Warning: Do not ruin the pleasure of watching this episode spoiler-free – SPOILERS AHOY
Mixed feelings about this one. It is, alas, the last episode of season 6, and we’ll have to wait yet another year for a new season that, we know now, will be considerably shorter than 10 episodes. After all the emotions that ran high last week, and in true tradition with the previous seasons, we were waiting for a settling, ground-preparing, yet relatively calm episode, with maybe one or two minor deaths to pass the time, and some gratuitous nudity.
Oh boy, were we wrong or what.
Joy starts with the initial credits, as we see the Stark sigil flying high and hard. We then get to Kings’ Landing, where everyone is getting dressed, as the bells toll. It’s judgement day, people! Ser Loras Tyrell faces the High Sparrow, and Cersei faces death, most likely. But… why is she so calm? And what the hell is she wearing?
Ser Loras confesses to being gay and as a penitence becomes a Sparrow (meaning he’ll never marry or father children which, given his sexual orientation and the times he lives in, doesn’t seem much of a sacrifice, does it?), and as a result he gets a bad tattoo on the forehead (no Mr Westeros awards for you anymore, Ser Loras!). Tommen (you may remember his as the King) is having a teenager crisis, so he’s still stuck in his room. When he decides to grow up, however, Zombie Mountain stops him from leaving. Huh? And Cersei is still at the Red Keep… wait a second…
As Margaery gets to the same conclusion as the audience, Pycelle gets Caesar’d by little birds, Lancel Lannister finds out that the Battle of the Blackwater didn’t exhaust the wildfire storage in the Kingdom, and it’s a bit too late. Guy Fawkes’s wet dreams come true, and Cersei watches from the window as the whole Great Sept of Baelor explodes with everyone inside. So much for Health & Safety, King’s Landing…
Cersei smirks, as her son is safe and sound and all her enemies exploded in a Great Ball of Green, and off she goes to torture Shame Nun with wine and, of course, Clegane’s beautiful face. All is good… except Tommen, true to the last moment to his emo reputation, decides he can’t live without his beautiful wife, so he does what any angst teenager dreams of doing – he jumps off the window. That was, er, unexpected, to say the least. And we’re only 23 minutes in…
So let’s meet the Freys! Who are having a party with the Lannisters! Oh noes. Jaime doesn’t seem too happy, though he’s getting all the female attention, particularly from the very attractive and so not plot relevant drink waitress. He’s so moody he even snaps at Walder Frey, whom he sees as a waste of space and energy. Imagine is mood if he knew all his children are oh so dead. At a way more quieter part of the plot, Sam arrives at OldTown, where he meets the most stereotypical library guardian from all times. There are some bureaucratic problems, but Sam is granted access to the library, so nothing else matters (no, not even poor Gilly and little Sam) and he definitely turned off the episode at this point to dedicate himself to read all the books he know has access. So… we may hear of him in ten years, when he takes a toilet break.
Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Jon Snow thinks about feasts and being a bastard, but Ser Davos spoils the nostalgic mood by accusing Melisandre of burning princess Shireen, in an incredibly emotional scene. Jon isn’t that impressed with the Red Priestess’s past (despite she resurrecting him and all), so Melisandre goes off south way, not completely sure to meet which plotline. Sansa opens with Jon about Littlefinger, and Jon goes all “oh, btw, I’m a bastard, so you should get the better room, I sleep on the stable, blah blah blah” (victim much?). Luckily, Sansa changes subject by mentioning an albino crow that brought Winter in (fancy season system, Westeros, can we import?). So Winter has come! At last!!
At Dorne (nooooooo), the Queen of Thorns, also known as the last remaining Tyrell alive, talks to Main Snake Ellaria Sand about revenge plans against the Lannisters. They appear to include fast-travelling Varys, who casually drops the Targaryen motto in. So… does this mean Dorne and the Tyrells will march with Daenerys into King’s Landing? Ohhhhh.. Speaking of Daenerys, she’s busy breaking up with Daario. (But who wouldn’t, when Yara Greyjoy is in the picture?) Tyrion salutes her decision of dropping her lover in Mereen (after all, there’s a handsome man in Westeros that’s just her (blood) type), and tells her he believes in her, so Daenerys elects him Hand of the Queen (with the fancy pin and all). Let’s hope the Hand of the Queen lasts longer than the King’s. After the emotional talk they almost kiss, because this is clearly a boring medieval soap opera with no imagination whatsoever. Back at the Freys, Walder eats pie. Oh. Ohhhhh. Ohhh sh*t. The attractive waitress that was definitely not plot relevant? She… looks… familiar… “My name is Arya Stark. You killed my mother. Prepare to die”. And slash. Bye bye Frey! For the old gods and the new! Can this episode get any better??
And here we are, at the romantic interlude we’ve (not) been waiting for. Littlefinger goes and declares his love and ambitious plans to Sansa, but she isn’t that keen in either. I guess she’s a grown, independent woman now! But Littlefinger doesn’t give up! He tells her she is the true Stark, and why should the North follow a bastard, born in the South? And if you were doing the Game of Thrones drinking game during this episode, and had to chug every time someone called Jon a bastard… well, I guess you can finish the episode after lunch tomorrow. It has become somehow the recurring theme of the last two episodes. We wonder why.
Behind the Wall, Benjen Stark abandons Bran and Meera next to a magic tree, so Bran, just as any fan right now, doesn’t lose time and connects himself to the flashback internet. And he goes to the Tower of Joy! OMG OMG OMG. Ned enters the Tower, and Lyanna is lying on the bed, blood everywhere, and makes Ned promise that he will take care and protect her new born baby. You know, the one she had with her lover Rhaegar Targaryen. And where is that baby now? At Winterfell, being elected King of the North. Jon Knows Oh-so-much-Nothing Snow is a True Stark, a True Targaryen and even without anyone knowing about this he just landed the title of most popular man in the North. Mostly because of Lady Mormont prep talk, who just told everyone as it was, to their faces. So Jon is now the White Wolf, King of the North (Not bad for someone that started the season dead, eh?), and will command the North against the Night King (we don’t want to intrude in your battle plans, Jon, but dragons would be oh so useful for that). Littlefinger ain’t that happy with how things turned up, though, so Sansa, girl, keep an eye on him, for your cousin’s sake.
Jaime returns to King’s Landing to find, well, the place sligthly less religious and more smokey than when he left it. He gets in just in time to see his twin sister and lover be crowned and sit on the Iron Throne. Now, we know things weren’t going great between them, but the look they exchange, oh gods…. Jaime isn’t that great a fan of crazy pyromaniac monarchs, is he? And speaking about Cersei, she won! Despite the prophecy, and despite her three children being dead, she defeated the younger, more beautiful queen, hasn’t she? I mean, Margeary is definitely gone. Alas, poor Cersei, what you don’t know is what’s sailing in your direction. The biggest fleet ever, with Greyjoys, Tyrells, Martells and, of course, Daenerys Targaryen and her three scaly children, as well as her Armies, are FINALLY sailing to Westeros. I don’t know about you guys, but I would definitely sacrifice my first born children to the Lord of Light to have a vision of what’s going to happen in the next season.
The Winds of Winter may well be the best episode of the series, ever. Not because the good guys finally start to win – let’s not forget the demented look in Cersei’s face when she sits on the throne – but because I can’t think of a single scene that wasn’t superb. Ok, Sam at Oldtown wasn’t as strong emotionally as the others, but it was still delivered in a great way. Can we please have Miguel Sapochnik directing the full season, please? Does everything he touches as a director become fantastic, or is he just lucky with his assignments (he also directed Battle of the Bastards this season and Hardhome the previous one)? Either way, the dialogues were oh so quotable, the actors were all surreally great (special mentions Liam Cunningham and, of course, newcomer Bella Ramsey, who plays Lady Mormont), and the editing tasty and tense(courtesy of Tim Porter, who, yes, also did Battle of the Bastards, Hardhome and Sherlock’s The Reichenbach Fall). I’ve seen the episode three times so far and still can’t spot something I don’t like. There’s Shakespeare, there’s Elizabethan intrigue, there’s Ten stars, ladies and gentlemen, ten stars.
What a season! Women rule, parentage is revealed, dragons fly free and no one has found Gendry yet. The man must have the biggest arm muscles in the world now. See ya next year, Westerosi!
Sex Scenes: Overrated.
Deaths: Damn, can we even count them? The High Sparrow, Margeary, Loras, Dad Tyrell, Lancel Lannister, Tommen, Cersei’s sanity, Littlefinger’s plans, Sam’s chances of sex after spending all the time at the library…
Dragons: Three, flying freely over Daenerys’ fleet
Best moment: All between the initial credits and the final ones.
Best motivational speech: “But House Mormont remembers. The North remembers! We know no King but the King in the North, whose name is Stark. 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.”
Lady Mormont’s appearances: One, to again show everyone how it’s done
Fan Theories confirmed: ONE. THE ONE.
RHAEGAR + LYANNA = JON
Game of Thrones aired on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday evenings. It will return in 2017.