This week on #GameofThrones: Cersei chooses violence, the North remembers, and Dany finally leaves Meereen.
Spoilers through Game of Thrones 610, “The Winds of Winter”. It’s a finale recap. OF COURSE there are spoilers in this post. You have been warned.
Season six of Game of Thrones has, surprisingly been a hopeful affair. After suffering through all the Red Weddings, Stark deaths, Ramsay rapes, and Lannister victories in the past, we finally have a hopeful time in the Thrones universe. Of course, as with every victory in Thrones, there is a more dangerous defeat on the horizon, but I left “The Winds of Winter” feeling, dare I say, optimistic.
The season finale, for me, was hands down the best the episode we’ve seen thus far. It was boosted by an amazing score, but it’s the one of the few episodes that so neatly incorporated every plot line. It’s easy for episodes like “Blackwater” and “Hardhome” to stand out because they’re focused affairs, able to give the time necessary to smaller moments that make them memorable, able to devote time to characters otherwise forgotten like Karsi and Podrick. But “The Winds of Winter” took these characters we know and love and gave everyone single one a pedestal to stand on, to look out over the world and say, “This is mine. I can win.” It doesn’t matter that soon they’ll be fighting for the right to those pedestals, because that doesn’t matter. For right now, these characters believe they are capable of so much and only because they’ve already lost everything.
I considered discussing King’s Landing last in this recap because of all the plot lines, it was the most explosive, the most suspenseful. And yet, I cannot wait to discuss what my boo, Cersei, has done to turn the world upside down. Cersei, still alive because she has the will of a cockroach, doesn’t plan to ever attend the trial. The High Sparrow, in an attempt to render her guilty of her crimes, has forced her hand into being more cruel than originally planned and the Queen of Thorns has planted a seed in her mind that if they won’t concede to her rule, they must die. I assumed Loras would die, what with him jumping on to the Netflix machine to be Iron Fist and all, but I did not imagine we would lose so many named characters, characters we’ve had since season one, so quickly. It was a hopeless and gorgeous opening scene, with a score that cranks the levels of suspense up to 11. Everything was carefully orchestrated and for once, Cersei was two steps ahead of the Faith.
For all the accusations of conniving ways, Cersei’s hair isn’t large and full of secrets, her motives have always been transparent: protect her children. Once upon a time, Cersei’s lust for power was a selfish scheme, but it was more the machinations of a girl who believed in the beauty of fairy tales. Much like Sansa, she dreamed of being a princess, married to a gallant knight who could protect her. Despite the era in which she was raised, the time of the Mad King, it was her belief that the higher you were in the royalty, the safer your life would be. Her children would be safe as princes and princesses, and she made damn sure that stayed true. But when Tommen went over to the side of the Faith, Cersei lost him to more than just poison. Emotionally, he is lost to her. So, she dons her black dress, in mourning for the loss of her last son, and has the candles lit underneath the Sept of Baelor, where all the caches of wildfire await their moment to shine.
Margaery knows something is wrong when Cersei doesn’t show up. She knows that Cersei, despite her quiet nature this season, doesn’t let someone else decide her future. The High Sparrow ignores her intuition, certain in his arrogance that the Seven will keep them safe. Yet, when the floors erupt beneath them, proving Margaery correct, there’s a look of genuine fear on his face. He’s made a huge mistake underestimating what Cersei will do to keep power.
And then Tommen, poor malleable and sweet Tommen, the boy who was never meant to rule, sees the explosion at the Sept and knows once and for all that he cannot survive in this world. For the first time since he was born, he makes a decision that is truly his own, and beautifully throws himself from the Red Keep.
Cersei doesn’t mourn Tommen the way she mourned Joffrey or Myrcella. In some ways, I think she expected it to happen soon, hence her preemptive black dress. Besides, Maggy the Frog said it would come true. Gold their crowns and gold their shrouds. Callously, she tells Qyburn to burn and bury Tommen in what is left of the Sept so he can be with his family.
Cersei then takes the throne as Queen of Westeros. Some might say she finally got what she wanted, the power of ruling, but I’d argue she never wanted it like this. With her children taken from her, she truly has nothing left to lose. When Jaime walks in on her coronation, he’s not seeing the sister who was at her lowest point at the beginning of a season; he’s looking at a ruler who has nothing left to lose, nothing to fear, and that, is frightening.
Also a broken woman with nothing left to lose is Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns. In one fell swoop she’s lost every heir to Highgarden and she won’t take such an act of violence against her family sitting down. She agrees to meet with Ellaria Sand, new ruler in Dorne, and the two discuss revenge against the Lannisters for their heinous actions.
I want to point out how important this moment is for these two rulers. Both Dorne and Highgarden have never been invaded by their enemies. The Targaryens tried for years to subdue the Martells and failed. Both houses are old in the history of Westeros and proud, and they hate one another. I’m not talking, Mean Girls-esque, “Teehee I hate that bitch.” I’m talking loathing, not even a star-crossed romance could save these two families from mauling one another. Theirs is a rivalry that spans hundreds and hundreds of years, each believing the other guilty of stealing land, intentionally maiming heirs, stealing brides, etc. So for these two who so hate one another to come together with a common enemy, that is a huge deal. And as we see at the end of the episode, their cause is not so futile.
Sam and Gilly finally make it to Oldtown and Sam is about 50 million times more excited about it than Gilly. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the Citadel hates women and children. Or that they were dropped off in fucking Kansas.
Predictably, the Maester at the Citadel glares at Gilly like she’s selling knockoff Gucci handbags to impressionable children. Sam is as oblivious as ever and is all, “Yea I know the paperwork situation at the wall is atrocious but look at me, I’m adorable, right?” The Maester falls for his sweet smile and lets Sam into the library where he proceeds to go all Belle on the moment.
I do kind of have issue with the Citadel not being up to date on current events. I mean, they’re in the south but they know when winter is coming and yet, have no clue about the situation in the north? Not a major issue, mind you, just one that throws off my whole timeline. If I had one qualm with this episode it’s that travel times for different characters piss me off. Like, WHERE IS BRIENNE? *ahem* Anyway…
Jaime has a dinner with Walder Frey as they celebrate the new acquisition of Riverrun. Jaime tries his best to be cordial to Frey but he’s an old coot who never knows when to shut the fuck up. When Jaime asks if he’s ever fought a battle, Frey smugly responds he’s never needed to. Maybe it was Brienne’s visit or the unceremonious death of his hero, the Blackfish, but Jaime is sick of Walder’s shit. He spits back asking why the Lannisters even need the Freys when they only have to rescue their lands for them. And just like that the Lannisters are all alone in Westeros. Alliances with the Tyrells, Boltons, Freys, Baratheons, and Martells have all been severed.
Frey is equally alone in the world but he doesn’t care because he’s convinced he’ll outlive everyone, and that’s all that matters. A serving girl brings his dinner, but it’s with a side of Titus Andronicus, and Frey chokes at the knowledge that he’s been eating his own sons. And in a blink, Arya removes the serving girl’s face and slices Walder Frey’s neck.
EVERY BAD THING THAT HAPPENED IN BRAAVOS IS FORGIVEN.
North of the Wall
Bran says goodbye to Benjen and it’s not really as sweet as you’d imagine for two Starks who were thought to have been dead forever. Benjen is all, “Well, tell your dad I said hi. I mean, your brothers. I mean, oh fuck it. I’m out. Peace.”
Bran then decides that now is the best time to hook up to the Weirwood.net because it’s been a few weeks and he needs to get his fix. He goes back to the Tower of Joy scene and we all learn, finally, what’s inside.
Ned runs up and on a bed of blood is his younger sister, Lyanna Stark, who had been “kidnapped” by Rhaegar Targaryen, leading to the whole Robert Rebellion snafu that destroyed the Targ dynasty. Dying, Lyanna makes Ned promise her something and then WHAM, there’s a brooding baby in his arms. We can’t hear exactly what Lyanna tells Ned, only that “Robert will kill him if he finds out.” What we’re left to infer is that the baby, Jon, is the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen, and if Robert Baratheon found out the truth, he’d kill the baby. The show never TELLS us the child is Rhaegar’s and instead leaves us with a little algebra equation to solve in the off-season.
At this point, if Jon were any one but Lyanna and Rhaegar’s child, the revelation would KILL the internet.
We finally get our confrontation between Davos and Melisandre and of all the characters whose hearts have been broken, watching Davos’ heart break, again, has been one of the hardest. This is a man who is loyal to a fault, who loves without shame, and at every turn, he’s lost. He’s lost sons, his king, and most of all, he’s lost Shireen. Finding that wooden stag, burned, was like finding Shireen himself and once the battle has settled, he sets upon Melisandre for what she’s done. She confesses her wrongdoing but that she did it with the best intentions (as if you could burn a child alive with good intentions). Jon banishes her to the south for the murder of the princess Shireen.
Later, Jon and Sansa share a beautifully shot moment between brother and sister. I know there’s a small subsection of the internet who wants this relationship to happen, especially if they’re cousins, to which I say, “NO. BAD INTERNET.” They are siblings and they love one another. Not everyone has to be in a ship, sailing on the sea of love. SOMETIMES we can have beautiful platonic relationships between men and women, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE BROTHER AND SISTER. CHRIST.
Sansa apologizes to Jon for hiding Littlefinger from him but come on, of course Sansa trusts exactly no one in her life right now. She can’t afford to, but you can see the way she smiles at Jon that she wants to trust him; she wants to believe that he’ll protect her as he promises. And yet, when Littlefinger surprises her at the weirwood tree with a crude offer of marriage, it’s just another reminder that people in Westeros don’t do nice things for one another without an ulterior motive. Littlefinger confesses that he wants to sit on the Iron Throne and his best chance of achieving that dream is with Sansa’s help as Queen in the North.
No one knows Littlefinger better than Sansa. No one knows the lengths to which he will go to make his dreams a reality. And that’s why when everyone in the hall of Winterfell proclaims Jon the King in the North (Lyanna Mormont is KILLING.IT.), Sansa keeps a wary eye on Littlefinger. Jon as King in the North puts a damper on his plans and Sansa recognizes that he now has a target on his back. It’s not just White Walkers that Jon should fear.
FINALLLLLYYYYYY. Six years we have been waiting for Daenerys Targaryen to set sail for Westeros. SIX. YEARS. And she FINALLY did it. I am so full of excitement I can hardly contain myself. Because she’s going off to college, Dany has to (thank the lord) break up with her loser high school boyfriend, because long-distance relationships rarely work and she’s trying to snag herself a doctor or maybe a really cool writer chick. (Hint: me.)
Everything about Dany and Tyrion as a team is perfection. As a book reader, I’m beyond grateful that HBO sped up Tyrion’s arc and put him with Dany sooner. They are two souls who are trying to fight back against their family name, their family histories, while still struggling with being good rulers. Tyrion knows personally how hard it is to rule and he respects Dany for all that she’s done. For once, he does have someone to believe in. I can’t say that I’ll forgive all the bad Tyrion scenes this year, but last week’s moment with Dany, coupled with this scene have definitely improved his arc, in my eyes.
When Tyrion was first named Hand of the King in season two, he did it to 1. stick it to Cersei and Joffrey who were terrible rulers and 2. prove to his father he wasn’t the perpetual fuck up daddy-o believed. When Dany names Tyrion Hand of the Queen, there are tears in his eyes because here’s this ruler he respects and he’s already messed up in front of, but she trusts him, she believes in him so much that he can’t help but be genuinely humbled. Working with Dany may be the first time in Tyrion’s life when he wasn’t gifted a position because of his name, because he was a dwarf, but because he had merit. He earned it.
Goddamn I love Dany.
Daaaaaaaaaaamn Varys. How you travel so fast, son?
So to sum up, here’s a list of who died this episode:
- Queen Margaery Tyrell
- Lord Mace Tyrell
- Loras Tyrell
- The High Sparrow
- Kevan Lannister, Hand of the King
- Lancel Lannister
- King Tommen Baratheon
- Grand Maester Pycelle
- Lord Walder Frey
- Black Walder Frey
- Lothar Frey
- Daario’s heart
Miguel Sapochnik needs to direct every episode from here on out. I recognize that’s a difficult prospect but I don’t care. After “Battle of the Bastards” and now “Winds of Winter”, he needs to be their go-to guy especially for big moments.
The music for the final two episodes was also top-notch. I don’t often praise Game of Thrones for its score because in the past it hasn’t been that exciting. Sure, moments like the Red Wedding and Dany’s theme in Meereen are notable, but these two episodes the music, or lack thereof, has increased the suspense tenfold.
I loved how deliciously meta the finale was. Some highlights:
- Olenna Tyrell calling out the Sand Snakes for being obnoxious and nicknaming them.
- Jon referencing the Stark words and how Ned always said, “Winter is Coming.”
- Tyrion commenting on them finally leaving Meereen.
- Oldtown library having the globes from the introduction sequence.
Game of Thrones will return next year for season seven.