On a show that is renowned for its twists, the newest episode of HBO's fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" included a plot development that may have shocked even its most longtime viewers: a happy occurrence.
(Spoilers for the most recent episode follow...)
In the episode of "Thrones" that aired on May 15, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), a member of the once-powerful Stark family who was separated from her parents and siblings and recently married to a sadistic enemy, was reunited with her half-brother, Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
Sansa arrived at Castle Black, the fortress of Jon's former military group the Night's Watch, with female fighter Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), and was finally able to see one of her siblings again.
The large Stark clan has been spread across various countries for multiple seasons.
Was the decision to bring the siblings back together a good one creatively?
For a program that is famous for its dark tone and the distressing things that happen to various characters – the series of calamities that have happened to Sansa in particular have drawn ire from critics and fans – this positive move seems to have been almost universally well-received, showing that viewers may be ready for happy events on the show and for characters to reunite.
"The show has gone to gymnastic lengths to scuttle all previous [Stark reunions]," Jeremy Egner of The New York Times noted of the show. "For scarred 'Thrones' fans, last week's revelation that Jon Snow was moving on, as Sansa was making her way to Castle Black, promised to be the latest example of this.... I may have yelped with joy when the gates opened to reveal Sansa and Brienne. This story has sprawled so prodigiously, there is a visceral thrill that comes from seeing disparate pieces connect, especially pieces of the tortured family that represents whatever good is left in the world."
Meanwhile, The Washington Post's Stephanie Merry wrote of the development, "Their reunion is emotional, and the relief on [Sansa's] face when she finally sees someone she can trust is a comfort not just to her but to an audience that has watched her endure one worst-case scenario after another." Kelly Lawler of USA Today found that "there have been few moments on this shows that have elicited as much joy as the reunion of Sansa and Jon … goodness, did it feel good."