After the disastrous events of last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, in which we lost Hodor, the Children of the Forest and the Three Eyed Raven at the White Walkers’ hands, this Sunday’s instalment finally gave poor Bran some good news… well, sorta good news.
It appears as though Bran is stuck in psychic time space. He’s zipping through the past, from when he was pushed from the tower at Winterfell to even the Mad King Aerys yelling “BURN THEM ALL!” in the Red Keep, before the big war that started everything. Just as all looked lost for Bran and Meera, the two were dramatically saved from attacking wights by a mysterious figure — and that figure turned out to be Bran’s long-lost uncle, Benjen Stark. In case you are asking “who the hell is that?’,Benjen Stark is Ned Stark’s younger brother, and the last surviving member of that previous generation of the Stark family. But we will talk more about him later.
To the south, Sam and Gilly (and little Sam) arrive at Sam’s childhood home, where the last time he was home, he wasn’t treated so well, so it’s an understatement to say that Sam is pretty nervous. The Night’s Watchman has a cover story in mind: Little Sam is his son, and Gilly is a gal he met up North. She can’t be a Wildling, though. Randyll Tarly hates Wildlings. Sam’s mother and sister give them a warm welcome, sure, and Gilly is blown away by it all.
When it comes time for dinner, Sam and Gilly put on their best appearances, but Randyll gives them the stink eye. The old man isn’t too pleased to hear that Sam isn’t even good at hunting squirrels and rabbits. Nor is he happy to see Sam opt to take more bread. “Not fat enough already?” he tells the young man. “I thought the Night’s Watch might make a man out of you,” he piles on, clearly implying that, no, Sam isn’t measuring up after all. When Gilly defends Sam, Randyll deduces that she is a wildling and becomes outraged. He says he will let Gilly stay and work in the kitchen, but Sam must leave at first light. Later, Sam decides he cannot leave Gilly and her son with his father, so he leaves his family home, but not before stealing his family’s Valyrian steel sword. Now we know how important Valyrian steel can be, especially when it comes to defeating White Walkers, and at my count, the current owners of Valyrian steel swords are Jon, Brienne, Tommen and now Sam.
In King’s Landing, Tommen is finally able to speak with Margaery. She is all set to make the walk of atonement, just like Cersei. She seems to have finally fallen under the sway of the Sparrows and tells Tommen the gods have a plan for all of them. It’s hard to tell if this is a fake out, or if the High Sparrow has finally worn her down
Back across the narrow sea, Arya is still tasked with killing Lady Crane,who plays Cersai in the acting troupe we met last week. Despite some misgivings, she poisons Crane’s rum as instructed. I do think there is certain irony here as the real Cersai has been on Arya’s “Death List” for some time.
But when Crane catches her as she’s leaving, they strike up a conversation and become friendly. Arya can’t let her drink the poison and tells Crane that her understudy paid to have her killed. Knowing that the Faceless Men (and specifically the Waif) will kill her for doing so, she retrieves Needle from its hiding place and flees.The girl has a name, and it is Arya!
Returning to the real Kingslanding, Jaime meets the Tyrell army as it marches into the city. They arrive at the Sept of Baelor just as Margaery is set to make her walk of shame. After a tense stand-off, the High Sparrow announces there will be no walk, but then reveals that Tommen has fallen under his grasp. Tommen announces that the crown and the faith will be united going forward to help rule the kingdom. This is met with wild cheers from the crowd, but a look of disbelief from Jamie and Lady Olenna (and confusion from Lord Tyrell). For marching on the Sept, Jaime is stripped of his rank and position in the King’s Guard.
Jaime is tasked with travelling to the Riverlands to find and kill the Blackfish. He wants to give Bronn a bag of gold and get him to gather a team of mercenaries to kill the High Sparrow, but Cersei tells him to take charge of the Lannister army and do his duty. hopefully this means we get to see another Bronn and Jamie roadtrip, I’ve missed Bronn so far this season.
Bran comes out of his vision to learn that his long-lost uncle, Benjen Stark has returned. He tells Bran that he was almost killed by a White Walker north of the wall, but the children of the forest found him and saved him.He tells Bran he has to become the new Three Eyed Raven as the Night King will cross the wall, and he will need to be ready to stop him. No pressure then Bran.
The episode ends with Daenerys leading the Dothraki to Meereen. She is discussing how she will need 1,000 ships to bring her armies to Westeros when she rides ahead of the group and returns atop her dragon, Drogon. She declares that all the Dothraki are the blood of her blood and will help her destroy her enemies across the sea. No where will she get the 1,000 ships…
Now before we go I just ant to touch on the significance of Benjen’s return, and not the fact that he is in essence a “Good” White Walker. You might remember this Season 1 scene (the sun is shining at the Wall! Kit Harrington’s hair is so short!) between Jon and his uncle where Benjen says he’s leaving to investigate “disturbing reports.” It’s possible Benjen is returning after years away with some pertinent White Walker intel. But, more compellingly, the clip ends with Benjen echoing the last words Ned Stark said to Jon Snow in the pilot. “Next time we see each other,” Ned said, ”we’ll speak about your mother. I promise.” Benjen told Jon:
Unlike Ned, Benjen may actually be in a position now to make good on his promise. Could Benjen be returning to finally reveal the truth behind Jon Snow’s parentage? It seems like all of the flashbacks of young Ned this season—including the one in this episode—are leading up to that. It would be a tidy closing of a loop for Uncle Benjen to be the one to help deliver the news. And once Jon Snow knows who his parents truly are, there could be nothing holding him back from rallying the North.