Week in 'Game of Thrones': It's the All Stark Show

Game of Thrones-Ned Stark 1-H 2016
Courtesy of HBO

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) did what he thought was right, and he was murdered for it. Now, he's back. Why?

Fresh from returning from the dead, Jon wrestles with this particular question, mulling over his purpose moving forward, and doubting the choices that brought him to this place. For now, all he knows are the two immediate next items on his agenda: kill his killers, and ditch the Night's Watch for good.

The third episode of Game of Thrones' sixth season, "Oathbreaker," more than lived up to the title, as Jon executed the four main mutineers responsible for his death — including Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) and Olly (Brennock O'Connor). Exhausted and disenchanted, the miraculously alive Jon followed up his decision by removing his Lord Commander robe and title, officially ending his watch. Where will he go next? Hopefully not too far — not with his half-sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) still on her way toward Castle Black.

Here's how the week played out for the other members of Jon's family:

1. Bran Experiences Joy

Where Jon experienced nothing but grief, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) literally witnessed Joy, as in the fabled battle his father waged at the very end of Robert's Rebellion. It's one of the most cherished scenes in the A Song of Ice and Fire books on which Thrones is based, legendary for what it may or may not reveal about Jon Snow's true lineage.

"I read the script and thought this could be the key to finding out a lot about who exactly Ned is, and in the books, there are theories and speculation that this is very connected to the R+L=J theory," Hempstead Wright told THR about the scene. "So it was pretty cool to see that as a viewer. Not only are we getting that flashback to find out more about Ned's history, but to act right there in the midst of all the fighting going on… that was pretty special."

2. The Lord of Winterfell Returns

Eddard Stark's death remains the pivotal turn in Game of Thrones, making it clear that any and every character was up for grabs, no matter how important. Since then, the show has focused on the late Warden of the North's children — but season six is once again turning the spotlight on Ned himself, as played by Robert Aramayo in episode three's Tower of Joy scene.

"Ned, he's the most honorable man we've met in the story, and I wanted to find out what a young man's version of that is," Aramayo told THR of his take on Ned. "I wanted to look into somebody who hasn't figured out some of the things Ned's figured out by the time we meet him in the first season. It was very important to me, that area of character development to explore. I didn't want to just do an impression of Ned Stark. I wanted to find out where Ned was in this period of time as a much younger man."

3. Back to the Future

Though the Tower of Joy did not contain the Snow-stopping reveal so many fans were hoping to see, it did drop another massive bombshell. In the scene, Bran calls out for his father, and Ned apparently hears … well, something. For his part, Aramayo was tight-lipped on his interpretation of the scene, but Hempstead Wright was more forthcoming about Bran's possible new power levels.

"It's enough of a utility to just be able to look back in time and allow that to inform your decisions in the future, but the fact that you might be able to change time? It's massive," he said. "It's unprecedented. For Bran, it presents a humongous kind of challenge, because we all know from Doctor Who that if you start messing with time, things go wrong. I think the temptation now is definitely there. Who's to say Bran couldn't go back in time and stop himself from getting pushed out of that window? It opens up a whole different world of possibilities for Bran, and a whole new set of challenges he's going to have to face."

4. Where's Rickon?

But enough about Bran. He's far from the only Stark at the heart of major plot developments this week. After two full seasons away from the series, Art Parkinson's Rickon Stark returned to Game of Thrones in episode three, albeit not under the best circumstances: Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) now holds Rickon hostage, a devastating development for the true Northerners. 

But to hear Parkinson tell it, fans shouldn't worry so much about young Rickon. The actor told THR: "Rickon, since he's come back, is a lot stronger emotionally and is much more of a mature character. I think he's able to handle pretty much anything thrown his way at the moment."

5. Stark Trek: Into Darkness

Elsewhere, away from Westeros, another Stark finds herself at the heart of an eye-opening reveal: Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), now with her sight restored and once again employed by the House of Black and White. It looks like Arya is ready to take her Faceless vows seriously, but to hear Williams tell it, the road ahead still contains much darkness for the young wolf.

"She's going to develop a skill that's going to come in handy and will benefit her for a very, very long time," Williams told THR. "I guess the people who are training her are going to almost create a bit of a monster. They're going to give away all of their best kept secrets, and she's going to ultimately use that to her advantage."

6. Starks in the Night

With "Oathbreaker" finished, it's time to look toward the upcoming episode, "Book of the Stranger." In the preview for the episode, Sansa Stark finally appears to arrive at Castle Black, but where's Jon? Her half brother just abandoned the Night's Watch, after all. Is he still lurking around the Wall when Sansa arrives, or will the two pass each other by, as so many Starks have done over the course of the series?

Whether or not she reunites with Jon, there are other familiar faces looking out for Sansa. Take Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), for instance. The preview for episode four sees Littlefinger's return, after a six-episode absence from the series. He's in the Vale, recounting the news that Sansa escaped Winterfell. Will Littlefinger finally march north to help bring House Bolton tumbling down?

7. The Winds Howl

Looking past Game of Thrones, this week brought movement on the A Song of Ice and Fire front. Author George R.R. Martin released a new chapter from the upcoming sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter, focusing on characters in Dorne who do not exist on the show. It's a stark reminder of the differences between the HBO adaptation and the original source material.

However, it's not a sign that Martin's book is nearing publication. The author was quick to shoot down any such speculation, explicitly stating: "And no, just to spike any bullshit rumors, changing the sample chapter does NOT mean I am done." Still, many readers would agree that one new chapter is better than none.

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