Winter, War, And Difficult Conversations Are Coming On Game Of Thrones
But the Starks are really starting to get the band back together!
The Man From L.O.N.G.L.O.S.T. U.N.C.L.E.
Just when Meera and Bran's iffy-to-begin-with trek through the North seems hopeless (Bran is stuck in a "Previously on Game Of Thrones -- Now With Bonus Never-Before-Seen Footage" loop, and Meera is nowhere near as good at pulling him through the snow as Hodor was, and great, now we're all crying), the White Walkers show up to make it a wee bit more hopeless.
That's it, I guess! No dragonglass, no Valyrian steel, and no giants to warg into, so it's time for Bran and Meera to lie back, accept their fate, and hope they're assigned a cushy spot in the Walker army -- you know, something near the middle, so the Night King can't tell that you're just lip-syncing the war cries.
BUT WAIT! Some ass-kicking horse guy with flames on a chain is here to send those bastard zombies back where they came from. (No, not back to human form so they can reunite with their loving families. Sorry, zombies. I really should have phrased that differently.)
And he doesn't actually introduce himself yet, but damn it, you know and I know that this ass-kicker is none other than Benjen Stark, brother of Ned, uncle of Bran, and unseen around these parts since 2011, or whatever year that was in Westeros time. HE'S BACK!
House Of Lies
Alert Type: Subterfuge-Filled Family Reunion Alert.
Issue: Sam and Gilly are about to arrive at House Tarly, to meet the family that forced Sam to leave home and renounce his birthright.
Complicating Factors: Sam is going to ask his family to shelter Gilly and Sam Junior while he's studying to be a maester in Oldtown, and in order to make that request go down a bit easier, he wants Gilly to pretend that the baby is his -- and also, by the way, he hasn't told them that she's a Wildling.
Resolution: Sam's mother and sister are delighted to see all three of them, and Gilly doesn't spill the beans about her identity, so things are looking pretty decent.
Spoiler: Not for long.
What A Friend We Have In The Sparrow
Who called the meeting? Tommen, with the Sparrow's express permission.
What's it about? Having not seen Margaery since she was first imprisoned, he wants to make sure she's okay.
How'd it go? Much to his surprise, the Queen looks to be doing just fine in the holy clink, and even more to his surprise, she ain't mad at the Sparrow for putting her there. So if Tommen was already cautiously optimistic about the Sparrow after their heart-to-heart a couple of weeks ago, he's positively thrilled with the guy now that Margaery has shared her (apparent) enthusiasm about him. Isn't it great when young, pretty people with absolute power find religion?
On The Menu
Tarly & Me
I, Lord Randyll of House Tarly, have graciously allowed my craven son Sam and his rather suspicious female companion to break bread at my table. Come see what we choweth down on!
Venison: Juicy! Delicious! Chock full of iron and B vitamins! And no, you fucking idiot, it was not just killed today, because this isn't one of those stupid hipster forest-to-table joints like they've got in Dorne. Don't even get me started on those places! Bragging about their "free-range pigeon pie," like that's some kind of goddamn bonus. Trust me, unless you enjoy tasting notes of sewer pipes and raccoon shit, you want your culinary squab raised in captivity. Now shut up and eat your week-old deer.
House Tarly Special Reserve Merlot: Ah, some refreshing wine to sooth our gullets and foster conversation. ...You there! Strange girl whom I have been forced to imagine my son having sweaty, elbowy intercourse with! Tell me, are you merely a prostitute, or are you a soldier for an evil race of bottom-dwellers that I am sworn to vanquish? ...What? It's just a question. Oh, now I'm the asshole?
Freddie Stroma: What do you mean, "Hey, it's the hot British guy from UnREAL?" That grouping of words makes no sense to mine ears. Nor will I deign to comment on whether or not the facial hair is "really working" on him. (Though if I were to so comment, I would say that it most certainly is.)
Tell It To My Heartsbane
After all that awkwardness and straight-up verbal abuse, Lord Tarly begrudgingly grants refuge to Gilly and Little Sam on the condition that Big Sam never sets foot in the house again. Well, Sam decides he's only okay with the second part.
Yoink! It's Big Sam, Little Sam, Gilly and the sword against the world! My money's on "the world," but it's still going to be interesting!
A Girl Doesn't Actually Feel Too Great About Killing Randos
Alert Type: Post-Curtain Change Of Heart Alert.
Issue: Arya has returned for yet another riveting performance of Stark Raving Mad, this time toting her fun-size poison.
Complicating Factors: After spiking Lady Crane's rum, Arya finds herself roped into a conversation with the master thespian herself, and not only does she turn out to be charming and funny, but she even offers Arya an acting gig on the spot. (Meta alert: This is pretty much exactly how Maisie Williams herself got her start, if you replace "assassin in training" with "dancer.")
Resolution: Right before Lady Crane is about to guzzle her last shot of the good stuff...
...Arya knocks the glass out of her hand -- and blames the ambitious young actress playing Sansa for poisoning her.
Spoiler: This shit is going to have consequences. Get your tickets for Arya vs. The Waif!
Fight! Fight! Fight!
The Sparrow And The Faith Militant vs. Jaime And The Entire Tyrell Family Army
Enough hemming and hawing and proselytizing! Jaime Lannister came here to kick Sparrow ass, chew bubblegum, and have sex with his sister, and he's all out of bubblegum and Cersei isn't really in the mood. He's giving the Sparrow one chance to release Margaery (before she does the poop-footed walk of atonement)...or else.
Of course, the Sparrow is just as "Wha? Who? Me?" as usual, claiming that he doesn't have the authority to release the Queen, even though he's the one holding the key to her cell.
Mace gets his soldiers ready to attack, and the biggest King's Landing bloodbath in several years is about to begin. They're going to be hosing blood off those steps for weeks!
Or not! Because the Sparrow happens to have an ace up his sleeve (which is pretty much the only place he can store that ace, since he has no pockets or even pants) -- he's managed to lure Tommen to his side, ushering in that new era of Crown-Faith cooperation that Cersei was only pretending to want when she set all this mess in motion.
Needless to say, a lot of people are disappointed with this news.
Winner: The High Sparrow.
Who called the meeting? Walder Frey, who is not only still alive but possibly looking younger than he did at the Red Wedding.
What's it about? He's just learned that Brynden Tully has recaptured Riverrun, and he is very, very, very unhappy about that.
How'd it go? Walder's two highest-ranking sons are not optimistic about their odds for re-recapturing the castle, since several more houses have turned against the Freys in recent months. But the old man won't take no for an answer, and he thinks that his hostage Edmure Tully (looking worse for the wear, but still as dopey as ever) will be enough of a bargaining chip to convince the Blackfish to back down.
To Riverrun? Screw It!
Who's causing a family crisis? Newly-minted Sparrow-freak Tommen.
How? He's fired Jaime as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and sent him away to Riverrun to help Walder Frey get back the Tully stronghold.
Which relatives have a problem with it? Jaime! He's been a loyal member of the Kingsguard since before Tommen was born (er, not that Jaime had anything to do with said birth, and you know what, he'll just stop talking now), and furthermore he's not the least bit keen on leaving King's Landing when the whole Lannister sitch is so precarious.
Who's an unlikely ally? Cersei isn't a huge fan of recent developments either, but she's at least confident that her upcoming trial will be resolved in her favor (translation: The Undead Mountain will easily rip the spleen out of whichever unlucky champion the Sparrow happens to choose), and she hates the idea that there's a castle somewhere in Westeros that her family doesn't control, so ultimately she's okay with Tommen's orders. After all, she and Jaime are going to rule the world someday, even if they end up having to kill their own son to do it.
Spoiler: Margaery's got something cooking here, and I'm pretty scared-excited to see what it is.
Just Sit Right Back And You'll Hear The Tale, The Tale Of How I Got Turned Into A Zombie And Then Stabbed Through The Heart By Some Immortal Tweens
Over a roaring fire and a dinner of fresh-caught rabbit, Uncle Benjen reveals to Bran and Meera that (a) he is Uncle Benjen, and (b) he's really seen some shit since he disappeared in the middle of Season 1. As many in the Watch had suspected, Benjen's ranging team was set upon by the Walkers, and he himself was well on his way to Undeadsville when he was rescued by a group of Children, who were able to reverse his condition with the same dragonglass that they used to create the Walkers in the first place. It's not exactly clear whether he's now human, undead, or somewhere in between, but he works for the Three-Eyed Raven (RIP...except not really, because the title is now officially Bran's) and he really needs Bran to start getting accustomed to his various tree-based superpowers so he can be the warrior they all need to defeat the Night King.
It's A Date
Any Chance That Dragon's A Two-Seater?
Who's on a date? Dany and Daario, though they've got several hundred Dothraki chaperones around them.
Where has he taken her? A charming desert landscape about a week's ride from Meereen. Not much in the way of four-star restaurants or full-service spas, but the sunsets are beautiful and the local wildlife is...interesting.
Are things headed in a horizontal direction? Well, you know Daario is always cocked and loaded (wait, that came out...exactly right), but Dany has somewhat loftier ideas on her mind these days. How lofty, you ask?
Might be a little while before Daario gets any one-on-one time at this rate.