SPOILER ALERT: This story includes details about Sunday night’s episode of Game Of Thrones.
Now, of course, is a good time to turn away if you aren’t caught up. For those of you who are, the third episode of Game Of Thrones season six began tonight right where we left off last week: with the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch back from the dead. You knew it, I knew it, everyone knew it would happen after the 9 months of teasing from producers and stars. Still the final moments of last week’s episode felt like a huge surprise, and fittingly, that “surprise” begat many similar surprises tonight as Game of Thrones, now charting its own course having outpaced George R.R. Martin’s series of novels, continues to completely blow up the show’s status quo.
Last week’s episode saw the resurrection of Jon Snow, murdered at the hands of his Night’s Watch comrades in the final moments of season 5. Death isn’t cheap on Game of Thrones and so it is that Jon’s return from the undiscovered country would have repercussions. Of course, lots more happened, but the only thing on the lips and tweets of viewers after last week was the question of just where things would go from there. Aware of this, HBO made it clear in a tweet prior to the airing of tonight’s episode that it would go, for a second anyway, to a very naked, formerly dead Jon Snow getting up from his death bed (table).
We’ll return to that momentarily. Meanwhile, tonight’s episode continues the very stark tonal shift that typified last week’s episode. Gone is the often plodding pace, and in its place is a plot that by comparison moves at the speed of a jet engine as pieces are moved into place and for the first time since season 3 feels as though the story is headed somewhere significant. Throughout Westeros and Essos, alliances were made, crucial information was teased – including the almost certain confirmation of a long-running fan theory about the parentage of, yes, Jon Snow – and the seeds of conflicts were planted that will almost certainly bear fruit sooner rather than later.
In short, freed of the burden keeping pace more or less with the novels, and confident, clearly, that the audience is familiar with the characters and the stakes, it seems at last like things are, well, going somewhere. We’ll leave it to you to discuss the finer points of that below, but before we do we’ll talk briefly about the final moments of the episode, which returned to Jon Snow, and the total dismantling of a status quo that has existed since the first season. Namely: what happened after naked Jon Snow finally put some clothes on.
The least surprising thing is that he executed the men (and very young boy) who unrepentantly murdered him, which is fully in keeping with his actions in previous seasons. But what came next fulfilled the episode’s title – “Oathbreaker” – and set in motion significant changes to come. Finishing the act, Jon hands the vestments of his office to a friend, and leaves the Night’s Watch entirely. “My watch is ended,” he says, a mirror of the funerary rites Night’s Watchmen say for fallen comrades (“now his watch is ended”), and also acknowledgement that in dying, he was freed from his vows.
It’s also a call back to the first season, when Jon had to be talked out of abandoning the watch after Ned Stark was assassinated. Presumably, Jon will soon begin settling some scores lingering from the previous 5 seasons.
That’s all we’ll say about it tonight – presumably, you’ll all watch it for yourself soon enough. But sound off in comments and let us know what you think about this new direction, and the show’s tonal shift.