Early Winter in the Riverlands, Part 4: the Warrior Maid

Continuing the theme of obsessing over the Riverlands in S6, I had to get to Brienne eventually. We don’t really know what she’s doing next year, but she’s as good a candidate as any for the Riverlands, so why not?

We have heard about Gwendoline Christie filming fight scenes for 3 days, though I can’t tell at what stage of the season that fighting takes place. If it’s early-season, then I’d look at an encounter with Bolton troops near Winterfell. If it’s mid-season or later, then I’d put more money on a fight with some of this outlaw band in the Riverlands. She might also beat up some Freys, but she’d make short work of them.

We’re still very, very squishy about where Brienne and her peeps go, and with whom they interact, in S6, but in light of other filming news, the Riverlands is looking more and more appropriate as a place for our big Sapphire Islander and her traveling companion(s).

So far, we have some very promising signs of Jaime heading up to the Riverlands, though no earlier than Ep7, and spending time doing important business at Riverrun. That doesn’t leave him a lot of time or space to do other interesting things north of the Crownlands, though. We’re also hearing noises of Arya heading to the Riverlands in S6, though she has no more than Ep8-10 to do so.

We’re still getting the outlaw band, the gruff rural priest, and some hapless Frey son who needs lots of leading cast to join him for good scenes. We also have a book-based frame of reference for Brienne and Podrick traveling the Riverlands, and while the context of them doing so would be very different in S6, there’s no reason why that different context can’t be utilized appropriately.

Maybe we’ll see Melisandre in the Riverlands for a little while, but if so, she’ll want to get back to Castle Black fairly quickly, as she has a certain Northern bastard to resurrect.

With other characters’ time restrictions in mind, I think the show will most likely hew to the books and have Elder Meribald make his “Broken Men” speech to Brienne and Podrick. The speech would feel different on the show, as Brienne is characterized a bit differently from in the books. TV!Brienne is not quite so innocent as the big swordswench we get up until late Book 4, and she doesn’t need to be told about the trauma of war turning men into monsters. The speech could still be meaningful to Podrick, though, and if they have Sansa with them, the monologue could function as a way to give her some perspective on what’s been happening to the common-born people while she was handed from one set of high-ranking abusers to another.

If Elder Meribald has the gravedigger with him when he interacts with Brienne & Co., that gives Sandor a chance to see what the woman who nearly killed him is up to, it gives Sansa a glimpse at Sandor after he’s taken some distance from fighting and killing, and it may even give Brienne a chance to reflect on the significance of her fight with the Hound.

If Brienne and Podrick go to the Riverlands without Sansa, it’ll be because they’ve already made sure she’s safe with someone else. If they go with her, though, then Sansa will be another leading-cast character who’s available to have good scenes with the hapless probably-Frey son.

Unlike Littlefinger, Brienne isn’t averse to mingling with low-born people. Unlike Melisandre, she doesn’t have any pressing matters demanding her presence at the Wall. She has nowhere to be except wherever it is that keeps her squire and her lady’s daughter as not-unsafe as possible. (Yes, I just used a double negative. Sandor said there’s no safety anywhere, and that’s a fair point, but some situations are less unsafe than others.) Unlike Jaime, she doesn’t have an army to command, and she isn’t occupied with the King’s Landing crowd for the first two-thirds of the season. Unlike pretty much anyone else currently in play, she has a nice young man with her who wants to be a knight and who could benefit from a little sermon on how war is a bad thing that fucks up otherwise decent people. Unlike anyone else in play, she has tasked herself with protecting a girl who is interested in getting away from the Boltons, and unlike anyone else, she is due to reconnect with Jaime, who appears to be spending some late-season time at Riverrun.

Therefore, I have a list of possible candidates to share those three episodes’ worth of “good scenes” with the hapless son who appears to be a Frey:

  • Melisandre
  • Jaime
  • Bronn
  • Brienne
  • Podrick
  • Sansa
  • Arya

Is that enough to make “lots of leading cast,” do you think?