The night is dark, and full of spoilers.
OK, so… This should go without saying but if you keep reading I’m going to spoil the hell out of you. If you didn’t watch this episode, for God’s sake STOP SCROLLING NOW. I mean it, I’m not going to warn anyone again and I’m not apologizing if I ruin your evening.
Now, then – that may just have been the most eventful Game of Thrones episode of all time. It’s almost as if they’re trying to test my resolve not to write long opera (it’s the plural of opus – look it up) on this series. There were at least five or six things this week that could easily have been headliners in a normal episode, but the main event is and always will be the return of Jon Snow. It simply blows every other bombshell out of the water.
It ended the episode, but obviously you can’t talk about other stuff before acknowledging the titanosaur in the room. He’s back, and it actually happened faster than I expected. There were a couple of new clues – for example, the unmistakable wolf pattern in the blood beneath Jon’s body. And Matteo Elezi, the boy who plays Benjen Stark, let it slip that he was getting his hair cut on-set next to Kit Harrington. It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming, but I thought they’d drag it out a few more weeks. I’m glad they didn’t.
So what actually happened? The most simple answer is that Melisandre managed to work her magic in spite of her self-doubts and bring Jon back (at Davos’ pleading). But I’d bet dollars to donuts that Ghost is directly involved. Perhaps Jon warged into Ghost’s body and only came back after Miracle Mel revived him. Perhaps he was just mostly dead. What we know from the Beric Dondarrion chapters is that those who come back from the dead “lose part of themselves” in the process – memories, feelings. Who will this new Jon Snow (or Jon Stark) really be? Perhaps there will be unique circumstances (Ghost’s presence as a vessel, some connection to the Azor Ahai myth) that will allow Jon to be more or less whole. But for now, all we know is that he’s able to blink fast and gasp. And we can finally top asking the fucking question (that was for you, Maisie).
It would take a big matzoh ball to bump the return of Brandon Stark after a too-long absence off the front page for me, but Jon’s revival was a huge matzoh ball. Still, I’ve been waiting for Bran to return and finally become an active player in the story, and that seems finally to have happened (and Max von Sydow is here as the Three Eyed Raven. There was lots of good stuff here, just seeing Bran and Hodor again for starters (Isaac Hempstead-Wright grew a foot during his hiatus, as poor Kristian Nairn knows all too well). I almost choked up a little seeing the look on Bran’s face as we enjoyed the freedom of walking under his own power, even in a vision.
The big takeaways from the Bran scenes were the fact that Hodor was once called Willis, and quite capable of speech, and Meera Reed getting a comment from one of the wood sprites that Bran “won’t be here forever”. It’s also a dead-lock cinch that we’re going to be seeing more of young Ned, Benjen and Lyanna Stark – their story has obvious implications for the present day. If indeed Jon is connected to the Azor Ahai myth, it seems certain his path and Bran’s will cross.
So many other headlines, too many. Must summarize.
- Not just one, but two major Northern lords dead at the hands of family. Wow.
- Wun Wun is a badass. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to Thorne that the Wildlings might move against him in revenge for Jon’s death, but he doesn’t seem to have seen it coming.
- Davos when he’s about to fight and die: “My apologies for what you’re about to see.” Seriously – how can you not love this guy?
- Tommen telling Cersei he wants to be strong, and he wants her help. Poor boy. Jonathan Pryce is fast becoming a major standout in this standout cast – he’s a riveting presence.
- Tyrion with the other line of the episode: “That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things.” He really has balls of steel, this guy. There’s no question now he’s throwing his lot in with the Targeryn legacy as the hope for Westeros.
- The Karstarks are fully on-board the Bolton hype train now. And they seem to have the Manderlys and the Umbers too – WTF?
- OK, Ramsay is way worse than a mad dog, Roose. No sympathy there – he had to know what he was doing in turning this sicko loose on the land, and he got what was coming to him. But Ramsay – he’s beyond the pale. And he’s going to commit more atrocities before the season is out, bank on it.
- Rather touching seeing Theon and Sansa hug after he told her he was going home. He seems to have fully redeemed himself, but I fear it’s too late for Theon as a character to do anything but hope for a noble death. I wonder if he’ll make it back in time for the Kingsmoot?
- Yes, Kingsmoot – it’s really happening, and Euron is back for it. Let’s hope Game of Thrones doesn’t butcher this far-flung locale as badly as it did Dorne. Book readers have few advantages these days, but we did know more or less what was about to happen when Balon walked out onto that bridge. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all that “What is dead may never die” talk was happening just before the climactic scene at Castle Black.