Journey to the Throne, S6E1-4: Season 6 Lightning Round

Game of Thrones is over, but I’m still writing my series reviewing every episode of the series! This post will have Game of Thrones spoilers up to the Season 8 finale.

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 1, “The Red Woman

HBO Official Synopsis: “Season Six Premiere. At Castle Black, Thorne defends his treason while Edd and Davos defend themselves. Sansa and Theon race the cold and the hounds.”

Coming on the heels of Cersei’s Walk of Atonement, her finding out that Myrcella is dead is truly heartbreaking. This is probably Cersei’s lowest point. That also makes it her most likable. Soon we’ll see the moment at which she is most likely to cooperate with her enemies, and in that way, she builds up good will with the audience (even though her uncle Kevan, Olenna Tyrell, and the rest of the Small Council want absolutely nothing to do with her). Here she straddles he line between hero and villain. But, as Stannis can tell you, audience good will is only good for absolutely destroying in a spectacular series of self-destructive decisions.

In this episode and the next, we get to see a pretty tense situation at the Wall as the men who are loyal to Jon hole up and wait for the mutineers. It’s fascinating to watch because not very much is happening, but it still manages to be exciting. But then, this episode also throws us a real twist at the Wall; Melisandre takes off her choker and is revealed to be much older than she appears to be. This isn’t something that is concretely addressed during the course of the show (and some people were upset about that during Season 8) but honestly, I don’t think it had to be. For now, I just think it is enough to know that Melisandre is older than she appears to be. In this case, we don’t need to know every detail about the greater mystery; just that there is a greater mystery.

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In the exciting resolution to the cliffhanger of the previous episode, we watch as Sansa and Theon are pursued by Bolton forces, and are saved heroically by Brienne and Podrick. And it’s a huge moment for Brienne, who tried to swear her sword to Sansa before and now actually has a chance to make good on her promise to Catelyn. As often happens in Brienne’s scenes between Seasons 6 and 8, it’s especially heartwarming.

One of the oddest scenes in this episode comes as Ramsay mourns his lover Myranda, who was murdered by Theon in last season’s finale. The way he speaks of her, clearly mournful, it adds a layer to his character that really just hasn’t been there before. So far as I can think, Joffrey never had a moment like this. (I did mention Joffrey’s one almost-sympathetic moment in a previous post, but he never had such clear emotions as we see here.)

Tyrion and Varys are trying to rule Meereen, and mention the looming threat of the Sons of the Harpy… which leads me back to an issue I feel like I’ve had frequently in Daenerys’ story; fake mysteries. They try to make it this big, interesting question mark where there really isn’t one. It’s a terrorist group attacking freed slaves in a city full of freed slaves and former masters, in an area that is well-known for being funded by large slavery conglomerates. Gee I wonder w h o c o u l d b e b e h i n d t h i s?! Maybe it’s a failure on my part for not being properly able to conceive of the Masters from various cities as individual corporations, but I suppose that’s what they are.

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Favorite Line: Ramsay’s eerie way of mourning his lover; when asked how if he wants her buried or cremated, he says: “Buried, burned. This is good meat – feed her to the hounds.” Something about the way that this line comes at the end of the monologue about how he came to love her… it feels like the horror-movie equivalent of a punchline.

Favorite Scene: Brienne resuces Sansa and Theon!

Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

HBO Official Synopsis: “Bran trains with the Three-Eyed Raven. In King’s Landing, Jaime advises Tommen. Tyrion demands good news, but has to make his own. At Castle Black, the Night’s Watch stands behind Thorne. Ramsay Bolton proposes a plan.”

We check back in with Bran after his absence in Season 5… also, ignore the fact that the Three-Eyed Raven looks different. Now we have absolute acting legend Max Von Sydow! Here we get to see the first of the Three-Eyed Raven powers, which involves going into and visiting the past. It’s just really neat to see young Ned, young Lyanna, and young Hodor.

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This episode kills of Roose Bolton, who I tend to think is the show’s most underrated villain. Everyone praises Ramsay as an antagonist for being psychopathic, and everyone praises Tywin as a villain for being ruthless and logical. Roose had both of these. In fact, the only thing that really causes his downfall is the way he threatens Ramsay for his failure – as if he plans to disinherit Ramsay. But this is a pattern we see all the time; Ned trusted Littlefinger, Robb trusted Walder Frey, Cersei trusted the High Sparrow. Roose’s belief that he can tame Ramsay and keep him around like a tamed dog is what ultimately leads to Ramsay killing Roose. It’s an easily foreseeable consequence from our perspective.

Going from great villains to…

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Well, this is Euron’s first episode. Balon Greyjoy never felt like much of a villain, because the main character he was in opposition to was Theon – and Theon’s biggest antagonist was himself. As a villain, or a character in general, Euron doesn’t do much to distinguish himself here. Maybe just because of the way the scene is filmed, maybe it’s just because Balon was never that interesting, or maybe it’s just that I know that the fans’ perception of Euron is that he’s just generally overhyped and underwhelming – but I don’t much care for this scene.

At Castle Black, when get the exciting return of Jon Snow. The Wildlings coming to the rescue of the Night’s Watch holdouts is framed in a way that adds a little bit of a tension up until the very last moment. As the one traitor hits his hammer against the door where Davos and the loyalists are holding out, he suddenly stops midswing as we hear a pounding on the gate. Then, in awesome fashion, we get to see Wun-Wun the Giant tear down the gate. The action here is smaller-scale, but still very exciting. One of the Mutineers tries to charge Tormund, and another shoots Wun Wun with a crossbow; both are dealt with accordingly.

The scene in which Jon is brought back to life is formulaic, but manages to be exciting. You know that Jon is going to be revived during the scene, and as Melisandre’s ritual drags on, it makes you wonder if maybe… just maybe… this isn’t going to work. (I never doubted it would, but I knew that if any show did a thing like that, it’d be Thrones.) And then, all of a sudden, Jon is gasping for air. I remember watching it and being absolutely thrilled – but excited and unsure of what would come next. It’s a rightfully iconic moment in television history, where the show that ruthlessly took from its viewers finally decided to give something back.

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Favorite Line: Ramsay’s threat to Winterfell’s Maester regarding the death of Roose; “Tell me, how did [Roose] die?” “Poisoned, by his enemies.”

Favorite Scene: I initially selected Tyrion talking with Viserion and Rhaegal, but I actually love the tense will-they-won’t-they (murder each other) stand-off between Jaime and the High Sparrow.

Season 6, Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”

HBO Official Synopsis: “Daenerys meets her future. Bran meets the past. Tommen confronts the High Sparrow. Arya trains to be No One. Varys finds an answer. Ramsay gets a gift.”

Jon is again amongst the living! We Kit Harrington do some powerful acting in this episode’s first scene, where Jon comes to grips with the fact that A) he has been murdered and B) he’s no longer murdered. His acting here, though not quite as raw, reminds me of the heavy post-traumatic acting we see from Tom Hanks at the end of Captain Phillips. After a discussion about how hopeless things are, we get an almost-inspiring scene where he is presented to the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings, and Ramin Djawadi’s beautiful score plays a variation on the main theme in the background.

Last episode we dipped our feet into the flashback scenes with Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven visiting old Winterfell. Now, we jump all the way in, getting to see a fabled scene in recent Westeros history; the battle at the Tower of Joy.

This is not only one of the show’s best-directed fight scenes, but we also get to see Young Ned, and Arthur Dayne one of the best-known Westerosi knights in living memory. The fight is thrilling, and even though we know that Ned wins in the end, it still manages to be interesting; the story is different from what the characters know – Arthur Dayne was killed, not by sheer skill, but by treachery.

But perhaps most interesting of all is the last little stinger on the scene – where Bran calls to Ned, and Ned hears him, even if he can’t see him. It shows that Bran’s going back to the past can affect what has happened in a very complex closed time-loop. Fans will complain because outside of the Hodor twist later in this season, this doesn’t pay off, but I still really like it in this season.

Just as with the Jaime/Sparrow scene last episode, we get a great stand off between Tommen and the High Sparrow.

It’s just kind of funny to see just how adept a political player the High Sparrow is. He’s so much more clever than most fans would give him any real credit for. Look at how he bends Tommen to his will; Tommen comes in, ready to fight him, and by the end of the scene, Tommen is sitting down to learn from him.

Favorite Line: You can always rely on Tormund for levity:

Tormund: [to Jon] They think you’re some kind of god. The man that returned from the dead.

Jon: I’m not a god.

Tormund: I know that, I saw your pecker. What kind of god had a pecker that small?!

Favorite Scene: Tower of Joy, easily.

Season 6, Episode 4, “Book of the Stranger”

HBO Official Synopsis: “Tyrion strikes a deal. Jorah and Daario undertake a difficult task. Jaime and Cersei try to improve their situation.”

Don’t be confused; THIS is the emotional payoff of the series. When I wrote about this scene after it first happened, I had said that its true emotional impact was built on just how many near-reunions we’ve had. At the Red Wedding, Arya is nearly reunited with Robb and Catelyn (though thank goodness she’s not). That same episode, Bran sees Jon but can’t reach out to him. He sees Jon again in Season 4 during the raid on Craster’s Keep. And from the way the “next time on Game of Thrones” clip had made it look, it seemed as though it was going to be another near miss. But thankfully, by the grace of a good God, the two were reunited.

Before Sansa’s arrival, Jon’s plan was to just to go south and get warm. I would have been curious to see what would have happened if they had not received the letter for Ramsay. But that’s what motivates him to take a stand, and that’s not surprising, given just how taunting and (at times) horrifying the letter is. I hesitate to call the scene harrowing, because there is no actual violence in this scene. Ramsay isn’t physically there, but his presence looms like an elephant in the room. And as horrible as we feel he is, the characters feel it so much more.

The other most notable thing in this episode is that Daenerys burns the Khals who want her to remain at Vaes Dothrak. It’s a scene where she really takes charge of these people and shows herself to be something of a leader, but the mention of this scene in the finale does a lot to recontextualize it. Tyrion notes that these Khals are likely evil men, but the finale frames Daenerys as the bad guy here. Well get to the way that Dany was characterized towards the end when we get to Season 8, but for now, let me just say that I admire the effect that the finale has on this scene.

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But the framing of the scene is awesome, and absolutely thrilling. The Khals keep belittling Dany, but she continues to stand up to them. She’s making it clear that she isn’t afraid. At all. And then, the scene turns, and the tent is on fire. And then, she’s standing in front of the masses who adore her.

And I haven’t mentioned the dynamic between Jorah and Daario, but most of all, I like that the queen that came to save, ends up saving them. That’s a neat little surprise.
Favorite Line: Daario’s sass to Jorah: “I don’t want to fight you, Jorah the Andal. What do I have to gain? If I win, I’m the shit who killed an old man. If I lose, I’m the shit who was killed by an old man.”

Favorite Scene: The scene between Daenerys and the Khals is noteworthy, but I’d be damned if anyone said that any scene in this episode – or perhaps any scene in Season 6 – is as good as the reunion between Jon and Sansa.

There are other great Season 6 scenes – Jon in the Battle of the Bastards, “Hold the Door,” the Hound’s Return, and the Sept of Baelor are all wonderful – but I’m not sure if I could point to any of those scenes as being “better” than what we see between Jon and Sansa.

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