I’m sadder than usual, fellow Thrones Geeks, about the end of our beloved Game of Thrones’ sixth season. As someone who has been living with this story since I first read the original novel twelve years ago, it’s crazy to think I’m this close to learning how it all ends! Because that was my biggest takeaway of this season: the feeling that it’s the beginning of the end (though the end of the show is still, apparently, two years away…during which time we might get George R.R. Martin’s sixth book…might).
So much of what we watched over the last ten episodes was about characters coming together, coming full circle, and setting things on a collision course with winter. It’s been a crazy roller coaster ride getting here, what with all the characters we’ve met (and lost), places we’ve seen, and shocks we’ve endured, but we’re almost back to where we started: with the Starks, Lannisters and Daenarys Targaryen poised for a major confrontation.
I have no doubt there are plenty of moves still to be made in the game of thrones, and obstacles for our heroes to deal with before culminating in the ultimate battle between fire and ice, but it’s clear we’ve cleaned house and are set up for the last act. That’s what, ultimately, made this season such an improvement over season five – a sense of momentum, not to mention some of the best set pieces the show has ever done (though if you are wondering, I still consider Hardhomme to be the best of the series).
It wasn’t perfect, of course (the Arya inconsistencies, Sansa’s inexplicable refusal to tell Jon about the Valemen, and even more timeline confusion than usual), but we got more answers than questions (for once) and the emotional impact the story had on many of the characters, who we’ve come to know so well over six seasons, rang loud and clear. You know that if they made me cry during the Sansa/Jon reunion AND Hodor’s death (Summer too), stare in awe during the Battle of the Bastards, and hold my breath during the wildfire massacre, then David Benioff, D.B Weiss, and the rest of the creative team behind the show, are doing something right.
So, with that in mind, here are a few last thoughts about this season.
Believe in Something
So much of this season dealt with various characters’ belief systems. As Tyrion so eloquently put it in the finale,
I’ve been a cynic for as long as I can remember. Everyone is 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.
The High Sparrow and Melisandre are both embodiments of religious belief, though The High Sparrow ended up being less devout than he professed (and just as power hungry as everyone else). Melisandre, one of the most confident people in the story, went through an interesting period of doubt that began at the end of last season (with the deaths of Stannis, Selyse, and Shireen). Though she disappeared for much of the middle part of this season, we still saw her in the most vulnerable place we’ve ever seen her, even after bringing Jon back from the dead. Her final plea to Jon and Davos that, though she was mistaken about Stannis, she still has a part to play seemed directed at herself as well. She is not the same Red Woman we first met in season two (and she’s a lot older than we thought too!).
This season also gave us more reason to believe in hope than we, perhaps, have ever had in the series. The character of Septon Ray showed us a brief glimpse at an idyllic life in the countryside that, though was brutally dashed, made an impression on a thought to be un-savable character, the back-from-the-dead (sort of), Sandor Clegane. Several reunions took place throughout the season that reminded us how important family is, and even the sacrifices made by characters like Hodor and Ray were in service of the belief that there is a greater good. Dany’s pact with Yara, Theon and Tyrion encapsulated this thought best.
Our fathers were evil men, all of us here. They left the world worse than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.
Through the course of the season, many characters had to discover belief in themselves. Though on very different tracks, both Sansa and Arya began taking control of their lives (the results of which are still up in the air) and have a better understanding of their own capabilities now.
Sansa’s escape from Ramsay, reunion with Jon (still my most watched scene of the season), and decisive action in taking back Winterfell have matured her into a new version of Catelyn Stark. Arya’s journey was less of an arc and seemed to take far longer than necessary (though I did love the meta play in Braavos), but it’s still thrilling to hear her acknowledge her name and heritage again.
To a lesser (and sometimes frustrating) extent, Dany has had a tough time navigating how to turn her beliefs into positive and realistic actions. Her burning the khals in episode six appears to have been the catalyst she needed to return to her original plan: take back the Seven Kingdoms, and it also seems that her belief in Tyrion (as much as his belief in her) has helped temper her decision making skills as a ruler.
It’s been a rough road, but Dany’s conversation with Tyrion in the finale went a long way in making me believe that, whether earned or not, she really has changed and matured into a leader worth following.
Still other characters spent the season re-discovering belief in something. Jon had to come to terms with having died at the hands of his Nights Watch brothers and ultimately decide whether living again was worth it (which was beautifully showcased during his near trampling and suffocation during the Battle of the Bastards). His final choice to live, and to believe that he could still do some good in the world drove him all the way to an un-looked for validation, a kingship. Now we have to see if he has the grit and determination to rule.
Other characters who spent the season rediscovering what it mean to believe in something include Melisandre, who had to admit she was wrong about Stannis, Theon, who had to figure out how to be a man despite everything that had happened to him, and Tyrion, who had to find a way to want to be useful again.
Those arcs created the backbone of the season, and acted in perfect balance to the characters who spent much of their time still struggling with what to believe in. Once she accepted that Maggy the Frog’s prophecy was going to come true, Cersei lost faith and belief in humanity entirely, so much so that she became an agent in the loss of her final child, turning the prophecy into a self-fulfilling one.
Separate from her, though Jaime did his best to convince himself that his belief in his and Cersei’s love was enough for him, he ended the season in a very precarious place. The woman he loved, the one he threatened to catapult a baby against a wall for, carried out the very act that he killed a king for. His next move is one of my most anticipated for next season.
On a more macro level, I’ve always loved the way the story plays with history, storytelling, and the way peoples beliefs are manipulated. How many times do we sit and yell at the TV, “Forget about the Iron Throne, there are WHITE WALKERS coming!” But very few people in the world of the show would believe such a thing, because magic is only a part of their history, not their present. It took several seasons to get anyone to take Dany’s dragons seriously and Sam’s family’s reaction to Gilly talking about the White Walkers is a clear indication that most people merely scoff at the idea.
I cannot wait for their reaction when winter comes!
And then there’s the long drawn out history of Jon’s parentage. The “official” story that most people in the realm believe is that Lyanna Stark was kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targaryen and died at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. Around the same time, Ned Stark returned home with a baby he claimed was his bastard son, Jon Snow. It’ll be very interesting to see if the truth that Bran now knows will even be accepted by people, given there’s no proof, not to mention it’s implications (one being that Jon would have less claim to his new titles, Lord of Winterfell and King of the North, and two, being his possible claim to the Iron Throne as the son of Rhaegar).
The world of Westeros and Essos is as grey as ever, with most characters living in morally ambiguous areas because that’s the only way to survive. Yet we still believe in many of them, and despite a lot of death (over 30 named characters died this season!) and heartbreak, there was also a lot of reason to be hopeful moving forward. Dany is finally heading west with her massive armies and newfound allies (including the Queen of Thorns, mourning the massacre of her family…Cersei better Watch. Out.), a fierce little lady led the way in declaring the hero of our story, who literally went to hell and back this season, King of the North (though, personally I like the title “The White Wolf” even better), and even more reunions appear to be on the horizon (both Bran and Arya could potentially reunite with Jon and Sansa).
There are some loose ends to wonder about: where are Brienne and Pod? Will Sandor meet Sansa or Arya again as he travels north with his new friends, The Brotherhood Without Banners? What is Sam going to learn (and how long will it take him to learn it) while in Oldtown? What is Littlefinger’s new strategy now that Sansa has not gained Winterfell? And, oh yeah, when is The Wall coming down so the White Walkers can invade Westeros?
And so, to end these last thoughts on season six, I thought I’d give a little hat tip to the upcoming Summer Olympics and award some medals in a few broad categories concerning this season. Enjoy, and let me know who/what you would have picked for the winners!
- Gold: The Winds of Winter
- Silver: The Battle of the Bastards
- Bronze: The Door
Best Scene (action)
- Gold: Bastard Bowl (The Battle of the Bastards)
- Silver: Cersei’s Wildfire Massacre (The Winds of Winter)
- Bronze: Hold the Door (The Door)
Best Scene (dialogue)
- Gold: Tyrion tries to “console” Dany and is named Hand of the Queen (The Winds of Winter)
- Silver: Jaime and Brienne reunite (No One)
- Bronze: TIE: Davos’ pep talk to Jon after his resurrection (Oathbreaker), Dany meets Yara and Theon Grejoy (The Battle of the Bastards)
- Gold: Hold the door. – Hodor (The Door)
- Silver: I wonder if you are the worst person I ever met. At a certain age, it’s hard to recall, but the truly vile do stand out. – Olenna Tyrell (The Broken Man)
- Bronze: I choose violence. – Cersei Lannister (No One)
Best Lead Performance
- Gold: Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady)
- Silver: Kit Harrington (Jon Snow)
- Bronze: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)
Best Supporting Performance
- Gold: Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg)
- Silver: Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham)
- Bronze: Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen)
Best New Character
- Gold: Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsay)
- Silver: Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek)
- Bronze: Septon Ray (Ian McShane)
Best Character Return
- Gold: Sandor Clegane aka The Hound (Rory McCann)
- Silver: Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle)
- Bronze: The Blackfish (Clive Russell)
Most Satisfying Death
- Gold: Ramsay Snow being eaten alive by his own hounds.
- Silver: Walder Frey gets his throat slit by Arya Stark
- Bronze: Olly is hung as a traitor at Castle Black
Most Devastating Death
- Gold: Hodor at the hand of the wights
- Silver: Margaery Tyrell during the Wildfire Massacre
- Bronze: Wun Wun the giant during the Battle of the Bastards
Well, it’s time for goodbye then…and time to spend the next ten months re-watching, rereading, and generally preparing for what has the potential to be another groundbreaking season of television. Thanks for sticking with me as I rambled on about these last episodes and be sure to check back in here at Geeknation as we’ll be covering any and all Game of Thrones news as it drops throughout the year!
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- Winter is Here: A Season Six Wrap Up for ‘Game of Thrones’ - June 30, 2016
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- TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ S06E09 “Battle of the Bastards” - June 20, 2016
- TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ S06E08 “No One” - June 13, 2016
- Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ S06E07 “The Broken Man” - June 6, 2016