Game of Thrones
April 14, 2019
AND WE’RE BACK! This time with more awkward reunions! Dragon rides! Pirate on Queen sexytimes! Secret identities revealed! 20,000 Golden Company troops! Long-forgotten crossbows! Bran staring at things! Dothraki not prepared for this snow bullshit! Creepy symbols made of human arms! Child wights!
But no elephants.
Sea Pacey returns from his mission to retrieve the Golden Company, the army of sellswords Cersei sent him over to Essos to collect as part of her “Fuck Everyone Over and Let Them Fend for Themselves Against the Ice Zombies” plan. As the boats pull up to shore, Sea Pacey gets drunk and taunts his niece and prisoner Yara, mostly as a means to remind us that he’d taken her hostage. Yara asks him why he doesn’t just kill her already and get it over with, which, excellent point Yara, but maybe those are inside thoughts that you should keep to yourself rather than hand over to your shitty uncle who doesn’t have any real reason to keep you alive especially since you could still pose a threat to his claim to the Iron Island’s throne. But he’s all, “
Well how else is TheonReek supposed to rescue you so that you can help Daenerys against Cersei at the end of the season, and then become the first Queen of the Iron Islands? Because.” Yara also warns him that he’s chosen the losing side, Sea Pacey is like, “LOL WHATEVER NOTHING MATTERS” before trotting off to go get him a piece of Queen.
Inside the castle, Cersei is informed that the Wall has fallen.
Sea Pacey and this new guy, Harry, march into the Red Keep and inform Queen Cersei that her 20,000 troops, 2,000 horses and 0 elephants have arrived. Cersei is all, “WAIT, NO ELEPHANTS? I WAS PROMISED ELEPHANTS! THE BOOKS PROMISED ME ELEPHANTS!” But Harry explains that the budget was spent entirely on CGI dragons, so.
Sea Pacey is all, “So we gonna … you know …”
At first, Cersei is all, “You buy a whore; you earn a queen!” which is a good line that she totally undermines by immediately being all, “Oh, alright, let’s go do this thing, Momma’s got needs, too.”
Cersei is still pouting about the whole elephant thing after she and Sea Pacey make the sex, and he promises to knock her up. Joke’s on you, Sea Pacey, because that space has already been occupied.
In some brothel, Bronn is just trying to enjoy a little Bronn time but between the prostitutes gossiping about how Ed Sheeran’s face was melted off by Daenerys’ dragon at the loot train incident, and Cersei’s Not!Maester Hand of the Queen interrupting to solicit Bronn’s help in killing Tyrion and Jaime (with the same crossbow that Tyrion used to kill Tywin, naturally), he’s having a hard time of it. Or, not, actually, as the case may be.
Meanwhile, TheonReek and his men attack Sea Pacey’s ship and the cast of Silicon Valley and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and rescue Yara. So that took a lot less time than I expected. Yara explains that while Sea Pacey is busy making time with Cersei, she’ll go steal back the Iron Islands. Daenerys will need someplace where she’ll be safe from the White Walkers if the North falls. WHICH: GOOD POINT, YARA. She then releases TheonReek to go to Winterfell because she can tell he’s itching to get back there and redeem himself some more, maybe get his ass killed finally.
After running around all over Westeros, Jon Snow returns home with a dragon queen, a Dothraki army, an Unsullied army, a Lannister, a Spider, a Hound and a pair of dragons. The people of Winterfell are simultaneously impressed and suspicious.
Once inside the walls of the castle, Jon excitedly greets Bran whom he hasn’t seen since the first season and marvels that he’s a man now. “
Sorta, I’m more of a bird wizard or something. Almost,” Bran cryptically replies. ALRIGHT, CALM DOWN OVER THERE, LIVEJOURNAL.
Jon introduces Daenerys to Sansa and they go through the pleasantries but Sansa is clearly underwhelmed.
But then bird boy over here is all, “LESS CHIT CHAT, MORE DOING SOMETHING. THE WHITE WALKERS HAVE BROKEN THROUGH THE WALL WITH THE ICE DRAGON SO SHIT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL. LADIES, WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR YOUR PETTY NONSENSE.”
He seems fun.
There’s an all-hands-on-deck meeting with the Northmen, where Sansa reveals that as soon as she heard the news about The Wall falling she called for everyone to retreat to Winterfell. Sansa then asks Lord Umber, who is maybe all of 10, where the hell his people are, and he explains that they need more horses and wagons to transport everyone. Sansa promises him as many as he needs and then sends him off to Last Hearth, the Umber’s homestead, to go get them already.
Jon also orders that the Night’s Watch be brought down to Winterfell, since there’s nothing to guard against up at The Wall anymore. That’s when Little Lady Badass is all, “Hold up, JON, what are we even supposed to call you? Since you aren’t the King in the North anymore after getting all hot and bothered over this blond and her dragons?” But Jon reminds everyone that titles aren’t important when there are MOTHERFUCKING ICE ZOMBIES WALKING THROUGH THE MOTHERFUCKING WALL.
Tyrion tries to defend Jon, pointing out that their former king has created the greatest army in history, including two dragons. And soon, the Lannister army will be joining them! Any minute now! It’s definitely going to happen! They are very much on their way!
Sansa, ever the practical (and better suited to rule than any of these yahoos) points out that while she has prepared for Winter, she wasn’t anticipating having to feed hordes of Dothraki and Unsullied, not to mention DRAGONS. And what dragons even eat anyway?
“Whatever they want,” Daenerys deadpans.
Later, while Gendry is sending all the dragonstone into the foundry, Tyrion catches up with his ex(?)-wife, Sansa noting that the last time they talked was at Joffrey’s wedding, the miserable affair.
“It had its moments,” Sansa replies.
Sansa apologizes for taking leave of the wedding early, and they marvel at the fact that they both managed to survive.
Tyrion then assures Sansa that she will be safe when the Lannister army arrives, and Sansa’s like, “Wait, you actually think Cersei is going to send troops up here? Why? Because she said she would?”
Meanwhile, Bran in the courtyard:
Jon pays a visit to the Winterfell heart tree, where Arya finds him and they have their big huggy reunion. They compare blades, Arya asks how he survived being stabbed in the heart and he admits that he didn’t, and they talk about how Sansa clearly does not like Daenerys. Jon brushes it off as Sansa thinking she’s sooooooo smart, and Arya is like, “Dude, she’s is.” YEAH. JON. Arya then reminds Jon to not forget that he’s their family too, because — and not to spoil anything — all that’s going to be challenged real soon.
Elsewhere, Davos, Tyrion, and Vasrys give us a little Karstark exposition (they have a complicated relationship with their cousins, the Starks, and somewhat awkwardly were Team Bolton until very recently) before shipping Jon and Daenerys. “Wouldn’t it be like, so cool, if Jon and Daenerys like got together and stuff? I mean, it would certainly also grease the wheels politically for Daenerys amongst the Northerners who don’t trust anyone who isn’t from a snow-covered hellscape. But also, THEY’RE SO CUTE TOGETHER,” says Davos. Essentially.
Meanwhile, Daenerys notes to Jon that Sansa doesn’t like her and he’s like, “no doy.” Dany receives word from one of her Dothraki that the dragons aren’t eating enough, so she and Jon check on them together. Diagnosis: The dragons don’t like the North.
Daenerys then encourages Jon to climb onto Rhaegal and join her for a dragon ride. And he does even though he’s scared and awkward and out of control.
And then Jon and Daenerys have a post-ride makeout session next to a waterfall while Drogon watches.
Enjoy it, kids, because it’s the last happy moment y’all are going to have for a while.
Back in Winterfell, Arya visits Gendry’s forge where she runs into her old buddy, The Hound who reminds her she left him to die, and she reminds him that she robbed him first. He calls her a cold bitch, and it’s actually kinda sweet? Somehow?
Gendry refers to Arya as “Lady Stark,” which she orders him not to do, before calling her “m’lady.”
Arya then shows him a diagram for some sort of mysterious dragonglass weapon she wants him to make for her, so let’s all speculate wildly about what THAT’S all about.
In her chambers, Sansa delivers some bad news to Jon. House Glover has sent a message to the Starks: “Thanks but no thanks, we’re going to wait out this whole ice zombie thing in our own place. Good luck!” Jon reminds her that the Glovers swore their allegiance to House Stark and she’s like, “NO, BITCH, THEY SWORE THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO KING JON. WHICH ISN’T A THING ANYMORE BECAUSE HE GOT ALL HORNED UP FOR SOME CHICK WITH COOL PETS.” Jon argues everyone is too hung up on this title nonsense when titles don’t matter when you’ve been turned into a GODDAMNED ICE ZOMBIE. And anyway, Daenerys will be a good queen, trust him.
Down in Winterfell’s library — wait, Winterfell has a library? — anyway, down in Winterfell’s library, Daenerys and Jorah find Samwell to thank him for curing Jorah of the greyscale. As thanks, Sam asks if Dany will pardon him for a couple of petty crimes: stealing some books from the Citadel and his family’s sword, which has been in House Tarly for generations, but which his dad didn’t want him to have.
Daenerys is all, “Uhhhhhhh …. your dad’s not Randyll Tarly, is he?” When Sam confirms that he is, Daenerys is like, “Good news, you don’t have to worry about that sword. Bad news, I burnt him alive because he wouldn’t do what I said.” Sam tries to see the bright side of this and is all, “Well, at least my brother will let me back in the house now …”
Samwell excuses himself out to the courtyard where he runs into Bran:
Sam asks Bran what he’s doing out here in the cold, and Bran is all “
bein’ creepy waiting for someone to build me a ramp so I can go inside waiting for an old friend.” Bran then instructs Sam that it’s time to tell Jon the truth about the whole Targaryen thing, and it has to come from him.
So Sam goes down to the crypts where he finds Jon being all Starky. Sam doesn’t have time to explain why he’s in Winterfell, he wants to know if Jon knows about this queen of his barbecuing his dad and brother? Jon sighs that they need to end this war, but Sam’s like, “NOT GOOD ENOUGH,” before demanding to know if Jon would have executed his family for a similar offense, pointing out that Jon spared thousands of wildlings when they wouldn’t kneel.
Jon protests that he’s not a king, to which Samwell is all, “DAMN, JON SNOW, YOU REALLY DO KNOW NOTHING. Dude, you’re the king. And I’m not talking about some King in the North bullshit — I’m talking about the KING king. The Targaryen king. Your mom was Lyanna Stark and your dad was Rhaegar Targaryen and you are Aegon Targaryen and you have a better claim to the throne than your girlfriend.”
Jon is all, “NUH-UH, NED WOULD HAVE TOLD ME SO,” but Sam is like, “Yuh-huh, he never told you because he knew Robert would kill you if the truth came out. But dude, you’re Aegon Targaryen, Sixth of His Name, Protector of the Realm, Blah Blah Blah. And you should be king. You gave up your crown to save your people, would she do the same?”
Back out in the courtyard, more people pour into Winterfell’s courtyard, including one raggedy-looking figure who turns out to be JAIME GOLDEN BOY LANNISTER! And the first person he lays eyes on?
Last Hearth, you’ll remember, is the Umber clan castle, the one Sansa sent Little Lord Umber back to, so as to collect his people and bring them back to Winterfell quicklike.
Last Hearth also happens to be the castle closest to The Wall — hence its clever name. And as such, that’s where Tormund and Beric Dondarrion happen to run into Edd and the other Black Brothers on their way down to Winterfell.
They also run into Little Lord Umber …
… very dead and pinned to a creeptastic spiral made of disembodied arms and legs.
Except not dead dead, because while the men discuss the very bad realization that the White Walkers are now between them and Winterfell, Little Lord Umber’s eyes pop open, revealing that they are wight blue. Using his torch-sword, Beric sets the whole hideous thing on fire because BURN IT! BURN THAT SHIT WITH FIRE!
Before we get started, I want to take a long look at that opening credit sequence again:
So obviously the title sequence has had some work done. First of all, the bands of the astrolabe have added three new legends to their bands: the Night King destroying the wall with Viserion’s help; what appears to be the Red Wedding (although others thought it was the beheading of Ned Stark, and still others thought it might be Ramsay holding up the head of Rickon’s direwolf — the point is: Starks ran into some shit luck); and the birth of Daenerys’ dragons, complete with a comet.
Second of all, the opening sequence focuses on a lot fewer locations: we have the collapsed Wall; Last Hearth being overrun with white tiles representing the White Walkers; Winterfell; and King’s Landing. And because there are fewer places to actually spend time on, the title artists were able to do something that apparently they’ve never done before: go inside the buildings. In fact, this is — and I was surprised to learn this myself — the first time the Iron Throne has been shone in the title sequence.
What I find particularly interesting and potentially important is that in both King’s Landing and Winterfell, two areas are visited: the respective throne rooms (so far as Winterfell has such a thing) and their underground spaces. In Winterfell, we pass through the Stark crypt; in King’s Landing we visit the cellar with its dragon skeleton and the scorpion Qyburn has engineered. They visit both the public face of both kingdoms and the spaces where secrets are kept. I also have a feeling that the respective underground spaces are going to play important roles in the rest of our story. I don’t quite have my arms around it, but I feel like both underground spaces are going to be crucial to the survival of characters this season: that the Winterfell crypts will probably be where people hide during the battle with the White Walkers, and I suspect we have yet seen the last of the wildfire cache in King’s Landing.
As for the episode. Before we begin this season, I wanted to do a quick overview of our major houses and where they stand. Like the number of places we visited in the opening sequence, they have been greatly reduced:
House Arryn: Led by Robin.
House Baratheon: Gone. Gendry is still alive, but he’s an unrecognized bastard.
House Greyjoy: Being fought over by Yara and Euron.
House Lannister: Led by Cersei, currently holding the Iron Throne.
House Martell: Gone.
House Stark: Led by Jon? Maybe Sansa?
House Targaryen: Just doubled in size!
House Tully: Technically, Edmure is still alive. However, last we saw him, he was being held prisoner by the Freys who threw him back in prison once they were able to lay siege to Riverrun. Whether or not his niece Arya or anyone else at the Twins had the forethought to release him after her massacre of the Freys remains to be seen.
House Tyrell: Gone.
I just wanted to lay that out to make two points for us to keep in mind: 1. The chessboard has been pretty much cleared, and all we have left is a struggle between the Targaryens, Lannisters, and Starks, with an assist on one side or another from the Greyjoys. Whoever is going to take the Iron Throne — if the Iron Throne is still a thing left to be taken — will come from one of these three families. And 2. There are still a couple of wildcard actors out there in the forms of Edmure and Robin. We might not see either of them for a while, but they are still running around and could yet make trouble in one form or another.
As for this episode, obviously a large part of this episode was about reuniting characters, reestablishing where we are and where we are going next, and finally letting Jon in on that big Targaryen secret.
First, let’s talk about the callbacks, particularly the ones that reference the first episode of the series. The episode begins with a small boy running around Winterfell looking for a good perch from which to view the incoming royal procession, much like Bran did in the first episode when King Robert and the rest of the Baratheon/Lannister crew arrived. (Which is also a nice reminder of the whole Bran/Jaime dynamic which plays itself out in the final moments.) According to the wonderful Joanna Robinson over at Vanity Fair, to hammer home the comparison, the score even references King Robert’s Theme, which we have not had cause to hear in a long while. And Sansa echoes her father when she tells Daenerys that “Winterfell is yours, Your Grace.”
Another callback occurs when Gendry teasingly calls Arya “milady/m’lady,” which I pointed out above she asked him not to do the last time she was with him.
Then there was the whole Jon making out with Daenerys in front of a waterfall thing which is a callback to Jon being taught by Ygritte to know a thing or two which happened in front of a cave waterfall.
And finally, the image of Little Lord Umber’s eyes opening and revealing themselves to be blue while pinned to the wall is a callback to the series’ cold open when Gared comes across the Wilding camp that has been decimated by White Walkers, and a child, who had been pinned to a tree, reanimates.
Another sort-of callback was Cersei giving Bronn the crossbow that Tyrion killed their father with (and with which Joffrey used to torture Sansa and kill poor Ros) (R.I.P. Ros), which she wants him to use on Jaime and/or Tyrion should the opportunity present itself.
As to whether or not Bronn will actually do Cersei’s bidding and kill one or both of the only real friends he’s ever had … a Reddit poster pointed out that, having worked for both Tyrion and Jaime (and never receiving that damn castle he was promised) the show has been for some time laying the foundation for Bronn to be a selfish enough asshole that he’d be willing to work with the final Lannister, Cersei:
Tyrion: “You and my sister deserve each other.”
Tyrion: “A Lannister always pays his debts.”
Bronn: “Your sister’s a Lannister too.”
Bronn: “I like you… I just like myself more.”
Tyrion: “Why are you sorry? Because you’re an evil bastard with no conscience and no heart? That’s what I liked about you in the first place.”
Bronn: “You promised me a lordship and a castle and a highborn beauty for a wife.”
Jaime: “And you’ll get all three. ‘A Lannister always pays…’ “
Bronn: “Don’t say it. Don’t fucking say it.”
— Bronn and Jaime at Riverrun.
“Listen to me, cunt. ‘Til I get what I’m owed, a dragon doesn’t get to kill you. You don’t get to kill you. Only I get to kill you!”
― Bronn to Jaime after the Battle of the Goldroad.
Bronn: “Don’t you worry about me; I’m doing alright. Looking after myself.”
Tyrion: “Are you? Helping me to arrange this meeting wasn’t exactly looking after yourself, was it? You put yourself at risk.”
Bronn: “I put yourself at risk – important difference. It’s your head Queen Cersei’s offered a bag of gold for; it’s not mine. Now, thanks to me, she’s got two traitors’ heads coming right through her door. She can lock them both off as soon as she gets tired of the clever words that pour out their pie holes. All thanks to Ser Bronn of the fucking Blackwater! If that’s not looking after myself, I don’t know what is.”
— Bronn and Tyrion before the Parley in King’s Landing.
If you just read the words on the page, it very definitely feels like they are giving plenty of room for Bronn to be doing Cersei’s bidding at the end. And Bronn, you’ll remember, rejected Tyrion’s request to be his champion against Cersei’s FrankenMountain (a choice that turned out to be a wise one, as Bronn still has both of his eyeballs).
That said, Bronn is on something of a redemption arc — risking his own life to save Jaime from Daenerys’ dragons, for instance (although it could be argued he only did so because Jaime hadn’t paid up) — and so it’s hard for me to picture Bronn going full villain and murdering either Jaime or Tyrion.
All that said, Chekov’s crossbow is going to be used somehow this season, it’s just a matter of whether it will be used against a Lannister or someone else. If I had to bet on one character who will be the on the receiving end, it would be Qyburn, Cersei’s Hand of the Queen, who designed essentially a giant crossbow with which to kill dragons. The show does have a keen sense of poetic justice after all.
Speaking of Chekov’s weapons … from what we can tell, it looks Arya has asked Gendry to make her a dragonglass tipped spear that can be broken down into two separate pieces, to double her opportunity to stab them with the pointy end.
Which makes sense: while Arya has both Needle and the Catspaw Dagger at her disposal, she trained with staffs in Braavos and she’s going to likely want something with a little longer reach when dealing with wights.
Here she is possibly using it in the trailer. If you squint, you can kinda see it:
I don’t know how much of a big deal to make of this, frankly. The writers clearly want us to take notice of this weapon, either because it’s going to play some sort of significant role — or maybe it’s just for coolness points. My question is, what is Arya going to name it?
Alright, onto the meatier stuff, like Jon discovering the secret about his identity that everyone already knew: that daddy was a Targaryen. The episode ends with Jon still processing this information, so we don’t really know how, exactly, he’s going to respond. My guess is that they are going to toy for a while with this notion that Jon might challenge Daenerys for the Throne — after all, Westeros’ history is filled with Targaryen siblings and aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces fighting for control of the Throne — just to drag out that particular tension, especially as it pertains to the Northmen (and Westerosi, in general) who are already apprehensive at the idea of following this foreigner and her army of “savages.”
But, as I argued in this piece, ultimately I don’t think Jon is going identify with his Targaryen side. Being a Targaryen doesn’t mean anything to him; he is going to embrace his Starkness. Jon was raised as a Stark, that is who he is as a person, that’s who he is to his core. And so while it is convenient to have another dragon rider around for the Great War, I think ultimately it will be more important to Jon that he’s a legitimate Stark than it will be to challenge Daenerys’ claim to a throne he never wanted.
It’s also worth noting the parallels to Samwell and Ned in this mess of a situation: both men’s fathers and brothers were burned alive by Targaryens and both men believe that their best friend would be a better ruler than a fire-happy Targaryen.
And it’s also worth pointing out that ultimately Ned was wrong. While the Mad King was definitely worse than Robert Baratheon — Robert never threatened to burn down King’s Landing in a fit of pique, after all — Robert wasn’t a good king by any measure. Drunk, bored, bad with money, easily manipulated … Robert wasn’t interested in the business of leading, he just wanted the fancy title. And it could be argued that Robert installing himself as king put Westeros onto a path towards chaos at a time when it could least afford it.
Of course, Jon is nothing like Robert. For one thing, Jon has had plenty of executive leadership experience as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (and it got him MURDERED DEAD by his own men — so it’s not exactly a great thing to add to the resume). And a case could be made that the very fact that Jon does not seek out glory or a crown is exactly what makes him ideal to lead. Samwell’s not wrong about Jon: he is just and merciful, qualities that Daenerys struggles with. But ultimately, Jon will never sit on the Iron Throne because he’s going to sacrifice himself valiantly before that opportunity ever arises. (That said, a Stark will probably be left to rule Westeros, and no, it’s won’t be Bran.)
(Also, I still think the Tarlys had it coming, and that Daenerys wasn’t wrong to set those two jackhats on fire. When a woman with a dragon tells you to bend the knee, you BEND THE FUCKING KNEE.)
So that symbol. We’ve discussed this symbol before back when Jon pointed it out to Daenerys in the cave drawings on Dragonstone.
And I noted at the time that we had seen the symbol before, at the desecration of the Wildlings’ camp in the first episode:
… and at the Fist of the First Men in season three:
First, a quick refresher on the symbols themselves, this spiral and the ϕ. As I wrote last season:
… spirals are a fairly universal symbol used to represent life force. Spirals are found in everything from galaxies to the tiniest snail shell to the double helix strands of DNA. Spirals also represent labyrinths, the mysterious journey to the afterlife and return; they can also represent balance, and the cyclical rhythms of the seasons and life and death. As for that ϕ symbol, in our universe, it is similar to the Greek letter Phi, which represents the Golden Ratio which can be found in some patterns of nature, including the spiral pattern of leaves.
I’ve seen some speculation that the symbols could be an indication that the Night King is after the God’s Eye and the Isle of Faces. Short version of a long story: the God’s Eye is a lake near the cursed Harrenhal Castle in which there is an island, The Isle of Faces. There, the pact between the Children of Men and the First Men was signed. The island is covered in heart trees, which were carved with faces to witness the pact, and an order of “green men” — who are basically Children of the Forest — was created to protect the trees. When the Andals arrived in Westeros, they were unable to kill the green men, leading some to believe there might still be some alive on the island.
Now, because we know the Night King was created by the Children of the Forest, there is some speculation that his goal is to get to the Isle of Faces and kill the remaining green men. Which is a good theory! And one that I subscribed to — until we arrived at the penultimate season and no mention of the God’s Eye or the Isle of Faces had been made on the show. Ever. So between that and the fact that King’s Landing is well south of the God’s Eye, and I fully expect the White Walkers to in some way threaten King’s Landing, I’m not counting on the God’s Eye ever being a part of the series.
The other speculation about the symbol is that because it bears some resemblance to the Targaryen three-headed dragon sigil, it’s a clue that the Night King could ALSO be yet ANOTHER secret Targaryen. It also helps that he’s a dragon rider, too, now.
I’m here to throw some cold water on this theory.
We learned in season six that the symbol is actually an ancient symbol used by the Children of the Forest, as seen in stones around their sacred Heart Tree:
This is the same tree where the Children of the Forest, seeking to create a weapon for their war with the First Men, created the first White Walker, the Night King himself, by stabbing a man in the heart with a piece of dragonglass. We don’t know the identity of the man but it’s safe to say that he wasn’t a Targaryen because — well, as far as our history goes back, at least — there weren’t any Targaryens or any other dragonlords in Westeros at the time. In fact, the only humans on the continent were the First Men, a distinct ethnic group that the maesters believed originated in the Dothraki Sea, and immigrated to Westeros some 8,000 to 12,000 years before the Targaryens arrived with their dragons. (They were one of three ethnic groups that colonized Westeros before the Targaryens conquered it, the other two being the Andals and the Rhoynar. Thus, the ruler of the Iron Throne claims the title of “The King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men.”)
Also, this guy?
He doesn’t look like a Targaryen.
No, I think the symbol is meant to be the White Walkers adopting the symbolism of the Children of the Forest, their creators, as their own, or perhaps it’s supposed to be a desecration of that symbol. As I also wrote last season:
It’s as though the White Walkers are sullying, defiling the iconography of their creators. And I am not sure how to read that: is this a deliberate message being sent to the Children of the Forest, an upside-down cross hung by a Satanist, a “fuck you” writ in horse parts? Or … or do the White Walkers themselves believe that these symbols are a part of them, that they represent them; that they are children of the Children of the Forest, or even Children of the Forest themselves, taking back this land from the First Men who stole it from them? And so I go back to that question I asked earlier, whose answer seems obvious, but is not: what happened between the Children of the Forest and the White Walkers that the Children of the Forest would turn against their own creation?
As to that final question, Vladimir Furdik, the actor who plays the Night King gave a potentially very revealing answer in an interview ahead of the season premiere, in which he said the following:
What does the Night King want, anyway?
Somebody made him the Night King. Nobody knows who he was before — a soldier or part of [nobility]. He never wanted to be the Night King. I think he wants revenge. Everybody in this story has two sides — a bad side and a good side. The Night King only has one side, a bad side.
What can we expect from him in the final season?
People will see he has a target he wants to kill, and you will find out who that is. There’s also that moment [in “Hardhome”] when Jon Snow was on the boat and the Night King looked at him and raised his arms — there’s a similar and even stronger moment between Jon and the Night King this time.
The obvious answer is our great hero, Jon, is the Night King’s target. The two have history, after all, and Jon did kill one of the Night King’s buddies.
But the actual answer is Bran. The Night King is coming for Bran.
The question is why — what did Bran do to the Night King that so pissed him off? And the answer lies in Furdik’s first response above: the Night King wants revenge on the person who made him into this thing. Since Jon had nothing to do with his origin, we have to turn to the only character on the show who has a possible connection to the Night King’s creation. We know from the vision that Bran has of the Night King’s creation that he himself did not push that bit of dragonglass into his heart, that was all Leaf.
But … what if Bran used his time traveling abilities to go back in the past to talk the Children of the Forest out of creating the Night King, but in doing so, not only gave them the idea to create him but also the steps as to how to do it? It would be a tidy causal loop: Bran is shown the creation of the Night King, goes back further in the past to prevent the creation of the Night King, only to thereby set into motion the creation of the Night King. You can’t change the past — but you can create it.
The only hitch I have with this particular theory was that final moment in this episode — that look that Bran gives Jaime upon his arrival. When Bran told Samwell he was “waiting for an old friend,” my first assumption was that he meant the Night King. (And I don’t rule out the fact that he did mean for that comment to be taken on multiple levels.) But there was something about that lingering look between Jaime and Bran, the look of guilt and shame on Jaime’s face and the knowing, but completely calm look on Bran’s, that made me think that Bran has become fully the Three-Eyed Raven. As such, the Three-Eyed Bran would have come to peace with the past and not try to go mucking around in it.
Thanks to the previews, we know that in the next episode, Jaime will be put on trial presumably for pushing Bran out that window and for killing the Mad King, maybe for some other crap. But I don’t believe Bran will be the one advocating for some measure of justice against Jaime — in fact, if anything, I suspect Bran will be the one to argue being merciful with Jaime, having come to realize that being pushed out the window was part of his destiny, part of his process of becoming the Three-Eyed Raven. And that if Bran hadn’t become the Three-Eyed Raven, they’d all be completely fucked instead of just mostly fucked. (This Easter weekend, it’s difficult to not see the parallels to the Judas and Jesus story: that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus leads to his crucifixion and resurrection and thereby, according to Christian belief, ultimately brings salvation to humanity.) Sometimes pushing a kid out of a window because you don’t want him telling the world you’re banging your twin sister is just what it takes to save mankind.
And so, if Bran has come to peace with his own past and how he came to be the Three-Eyed Raven as I believe he has, he would presumably also be at peace with the Night King’s inevitability. Meaning, we’re not going to see him go all-white-eyed at Winterfell, trying to prevent the past.
That said, this does not rule out the possibility that Bran might be responsible for the creation of the Night King … in some fashion. For one, this is exactly the kind of scenario flashbacks are good for. “So, Jon, about the Night King. Back when I was just a baby bird wizard and getting the hang of this whole wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, I might have fucked up …”
Or, perhaps there was no time travel involved at all, but instead some earlier incarnation of the Three-Eyed Raven instructed the Children of the Forest how to make a White Walker, and the Night King is coming for whoever is filling that guy’s shoes at the moment, i.e. Bran. Or maybe we’ve seen all of the Night King’s origin story that we’re going to get. Who knows.
But we only have five more episodes to find out.
Game of Thrones airs on HBO on Sundays at 8 p.m./9 p.m., CST/EST