There are no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season — 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, two resident Thrones experts will answer your five most pressing questions.
1. The Children of the Forest fought alongside the First Men to defeat the White Walkers? Didn’t they create the White Walkers?
Ryan: There’s a lot of history between the Children of the Forest and the First Men going back 12,000 years to when the latter arrived on the shores of Westeros from the East. The first thing they did while settling was cut down large swaths of trees, pissing off the Children and starting a war. The First Men had bronze swords, leather armor, and horses, while the Children had world-shattering magic, which legend says they used to do things like raise the ocean, submerging the land bridge from Dorne to the east and creating the boggy “Neck” that divides the North and South of Westeros.
In season six, Bran traveled back in time with the Three-Eyed Raven and seemed to witness the Children of the Forest creating the first White Walker. They did this by sticking a giant chunk of dragonglass into the beating heart of a First Man. We assume this was sometime during the hundreds of years when the First Men and the Children were warring, but who knows for sure? All history tells us is that peace was eventually made with the Children withdrawing into the deep forests and the First Men promising not to cut down any more weirwood trees. When the Long Night came, the Children and First Men teamed up to drive them back. The Children raised the Wall with magic and the First Men created the Night’s Watch to guard it.
Josh: I realize cave drawings are less interesting than Stark family reunions and giant-ass dragon fights, but Daenerys and Jon’s dimly lit conversation was important. Not only for the history that Ryan just outlined, but because — on a purely practical level — Dragonstone isn’t very big and Dany is just finding out about this cave now? I realize ruling from an uncomfortable-looking throne and asking Missandei about her sex life is time consuming and all, but the Mother of Dragons could have spent a few minutes exploring her ancestral home, which is covered in freaking drawings of the Night King. Unless, of course, we find out in the series finale that Jon snuck into the cave holding a bucket of chalk and made them himselfthe day before, thereby changing the course of the series and the history of Westeros.
Jon is at his happiest when he’s in a cave…
2. Why was so much attention paid to Arya’s dagger?
Ryan: The dagger could be important for a number of reasons. First off, it’s Valyrian steel, which is never a bad thing to have this close to White Walker territory. But its history as the weapon used to try and assassinate Bran could be even more relevant. Who sent the would-be killer is still shrouded in mystery, but if you had to make a wild guess, would you not suspect Littlefinger? Lord Baelish was already working hard to turn the Starks and Lannisters against each other at that point.
Josh: Sorry to interrupt, but “Would you not suspect Littlefinger?” answers itself: I always suspect Littlefinger of everything, from trying to murder the future Three-Eyed Raven to eating my leftovers in the fridge that I was looking forward to all day, even though the bag clearly had my name on it.
Ryan: Way back in season one, a letter sent to Catelyn from her sister Lysa blamed the Lannisters for the death of her husband and King’s Hand Jon Arryn. In season four, Lysa admitted she poisoned her husband and sent the letter at Littlefinger’s request… before he pushed her out the Moon Door. That letter fostered a huge amount of the distrust Catelyn Stark had for the Lannisters, and when Baelish later identified the knife as belonging to Tyrion Lannister, Catelyn seized the dwarf, kicking off the War of the Five Kings.
Josh: I’m butting in again to bring up Bran’s cryptic reference to chaos being a ladder. It’s something Littlefinger told Varys in season three: “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, never to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, given a chance to climb, they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love, the illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” Littlefinger embraces the chaos, because that’s all he knows, and all things considered, he’s gotten him pretty far in life. But a consequence to this mad pursuit of power is that he’ll do anything to get it, like the time he betrayed Ned Stark. Sansa doesn’t know about this, but Bran does, hence Littlefinger’s uneasy reaction to his “ladder” line.
Ryan: These are all pretty subtle moves, making the assassin with the Valyrian steel blade seem rather crude by comparison. Still, it would have furthered Littlefinger’s goal of stoking paranoia between Stark and Lannister, so can we really put it past him? That said, even if he wasn’t the one that tried to have Bran killed, his deception of Catelyn and a hundred other moments could easily unmask him as the architect of a lot of the Stark family’s misery, should Bran care about that kind of worldly problem to look into it.
Josh: When is that moment going to happen, though? It’s like Bran downloaded a 2.0 gb file when he only has 1.9 gb of free space on his fried-out laptop of a brain. But to this point, he’s refused to tell Sansa that, oh yeah, Jon Snow is actually a Stark-Targaryen and that he can spiritually eavesdrop on Littlefinger. For someone who’s dead inside, he sure has a flair for drama.
3. Will Bran drop some relevant truth on anyone or has he gone full weirdo?
Josh: The thing about Bran is…
You know what? Enough about Bran. Let’s give it up for the real hero: Meera Reed. Think about everything she’s gone through. Actually, you don’t have to: she straight-up told Bran, “My brother died for you. Hodor and Summer died for you. I almost died for you.” Meera dragged Bran hundreds of miles, without Hodor’s strength and without the assistance of Jojen and without any frogs to eat, and she did it without complaint. But all he could give her was a heartless “thank you.” (To be fair, his brain is short circuiting after personally witnessing thousands of years of history, but that’s no excuse for being rude. I also haven’t forgiven him for the Hodor situation.) No one else may appreciate all that you did to save the world, Meera, but we do. I’m changing this question to, Who Is the Real Hero? Meera Reed. Is there an unrecognized character this season you want to give a shout out to?
Ryan:He’s probably not going to go unrecognized, but how about Bronn? Unlike some other characters who are in the middle of a redemption arc, Bronn continues to do what he does best: spew salty lines and not give a f*ck. But is there anyone else you’d want by your side in the clutch when stuff needs getting done? Ser Bronn of the Blackwater earned his lordship and his name off blowing up Blackwater Bay and half of Stannis’ fleet. Now he doubles down on that name by almost killing a freakin’ dragon on the Blackwater River. If Team Lannister hands over their MVP award to any other person, the voting is rigged.
4. How the heck did those Dothraki intercept the Lannister army so quickly?
Ryan: By this point you all know about my hatred for the Game of Teleportation many characters engage in to zip across Westeros. But this one actually makes sense. Daenerys and her Dothraki start on Dragonstone, which as we mentioned previously is on the eastern side of Westeros in Blackwater Bay, just north of King’s Landing. The Lannister army is coming from Highgarden to King’s Landing. The battle we witnessed occurred just a few miles southwest of King’s Landing, where the Roseroad and Blackwater River meet.
Considering how far away Highgarden is, it wouldn’t be a big deal at all for Dany to ferry her Dothraki army from Dragonstone onto the mainland where they could ride quickly enough to intercept Jaime’s forces before the relatively slow moving infantry can get behind the walls of King’s Landing. It was still apparently a close thing… although Lord Tarly let Jaime know that the caravans containing Highgarden’s gold made it into the city safely before the Dothraki horde showed up. But as far as geography and timelines go, you can scratch your head about a lot of things, but the showrunners didn’t violate the space-time continuum on this one.
5. Arya and Sansa are together again! Now what’s the most exciting future reunion?
Josh: If you got a little misty-eyed when Sansa and Arya’s finally found each other after so many years apart, you weren’t the only one. The Stark sisters were the show’s most anticipated reunion, and between Jon and Sansa, Sansa and Bran, and Davos and grammar lessons, there have been a lot of those lately.
But who’s left?
Which two characters do I most want to see interact again? Bronn and Tyrion is tempting, although after this episode, I doubt that’s happening any time soon. There’s also Arya and Jon, who got along better than any other Stark (er, Stark and Targaryen) pairing; Sansa and the Hound; and Daenerys and a greyscale-free Jorah. But I’m going with Tyrion and Cersei. Tyrion has an affection for his brother, who helped him escape King’s Landing (and who Tyrion was genuinely worried for when it looked like Drogon was about to turn him into soot), but not his sister. They never got along, unless he was complimenting her cheekbones, but it’s especially true now that he’s Dany’s Hand. Although maybe I want Tyrion and Jaime, after all. You know he’s been sitting on a good hand pun this whole time. How about you, Ryan?
Ryan: Be careful what you wish for, Josh. Bronn and Tyrion could be reunited sooner than you think, what with the mercenary currently floating in the river right next to the army of Daenerys and Tyrion. It certainly doesn’t look good for Jaime if he reunites with Tyrion, but tradition suggests knights get ransomed off when they’re captured rather than outright killed. Just another advantage they have not being your typical dragon fodder soldiers. But considering Bronn just fired a ten foot steel spear into Drogon’s neck, tradition may not be enough to save him. Besides, Daenerys keeps promising to break the wheel, which could mean everyone who doesn’t bend the knee could end up slag. Fortunately, Bronn’s knees are a lot bendier than Jon Snow’s.
The heartwarming reunion I really want to see is between Jon Snow and the Night’s King. And by heartwarming, I mean I hope it features Snow sticking a dragonglass sword through the Night King’s heart, causing some sort of combustible event that ends with the Night’s King exploding. But in lieu of that, I’d be happy to just see them on the same battlefield again, with the White Walkers wiping the floor with the Night’s Watch and smashing the Wall into pieces. Don’t let me down, season finale!