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Game of Thrones #68: A "Winterfell"'s Tale

Illustration for article titled iGame of Thrones /i#68: A Winterfells Tale

With episode #68, Game of Thrones opens its eighth, final, season. Constraining a season’s worth of production and post-production into a year’s worth of time was not possible for this season, meaning that HBO had no Game of Thrones last year to make money off of. But now they have six episodes left to show (until the prequel series) and they are going to inundate popular culture with Lannisters, Starks, Targaryens, Greyjoys, Others White Walkers, and sexposition until May 19th, when the show ends.


As I have done for previous installments, I assume any audience reading about Game of Thrones has read a lot about A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. I will not be held responsible for any information about these fictional settings, characters, and plots that you may gain as a consequence of reading this article. That said, I do not address leaked information. Because it premiered almost two weeks before it aired, information existed about GoT #68 for over a week. I didn’t read any of it.

HBO put money into changing up the intro a lot

The introductory sequence starts off with the familiar map of Westeros sequence, starting at the (now broken) Wall and moving south, first past Last Hearth and then Winterfell. But then it leaves “overland map” mode and goes into “inside map” mode by going inside Winterfell, firstly through a room (the Great Hall) and then down a hallway (the crypts beneath).

Changes continue. There’s an astrolabe that is spinning which had been showing a quick summary of the history of Westeros, with dragons coming to Westeros, taking power, dying, etc. That has now changed! A new picture segment of the history of Westeros shows an artistic representation of recent troubles in the Riverlands. In the middle, an arrow-filled corpse (of Robb Stark?) stands between the Towers. To the left, a Lannister lion snacks on a Tully fish. To the right ... someone holds a recently cut-off lion’s head. I don’t know who that someone is supposed to be, all I can tell you is that they work out.

The introductory sequence returns to looking at the map, this time zooming down to King’s Landing. The camera zooms down the Red Keep into its ‘basement’ to show the ballista that was used (and destroyed? maybe this is a back-up ballista?) in GoT # 64 and the skulls of Targaryen dragons. The camera zooms up to the Throne Room (which is still designed as Cersei had it re-designed when she assumed the throne) and moves towards the Iron Throne.

The next astrolabe picture segment shown has a large dragon with three smaller dragons in front. All four of them are chasing a comet. I assume that this is a representation of Daenerys Targaryen and Viserion, Rhaegal, Drogon, and the red comet that was visible in both Essos and Westeros during the end of A Game of Thrones and the beginning of A Clash of Kings. This astronomical entity previously made an appearance in GoT #11.

Cryptically, in spite of all of the changes made to the introductory sequence, the final four House sigils stand the same as they have for every other episode: dragon, lion, stag, and wolf. Whether that’s a sign that Gendry has an important role to play in the final six episodes, or just a sign that the animators didn’t want to change what’s not broken, will be revealed.


Jon brought home his aunt

The episode begins with a Northern child running. He is running to join a crowd just outside of Winterfell watching a parade, and all the child can really see are quick glimpses of the shields and spears that the parade holds high. The child, like all of us, knows that spears are part of the sigil of House Martell, the best House in the Seven Kingdoms the Unsullied uniform, and he is excited to see Dornish Unsullied troops. He rushes off to find a better vantage point, running past Arya Stark, who was directed to stand with an odd calculating look on her face. The child runs down the line and finds a tree to climb for the vantage point he wants, which is great because the camera follows him and we finally see that this parade is marching through a small village just to the east of Winterfell. I think we’re supposed to assume this is the winter town and then I looked this up on the Game of Thrones wiki and, yep, it uses this image, so there you go.

The boy’s/camera’s view shifts to where the Unsullied army is moving from, showing that it’s three columns (maybe 10 people across?) which are apparently taking turns moving through a fairly small gate, just barely large enough to let four troops shoulder-to-shoulder or two mounted soldiers horse-to-horse through. Jon and/or Daenerys decided to do this? Rather than march the troops up the Kingsroad, which would be faster? Cool, sounds like a decision those two would make.

The camera returns to just above ground level for a bit as Unsullied troops march past and then we see the happy couple on horseback. Daenerys looks regal. Jon looks like he’s thinking about what he wants to order when he gets to the kitchen. Arya sees that Jon has a weird look on his face and that makes her get a weird look on her face which eventually becomes a smile, since she hasn’t seen Jon since GoT #2. But then she remembers her faceless training and puts that smile away, because this is definitely not at all a moment for celebration.

To make that abundantly clear, the next main character she sees in this parade is Sandor Clegane. Arya was really really sure she left him to die, and she is really really sure she is good at being an assassin, so she is visibly frustrated that she over-estimated her kill count. Next up in Gendry, who Arya smirks at, because don’t even say it, audience. Don’t.

There’s also a cart. Tyrion and Varys are in the cart. In true GoT fashion, the second line of this episode is a joke about testes. Varys doesn’t find the joke about a lack of testes very funny. Don’t worry, Varys, nobody thought the joke was funny, but the show has quotas it must fill.

Behind the cart are more named characters on horseback. Missandei and Grey Worm are there. The camera decides to show Missandei’s view of the crowd, and she doesn’t see people who look happy to see her. She shouldn’t take it personally, Northerners are just really sick of people invading. I mean heck winter town lost two random kids to the Greyjoys when they invaded, and then they lost more people when the Boltons ruled over the area... It’s not been a good time for winter town.

We return to Jon and Daenerys, wherein Jon says that he warned Daenerys that Northerners don’t much trust outsiders. That must mean that the decision to march through winter town was her decision? Then out of frakkin nowhere Drogon and Rhaegal roar and fly down. The crowd STARTS TO PANIC AND RUN AWAY while Arya watches open-mouthed, turning to a smile, because she loves seeing people panic. Daenerys also smiles. In this analogy Arya and Daenerys are the showrunners, the crowd is the audience, and Drogon and Rhaegal are when (redacted) dies in the next few episodes.

The camera jumps over to Sansa, who is standing on the walls of Winterfell watching this army approach her city, and who watches the dragons fly past without any smile, because she really would have appreciated it if anyone had sent her a raven informing her of dragons. The camera follows Drogon and Rhaegal upwards to give us an aerial view of the new Winterfell because the show built a new augmented reality Winterfell between Seasons 7 and 8 and you don’t do that and then not show it off.

The camera jumps to inside Winterfell’s courtyard, where the Northern main characters are (mostly) standing around, awaiting the arrival of Jon and Daenerys. Yes, because the show cannot bear to be subtle, this is supposed to be very evocative of GoT #1, when Northern main characters were standing around, awaiting the arrival of King Robert Baratheon. Jon looks around the group. Bran is in the group. The last time Jon saw Bran, Bran was in a coma, and the music turns sorrowful to remind us that we’re supposed to feel an emotional impact here. To ruin all of those emotions, Bran has still been told to act like he’s an alien. e.g. Jon runs in and gives his younger “brother” a hug and kiss on the forehead (this is exactly how Jon left Bran in GoT #2) and Bran just stares through him. Jon is confused on what the frak is wrong with Bran. Sansa watches and provides no explanation. When Jon goes to greet his “sister” the camera shows that Jorah and Davos are standing near Daenerys. Bran seems more interested in those three than in Jon, which is fair, because Bran read all about Jon on Wikipedia but hasn’t read much about those three.

Sansa gives a hug to Jon while staring at Daenerys. Jon asks where Arya is, Sansa says she’s lurking somewhere, and eventually Daenerys correctly reads the situation and walks over to Sansa to be introduced by Jon. Various Tier 2 “Northerners”, particularly Lyanna Mormont and Yohn Royce, give a look of non-approval. Brienne, who is there because she still is working as Sansa’s bodyguard (?), says nothing. Nor does Podrick, who is there to be Brienne’s squire.

Daenerys thanks Sansa for inviting them into her home, and compliments the North and Sansa. Sansa takes a while to say that Winterfell is Daenerys’s to command. Bran pulls a Bran to say that there’s no time for this because the Night King has Viserion, the Wall has fallen, and the dead march south. Daenerys, Jon, and Sansa all look unsettled by this exposition dump, which must be really confusing to Daenerys and Jon because no one has warned them that Bran has superpowers.


Jon attempts to keep the peace 2019

Bran, Sansa, Jon, Daenerys, and Tyrion are holding a chat with all of the Northern lords. Sansa apparently called all of the Stark bannermen to Winterfell. She calls out Lord Umber (who is literally a boy, like, maybe 8), asking why his people aren’t in Winterfell. He says they need more horses and wagons, Sansa says they’ll spare some, and commands him to use those to get his people the frak out of Last Hearth and to Winterfell ASAP. Jon says that they should send a raven to the Night’s Watch telling them to retreat to Winterfell. Maester Wolkan says sure. Why did ... why did no one else think of doing this?

Lyanna has words. She is not happy that Jon left Winterfell a King and returned a nothing at all. Jon just tries to casually dismiss his demotion. Lyanna does not agree; the Northerners literally had a whole naming ceremony, and they don’t just do that for anyone. I mean they’ve only done it twice in the past few years. Jon gives a speech about how he appreciates that he got to be King for a few months and that he had to choose between keeping his crown and protecting the North and he chose the latter. The audience does not seem to appreciate the sentiment. Jon is losing the room. But hey don’t worry Tyrion will try to save this situation, and it sounds like it might be working until he for some reason decides to mention his family who, uh, was in league with the Boltons and Freys and overthrew the Starks.


Tyrion why, no, stop.


Sansa asks how this “greatest army the world has ever seen” will get fed.

Sansa: What do dragons eat, anyway?
Daenerys: Whatever they want.

And they stare at each other with lots of subtext because I guess apparently everyone in the North (or maybe just Sansa?) has already figured out Jon and Daenerys are banging.


Tyrion and Sansa catch up

The scene changes back to the courtyard of Winterfell. There’s at least two wagons here which have hauled in a lot of dragonglass, in case you had forgotten the other reason why Jon went to Dragonstone. Gendry grabs a piece falling off a wagon chute and says to be careful with it. It’s rock, my dude, it’s not going to break if you drop it.

Tyrion is watching this process happen with a pensive look on his face. He looks across and sees Sansa and Yohn similarly watching. Tyrion walks over to them, Yohn reads the room and departs, leaving the married couple to speak alone. They compliment each other on their job titles, they remark on the last time they saw one another (GoT #32), Sansa apologizes for leaving in a rush that day, Tyrion says it wasn’t easy for him being the husband of a murder suspect, Sansa remarks they’re both survivors. Tyrion says that most of the people who underestimated Sansa are dead. Sansa has no real response. Tyrion says that the Lannisters will be coming North, and Sansa, because she read the script, sarcastically repeats back what Tyrion said, and asks if he really believed Cersei. Sansa thinks Tyrion fell for a ruse, and leaves after basically calling him stupid. Tyrion looks pensive, and then looks down and sees Bran, who is just ... staring. As one does.


Jon and Arya catch up

Jon’s in the godswood, looking into the bleeding face of the weirwood. Arya confronts him. They have questions for one another.

Arya: How did you survive a knife through the heart?
Jon: I didn’t.

Somehow that answer reassures Arya, and she rushes to embrace her “brother”, who seriously is not much taller than her. Arya still has Needle, and Jon asks if she’s used it, and she lies a bit by saying once or twice. She’s shown him hers so he has to show her his, and he pulls out Longclaw. After he sheathes his, he asks where she was before, by which he doesn’t mean “where have you been the last few years, I haven’t seen you in years” he instead means “where were you earlier in this episode?” Arya already figured out that Sansa doesn’t like Daenerys, Jon (rudely) says that Sansa thinks she’s smarter than everyone, Arya says that Sansa is actually very smart and capable. Jon is taken aback at Arya defending Sansa, and Arya stabs him in the heart (figuratively) by saying that she’s (and Sansa) defending their family. Jon insists that he’s also that family, and Arya just hugs him and reminds him to not forget that.


The other Queen

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Qyburn is somehow walking outside in the sunlight without bursting into flame. He delivers the news of the fall of the Wall to Cersei.


The camera shifts back to show that the Greyjoy fleet is back to being near King’s Landing. Guess that means they brought the Golden Company over from Essos?

The camera shifts over to the deck of the Silence, showing Euron and a guy who we have to assume is leading the Golden Company. And, yep, the Silence is full of troops. That happened off-screen, in order to save time.

In Euron’s quarters, he still has Yara. Yara asks why she isn’t already dead, Euron basically says he needs another Greyjoy to talk to. When that doesn’t work he says that his crew are “mutes” and that he has to talk to someone. Yara tells him that he chose the wrong side in this war, and for whatever reason Euron still wants to bang Cersei. Yara is not impressed.


In the Red Keep’s throne room, Euron has brought the leader of the Golden Company to Cersei’s audience. They are 20,000 men (give or take some who died at sea over some gambling arguments) strong, with 2,000 horses, and no elephants. Cersei had been told there would be elephants, but the GC leader says they’re not good at long sea voyages. The guy’s name is given! He’s Captain Strickland. A Dance with Dragons has a Harry Strickland who is a captain-general with the Golden Company who is described as not looking at all like this actor. No big deal. Cersei says him and his troops are most welcome in King’s Landing.

Euron wants to know if he’s most welcome there. Cersei says kind of. Euron would like to talk in private with Cersei. Cersei says that happens after the war, per their agreement. Euron implies he wants to bone now, Cersei says that Queens have to be earned, and she regally starts to walks off. Euron asks how, and he lists off the things that he has done for Cersei with no sign of affection from her. She says she’s killed other men for lesser words of insolence, he says they were lesser men, Cersei and Qyburn have a “he’s got a point maybe?” shared look, and she walks off.

But on her way off, she stops, and looks back at Euron. Apparently that’s an invite, and Euron goes to go bone Cersei. Zombie Gregor doesn’t approve, but Zombie Gregor doesn’t get to stop this insolent guy.

Speaking of whores in King’s Landing...

Bronn is in a room with three whores. What is this, Season 2 all over again? The whores are lamenting how the war has burned up some of their favourite customers. Bronn says he shot a dragon, which gets him some kind of service. But the whores continue to speak of other customers, and Bronn is not a big fan of that conversation, because he’s not paying them for conversation.


Not reading the room at all, Qyburn shows up. He was sent by Cersei to find Bronn. One of the whores flirts with Qyburn, who casually remarks that she will die of some (venereal) disease within a year. Qyburn is there to discuss the Jaime situation, by which I mean how Jaime promised Bronn a castle and then Jaime left town and therefore Bronn is back to being without a castle. Qyburn is here to pay Bronn a lot of gold. Bronn figures out that Cersei wants him to put a hit on someone. Two someones, actually: Jaime and Tyrion, if they don’t die from other causes. Qyburn says, just based on his own life, that Cersei does really richly reward those who do her good service, imploring Bronn to take a particular crossbow (... Cersei, it has been mentioned, often thinks of exactly how she wants her enemies to die). Bronn takes the crossbow, agreeing to kill Tyrion and Jaime.

Speaking of Queens in King’s Landing...

In the Queen’s chambers, apparently Cersei and Euron boned. Since the show really really really has not been that interested in having Cersei use sex as a bargaining chip for power, this seems kind of weird, but book Cersei would be all about this, because she knows from experience that men are easy to control.


A L S O in GoT #67, Cersei made a big show of being pregnant, to the point of refusing to drink wine. Here she is drinking wine. Something happened; either Cersei never was pregnant and she was lying, the pregnancy was lost, or she ended the pregnancy. As none of these are mentioned, I have no clue what I’m supposed to think, and this entire scene is really weird.

In their post-coital discussion, she is still annoyed she didn’t get elephants. Euron wants to know how he compares to Robert Baratheon. Cersei says Robert was not good in bed. Euron wants to know how he compares to Jaime. Cersei at first looks like she doesn’t want to talk about it, and Euron looks back at her like “come on, we all know”, and Cersei continues to act as if this open secret is somehow a risky thing for Euron to talk about. She deflects from answering. Somehow these two are hitting it off, she claims she likes his arrogance. But she wants to be alone now, after she’s given him a sample of what he wants.

So, in response, as a completely normal thing to do, Euron feels her abdomen and says that he’s going to put a prince in her belly. And she doesn’t make any comment, and he walks away, and after he does her emotions break, just for a moment. Just for a moment she looks as displeased with this situation as she really is. Evidence that she lost her pregnancy since the previous episode?


Greyjoy antics

Back at the Silence, people start getting arrows in their heads. The arrows are being delivered by Theon and two Ironborn archers. They’re there to rescue Yara! Do you remember when Yara tried to rescue Theon and couldn’t because the plot wouldn’t let her? Well don’t worry, the show will just continue downgrading Yara, a fairly competent warrior, at the expense of logic. Yara quite rightly headbutts Theon for abandoning her. Then she extends a hand to get him up. He takes it and the Greyjoy theme plays loudly.

The scene skips to the next morning. Three Greyjoy ships are somewhere. Yara says that Euron can’t defend the Iron Islands. The camera shows that she’s talking to Theon on the deck of one of these ships, telling him that they can take their home back. Theon says that Daenerys went North, Yara says that if the North can’t be held, they’ll need a place to retreat to. Somewhere the dead can’t go. Theon figures out what his sister apparently figured out a while ago, and says that he will go where she commands. Yara realizes that Theon doesn’t want to go to Pyke, she asks if he wants to go to Winterfell to fight for the Starks. He doesn’t want to admit it, but, yes. She bids him to go. They have a moment, and after repeating the Drowned God’s words at one another, she tells him to kill the [undead] bastards anyway.


Winterfell is getting crowded

Northerners are gathering at Winterfell. Yohn Royce is the person greeting them when they get there. Varys drops their name (the Karstarks), Tyrion says that their sigil is one of the better ones, and just to spite Davos who is standing right there, says it’s way better than an onion. Davos would argue with that. I kind of agree with Davos, I think an onion is a cool sigil.

Davos points out that the Karstarks and Starks are, after some earlier conflict, getting along so smoothly because they both united under Jon Snow. They know Jon, they don’t know Daenerys. Neither do the Free Folk, who are as “stubborn as goats” which sounds weird coming from a guy who used to work for Stannis. He tells Tyrion that the only way to get their loyalty is to earn it. Tyrion stands there for a few moments to figure out how, and then figures out that Davos probably already has an idea. Upstairs, after Tyrion joins him and Varys looking down into the Winterfell courtyard, Davos has a proposal. What if, after the war against the Dead is won, Westeros is ruled by a just woman and an honourable man? I think Davos is proposing that Westeros change its monarchy to a diarchy. Varys doesn’t think that either Jon or Daenerys will listen to lonely old men. Tyrion points out that he’s not that old. ... or at least not as old as Davos. Davos does not point out that he’s married. Varys says that the young ‘respect’ their elders but that this respect is just their way of avoiding a truth that their elders know: that nothing lasts.

During that convo, Jon and Daenerys are standing very close to one another and chatting. Tyrion even admits that they make a handsome couple. So I guess Jon and Daenerys are openly broadcasting that they are an item? Okay cool on them I hope that doesn’t end in tears and heartbreak.

Daenerys and Jon walk some and then Daenerys brings up that Sansa doesn’t like her. Jon says that Sansa doesn’t know her. He also tries to cool things down by saying that Sansa didn’t like him when they were growing up. Daenerys, not wanting to cool things down, reminds Jon that she doesn’t want Sansa to be her friend, she wants Sansa to be her loyal subject, who will obey her rule. Jon gets the message. Daenerys says something about “if she can’t respect me” but then noise from Dothraki interrupts what she was going to say.


Two Dothraki have words for Daenerys. They are keeping track of what her dragons are eating. Today it’s “only eighteen goats and eleven sheep.” Daenerys doesn’t like that answer, Jon (who didn’t learn Dothraki yet, come on Jon, you gotta learn Dothraki to impress her) asks what’s wrong, Daenerys says that the dragons are barely eating.

CGI budget overload

Daenerys and Jon walk up a hill to where Drogon and Rhaegal have been eating. There is indeed a number of carcasses on the ground. ... most of them look too big to be goats or sheep? Maybe it’s a weird camera perspective thing. Jon asks what’s wrong with them, Daenerys says they don’t like the North, Rhaegal gets closer to Jon, and Daenerys climbs to be on top of Drogon. Daenerys tells Jon “Go on!” as if climbing onto the back of a dragon is a thing he knows how to do.

Jon: I don’t know how to ride a dragon.
Daenerys: Nobody does, until they ride a dragon.
Jon: What if he doesn’t want me to?
Daenerys: Then I’ve enjoyed your company, Jon Snow.


Jon fumbles his way onto Rhaegal and grabs onto the dragon’s neck-frill-thing. And pretty soon, Jon Snow is flying on a friggin dragon, while his aunt watches, approvingly. She also takes to the air. Jon/Rhaegal fly past Winterfell a few times. Tyrion, Davos, and Varys watch. Dany/Drogon pass them, and suddenly there’s a dragon chase, and does this classify as foreplay? Am I watching foreplay between an aunt and her nephew right now? Game of Thrones why you do this to me. Anyway this dragon-chase-as-foreplay sequence probably cost 8 million dollars to animate (but also actually somehow doesn’t have very good greenscreen CGI, by which I mean Rhaegal in particular looks really out of place?) so here’s your reminder that Game of Thrones has 47 Emmy awards. Jon eventually stops pursuing Daenerys and chooses a landing place, Daenerys follows.


Jon led her to a really cool waterfall area. Daenerys notices that it is very very secluded. Jon knows ladies like hydrology.

Jon: It’s cold up here for a Southern girl.
Daenerys: So keep your Queen warm.

And they make out. Until Drogon and Rhaegal make noise, but then Daenerys says don’t be afraid and they go back to making out. And Jon looks back at Drogon and Drogon is staring back like the world’s scariest protective pet. The scene cuts away but I think we’re supposed to assume Daenerys and Jon bone in front of her dragons. I’m not here to kink shame Targaryens.


Ardry shippers rejoice

Back in Winterfell, Gendry is back to working as a blacksmith. He’s helping the smiths at Winterfell make dragonglass weapons. Someone asks for Gendry. The someone is Sandor, who earlier requested a dragonglass axe. Gendry gladly provides Sandor with his new weapon. Gendry wants to say he’s really good at smithing, Sandor brings up that Free Folk smiths are not of a high social standing (“cripples and cocksuckers” is his exact very problematic wording), Arya shows up and interrupts these two men who have both had some kind of impact on her life. Sandor looks and sounds impressed by how Arya is not at all intimidated by him anymore and he leaves, axe in hand. Arya tells Gendry he made a good axe and that he’s gotten better, Gendry says that Arya has also gotten better, and that she looks good, and she says thanks, “so do you”.


Gendry realizes the awkwardness of the situation so he goes back to small talk about how it’s cold in the North, Arya tells him that if it’s cold he should stay by the forge, he asks if that’s a command from Lady Stark, she tells him not to call her that, he says as you wish milady, she smiles. She actually came here with a weapon request; she drew up a quick schematic of what she wants. He wants to know why she wants it, she wants to know if he can make it, he is still confused on why she needs another weapon, particularly after she shows him her Valyrian steel dagger. He assumes it’s a rich girl thing. He doesn’t verbally agree to make the weapon but he also doesn’t say no so I guess he agreed.

Sansa and Jon chat more

Sansa is reading a scroll. Jon visits her. She summarizes the scroll: Lord Glover wishes them the best but him and his men are staying in Deepwood Motte. Jon quotes Lord Glover as earlier saying that House Glover would stand behind House Stark. Sansa corrects him: Lord Glover said he would stand behind Jon Snow, the King in the North. This is apparently the first time Jon and Sansa have had the opportunity to talk? Jon says that when he left he said he’d bring allies, Sansa says he didn’t say he’d abandon his crown. Jon says he never wanted a crown and that he came back North with two armies and two dragons. Sansa adds the last line: and a Targaryen Queen. Jon thinks they cannot win against the Dead without Daenerys, and that titles don’t matter if they lose. Sansa doesn’t have words. Jon asks if Sansa has any faith in him, Sansa says yep, Jon insists that Daenerys will be a good Queen for all of Westeros.

Jon: She’s not her father.
Sansa: No, she’s much prettier.
(Jon laughs)
Did you bend the knee to save the North, or because you love her?


And Jon does not answer! Next scene! No time to dwell!

Daenerys is good at delivering news

Daenerys and Jorah are exploring the ... library? of Winterfell. Here they meet Samwell, who is, as always, flustered and charming. Daenerys is here to thank Samwell for saving Jorah’s life. She looks forward to rewarding him after she wins the war for Westeros, but she also wants to know if he wants anything now. He does. He wants a pardon for stealing books from the Citadel. He also stole a sword. From the Tarlys. He mentions that the sword was in House Tarly for a while so it would have been his eventually, since he’s Samwell. Tarly. Did he mention that his last name is Tarly?


Daenerys remembers the last name Tarly... and asks if he’s talking about Randyll Tarly, to which he says yep. Daenerys very indirectly tells Samwell she gave the command to her dragon to burn his father to death for not bending the knee to her rule. Samwell finds a silver lining to the news that his father has been burned to ash: now that his brother’s the lord of that house, he’ll be welcome there!


Samwell does not have any positive response to that news, other than thanking her for giving him the news. He leaves in a daze, almost walking in front of a horse-drawn cart. Bran is out there staring, Samwell goes over to ask him what he’s doing out in the courtyard. Bran says he’s waiting for an old friend (Samwell, in this case), and that it’s time for Samwell to tell Jon the truth. Samwell wants to not be responsible for that, he wants Bran to tell him, because Bran is figuratively Jon’s brother. Bran disagrees because Bran’s role is to act like an alien, and he insists it has to be Samwell, and that now is the time.

Samwell is good at delivering news

Jon is in the crypts of Winterfell, paying respects to a statue of Ned, who he still very very falsely believes is his dad. Common mistake. The quiet is ended by Samwell falling down somehow (physical comedy never hurt this show) and while Samwell is apologetic about being down there, Jon doesn’t care about the slight and embraces his Night’s Watch brother. Jon did not know Samwell was in Winterfell, or that Samwell had left the Citadel. Samwell doesn’t look well. Jon asks if there’s something wrong with Gilly and/or Sam (they get name-checked this episode, but never seen), Samwell assures Jon they’re okay, but Samwell wants to talk about something else.


He wants to talk about how Daenerys killed his dad and brother. Jon looks kind of shocked (?!??!?!??!?!?!??!!?!?!) that his dragon-using Queen who is really insistent about bending the knee might kill prisoners. A lot of emotions run through Jon’s face before he settles on telling Samwell that he’s sorry and that “we need to end this war”, as if the reason why Randyll and Dickon died was because they were combatants against Daenerys, not (as Samwell just literally said) prisoners of Daenerys who she decided to burn to death in some weird Targaryen meta-ritual.

Samwell asks if Jon would have made the same decision. Jon acknowledges that he has killed men who disobeyed him. Samwell says that he’s also spared men, in particular thousands of Free Folk when they refused to kneel. Jon says that he wasn’t a King. Samwell says that he was, he always has been a King. Jon thinks he means King in the North and that he gave up his crown, and he starts to walk away, insisting he is not King anymore.

Samwell is not talking about that, and he says that Jon is the King “of the bloody Seven Kingdoms”. This stops Jon, who turns around to listen. Samwell says that Bran and him figured it out: that Jon’s mother was Lyanna Stark, and that his father was Rhaegar Targaryen. Jon’s face changes to one of “uh oh” around then. Samwell continues that Jon is not a Snow, he’s a Targaryen, in particular Aegon Targaryen, true-born heir to the Iron Throne. Samwell says sorry and that it’s a lot to take.

Jon ... does not take the information well. He thinks Samwell is insulting the honour of Ned; “are you saying he lied to me my entire life?” Samwell insists that Ned promised to Lyanna to keep this secret, and that that kept Jon alive because Robert Baratheon would have killed any Targaryen. Jon is Aegon Targaryen, sixth of his name. Samwell is extrapolating a bit here: Jon would not be Aegon VI Targaryen until he was actually crowned King, but Samwell is just making Jon sound as impressive as possible.

Jon still seems not to take the announcement well, he kind of half-awarely stumbles away from Samwell and reflects for a few seconds before mentioning that Daenerys is Queen. Samwell says that Daenerys “shouldn’t” be (based on his understanding of Westerosi lines of succession), Jon says that’s treason (!?!??), Samwell says that’s the truth, and he asks if Daenerys would willingly give up her crown in the same way that Jon did. Jon, for the second time in this episode, doesn’t immediately answer, and the scene changes again. Dramatic cuts are a great way to create narrative tension (ASoIaF has a few of its own...), even in situations where there is little-to-no actual tension.


Screaming wight 2019

The episode hadn’t checked in with its most northern characters yet, so now they get a scene. Tormund, Beric, and a handful of unnamed extras wander into a building at night. The outside lighting suggests that they are still fairly close to the Wall. There doesn’t seem to be anyone alive there, but Tormund and Beric take out their swords, ready to fight if anything comes their way. Their group carefully wanders through the building; they suspect something is here.

Something makes a noise! The group gets against the walls of a hallway, bracing for a fight. The something keeps making a noise! Something is walking their way. The TB group yells to face their opponents ... who are some Night’s Watch guys, led by Dolorous Edd! Edd is worried that Tormund is a wight because he has blue eyes. Tormund assures Edd that he’s always had blue eyes and is not a wight. Apparently Edd was sent out to find other survivors of the fall of the Wall. When Beric asks if he found anyone, he kind of non-verbally answers that he found something.

So Edd, Beric, and Tormund go to explore what Edd found. Beric, thankfully, has a flaming sword to use as a torch, because this setting is really dark and I don’t want to increase the contrast on my computer monitor. The three of them find Lord Umber. He is very much not alive, by which I mean his corpse is staked to a wall along with human limbs which have been put into a swirl-like symbol. Because the Others White Walkers do that. That must mean this location is Last Hearth, glad the episode mentioned it earlier. Tormund correctly IDs this as the Umber boy, Beric says it’s a message from the Night King (how does he know?), Tormund says that the Night King is between them and Winterfell. Edd says that his group rode from Castle Black (how did they know to go to Last Hearth?) (wait did Edd’s group and the TB group both independently decide to go to Last Hearth or did they somehow coordinate that?) and they could double up on horses to get to Winterfell. Around then is when the young Lord Umber decides to wake up and super creepily scream because, surprise, he’s actually a wight that was commanded not to move or scream until enough humans were in the room. Beric plunges his flaming sword into the wight, the wight alights, and the three adults wait in the room while the child wight loses the last of his hit points to fire damage over time.


Jaime’s not dead, folks!

Meanwhile, in winter town, a very steady stream of Northerners and Free Folk are going to Winterfell. Among them is a cloaked figure on horseback. The cloaked figure on horseback makes his way into the courtyard of Winterfell, puts his horse near a hitching post, and then reveals his identity: it’s Jaime, who dyed his hair. Take a shot if you were surprised it’s Jaime, saying as how he was the biggest member of the cast who hadn’t shown up already in the episode. Jaime looks around the courtyard and Bran is staring at him. Jaime eventually realizes who this young man in a chair is, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau reminds the audience that he is really trying to win an Emmy.


Assorted musings

  • Brienne is present but has no lines of dialogue. She isn’t even always standing around Sansa, which is supposed to be her job, she’s supposed to be protecting Lady Sansa. I understand that her character would probably stay in Winterfell, near Lady Sansa, but the lack of dialogue is odd, particularly saying as how she went all the way to King’s Landing in GoT #67. She was Sansa’s eyes and ears at the giant meeting between the three remaining factions of Westeros. Did she have any observations about that meeting? Any comment? No comment? Okay whatever.
  • When staff changes at io9 happened last year, I was interested in seeing who would get assigned to write episodic reviews of Game of Thrones this year. I find the decision they made to be interesting.
  • This episode actually features a lot of the remaining cast of the show. In terms of Tier 2 characters who remain, I would count Melisandre as the only one who neither appears nor gets a name check.
  • Of all the shipping fandoms I expected this episode to make significant gestures towards, Ardry was not the one.

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