Battle of the Bastards

[For Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Battle of the Bastards. Latest episode of the hit series.

Did you read BDM’s recap of “No One” from last week? I loved it and decided to steal the format for the extended epic battle that was “Battle of the Bastards.” In that vein…

My Top 8 Favorite quotes from “Battle of the Bastards”:

“Thank you for the armada; our queen does love ships.”

When we left Meereen last week it was under nautical siege by the combined Masters of the other Slaver’s Bay cities. Grey Worm dictated that our heroes hole up in the Great Pyramid (the only place he and his Unsullied could reasonably defend)… And then mommy came home.

The Mother of Dragons appeared and all of a sudden there was hope for the lone “Free City” of Slaver’s Bay.

Tyrion asks Dany what her plan is, and she has one:

I will crucify the masters. I will set their fleets afire, kill every one of their soldiers, and return their cities to the dirt. That is my plan.

Tyrion, who Dany keeps around for his wisdom, cautions her against the kind of behavior we might more closely associate with her father; he presents a different strategy. Dany’s court at Meereen parlays with the assembled Masters, who think she is there to discuss terms of her surrender… When in fact it is to be theirs.

Dany sends her dragons — led by a now-enormous Drogon — against the Masters’ armada. Personally, I thought they were going to burn the whole thing into Slaver’s Bay, but they just really, really incinerated one of the ships; prompting Tyrion’s quote. So while Dany lost her ships a few episodes ago, she ended up way, way up on ships by the end of “Battle of the Bastards”.

“You’re going to die tomorrow Lord Bolton. Sleep well.”

Don’t forget that Sansa might call herself a Stark now, but she is a Bolton by marriage (and was previously a Lannister, also by marriage). And you know what they say about Lannisters and debts…

“Did you really think that cunt would fight you man to man?”

Prior to the Second Battle of Winterfell (the eponymous “Battle of the Bastards”, as Jon and Ramsay are both Snows) there is a parlay. Jon suggests that they can save a lot of bloodshed if Ramsay just fights him man to man. Ramsay, of course knowing Jon’s reputation as a master swordsman, declines; he has an army twice the size of the assembled Stark forces.

Jon gets a mental game jab in — a kind of “you have the numbers but how hard will your men fight for you when they find out you wouldn’t fight for them” … But hey, math.

“Rickon is Ned Stark’s true born son, which makes him a greater threat to Ramsay than you, a bastard, or me, a girl.”

Right before Northmen, Wildlings, and Giants start swinging, Ramsay trots out young Rickon Stark. Remember, the heroes don’t necessarily know that Bran is still alive. To the best of their knowledge Rickon is likely the legitimate Warden of the North.

When Ramsay starts making threats about Rickon, Sansa immediately ends the parlay. As Ned’s trueborn son, Rickon is a clear and present threat to Ramsay’s claim on Winterfell. Jon and Sansa might have had a hard time rallying the houses of the North, but Jon is a bastard and Sansa isn’t just a girl — and girl she is — but twice married to her house’s greatest enemies… Lannister and traitorous Bolton. Rickon might be another story.

Ramsay sets Rickon free but tells him to run; run to his brother and the assembled loyal houses. Before he can get to Jon, Ramsay puts an arrow in Rickon’s back. It’s a devastating end to a Stark boy we haven’t seen for several seasons. It also puts Jon on complete tilt, and the charges six thousand men alone, losing even his horse to a Bolton arrow.

“Our fathers were evil men.”

If the Masters’ armada weren’t enough, Dany gets even more ships in “Battle of the Bastards”. Yara and Theon arrive in Meereen with the one hundred best ships of the Ironborn navy, offering them to Dany. They will help transport Dany’s enormous army of Dothraki Bloodriders, Unsullied, and Second Sons to Westeros… and for a less steep price than Uncle Euron would.

Yara and Theon will support Dany’s claim to the Seven Kingdoms, but in return would like the return of the Iron Islands (which it looks like she will oblige, despite Tyrion’s caution that “everyone” might start asking for sovereignty). They would also like Dany to help them murder “an uncle or two; who doesn’t think a woman is fit for the throne.”

Dany and Yara have a short moment; after all, Yara is “up for anything”.

But Dany’s price is steep: The Ironborn will cease reaving and raping, essentially giving up their entire way of life. Yara agrees.

All four of them — Dany, Tyrion, Yara, and Theon — had evil fathers. Tywin was a cruel, cruel man who tortured Tyrion; both the Greyjoy children and Dany had awful kings for dads, megalomaniacs or madmen. Rather than leave the world in a worse place, Dany pledges they will use their assembled power to improve it.

“We’ll just kill our own men! Stand down.”

So horses are smashing into each other. Jon Snow is alone in the center of the battlefield, ready to start swinging his Valyrian Steel sword. Bodies are colliding, both human and equine; there is violence and velocity in every direction, with mud flying and bodies piling up. Ramsay, with superior numbers, just has his archers launching at the scrum of bodies. Who knows who will be hitting what? Davos, from the other side of the field, realizes his men will not be able to aim particularly well, and is much more pragmatic.

“Your words will disappear, your house will disappear, your name will disappear; all memory of you will disappear.”

The Knights of the Vale charge in, essentially worldlessly. We just get an overhead shot of their cavalry effortlessly destroying the Bolton shield wall, Sansa next to Littlefinger.

Ramsay — his army eradicated — retreats to Winterfell, but is pursued by Jon, Tormund, and Wun Wun. Wun Wun gives his life bashing down Winterfell’s front door, finally dying to an arrow in the eye by Ramsay himself. But it’s all over. Jon beats Ramsay unconscious with his fists, and leaves little sister to a last conversation with her doomed husband.

Sansa makes a point throughout that to Jon, Ramsay is just a man, and nowhere near as dangerous an opponent as he has faced in the Night King and his wights. But to her Ramsay was so much more… and none of it good. You have to wonder, though, what the motivation of a man like him is. He’s already Warden of the North; he’s got Winterfell; he had — at various times — “the girl” and the heir to the Salt Throne under his power. Why destroy everyone?

Sansa correctly identified that Ramsay is primarily motivated by a sense of significance. He plays with his food. To him, the thing is never just the thing. Sansa’s words are horrifying to a nobleman. He will not only die, but everything about him — including the name he murdered into — will disappear. He threatens that Sansa will never forget him — can’t ever forget him — but it really looks like he’s going to be proven wrong.

“My hounds will never harm me.”



[For Game of Thrones “No One” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
No One. Jaime weighs his options; Cersei answers a request; Tyrion’s plans bear fruit; Arya faces a new test.

This has been an uneven season for Game of Thrones with the writers plunging into uncharted narrative territory that all fans of the books were nervous we would never get to see. “The Door” was as memorable an episode as any in the entire run. At the same time, as they work without the guidance of the the source material, they have struggled — in my opinion — with tone this season. Scenes have been punctuated with one-liners that sometimes deliver and sometimes land like a fart.

“No One” is the eighth episode in the current season and instead of a traditional recap I am going to break down the episode line by line.

“Trust me, if my soup didn’t kill you nothing will.”Lady Crane

When last we saw Arya she had been stabbed repeatedly in the belly and was fleeing from the Waif who was looking to finish the job. She ends up in the care of Lady Crane, the actress she refused to kill leading to her current predicament. Lady Crane reveals that she has gotten good at tending to wounds by putting holes in the bad men she is so attracted to. She asks Arya to join the troupe but Arya does not want to put her at risk. When Arya attempts to refuse the milk of the poppy, Lady Crane assures her that it can’t be more dangerous than her cooking.

“You’re shit at dying, you know that?” — The Hound

The Hound tracks down some stray grab-ass members of the Brotherhood Without Banners who slaughtered Brother Rey’s flock last week. He dispatches the first three and has the fourth on his knees with his insides falling out. Clegane demands the whereabouts of the leader of the party, the one with the yellow cloak, that killed his friends. “Fuck you!” replies the man. When asked if those are what he really wants to be his last words the man reconsiders and utters “Cunt!” before being finished off by both axe and barb.

“The most famous dwarf in the world.” — Tyrion Lannister


Varys and Tyrion walk through Mereen and marvel as the legend of Daenerys spreads like…well, you know… as the followers of the Lord of Light preach throughout the city. Both would feel better if the actual Mother of Dragons would return. Varys has faith that she will while Tyrion is more skeptical. In the meantime Varys is leaving on a secret mission to Westeros and has to part ways with Tyrion before he boards the ship. It would hardly be wise for him to be seen in the company of the most famous dwarf in all the city. Tyrion corrects him on his phrasing.

“I choose violence.” — Cersei Lannister

Cersei is summoned to appear before the High Septon at the great Sept of Baelor by the sparrows who have come to the Red Keep to fetch her. When she refuses to leave the keep the sparrows move to take her by force. The Mountain steps in their way and Lancel orders him to step aside or face violence. Cersei makes it clear what she prefers and the sparrows flee after The Mountain rips the head off of one of them.

Cersei is counting on The Mountain to defend her against the High Septon’s charges in trial by combat but she learns she has been outmaneuvered again. She may choose violence but it will not be an option as Thommen decrees that the barbaric practice will be no longer be allowed in the Seven Kingdoms while also announcing trial dates for his mother and Loras Tryrell.

“I don’t think you know many girls like her.” — Brienne of Tarth

Brienne and Podrick comes to see Jamie Lannister at his warcamp outside of Riverrun. She wants to offer him an alternative to laying siege. She will approach the Blackfish and offer him a chance to join Sansa’s side in Winterfell and allow Jamie take the castle. Jamie is skeptical of the deal but it willing to let her try. He does not take the sword Oathkeeper back from her despite her completing the task of finding and rescuing Sansa. Jamie is surprised to discover that Sansa is still alive. In his experience girls like her don’t live very long.

Brienne convinces the Blackfish that she does indeed carry word from Sansa but is unable to convince him to join her side. She has failed.

“I make joke.” — Grey Worm

The scene sounds almost like the set up to one of Tyrion’s jokes. The Imp, Grey Worm and Missandei are sitting in the Great Pyramid of Meereen drinking wine. Tyrion is trying to loosen them both up by making them drink wine and tell jokes. Grey Worm professes to not understand jokes — which Missandei has described as “a story…not necessarily a true story” — but when he criticizes her attempt as the worst joke he has ever heard it is revealed that he lied about his experience with humor. He explains that he wasn’t actually lying…

His metajoke is much more successful than either effort by other two and they actually share a laugh. Tyrion is about to launch into what is undoubtedly a much bawdier joke when the call goes out that the city is under siege by a fleet of slavers. The advisors try to figure out the best way to defend the city only to have Daenarys wordlessly appear on the balcony with a dragon of mass destruction flapping its wings in the background.

“I. Love. Cersei.” — Jamie Lannister

Jamie lays things out very simply for Edmure. He is going to take over as the king of his castle and open the gates and let Jamie’s army in without a fight. If he does not do this Jamie is going to bring Edmure’s baby — Catelyn Stark’s nephew — to the frontlines and launch it into the river with a catapult. Jamie makes it abundantly clear there is only one thing he cares about and the sooner he can lay siege to this castle, the sooner he can get back to her.

“I haven’t had a proper swordfight in years. I expect I will make a damn fool of myself.” — The Blackfish

Edmure folds to Jamie’s will and surrenders the castle. The Blackfish helps Brienne and Podrick find their way to a rowboat beneath the castle that will let them return to fight by Sansa’s side. He is going to buy them some time and go down fighting.

“A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home.” — Duh!

Lady Crane is killed brutally by The Waif who has come to finish off Arya as well. Arya escapes through the streets and stumbles her way to where she has needle stashed. The Waif laughs a the sight of her with the sword but that is the last thing he sees as Arya extinguishes the candle illuminating the room.

Jaqen walks in on Arya mounting The Waif’s face in the House of Black and White and seems pleased with Arya’s triumph; “Finally a girl is no one.”

The Broken Man

[For Game of Thrones “The Broken Man” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
The Broken Man. The High Sparrow considers another target; Jaime confronts a hero; Arya makes a plan.

“The Broken Man” opens on an idyllic pastoral scene. People in a field of green raising a frame of wood. At first I thought it might be the Ironborn building one of the ships that they plan to pledge to the Mother of Dragons… But no. These people look way happy and this landscape is way too pleasant for the Iron Islands (or the frozen North in Winter).

We don’t recognize any of the players on this greenery, not unless you count Ian McShane — hard-swearing, vice-peddling, alum of some HBO Sunday nights past — until, oh shit IS THAT THE HOUND?

It turns out the Hound is alive!

Sandor Clegane was nursed back from grievous injury by McShane’s character; a Septon of the Seven named Brother Ray* … Presumably after his encounter with Brienne the Beauty.

Though she’s never front and center in “The Broken Man” Brienne’s memory (and her Valyrian steel sword) cast a tall shadow that bring us to my Top 8 badass women of “The Broken Man”:

I. Brienne of Tarth

Given the terror that the Hound’s name inspires in the Riverlands — and all the Seven Kingdoms — as the un-Knight, the Kingsguard, the vicious lapdog of a more vicious king, and the scarred kid brother of the Mountain… the warrior — in this case woman — who beat him must inherit a pretty badass reputation.

After seeing him swing an axe, Brother Ray asks Sandor how many men it took to take him down (the answer being one); and if only one, he must have been a monster (not even a “he” but Brienne). Badass.

II. Margaery Tyrell Lannister

When we see Margaery once again with the High Sparrow, we learn a lot about both in a typically compact span. We find out that Margaery hasn’t been intimate with young King Tommen since their reunion last episode… She just doesn’t feel the desires she once did any more. We also find out (perhaps predictably) that the High Sparrow doesn’t consider a woman’s desire is necessary for participation in the marital bed… “only her patience.”

Margaery seems completely mesmerized by the High Sparrow still, a far cry from the woman who pleaded for Loras to hold on to his resolve and sanity earlier in the season, but matters turn when the High Sparrow tells her that her grandmother, the Queen of Thorns, is an unrepentant sinner. The young Queen’s true allegiances quietly resurface when Margaery passes grandma a secret rose-note and a message to get the hell out of dodge; or rather, King’s Landing.

III. Olenna Tyrell, The Queen of Thorns

Speaking of grandma Tyrell — seeing that she is about to leave the mess that Cersei made and calls the capital of the Seven Kingdoms — we finally get to hear out loud what everyone else has been thinking since Season Two. Cersei is a stupid woman who has done nothing but make mistakes, handed King’s Landing to a fanatic army, brought low to ancient houses, and is probably the worst person Lady Olenna Tyrell has ever met.

Olenna expresses joy though, in seeing that Cersei has actually, finally, lost.

IV. Lyanna Mormont

As suggested in the last couple of episodes, Jon and Sansa hit the Kingsroad to drum up support for their neo-Stark anti-Bolton revolution. The first noble house they hit is the Mormonts… Who are led by a ten-year-old Lyanna (named for dead Ned’s sister, natch).

The diminutive Lady is a firecracker. Though she said that Bear Island knows no King but the King in the North (and his name is Stark) she points out that Jon is a Snow and Sansa is either a Bolton or a Lannister. She rejects the idea of being a “beauty” of any kind, noting that her loyal mother was a warrior; and though only ten, she thinks first, always, of the well being of her Bear Island subjects.

It is only the Onion Knight’s impassioned speech that sways young Lyanna. Her own Uncle Jeor — the former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard — chose Jon as his steward and heir back at the Wall; for the true battle is not between petty houses but between the living and the dead. And against that enemy, Jon is the man who can lead humanity to victory (and survival). For the living to stand against the undead they will need a united North, which is impossible if Bolton banners fly over Winterfell.

Lyanna is in!

After all her bluster Lady Mormont can offer only sixty-two fighting men (but she assures the Stark delegation they all fight like ten mainlanders apiece). The Onion Knight says that if they’re half as ferocious as their Lady, the Boltons are doomed.

We all hope so.

V. Sansa Stark Lannister Bolton Stark-I-Guess?

The next stop on the Jon and Sansa train is Glover. The previous Lord Glover died beside their brother Robb; and though he acknowledges the pledge Glover owes Stark, considers the true House Stark dead. Yes — Glover is supposed to come when Stark calls, but where was Stark when the Ironborn were toppling his castle? King Robb was off getting Glover’s brother killed and taking up with “a foreign whore”.

Sansa gets sternly up in Glover’s grill (to no avail); but she did it.

… And when Sansa realizes Jon has not nearly enough men to take Winterfell she does something more: She sends a letter (presumably to Littlefinger) for help. Curiouser and curiouser.

VI. Yara Greyjoy

We learn a bit of what kind of King of the Iron Islands Yara might have made in a brief scene between her and her brother Theon, across the Narrow Sea. Theon doesn’t know why they sailed to where they are… As Yara slaps the backside of a beautiful young woman (presumably a slave girl prostitute by her facial tattoo and state of undress). Why are they there? Because “nothing on the Iron Islands has an ass like that.”

Yara and her crew are on shore leave and she is going to enjoy herself before the trials to come. She knows Uncle Euron will be after them, but Yara plans to sail for Meereen and treat with Dany first. In the meantime? Recreation.

All across this episode we are left to wonder who the titular “broken man” is… Is it the Hound, living in a [doomed] pacifist community, himself running on hate? Is it Jon, who was dead, and now is accused of representing a dead family? Is it Jaime, separated from his family, a fighting man with no right hand? Is it the Blackfish, damning himself and his people to a lengthy siege against superior enemies, but defiant throughout? Or Lord Edmure Tully, who is paraded about, impotently, as a prisoner? In the end, I think that it is Theon… But that badass Yara goes a fair distance in un-breaking him.

VII. Arya Stark

Arya books passage on a ship back to the Seven Kingdoms… And looks good doing it. Arya has somehow not just a pocket full of money, but two pockets full.

Throughout Game of Thrones Arya is badass over and over again. I think her defining characteristic is adaptability. She trains herself to become a water dancer; when her dancing master falls, she becomes a self-sufficient runaway. She outsmarts a Faceless Man and knocks over a fortress almost all by herself. She travels the world at the side of one of the world’s most noted murderers, then joins a holy priesthood of murderers. All along the way she does what she needs to do to survive, thrive, and learn.

But when booking passage, we see a different Arya. The Arya we have been cheering for all these years succeeded (or at least survived) constantly on the brink of disaster. She didn’t know what she was doing most of the time; but here we see a rich girl, raised in a noble house, telling a merchant what to do because she can buy what she wants. This is a completely different side of Arya… Not unlike one of those rare moments when we get cheer for Bruce Wayne instead of Batman.

Our badass heroine takes one last look as the Braavos skyline, when…

VIII. The Waif

The Waif appears in guise of an old woman… So she can sneak up and stab Arya! The Waif stabs Arya repeatedly! But Arya jumps away into the river, admittedly a bloody mess. The foolish, foolish, Waif thinks herself victorious and walks away.

Arya stumbles around the streets of Braavos, bleeding everywhere (and no one helps)… But she’s still alive. And if there is one thing that a living Arya Stark has shown us, it’s adaptability. If she’s still breathing she will be as immovable as her Uncle Blackfish. You won this round, but watch out, Waif.


* “Named” but never called, I think; I found that in this Entertainment Weekly article; I can’t say I noticed him called that all ep, and IMDB didn’t know his name.

[For Game of Thrones “Blood of My Blood” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Blood of My Blood. Gilly meets Sam’s family; Arya mulls a difficult decision; Jaime confronts the High Sparrow.

After the greatest episode of Game of Thrones ever in “The Door” almost anything would have been a come down, and “Blood of My Blood” was… But it was also the vehicle to some key reveals, and gave us many important looks — past and present — and glimpses into future violence from everywhere from King’s Landing to the Riverlands to Braavos and the Dothraki Sea. Here are my Top 8 R’s for “Blood of My Blood”:

I. Retract

“Is it too late now to say sorry?”
-Justin Bieber

In last week’s recap of “The Door” I claimed in the Secret Origin of the White Walkers I claimed “Bran wargs into the past multiple times in ‘The Door’ … An early interlude reveals how the Children of the Forest (!!!) created the first White Walkers using magic. A human is shown bound to one of their sacred trees as a wild-eyed Child of the Forest plunges a wooden stake into his chest as his eyes turn blue.”


Multiple friends / readers / even co-contributors pointed out that it was not wood but obsidian that the Children of the Forest used to create the aforementioned Others. This was confirmed in “Blood of My Blood” with one of the most anticipated revelations in show history.

II. Reveal

Uncle Benjen Stark, kid brother to Ned, and onetime First Ranger of the Night’s Watch has been missing since Season One! He basically brought his bastard nephew up to the Wall and then left him there to fend for himself among all the thieves / murderers / rapers / disgraced nobles (you know, to eventually become the big boss, and then more eventually to get killed by his own men)… And went out for cigarettes.

At the end of “The Door” Meera and Bran abandon the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, leaving him, the Children of the Forest, Summer, and poor Hodor to sacrifice themselves to ensure their escape. But Meera is just one girl — even if she is a badass White Walker-killing girl — and they are being chased by innumerable undead.

Dead themselves, right?




A rider appears wielding a sickle and a flaming morningstar. He beats up many a wight, facilitating the escape of our two remaining young Northern nobles. It is, of course, Uncle Benjen.

There are three key reveals here:

  1. Benjen Stark is alive, and was saved by the Children of the Forest. Benjen was stabbed by a White Walker’s sword of ice and left to turn; the Children saved him before becoming undead could take entirely.
  2. A similar process used to create the White Walkers was used to save Benjen: a shard of obsidian to the heart (that’s how I know to retract my comment about wood, in the previous bullet). Benjen doesn’t seem at 100%; at least 100% human (though maybe he’s better in some way); his face is covered when Meera and Bran first encounter him (which is why Bran doesn’t immediately recognize him) and when he pulls down his mask, his face looks rotten. Benjen is half-turned, but seems to retain his personality and heroism.
  3. Burn them all! Bran wargs all the way back to the last Targaryen King, mingling images of the pyromaniac madness that precipitated Robert’s Rebellion with Bran’s own [present-day] flight from the wights. Burn them all? We know Bran’s voice can affect the past; at both the Tower of Joy and “Hold the door.” Does Bran’s current conflict with highly flammable undead have anything to do with the inexplicable turn of the Mad King decades ago?

III. Ransack

Sam brings Gilly and her / their son to Horn Hill. The Citadel doesn’t admit women, and Sam’s plan is to leave Gilly and (supposedly) his father’s grandson to the Tarly castle to live. Sam’s mother and sister seem lovely. His brother is a bit brusque but doesn’t seem that bad a guy. His father though… Jeepers! Jerk. You’d almost think this were a man who could force his firstborn son to renounce his title and inheritance, and pledge himself to a lifetime of celibate service at the edge of civilization; you know, for being a bookish fatty.

Lady Tarly tries to point out that being the Master of the Night’s Watch is a position of great honor, but dad won’t have it. He only cares for a son who can swing a sword; you know, like Heartsbane.

Gilly can’t take Lord Tarly’s verbal abuse of Sam, and reveals that — far from being a soft nerd — Sam killed not only a Thenn but a White Walker. He is the greatest hero at the dinner table, at least.

It’s hard to tell who prejudiced papa hates more: his son (heavy set disappointment) or Gilly (wildling). Sam has the last laugh, though. He won’t leave his family at Horn Hill, and won’t leave his inheritance, either. Sam takes Heartsbane! When Gilly says that Lord Tarly will come for it, we see a glimpse of the badass hero that sometimes comes out of Sam:

“He can bloody well try.”

IV. Reunite

Margaery and Tommen reunite in an almost surreal scene orchestrated by the High Sparrow. Margaery’s defiance seems erased. It is a difficult scene to parse; Tommen sees Margaery as the best person he knows. Margaery thinks herself a fraud and liar. The King and Queen agree that the High Sparrow is not what either of them thought.

This is one of those scenes that asks us to think hard about the perspectives that come with so many different points of view on Game of Thrones. Who is right? Is Margaery’s turn from proud princess to penitent good or bad? Is the High Sparrow sinister or genuine? Will this ever be ironed out? Can it?

V. Reverse

The Rose army, under the command of Lord Tyrell himself, marches on the Sept. Jaime and Lord Tyrell declare that they will slaughter every last Sparrow before Queen Margaery is forced to do a Cersei-esque walk of shame.

The High Sparrow says that each and every one of his people would gladly die in service to the gods… But they don’t have to. Margaery has already atoned, by bringing someone else into the faith… Tommen!

Tommen has gone full faithful. The Queen of Thorns herself says that the nobles are beaten. As an official “holy alliance between the Crown and the Faith” is announced, Jaime is kicked out of the Kingsguard by his own son, stripped of being Lord Commander for speaking out against his beloved High Sparrow.

Reversal after reversal after reversal…

VI. Reject

Across the Narrow Sea in Braavos, Arya attends what should be the last performance of Lady Crane. The performance is very deliberately staged by director Jack Bender. We can see the foppish over-the-top performances by all the other players; cheesy rhyming couplets, comically stylized props, and fart jokes… But Lady Crane is good. Unbelievably good despite weak material. Her jealous understudy is seen mouthing her lines in the background. And Lady Crane is kind to Arya herself.

Arya has a change of heart, dashes the poisoned cup from her hand, and warns her of the treachery of the younger actress.

Waiting in the wings is the waif. She obtains permission from Jaquen to kill the traitorous Arya!

The waif might get more than she bargained for, though; as Arya recovers Needle from its hiding place.

VII. Relinquish

Lord Frey and his family spent 300 years licking Tully boots, but now they are the lords of the Riverlands. Except they’re not. As we learned last week the Blackfish has raised an army and retaken Riverrun. “But Dad, Riverrun can hold out against us for a year!” Except it can’t (at least according to Lord Frey); he has kept Lord Edmure — heir to House Tully — in his dungeon for the past several seasons, and hopes to trade the Tully for the Tully castle.


Drogon is back, and seems bigger than ever. Dany delivers an impassioned speech (in Dothraki of course) astride her largest dragon. She will raise a thousand ships, loaded with Dothraki, their horses, Unsullied, and Second Sons to retake the Seven Kingdoms. All the Dothraki think this is a great idea; or at least I think they do (not sure, as I don’t speak Dothraki).

Of course no one has a fleet of one thousand ships; no one “yet” quips Dany… And we know from up in the Iron Islands that there is someone with exactly the agenda of delivering the greatest fleet in history to exactly this Queen.


The Door

[For Game of Thrones “The Door” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
The Door. Tyrion seeks a strange ally; Bran learns a great deal; Brienne goes on a mission.

Lots of stuff happened in “The Door”. I have serious doubts that some of these events were how George R.R. Martin originally envisioned them; and my guess is that if and when the novels are actually completed some of these characters’ ends — and beginnings — will be resolved differently.

That said, Game of Thrones the television show has long ago outstripped A Song of Ice and Fire (its source material); and in the case of the wildly excellent “The Door” I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

My Top 8 Most Epic Moments from “The Door”:

8. Lord Commander Dolorous Edd

In one of the closing scenes of “The Door”, Jon Snow moves to leave Castle Black, presumably to rally Northern lords to the Stark name against the treacherous Boltons. He claps Edd on the shoulder and tells him not to knock [the Wall] down while he’s gone. At this point it’s quite uncertain who the Lord Commander is; Jon certainly seems to be telling Edd what to do, and voicing an intent to return.

As Jon and company ride off, a Brother addresses Edd as Lord Commander, asking him if he should close the gate behind the departing Jon. Edd first begins that he isn’t the Lord Comma– but then looks around as the camera pulls back on a long shot of the Castle Black courtyard, and starts issuing orders.

Can Jon really just declare someone Lord Commander? Because it looks like Edd is officially in charge.

7. Tyrion Takes a Reluctant Bow

Tyrion and Varys recruit Kinvara, “High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, the Flametruth, the Light of Wisdom, and First Servant of the Lord of Light” — the ranking priestess of Red R’hllor — as an ally in spreading the good word of Queen Daenerys Targaryen. The priestess proclaims Dany as the [one*] who was promised; her dragons the Lord of Light’s fire made flesh.

Varys rightly points out that another priestess of R’hllor — Melisandre — previously declared Stannis Baratheon as the chosen one; and the man at his side — Tyrion Lannister — defeated that chosen one soundly. “The Door” was not much about Tyrion, and the scene itself was not much about Tyrion (much more about the origins and destiny of Lord Varys) but hell if that wasn’t a good reason to beam at the accomplishments of one of our favorite characters.

6. The Cruel Justice of the Many-Faced God

“Does death only come for the wicked, and leave the decent behind?”
-Jaqen H’ghar

Arya continues her training as a Faceless Man in “The Door”, with a pretty good quarterstaff training session with the Waif; and an infiltration assignment in advance of an assassination job.

Arya’s interlude in Braavos is short but quite dense. We get to see how good the Waif — so presumably any trained Faceless Man — is in a fair fight (amazing). We learn the secret origin of the Free City of Braavos (founded by the original Faceless Men). And we get a rare glimpse at some male genitals on Game of Thrones. Breasts there are aplenty, but uncircumcized penis? I think this episode was a first.

Arya seems conflicted about her career / religious choices. It doesn’t seem like she wants to murder a “decent” woman; but like Jaqen says, death comes for both the wicked and the decent, and if the price has been paid, the servants of the Many-Faced God are meant to do as they’re told.

So… Priestess or princess?

5. The Secret Origin of the White Walkers

Bran wargs into the past multiple times in “The Door” … An early interlude reveals how the Children of the Forest (!!!) created the first White Walkers using magic. A human is shown bound to one of their sacred trees as a wild-eyed Child of the Forest plunges a wooden stake into his chest as his eyes turn blue.

The White Walkers were a weapon of war that the Children of the Forest created to fight — you guessed it — encroaching humans who were cutting down their trees.

4. Khaleesi’s Hope

Dany isn’t sure what to do. She banished Jorah the Andal twice; and twice he returned, saving her life time and again. She can’t take him back, and she can’t send him away.

Jorah sends himself away, showing Dany the greyscale infection.

In one of the truly rare moments of hope on Game of Thrones, Dany orders Jorah to find a cure, then return to her; for when she conquers the Seven Kingdoms, she needs him at her side.

A lot of terrible things happen on this show; and both heroes and villains meet violent ends. Jorah, for his treachery but ultimate devotion and bravery, is already in a terrible spot (you know, fatal disease and all). But with Dany commanding him to find a cure you kind of get the idea that he is going to; he is going to be back; and maybe — just maybe — he will get what he ultimately wants (which is Dany). Remember, Dany has every Dothraki bloodrider there is at her back now, a mercenary company, command of the Unsullied, et cetera ad infinitum… But precious few Westerosi nobles to potentially marry.

Jorah? Really? Maybe!

3. The Brutal Logic of the Kingsmoot

Yara opens on a pretty good speech, and when her gender is called into question (the Ironborn have never had a ruling Queen), Theon makes an impassioned speech that has the Ironborn rooting Yara’s name.

… Until another Greyjoy — the murderous uncle Euron — appears to challenge for the Salt Throne.

Euron has an amazing pitch; like Yara he wants to build a thousand deadly ships to reave the Seven Kingdoms; but he has a long-term political agenda she didn’t quite think about. There is someone on the other side of the Narrow Sea who also hates the Lords of Westeros; someone with “a large army, three large dragons, and no husband.”

Euron wants to build the navy not just for the Ironborn, but to offer to Dany, as he aspires to rule not just the Iron Islands, but alongside the Mother of Dragons.

So Euron is the new King of the Iron Islands, Yara and Theon flee stealing all the best Ironborn boats, and the kinslaying and murderous new King orders every man to start cutting down trees and every woman to start sewing up sails. Focus, Ironborn. The only thing left unclear is the priority order of 1) killing his niece and nephew, 2) actually building the greatest fleet the world has ever known, and 3) offering the aforementioned fleet to Dany for like wars and stuff.

2. The Beginning and End of Hodor

It looks increasingly like Bran’s time travel warging is the glue that holds Game of Thrones together. When he returns to the site of the birth of the White Walkers [in the past] the Night’s King sees him, touches him, and “marks” him… Allowing the White Walkers and their wights to breach the protections of the Children of the Forest in the present.

Bran returns to a long-ago Winterfell — the day Ned left for the Vale — and wargs into Hodor in past and present at the same time.

After a disastrous battle that costs our heroes Summer, Leaf (and other Children of the Forest), and the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran wargs into Hodor to “hold the door**” against a legion of persuing wights and White Walkers. “Hold the door” in the present is etched into Hodor’s mind in the past, such that it is the only thing on his mind for the next couple of decades. Thus we learn as an extension of Ned hearing Bran at the Tower of Joy that Bran’s warging can affect the past, rather than just observe it.

It might not be fair to say that Hodor died a hero’s sacrifice because Bran was controlling his mind at the time; but it is certainly a fulfillment of his destiny, the beginning and end of his particular Circle of Life all at once. My guess is that this episode ranks behind only “The Rains of Castamere” in its overlap of “aw shit” and uncontrollable tears from HBO fans.

1. Sansa faces off with Littlefinger

If you’ve already seen “The Door” you can probably alrady imagine yourself glued to the water cooler at the office tomorrow, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the final eleven minutes. Night’s King and wights against Children of the Forest. Noble sacrifice by Summer. Badass White Walker walloping by Meera. All big, all moving, all ultra violent.

But for my money, the best scene in possibly the best episode of Game of Thrones — ever — was the opening one.

Littlefinger journeys North to meet Sansa, Knights of the Vale at his back. He tells her the Blackfish has reunited Tully and retaken Riverrun. Her mother’s family will join her father’s name in rescuing Rickon and the North if only she asks.

She doesn’t care.

Did you know about Ramsay?

Either he didn’t know (and he is an idiot) or he did know (and he is her enemy).

Not only can Littlefinger not protect Sansa, but he can’t even protect himself; not if she tells Brienne to unsheath Oathkeeper.

“The Door” is uncharted territory from a George R.R. Martin perspective, but delivers the best line I can remember… “You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family… And gave me to other monsters who murdered my family.”

Sansa had a terrible time of it last season surely, but we never had a sense of how bad until this heartwrenching scene with Littlefinger. “Did he cut you?” (looks like you did know). There are things Ladies don’t talk about but brothel keepers must, and often. Sansa is always in these loose, flowing gowns, and actress Sophie Turner’s face is always resplendent. Ramsay would never hurt the face of Ned Stark’s daughter (which he needed whole and healthy to hold the North), but all the other parts that no one else sees were fair game as long as they were still able to bear an heir. Sansa implies she is feeling physical — not just mental — wounds, right then and there, still; weeks or months since escaping Ramsay.

I have had a longstanding venom for Sansa, since Season One and in truth years before Game of Thrones ever hit the air. In a very real sense, Sansa’s desire to be a Baratheon Lannister Queen caused the death of her father and the downfall of her family. BDM argued that falling under the shadow of Littlefinger’s wing was Sansa’s step towards self-actualization and self-preservation. I never knew what to make of her marriage to Ramsay. Yes he’s awful, but to what degree did she know what she was getting into? Was this a calculated move towards accumulating power that tragically went sideways? This scene clarifies a lot around Sansa, and gives her, finally, her big moment against one of the Big Bads of the show.

It’s awesome, and after all these seasons, I was finally happy to be rooting for her.

“The Door” is, I think, the best episode of Game of Thrones ever. Just the origin of Hodor, or the White Walkers, or Braavos would have been a satisfying mystery solved in most episodes. This one gave us all three. Just those eleven minutes of battle and chase and heroism and sacrifice; of the Three-Eyed Raven, of Leaf, of Summer dying to save Bran would have been unbelievable in most episodes… But nothing compared to Sansa v. Littlefinger to me. I’ve watched “The Door” twice already. I doubt they will be my two only viewings.


* Not “Prince”, clearly.

** Presumably the titular “Door”

Book of the Stranger

[For Game of Thrones “Book of the Stranger” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Book of the Stranger. Jorah and Daario engage in a difficult task; Jaime and Cersei try to improve their situation.

“Book of the Stranger” opens on Longclaw. Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel sword, gifted to him by the previous Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Edd handles Longclaw and you wonder for a moment if Longclaw — despite having its pommel replaced with the Ghost-like direwolf — sigil of House Stark — follows the office of Lord Commander and not just Jon’s hip.

But no! Jon is still there and just chatting with Edd, making plans with the ostensible new Lord Commander. Jon will go “South” with the agenda of getting “warm”. As many have speculated, Jon considers his tenure with the Night’s Watch legitimately up, having pledged his life, and given that life while in office.

Jon — at this stage at least — doesn’t look like he is soon going to get over his own Brothers killing him.

Edd doesn’t have a long time to argue the point though, as by 9:05 Sansa, flanked by Brienne and Pod, enters Castle Black. In the blink of an eye Jon and Sansa are embracing one another and both lamenting ever having left Winterfell. “How could we know?”

Sansa makes many an apology for being awful to Jon as children — remember, Sansa was much more of a Tully (beautiful, lighter haired, and anything but Northern) while Jon was almost aggressively an “Arya”-type Stark (wild and of the North, with nothing [obviously] of Catelyn’s people in him)… Their appearances a constant reminder of their father’s betrayal. Both of them are just happy to see a friendly face after all these years, even if you get the feeling each would have preferred another brother or sister. Nevertheless Jon pledges to protect his sister, err… “sister”, err… half-“sister”(?). We’ll go with sister.

Sansa insists they go home, to retake Winterfell; Jon is tired of fighting despite his promise to protect Sansa.

An interesting sub-plot seems to be developing amongst the key lieutenants. Davos asks what happened to Stannis and Shireen; Melisandre openly shifts her allegiance to Jon (whom she now sees as the true Prince Who Was Promised, not Stannis); and Brienne lets them both know that she served Renly and has not forgotten the demon shadow who killed him. So basically, even though Davos quite likes Jon, it was always supposed to be Melisandre following around Prince Who Was Promised-Stannis; and Brienne was tragically in love with Renly, who was assassinated by a shadow that emerged from Melisandre’s nethers. Go Team Stark? Err… Snow?

Oh, and at 9:11 Brienne tells Davos and Melisandre both that it was her steel that executed their King.

Littlefinger returns to the Vale (and the screen) briefly… But long enough to convince Lord Robin — the weak-willed (not to mention weak-armed) Defender of the Vale — to go to his cousin’s aid. Remember, Robin’s mother was Catelyn Stark’s younger sister. Sansa rescue mission? How about bringing The. Entire. Vale. Army?

Across the Narrow Sea Tyrion shows Missandei and Grey Worm the meaning of diplomacy… By offering the Masters of the other Slaver’s Bay cities seven years to iron out their economies. There will never be slavery in Meereen again, but Dany (through Tyrion’s offer) will give them time to figure out their next moves. Way of life or no, there hasn’t been slavery in Westeros for hundreds of years and Tyrion reminds these Masters that he grew up richer than any of them! They don’t need slavery to be — or stay — the wealthy elite.

Grey Worm and Missandei are conflicted, to say the least, around these negotiations, but have Tyrion’s back when Meereen citizens — ex-slaves — confront him about meeting with their enemies. Missandei quotes “a wise man” (Tyrion himself, actually) that you don’t make peace with your friends but your enemies. In a private moment Tyrion calls both slavery and war awful things that should both end, but he can’t get rid of both today.

Daario and Jorah infiltrate Vaes Dothrak in search of Dany. They do some murdering; Daario breaks a rule or three, Jorah’s torn shirt sleeve reveals his greyscale affliction [to Daario]… But Dany ultimately refuses to go along with them. To be fair, they’d never get out of Vaes Dothrak alive. She has her own plan.

“Book of the Stranger” takes its name from an interaction between Margaery and the High Sparrow. It is strongly implied that Margaery — queen though she is — hasn’t seen sunlight in some time. We learn about the High Sparrow’s personal transformation from successful cobbler to guy who doesn’t wear shoes. He asks Margaery where she would go if he let her free, and she says her brother, her husband, her family.

The High Sparrow accommodates her, and lets her see Ser Loras.

Loras isn’t doing so well. We don’t actually know what the Faith Militant have been doing to him but it can’t be good. He seems wounded physically and on the verge of breaking mentally. He is filthy and cowering in his dungeon cell. He just wants to quit.

Margaery won’t let him.

Across town, Cersei and Jaime invite the Queen of Thorns to bring the Tyrell army into King’s Landing. Tommen has ordered his Hand to stand down against the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, but the Tyrell family have no such restriction. The plan is for the Tyrells to come in, come in in force, and liberate their Queen and family heir. All anticipate quite a bit of bloodshed; but an echo to Jaime and Cersei some episodes ago, the Queen of Thorns expresses a “better them not us” attitude. This is not going to end well.

Up at Winterfell Osha is bathed and given the Ramsay. She throws herself at him, presumably with the intent of murdering him while distracted by passion… But Ramsay seems to have been planning to kill her all along. Osha dies unceremoniously with a stab to the throat, and Ramsay uses the same knife to slice an apple a few seconds later. Ew.

Like many of you I was holding out hope that the Umbers placing Osha and Rickon into Bolton power was some sort of infiltration move; that Shaggydog’s head was actually from some smaller wolf… But with Osha dying it really seems like the Umbers have betrayed what is left of the Starks and have actually put baby Rickon into the worst possible position under the worst possible human.

Three minutes later, at the Wall, Jon and company are breaking bread. It is heavily implied that big old Tormund fancies the mighty Brienne, but there isn’t much time to dwell on the size of their Stark (Snow?) bannermen-to-be progeny, as a letter comes from the Lord Commander; a letter marked with the flayed man of Bolton.

To the traitor and bastard Jon Snow:

You allowed thousands of Wildlings past the wall.
You have betrayed your own kind. you have betrayed the North.
Winterfell is mine, come and see.
Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon.
His direwolf’s skin is on my floor, come and see.
I want my bride back.
Send her to me bastard and I will not trouble you or your Wildling lovers.
Keep her from me and I will ride north and slaughter every Wildling man, woman, and babe living under your protection.
You will watch as I skin them living.
You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister.
You will watch as my dogs devour your wild little brother.
Then I will spoon your eyes from your sockets and let my dogs to the rest, come and see.

Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North

All this seems to sway Jon, finally. Sansa tells him that Ramsay has maybe five thousand troops, but that the other Northern Lords will rally to the son of the last true Warden of the North. Tormund has two thousand Free Folk fighters to commit, even without loyal Northerners. It really looks like Ramsay is going to have his hands full soon, with Jon Snow and his Wildlings coming from the North, and Littlefinger and his Knights coming from the Vale. I, for one, can’t wait.

In the final scene we get the most spectacular Dany moment in three seasons. The assembled Khals discuss what to do with her. Can she stay in Vaes Dothrak with the other Khal widows? Dany says none of them are worthy of ruling the Dothraki, but she is. Okay, instead they’ll pass her around, then give her to their lieutenants and even horses. Dany’s plan unfolds.

Daario and Jorah have killed the guards and bolted shut the door to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen. It is not Dany who is locked in with the violent Khals, but they who are trapped in the temple with her. Dany knocks over lamp after lamp, scattering oil throughout the exit-less temple, burning the assembled Khals alive.

Dany, of course, is fireproof.

The temple burns down, and the Mother of Dragons emerges, naked but unburnt as usual. Presumably every Khal on the Dothraki Sea is dead, leaving only the white-haired Khaleesi, last of the Targaryens, to command the entire nation. Each and every assembled Dothraki bends the knee, as do Jorah and Daario.

“Book of the Stranger” is the most decisive episode of Game of Thrones so far this season, for sure. Even if Jorah and Daario had been successful in liberating Dany, there would have been a long-term problem with the Dothraki Khals; not so, now. The Masters of Slavers Bay offered ten thousand horses to sell Dany into their power. What is going to happen next given Tyrion’s offer to them… And the fact that the Queen will be returning to Slaver’s Bay with the entirety of the finest cavalry in the world at her back?

“Book of the Stranger” is an episode full of foreshadowing and posturing. The camera made a big deal of a knife being nearby when Osha met with Ramsay; it was by a different knife that she died. The Khals made a huge speech about what kind of violence they would bring on the Mother of Dragons… Right before she killed them all! No knights, no mercenaries, no dragons needed; just Dany was enough! Ramsay’s letter is similar posturing, and full of just as much promised princess-rape; hopefully he finds himself flayed, castrated, or devoured by dogs soon.

What is interesting to me is that all these rulers with mines full of gold, giant temples, thousands of soldiers at their command, and even dragons are currently struggling with internal conflicts that are preventing them from wielding their full influence. Despite her Unsullied (and now Dothraki) Dany is bedeviled by Sons of the Harpy and Masters from her allegedly liberated cities; the Umbers went turncloak from Stark to Bolton in fear of the Wildlings; Jon is juggling Night’s Watch, duty, a witch, and the aforementioned Wildlings; while the Lannisters — who supposedly won the War of Five Kings — can’t even keep their Queens from being marched naked and humiliated in the street. Don’t get me started on either the Iron Islands (regicide) or Dorne (um, regicide). It seems that whoever gets his — or her — kingdom in order will be best positioned in the coming conflict; and right now, between Tyrion’s diplomacy and a brand spanking new army, that looks like Dany. #TeamTargaryen?



[For Game of Thrones “Oathbreaker” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Oathbreaker. Daenerys meets her future; Bran meets the past; Tommen confronts the High Sparrow.

In starting to do these recaps I’ve come to a new respect for the people who write and direct Game of Thrones every week. I know that might sound odd because it is widely considered the best show on television and everything, but it isn’t just compelling… It’s wicked tight. Game of Thrones can coordinate so many complicated storylines only because they can pack so much into just three minutes or so. There is no wasted movement; not a wasted line.

We start circa 9:06 after some house ads and “previously on” refreshers to find the glassy eyes of the Onion Knight looking over a recovering Jon Snow. Despite a few scars and scratches (he was murdered by his own men just a few episodes ago, remember), Jon is naked as the day he was born, providing some eye candy for the other half of the audience.

Melisandre asks Jon what he remembers… He remembers the mutiny, and Olly stabbing him in the heart; but presumably depresses her by saying there was nothing after… Just nothing. “Stannis was not the Prince Who Was Promised,” Melisandre concludes, “but somebody has to be.”

By 9:10 Jon is back in his giant black cloak and greeting the remaining Watch and the assembled wildlings. They think he is some kind of god, but Tormund knows better; he’s seen Jon’s pecker… And what kind of god would have a pecker that small? Jon embraces Edd, who notes his eyes are still brown (ergo presumably not the icy blue of a White Walker); Edd is just happy to see his friend.

After a short interlude with Sam sailing to Oldtown (and vomiting over and over, ew) we come to the money shot of “Oathbreaker” at 9:16. A man is sharpening a sword beneath a great tower. We see him put on his helmet as riders approach. He is Kingsguard, but no Kingsguard we have ever seen on the show so far.

This is real Kingsguard; a stronger breed than Robert Baratheon’s… From back when every man was on the order of Barristan the Bold in his prime. A young Eddard Stark with a handful of Northern Knights (including Howland Reed, Meera’s father) are the riders! We see this from the perspective of Bran, once again warging into the past.

They meet two Kingsguard, the man sharpening his sword, and Arthur Dayne, “the Sword of the Morning” the deadliest swordsman Eddard ever encountered. Eddard asks where his sister is, and instead of answering, a deadly fight breaks out.

To his credit, Eddard dispatches the other Kingsguard (presumably Gerold Hightower* if only because he is later mentioned in the episode by Pycelle). To their credit the Kingsguard are cutting down Eddard’s Knights, too; with Reed going down first. Soon it is a four-on-one including Eddard against Arthur Dayne.

Dayne is reimagined in “Oathbreaker” as a Drizzt Do’Urden-style fighter, wielding two swords with great dexterity. Four-on-one becomes three-on-one, then two-on-one, then just Eddard against Dayne.

Eddard, remember, is considered even by Jaime Lannister to be a master swordsman… But he is hopelessly overmatched by the skilled Dayne.

“He’s better than my father,” observes Brand.
“Far better,” agrees the Three-Eyed-Raven.
“My father beat him,” recalls Bran.
“Did he?”
“I know he did! I’ve heard the story a thousand times.”

Just as Bran is saying this, Eddard is disarmed by Dayne. Things are looking bad for the Warden of the North, when…

… The injured Howland Reed jumps Arthur from behind and stabs him in the back!

Bran is shocked! He calls out to his father, who seems to hear him.

“The past is already written; the ink is dry,” reminds the Three-Eyed Raven as he pulls Bran back into the present. “Stay too long and you won’t return.” For his part, though, Bran doesn’t much care about returning. He just loves to see his parents when they were young.

But Bran has a different task. The Three-Eyed Raven has been waiting for him for a thousand years. Unlike him, Bran will be allowed to leave (rather than growing into a tree), but first must learn everything.

Across the Narrow Sea Dany reaches Vaes Dotrhak and Varys finds out who is backing the Sons of the Harpy. It turns out that Masters from Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis are bankrolling the Sons of the Harpy and are the root cause for Meereen’s current predicament.

Varys is known for his little birds, children who do his spying… We see back in King’s Landing that Qyburn has taken over that position, including giving out candy in return for loyalty. Cersei and Jaime attempt to join a Small Council meeting; but, just as the Small Council can’t throw out Jaime and Cersei… They can’t force the Council to stay.

At 9:42 we pick up Arya’s training. She learns to fight blind and practice lying. At the end of a short montage, Arya can hold her own against the Waif. Jaqen gives her the poisonous water from the Many-Faced God’s temple, but assures her that if she is “truly no one” it won’t hurt her. It doesn’t and she gets her eyesight back at 9:45.

Speaking of Starks, we return to Winterfell at 9:47, where Lord Umber is addressing the newly promoted Lord Bolton and Lord Karstark. Umber never swore fealty to the Boltons, which is a sticking point from Ramsay’s position. Umber still doesn’t want to bend the knee, but he has nevertheless brought a gift… Rickon Stark!

Ramsay wants to know how it is really Rickon, and in one of the sadder moments of the last couple of seasons, Umber plops the head of a dead Shaggydog onto the table, with a hook through his skull. Satisfied, Ramsay greets the young Lord Stark.

“Oathbreaker” concludes with Jon executing the men of the Night’s Watch who betrayed him. All of them have a few words, or short requests, except Olly; who remains silent throughout the scene. After executing his former Brothers, Jon gives up his Lord Commander’s cloak to Edd, says his watch is done, and walks out the gate as credits close.

All episode it is probably logical to try to find the eponymous Oathbreaker. Is it Jon? He is in fact walking out on the Night’s Watch. Is it the Knights of the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy? They didn’t stand by Prince Rhaegar when Robert killed him on the Trident. Is Dany the Oathbreaker? She was supposed to go straight into retirement when Khal Drogo died.

In the end, I don’t think it matters. This episode is more about one thing than anything else, and that is the beginnings of Jon Snow. It opens with him returning to life [for the second time], and flips relatively quickly to the Tower of Joy, which is widely speculated to be the place of Jon’s actual birth. Perhaps, then, is the Oathbreaker Lord Eddard? He lied to his wife… Or maybe he didn’t which would really make him an oathbreaker.


* The version of the battle at the Tower of Joy in the novels features three Kingsguard, not two; so it is either Hightower or Oswell Whent.


[For Game of Thrones “Home” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Home. Bran trains with the Three-Eyed Raven; Jaime advises Tommen; Tyrion demands good news.


Brandon Stark?

The one-man catalyst of all the troubles between the Starks and the Lannisters hasn’t been on-screen for a veritable dragon’s age. But he opens up “Home” training with the immortal Max Von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven; warging into the past to see his father Lord Eddard as a boy, fencing with the currently-missing Uncle Benjen (First Ranger), and — get this — Hodor! All when they were little boys.

The Three-Eyed Raven ends the warging (which features Bran able to walk about the memories of Winterfell on his own two legs) stating that “it is beautiful beneath the sea but if you stay too long you’ll drown”.

So… Bran!

By 9:10 EST we are back at the Wall. Thorne’s men are bashing down Ser Davos’s door with an axe, when… There is a mirrored knocking at the gates of Castle Black.

Wun Wun bursts through the gates alongside Edd and dozens of Wildlings. The Watch are hopelessly outnumbered. One of them takes a pot shot at Wun Wun with a crossbow but the annoyed giant casually turns the offending archer into a bloody streak.

Thorne calls Edd a traitor, and Edd retorts that the only traitors here are the ones who murdered Jon Snow.

In the sickest “feel the burn” moment of the episode, Thorne begins a monologue about how the Night’s Watch have held the Wall against the Wildlings for thousands of years…

“Until you,” cuts in Tormund Giantsbane. It is in fact the case that, whether Jon asked or no, it was Thorne who let the Wildlings through the gate.

Then in a flash, by 9:14 EST we’re down in King’s Landing.

A disgusting drunkard recounts the tale of flashing his allegedly gigantic manhood at a naked Queen Cersei during her humiliating walk in “Mother’s Mercy”. A few moments later he is pissing against the side of a wall when [Ser Gregor Clegane in Kingsguard armor] turns him into a bloody streak, much as Wun Wun did the crossbow archer four minutes earlier.

[The Mountain] returns to Cersei’s side; we learn she is not allowed to leave the Red Keep, by order of her son. King Tommen has forbidden Cersei from attending Princess Myrcella’s funeral because the High Sparrow has threatened to throw her back in a cell should her presence violate the sanctity of the holy sept. The funeral is just Tommen and Jaime. The High Sparrow appears and has a bit of a stare-down contest with the Kingslayer.

Jaime threatens the High Sparrow but is suddenly surrounded by Faith Militant. They cannot reach the High Sparrow before Jaime can kill him, but Jaime would be hopeless against so many. Unhurt, the High Sparrow points out that they are a room full of nobodies but that together they can overthrow an empire.

At 9:24 we are in Meereen, with Tyrion holding court with Dany’s remaining inner circle. The topic: the two remaining dragons.

The dragons have not eaten anything since Dany left; Tyrion says it’s because they’re chained up. Dragons are meant to be free or they will grow no larger than common housecats. He declares himself the dragons’ friend and ventures into their dungeon with Varys.

Down there Tyrion shows remarkable bravery, un-hitching the neck collars on by hand.

“Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face!” -Tyrion, to Varys

Still across the Narrow Sea we re-encounter Arya, begging blind in the street.

The waif attacks Arya again, but blind, she is hopeless against a trained fighter. After being bloodied superficially the waif, Jaquen appears (it is strongly implied that Jaquen is in fact the waif, wearing a difference face). “Jaquen” offers Arya a roof over her head, a full belly, and her sight back if she just tells him her name. Arya is adamant, though, that she is “no one” and Jaquen declares her no longer a beggar. They leave together.

Tormund’s line on Thorne was a heck of a second, but it is nothing compared to the “aw shit” moment starting at 9:34.

Ramsay Bolton (Snow), Lord Roose Bolton, and the current Lord Karstark discuss the pursuit of Lady Sansa. The Karstarks, remember, left the Stark side when Robb beheaded Lord Karstark for murdering young Lannisters several seasons ago. Winterfell’s Maester interrupts, declaring that Lady Walda — Lord Bolton’s fat wife worth her weight in glittering dowry — has given birth to a son.

Roose says not to worry, that Ramsay will always be his first born.

Ramsay thanks his dad… And immediately kills him!

He stabs his dad to death mid-hug!

The Maester is instructed to report Lord Bolton’s death as being poison by his enemies. Ramsay then tosses Walda and his newborn brother to his ferocious dogs, declaring that he prefers to be an only child. Ramsay is now officially Lord Bolton.

Did I mention “aw shit”?

Sansa and Theon part ways in a brief scene that gives this episode its name. Theon would have given his life to get Sansa to Jon at the Wall, but with Brienne and Pod with her, his presence is no longer necessary. Sansa says she will tell Jon that Theon didn’t actually kill Bran and Rickon, but he points out that the two boys he did kill were plenty innocent; and that he beheaded Winterfell’s castellan and betrayed Robb. While all a man’s sins are forgiven when he takes the Black, Theon does not want forgiveness. He wants to go “Home”.

“Home” for Theon is of course the Iron Islands. We haven’t seen Yara or King Balon (Theon’s sister and father) on camera in a long while; but here they are amidst the salt and storm of their island kingdom. The two Greyjoy nobles disagree badly over Ironborn strategy. The Ironborn hold no main land castles; Yara points out that Balon can’t keep hassling the main land or the Lannisters et al will come and knock his little kingdom down as Ned Stark once did. Remember, Theon was made a ward to Eddard largely to keep Balon behaving! Sending Theon back home as an ambassador during the War of the Five Kings was a huge mistake on the part of Robb (one of many).

Balon wants to reave and rape no matter the cost in Ironborn lives it seems, and tells Yara she can wage all the peace she wants when he is gone… But if she doesn’t do what she’s told now he will make another heir who will.

That’s not going to be a problem, though. On the way out of his conversation with his daughter, Balon’s own brother, reappearing after many years at sea, throws him off a bridge; killing yet another king. Aw shit again!

The next day Yara swears by “the Salt Throne” she will hunt down her father’s assassin then throw him to the sharks but it is pointed out she doesn’t actually have the Salt Throne. Yara would have been the first female to lead the Ironborn… but now the law says Yara might not be the heir after all.

At 9:47 EST we’re back at the Wall. Ser Davos gives the speech of the show to Melisandre, beseeching her to use her infernal magics to raise Jon from the dead.

Melisandre’s confidence, remember, has been shattered by the destruction of Stannis and his army, and all the terrible kinslaying, kingslaying, and child-murdering required to get them to that awful end. But Davos does her one better:

“Seven gods, drowned gods, tree gods… It’s all the same. I’m not asking the Lord of Light for help; I’m asking the woman who showed me miracles exist.”

She will at least try (Melisandre is back to being beautiful BTW).

In the final scene Melisandre attempts a ritual in Valyrian language, surrounded by Davos, Edd, Tormud, and a sleeping Ghost — Jon’s key friends and allies — to no avail. All of them leave when Jon doesn’t suddenly wake up or whatever.

At 9:55 EST Ghost kind of gets up and yawns, and then Jon does in fact suddenly wake up!


Was it Melisandre’s magic? Was it Jon warging into Ghost and then just waiting until he could jump back into his own body safely?

No one knows (yet)!

Theon got the one-word line that made the episode title, but the theme of “Home” was really on Ser Davos’s lips. This was an episode about the various religions of the Game of Thrones universe. Tommen is King; Margaery and Cersei Queens… But they are all subject to the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant of the Seven just now; it’s really hard to see the Lannister-Tyrell families as the military powerhouses who beat the Starks. In the Iron Islands the Drowned God’s mantra is on the lips of everyone, at almost any opportunity. Bran is tangled in the branches of an actual tree god up north of the Wall… And though Davos didn’t mention it, Arya’s current blind struggles with Jaquen (or whoever) are her own initiation into a dangerous religious order.

But despite the presence of not just these gods but the Lord of Light as an actual and proven source of magic and miracles, “Home” is really about human industry, not faith that some higher power is going to solve all of our problems. Davos didn’t want the Lord of Light; he wanted the woman who could make miracles. Jaquen gives Arya an easy way out… She chooses not to take it; rather, to keep taking lumps and living as a beggar if she must. And in the face of the most palpable magic of them all — the dragons — Tyrion ventures into the darkness to do something that almost no one is brave enough to (or smart enough to)… Un-hitch Dany’s children.

Season Six has us down three important rulers in only two episodes. Prince Doran Martell was assassinated by his own brother’s paramour and daughters; Balon Greyjoy was thrown from a bridge by his brother; and Roose Bolton was of course stabbed by his own heir. So much for family. Rather than being on the battlefield (or a Red Wedding or thereabouts) each and every one was safely at “Home” at the time of his end.


Arya falls to the Waif in "The Red Woman"

[For Game of Thrones “The Red Woman” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
The Red Woman. The fate of Jon Snow is revealed; Daenerys meets a strong man; Cersei sees her daughter again.

Season Six of the Emmy Award-winning juggernaut Game of Thrones begins right where most fans would have wanted… With the body of Jon Snow, lying in the snow. We approach from a very long shot to spy Jon’s still body next to a label “traitor”.

And then, howling.

Is it the wind?

No, it’s a ghost. The Ghost, rather. Sensing something amiss with his master, Ghost howls and howls until the Onion Knight is summoned to the courtyard. Ser Davos and some of Jon’s remaining loyal Brothers take his body.

“Thorne did this” is the quick (and correct) conclusion.

Edd and Davos confer. The circle of whom they can trust doesn’t go much further than the three or four already in the room. They might as well get the direwolf!

… and the eponymous Red Woman.

Melisandre is a woman in a completely different place than when we first saw her birthing a murderous shadow demon out of her — ahem — nethers. Stannis’s complete destruction on the battlefield (following her ritual sacrifice of the Baratheon princess), the suicide of the once-faithful Queen, and now the death of Jon, have seemingly poured doubt into her heart when before there was only magic and fire.

“I saw him in the flames,” she almost pleads. “.. Fighting at Winterfell.”

Meanwhile in the Castle Black mess hall… The Watch is a mess. Some of the Watch want to know what happened; many are pleading at the insanity of the situation. He was their Lord Commander.

Thorne gives what can only be considered a pretty good speech. He admits to committing treason (along with other senior members of the Watch). He had no love for Jon, but he also never disobeyed an order Jon gave. Thorne in fact acknowledges that Jon was only doing what he thought was best… It’s just that what he thought was best would have been (in the opinion of Thorne and company) would have been the end of their way of life.

“If you were planning to see tomorrow you picked the wrong room.” Back in the Onion Knight’s apartments, Edd wants to take the fight to their traitorous brothers. They after all have a dire wolf! They can’t expect to live, but maybe they can take down Thorne…

Davos reminds Edd that there are more people in the world who owe Jon Snow their lives than are in the one apartment. Plan in hand, Edd leaves for help.

We jump a little south to Winterfell.

Horrible villain Ramsay Snow moans over the loss of his mistress. In case you’ve forgotten, she stopped Sansa’s escape in the Season Five finale only to be thrown from the towers of Winterfell by a repentant Theon Greyjoy. It is only the distraction of fighting Stannis’s army that gave Sansa the cover she needed to get away.

And on that note…

Lord Bolton commends Ramsay on the defeat of Stannis; then asks him if he fancies himself a winner.

“I rebelled against the crown” says Bolton, to marry Ramsay to Sansa. Now that she’s out of pocket? The Northern lords are less likely to rally to the Boltons when the Lannisters inevitably come calling.

Trouble is implied for both Bolton lords… And the as-yet unborn child percolating in Walda Frey (now Bolton)’s belly.

Sansa and Theon survived their jump from the Winterfell wall and are next seen braving an icy river to thrown off Bolton hounds; freezing to death being preferable to being torn to bits by dogs, after all.

The young pair cling to each other for warmth… And then Bolton hunters and Ramsay’s vicions hounds arrive. Theon tries to take one for the team (or one Stark princess at least) but Brienne and Pod appear and kill all the Bolton soldiers before he has to. Theon himself has a further moment of heroism, saving Pod from a pretty unfair fair fight (this is Pod we’re talking about after all).

Brienne pledges herself into Sansa’s service, as she did Sansa’s mother back in Season Two.

Down in King’s Landing a now-short-haired Cersei greets Jaime’s return, presumably looking for her beloved Myrcella. Myrcella is of course dead by poison. She didn’t make it out of Dorne due to Oberyn Martell’s venomous women.

Cersei recounts the prophecy of the woods witch, who told her all her children would have golden shrouds. At which point we see the first real look at Jaime Lannister that we have in maybe four or five seasons.

“Fuck prophecy.
“Fuck fate.
“Fuck everyone who isn’t us.”

Yes, that is the Jaime who once threw an innocent little boy out of a window. Have we seen the last of the Jaime who granted Lannister-nee-Stark Valyrian steel into the hands of Brienne to keep safe Eddard’s daughters? The quester of the Riverlands and Dorne> A return to the man who hunted down the Hand of the King and his retinue like dogs in the street? It certainly seems that way. This Jaime wants to take everything and more, everything there is.

Across town (still in King’s Landing) an imprisoned Queen Margaery is getting an earful from an attending Septa.

The Septa has a ton of great lines, including “Confess”, “the Seven Hells are brimming with the souls of saintly men”, and “sinners don’t make demands, they make confessions.”

The High Sparrow appears and dismisses the Septa, and has a short heart-to-heart with the Queen, but it’s not like he lets her or her brother go free.

Things degenerate in Dorne at a rapid pace. When we get there, dead Oberyn’s paramour Ellaria Sand is having a nice walk and talk with the reigning prince (and Oberyn’s brother) Doran. They laugh that Doran would have made a poor adventurer and Oberyn a poor leader, and Doran expresses regret that he hadn’t had the opportunity to lie with nearly as many beautiful women (or men, Ellaria points out) as his brother, as he was focused on keeping the people of Dorne fed. Ha ha LOLs.

A messenger approaches the Prince with news of Princess Myrcella, who was released, from Doran’s perspective, back to the Lannisters in last season’s “Mother’s Mercy“. Doran’s eyes bug out in horror and surprise… As Ellaria stabs him. A nearby Sand Snake kills Doran’s bodyguard Areo Hotah simultaneously (which is surprising as Areo Hotah is kind of a badass in the books).

Two more Sand Snakes go to visit their cousin Prince Tristane and kill him quick like, too. Ellaria says that Dorne will never again be governed by weak men like Doran and his son.

Across the sea Daario and Jorah find first the spoils of Drogon’s feeding (what else but dragon fire can melt a ram’s horn?), then the ring Dany left when she was taken by the Dothraki in the closing moments of “Mother’s Mercy”.

We cut to the Dothraki who have her. A beautiful white-haired woman to be presented to their Khal!

They clearly don’t know who she is, but there is a strong indication she hasn’t been abused (yet). The banter and speculation around Dany includes 1) whether the carpet matches the drapes [white-haired young women being uncommon on the Dothraki sea], 2) the number of things on par with seeing a beautiful woman naked the first time [the answer being four other things, led by killing another Khal], and of course 3) fucking yo’ grandma.

After some preamble Dany reveals herself to their Khal, who pledges that no one in his horde will abuse her, tonight or ever; but that as the widow of Khal Drogo she must live out her days in Vaes Dothrak.

Arya is still blind. She is briefly seen on the streets of Braavos begging… Until she gets beaten up in a staff fight by the Waif (her fellow initiate from the House of Black and White). The Waif is not interested in the fact that Arya is at a handicap, and says “see you tomorrow” while leaving her a cudgel. It seems Arya’s training did not end with the apparent betrayal after killing a Kingsguard.

We come full circle to the episode title, “The Red Woman”. Jon’s small group of loyal friends can’t beat forty opposing Night’s Watch, even with a dire wolf, but the Onion Knight tells them they have never seen what Melisandre can do. We then get to see a very different side of her.

Alone, with her faith ostensibly shaken, Melisandre removes her ruby necklace and goes to sleep. But when she removes the ruby she is no longer the beautiful woman who has been seducing would-be kings, princes, and royal bastards for the past several seasons, but a truly ancient thing; sagging and puffy with thin wisps of white hair. The silent scene speaks of exhaustion more than any other emotion and is completely exasperating. Packed with a million characters and locales as it was, “The Red Woman” ripped by with little conclusion. How can something so chock full as this Season Premiere be so simultaneously unsatisfying? What the heck is going to happen at the Wall? Is Melisandre going to kick butt or what?

Some questions and takeaways:

How many wars will the Lannisters be waging simultaneously? They have to stabilize King’s Landing with their Tyrell Queen trapped by the High Sparrow (and it’s not like Cersei is 100% in the clear yet, either). Lord Bolton thinks it’s only a matter of time before they come North for embracing Sansa. The death of Myrcella means they will go to war with Dorne, too. When Jaime said “fuck everybody who isn’t us” did he mean “everybody” and everywhere literally?

How freaking naive is Tyrion? Isn’t he supposed to be the smartest man on the planet, more or less? Considering an Unsullied escort is no longer guaranteed safety in the face of the Sons of the Harpy I can’t imagine walking the streets of Meereen can possibly be safe for him and Varys without any protection whatsoever seeing that whether he is dressed as a Western noble or not, Tyrion is still one of the most recognizable people on the planet and it wasn’t that long ago that there was a price on his head put there by Cersei.

The problem for Dany isn’t that she is going to be stuck in Vaes Dothrak forever. She is obviously going to get out of there whether with the help of Jorah and Daario or on a dragon’s back before season’s end… The problem is that breaking the Dothraki Khaleesi conventions might prove a long-term problem for her politically. She wanted to raise a Dothraki cavalry to take Westeros… What happens when the insulted Dothraki attack her liberated slave cities in retaliation for breaking custom?

Does Melisandre take off her magical ruby every night like you or I would a pair of contact lenses? Or is this a special occasion and a sign that she has made a lasting and terrible decision about the course of her life? Witch powers or not, have we seen the last of super hot Melisandre?

And for that matter when is she going to go full Beric Dondarrion on Jon already?


Mother's Mercy

Mike (michaelj) poked me with 8 questions about last night’s Game of Thrones finale “Mother’s Mercy” (kind of like I did with the Jurassic World review the other day). This is what I thought. What did you all think?

Was there any Bran sighting? Warg? Raven? Three-eyed Raven? Catching up with his old buddy Sam about dem old GTs sticking dragonglass into White Walkers? Been a whole season… Anything?




Not even a raven. Although if you looked at any message boards after the episode there was a LOT of raving. As far as I can tell there are about four people left who will watch the show next year. We are headed into uncharted territory for next season. Maybe that is where Bran and the Raven are hanging out.

Did Olly end up betraying Jon? I think the producers have done a bonzer job establishing first Olly’s devotion to Jon and then some substantial second-guessing with everything involving the Free Folk. Olly stabby stabby Jonny Snowy or what?

Please don’t ever say that again.

Olly did his best Night King impersonation and slowwalked from the back of the treasonous lot for maximum dramatics. This is also the reason there will only be four of us watching next season.

How’s your temperature on Melisandre? Cold as the coming winter, hot as the Lord of Light, other?

I hate Melisandre. I hate her in the books. I hate her on the show. I hate her so much that I am colder than the coming winter toward her. Speaking of which…

Game of Thrones has been rough on my teenaged fantasies. Growing up — even though the show was already more than two decades old — there was no one hotter to me than Emma Peel from the Avengers TV show. She occupied a lot of my attention and, while she plays my favorite character from this season, Diana Rigg has made my old bones ache this season. And not in the euphemistic way.

To what degree were you cheering for Sansa before this episode and how has that changed given the season finale’s conclusion?

I hate Sansa in the books but I have really been rooting for her to rule over Winterfell on the show. She has endured a lot more on the show than she does in the books but I am looking forward to seeing where they take her next season (as I am sure the other three remaining viewers do as well).

Are you happy with Brienne’s reduced role going North (relative to being the heavy Riverlands POV character in the books) or would you have rather she went the way of the Greyjoys entirely this season?

The one thing that I really hated in this episode was the whole candle in the tower bit which played a little too Three’s Company to me. We park her on the edge of Winterfell for the last month doing nothing only to have her look away to check in on Stannis making his doomed march on the Boltons. It just didn’t work for me and it was really frustrating because I have loved the show when they have made use of Brienne and this seemed wasteful.

I had read rumors production had to shut down a whole town to keep the Naked Cersei Church Walk under wraps. Did it happen? To what degree was it a satisfying moment (supposing it did in fact happen)? Or in the alternative… Cersei getting hers or what?

It happened in all of its excruciating glory. It was one of the most uncomfortable moments in the history of the show. My wife had to keep reminding me what a terrible, awful person Cersei is and that I should not feel bad for her. She was pretty upset about the scene because she contends that all the controversy about the Walk of Atonement was just a smokescreen to cover up the Jon Snow betrayal which she was not at all prepared for.

[Post Script: It turns out Headey “elected not to show all” for “Mother’s Mercy”. Whether it was because she was pregnant with a baby girl during filming or some other reason, this does not really change my reading, or Mike’s Game of Thrones Finale Review.]

Tyrene Sand and Bronn… Match made in Heaven, or match actually made in the dungeons of Dorne (or not a match at all)? Kingslayer did in promise Bronn “a much better girl” and how much better can you get than “the most beautiful woman in the world” who is also a deadly assassin?

He is totally sending her a raven with a casual “Hey, you up?” scroll as soon as he gets back to King’s Landing.

This season has sped by like a bullet train! What was your favorite moment of the finale?

The finale totally snuck up on me. Watching these prestige shows is so much different than watching a network show. Something like The Good Wife takes up half a year to play out but this goes by in less than three months. But I am ducking the question. Favorite moment has to be Reek pushing Myranda over the rail. Rooting for some Theon redemption next season.