Ten hours later, and season six of Game of Thrones is over. This season was a lot of things—described by many as going fully off-book, even though it didn’t completely; heavy on the #fightthepatriarchy messaging, even as it put many female characters through hellish conditions; and often ambiguous morally, even for the show’s “good” protagonists—but fundamentally, it was as contradictory as ever.
I saw a lot of posts on my Facebook wall last night about how this season finale proved that Game of Thrones is the best show of all time, and, I mean … no. (Have you watched The Wire? You should watch The Wire.) Did this season deliver excellent moments? Yes. Did it continue to languish in various storylines for far too long? Yes. Did last night’s finale provide us with imagery both terrifying (CERSEI ON THE IRON THRONE!) and satisfying (R+L = J!)? For sure.
But Game of Thrones has always been uneven, and this season was, too. I’ll get deeper into my bests/worsts of the season with a piece here on Punch Drunk Critics in coming days, but let’s get into “The Winds of Winter” here first. Because winter isn’t coming anymore. Winter has already arrived.
+ “I now proclaim Cersei of the House Lannister, first of her name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms. Long may she reign.” Could Cersei have gone more Michael Corleone in “The Winds of Winter”? Every single thing she did was a sign, and the only person who could even read some of them—poor, burned-up Margaery Tyrell—gets murdered with her crown on, pretending to care about seven gods who clearly don’t care about her.
Let’s run through Cersei’s signs, shall we? That black gown, with the intricate shoulder embroidery—like armor—is the only time I think we’ve seen Cersei wear that color, even though she’s seen her husband Robert Baratheon die, her son Joffrey die, her daughter Myrcella die. Cersei is always in Lannister red and gold, but don’t be mistaken—Cersei isn’t wearing black before the Sept of Baelor exploded because she’s in mourning. Instead, she’s preparing for battle. And it’s one she knows she’s going to win, given all the shady shit she does: Having Qyburn enlist the help of his little birds, children who stab Grand Maester Pycelle to death and leave Lancel to die; putting a complete end to the future of House Tyrell, burning up Mace, Loras, and Margaery; and killing her own uncle Kevan, making her a kinslayer.
Did Cersei expect Tommen to kill himself? Doubtful; there seems to be at least some sliver of sadness when she tells Qyburn to burn his body and bury it in the ruins of the Sept of Baelor. Remorse, though, or regret? Doubtful. “Gold shall be their crowns, and their shrouds” comes true in horrible fashion (what is with Lannisters and windows?), and yet Cersei pounces at the opportunity. A lot of people have wondered who would rule if Tommen died by the end of the season—given how clearly he was marked for death—but Cersei’s name never really came up because there were so many rules against women in power. But when you kill everyone making the rules, you make new ones. And you know Cersei is going to be doing that all over the place.
As she tells Septa Unella later on, before she gives the “Shame!” woman to zombie Gregor Clegane (For what, torture? Or rape? Either way, gross), greed is good. I mean, this is basically Cersei living her best life in the mold of Gordon Gekko, right?
“I do things because they feel good. I drink because it feels good. I killed my husband because it felt good to be rid of him. I fuck my brother because it feels good to feel him inside me. I lie about fucking my brother because it feels good to keep our son safe from hateful hypocrites. I killed your High Sparrow and all his little sparrows, all his septons, all his septas, all his filthy soldiers, because it felt good to watch them burn. It felt good to imagine their shock and their pain. No thought has ever given me greater joy. Even confessing feels good, under the right circumstances.”
What does Cersei do next as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms? A lot of that, I think, depends on Jaime. I’ve bitched a lot this season about how the show has kept Jaime and Cersei together far longer than they are in the books; GRRM parts them before Jaime leaves for the Riverlands, when he learns that Cersei was cheating on him and scheming to consolidate power. When Jaime sees her burning the Tower of the Hand after Tywin’s death, he’s reminded of the Mad King Aerys, and a series of other events leads to the end of their affair.
Here, Jaime and Cersei stayed together—he never seemed to ask her why she was captured by the High Sparrow, so he never learned about her sleeping with Lancel; their grief over Joffrey, Tywin, and Myrcella caused them to vow revenge on everyone who rose against them—but the burning of the Sept using wildfire, the death of Tommen, and the crowning of Cersei are MAJOR EVENTS. These are all Aerys-adjacent things that Jaime cannot ignore. Will he be a Queenslayer as well as a Kingslayer? Is this enough to sever the Lannister twins? I am extremely here for that.
+ “The North remembers. We know no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark.” Remember when last week, in “Battle of the Bastards,” Tormund Giantsbane noted that Jon Snow is no king? Well, that changes this week thanks to little Lyanna Mormont, who basically shames the other houses of the North who turned their backs on Jon—Houses Manderly, Cerwyn, and Glover, all of whom refused the Stark call for help before battling Ramsay Bolton—into crowning him as their King in the North. That title last belonged to Robb Stark, the Young Wolf, before his death at the Red Wedding, alongside pregnant wife Talisa and mother Catelyn Stark. But now, Jon Snow—the White Wolf, says Lord Manderly—is their king, “from this day until his last day.” Promotion time!
But is Jon happy about this? We all know his childhood in the Stark household; as he tells Melisandre before banishing her from the North (a plot development I feel was incredibly rushed and frustrating, especially given that MELISANDRE BROUGHT YOU BACK FROM THE DEAD, FOOL), he was always separated from the other Stark children because of his bastard status, and when “our family would sit up here … I’d sit down there.” But now Jon is not only at the table, but at the head of it—and the head of the whole damn North. This is a man who led the Night’s Watch willingly, only to be cynical and bitter after they turned against him and killed him. How will he handle the forced-upon leadership of the North?
And, equally importantly, how will Sansa handle it? Jon calls her the “Lady of Winterfell” and Littlefinger calls her “the future of House Stark,” but the reality is those houses weren’t yelling for a Queen in the North. They were yelling for a king. And even though Sansa doesn’t know Jon’s true parentage—L(yanna) + R(haegar) = J(on Snow), motherfuckers!—the look that she shares with Littlefinger at the end of the episode suggests that perhaps she might agree with Petyr’s dismissal of Jon Snow as a “motherless bastard, born in the South.”
The Stark children need to trust each other, and Jon Snow makes a mighty effort when he forgives Sansa for lying to him about Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale—severely limiting his battle strategy against the Boltons, and almost getting them all killed—and suggests that they need to work together because “We have so many enemies now.” But does Sansa realize that Littlefinger, in his ambition for the Iron Throne and his coveting of her beauty, is truly one of those enemies? She says to Jon that “only a fool would trust Littlefinger,” but she did. And she still might. And while she refuses to indulge in Littlefinger’s kiss or in his “pretty picture” of their future, I wonder what her next move will be. Especially given that, as Jon notes, the Night’s King is coming—he “won’t wait out the storm. He brings the storm.” Of those in Winterfell, only Jon Snow has seen, and battled, the Night’s King. Without him in power, how long can any of them truly last against the White Walkers?
Also, STOP CALLING HIM THE FUCKING ‘NIGHT KING.’ HE IS THE NIGHT’S KING, AND YOU ARE STUPID, SHOW.
+ “Promise me, Ned.” Bran’s first act as the Three-Eyed Raven is to return to the Tower of Joy flashback with his father (kind of selfish, but whatever), and thanks to that, we finally get Jon Snow’s true parentage: Born to Ned’s dying sister Lyanna, fathered by Rhaegar Targaryen, and sworn to be protected by Ned Stark, who took him in and pretended he was his bastard son.
FINALLY, RESOLUTION! And so where does this place Jon in the scheme of things? Yes, he has Stark blood running through his veins, but not Ned Stark’s. Is Winterfell really his? Yes, he has Targaryen blood running through his veins, but that means he’s Dany’s nephew—he doesn’t have a claim to the Iron Throne like she does. He may be the King in the North, but his truth is, well, complicated.
What is Jon’s future? Is he one of the three heads of the dragon in Dany’s prophecy? Is he the “ice” in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the title of GRRM’s series of books? Is he Azor Ahai, the Prince Who Was Promised, as Melisandre guessed? Lots of paths forward for Jon Snow—and, as he noted to Sansa, lots of enemies.
+ “My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last thing you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down on you as you die.” It’s pretty clear by now, sadly, that we’re never getting Lady Stoneheart—but man, does Arya try her damn hardest in this season finale to be as cold as possible. Peace out, Walder Frey. Your “conquerer” ass can rot now.
How does Arya get all the way from Braavos to House Frey at the Twins? How does she remove the servant girl’s face—I thought you had to be at the House of Black and White to harness the place’s power and become a Faceless Man? Regardless, Arya is there, serving Lord Frey his terrible, lazy sons in a pie, gaining her revenge for the Freys double-crossing Robb and Catelyn after offering them guest-right protection. Arya is acting out the story of the Rat Cook that Old Nan used to tell the Stark children, and as we’ve seen so often, a curious amount of Old Nan’s stories (including the Night’s King and the Children of the Forest) are coming true. What could be next?
As everything does with Game of Thrones, though, Arya’s murder of Walder Frey will certainly have repercussions. Jaime had come to help secure the Riverlands and destroy House Tully (“Why do we need you?” he scornfully asked Walder, in a great moment), but with Walder and his heirs gone, who takes over House Frey? Edmure is still alive, albeit locked up—does he escape and reclaim Riverrun? As the Riverlands potentially descend into chaos once again, the Lannisters will have to do something—but Jaime will have his hands tied up with Cersei’s insanity, won’t he?
“Fear is a marvelous thing,” Walder Frey told Jaime, but he should have been smart enough to fear the Starks, to fear their revenge. Walder Frey is a Kingslayer, but he still dies thanks to a little girl. Arya Stark is out for blood. Arya Stark is a force of destruction. And who knows where Arya Stark will go next—and who else on her list she’s going to murder? Cersei, the Mountain, the Hound, Melisandre, Beric, and Thoros are left. Two of them are together in one place; three of them are together in another; and Melisandre is a free agent. Anyone could be next—and Arya could be wearing anyone’s face to get to them. Talk about fear, indeed.
+ “No one tells me to do anything.” Serious question: Who can step to Dany now? Or, you know, EVER? The Queen of Dragons has everything she’s been working for, everything she needs, to reclaim the throne she thinks is rightfully her family’s. As Tyrion notes, “This is actually happening. You have your armies. You have your ships. You have your dragons. … It’s all yours for the taking.” Damn right it is.
So here we go. With Tyrion at her side as the new Hand of the Queen (“I believe in you. It’s embarrassing, really,” was a nice, genuine moment), with Missandei and Varys, and Grey Worm and the Unsullied, and Theon and Yara and the Greyjoys, and her khals and her Dothraki, and the Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell and Highgarden, and Ellaria Sand and her Sand Snakes and Dorne, and Drogon and Viserion and Rhaegal, Dany sails toward Westeros. “I felt … just impatient to get on with it,” Dany told Tyrion. Us too, girl. Us too.
And for the final time for season six this year in 2016, some odds and ends:
+ I literally muttered “Oh, goddammit” when Ellaria’s murder of Doran Martell showed up in the “previously on” segment before the finale began. Get out of here, Dorne. Benioff and Weiss have ruined you.
+ However, Olenna is perfect, and I will only agree to deal with the Sand Snakes if she is around. “What is your name again? Barbara? … You look like an angry little boy. Don’t presume to tell me what I need. … Let the grown women speak.” No one embodies the House Tyrell words of “Growing strong” more than Olenna.
+ “Sometimes before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.” What a nice way to talk about murdering someone. Thanks, Qyburn.
+ “Cersei is not here. Tommen is not here. Why do you think they are not here?” I will miss Margaery SO MUCH. She was so good at playing the game, and was one of the only people to ever rattle Cersei. You will be missed, Natalie Dormer.
+ Loved Margaery’s true colors finally poking through in her interaction with the High Sparrow, from “Faith is the way, Father” to “Forget about the bloody gods!” If there is any redemption in the death of House Tyrell, at least the High Sparrow died knowing Margaery was fucking right.
+ Sam and Gilly were in tonight’s episode, finally arriving at the Citadel to begin his training as a maester for the Night’s Watch. News flash: I still do not care.
+ “The dead cannot pass. I cannot pass.” You hurt my heart, Benjen Stark.
+ “She doesn’t want me, she wants your golden fingers up her twat.” Never change, Bronn.
+ “I’m done with all that,” Sansa tells Petyr when he sees her at the weirwood tree at Winterfell. Did she mean prayer? Or hope? Old gods are a big deal for the Stark family, and Bran communicating through the weirwood tree is what inspired Theon in the books to remember his name and work to escape Ramsay. I would think the tree would still be pretty important.
+ “I love you, and I make you happy.” I literally laughed out loud when Daario said this to Dany. Whatever, man. Control your thirst.
+ Varys looks good in Dornish robes! And I am all about him saying the words of House Targaryen: “Fire and blood.”
+ I hope Melisandre isn’t gone forever, because this season really endeared her to me, even with her being ancient and duplicitous. “I didn’t lie. I was wrong,” is one of the most honest things someone has ever said on this show, and I still am surprised by how swiftly Jon Snow banished her. He’s tied himself to Davos now, and as we saw Davos declare for him as King in the North, the trust is reciprocal. But pissing off a red priestess of the Lord of Light? I can’t see that going well in the long run.
+ Missing in action this week, and therefore gone until next season: Euron (still on the Iron Islands, making a new Iron Fleet); Jorah (still looking for a cure for greyscale); Gendry (still rowing that damn boat); the Brotherhood without Banners and the Hound (still making their way to the North); Brienne and Pod (still sailing away from Riverrun); Ghost (WHERE IS HE!?); and the Night’s Watch (still being led by a taciturn and wonderful Dolorous Edd).