Our Game of Thrones experts Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin are breaking down every episode of the series on our Binge Mode podcast before the show’s Season 7 premiere on July 16. And on every episode of the pod, they pick a winner: a character who did the most to advance their standing in the series. Here are their picks for Season 6:
Episode 1 — Davos Seaworth
Concepcion: Davos shows up into a situation that really has nothing to do with him. [He] instinctively picks the right side — Jon Snow’s side. Puts his life on the line in order to one, take Jon’s body into an antechamber, and two, gamble that Jon’s body isn’t going to sit up as a wight and start fucking hacking him to death. And then he stabilizes a resistance to [Alliser] Thorne and his men. Also, has the foresight to say "Get the dog." Get Ghost!
Rubin: Get Ghost! Protect Ghost! Get those wildlings. Get Mel. The courage that it takes to say "Let’s have a chat with Melisandre" here is big. We can’t understand the full scope of what Davos’s actions mean yet, but if he doesn’t do in this episode what he does, then Jon doesn’t come back to life, and there’s no story. … This is Jon’s story. And so if Davos doesn’t do this, that’s it. His decisions here are that important, and so we want to salute his courage, his instincts.
Episode 2 — Jon Snow
Rubin: This week’s winner didn’t have a ton to do with [the episode], some would argue. But it doesn’t matter because there’s a general rule here at Binge Mode, albeit not one that we applied to Beric back in Season 3, but we’re applying it now. If you come back to life, you win.
Episode 3 — Ramsay Bolton
Concepcion: He’s taken several steps to solidifying the North. The opposition to him is in no way organized. And he can prove that he has stamped out the line of the Starks now. Can’t applaud him, but you know, he did win the episode.
Episode 4 — Daenerys Targaryen
Rubin: And of course, there’s the Mad Queen aspect of this. She literally just burnt them all. That’s literally what she did. But what about all those chats with Barristan about the Mad King and what he did and why it was really really bad and not the thing that Dany should do?
Concepcion: Remember the look on her face when she pushes one of the masters forward into Rhaegal and Viserion’s pen and watches as they flambé this guy and he screams, sinks to his knees. She looks enthralled.
Rubin: It’s borderline erotic to her. It’s the same look she has on her face when she pushes the brazier toward Khal Moro in this episode. She’s not just doing this to escape, she’s not just doing this to survive. She relishes it, and that is alarming. We talk about this a lot — the idea that George [R.R. Martin] rewards reluctant leaders. Dany is power mad at this point. She won the episode, but we’re starting to get a little concerned about her future in the war.
Episode 5 — Sansa Stark
Concepcion: You have to remember how traumatized she is by the things that have happened to her. She’s traumatized because she’s always outsourced her security to other people who she foolishly trusted.
Concepcion: Remember when the Tyrells came to her and said, "Oh you can get married to Loras, this is great." And what happened? She believed in that and decided to stay in King’s Landing, and then all this other shit happened to her, including the Purple Wedding, including getting married to Tyrion. She trusted them, and they just used her for information. She realizes that now. She was used as a pawn. She doesn’t want to be that person anymore. But she’s not a fighter, she’s not a warrior, what can she use? She can use information. That’s what she learned from Littlefinger.
Episode 6 — Samwell Tarly
Concepcion: He displayed a heavy and thick set of nuts just by going home! His father was like, "I’m gonna kill you, boy." And I think this is the best thing to do. He cares more about [Gilly and baby Sam’s] safety than he cared about his own in this moment. And Randyll gives him what he wants. She can work in the kitchens. He can work in the stables. Randyll doesn’t spell it out, but this is what Sam wanted. Are you going to reject that? Yes. Sam is like "Fuck this, I’m not going to take this abuse anymore," and he finally stands up to his dad [and] takes Heartsbane, the 500-year-old ancestral Valyrian steel sword, which — not only is it priceless, but now we know one of the only things that can kill White Walkers. Gonna need that! Better to reject Randyll’s bitter offer and roll the dice at the Citadel than let your family stay here and take this kind of abuse! And of course he makes some amusing small talk about hunting.
Episode 7 — Lyanna Mormont
Concepcion: Shouts to you, Lyanna Mormont. You are a champion. She’ll be in Jon’s war counsel. She’s 10!
Rubin: She is one of the fastest risers to fan-favorite status in the show’s run.
Concepcion: And if you’re Jon, King in the North (who knows if he’s still going to be King in the North in Season 7, we hope so), or whoever is running House Stark has to be like, "I guess Bran and Lyanna Mormont are getting married at some point." I mean you have to give her [a] castle, you have to give her something!
Episode 8 — Arya Stark
Concepcion: Arya got the best of both worlds. She went to assassin university for free. And she discovered her true purpose: killing her foes. She’s someone really important and really awesome and really dope. And why is Lady Crane the one who pushed Arya to this point? She reminds Arya of [her] mom, clearly. Clearly reminds Arya of mom! And the irony is, she reminds Arya of mom because she was playing Cersei, the mom of one of her most hated enemies.
Episode 9 — House Stark
Concepcion: Winter is come.
Rubin: What a beautiful episode for, in many ways, the heroes of the story! Jon and Sansa got back Winterfell.
Concepcion: Haven’t been there since Season 1!
Rubin: They took back their name in many ways.
Concepcion: Their history, their honor.
Rubin: What their name means, what their sigil represents. They took down the bad guys, avenging the Red Wedding, avenging Robb, avenging everything bad that has happened in this region since this story began. Yeah, Rickon died, that’s not great. But, just truly an amazing moment to see the Winterfell battlements draped in Stark colors again, to see the direwolf sigil adorning the walls. It’s incredible. It’s a chilling moment no matter how many times you see it.
Episode 10 — Lyanna and Ned Stark
Rubin: You guys thought we hated Ned but here we are! Giving Ned, giving little Eddard, the champion’s purse!
Concepcion: Watching the Tower of Joy, it’s like when your friends start becoming parents and you start realizing that parents aren’t godlike figures, they’re just people that are doing their best. Ned and Lyanna just — they did their best. And think about Lyanna lying there in the bed of blood, carrying this child all this time as a part of her. The war is raging all around her. She may not even know if Rhaegar is dead. She knows this: She’s not going to live to see her son grow up. And the entire world wants to kill him. Robert, her betrothed, wants to kill him. Tywin Lannister would like nothing more than to deliver the body of this child to Robert Baratheon. Everyone wants to kill this child. All she can do is make her brother swear a promise to protect him. And he did!
Rubin: It worked.
Concepcion: Jon Stark is a king. Shouts to Ned and Lyanna. They made a lot of mistakes, but they did their best and they had the best of intentions. And ultimately, it kind of worked out. The promise was kept.
Rubin: That’s all any of us can ever do, our best.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.