Fittingly, the hour opened on a weapon, Longclaw. But it was Edd, not the sword’s owner, Jon, who picked it up. Dying, it turns out, transformed Lord Snow into a pacifist, which makes some sense given that all his killing only ended up with him getting killed. The rest of the world can battle; he, at least, can seek some peace for himself.
Except: He still cares about people in this world. Sansa’s arrival was the latest too-conveniently-timed plot turn this season, but the show used this rare Stark reunion for a nice, authentic injection of emotion. Though you could argue Sansa jumped into the role of military mastermind a little quickly, all the work Thrones has done over the years in depicting her evolution is paying off: While her brother has begun to tire of driving the action, she, understandably, is hankering to take the wheel.
Her first argument for why Jon should attack Winterfell was about honor and duty and nostalgia for childhood—mushy motivations that he’s sensibly written off by now. Her second appeal to him was more effective, saying that only through war can there be safety. The charming letter that later arrived from Ramsay backed that idea up. (One miscellaneous gripe about the Wall scenes: Davos just got around to asking about Stannis and Shireen now?)
The second big sibling reunion of the episode came when Theon, sailing on what must have been a speedy ship, arrived home to the unwelcoming glare of Yara. But contrary to her initial expectations, and to the general practice of most Highborn folks in Game of Thrones, he’s not interested in ascending to rule—he’d be happy sitting out the wars to come. Like Jon, he’s lived through too much; also like Jon, family may press him back into the fray, though it’s unclear to me whether battle metaphors will work to describe whatever a “Kingsmoot” is.
In the Vale, Petyr Baelish used the piety of nonviolence as a weapon, manipulating Robin into sparing Lord Royce’s life so as to ensure a loyal fighting force. Though the falcon Littlefinger gave his nephew was cool, the star of that scene was the actor Lino Facioli, who’s grown gangly like Bran in the time since we’ve last seen him and yet has maintained the oblivious/petulant/psychopathic air he’s had since he played a suckling in season one. Robin is an underrated member of the Game of Thrones hall of fame for demented young men, and interestingly, his uncle’s machinations may lead him to meet the reigning champ Ramsay, last seen knifing another underrated and little-seen supporting character (R.I.P. Osha).
In Meereen, it was impossible to miss real-world political parallels as Tyrion negotiated to avert war. The compromise he proposed tests the limits of “pragmatism” or “realpolitik”: The human cost of seven more years of slavery is theoretically incalculable, and yet he went and put a price on it. It shall be fascinating to watch a) whether he’s able to maintain the loyalty of his advisers, especially Missandei, who looked disgusted as Tyrion plied their enemies with prostitutes; b) whether Dany returns to find his machinations palatable, or whether she makes the whole situation moot by sacking the rebellious cities with her new cavalry; and c) how many thinkpieces about Reconstruction, Hillary vs. Bernie, and/or ISIS shall be inspired by this plot line, and whether I will decide to write one of them.