Welcome to the weekly followup for non-readers! If you didn’t bother to read the books by G.R.R. Martin, but are interested in learning a few extra pieces of trivia — you’ve come to the right place!

Sub-Zero Stark Death Count

I didn’t have time to learnBran, who, to be fair, put this accelerated finals schedule on himself

Five seasons, exactly 53 episodes later, Benjen Stark comes back into the spotlight. In terms of book publishing, that is 20 years of undisclosed fate being revealed months if not years before the publication of The Winds of Winter.

Unless… we have met Benjen Stark already. I’m not talking about the most absurd tinfoil hat theories that suspected Euron, Daario or someone else of being Benjen in disguise (if you haven’t heard of that before – well, there isn’t much to say, it’s just as crazy and unsubstantiated as it sounds). I’m talking about the commonly disguised possibility that Benjen might be the true identity of a certain individual known as Coldhands.

Coldhands, who appears as an intelligent wight riding an elk, is one of the most mysterious and magical characters the books have ever described who isn’t a figure out of legends. Keep in mind A Song of Ice and Fire is yet to show the Night’s King in the flesh, unlike the show, which has been serving us scenes with White Walkers since season 4. The books are much more conservative in that regard, using the mystery shrouding the ice zombie danger to build up the suspense. In contrast to the absent, crouching White Walkers, Coldhands appears before Samwell Tarly and Brandon Stark in all his glory in A Storm of Swords, becoming their guide towards the Black Gate, a hidden passage going beneath the Wall and opening only when Samwell recites the Night’s Watch oath.

The most probable answer to that, considering that in the HBO’s “Inside the Episode” D&D referred to the character as “Coldhands Benjen”, is that the showrunners have merged the two characters together, as they often do. This means that book Coldhands and book Benjen are still separate characters and might serve a different purpose in the long run. The removal of Coldhands from the Black gate exchange goes in line with show toning down the supernatural whenever possible, only amping it up in the case of dragons and White Walkers. Furthermore merging the characters of Coldhands and Benjen would heavily impact the interaction with Sam and Bran back in the end of season 3, as Benjen is an important figure to them both.

In case my shock and awe wasn’t a good indicator already, from a reader’s perspective there’s no telling what Benjen’s role in this story is now. He’s most likely Bran’s ticket to the Wall, but after that, there is nothing we can be certain of. Of course with the Night’s King mark on him, Bran’s arrival at the Wall might bring the Seven Kingdoms both all of the answers and imminent doom.

Speaking of imminent doom, his crash course on visions seems to have included many events from various seasons of the show, with the addition of something quite new to us – the Mad King Aerys Targaryen in all his glory. Jaime has been recalling that story in two conversations – one with king Robert and one with Brienne – but it’s still something that eludes common knowledge: King Aerys planned to take down the whole city of King’s Landing with him by igniting the caches of wildfire hidden beneath the city. Jaime killed the king and his pyromancer to stop that order from being carried out, so the caches did not explode. Bran seeing them burst into green flames is quite peculiar – if it’s something that didn’t happen, maybe it just hasn’t happened yet.

Meet My Parents

Not fat enough?Randyll Tarly, ex-moderator of /r/fatpeoplehate

Randyll Tarly, freshly crowned “Best Father Of The Show,” taking over after Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister had left the stage, is a prominent figure in the latest history of Westeros. Top bannerman to Mace Tyrell, he was a renowned general of the Robert’s Rebellion, though fighting on the Targaryen side. He was the only commander to beat Robert Baratheon in field, at the battle of Ashford – which forced Robert to run north and opened up Storm’s End for the siege that got Stannis surrounded by the Tyrell forces.

In the book narrative Randyll remains an active participant of the events, fighting for Renly and then for the Lannisters, crushing some of Robb’s forces at Duskendale, a raid orchestrated by Roose Bolton to bleed out competing Northern houses before his already planned betrayal. He’s the most natural candidate to replace Tywin Lannister as Hand of the King, but Cersei refuses to give that power to a Tyrell bannerman and names a no-name figurehead that she can manipulate instead.

Sam’s storyline takes a very unexpected turn now that he’s stolen his family sword, as he’s likely to bring along his father’s wrath wherever he comes. It is not certain anymore if Sam will follow his A Feast for Crows storyline and arrive at Oldtown – he might be going straight back to the Wall, or to King’s Landing, or even straight to Dragonstone to mine some dragonglass for daggers against the White Walkers, for all I know.

Holy Shit

It’s not an easy thing admitting to yourself what you really areMargaery Targaryen, in a line profoundly resounding if she’s just playing along with the Faith to bail Loras out

With the show removing Aegon Targaryen, a miraculously survived son of Rhaegaer Targaryen starting his conquest in the Stormlands at the end of A Dance with Dragons way ahead of his aunt Daenerys, Game of Thrones would lack a powerful player in the Seven Kingdoms to shake things up (and considering how Stannis died prematurely but still lives in the books, the Lannisters would simply have it too easy). That’s why a new player was needed. Someone else to seriously threaten the dominion of ever so shaky Lannister-Tyrell alliance, the strongest political force in the Seven Kingdoms if it wasn’t for Cersei’s blind hatred.

Faith of the Seven is just that. Overblown, caricatured version of the book original, who represent our present fears from the modern world rather than a realistic depiction of the medieval institutionalized religion. Nevertheless, it serves a critical purpose for the plot: it challenges the current regime and forces the quarreling houses to stand together or face defeat. Defeat comes either way, as Margaery will play along to free her brother, and Tommen is prone to manipulation to begin with. An interesting fact is the change in the design of the Kingsguard armor – the symbol on their breastplate has changed to the Seven-Pointed Star.

This isn’t even the first time the Faith has stood against the crown – the last uprising started during the Targaryen reign and ended up with a peace whose conditions included the disbandment of the Faith Militant. The reformation of the armed forces of the Faith, which Cersei planned to use against the Tyrells, was an insane plan from the very beginning.

In our own history there were numerous similar conflicts, even before the Reformation turned Christianity on its head. Two important examples are the Investiture Controversy, where popes and monarchs fought over the right to appoint bishops and lower clergy (in the end, a peace was found), and the war of the Poland and Lithuania against the state of the Teutonic Order – a similar example to Cersei’s spectacular failure, where an order of post-Crusade monk-knights was brought by Duke Konrad I of Masovia to eastern Prussia to help him eradicate the pagan neighbors – but the Order has gotten out of control, expanded their territory, proclaimed freshly baptized Lithuania “not Christian enough” and started a war against them.

Back to the show though, we get a neat shift that puts Jaime’s story back on track: one pointless trip to Dorne later, he’s on his way to the siege of Riverrun, right where A Feat for Crows leaves him.

All The World’s A Stage

My greatest crime. Now I must flee
Then sail across the Narrow Sea
To do unto you more treachery.
Don’t fear winter. Fear me!The actor playing Tyrion Lannister… but it works for Arya as well

As I’ve mentioned last week, the events of the last two episodes are loosely based on Arya’s promotional chapter from the upcoming The Winds of Winter, titled “Mercy”. In that chapter Arya hangs out with a troupe, which we’ve just witnessed, but also goes off to murder a man from her past. In the show that was Ser Meryn Trant, the Kingsguard – in the Mercy chapter it’s Raff the Sweetling, the Lannister soldier who killed Lommy Greenhands back on Arya’s way to Castle Black with Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie. Arya, posing as the actress Mercy, offers herself to Rafford, who doesn’t recognize her. When they’re alone, she wounds him, but Raff doesn’t realize what’s happening and asks Arya to call for a medic. Arya corners him into saying that he can’t walk and Arya will have to carry him – which was the same line that Lommy Greenhands said as his last words before Raff laughed and stabbed him.

Having that confrontation more or less covered with the Meryn Trant episode, this week’s Game of Thrones goes full meta and after having Arya witness the death of her father from the same perspective once again, her conversation with Lady Crane wanders even further into tongue-in-cheek territory, blooming with subtext at every corner.

Notice how Arya, when asked if she’s seen the play already, says it’s been three times – but we’ve only seen her there twice. It might be that she’s visited the place one more time between the first scouting and the current episode, but this scene is too packed with double meaning to not consider the other possibility: she has seen Ned Stark die three times, twice at the play and once in the flesh. The words she uses to explain Cersei’s motivations to Lady Crane reflect her own hidden emotions and desires, lined with the stage Tyrion adding some other marvelously suggestive ones.

This is Arya’s reflection (literally, considering the scene with the mirror), her turning point, the final scene of her second act. However she gets out of Braavos, she’s already set to start act three.

Best Wedding Planner Ever

I’m not dead yet, unfortunately for youWalder Frey, more to the viewers than to to his family

Sixth season of Game of Thrones certainly isn’t afraid of introducing or bringing back actors halfway through its course. Benjen, the Tarlys, the Braavosi troupe, Bronn coming back next week – and now, three seasons after his magnus opum, Lord Walder Frey returns in all his grumpy glory.

What you need to understand in this scene is that even though the Freys have been given the dominion over the Riverlands by the Lannisters, Riverrun has been the historical capital of the region, situated in its center. For the Tully forces to control it means the power struggle is far from finished. Especially if it’s *the* Brynden “Blackfish” Tully as the commander, a man much more competent than his nephew Edmure.

With Jaime Lannister coming to help the siege, the Tullys are certainly not capable of helping Sansa in the North in any way. Besides, as long as the Twin Crossing is held by the Freys, moving a large army through the Neck is quite a challenge.

Another player to keep in mind is the Brotherhood Without Banners. Last time we’ve seen them, they had a Red Priest spamming Resurrect on his dear friend Beric Dondarrion. It would be a shame if that plotline was left abandoned, so it will probably come up by the end of this season.

Same Old Song

I’ll take what is mine, with fire and bloodDaenerys Targaryen, season 1, or season 2, or 3, or any season up till 6 really

As much as we can mock Dany’s “I’ll show you all” eternal state of preparation, there are some important pieces of the puzzle falling into place. First and foremost, this is the first time she’s shown confidence and control over Drogon ever since the Dracarys scene back in season 3, where he was more of a pet dog responding to commands than a true companion and extension of herself.

This is what Quaithe has prophesized – “To go north, you must go south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back”. Dany has taken a turn to visit the very beginning of her journey, and used that opportunity to find her roots, stand firm on the bottom and use it to jump back up.

Daenerys is growing to become a true Dragon Queen. Back to her Targaryen roots, she’s slowly forgetting the cause of ruling and fixing slavery, and focusing on the pure joyful conquest of the world. Is she going to land in Westeros in season 6? Hell no. Is she ready to move out in the first place? Not just yet. Does she make a good queen for the Seven Kingdoms? Doubtful. Will her invasion succeed? Maybe. But one thing’s for sure – she’s back on track now, starting to seriously wrap up her entire life in Essos and preparing to make a stand on who she is and what she does.

And even if that role turns out to be “basically Sauron with questionably good intentions”, she’ll at least be sincere in it.


Footnotes

This week I don’t even have to recap or excuse the scenes I didn’t cover – the content was divided into neat parts and every scene had something going for it.

See you guys next week!