Castle Black: Sam realizes he wants to ditch his army, too. He wants to enroll in the Westeros college—The Citadel—where smart people read books to become a maester, and are eventually rewarded with big heavy metal chains to lug around for the rest of their lives. (“Here’s your 50-pound diploma, now don’t ever take it off.”)
Sam says he’s almost certainly going to die if he stays at Castle Black, and Gilly will too. Jon is disappointed, as Sam’s the only loyal person he has left, and calls himself the most hated man in Castle Black. Jon should really realize how screwed he is just by saying those words—you can’t only have one loyal person on side when ruling a band of criminals. And the more I think about all this, the more I feel Sam really accidentally hosed Jon by volunteering him as Lord Commander. But Jon relents. Sam also reveals he finally lost his virginity. “Glad the end of the world is working out for somebody,” Jon quips. They toast Sam’s eventual return. Right.
Near Winterfell: Brienne has been standing there in the snow watching the tower window for weeks. But then Pod spots Stannis. Internal conflict. Stannis killed Renly. But she swore to look out for Sansa. For once, Brienne decides to do something just for herself.
She tracks Stannis. By the end of his losing battle, he doesn’t have much fight left. She is quite literally putting him out of his misery. “I sentence you to die,” Brienne says.
“Go on,” he says, “do your duty.”
It’s a type of death we don’t often get on Thrones: Stannis is physically okay, but his spirit is so utterly crushed that he’s just totally surrendered.
So Brienne kills Stannis. (Yes, book readers, I know—first The Hound, now Stannis). And boy, did Stannis have it coming. If only she ran into him a little earlier.
Another thought: Who would have ever figured, when the War of the Five Kings first began in season 2, that the last professed king standing would be … Balon Greyjoy! And we haven’t even seen Theon’s dad since season 3. Wonder if this means if he’ll pop up next year….
Winterfell: Sansa uses that stolen corkscrew in a way we did not expect—to escape her room. Sansa knows if there’s ever a chance to escape, it’s while forces are preparing for battle since Ramsay is focused on holding off Stannis rather than tormenting his bride. Sansa finally goes to the tower window to light a candle and signal Brienne.
But Sansa is stopped by Myranda and Theon. Myranda has a bow. “I’d rather die now, just go ahead and do it,” Sansa says, but Myranda has other plans—to wound her. Finally, in the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Theon hits his Vader-like turning point. He grabs the kennel keeper’s daughter and chucks her over the ledge and she hits the stone floor below and goes splat.
Now they really need to escape. Ramsay’s punishment would be … probably unimaginable to anybody but him. They run along the castle walls. With all the snow, the distance to the ground is uncertain. There’s something wonderfully romantic about this moment. Two childhood friends, who have been through hell, coming back together, they take hands, and then taking a leap of desperation and faith, jump … and that’s all we know.
A castle wall may not technically be a “cliff,” but this is like a literal cliffhanger.