Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 5 – The Door REVIEW

A stunning episode.

Some have called it the most heartbreaking moment on Game of Thrones thus far. In all honesty, the deaths of Ned, Robb, Catelyn and Jon were all bigger blows for this particular reviewer, but the final scenes of The Door still no doubt packed a punch. Before we get into that though, there is much to discuss. After six seasons of wondering, we finally get an explanation for the White Walkers. In a vision, Bran sees one of the Children of the Tree creating the Night King by impaling a soldier with dragonglass. Confronting Leaf back in the cave, Bran learns that the White Walkers were created to fight against the First Men. It’s an old tale for a new story in many ways, as we’ve heard it all before. A weapon is created that can no longer be controlled and becomes a threat. Still it was quite the reveal, and finally filled a giant hole in the lore of GoT. Bran decided to go back into a vision without the Three Eyed Raven, and this time in the present. He saw the Night King and an army of wights beyond the Wall. Unfortunately for him, the Night King saw him too and grabbed his arm, leaving an icy scar. It was terrifying and undeniably thrilling. The power of the Night King being reemphasised for the first time since the finale of the masterpiece that was Hardhome. Because he was touched by the White Walker, the Night King could now enter the cave. Thus there was a race against time to transfer the knowledge of the Three-Eyed Raven to Bran. This resulted in the best end sequence of the season thus far.

The story of Bran and the Raven once more in the tranquil past of Winterfell, was juxtapositioned with the pure panic and havoc of the White Walkers attacking the cave. To go into detail of what happened next would take pages, but quite simply the Children of the Forest (and Summer) sacrificed themselves to save Bran. Meera screamed at Bran to wake up and control Hodor as the giant man sat in a corner afraid. Splitting his consciousness Bran remained in the past yet warged into Hodor in the present. They then made their escape running as the dead fell from above and scampered all around them. Inside the cave, The Night King killed the Raven. Hodor, Meera and Bran burst out of the door. Meera then screamed at Hodor to hold the door. The pressure of the situation got to Bran and he inadvertently warged into the young Wylis/Hodor of the past, who suffered a seizure. He could hear Meera’s screams to hold the door, and repeated the words, slurring them until all he could say was Hodor. Intense right? Game of Thrones has this ability to shock like no other show on television today. It’s not just in the writing, although that was superb, but in the actual execution. I think another crew would have butchered the intended impact of that final scene. The actors themselves deserve great credit. None of the members of that scene have been major characters over the past six seasons and yet it was the most gripping piece of television seen thus far this year. Just incredible.

Elsewhere, there was less riveting action, but still some brilliant story development. After a brief cameo last week, Littlefinger returned once more, meeting Sansa and Brienne in Molestown. It was good to see Sansa rejecting Littlefinger after what he has made her endure. She is no longer the scared girl of season one, but has developed into a fierce individual not unlike Catelyn once was. He did reveal that her great-uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully had retaken Riverrun. Sansa tells Jon this but lies when asked how she knows. We get a great little scene of Jon and Sansa planning their attack. First of course they must recruit, so I guess we’ll have to wait another few weeks before we see the war. The reunion of Sansa and Jon seemed like a type of destiny. They would work together to defeat the evil Ramsay. However, seeds have no doubt been sown to suggest that there is in fact going to be problems on the way, not least Brienne’s distrust of Davos and Melisandre, and Sansa lying to Jon. Perhaps it won’t be as straight-forward as first thought.

Equally across the sea in Braavos, complications arose too. Arya seemed finally set on fulfilling her destiny and becoming a faceless warrior. Jaqen H’ghar sent her out to kill an actress playing Cersei in a play of Robert Baratheon’s death and Ned Stark’s execution. This was nothing short of superb. It harkened back to that traumatic scene at the end of the first season when a young scared Arya had to watch her father being killed. She has come a long way since then, but she was clearly disturbed at reliving that day. How is her tale going to end? She has been learning the ways of the Faceless Men, but can she truly be one of them? The love of her family still has such a great hold on her, even if she does try and subdue it. Perhaps she will only be able to truly become a faceless warrior when she meets her family once more and makes that crucial decision. The only issue with the current arc is that it feels very similar to Arya’s story from last year. It is an almost a re-run but hopefully this time there is a more impressive ending.

Another of the tales that seemed, before this week, to be loosely tied to the overarching story is that of the Greyjoys. In The Door though, we got an intriguing development. Theon could not convince the people of the Iron Islands to vote for Yara as Queen and instead Euron was named King (dreadful crown though). Fearing death Yara and Theon fled. Euron promised to marry Daenerys Targaryen by offering her the Iron Fleet, and then take the Iron Throne. It appears that after dipping in and out, the Greyjoys are back in the game. The War of the Five Kings is over, all are dead, and the new breed is stepping up to replace them. Finally the Greyjoys are focusing on more than just the North. A bit of ambition never hurt did it?  A meeting between Euron and Daenerys is an interesting idea but surely Daeny would not be trusting of such a man? Or perhaps he will indeed be the catalyst for her return to Westeros. With the Unsullied, the Dothraki and the Iron Fleet she would certainly be a force to be reckoned with. Her advisors would no doubt push her to agree to such a deal.

Speaking of the Khaleesi, she only appeared briefly this week, after her magnificent display at the close of episode four. GoT has always been superb at making the audience feel for the minor characters in this great tale (see: Hodor), and Jorah Mormont is no different. He is a flawed man, but he is brave and heroic, and has an undying love for Daenerys. There was not a dry eye in the house when, after five and a half seasons, he admitted that love to her. Due to his greyscale his life had been cut short and so he vowed to leave. Daeny was having none of it though, ordering him to find a cure and return to her, so he can by her side when she takes Westeros. It was a heartfelt sentiment, and it would be an incredible sight to see the old warrior return in the future. He seems destined to give his life for his Khaleesi.

Finally, along with the emotion of this episode, there was some (much-needed?) politics. Tyrion has been at the forefront of the saga in Meereen this season, and thus far it has been superior to the tales we suffered through last time round. This week there was another shift. To preserve public support, Tyrion enlisted the help of a red priestess, Kinvara, who will spread the message that Daeny is the chosen one. Varys was clearly untrustworthy of their new ally. It’s interesting sure, but it’s not particularly earth-shattering. It’s been above-average thus far, and here’s hoping this injection of new-blood can lead to some major excitement in Meereen.

The team behind GoT is quite simply brilliant at tying things together. Ends may be loose for seasons on end, but they are always returned to and closed. We got some major events in this particular episode, with the White Walker revelation, and Hodor’s death being the most notable. Elsewhere the quality remained high too, with the cogs turning across the seven kingdoms and beyond. Just as things appear straight-forward a spanner is thrown in the works, and the audience is left to question everything all over again. The tension is building and building, and after a couple more weeks of this quality, the stories will no doubt burst into a type of mayhem we could never have imagined. The creators always have an ace up their sleeves, and know how to pull the rug out from underneath the audience. We eagerly await it.

Verdict: 9.5/10




Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 4 – Book of the Stranger REVIEW

Daenerys, Jorah and Daario. Daenerys once again proved why so many fans think she will end up on the Iron Throne when all is said and done. Jorah and Daario arrived at Vaes Dothrak, but Daeny knew there was no escaping. So instead she pulled one of her classic Daeny-badass tricks and burned the khals alive. She claimed their lack of ambition meant they were unfit to lead the Dothraki and so instead she would. It certainly seems like she has the Dothraki on her side, as she walked out of the burning temple unscathed by the fire, and all bowed at her feet. Of course this harkened back to the final scene of season one when she accomplished something similar. A more experienced leader now, let’s hope she can use the great armies at her disposal and finally make that trip across the Narrow Sea. First though, there is the question of issues  back in Meereen. It’ll be interesting to see how the Khaleesi feels about the diplomatic approach of Tyrion whilst she has been absent. Missandei, Grey Worm and a number of former slaves were less than impressed with the way he met with slaveowners to organise a deal. He presented a deal which allowed slavery to be abolished slowly over a seven year period. It was a very modern way of approaching the issue, but I can’t say Daeny will be very impressed. Again, these events are useful in building the qualities of and testing the reserve of Daenerys and Tyrion, in preparation for what’s to come, but it can drag. Thankfully this season so far, the wit and banter of Tyrion and Varys has made Meereen more than bearable, and Daeny provided such a spectacular finale this week.

Less explosive but certainly not less affecting was the Stark reunion. Finally it has happened! We’ve had a number of close calls over the years since the family was split up in season one, but we now thankfully get to see the Starks working together again. Of course though, it was immediately ruined by a message from the sadistic Ramsay. The letter was suitably graphic and horrific and prompted Jon to agree to help Sansa take back the North. In order to get the numbers needed they must now recruit. This was must-see television, and it promises to be for the remainder of the season. The thought of Jon and Sansa gaining revenge on Ramsay is a mouthwatering proposition. The writers must be praised for this, as this particular story has been built so well over the last few seasons, and is no doubt leading to a spectacular finale.

Along with Sansa, Brienne and Podrick also arrived at Castle Black. That gave us yet another incredible meeting, one that fans may have forgot about with the Stark reunion. Brienne, originally pledged to protect Renly Baratheon, watched her King be killed by a shadow with the face of Stannis. Here she met the woman responsible for that, and informed the Red Woman, along with Ser Davos (Stannis’ right hand man), that she had killed their pronounced King. Brienne warned the pair that she did not forgive nor forget. It was a small moment, but it packed quite an impact, as all three are more or less heroes of this story. It was another long-term payoff for fans too. Perhaps this small, perhaps easily forgotten moment, could have major repercussions down the line.

Whilst those in Castle Black plotted against Ramsay, he was back in Winterfell, pretty much dismantling a popular fan theory from the past week. The theory was that Umber turning over Rickon and Osha was nothing but a ploy. This however, seems invalid since Osha was murdered by Ramsay. It was an intense scene, but one in which we all knew the end result. Osha has been such a minor character, whilst Ramsay has developed into the big bad. She tried to be sneaky and take him down, but he was never going down so easy. Now Rickon is all alone with the sadistic Ramsay. The young Stark has never been a major player in the Game of Thrones but certainly means a lot to his siblings. The forthcoming battle is one to saviour, and in this world, what happens is anyone’ guess.

The Tyrells returned to our screens in a fit of misery and despair. Both Margaery and Loras remain imprisoned but they were at least reunited this week. It’s been a crushing defeat for the brother and sister duo who had plans to rule. She is of course still the Queen however, and Jaime and Cersei clearly aim to use that in the fight against the religious fanatics that have control of King’s Landing. Using this as a base, the Lannisters and the Tyrells (the incredible Olenna Tyrell) finally get on same page to plan a rescue mission. The Tyrell army will march on King’s Landing to rescue the Queen and the Lannister army will not stop them. The promise of such a battle is another thrilling idea, especially with the women of Dorne waiting in the wings to strike too. The wildcard in this situation is Tommen. He is a young king who certainly does not like the religious fanatics, but he remains afraid of them, the High Sparrow in particular. Cersei has manipulated Kevan Lannister and taken control of the King’s army, and clearly intends to use them to provoke the High Sparrow. This would enrage the young King but would he really turn against his own mother? Last week, he sat and listened to the High Sparrow, so perhaps he is slowly being indoctrinated. Only time will tell.

Littlefinger also appeared for the first time this season, arriving at Runestone to convince his stepson Arryn to command Lord of Runestone Yohn Royce to lead the knights of the Vale to aid Sansa Stark. Theon Greyjoy also returned home to the Iron Islands and pledged his loyalty to his sister Yara. These were smaller moments in the grand scale of the episode, but they sufficiently moved forward their respective stories. Littlefinger has just put the first piece in place for Sansa and Jon to take Winterfell, whilst Yara appears one step closer to becoming Queen of the Iron Islands. There is of course Euron, murderer of Balon, who will no doubt challenge. It’s a development that, perhaps even less than Meereen, appears related to the overall arc of this season. As always though the writers are crafty and throw in numerous curveballs every season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Greyjoys turn up unannounced at one of the forthcoming battles.

Another step in the right direction for Game of Thrones. After a shaky season last time round, it has refound its groove. The building is slow and precise, but perfectly timed, interspersed with great reveals and shocks. Perhaps more than ever, it is integral television viewing.

Verdict: 9/10

Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 3 – Oathbreaker REVIEW

Jon Snow is alive and well. However, after the events of Oathbreaker, he is no longer Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. With his death, his watch ended, but he didn’t give up the black before he took vengeance on those who killed him. Ser Allison, Olly, and the other traitors were hanged for their crimes in a brutal end sequence. It was slightly heartbreaking to see. Firstly because despite being a scumbag, Ser Allison was a great character. Secondly because of the Jon and Olly friendship. Whilst we are inclined to side with our hero, Jon Snow, the motives of the murderers were solid. This leaves Jon in a difficult situation. He knows what he thinks is right, but he certainly can’t please everyone. He’s learning vital lessons in becoming a true leader. Speaking of which the Red Woman is now more than ever convinced that Jon is the Prince that was promised. Would he really take a shot at the Iron Throne though? Jon ending up as Warden of the North based at Winterfell surely seems more likely.

Having been sidelined for season five, Bran has been thrust front and centre this time round, and it is already an inspired move. In the earlier seasons, despite promises of Bran being greatly important, his story seemed to drag. Now though, his travelling through time with the three-eyed raven, is providing some of the best scenes in every episode. Once more this week, Bran’s vision reinforced the theory that Jon is not in fact Ned’s son. Bran may have been cut short from entering the Tower of Joy, but that screaming woman he heard must be Lyanna, perhaps giving birth. It was great to see Ned again too. Bran had heard this tale of how his father had slain the great swordsman Ser Arthur Dayne before, and it is quite clear Ned had embellished the story to impress his young son. The choreography was really impressive, and it was a really fun, well-executed close-quarters battle sequence. More young Ned would not go amiss in future episodes.

Ramsay once again almost stole the whole show from Jon Snow. The creepy, disturbing aura that Iwan Rheon exuberates is magnetic, and Ramsay is now unquestionably the best villain we have seen thus far. This week Smalljon Umber met Lords Bolton and Karstark, explaining how he distrusts Jon Snow because he let wildlings through the Wall. Interestingly Umber did not simply pledge allegiance to Bolton and instead toyed with him for a while, and questioned his loyalty. He then Rickon Stark and Osha to Ramsay along with the head of the direwolf Shaggydog. This is the sort of development that GoT executes perfectly. It was a shocking turn of events, that now leaves an even younger, more vulnerable Stark in the cruel hands of Ramsay. The likelihood of Jon Snow and Ramsay going to battle at the end of the season seems every the more likely. A mini-family reunion featuring Jon, Sansa and Rickon would certainly be a moment to cherish in this depraved world. However, as we all know, it’s never that easy.

Well that was quick. Arya, having struggled for only two weeks with being a blind girl living on the streets, had her eyesight restored and truly became “no-one”. In fairness, it has been a transformation that all have seen coming for over a season now, and to drag it out further perhaps would’ve been a bore. Especially since last season was the weakest for Arya thus far. I’m sure J’aqen H’ghar is not finished with her yet, but it’s an interesting development, particularly in the current setting. She is in many ways a wildcard, and in the battles to come, whether that be in the North or in King’s Landing, she could sneak in and give the audience a huge shock, similar to the way Stannis did in the season four finale when he came to the aid of the Night’s Watch.

Daeny arrived at Vaes Dothrak and met the rest of the Dosh Khaleen. Given the power of Daenerys it seems unlikely that she will be contained for too long, as the issues back in Meereen and along Slaver’s Bay remain unsolved and there is still the long-term goal of getting across to Westeros which she needs to get back to. Perhaps gaining control of the Dothraki will help in these aims. J’orah and Daario are following quickly behind, so perhaps they will play a part in what is about to happen. It was a rather slow week on the Daeny front, and her story this season hasn’t captivated quite yet, but perhaps this tenure at Vaes Dothrak can spark something big.

Whilst Daeny was occupied, politics rolled on in Meereen. Finally, after what seems like an age of going round in circles, the combined wisdom of Varys and Tyrion appears to be beginning to pay dividends, and it seems change is finally afoot. The issues with Slaver’s Bay and the Sons of the Harpy have led to some great scenes over the seasons but often feels like a part of the story that could have been left on the cutting room floor. Equally, it has very much become a testing ground for first the Khaleesi herself, and now Tyrion, for when they inevitably attempt to take the Iron Throne. We all wait eagerly for that day, but for now, I guess we’ll have to savour every moment that isn’t “Meereen being freed then falling back to the slavers.” Finally it appears we are coming to the end of that.

The story of the Lannisters got little development this week too, but considering the big money scenes elsewhere it’s understandable. The unsettling Qyburn sent his “little birds” to spy across the Kingdoms, whilst Cersei and Jaime attempted to get the ear of the Small Council but ultimately failed. Elsewhere, Tommen marched into the Sept of the Faith Militant to confront the High Sparrow over his mother, but was talked down by the elderly man. The Lannisters are not having the best of times, facing an impending threat from Dorne, whilst also losing control within their own city to the religious fanatics. Their own Small Council are also not interested. This appears to be the struggle before the great rise. The Lannisters have played the pantomime villains for much of the show, but in recent seasons have taken more of a backseat. Both Cersei and Jaime have turned corners (for the most part) whilst Tommen is blameless. They are in a sense, the underdogs, and we all love a good underdog. I can’t see this story having a happy ending though unfortunately for this Family.

There was even a glimpse of Sam and Gilly this week. Sam is taking her to his home, Horn Hill, to stay with his family whilst he becomes a maester. Similar to Bronn, who rode off into the sunset, it appeared that Game of Thrones would not be missing a great deal if Sam did not show up again, for he has played his part. Clearly though his story isn’t over, and he may turn up at Jon Snow’s side once more in the battles to come.

Again the story was packed into this one, and again it delivered. It was a strong week for the Starks with Jon, Bran, Arya and especially Ned, standing out from the crowd. We got a bit of everything, from battles, to hangings, to kidnappings, to politics, to riddles. This is already an explosive season, and it’s only just began.

Verdict: 9/10


Director Appreciation Week 1 Review: Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

This is perhaps the most divisive of the movies watched this week. The cinematography was once more absolutely breathtaking, with Darius Khondji (who also worked wonders on Midnight in Paris) shooting the South of France almost like a dream world. The colours are so vibrant and the nature so elegant that it looks straight out of a story book. Emma Stone, as Sophie, a young ‘mystic’, never allows the scenery to consume her though, and instead stands out amongst the beauty. She’s completely mesmerising, a mysterious character, but with a clear innocence to her. Unfortunately, Colin Firth’s Stanley Crawford is much less likable. He’s certainly not the monster some would paint him as, but he does come across as arrogant, condescending and self-indulgent at times which show little hint of a true charming side. At other times the wit is on point, and the growing admiration between the pair (despite the obvious age gap) is believable. This however, is too few and far between, and instead makes the film feel slightly choppy and uneven. Whilst it will never be held in the same high regard as Midnight in Paris, Magic in the Moonlight is an enjoyable escape, with a solid script, that even throws in a few nice if not totally veiled twists. Go for the gorgeous scenery and classic Woody wit, and stay for the incredible lead actress.

Director Appreciation Week 1 Review: To Rome With Love (2012)

Perhaps the weakest of the entries this week, To Rome with Love, captures the beauty of Rome expertly yet fails to consistently entertain. It’s a mixed bag, as the majority of the tales being weaved instantly leave the mind once the movie is over, whereas one in particular ranks up there with the best Allen has crafted in recent times. The problem is not the ideas, for on paper, they are entertaining prospects: a failing career and fear of death; the illusion of fame; the trials and tribulations of a young couple; an architect reliving a thirty-year old mistake. The issue is the execution. Antonio’s story, whereby a misunderstanding means he has to introduce a prostitute as his wife to his family, falls immediately into slapstick, and whilst parts may have worked well in a charmingly offbeat slice of Allen prose, on screen it fails to be quite as entertaining. The same can be said of the story featuring Allen himself, as a music mogul who hears his daughter’s soon to be father-in-law, singing in the shower and decides he could be wonderful on stage. Allen fails to find any subtlety in this narrative, instead hitting the viewer over the head with its deep themes every five minutes in increasingly expository dialogue.

Leopoldo’s story is marginally better, as he becomes famous overnight for seemingly no apparent reason. It’s an intriguing and witty analysis of fame, but is given too much screen time for such a slender story. This is where Allen falls down in this attempt, for the three mediocre narratives battle for screen time with the much more superior fourth tale. With extra breathing room this tale of an architect (Alec Baldwin) reliving his time in Rome from thirty years earlier where he (played by Jesse Eisenberg) falls for his girlfriend’s best friend (Ellen Page), could have been something special. Like the other tales it is a light bite of cinema, but it’s also a heartfelt tale in the vein of Midnight in Paris. With a bit of editing (the film comes in at just under two hours), this could have been the main meal, with the other tales being enjoyable sides, but unfortunately, as it is, To Rome with Love is middle-of-the-road modern Woody.

Director Appreciation Week 1 Review: Midnight in Paris (2011)

It’s just an absolute delight, plain and simple. Midnight in Paris is quintessential Allen, and it is a marvel from the first minute to the last. It’s a slim volume in the Woody back-catalogue, which doesn’t overstay its welcome and instead manages to pack more entertainment and original ideas into ninety minutes than most recent Allen movies do in two hours. It leaves the audience craving more. Not only of the breathtaking cinematography that exhibits the elegance and natural beauty of modern-day Paris, but also the Paris of the 20’s, the Paris of the 1890’s, and even the Versailles of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette (however brief a glimpse we get). Allen has not been so enjoyable, witty and truly inspirational since his original heyday, and it’s a great joy seeing the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Dali speak with a Woody-twist. The 20’s is a period Allen revels in and thus is perfect at whipping up impeccable dialogue. Owen Wilson’s Gil is playing Woody (as all his leads do), but he brings a warmth and genuine realism that grounds the movie despite the fantastical aspects (and despite being surrounded by surrealists). Despite the premise, it never falls into pretentiousness and instead lights interest and a deep burning desire to enjoy the present.

Director Appreciation Week 1 Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

In many ways this is a very different Woody Allen film. The rest of his European movies tend to find comfort in a nostalgic past that is difficult to pinpoint, but is represented best in the elegant archaic structures of the locations; whilst Vicky Cristina Barcelona feels extremely modern. In this earlier work (compared to the others reviewed), the city actually plays much less of a central role. Sometimes it jumps to the forefront, but for the most part it is the role of love in a modern world that dominates this movie. At the centre of this is Juan Antonio, the Spanish charmer who has a very different outlook on love to Rebecca Hall’s conservative, no-nonsense Vicky. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) on the other hand is more than happy to take the ride that Juan Antonio promises. There is also the question of his unstable ex-wife, Maria Elena (played in a towering performance by Penelope Cruz), whose shadow looms large over the entire film. It’s a strangely structured movie, with even two bizarre subplots thrown in. It’s understandable in a way, considering the approach of Allen, who is clearly aiming for a natural evolution over this summer that feels more real than most romantic dramas. So emotions change, people come and go, and yet it still does feel slightly jarring. Also, the decisions and motivations of Vicky on paper may appear natural but in reality come across as quite forced. Overall though the movie is constantly engaging, with the four leads all digging deep and finding some of their best work, in particular Penelope Cruz who appears midway through and steals the film in a juicy role. Fortunately unlike much of modern Allen it’s also not so predictable. There’s so many factors to consider that the ending is really anyone’s guess. To some it may seem that, whilst it’s understandable that the audience may not know how the director is going to wrap up so many loose threads, perhaps Allen himself should have had a stronger grasp on the finale. In reality though, the final moments are a perfect conclusion to a movie so obsessed with the meaning and reality of love. Vicky, who was so sure at the beginning, and Cristina, who was looking for something more, are both left with a sinking feeling of dissatisfaction, one that seems out of the blue, but in reality one that all involved knew was going to happen all along.

Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 2 – Home REVIEW

Jon Snow is finally back. After months of speculation regarding if it would happen, and who would do it, it appears everyone’s first guess was correct. Melisandre stood over Jon Snow’s two day old corpse, said some magical words, and abracadabra, Jon (eventually) awoke from his eternal slumber. Some fans have been disappointed with the execution of the event, but really it was the best possible solution. It’s always seemed like Jon had been too important in the grand scheme of things to merely kill off. He had not achieved whatever his great end goal is. Still, in the final moments of Home, as Melisandre desperately tried and tried again to revive Jon, and Ser Davos and the wildings looked on disappointed (why was Ser Davos so eager to revive Jon?), it appeared that perhaps GoT had done it again: they’d tricked us all. There would be no great revival, and the messageboards would no doubt explode. Then in the final seconds Jon’s eyes burst open, and fans gasped. It was a truly great moment. Somehow, after being convinced he was returning for months, fans were left with the uncomfortable feeling that they were wrong. Only to then have the rug pulled from under them once more. It was a well executed moment, and at the perfect time. The series premiere was a solid beginning to the season, with a major twist. Here, the creators have built expertly upon that foundation, answering the lingering Jon Snow question before it became overplayed, and overshadowed the rest of the season. What happens now is anyone’s guess, and that’s how we like it. A Night’s Watch oath is ended with a brother’s death, so where does that leave Jon?

In other news, Ramsay Bolton became the most despicable character in GoT history. Not only did he kill his father and step-mother but also his newborn brother who would’ve replaced him as heir. It was a truly horrific death, as Lady Walder and her son were ripped to shreds by the hounds. Ramsay is now head of the Bolton clan, which is both unsettling and incredibly exciting for viewers. He is the wildcard in this great battle for the Iron Throne, and has already dispatched of Stannis and his forces. In this episode he was advocating travelling to Castle Black, having deduced that Sansa would most likely be heading there to reunite with the seemingly unkillable Lord Commander Snow. If he follows through on this, it could be quite the story.

Sansa, Theon, Brienne and Podrick were indeed travelling North to reunite the Stark family. Theon, however, decided to return home to the Iron Islands instead, which led straight into a new narrative for the Greyjoy family. They’ve not always been the most entertaining to watch, but this glimpse was a positive start. The Greyjoys invasion (remember that?!) died with a whimper, and then Lord Greyjoy crossing perhaps the most dangerous bridge in all of history, was confronted by his younger, seemingly rather crazy, brother. Euron Greyjoy had been away for quite some time it seems, but returned to overthrow Balon, pushing him to his death. As Balon’s body was given back to the sea, his daughter Yara vowed revenge, but then was informed that the Salt Throne was not yet hers. It was out of her hands. This battle for supremacy in the Iron Islands is an intriguing addition to the tales of Westeros, particularly now Theon intends to return. This could be the beginning of a redemptive arc for Theon, after betraying Robb and generally making terrible life decisions.

Apart from the obvious Jon Snow twist, surely this week will be remembered as the one with all the crushed heads. First Edd returned to Castle Black with a gang of all our favourite wildings, including a giant who proceeded to completely decimate a member of the Night’s Watch by flinging his body against a wall. It was brutal and undeniably cool. Then, back in King’s Landing, one of the common folk laughed and joked about the Queen mother, and naturally the undead Mountain squashed his head with ease. Cersei herself was in the Red Keep, having been banned from her own daughter’s funeral by King Tommen. The King and his mother soon reunited, with Cersei agreeing to help her son be strong, and all seemed well in the Lannister camp. Except of course, for Jaime, who had a war of words with the High Sparrow, and ended up being trumped by the religious fanatic. The High Sparrow left after warning Jaime that together, the poor people could overthrow an empire. Last week’s vow to avenge what has been done to the Lannisters clearly didn’t begin well this week. The last two episodes however, have set up the two main enemies of the Lannisters for the near future, whilst everyone else seems preoccupied with the North: the Martells of Dorne, and the religious fanatics within King’s Landing.

Across the sea, Tyrion was still dealing with the issues in Meereen. Apparently Astapor and Yunkai have now both been lost once more to the slavers. Tyrion decided the best course of action was to release the two dragons from their captivity, which he did by himself. It was a daring move, and the special effects for the most part, impressed. It was nice to hear Tyrion talking of the decreasing sizes of the dragons over the generations due to captivity, as it harkened back to a similar scene deep in the crypts of King’s Landing a few seasons back. It seems like this will be quite a big development in the story of Tyrion/ Dany and co. even though the Khaleesi was absent this week. Meereen never seems to be the most exciting story, but hopefully some wild dragons, alongside the wit of Tyrion and Varys can make for some compelling viewing.

Instead of Targaryens, this week had a heavy focus on the (old) ladies and lords of Winterfell, the Starks. Bran was reintroduced, the first time we have seen him since the tail end of the fourth season. He is still where we left him, way past the wall, but the three eyed raven (played by Max Von Sydow) showed Bran a bit of Stark history back in Winterfell in a vision. He witnessed a young Ned and Benjen Stark sparring, and even a young Hodor, back when he could say more than his name and was called Willis. Interestingly, Ned echoed the words Jon Stark said to young Olly at the Wall last season: That he better keep his shield up or he’d get his head rang like a bell. It was a lovely call-back showing just how similar Ned and Jon really are. Most importantly Bran saw his aunt Lyanna, who of course was the love-interest of King Robert but was kidnapped by Rhaeger Targaryen and eventually died in mysterious circumstances. The mentions of Lyanna have increased over the last few seasons, and if fan theories are to be believed (which let’s be honest, they’re usually not), these little reminders could be so that the audience know who she is when she is revealed as Jon Snow’s mother. The parentage of Jon Snow has been in question since the very start, and that unanswered question was a major reason why most fans felt that he would return from the dead. Similar to Daenerys, his story simply hasn’t been told yet. Apart from this little tidbit, the little trip back to see Bran didn’t exactly establish much except that a war was coming, and Bran (however boring a character he may be) will play a vital role in what’s to come. The pieces are slowly being aligned for the great finale it seems.

Elsewhere, whilst Sansa learned from Brienne about her meeting with Arya (finally!), Arya herself was once more beaten up on the streets. Jaqen H’ghar asked her who she was, promising to let her sleep inside, then promising to feed her, and finally promising to restore her eyesight, if only she told him her name. Devout to the cause, Arya said she had no name. May be she is finally morphing into a faceless warrior, who will return to Westeros to reap revenge on her enemies. Or you know, maybe she’ll continue to be tortured and suffer. Probably the latter.

It was another jam-packed episode of Game of Thrones there’s no doubt about that. Similar to last week, the majority of tales got at least some screen time, which is great, but it can be a little overwhelming jumping from one land to the next, particularly when even more characters are being introduced. For now though the creators are doing an adequate job balancing stories, and these first two episodes have built arguably the most entertaining and intriguing beginning of any season since the first. The stories are scattered but slowly the chess pieces are being moved towards reunions, war and of course deaths.