That was something. Only 42 weeks until season seven!
If week nine’s “Battle of the Bastards” was a mace, applied ferociously to the side of your cranium, Game of Thrones‘ season finale “The Winds of Winter” was a bowstring — taut, foreboding, threatening, and aimed square at the heart of season seven. So much has been answered and resolved but the scale of the conflicts to come is a vast ocean of possibility.
Where do we even begin?!? I could spend dozens of paragraphs on nothing but the musical score. Which reminds me…
We open to shots of Cersei, Tommen, Margaery, and the High Sparrow all being dressed — the last time three of them will ever do so — to a haunting piano background. The culmination of Cersei’s scheming is wildfire stashed under the Great Sept of Baelor and her foes either meet their ends by knife or a great green explosion.
Margaery is able to puzzle it out, but the rigidity of the High Sparrow becomes his undoing. In one fell swoop, Cersei rids herself of Grand Maester Pycelle, Lancel, Loras, Margaery, Mace, and, of course, the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant.
Her only misstep is leaving Tommen unguarded as his grief consumes him into suicide. Or was it a misstep? Cersei’s demeanor never seems to indicate that she’s upset. Perhaps this was her embracing the prophecy from the beginning of season five in which she’s told that she will see all her children dead. Whether that played out in her mind or not, she uses the tragedy to assume the only thing that could rival her affection for her children: power. Cersei Lannister (note Qyburn didn’t say “Baratheon”), First of Her Name. Long may she reign? We’ll see. But Westeros should be terrified.
Things end more enthusiastically up north, but the memory of a King in the North being proclaimed doesn’t invoke the same awe as the last time it happened. Why? Because things didn’t end so well for that king. The previously unresponsive houses of the north — the Manderlys, Glovers, and Cerwyns — once again pledge fealty to House Stark, this time to Jon Snow, the White Wolf.
The wild card, as he does love to be, is Petyr Baelish. His expression as Sansa glances at him is enough to make her and the audience distrust his intentions. He wants Sansa to sit beside him on the Iron Throne, telling her it should be her at the head of Winterfell, not some bastard born in the south. Uh oh. How much does he know? Which reminds me…
Bran gets dropped off (near the Wall, I presume?) by his uncle Benjen at a weirwood tree, where his Three-Eyed rental video picks up right where he left off: at the Tower of Joy. Bran follows his father inside this time, discovering the secret of Jon’s parentage, becoming the first character we’ve seen gain this knowledge (trailing only the entire internet — his vision quests clearly haven’t discovered Reddit).
What this knowledge means going forward is uncertain. But we now know that he is in fact Jon Targaryen, fathered by Daenerys’ brother Rhaegar and hidden from the wrath of Robert Baratheon by Ned Stark and his dying mother, Lyanna. Which reminds me…
Jon’s aunt (weird, huh?) has finally set sail for Westeros! We’ve only been waiting for this moment since, oh, forever. Leaving Daario behind to guide Meereen at the advice of newly christened Hand of the King Tyrion Lannister, she heads west with her fleet, her Dothraki horde, and her dragons. Yeeesssssssssssssss.
If it feels like Game of Thrones has finally embraced convention, that’s because, well, it has. If George R. R. Martin was hoping to overturn conventional fantasy tropes in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, you can see why it’s taking him so long to get to the end of it; sometimes the path to a satisfying ending is to give the people what they want. I think we just witnessed the turning point where Game of Thrones became its own monster. Our story going forward centers on three points of power in Jon, Cersei, and Daenerys, and a final victory may hinge on how the three of them play their cards from here. “The Winds of Winter” may have ended with its pieces placed conventionally, but that’s okay. Never have we seen things come together so satisfyingly.
But hey, don’t forget about the White Walkers. Something tells me they may try to throw a wrench into a few plans. Bring on the madness. I can’t wait to see it all play out.
– There’s so much I haven’t even touched on yet. My head is still spinning.
– Seriously, how awesome was that music? From front to back, the score of this episode was on another level.
– It’s been far too long since we’ve seen Conniving Cersei. And boy did she come back with a vengeance.
– Jaime, you rich slab of beef, you. Which reminds me…
– Frey pies! If you’re a book-reader, you’ve been waiting for that delivery of succulent Frey pies for a while now. And while they weren’t served in the north, they were delivered by…
– Arya! Wasting no time getting to work on her list, I see. A cheer-worthy moment, after all the suffering and hardship she’s witnessed. You have to just stop for a moment and marvel at the fact that this show turned a girl murdering Walder Frey’s sons, baking them into a pie, and feeding it to him before slitting his throat into a heroic moment. Arya has gone full Sith at this point. She’s gone to the dark side and then some.
– Sam and Gilly arrive at Oldtown, just in time to see the white ravens being sent out from the Citadel, signaling that winter has come.
– Sam encounters the Westerosi equivalent of a government bureaucrat in trying to get signed up for his classes. Then he realizes he’s died and gone to book heaven.
– Davos confronts Melisandre with the truth of what happened to Shireen, leading Jon to exile her from Winterfell. Liam Cunningham was brilliant in this scene.
– So Melisandre is heading south and Brienne is heading north? Hmm. Interesting.
– At least Sansa is sorry for not telling Jon about the knights of the Vale. Still seems like something she maybe probably definitely should’ve mentioned.
– Olenna Tyrell shows up in Dorne, hilariously shushing Sand Snakes and ready to deliver vengeance and justice to Cersei. Cue … Varys! With promises of fire and blood.
– All right, I’ve given this show a hard time about people moving quickly, but this one takes the cake. How (and why?) did Varys go from Meereen to Dorne and back to Meereen? Forget believability; that just seems pointless and exhausting. Did someone just forget to edit him out of that last shot?
– The Bay of Dragons, huh? A little on the nose, but I like it.
– Lyanna Mormont. Like a boss.
– As always, you have to wonder what Littlefinger knows and what he’s not saying. Honestly, even in this world, piecing together the truth of Jon’s parentage wouldn’t have been the most difficult thing in the world.
– Jaime already killed a Mad King. Could a Mad Queen be next?
– Get it, Daenerys. Get it.
If you took the time to read any of my recaps this season, I thank you very sincerely. It’s been a blast to write and I can’t wait to be back here next season doing more of the same. Just hold tight for another nine and a half months! See you back here then. Thanks again for reading. Valar dohaeris.