Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter”

Game of Thrones S6E10 “The Winds of Winter”

With season six now in the books, let’s briefly reflect. This season probably had the largest range in quality from episode to episode. Some of the series’ worst episodes take place in season six, such as “The Red Woman”, “Blood of My Blood”, and “No One”, but also some of the best episodes in the show’s run call season six their season, such as “The Door” and “Battle of the Bastards”. Despite that, we didn’t hit peak until just now, and what a peak it is. After last weeks iconic “Battle of the Bastards”, the show writers have truly outdone themselves here. “The Winds of Winter” is not only by far and away the best season finale in the series, it’s quite easily the best episode of Game of Thrones and quite possibly one of the best episodes in television history. Amazing moments for characters and payoffs a long time coming are both found in abundance in this super-sized episode of Game of Thrones and it succeeds in leaving you wanting season seven right now. In “The Winds of Winter”, Walder Frey hosts a party and has some pie, Cersei turns her day of reckoning in to everyone else’s day of reckoning, Sam arrives at the Citadel, Bran becomes the three eyed raven, Varys makes some powerful alliances, the North declares their independence once again, and Daenerys takes a huge step towards conquering Westeros. With all of that to talk about, let’s get right to it.

We’ll start at the Twins, where Walder Frey throws a large party for his equally large family and the Lannister army that helped them retake Riverrun. Walder seems oblivious to that fact because he tries to share boasts with Jaime and Jaime insists that he doesn’t actually do anything. Walder was given Riverrun as a reward for executing the Red Wedding. If he’s just going to keep losing it, the Lannisters will have to keep coming north to retake it for the Freys, so why even keep the Freys at all? All they do is lose the castle. Jaime leaves Walder to ponder that and leaves the feast.

Later on when all the festivities are over, Walder Frey sits alone in his great hall, wondering where his sons, Black Walder and Lothar are. The lone servant girl in the room insists to Walder that they’re present, to which Walder is skeptical of. The serving girl again insists that they’re already here, and directs Walder’s attention to the pie he’s currently eating. Walder lifts the crust up to reveal a finger inside the pie. The serving girl reveals herself to be Arya Stark, using a different face. Arya takes off the face disguise and reveals to Walder that she killed his sons and put them in the pie that he’s been eating. Before Walder can get up and try to escape, Arya restrains Walder and finally gets revenge on the man who killed her mother and brother by slicing open his throat, smiling as she does it. Bringing Walder Frey back after two seasons off, you figured something big was going to happen but I didn’t think Arya would make it to Westeros that quickly after “No One”. I thought Arya wasn’t going to even be in the finale, but I’m not complaining. Walder Frey was truly a detestable person and one of our favorite characters got to kill him. Way to go Arya.

The episode’s first twenty-five minutes or so are dedicated entirely to King’s Landing and boy oh boy was it a spectacle. It’s trial day for Cersei and Loras and we start the episode off by watching Tommen, Cersei, and the High Sparrow prepare for the big day (which I assure you is more exciting than it sounds). The first trial of the day belongs to Ser Loras Tyrell and once the Great Sept of Baelor is packed, the proceedings get underway. Loras waives his right to have a trial and admits to the High Sparrow and to everyone else that he is guilty of all the crimes he is accused of. It seems as though there was a plea bargain of sorts agreed to earlier on because Loras then asks to devote his life to the Seven. The High Sparrow asks him if he knows what this entails and Loras says he does, reminding to everyone in attendance that he will renounce the Tyrell name and his claim to Highgarden. Loras tearfully admits this is what he wants to do and the High Sparrow approves. The faith militant grab him and carve the seven pointed star on his forehead. Mace can hardly look and wants to stop it, but Margaery stops him, assuredly because she worked this deal out with the High Sparrow, knowing that this is probably the best deal they were going to get. Margaery does confront the High Sparrow about this afterward, seeming as though the mutilation wasn’t part of the deal but the High Sparrow insists that he kept his word to Margaery and Loras will be free to go after Cersei’s trial.

Speaking of Cersei, she’s been a no show at this trial of hers and people start to take notice. Lancel tells the High Sparrow that Cersei never left the Red Keep and the High Sparrow asks him to bring her. Lancel gets sidetracked though when one of Qyburn’s little birds baits Lancel in to following him and he leads Lancel into a tunnel underneath the sept. More time passes and Margaery senses that something is very wrong and tells the High Sparrow they need to evacuate. In a show of power, the High Sparrow insists that no one is going anywhere and if Cersei doesn’t show up, she’ll be tried anyway. Further adding to the suspicion is Tommen’s absence from the trial. As he prepares to depart for the Sept, he is blocked by the Mountain, who was sent by Cersei to make sure Tommen doesn’t go anywhere.

If it wasn’t apparent to you that something is very wrong at this point yet, you get your final confirmation when we check back below the sept. Lancel has lost track of the little bird he was following so he doesn’t see what’s coming. The little bird doubled back without Lancel’s knowledge and he stabs Lancel on the side, before running off. Now unable to walk, Lancel looks around his surroundings and finds out just how much trouble everyone is in. He looks down the hallway and sees that the whole hall is a cache of wildfire, with the fuse all the way on the other end of the hall. Lancel crawls with all his might towards the fuse and gets agonizingly close to saving the day. Alas, Lancel cannot get close enough to blow out the candle and he becomes the first of many casualties when the wildfire goes off. Lancel’s last sight is that of pure green as the wildfire engulfs him. The rest of the wildfire then gets set off, destroying the Great Sept of Baelor and killing all those inside and around it. Cersei smugly watches the explosion from the Red Keep, proud of her act of terror that destroyed all her enemies. Cersei was backed into a corner, and even still she won.

That win comes at a price though. Cersei’s plan was a completely selfish one and she never stopped to think about how King Tommen, her own son, would react to seeing his wife and hundreds of innocents dying, and knowing that his mother is responsible for it. As it turns out, Tommen takes it very poorly. On a hauntingly simple but beautiful shot. Tommen walks off frame to put his crown down on the table, walks back on frame and jumps out the window to his death, not being able to handle his grief. Qyburn is quick to the situation and informs Cersei of her son’s suicide. Qyburn asks Cersei what she wants done with his body, a good question considering the traditional king’s burial site of the Sept of Baelor is now obviously out of the question. Cersei asks Qyburn to cremate Tommen, and bury his ashes where the Sept once stood.

Leave it to Cersei to turn her own child’s suicide into a net positive for herself. With the iron throne without a current owner and all of her enemies defeated, Cersei claims the iron throne herself and while no one seems particularly excited at the fact, no one is really in position to fight her about it. While the coronation is happening, Jaime and Bronn are arriving back at the capital and Jaime is shocked to see the ruins of the Sept from outside the city. Jaime hurries into the city and catches the end of Cersei’s coronation. Cersei looks his way and Jaime gives the new queen a very foreboding look. Jaime killed the Mad King for wanting to “burn them all” and now he finds that the person he loves the most has basically done the same exact thing. This is obviously going to be a big deal in their relationship next season and while that look he gave her was chilling, I look forward to seeing what this is going to mean for their relationship. Is this finally the thing that pushes Jaime, who’s trying so hard to become a better person, away from Cersei, who’s only become more evil as the series has gone along? It may very well be the case.

We’ll move to a story on a much lighter note with Sam. The journey of an entire season comes to an end as Sam and Gilly finally make it to Oldtown, which looks like quite the picturesque city. The couple walks into the Citadel, where Sam meets with a maester on receptionist duty. Castle Black and the Citadel seem to be on not so close terms because they still have Jeor Mormont recorded as the current lord commander. Sam clears things up and explains what’s happened since Mormont died and the maester schedules a meeting between Sam and the Archmaester. In the meantime, Sam is permitted access to the library, but Gilly and Little Sam have to wait outside. Sam excitedly enters the library and is stunned by the magnificence of the place. Making the event even better is the fact that Sam has always been a book guy and has been ridiculed for it. Not only has he found a place where he’ll likely be embraced, he’s found the best place on earth for intellectuals such as himself. Becoming a maester takes years though and I don’t think the show has time for that so watch out for Sam to find some critical information next season and leave to tell Jon or someone else about it.

Not too far away from Oldtown is Dorne, which makes its first appearance since the season premiere. A now grieving Olena Tyrell is invited to meet with Ellaria Sand, who seems to be running Dorne now. Olena is hesitant to work with Ellaria, considering she continues to seek justice for Oberyn and her previous actions to do so include killing Oberyn’s brother and nephew. Ellaria tells her that Cersei has declared war on both of their houses, and after what Cersei done to Olena, she has an opportunity to give her the vengeance she seeks. Varys comes out and simply states “Fire and Blood”, the words of House Targaryen. Ellaria has already aligned herself with Dany and we find out that Olena decides to do the same. That’s a really big deal. Ever since the Tyrells have been introduced, it has been repeatedly mentioned that they are one of the wealthiest and most powerful houses in Westeros. Cersei has always despised House Tyrell but now she’s really screwed herself over by making an enemy out of them. Big blow for Cersei and a huge gain for Dany, no question about it.

Let’s go north, all the way north to beyond the wall. Bran is finding himself further south than he’s been in a long time though as Benjen has taken Bran and Meera pretty close to the wall, considering that weirwood tree there looks like the very same one Jon and Sam said their night’s watch vows at. Benjen prepares to leave Bran, saying he can’t go any further. The wall has magical properties that keep the dead from crossing, such as himself. He wishes Bran and Meera good luck and departs, saying he’ll do what he can to fight for the living beyond the wall. Bran turns his attention towards the weirwood tree and Meera asks Bran if he’s ready to do this on his own. Bran assures her that he has no choice but to be ready. Bran touches the tree and goes back to that pesky vision at the Tower of Joy that the three eyed raven wouldn’t let him finish. He picks up basically right where he left off but now he can follow a young Ned Stark up the tower. Bran comes to a room at the top of the tower where he finds Ned trying to comfort Lyanna, his dying sister. Lyanna has one final request of her brother though. She tells him that she’s just given birth, and things went really wrong for her but the baby boy is fully healthy. She whispers to Ned that he has to take care of her son and keep his identity a secret. A handmaiden hands Ned the baby boy and as he opens his eyes, we see that Lyanna Stark’s son is Jon Snow. The father is Rhaegar Targaryen and this is why Ned had to pass Jon off as his own bastard. Lyanna confirmed to us that Robert would kill her son if she found out about the father and Robert would only do that if he was a Targaryen. So what’s Bran going to do with this information? A question season seven will surely answer.

Meanwhile in Winterfell, Jon Snow finds himself in the great hall with Melisandre and he reminisces to her about his childhood here. The nice moment is instantly shattered when Davos enters with a much more serious and gruesome topic to discuss. Davos tosses Shireen’s stag toy to Melisandre and Jon asks what it is. Davos furiously asks Melisandre to tell Jon everything. With no way of getting out of it, Melisandre admits that the toy belonged to Princess Shireen and that they burned her at the stake. Davos rightfully asks Jon if he can execute Melisandre for murder and Jon asks her if she has any defense. Melisandre tries to convince Jon of her usefulness in the war to come but still greatly unpleased at the news, Jon orders her to ride south and never return, under penalty of hanging. As she leaves the hall, Davos warns her that he’ll hang her himself if she does have the audacity to return north. I’ve complained that this confrontation probably should have taken place much earlier but I’m inclined to give that a pass now. It was such a great scene and the hatred that came out Davos was so rich, genuine, and captivating. The wait for this scene was well worth it.

Atop the battlements of Winterfell, Jon watches Melisandre head south when he is joined by Sansa. Jon tells his sister that he has prepared the master bedroom for her since she’s lady of Winterfell and they wouldn’t be in this situation without her getting the Knights of the Vale on their side. Sansa gets a few things off her chest here. She tells Jon he should get the main bedroom because she considers him a Stark, and that would put him ahead of her on the inheritance pole since he’s older than her and a male. She also apologizes for not telling Jon about the Knights of the Vale but Jon seems to be over it and tells Sansa that the important thing is from now on they have to trust each other, as they have too many enemies to deal with to have family conflict. Jon prepares to leave but before he does, Sansa has a piece of news for him. A white raven has arrived from the Citadel, the sign that winter has officially started. Jon jokes that their father was right after all and the two share a smile.

Later on, Sansa is in the godswood and is interrupted by Littlefinger. He reveals his true intentions to Sansa, finally saying what we’ve really known all along, he wants to sit the iron throne and he wants Sansa at his side when he does it. Littlefinger goes in for a kiss but Sansa turns him down and begins to walk away. Quickly rebounding, Littlefinger tells Sansa that he has publicly declared House Arryn’s support for House Stark, and says she is much more fitting to rule the North than Jon is. Sansa seems to give the thought a moment, but ultimately doesn’t entertain the notion with a response and continues to walk away.

Our last scene in the north is a meeting between everyone who fought for House Stark in the battle. Jon’s sole purpose in calling this meeting was to begin a plan to defend the North against the White Walkers but it turns out he’s about to get a lot more than that. Lord Cerwyn stands up and tells his fellow lords that they should all go home and prepare for the coming winter storms but Jon tells him that the real enemy is coming, and he brings the storm. The lords begin to argue but it’s not really going anywhere, until Lyanna Mormont gets up to speak. Lady Mormont calls out Lord Cerwyn, Lord Manderly, and Lord Glover for not helping House Stark when they called them, even though they had all the cause in the world with the Boltons personally harming all of their houses. Lyanna goes on to give a speech in which she calls for Jon to be her King. When she finishes, Lord Manderly gets up and he apologizes for not coming to House Stark’s aid and admits he was wrong to think they wouldn’t find another worthy king in his lifetime. He calls Jon the white wolf and the King in the North, as he takes out his sword and kneels. Lord Glover follows and he too apologizes for not fighting with the Starks in the battle, but he echoes Jon’s words, saying that there will be more fights to come. He announces House Glover will stand behind House Stark and he personally will stand behind Jon Snow, as he too takes out his sword, kneels, and proclaims Jon the King in the North. The rest of the lords quickly join in as nearly everyone in the room proclaims Jon the King in the North. Jon rises to acknowledge his lords and accept his coronation. What a season arc this was for Jon Snow. He started dead, and now he’s King Jon Snow. At least that makes one good newly anointed ruler in the episode.

We finish it off in Meereen. Daario is summoned to meet with Dany and he assumes it’s to talk about their fleets progress and the gameplan, so he tells her that the Targaryen sails are nearly all ready and that he’s eager to set sail. Bad news for Daario though because Dany tells him he’s not coming with them, he’s going to stay in Meereen and keep the peace until the people of the city chose their new leaders. Daario is shocked at the news and wonders why he has to stay. Dany tells him that bringing a lover to Westeros will serve her no advantage. Marriages are often the best way to make alliances in Westeros so she has to be ready to bring that to the table at any given moment. He correctly deduces that Tyrion put her up to this, as this is a very smart political move and Tyrion’s a very smart guy. It doesn’t make him feel any better though as Daario is now filled with self-pity, a trait you rarely see with him. He swore Dany his sword and life though, so he accepts his fate and Dany tells him that specific plans will be left for him to follow and enforce. The two share a goodbye, likely the last one that they’ll ever share.

Tyrion is waiting in the throne room and asks Dany how it went when she emerges from her chambers. He tries to console her but he’s never much been a therapist so he fails in making her feel any better. Nevertheless, Tyrion has done an amazing job running Meereen even though he was dealt such a crappy hand to start with. He also is incredibly intelligent and the only one in Dany’s group that has spent time in Westeros (his entire life really) and all of that is going to prove very valuable when they sail to Westeros. It is for all of those reasons that Dany names Tyrion the hand of the queen and gives him the pin that he last wore in season two, serving as acting hand to Joffrey in Tywin’s absence. Remember season two? Tyrion was so darn good at running King’s Landing with almost no one having higher authority than him so it’s going to be amazing to see him in the role again, only this time the one person above him is a ruler he actually respects. This invasion is going to be good.

Speaking of the invasion, the time has finally come. We end the season with the scene we’ve been waiting sixty episodes for. Daenerys Targaryen is setting sail for Westeros, with her own fleet, along with those of House Tyrell, House Greyjoy, and House Martell. She’s got powerful alliances in the ones that we just mentioned, she’s got great armies in the Unsullied and the Dothraki, she’s got intelligent advisors with Tyrion as her hand of the queen and Varys as her master of whispers. And she’s got three dragons alongside her, all letting out a screech to end this eventful season and this masterpiece of a television episode. Wow.

Other Thoughts

Where to start? Let’s start with Jon. Dany’s whole rightful queen thing may not actually be true anymore. Dany’s older brother was Rhaegar so if he had children, his children would be higher up in the line of succession than her sister Dany. As we now know, Rhaegar does have a living child, and his name is Jon Snow. Jon’s not power crazy so he’s not likely going to push his claim (He still doesn’t know he has the claim to begin with) but that’s something to keep an eye on. And something to be grossed out about if this theory of a Dany and Jon marriage alliance becomes a thing. Nephew and Aunt getting married? Oh boy.

It really goes without saying how good the music is in this show, but we need extra recognition for the score here in “The Winds of Winter”, it was absolutely phenomenal. The music playing as Dany sets sail was awesome, and the music playing in the Tower of Joy/Jon Snow reveal was incredible. And the piece playing throughout the King’s Landing portion of the episode, simply perfect.

Winter is here, but not the Dothraki winter wardrobe, which seems to be non-existent. I know they like showing off those chest muscles, but the Dothraki are probably going to want a coat or something in Westeros. On a more serious note is what Dany is going to do with the Dothraki once they land. She made Yara swear off the raiding and raping culture of the Ironborn when they made an alliance, but that’s basically the same culture that the Dothraki have, just swap out horses for ships. She seems kind of hellbent on becoming queen though, so I feel like she might just delegate that problem to Tyrion to curb them in.

We talked about King’s Landing a lot in this review but I actually missed some things that I struggled to fit in the narrative flow. Grand Maester Pycelle dies here when Qyburn’s little birds stab him to death. That prostitute Pycelle promised to pay afterward isn’t getting her payday anymore. And Septa Unella drew the short end of Cersei’s rage stick. Being stuck in a room with the Mountain, who has free range to do whatever he wants to you? Good luck Septa.

Sansa told Jon that only a fool would trust Littlefinger but I get a bad feeling she’s going to do the very same thing next season. That look Littlefinger gave her when Jon was anointed King in the North was a very menacing one. Littlefinger can’t control Jon, so he’s going to continue to try and control his sister. Sansa, take your own advice and don’t trust Littlefinger, please.

Olena roasting the Sand Snakes was great to watch. Even while in mourning, the queen of thorns will cut you if you let her.

Winterfell finally got the direwolf sigil back in the intro sequence. First time since season two probably. Glad to see it back. Likewise, I wonder if the stag will be taken out of King’s Landing next season and be replaced with a lion. Now even the fake Baratheons are dead so the stag is probably a goner.

With Mace the Ace dying, the head of each great house at the star of the series is now dead. Jon Arryn, Viserys Targaryen, Robert Baratheon, and Ned Stark died in season one, Hoster Tully died in season three, Tywin Lannister died in season four, Doran Martell died in the season six premiere, Balon Greyjoy died in the second episode of season six, and now Mace Tyrell dies in the season six finale.

House Stark should change their words in the wintertime to “We Told You So”. Don’t deny it.

Starring cast death count for the season, it’s probably a large one. Margaery Tyrell, Tommen Baratheon, the High Sparrow, Roose Bolton, and Ramsay Bolton all are starring cast members who died this season, making the count five. Jaqen and Daario didn’t die but they’ve also likely met ends to their story lines, just not lethal ones. Sandor came back from an assumed death and Jon came back from a literal death so take those as you may. It was a weird season for death, that’s for sure.

“The Winds of Winter” delivers amazing character moments and payoffs that have been years in the making, in what can only be described as the best episode of Game of Thrones ever and a masterful episode of television. 

Episode Grade A+

Season Grade A

 

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