Vinnie: You ever been at work on a Friday just grinding away at something, really wanting to go home but also doing a fine job, thank you very much, when that office asshole–let’s call him Bryan, like with a Y–who is always sucking up to management gets to leave early because he bought lunch for everyone like a week ago?
That’s Jon Snow right now. Jon is being such a Bryan with a Y. “My watch is ended.” Um, no? No, Jon. Get back here and do your job, Jon! Just because a red witch recently brought you back from the great dark void we mortals call death doesn’t mean you don’t still have work responsibilities. And yes, I KNOW the Night’s Watch oath states “until death.” Great. Sweet loophole, Jon. I’m sure Random Night’s Watch Member #4 would love to get shanked to death and have an ancient witch resurrect him so he can go somewhere it isn’t consistently negative 300 degrees, too, but we don’t all have that luxury.
Ben: We now, bring you to another edition of “Vinnie Gets It Wrong,” brought to you by Vinnie Mancuso, sponsored by Redbull. His watch has ended!
“I did what I did was right and I got murdered for it.” Well, you finally learned something, then, Jon Snow! The entire Watch system is a goddamn mess at this point, anyway. They don’t have the manpower to stop the coming army of white walkers, there are no more Wildlings to be fought off since Jon Snow granted them asylum below the wall, so what’s the point of Castle Black beyond from some dudes rocking furs in a chilly sauna? Daavos was being facetious; he can’t just keep failing.
The Battle of the Bastards of Winterfell is coming, I tell you. All I pray for is Sansa’s safety. (Not only in the context of the Battle, just like, generally. In my every day life.)
Vinnie: Don’t bring my Redbull addiction into this, I’m seeing a Red Witch about it. But I gotta’ say, Ben, I might not have missed Jon Snow. I mean, yeah, for the past year I’ve concocted a Rust Cohle conspiracy web in my room pouring over every possibility to bring him back, but underneath the hype and the theories I forgot that 60 percent of the time Jon is….suuuuper boring? Like just the -___- emoji with a cool sword and sweet pet wolf?
Ben: That’s the show’s fault for overselling it in their promo approach. Honestly, this was always the tone of Jon Snow’s storylines, give or take a naked tryst with Ygritte.
Vinnie: There was a hint, though, of an interesting direction for Jon in the opening minutes, when he basically looks at Davos and says “WHY WOULD YOU BRING ME BACK TO THIS TERRIFYING WORLD?” Because, if you think about it, it’s pretty presumptuous of Davos to assume Jon wants to come back in the first place. He didn’t ask for this. Can you imagine if they brought Robb back? He’d be all “Why would you do that? I was Prince Charming!”
Ben: I think he’d be happy for the paycheck, frankly, but yeah, I’m there with you. Nothing about this storyline has been the least bit surprising, which is a shame. (Melisandre’s true self could have appeared at any point,it seems.) Last year the question on everyone’s lip was “How Does Jon Snow Come Back?” Well… exactly like you expected. Beat for beat. And yup, he left the wall right after. The show can often surprise me, but they didn’t do a thing when it comes to that storyline.
Vinnie: I think now that Jon has gifted his finest fancy coat to literally the least deserving member of the Night’s Watch, Dolorous Edd, the real question becomes this: How do we get Melisandre to Winterfell to resurrect Shaggydog? Poor, poor Shaggydog. I would gladly have them bring back Olly just to kill him again like three more times if it somehow meant Shaggydog made it out alright in the end.
But no, because Game of Thrones has some weird fetish for chopping the heads off anything adorably fuzzy (see: Sean Bean), Ramsay Bolton now possesses the head of Shaggydog and oh, right, yes, Rickon Stark, too. It turns out he wasn’t bonding with cannibals in Skagos or, as I liked to think, learning spells at Hogwarts, he was just with the Umbers, a Northern family super cool with breaking oaths apparently. Ben, I know you’re firmly on #TeamRickon, but how do you feel about the tiniest Stark’s return?
Ben: I marvel at Osha’s incompetency for one. You had one job, woman. One Stark. The tiniest most manageable of Starks! Although,w e sort of get through the dialogue that the Umbers did keep Rickon safe until the father died and his dick son took charge, but still…
Overall, I like it! Ramsay might have lost Sansa but now he has another Stark in Winterfell. The North is turning into a pretty interesting political area this season which is good because King’s Landing is loving the “spin” option for its wheels. For one thing, Sansa just can’t turn her back on Winterfell and run for the nearest ship to Dorne anymore. She has to get her brother back. I’m hoping we get something more than Ramsay flaying a preteen alive, though, because — please bear with me here, Mancuso — Ramsay is evil.
Vinnie: We get more from Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven, who from now on I’d like to call Huey Lewis and the News (you decide which is which) because once again we’re going BACK. IN. TIME. In this installment, we travel to the Tower of Joy to learn A) Ned Stark isn’t nearly as cool as we all thought and B) Literally nothing else. Woo!
Ben: …Who let that chin through casting? Not casting aspersions here, Tower of Joy Ned was a dashing lad, and certainly dour enough, but that chin looked nothing like Sean Bean’s. Like, your entire face doesn’t change between ages 20 and 40.
Vinnie: They did the same thing in the season five premiere with Cersei’s flashback. Apparently Game of Thrones’ approach to flashbacks is a character is born with a certain hairstyle, and their face just molds into it.
So first…the good stuff. Sword of the Morning Ser Arthur Dayne straight whipping out two swords and handling dudes like they were nothing was as suitably badass as to fit a guy as comfortable in his bad-assery to even go by Sword of the Morning in the first place.
Ben: Ambidextrous and proud.
Vinnie: But second…why? Why even do this? In-story, the Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran he needs to learn “everything,” but what came of this lesson other than “yeah Bran anytime you told people your dad could beat up their dad, you were wrong?”
Ben: Don’t undermine that small but radical wrinkle. Season 1 Ned was all about his alleged honor, but it turns out, Ned was a dick too! He lost that battle and spent decades lying about it to claim glory! Le gasp. Sure, mum’s the word about your sister and alleged bastard but you’ll go on and on about the battle you DIDN’T win! Northern scum.
Vinnie: And outside the story, we get it, we totally get that Lyanna Stark was up in that tower 99.99% probably giving birth to Jon Snow, so what point is there to tease it further? At this point you’re teasing what we already know. It goes to show you that without all the bells and whistles, David Benioff and Dan Weiss really aren’t that great at pulling off George RR Martin’s surprises as gracefully as they think. Case in point: Straight up lying to people about Jon Snow being dead, even though no one believed it, then being like “haha, tricked you.” No you didn’t. You just lied!
Ben: GROAN. This goes to my problem. The show seems to think it has a lot dumber fans than it actually does. There is no need to tease out this reveal. Zero. We know. Even non-book readers have figured it out by now. There’s no dramatic tension to be gained by breaking this scene across several episodes. None!
Vinnie: Speaking of a loud, uninterrupted droning noise blasting directly into my ear…how about all this Meereen stuff, huh? We’re all still invested in Varys getting information from old whatshername the prostitute about those three rich families that I totally remember the names of, right?
Ben: Vala. Also, her son has asthma. Look, I’ve been accused of being hyperbolic in the past so, I don’t want to oversell this but that fan was the single greatest prop in Game of Thrones history. Like, how have we gone so long without giving The Eunuch a goddamn fan?! Qyburn: sit down. Auric Goldfinger: sit down. We have found our new liege and, unlike that glorious fan, we will not be swayed.
Vala: “So, either you kill me or they do.”
Varys: “From your perspective, this is a problem.”
Yeees. This was my favorite scene of the episode. Varys is supposed to be as terrifying as Littlefinger and for the past two seasons, he has been way too… flaccid for lack of a better term. The Spider is no sidekick to a drunk little person. Hell, no. Varys is a ruthless power seeker. Granted, he does it for social stability whereas Littlefinger is all about personal gain, but Varys is supposed all sorts of shady. I can’t wait for what he has to say when he learns Qyburn is trying to stepdad his little birds.
Vinnie: Listen, I love Tyrion Lannister. Love him, like the dwarf brother I neither asked for nor would actually want. But we’re reaching critical levels of just how much light-hearted Tyrion banter I can take before I scream, out loud, at my TV “WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL IN THIS CITY, AGAIN?” How many horse hearts do I have to eat to get Tyrion, Dany, and the crew back to Westeros? Six? Ten? How many horse hearts, Ben?
Ben: …Do we need Dany in that crew, honestly? Just like the tower of Joy, this is another storyline that’s needlessly dragging. Wake me up when Dany does something more than list her various self-given titles to a room of unimpressed Dothraki who then promise something more sinister around the corner. We’re 1/3 of the season in and that’s all we’ve gotten.
And I’m calling it now. Dany will, of course, somehow take the lead of that upcoming conference of East Coast Khalasars and end up at the head of a powerful army for, what, the third time? Fourth?
Vinnie: Honestly, if it feels like I’m pessimistic this week it’s because I spent most of my watch time trying to decide how to combine “Arya” with “Daredevil.” I settled on D-Arya-Devil but, I don’t know, even that feels like a work in progress. Nevertheless, over in Braavos Arya got so good at fighting without her eyes that Stick, sorry, that Jaquen H’Gar gave her sight back.
It honestly felt a little like Return of the Jedi, when Luke Skywalker showed up suddenly super good at being a Jedi without any reasoning behind it. Except, instead of using the Force Arya just got whacked in the face a whole ton with a stick. I guess it just goes to show that in the show filled with kings, warriors, monsters and dragons, nothing is more powerful than a well-placed training montage.
Ben: Okay, so do we buy this? Is she really no one for the foreseeable future? I myself don’t think this was the last of “The North Remembers” Arya Stark, but that is ostensibly what the show is trying to sell us here… That after almost a year and a half and a dozen reiterations, this was Arya finally becoming “no one.” A killing machine with no sense of self. If she wasn’t, the fountain water would have killed her as we’ve seen it do before… I guess we’ll see. The show also added The Waif to her kill list, which is both warranted but also, just her doing her goddamn job in training Arya, no?
Vinnie: Over in King’s Landing, the most intriguing plot point is that Qyburn did NOT do anything terrible to that room full of children. He just offered them candy in his basement science lab, and I think maybe if I heard correctly killed one of their dads? That’s…oddly sweet, in an “oh my god stay away from those children, you mad son of a bitch” sort of way.
Ben: *Adjusts glasses* In the books, he practices ghoulish medical experiences on women and handmaidens that displease Cersei and that she, in turn, sends his way. “Go see Qyburn,” is supposed to be a terrifying death sentence. Pepperidge Farm Qyburn is definitely a fake-out.
Vinnie: There are some stellar performances going on in King’s Landing–including from Dean-Charles Chaplin as Tommen, which is a lovely surprise–and there’s some huge stuff being set up with Margaery and Cersei’s respective trials. But right now this is the filler plot to end all filler plots, just running in place until a totally reformed Sandor Clegane shows up to fight his undead brother (….probably).
Ben: God help us, those nerds over on Reddit might seriously get their Cleganebowl.
And sorry, but I’m going to need the seven Gods to get together and pull those missing teste from the heavens and into Tommen’s drawers because this was very literally the fifth scene that starts with Tommen promising to rain fire on someone with his stern voice and ending with him getting his knees pet. Go back and count. Fifth scene. Over it. I don’t want to hear from this toddler again.
Vinnie: *Adjust tinfoil, rips pants* I AM one of those nerds on Reddit. Well I was, until all five of my accounts were shadow-banned. ANYWAY, we’re stuck grinding gears in King’s Landing with Ser Robert Strong–who I guess we’re just straight up calling Ser Gregor Clegane–making Pycelle shit his pants, and the High Sparrow telling Tommen “Happy Mother’s Day. I do not regret having people throw poop at your naked mom.” This all seems like a study in how much they can make me root for the White Walkers to show up and turn all these awful people into ice sculptures.
Ben: Yeah… every season gets a couple of these episodes. Not clunkers, but, y’know… fast-forwarders: entries you could skip wholesale and easily catch up on in “Previously On” segments. This was the first of the season. Jon is back and leaving the watch, Arya can see again, Rickon was delivered to Winterfell; see you next week.
On the bright side, I do like the parallel that’s being built between Jon Snow and Ramsay, of all people. Jon forcing himself to watch the extensive, grotesque death of the four mutineers was an echo of last week’s where Ramsay forced himself to look at his stepmother and infant half-brother being devoured. They are two Bastards coming into their roles as Stark and Bolton, respectively. The best thing this season has been the North coming together around Winterfell and I think that will ultimately pay off — big time.
Oh and we caught up with Seasick Sam and Gilly on a boat! When she was young, she thought they called it “the sea” because it was only water as far as the eye could “see.” You know what? I’ve read a lot worse from MFA poetry workshops.
Vinnie: Since Grey Worm and Missandei obviously don’t party, I will play Tyrion’s drinking game: Never have I ever had any interest in long, talky scenes between Sam and Gilly. And look at that, no one is drinking.