Unlike most TV shows, the narrative of Game of Thrones moves forward relatively slowly. The producers take their time and do it right: crafting tension and a visually addictive world while simultaneously developing both story arcs and character arcs that keep you hooked until something actually does happen. Tonight, it happened. After years of anticipation, winter came.
We’ll start with the meat and potatoes of tonight’s episode because, honestly, how can you not?
Jon Snow has headed beyond the Wall with Tormund to make an alliance with the wildlings and grant them safe passage to the south. While not everyone’s keen on the idea, several accept the inspirational speech given by Jon and agree to row to Stannis’ ships and head south to the Wall. But, in Game of Thrones nothing is safe and, beginning with an avalanche of corpses, the White Walkers brought down the full force of their zombie army forcing Jon to stave off the assault with nothing more than his Valyrian steel and an uneasy alliance with Mastodon (yes, the heavy metal band was there… No, seriously, that was them. Go check.) And what an assault it was!
Obliterating nearly everyone and everything in their path, the White Walkers forced the Lord Commander to retreat, but not before Jon took out one of their own, who killed Jon’s only real detractor and shattered several weapons in a shower of ice. Jon, knocked to the ground and tossed around a bit, appeared all but defeated until he raised his sword to fend off a blow by the White Walker’s spear and stopped it cold (pun intended). You could see the confusion in the walker’s eyes and this gave Jon just enough time to disintegrate his foe and retreat to the boat’s with Tormund, a small contingent of Crows, and a freaking giant that made the zombies look like ragdolls in comparison. The tension only just begun though as the episode faded to black and the credits. Just before, we see the Night’s King step forward to add the newly dead to his army and stare down Jon with what can only be described as a come-at-me-Snow attitude.
And that was just the last twenty minutes!
Let’s rewind back to the start of the episode, picking up where it also ended: in a stare down for the ages and yet something else every devoted viewer has been waiting for, Dany and Tyrion together at last. These scenes delivered everything we wanted as the “greatest Lannister killer of all time” as Tyrion jokingly refers to himself as, convinces the queen to banish Ser Jorah again from the city instead of killing him. “A ruler who kills those devoted to her is not a ruler who inspires much devotion,” he tells her and goes on to convince the Mother of Dragons that he can be of some use to her as an advisor at her side. “Because you cannot build a better world on your own,” he tells her, explaining that he’s the only one who truly understands the politics of the land Dany seeks to rule. Accepting this, Dany treats Tyrion to that which he’s been looking forward to for quite some time – a nice glass of wine – and he quizzes the queen on why’d she make a good ruler of a land she knew nothing about. Sure, she takes the wine from him after he has a bit too much, but her response to his question is what makes her stand out in this episode. “The Houses are spokes on a wheel,” she replied. “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”
Meanwhile, Cersei has been reduced to licking water off the floor of her cold cell after being imprisoned by the very church she’d given control of the city to. I can’t say this isn’t one of the high points of the season. Maybe not for Cersei, but certainly for many viewers. Okay, maybe I feel a bit bad for Lena Headey herself. Hopefully that floor wasn’t as dirty as it looked. Given the option to confess her sins to the High Sparrow’s nuns only makes matters worse as, in true Cersei fashion, she opts to spit insults and threats of death at her captors instead, telling the woman that instead of thinking on her sins, she was using her time to think of hideous ways to put the woman to death. More bad news came as Cersei learned that her uncle had returned to the capital to serve as Hand of the King and that King Tommen had disappeared into his quarters, turning down food and drink that his servants brought to him, leaving them in the hall. Things have certainly turned sour for Cersei despite all the things she’s done to comfortably set herself up. We’ll have to be patient as only time will tell what plans the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant has for our beloved Queen Regent.
What about Arya? When we left Arya last week, she’d been led by Jaqen H’ghar to a hall of faces within the House of Black and White. Presumably, this is what happens after she washes the corpses and they’re transported away. She continues to learn the art of lying and detecting the lies of others through training with Jaqen and it is through this training that she becomes “Lana,” a girl who sells clams out of a wheelbarrow on the streets of Braavos. After an interaction with who she calls the ‘Thin Man’ and her subsequent report back to the Faceless Man, Arya is given some sort of vial that we can only assume to be poison and is told that this is a “gift for the Thin Man.” We’ll hopefully find out more about our little assassin in the coming weeks.
There exist a few scenes that show us Ramsay Snow and his father planning a small attack against Stannis’ army where Ramsay says he only needs twenty men to take the fight to Stannis. This is also when we see Sansa confront Reek/Theon and learn the truth that her younger brothers are very much alive and that Theon burned a pair of farm boys because he couldn’t find Bran and Rickon. These scenes are powerful by themselves, but very little happens in them that really help them stand out amongst the overall awesome of the episode’s other scenes.
We’re down to the last couple episodes of the season and it’ll be interesting to see how Benioff and Weiss manage to top themselves after tonight’s episode. The show is almost caught up with the books and this author can’t wait to see where more variations between the two come in to play at. George R.R. Martin has given his blessing after all for the producers to do as they please with the show as he continues work on The Winds of Winter and they have changed a few things already, so we’ll see what happens when those frigid winds finally blow.
Until we talk again, avid readers, keep it easy.