa, you can see them almost as equals while Jon sometimes seems like, at this point, Sansa is but a connection to a life which was vaguely available to him. One which he may enjoyed the comforts of, but never got the respect and prestige. With Theonn and Yara though, even when you strip away the issues which Jon and Sansa have when it comes to a bastard and a girl whose political marriages are numerous, there is something sweet about their interactions. Yara wanting her brother restored to his old self, even without his member, isn’t handled in a “be a man” or in a manner which seems without empathy. Nor does she seem to want him to be his old self out of selfishness, if anything it seems like she cares about his mental well-being and with love, be it platonic or otherwise, in short supply on this show, it is quite a sight to see someone genuinely care about another person.
Honestly the whole situation between Jamie and the Blackfish seems like a bore. Even with the threat of life, and an impending battle, it is just hard to invest in a storyline featuring the almost toss aside Jamie and a character which disappeared ages ago.
On The Fence
While Cleganebowl sounds interesting, a part of me thinks it will likely be The Hound’s last stand more so than a shock which leads to the fall of Cersei and another name marked off of Arya’s list.