Entertainment·Analysis

Game of Thrones: the young and the restless carve their own course

Some of the youngest characters on HBO's fantasy series proved unpredictable in the latest episode, while long-forgotten figures emerge from the shadows.

New episode also introduced a supernatural character well-known to readers of George R.R. Martin's books

The king rules the realm, but who rules the king? King Tommen Baratheon, played by Dean-Charles Chapman (right) is swayed by many advisors, including Grand Maester Pycelle, played by Julian Glover (left). (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada)

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

"You're not who he thinks you are," says Gilly to Sam, trying to raise his spirits after his father excoriates him during a Tarly family dinner.

Children rebelling against parents or authority figures formed a prominent theme in the May 29 episode of the HBO fantasy series. As this season surges into its second half, the show-runners attended to the plot points long neglected, and introduced (or re-introduced) characters the viewers likely forgot about.

This episode lacked some of the emotional wallop of the last few episodes — which included Hodor's death, Jon's resurrection, Dany and Jorah's tearful goodbye — but did offer some beautiful-looking sets and scenes, including the stately Tarly family home, and Jaime on a white steed, galloping up the stairs of the main square of King's Landing.

It also accomplished at least one narrative development that's been long overdue: getting Arya to finally break free from the morbid duties and dubious morals of the House of Black and White.

Actress Maisie Williams (centre) plays the brave and mischievous Arya Stark on HBO's Game of Thrones (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada)

Welcome back, Arya! We missed you! That bright little face does not work for magical mercenaries of any kind. That brave little girl who survived on her own for so long won't kill a kindly actress just because she was told to.

With her trusty sword, Needle, now back in her hands, and Jaqen and that wretched Waif hot on her heels, it looks like Arya might have more names to add to her little list.

Lannisters, Tyrells and the Sparrows

The King is the thing … to be manipulated, that is, something that's no news to anyone who's been watching Tommen be the rag doll of his mother, wife, High Sparrow, you name it. But in this episode, we learn who truly holds the keys to Tommen's impressionable little heart: his wife Margaery, who is now, it appears, a true-blue convert to the Faith Militant.

In this episode's biggest twist, we see Jaime, resplendent in his armour, and that fool Mace Tyrell, confident in his troops, confronting the High Sparrow as he seems ready to march Margaery down the streets in her own Walk of Shame.

Jaime Lannister, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is a knight in shining armour in episode 6 of Season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones. But his character has so far been outwitted by Faith Militant. (Helen Sloan/HBO Canada)

But then, the High Sparrow announces will be no Walk of Shame, as both the Queen and the King now support Faith Militant. Tommen's goal is apparent: getting back into Margaery's good graces and more importantly, into her bed.

But with her beatific smile, Margaery's motivations are not as transparent: what is the end game of the woman who, while not outright evil, only ever seemed interested in being queen?

Speaking of motivations, we get to glean a bit of the High Sparrow's in this episode as well. He has been an enigmatic figure so far – operating, it seems, out of sheer religious devotion. But when he gives Jaime a sly smile after producing Tommen as the faith's protector, we see that the High Sparrow is as human, and as petty, as anyone else. If everyone's flaws eventually come to light, as the High Sparrow has preached so endlessly, will his be arrogance?

Next up, Jaime is unceremoniously kicked out from his position as the Lord Commander of the King's Guard, and is sent to lead the armies abroad. Talking to Cersei, he protests: "What's next? Will I be marched down the streets naked as well?" (a question that undoubtedly elicited a "yes, please!" from the show's female viewers).

But she reassures him that he has to be in control of their armies, even if that means backing that dastardly Walder Frey against the new Tully insurrection. She says something to the effect that they're the only two people who matter (their son being as good as gone now). And then, because nothing turns on the Lannister twins more than planning vengeance, they kiss passionately.

Sam and Gilly: Meet the Tarlys

On tonight's Cribz, the Tarly family edition, some viewers may have been surprised to learn that Sam's family is not merely well-off, but really, really rich. In fact, the loveliness of the Tarly estate as Sam brings Gilly to meet his family served as a reminder that this season has mostly been dragging viewers through the mud and snow of the North, and that the contrast between medieval muck and courtly opulence is GoT's visual blueprint that should be observed.

Jon Snow's best friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and his lady love Gilly (Hannah Murray) go on a journey in season six of HBO's Game of Thrones. (Helen Sloan/HBO)

Not as surprising, however, is that Sam's family is just as he described them: the kindly mother and sister and a father who makes Tywin Lannister seem like Santa Claus. Gilly, bedecked in Sam's sister's finery, struggles to behave like a lady, and, predictably, lets it slip that Sam met her somewhere "north of the Wall." There's only one thing Sam's father tolerates less than chubby, sensitive offspring, and that's the Wildlings, so he goes on to humiliate Sam and Gilly, and sends Sam away from home.

You think that Sam has coiled back into his old self as he packs away to go to Old Town, leaving Gilly and the baby at his family's mercy. But then Sam the Man storms back in! He's had a change of heart and announces he's taking Gilly and little Sam to Old Town with him.

On the way out, he also swipes his father's prized Valyrian steel sword, something that will undoubtedly come in handy in what you know won't be a peaceful, educational experience at maester school.

Bran, Meera and a new friend

Poor, long-suffering Meera is still dragging Bran's sleigh in an attempt to get away from the undead army of wights, after last week's tragic death of Hodor (now finally free of his door-holding duties). They don't make it very far until the zombies catch up with them. They're hugging and saying their goodbyes when a mysterious, dark-veiled figure materializes, smiting so many wights with a kind of a fiery ball-and-chain contraption.

When the figure removes his hood, we see that he looks, well, not quite alive. Reddish eyes, decaying skin.

We also see that he is none other than Benjen Stark, Ned's younger brother we last saw in Season 1, the one who initially brought Jon to the Night's Watch, only to disappear shortly after. He explains to Bran very calmly that he has been killed by the White Walkers, but then brought back by that same dragonstone the Children of the Forest used to create White Walkers in the first place.

This makes him … a reverse White Walker of sorts? Either way, an ally Bran and Meera sorely need.

Readers of George R.R. Martin's books have long suspected that an undead character called Coldhands is in fact the resurrected Benjen Stark, and for TV purposes, it seems like the show runners merged the two in no uncertain terms.

The Freys and the Tullys

Speaking of characters long forgotten, remember the awful Walder Frey who arranged for the Red Wedding? Well, as a token of Lannister appreciation he got to be in control of all the River Lands, but with the new insurrection by Blackfish (Catlyn Stark's uncle), his domain is threatened.

Food for thought: Walder Frey does not appear to know the horrible fate that befell his daughter Walda and her son at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. If Robb Stark not marrying one of his daughters was enough of a slight to get him to stage the Red Wedding, how do you think he'll react when he finds out poor Walda was fed to the dogs?

Daenerys, Dothraki, dragons

Why does Daenerys Targaryen, one of the show's most popular and inspirational characters, merit the mention slightly below the Freys in this week's recap? Because her speech to the Dothraki people (while riding the newly found Drogon) seemed so … tired and uninspired, somehow. We have seen Dany's amazing humanitarian side, and her ability to shake society from its wrongful course (abolishing slavery).

Does she really have to inspire only by doing supernatural things? And, after all she's accomplished, is her goal really still to sit on the Iron Throne (the very question Daario asks of her)?

Westeros has changed so much since she was forced to leave it as a child, but the Dragon Queen, with all her brains and bravery, seems to cling to the ideas of leadership that no longer exist.

Dany would be wise to listen to her own "I'm gonna break the wheel" speech this time around.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

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