We’re heading north of the Wall to deep-dive into the past and speculate about the future. (SPOILERS ABOUND)
Visions, Visions, Visions
Let’s begin where the episode did, with our often pale-eyed friend Bran. Fresh off a mistake that led to the deaths of two of his most loyal companions (Hodor and Summer the dire wolf) his time-travel professor (the Three-Eyed Raven) and seemingly an entire ancient population (the Children of the Forest,) Bran is still uploading Thee-Eyed input when we see him again as Meera Reed struggles mightily to drag his petulant, six-foot boy/man body through the snow. Though Bran’s visions are quick, there are a ton of incredible visuals within the flickers. We get our first glimpse of the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen as he gives his famous order to, “Burn them all!” We then see Jaime Lannister earning his “Kingslayer” moniker. For those who don’t recall, Jaime explained his reasons for Kingslaying to Brienne in season three, and, according to Bran’s vision, his account was quite accurate.
Mad King looking pretty mad.
We then see Jaime Lannister sitting on the Iron Throne awaiting the arrival of Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. And we know what happens next: Jaime cedes the throne to Robert Baratheon,who then marries Cersei Lannister and by way of Littlefinger and Tywin Lannister, starts the entire shit show that has been the engine for much of the tumult still reverberating throughout Westeros.
I’m going to just come right out and say it, the Seven Kingdoms would’ve been far better off had Jaime Lannister fought to stay in that chair.
Through Bran’s visions, we also get glimpses of the Red Wedding, Ned’s beheading, Bran falling from the tower, the Night’s King and Jon Snow having a long-distance staring contest, some Hardhome carnage, a wight army, a young Ned Stark asking about his sister at the Tower of Joy followed by a frame of bloody hands (L+R=J,) a bunch of birds, some time-lapse weather footage and a bunch of Wildfire shots:
You may remember Wildfire from the Battle of the Blackwater when Tyrion utilized the stuff to torch Stannis Baratheon’s fleet. You may also remember Wildfire as the Mad King Aerys II’s weapon of choice. Aerys choose Wildfire as his champion in a trial by combat against Rickard Stark and used it to burn the Stark patriarch alive in front of his strangling son Brandon. Wildfire is known for being incredibly dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. It’s visual reintroduction leads us to believe this particular brand of *Ecto-cooler will make another appearance in the story.
*Warning: Don’t drink Wildfire. Aerion Targaryen did, hoping it would turn him into a dragon. It killed him instead.
Regardless, it seems Bran can green see just as well without being tethered to a tree, which is great news for those of us who yearn to see seminal moments from the past played out on screen. The Tower of Joy (TOJ) can’t be far away now.
Besides the TOJ, here’s some other flashbacks we’d like to see:
The horrific dual death of Ned’s brother, Brandon Stark and his father, Rickard Stark at the hands of the Mad King.*
Brandon Stark (Ned’s brother) nearly killing Littlefinger in a one-sided duel.
Rhaegar Targaryen and Robert Baratheon’s battle at the Trident.
Some Rhaegar and Lyanna love.
Rhaegar playing a flute or something.
Rhaegar defeating Brandon Stark, Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Barristan Selmy at a tourney at Harrenhal.
Ser Arthur Dayne defeating Rhaegar at a tourney in Lannisport.
Jaime Lannister defeating Jorah Mormont at a tourney in Lannisport.
If D&D decided to devote an entire episode to tournament flashbacks, or to a day in the life of Rhaegar Targaryen, The Overgrown would absolutely be on board.
*It’s not that we want to see this, necessarily, but it would give show-only viewers a greater understanding of what the Stark’s have been through over the last few decades.
We know it’s unlikely we will see any of these things, but we can dream.
Bran awakens from his data coma to rather nonchalantly warn Meera of the impending wights, but, just in the nick of time, it’s Coldhands! Coldhands, the mysterious character from the books rides in with his flaming mace to reek havoc on the living-dead and whisk Bran and Meera away to safety. We then learn, as many had expected, that Bran’s uncle Benjen is Coldhands. While his appearance is tamed down significantly in regards to his book description, and he rides a horse instead of an elk, his general garb and aura are nothing to complain about.
After making Bran a rabbit-blood smoothie, Benjen shares his origin story. Essentially, he’s a reverse- white-walker. He was killed by white walkers, but the Children of the Forest plunged a piece of obsidian into his heart to reanimate him for their own squad. Coldhands then became a faithful servant of the Three-Eyed Raven and seems prime to continue his service in aid of his nephew.
One complaint: I know Bran and Meera were on the run and fearing for their lives, but was I the only one who thought not even mentioning the deaths of Hodor and Summer was rather callous. Bran, you not only caused the man’s death, but you ruined his life – I think a little compassion and regret is in order. Also Summer. Poor, sweet Summer.
So what’s next?
Benjen says the Night’s King will be heading to the wall and Bran will, “be waiting for him.” He may be waiting, but a direct victory is unlikely. It seems inevitable that the wall will fall by the end of this season. It’s possible the magic that kept the dead from being able to breach the wall was already lifted when the Night’s King touched Bran, although there’s likely more to it then that.
Bran the Looper
Since we learned that Bran can, and has, manipulated the past, theories have been running rampant as to what else he may be responsible for. Is the Brandon Stark of the present and the Brandon Stark (Bran the Builder) who founded House Stark 8,000 years prior and built the Wall the same person? It’s certainly possible. Another prevailing theory is that Bran is responsible for making King Aerys II go mad in the first place. Perhaps Bran, unable to fully control his powers, will be green seeing with King Aerys while simultaneously warged into a dragon (Viserion or Rhaegal presumably.) And, somewhere in there Bran is told (by Daenerys or someone else) to, “burn them all!” “Them all” referring to the wights and white walkers, and that phrase is transferred to the conscious mind of Aerys to rattle around in there and drive him mad. This one is intriguing. If “hold the door” could turn Wyllis into Hodor, it seems logical that Bran’s cortex interference could be the catalyst that drives Aerys to madness. But this does destroy the whole theory that madness has been a genetic component resulting from rampant incest within the Targaryen bloodline for over 300 years.
And this is all a slippery slope—I for one hope Bran’s days of interfering with the past are over with. Entering manipulative time-travel into the Game of Thrones universe as a consistent story-point could serve to muddle and devalue the entire history and lore behind this century-spanning tale. “Hold the Door” was brilliant, but I hope it ends there. Bran should be an observer and a partial ying to the Night King’s yang. If he becomes this all-powerful force capable of changing the past the story will become wildly convoluted.
Here’s to hoping we see everything and alter nothing.
This section is for book readers. If you want the show potentially spoiled for you, keep reading, if not, this is where you turn that horse around.
******BOOK SPOILERS COMING*****
Last chance to turn away.
OK, now that we’re alone, we can talk about Lady Stoneheart. If you asked me for odds coming into season six I would’ve put the chances of Stonheart at around 5%. But now, with Brienne and Jaime both headed for the Riverlands and with Walder Frey mentioning the Brotherhood Without Banners, I’d up the changes to around 75-80%. The stage is now set; everyone is where they need to be. And Stoneheart would fit in better this season then she would’ve at the end of season four when everyone was expecting to see her. I think it’s happening. I think this season could end with Brienne strung up and offering the Kingslayer as a get-out-of-death-free-card.
That’s all for now.
by Jesse Mechanic
All images courtesy of HBO.