Finales, and Game of Thrones finales in particular, are meant to make people both happy and sad, wouldn’t you agree, fellow Thrones Geeks? As much as this show has made a habit of giving us huge spectacle in episodes eight or nine, the finales have also consistently been the perfect mixture of character and “wow” moments (I’m looking at you, Brienne vs The Hound fight).
And last night…well, last night, may have topped them all.
In the season six finale, entitled “The Winds of Winter” (also the title of the rabidly awaited 6th book in the series), we saw the beginning of the end of the series, in a good (dare I say, great), way. Though I wished we had seen the Night King as a reminder of the real battle to come, the seeds for ice and fire have firmly been planted now that Dany is on her way to Westeros and Jon has been proclaimed King of the North (oh, and she’s his aunt too).
Basically, the episode left fans feeling like Sam in the library at The Citadel. Awestruck.
So grab your down jackets because winter is finally here. Let’s break it down.
In King’s Landing
The very first shot of this season pushed in to Jon’s dead body at Castle Black while the first shot of the finale pulled out to reveal Cersei staring out her window at the Sept of Baelor. Wearing a black dress that looks more like armor, Cersei has set her battle plans in motion, unbeknownst to her enemies, who are all gathering in the Sept for her trial (and Loras’). The next 10 minutes of the show may be the strongest filmmaking the creators have ever done (is it possible to get Miguel Sapochnik to direct every episode from now on?). The haunting musical score by Ramin Djawadi, the elegant camera work, and creeping sense of dread culminate in what was long suspected, but still blew viewers away: Cersei blows the Sept of Baelor, and everyone inside, to smithereens, thanks to some handy wildfire left behind by the Mad King Aerys. Burn them all, indeed. Oh, and the fact that Cersei is drinking wine while watching all of this play out is the absolute perfect touch.
There are too many details and not enough time to go into all of them, but each moment from this sequence flowed effortlessly into the next as Loras heartbreakingly confessed his sins and got branded on the forehead for it, Maester Pycelle and Lancel Lannister were lured into deadly confrontations with Qyburn’s creepy little “birds,” and The Mountain kept Tommen from attending the trial to keep him from harm…oh, Tommen.
As ever, Margaery is the smartest one in the room and attempts to flee the Sept once it becomes clear that neither Cersei nor Tommen have shown up. The High Sparrow, drunk on pride and seeming victory, refuses to let anyone leave as it might undercut his authority, and so the biggest bloodbath of major and semi major characters takes place in one fire-y swoop. Say farewell to pretty much all of House Tyrell: Mace, Margaery, and Loras. Not to mention The High Sparrow (great special effect shot of him getting consumed by the wildfire first), Kevan Lannister, Lancel Lannister (beneath the Sept) and Grand Maester Pycelle (in the bowels of the Red Keep). Septa Unella is tied up and left to the icky devices of zombie Mountain (just….no) and then there’s Tommen. Poor, sweet, easily manipulated Tommen, who, well aware that it was his mother behind the massacre (who else would have sent to The Mountain to detain him?), sets aside his crown and commits suicide by jumping out the window.
Prophecy fulfilled – gee thanks, Maggy the Frog.
There was no way Cersei was going to get away with her coup without some dire consequence, and, in many ways, it seemed as if she was well aware of that fact. Though she attempted to protect Tommen, Cersei also appeared resigned, even detached, as she stood over the body of her last remaining child (covered in a gold shroud). In the chilling final scene of Kings Landing, Cersei takes control of the power vacuum she herself created and, with Jamie looking on, ascends the Iron Throne. She might just be a worthy adversary for Dany (yay, ladies?!). Tywin would have been proud.
In the Riverlands
Walder Frey likes to talk. And gloat. A lot. After sending Bronn off with a couple of lovely ladies (who, at first, were eyeing Jaime…I mean, who wouldn’t, right?) during a feast at The Twins, Jamie can barely put up with Walder’s detestable gloating. In a sly visual moment, just as Walder mockingly asks where the Starks are now, an out of focus serving girl walks past Jamie in the background. It’s the one Jamie was looking at earlier in the scene, and who turns out to be quite significant in the next scene. But first, Jamie continues to put up with Walder’s insistence that, as two Kingslayers (Jamie having killed King Aerys Targaryen and Walder having been involved in killing King Robb Stark), they need to stick together. It’s too much for Jamie, who firmly puts Walder in his place (“they don’t fear the Freys, they fear the Lannisters”) before leaving the feast. The Freys are the carrion of houses in Westeros – they don’t do much themselves, they just feed off of carcasses brought to them by people like The Lannisters.
Later, once the feast has ended and the hall has cleared, Walder hits on the serving girl mentioned above. He demands to know where his two sons, Black Walder and Lothar (the two Jamie had to deal with during the siege of Riverrun and who boasted having been the ones to kill Catelyn at the Red Wedding) are. The serving girl serves him a big piece of pie and insists that his sons are in the room with them. Walder doesn’t understand what she means until she gestures toward the piece of pie on his plate. As a book reader, this might have been my favorite moment in the episode as it was something I never thought the writers would be able to include in the series (a different character bakes some Frey Pies and serves them in the books – that’s all I’ll say here). Walder sees some flesh and bone (a tooth?) in the pie and then looks up in horror as the serving girl pulls off her face to reveal Arya Stark. She tells him who she is and then slits Walder’s throat – the same way that Catelyn died in season three. It’s just one of many plots that come full circle in the episode.
I mentioned last week that I thought Walder Frey’s death had the potential to be as satisfying as Ramsay’s (or Joffrey’s) was, but this scene didn’t quite get there for me. My issue is less with the manner of Walder’s death (that, in and of itself, was much needed and appreciated!), and more about my confusion regarding Arya’s character growth over the last two seasons. Though I wasn’t that surprised to see her reveal at The Twins (because “shock” value is catnip to the writers), I’m not sure how I felt about her using a face. She gave up becoming a faceless man, yet still was able to get to The Twins undetected, find a face (I’m afraid to ask how…) and use her training to basically do what a faceless man does…only she’s killing someone she chose rather than someone she is told to. So, she hasn’t grown or matured at all…she is still hell bent on vengeance, only now she has the tools to better accomplish her goal. If all her trip to Braavos was meant to do was give her some handy ninja skills, why did it take two seasons? There is no nuance there (and I thought there might be given Arya’s interaction with Lady Crane).
Instead it feels a little flat, especially compared to the arc her sister has gotten over the series (which isn’t without it’s own issues, but at least has clearly been an arc). Maybe a scene in between Braavos and this one would have helped? I’m not sure, but I hope Arya is not going to simply become a killing machine next season because there is nothing interesting about that (it already feels repetitive. Remember when she killed Polliver in season four? How about Meryn Trant in season five?). It would be a sad way to go for a character who, initially, was one of my favorites, especially in season two.
In The Reach
We get a couple of brief check-ins with characters, including one with Sam, Gilly and baby Sam (and they’re newly acquired Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane, of course). Part of me was a little surprised they still ended up in Oldtown (I mean, Sam’s dad and/or brother are coming for the sword, right?), but at least Oldtown looked really cool (the show did very well with exterior shots of cities and castles this season). Thankfully, the scene lent a breath of light comedy to the episode as Sam tried to explain everything that’s happened at Castle Black over the last few years to a rather unhelpful clerk. While waiting for an official response from the Archmaester, Sam is told he can hang out in the famed library of the Citadel (Gilly and the baby aren’t allowed, however).
Sam enters through a narrow row of bookshelves before arriving in the heart of the massive room. It is clear that even in his wildest imagination, he couldn’t have pictured that many books and scrolls in one place. It is Sam’s idea of heaven (mine too, if we’re being honest) and I particularly enjoyed the giant compass-shaped chandeliers that we’ve been seeing for six seasons as part of the opening credits each week.
In another brief check-in scene, we get to watch the always delightful, though now in mourning, Olenna Tyrell stick it to the Sand Snakes (“what is your name, again?”). How refreshing was that?! In any case, Ellaria asks Olenna (who I’m guessing speaks for all of Highgarden, perhaps even The Reach as a whole?) for an alliance against the Lannisters in order to survive. Olenna, however, isn’t interested in survival, she’s interested in reigning down fire and blood on the woman who destroyed her entire house: Cersei Lannister. Luckily, Dorne has a new ally who can help them with that fire and blood thing: Varys steps out from the shadows. As a representative of Daenarys Targaryan, whose house words are “fire and blood,” he can help grant Olenna’s wish.
In The North
Winter has finally, officially, arrived (in the form of a white raven, which maesters of the Citadel send out to declare a season change). There’s plenty of snow at Winterfell to emphasize that fact and it’s just as cold inside as it is outside because Davos finally confronts Melisandre for burning Shireen at the stake last season.
In a very tense and austere scene, Melisandre confesses to the crime, though insists she never lied. Davos is beyond furious (Liam Cunningham was superb as he fought back tears for his young friend…sniff) and Jon is caught in the middle. There is so much in this scene that can be applied to the series itself. Melisandre is a classic Game of Thrones character, one who is both horrible and admirable. One who is so sure in her belief, but is then shaken to the core concerning that belief. Her motivations are quite clear, even pure, but her actions, which she sees as being in service to the greater good, are often terrible. She even admits to being wrong (about Stannis) but that doesn’t make her wrong in regards to the bigger picture. The characters that survive in the series are the ones who adapt and so, even though Jon banishes Melisandre (she gets a pass from being executed since she brought him back from the dead), she still has a part to play, which means we’ll see her again.
While so much of this episode works in terms of forward story momentum, the moment where Jon and Sansa briefly look back at what happened during the Battle of the Bastards is so thinly sketched, it felt rather out of place. For many viewers (including yours truly), Sansa’s decision to not tell Jon about the Knights of the Vale before the battle was inexplicable and inexcusable. Over the last week I’ve heard a number of theories that all basically believe that Sansa was playing a machiavellian game to ensure the battle play out in a way that would make Ramsay over confident enough to commit his army. She believed Ramsay would trick Jon whether Jon knew about the Valemen or not and so decided to keep them a surprise to everyone in order to ensure a victory.
This is a very dark interpretation, but given Sansa’s “teachers” up until this point (Cersei, Petyr, and Ramsay), I could see where these ideas were coming from. But then during their followup scene in last night’s episode, we got….no explanation from Sansa. At all. Nothing. All she does is say she’s sorry and Jon kisses her on the forehead in forgiveness. Ugh. It just emphasizes my belief that the writers had her do it, not out of actual character motivation, but to justify the last second save by the knights of the Vale.
Moving on, their discussion on the battlements did help set up another plot progression that may blossom next season. For, despite Jon making it clear that he sees Sansa as the Lady of Winterfell, events would transpire to make him, not only the Lord of Winterfell, but King of the North. Petyr warns Sansa that this might happen, after creepily confessing his love for her in the Winterfell Weirwood (and also finally admitting that he’s been after the Iron Throne this whole time), but it is unclear yet what Sansa actually wants (she, thankfully, rebuffs Petyr’s advances).
Meanwhile, just north of the wall, undead Benjen Stark has travelled as far south as he can with Bran and Meera (not only is The Wall 700 feet high and hundreds of miles long, it was also built on a foundation of magic that won’t allow the dead to pass south). He takes the horse (really?) but before Bran and Meera move onto Castle Black (which is where I presume they are near), Bran decides now would be a good time to finish that one vision he was having about his father and the Tower of Joy.
What he sees finally (finally!) confirms the long held theory that Jon Snow is not, in fact, Ned Stark’s son, but, rather, his nephew. Boom. Yes! VICTORY!!
Ok, I’m good. To be more specific, Bran watches as young Ned finds his sister, Lyanna, who was kidnapped by (or ran away with?) Rhaegar Targaryen, dying in a bed of blood in the Tower of Joy. He tries to help her but she leans in to whisper something in his ear (something we can’t hear, which, for a split second, had me seeing red…) and then repeats the phrase “promise me, Ned” several times. A beat later, we hear a baby cry and see a maid place it into a shocked Ned’s arms. The camera pushes into the baby boy’s face as he opens his dark eyes…smash cut to….
Jon Snow at a war council in Winterfell…about to be proclaimed King of the North. Ok, I’ll admit this was a great way to tell the story of the scene using visuals and editing rather than just dialogue (something Sapochnik did several times throughout the episode, which was a good balance to the many exposition scenes). In any case, Jon is not Ned’s bastard son, he’s actually Rhaegar Targaryen’s bastard son…so, that makes him Dany’s nephew (and possible heir to The Iron Throne…oh, the possibilities!)
So, how did Jon become King of the North? Thanks to another shining moment from this season’s standout character: little Lady Lyanna Mormont. During a council with all the lords of the North (including those who refused to help Jon and Sansa against Ramsay – the Glovers, Manderlys, and Cerwyns to be specific), as well as some of the wildling leaders, Jon is unable to unify everyone. Many simply want to return to their homes to hole up for the winter, and Jon’s insistence that the real battle has yet to come isn’t convincing them to stick around (it’s painfully obvious that no one is going to take the White Walker threat seriously until the undead are breathing down their necks…).
Lady Mormont shaming them for not honoring their oaths to the Starks, however, hits a cord (call a man a coward, and he just jumps to, doesn’t he?). Suddenly, the north does “remember” and, in a moment mirroring the one where Robb the “young wolf” Stark was crowned King of the North in season one, the lords proclaim Jon the “white wolf” and pass the title on to him, despite his standing as Ned’s bastard (which, we now know, isn’t actually true). It’s a rousing moment, but is tempered by Sansa exchanging a look with Petyr. Her chances of leading House Stark have been greatly diminished by Westeros’ customary dismissal of women (though, to be fair, it was Lady Mormont that spurred this action) and more ready acceptance of a bastard as a leader over a girl. The question is, what does Sansa really want? And if she wants power/to rule, will that put her at odds with her half brother (actual cousin)?
Dany orders Daario and his sellswrod company, The Second Sons, to stay behind in Mereen when she sets sail for Westeros (thanks to Varys, we know she’ll be heading to Dorne and her new alliances there). This scene might have had a bigger impact if I ever bought the chemistry between the two, but it ended up leaving me a little cold. Interestingly enough, the farewell also left Dany herself a bit cold (“I felt nothing, just impatient to get on with it.” Ha!), which she admits to Tyrion afterwards. This, I think, speaks, to Dany’s maturation as a character, as well as gives a nice nod back to Jorah. She never desired the old knight, but I think her platonic love for him was stronger than anything she felt toward Daario.
Dany’s conversation with Tyrion in the throne room is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Dany sits next to Tyrion on the steps (away from the throne), making them equals in this moment (mirroring how the High Sparrow put himself on the same level as both King Tommen and Queen Margaery earlier in the season).
Second, after admitting her fears of being an unfeeling ruler, Tyrion tries to console her by admitting his own maturation as a character. In a sort of opposite parallel to Melisandre’s questioning of her beliefs, Tyrion finally finds something to believe in: Dany. This belief has resurrected Tyrion (as Jon was last week during the Battle of the Bastards – he hadn’t truly accepted being alive again until the moment where he was nearly crushed. That was when he decided to live. Arya went through a similar arc during her term with the faceless men, though, as discussed above, I’m not sure what that actually means for her moving forward). Tyrion is rewarded for this belief by, once again, being named Hand, though this time he is Hand of the Queen, which is the role he was clearly born to play.
As many of you know, the book series as a whole is referred to as “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and the show is certainly starting to boil down to that dichotomy as it focuses in on two of the main characters: Jon (ice) and Dany (fire). Since the season began with ice (Jon’s dead body), it is fitting that it ended with fire (though I really did want to see The Night King breach the Wall as the last shot…).
Dany and her entourage (Missandei, Grey Worm, Yara, Theon, Varys (back from Dorne…a lot of time must have passed in between the Mereen scenes…), Tyrion, a whole lot of Dothraki who seem to have taken to being sailors rather well, and, of course, her dragons) have set sail for Westeros (viewers around the world let out an explosive “finally” when they saw that!). It’s all really going to come together, folks, but not for another ten months…how on earth are we going to pass the time?!
- Cersei blows up The Sept of Baelor
- Bran’s vision finally confirms that Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.
- Dany sets sail for Westeros (Dany + Yara + Olenna + Ellaria vs Cersei? Bring it).
Most Shocking Moments:
- Tommen pays the price for his mother’s despicable action, and so Maggy the Frog’s prophecy comes true.
- The Tyrells are wiped out (we’ll miss you Margaery), with the exception of The Queen of Thorns, who wants vengeance (at this point, who doesn’t in this series?).
- Jon is proclaimed King of the North.
- Even confessing feels good under the right circumstances. – Cersei
- You don’t have to do anything do you? You just sit there, a rich slab of beef and all the birds come pecking. – Bronn
- Can’t go killing my son-by-law, wouldn’t be right, give the family a bad name. – Walder Frey
- This is irregular. – Clerk at the Citadel. Yes, well, I suppose that life is irregular. – Sam
- Winter is here. – Sansa
- What is your name again, Babaro? – Olenna, Obara. – Obara, Obara, you look like an angry little boy, don’t presume to tell me what I need. – Olenna
- Who could ever follow Daenarys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons? – Daario. A Great number of women, I imagine. – Dany
- I’ve been a cynic for as long as I can remember. Everyone was always asking me to believe in things. Family. Gods. Kings. Myself. It was often tempting until I saw where belief got people. So, I said no thank you to belief. And yet here I am. I believe in you. It’s embarrassing, really. - Tyrion
- How will Jaime react to Queen Cersei, the first of her name?
- How long will it take Sam to read the very-important-thing-he-needs-to-know-in-order-to-fight-the-white-walkers so he can return to the north? And when do you think he’ll find out that his best friend died and was brought back to life (and is now King of the North)?
- Which was creepier: Walder Frey hitting on the serving girl/Arya or Petry Baelish hitting on Sansa?
- Where will Cersei turn first: north to deal with the newest King of the North or South to the Great Female Coalition?
- Where the heck is the Night King?
- Will we ever see Benjen Stark again?
There you have it. It’s hard to believe we’ve spent ten weeks living, sleeping, and breathing Game of Thrones (oh, was that just me?). In my early opinion, season six more than made up for some of the missteps of season five. Though not without it’s own set of problems, the season ended where we wanted (needed) it to: with a solid sense of momentum toward a conclusion. Many storylines converged this season and season seven will undoubtedly continue that trend as we head toward the inevitable Battle between Ice and Fire. I have chills, people, chills.
Thanks so much for following along with us here at Geeknation. I will have one more wrap up article for you all to enjoy later this week – a look at the season as a whole. SO be sure to tune in here for that, as well as all your daily film and television news!
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