Oh, and Walder Frey returned after nearly three full seasons to remind us that he’s still alive.
But first, let’s talk about Coldhands. I’ve chosen to invoke the name of the long lost character from A Song of Ice and Fire because producer David Benioff actually referred to our first returning family member as such in the behind-the-scenes featurette on HBO Go. In the novels, it is suggested time and again that Coldhands is a member of the Night’s Watch, but seemingly from a previous era. Many readers began to believe early on that he might be Jon’s lost uncle Benjen Stark … and, at least as far as the show goes, this turned out to be correct as he finally returned with both ice and fire at his command.
Last week, I suggested Meera and Bran could use either characters’ aid, but to have them be the same character was sublimely great. And even if Coldhands and Benjen Stark remain separate in The Winds of Winter — should it ever come out — knowing how he came to be offers some hope that, perhaps, Hodor can be retrieved via similar means.
Provided of course, Bran finds some way to make dragonglass.
Meanwhile, Sam also had an frosty family reunion with his father Randyll Tarly at their family seat in Horn Hill. And actor James Faulkner lived up to every story Sam ever told of the character. Grimacing and barely containing his rage, seeing Randyll lash out at Sam was only topped by his son’s decision to steal the family sword. In the novels, Randyll is never really seen through Sam’s eyes, but instead through a handful of scenes in which he interacts with Brienne and later Kevan Lannister. The performance here matches those incidents, so high marks for faithfulness there. But it remains to be seen if he’ll follow through on the seeming intentions of his book counterpart.
Honestly, I like him being set up just so Sam could steal the sword and eventually wield it — in defiance of his father — against the White Walkers.
Of course, that also begs the question of Sam’s final destination. Now taking the sword, it is possible he’ll never go to the Citadel and earn his chain. It’s where readers last seem in A Feast for Crows, but who knows how that storyline will be approached in the series as it rushes to the end.
And speaking of book storylines, Jamie is finally on his march to River Run. It is interesting that Cersei frames her support of Tommen’s new orders as a matter of family. Now striped of his role in the Kingsguard, Jamie is free to lead Lannister forces where ever they are sent. In this case, it is to prop up the Freys’ tenuous hold on the River Lands. This is where Jamie ends up in A Feast for Crows and it surprised me when the producers sent him to Dorne last year instead. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here as the Jamie of the books ends up meeting a River Lands character we definitely have not seen on the show so far.
Those listening closely in the Towers scene may note that one of Walder’s sons name-checked the Brotherhood Without Banners and the trouble they’re causing…
And yes, I did skip over the goings-on in King’s Landing to get to the River Lands, but something mighty impressive happened in the capital. Tommen has been converted to the cause of High Sparrow. But I wonder if this isn’t yet more Tyrell power playing. That family is pretty tight and has ambitions of its own. Is it possible Margaery — who admits that she is good at lying — is still manipulating the situation in regards to her spiritual awakening? And looking a few steps ahead, are Olenna Tyrell and Kevan Lannister setting up a means to remove Cersei and Jamie?
A better question: Is Kevan Lannister willing to give up the Iron Throne to be rid of his troublesome niece and nephew?
And for what seems like the first time this season, we had an episode without a notable death. Which would fit in with a theme initiated by Benjen’s return and completed by a girl’s choice not to kill Lady Crane. It is interesting that a girl finds empathy with Cersei via the play and that a girl calls herself Mercy when she encounters Lady Crane — dressed as Cersei — following the performance. But a girl’s choice will have consequences for Arya and a final confrontation with the Waif will be forthcoming. Hopefully, it happens soon and Arya will arrange to return to Westeros with the theater troop. Even if she must remain Mercy to do so.
But it is interesting that every opportunity for death is stayed this week. The bloodbath on the Sept’s steps is avoided. Sam avoids direct conflict with his father, choosing instead escape and a symbolic beheading. Even Cersei convinces Jamie to back away from an Assassin’s Creed style run at the High Sparrow. Benjen would seem to be the only one to extinguish life, but as both he and the creatures he fought are somewhere in between states of mortality, did he really kill anything?
Or was it all just leading to Daenerys’s speech of conquest?
Her vision of her blood riders crossing the Narrow Sea and taking the Seven Kingdoms does not come without many deaths. Also, the Dothroki are not known for mercy in their raids. In fact, is it possible we’re seeing the beginning of the Breaker of Chain’s own slip into madness? Bran’s warging this week reminded us of Aerys II, the Mad King who sat the Iron Throne and wanted to burn the city to the ground. Will the throne of Westeros be enough for her? Or will her hunger rival the Night King’s own?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.