Has Game of Thrones learned nothing from Season 5? Haven’t they realised that having an episode of everyone faffing about is not what fans want to see. This Season has been admittedly faster paced than the last one (which was unremarkable until the end), churning out more consistently excellent episodes but the last two have really been slowing down. This episode really felt like there was very little in it and just like with the premiere when it ended I almost felt surprised and asked myself ‘wait, is that it?’ There were good elements to be sure, even bad episodes of Thrones have good elements, but some bits of the show felt really silly and the storyline that the show tried to cram down our throats fell laughably flat on its face.
Before we get to just what made this episode not work one has to give a mention to the excellent character of Lyanna Mormont. It is impossible for anyone watching not to fall in love with this wonderful person. We got an idea of how feisty she was when she told Stannis to go away last season but meeting her in person and her cutting through the small talk was truly remarkable to see. Here we have a child who has been put in a position of authority at a young age as the rest of the Mormonts got killed at the Red Wedding and rather than hiding behind advisors she is genuinely ruling and making tough decisions. We have not seen any other child ruler doing this. Joffrey was excluded from most major decisions (which was for the best), Tommen is easily influenced by basically anyone he meets, and even Bran pretty much let Maester Luwin run Winterfell. Lyanna though actually is making decisions, taking advice but having the final say. She seems to be very politically calculating and might be able to give House Stark some sense when manipulating others (I would not be surprised if she married Rickon). The performance by Bella Ramsey was excellent and I wonder if this will not be a breakout role for her. She should get star billing on this show and I was truly in awe of this 10 year old badass, Arya Stark, watch out.
Speaking of the North storyline I really liked how the dynamic between Jon and Sansa seems to be coming apart. We got a bit of this in Episode 5 when Sansa was keeping facts from Jon and now they seem to disagree whether they should march on Winterfell or not (and whether they should trust Davos or not). Sansa sending off that letter (probably to Littlefinger) means that she is really ready to strike off on her own and I wonder if she will betray Jon at any point. He is a deserter from the Wall and I wonder whether she will force him to return to Castle Black, or possibly conscript the wildlings for something else. Sansa this season has become a lot more like the Alayne character in the books, and that is good, given how in Season 5 she just reverted to the annoying Sansa without Littlefinger (which implies she needs Littlefinger to be cool). She is her own person here and is a far more dangerous figure and if the show is taking her in that direction, so much the better.
Finally, we had the return of the Hound. He is a great character and it was good to see he was not dead (though most people could have guessed that). He seems to have recovered and has kept his characteristically nihilistic view on the world. However, he also in this episode seemed at peace, or trying a different way of life, with that commune. Sandor has always been a figure of interest, doing horrific things but knowing that they were horrific and trying to do the right thing when possible. His road trip with Arya or his interactions with Sansa have always been nice and his return to the show is most welcome.
However, the story with him in this episode was a complete and utter failure. He just randomly turns up in this commune after a long time and for some reason only now is the time that Septon decides to speak to him about how he was found (also, why did they call him Septon Ray, that is clearly Septon Meribald). He has been there for a year or more and we just get an exposition dump. I know that I lay into the show for faffing about but we really could have had an episode setting up this situation. Instead we had a rushed bit where we learn everything about the commune and then they get obviously murdered for standing around in an undefensible position and being in the way of bandits. It was obvious that this was going to happen and that the Hound will return to violence. It would have worked a lot better if we would have had one or two episodes having the Hound actually connect with these people and trying the way of peace and then when they get murdered he decides to get violent again. Rory McCann can really pull off good performances and it would have worked, rather than rushing the storyline so we can get Cleganebowl. I did not connect with any of the characters and it was a mistake to make the episode so much about this storyline which they just dumped in.
Additionally, Braavos this week was just so stupid. We saw Arya, a person who knows that the Faceless Men are out to get her, walking around in plain sight, throwing money around, and getting stabbed by the Waif in one of the most obvious assassination attempts. One would really think that Arya would know better than to let strange people approach her for no reason whatsoever. It was really a let down for her character and I found it very annoying that she would get attacked in such a silly way. That old woman might as well have held up a flashing neon sign that said ‘I AM THE WAIF’ because it was so obvious. Furthermore, there is no dramatic tension because you know Arya is not going to die. For a show that prides itself on characters dying all the time, we all could see that she is going to live and therefore there is next to no tension and that really feels like the audience is being cheated.