Breaking one of the longer absences in the show, Bran is back. He’s still deep in the North, in the cave underneath the Weirwood tree (though noticeably more pubescent). He’s well into his training with the three-eyed raven. He’s traveled back in time with him to the Winterfell of his father. He’s watching a young Ned training in the yard, sparring with Bran’s uncle Benjen. His aunt Lyanna comes cantering in on a horse. Bran admits he doesn’t know much about her, but the party line in Westeros is that she was kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targaryen, which, since she was betrothed to Robert Baratheon, started the war of Robert’s Rebellion. But that history has yet to be revealed. Hodor is there, but his name is Wylis, and he can talk. “If he ever learned to fight, he’d be unstoppable,” Benjen says. It sounds like a line that would get played in a foreboding pre-episode flashback, right before the episode that Hodor starts kicking serious ass.
Leaf, one of the Children of the Forest, tries to encourage Meera, telling her Bran will need her when he eventually leaves the cave. The Children of the Forest — the oldest residents of Westeros — pre-date the First Men. It was they who planted the Weirwood trees, they who carved the faces in their trunks; the same faces through which Bran had see, when using his power. Their role will undoubtedly grow larger, as the impending “war” ensues.
Cersei has pretty much fucked up every big decision she’s had since the start of the show; her machinations have resulted in all manner of failure. But back in King’s Landing, things may be looking up — her son, the king, is wracked with guilt and shame, begging his mother for guidance. And Ser Robert strong has begun to give a glimpse of the fear his presence yields, a result of his monstrous strength — which he exhibits by smashing a drunken braggart’s head against the wall, punishment for the crime of besmirching Cersei’s name. The first of undoubtedly many enemies he plans to smite in her name.
Speaking with Tommen, it’s clear that she still feels less than happy; despite having her son, the king, now under her control, she still believes that witch’s prophecy. She expects to lose him, too. But for now, she’s gonna do some smiting.
In the sept, after a chat with his son Tommen, Jamie crosses verbal swords with the High Sparrow, basically daring him to come after him for his own sins. He threatens to spill his blood right there in the sept, but High Sparrow flexes his own muscle, surrounding Jamie with his thug monks. A stalemate, for now. But with the High Sparrow wielding an army of peasants, it’s clear he’s not going away without a fight. When he says “Together, we can overthrow an empire,” his goals are laid transparent.
In Winterfell, the consequences of Ramsay’s actions are coming to bear—the best Bolton hunters are found slain, and Roose is doing his best to explain to Ramsay just how politics work. But all Ramsay can see is the threat that Roose’s wife Walda Frey and her impending baby poses to his legitimacy. The second he hears that the new heir has been born, his dad, Walda, and the baby are not long for this world. With the support of the Karstarks, Ramsay seizes control of the House of Bolton, Winterfell, and the North. His hold on the latter is quite precarious — everyone hates him and his house. Ramsay’s cleverness and guerilla tactics may be his downfall — he plans to attack Castle Black with the banners he still holds (the Umbers, the Manderlys and the stout Karstarks, who haven’t forgiven the Starks for killing their patriarch seasons ago), kill Jon Snow, and eliminate any remaining Stark bloodline to solidify his hold on the North. We’re not sure he’s ready to face giants, however. Nor the Lord of Light.
Balon Greyjoy, king of the Iron Islands, is the only remaining king from the five that went to war (The War of the Five Kings). He’s also only one left of the three people targeted by the leeches Melisandre threw on a fire, filled with Gendry’s blood (Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon were the other two). It was clear that he’s not long for this world, even before his brother Euron Greyjoy returns to Pyke, the capital of the Iron Islands.
Who the hell is Euron? He’s one of the more adventurous seafarers from Pyke, and his ship Silence is known around the world—He cut out the tongues of his entire crew. “I don’t mock the Drowned God, i am the Drowned God,” he says, right before he throws his brother Balon off of a rope bridge, killing him.
It the aftermath, his daughter Yara foolishly starts acting like she’s going to succeed her father, but that’s not how it works in the Iron Islands—they hold a Kingsmoot. We haven’t yet told said what it is, but being of the Iron Islands, you can be sure it will be violent and brutal.
On the road to Castle Black, Brienne, Podrick, Sansa and Theon seem to be relatively safe. Comfortable in the knowledge that Brienne can protect her better than he ever could, Theon finally says goodbye. Sansa wants him to come along, take the black, and live… but he has sins larger than ones for which he can atone. He doesn’t want to be forgiven. He’s returning home, to deal with all that remains there. Might he join the Kingsmoot?
In Mereen, Tyrion gets still more bad news; the masters have retaken both Yunkai and Astapoor, and no one fears Daenerys because: a) she’s disappeared, and Bb her dragons are chained up. Tyrion is gonna fix that. He takes his fill of wine, and heads down into the dungeon to treat with Viserion and Rhaegal. He tells a cute story about one of his early “name days” on which he wished for a little dragon: “It doesn’t even have to be a big dragon, it can be little — like me,” he remembers saying. Then he unchains the dragons. What hath he wrought? Will they save Danerys from the Khalasar? Will they help her take control of it?
In Braavos, Arya, still blind, is swatted around a bit more by the waif and her staff, and visited by Jaqen H’gar shortly thereafter. He tests her resolve by offering her a meal, a roof, and the use of her eyes in return for speaking her name. But she knows the answer to this pop quiz is “a girl has no name”. When she passes, he leads her off, on to the next phase of her training.
But here’s the bit everyone’s been waiting for all summer: the return of Jon Snow. Just as Alister Thorne is about to break down the door to murder Jon Snow’s supporters, Dolorous Edd comes storming back with the wildlings. Tormund slices up one guy, and a giant squashes a jumpy archer against the wall. No one left has much will to fight, and the mutiny is quickly squashed, the conspirators jailed.
Now that Jon’s corpse is safe, it’s time for The Red Woman to get busy with the resurrection. Thoros of Myr has set the precedent, raising Beric Dondarrion from the dead, time after time. Like Melisandre, when he does his first resurrection, he’s been in doubt, and has lost his faith. Melisandre feels that what she saw in the fire was wrong; what’s more likely is that she hasn’t been interpreting the visions properly. Davos gives her a pep talk, and gets her to give it the old college try. “I’m not asking the Lord of Light for help,” he says. “I’m asking the woman that showed me miracles exist.” She does the ritual, but doesn’t believe, and therefore, neither does anyone else. Only once everybody but Ghost has left the room does Jon Snow wake up, resurrected.
Kit Harington as Jon Snow. Still by Helen Sloan/HBO.