MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Yes, alright, let’s get this out of the way: Jon Snow is alive. Ish. As far as we can tell. In the last few minutes of the second episode of the sixth season, Melisandre, the Red Woman (whose true age is never addressed in this episode ... I thought she laid down to die in the last one?) revived Ned Stark’s bastard by cutting some of his hair, burning it, and chanting in Valyrian. Now we know why Kit Harington was drawing a paycheck playing dead, and we know the answer that’s been plaguing fans since last season’s finale. He was too beautiful to die, which turned out to be true.
The problem is—that sort of sucks. I’m sorry, but bringing him back for another go essentially nullifies the shock and awe of last season’s finale. It’s sort of lazy, and once we start reviving people (especially by like, burning some of their hair and saying a prayer) when does it stop? Count on Sean Bean being included in next season’s cast. The Hound, freshly dug up, finds the religion that so eluded him. Robb is revived and gives up the family name to open a coffee shop, because fuck all of that. We sort of know Catelyn Stark is on the way, judging by what’s in the books and on the promo posters. Plus the Mountain’s already been given another round of Hulk Smash for Cersei. I think we’re ready for a five-year reunion.
Oh, wait! Bran’s back too. The episode begins with him on a vision quest, seeing his father and his aunt Lyanna playing around. He’s outside the Wall, getting ready for a war that we’ve ostensibly been waiting for for five seasons, taking training in warg-ing from an old man and a CGI lady. It was cool to see him, his voice audibly cracking from puberty, back in the mix, even though he really doesn’t have much to do. Also: Hodor’s real name isn’t Hodor. It’s Wylis. And he used to be able to talk. Huh.
Back in King’s Landing, Cercei is being kept under house arrest by her son, King Tommen, and paying for her sins. The Mountain, freshly undead, is still her lackey. She’s not allowed to attend the funeral of her and Jaime Lannister’s daughter Myrcella by order of the king. At her side, Jaime and the High Septon spar words over who’s guiltier in this life: Jamie stabbed his king, murdered his cousin. The Septon, looking and sounding more like Bernie Sanders each episode, believes we’re pretty much all equally guilty in this mess. “We are weak, vain creatures,” he says. “We are poor, and powerless. But together, we can overthrow an empire,” he notes of his squad, which is beginning to surround him from a distance. Game, blouses, Bernie 2016.
Here’s a quick hit: Upon the happy announcement that Roose Bolton has another son (and another heir), his bastard Ramsay stabs dad in the stomach, killing him, and feeds his newborn brother and the mother to the hounds.
Here’s another quick hit: On the Iron Islands, which we haven’t been acquainted with in quite some time, family Greyjoy is in all sorts of chaos. King Balon is fed up with not having enough of the mainland conquered, arguing with his daughter (and prospective heir) Yara, who claims that they’ve simply lost too much and can’t take over the mainland North. He leaves, crossing a bridge to another building in a storm, the wood creaking under his feet. And then his brother shows up and throws him over the bridge to his death.
In Meereen, Tyrion has the idea (“I drink, and I know things,” he says) of releasing the two dragons kept under the pyramid. No one’s really sure why. He placates the beasts with a story about how much he wanted to own one of them as a child, and they don’t burn him to death immediately when their chains are loosened. Instead—moody teenagers that they are—they sulk back into the pyramid, free to brood all they want. Tyrion tells Varys, understandably, to punch him in the face the next time he has an idea like that. Dude drinks too much.
Arya gets briefly beaten to a pulp by the Waif, and is apparently brought back into the fold of the Faceless Men, having insisted that she is no one, with no name. Jaqen H'ghar seems to think this suffices, and tells her to come with him, not really helping her out as she blindly wanders behind him to another test of horrors. I was expecting her Sisyphean nightmare to last at least a few more episodes—but nope. Deny your name, who you are, and you’re all good. Still blind, but part of the gang.
Earlier in the episode, the Wildlings abruptly invade the Wall, dispensing all of the tension between the Wall’s Snow- and Thorne-loyalists. A giant takes a Night’s Watch guy and smashes him into a wall -- he explodes in blood. Thorne is thrown into prison. The Mountain, in King’s Landing, has had enough of a drunk-ass fool's talking smack about his lady, and smashes that dude’s face into a wall as he takes a piss -- he explodes in blood. That’s this episode: sort of just exploding, quickly, in blood. I wonder if, without GRRM’s authorial guidance, the series will begin dispatching more and more nuance and politicking with quick hits that move the plot and reviving beloved characters because they’re beloved. Whatever, I’ll watch it. Jon Snow is back, baby!