TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”
Synopsis: Loras and Cersei prepare for their trial in front of the High Sparrow at the Sept of Baelor. Jamie meets with Walder Frey at The Twins. Ser Davos confronts Melisandre about the death of Shireen. Jon and Sansa attempt to stick together while Littlefinger looks to claim his reward. Dany makes preparations to return to Westeros. Sam and Gilly arrive at Oldtown. Bran embraces his destiny.
Review: How in the Seven Hells has ten weeks gone by this fast? The finale of any Game of Thrones season is always a little bittersweet. On the one hand it’s usually very satisfying. On the other we are now faced with the prospect of waiting ten months for the next season. I didn’t think this week’s finale, “The Winds of Winter” (which by the way is the title of the next novel in George R.R. Martin’s series) could top last week’s episode but I was wrong. Dead wrong.
In arguably one of the best seasons thus far in the series, “The Winds of Winter” put a Wildfire cherry on top of an amazing sundae of an episode.
The opening of the season finale demonstrated a nuanced and subtle tone unlike maybe any previous episode in the series. In a show that’s often filled with a lot of riot and clamor, the creators chose a quiet approach, showing several characters (Tommen, the High Sparrow, Cersei) quietly preparing for the impending trial. The tension builds gradually, a slow burn that culminates in massive destruction. It comes as no great surprise that Ser Loras confessed to all his crimes. I knew there had to have been some backroom deal going on between the High Sparrow and Queen Margaery and there was. His confession spared his life and although Loras declared for the Faith Militant, the deal clearly allowed for him to leave.
Despite Cersei’s despicable nature you have to admire her cunning and ability to play the Game. There was something deeply fulfilling seeing her revenge plot come to fruition. Utilizing Qyburn’s “Little Birds”* to kill Pycelle as well as lure Lancel down into the bowels of Baelor Sept, ensuring The Mountain kept Tommen from going to the trial, knowing that she would have all her enemies in one basket–it was a Machiavellian stroke of genius. Cersei once aid she’d once burn whole cities to the ground to ensure survival and she clearly meant it. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more harrowing shot than when Lancel looks up after having been stabbed and sees the containers of Wildfire everywhere. Then to have him drag himself to those slowly dwindling candle, us knowing he’d be too late? I’m sorry that’s just great television right there. And how fitting was it to have the High Sparrow’s hubris doom all in the Sept of Baelor? Queen Margaery warned him but his arrogance killed them all. While the destruction of Baelor’s Sept was horrifying, Cersei’s revenge against Septa Unella was downright sadistic. Leaving her to be raped by the Mountain and assuring Unella that she would be alive for a long time before she died? That’s some Ramsay/Joffrey/Hannibal Lecter shit right there.
Unfortunately, revenge always comes with a price and in this case it was Tommen. Poor Tommen. In a world of jackals he was a kind and trusting fawn. He was no lion and was not immune to this moveable feast. He got caught in the claws of his mother’s machinations and in his despair chose suicide. The whole situation possesses a very Sophoclean/Shakespearean tone. Yet when Cersei is told of Tommen’s death, literally shown his body, she reacts with almost cold indifference. She’s become so numb to the death in her world (especially regarding her own children) that it is almost a matter of course. Or did she suspect Tommen might kill himself and pave the way for her path to the Iron Throne? A chilling thought. In spite of Cersei’s manipulations and the fact that she’s clearly a sociopath, there’s never been a question about the love she has for her children. That tether is now utterly gone. And now that she’s proclaimed herself Queen (DID NOT see that coming) what will this mean for the Seven Kingdoms? The prospect is horrifying.
Meanwhile farther North, Jamie celebrates with Walder Frey on the conquering of Riverrun. Their conversation bears notice in that for all his conniving, Walder Frey is really just a scared, old man, willing to let others do his dirty work. Yet he sees his alliance with the Lannisters as an equal partnership. It was gratifying to see Jamie disillusion him of that notion. What was even more gratifying was to see that old fuck finally get his just due. Far be it from me to rejoice in the death of another, but damn what a moment between him and Arya! To reveal to him that he was eating his own sons (which was straight out of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus by the way) in a meat pie–I mean someone needed a crane to lift my jaw off the floor. Then to have his throat slit while Arya smiles down at him? I loved it. Arya’s evolution as character is something to behold in comparison to season one. She’s gone from a Tomboy to an assassin. My only hope is that she holds on to her humanity.
Sam, Gilly, and little Sam arriving at Oldtown really wasn’t anything to send a raven home about. I will admit that I love how Oldtown and the Citadel looks. Plus the expression of joy when Sam sees the vastness of the Citadel’s library was great. Anyone who is a true bibliophile knows that feeling. Other than the white ravens being sent out to herald the arrival of Winter however, those scenes were pretty superfluous.
Once Ser Davos discovered Shireen’s toy on her funeral pyre, you knew it was only a matter of time before he confronted Melisandre. Yet I didn’t expect the scene to be so emotionally driven. There was an anguish and deep sorrow from Davos we’ve never really seen before, even when his own son died in season two. It’s almost as if, after all the blood, death, and absence of justice, this was the final straw. Yet Jon cannot bring himself to kill the Red Woman and instead banishes her. I don’t know whether or not he will come to regret that decision but I doubt we’ve seen the last of her.
A few episodes ago, Lord Varys departed Meereen to seek allies in Westeros. I suspected he was going to Dorne and I wasn’t wrong. What I didn’t see coming was Lady Olenna showing up as well. She brooked no guff from the Sandsnakes either. Despite her grief, Olenna hasn’t lost her biting wit. Speaking of, her house is literally in ruins. There’s no heir to House Tyrell. This isn’t about alliances, it’s about revenge. And Lord Varys is willing to provide it through fire and blood, and of course Daenerys Targaryen.
Dany made a smart move in commanding Daario to stay in Meereen. Although he loves her, and she cares for him, Dany thinks logically (as a ruler should) and follows Tyrion’s advice. At the end of the day you can’t get around the fact that Dany has to marry again at some point. Carrying a lover around isn’t going to help matters.
I loved the scene between Dany and Tyrion just before they depart for Westeros. Dany states she’s scared but it’s obvious that Tyrion is too. Although he’s returning to Westeros with an army at his back, he knows at some point he’s going to have to face Jamie and Cersei again. Will he be able to claim Casterly Rock? There’s a lot of uncertainty there. Yet it’s a profound moment to have him declare that as a confirmed cynic he finally believes in something–Dany. Then to have that belief reciprocated when Dany proclaims Tyrion Hand of the Queen; you can see how much that means to Tyrion. It’s a form of validation that he’s never received in his whole life.
As much as Arya’s evolved as a character, that’s equally true of Sansa. I’ve suspected for a while that Littlefinger desired Sansa as a wife and he makes that obvious. What I did not expect was that not only does Littlefinger want Sansa as his wife, he wants the Iron Throne and he wants her as his Queen. The Sansa of even a year ago would have agreed to the marriage, but not season six Sansa. She turns Littlefinger down flat. It’s another defining moment in the history of Sansa’s character. It’s a declaration that “No I will not be roped into yet another marriage that is not of my choosing.” How this will affect Littlefinger and what self-serving actions he will take from here remains to be seen.
When this season began, the big question on everyone’s mind was, “When are we going to find out about Jon Snow’s heritage?” And yet with all that’s happened over the last five or so episodes, the question became almost an afterthought. Well the show writers sure hadn’t forgotten about it. After Benjen leaves Bran and Meera at the outskirts of the Wall, Bran touches a Godswood tree and once again returns to the Tower of Joy. There he sees his father Ned climb the stairs and find his sister Lyanna, who’s bleeding to death having just given birth to a baby. Lyanna whispers to Ned several words that were inaudible but also a promise to protect the boy. The boy is of course Jon Snow. So now we know definitively that Jon Snow’s father was not Ned Stark and that his mother was in fact Lyanna Stark. Logic suggests that Jon Snow’s father is also none other than Rhaegar Targaryen who hid Lyanna in the Tower of Joy during the course of Robert’s Rebellion. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Ned clearly lied to everyone in order to protect Jon’s true parentage, knowing that Robert would have had Jon killed. It’s important to note that the Targaryens believed in polygamy. So if Rhaegar married Lyanna that means that Jon is actually the heir to the Iron Throne. Furthermore, if the blood of the Targaryens courses through Jon’s veins, he may end up riding one of Dany’s dragons. Again the ramifications of this knowledge are countless.
However, whether or not Jon wins the Iron Throne makes little difference in the present. While he may be King of the Seven Kingdoms someday, he is now King in the North. In a scene reminiscent of the finale of season one, all of the Northern houses proclaim Jon King in the North. This is of course after ten-year old Lady Mormont shames the houses that didn’t rally to House Stark, and proclaims that she doesn’t give a shit that Jon Snow is a bastard. It’s a repudiation of the tradition that a name alone actually means something. Ned Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Oberyn Martell, Viserys Targaryen, Tywin Lannister–all of them had great names but in the end it didn’t save them. Jon always insisted he’s not a Stark. Even Tyrion once told him to never forget what he was. Yet this time denying the reality is what’s needed. Jon reluctantly accepts their allegiance and I think that’s a sign of a true leader right there. Jon is the antithesis of Cersei in that he doesn’t want power. It’s a quality that could make for a great king.
“The Winds of Winter” ends on one of the most iconic and anticipated shots of the entire series. Finally after years of promises, delays, misadventures, and hardships, Dany is FINALLY sailing for Westeros. Seeing her legion of ships, her army, and of course her dragons, I cannot comprehend who could possibly prevail against her. And with assistance from the Dornish in the South, a two front attack may just seal her victory. Then again this is Game of Thrones.
And nothing is ever as it seems.
“The Winds of Winter” rates: 10/10 Severed Ned Heads
Season Highlights: The Battle of Winterfell, events at The Tower of Joy, Dany’s dragons attacking the Master’s fleet, Hodor’s sacrifice, Dany burning the Khals at Vaes Dothrak, Sansa’s badassery, Ramsay’s long overdue death, the Sept of Baelor being consumed, Dany’s fleet sailing for Westeros, The Mountain pulling a dude’s head off, and Jon Snow’s resurrection.
Season Lowlights: Awkward Tyrion drinking scenes, Arya’s cumbersome storyline, Sam’s storyline, little focus on Dorne, too much time with the Iron Islanders, wasting a great novel character in Euron Greyjoy, Grey Worm and Messandei’s “romance.”
Game of Thrones Season Six rates: 9/10 Severed Ned Heads