Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 3 recap: the return of the Starks
The following is a recap of episode 3 from the sixth season of Game of Thrones, and it contains spoilers. Many spoilers.
When it comes to the fate of the Starks - who've been beheaded, murdered in cold blood, raped, beaten, and in Jon Snow's case, even stabbed in the heart by a hateful little tween - we've come to a stage where we aren't remotely surprised when shit hits the fan.
Sitting through their misery for years, you'd think "Sure sucks to be a Stark" could've been their logo instead of "Winter is coming".
But after a long time, there were huge Stark family shakeups this week. I mean, can you recall any episode since the Red Wedding which has had as many Starks - and not just the usual suspects (Arya, Sansa and Jon) - as Oathbreaker did?
Hell, we even get to watch a young Ned Stark (he needed some pimples to complete the look, don't you think?) fight Ser Arthur Dayne in a tantalising flashback.
And remember Rickon? Well, he's been captured and given to Ramsay, along with his protector, the awesome wildling Osha. Let's hope what happened to Shaggydog isn't some kind of terrible foreshadowing.
After the first two episodes that included a torrential downpour of death and destruction, the third episode takes things a little slower. It's the season's first plot-heavy transitional episode that manages to deliver some setup for what is to come, answering some big questions and posing some new ones.
Alive and kicking
Remember how at the end of last week's episode Jon Snow came back to life?
What Snow would be like after his resurrection we wondered? Would he become this vengeful spirit, or be the same measured yet tortured man who's more like Ned Stark (honour and truth) than any of the other Stark children?
Well, turns out he isn't a zombie. Or crazed with vengeance. Just confused as hell from being forced to deal with an existential crisis. Ser Davos, speaking for everyone, paraphrased Snow's predicament neatly.
"You were dead," he said. "Now you're not. It's completely f***ing mad, seems to me. I can only imagine how it seems to you."
The episode's climax is the hanging of Ser Alliser Thorne and Olly, along with two traitors. All of them hang in a graphic, lengthy sequence that lingers on their purple, bloated faces.
And by then, Jon has had had enough. No more Night's Watch, no more killing boys he once treated like a son. The oath of a Night's Watchman can only be broken by death.
And Jon Snow has already done exactly that.
Post the quadruple execution, in a crisp, calm motion he hands his big hairy cloak to Dolorous Edd.
"What should I do with this?" Edd says, confused.
"Wear it, burn it, whatever you want," Jon says. "You have Castle Black. My Watch has ended."
And he leaves. Boom.
'Tower of Joy? As if'
Bran's flashback of the week is certainly action-packed. He and the Three-Eyed Raven watch as a young Ned Stark, fresh from overthrowing the Targaryen dynasty, confronts Ser Arthur Dayne, the greatest warrior in Westeros. Ned is looking for his sister, Lyanna.
We know all of these details because the dialogue spells them out for us very, very, very clearly. The scene puts us closer and closer to the big-reveal-that-isn't-much-of-a-reveal anymore. I'm not going to spell it out for you.
Bran also learns the age-old lesson that winners write history when Ned doesn't beat Arthur Dayne; Howland Reed stabs him in the back.
The flashback is a treat for two reasons: first, we get the only real bit of blood in Episode 3. Secondly, in a yet another vastly underlit episode, we were treated to some swordfighting under the sun. So for once you didn't have to squint at a dark room and try and play a 'let's try and recognise that voice game' or amp up your screens brightness.
Becoming No One
The Waif has finally broken Arya with a combination of the stick beatings and smaller, truth-or-lie-based stick beatings. A girl is No One, finally (training montage and all), which means she's allowed to have her eyesight back. We're now a big step forward toward the perfect killing machine we know Arya will be, and that's some sweet progress.
In other news
We catch up with Daenerys, who is dragged to Dothraki Burning Man, and meets the Real Housewives of the Khals. And they of course, do not like Daenerys.
And for a second time this season, our white-haired queen gets to remind the Dothraki (and us) that she is Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the first of her name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea and they're just like "WHATEVER."
This week's stab at humour came from Tyrion trying to get two non-drinkers to play a bastardised version of "Never Have I Ever". It's fun, but less fun than when he played it with Bronn and Shae in season one.
Back in King's Landing, FrankenMountain manages to strike fear into the hearts of the Small Council (Maester Pycelle even farts out of fear), except the fearless Lady Olenna Tyrelly of course. The mad scientist Qyburn didn't poison some kids when it seemed like he would, but his takeover of Varys' little birds will likely so some extreme damage soon.
Looks like Cersei will soon set some wheels in motion.
Tommen continues to drink some of last week's ball-growing juice and confronts the High Sparrow not about Margaery but the punishment meted out to his dear mother. The quintessential innocent boy as he is, which is surprising for a Lannister, it doesn't take much for the High Sparrow to sit him down and explain how the world works. Too bad Tommen will have to die soon (prophecy says so, not me).
I absolutely loved that no one is buying Ramsay's "Roose was poisoned, I swear" story. That said, even though they aren't kissing his ring, Ramsay has forced a lot of Northern lords to get very pragmatic all of the sudden.
The stark truth
The end is in sight. We all know what's coming. And if you don't know, you're going to know, because I'm going to spell it out for you right now: Winter will come, but winter will lose. And the Starks will be at the helm.
So just as magnificent as last week's episode was, this one, though a filler, says "Game on" quite clearly. Some Stark victories lie ahead of us, bittersweet as they may be. But not before one or two die.
More in Catch - Valar Morghulis. Even Game of Thrones will die