“You were dead. And now you’re not. That is completely fucking mad it seems to me.”
– Ser Davos Seaworth.
Unlike Ser Davos, most Game of Thrones viewers were not shocked when Jon Snow came back from the dead. Since the Night’s Watch betrayed their Lord Commander back in the season five finale, the question for viewers wasn’t whether or not Jon Snow be brought back to life, but what would he do with a second chance.
Well, last night didn’t offer anything concrete in that department. The greatest takeaway from the third episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth season is we’ll have to wait a little bit longer to get the answers we all want.
Most of the show’s storylines did not advance very much last night. Daenerys Targaryen arrived at the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen and discovered that she will face trial to determine if she should join her fellow widowed khaleesis. Jaime and Cersei Lannister realized that the other members of the Small Council don’t want anything to do with their plans for revenge. Arya Stark went full Daredevil and learned how to be a badass blind warrior, but then she got her sight back so it didn’t really matter. The High Sparrow and King Tommen had a chat where the priest once again refused to budge on anything. Tyrion Lannister and Lord Varys found out that all those slave masters that Daenerys removed from power are now funding the Sons of Harpy uprising in Mereen. And Samwell Tarly puked on a boat.
While all these events set up major drama down the road, none of them felt truly necessary this week and could’ve been pushed to later in the season where the show could’ve given each story the attention it deserves.
However, there were a few major events that transpired.
The first is Rickon Stark becoming Ramsay Bolton’s prisoner. Way back in season three, Bran Stark sent his little brother and the wildling Osha to House Umber to keep him safe. Despite being one of the most loyal bannermen to the Starks, Smalljon Umber turns Rickon over to Ramsay so he can get Bolton support to attack the wildlings that Jon Snow let through the Wall.
So not only do we know for sure that Rickon is alive (although Maisie Williams mentioned he would return earlier this week), but now Jon will have extra motivation for the upcoming conflict between him and Ramsay. It’s pretty clear that there will be a giant battle between the newly minted Lord of Winterfell and Jon’s wildling army. Although, since this is Game of Thrones, that battle will probably end with Jon dead again and Ramsay joining up with the White Walkers to destroy Westeros, so maybe we shouldn’t be too excited about that.
Speaking of Jon, in his first post-resurrection episode he decides to execute the people who killed him (not many murdered men get that opportunity) and then quits the Night’s Watch. As he hands over his cloak, he said, “My watch has ended.” (The episode title was “Oathbreaker” for obvious reasons.)
Last season Jon refused Stannis Baratheon’s offer to join his war effort because he didn’t want to betray his duties to the Watch. So why is Jon breaking his oath now? Well, maybe he’s not actually breaking it. The Night’s Watch’s oath says, “Night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.” Well…Jon Snow died! His oath is technically fulfilled! He can do whatever the hell he wants now. There’s no precedent for Lord Commanders coming back from the dead, so who knows how this will be perceived.
Also, the conversation between Davos and Jon at the beginning was pretty great. After Jon says he failed as Lord Commander, Davos says “Good. Now go fail again.” These two have now eclipsed Varys and Tyrion as my favorite dynamic duo on the show right now. However, Tormund gets line of the night with, “I saw your pecker. What kind of god would have a pecker that small?”
Like the other storylines, it probably would’ve been better to devote more time to Jon this week following his resurrection. It seems like people accepted his whole “coming back from the dead” thing pretty easily. Shouldn’t there have been more consequences? More conversations? It seemed like things went back to business as usual pretty quickly. Sure, quitting the Night’s Watch is a big deal, but they could’ve built up the moment more.
The highlight of last night’s episode was Bran’s flashback to the Raid of the Tower of Joy. For people who aren’t aware of the story (and the five second recap HBO showed before the episode wasn’t really helpful), here’s the Cliff notes version:
Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark and their allies went to war with the Mad King Aerys Targaryen many years ago. The Mad King’s son Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister) and kept her at the Tower of Joy. After Aerys and Rhaegar are killed in the civil war, Ned leads a group to the Tower of Joy where Rhaegar kept his sister. When they get there, they confront a few Targaryen guards including one of the best swordsmen in the world, Ser Arthur Dayne. Ned wins the fight but when he gets into the Tower, he finds Lyanna dying.
While the Tower of Joy scene last night gave the audience a great sword fighting sequence in an episode with little action elsewhere, it still feels like the scene was cut too short. Diehard fans of Game of Thrones know that there is a major fan theory about what happens when Ned enters the Tower that could completely change the power dynamics of Westeros. (I won’t go into the theory, but if you look up “Tower of Joy” you can find it.) Meanwhile, casual fans who don’t know anything about this theory probably just thought this was another Bran flashback and it wasn’t really a big deal.
But it could be a very big deal and that’s the problem! Sure, it’s a fun action sequence. But if Ned discovers a world altering revelation in that tower (which many people believe it will be), shouldn’t it be built up a little more and show the full series of events from start to finish?
Perhaps it’s too much to expect that Game of Thrones delivers a “HOLY SHIT” moment each week that can compare to the Red Wedding or Jon’s resurrection. But whether it’s taking two episodes to bring Jon back from the dead (and even more to see what the heck he’s actually going to do next) or sending Daenerys to an entirely different city without her army, it seems like a lot of the show’s plots are meandering a bit this season. Game of Thrones usually saves most of its big plot twists and battles for later in the season, so maybe they’re just setting up the chess pieces for a series of “WTF” sequences later this year. At some point the show needs to let all these conflicts (Lannisters vs. Faith Militant, Ramsay vs. Jon, Tyrion/Varys vs. the Harpies, etc.) actually play out.
So while these first three episodes haven’t been the most thrilling (Jon Snow resurrection excluded), the second half of this season may very well be the most violent in the show’s history.
Or they’ll just drag it out to season seven.
Joseph Misulonas is an assistant editor for Playboy.com. He can be found on Twitter at @jmisulonas.