We’re in uncharted territory on Game of Thrones. There are no books to work from — even George R.R. Martin might be surprised with what’s happening on the HBO series — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, our Thrones experts will answer your six most pressing questions.
1. When was the last time we saw Jon and Sansa together?
Josh: Bobby Draper was an afterthought on Mad Men. Same with Henry Jennings on The Americans. But at least they occasionally shared a scene with their on-screen siblings. It’s been a long time since Sansa Stark and Jon Snow appeared in the same shot. In fact, it’s only happened once, in the pilot.
Sophie Turner told Entertainment Weekly that Kit Harington is “one of my best mates and we had just one scene together in the pilot, where we’re waiting on the king. It’s like working with an older brother. I’ve watched his work over the past four years and I think he’s amazing.” Sansa and Jon’s reunion was a happy scene in a season (series?) otherwise defined by misery. She admits to being horrible to her half-brother, and even apologizes to him. They had nothing in common then — he was a bastard, she had dreams of marrying the prince; he was cold and moody (the North), she was warm and radiant (the South) — but now they do: wanting to kill Ramsay and reclaim Winterfell. Also, I appreciated how the reconciliation wasn’t stretched out, as I uselessly predicted. It happened within the first five minutes of the episode. Oops.
Ryan: After spending a couple of seasons with the terrible twosome that is Joffrey and Ramsay, it’s not surprising Sansa was quick to embrace Jon — heck, she even gave Theon hugs and absolution before his departure, too. Sansa, having been pushed around the board as a pawn for seemingly forever, has started to snap up allies wherever she can get them with the ambitious goal of retaking the north. It’s interesting to see her making the moves while Jon Snow continues to struggle with the nihilism that comes with being brought back from the black void of death. He better get his head back in the game fast, however. Ramsay was a dangerous and unpredictable foe when Roose had him on a leash, and now he’s got no one curbing his mad dog tendencies. That could be his downfall, though. Revealing in a letter that there’s a trueborn Stark alive in the dungeons of Winterfell? Threatening to murder every Wildling that was let past the Wall? As threatening as it sounded, Ramsay’s piece of parchment is going to rally the North against him. Roose would be rolling in his grave (if he hadn’t been fed to the dogs).
2. How hard do you ship Brienne and Tormund?
Josh: Speaking of Captain Phasma (we weren’t speaking of Captain Phasma, I’ve just always wanted to say that as a segue), we should probably talk about the most important scene of the season so far: Tormund checking out Brienne, while that pervert Dolorous Edd watched. I’m not shipping them super hard — I’m too loyal to Brienne and Jamie (Bramie? Janne? Tarthslayer?) — but I’m not not interested, either. How tall would their children be? Does Tormund use that “eating and or/slurping on a dead animal” move on all the ladies? Is Edd outside your window right now, watching you read this very sentence? Semi-related point: How lucky are these Brothers in Black? For centuries, there were no ladies within miles of the Wall, but ever since Jon Snow showed up, the Night’s Watch has been overrun with women. ‘Bout time! I suppose there’s something else Brienne-related we should discuss. Is she going to murder Davos and Melisandre? Before Brienne killed Stannis last season, he admitted to using dark magic on Renly, and although she got her revenge, Brienne hasn’t forgotten the Onion Knight and Red Woman’s involvement. I don’t want to live in a Game of Thrones world without his voice and her hair. She was on fire years before Daenerys.
Ryan: Brienne may not need to kill Melisandre… when Davos learns about what happens to Shireen, he may end up murdering the Red Priestess himself. It was fortunate that Brienne brought the conversation back to Stannis’ defeat and away from that awkward moment when they sacrificed his daughter to R’hllor. But that’s the kind of tale that’ll get back to Davos sooner or later, and he’s considered assassinating Melisandre in the past for less.
As for Brienne, she talked a big game but we know she’s not the type to kill off the battlefield. Many of her storybook conceptions of what being a knight is all about have been destroyed over the past two seasons, but she’s still far too noble to cut Davos or Melisandre down now that they’re on the same team as her liege Sansa. But to answer the important question: I ship Tormund and Briend hard. It’s like “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” come to life.
3. In Tyrion v. Grey Worm/Missandei: Dawn of Slavery, who you got?
Ryan: Tyrion thinks that he can manipulate the Masters by playing to their self interest. Missandei and Grey Worm insist that in the end, the Masters understand nothing but violence. Neither argument is wrong, but which is more right? Tyrion knows his strategy is sound because he watched his father use it on the great houses of Westeros his entire life. But his machinations have a large fatal flaw in that they only fix things for the ruling class. He wants the Masters to stop funding guerrilla warfare in Meereen. The Masters want to stay in control of Slaver’s Bay. Both sides get what they want with Tyrion’s plan of kicking the slavery can seven years down the road. But that deal sells out the slaves of Astapor and Yunkai, and certainly didn’t seem to please any of the former slaves of Meereen. It’s not hard to see why.
In seven years, Daenerys will be in Westeros (we hope), leaving them to the mercy of the Masters and their vague commitment to phasing out slavery. There’s no way they’ll accept this, and my bet is we’re going to be seeing even more chaos and death and uprisings as the people screwed over by Tyrion’s machinations take that hands-on approach to cementing their freedom the red priests have been talking about.
Josh: Why does it have to be seven years? Tyrion should have said two, maybe even three years. It’s not like the Masters are going to agree to his terms, anyway, and perhaps he wouldn’t have pissed off his only two allies in Grey Worm and Missandei. They have one disadvantage that works in Tyrion’s favor, though: They’re too close to the situation. Sometimes an outsider is necessary to solve a company’s problems, because, in this case, Tyrion doesn’t have a personal connection to Meereen. He can try something new, like using Westerosi diplomacy in a society built around humans owning other humans. Is it a great plan? Not really, but it would allow Tyrion and Daenerys to sail west with the self-satisfied knowledge that they “solved” slavery. And if the Masters go back on their agreement, Dany, having hopefully claimed the Iron Throne, can always head back east, with a larger army at her disposal.
4. Will Loras break before the Lannisters and Tyrells come to his rescue?
Josh: “Book of the Stranger,” a reference to the Faith of the Seven’s holy book, The Seven-Pointed Star, isn’t a good episode title, at least not for this episode. Credited writers (and co-showrunners) David Benioff and D.B. Weiss should have played off the “brothers and sisters, reunited!” theme. Maybe some Coldplay? (There’s no way Jon Snow doesn’t love Coldplay.) This show was lousy with siblings getting back together. There was Jon and Sansa, which we already discussed, as well as Yara and Theon and Margaery and Loras. They’ve been locked in prison this entire season, but they might be getting out soon. Margaery is scheduled to atone for her signs with a “Walk of Shame,” and Loras is one more “SHAME” (rings bell) away from cracking. She has to be strong for both of them, at least until the Knight of Flowers is written off the show for Netflix’s Iron Fist. What do you think is going to happen first: He breaks, she takes the Walk, or the Lannisters and Tyrells hesitantly work together to free them and Lancel from cobbler Bernie Sanders, I mean, the High Sparrow before he throws another drunken, wine-drenched orgy?
Ryan: It seems pretty obvious that Loras has already cracked, and showing him to Margaery in that state was part of the High Sparrow’s plan to break her next. I’m starting to become convinced that behind his soft smile and kind eyes lies one of the shrewdest players since the show has started. The High Sparrow’s definitely the best player left in King’s Landing. He told King Tommen a secret — a secret he made Tommen promise he wouldn’t share with his mother. Of course Tommen went ahead and told her immediately. What was it? Perhaps Loras revealed Lady Olenna’s part in the assassination of Joffrey? Whatever he told her, it sent Cersei straight to a small council meeting where she set the Tyrell army up to fight the Sparrows head on. Cersei doesn’t exactly need much prodding to stab Highgarden in the back, but I guarantee whatever the High Sparrow sneakily relayed to her through Tommen has ensured more infighting will go down amongst the noble houses ruling the capitol.
5. Is Theon Greyjoy the worst running mate since Sarah Palin?
Ryan: Yara Greyjoy was already a long shot to win the Kingsmoot, what with being a woman and all. Now she has to deal with the return of Theon to the Iron Isles, and I can’t think of someone who represents political kryptonite more than him. He’s a living reminder of her father Balon’s failed rebellion against the crown. He was reduced to Ramsay’s quivering eunuch slave. And he betrayed the Ironborn at Moat Cailin, resulting in the loss of the fortress and the flaying of all the soldiers in it. This is not the kind of association Yara wants going into a vote. Especially when facing off against her uncle Euron, whose epic rants about the gods and storms play well to people looking to “Make the Iron Isles Great Again.” If Yara were smart, she would have followed the trend set by Ellaria Sand and Ramsay, and stabbed him through the heart before he tanked her chances of winning the Salt Throne.
Josh: There’s still time! Yara doesn’t seem like the type who’d adopt a trembling rat terrier from the pound — she wants a purebred bulldog, all confident and mean. For now, though, she’s hesitantly accepted her brother’s return, and might end up needing his help. Like you said, Ryan, Reek’s Q-rating right now amongst the Iron Islanders is in the toilet, but if he can regain even half of Theon’s confidence, he could prove to be a powerful manipulator. Or, on the flipside, a dangerous hindrance to Yara’s chances, considering Euron’s out there, waiting to take the Kingsmoot.
6. Now that she has her Dothraki army, where is Daenerys going next?
Ryan: First, let’s just take a moment to give Dany props for yet another solid hoodwinking of her enemies. After several political fumblings in Meereen, it’s good to see that she still knows how to sow fire and blood when she needs to. Many were expecting her salvation to come in the form of a dragon or some heroic act on the part of some rescuers. Instead, Daenerys stepped up and murdered those rapey Khals herself, relegating Daario and Jorah to the minor but important task of barring the exit to the Dosh Khaleen’s temple. It was her coolest moment since she wiped out the Masters of Astapor with their own Unsullied.
As for what’s next, it’s worth considering she doesn’t just have one Dothraki army, but several. A force that large can do whatever it wants. She’s now got enough manpower to crush the Masters of Slaver’s Bay several times over. What she doesn’t have, however, is ships to take that army across the Narrow Sea to Westeros. Those were burned to ashes by the Sons of the Harpy a few episodes ago. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that lack of ships means Daenerys and her massive army of Dothraki screamers are in Essos for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t sound like it will turn out well for the Masters.
Josh: Fear the Walking Dead answered the age-old question about whether zombies can swim, and Game of Thrones is preparing to do the same for: What happens what you put a Dothraki on water? This isn’t a riddle. I genuinely want to know. They’re not big fans of the whole H20 thing — the Dothraki term for “ocean” is literally “poison water” because horses can’t drink it. Daenerys will have to cross that bridge eventually (if only there was a literal bridge, that would some a lot of problems), but she has other concerns right now. Like, as you noted, securing boats, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she and her army, before traveling west, head even further east to Melisandre’s hometown of Assai and the Shadow Lands, where Dany’s dragons hail from. Would it make a lick of geographical sense? No. But to quote Quaithe’s (she’s the one with the silly mask in Qarth) book-only prophecy, “To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.” Dany’s touched the light. What about the shadow?