Game of Thrones: Old wounds don't heal in Season 6, Episode 7

Fan favourite makes a comeback in the new episode of HBO's fantasy series, while other characters face consequences of past actions.

Past catches up with many characters on HBO's fantasy series, but at least one former villain seeks redemption

Arya Stark, played by Maisie Williams, tries to extricate herself from her past in episode 7 of season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada)

NOTE: The following story contains major spoilers about Season 6, Episode 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones

"As long as I'm standing, the war is not over," says Brynden "Blackfish" Tully to Jaime Lannister, as the former's castle is besieged by the Lannister army. After a few episodes that extolled the virtues of newness and striking on a path of one's own, this one was all about wounds that won't heal, old grudges that aren't forgotten and, in one instance, an old character who just wouldn't die.

Within the scope of this season, it was a mediocre episode that once again asked more questions than it answered, and placed emphasis on plot lines that seem, at least for now, of questionable importance.

But the producers can be forgiven for doing one thing that this whole season has sorely lacked: finally getting the language and dialogue right. There were even a few jokes in there that didn't feel out of place, courtesy of the return of that charmer with a leathery face and laconic wit, Bronn. The episode also offered a few interesting revelations: the leader of the House Mormont is a feisty little girl! Yara Greyjoy is gay! Jon Snow finally has gumption and purpose! (oh never mind, that didn't happen. But the other two were cool).

Arya: not no one

Speaking of wounds, old and new, the episode's most shocking moment came when Arya Stark, newly escaped from the House of Black and White, gets caught by the Waif disguised as an old woman and stabbed in the abdomen repeatedly. You would think this is it for Arya, especially as she falls in the water, pool of her blood spreading and giving the Waif adequate proof she's dead.

But then, as soon as the Waif turns around, Arya's head bobs back up and she crawls up to the shore, proceeding to walk around the streets of Braavos to some horrified looks of bystanders.

It was a strange scene. Not only because by all laws of nature, Arya should have died (is anyone really dead these days on Game of Thrones?), but because the scene, despite its drama, was not the last scene in the episode. That honour went to the return and the spiritual rebirth of Arya's favourite frenemy.

The return of the Hound

To repeat: Does anyone really die these days on Game of Thrones

The return of the fan favourite, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, has been heavily touted among the George R.R. Martin book readers, who have long believed that a character called The Gravedigger is in fact the Hound. But once again, much like in the last week's return of Benjen "Coldhands" Stark, the show-runners decided to go ahead and spare the GoT fans further suspense, revealing the Hound as very much alive.

This is significant for several reasons: in terms of the future of the show, it once again shows a willingness to give the fans the satisfaction of seeing their book-related theories realized. But it's a dangerous trap to fall into, as it could make the show low on thrills and predictable to anyone who's read the books or even just done some cursory web browsing on fan theories.

Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, played by Rory McCann, was last seen in season 4 of HBO's Game of Thrones. The morally ambiguous fan favourite has been presumed dead since then, but was revealed to be alive in episode 7 of season 6. (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada )

But back to the Hound. Err, Sandor Clegane. It was, in truth, a nice scene we find him in, in a community of seemingly kind and simple people who are trying to build a church and following the man who hands-down wins the "most likeable religious leader in Westeros" title. The priest, played by the charismatic Ian McShane (Deadwood, Pillars of the Earth) spouts folksy and humanistic wisdom and doesn't seem big on dogma but on how faith can improve people. He's the Davos Seaworth of the priests. And he really, really believes that "whatever it (the higher power) is, it has plans for Sandor Clegane." Unfortunately, we don't get to see him guide Clegane to what that purpose is because he dies; slaughtered by roaming mercenaries along with the rest of his community. Did his words take root in the Hound? We'll see. But for now, he's alive, he's got an axe to grind, as well as a real, actual axe.

King's Landing: Margaery, Olenna, Cersei

In King's Landing, we're back to the land of scary interpretation of the Faith of the Seven by the power-hungry High Sparrow, who's showing his true Richelieu-like aspirations more and more readily. But he might have met his match with Queen Margaery, whose acting skills really make her the Meryl Streep of King's Landing.

Margaery Tyrell, played by Natalie Dormer, is a queen with a hard-to-read agenda on HBO's Game of Thrones (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada)

As we suspected in the last episode, Margaery is not as brainwashed by the High Sparrow as she appears. Sure, she meekly takes on his advice on how to fulfil her "wifely duties" to King Tommen (it appears she has shunned him in the bedroom), but when he not-so-subtly threatens her beloved grandmother, Olenna, she shows where her true loyalties lie.

In an embrace with Olenna, she slips a paper in her hands as she implores her to flee to High Garden. Drawn on the paper is an image of a rose, the sigil of the House Tyrell, signaling Margery's devotion to her family and her brother Loras (the Knight of the Roses) who still rots in jail.

It's been a while since Lady Olenna Tyrell, played majestically by a real-life Dame, Diana Rigg, had one of her amazing speeches, but in this episode, she doesn't disappoint. As Cersei implores her to remain her ally, Olenna delivers a speech that starts with "I wonder if you're the worst person I ever met" and ends with "You've lost, Cersei. It's the only joy I can find in all this misery." Oooooh, that was good. Those Tyrell roses sure have their thorns.

Would-be-warriors: Jaime and Blackfish, Sansa and Jon

Catlyn Stark's ancestral home, Riverrun, is the site of what may become a major battle or, if you're to go by Brynden "Blackfish" Tully's words, an exhausting war of attrition that will tie up the Lannister army without a chance of victory for years.

Jaime Lannister thought his impressive show of forces (and that beautiful armour he's worn since the last episode!) would coax Blackfish into surrendering the castle that now belongs to that wretched Walder Frey. But lately, Jaime's swagger has failed to impress. Like the High Sparrow and Tommen before him, Blackfish responds with "yeah, whatever," of sorts, reminding him that the Tully castle has enough provisions to weather two years of occupation

Jaime Lannister (R, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (L, played by Jerome Flynn) march on Riverrun Castle in episode 7 of season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada)

Heck, even Jaime's sidekick Bronn is not exactly subservient. When Jaime starts on the whole "A Lannister always pays his debts" business, promising Bronn more titles for his services, the sell-sword cuts him off with: "Don't say it, don't (expletive) say it." It was a hilarious comment, and a crude reminder of the House Lannister's almost comical loss of power, a loss neither Jaime nor Cersei seem to fully comprehend.

There was also some nice energy and solid acting in the Jaime vs. Blackfish scene, which is more than could be said of the other "battles to come" section of this episode: Jon and Sansa's quest to rally forces to fight the Boltons. Since his resurrection, it's been difficult to remember why we loved Jon: he seems a rag doll, pulled about by other people's agendas. Sansa, on the other hand, is very confident in her own assessment of the situation, and likely to her detriment. Unsatisfied with the forces they rallied from the houses once loyal to the Starks, she "goes rogue" and writes a secret letter to someone—Littlefinger, we presume?

What to expect

As Season 6 winds to a close, it would probably be wise to prepare for a major character death: this season has so far had none (other than poor Hodor, not really a major character). HBO has confirmed that the next episode will be titled "No One," so we can likely expect an Arya-heavy hour, but the likelihood seems slim that the show-runners would kill her off after she's narrowly escaped death AND spent/wasted a whole season in the House of Black and White.

Episode 9, traditionally the "big battle" episode in each Game of Thrones season, will likely see "The Battle of the Bastards," obviously pitting Jon Snow against Ramsay Bolton. It seems inconceivable that Ramsay would last another season, but a death of a villain somehow doesn't seem like enough of an emotional pull for the viewers.

Currently, there are some major characters seeking redemption, almost at the cost of their own lives: Littlefinger (he may sacrifice himself for Sansa), Theon (not likely, after this episode's pep talk by his sister), Melisandre (remember her?) and even The Hound. To quote Jaqen, "either way, a face will be added to the Hall."


Deana Sumanac-Johnson

Senior Education Reporter

Deana Sumanac-Johnson is a senior education reporter for CBC News. Appearing on The National and CBC Radio, she has previously reported on arts and entertainment, and worked as a current affairs producer.