One of the most appealing aspects of
Game of Thrones
- along with things like vast political intrigue and grand maneuvering of good and evil - has been its bloody great sword fights.
Six seasons in, and they're just as spectacular and thrilling as ever.
The small battle at the Tower of Joy, starring a young Ned Stark and the legendary Ser Arthur Dayne, is a fight that has been spoken of since the series began, and the first appearance of it in the latest episode is as breathtaking as promised.
It's slightly tragic - the war is over and nobody else needs to die - and it's unflinchingly graphic. It's also the last stand for Ser Arthur, also known as the Sword of the Morning, who rips through half a dozen men before meeting his fate.
After some lacklustre fight scenes in recent seasons, this was Thrones action at its best, as the best swordsmen in the world started laying into each other.
Even George RR Martin rates Ser Arthur as the greatest warrior in his entire series (only just beating out the late, great Ser Barristan Selmy, thanks to his slightly magic sword), and he proves his worth. It's a typical Thrones touch to end his story with a wretched, cowardly stab in the back.
The scene ends with some blatant teasing for later in the season - there are real answers that some people have been waiting 20 years for inside that mysterious tower - but this piece of backstory is already paying off in sheer thrills.
Cameron McMillan: Potential new jobs for Jon Snow
1. Join the Brotherhood without Banners
It would be the perfect match. Jon is a fan of brotherhood, he doesn't have a banner, like Beric Dondarrion he has come back from the dead and the Brotherhood seriously needs the PR since we haven't seen them since season three.
2. Become the Lord of Dragonstone
Stannis is dead, so what's going on at Dragonstone right now? It's there for the taking. Sure it needs some serious work (the privies all need new plumbing and the curtains in the main hall haven't been changed since Queen Rhaella was going through her Gothic-Medieval phase) but it's pretty much a free castle in an intense Westeros housing market. Get a boat and take Dragonstone.
3. Apprentice baker at Hot Pie's Pies
We haven't seen Hot Pie since season four when he told Brienne and Pod all about making the perfect kidney pie. Well we can only assume he stopped telling people his trade secrets and started up a pie empire which has over 16 stalls across the Reach. Jon would love him some of that direwolf bread loaf.
4. Find a buddy
Brienne and Pod, Varys and Tyrion, Jorah and Daario, Bronn and Jaime, Arya and the Hound ... as we've learned on the Game of Thrones, it's a game you can't play on your own (unless you're a serious gamer like Littlefinger). You need a buddy. Tormund is an obvious choice, and he can make constant pecker jokes. But Davos seems like a great wing man.
Sophie Ryan: Season six slowed the pace down a bit this week, allowing viewers plenty of time to savour naked Jon Snow while he lay on the slab of concrete where he was resurrected. It sure was glorious. This episode featured some scenes that gave each storyline depth, rather than rushing across every character and setting. That meant when Arya Stark got her eyes back after what felt like an age of being beaten by that evil chick it was a massive pay-off.
Bran's freaky transporting through time and space hasn't had a payoff yet. Even though the sword fight at the Tower of Joy was impressive, I still don't really understand what Bran's lesson of "Everything" is. The episode finished with a couple of serious dropped mics ... First being Smalljon Umber delivering Rickon Stark (who I totally forgot existed) to an awful fate at Winterfell. The second was when we saw the new decisive Jon Snow ending his watch after hanging the traitors.
Rachel Bache: By the old gods and the new, I cannot stand the High Sparrow. He makes me feel bad for Cersei, which isn't something I ever want to feel. I must have been recovering from last week's episode where Ramsay Bolton shanked his father because during the entire, painful scene between High Sparrow and the wimpy-yet-so-adorable-you-want-to-pinch-his-cheeks King Tommen, I really felt like someone was about to get stabbed. Someone defo needs to. Take out that old crow before he takes out Tommen, takes over the Kingdom and makes everyone wear burlap sacks. From looking at the preview for next week's episode, my wish might just come true.
This episode also saw the return of a few characters. We got our first look at Samwell Tarly, Gilly and mini Sam as they headed across the sea towards the citadel so Sam can become a maester. It was nice seeing some of Thrones' more innocent characters; I'm just hoping there will be more to Sam's story this season than seeing him throw up on a boat.
Rickon Stark was another one we haven't seen in a while. Living it rough seems to have aged him. Alas, now he and Osha are now in the clutches of the evil, evil, Ramsay (did I mention how evil he is?) at Winterfell. Welcome home, Rickon. There are fan theories flying around that Rickon's delivery to Ramsay is all a rouse to overthrow the self-appointed Warden of the North. I hope so. I don't want to see Rickon and Osha beheaded like his direwolf, Shaggydog ... Poor lil pup. It feels like Game of Thrones is slowly putting all the chess pieces into play - no doubt someone will come and flip the board in upcoming episodes.
Also, welcome back Olenna Tyrell, queen of sass.
You know the old saying, you wait ages for one death, and then four come along at once. There I was thinking about how restrained this episode of
Game of Thrones
had been, what with its Jon Snow "pecker" jokes, its cutesy Mother's Day references, and an almost complete lack of incest, beheadings and deadly bridge falls. Then Jon Snow showed up, slashed that rope and dispatched four Night's Watch traitors into their own neverending winter. Did anyone else punch the air? Just me?
My smile quickly faded as the camera panned along the still twitching bodies hanging on that snowy stage. With colour draining from their faces, it was a sombre sight as the camera reached the last face of Olly, the young kid who proved he was angry till the bitter end. It was a tough watch that made me squirm, but it caused plenty of confused and conflicting reactions by Thrones fans.
Where's Tyrion when you need him? I'm ready to play some drinking games now.