At Winterfell, Littlefinger meets with the recently-returned Bran Stark. Apparently hoping to exploit disunity among the Stark children, he tries to ingratiate himself with Bran, Ned Stark's last trueborn son and rightful heir to Winterfell. Littlefinger gives Bran a gift, the very same Valyrian steel dagger that a cutthroat tried to kill him with while he was in a coma right after he was pushed from one of Winterfell's towers. Bran is still emotionally detached, however, from all of his visions as the new Three-eyed raven, and is generally uninterested, only absent-mindedly asking who the dagger belonged to. With a wry look, Littlefinger responds that, in a way, this is the question which started the entire War of the Five Kings. Bran's mother Catelyn Stark took the dagger south with her to King's Landing to try to find who it belonged to, convinced the Lannisters sent the cutthroat to kill Bran (and left it there in Ned's possession, from whom Littlefinger recovered it). Littlefinger tries to manipulate Bran by remarking on how much chaos he must have lived through to get back to Winterfell. In response, Bran looks at Littlefinger and says, "Chaos is a ladder," quoting back Littlefinger's own words to him, which Littlefinger said to Varys in King's Landing years before and which Bran couldn't possibly have been physically present to hear himself. Visibly unnerved, Littlefinger is startled by Meera Reed entering the room. He takes his leave of Bran, calling him "Lord Stark", though again Bran insists he's not a Lord.
Little Waiting Time...
After Littlefinger leaves, Meera notices Bran's new wheelchair. He explains Maester Wolkan built it for him. She tells him that she has come to tell him she's leaving and say goodbye; she promised to keep him safe, and now that he's back in Winterfell surrounded by his Stark forces, he's as safe as anyone will be before the coming war. Meera explains that when the White Walkers arrive, she wants to be with her family, so she is heading back to the Neck to assist the Crannogmen. She says he doesn't need her in Winterfell anymore; Bran agrees with her and with blank emotional affect, simply thanking her for her help. Meera grows angry that this is all he has to say after everything they went through, when Hodor and Summer and even her own brother Jojen died for Bran. He then explains that he isn't really "Bran Stark" anymore, but the Three-eyed raven. He "remembers" the events of Bran Stark's life, but now "remembers" vast amounts of other accumulated memories from centuries upon centuries. Everything that once affected "Bran Stark" now seems distant and trivial to him. In horror, Meera cries that he "died" in the cave and leaves.
Meanwhile, Arya Stark finally returns to Winterfell, after leaving years before with her father, Sansa, and King Robert Baratheon's entourage, right after Bran's fall from the tower. Arya rides up to the gates and dismounts, but the guards don't believe her when she says she is in fact Arya Stark, convinced that Arya has been dead for years. Arya asks that they send word to Maester Luwin and Rodrik Cassel, hoping either can prove her identity but unaware they are both dead. The guards gruffly say that no one by those names is there, so Arya asks for Jon. The two say he'd just left Winterfell. Arya asks who is in charge of Winterfell then, and they say "Lady Stark" (who Arya realizes is her sister). They try to brush her aside, but she dodges them with her assassin's reflexes, and insists that one way or another, she's getting in. She explains to them that if she is Arya, they'll be in a lot of trouble for turning her away, and if she isn't, she won't last long in Winterfell anyway. Mildly concerned, they agree to at least let her in the courtyard but insist that she stay put while they consult Sansa so they can disprove her identity. As soon as they take their eyes off her, however, she slips away. The two guards go to inform Sansa and try to wave it aside as just some impostor, but when they mention she asked for Luwin and Cassel, she instantly realizes it must be Arya, and already knows where she has gone.
Sansa finds Arya where she expected, in the crypts looking over their father Ned's grave. They are happy to see each other but so much has happened to both of them in the past few years that they are at first awkward, unsure of what to say. Arya asks if she has to call Sansa "Lady Stark" now, to which Sansa firmly insists yes, and laughs. They smile and hug, though still a bit unsure. Arya notes that Jon left her in charge and smiles when Sansa says that she hopes Jon will be back soon. He will be both surprised and happy to see Arya, Sansa remembering how happy Jon was to see her when they were reunited. The sisters then look sadly on their father's grave statue. Arya says it doesn't really look like him. Sansa acknowledges that everyone who knew his face well is dead. Arya points out they're not.
Arya then asks if Sansa killed Joffrey as everyone believes. She explains she actually didn't, though she wished she had. Arya remarks that he was always at the top of her "list". This confuses Sansa, and Arya explains that she'd been keeping a list of everyone she was going to kill, at which they both laugh. Finally Sansa asks how Arya got back, but she only says her road wasn't a pleasant one. Sansa says hers wasn't either. They hug again, earnestly and warmly. Sansa then informs Arya that Bran is home too. Arya is elated, but her face falls when Sansa makes no mention of Rickon, immediately realizing that Rickon is dead.
Sansa brings Arya to Bran in the Godswood, where he is lost in thought by the Weirwood heart tree. Arya is saddened to see him so paralyzed. Still somewhat detached even at the sight of Arya, he says he isn't surprised she's alive because he saw her at the Crossroads. Arya is confused, and Sansa explains that Bran is having "visions" now. Bran says he thought Arya was going to King's Landing, and when Sansa asks why she would head there of all places, he again startles them both by saying it's because Cersei is on her list of names (which he can't possibly be aware of through normal means). Sansa asks who else is on her list, but she says most of them besides Cersei are actually dead already.
They then remark on the Valyrian steel dagger in his lap, and he explains that Littlefinger gave it to him, thinking he'd want it. Despite it being such a horrible keepsake that nearly killed him and indirectly set off a chain of events leading to his parents' deaths, he is still listless and disinterested in it. Arya is confused as to why a common cuthroat would have a rare, priceless blade of Valyrian steel. Bran matter-of-factly says that someone very wealthy wanted him dead, and gave it to the assassin. Sansa acknowledges she doesn't actually trust Littlefinger and he'd never give anyone anything unless expecting something in return.
Bran says that doesn't matter, because he doesn't even want it. Instead, Bran hands it to Arya and says she can have it, being "wasted on a cripple". Sansa looks down, dejected at how her brother considers his own physical state to be useless.
Sansa, Bran, and Arya - the three remaining trueborn Stark children - proceed back to Winterfell's castle courtyard together, with Arya pushing Bran in his wheelchair. Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne see them from afar, all three of Catelyn Stark's surviving children reunited. Pod says Catelyn would be proud of Brienne, but she chides that she did next to nothing. Pod says he disagrees with "my lady", and Brienne starts to correct him that she doesn't consider herself a "lady", but then stops halfway and just thanks him for the compliment.
Some time later, Brienne is going through a vigorous sword practice session with Podrick, knocking him down when he overextends himself. Impressed, Arya interrupts and says she'd like to spar with Brienne, the woman who beat the Hound in combat. Sansa and Littlefinger watch on silently from the walkway above. Brienne goes easy on her at first, but then Arya completely outmaneuvers Brienne using the Water Dance training she received from Syrio Forel, augmented by her training with the Faceless Men. Arya achieves many openings that would be a killing blow if she wanted them to be. Surprised that such a young girl is so skilled, Brienne stops holding back, leading to a more grueling sparring session. Brienne actually manages to knock Needle out of Arya's hand but she simply switches to the Valyrian steel dagger she had in her belt. Arya uses her speed and agility to compensate for Brienne's strength and size to overwhelm her - until Brienne actually manages to bring her brute strength to bear on a fast moving target by landing a kick on Arya's chest that sends her falling down. Ultimately, they reach a stalemate, with each of them holding a blade at the others' throat. Brienne asks Arya who taught her to fight like that, and she simply responds, "no one". Arya takes her leave of Brienne, both mutually impressed, as Sansa looks down baffled and concerned at how her sister reached such a deadly skill level. Arya herself then glares at an equally surprised Littlefinger.
In King's Landing, Cersei meets with Tycho Nestoris again, to discuss paying off the throne's debts to the Iron Bank, and hiring the Golden Company.
In King's Landing, Queen Cersei Lannister is happy to learn of the gold taken from the Fall of Highgarden. The Lannister army at Highgarden is currently transporting the gold ahead to the capital, though it remains in the north of the Reach seizing grain supplies.
Cersei meets with Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank of Braavos in her atrium containing a large floor map of Westeros. Tycho is pleased that Cersei will use the captured gold to pay off the Iron Throne's massive debts to the bank, and he engages in open flattery by saying that she is as cunning at military strategy as her father Tywin was, if not more so.
Now that the Lannisters' old debts will be mostly paid off, and the Iron Bank's faith in them somewhat reassured by their recent military victories, Cersei wants to take out new loans to strengthen her position in the war, so she can finish securing control over the rest of the continent. They discuss that Cersei wants to use the money to hire foreign Sellsword companies to bolster the depleted Lannister military ranks. Specifically, she reveals that she has had Qyburn make overtures to hire the best and largest private mercenary army in all of the Free Cities: the Golden Company. Tycho assures her that the Iron Bank will be delighted to help her with these future endeavors, once it receives the gold she is bringing them.
On Dragonstone, Daenerys Targaryen and Missandei make their way down to the beach to meet Jon Snow. Missandei is worried about Grey Worm because they haven't heard any news from Casterly Rock yet. Daenerys asks what happened between her and Grey Worm, and Missandei wryly says "many things", smiling. Jon then leads Daenerys on a tour of the long-abandoned Valyrian dragonglass mine that Samwell Tarly told him about. The mine is ancient and impressive, used by the First Men long before the Valyrians came to Dragonstone. But this is not why Jon asked Daenerys to come.
As they proceed deeper into the mines led by torchlight, Jon shows her cave paintings they discovered left behind by the Children of the Forest, filled with arcane magical symbols. Daenerys is stunned that the mythical Children stood where they are standing now, thousands upon thousands of years ago, long before mankind ever arrived in Westeros. Jon says this isn't exactly true, leading her into another chamber, this one filled with narrative drawings of the Children and the First Men. Daenerys wonders if the Children and First Men fought each other, but Jon then shows her ancient carvings of the White Walkers themselves, one of which Jon recognizes as an image of the Night King. Jon explains that the Children of the Forest and the First Men only managed to drive off the White Walkers the first time during the Long Night because they chose to join together to fight off their own extinction, and that is the choice between Jon and Daenerys now.
Jon still wants Daenerys to ally with him despite not submitting the North to her rule. He insists that the North won't accept a southern ruler again after everything that has happened to them. Daenerys urges that they will if their king does. If his point in showing her the cave drawings was that she should swallow her pride and ally with him because the White Walkers are such a world-ending threat, by the same token, the North should submit to her, because their survival should outweigh their pride.
As they exit the cave to the beach, they are joined by Varys and Tyrion, with grave looks on their faces. They inform her that the Unsullied succeeded in capturing Casterly Rock, only to then reveal the disaster which just occurred at Highgarden as Tyrion's military strategy fell apart. Casterly Rock was only a feint and the Lannisters didn't bother defending it, in order to make a surprise attack south which sacked Highgarden. Daenerys is furious and struggles to keep her temper, as now all three of her major allies in Westeros are gone and all she has gained is a castle with no supplies. She snaps at Tyrion, blaming his cautious strategy for losing them Dorne, the Iron Islands (Yara's forces), and now the Reach. She then accuses Tyrion of wanting to use a light hand against the Lannisters because they're his own people. Tyrion insists that they still have just enough ships left to at least shuttle the Dothraki from Dragonstone to the nearby mainland coast; even with the loss of all her other allies, her combined Unsullied/Dothraki forces are still the largest single army in Westeros. Daenerys fumes that her vast numbers are useless if she can't feed them all, as that was the Reach's true strategic value. Daenerys decides she has had enough of clever plans, and will use the Dothraki and her dragons in a direct assault to turn the tide of the war back in her favor. She desires to assault the Red Keep with all three of her dragons, intending to raze it to the ground with all her enemies inside it, but Jon argues against such a course of action when she asks him his opinion; by bringing dragons back to life and breaking the back of the slave trade, Daenerys has proven she might be capable of doing things differently. However, if she uses her dragons in a similar fashion, to "melt castles and burn cities", she will be no different from any of the more tyrannical of her Targaryen ancestors who came before her.
Later, Jon and Davos Seaworth proceed back up to the castle. Davos remarks that Jon seems somewhat attracted to Daenerys, but though Jon says Daenerys has a good heart, he brushes Davos' observation aside, saying he doesn't have time "for that" as he has seen the Night King and his horde of the undead. Jon stresses that they need to ally with Daenerys, because the North itself is largely depleted of soldiers after so many years of war (and the Red Wedding), so they only have maybe 10,000 soldiers or less left (to which Davos corrects "fewer").
They then run into Missandei again, and politely enquires why Jon's surname is "Snow" even though House Stark has ruled the North for centuries, and his father Ned and brother Robb both had the surname "Stark", while he doesn't. Jon and Davos explain to her the system of regional surnames used in Westeros for bastard children of the nobility. Missandei doesn't know what they mean, so they literally explain that Jon's parents weren't married. Davos asks if they have similar customs for bastards on Naath, Missandei's birthplace. Missandei explains that "Marriage" as such does not exist in Naath, so she finds the idea of a "bastard" to be quite an alien concept. Davos remarks that it sounds liberating. He then asks when she left, to which Missandei finally reveals that she was taken by slavers, to be freed only years later by Daenerys. When Davos suggests Missandei simply traded one master for another, she counters that she and all the freed slaves serve Daenerys because they choose to. Davos keeps pushing, asking what would happen if Missandei decided to return to Naath immediately. She responds that Daenerys would give her a ship and wish her good fortune.
While they are still on the causeway, they see a lone ironborn ship approaching the island, a survivor of Yara Greyjoy's fleet. Theon Greyjoy himself and some of his men come to shore on a rowboat. As Theon disembarks, he is stunned to see Jon Snow, whom he had had last seen leaving Winterfell to join the Night's Watch. Since then, Theon of course had betrayed House Stark, a factor (albeit not the only one) that nearly destroyed House Stark and contributed to the deaths of two of Jon's half-brothers, Robb and Rickon. Jon is stunned for a moment as well. Theon walks up to Jon and asks him if Sansa is all right, prompting a furious Jon to angrily grab him by his coat and shake him. Remembering all of Theon's past treachery, Jon tells Theon that what he did to save Sansa is the only reason that he is not killing him on the spot and releases him. Visibly relieved, Theon informs them that Euron Greyjoy attacked their fleet and took Yara prisoner. He says he has returned to ask Daenerys's help in saving her. Jon grudgingly tells him that Daenerys has just left.
At Highgarden, Jaime Lannister coordinates the soldiers loading up the spoils of war for transport. The sack of Highgarden allowed them to seize all of House Tyrell's substantial gold stores, which they send ahead to King's Landing first, before moving on to securing grain shipments. Jaime procures a large bag of gold coins and gives it to Bronn as payment for his services. Bronn, however, is annoyed that this isn't the full reward he was promised, which included a wife from the nobility and a castle. He then half-seriously asks why Jaime doesn't just grant him Highgarden, as they need someone to rule it. Jaime waves this aside by saying they don't actually intend to hold Highgarden for long; it would be difficult for Bronn of all people to rule over hostile territory, and the war isn't over yet, so at this point he thinks Bronn should be satisfied with a more portable sack of gold than a castle he'll have trouble defending. Bronn, however, is not amused. Jaime remarks that they're going to continue seizing grain supplies in the northern Reach.
Some time later, Jaime's Lannister army has advanced much farther north, and reaches the Blackwater Rush. Lord Randyll Tarly comes to Jaime and says they should hurry to get all of their grain wagons over the Blackwater river to King's Landing, as they will be vulnerable if their formation is caught on both sides of the river. Jaime agrees, but Randyll suggests flogging the stragglers to motivate them. Jaime urges that his soldiers fought well at Highgarden, however, and he should at least give them a fair warning first instead of launching right into the flogging. Jaime and Bronn then encounter Randyll's son Dickon Tarly again. Jaime asks what he thought of his first taste of battle, and he nervously claims it was glorious, only to then dejectedly admit that he was quite conflicted. House Tarly had been loyal vassals of the Tyrells for generations; he knew many of the men they killed, even hunted side by side with them. Jaime earnestly advises the young man that the guilt is not his but Olenna Tyrell's; she was the one who chose to side with Daenerys's foreign army against Queen Cersei, so it is truly Olenna's fault they died. Dickon himself wasn't involved with the decision making process on either side so he shouldn't dwell on it. Dickon then outright confesses that the aftermath was horrible, particularly the stench of corpses. Bronn playfully taunts that Dickon, a sheltered nobleman, finally learned that men empty their bowels when they die.
The Lannister army and wagon train continue east, approaching a river. Jaime and Bronn are then surprised to hear what sounds like distant thunder, until they realize it must be approaching cavalry. Jaime and Randyll shout for their soldiers to form up, which they manage to do before the enemy crests over the horizon: a massive, 100,000-strong horde of Dothraki cavalry, armed to the teeth and ululating loud war cries. Bronn advises that Jaime ride ahead to King's Landing, but Jaime insists he will not abandon his men. Bronn bluntly tells him the Dothraki will quickly overwhelm the Lannister lines and Jaime is too valuable as a commander to stay and fight, but Jaime insists that they have a chance if they hold.
At that moment, the sound of thundering hooves and Jaime's determination is drowned by a massive roar, a roar not heard on the battlefields of Westeros in over a century and a half. Above the approaching Dothraki the Lannister army sees a huge adult dragon heading straight for their lines: Drogon, ridden by Daenerys Targaryen herself. Drogon outpaces the Dothraki, and at Daenerys's command "Dracarys", he blasts a torrent of fire through the Lannister ranks in a straight line from front to back, punching a hole in their formation. The highly mobile Dothraki light cavalry immediately sweep through it and wheel around to catch those parts of the Lannister lines in an enveloping move.
The Lannister-Tarly lines around Jaime and Randyll, however, manage to rally under their leadership. The Dothraki charge into the Lannister lines head-on, but meet stiff resistance as their spear wall holds firm. Though they are outnumbered, the Lannister soldiers are better armed heavy infantry, highly disciplined and battle-hardened veterans from years of war. Dothraki horse-archers let off shots before charging into their ranks, but highly-trained Tarly archers return fire, doing as much if not more damage, as the Dothraki wear less armor.
The Lannister army holds their line for a time, but their enemy has the advantage of weight in numbers, and the tide turns slowly against them. For a moment it looks like Jaime might at least be able to force the Dothraki to a standstill - but then Daenerys wheels out of the air again, devastating the Lannister formations. No longer trying to punch mere holes through their lines, she switches to outflanking the Lannister ranks, burning a vast horizontal swath of men from left to right, obliterating much of the Lannister wagon train in the process. Men are flash-burned into nothing but ash which crumbles to the touch, or cooked alive in their own superheated armor as they struggle to rip it off, dousing themselves in the river.
Nonetheless, Jaime manages to rally his remaining forces a second time, desperately taking command of a group of surviving Lannister and Tarly archers and directing them to concentrate their fire at the dragon: Drogon might not be vulnerable to common arrow fire, but his rider is. If they can manage to kill Daenerys herself, who has risked appearing in open battle, the entire war could end in a day, no matter their losses. Daenerys sees the attack coming, however, and banks Drogon up so the arrow volley harmlessly bounces off the armored scales on his belly. He then blasts the archer formations with fire. Jaime avoids the flames and is surrounded by enemies, but he manages to carve a path through the Dothraki with his Valyrian steel sword Widow's Wail to try to reach safety. He gets in trouble for a moment when he locks swords with a Dothraki duel-wielding two arakhs, but Dickon Tarly stabs the Dothraki from behind, saving Jaime.
Even then all is not lost; Jaime commands Bronn to reach Qyburn's anti-dragon scorpion-bolt launcher (as Jaime cannot fire it one-handed). After a moment's hesitation, Bronn fights his way back, killing several Dothraki until one cuts off his horse's leg and sends him sprawling, losing his large bag of gold in the process. Bronn continues to fight his way back on foot, chased by the same Dothraki warrior, who follows him into the wagon he was looking for, just in time to stare down the business-end of the loaded scorpion. He barely has time to realize his fate before Bronn fires a bolt into him, flinging him twenty feet and pinning his corpse to another wagon. Bronn reloads the scorpion as fast as he can (it is meant to be crewed by a team of men), spots the dragon in the distance, and fires, but misses. Daenerys is startled by the scorpion-bolt flying a few feet from her head, scans the battlefield, and spots Bronn on the scorpion as he reloads.
Daenerys then leads Drogon on a direct charge diving straight down at Bronn on the scorpion launcher, who waits for her to approach close enough that he hopefully won't miss but before she is right on top of him. He fires another shot, which impales into Drogon's right shoulder. The mighty dragon lets out an awful screech and collapses in shock, helplessly dropping into a free-fall from hundreds of feet in the air.
Bronn is elated, only for Daenerys to quickly break Drogon out of his fall right before they hit the ground, which would have killed them both. The surviving Lannister soldiers then realize that not only is the dragon not dead, he is hurt and extremely angry. Hovering above the river, Drogon sets his sights on the device which did this to him and angrily sends a fire-blast at the scorpion, destroying it a matter of seconds after Bronn narrowly jumps out of the way to safety.
The dragon's armored scales are so tough that the scorpion bolt only managed to cause superficial damage. Nonetheless the flesh wound grounds him, and he howls in pain and fury, destroying any masses of enemy soldiers that are foolish or unlucky enough to get near him. Daenerys dismounts and desperately tries to remove the scorpion bolt.
By this point, the devastation caused by the dragon and the sheer number of Dothraki have totally overwhelmed the Lannister lines, and with the scorpion destroyed, their last hope is gone and the battle turns into an utter rout and massacre. Tyrion Lannister views the battle from the distance of a nearby hill, along with the Dothraki commander Qhono, who remarks that Tyrion's people can't fight. Tyrion looks gravely on the battlefield, realizing that these are in fact his own countrymen from the Westerlands and House Lannister being massacred. Many burning and dying men rush to the river to try to extinguish the flames.
Jaime, however, sees that Daenerys is grounded and immobilized, and realizes he still has one chance; if he can kill Daenerys, even now, he can end her invasion. Jaime grabs a spear and charges his horse across the flaming battlefield to make a death-run for Daenerys as she tends to her dragon. Tyrion swears under his breath, calling his brother a "fucking idiot", angry that he's going to get himself killed.
Just as Jaime is nearly on top of Daenerys, however, Drogon notices him amidst the chaos of the battle. Shielding Daenerys behind his head, the dragon lets out a blast of flame, but Bronn rushes over to tackle Jaime out of the way, saving him from certain death. They both fall into the river, where Jaime is weighed down by his armor, and sinks beneath the waters, in danger of drowning.
Daenerys seeks advice from Jon and Tyrion to win the war. Theon returns to Dragonstone asking his queen for help rescue his sister. Jaime faces an unexpected encounter while transporting the Red Keep's gold. Arya returns home to Winterfell.
PETER DINKLAGE ( Tyrion Lannister )
KIT HARINGTON ( Jon Snow )
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU ( Jaime Lannister )
LENA HEADEY ( Cersei Lannister )
EMILIA CLARKE ( Daenerys Targaryen )