Game of Thrones fans beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect.
If you're in need of a catch up, you can read this to get you up to speed. This week: another return, the ripples of the past haunt Jon and Arya is in trouble.
Sandor "The Hound" Clegane is alive! And he's working with a mystery man named Ray and his followers to build what looks like a chapel.
The Hound is back! Yes, apparently Rory McCann's scarred warrior was only nearly dead and he's been nursed back to health by Ian McShane's Brother Ray, who sounds like Les Dawson, but is very much in the McShane fashion of gruff talkers, as we'll later find out. But who is this guy? And what's with the cold opening? We're used to having an hour or so to get into the show as the map visits the various kingdoms, most of which don't actually show up.
Margaery discusses desire and responsibility with the High Sparrow and meets with her grandmother. Olenna also sees Cersei, and has harsh words.
Leaving aside the utter "ew!" factor of the High Sparrow lecturing Margaery that she has to boink her young husband to ensure an heir to keep the religious king stuff going, did we really, truly need another chat between them? The only thing going for it was a hint that the Sparrow is not convinced that Marg is completely converted. But full marks for finally hitting that she's playing him, with that secret message to the Queen of Thorns (surely one of the most apt titles in the show). Mostly we're happy that there was a chance for Olenna to threaten Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham) and give Cersei a dose of hard truth. Oh, and Sparrow? Asking Marg to "teach" Olenna the ways of the faith? HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAAAA.... Good luck.
Jon and Sansa try to convince the Wildlings to fight with them.
The Night King has an army, and Jon needs a hulk. Or at least a giant. Which is essentially how you boil down the scene where Snow again tries to make the case for the Wildlings – who must surely realise the gravity of the situation anyway. But it's worth it to see Tormund talk his people round (even if we wanted Brienne to be there, so he could turn to her and have her react again.) But it's the least entertaining of the Jon And Sansa Need An Army Tour 2016 scenes.
Jaime and Bronn take over the Frey siege of the Blackfish's castle. There is much swearing. Also, slapping.
Bronn is back everyone! And he's just as skeptical and dry as writer Brian Cogman and Jerome Flynn can make the man. Which is how we like him. There's much fun to be had between Coster-Waldau and Flynn, and Jaime also gets to enjoy himself at the Frey idiots' expense. Honestly, if the entire episode were just the Lannister and the unwilling knight bickering (with perhaps a little side trip to Brother Ray and The Hound), we'd have been happy.
Jon and Sansa petition Lady Lyanna Mormont.
Jon Snow being taken to task by a 10-year-old. You've got to enjoy that. Adding to the entertainment value is the fact that she won't tolerate any of Sansa's efforts and only seems impressed by Ser Davos. Sorry Starks... You've been outmatched. And even for all of his efforts, they still only acquire 62 men. Who, we're told, are strong fighters. They'd better be!
Jamie confronts Brynden Tully.
We take it back. Add the Blackfish to the Bronn/Jamie show and just let them hurl insults at each other. Clive Russell is so good at this type of role, especially since he towers over almost everyone else. We can well believe he'll wait out the siege, but he'd be wise not to write off Jaime (and Bronn). Still, love his hard-nosed dismissal of threats against his poor nephew Edmure.
Jon and Sansa petition Robett Glover.
Prepare for a volley of Blackadder jokes as Tim McInnerny shows up and refuses to help Sansa, Jon and Davos. There's some part of us that wishes Stephen Fry could have somehow been cast here, but that's just wishful thinking. Still, a nice, tough turn from a man usually found playing civil servants or someone's Darling.
Yara and Theon make a stop on their way to Meereen.
Just when you thought Game Of Thrones was finished bringing back some of its little-seen elements, we have the Greyjoys stopping off at what could be called Boobopolis. Yes, we're not sure we needed sexposition to return, but at least we know that the fleeing duo are headed to make a pact with Daenerys. That could be an interesting alliance.
Jon and Sansa survey their forces
We suppose it makes strategic sense for Jon, Sansa and the gang to camp where Stannis made his stronghold, but given how much luck he had, you have to wonder about it. But as anyone could have predicted, it appears Sansa is now contacting Littlefinger to take up his offer of help. Yeah, that won't blow up in her face...
Brother Ray and his followers meet The Brotherhood. It does not end well for them.
Boo! While Ian McShane had said he was only in one episode, we were rather hoping there would be more of him monologuing and generally trying to nudge the Hound in the direction of being a better man. We'll take what we can get, and now we suppose there will be the sight of Sandor taking his revenge on the Brotherhood for slaughtering Ray and the rest. For the record, though McShane says it's him hanging there, that looks more like Ian McMannequin than anything else.
Arya tries to buy passage to Westeros. The Waif catches up with her.
Another "should've seen that coming" scene, as Arya falls foul of the Waif. We still wonder whether strolling the streets was the right move, even though she had to hit the docks to find a ship home. And that belly wound is not looking good. Please don't say they're going to kill Arya? Probably not, but who knows with this show?
More of a mixed episode, with some definite highlights in old partnerships being renewed and one entertaining newcomer, even if his time in Westeros was very short. But while setting up the sides for what we assume will be a big clash down the line is important, a lot of this week felt more like filler than killer. Still, Jon Snow getting his arse verbally handed to him by a 10-year-old was good for a giggle, right? Even as it explored how the old wounds dug by the Starks' failure are there to hurt his cause. The moral of the story appears to be Avoid Following A Stark Man Into Battle. Even Jon has died to prove it – can he beat this odds next time?
Highlight: Ian McShane making us long for the days of Deadwood.
Lowlight: Everything with the High Sparrow.
Kill of the week: Brother Ray, hanging high.
Quote of the week: "A Lannister always..." – Jaime. "Don't say it. Don't fucking say it!" – Bronn, speaking for us all.
MVP: Bronn. Just because.
Random thought: Lyanna Mormont and Olenna Tyrell have a snark-off. Who wins?
Season 6, Episode review guide