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. Why does Hodor’s real name, Wylis, sound familiar?
Ryan: Wylis is a fairly common name in the north — the Manderlys seem to enjoy naming their children that almost as much as the Freys do with Walder. (Book readers might be familiar with Wylis Manderly.) But I think Hodor’s true name and even the fact that he used to speak isn’t going to have any major impact on the story. It’s more about what the show is setting us up for by revealing that there’s more to Hodor than we knew.
The Three-Eyed Raven and Bran are setting out on an adventure through time, and what we’re about to learn through their shared visions may be some of the most important facts the series has ever doled out. Consider this reveal on Hodor’s past to be a tasty appetizer that is drawing you into their plot and getting you more interested in what can be learned from the past.
Josh: If the “Hodor can speak” stuff was the tasty appetizer, then the introduction of Ned Stark’s sister, Lyanna, was the filling meal. Her running away with Rhaegar Targaryen set the events of the series in motion, and birthed its most popular theory, R + L = J. (Check out our video explainer; we’ll also have a detailed look at how it might feed into this episode later.) Things don’t end well for Lyanna, or Ned, or anyone involved really, and it sounds like we’ll get to see the details behind her mysterious death. I could have stayed in Bran’s vision for the entire episode, but in typical Game of Thrones fashion, “You finally show me something I care about, then you drag me away.” Same, Bran. Same. Also, Hodor.
2. Is Cersei sending Ser Robert Strong (or as you know him, Zombie Mountain) to kill every peasant who waggled his penis at her?
Ryan: It sure seems like it, and what’s wrong with that? Cersei has actually been behaving with extreme restraint this season, which is further shown by her decision not to cut through her own troops to attend her daughter’s funeral. If she’s going to send the reanimated corpse of Ser Gregor Clegane out to kill a couple of peasants who are talking sh*t, I think that’s a productive use of his talents. And importantly, it’s not more of the self-destructive behavior we witnessed last season that allowed the Sparrows to take control.
I came into season six expecting Cersei to burn King’s Landing to the ground just to kill the enemies within its walls. But she’s actually grown cautious. Today’s Cersei no longer takes her power for granted as something she simply deserves by right of name or title. She’s got Maggy the Frog’s prophecy on her mind, the one that says she’ll be cast down and all of her children will die. That seems to have tempered her behavior and made her less likely to lash out foolishly. How long that will last remains to be seen. We all have our faults that tend to come back and bite us at the worst times. Will Cersei’s fear and rage overwhelm her again and make her do something stupid that kills Tommen? Has her past behavior put her too far gone in the eyes of the Tyrells, who have already shown themselves more than willing to remove problematic people? With so many great houses suffering deaths lately, there’s never been a better time to have a protector like Ser Robert Strong around.
Josh: Cersei’s, as you put it, “fear and rage” is bad news for everyone who gets in her way. She’s cautious for now, but it wouldn’t take much of a nudge to put her in complete IDGAF mode, a Leeroy Jenkins with a terrible hairdo (that looks a lot like her son’s — the family that haircuts together sleeps together) with enemies everywhere. The Sand Snakes are on their way to King’s Landing, the Tyrells won’t be pleased when they learn what’s going on with Margaery, and there’s the whole prophecy thing. That’s a lot to deal with. Cersei has two things working in her favor, though: Tommen is ready to join the Dark Side, and Ser Robert Strong. It’s one thing to kill some big-d*cked peasant, though — it’s another to take on the entire Faith Militant. Cersei can’t let her thirst for revenge blind her. There’s already enough of that on this show.
3. Who killed Balon Greyjoy?
Josh: There’s a reason you usually don’t introduce a character during a loud thunderstorm. At night. While he’s wearing a cloak. And you never get his name. Game of Thrones plays by no one’s rules but its own. Anyway, the mysterious, rain-soaked man who killed Balon Greyjoy is his brother, Euron, a skilled warrior and pirate known for his “tempestuous and unpredictable moods.” Like throwing someone off a bridge? (Also, do the Iron Islanders not have a safer way of getting around than the rickety wooden bridge from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? The next king’s first act should be moving walkways between all buildings.) All you really need to know about Euron for now is that he’s dangerous, a possible competitor in the titular game of thrones, and definitely bad news for Yara. That reminds me: Yara’s back! And Theon/Reek is heading home. I’m sure that will reunion will go swimmingly. Do you care about his redemption tour / the Greyjoys at all?
Ryan: Yes and no. On one hand, I don’t really care who ends up king (or queen, go Yara!) of the Iron Islands, but I do have faith that all this Greyjoy action is going to play into the larger “game of thrones” picture rather quickly. Isn’t there an important character across the Narrow Sea who’s in need of ships? And what’s something the Greyjoys are known for having a lot of? So yeah, I’ll place this upcoming election above the 2016 U.S. election any day of the week (topical!), if only because it might, at last, pave the way toward Daenerys Targaryen rolling back into Westeros for the grand finale!
4. What is Tyrion planning on doing with those dragons?
Ryan: Tyrion is a book reader (book readers are such jerks), which makes me think he has access to all the information on dragons that George R.R. Martin has stuffed into his novels. He knows that dragons can be tamed (relatively speaking) and won over, and it’s not just Targaryens who have ridden them in the past. So, sorry theorists, but the fact that he wasn’t devoured by Rhaegal and Viserion doesn’t confirm that Tyrion is a secret Targaryen.
As for what he plans to do with those dragons, I’d guess whatever the dragons want to do. Tyrion said it himself in the episode: The dragons of old used to range out hundreds of miles but always tended to return home. Why keep the two in Meereen cooped up under the pyramid, especially when you need to remind everyone in Slaver’s Bay that you’re on #TeamDragon? I expect more scenes with Tyrion feeding and caring for the dragons, alongside shots of him poring over ancient tomes to explain away how he can do all this without getting burnt to a crisp and swallowed whole.
Josh: Let’s take a moment to appreciate the best line of the episode: “That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things.” Including how to train Daenerys’ dragons. (How to Tyrion Your Dragon? No…? Sorry.) Tyrion’s mastery with all creatures big and bigger will be lost in the hubbub about Bran’s vision and Jon Snow knowing nothing about staying dead, but it was an important scene for him, Varys, Missandei, and Grey Worm. Meereen’s fleet of ships is gone, and Astapor and Yunkai have already been retaken by the pro-slavery Masters. Plus, Dany is nowhere to be found. But things are looking up! Literally, because now that Tyrion knows Rhaegal and Viserion won’t straight up eat him, it’s only a matter of time before he lets them take flight, and they can begin taking over the world. It’s a small victory with a huge animal.
5. Where does “dogs eating a mom and her newborn” rank among Game of Thrones‘ most grisly deaths?
Josh: The fun thing about Game of Thrones is that you get to compare dogs eating a mother and her newborn to a horse lord pouring molten gold on someone’s head. I don’t remember that episode of Home Improvement. It was a hard scene to watch, especially because the viewers knew poor Walda was a goner the second she agreed to meet Ramsay in the courtyard (“Ramsay In the Courtyard” is my favorite Belle & Sebastian song), although we didn’t see the carnage. Game of Thrones has standards, at least when it comes to babies — they’ll be murdered by the cradleload, but off-screen. I’d put “dog attack” (between Green Room and this episode, it’s been a great couple of weeks for canines getting revenge on their human overlords) somewhere in the top 20 of Game of Thrones’ Most Violent Death Scenes, but not the top 10. My top three is, in some order, a pregnant Talisa getting repeatedly knifed in the womb (we don’t actually see the baby, thank the Lord of Light, but it’s still yeesh); Oberyn Martell losing to the Mountain; and Rat Guy. Poor Rat Guy.
Ryan: Ah yes, Rat Guy, one of the unfortunate victims of Polliver and The Tickler. It’s funny that he made it into your top three while I had completely forgotten his existence. But that’s the thing about Game of Thrones: There’s such a rich cast of characters dying like flies that it can be hard to remember them all. I agree, Walda and her baby make it into the top 20, mainly because it is gut wrenching to watch her follow Ramsay to what we know is her certain doom. But for my own personal top three, I agree with you on Oberyn Martell, and will add Arya’s disposal of Ser Meryn Trant last season and that Dothraki dude who had his tongue ripped out by Khal Drogo to round things out.
Josh: You left out Talisa? You’re no better than Sir Walder Frey and R(IP)oose Bolton. I should probably watch my back…
6. On a scale of “a lot” to “A LOT,” how hyped were you when Jon Snow came back to life?
Josh: Now there’s a face that begs for the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song.
Anyway, definitely lowercase “a lot.” Since the moment that weasel Olly helped murder Jon Snow in last season’s finale, I’ve been expecting him to come back to life. Or be resurrected, or whatever. Mystical semantics. Compare the way Game of Thrones zoomed past Balon’s corpse versus the way the camera held on Jon’s — obviously one’s far more important than the other, but if the show had no future plans for the Lord’s Commander, he would be treated like just another casualty in a war of egos. So instead, we got months of Jon Snow’s Hair Watch, and dragon blood breakdowns, and Kit Harington swearing that he’s taking a dirt nap, except he’s not. Either Melisandre, like Thoros of Myr with Beric Dondarrion before her, brought him back to life, or his soul was safely trapped in the furry confines of Ghost. (I like the theory that involves a direwolf, personally.) Mostly, I’m relieved that we have an answer to, “Is Jon Snow dead?” We can finally move onto more important questions like, “Jon Snow’s alive — now what?”
Ryan: I agree, the whole thing was a little underwhelming considering all the hype surrounding it. Maybe the showrunners felt like nothing would do the scene justice in our minds, which is why they decided to frame it to look like a failed resurrection attempt on Melisandre’s part. If they couldn’t wow us with thunderclaps and fire from heaven, they could at least d*ck with our emotions a bit before finally admitting, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s alive.”
But that might be a bit premature to say. We’ve witnessed a whole two seconds of Jon Snow being back, so we really don’t know anything as to his condition. Is he really alive? Is he technically still dead, and how will that go over considering the current issues the Night’s Watch has been having with other dead creatures? Will water come out of his chest holes when he takes a drink? So many questions, so few answers.
Josh: Everyone who’s been brought back to life on this show has come back… “a bit less,” to quote Beric. “Pieces of you get chipped away.” George R.R. Martian elaborated on this a few years ago, saying, “Each time Beric’s revived he loses a little more of himself… He was sent on a mission to do something, and it’s like, that’s what he’s clinging to. He’s forgetting other things, he’s forgetting who he is, or where he lived. He’s forgotten the woman who he was once supposed to marry. Bits of his humanity are lost every time he comes back from death; he remembers that mission.” Jon Snow’s back, but he might not be the Jon Snow we remember.