WARNING: AND WHO are you, the proud lord said, that I must spoil this show, only a cat of a different code, would not warn you what we know…
So Jon Snow’s back. and we can never trust anything any member of the cast or production team say ever again.
We all knew it would happen sooner or later. I expected it to be a few episodes later, but it turned out that only two episodes on the slab and an inconsistent haircut were enough to resurrect The Special. While I was swept up in the emotion of the moment, I’d be lying if I said I found his resurrection to be interestingly written. I thought he would rise from the pyre in full Targaryen glory, but instead we just needed Melisandre to give him a spongebath and say “please”. Jon’s resurrection is inevitable in the books, now more than ever, but George’s choice of method must surely be more complicated and less immediate.
I assume many people wondered whether the Jon we knew and (debatably – TV Ed.) loved would return. Harington conveyed fear, cynicism and physical setbacks thanks to all those stabbies but otherwise he seems to be pretty much the same guy, which is peculiar given George’s insistence that coming back from death will irreparably change you. One thing is definite though: this Jon is not merciful, even to the late lamented Olly who hung alongside the rest of the Watch’s officers. Olly could have been redeemed, he was still young. I was never on the “Fuck Olly” bandwagon, especially compared to how resolutely I was on the “Fuck Thorne” bandwagon.
There were many more traitors than the four named conspirators who choked out their last, but it seems that only the commanders were executed for their crime (apart from Olly but we just covered that) and every other man who followed Thorne has bent the knee to Jon. Thorne, as much as we hate him, has been played by the fantastic Owen Teale since the first season. I’ll miss him in the same way I miss Charles Dance and Jack Gleeson despite their characters’ flaws. After all that, Jon handed over command to Dolorous Edd (whose promotion was likely awarded because we don’t know anyone else’s name) his sights seem to be set on a greater enemy: the bastard who seized his home.
Talking of the bastard, Daddy-Shanker Ramsay (why is there so much kinslaying this season!?) and his buddy Karstark are visited by the Smalljon Umber, whose father the Greatjon was the first to declare Robb Stark King of the North. The Umbers are annoyingly following the same logic as the unmourned Alliser Thorne; Wildlings south of the wall are such an affront to their Northern customs that the White Walkers are being ignored entirely. Smalljon brought Ramsay three gifts; a now pubescent Rickon Stark, his Wildling caretaker Osha, and the head of his direwolf Shaggydog. I admit to being disappointed at Shaggydog’s off-screen slaughtering, as much sense as it makes, because the contrast between the most aggressive and protective wolf and the gentlest Stark is one of the few things which makes book-Rickon interesting. Rickon’s placement at Winterfell will hopefully be less rapey than Sansa’s was and Ramsay could do with playing the political game more cleverly than he has to this point. But I doubt it. Welcome back, Rickon… you’re old enough to be tortured without alienating HBO’s audience now.
A scene which got book fans very excited finally appeared on-screen in this episode, but sadly we only saw half of what we wanted to see. The flashback to the events at the Tower of Joy, which were cryptically described in Ned’s chapters of the very first book twenty years ago, finally arrived in this episode. Not only did we see a very impressive take on Baby Ned but we saw our first glimpse of Meera and Jojen’s father Howland Reed, the only surviving witness to these events and of Ser Arthur Dayne, Rhaegar’s greatest swordsman. Arthur Dayne and his sister Ashara are both posthumous characters in the series but are very popular among fans, as is their ancestral sword Dawn. In this iteration, Arthur Dayne was shown dual-wielding and fighting four men at once, which book fans are probably up in arms about but it makes a convenient shorthand for “this guy you’ve never seen before is a bad-ass” and looked too cool to dismiss. The most famous of all fan-theories came close to being confirmed in this episode, but the Three-Eyed Raven went all “spoiler alert” on us and pulled Bran out of the flashback before he could follow his father into the tower. We’ll almost certainly see the rest of these events eventually. Jon Targaryen is difficult to deny; plenty of people cling to the theory that Ashara Dayne and Ned, but R+L=J is as good as confirmed here in the show.
In such a dark episode, we were rewarded some light relief in Meereen. In the first of two scenes, Varys interrogated the prostitute, revealed to be named Vala, who lured White Rat into a Harpy Trap back in the first episode of Season 5. Varys is my favourite character and he hasn’t had a scene this long in several seasons. We didn’t find much out but the extent of Varys’ bribe suggests this isn’t the end of this scene.. The last time we saw Varys make this sort of offer, it was to Shae. Hopefully Vala will make the right choice and trust our favourite cockless Spider.
In the second Meereen drop-in, Tyrion tried to have a chilled discussion over drinks with Missandei and Grey Worm. The results were awkward, hilarious and showed a great contrast between Tyrion and Daenerys. Dany is all-business while the older, more privileged (and male) Tyrion relies on charisma and banter to command the room. Missandei and Grey Worm are both lifelong slaves who have found themselves in positions of power far beyond their station. No wonder Tyrion has such a hard time getting them to sit back and knock back some goblets of wine. These character moments are what made Thrones so invigorating in its early action-light seasons and made Tyrion its break-out star, more please!
Arya Stark, made some serious montage-based progress this episode and was rewarded with her returned eyesight. Arya’s vision being returned was, like Jon’s resurrection, an inevitable and predictable twist but yet again it’s not one I feel was earned. Arya didn’t go on a single mission using her new tricks (sadly cutting short the Daredevil running gags, sorry – TV Ed.). Arya’s training montage was blended with a Game of Faces where the Waif makes her talk about her true self as a separate entity. We got a nifty mention of The Hound and some bad-ass moments, but it again feels like a moment of entertaining television in lieu of provocative literature.
I don’t have much commentary to give on the drop-ins with Sam and Gilly or Daenerys, both of which were expository set-ups for where they’re headed next. All that leaves us with is Kings Landing, where it seems all too likely that while Cersei threatens violence with the Zombie Mountain(which is a no less ridiculous term to use than the pseudonym Robert Strong) the High Sparrow will kill her efforts with kindness. His religious mumbo-jumbo about the Seven is meaningless to us as earlier Jon said there is nothing on the other side, but he’s already started to get through to Margaery and now Tommen seems to be swayed. Jonathan Pryce is one of the world’s finest actors and even among this stellar cast he stands out, not to mention he’s now in the opening titles so don’t expect him to make an early exit.
The story of Margaery’s possible radicalisation is very promising and a welcome turn in events, as the Lannisters and Tyrells are once again begrudging allies. The Queen of Thorns returned in this episode, as did her son Mace, and both are chatting it up with Uncle Kevan’s Small Council. Cersei and Jaime are both entitled to sit with the Council but neither seem able to sway their elders. These are the scenes which remind me of good old Game of Thrones politics, with the frail Maester Pycelle still whinging about the same petty grievances and Qyburn replacing Varys by borrowing the same old tricks to manipulate the “little birds” with promises of sweets.
The preview for Episode 4, apart from taking us further in the storylines from Episode 3, shows Theon returning to Pyke, Team Sansa arriving at Castle Black, Littlefinger visiting Robyn and the Royces and Jorah and Daario arriving at Vaes Dothrak, all propelling the story further forward. We’re barely into the season and some storylines are already past the points we could safely predict, so it’s anybody’s guess what happens now. One thing is certain though: Jon Snow has risen and Bastardbowl is about to begin.