This week marks the return of a whole bunch of characters we haven’t seen in a long time, which is cool. Also, there’s anti-climactic developments in two major storylines that we’ve been hoping for ages would finally amount to something. Which is less cool, in my opinion.
Well, that was a bit disappointing. Since the previous two episodes were so incredibly action-packed I was expecting a slower one this week, but I was still hoping for more than what we got here. It’s not that it’s bad, just… uneventful. It moves some of the pieces on the board, but none of them collide with each other. In fact, in the one instance where we were expecting a long-awaited collision, the rug got pulled out from under us and now it seems we’ll have to wait even longer to get that sweet, bloody satisfaction we’ve all been craving. I’m talking about King’s Landing, obviously, so let’s start with that one.
Last time we saw them, Jaime and Cersei had finally convinced the Tyrells to get their butt in gear and this week we see an army marching on the Sparrows. Margaery is about to start her Walk of Atonement, but then Jaime and Mace Tyrell roll up. They demand that she and Loras be handed over safely or there will be… trouble. The High Sparrow starts to protest, making us rub our hands together in gleeful anticipation. Surely the carnage will kick off any second now! But then it doesn’t. Instead, Tommen comes down the stairs and announces that he has united the Crown and the Faith. There will be no carnage in King’s Landing tonight (nor anywhere else, in fact – not a single person dies this episode) and to make matters worse Jaime gets kicked out of the Kingsguard and out of King’s Landing, robbing him of the chance to finally do something cool again.
It’s not that I mind this type of surprise; the ability to surprise has in fact always been one of the show’s greatest strengths. But I feel like the Sparrows have been around for quite long enough, they’ve started to wear out their welcome. It would’ve been the perfect moment to get rid of the fuckers and move on to more interesting things, but I guess we’re stuck with them for a while yet. I’m hoping Cersei will be driven to some extreme measures soon, possibly even directly against Tommen himself. I can tell you I would greatly enjoy that, because that gullible weakling has become almost as unlikeable as Joffrey was during his nastiest moments.
The other thing this episode that I thought could have been handled more efficiently is Arya quitting the order of the Faceless Men. I’ve been saying for weeks that I did not expect her to complete her training, but I did expect the moment where she finally makes that decision to be more dramatic than this. Her scenes this season have been a little repetitive and I hoped they were building up to something big to make it all worthwhile. Instead, she’s simply tasked with poisoning someone yet again, and because the person she’s supposed to kill turns out to be a reasonably cool chick, she refuses to do it. Which is about the most generic and uninteresting way her training could have ended, especially since they took so long to get to that conclusion. Between this episode and the one from last week we’ve been forced to watch about 20 minutes of that goddamn stage play, and what purpose did it serve? To remind Arya of her past, of the people that still need killing? And then she spies on the actors backstage a couple times, which makes her realize that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable killing good people. Although expected, it’s a perfectly fine development for her character, but it’s hard to deny it could have been handled faster or in a more interesting way. Let’s say she does go ahead with killing the friendly actress in a gut-wrenching scene, and she’s so completely wrecked over what she’s done that she decides to quit. Wouldn’t that have been much more satisfying dramatically?
I will admit it’s nice to see her dig up Needle again from the spot where she hid it all the way back at the beginning of season five. It means an end to all this passive training bullshit and we’ll finally get to see her kick some ass. Although, aside from slightly improved stick-fighting skills, I’m not sure how much her ass-kicking has improved because of her training. It’s not like she’s an ultimate assassin now; the Waif was still beating the crap out of her every time they sparred. Speaking of which, the Waif has been sent to kill her and seems almost giddy to be given that chance. Guess there’s a little jealousy there, huh? After all, Arya was always Jaqen’s favorite. Even when he gives the go ahead for her execution, he does it reluctantly and insists that Arya won’t suffer. Yeah, I wouldn’t expect that order to be followed, pal.
While it will be fun to see Arya go up against the Waif for real and win, the real drama in this storyline will come from a confrontation with Jaqen. She’s got some real history with that guy, it’ll be a shame to see her kill him. She will though (using the Waif’s face to distract him, perhaps?), because I bet she’ll want to bring some of those handy faces along with her to Westeros. It would mean she at least gets something out of the whole ordeal – a weapon she could have some fun with back home.
Know who else picks up a weapon? Samwell Tarly! Him and Gilly get a few long scenes this episode, showing us how awful his dad really is after just talking about it all this time. At first I felt there wasn’t much point to all this stuff, especially since it’s carried out in such a generic way. There’s no depth to Randyll Tarly; he’s just your basic grumpy old fart who wishes his son had been a warrior and spends his time being cartoonishly cruel to him, choosing to ignore his long list of achievements that would have impressed literally anyone else. Check out this funny comic from dorkly.com, which about sums it up:
It wasn’t until the end of the episode when Sam decides to steal the Valyrian steel sword that I finally understood the point of all this nonsense. They’ll need to have all these swords ready in play for the final battle against the Night King, and they need to spread the discoveries out a bit. It would feel too much like a deus ex machina if they just pull all these Valyrian steel swords out of their asses at the last second. I do wonder why Sam took the sword. Did he realize how important it is, or did he just want to mess with his dad a bit because he’s such an asshole? And for a guy who wants to protect his woman and her baby from harm at all costs, he seems a bit too nonchalant about the fact that his father will definitely come after them. “He can bloody well try!” he says, clearly not giving a single fuck that he just put them all in terrible danger. Way to go, dude. When you’re standing knee deep in the blood of your loved ones, at least you’ll find comfort in knowing you got one over on your dad.
What else happened this episode? There’s Bran and Meera meeting up with Coldhands, that was pretty cool. Especially since the show has decided to reveal his identity as Benjen Stark, which is something that George R.R. Martin has specifically stated is NOT the case in the books. It feels natural though; there’s a reason it’s been a popular fan theory for such a long time. I love that they got the original actor back as well, wouldn’t have had much impact otherwise. I do have lots of unanswered questions about Benjen, like where has he been all this time, what’s he been doing? Season 1 is a long time ago, seems like it could’ve been useful if he’d gone back to Castle Black a little earlier and warn everyone of what’s coming. I bet he has a great reason for staying away though. It’ll give them something to chat about during next week’s episode.
Hey, and look! There’s even more familiar faces that we haven’t seen in a long time. Walder Frey shows up, giving everyone a useful reminder of who he his and what he’s done while yelling at his stupid sons. Aside from bringing the viewers back up to speed, the point of this scene is to set up the other side of the conflict that’s going to take place at Riverrun. As you’ll remember, that’s the place where the Blackfish currently resides and where Sansa, Jon, Brienne and the Wildings are travelling to. Now we know they’ll be facing the Freys (who are still holding Edmure hostage) and also the Lannisters, because after that whole business with the Sparrows Jaime has been dispatched to Riverrun as well. So there’s many major players converging in one place, yet I doubt it will result in a lot of action. Don’t forget the main set-piece this year will be the battle against the Boltons, which apparently is the biggest thing the show has ever done. To expect another huge battle just before it in the Riverlands seems like wishful thinking.
Oh shit, do you know what I just realized? Brienne and Jaime are now both on their way to the Riverlands, and the Freys mentioned the Brotherhood without Banners being there as well. Meaning it’s starting to look an awful lot like they’re heading into the events from the books… events in which one Lady Stoneheart played a part. I’ve always been glad that it seemed like that storyline would be ignored on the show, because, you know, it’s fucking stupid. But recently they’ve been introducing lots of stuff from the books that we thought they’d skipped, so who knows… Anyone know what the actress who would be playing that part is up to these days? Does it seem like she’d have time in her schedule?
Last up this week is Daenerys, in a scene that feels like a forced way to have the episode go out on a bang by throwing some cool CGI at us. There’s not much point to it, except for showing us that Dany has now truly mastered dragon-riding and has full control over Drogon. Aside from that she’s just giving another one of her speeches, convincing the Dothraki they should follow her, even though they already seemed pretty convinced two weeks ago. Oh yeah, and there’s this quick little exchange that made me chuckle:
Dany: “Yo, how many ships do you think I’ll need to bring all these horse dudes to Westeros?”
Daario: “Maybe, like, a thousand? That sounds about right.”
A thousand? Where the hell would she get that many ships? Would it be from the characters that, just a short while ago, were talking about a fleet of exactly that size? Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of Dany working with the Greyjoys, it’s just that this is a pretty on the nose way of letting us know things are moving in that direction. The show has definitely known subtler moments.
And so ends the sixth episode of the sixth season. Undeniably the weakest ep so far this year, but – I hurry to mention – it was still engaging stuff all the way through. Just a little less exciting than we’ve come to expect. I bet the next one will have more cool shit in store for us though. It kind of has to, there’s just not enough time left in the season to save it all for the very end! Only four eps left to go and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into them.