*Warning, this article is darkly intelligent and full of terrifying spoilers*
Swarms of ice-zombies, Franken-Mountain smashing in sparrow heads, Dothraki-dragon barbeques; this episode had, well, not a whole lot of this. Still, after last week’s utter mind/heart bomb this latest installment of GOT came as almost a relief – as seems to be the general formula so far this season while the show continues to deviate from and expand beyond the yet to be completed source material. There were some interesting revelations and set-up – particular for those of us daring, desperate, and insane enough to have read the all books to date.
Benjen Stark, for one, is back, though I’d forgotten that he had been on the show in the first place until Jon Snow’s treasonous watch bros duped him with his whereabouts in the final moments of last season’s finale. This was a particularly interesting development for book readers as we’d all but given up both Benjen and or Coldhands making a big T.V. screen appearance. One may wonder where in the seven hells he was on Bran and Company’s journey north (he aided them to the Three Eyed Raven in the books), but even so, it was fairly obvious who the mysterious man in black was when he rode out of the forest.
It is worth noting that this episode was big on returns: Benjen, Edmure Tully, Drogon. These reappearances should give one hope that more seemingly lost characters might still make a comeback… My votes are for the Hound and Lady Stoneheart – one of which I am almost positive will be revealed as early as the next episode, aptly titled “The Broken Man.” If you’re not familiar with the ‘gravedigger’ theory and don’t mind further and much more detailed spoilers, definitely checkout this video.
Long story short, it seems likely that Cersei’s opponent for her trial by combat will be…wait for it…none other than the Hound. Their battle was foreshadowed in this latest episode, as Cersei says to Jamie, ‘it will be a trial by combat… I have the Mountain.’ She has every right to be confident in her choice. After all, who else would dare to fight let alone could triumph against such a monster? The Hound not only makes thematic sense but it’s just too damn cool of a theory to give up on until I see the Hound’s rotting corpse for myself.
Then again, all too often some maniacal authorial amalgamation of George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss has cleverly shattered our theories and expectations of what’s to come next. I, and many others, for example, were convinced based on the hints and foreshadowings of Bran’s wargtastic experiences so far this season that Hodor was half-horse brain, or full-horse brain, or some other fraction of non-human, post-warg-trama intellect. Yet the reality as it turned out in the previous episode was far more complicated, disturbing, and tragic than I had feared to imagine.
Maybe the same type of twist will floor us all for what the High Sparrow really has planned next? He has certainly proven to be a master manipulator the likes of which few in Westeros seem able to counter. When you have the Queen of Thornes declaring that she’s being beaten, the masses cheering for you, and the King and Queen touting their faithful allegiance to the Faith Militant; you’ve really accomplished a scheme or several the likes of which Littlefinger and Varys would both raise a goblet of Kool-Aid to.
But what in the heck does this damn High Sparrow want anyway? There’s some really interesting theories on who the man truly is, namely this one, though at least for the show version such a theory seems less and less likely as time, and episodes, pass. More and more likely it feels as if the High Sparrow is exactly what he says he is: an honest zealot looking to overthrow an empire.
There’s so much more that seems to be setting up for an action packed final few episodes to this season: Arya-Waif deul, battle of the bastards, Cleganebowl, etc., etc., etc. Some of these slower-paced episodes are permissible because the writers have overall done a very strong job at forwarding the plot so far – even seeming too rushed at times. This episode didn’t feature a single non-ice-zombie kill as far as I can recall, though going in we were set-up to expect plenty of hostilities (and ideally more than a few Franken-Mountain head bashings): Arya assassinations, Faith Militant slaughter, Randyll Tarly smacking someone upside the head (which he did verbally at least). This seems to work, keeping viewers off balance as to when the exactly the next bout of chaos shall ensure. This show will turn from King’s Landing politics to a zombie apocalypse so fast that you’ll often wonder if you blinked too long and are still watching the same show. #hardhomehardorharhomehome.
Here’s looking forward to the chaos to come whenever it does! *Raises goblet of Kool-Aid*
P.S. it was really cool to see the mad king screaming “BURN THEM ALL”. Now bring us back to the Tower of Joy already.