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Game of Thrones tackles death, the return of a major character and farts in a strong episode

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A funny, violent and often beautiful return to form

Spoiler alert!

This recap is intended for folks who've already seen the episode, and will include a description of its events!

Jon Snow saw nothing after death. But some force more powerful than death itself brought him back. It's hard to square those two thoughts.

Clearly there's something going on beyond the mortal coil, but what that might be remains obscured. We see through a glass darkly.

"I did what I thought was right. Then I got murdered for it. Now I'm back. Why?" Jon Snow asked, in a bit of dialog that was maybe a bit too on the nose. Davos isn't really interested in that question, much less the answer. What's important is that Snow is back, and he must pick up the fight where he left it. He accepts the magic he sees with his own eyes with only a small bit of shock and awe. You have to admire that sort of pragmatism.

Snow isn't the only character hoping for more answers than he's ultimately given.

Bran's latest flashback allows him to watch his father fight Arthur Dayne, the "sword of the morning," and this is a nice little piece of character development for everyone involved. It helps that it's combined with one of the best action scenes the show has offered in some time.

We know that Ned isn't going to die — flashbacks always bring lowered stakes for this reason — but that doesn't keep the scene from having a sober vitality to it. Game of Thrones tends to show violence as an ugly act instead of an exciting one, and with good reason, and this was another example of a thrilling scene done with the proper weight.

The shots weren't so long they felt like a stunt, nor were short enough to feel hurried. You could see exactly what was happening at any given time.

The men know how skilled Dayne is with a sword — they don't offer to let him surrender when they have him outnumbered and he doesn't complain of the odds — but the battle ends in a way that differs from how Bran always heard the story. It seems legends are sometimes made after the battles are over, and the fact a friend killed your opponent by stabbing them in the back doesn't always make it into the official record. Eddard is known for his honor, and this may be the first time his son has ever though of him as a human being, with very human flaws.

GoT Ep31 HBO

This isn't the last bit of wisdom Bran is to receive, as the three-eyed Raven says he is to learn "everything." Since we're learning things at the same pace he does, and the show isn't close to being over, we can assume he'll be in that tree for a pretty long time.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world...

Olenna Tyrell is back at King's Landing, and we're given another battle of wills between her and Cersei in a small council scene that mixes politics, fear and teeny tiny farts. Nothing is accomplished as Cersei and Jaime take seats, and the council leaves in protest, but Tyrell's return and the general sense of unease at the zombie Gregor Clegane at least point towards tension that will need to be resolved at some point.

The real action is happening between Tommen and the High Sparrow.

"The crown, and the faith, are the twin pillars of the world," the High Sparrow says, and his "showdown" with Tommen is one of the better bits of mental sparring of the show. He flatters Tommen, and relinquishes his guards first before gesturing Tommen to do the same. He speaks highly of Cersei's love for the young king while planting seeds of doubt about her character. He exudes power while marking his own sins and failings, both morally and physically.

Has Ramsay learned anything from his loss of Sansa and Theon?

Tommen may think he's in the presence of an old, infirm man of devout faith, but the High Sparrow is in complete control during every moment of this encounter. They are just two people talking in a simple room, but they are two of the most powerful individuals in the world talking about matters that could impact all of the citizenry and Tommen has no weapons nor experience to draw upon in order to gain the upper hand.

Cersei and the High Sparrow are in an asynchronous battle for Tommen's soul, and I'm not sure Cersei is winning.

I'm also not sure what exactly is going on with Arya, but she's learning. I was half-expecting her to go on a, if you'll excuse my pun, vision quest after drinking the water.  I was also reminded of the scene in Dune where Paul takes the water of life. But instead of a drawn-out scene she gains her sight back and may have truly become "no one." What that means will have to be explored in future episodes, but it's nice to see her making some forward movement.

Another Stark pops back up

We last saw Rickon and Osha as they left Bran to head to House Umber for safe keeping and that plan doesn't seem to have worked out very well, as House Umber delivers the two individuals to Ramsay Bolton, complete with the head of a Dire Wolf on a hook as proof of identity. House Umber has no illusions about how Roose died, but Rickon is an admittedly pretty great showing of fealty.

On that note, Shaggydog stuffed animals are now half-off at the HBO store, in what is either a dark meta-joke or just a need to get rid of the merchandise. (The rest of the Dire Wolves are on sale as well.)

The question is, what now? Has Ramsay learned anything from his loss of Sansa and Theon, or will he begin to play his sadistic and, at this point, stupidly overdone, games with Rickon? Ramsay has flown right past cartoon villain straight to caricature this season, so let's hope he's able to handle the situation with, if not grace, at least a bit more wisdom for the longer game.

The final scene of the episode is a stunner, with Snow executing those who betrayed him. One man remarks that Jon's resurrection is unnatural by way of last words. Another asks Jon to lie to his mother about how he died. Thorne is unrepentant, and even offers a bit of a curse. "You, Jon Snow, you'll be fighting their battles forever," he says before raising his head and offering his neck.

The young boy says nothing, and ultimately Jon averts his eyes.

But, just like Eddard instructed, he swings the sword himself. "My watch has ended," he says before leaving Castle Black, the bodies of his enemies swinging gently behind him.

Odds and ends

  • "I saw your pecker. What kind of god would have a pecker that small?"
  • "That's funny. Are you sure that's still you in there?" Snow was never one for joking.
  • This episode, in general, had great dialogue.
  • "It was before I could read. Obviously." Gilly seems pretty excited about where their lives are going, but I'm not sure this scene was strictly necessary. Neither was the scene with Daenerys, in which her situation was more or less described anything, with little narrative movement.
  • "What did you do to him?" "A number of things."
  • Game of Thrones is not above a comic fart from time to time.
  • "I appreciate these things can get a bit confusing in your family."
  • Tyrion trying to make small talk with two people who had no use for it was fun to watch, but also again shows what a narrative hole the show has dug in that part of the world. Daenerys' occupation has been a failure, and she's missing. This scene is filler, even if that filler is amusing.
  • "Your father was a cunt, and that's why you killed him."
  • "I fought. I lost. And now I rest."