Welcome to the weekly followup for non-readers! You may think we’re well past the books now – and you wouldn’t be completely off-mark – but there’s still a lot of material the show is yet to cover.

Spoiler scope: You’re good to go. I’m trying my best to never spoil anything past what the show has covered so far.

And Now His Watch Is Ended

Good. Now go fail againDavos Seaworth, the best mentor Westeros has ever seen

Jon is back! Honestly, as much unexpected deaths this story has, this one was never going to stick. The show even made sure to set up Melisandre’s ability to bring people back from the dead, which is not that apparent in the books. It’s actually still very much unclear how will this one go down in The Winds of Winter, as the list of potential resurrection tools includes warging into Ghost (foreshadowed in the prologue, narrated by a skinchanger), burning Shireen (she’s still alive in the books and most likely she is Mel’s go-to option) or something else entirely (including theories that Bran will animate him just like Bloodraven supposedly does with Coldhands… that’s a long story).

His watch is ended. He’s not really the titular “Oathbreaker” as someone who broke an oath – he broke free from an oath, as his vow clearly stated that his watch ends with his death. He fullfilled his duty, he died, he is free now. Unlike Mance Ryder and Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers (the three eyed crow), who were never released from their oath, Jon is the very first man of the Night’s Watch in history to be legally pardoned to leave his post.

The report of no afterlife is consistent with Beric Dondarrion’s memory. Melisandre seems curious and insistent, but she’s heard that answer already. She was just hopeful Beric was an exception, but now she knows for sure.

Chronologically, we’re past book 5, but there are still pieces of the story from ADWD left unused. Most of that is Stannis’s original story, now to be carried over to Jon and Davos.

Not much more to cover here, so I’ll end it with an obituary of sorts. Ser Alliser Thorne, unlike all the murderers and rapists around him, was a good and just knight. His only fault was standing on the wrong side of the Robert’s Rebellion and fighting for the Mad King. He was truly a man out of place in the Night’s Watch.

Now It Ends

Here’s the high point of the episode, mercilessly cut off before it could go even better. There is just so much crucial backstory behind this that it’s hard to contain the hype. I think this scene deserves a full quote from the book.

“I looked for you on the Trident,” Ned said to them.
“We were not there,” Ser Gerold answered.
“Woe to the Usurper if we had been,” said Ser Oswell.
“When King’s Landing fell, Ser Jaime slew your king with a golden sword, and I wondered where you were.”
“Far away,” Ser Gerold said, “or Aerys would yet sit the Iron Throne, and our false brother would burn in seven hells.”
“I came down on Storm’s End to lift the siege,” Ned told them, and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dipped their banners, and all their knights bent the knee to pledge us fealty. I was certain you would be among them.”
“Our knees do not bend easily,” said Ser Arthur Dayne.
“Ser Willem Darry is fled to Dragonstone, with your queen and Prince Viserys. I thought you might have sailed with him.”
“Ser Willem is a good man and true,” said Ser Oswell.
“But not of the Kingsguard,” Ser Gerold pointed out. “The Kingsguard does not flee.”

“Then or now,” said Ser Arthur. He donned his helm.
“We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Gerold.
Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three.
“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.
“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.”Eddard Stark’s fever dream in A Game of Thrones

This is an excerpt from the very first book. A distant memory Ned recalls while dreaming in fever, after he gets stabbed by one of Jaime’s men. Paired with the other flashback he has later in the black cells, it’s the foundation of the most spectacular fan theory of all time, which at this point is all but confirmed. But we’ll get back to that later, when Bloodraven decides Bran is ready to know the truth. I’d give it a few episodes, especially if they decide to throw in some more backstory (tourney at Harrenhal?).

So what we have here is the aftermath of Robert’s Rebellion. The King is dead, and so is the crown prince. Stannis, relieved from the siege of Storm’s End, is about to pursue the heir, Viserys Targaryen, and the storm is about to stop him, while Daenerys Targaryen is being born. Every piece on the Targaryen board has been taken, the game is over.

Or is it?

Three finest knights of the Kingsguard are ostentatiously absent from all the great battles and events. They’re not with their king, they’re not with the crown prince, they’re not with his younger brother, and they’re not even with the pregnant queen about to give birth to the future Mother of Dragons. Instead, they are guarding the Tower of Joy, a lone outpost in the Dornish Mountains, far away from the whole campaign. Inside the tower, there is Lyanna Stark – the Helen of Troy of this story, whose disappearance was the spark that ignited the rebellion.

And so it comes down to an uneven fight between three legendary knights and seven men from the North. The show has altered the groups for practical reasons – merged ser Gerold Hightower and Oswell Whent into one character (even though the White Book that Jaime read a few seasons ago clearly made the distinction and specified there were three Kingsguard), cut the size of Ned’s party by one and gave some of them Dornish clothing to make them visually distinct.

Another controversial change was dropping the famous sword Dawn. It’s a two-handed blade forged from a fallen star and passed down in the Dayne family through the generations (the seat of House Dayne is even called “Starfall”). In the books, you can make a reference or two in various points of the story, but in the show, it just doesn’t work. Even though the White Book mentions Dawn, the show has decided to make Arthur Dayne dual wield rather than take a long time explaining why his sword is so special. Maybe one of the two swords is meant to be Dawn anyway.

There’s also some implied backstory between Ned and Arthur’s sister, Ashara. Ashara Dayne is described as a great beauty, with long dark hair and haunting violet eyes. Many men were infatuated with her, including but not limited to Barristan Selmy and Eddard Stark. The rumors were that Ned’s older brother Brandon was the one who set him up with Ashara during the Tourney at Harrenhal, and if it wasn’t for Robert’s Rebellion and his arranged marriage to Catelyn Stark, Ashara could have been Ned’s loved one.

Ashara has committed suicide when Ned came to Starfall to return Dawn to the Dayne family. The reasons for that are unknown.

Medieval Twitter

That is one trial by combat I look forward to watchingJaime Lannister, FUCKING CONFIRMED, GET HYPE

Isn’t it ironic how all the places practising slavery such as Volantis or Pentos are called “Free Cities”? The name technically comes from the partition that occured after the fall of Valyria, but my point stands. The one city in western Essos that does not condone slavery – Braavos – was not a part of the Valyrian Freehold, but a secret haven made by ex-slaves.

This week I’m bundling Meereen and King’s Landing into one section because I don’t like having too many pictures with too little text and Tyrion’s small talk warrants nothing to discuss whatsoever.

We see Varys’s workshop from behind the scenes. The TV eunuch is a man who prefers to use the carrot rather than the stick, and it works out quite nicely, even when another person picks up his business in King’s Landing. Of course since neither Varys nor Qyburn are POV characters in the books, we never get to learn the actual nature of the little birds – there are some sound theories that they’re all mute to prevent them from sharing the intel with anyone else – but the show has a tendency to whitewash some characters into “good guys” and that proccess didn’t spare Varys, who comes out a lot more complicated by the end of ADWD.

As for the small council, Ser Barristan Selmy was actually always a part of it officially, and so was Jaime during Joffrey’s and Tommen’s reign – he was just absent while he was detained by Robb Stark. Instead, Cersei has appointed Ser Janos Slynt as Jaime’s temporary replacement on the council – whom Tyrion has immediately removed from King’s Landing and shipped to Castle Black. Later on, the small council right after Tywin’s death is a complete joke – Cersei, afraid of the growing Tyrell infuence, but denied by her uncle Kevan, appoints no-name lords to crucial positions, which only ends in a complete disaster (including the master of ships starting a pirate business on his own).

Oh and the Ser Gerold Hightower who Pycelle mentions – that was the same Kingsguard who accompanied Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy.

Mad Dog

My father was poisoned by our enemiesRamsay Bolton in denial, probably shaken up after they’ve poisoned his father

How much more appalling can Ramsay possibly get? He’s slowly approaching comic book levels of villainy with no bounds of reason to contain them.

It’s unclear who the current head of house Umber is. Might simply be Smalljon Umber, son of the Greatjon. In the books, Smalljon is killed and Greatjon is imprisoned at the Twins, with half the remaining Umber army forced to fight for the Boltons and the other half, stationed at Last Hearth, joining Stannis’s cause. Without Stannis liberating the North castle by castle, the subtleties of the political balance in the North might be lost altogether.

If this was written by GRRM, the Umbers would have taken on the role of the Manderlys and handing over Rickon would have been a ruse, with Shaggydog’s head being a fake. But this is D&D “Twenty Goodmen” style, and everything related to Ramsay Bolton can and should be taken at face value. It’s pretty sad that we got a shout-out to House Manderly at the Red Wedding (we see a man sitting by the table with a huge mermaid brooch on his chest), but the whole Northern Conspiracy seems to be completely written out… so far. I’ll cover that one in the whole once we get some sort of confirmation the show is heading that way. For now, let’s be overly skeptical rather than unreasonably hopeful.


Footnotes

I’m not covering Dany’s return to Vaes Dothrak because I’d have to pretty much repeat what I’ve already written about her journey and Quaithe’s prophecies. You can check the previous followups if you wish to read that again. As for Arya’s development – likewise. Samwell: a filler scene, merely establishing these characters for the season. Sam is going to Oldtown to become a maester, we know that. That much is unchanged from his POV in AFFC (Book 4). He’s going straight to the Reach, though, it seems, and definitely not bumping into Arya in Braavos… which was already substituted with another “outside factor”, Meryn Trant (end result is the same in both cases – Arya kills a person she wasn’t ordered to, and ends up blind).

The followups are getting a little bit shorter now that we’re getting scenes full of filler and show-only content, but we are not even done yet with the chapters from the first book, so see you guys next week!