(Forget it, Jake. It’s Spoilertown.)
The final shot of Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones—a naked Daenarys emerging out of fire before an awed crowd—was a direct callback to the final shot of the show’s first season. After four seasons of toil—conquering cities and then getting bogged down in them—Dany is back where she started, having lost everything she had won, and she’s stronger for it.
Something similar is happening to Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, who became the first Stark siblings (well, they think they’re siblings and that’s all that matters) to share a scene since the end of the show’s first season. Their storylines are also reaching towards something resembling a reset button and it’s clear that, having emerged from traumatic experiences, they are also going to set about regaining what was lost.
Season 6 has had a very, very bloody start—if you don’t have a very specific purpose in the show, Benioff and Weiss have probably already killed you—but it’s also corrected for three of the last two seasons’ biggest weaknesses. First, the show’s most important characters are slowly but surely reuniting. Sunday night’s episode, like Episode 3, was filled with emotional reunions—Jon and Sansa, Dany and Daario and Jorah of House Friendzone, Maergary and Loras, Littlefinger and Game of Thrones—and its protagonists, after suffering immensely, are realizing what actually matters.
Second, the pace is brisk, to say the least. If Dany was captured in Season 4, she would’ve been in Vaes Dothrak for at least eight episodes. There are times when things seem to be moving too fast, but it’s still better than the alternative. And third, though I have no confidence that it lasts, the show’s female characters are taking over: In nearly every scene in last night’s episode, a woman was the strongest, most assertive character in the room (except for poor Osha). And hey, whatever else happens, we still have Brienne and Tormund to look forward to.