So we’re half way (already!) through the new series of Game of Thrones, and boy has a lot happened. Following on from the rather slow-burning fifth season, series 6 has begun with positively intense and satisfying moments from all edges of the map. We’ve been given resurrections, revelations, reunited characters and allured to some promising resolutions. Series 6 is half way done, but it appears that there is still much to come…
You have been warned!
The first five episodes of this series have emphasised the repercussions, and domino-effect, that has followed the grim betrayal of beloved Lord Commander Jon Snow at Castle Black. After that depressing cliffhanger ending of series five, many fans (including myself) have been endlessly speculating the possible outcomes and fate of Lord Snow. Maybe he warged into his direwolf Ghost? Maybe Kit’s fellow co-workers got fed up with him knowing nothing about anything, therefore Weiss and Benioff decided to roll with it. Or, you could have gone with the most popular theory of Melisandre using her Lord of Light powers to bring him back, because that’s exactly what happened. Easily debated as the most predictable ‘surprise’ in the show, it was still portrayed as a monumental scene in the show’s long history of memorable moments.
Before our hero arises, other pivotal events unfold at Castle Betrayal. Ser Aliser Thorne has now deemed himself the successful Lord Commander, which is received with mixed feelings from the Night’s Watch. It’s obvious that there are those still loyal to Jon, which prompts anxiety amongst the group of rapists, murderers and bread thieves. Ser Davos, being one of the most genuine and honourable men in the show (not always a good trait in this world), realises quickly that Thorne is in no way fit to lead such men; and swiftly sides with the pretty petty posse defending Jon’s corpse. It’s as though they knew there was going to be a resurrection sequence later on. Another character who, following the epic slaughter of Stannis’ banner-men (or, what’s left of them), sides with the late Lord Commander, is Melisandre – the ‘Red Woman’. The band of about-to-also-be-murdered men (and woman), make one last attempt to provide justice for Jon’s murder by contacting the Wildings. Being in some form in-debt to Jon for saving them from Hardhome, the Wildings, led by Tormund, assault the castle and force the traitor Night’s Watch to surrender. In a hugely satisfying scene Thorne and Olly are taken away as prisoners, and we get to see the giant splat a rather foolish man against the castle’s wall. Awesome.
The castle is restored from traitorous hands, and now the issue of Jon’s fate is considered. Davos and Melisandre have never been on the best of terms, but in these episodes we are treated to some bonding between the two, which is instigated mostly by Davos’ “fuck it” attitude. Melisandre is revealed to be a very old lady, using some method of masking magic; with many claiming it’s the necklace she wears, however it could be the potions as we have seen Melisandre without the necklace before. Stressed out about her failed prophecies and wrinkly skin, Melisandre doubts her ability to do anything more than feel sorry for herself. But, with the last drop of hope she has for Jon being the ‘chosen one’, fighting at Winterfell within the her funky flames, she makes one last ditched effort to resurrect Jon Snow. All seems to fail, she finishes her spell with no signs of effect. The characters frustratingly, and solemnly, leave the room one by one. And when nobody but the audience and Ghost are left in the room, Jon breathes a heavy gasp and he returns.
Jon Snow returns to the side of the living, realising that doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to live (we already found out the hard way – Ehem, Ned, Oberyn…), and possibly more detrimental to his sanity – there’s just darkness at the end of it all. Scary thoughts, including the fact that his prodigy, Olly stabbed him in the heart, which consequently leaves him a little traumatised. Jon is rightfully a bit shocked, but also a bit fragile following his sudden rebirth into the world. It is clear that Lord Commander isn’t a position of power he wants to stick with forever, and now that he has actually died, the line “only in death does duty end” really does apply here. Technically his watch has ended, but his final duty as Lord Commander, before passing the mantle to his mate Edd, is to execute the traitors who stabbed him. Weirdly for this scene there are only four men being hanged, when I’m certain there were at least a dozen, but moving on. Thorne, being the smug arse that he is justifies his actions and hopes that if he was to do it again, he’d make the same choice. Olly on the other hand, doesn’t say a word, just stares like a devil child at Jon, who is obviously upset about the whole thing. The men dangle for a bit as Jon looks on with a rather aggressive and pretty fed up look on his face. He hands over his position to Edd, claiming that his watch has officially ended.
The Boltons still hold Winterfell after Stannis’ failed (and pretty dire) attempt to capture it. However, Sansa ‘key-to-the-North’ Stark has escaped with Theon (Reek). Roose scolds his son, Ramsay for the slip-up – but in the super calm voice that he always has. Ramsay is obviously annoyed that his mistress on the side was murdered, but also that he can’t legitimise his inheritance to House Bolton. Without Sansa’s baby, Ramsay can’t reinforce his power play within the North, which Roose reminds him consistently. The two Bolton men are abruptly interrupted by news of Roose’s Frey wife has given birth to a baby boy. This event pretty much seals Ramsay’s fate as a second-class son with no real power, but it also seals Roose’s fate as Ramsay actually betrays his father and murders his baby brother to claim House Bolton for himself. It’s a brutal sequence which emphasises how cruel and ‘wild’ he really is. Although we already knew this, I believe these actions are building up to his miserable demise in the second half of the season (we can only hope!).
Matters only worsen when the Umbers (a House supposedly strongly loyal to the Starks – at least in the books) offer Ramsay a surprise gift. The gift being the long awaited (just messing) return of Rickon Stark and Wilding friend Osha. Also Shaggy Dog is supposedly killed, but who knows for certain, that could be a trick. Osha is cleaned up all nice for Ramsay’s pleasure, despite his distraction of peeling an apple, symbolic of his brutal flaying skills. Osha attempts to trick another men using sex, stretching for the peeling knife to end Ramsay’s reign of terror, only to fail and have a knife plunged into her throat. Turns out Ramsay already knew about her methods from Theon’s torture days, so he lives another day, sadly. The future of Ramsay’s storyline maintains a mystery, except the trailer’s allure to a large battle in the North of which he participates. I’ve got a sneaky feeling that Ramsay will be betrayed himself at some point, the other factions may consider him too reckless, which Roose referred to before being stabbed.
In other places, Sansa and Theon escape into the nearby woods, desperate to free themselves from Ramsay’s grasp. Thankfully being rescued by a clumsy Pod, and vicious Brienne, Sansa and Theon are freed from the Bolton terror. Brienne pledges an oath of loyalty to Sansa, becoming a member of her Queen’s Guard. Making the sensible choice of travelling to Castle Black hoping to find peace and protection from her half-brother Jon, the group embark on their journey. Theon decides it’s time to head back home to the Iron Islands however, which could be perceived as a cowardly move to avoid Jon’s revenge (for all the previous wrongdoings that silly Theon has done), but also a promising move in progressing the rather under-developed Greyjoy plot.
Upon arrival at Castle Black we witness the long-awaited reunion of the Stark family, which we’ve all been eagerly waiting for. It’s unlikely that all the Starks will reunite, not considering that most are actually dead, but the fact that Arya is in Essos feels like a long shot for anything meaningful soon. Jon and Sansa laugh and giggle over their childhoods, apologising for any past bullying and moving on. These scenes probably represent the most joyful moments of Game of Thrones we have seen in a long time. It only forebodes possible haunting deaths in the future, which I really, really hope don’t happen. Alas, this is Game of Thrones and nobody is safe. Happy times are usually abruptly interrupted with miserable ones, so we can only wait and see what happens in the next half of the season.
Sansa becomes very confident in these episodes, resembling the growing character we were promised at the end of series 4; before she was torn apart and raped by Ramsay. Here we have a strong leader, rallying Jon and the Wildings into reclaiming their ancestral home. It’s hugely promising for the upcoming battle, at first they were outnumbered, but the sudden appearance of Little Finger (Petyr Baelish) proves to be a potential lifeline in standing against the Bolton’s force. The battle is definitely one of the most anticipated events of this series, and it’s shaping up quite nicely.
The Lannisters remain vigilant in their fragile position of power. Tommen, being a young boy in love, confronts the High Sparrow to free Margaery but instead succumbs to his old-man advice. Easily swayed by his charms, Tommen continues to present a weak King, who is continually prep-talked by his rather spiteful mother, Cersei. Jaime returns to King’s Landing with the corpse of Marcella, which intensifies anger and urges of revenge among the couple. Cersei and Jaime plot to overthrow the High Sparrow as an act of revenge for last seasons’ stripping and humiliation. Manipulating the Tyrells into storming the Sept to rescue Margaery as a mask for destroying the zealots and restoring total control to the royal. It seems that the Lannister family is desperate to reestablish themselves as a House to be reckoned with, however hints of civil war loom for the future…
As a side note, despite hating the guy in series 4 for being a total jerk to Oberyn – the Mountain is such a joy to watch on screen this series. Constantly scaring others and smashing people into pulps from the most effortless of motions, you can’t help but enjoy his presence.
Arya continues her punishing training to become ‘no-one’. After losing her sight, she is forced to beg on the streets of Bravos until that really mean lady from the House of Black of White turns up and beats her silly. Bit cruel beating a blind beggar don’t you think? Nevertheless, Arya tries to fight back and eventually earns in place back in the House. She is given a second chance at completing her training, after taking Ser Meryn Trant’s life selfishly (he totally deserved it though). Continuously becoming better and better, Arya climbs the ladder to fully embodying no-one, and is rewarded back her eagle eyesight. Following more philosophical and repetitive questions, Arya is given her second real task to take a life for the Many Faced God. The woman she must kill is a supposedly talented actress (who HBO clearly dislike), who is performing a comedic play about the past events in Westeros. This includes some offensive portrayals of beloved Ned Stark and Sansa, who flashes the audience when the actor playing Tyrion rips her top. Arya doesn’t take this too kindly, but instead of messing everything up she plays it calm, and decides that she will carry out the task properly. The next few episodes will reveal if Arya really is up for the challenge, and will also deal with moral dilemmas clearly clouding her thoughts.
After Dany’s rather elegant departure from the squad, Meereen is left under the control of advisor Tyrion, spider Varys, less charming advisor Missandei and rather bland, but great fighter Grey Worm. Tyrion, in his new position and locale, decides to suss out the best solutions to maintaining Dany’s rule without losing control of the population. A tough task with the pesky Sons of the Harpy rebelling throughout the city. Events worsen when Dany’s fleet is burned to a crisp, however Tyrion persists to maintain order. Unchaining the dragons from their pens in a satisfying scene which shows Tyrion’s charm works on dragons and not just simple folk. Reaching out to the Masters (and rulers) of previously liberated cities such as Astapor, Tyrion strikes a deal with the men which gives them seven whole years to abolish slavery and find other means to make a living. This decision is not received positively by Grey Worm or Missandei, however they support Tyrion’s actions whilst Dany isn’t there to rule – she’s too busy partying with the Dothraki!
Daenerys Targaryen is captive to the Dothraki tribe, forced to walk all the way to Vaes Dothrak without a Drogon taxi in sight. Dothraki men mock her pale skin and white hair before handing her over to the new Khal Jhaqo. Jhaqo seems like a pretty average Khal, nowhere near as captivating as Drogo for sure, but at least he respects his predecessors as well as tradition. Dany reveals her origins and Jhaqo puts her in her place with other widow Khaleesis in the Dosh Khaleen – an old hut full of widows waiting for something interesting to happen. Being the last place the Mother of Dragons should be, Dany quickly puts together a plan before being ambushed by her ‘saviours’ Daario, and ultra-friend-zoned Jorah Mormont. The lads share some banter prior to sneaking into Vaes Dothrak to save their Queen; banter mostly consisting of Jorah being taunted by the fact that Daario has slept with Dany and he hasn’t. Jorah’s greyscale situation is also found out which possibly aids Daario’s sympathy for the old knight.
Khal Jhaqo and his fellow posse of smug men summon Dany to the Dosh Khaleen to receive judgement – whether she lives her days out with the others, executed, or sexually abused by the tribe. Dany has none of this, and unleashes a very powerful speech before tipping some torches over and burning the fools to ashes. In a scene that feels pretty samey to the end of series one, Dany arises from the flames, naked and worshiped by the thousands of Dothraki people. It’s a progressive move in Dany’s story-line, which has been rather dry for a while. Now she has two armies backing her, will she make a move for Westeros in the next episodes? We shall see.
Beyond the Wall:
Finally, we have the long-awaited return of Brandon Stark. So, how has he progressed after skiving season five? It turns out that the Three-Eyed-Raven has been taking Bran through flashback visions to explore and reveal very juicy bites of information. Hodor and Meera have been boring themselves living in a tree eating moss, whilst Bran gets to go on all the rides. Not very fair in my opinion. However, these flashbacks are fundamental to explaining the lore and upcoming events before Game of Thrones begins. We are given images of young Ned Stark at Winterfell with his brother Benjen, and sister Lyanna. Yes, thee famous Lyanna. The second vision hints towards an event hugely speculated by fans for ages – the Tower of Joy. The speculation is that the Tower of Joy holds the secret of Jon Snow’s true parentage, that being Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This theory beckons the most logic in my mind, it justifies Ned’s protectiveness over Jon from his wife Caitlyn, who didn’t seem to know the truth. It would seem that Ned held the truth to himself to protect his only nephew from Robert Baratheon’s Targaryen hatred.
Bran is frequently pulled away from these visions to avoid getting consumed and unable to return back to reality. In his frustration to find out more, Bran decides to send himself into flashback mode on his own without the supervision of the Three-Eyed-Raven. He sees the undead army for the first time, as well as the Night King, who touches him. Before this incident it was believed that Bran was safe from the horrors of the visions, but the Night King actually acknowledges him and is able to grab him, leaving a frozen scar on his arm when he returns. The Three-Eyed-Raven is obviously annoyed with Bran’s ignorance, and is forced to complete his training before the Night King hunts them down. The funny thing is, it only takes the Night King five minutes to turn up knocking. The weird Children (tree people) attempt to fight back against the White Walkers, defending Bran and the others, but to no avail. The tree is swarmed, many Children die, the Three-Eyed-Raven is murdered by the Night King. As Bran, Meera and Hodor escape, Summer also sacrifices himself to the Wights to slow down the oncoming horde. The most emotional moment comes from Hodor though, who sacrifices himself holding back a door so that Meera and Bran (who’s still stuck in a vision) run off into the blizzard. The amazing and emotional revelation that Hodor (Willis) becomes Hodor from Meera calling out “hold the door” several times which echoes into Bran’s vision where young Willis stands. It’s powerful and emotional, and a great way to finish the first half of series six.
Another big reveal from this series is the creation of the White Walkers, which is explained to be The Children creating a form of defence against mankind. It’s interesting, but I would have preferred their origins being a mystery personally.
So that’s it, we’re half way there and it’s been great so far. So many satisfying movements forward in plot-lines that felt dry last season. I haven’t gone into complete detail about all characters, there’d just be too much to fit in one post. So this acts as a nice general summary of the events of the first five episodes of season six. Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. I will return to review the second half!