Remember last season when our underdog was killed by his people? So, yeah, he was brought back from the dead this season by Melisandre, that red-haired priestess. The funniest thing about her rising Jon back from the dead was that she didn’t even think she could do it. I mean, makes you rethink all her mumbo jumbo about the Lord of the Light (which led to people burning and dying with no reason!). However, as vital as she was during Jon Snow’s reawakening, she’s just used as a prop, and then, well, you’ll see. Too many women used as props on this show. Men are also used as props in different ways but oh the nudity. Distracting and honestly, was it always necessary?

After Cersei’s shame walk at the end of season five, she’s powerless this season on so many levels. She can’t even emotionally manipulate anyone, and no one is afraid of her. Everyone has seen her at her lowest, and she can’t bear it.

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“We’re the only ones who matter and everything they’ve taken from us, we’re going to take back and more,” Jaime says this to a despondent Cersei, mourning their daughter Myrcelle’s death upon his return from Dorne. While Jaime may not be the most hated character of the show at this time, he rises to the occasion to step in and embody the same guy we met in season one, the one who does things for love. It was a smart way to cover for Cersei as she got back on her feet to her malevolent self again and become that villain we love to loathe.

After being absent from season five completely, Brandon Stark reappears to absorb memories from the Three-Eyed Raven. Like Jonas in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Brandon is chosen to know the past, present, and even future for everyone’s good. What is never explained on the show (and perhaps might be explained in the book series) is why it took Bran’s crippling to become the Three-Eyed Raven. If he hadn’t been pushed by Jaime, would he still have been chosen as the Three-Eyed Raven? With Brandon’s storyline, we learn Hodor’s origin story, which is heartbreaking, tragic, and well-crafted at the same time. Isaac Hempstead Wright, the actor portraying Bran, has grown so much at this point, I just kept wondering about the timeline. Has it only been a few years? Bran is a giant, standing as tall as the Three-Eyed Raven in those visions.

In Braavos, Arya Stark is a blind beggar now – repercussions for not following orders from the Faceless Men in The House of Black and White. The Waif, the girl who works with Jagen, challenges her at every turn, and Arya gets her beatings but ultimately prevails. An excellent chase between her and the Waif ensues that resembles any James Bond or action film, but starring a young girl. It’s a fun sequence and a sweet escape from the doom and gloom that is always Game of Thrones. This chase scene adds texture in unexpected moments and to punch up the show.

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Tyrion Lannister utters this while holding down the fort with Grey Worm and Missandei: “That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things.”

If this ain’t his slogan or hashtag, I mean, then what is? These two lines are the epitome of what we know of Tyrion since episode one of the show. Here, he tries to be a diplomat to restore order to Meereen and Yunkai while Daenerys is trying to find allies within the Dothraki tribe who capture her at the end of season five.

What’s great about this episode is that other characters’ storylines start to merge. Theon and Yara Greyjoy, after being run off from the Iron Islands because their uncle, Euron, wants to be king (after killing his brother, Balon, their father). The sibling’s ally with Daenerys to head on over to Westeros with her. Sansa is reunited with Jon at Castle Rock, which is a cold reunion but Sansa has changed, so her reaction makes sense. Brienne and Podrick arrive with Sansa and is of course, dutiful. Brienne’s loyalty and love for Jaime are two things I didn’t think I could vibe with but make her a complex and wonderful character. I stand for her too.

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My favorite non-battle episode of this season lies with the knowledge that The Hound, aka Sandor Clegane, lives. We meet him with a small gathering, led by a former priest, living a simple, non-violent life. From a visual and storytelling perspective, we receive a beautiful day in the life of this character in this episode. The cold open starts with a scene of Sandor chopping wood and then its bookended with him picking up the ax and storming off. Unfortunately, the priest and his followers are killed by the Brotherhood Without Banners for no reason at all. I can’t recall another episode in the series that followed this sequence, which is why it stood out. This episode provides compact storytelling, and then we go back into the overall story.

My favorite episode is “Battle of the Bastards” because comeuppance is the watchword here. It also happens to be episode nine of the season (the climactic episode). Rickon. Arrows. Ramsay and Jon’s army. Jon under dead bodies. Fighting. Soldiers from the Vale. Winterfell. Ramsay and his dogs. The end. Bloody and gory in all of its glory, we root for Jon and Sansa. Such a satisfying episode from beginning to end. Indeed a stunning battle to watch.

The season finale here gives the viewers a one-two punch. Cersei plans a massive undertaking before her trial judged by the High Sparrow. Suicide. Bombing. And Daenerys is that much closer to arriving at Westeros.

What an explosive end to my favorite season, so far, of the series. With all the foundation and storylines laid out and other characters meeting for the first time was just a ton of fun. Learning Clegane was alive. Jon is alive again. Sansa reuniting with family. There were moments that brought the best out of me. Because there is such a rich tapestry of backstory that lives in the novels, I believe this added so much to the storylines in the show and the actors portraying these characters. Fantastic work across the board. I did feel sorry for Isaac though because after becoming the Third Eyed Raven, he lost all personality. Did it have to be that way?

Another season review on the books. Two more seasons to go!