Beyond The Wall

'Game of Thrones' Recap: Even That Flashback Was About Jon Snow

game of thrones flashback tower of joy

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This article contains spoilers for "Oathbreaker," the third episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. Proceed with caution.

There's a blueprint for Game of Thrones Season 6 episodes. We start at Castle Black, with Jon Snow and company, then we travel around the kingdoms of Westeros and Essos, checking in on the dozens of storylines that are going on one at a time, like Nurse Ratched checking in on her psychotic charges. Then we head back to Black, to see what shocking thing has happened with Lord Snow this week, whether it be an old lady’s saggy boobs, a naked sponge bath, or donating an old fur coat to Goodwill.

The problem with this approach is that absolutely nothing has happened this season. The plots haven't advanced more than an inch, and there haven’t been any game-changers yet all season. Remember back in Season 4, where Joffrey was killed in the second episode? That immediately realigned everything that happened for the rest of the season. What have we gotten so far in three episodes? Arya learned how to fight with a stick. Daenerys is still with the Dothraki. Sansa has still escaped Winterfell. Margaery is still in the dungeon. Bran got taller and a much better haircut. Cersei still has television’s worst wig. Sure, Jon Snow has returned from the dead, but we knew that was going to happen at the end of season five.

So, here I am, begging the old gods and the new for something really shocking and monumental to happen next episode. Maybe Daenerys learns some magic or the White Walkers come back swinging or one of the dragons lets a little fart slip, Maester Pycelle-style, and the whole kingdom of Meereen shakes. Whatever it is, anything to not be a show Saturday Night Live makes fun of.

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Castle Black: Dead can dance

Jon Snow is back, and it seems like there is absolutely nothing wrong with him, except that we now know why Jon Snow kept a little cloth over his willy (and why that cloth was, in fact, little). His poor pecker! Jon looks like he is just the same as ever, except his wounds will never heal. All right, so that answers all of those burning questions about whether he would be a deaf mute or not have any feelings or anything crazy like that.

Jon claims he saw nothing on the other side, but what does it feel like to wake up from the dead? Is it the world’s worst hangover? Is it sort of like jet lag, where no matter what you do, you still feel like someone hit your brain with a bag of oranges? Is it like when you wake up in the middle of the night when you’re staying at a hotel, and you have no idea where you are for a second, and you freak out until you realize that you’re alive and you’re just in a hotel for the night and everything is fine? I bet it’s like that last one.

One of the first questions Jon asks is why he’s back. The obvious answer is that Melisandre did some magic on him, but I wonder why Ser Davos even asked her to do it in the first place. Why does Jon Snow get to come back from the dead but not Stannis Baratheon, the artist formerly known as the Prince Who Was Promised?

One thing is for sure: Melisandre thinks that her fire god has plans for Jon Snow, good or bad. It probably has something to do with the prophesy that says that one day a prince will come and lead all of humanity out of darkness and help them win a great war. We can assume that war is the one against the White Walkers, and that the darkness comes during the long winter that is approaching. But Jon Snow isn’t a prince, right? Oh, maybe he is! (More on that in a bit.)

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Jon returns with vengeance on his mind, and he kills the four men who betrayed him, including stupid Olly, the sneering tween who also happened to kill Jon's girlfriend, Ygritte. After his last act as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon gives up his amazing coat, declaring that his watch has ended. He storms out of Castle Black -- but where the hell is he going? To finally get some?

The vows of the Night’s Watch say that his watch ends after his death, and since he has technically died, he is absolved of his duty. However, this seems like adhering to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it. The vows also say that he pledges his life for "this night and all the nights to come," so there is some sense of eternity that Jon is disavowing, but it’s not like he didn’t break the same vow when taking a steamy romp in the cave with Ygritte.

The problem with Jon leaving is that he is totally messing up what everyone else has planned. If he’s not there, who knows what Sansa and Brienne will do when they finally reach Castle Black. And if he’s not there to guard it with his Wildling army, Ramsay Bolton should easily take over the Castle when he arrives. God, Jon Snow, why did you have to go ruin everything by dying?

game of thrones flashback ned stark

The Life Tree: Back to the future

While you might not think it, what happened with Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven when they ventured to the past has everything to do with Jon Snow.

We first see Bran and his mentor spying on the past, at the end of Robert Baratheon’s rebellion to overthrow the Mad King. His father, Ned Stark, now with a new face and a horrible accent, find two of the king’s best soldiers, including renowned swordsman Ser Arthur Dayne (no relation to singer Taylor Dayne), guarding the so-called Tower of Joy. Bran says that he heard the story for years about how his father defeated the swordsman, but it turns out Meera’s father, Howland Reed, just stabbed him in the back. Never meet your heroes, kids.

If Ned Stark was prone to white lies, he may have lied about what happened in that tower, too. Let's remember: Rhaegar Targaryen, the son of the Mad King, kidnapped Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister and Robert’s betrothed, which is what started the rebellion. According to a popular fan theory given the code name "R + L = J," when Ned went to rescue his sister, he found out that she gave birth to a baby boy sired by the Targaryen prince. That would make her son both heir to the north and the rightful king of Westeros. Many posit that that person is Jon Snow, whom Ned then claimed was his bastard.

We didn’t quite get into to the tower yet, but it is only a matter of time. The real shocker is that Bran yelled for his father and he turned around, seeming to hear his son, though he couldn’t see anything. Bran mentions to the Three-Eyed Raven that his father heard him, but he dismisses it, seemingly because he’s worried about what might happen if it is true. If Bran has the power not only to see the past but also to influence it, then what will he make of the present? What wrongs might he correct? Could he save his brother Robb from the Red Wedding or his father from losing his head at King’s Landing? Could all of our favorite characters just come back from the dead like Jon Snow? That seems possible, but also truly awful.

The Three-Eyed Raven also has been waiting a very long time for Bran, which probably means that the teen Stark is extremely powerful. He says something mysterious right before we leave the Life Tree: “You won’t be here forever. You won’t be an old man in a tree. But before you leave. You must learn… everything.” Will Bran get some cool new powers soon? Bran better get some cool new powers soon.

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Braavos: Eyes on the prize

Finally, in an excellent training montage, Arya Stark finally beats up awful Intern Emily (I've decided to call her Emily because the whole nameless, faceless thing makes water-cooler talk impossible), who has been beating the tar out of her for weeks. She seems to have finally achieved nothingness. As a reward, Jaqen H'ghar lets her drink from the world’s deadliest water fountain. He tells her that if she really is No One, then she has nothing to worry about. It doesn’t kill her but restores her eyesight, which means that Arya Stark and her kill list are no more. Now she kills for the Many-Face God.

Does that mean she’s going to start going on missions, like James Bond with worse clothes? Will she finally get to look like anyone she wants? Maybe she’ll get to kill Cersei and Walder Frey after all. Can’t we send her to kill Ramsay Bolton? Please let her kill Ramsay Bolton.

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King's Landing: Birds of a feather

For all the time we spent in King’s Landing this week, not a whole lot happened. We learned that Varys’ little birds are actually just beggar children, lured to work by sweets, like a Game of Thrones take on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This is kind of incredible: these tykes who go unseen by so many, but see everything, are swaying what happens in the halls of power. Cersei has Qyburn send the little birds all over the kingdom to hear about everyone who is making fun of her, so that she can crush them. That takes a lot of little orphan Annies.

The second half of Cersei's plan involves the the Franken-Mountain. He doesn’t have to kill all of the High Sparrow’s Faith Militant, she says, just one of them. Cersei’s plan is to fully atone for her sins by letting charges be drawn up against her, having the Franken-Mountain kill one of the Faith Militant in "trial by combat," then freeing her of the sentence, allowing her to visit the final resting place of her daughter Myrcella. But it’s unclear whom the Mountain will represent. My first thought was that it was going to be Margaery, whom Cersei would spring from the cells of the inquisition. Next week's preview teased the possibility. The plot also raises the question: who would fight for the High Sparrow's guy? Depends if the Mountain's brother, the Hound, is still around and kickin'.

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Tommen, a crumpled hankie that you find in the bottom of your winter coat the first time you put it on in the fall, tried to go and yell at the High Sparrow until he let Cersei see her daughter. He failed. God, Tommen is totally the worst. He then gets charmed by the High Sparrow, who uses a line from Tywin Lannister about how they truly just know how to take good counsel.

Just like Tywin, the High Sparrow is trying to control Tommen. He realizes that he’ll be a lot more powerful if he has sway over the king and therefore controls both the church and state. Maybe he’s going to get Tommen to fully convert and become as orthodox as he is, which would make Cersei and the rest of the Lannisters even less powerful than they already are. Considering the small council thinks that they smell so much that they leave the room as soon as they arrive, they couldn’t get any less powerful.

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Winterfell: And your little dog too

The one real surprise came from Smalljon Umber (not the name of Jon Snow’s pecker), who traveled to Winterfell to recruit Ramsay Bolton for a fight against the Wildlings that Jon Snow let into the North. His house was always loyal to the Starks, but it turns out the Umbers hate the Wildlings more. While Umber pledged #NeverRamsay, he did offer the murderous bastard a gift: Rickon Stark and Osha. And how did he prove it was Rickon? By offering up the head of his direwolf Shaggydog. No one tell PETA.

It turns out that Rickon and Osha have been hiding with the Umbers since the end of Season 3, when they left Bran, Meera, and Jojen to head to the north of the wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven. While one assumed "Oathbreaker" was a nod to the Valryian steel blade currently in Brienne's possession, or Jon leaving the Night's Watch, the episode title likely refers to this betrayal, because he’s breaking a longtime allegiance to the Starks.

I fear for Rickon because we know what Ramsay did to poor Theon and Sansa. Just imagine what he’s going to do with another Stark in his clutches. (There’s been enough talk of peckers already to see where it could go.) Maybe Jon Snow has taken off for Winterfell and he’ll arrive just in time to save Rickon from getting flayed?

I am holding out one great hope. What if Smalljon is actually a double agent? What if he tricks Ramsay and the Karstarks into traveling up north into Umber territory, turns against the Boltons, and reinstalls Rickon as the true warden of the north? Whatever happens, I just want a Stark to kill Ramsay before he can hurt any other wolves.

Check out all the latest Game of Thrones Season 6 photos that tease the next episode.

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Brian Moylan previously ranked Real Housewives for Thrillist and misses Ser Pounce. Find him @BrianJMoylan.