(Spoilerz a Plenti.) Pointing to the first two episodes of Season 6 as examples of narrative economy may seem a bit rich, given that it took nearly two full hours for the show to resurrect Jon Snow, even though everyone already knew he was coming back. But when you take into account the sheer number of characters who have been killed off to advance the plot, Season 6 also seemed to be sprinting toward the endgame.
The executions will continue until morale improves. The camera lingered on Olly and Thorne for long enough that it was clear that their deaths were supposed to be satisfying, though I mostly found them disturbing. For the most part, however, “Oathbreaker” was an episode about slowing down the pace and setting up identity crises for its characters. Snow has abandoned the Night’s Watch and now needs to figure out who he is; no one at Vaes Dothrak seems to give a crap that Daenarys is the breaker of chains; Tommen will have to choose between Cersei and his cool new dad, the High Sparrow; and King’s Landing itself is being torn between three factions, Cersei/Jamie/Zombie, the Small Council, and the Faith Militant. While the show teases the Battle of the Bastards we all know is coming, these and other ongoing identity crises will take up the bulk of the action.
Nowhere was the commitment to giving fans just a taste more apparent than in its depiction of the Tower of Joy. The interior of that tower clearly holds the key to Snow’s fate, but as with his resurrection, the show isn’t going to play its hand until the time is right. Book readers have been more than ready to have R+L=J confirmed for years now, but this episode made it clear that neither Bran nor Snow are ready for that. So, like Bran, we have to learn to be patient, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Especially because it looks like we’re going to be spending a lot of time with Ramsay and Osha and Rickon, and I’m not looking forward to that at all.