Previously on Game of Thrones: Because Bran’s a bit of an idiot, the Night King was able to find their hideaway and attack with his White Walker army, killing Hodor, who managed to hold the zombie hoard back just long enough for Bran and Meera to escape. Dany took over the Dothraki, Arya was given one more assignment for the Faceless Men, and Jaime and Cersei convinced the Tyrells that the only way forward was to bring an army into King’s Landing.
Meera staggers through the snow, dragging Bran, who’s still all warg-ed out. Jesus, Bran, WAKE UP! Not that he could do much, but this is starting to seem a bit indulgent. He’s having strange flashes of visions: the Night King turning that baby into a Walker, wildfire being set off, the mad king calling for everyone to be burned.
Meera can’t keep going, though she gives it a really good try. Bran finally returns to the here and now and tells Meera that they’ve been found. She weeps and apologises as the first of the Walkers descend.
But, fortunately, someone comes riding out of nowhere, lights a special mace on fire, and starts dispatching the Walkers with it. Well, that was lucky. Once the zombies are all dead, the rider tells Meera and Bran to come with him. They need no urging, more Walkers are coming. He hauls them onto his horse and they gallop away.
Down south, Sam and Gillie are on the road to his home. Gillie marvels at how green the place is and Sam starts nervous talking about trees and autumn colours and things. She notes that he seems a bit tense and he admits he never thought he’d come back, after his father forced him to renounce his entire inheritance on pain of death. What a nice guy! These two have apparently agreed to tell Sam’s dad that Little Sam is Big Sam’s real son, so the child will be accepted and educated as one of the family. Gillie asks Sam what they know about her and he admits he only said he met her up north. He left out the bit about her being a wildling, because his dad doesn’t care for wildlings.
They arrive at Sam’s family’s HUGE castle and are met by his mother and sister. Both the ladies are super sweet and overjoyed to see Sam and meet Gillie. His sister, Talla, starts chattering about some guy she’s supposed to marry, but her mother quiets her so she can tell Gillie how lovely she is and coo over the baby, who adorables right back. Sam asks where his dad is and his mother says he’s out hunting, with Dickon (I’m guessing that’s a younger son). Talla sweeps Gillie away to get her a bath and a dress for dinner, offering to lend one of her own, though Talla’s a good head shorter than Gillie, so I don’t see how that would fit.
Tommen meets with the Sparrow and admits he’s concerned for Margaery’s safety during her walk of shame. Sparrow reassures him she’ll be protected, and anyway, Margaery’s much more popular with the common people than Cersei was, so they’re likely to be somewhat less harsh. Sparrow offers to let Tommen see his wife and ushers him into a room where Margaery’s relaxing with a book, looking much better, and cleaner, than she did the last time we met her.
She and Tommen embrace happily and he tells her how much he missed her. She reassures him they’ll be together again soon and everything will be better. She’s perfectly happy to make this walk of atonement, because Sparrow wants it and she’s apparently drunk the Kool-Aid and thinks he’s just the bestest ever. She says he’s helped her see that everything she did before was selfish—she only did nice things to feel better about herself without actually doing anything to truly help anyone. Tommen asks after Loras and she says she loves her brother, but she knows him to be a sinner who needs to atone. I’m guessing she’s just playing a role here really, really well to get out of this place, otherwise I feel like I’ve missed something significant between the last time we saw her, when she was urging Loras to stay strong and not let this place break them, and now when she’s all ‘Sparrow’s the best! Let’s just do as he says!’
Sam meets Gillie in the hallway to head down for dinner. She’s wearing one of Talla’s dresses, moving awkwardly in it, because she’s not used to wearing such things. Sam sweetly tells her she looks beautiful and she smiles, touched. He gives her his arm and escorts her down.
Now we finally get to meet Sam’s dad and, man, Sam wasn’t kidding—the guy’s a giant asshole. Sam tries to make conversation by complimenting the venison and chattering about hunting. Dickon asks about hunting at the Wall and Sam says they have to do a lot of it, mostly rabbits and squirrels. The other men clearly think this is beneath them, but rabbits and squirrels are damn hard to hit, people, so actually you ought to show a little respect. Sam goes to get some more bread and his father fat shames him, and then it’s ON. Randyll Tarley scorns Sam’s plans to become a maester, growling that he thought the Night’s Watch would make a man of him, but now here he is, still soft and fat and unable to wield a sword. Sam’s mother tries to intervene, but Gillie’s not having this and says that Sam can wield a sword, and furthermore, he’s killed a White Walker. Dickon laughs that there’s no such thing but Gillie says she saw it with her own eyes on their way down to Castle Black. All Randyll takes from that is her mention of ‘going down’ to Castle Black. He pushes Gillie to tell him where she came from and she defiantly tells him she’s from North of the Wall. He rages about having to host a wildling whore in his hall. He points to a sword on the wall, Heartsbane, and says it’s been in the family for centuries and is supposed to go to his firstborn son, but Sam will never have that sword, because the family will fall to ruin if he inherited. Randyll continues to insult both Sam and Gillie and finally Sam’s mother throws her fork down, grabs the ladies, and hustles them out of there, snapping at her husband that he’s dishonouring himself. Once they’re gone, Randyll says they’ll take in Gillie and let her work in the kitchens (so generous!), but Sam will be gone by the morning.
Sam goes upstairs and apologises to Gillie for not standing up for her. She says she’s not angry with him, she’s angry that his horrible dad can treat such a good man like that and get away with it. She tells Sam that his father doesn’t know what Sam is. Sam, about to cry, bids her goodnight and leaves, then almost immediately returns and tells her that she and the baby are coming with him, and his father can just go to hell.
He takes them all down to the great hall, which is now empty, and takes the sword. Hee!
Arya’s back at the theatre, now watching the bit of the play about Joffrey’s wedding and death. The actress Arya’s been sent to poison delivers a soliloquy over her dead son while the actress playing Sansa looks on jealously from the wings, mouthing the other actress’s lines.
Then we get to see Tywin get killed on the toilet, except now Tywin’s being played by Richard E Grant, which is an unexpected cameo.
Arya, meanwhile, goes backstage and poisons the rum. As she’s finishing up, Lady Crane spots her and recognises her from the audience. She asks Arya how many times she’s seen the play and if she’s paid. Arya admits she didn’t. Lady Crane says she used to do the same when she was Arya’s age. She’s pretty nice and asks Arya what she would do to improve the play. Arya says some anger would probably make sense, considering the terrible tragedy Cersei’s just gone through. It seems like Lady Crane’s about to offer Arya a job, so Arya slips away, saying her father will be waiting.
In the dressing room, Richard complains about how terrible the crowd was and Lady C tries to make some suggestions, which only annoys him. She rolls her eyes and pours some rum, but as she goes to drink, Arya comes rushing in and knocks it out of her hand, warning Lady C to be careful, because the younger actress wants her dead. Arya leaves, watched by the Waif, who’s hanging around backstage as well.
Arya goes and retrieves Needle. Guess she’s done with the Faceless Men. So, was all this completely pointless, then?
The Waif reports to Jaqen that Arya failed, as Waif expected. He sighs that that’s a shame, but now Waif can go ahead and kill Arya. He only asks that she not let Arya suffer.
The Tyrell army arrives in King’s Landing and is met by Jamie. Lord Tyrell, hilariously, tries to give a rousing speech to his troops and their response is basically, ‘…’. But they fall into step behind their commanders.
Margaery and the Sparrow are on the front steps of the Sept before a huge crowd. Sparrow tells everyone that she came to them a sinner and disgraced her house, her king, and herself.
Just then, Jaime and the Tyrell army enter the square, along with Oleanna. Jaime demands both Margaery and Loras but Sparrow refuses to hand them over. Jaime rides his horse up the steps to the sept and says he’s come in the stead of King Tommen and is prepared to kill every Sparrow there before Margaery’s allowed to walk down that street. High Sparrow says they’ll all gladly die, but it’s ok, because there wasn’t going to be a Walk of Atonement anyway. Psyche! Queen Margaery has already atoned for her sins by winning Tommen over to their side, which is quite a get for the Sparrows. And here he comes, the little king, striding out of the sept. He takes his wife’s hand as the High Sparrow announces a holy alliance between the Crown and the Faith. The crowd cheers wildly.
Tommen speaks, promising to restore the Seven Kingdoms to glory. Everyone cheers again.
The next order of business is to strip Jaime of his post as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, in retaliation for standing against the Faith.
So, Walder Frey’s still alive, for those who care, and now he’s yelling at two of his—sons? Grandsons? Who can even tell?—for losing Riverrun. He orders them to take Riverrun back but they say they just don’t have the men. Frey doesn’t care, he just wants everyone to stop laughing at them. Stop killing your guests and marrying children and maybe you’ll be less an object of scorn and ridicule, Frey. The sons don’t think Blackfish will yield but Frey thinks he will, once his nephew is trotted out as hostage. And here’s Edmure now, looking much the worse for wear after his (months? Years?) in a dungeon.
Cersei and Jaime drink and talk about next steps. Jaime wants to have Bronn gather up as many men as he can and take them to the sept and take as many Sparrow heads as he can manage. Could you, please? I’m weary of this wheel-spinning plotline. Cersei reminds him that’s a suicide mission and it’s much better that he take command of the army, as Tommen wants, and show the world how fierce the Lannisters are. He’s being sent to take Riverrun, apparently. She tells Jaime that nobody knows how strong they are and what they’re going to do to the world. They kiss and she says the two of them will always be together.
Meera and Bran and their savior take some time to rest and prepare a rabbit by a fire in the woods. Meera asks the man why he helped them and he says the Three-Eyed Raven sent for him. He then talks about how he remembers Bran as a boy, which prompts Bran to ask who he is. Why, it’s Benjen! Sort of. It’s ZomBenjen. He and his ranging party were attacked by Walkers and he was stabbed and left for dead. The Children of the Forest and stopped the Walkers’ magic on him by plunging a piece of dragonglass into his heart (the same method they used to create the Walkers in the first place).
Benjen tells Bran he’s the Three-Eyed Raven now. Bran says he isn’t ready and can’t control anything. Benjen says he’ll just have to learn, because the Night King will find his way to the world of men soon and when he does, Bran will need to be there, and ready.
Dany, at the head of her Dothraki army, stops in the desert and asks Daario how many ships he thinks it’ll take to bring her army to Westros. Shouldn’t she have asked this at some point earlier? He estimates at least a thousand, and nobody has that many. Guess they’ll have to start building, then. He asks her what she plans to do once she reaches Westros and she says she’ll take what’s hers. He says she’s a conqueror and wasn’t meant to sit on a throne. And how—she’s proven in Meereen she’s actually terrible at the business of ruling.
She tells him to wait and rides off, then reappears a little later riding Drogon, who I guess was stashed behind one of the hills or something. And I guess she just…sensed him there? I don’t really know how this came about. She lands in front of the army and gives a speech about how most khals choose three blood riders to be their right-hand men, but she’s not a khal, so she’ll have all of them as bloodriders! She’ll ask more of them than any other khal, but they seem up for that, cheering her in a way that would make Lord Tyrell puce with envy.