In the fifth episode of the new season of
Game of Thrones, Gendry Baratheon, the last surviving Baratheon heir (and an illegitimate one, at that) made his long-awaited return to the series. In the sixth, we see the return of Benjen Stark, Ned Stark’s little brother and the former First Ranger of the Night’s Watch—only for him to depart again, just as quickly. Since the show departed from George R.R. Martin’s books last season—it finally outpaced the material he had written—it has gotten increasingly outlandish in the entrances and exits it devises for its characters. Gone are the days when a lord or lady might be burned on a pyre. No, now they are reduced to cinders by dragons, who double as Daenerys Targaryen’s personal flamethrowers. (Even the dragons, it appears, aren’t exempt.) You want to make a grand entrance? Make sure you come with no less than a full fleet of battle ships. Whatever they do, the players on Game of Thrones aren’t doing it quietly. Here, this season’s most melodramatic arrivals and departures so far.
Olenna Tyrell may have been served poison after her army had been defeated and her grain stores raided, but she didn’t go out without making a gut-punch of a reveal: It was she who poisoned Joffrey Baratheon, not his uncle Tyrion Lannister, three ago. Good thing Cersei is again pregnant by her brother, because their incestuous brood has dwindled considerably since Joffrey’s death.
Melisandre might have made her graceful exit when she incited Stannis Baratheon to roast his own daughter Shireen on a burning pyre, but no—it’s taken her two more seasons to take her leave. She left Dragonstone bound for Volantis, but never fear. She’ll be back, because, as she promised, she has to die in Westeros. As does Varys, apparently.
Not Bran Stark precisely, but at least, his social skills—since he became the Three-Eyed Raven, these have quietly bid him adieu (as Meera Reed says dramatically, “You died in that cave”). Even his sister Arya, who has undergone her own transformation into a girl with no name (it’s Arya. her name is Arya.), has taken note. The Three-Eyed Raven might be the biggest drama queen in Westeros, and it’s a land filled with high drama. “I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark,” he tells Meera. “But I remember so much else now.” Including, apparently, “everything that’s ever happened to anyone.”
Speaking of Meera Reed, Bran Stark’s faithful companion north of the wall takes her leave once Bran (sorry, the Three-Eyed Raven) is securely installed back at Winterfell.
Entrance, Then Exit: Nymeria
Nymeria (Stark?), Arya Stark’s direwolf, had been AWOL since the first season, but she returned earlier this year for a brief mystical encounter with her former mistress in the forest. Just as quickly as she appears, Nymeria vanishes again into the woods, because a wolf has no master.
Exit: Ellaria Sand and the Sandsnakes
The latest victim of Cersei Lannister’s revenge tour—an odyssey that gives Arya Stark’s murder list some real competition—Ellaria Sand and her daughter were chained in the basement of the Red Keep, where Ellaria was forced to watch her daughter die of the same poison with which she poisoned Myrcella Lannister.
Euron Greyjoy didn’t make a literal return this season, because after he dropped in on the Iron Islands last season, he never really left. But when he arrived at King’s Landing earlier this season, intent on seducing Cersei Lannister—or at least securing the power and authority that comes with marrying her—he did so with a new look. Meera’s departure from Winterfell may have been meme-able, but it couldn’t compare to the stir Euron’s Rick Owens makeover caused on Twitter.
Entrance: Jorah Mormont, But Not His Greyscale
Thanks to Samwell Tarley, Jorah “no one glowers like you” Mormont has been reintegrated into society, free of greyscale at last. It remains to be seen if that’s a good thing.
Entrance, Then Exit: Dickon Tarly
Dickon Tarly, gone too soon. While he made a prominent entrance at the beginning of the season and spent the first four episodes currying favor with Jaime Lannister—seeming to secure his future on the series in the process—it turns out, he allied himself with the wrong team; this week, he was promptly incinerated alongside his father.
Entrance: The Night King
The Night King, still freezing hearts and taking names, is back, and Jon Snow and co. are running straight for him.
Entrance: Gendry Baratheon
Certainly our favorite blacksmith-hammer-wielding bastard, if not our favorite bastard, Gendry Baratheon, the illegitimate son of King Robert Baratheon, made a grand re-entrance, joining the cause of the King in the North.
Entrance, Then Exit: Benjen Stark
First Ranger of the Night’s Watch Benjen Stark makes a grand entrance swinging a ball and chain wreathed in fire. He sends Jon Snow on his way, and we last see him falling beneath a dog pile of wights. (Zombies. They’re zombies.) Local hero Benjen Stark seems to always show up at the right place at the right time.
Don’t call her Dany. That’s all.
The Brotherhood Without Banners is dwindling; Thoros of Myr has been eviscerated by a zombie bear. (Zombies, everywhere.) For the uninitiated, Thoros is the one without the eyepatch. The other one is Beric.
Exit: Viserion, Entrance: Zombie Dragon
To anyone who isn’t Daenerys, her three dragons—her “children,” as she tells us again and again—might appear interchangeable. But with the death of Viserion by the Night King’s ice javelin, we lose the dragon named for her psychopathic late brother Viserys Targaryen. But where we lose a dragon, we gain a zombie dragon, which definitely seems like an upgrade as far as fantasy scenarios go.
Exit: Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
Honestly, it’s impressive Littlefinger survived this long. Nobody wanted him around, least of all the sisters Stark, who wrought his demise. But as they say, one man’s death is another woman’s death mask. Arya, here’s a face for your morbid collection of tokens.