Editor's note: spoilers below for fifth and sixth episodes of Game of Thrones' sixth season.
After a week of processing Hodor's shocking death, understanding Bran's time travel mysteries and having to look at terrible "Hold the door" memes courtesy the Internet, we dove back into the world of Westeros and Essos, the first chapter of the season's second half.
It started where the last episode left off, with Meera still wheeling away the cart with Bran on it. Meanwhile, the Stark boy - without the help of the (late) three-eyed raven - is unable to get a grip on the visions and keeps running through all of time, right from his fall in the series premiere to Mad King Aerys shouting "Burn them all!", where all means the citizens of King's Landing. Just as the wights catch up to them, Bran returns and says they have found us. Oh, thanks for nothing Bran!
There comes along a mysterious saviour on a horse, with a flaming ball for a weapon to boot. He sets fire to half the bunch, stabs and drags the rest on the cold hard ice floor. He then rides to the two cowering survivors, and reaches out with his hand. They climb onto his horse and sped on their way, with wights following.
Cut to a few guards and Gilly's face peering through a window of a horse carriage, wondering how it's all so nice and green. Spend some more time in the south Gilly, we hear it's the Seven Gods' Own CountryTM. (Nice tourism slogan for the Reach, don't you think?) Sam tells her to lie about two things when they got home: that little Sam is their own child, and she herself is from south of the Wall.
Sam's mother and sister - Melessa and Talla Tarly - welcome them at Horn Hill, and they are quite as he described earlier - much better and kinder than his father. Speaking of his father, he's away on a hunt (probably thankfully so). He will join them for dinner, Sam's mother says.
Over to King's Landing after last episode's omission, where the High Sparrow is having tons of fun putting the next piece of his plan into action. Tommen quite clearly believes his words and what he should be doing, and the leader of the Faith uses positive reinforcement psychology i.e. allows him to see Margaery as a fake token of his gratitude. There, the Queen-in-custody speaks of how the High Sparrow has made her realise the falseness of her past self ("How good I was at seeming good," she notes) and is also helping her brother Loras. Both Tommen and we can't quite tell if it's an elaborate fake, or if she truly buys all the crap unloaded onto her by the Sparrows and the Septa.
We shall only understand it later. For now, it's time for Horn Hill and to finally meet Lord Randyll Tarly - the guy Sam dreads - in the flesh. Sam does get a happy moment prior to that, seeing Gilly's hair all made up, and walking awkwardly in a tight dress and heels. Then it's time for a family reunion, one that the senior Tarly has no love for, it seems. He looks every bit menacing and disapproving of Sam as he was made out to be, and then more. When Sam's mother offers more bread and he accepts, Lord Randyll berates him by commenting on his appearance, and how the Night's Watch seemed to have failed in making a man of him. He also remarks that even though by tradition the Heartsbane sword - made of Valyrian steel, mind you - belongs to his firstborn son, there is no way he is going to let Sam have it. Gilly eventually rises to his defence, but only ends up confessing her wilding status, which angers the ruling Tarly to no end.
After the women excuse themselves, Sam's father tells him this shall be his last night ever at Horn Hill. After everything's he done and faced - protecting Gilly from White Walkers and the Night's Watch - he still can't face up to his father. He goes into Gilly's room to bid goodbye, and even her most encouraging words ("You're not what the thinks you are.") aren't enough to make him reconsider. He walks out, but as Gilly gives little Sam a concerned look, he barges back into her quarters asking her to gather her things because they are leaving together. She doesn't have any things, Sam! But oh, he does. They walk into the Horn Hill dining hall, and Sam promptly steals Heartsbane off its stand. We suppose it will come in handy when he faces more White Walkers or his father for that matter, Gilly asks. "He can bloody well try," Sam replies. Nicely done Sam, now you just need to learn how to wield it.
(Also see: Game of Thrones S06E05: 'The Door' Recap)
Over in Braavos, the play of Game of Thrones within Game of Thrones continues, which ought to please the show's writers most of all. This time it's the Purple Wedding, as Joffrey chokes on wine poured by Tyrion and falls to the ground. Arya, or a girl, can't control her smile and lets escape even a short chuckle. But as Lady Crane delivers a great performance as fake Cersei, Arya is almost brought to tears, understanding the pain a mother must endure after the death of a child. Inside, she slips into her green room (notice the colour of the curtains, people) and then pours all of the poison into Lady Crane's tiny bottle of rum.
But as she's about to sneak out, the Lady spots her and starts asking her questions. Arya excuses herself after a point, and the troupe bicker among themselves for control over playwriting and having to deal with a terrible audience. Just as Lady Crane is about to take a swig of the poisoned rum, Arya knocks down the glass and points to the cross-dressing fake Tywin, telling Crane she wants you dead. That is quite a turn of events on a girl's journey towards becoming a Faceless Man, and the Waif is there to see her betrayal of the mission in all its glory. She snitches to Jaqen H'ghar who is seemingly disappointed, and in turn agrees for a hit on the Stark girl. With a smirk on her face, the Waif goes in search of Arya who meanwhile has retrieved her stashed sword - Needle - and is hiding under the rocks in the dark.
Back to the seat of the Seven Kingdoms, where Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Jaime Lannister and the Tyrell army - after a succinct yet unconvincing speech from Mace Tyrell - is making its way to the Great Sept of Baelor. At the temple of the Seven, the High Sparrow announces the Queen's atonement procedure but is interrupted by the arrival of the aforementioned force. Jaime asks for Margaery and Loras to be returned, but the High Sparrow - repeating the devotion of the Faith Militant for the thousandth time - refuses. He goes on to say there will be no walk of atonement for Queen Margaery as she has already atoned.
Out comes the High Sparrow's ace in the hole, the King of the Seven Kingdoms - Tommen Baratheon - now on his side, quite literally. "The Crown and the Faith are the twin pillars upon which the world rests," Tommen shouts to the people. This is a slap in Jaime's face, not just as family but also seeing how the King is completely under the High Sparrow's wing. And for those members of the audience who don't follow, including Mace Tyrell it seems, Olenna is compelled to explain. "He's beaten us. That's what's happening," she sardonically remarks. As Jaime and the Faith leader exchange looks, the latter has a wry smile on his lips, the one you see after a very successful power play.
Back in the Great Hall inside the Red Keep, Tommen sits on his throne and strips his uncle/father of his rank and title. Anyone who attacks the Crown is unfit to serve as Lord Commander, the King says, with Kevan Lannister standing on his right side. In a way, Tommen has pulled away from the twin pillar of Cersei and Jaime towards High Sparrow and Hand of the King.
Jump to the Twins. Ah, the weary old face of Lord Frey. He hasn't yet dropped dead, and is aghast at his men having lost Riverrun. After some complex war of words to explain how they didn't lose but was rather taken from them, his sons are reprimanded and sent to get it back. The Freys made quite a (bloody) splash when they were last on screen in season three but this is a very forgettable scene, to be honest. Its only purpose is to set up the following interaction and probably hook into the journey being made by Jon Snow and Sansa, who might end up in the Riverlands, one way or another.
Again to King's Landing, as Jaime insists to Cersei that he is not going to Riverlands, which seems to be the new task given to him by Tommen. The parents have failed in their task to keep their only alive child at home, and with the complex puzzle at hand, opt for a bit of kissing (and possibly love-making).
We finally return to north of the Wall, where the hooded stranger is skinning and draining the blood out of rabbits. Meera questions why he helped them, and he says the three-eyed raven requested him. "The three-eyed raven is dead," Meera barks back. And just as the cloaked man says "Now he lives again," Bran wakes up from what we assume is a vision-filled nightmare.
The new three-eyed raven in training asks him who he is, after learning the stranger has seen him before. The guy uncovers his head to reveal himself to be everyone's favourite lost Stark, the long rumoured-to-be-dead Benjen Stark. (Cue multiple Internet explosions.) Benjen tells the two that his raiding party was trying to find White Walkers, but instead they found them. One of the ice men stabbed Benjen with one of those lovely ice spears, and left him for dead. Thankfully, the Children of the Forest found him and stopped him from turning into a wight by shoving dragonglass into his chest, similar to what Bran saw in his visions, he says.
Wait hold on, this is getting very confusing. The Children can make White Walkers out of Men by putting in dragonglass, and also save Men by putting in dragonglass. What is this thing, really?
Time now to catch up with the only female claimant to the Iron Throne, who is currently leading her new army back to her current kingdom of Meereen a continent away. Daario Naharis says she would need a thousand ships, easily, to get all of the men under her to Westeros (Don't Yara and Theon have a thousand ships?).
Telling them to wait, Daenerys rides ahead on her white stallion. With no news for a while and the men starting to murmur amongst themselves, Daario loses patience. As he is about to go look for her, they hear a loud roar and look up. It's a dragon, you fools! The Dothraki look up at Drogon's powerful figure, shielding their eyes against the Sun with their hands and holding onto the horses who are obviously nervous.
The dragon swoops over and around the khalasar, and then lands right in front of them, roaring and kicking dust. Sitting calmly on top is the Mother of Dragons, who then addresses her followers in their tongue. A khal chooses three blood riders, she says, but I'm not one. "I choose you all," she shouts and they yell back in triumphant support. And having given them the honour every bloodrider wants, Daenerys goes on to lay on the demands: come with me across the narrow sea and help me take the Seven Kingdoms.
The khalasar shout back in agreement, all together (To be fair, what else are you going to do when someone can survive fire and ride dragons?). She goes on to rally them further anyway, lending to the sheer dramatic force of the scene, which frankly seems to be the cornerstone of a successful monarchy for the last living Targaryen.
Daenerys is a conqueror, and she is going to take what is hers with fire and blood. Everyone else can burn in hell, quite literally.