‘Game of Thrones’: Remember who you are.

Game of Thrones
“Stormborn”
July 23, 2017

I would do a clever little intro here, but THERE’S NO TIME. LET’S GO.

Dragonstone

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Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen, The Unburnt Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men; Queen of Meereen; Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea; Breaker of Chains; Mother of Dragons holds her first cabinet meeting at Dragonstone with Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm, and Varys. After she makes them go around the table to thank her for the opportunity and blessing to serve her agenda, she pouts that if her brother had dragons, he’d have already invaded King’s Landing by now. But Tyrion reminds her that she wants to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, not Queen of the Ashes, and to that end, they need to use Westeros’ hatred of Cersei against her.

Speaking of, Daenerys thanks Varys for setting up an alliance with the ladies in the South, before peppering him with some very good questions: So, wait, you served my dad until you didn’t because he was “crazy” or whatever, and then you served King Robert until you didn’t because he was “drunk” or whatever, and then you were going to serve my brother until you weren’t because he was “killed by my husband with a bowl full of molten gold” or whatever and now you’re going to serve me even though you were the person who arranged a hit on me on behalf of King Robert? How does that work?

Tyrion protests that Varys has been a loyal servant, to which Daenerys is like, “Yeah, to himself. If he doesn’t like a ruler, he just crowns a new one.” Varys replies that “incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.” And all across #MAGA Nation  a giant, “NAH” was heard. Varys goes on to explain that his loyalty belongs to the people, not to the great houses, and if she requires blind allegiance, she can just go ahead and tweet out that he’s beleaguered, leave him on the tarmac or have Grey Worm chop off his head already.

Daenerys has Tyrion write a memo about how Varys should be fired for the way he treated Cersei instructs Varys to always be honest and upfront with her, especially if he thinks that she is betraying the people in any way, but warns him that if he ever betrays her, he’ll become a dragon toy.

This happy conversation is interrupted with news that Daenerys has a visitor: a Red Priestess is waiting for her in the throne room.

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Obviously.

Daenerys greets Melisandre warmly: the red priestesses helped bring peace to Meereen, and she is welcome at Dragonstone. But Varys is like, “HEY, I KNOW YOU, YOU WERE THE CHICK THAT WAS EGGING ON STANNIS. THAT DIDN’T END GREAT FOR HIM.” But Daenerys reminds him that she just pardoned his ass for supporting the wrong king, so maybe he should sit down.

That out of the way, Melisandre explains that the followers of the Lord of Light believe that the Long Night is coming and that The Prince Who Was Promised will bring the dawn. Daenerys points out that she’s not a prince, only to have Missandei explain to Daenerys and the audience who doesn’t read my recaps that some nounds aren’t gendered in ancient Valyrian, so it could be “prince or princess.”

told you so

Melisandre goes on to add that she thinks there is another who has a role to play, one King in the North, Jon Snow. Tyrion is like, “the Hell?” So Melisandre explains that as Lord Commander, Jon saved the Wildlings by bringing them south of the wall, and as King in the North, he’s united the Northern houses with the Wildlings so that they can face a common enemy together. Tyrion adds that Jon is an all-around good guy who hates the Lannisters more than even Daenerys so he could potentially be a good ally.

Daenerys is convinced and orders Tyrion to send a raven to invite Jon Snow to come to Dragonstone and bend the knee.

Oh, I bet Jon Snow bends more than a knee …

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Sometime later, Daenerys has a meeting with her new besties, the Greyjoy siblings, Ellaria Sand and the Queen of Thorns, along with her usual cabinet members. Yara encourages Daenerys to just take King’s Landing already, what is she waiting for? When Tyrion argues that sending dragons into a major metropolitan area will result in tens of thousands of innocent deaths, Ellaria protests that it’s war, shit happens. This leads to Tyrion and Ellaria sniping at one another — Tyrion is still sore about the whole “poisoning his innocent niece” thing and Ellaria still sore about the whole “lover got his eyeballs popped out in trial by combat on Tyrion’s behalf” thing — until Daenerys is all, “SHUT IT.”

Daenerys explains that she doesn’t want to be “Queen of the Ashes,” to which Queen of Thorns is like, “That’s sweet and all, but no one is going to obey you unless they fear you.” Which is a fair point!

Daenerys and Tyrion then outline their plan: they will surround and starve King’s Landing with a Westerosi army provided by Dorne and the Reach. That way, they prevent Cersei from appealing to the nationalist loyalties of the other houses if they were to, say, surround the city with a bunch of Dothraki and Unsullied. Yara is going to sail Ellaria back to Sunspear to go make that happen. In the meantime, the Dothraki and Unsullied will lay siege to the Lannister family home, Casterly Rock, and get rid of those smug blond assholes once and for all. And everyone is like, “cool plan.”

With that, Daenerys dismisses everyone but the Queen of Thorns, to whom she swears she will get vengeance for what Cersei did to the Tyrell family, and that she will bring peace once and for all to Westeros. The Queen of Thorns is like, “Please, no one is bringing peace to Westeros. Anyway, a word of advice: your hand is clever man, but I have outlived a number of clever men by ignoring them. The lords of Westeros are a bunch of sheep. You are not a sheep. You are a dragon. So get your dragon on, girl.”

dog costume dragon.jpg
I’M A DRAGON! RAWR!

Later, Melisandre swings by Grey Worm’s chambers to say goodbye to him before he leaves in the morning, and Grey Worm explains that she is his “weakness.” While he was never the biggest or the strongest Unsullied, he was always the bravest … until he met Melisandre.

Melisandre is like, “DAMN, BOY, YOU GOT ME SO EXCITED I CAN’T EVEN TAKE THE TIME TO CLOSE THE DOOR BEFORE I GET OUT OF THESE CONSTRICTIVE ROBES.” And that’s how Grey Worm and Missandei make the mouth sex which I am sure was very satisfying for Missandei seeing how much experience Grey Worm has previously had with women and everything.

Winterfell

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Up North, everything is moving along with Jon’s Train-Everyone-Including-the Ladies-and-Babies-to-Kill-Ice-Zombies plan, while Sansa, Davos and Jon consider Tyrion’s message from Dragonstone. Sansa worries that it’s a trap or a forgery, which Jon dismisses based on the way Tyrion signs off: “every dwarf is a bastard in his father’s eyes,” something that Tyrion said to Jon Snow when they first met and also a hint that he’s not Tywin’s son. Sansa admits that Tyrion isn’t like other Lannisters because he’s not one, but worries that going to Dragonstone to meet Daenerys is still too big a risk. But Davos is like, “but dragons, tho.”

Jon then receives Sam’s message about the dragonglass at Dragonstone, which, I mean, if you were going to go looking for dragonglass, maybe start at the place NAMED FOR IT, but I digress.

King Jon then goes to his Lords and is like, “So here’s the deal, my buddy just sent me a message about dragonglass being at Dragonstone, and coincidentally, I received a message from Tyrion Lannister inviting me to meet Daenerys Targaryen who happens to be holed up in Dragonstone. So I think I’m going to have to go down and say hey and see if she’ll give up some of that sweet dragonglass, maybe let me borrow a dragon. Cool?”

The Lords find this decidedly uncool, Lil’ Lady Badass being like, “The hell you’re riding South.” But King Jon is like, “Listen, bitches, y’all haven’t’ seen these ice zombies. I have. And I am here to tell you we need all the help we can get. So I’m doing this and I’m leaving Sansa in charge.”

Littlefinger upon hearing this news:

yes that is awesome old school.gif

Before heading out, Jon swings by the family crypt to say goodbye to Ned’s statue. There, Littlefinger finds him and is like, “Hey, you never thanked me for saving your ass. Well, anyway, remember how much Cat Stark hated you? That was hilarious. Have fun in the South! I’ll look after Sansa if you know what I mean, and I know you do ~wink~.”

Jon Snow reacts very poorly to this.

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However, he does not kill him, but instead rides off to Dragonstone in a cloud of huffiness and fur.

King’s Landing

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Over in King’s Landing, Cersei is trying to convince the other Westerosi lords, those who have not openly rebelled against her — yet — to stick with her. After all, Daenerys is bringing filthy Dothraki and Unsullied to their shores. “They are not our friends, believe me. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Sam’s awful dad, Lord Tully, asks how Cersei plans on dealing with motherfucking dragons and Maester Qyburn assures him that they’re working on it.

As he leaves the throne room, Jaime approaches Lord Tully and asks him to support Cersei, but Lord Tully is like, “What, you expect me to betray the Tyrells, to whom I’ve sworn an oath, to side with a bunch of smarmy wedding murderers? No thanks.” But Jaime plays on Lord Tully’s racism and promises that after the war has been won, he’ll become the new ward of the South.

Meanwhile, in the basement, Qyburn reveals to Cersei his big anti-dragon plan: We’re going to build a wall, folks. We’re going to build a wall. We’re going to build it. Don’t worry. We’re going to build a wall. That wall will go up so fast your head will spin. a giant wooden crossbow made entirely of wood. Well, that seems like a solid plan against a fire-breathing dragon.

Oldtown

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In the Citadel, Maester Autopsy tells Jorah that he’s doomed with the NO TOUCHING! disease and has about 6 months before his mind goes. OK, BYE.

However, when Sam learns that he’s a Mormont, he becomes determined to help.

Later, as Maester Autopsy and Sam are collecting books for Maester’s new history, A Chronicles of  the Wars Following the Death of King Robert the First (a title that Sam suggests could use a little more poetry), Sam mentions that he found a treatment for grayscale in an ancient text. But Maester Autopsy is like, “I know the one. LOL, I’ll give you three guesses as to how the author died.”

no-touching

But our Samwell is not deterred, and heads back to Jorah’s cell with a bunch of knives and tools and potions and begins cutting and sawing and peeling away Jorah’s grayscale in one of the most upsetting scenes since Sansa’s wedding night.

Riverlands

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In the most anticipated reunion of the season, Arya finds herself in Hot Pie’s inn, where she helps herself to one of his pies, admiring the crust. He explains that he browns the butter before making the dough, a step Arya notes she left out when she made her Freyed pies recently.

Hot Pie is surprised to hear that Arya’s on her way to King’s Landing instead of Winterfell, but Arya is like, “Fuck the Boltons, man.” And that’s when Arya learns that Jon took back Winterfell and her sister fed Ramsay to his face-eating dogs and she’s like, “DAAAAAAMN. I guess my plan to kill Cersei is going to have to wait.”

On her way home, Arya finds herself and her horse suddenly surrounded by a pack of dangerous looking wolves, the leader which is ~SOB~ Nymeria, her long-lost direwolf. Arya lowers her sword, and tells Nymeria that she’s going home to Winterfell, and asks her direwolf to come with her.

Instead, in the SINGLE MOST DEVASTATING MOMENT SINCE HODOR HELD THE DAMN DOOR, Nymeria turns and leaves with her wolf pack. As Arya watches them go, she whispers, “That’s not you.”

jordan peele crying

The Narrow Sea

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On Yara’s boat to Sunspear, the much-hated Sand Snakes are bickering in the galley over who it going to kill whom, while in the captain’s quarters, Yara is explaining to a flirty Ellaria that Theonreek is not her servant. Once she becomes Queen of the Iron Islands, Theonreek is going to be her protector and advisor.

bruno-shake-head-no-disappointed-can-you-believe-this-shit

As Ellaria and Yara start getting frisky, Uncle Sea Pacey suddenly rams their ship and jumps on board killing everyone with his Sea Pacey axe.

Fighting fighting fighting, fire, fighting, fighting, fire fire. And in the end, two of the San snakes are killed: that one with the whip and that Whale Rider one. Bye, Sand Snakes. No one liked you, Sand Snakes.

As for Ellaria and the other Sand Snake, they are taken captive by Sea Pacey’s pirates.

Also, there’s a fight with Yara and Uncle Sea Pacey, which she loses. Theonreek sees his sister being held by Uncle Sea Pacey, and is challenged to come and get her. Instead, he jumps overboard because fuck that noise.

amy-poehler-emmys-deuces-bye

So, what I’ve been worrying over in this episode is not so much plot points — although, I am happy that we are moving the Jon-meets-Daenerys thing along finally, and am glad to be rid of some Sand Snakes — but instead, the use of repetition in the episode, and trying to figure out the long-term significance of a couple of character developments.

First, the use of repetition. As other have pointed out, this:

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looks an awful lot like this:

ned chokes littlefinger game of thrones

For what it is worth, in the season one scene, Littlefinger has hidden Cat in one of his brothels, and when he brings Ned to the building, Ned thinks that Littlefinger is insinuating that Cat is a whore. Cat pops her head out of an overhead window a moment later and the tension is cut.

As for its significance, it’s worth noting that Littlefinger betrays Ned soon after this scene, sending Ned down a path that ultimately leads to his death. Now that Jon is leaving Winterfell and has placed Sansa in charge, Littlefinger has considerable more opportunity to manipulate her, and try to turn her against her brother.

Note that in his message to Jon Snow — a message that Sansa also read — Tyrion leaves out the whole “you must bend a knee” thing:

tyrion's message to jon snow

If Jon arrives at Dragonstone and is told that the only way he is getting his hands on the dragonglass is if he bends a knee to Daenerys, Littlefinger could potentially use that as an argument that Jon is betraying the North, who aren’t going to be inclined to submit to a non-Northerner right about now. In fact, Torrhen Stark, the King in the North who surrendered to Aegon, the Targaryen conqueror who united the Seven Kingdoms, was known thereafter as “The King That Knelt,” not exactly a positive nickname. If Jon were to follow this example, Littlefinger could use it to sow discord between the Stark siblings and in the North, with the intention of putting Jon in danger.

Another bit of repetition comes in that message, in which Tyrion writes, “all dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes,” a callback to Tyrion and Jon’s first meeting when Tyrion said the same thing while trying to bond with Jon. I’ve gone on and on about how I think this is one of many clues that Tyrion is a secret Targaryen and not actually Tywin Lannister’s son, but as we now only have about 13 episodes left, it is becoming less and less likely this theory will ever be explored on the show. Boo.

We have another callback to the first season when Arya is reunited with her direwolf Nymeria. When Nymeria turns her back on Arya after Arya invites her to return to Winterfell with her, Arya says sadly, “That’s not you.”

that's not you arya game of thrones.gif

This is a reference to the first season, when her father promises that she’ll marry a lord one day, and make little lords and princes. Arya thinks differently.

that's not me arya game of thrones.gif

This is a way of demonstrating that Arya, like her direwolf, is not and never will be a domesticated creature. They’ve been on their own too long and they’ve killed too many to go back to a more innocent condition. And fundamentally, it’s just not who they are or who they have ever been. Sadly, this suggests that Arya’s return to Winterfell will be bittersweet and short-lived. I just don’t see Arya finding a place in that world anymore, and she will eventually feel compelled to go off on another quest.

Finally, a repetition that didn’t actually happen except in my imagination, but I feel is worth discussing nevertheless. In the scene where Olenna Tyrell urges Daenerys to ignore Tyrion’s politicking in favor of some good old-fashioned terror, she says to Daenerys, “The Lords in Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.”

In my incorrect memory, in the second season Daenerys receives very similar advice from Quaithe, the mysterious masked shadowbinder they meet in Qarth. However, as it turns out, I’m conflating the book with the show.

quaithe
This lady again.

On the show, Quaithe only speaks to Jorah Mormont: once to warn him that people will try to steal the dragons because dragons are power, and then to tell him who stole Daenerys’ dragons (after providing a little foreshadowing for the audience that Jorah had himself betrayed Dany).

In the books, however, Quaithe talks to Daenerys several times, both in person and in shadow form. Quaithe warns Daenerys directly to protect her dragons from people who might want to steal them. Later, when they are in Qarth, Quaithe urges Daenerys to leave as quickly as possible, and gives her this cryptic prophecy: “To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

Quaithe later appears to Daenerys in shadowy visions, once warning: “The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flamelion and griffinthe sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.”

Finally, and most relevant here, in the books, Daenerys is flown away by Drogon and left in the Dothraki Sea where she is wanders around for a while, hungry and exhausted. At one point she slips into a dream:

She was flying once again, spinning, laughing, dancing, as the stars wheeled around her and whispered secrets in her ear. “To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

“Quaithe?” Dany called. “Where are you, Quiathe?”

Then she saw. Her mask is made of starlight.

“Remember who you are, Daenerys,” the stars whispered in a woman’s voice. “The dragons know. Do you?”

Later, Daenerys dreams about Jorah, who urges her to leave for Westeros and get on with the conquering already, telling her: “Dragons plant no trees. Remember that. Remember who you are, what you were made to be. Remember your words.”

Those words, of course, would be, “fire and blood.” When this scene takes place in the book, Daenerys is covered in her own blood, and only about a page and a half later, she calls and rides Drogon, fully in control, in the first time. She becomes the Dragon Queen, she is fire and blood.

My point is, though I thought the Queen of Thorns’ advice was a callback to Quaithe saying something similar to Daenerys in an earlier season, it would appear that actually the showrunners put Quaithe’s words (and Dream Jorah’s) into Olenna’s mouth at this crucial moment in Daenerys’ story — and for a reason. Daenerys wants to take Westeros as peacefully as possible, to be recognized as the legitimate ruler without much fuss or a need to conquer. But as the Queen of Thorns (and Quaithe and Dream Jorah) remind her: that’s not her.

that's not you arya game of thrones

(Long parenthetical: I went back and rewatched both of Quatihe’s scenes just to confirm that she, in fact, never speaks to Daenerys on the show. She does not. This led me to rewatch the House of the Undying scene. In it, Daenerys, looking for her dragons, opens a door that leads her to a destroyed throne room, covered in snow. She approaches the Iron Throne but just before she is about to touch it, she hears her dragons calling out. She pulls back her hand and follows the dragons’ cries, which lead her to the Wall.

daenerys rejects the iron throne.gif

She then has a reunion with Khal Drogo and their unborn child, but that’s less important. I think this is a vision of the future and the choice she will make: she will come close to taking the Iron Throne, but then she will follow her true destiny, and use her dragons to conquer the threat from the North.)

As for the questions I am left with after this episode, they have to do with purpose. As I noted earlier, we are quickly running out of story — in fact, we are already a quarter of the way through this season, believe it or not. As such, every element, every plot point has to serve the endgame in some capacity, otherwise we are just wasting away valuable storytelling time. And so, the two plot points that I am most curious about are Arya’s training with the Faceless Men and Jorah and the greyscale.

It would have been very easy for the writers to just kill Jorah off-camera instead of not only bringing him back this season, but having him cross paths with another major character. Clearly, Jorah has some role to play, probably saving Daenerys and dying honorably as a result. But I’m more interested in the greyscale and whether it will have any sort of other purpose. Could it be used as some sort of biological weapon? Can ingesting dragonglass actually cure greyscale as hinted at in the documents in the previous episode? If so, and if dragonglass created the first White Walker, is there any connection that can be drawn between the White Walkers and greyscale? Or was the whole greyscale thing just a convenient way for Sam and Jorah to meet and we should be paying more attention to that relationship than this disease? (Probably the latter.)

As for Arya’s time with the Faceless Men, as I mentioned earlier, I find it highly improbable that she would have spent her entire narrative arc training to become a face-changing assassin solely to murder the Freys and then return to Winterfell to live happily ever after.

Instead, I suspect Arya returns home only to come to the realization that you can’t go home again, and she will decide that the best way she can help her family is to complete her list and use her faceless tricks to assassinate Cersei.

That list again:

Cersei
The Mountain
Melisandre
Beric Dondarrion
Thoros of Myr
Ilyn Payne
The Hound

My best guess is that Arya will kill Melisandre; Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr will die fighting the White Walkers in the North; and we may never see Ilyn Payne again for the reasons noted last week. At some point, I think Arya will meet The Hound again, and she will choose to let him live, making him the only person on her list to whom she grants mercy.

And then we have Cersei and The Mountain. I still firmly believe that in the end, Jaime will kill Cersei and probably die somehow in the process. But! Just throwing this out there to keep it interesting: it’s possible that Arya could be the Valonqar in Magy the Frog’s prophecy for Cersei: “… And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.

Valonqar means “younger brother” in High Valyrian — but like the word for “prince” in Valyrian, its possible that “valonqar” really means “younger sibling” and is being mistranslated by a patriarchal society.

patriarchy

So it is possible that Arya Stark, who is a younger sibling (who also happened to spend a good deal of her time dressed as a boy) could technically be a “valonqar.”

And I can’t remember how many times — if ever — it is mentioned on the show, but it is worth noting that the poison that the Faceless Men use to kill their victims? Is called “The Strangler.”

Then there is the interesting parallel that as part of her Faceless Man training, Arya was tasked with killing an actress in an acting troupe. Which role did that actress play? Cersei. Of course, Arya ultimately finds herself unable to go through with the assassination, and as “Mercy,” she grants the actress just that. This could be foreshadowing that Arya tries to kill Cersei but is for some reason unable to do so, or it could mean that she won’t allow another chance to kill Cersei slip through her fingers.

Then there is the question of why the Faceless Men would just … let Arya … go. That’s not exactly how this particular assassins guild usually works. They are supposed to completely subsume their entire identity into No One and live out their lives in service to the Many Faced God so it’s odd that Jaqen would just allow Arya to leave. Unless … in doing so she was fulfilling her purpose all along.

One of the quieter but important issues of the first few seasons is that the Iron Throne and the Lannisters are in significant debt to the Iron Bank. We begin the series with worries about how loose Robert is with cash, a problem that only escalates after his death when the Lannisters have to heavily borrow from the bank to finance their wars against Stannis, Renly and Robb. At one point, Davos goes to the Iron Bank and receives a loan for Stannis after pointing out to them that the Lannisters are going to be in a heap of trouble if Tywin dies — meaning, the Iron Bank chose to back another contender to the Throne. Though Stannis died, now that there is a new contender for the Iron Throne, the Iron Bank might be inclined to throw its support behind Daenerys, and remove … obstacles. Particularly obstacles that haven’t paid what they owe. It’s entirely possible then that the Iron Bank paid the Faceless Men to assassinate Cersei, and that Jaqen, knowing that Arya had Cersei on her list, trained her and allowed her to leave to carry out that specific job. Lannisters always pay their debts, and Arya might be just the one to collect.

And, again, let me preface this by saying that I am doubtful that this is how it will play out, but, BUT! I believe Arya’s face-changing skills have to be used for some bigger purpose.

Alright, so, remember, there are not that many people who Cersei allows anywhere near her — only three, really: Jaime, Frankenmountain, and Maester Qyburn, her Hand of the Queen. Arya could easily pose as one of Qyburn’s “little birds” and take his face, allowing her access to Cersei. Now, she either kills Cersei or she doesn’t — but it would be interesting if she took Cersei’s face and killed Frankenmountain, thereby killing two of the most important people on her list. And then if the writers really wanted to twist the knife, Jaime could kill Arya, believing that she’s his sister The Mad Queen, doubling down on the whole valonqar business.

But like I said, I doubt this is how it will unfold. Jaime will most likely kill Cersei — the real Cersei … but I do think Qyburn should watch his back.

ALRIGHT! IT IS ALMOST TIME FOR THE NEXT EPISODE. In the brief time until it begins, someone should tell this guy that not only is there a mountain on Game of Thrones, but that he could DEFINITELY kill him.

Game of Thrones airs on HBO on Sundays at 8/9 p.m. and I am still upset about Nymeria, y’all.

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