“The Winds of Winter” Blow Strong in the Game of Thrones Season Finale


Someone get me oxygen, stat. We don’t have oxygen? Christ… fine, a paper bag or something, ’cause I stopped breathing for about an hour and ten minutes and I’m not allowed to pass out until I finish this recap. Find out if I make it, after the bre……… (spoilers ahead)

this is me...passed out in the snow, with no Melisandre to bring me back
This is me…passed out in the snow, with no Melisandre to bring me back.

OK, I’m back. Those Wildfire smelling salts really did the trick. An excellent season six has drawn to a close with perhaps the greatest (or at least top three) Game of Thrones episodes in series history. Sorry for the hyperbole, but  it’s like they crammed everything that is good and holy about Game of Thrones into one episode, sprinkled in some favorite fan fiction, and then blowed it up real good. Let’s start with:

Kings Landing

The extended scene to bring Cersei’s plot to it’s final fiery green culmination was perhaps one of the most tense and well-played pieces of film-making that I’ve ever seen. Almost Godfather-istic, as violins played and the camera moved to each of the players, preparing for the trial of the century – some putting on finery, others humble clothes – and everyone looking nervous about their part in what was about to happen. Well, everyone except two people: The High Sparrow whose superior smile showed his total and self-righteous belief, and Cersei whose stone face showed nothing.

...don't look at me, I'm scheming...
Don’t look at me, I’m scheming…

We take a short break for the Loras trial, and learn that he is willing to take a card from his sister’s playbook and play along. And we learn that the High Sparrow is, in fact, spoiling for a fight. And we learn that he can’t, in fact, be trusted because by placing the mark of the seven on Loras’ forehead, he has already broken one promise.

...do seven Hail Mary's and get a flower carved into your forehead...
Do seven Hail Marys and get a flower carved into your forehead…

But we can’t dawdle there for long, because Cersei has not appeared at the trial, cousin Lancel is being led along by one of Qyburn’s murder children, Pycelle is being pin-cushioned by the remaining batch of creepy children (exactly what was in that candy Qyburn gave those kids?), and just around the time Margaery alone realizes something bad is about to happen, the secret Qyburn confirmed to Cersei in episode 8 blows up in a flash of green flame.

We all knew this was coming, yet the scene was so excellently played, so rife with tension, it didn’t matter. It was perfection. Perhaps my only surprise was that Tommon’s fall didn’t happen at the Sept (I really hoped his death could be  laid entirely at Cersei’s feet), but perhaps that is for the best.  For if Tommen had died in Cersei’s trap, it would have killed her, but having him take his own life not only fit the story and the character (he truly was an innocent who had this responsibility thrust before him), but gives Cersei some room for rationalization for assuming the throne. After all, Tommen chose his fate, probably because of Tyrell bewitching.

...Oh Ser Pounce, only you could have saved him...
Oh Ser Pounce, only you could have saved him…

And Cersei’s quick assumption of the Queenship (after all, who else is there?) was perfect as well. It’s what she always wanted and was denied to her by gender. I somehow don’t think she’ll be especially beloved – or even in power for long. And after the glances between she and Jaime, I don’t know if Tyrion is the little brother she really has to worry about.

The Twins

Walder Frey and Jaime Lannister are such ridiculously polar opposites – a handsome, noble, often misunderstood man whose heart leads him down some very bad paths, and the corrupt, hideous old crone who revels in his darkness and has the gall to compare the two. Jaime putting old Walder in his place was the second most satisfying thing that happened this episode.

..please tell me I don't become you when I get old...
Please tell me I don’t become you when I get old…

The first, of course, was the mysterious serving girl who continue to glance curiously at the handsome Lannister. Meaningful glances in Game of Thrones usually mean a lot more than a potential bed-mate. And sure enough, we combine a few book storylines (where the Frey a la mode was served by a Stark ally) and some real heavy fan wish-fulfillment and viola – the most adorable assassin in Westeros kicks off her revenge spree. I’m typically a quiet watcher of television, and spent the moments before Walder grew a second mouth below his Adam’s apple trying to figure out who this mysterious server was, when my wife said “do you think it’s Arya?” When she (Arya, not my wife) ripped off that face, I confess to letting out an excited shriek… that’s what this show does to me.


And there were some teary moments too. Dany and Tyrion’s heart to heart really displayed the great chemistry between Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke, and the respect the two characters have for each other. When she gave him the pendant and named him the Hand of the Queen, his look of astonishment and gratitude just opened the old tear ducts. Even better was his comment – this is actually happening. I think it echoes what Game of Thrones fans are saying all over the world. The end game is here. Winter is here. And this is actually happening.

...so we're really about to let a bunch of seasick Dothraki Horsemen loose on an island, right...
So we’re really about to let a bunch of seasick Dothraki Horsemen loose on an island, right…


Also standing in for the fans was the Queen of Thorns herself, hanging out with all the Dornish ladies. “What’s your name again, Barbara?” she asks Obara, “Never mind, it doesn’t matter.” Pretty much what most fans said after the Dornish excursion in Season 5. Maybe I’m reading too much meta, but I really think the writers are having fun with our hatred of the Dorne storyline, and kudos for being able to fit it in. Especially now that Varys’ appearance and the new alliance means Dorne is important again. Let’s hope they get it right next season.

Old Town

Game of Thrones’ reigning cute couple Samwell and Gilly finally made it to Old Town with baby Sam in tow. And based on how much that kid seemed to age, it must have really taken them the months it seems to get there. It’s nice Sam has found his happy place, but I hope they find a place for the Wilding Girl in the big city.

Winterfell and the Wall

I’m combining these two because they really are connected. How about Sansa throwing some serious shade at Littlefinger? First and foremost, there is her acknowledgement to Jon that they can’t really trust him, which I guess is the closest to an explanation as to why she never told Jon about the Vale at all: she didn’t want to share because she didn’t know for certain which face Baelish would show. Fair enough.

Her encounter with Baelish by the Weirwood tree, though, was perhaps our best acknowledgment that she is capable of playing the game. Littlefinger’s ridiculous speech about how he wants to be on the Iron Throne with her at his side (still trying to figure out how giving her to the Boltons would accomplish that) might have swayed the dewy-eyed girl Sansa was, but all bets were off. And walking away just as creepy uncle swoops in to seal the deal with a kiss was a perfect act of gamesmanship. I’m not sure what her dark looks in Baelish’s direction as the North swore allegiance to a new King portend. They didn’t look especially murderous, just troubled, like she has some big decisions she’s going to have to make involving the ambitious whoremaster real soon.

...you know Sansa, Davos would make a perfectly serviceable husband...
You know Sansa, Davos would make a perfectly serviceable husband…

And now I’m saving best for last: R=L=J is confirmed at last. Again, this has been telegraphed really for two seasons now, and still it played out as good as anyone could have hoped. Lyanna lying in a pool of blood, so young and fragile, her warrior’s heart failing, begging her brother for help. And the baby, young Jon Snow – like his dire wolf – born with his eyes open and ready to take on the weight of the world…. chills, man. Chills.

...holy crap, my brother is actually my cousin...and...now what?
Joly crap, my brother is actually my cousin…and…now what?

Miscellaneous Thoughts and Questions

How did Olenna and the Dornish ladies know about Kings Landing yet no one else seemed to? Wouldn’t a messenger have been sent North to Jaime? To Old Town? To Winterfell? Or did all these places know about it and just didn’t think it was important enough to mention?

I know I promised not to complain about time frames – to realize that these items aren’t necessarily happening in parallel – but seriously. is Varys a wizard or something? He managed the round trip between Meereen and Dorne in like a day.

And what’s up with Old Town Jon’s been Lord Commander for so long he’s not even Lord Commander anymore. Ramsay knew about it, the Lannisters knew about – how is it the IT geeks of medieval times didn’t know about it. Ah, bureaucracy!

Is Jaime on Arya’s list? Is that why he’s still alive? Or did she decide it best to focus on the Freys? Also, did you ever notice every time Jaime comes into Kings Landing, one of his children is dead? Maybe it’s time to stay at Casterly Rock.

..you know what guys, never mind - just turn around...
You know what guys, never mind – just turn around…

Probably for the first time in a while I missed the books because the internal dialogue of some of the characters  must be epic. What’s running through Davos’  mind as he confronts Melisandre? Is Tyrion thinking about how his father stripped him of the Hand even after he essentially saved Kings Landing? What was running through Tommen’s mind as he decided to take that leap? I hope these things are in the books, and I hope GRRM catches up soon!

So much more we can talk about! For example, how the hell can I survive the next eight months without Game of Thrones? And what will Season Seven bring? Does Bran’s connection to the Night’s King make the wall vulnerable? Will Dany’s fleet might Euron’s, and how will that play out? Who is next on Arya’s list now that the Frey’s are gone? We’ll find out in 2017 – God, it hurts saying that.


3 Replies to ““The Winds of Winter” Blow Strong in the Game of Thrones Season Finale”

  1. Jim, this is a fringe benefit of having you as a FB friend. I didn’t know you wrote GoT commentary. Jon Snow’s parentage revelation was anticlimactic; we had it figured out long ago but until the three eye raven showed up, didn’t know how anyone would know. Jon Snow, though, has the Cercei run kindom, The Dorne/Tyrell+Khalesi+Iron Island escapees alliance as enemies, Littlefinger as a fifth column and here comes winter + the nightwalkers. He’ll need help. Where is his wolf? Did they kill it when they killed him?.

    1. Ghost is around somewhere, Jim! Remember he helped guard Jon’s body. Maybe he’s out on a scouting mission or helping Nymeria find Freys…

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