Welcome to “A Song of Nice and Fire” Upworthy’s weekly series recapping one of the most brutal shows on TV. Since brutality is not really in our wheelhouse, Eric March has taken it upon himself to dig deep, twist and turn, and squint really hard to see if he can find the light of kindness in all the darkness. He may not always succeed, but by gosh if he won’t try his best.

Here’s what he found on this week’s "Game of Thrones."


If seven years of bumping around Westeros has taught me anything, it's that the game giveth, and the game taketh away. No more so than for those of us who recappeth the game on the internet.

Poor snowy horsemen. Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Last week was full of human kindness. This week, not so much. So ... I'm going to do things a little differently.

I'm going to summarize the down and dirty of what happened in each location. Then, I'm going to give the nicest person in that location special props. An award, of sorts. Named after the kindest, gentlest soul ever to visit there.

Let's give this a shot, shall we?

Dragonstone

The episode opens just a few days (weeks? months? What timescale are we operating at here again, anyway?) into Daenerys' triumphant homecoming to Dragonstone, where she and Varys are just not getting along.

The spymaster tries to whisper sweet, manipulative nothings to the breaker of freaking chains to no avail because, of course, there's the tiny matter of Varys trying to have Dany killed way back in season one. Varys does manage to slip back into the dragon queen's good (or, let's be honest, medium) graces by playing the complete and total honesty card and declaring his loyalty to the continent's smallfolk, a concern Daenerys purports to share, even though she will shortly be raining dragonfire down on a fair percentage of them.

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Later, Melisandre shows up for some light exposition about gender neutral pronouns in high Valyrian, and Dany's 4/5 badass female war council hash out their battle plans for taking back the Seven Kingdoms. Could Tyrion's encyclopedic knowledge of the Casterly Rock sewer system finally be about to pay off?

Perhaps not if Daenerys heeds Olenna's advice to "ignore all men."

On the eve of battle, Missandei and Grey Worm decide they can't hide their terribly hidden feelings from each other anymore. What follows is about as tender a love scene as we're likely to ever get on "Game of Thrones," which means...

The Shireen Baratheon Award of Generosity goes to: Missandei and Grey Worm: She for teaching a eunuch how to love and he for apparently being the only man on either continent who's heard of cunnilingus. I mean, do the women have to put it in a raven, guys? This isn't rocket science.

Winterfell

In response to an invitation from Tyrion, Jon and Davos discuss plans to meet up with Daenerys and her dragons — and Sansa is like, "You guys."

Then, Jon tells all the northern and Eyrie lords about his plan to get down with a Targaryen restoration — something none of them are particularly stoked about, given Dany's focus on killing lords and masters and the human burning that happened during the last go-around — to save the world from the White Walkers and Sansa is like, "YOU GUYS."

Unlike previous iterations of the Stark-men-go-nobly-unto-their-certain-doom show, both Jon and Sansa sort of have a point here. Sansa is darn sure correct that Jon is way too trusting of some self-appointed queen whose dad killed their grandpa and uncle only, like, 15 years ago. But Jon really has seen the White Walkers, and they really are scary, and they really do need the dragons to re-dead them. Anyway, the whole thing ends with Jon naming Sansa temporary Warden of the North in his absence, which is something his dad/secret uncle never would have done.

Somewhere in there, Jon grabs Littlefinger by the neck in the crypt, because Stark men grabbing Littlefinger by the neck always seems to end well, and tells him to lay off Sansa, which will definitely happen because Littlefinger respects the wishes of others, especially Stark men who grab him by the neck.

Your hilariously empty threats give me life. Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Finally, Jon trots off toward his destiny and Sansa manages to give 'em a lil' wave goodbye.

But her eyes are still clearly screaming, "YOU GUYS!!!!"

And the Maester Luwin Medallion of Ultimate Kindness goes to: If you think about it, it was really nice of the tombs of previous generations of Starks to provide a hard surface for Jon to strangle Littlefinger on. Even if it was short-lived and Jon will likely live to regret it before too long, boy did Littlefinger have it coming.

Oldtown

Deep in the stacks, Archmaester Ebrose and Sam argue over the title of Ebrose's Westerosi history thriller about all the wars we just saw happen over the previous six seasons — Ebrose thinks it really needs to pop, while Sam thinks it should be more "poetic." (If you were ever wondering if HBO and George R. R. Martin haggled over "Game of Thrones" versus "A Song of Ice and Fire," for the series title well ... now we probably know.)

Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Meanwhile Jorah is no longer zombie-handling Sam from the confines of his cell — instead, he's sitting in a dank room receiving a depressing prognosis and contemplating suicide-by-sword.

It's a relief, then, when Sam approaches him with a tray full of sharp metal implements, a jug of rum, and a plan to cure him by straight-up carving the disease off Jorah's body. It's a gross process, made all the grosser by an end-of-scene match cut between Jorah's gooey back knifings and a bowl of creamy soup hundreds of miles away. I mean ... GOSH.

And the Little Sam Prize for Pure Goodness goes to: Sam. Obviously. For literally scraping the leprosy off Jorah's back. Come. On.

The Riverlands

Fresh off a righteous around-the-fire chill session with Ed Sheeran, Arya catches up with Hot Pie (Hot Pie!) who gives her a killer pie crust tip and fills her in on the goings-on with her surprisingly alive siblings, which gets the tiny assassin sidetracked on her mission to kill Cersei and points her north.

Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Later on, trying to warm herself with the world's most pitiful fire, Arya finds Nymeria! Her direwolf! And asks her to come back to Winterfell with her! And because this is "Game of Thrones," she does and they live happily ever after!

Just kidding. The direwolf unceremoniously trots in the opposite direction. Because, as Arya realizes, "that's not her." (Not, as in literally not her, but as in that's not her style to come along. Apparently, this was a reference to a line from season one? Gotta stay past the credits, I guess.)

And the Brienne of Tarth Honor of Heartwarmingness goes to: Hot Pie, for giving Arya his secret pie recipe. First brown the butter, before slaughtering your enemies' family members and baking their digits into the filling. Gonna stow that one away for Thanksgiving.

The high seas.

Below deck, all is smooth sailing in the Iron Fleet on its way to collect the Dornish army. The Sand Snakes lay in their hammocks fantasizing about the various Lannisters they're going to whip/throwing star to death while Yara and Ellaria get to know one another a little-to-a-lot better.

Of course, then Uncle Euron ruins the moment when he comes flying in like the lead singer of Rhode Island's third best Iron Maiden tribute band and spoils everything, slaughtering various extras and the two Sand Snakes you probably didn't care about, while taking the one Sand Snake you also didn't care about but at least definitely recognized, Ellaria, and Yara hostage. Confronted by his father's brother holding his sister at ax-point, Theon takes a deep breath, screws his courage to the sticking place, and ... bravely jumps into the sea.

Oh well. You'll get him next time, Theon.

And the Ser Davos Seaworth Herald of Compassion goes to: Random piece of shipwreck, for holding Theon afloat after he abandons ship. Perhaps he doesn't deserve it — he sexually harassed his sister, killed two innocent farm boys, and sold out the entire North to a crazed serial killer — but hey, everyone deserves a 27th chance. Right? Way to come through in the clutch, hunk of driftwood!

Random Acts of Niceness

  • It was cool of those wolves not to eat Arya's horse, who was definitely like "screw this" throughout that entire scene.
  • Varys is a "small-d" democrat? Could we be headed toward a revolution of the Westerosi political system? Five years from now, will we be arguing about Pentosi interference in the Targaryen-Lannister election?
  • Ser Davos knows how to read! All those lessons with Shireen finally paid off. Thanks, Shireen! Wonder whatever happened to that scamp.

That's all for now, folks! Join me next week when hopefully Daenerys and Jon bro out over their vinyl collections, the Night King helps paint the Wall a lovely burnt umber, and Randall and Dickon Tarly's father-son road trip back to Horn Hill ends in a tearful game of catch.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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