As Game of Thrones has been propelled this season ahead of the works of its inspiration/source, we all knew that, at some point, revelations were going to come to long-standing questions book readers have had since A Game of Thrones was first published. We were finally going to find the truth of certain things that we had long wondered. What’s surprising is that I didn’t realize we would get answers to questions never pondered. And that’s what we got tonight.
For many of these characters, their path has been towards finding truths that have been hidden since before the story even began. Those truths have often been gained via pain or misery. Such was the case for Sansa Stark, who comes face to face with Petyr Baelish in Mole’s Town. As Sansa lays Littlefinger bare with the truth of who and what Ramsay has, she corners him as to what he knew of his qualities. After all, Littlefinger is a man who knows the truths others try to keep hidden – such as their proclivities. Coming face to face with him shifts the balance of their relationship. Sansa is the one with the power and the authority and the means to kill Littlefinger. More importantly, she knows that his gifts are self-serving. Thus, she rejects his offer of help from the Knights of the Vale who wait south at Moat Caillin.
But her willingness to use his tactics of deception come to the fore when she shares with their war council that her great-uncle, Ser Brynden Tully, has retaken the Tully ancestral home of Riverrun from the forces loyal to House Frey. Instead of telling Jon where she got that information or that there’s an army that is willing to fight on their side, she opts to send Brienne to the Riverlands to speak with the Blackfish while she and Jon ride out of Castle Black in an attempt to convince the smaller houses of the North to side with them against the Boltons, Karstarks and Umbers. What would Jon say if he knew Sansa was playing him like Littlefinger has so often played others? What does it say about Sansa?
Half a world away, their sister Arya is still trying to learn how to be a Faceless Man. She’s told that they were once slaves to the Valyrians; slaves that rebelled and slew their masters and founded the free city of Braavos. All their ranks have been borne from those of low birth. Lady Arya Stark, daughter of Lord Eddard of Winterfell, may not have an easy time becoming “No One” given the strong bonds and strong sense of identity she’s been fostered with. Interestingly, her trainer tells her there’s a new target: an actress. When she goes to scope out how to give the gift of the Many-Faced God, she’s presented with a play that depicts Robert’s death and the events that followed. It’s a fiction; a fake tale that makes Joffrey and Cersei unto heroes and her father into a corrupt schemer. And Arya is no longer laughing with the crowd. She’s standing mute. If a girl was truly No One, then such lies would not impact her like they do. Was that the goal of sending her there? Could it be that the acolytes to the Many-Faced God know the truth of Arya better than she knows herself?
Interestingly, for Daenerys, it was a time for truths also: good truths, noble truths but ones unexpected. She finally learned of Jorah Mormont’s love as well as his greyscale. Jorah has been devoted to her for so long that he thought he could make right his betrayal. When she cast him out, he returned with Tyrion and, without telling anyone else, greyscale. When she cast him out again, he returned to save her from the Sons of the Harpy and then rode out to help rescue her from the Dothraki horselords. He does this because he loves her. Ready to leave her safe, Dany refuses to release him and orders him to seek a cure for his greyscale. She’ll continue back towards Meereen with the Dothraki and hope that she will not have seen the last of him.
In Meereen, however, things got more interesting as Tyrion’s peace proposal seems to have worked, for the moment. The Sons of the Harpy and the free people aren’t killing one another. Considering that they need to spread these good news in a way that people will accept and recognize it as Dany’s doing, Tyrion hits on the idea of using the priests and priestesses of R’hllor as their voice. After all, they already see Dany as Azor Ahai and her dragons as the living embodiment of their Lord of Light’s power. So they call on Kinvara, the High Priestess of R’hllor to ask for their help. And Kinvara knows exactly what they’re after and is willing to help them, but for her own reasons. And if you think that her power is not real, she takes the challenge to her faith from Varys by exposing his deepest and darkest secret: the truth of the night he was cut. The truth of the sacrifice ritual he was exposed to and that set him on the path to become who he became. How Kinvara knows such things is a good question, but their effect is potent as the usually-unflappable Varys appears to be in utter shock at the idea that someone knows this truth he has shared with none.
The priests of R’hllor aren’t the only ones seeing Daenerys as a promise of a new day. In the Iron Islands, a kingsmoot is held. Yara Greyjoy, the heir raised by the last king, steps forward to stake her claim to the Salt Throne. When its pointed out that Theon is present and no woman has ever been Queen of the Ironborn, Theon does as he promised his sister and foregoes his claim while exalting her qualities. She’s a reaver. She’s a battle-tested commander. And right when it looks as if Yara will be queen, their uncle Euron steps forward to make his claim. And he reveals himself as the killer of his brother and the former king of the Iron Islands, stating that he did so because Balon was spinning his wheels and doing nothing to change the course of their lot in the war. His plan is to build a giant war fleet and bequeath it to Daenerys Targaryen, whom he will wed and bring back to Westeros, so that they may conquer it. This sways the captains to his side and he is crowned the new king. The man who admitted to murdering their king wears their crown now. Aware of what this will mean for them, Yara and Theon flee the kingsmoot while their uncle sets his new people towards his goal.
But no one had as many truths revealed onto him like Bran. The young warg is first shown the moment that the great enemy, the White Walkers, were made. And their creators were none other than his current friends, the Children of the Forest. Apparently, desperate to avoid losing a war against men thousands of years in the past, the Children took a man and turned him into the first walker. The men were killing them and were cutting down their sacred weirwood trees. Looking for a solution, the Children used their magic to create a new type of lifeform which could confront men and beat them. From that act of desperation comes thousands of years of regret that the Children have had to live with – regret they seek to fix by helping the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran in their quest.
Unfortunately, that revelation is not enough for Bran. He feels like things are moving too slowly. So, without the Raven’s help, Bran wargs into the weirwood tree and comes face to face with the Army of the Dead. They appear to pay him no mind until he steps before the Night King and he, a creature of similar magic as Bran, sees him. The moment he sees him, they see him. And the moment he touches him, the magic protecting him disappears. The Night King knows where he is and who protects him. And Bran must flee or all is lost.
The attack by the White Walkers costs the Children their lives. It costs the Three-Eyed Raven his life. It costs Summer, Bran’s direwolf, his life. And it ultimately costs Hodor his life. It is at this moment that the truth of Wyllis’ tragedy is revealed. For it was Bran who cost the young stable boy his mind and his life. Connected to Hodor in order to get himself and Meera out of there, young Wyllis is also connected to Bran. Wyllis can see and hear what adult Hodor sees and hears. And the experience breaks him, leaving him with one, simple command: “Hold the door” which Wyllis can only express as “Hodor.”
How will knowing he’s the cause of Hodor’s simpleton life and death affect Bran? How will he face himself knowing he’s cost so many more lives in his desperate pursuit of more knowledge at a faster pace? Meera drags him away into the cold of the Lands of Always Winter; away from the army seeking to kill them. But with no protectors, no friends and no one to support him or guide him, where will Bran go? What will he do? The truth of it all is that Brandon Stark has been guided all this way – by the Three-Eyed Raven, by Osha, by Jojen and by his need to be more what he was before he was thrown from that tower. His quest has cost him dearly. And the truth he has gained may cost him more still.