I am still in shock by what happened last night on Game of Thrones. By far, this was the best season finale of the series and this episode contained perhaps the best opening sequence since the Pilot episode where the White Walkers were introduced. But before I get to the opening scene with the beautiful and haunting score (bravo Ramin Djawadi, bravo), I need to warn about show and book spoilers for Game of Thrones. If you haven’t seen Season Six’s season finale, The Winds of Winter, you should turn back now. I will also be spoiling a couple portions of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels as well. Now, let’s praise this show some more as I discuss four key scenes of The Winds of Winter.
HERE LIE SPOILERS. AVAST YOU POOR SOULS. SPOILERS AHEAD!
spoilers begin now
Arya is back in Westeros after two seasons learning how to be an assassin and reclaiming her identity. She is cold, ruthless, conniving, vengeful, and a reborn Arya Stark. She is not the lost kid going from mentor to mentor learning about death and life and politics and the world. She is no longer lost, looking for a purpose. She thought her purpose was in Bravos at the House of Black and White, but instead, her purpose lead her back home, to act as the God of Death, to be Arya Stark, to be the physical embodiment of “The North Remembers”. And so, acting as a vengeful god, Arya killed Walder Frey, one of the most despicable characters of the show.
Referencing the Frey pie that House Manderlay made for the Freys in the novels, Arya cooks up the sons of Walder and feeds them to him. It is dark and twisted and contains the exact kind of malice we have come to expect from Game of Thrones. I am a little nervous for where Arya’s path is leading her. Is her new found angel of death persona really good for her? Even if she proclaims herself a Stark, will she ever rediscover the Stark honor? Is Arya essentially going to be the show’s Lady Stoneheart? One thing is for certain, I can’t wait for Arya to meet back up with the Hound and Brothers without Banners since all of them are now situated in the Riverlands.
Jon Snow and Sansa Stark
Jon is proclaimed King of the North in a scene highly reminiscent of Robb’s King of the North proclamation. Robb and Jon were both standing, the Northerners knelt for Robb while they raised their swords for Jon, Robb’s was at night, Jon’s during the day, and most importantly, Sansa stood in for Catelyn and even gave her family member a smile half-filled with concern. Catelyn was concerned that Robb wasn’t ready, Sansa is concerned for other reasons, most of which we can only conjecture. Afterall, Sansa has the rightful claim to be the Warden of the North and the Lady of Winterfell, as Jon told her himself, but the North has said otherwise. They see Ned and Robb in Jon. They see a leader, and they completely disregard Sansa, unlike Jon and Petyr Baelish. But I’m sure Jon will accept this new title, this new reason to live. He is back home, in a place where he is supported fully, unlike his makeshift home at the Wall. Here he will be supported by all of the houses, as long as Lady Lyanna Mormont is around to be a boss-ass bitch to rally the troops. But one supporter he might soon be missing is Littlefinger.
That look filled with daggers Littlefinger gave to Sansa was terrifying. As everyone stood (minus Tormund) and proclaimed Jon the King of the North, Littlefinger sat and stared directly at Sansa silently and intensely. He was communicating to her, almost warning her. She denied his advances earlier, she denied to be his queen if he were to sit on the Iron Throne. She learned not to trust him, and, in an act of true courage, stood up to a manipulative conniving individual. That denial showed how much Sansa has grown and matured over the last couple of seasons. And as polite a denial it was, with her hand on his chest calling his description of the two sharing the kingdom as “a pretty picture”, it was a denial that Littlefinger has known his entire life, one that he has felt and carried ever since Catelyn said no to him as children. Sansa knows enough not to trust Littlefinger, and she has seen first hand that he is willing to kill for power (just ask her aunt Lysa), but she may not know how far he will go, how ruthless he is capable of being. That dagger stare meant a lot, and most likely planted doubt and fears in Sansa’s mind about Jon and his new title, King of the North.
I loved Sam in Oldtown. It was a quick, lighthearted scene that we needed in an episode filled with fire and blood. John Bradley killed it in this scene as he was charming and so giddy with excitement. I loved him reaching over the table to give the letter to the Maester who refused to move his hand an inch to receive the letter. I found the whole scene hysterical, and I loved how naive Sam still is when it comes to sexism as he just shrugs, smiles and runs off to the library when the Maester barked “no women and no children” at Gilly and little Sam.
Then there was the revealing shot of the library. The camera stays close to the chained shelves filled with books as Sam walks between two shelves touching and feeling the bindings of several books. Then the camera pans and reveals how many books actually exist in the library. There were tons, more than anyone could read in a lifetime. Light shined from the ceiling, glistening on the gyroscopic orrery that has been shown to us for six years during the opening credits. The library was gorgeous and I’m excited to learn more about this fantasy world with Sam as he will undoubtedly spend his days in this stunning facility. This wondrous moment for Sam and his humorous exchange with the Maester were nice moments of levity, particularly after the events at King’s Landing.
Way to wipe the board clean Cersei. I had the inclination that Cersei would use wildfire to defeat the High Sparrow and I felt like Tommen would perish as well. Afterall, the witch back from Season 5 did tell Cersei her children, “gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds”, would all perish. So I assumed Tommen would have been an unintended victim of the wildfire explosion. But I never anticipated what actually happened. The wildfire at the Sept of Baelor killed so many. Kevan Lannister, Lancel Lannister, the High Sparrow, Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, and the Faith Militant. In one heinous act, Cersei removed most of her enemies. The High Council was murdered, the powerful house Tyrell is now all but extinct, only Olenna remains (thankfully), and the pious High Sparrow, the one who caused so much humiliation and pain for Cersei is no more.
The number of casualties was shocking. I expected death, but not that much. I expected Margaery’s play of fooling the High Sparrow was going to lead to a Tyrell victory, instead, it never had the chance to acheive its finish. We were forced to watch Loras confess, to see him marked, to see the Tyrells stand by witnessing this forced confession. I expected Margaery to pull through, that her reassurances to Olenna that she was still in control, would show her prevailing against the High Sparrow. But it was all for naught, for none of them anticipated the catastrophic danger that Cersei is willing to wrought. Naturally Margaery, the smartest person in the Sept, realized that neither her husband Tommen nor his mother were present for the trial. She immediately correctly deduced that Cersei was planning something and that everyone should evacuate. And through his arrogance, the High Sparrow prevented everyone’s escape. Pycelle was murdered and Septa Unella was tortured. And so Cersei won. Her enemies were vanquished and she stood victorious. But only for a moment.
As cruel and violent as she is, Cersei loves her children. They were the only things that grounded her, that made her feel human, and now her last bits of humanity are lost. To protect the one she loved, she kept Tommen from entering the Sept, but, like Margaery’s long game of playing the Sparrow, the end result of a plan can not always be predicted or assumed. Tommen, in what might be his one act of true certainty with zero doubt, stepped up to his window overlooking the burning city, and fell. As Tommen originally walked away from the window and the camera lingered on King’s Landing in flames, I asked myself why hadn’t the show cut away from the window yet. Then I realized I too was naive and could not predict the ending. After the explosion I was in shock; after Tommen fell I was devastated. The entire opening twenty minutes of this episode was one of the best pieces of storytelling this show has accomplished. It was unbelievable and traumatizing. In the biggest slaughter since the Red Wedding, Game of Thrones proved that it still has tricks up its sleeves, that, after a season of lost characters returning from life-threatening wounds or death itself, the show can still leave its audience breathless.
The Winds of Winter is the best season finale of Game of Thrones. The episode was filled with great dialogue, terrifying deaths and wonderful character interactions. And the episode left us with intriguing future storylines, like Cersei becoming the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Jaime learning about his son’s death, Jon as King of the North, and finally (FINALLY) Dany is sailing to Westeros. This episode was a wonderful way to end one of the show’s best seasons, filled with incredible moments like Dany asking Tyrion to be her Hand of the Queen and Bran learning about Jon’s parentage. I hope next season is as good as this one, for I am excited to see the end game of the series unfold.