Our penultimate episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones begins with Tyrion desperately spewing his talking points about Mereen being a city on the rise. It’s a new day in Mereen. Dany looks on with a mixture of pity and amusement as the explosions drum along.
Once Tyrion snaps out of spin mode, Dany goes into her Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons routine, which Tyrion reads immediately as Mad Queen Dany. He gives us yet another primer on the Wildfire Failsafe, and suggests an alternative scenario.
Which apparently involves a parlay with the three dandies that Tyrion made the 7 Years of Slavery deal with. There’s some smirky talk of what will be done with Grey and Missandei and the rest of Dany’s crew, and a subtle shot of Drogon dropping off the side of the great pyramid like a skateboarder setting up for a sick trick.
Drogon catches massive air and buzzes the dandies and their entourage, then Dany mounts up. Again, I hope she’s got some serious motorbike chaps under that sundress. Viserion and Rhaegal hear the call and bust out, and it’s off to show the fleet how air power works.
In the city below, the Sons of the Harpy learn how mounted cavalry and light infantry interact, and Daario the Sleaze invents polo.
The slaver armada has a lot of firepower, but it isn’t much use at short range. The crews are also problematically flammable.
Back at the parlay, Grey gives the guards a chance to run, which they take with indecent haste. Tyrion gives the dandies a chance to elect a sacrifice, which they handle in typical fashion, and Grey shows off his backhand. It’s a new day in Mereen after all.
Up north at Winterfell, Dead Snow and Killer of Tonks are getting the measure of each other. It’s a pointless staredown with some cheap shots exchanged, and Sansa finally gets bored and shuts it down.
Dead Snow has a plan, which isn’t even that terrible, to keep his forces from being surrounded and cut to shreds. It involves trenches and funneling the Bolton forces into a head-on attack, and Sansa thinks this is beyond fucking stupid and ignores the fact that Killer of Tonks doesn’t get out of bed unless there’s tormenting to be done. Harsh words are exchanged, Sansa leaves it at (a) don’t fall for whatever shit he pulls on you, (b) she’s not going back alive.
It being the nerve-wracking night before a battle, there’s wandering amongst the tents to be done. Tormund Giantbeard is going to have a milky drink, Davos is going to walk it off. Happy shitting, Davos. Dead Snow is going to have an unhelpful talk with Mel, who is still feeling off her game and idly watching her brazier like it’s playing reruns of Murder She Wrote.
Jon’s going to war with the army he’s got, and the god he’s got. I think he can be forgiven for looking a little queasy.
Davos goes looking for a good spot to shit, and finds the bones of the pyre Stannis and Mel burned Shireen on. He had to have suspected, but now he knows.
Back in sunny Mereen, Yara and Theon are in town, looking for a deal. Tyrion is a lot more comfortable now that he’s back to an advisory role, and he takes the opportunity to lightly roast Theon. But this is mostly Yara and Dany talking, and there’s clearly a connection there. Lots of steady eye contact and knowing smiles, and at least one blatant pass. In the end, the deal is struck, although Yara’s end of the bargain involves total cultural reform of the Asshole Islands.
This leaves us at the halfway mark for the episode, and the chessboard is set up for the Battle of Winterfell. It begins with Killer of Tonks using Rickon as bait to draw Dead Snow out of his planned field of combat and into open ground. Snow falls for it like the silly son of a bitch he is, and it’s all down the shitter from there.
The Karstark cavalry and whatever horses the Starkish forces have been able to muster crash together midfield, and the Bolton archers rain arrows on the resulting melee, since they don’t give a fuck about killing Karstarks. Once all the Starkish troops are midfield, the Umber and Bolton pikemen form up a shield wall and start squeezing. The Starkish forces have no room to breathe, much less fight, and it’s looking like a hopeless rout until the horns blow and the Knights of the Vale come pouring in and ride down the pikemen.
Killer of Tonks retreats, and has barely finished saying all they have to do is hunker down and wait out the siege when Wun Wun the giant starts knocking. He’s through the gate in a hot minute, with Wildling archers right behind him. The Bolton guards get feathered in short order, but Killer of Tonks puts a shaft through Wun Wun’s eye socket and calls for single combat.
Dead Snow obliges him, and is clearly running on purest adrenaline. He blocks three arrows at point blank range, does a Captain America shield bash, then puts a vicious ground & pound on KoT. I counted 20 straight punches to the face before he notices Sansa’s mild look of reproach.
With the battle won, it’s time to redecorate. Nice tasteful Stark banners, no more of that tacky death metal Bolton crap. Mel is looking imperious once again, and Davos is looking like a man with a big question to ask.
And let’s pour one out for Rickon, who barely had a speaking role in the show.
And is there a fate hideous enough for Killer of Tonks? No, not that anyone less twisted than himself could think of. But this will have to do. Sansa gets to see his sadistic cockiness disappear, and she gets to see the smile literally wiped off his face.
She watches, with some disgust, but clinically. Once she’s seen enough to know the dogs are going to get the job done, she takes her leave. There’s a glimmer of the private smile of relief we saw after Joffrey announced his engagement to Marge. Same smile, but very different Sansa.