Spoilers for the show, the books, everything.

Well dang.

Last week when the teaser for this episode gave us a glimpse of the Tower of Joy, I knew deep down that we would not get the full R+L=J reveal, not yet anyway. But Bloodraven’s decision to call cut as Ned is running up those stairs still felt like a gut punch. So close!

Even if we had seen behind those closed doors, what would it have really meant for the show at this point in time? How would the (assumed) reveal of Jon’s parentage affect current events as they stand? The decision to pull Bran from his dreams, while painful to fan-theorists, is the best choice for the show to take at this point. Until Jon mic dropped the rest of the Watch, we weren’t quite sure what his resurrection meant, and what is spelled out for Jon’s oath or his feelings towards his family and the war at large.

Now that he’s presumably free from being a Brother (as death is the only thing that can break the oath of the Black) revealing who Jon actually is in future episodes would have more of an impact. He’s not just a boy stuck in a decaying castle anymore, he’s a man free of those bonds who is pissed off and ready to do something about it.

And I’m hoping that “something” is reuniting with his family and going to town on the Bolton forces.

Next week’s teaser gave us a glimpse at Sansa and Co. entering the gates of Castle Black. As badly as I want Jon Snow to be on the warpath, poor Brienne is the patron saint of missed connections, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Jon hasn’t actually stormed off without packing up, and that she can finally get a few Starks back together again.

Speaking of Starks- Rickon hath returned! And wow has that child aged. Sure, the show’s been running for six years, and he couldn’t be five forever, but he was as tall as Osha! His appearance as a captive/gift from Smalljon Umber has all kinds of implications, especially since I’m in no way sold that the Umbers are on the Bolton side. Besides, that wolf head looked far too small to be Shaggydog. Great Northern Conspiracy? With a newly oath-freed Jon Snow, a living Rickon, and Sansa with backing from the Vale? And let’s not forget that Bran is expected to leave his weird dream cave at some point, with Meera’s help. We saw Howland Reed this week at the Tower of Joy, and in the books he’s still alive (and the only living witness to that event). Will he make a return? I’m giddy with possibilities.

The north was the highlight for me this week, and I hadn’t even mentioned the demise of Olly! It’s all coming together above the Neck.

South though? We had some development- a delightful visit by Olenna Tyrell, a tense, manipulative meeting between King Tommen and the High Sparrow, and Zombie Mountain doing backup vocals with some heavy breathing. We’ll be getting another trial by combat before the season is out, and with a Hound name drop in Braavos the writers might be hinting at who those combatants will be.

Across the sea Arya… err…. No One, gets her sight back. And Dany pledges the worst Sorority ever.

But back to the sea itself- because we finally see what Sam and Gilly are up to. It’s mostly vomiting in buckets, but conversations about Gilly and Little Sam’s future indicate a trip to Horn Hill. The lord, Sam’s father Randyll, is a renown warrior and all around hardass. Bringing him into the picture means we might soon be seeing a southern muster to the scale of the North- the Tyrells, Dorne, Lannisters, Faith Militant. There is an uneasy peace happening down there, but it won’t last long.

This was yet another episode full of movement, exposition, and backstory, and I’ve barely even touched upon everything that happened. Like Arthur Dayne, who was dual-wielding against four men at once and still winning (those sneaky Crannogmen and their back knives!) Or Tyrion trying to play drinking games with the sober squad, or Varys being his delightful manipulative self. It was an excellent week and gives us glimpses at what’s to come, for better or worse.

Episode Grade : A