I still think the execution of Jon by his NW brothers was terribly manipulative, but it is a nice loophole for Jon to escape the NW while still remaining ‘honorable”.
At the Wall: Ghost’s mournful howls are a haunting opening to the season. Davos discovers Jon’s dead corpse, and Edd releases Ghost. Thorn leads a meeting of the Nights Watch and blames Jon for his own death, saying “he forced a terrible choice upon us”. Edd is sent to rally the Free Folk to save the NW men who remain loyal to Jon, though this doesn’t make a lot of sense without a living Jon, which happens later. One of the NW loyalists says “It's a sad fucking statement if Dolorous Edd is our only chance.” We learn that Melisandre is old beyond old. Castle Black is taken (with little resistance) by Edd and the Wildlings (my next band name) and Jon’s assassins are put into cells. Davos convinced Mel to try to bring Jon back with magic. She gives him a pre-resurrection spa treatment night, but everyone gives up before… it works!
Mel asks “after you died, where did you go? What did you see?” but Jon, as usual, knows nothing. Mel then says “the Lord let you come back for a reason. Stannis was not the prince who was promised, but someone has to be.” Jon sees Edd again: Edd: Your eyes are still brown. Is that still you in there? Jon: I think so. Hold off on burning my body for now. Edd: (laughs) That's funny. (pause) You sure that's still you in there? Jon executes the NW traitors as his last act as Lord Commander and a member of the Nights Watch. Thorne says “I fought, I lost. Now I rest. But you, Lord Snow, you'll be fighting their battles forever.” Watching Jon and Sansa reunite STILL made me tear up.
Sansa meets Littlefinger in the remains of Molestown, asking him “did you know about Ramsay? If you didn't know, you're an idiot. If you did know, you're my enemy.” Slimyfinger drops the intel that the Blackfish has reformed the Tully armies and retaken Riverrun. Sansa sends Brienne to ask the Blackfish to support her claim, then Jon, Sansa, Davos, the Red Woman, and Tormund leave Castle Black, leaving Dolorous Edd in charge. Jon then asks the Wildlings to fight with him against the Boltons, saying “You shouldn't have to come to Winterfell with me. I shouldn't be asking you. It's not the deal we made. I need you with me if we're going to beat them, and we need to beat them if you're going to survive.” Wun Wun says “Snow”, and the other Wildlings go along - no kneeling, just a handshake. Sansa, Davos, and Jon meet with Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island. Davos turns the tide, saying “there's no hiding from this. We have to fight (the dead) and we need to do it together.” She commits 62 men to the Stark cause. They have less success with the current Lord Glover, who refuses his support, saying “House Stark is dead.”
Beyond the Wall: Bran and Max von Sydow as the 3 Eyed Raven visit a happy, peaceful, Bolton-free Winterfell and see a young Ned, his sister Lyanna, and Willis (the future Hodor). Bran in a vision watches the Children of the Forest create the first White Walker by pushing a piece of dragonglass into his heart. When Bran awakes and confronts one of the Children, she states “We were at war... our sacred trees cut down. We needed to defend ourselves.” I wonder if the “sacred trees” were weirwood trees? I also wonder why are the CotF helping Bran, who also has the blood of the First Men (their mortal enemies) in his veins? Bran returns alone to the tree where the first WW was created, but now it is frozen and the army of the dead stands in their cold ranks. The Night King touches Bran on the arm and he wakes up, yelling “he saw me!” At this point when I first watched it, I remember thinking that Bran’s “mark” would allow the Night King and the Army of the Dead to break thru The Wall. WRONG.
The Night King and the army of the dead come for Bran at the Root Dude cave. Meera kills a White Walker, Summer dies defending Bran who is in a trance with the 3 Eyed Raven, watching his father (as a kid) at Winterfell getting ready to leave for The Vale. The NK kills the 3ER, who dissolves into black ribbons in Bran’s vision. What appears to be the last of the Children of the Forest sacrifices herself to buy them time. Willis / Young Hodor has a fit in Bran’s vision, while Hodor is killed by zombonies as he holds the door and Meera drags Bran into the night. She continues to drag him thru a dark forest, while his visions show a rewatch of the entire series in a few seconds. They are tracked by the Army of the Dead, but are rescued by a masked horseman. This figure turns out to be Only Partly Undead Benjen! He was stabbed by a White Walker and left to turn, but was found by one of the Children, who stopped the Walkers magic by plunging a shard of dragonglass into his heart. Benjen tells Bran that the Night King will find his way to the realms of men, and that Bran must be waiting for him when he does. Benjen takes his leave of Bran and Meera, saying he cannot cross The Wall. Bran has a vision at the castle he visited before (where the Kingsguard who fought with two swords at once was stabbed in the back by Howland Reed), and sees Young Ned rush up the stairs to find his dying sister and a newborn Baby Jon, and Lyanna implores Ned “if Robert finds out, he'll-- you know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned, promise me.”
At Winterfell: Sansa and Reek are nearly captured by Bolton soldiers, but are rescued by Brienne and Pod (who kills his first man since saving Tyrion’s life by killing a Kingsguard at the Battle of Blackwater). Reek takes another step towards being Theon as he kills a Bolton soldier, and Sansa accepts Brienne as her sworn sword (tears). Ramsay kills Roose (with a Karstark watching) before having his stepmother and half-brother torn to pieces by dogs because he “wanted to be an only child”. Reek/Theon tells Sansa he is going home.
Lord Umber brings Ramsay Rickon and Osha (and Shaggydog’s head) to Ramsay. Ramsay kills Osha. This guy is just the f*cking WORST. He then sends a letter to Jon, telling him “Winterfell is mine, bastard, come and see.” As a bonus, he reveals that he holds Rickon captive and threatens Sansa with gang rape. The Stark / Wildling army camps at the same place that Stannis had camped previously. On the eve of battle, Davos finds a charred stag, the same one he carved for Shireen Baratheon. Jon asks Mel not to bring him back if he falls in battle. There is a HUGE battle. Rickon is killed by Ramsay, Tormund kills Umber by tearing out his throat with his teeth, the Stark / Wildling forces are nearly obliterated, but the Knights of the Vale arrive (Sansa was seen writing a letter earlier - must have been to Littlefinger) and save the day. Wun Wun batters down the gate at Winterfell where Ramsay has retreated but dies in the courtyard. Jon batters Ramsay nearly to death, and the Bolton banners fall to the ground and the Stark banners take their place. That night, Sansa releases Ramsay’s own hounds to eat him alive. Davos accuses Mel of murder, and Jon banishes her from The North, saying she will be hanged if she returns. Jon cedes their parents’ old chamber to Sansa, saying that she is the Lady of Winterfell. Sansa tells Jon a white raven has arrived from the Citadel, heralding the arrival of Winter. Littlefinger tells Sansa of his vision, “a picture of me on the Iron Throne and you by my side.” Jon is declared The King in the North. Littlefinger looks slimy.
At Kings Landing: Jaime is rowed into the harbor at Kings Landing, and Cersei sees Myrcella’s body under a golden shroud. Tommen apologizes to his mother for not preventing her walk of shame, saying (in a nice foreshadowing of Cersei’s later actions) “I should have executed all of them. I should have pulled down the Sept onto the High Sparrow's head before I let them do that to you, as you would have for me.” Cersei plans to use FrankenMountain as her champion in her upcoming trial for incest and adultery. I think I finally have an idea of the High Sparrow’s end game: become the power behind the throne as Tywin was, since “no one is wiser than the Gods”. The High Sparrow tells Margaery his back-story and she got to see Loras, who looked terrible, telling him to “stay strong… you’re the future of our family.” His is in a Reek-like state, wanting only to “make it stop”. After being rebuffed from other Small Council meetings, Cersie and Jaime present Kevan Lannister and the Queen of Thorns with a plan: have the Tyrell army enter the city and return Queen Margaery to crown custody. Margaery meets with Tommen and tells him she was “only good at seeming good” and that “the Gods have a plan for all of us”.
Per the plan, the Tyrell army marches into the city and interrupts Margaery’s Walk of Atonement (Mance is particularly ridiculous, saying “Madness has overtaken this city and grasped in its claws my children, but now we must drive it back under the rocks whence it came. Madness has had its day!”). The High Sparrow calls it off, saying that Margaery has already atoned by “bringing another into the light of the Seven”. Tommen walks out flanked by 4 Kingsguards who sport new armor, featuring a seven-pointed star. Jaime and the Queen of Thorns got outflanked. Tommen then kicks Jaime out of the Kingsguard and sends him to the River Lands to support the Freys. Cersei tells Jaime to take back Riverrun, saying “We've always been together. We'll always be together. We're the only two people in the world.”
The High Sparrow makes a thinly veiled threat against the Queen of Thorns to Margaery. The two Tyrells meet, and Margaery tells her grandmother to “go home!” before slipping Olenna a note with a rose on it. Cersei and the Queen of Thorns meet, and Olenna tells her “Our two ancient houses face collapse because of you and your stupidity.” Olenna then drops one of the biggest burs in GoT history, asking “I wonder if you're the worst person I've ever met. At a certain age, it's hard to recall. But the truly vile do stand out through the years.” Olenna then asks Cersei “What'll you do, then? You have no support. Not anymore. Your brother's gone. The High Sparrow saw to that. The rest of your family have abandoned you. The people despise you. You're surrounded by enemies, thousands of them. You're going to kill them all by yourself?” and it is a nice bit of foreshadowing for the end of the season. Tommen outlaws trial-by-combat throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and Cersei queries Qyburn about an “old rumor” asking “was it just a rumor or something more?” to which Qyburn replies “More. Much more.”
Loras Tyrell’s trial starts in the Sept of Baelor. When brought out, he confesses and has a 7 pointed star carved in his forehead, as the other Faith Militant do. Tommen is prevented from going to the Sept by FrankenMountain, Lancel is sent to retrieve Cersei, but is led beneath the Sept by a little bird before being stabbed. Pycell is lured to Qyburn, who apologizes to him before the little birds stab Pycell to death, saying “whatever your faults, you do not deserve to die alone in such a cold, dark place. But sometimes, before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.” Lancel tries to crawl and extinguish the candles sitting in pools of wildfire (with hundreds of casks of the stuff nearby), but is too late. The Sept explodes, killing Lancel, Loras, Margaery, the High Sparrow, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister and hundreds of others. When Tommen sees the smoking crater where the Sept stood and realizes that his Queen is among the casualties, he takes his crown off and walks off a high balcony. Cersei has Septa Unella strapped to a table where she is raped by FrankenMountain, before learning of the fate of her son. She orders his body burned, and the ashes buried where the Sept once stood, since Tommen “should be with his grandfather, his brother, his sister.” Jaime arrives with the Lannister army and sees the smoking ruin where the Sept once stood. He looks horrified. Later, with Jaime looking on, Qyburn declares her “Cersei of the House Lannister First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms.”
In Dorne: The ruler of Dorne and his son were killed. Did anybody care? Anybody? Bueller? At the end of the season, Olenna (in mourning black) meets with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, who offer Olenna her heart’s desire - justice and vengeance. Varys walks in and intones “Fire and blood”.
In Mereen: Tyrion and Varys go for a walk, and Tyrion terrifies a beggar woman, who thinks that he is trying to buy her baby so that he can eat it. They see a Red Priest preaching and he exhorts the former slaves to take up the flame for their own salvation. Cut to: Dany’s fleet in flames. Perhaps not what the priest intended. Tyrion meets the chained dragons with a joke - “I’m here to help… don’t eat the help” and I SWEAR the dragons laugh before he frees them. Tyrion tries to negotiate with the slavers of Yunkai, Astapor and Volantis, attempting to get them to cut off their support for the Sons of the Harpy. Kinvara, the High Priestess of the Lord of Light, meets with Tyrion and Varys and promises to spread word about Dany being the “one who was promised. From the fire she was reborn to remake the world.” She promises to spread the word that Dany has been sent to “lead the people against the darkness in this war and in the great war still to come.” I really hope that somehow Daario and the freed slaves of Slavers Bay are in Season 8. The city is calmer, but Tyrion has little luck enlisting Missandei and Grey Worm in drinking. The slavers attack Mereen with catapult ships hurling fire bombs, but Dany shows up on Drogon, the Dothraki show up, and the other two dragons bust out of captivity to help out. “Dracarys!” Dany meets with Yara after the battle, and agrees to her offer of ships in return for independence for the Iron Islands, provided that the Ironborn stop raiding and reaving. Dany and Daario break up, and Dany names Tyrion to be her Hand of the Queen. The season ends with Dany’s fleet sailing west (FINALLY), with three dragons overhead.
On the Great Grass Sea: Jorah and Dario discover that Dany has been captured by a Dothraki horde, for ‘not idly does the ring of Danaerys Stormborn fall’ (LOTR joke). Jorah gets the quote of Episode 1, saying “I’ve been all over the world. There’s no escaping men like us.” Daario is still one smitten kitten, saying “I hope I do (grow old). I want to see what the world looks like when she's done conquering it.” Dany meets the new Khal and is told she will live out her days with the other widows of dead Khals in Vaes Dothrak. The woman running the show was there when Dany ate the horse heart in S1. Dany tells the gathered Khals “you are small men. None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will.” She starts singing the Talking Heads classic Burning Down the House before emerging from the inferno unburnt. Love that she did all of this with very little outside help, and that she came up with a plan that didn’t involve dragons. Dany sends Jorah off to find a cure for his greyscale. From the back of an even bigger Drogon, Dany rallies the Dothraki to cross the sea and kill the men in their iron suits.
In Braavos: A Bitch comes to beat on a blind Arya. Arya is taken in again by the Faceless Men and attains the pinnacle of Faceless Assassin Warrior Ninja training before she is given her sight back. Arya continues her FAWN training and hears the backstory for the first Faceless Men, and that Braavos was essentially founded by slaves from the mines of Valeria as a murder-for-hire city, and banking became a sideline. She gets a redemption assassination assignment - Lady Crane, an actress. Arya then watches a reenactment of S1 thru S3 onstage. She then sees a reenactment of Joffrey’s death and laughs, but is moved by a soliloquy by Lady Crane as Cersei lamenting the loss of her son. Arya poisons the rum, then knocks it from Lady Cran’s hands before it can kill. A Bitch sees this and reports to Jaqen H'ghar, who gives A Bitch permission to kill Arya. Arya retrieves Needle from its hiding place. She negotiates passage to Westeros and inexplicably does some sightseeing, only to be shanked by A Bitch. Arya seeks medical help from Lady Crane, who is killed by A Bitch while Arya flees out a window and thru the streets (her stab wounds must have healed VERY quickly!). Arya leads A Bitch to a dark place and cuts the candle, plunging the room into darkness. Arya puts the face of A Bitch in the Hall of Faces and Jaqen tells her she is now truly ready to join the Faceless Men, but Arya says that she is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and that she is going home.
At the Iron Islands: Balon the Damp gets tossed off of a rope bridge by Urine, a brother we have never heard of (that I recall) and who speaks in cyphers. Balon has a burial at sea in what looks like a lobster trap. Theon-lite returns to the Iron Islands and told Yara how sorry he is, saying “you should rule… let me help you.” He takes another step away from Reekdom by supporting Yara for Queen, but the Salt Throne goes to their uncle Urine. He orders the Ironborn to build a great fleet, and that he will use it to seduce the Dragon Queen.
In the South: Sam, Gilly, and Little Sam arrive at his father’s Castle of Horn Hill, where they try to pass Little Sam off as Sam’s son, and Gilly off as not-a-Wildling. The Tarley clan have an awkward dinner where Randall uncovers that Gilly is in fact a Wildling and points to the family Valerian sword Hearts Bane, saying Sam “will never wield that sword.” That night, Sam leaves with his new family and the sword, and they head to Old Town. Once there, the Receptionmaester gives them a frosty greeting, and says that women and children are not allowed in The Citadel.
In the River Lands: Walder tells his sons to recapture Riverrun by forcing the Blackfish to yield by using Edmure as leverage. After establishing a proper siege and getting Edmure better living conditions, Jaime meets with the Blackfish, who throws some viscous shade of his own - “Bargaining with oathbreakers is like building on quicksand.” Brienne and Pod reunite with Jaime and Bronn. Brienne is allowed to enter Riverrun to plead Sansa’s cause, but the Blackfish refuses. Jaime then uses Edmure to get the garrison to open the gate. Brienne and Pod escape, but the Blackfish is killed (off-screen). Walder Frey gloats about his victory to Jaime, saying that they are both “kingslayers”. Jaime, disgusted, leaves. Later, a servant serves Walder a pie that contains his two sons. The servant peels off her face revealing Arya, who says “The last thing you're ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die” and then slits Walder’s throat.
Somewhere (near The Vale?): In a cold opening, we see that The Hound LIVES! He is told by some sort of preacher (Ian McShane) that the gods have plans for him, but the Hound objects, asking “if the gods are real, why haven't they punished me?”, and gets the reply “they have.” Members of the Lord of Light-worshipping Brotherhood kill all the villagers and hang McShane, and The Hound stalks off with an axe. He uses it to kill a few members of the Brotherhood before meeting again with Thoros and Beric, who are about to hang three of their own Brotherhood members for killing the villagers. The Hound convinces them to let him kill two of the three. The Hound then seems to fall in with the Brotherhood after Beric tells him “good and bad, young and old, the things we're fighting will destroy them all alike. You can still help a lot more than you've harmed, Clegane. It's not too late for you.”