For the better part of a decade, Games of Thrones has told us that shit’s about to get real. Time and time again it’s reminded us of its inevitable fireworks, even going as far to use them as a crutch. We were told in the very first episode that the White Walkers are coming, that the Targaeryn’s are coming to retake Westeros. “Winter is coming”, “I will take my throne with fire and blood”, yada yada yada. It’s a testament to the remarkable world-building of George R.R. Martin and the showrunners that the show continued to grow in popularity despite none of the big stuff actually happening.
Tauheed Epps –known to most as 2 Chainz- once wrote, “It ain’t a strip club if they ain’t showing pussy”. Running further with that metaphor (surely a problematic one given the mixed reactions to GOT’s use of female nudity), GOT has been a quaint but relatively tame gentlemen’s club to this point. The buffet is great, the dancers and staff are all nice, but we know the real fun is waiting to go down in the VIP room. Only you can’t get into the VIP room right away. You need to throw a healthy amount of singles around and pay a $25 ATM fee before you’re deemed worthy. You need to watch six exposition-heavy seasons. You simply have to earn it. Gotta crawl before you ball, you know?
It takes guts to open a season finale the way Game of Thrones did with “The Winds of Winter”. It takes trust in your audience to pick up visual cues. There couldn’t have been more than ten lines of dialogue over the episode’s first fifteen minutes. Instead, Ramin Djawadi’s score and some meticulous staging from director Miguel Sapochnik set up Cersei’s revenge in a way that verbal exposition never could. Everyone who’s anyone gathered in the Great Sept of Baelor for the trials of Loras Tyrell and Cersei. Everyone except those who Cersei would like to keep alive, that is. Margaery, one of the few characters whose proven herself Cersei’s relative equal in terms of string-pulling, put two-and-two together. But it was too late. The Faith Militant wouldn’t let anyone leave. Chekhov’s wildfire caught flame, and, boom. Quite literally. Everyone blew up.
Queen Mother/Domestic terrorist Cersei safely overlooking her achievement from a balcony, sipping wine, smirking in the way only she can. It was clear all season Cersei was plotting something; and while the Redditors may have pieced it together weeks ago, it was still genuinely shocking to see it come to a boil. The explosion looked spectacular. We were given shots from inside the Sept and outside the Sept that perfectly set the physical stage for the explosion. When everything went green, the show didn’t need to waste time showing the wreckage from various spots in the city. We knew the massacre was contained and we knew where it was contained to. There were countless moments throughout the season where it felt like Cersei was this close to just telling the Mountain to go crazy. But she knows the game. She showed patience; waiting until she had the perfect hand. Cersei remains one of the very smartest characters in this world.
She didn’t want Tommen to die. That much I know. Otherwise she wouldn’t have had the Mountain put him in timeout. But I don’t think she’s exactly losing sleep over her son’s self-inflicted fatal tumble (talk about a king’s landing, am I right?). After all, she has an Iron Throne to sit on for the time being.
I didn’t like how Margaery’s death was handled. She’s only one of the hundreds who died in the explosion, so I get why the show wouldn’t focus on her demise but goddamn that’s a MAJOR character we’ve known for a long time gone without any sort of remembrance and with a story still left to tell. What was her plan? She WAS playing the High Sparrow, we saw that two episodes ago. I guess we’ll never know? But, hey, I can’t even say for sure that she’s 100% dead (which is what happens when you end your fifth season with a supposed death that everyone knows isn’t final).
Checking in with Bronn of the Blackwater, week 10
Bronn and Jaime conveniently left the Riverlands just in time to witness Cersei’s crowning, and just in time to not run into vengeful Arya. Back in Westeros armed with little more than a small sword, masks, and a hit list; Arya is the wild card. Her first victim was Lord Frey, and she went about it in a way that would make Titus Andronicus proud. This finale made the next move for most characters clear, but again, Arya is the wild card. She’ll get in the way of someone’s plans. What makes this so interesting is that nearly every character thinks her dead. The people know about Dany and her pending invasion. The people know Winter is here. But they don’t know Arya Stark is. Well, maybe Brienne, the Hound, Hot Pie, and Podrick do. But that’s it.
I touched on this a couple weeks ago but GOT has completely given up making any geographical/sequential sense, which is probably for the best at this point. Characters are seemingly teleporting from place to place rather than embarking on the long road side plots. Theon and Yara got to Meereen rather quickly. Arya got back to Westeros rather quickly. Varys went from Meereen to Dorne then back to Meereen quicker than Bronn can say “cunt”. I loved some of season-long voyages, but we’re past that. There’s no more time for building relationships (I would hope). The players are all there.
Noticeably absent from this episode was Jorah, presumably off somewhere looking for a cure to greyscale. He’s probably going to run into Melisandre at some point, right? Jon sent her away after her child-burning tactics were revealed. A common theory suggests that it was Melisandre or someone of similar faith who cured Shireen Baratheon’s greyscale, which would certainly explain Stannis’ blind trust in Melisandre (something that never really made sense given Stannis’ general practicality).
We DID return to Samwell this week, seeing the Citadel for the first time. It is certainly something. A gigantic, possibly infinite library that extends up and up and up. That’s a lot of books. Maybe Samwell will find George R.R. Martin there. Maybe that’s what he’s been doing instead of, you know, writing the conclusions to the stories that have made him a millionaire.
The “Daenerys Sucks Diaries”, week 10
Dany doesn’t suck anymore. She’s learned some valuable lessons and her character is far less boring for it. Electing to leave Daario in charge of Meereen is a clever move by both Dany and the showrunners. She can use marriage as a political tool, and the show got rid of a relatively insignificant character without having to resort to some gimmicky death (cough cough Rickon).
I was happy to see Dany’s big plan finally take shape this season, though it does seem like the last minute addition of the Tyrell’s and Martell’s to her following was lazy. I’m assuming more exposition was shot and then left on the cutting room floor. Whatever. But how did Lady Olenna know about the massacre in King’s Landing so soon? One would assume that people seeing Cersei’s true colors –if they were somehow not yet aware- would drive support towards Dany. I hope this politicking is explored further. There’s urgency, but major houses in Westeros aligning with Dany isn’t something you can just gloss over. This show has spent years world-building, all of it leading to this moment. Let it breathe a bit.
What a nice scene between Dany and Tyrion. Their relationship hasn’t delivered the weekly gems we thought it would –mostly due to Dany not actually being there- but it’s clear that Tyrion has made Dany a better leader, and just as importantly, it’s clear she recognizes that. Tyrion saved King’s Landing in season two but was never properly credited. Dany needs him and she knows it. Dany physically putting the Hand’s badge on Tyrion was the moment he’s been waiting for since his inception. Acting alongside Peter Dinklage has really brought out the best in Emilia Clarke. This was the first season where her stoic interpretation of the character didn’t get in the way. The character has finally earned such a demeanor. THE most exciting development for me this season was Dany and her entire storyline moving away from what held it back for so long; repetitiveness, stagnancy, lifeless character work, and frivolous exposition about dragons and whatnot. So Dany no longer sucks, officially. I’ll have to think of a new organizational tool for next season.
Sidebar: Who do you think Dany will marry? Will she marry at all? Would taking the hand of a strapping Westerosi bachelor make her seem less powerful? Is there a chance she marries Tyrion, or a character of equal significance?
The image of Dany’s fleet (the Unsullied, the Dorthraki, the Ironborn, the Martell’s, the Tyrell’s) feels like the climactic one (so far). Even more so than the assumed White Walkers attack I believe fans have been anticipating Dany’s attempted conquest since the very first episode. The digital artists did a nice job making everything look as vast as it should have.
Of course, the biggest moment in last night’s episode came courtesy of a flashback, which itself came courtesy of Bran more or less accepting his new role as the Three-Eyed Raven. “R + L = J” has long been the most common theory amongst fans. It’s a detailed theory supported by many things in the books that never really factored in on the show but at its simplest it says that Jon Snow is not, in fact, Ned’s Stark’s bastard, but is the child of Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Knowing that baby Jon will be killed due his bloodlines, Lyanna asks Ned to care for him as her dying wish. Ned then assumes the humility and tells the world that Jon is his bastard. That’s the most Ned Stark thing ever.
Google it for more concrete details; but at its core it’s all about Jon being half-Stark, half-Targaryen. We saw last night through Bran that Jon is FOR SURE Lyanna’s son, not Ned’s. But the show intentionally cut the volume as she whispered into Ned’s ear. This is gimmicky. It’s extremely similar to the use of Jon’s death in last season’s finale. Everyone is going to assume all year that Jon is Rhaegar’s son. Book-readers will probably be able to prove it. It was clear from his resurrection that Jon is the key to this whole thing, What the show just did was CONFIRM part of his ancestry while still trying to use his other familial mysteries as a cliffhanger. Ewwwww.
I also continue to be confused by Sansa, which is probably intentional, but frustrating nonetheless. She has a heart-to-heart with Jon where she apologizes for not telling him how she sent for Littlefinger and they express how important it is to be honest with each other. The immediately afterwards Littlefinger tells her how his end goal is to sit alongside her on the Iron Throne and SHE DOESN’T TELL JON, even as Littlefinger slyly smiles when Jon is proclaimed King in the North. What the fuck.
Side note: Lyanna Mormont is an OG.
Tweet of the Week
My personal distaste for GOT’s newfound reliance on bad cliffhangers aside, this was a worthy finale that brought both great contained moments and moved the larger story forward in interesting ways, which is rare for a show whose finales are often just clean-up episodes after each season’s penultimate shitshow. The entire sequence in King’s Landing was beautifully done, and fans are surely thrilled to see Dany and company finally set sail. It’s hard to ask for much more out of a season finale. “The Winds of Winter” tied up some stories while laying the foundation for others, all the while remaining a riveting hour-plus of television from scene to scene.
As a whole, season six was pretty damn great. It had its lulls like any season but branching off from the books proved to be just what the show needed after two wasteful seasons in four and five. If you were to divide this show up into beginning-middle-end, season six probably marks the conclusion of the middle section. With a rumored fourteen episodes left, everything is set up for this show to go out with a bang.
There’s so much more to talk about with the episode but this is already my longest recap ever. Maybe I’ll go back to it soon.
Arbitrary Ranking of the Week
Seasons of Game of Thrones, ranked
- Season 2 (nothing tops Tyrion’s stint as Joffrey’s Hand in terms of pure watchability and quality writing. Also, “Blackwater” is still the shows finest hour).
- Season 3 (Not just the Red Wedding, but the way the season was set up so that the Red Wedding, while shocking, made perfect sense).
- Season 6 (A season full of rising action ended with a bang. The most linear season despite the use of flashbacks)
- Season 1 (It’s very difficult to introduce so many characters and do so much world-building while still creating tense episodes. They nailed it)
- Season 4 (it was too up-and-down. You’d have an “oh shit” moment followed by two hours of boredom.)
- Season 5 (Ewwww. Had “Hardhome” not been so spectacular I may have quit the show. For real.)
Five Random Notes
- I really enjoy ranting about this show. Its popularity helps the discussion of it (as much as I tend to hate fan theories). I’m thinking I may go back to season one and do episode-by-episode recaps before the show returns, contemplating each episodes worth knowing what we know now. Hopefully I can find the time and hopefully the interest is there. If not, whatever, it gives me an excuse to rewatch GOT.
- The Night Of, the new HBO miniseries which premieres July 10th, actually has its pilot on HBO right now. It’s INCREDIBLE. A slow-burner for sure, but filled with great performances and some brilliant cinematography. I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
- If you need a show, might I also suggest Mr. Robot (I know, I know, everyone is telling people to watch Mr. Robot). Its first season was the best standalone season of television since whatever the best Breaking Bad season was. Season 2 starts July 13th, which leaves you time to binge (only 10 episodes).
- Where the hell is Gendry?
- Ser Davos, please don’t die. I love you.