HOW. IS. THIS. SHOW. SO. FREAKING. GOOD.
EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. IT. HITS. NEW. LEVELS. OF. EPIC.
SERIOUSLY. I. WANT. TO. MARRY. THIS. SHOW. AND. ALSO. JON. SNOW.
OK, I feel like I’m going to bust my Capslock key if I keep this up.
Talking about ending the season with a bang.
Leaving aside big battle sequences and their inevitable loss of non-named-ergo-not-quite-as-important-life, I think we just witnessed the greatest body count in the history of Game of Thrones.
We saw the internet’s favourite fan theory confirmed. We saw Jon Snow hailed a King. We saw the Great Targaryen Fleet set sail for conquest, dragons flying overhead. And we saw the triumph of the greatest supervillain we always knew was coming - DARTH CERSEI.
Before we get into the grit of this episode (and by gum there was so much grit it was basically the Gobe Desert), I’d like to take a moment to address all of those hand-wringing commentators who over the years have Mrs Lovejoyed it constantly about “the role of women in Game of Thrones”.
Yeah, for sure, women were treated badly. Yeah, for sure, they were seen as easily disposable pieces of meat. Yeah, for sure, they were marginalised and dehumanised by a patriarchal system of entitlement and abuse.
But you know what else they did?
THEY STOOD. THE F***. UP.
And to be frank, the impending slaying of the patriarchy is all the sweeter because of all the shit the Women of Westeros and beyond have had to put up with over the past six seasons.
The only exclusively men’s only club that remains seems to be Old Town, the home of the Maesters, and you just give Gilly five minutes with those bozos and that will soon be sorted.
Of course, there were casualties along the way. We lost Queen Margaery, one of nature’s foremost schemers and plotters; and we saw Melisandre banished just when we expect she’ll probably come in handy.
But that was nothing compared to the sight of DARTH CERSEI on the Iron Throne, Daenarys Ice Cold standing firm on both hearts and prows, and Lady Mormont lay the smack down on a bunch of old white men who utterly deserved it.
The cynic might read my interpretation of this finale as a feminist fantasy or wish fulfilment on my part? My response is oh HELLS yes. We are post-Brexit now, people. You know it, I know it: FALLOPIAN = UTOPIAN.
Season 6, Episode 10 “The Winds of Winter”
Things are looking a little...combustible in King’s Landing. Slow Lorus and Cersei Lannister are due to face trial in the Sept of Baelor, and things could get… explosive.
The whole montage of characters getting ready for the trial was so beautifully done - especially the music, which was of a type we’d never really experienced before in Game of Thrones. The sombre classical score gave the sequence both an operatic sense of scale and Hitchcockian hint of doom.
The music paused for Slow Lorus to confess his sins in front of the High Sparrow and a bunch of other barefooted old religious hacks in sacks. Poor Slow Lorus - from the shiny Knight of Flowers to begging for forgiveness on the floor like the UK in about a year’s time. When he gives up his claim to Highgarden and renounces the Tyrell name, Mace looks like he’s been, well, maced. Sure, he’s been a buffoon the whole time we’ve known him, but even a buffoon has feelings and a dynasty to protect.
Margaery is more pragmatic. When the Faith Militant start carving the sign of the Seven into Slow Lorus’ forehead, she holds back their angry father, telling him the faith is the way. She’s still playing her game - let them think you’re in their power, it’s more important to just survive.
It’s this same instinct that then warns Margaery that something has gone very wrong. The Queen Mother has not turned up, has not even left the Red Keep, in fact. As that haunting music lures us to the edge of our seats, we see Cersei finish dressing, but rather than make for the exit, languidly pour herself a glass of red wine and head to her window, while Zombie Mountain prevents King Tommen from leaving.
The High Sparrow sends Lancel Lannister to find Cersei, but he is soon distracted by a cheeky imp running away from the Sept and into a nearby door. Lancel follows, heading deeper underground, under the Sept itself. The imp has a torch, but Lancel has none - as usual, he just blindly follows.
Meanwhile Grand Maester Pycelle, running a tad late himself due to a morning quickie with a woman he fully intends to stiff out of (at least) payment, is taken by a small child, whom we assume he assumes is in his employ, to Qyburn’s Bond villain-esque lair.
Qyburn, the dechained former Maester, rather relishes his final words to Pycelle, the toff who had looked down on him since he arrived in King’s Landing. “Sorry to off you like this, old bean, but the future is now and what not,” is the essence of what he said, his apology not really ringing true.
Then a bunch of sweet young kiddies pull flick knives and give Pycelle the old Fleabottom Flensing. It turns out you really can make kids do stuff for candy. I’ll remember that, and really hope the police didn’t just read that sentence.
Lancel is not long for this world either, as the Artful Stabger shivs him in the side just as he realises there’s a big cache of Wildfire sitting right underneath the Sept. Did anybody else notice the fierce organ playing the Game of Thrones theme as a leitmotif as Lancel drags himself away from the fallen torch (which seemed to be to be the clear and present danger) to something green at the other end of the passage.
Kate Middleton meanwhile is pleading with the High Sparrow to stop the trial and GTFO. If Cersei ain’t there, it’s because Cersei don’t want to be there. Which means they’re all in mortal danger.
Of course, being the stubborn old zealot he is, Big Bird refuses to consider that his big trial day might be spoiled by someone he thinks he’s already beaten down with prison and public humiliation. In this sense, Cersei is Robert the Bruce, learning patience from the spider’s web in that Irish cave, while the High Sparrow is King Edward II pre-Bannockburn (I just feel the Scottish historical references are appropriate this week).
I mean, if the High Sparrow just STOPPED for ONE SECOND he would at least hear the Music of Foreboding. Foreboding!
Kate Middleton drops any pretence at respecting the faith, grabs Slow Lorus and makes for the exit. A panic ensues as onlookers try to escape, but are of course held back by idiotic boorish Faith Militant who really make me angry at religion in general. We see Margaery and the High Sparrow exchange looks, and slowly, as if borne by moon gravity, the penny finally fricking drops for Big Bird.
Because’s Lancel’s interpretive take on RuPaul’s Drag Race falls short of the finish line, and he cannot do anything to stop the stub of a candle reaching a puddle of Wildfire on the floor.
Chick chick BOOM.
The cellars fill with licks of green hell, and then the High Sparrow vanishes in a geyser of light and heat. The whole Sept goes up in a millisecond, the windows blown out, the bell sent crashing into a street below.
And safe on the other side of the city is Cersei, watching her efforts with the grin of someone who is really having a good day at the office.
It’s not enough for the Queen Mother to have inflicted pain on a citywide scale; she has to have an intimate moment of it as well. And for that, she uses the Septa, the same one who tortured her and walked her naked through the streets, now shackled in her chambers.
“Confess”, she urges, pouring her wine into the Septa’s face. She wants her to own up to being a harsh disciplinarian not because she was pure and motivated by religion, but because she was a sadist. Cersei can say this because she knows the feeling intensely. Whether it’s boozing up, knocking off Robert Baratheon, or just having sex with a blood relative - Cersei does it all because it feels good.
Another thing she finds good - delayed punishment. When the Septa says she’s ready to meet her gods, Cersei ushers in the Zombie Mountain. “This is your God now,” she says, practically sashaying out of the room to leave the Septa to an awful fate. “Shame… shame.”
It’s a moment of victory for Cersei, complete and unrelenting victory. Finally, finally! One of her plans has actually paid off. Everything has totally worked.
Except of course it hasn’t. Because Cersei’s plans always backfire somehow.
In this case, it’s possibly the most horrifying thing in an episode of horror. Tommen, informed of the loss of his Queen, the High Sparrow and a bunch of others, is left alone in his room. The direction here was flawless, leaving the camera locked off on a shot of the Great Sept burning, while Tommen takes his crown off and walks off screen. What feels like months pass, before he quickly walks back into the shot, steps up onto the window ledge and lets himself fall outwards.
The suicide of a king, a CHILD, is not something we’ve ever seen before, and it was completely unexpected. Given the prophecy that’s haunted Cersei about her children, Tommen was always high on our list of “Who’s Going to Die Next”, but who could have seen it would be by his own hand? And yet, now that it’s happened, it makes sense. He was already guilty about betraying his mother by banning trial by combat. Margaery had been released but their marriage wasn’t the same. Already his young shoulders had been forced to bear so much more than they ever should have. Cersei spent so much time trying to save Tommen from other people, she never even considered that the biggest risk to his safety was her.
When we next see Cersei, she is standing over Tommen’s body, insisting Qyburn show her his face. She is grief-stricken, but not demonstrably so as she was with Joffrey and Myrcella. She doesn’t even give his body the respect of the others; with the Sept gone, there is to be no lying in state, no funeral. Just burn his body and bury the ashes where the Sept was, so he can be with his family. She has work to do.
It’s taken them all season, but Sam and Gilly finally reached Oldtown - just in time to see hundreds of white ravens being released from the tower. Officially, that means winter has arrived. Winter, and Sam Tarly.
We’ve never seen Sam as chipper as he was bouncing into reception and handing over his credentials to the chap on duty. He proceeded to play a passive-aggressive power game, making Sam lean all the way over the desk to place the letter in his hand. Sam insists he’s there for legit reasons, but according to the Maester’s book of records, it is “irregular”. There’s been a lot of developments since the records were updated, Sam insists, and eventually passive-aggressive dude relents. Sam will be allowed to use the library, hurrah! But Gilly and baby Sam have to wait outside. It’s funny that Sam, so intent that they stay together, can only manage a weak grin of apology before racing off to see the big book place.
The big book place turns out to be colossally big, which of course it had to be because they weren’t going to string out this half-season plotline into a whole season then not shove us face first into Hogwarts.
Of course, this will be a cue for hundreds of book lovers to post screenshots of the Maester’s Library on their Facebook walls with statuses like “My dream home!” and “I’d get through this in two weeks!” We get it, you read books, and you have a home library. You know what else you have, I’ll wager? Dust. Bloody dust. I feel sorry for whoever has to clean that flipping Maester’s library.
Meanwhile at The Twins, celebrations are underway to mark the return of Riverrun to the Freys. Edmure Tully is back in a cell, the Blackfish killed by foot soldiers, so all is right with the world, according to Walder Frey. But Jaime is not impressed with the Lord of the Twins’ bullshit. He asks some pertinent questions about Frey’s own battle record, but he’s fobbed off with platitudes about victory and defeating enemies and how he and Jaime are both “Kingslayers”.
“Fear is a marvellous thing,” Frey states, aptly summarising his whole petty little personality. He’s driven only by jealously and small man syndrome, a desire for people to think him lofty. And Jaime, bless him, calls him out on it.
“They don’t fear the Freys, they fear the Lannisters,” he says. “We gave you the Riverlands to hold the Riverlands. If we have to ride north and take them back for you every time you lose them… why do we need you?” Without a microphone handy, Jaime instead drops his napkin and storms off.
Much later, Lord Walder sits alone in his Great Hall, the site of the Red Wedding and so much effusion of blood. A serving girl brings him a hot pie, and puts up with his creepy old man groping.
But things get interesting when Walder Frey calls for his eldest sons. “They’re already here, my Lord”, the serving girl says. “What are they doing, trimming their c*** hairs?” Frey replies, proving once again dung is more charming than he is. “They’re already here my lord,” the girl repeats.
Oooooh boy. This is when we knew things were about to get good.
For the serving girl encourages Lord Walder to examine his hot pie more closely, and he finds a finger. “They weren’t easy to carve up,” the girl explains as the creepy old man retches.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who roared when the serving girl removed her face and revealed ARYA FRICKING STARK. Back in Winterfell, no doubt having read Titus Andronicus on the way over, and ready to cook up some sweet, sweet revenge. She sliced open Frey’s throat in an echo of the way her own mother had been murdered in the same place. Arya’s face as Frey’s life ebbed away was just glorious. A little intense and scary, sure, but glorious.
I had so wanted a loving reunion between Arya, Sansa and Jon this episode, but if that couldn’t happen, I will take this long-awaited for piece of frontier justice any day of the week.
Speaking of all things Jon Snow, let’s head to Winterfell, where our beloved is reminiscing to Kate Bush about the pros and cons about being a bastard (con - no head table; pro - still got a feed). But this reverie is interrupted by Ser Davos Seaworth, who finally decides to have it out with Melisandre over Shireen’s death.
The Onion Knight’s grief and anger are absolutely heartbreaking in this scene. Shireen was the one bright light in his former life, which had been shaded by crazy people. She had taught him to read, for crying out loud. She was special, and after his own son had died at the Blackwater, gave Ser Davos something normal to hang onto, and something to fight for. Now he wants answers; and he wants Jon Snow to know who Melisandre really is.
For her part, Melisandre breaks hearts in a different way. We have the knowledge now that she is very old, and has probably committed more than her fair share of abominable crimes. But after Stannis’ loss, she suffered a crisis of faith, a crisis only vaguely ameliorated by that whole bringing Jon back to life business. So she feels the sacrificing of Shireen more keenly now than she did when she encouraged Stannis to burn her. Of course, she still tries to justify it, because the Red God moves in mysterious ways, but it’s a credit to her that her heart doesn’t seem to be in it.
Davos calls on Jon to let him execute Melisandre as a murderer, but Jon insteads opts to banish her. Seaworth backs that up by saying if she ever ventures north again he will kill her himself. Melisandre says nothing, simply accepts her fate and goes. But what will happen now if something happens to our beloved Jon? I was quite into the idea of Melisandre being his Medic On Standby. And with Melisandre heading south, surely she has to meet up with her old friend Thoros of Myr and the Brotherhood Without Banners?
Jon and Sansa had a beautiful scene on the battlements of Winterfell, in which Jon gives credit to Sansa for winning the battle, and Sansa apologises for not telling Jon about Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale. He replies that they need to trust each other, as they have enough enemies outside the family to deal with. He asks her if she can trust Baelish; Sansa replies quite brilliantly that only a fool would trust him.
Later, we see her put this philosophy into practice when Baelish confronts her in the godswood. Now I was all ready to open Littlefinger back with open arms after last week’s hero effort, but when he confesses to Sansa that his real goal is to sit on the Iron Throne with her by his side I remembered why I HATE him so much. SO. CREEPY. Dude, we get you had the hots for her mother, but seriously, this is gross.
Thankfully Sansa has the right response.
But Littlefinger won’t let it go - people will hear about this victory soon, and know he’s declared for House Stark. He asks her to consider who the people of the North should rally around - a trueborn Stark daughter or a bastard. Godsdamnit, Littlefinger, would you STOP planting dirty rotten seeds in Sansa’s head?
Meanwhile north of the Wall, Benjen Stark has taken Bran and Meera as far as he can. It turns out that because he’s technically not totally alive, he cannot breach the magic cast inside the Wall to keep out White Walkers. That explains why he never came back - although you’d think he could leave a message or something.
Given that Bran can’t walk, it seems like the plan is for Meera to drag him the rest of the way, or wait and hope a Night’s Watch patrol comes by at some point. In the meantime, Bran decides to use the weirwood to finish off that flashback he started way back before Hodor died (oh God, I just reminded myself of Hodor, sob).
BANG! All of a sudden we’re back at the Tower of Joy with young Ned Stark racing up to find his sister Lyanna dying in a bed of blood. She’s scared, but glad to see him, because she needs him to do something for her.
It’s revealed that yes, in fact, Lyanna had given birth to the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, and if Ned didn’t protect him, Robert Baratheon would have him killed. Young Ned is then presented with the baby, whose eyes open to reveal black Stark pupils.
And with that, half of the internet let off a cheer, and the other half snorted and said “Tell me something I DON’T know.” The mathematical formula R + L = J had finally been proven right, QED.
The show rewarded our success with a jump cut from the baby’s face to Jon’s face in the present, facing down a room full of northern lords, each with their own idea of what should happen now Ramsay Bolton has successfully been turned into Schmackos.
Jon insists they need to stay together to prepare for the invasion of the White Walkers, but he’s not having much cut through. And that’s because he’s not a kick arse pre-teen with more wisdom on her shoulders than an Oxford-educated owl.
Lyanna Mormont gets up and tears strips off Lord Manderly, Lord Glover and Lord Kerwin for not turning up to the Battle for Winterfell. “But House Mormont remembers! The North remembers! We know no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark,” she fires at the crowd.
“I don’t care if he’s a bastard, Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins. He’s my king, from this day until his last day!”
That, my friends, is a lecture. You just got SERVED.
The traitorous lords front up and grovel and swear their swords to their new King in the North. Jon, rising from his seat, looks freaked out by this development, but exchanges a quick smile of disbelief with Sansa, who seems much more relaxed about it. After all, she’d already told him on the battlements that Jon was a Stark to her. Perhaps now he’d finally believe it.
I can see the glance Sansa and Baelish exchange being interpreted by some as raising the possibility Littlefinger might try to poison Sansa against Jon. He’s taking your seat, you should be the Queen in the North, etc etc. All of that is true - Sansa, as we know, is already a Queen - but I think it’s more like Sansa realising Jon is now an obstacle to Baelish’s Iron Throne goal. Given that Jon is not only a Stark, but a Targaryen, that gives him a claim to the South as well (if and when that information comes out, of course). Baelish has declared for House Stark - but how long can that now last?
Let’s flick back to King’s Landing for the massive climactic scene of awesome. It started with Jaime and Bronn returning with the Lannister forces to see the Sept of Baelor still burning. Frantically concerned for his sister, Jaime spurs them forward.
He needn’t have worried. OK, while he’s been gone, his youngest son has died, but Cersei has implemented Backup Plan B: DARTH CERSEI.
Black dominates this sequence, both in tone and physical colour. The Great Hall is darker than we’ve ever seen it, the windows blocked out. And it seems Cersei’s days of wearing Lannister red and gold or the more usual pastels of the court are behind her. That battle dress seems glued on now.
Having said that, I would also like to put in an order for a bespoke copy of Cersei’s incredible armoured black gown. I NEED that outfit to wear on a daily basis, especially when walking the foster kittens on leashes. Sure, my experiments with the harness have yet to yield results, but one day soon you will witness me walking my cats along the street, literally dressed to kill a la Cersei, and you will fall to your knees in respect, my Throners. For we know there is nothing more fearsome than a cat walker in armoured jacquard.
Except perhaps, Cersei, followed by the Zombie Mountain and the rest of the Kingsguard, walking to be crowned as Queen, the First of Her Name (aka DARTH CERSEI).
Qyburn crowns her, and we see on his lapel his reward: he is the new Hand. Get ready for killer kids in the streets and Frankensteins under the sheets, people.
Despite all this, it was AMAZING seeing Cersei crowned Queen. Sure, she’s a villain, always has been, always will be. But she always was a warrior forced into a domestic life - the true heir of Tywin Lannister. She’s been wife of a loser king, mother of a psycho nut job king, and mother to a king-who-might-have-been. Finally it’s her turn to do what she’s always wanted to do, what always felt right, felt good - rule the Seven Kingdoms herself.
The only slight flaw in her plan (and being Cersei, we know there is ALWAYS a flaw) is Jaime, who has returned just in time to see his sister/lover park her arse on the world’s sharpest chair. Cersei’s look was clear: this is how it is now. Jaime’s was more RLY? Once again, that classical music, with Rains of Castamere stitched into it, gave us more of an understanding than words ever could.
And so we come to Meereen, for the final section of our recap. It starts there with a break-up - Dany bidding farewell to Maario, her devoted rent-a-hunk of many seasons now. He is to remain behind in Meereen to keep the peace until new leaders can be elected. But he wants to travel with Dany, and he doesn’t care if he’s just seen as a bit of rumpy-pumpy. However Dany needs to do things like arrange marriage alliances and so forth, and it’s just going to be tough with a bit of fluff hanging around. See, I’d be OK with that, but this is obviously where Dany and I differ philosophically.
Maario reckons Tyrion put her up to this, but he does what she asks and pledges himself and the Second Sons in service to her. Tyrion at least knows something of the matter, as he’s the first person Dany goes to after breaking off the relationship. But she’s not sad about it, and that’s where she adds “Ice Cold” to her list of monikers. Dany knows Maario loves her, and he did make her happy. But he’s not what she wants. And what she wants is now closer than ever before - Westeros.
Tyrion decides to undo a few pieces of the psychological armour he’s had in place his whole life and get real with Dany. He confesses that he had always been a cynic, sceptical of belief, having seen what it does to people. But now he finds himself believing in Daenarys, how embarrassment.
He says he would fight for her, but Dany says his counsel is what she needs. She then pulls out a pin from her robe and names Tyrion the Hand of the Queen. The imp bows, deeply honoured. It’s a redemptive moment for him. There’s also parallel with Cersei and Qyburn here - and the lesson that good leaders have good people behind them.
Eventually, we reach the sequence the series has been building to since the end of season one - Dany and her ships at full sail, finally heading towards Westeros. The picture is perfect - we see Theon and Yara leading the Greyjoy fleet, the Dothraki and their horses dealing well with the poison water, and Grey Worm keeping an eye on the Unsullied.
Finally, as the dragons sail in and around the ships, we see Dany, at the head of the force, surrounded by Tyrion, Varys and Missandei.
The winds of winter are taking her home.
Everything about Olenna’s visit to Dorne was INCREDIBLE. Sure, there’s the old problem of disappearing time what with her getting south very quickly after the death of her family in King’s Landing, but it was worth it for her sass at the young Sand Snakes. “Let the grown women talk!” Then Varys showed up with his jaunty offer of "fire and blood". Oh bring on the Tyrell/Dorne alliance. Smothered in cheese.
Zing! Best Lines
Bronn snarking at Jaime about how all the ladies love him at the Twins was solid gold - particularly since we now know the first chick checking out Jaime was Arya in disguise as the serving girl. He’s changed a bit since she first saw him at Winterfell in season one, so for her it’s more recon than romance. But that doesn’t stop Bronn from needling Jaime, so he does his friend a favour and calls over two other ladies and bigs up Bronn’s hero status.
Bronn: What if I’m not in the mood?
Bronn: (looks at ladies) F*** it.
Tommen’s death was the one that made my gut leap into my throat, but a special gross mention to the Zombie being left alone to torture the Septa. Not a pleasant way to go at all.
So many people died this episode but the really boo, sucks one for me was Margaery Tyrell. I really like Margaery and I wish she had escaped the explosion at the Sept of Baelor. It would have been great to see her and Olenna team up once more as their awesome Grandma/Granddaughter combo. Slow Lorus and Mace I could deal with - and of course was delighted by the demise of the High Sparrow - but vale Kate Middleton. You were the David Cameron of this episode - you thought your plan would work, but you were routed by idiots.
Things That Surprised Me
We didn’t see the White Walkers at all. At all!
No Hound, which meant no Hound axing people. But could this mean Clegane Bowl in season seven?
No Brienne, which meant no Tormienne! We will have to wait another year before the chance to see sparks fly between those two again (even if they’re sparks from clashing swords, that’s cool too, maybe it’s just foreplay?)
How in the sam hell did Varys get from Dorne all the way back to Meereen to be on the ship with Daenarys at the end? Sure, it looked cool, but it was the most jarring time shift in a show famous for playing fast and loose with time.
What, Jon Snow couldn’t have gotten a just a little bit nude to send us off with a nice memory?
I have now been recapping this show for five years (since Season 2). I cannot quite believe I’ve stuck to it for so long - I’m generally the lazy type who gives up hobbies after a few weeks/days/seconds. But apart from an obsession-bordering-on-concerning with the show, I keep coming back because of YOU, my beloved Throners. You give me the dragon-level strength I need to write these ridiculously long and juvenile articles, and keep me inspired and firing with your comments and theories.
A special thanks to those of you who supported the Patreon campaign too this year, giving me the incredible privilege of being a paid writer. That stuff is IMPORTANT, never lose sight of that. You done good, kittens.
I hope you will join me again next year, and I remain, from this day until my last day, your humble recappespondent.