Valar Dohaeris my friends. Sadly, Season Six of Game of Thrones has come to an end. Send all questions to @FawkesCulture, @Matwellsays, FawkesDotCom@gmail.com(awful email, I know), or post them in the comments section below and Fawkes’ Resident Maester will answer them in a finale mailbag. You could also catch up with all of Fawkes’ GAME OF THRONES coverage here.
I discussed in my recap last week that in Season’s past, it was the penultimate episode of the season that usually offered the wildest moments in Thrones history. Past finale’s have often consisted of character’s navel gazing as the board is reset heading into the “offseason.” But that was not to be the case Sunday. In a season that I have often taken issue with the showrunners’ decision-making, D.B. Weiss & David Benioff doubled down on the violence exhibited through much of the episode and pushed the envelope forward with a finale that often felt like a feature film thanks to wonderful visuals and an exceptional score.
Now, this episode was not without its issues. Yet, Weiss & Benioff masterfully untethered themselves from the few remaining ties between George R.R. Martin’s world and their own, while simultaneously incorporating some of book-readers favorite individual moments into the finale, albeit through different means (e.g. “Frey Pies” and the famed “The North Remembers Speech”). Not coincidentally, I’m sure, the two chose to title this episode after the forthcoming sixth installment of Martin’s saga, “The Winds of Winter.” While you have to feel bad for a guy who has been writing this series since the mid-90’s only to have the series finished for him, the title symbolizes the show moving forward beyond Martin, creating their own canon now, and thus their own “Winds of Winter.”
Yet, for an episode named after an euphemism for the chilly existential threat slowly descending upon Westeros (and of course, a new King of Winter being named in the North), the episode began with a surprising amount of high temperatures. Or, perhaps not so surprising, as the wildfire caches that Qyburn’s little birds discovered under King’s Landing could be seen coming a mile for those paying close attention. We all knew that after King Tommen outlawed trial by combat Cersei would not go down without a fight. What better way to defeat your enemies than by trapping them all in one room together and blowing up said room and then some extra parts of Westeros’ capital city?
Her plan to destroy the Tyrell-Kevan Lannister power structure that she had been so rudely and totally excluded from, and had been a power keg all season waiting to explode at this very moment, went perfectly. However, as many psychopathic alcoholics before her, Cersei did not plan accordingly for the ramifications of her actions. She successfully saved Tommen, her last remaining child from the wildfire, from attending the trial-by-fire but in the end, even The Mountain wasn’t enough to save Tommen from his mother’s actions. After watching his beloved wife, uncle, and Loras, the Knight that Tommen looked up to as a child, the boy-king took his own life.
I cannot say enough about the exquisite pacing and scoring of this scene, that made it feel as if it were the suspenseful apex of a film that had been building for hours. What’s even more impressive, is that it was done right out of the gate, establishing the pedal-to-the-medal action that was pervasive throughout the entire episode.
After seeing previews, the piece of the finale I was most looking forward was Walder Frey’s most-recent wedding, as I had no idea where it was going. Before the episode, my best guess would have been that it was raided by the Brotherhood Without Banners, or Arya would show up and as soon as I saw that serving girl oogling at Jaime, I realized which it was. I hinted in my mailbag for this week that Walder Frey would not survive his wedding feast. I mean really though, what is a Frey wedding without several atrocities and mass murder after all? However, the show chose to not outright reveal he assassin in the room and go straight for Walder’s juggler. Rather, Jaime was once again forced to stare his legacy directly in the face, as Walder bragged that the two we’re kingslayers, one in the same. This lead Jaime to storm off that had the unfortunate consequence of cock-blocking Bronn but also set the stage for the big reveal.
As Walder sat alone at his high table, the same beautiful servant taht had taken a liking to Jaime served him a pie and told Lord Frey that his sons were in the room with him, just not in the way he desired. Frey Pies were present in the books as well, just at a different wedding and with a fake Arya Stark, rather than one just in disguise. I’m happy they slow cooked this scene, just like Arya slow cooked those Frey boys, to really let the fact that Arya has become a cold blooded murderer sink in as she slit Walder’s throat and smiled as he bled out. What also bears a mention is the fact that Arya probably had to murder an innocent servant girl so that she may take her face and disguise herself. She claims to be Arya Stark, but maybe I was wrong, and some of the honor that is synonymous with the Stark name was actually left behind in Braavos, as Arya seems ok to kill whoever to get her vengeance. In last week’s recap, I mentioned that Sansa may be taking on the role of Lady Stoneheart, but now it seems both of Catelyn’s daughter can bear that moniker.
Thanks to Jaime leaving the feast early, he was able to make it back to King’s Landing just in time to get a glimpse of the Sept of Baelor and inner city burning and witness the coronation of Cersei as Queen. It was hard to tell the exact emotions going through Jaime at the time, but to me the expression on Nikolas Coster-Waldau’s face was one of fear. On his trip to the Riverlands, Jaime has been forced to reconcile with his past. While as recently as two episodes ago, he swore his love for Cersei, promising to do anything for her, it seems there is some newfound apprehension there. After learning of what she’s done, I can’t see him being so much on board, especially since he’s shown a desire in the past to work for the greater good. After all, his awful reputation comes from him killing a king to save thousands of people. Would he do the same to his sister and lover, who just happens to be queen? My guess is yes and that guess also has prophecy on it’s side.
While Cersei may have claimed the Iron Throne for herself, she will face quite the challenge holding it for very long. The episode briefly returned to Dorne for the first time since the first episode of the season, as Olenna Tyrell, already aware of the faith of her family, visited the sand snakes to discuss an alliance. It is worth mentioning how significant this is as there is decades and maybe even centuries of bad blood that exists between the Tyrells and Martells, even if the Sand Snakes aren’t exactly Martells. In addition, just as the alliance is being brokered, Varys walks in, thus creating an alliance between Daenerys, House Martell, and House Tyrell, as well as supplying Dany and her many ships with a landing spot for her invasion that is now on its way from Essos.
Remember that the impetus for the Tyrell-Lannister alliance was the diminished state of the Lannister army. The Tyrell’s boast one of the most prominent military forces in the Seven Kingdoms, perhaps second only to the Knights of the Vale for the sole reason that the Vale’s forces are so fresh from sitting out the War of the Five King’s. And while it seems like there is no one left to lead the Tyrell forces into battle, we’ve actually met one of the Tyrell’s most loyal bannermen who also happens to be a formidable military strategist: Randyll Tarly.
An army consisting of the Unsullied, the Tyrell Army under the command of Lord Tarly, the Dornish Army (best estimates put it around 20,000-25,000 soldiers [NOTE: this is a book estimated. I believe the show armies to be on a smaller scale so it could be way off] – again fresh from sitting out the War of the Five King’s), Dothraki horsemen, Greyjoy ships, and three dragons would easily defeat any force assembled in Westeros. Truth be told, other than the Garrison of King’s Landing, the only forces remaining are the fleet that Euron mustered and the Snow/Stark-Baelish/Arryn army in the North, an army that probably has less than a quarter of what Dany has. There is no doubt that Daenerys has the forces to take King’s Landing by storm next season, the only question is how much of King’s Landing will remain after Cersei is done with it. How Jaime reacts to his sister’s reign will heavily impact this. Will her murder a Lannister to let a Targaryen into the city this time? That would seem to have some nice poetic justice to it, or something of the like.
Dany made the first difficult decision of her impending rule, leaving her lover Daario behind with the Second Suns to keep the peace of the free cities. However, she followed this up with a decision I deem questionable and one of the issues I had with the episode, naming Tyrion Hand of the Queen. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Tyrion has not displayed any particular gift at statesmanship, espcially since it was his plan that led to war coming to Meereen’s shores. He has secured no significant alliances and really hasn’t offered much sage wisdom in my opinion. However, I guess this simply speaks to the lack of good advisors that will now plague Dany after the death of Barristan last season and Jorah’s banishment due to his Grey Scale.
Above, I mentioned the Army of the North that after last week basically consisted of Jon Snow, Tormund, and all the Knight’s of the Vale after the wildlings were essentially routed by Ramsay’s forces. However, this week they received some new troop commitments. After Sansa apologized, yet still failed to explain her inexplicable decision to not inform Jon of the several thousand Knights of the Vale that served as reinforcements for the Second Battle of Winterfell and rebuffing Petyr Baelish’s offer of a marriage pact, Jon & Sansa held court with the Northern Lords & Lady. Here we got a bastardized (see what I did there) of the North Remembers Speech from the novels, that was originally given by Wyman Maderly but in this case was spoken by the young Lyana Mormount. This spurred the Northern Lords to proclaim Jon Snow the new King in the North, much to the apparent dismay of Littlefinger and Sansa.
This where I found my other issues with the season finale. Most of there Lords have already rebuffed Jon because they didn’t trust him to be an effective leader. So, what has changed? Yes, the Starks have taken Winterfell but that was not thanks to Jon. Literally, last week Jon showed himself to be an ineffectual military leader who had to be bailed out by Sansa and Littlefinger, so why did the Lords and Lady Mormount throw their weight behind Jon and not Sansa, who wields the army military strength that led to this gathering? It does not track. I mean, Sansa has displayed questionable decision-making as well, but thanks to her, they have an army of Knights and have the support of the Vale of Arryn. What has Jon done other than piss off a lot of people by letting Wildlings through the Wall? He’s a great fighter but has proven to be such an ineffectual leader of men that his sworn brothers literally stabbed him and such a poor military strategist that his entire force, save one dude are dead. And don’t even get me started that somehow the conversation in Winterfell’s Great Hall jumped from Wildlings to “ALL HAIL THE KING IN THE NORTH!” pretty damn quick.
But I digress. This was an exceptional episode of television in every sense. Thrones the show has plot holes. It always had. It always will. Weiss & Benioff’s job was always to override these plot holes through breath-taking cinematography, and their casting choices have also helped that.
This was evident in one of the most minor scenes of the episode, when Sam and Gilly arrived at the Citadel. Old Town looked beautiful and John Bradley’s acting, especially his facial expressions, was enough for an excuse to take the time from a jam-packed episode to divert from the main storylines. Then, he entered The Citadel’s marvelous library and, that for me, is what truly made this one of Game of Thrones most transcendent episodes: the attention to detail that pushed Weiss and Benioff to craft a magnificent world even for those on the periphery.
And then there was The Reveal.
People who began reading the ASOIAF books in 1996 have been waiting for it for 20 years, patiently anticipating Lyanna Stark to whisper “Promise me” into Ned’s ears. Show-watchers have waited a mere 6. And some didn’t even know it was coming.
We finally got an answer to literally the longest standing question in A Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire: Who is Jon Snow’s mother? Perhaps unexpectedly for some, we also got the answer to who is Jon Snow’s father as well. And that answer is R+L=J, BUT WHO AM I KIDDING WE COULD SPELL IT OUT NOW: Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon Snow’s parents. He is The Prince that Was Promised, born of Ice and Fire, to save the Seven Kingdom’s just as Azor Ahai has done before. (Some have suggested that he is Aerys II’s son not Rhaegar’s. This is absurd. Don’t @ me.)
It was the most important scene, not only of the finale, but of the entire series to date.
Obviously, a few questions remain here. Did Rhaegar kidnap and rape Lyanna as the story goes or were the two in love? I believe the latter but that is a reveal that will have to wait for another time.
Questions I Still Have Following the Finale:
- Where are the Brotherhood Without Banners and What are they Up to? I expect that the recently-banished Melisandre will run into them on her travels South. My only question is will Arya head North to Winterfell or run into her old pals and join up with the Brotherhood? After all, Mel did mention to Arya in their only meeting that they would see eachother again.
- Speaking of Arya, where’d she get that jetpack she used to literally fly over the Vale of Arryn to get to the Twins so quickly? I kid, I kid. I mentioned at the beginning of the Season that I was fine with the show playing travel and timelines fast and loose. They just took it to an extreme this episode.
- Where are Brienne & Pod? We haven’t seen them since they left Riverrun. Will they run into anybody on their way North? Their route will have to take them by the Twins where Arya was last located and we know that they are in the vicinity of the Brotherhood Without Banners?
- Speaking of The Twins, what becomes of them? I’m assuming the castle will descend into chaos now that all of the ruling class has been murdered. I doubt Arya will stay to set up any government and if doesn’t head North, how will her siblings find out their is no longer anyone in control of the Castle? Maybe Brienne and Pod will pass this way, realize what has happened, and report back to Jon and Sansa. If the two were to annex The Crossing to the lands they control, in addition to the Vale thanks to Littlefinger, their strategic holdings and overall territory would be vast. Remember, it is nearly impossibly to access the North without crossing at The Twins.
- How does Bran make it back South of the Wall and how does her spread word of Jon’s true heritage? Will we finally get some Howland Reed action. Also, it’s been forshadowed enough – again with Benjen citing the magic of the Wall this week – but how will it come down in the end?
- Where are the last living direwolves Nymeria & Ghost? Seriously. Mel told Jon last season to keep Ghost close, advice he clearly did not take to heart. Will Arya find Nym in the Riverlands? Come on Dave and D.B.! More wolves, please.
- Where in the Name of the Old & New Gods is Gendry? Is that dude still rowing? What gives?
Thanks for following our GAME OF THRONES coverage for Season 6. We’ll be back next year to help you navigate all the happenings of the Seven Kingdoms. But first, Maester Matt will have one more Season Finale mailbag, so send him your questions below or @Matwellsays on all things finale and predictions for what is to come and he’ll answer them this week.