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: Reunions, returns and revenge mean some deaths and one or two jokes...
Arya gets help – and terrible food – from Lady Crane.
Though we could all have predicted Arya surviving her stabby encounter with the Waif, it's also perhaps not that surprising who she'd turn to in her hour of need. Still, we can only imagine the Yelp review of Lady Crane's assistance. "Great medical service, but the soup was awful... Three stars."
The Hound tracks down some of the Brotherhood.
This story chunk is structured almost entirely like a slasher movie, with The Hound as Jason Voorhees. You've got the camp tales, the mocking jock types and then the brutal bloody deaths, which includes a wince-inducing groin moment. No wonder the bloke can't come up with any decent last words. If you were wondering what the Hound's revenge would look like: this is pretty much it.
Varys heads off on a mission.
They're splitting up Varys and Tyrion again? But we were so enjoying them bantering! Oh well... Off on a mission goes the Spider, to recruit forces and ships from Westeros. At least there's time for some last jabs between the two, and of course some ego moments from Tyrion, the self-proclaimed "most famous dwarf in the world." He could give this guy a run for his money in the humble stakes. We're sorry to see the pair go their separate ways, but we suppose you can't always just rely on Tyrion and Varys' comedy pairing.
The Faith Militant has a request for Cersei.
Like the world's worst religious door steppers, here comes the dour Faith Militant asking that Cersei meet the Sparrow. Given how dull he usually is, she naturally demurs and it's up to the Mountain to give her answer. How long will it take the internet to cut Lena Headey’s quietly delivered "I choose violence" into the scene from Trainspotting? A nice moment of triumph for her, even if it's fleeting this week.
Brienne meets with Jamie about talking to the Blackfish. Pod gets a lesson from Bronn.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, after spending some time on the sidelines, gets truly meaty material this episode. First off, his reunion with Brienne, full of subtext (though in Bronn's foul mouth all is text) and unstated emotion. And if that's not enough, there's comedy in Bronn teaching Pod a thing or two and making more rude cracks in the space of two minutes than your average Kevin Smith film. It could be wearing over longer periods, but Jerome Flynn's charm and effortless way with the character means it works in these small doses.
A message from the king.
Uh oh. Just when Cersei thought she'd be able to use her walking WMD to take on anyone in trial by combat, here comes Tommen on the Iron Throne (and still looking like a kid sitting in daddy's chair) to reign* on her parade, announcing that she'll be tried by the Septons. We were tried by the Septons once. It wasn't fun. But there is a cream for it.
*Yes, reign, not rain. He's a king. It's a joke. If you try to correct us, you might as well be Grey Worm.
Tyrion shares wine and jokes.
There's an argument that you could've snipped this scene from the episode and it wouldn't have been altered at all. But then you'd miss the fun that is Missandei and Grey Worm sampling wine with Tyrion and learning that jokes between friends are fun. Grey Worm is essentially that person on Twitter who responds to a joke by telling the originator what they got wrong. Don't be that person, Grey Worm. No one likes that person. But all joking is put aside when it appears the Masters are back in force...
Edmure Tully and Jaime Lannister talk, insult and figure out each other. Edmure hands the castle to the Frey/Lannister forces, and Brienne escapes.
Poor old Clive Russell gets to – apparently – die off-screen, but at least he goes out a hero helping Brienne to escape. Everyone could have seen Edmure's betrayal coming, and thank goodness they didn't make the Blackfish suddenly an idiot. And that scene before, between Edmure and Jaimie, was a cracker, showing the power of solid dialogue and two good actors delivering it.
The city is under siege and all hope seems lost. Until...
Dany Ex Machina? Missandei, Tyrion and Grey Worm get to say "yaaas queen" as the Mother Of Dragons and Burner Of Brothrakis is back in the nick of time. Now we have to wonder if the team is saving their spectacle for next week: will we get to see Drogon (and presumably his siblings), going to town on the Masters' ships? Or, given that the episode title (we'll avoid it for spoilers' sake) points to an entirely different conflict. We'll see, but this does appear to be an awfully convenient arrival.
The Hound encounters the rest of the Brotherhood.
In a nice turnaround for expectations, Sandor didn't end up clashing with the Brotherhood (welcome back, Paul Kaye!), who instead are exacting their own justice against their number who killed Brother Ray's people. Well, at least it was a turnaround until the Hound was offered the chance to kill two of the murderers. There's the tiniest, fun hint of a Monty Python sketch here, but wrapped up in Thrones' trademark brutality.
The Waif kills Lady Crane and chases Arya.
It's The Arya Contingency as Arya Stark, despite her injuries displayed the healing factor of a mutant and the parkour ability of Jason Bourne. We realise she was trained by Jaqen H'ghar and Syrio Forel before him, but this is an awfully athletic ability for one seemingly so hurt. Lady Crane must be the best doctor this side of Bones McCoy. Still, despite the Waif's Terminator-like implacability in pursuit, it ends badly for the smug warrior woman and Arya lives to fight another day, reclaims her name and declares that she's heading home. Hooray! A little convenient (again), but no less triumphant. All things considered, The Waif probably shouldn't have trained Arya to fight so well in the dark.
Lots of talking in rooms (or forests)? It must be nearly episode nine and a big fight! But while it could have come across as a lot of budget-saving, the various plot lines worked well. From the expected (the Hound vs. anyone in his way, Dany coming back at the right time, Arya's seeming invincibility) to the interesting (Jaime and Brienne at Riverrun, Cersei), it was quiet yet quietly powerful. Things are building to next week, but this never felt like a staid in-between episode.
Highlight: Any scene with Brienne in it.
Lowlight: Arya surviving two nasty jumps with her injury stretched credibility almost to breaking point.
Kill of the week: The Mountain makes short work of one of the Faith Militant.
Quote of the week: "You're shit at dying, you know that?" – The Hound, to his victim. Well, he should know, the bloody survivor.
MVP: Jaime, for various reasons.
Random thought: Tyrion's Imp's Delight wine! No one suggest an ad built around "in short supply" unless they want a crossbow bolt in their gut.
Season 6, Episode review guide