I’ve complained, over the past couple weeks, that Game of Thrones has been trying on this new formula – of combining knowing winks to book fans and Internet obsessives with character check-ins so rapid and brief it’s been nearly impossible to become emotionally invested. But the show returned to form this week with an episode that seemed more in the easy groove of seasons past. First of all—there’s Littlefinger… finally! I know, I know, his is probably not the favorite storyline/thread of too many people, but he’s been such a slimy, subtle force behind so much of the series’ events—especially last season in delivering Sansa to Ramsay—that his absence up to this point has stuck out. And when you can give Samwell and Gilly a scene on a boat that really serves no purpose other than to establish that the former really doesn’t like boats, you can certainly afford to bring Littlefinger back into the mix. And though his appearance is brief and limited to a single scene, it’s arguably one of the most impactful of the entire hour. Lord Robin, the little sociopath with an affinity for dropping people to their deaths through a castle trapdoor with all the care and joy of a kid ripping Legos apart, is practicing archery when Littlefinger returns to him. You get the sense that the kid’s babysitters had been happy to just keep him from wanting to kill everyone and throw temper tantrums, but now here comes Littlefinger with a gift of a live falcon and a not-so-subtle reminder that, sociopath or not, Robin listens to him and the others better get in line if they don’t want to get moon-doored. And just like that, we have the beginnings of an army marching toward confrontation with House Bolton in the North. And back at the Wall, where we’ve already spent the majority of our time this season, Jon Snow is readying himself to go… wherever—I don’t even think he’s sure of his own plans, really—when in walk Sansa and Brienne. From across the grounds, Sansa and Jon share a look that likely says the same thing we’re all thinking: Holy shit—I didn’t expect to see you again. Because I’ll admit, from the time that Jon announced his attentions to leave his command post, I thought it was all but foregone that he and Sansa would miss each other by this much, not to reunite until season’s end, if at all. And so their sudden, unexpected reunion here is all the more jarring and effective. And it isn’t long after that that Jon receives a message from Ramsay, who knows Sansa is there and tells Jon that if he doesn’t return her, he’ll murder Jon’s little brother and do Ramsay-like things to Sansa once he invades the Wall. Jon can’t get himself to read aloud the particularly graphic bits, all involving Sansa, but this girl has been through too much to let that shit go. After calmly reading about Ramsay’s plans for her—which include his horses, if “there’s anything left” of her—she just as calmly tells Jon that if he won’t go after Ramsay, then she will. The show doesn’t need to give us a titlecard saying “Hey, there’s two armies marching toward Ramsay who equally hate the guy” for us to know what’s brewing: from one direction, Jon Snow, the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings—themselves the targets of threats in Ramsay’s letter—and from the other, Littlefinger and Lord Robin’s army. Though I’m sure Ramsay will find screentime to horribly torment and kill at least a couple more people, he has no idea what’s coming for him—how his strategy of “piss absolutely everyone off” is about to blow up in his face. Off-season show reports have stated that we’re leading up to the most epic and expensive battle of the whole series this season, and I have every reason to believe that said battle will involve this conflict here. I suppose that since so much of this week’s plot involves Ramsay, I must also mention his scene—we get Osha the Wildling back! Yay! Ramsay stabs her in the neck and she dies. Boo! Then he sits back and eats an apple as she bleeds out on the floor, so that we are fully aware of how few fu*ks he gives—because that’s something we needed to be reminded of. Look, it’s no secret that Ramsay has turned into, by far, my least favorite part of the show, and I’m not sure that his death will make me happier in a thank-god-that-evil-guy-got-his-comeuppance kind of way, or a thank-god-that-storyline-is-over one. Elsewhere, Theon returns to his home in the Iron Islands. This is a difficult storyline to care too much about, not because it’s badly written or anything like that, but because the region hasn’t really had any narrative weight through the whole series, yet is now being thrust at the viewer as a forced point of emphasis. Also, Tyrion makes a deal with neighboring countries to get them to stop supporting the Sons of the Harpy, which involves letting them phase out slavery over a seven-year period. This seems so out of character for Tyrion, who, despite his own best efforts, has evolved into effectively a “Good Guy” that I can only imagine he has a bigger plan that we’re not privy to yet. Either that, or Daenerys is gonna be pissed when she gets back (also—freed dungeon dragons are still not a topic of concern). Back in Cersei land, things are finally moving in the plot to end the Sparrow’s reign of piety. After learning of Margaery’s upcoming Walk of Shame, the Tyrells and the Lannisters finally put their bullshit feud aside for the good of getting rid of the Sparrow and his acolytes. And though this meeting of the minds seems a little too easy, and just smells horribly of a trap being laid by… someone, it’s nonetheless a welcome respite from last week’s let’s-walk-around-and-talk-about-my-undead-bodyguard-but-not-put-him-to-work-in-any-meaningful-way course. Finally, and most gloriously, Daenerys returns to full Mother of Dragons form. Taken to a meeting of the Dothraki to decide her fate, rather than do the safe thing, she does the Daenerys thing and tells the savages that, hey, maybe you guys should be bowing to me. They respond with rape threats, and Daenerys burns the whole place down, walking, unscathed, out of the fire. It’s to the show’s eternal credit that this climatic moment is both surprising and not at all cheap. After all, it was established a couple seasons ago that Daenerys is impervious to fire, and yet she’s so casual as she walks around the temple it never once entered my mind—hey, she’s gonna upturn those torches! (side note: do the Dothraki mop their floors with gasoline? Because that place went up quick.) The show ends with her standing naked in the burned out doorway—nudity being, it seems, this season’s way of letting us know an episode is over—and all the people not yet burned up bowing to her. So now Daenerys has two armies of freed slaves believing she’s a god. And I’ll bet she at least remembers there are dragons once she gets back home. All told, this episode walked a brilliant line, of plotting and setup and actual, forward-moving action. With the exception of Ramsay, who just needs to die already, and the Iron Islands, which I don’t dislike but just don’t care about yet, everything was working together seamlessly. Also—Littlefinger’s back! 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