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Game of Thrones delivers a stunning episode that moves the entire story forward

Your favorite character likely had a strong moment in this hour of television

Spoiler alert!

This recap is intended for folks who've already seen the episode, and will include a description of its events! Check out all of Polygon's Game of Thrones coverage.

That is a pretty great way to start an episode of Game of Thrones.

Sansa and Jon embracing and sharing memories of home was a warm spot in a show that has lately seemed like it's trying to punish the viewer. The question is what comes after the two Starks are reintroduced to either.

Sansa may be ready to take back Winterfell, but Jon sounds like he's given up. You can't blame him. As he says, he swore his life and gave it. He has fought, he has killed and he has died. He was murdered for his attempts to protect everything he knows from the White Walkers, and he doesn't have a lot of hope that he can do much good anymore. If no one is willing to listen and believe his dire warnings about what's coming, the best he can do is, as he puts it, "get warm."

Getting Brienne next to Davos and Melisandre for that brief scene also paid off emotionally. Renly was killed, Shireen was sacrificed and Brienne ultimately removed Stannis from the board altogether. The plays had been made, and this was the result. There may still be some hard feelings, but it is what it is. Their limited interactions almost seemed as if they were waiting for someone to begin to cry over spilled milk, but ultimately Brienne has the last word. Running your sword through an individual who might have been king will do that for you.

It was likewise a delight to see Littlefinger back in action, and to have him so elegantly toy with someone who sees through the many deceits. Lord Royce may have thought he had power in this situation, but Petyr didn't even break a sweat before he had Royce more or less begging for his life. And then by the end of this scene we suddenly find ourselves with two Starks together in Castle Black, one more in Winterfell, and the knights of The Vale riding off to offer their aid.

I'm not sure what Littlefinger's ultimate goal is, but if chaos truly is a ladder, he's making sure the people on the higher rungs owe him a few favors. There was much talk this episode of the wealth and power of the highborn, and Littlefinger knows as much as anyone about what it takes to stay in that situation during a time of ongoing war and political struggle. If the High Sparrow later talks about how he rejected wealth, with the unspoken idea that he has since gained a large amount of power, Littlefinger doesn't see why he can't start making moves that will allow him to keep, and grow, both.

Things are happening in Mereen

Last week Tyrion was stuck repeating that he liked to drink and talk, as if that were news, but this week we get to see him use those traits to try to make an uneasy peace with the slave masters that Daenerys had never been able to truly conquer or rule.

He trusts in their self-interest, you see, and knows he has to keep them placated and wealthy if the change away from slavery is to stick. Oh yeah, and he throws in some women to make sure the men are content with the deal. It's an ugly piece of politics, and it makes no one happy, but Tyrion is operating from a position of weakness. He has no idea when, or if, Daenerys is coming back. This is the best he can do.

"We make peace with our enemies," he states, "not our friends." It's a trite saying, easy to remember and say if you'd like to sound profound, but giving someone else the words to use to further your own agenda is a pretty helpful trick. No one is happy with what's happening with the slave masters, but no one died and this could very well stop the attacks from the Sons of the Harpy. If Tyrion can't win, he can certainly trade for some breathing room, and that's not nothing.

Game of Thrones 402 - Tyrion with a staircase and soldiers behind him Macall B. Polay/HBO

And hey, Daario and Jorah do a serviceable job reaching Daenerys with a fine bit of comedy. Jorah gets beaten up rather badly by a random Dothraki who side-steps the sand thrown at his eyes, a move pop culture always tells us is effective when you don't feel like fighting fair.

It all just goes to prove the old saying about narrative tension: If you see a naked lady dagger in the first act, it will come back to stab someone from behind a few minutes later in the same act. I think Chekhov said that. Soon the three characters are reunited, and begin to plan for their ultimate escape.

Even Cersei has a plan to get power back from the High Sparrow! Gosh, the forward motion of this season has been a bit unevenly distributed between these episodes, has it not? With Margaery visiting Loras and finding him giving up hope about a larger victory and praying for survival, it seems Cersei and Olenna Tyrell are right to think they need to act quickly to neutralize the High Sparrow, and doing so is in both their best interests.

Ramsay, who can often feel stuck as a one-note villain, bares his fangs in a way that feels less like he's twirling his mustache and more like he's trying to maintain his power in Winterfell. His delight at Osha saying she's seen worse than his sins — he doesn't eat his victims — and the way he sees what she's doing and stabs her before she can reach the blade before going to back to his apple, is inspired.

Ramsay may be a villain, but he's not stupid, and that fact was proven once again. We got a surprising death, and we're reminded that Ramsay isn't to be underestimated. Especially not when he's trying to draw Jon out by saying he has Rickon locked in the dungeon and is threatening Sansa.

The dinner scene when Jon gets this message and Sansa again says they have to retake Winterfell is well-orchestrated. It's a tense scene in some ways, underplayed with tense laughs. Jon still doesn't really know what he wants, Sansa is trying to get used to the terrible food, and Tormund eats his dinner in the most unerotic way possible as he makes bedroom eyes at Brienne. It's clear Ramsay wants them fired up and angry, but the prize seems almost worth it: If they're able to control Winterfell there will be three Starks all working together.

Daenerys closes out the episode by setting fire to the men who control the Dothraki; the survivors bow to her as she walks out of the flames, completely naked. It's a neat trick, and one she has used in the past; the repetition of this imagery has robbed it of some of its punch, but it's also interesting to watch Daario take in this moment. He's struck by her power and the religious awe of this moment, but it's something Jorah has understood for a long time.

She's his queen, after all.

Odds and ends

  • "He admitted it, just before I executed him." Damn, Brienne. That's some cold shit.
  • "Long enough to know." "But not long enough to understand."
  • "I'm very attached to this knife."
  • "Many will die no matter what we do. Better them than us."
  • So the Night's Watch has terrible ale and terrible food. Poor bastards. (See what I did there?)
  • "He got his head smashed by a rock. Fuck Aggo."
  • No flashbacks this week! Our fan theories about Jon's mother will have to wait a bit.
  • This episode had next to no filler, and it really upped the stakes for everyone involved in the story going into next week. I hope they don't pump the brakes before we see the result of these plans.

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