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Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter — A Fitting Finale

What a finale. The Winds of Winter was by far, if not the best, one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones ever. Instead of leaving us with a cliffhanger (is Jon Snow dead or alive?), the episode deftly tied up most of the loose ends and for once, provided more answers than questions.

Managing Expectations

Perhaps one reason why the finale felt so satisfying was because it finally advanced the story. I thought Season 6 for the most part was lacklustre, with the story progressing very slowly. Hodor’s heartbreaking sacrifice at the end of Episode 5 left a void for the next few episodes. Last week’s The Battle of Bastards came close to topping The Door, but I felt it a little too predictable. Ramsay was all but certain to die, and even if the question was a matter of how, feeding him to his beloved dogs didn’t seem all that unexpected. Thankfully, The Winds of Winter has redeemed the entire season.

Cersei’s Sinister Plan

Credits: HBO
Credits: HBO

First things first, the soundtrack was totally on point for this scene. It was creepy as much as it was foreboding. As the bells rang–ominously–in the background, the camera cuts to Cersei, looking out the window, somewhat resigned to her fate (or planning something sinister, perhaps?). Then, a stoic-looking Tommen looks ahead as the crown is placed on his head, probably thinking if he’s been doing the right thing. Margaery, too, stands still as her hand-maiden ties up her loose hair. Meanwhile, the High Sparrow attempts to look his best by putting on a new set of clothes.

They’re all ready for the trial. Except perhaps for Loras, who, with hair unkempt, is seen trembling in a corner as the faith militants enters his cell. At this point, the piano overture starts playing. I have a strange feeling about this.

Poor Loras confesses to his sins. He goes one step further and agrees to renounce his Lordship, renounce his homosexual ways and pledge to join the faith. He was probably coerced. Or brainwashed.

As we wait for Cersei to stand trial at the Great Sept, the Mountain stops Tommen from leaving his room. Grand Maester Pycelle is led to the underground chambers where he is stabbed to death by Qyburn’s little birds, while Lancel senses something amiss and follows another of Qyburn’s little birds into the same chamber, where he is incapacitated. The music heightens.

Lancel spots the luminous green liquid and realises the gravity of the situation. He crawls towards the stash of wildfire (basically GoT’s version of kerosene, but much more powerful), hoping to extinguish the flame atop the candle before it sets the wildfire ablaze.

Back above ground, Margaery senses something amiss as Cersei continues to be MIA–surely Cersei knew of the consequences of not showing up and wouldn’t do so if she didn’t intend to suffer the consequences? She commands the High Sparrow that they must leave now, which the High Sparrow rubbishes. She will stand trial, regardless of whether she shows up, so says the High Sparrow.

As the background track crescendos, Lancel uses every ounce of his remaining strength to crawl towards the candle, while Margaery ignores the Sparrow and tells everyone to “leave NOW!”. She then brings Loras and tries to leave, but is stopped at the door by the faith militants. As chaos ensue, the High Sparrow looks on, with a hint of doubt showing on his face. The music stops. The wildfire is set ablaze, as reflected in Lancel’s irises. The scene cuts back quickly to the Sparrow, who at this point realises that he screwed up.

Credits: HBO
Credits: HBO

BURN THEM ALL. Everyone in the Sept or around its perimeter perishes. It takes me a few seconds to register that Margaery is dead.

The camera cuts back to Cersei, who is watching the Sept go up in flames by the balcony whilst sipping a cup of red wine, no less. Savage. She goes on to taunt Septa Unella, who is by now strapped to the floor, repeatedly chanting “Confess” in a way that feels oddly satisfying to me. She wouldn’t let Septa Unella have it easy–she wouldn’t let her die just yet. She asks the Mountain to carry on from there, which he obliges, but not before removing his helmet to finally reveal his face (it’s not that scary). “This is your God now.”

"Confess. Confess. Confess." / Credits: HBO
“Confess. Confess. Confess.” / Credits: HBO

As the Septa screams in pain, Cersei leaves the cell, closing the door behind her, but not before chanting “Shame. Shame. Shame.” That’s just totally badass. To think that just ten episodes ago, she was walking naked down the street, sticks and stones thrown at her.

While her revenge was executed perfectly, it was not entirely without consequences. King Tommen realised what had just happened, and after a few moment’s contemplation while looking out the window at the destruction his mother had just caused, put his crown down and walked away. Perhaps he was going to sleep the night away, hoping this was all just a bad dream. But the scene lingered on longer than it should, and we suddenly see him re-appear, climb onto the window, and jump (it was more of a fall, though).

Tommen falls to his death. / Credits: HBO
Tommen falls to his death. / Credits: HBO

As sharp Redditors would later point out, it was indeed a King’s Landing.

I had to pause the show at this moment, for I had zoned out a little prior to this. When I saw Tommen jump, I was like “wait, what just happened?!”. ‘Twas a tragic end for a young boy, who had the best of intentions but sadly didn’t have the iron in him to rule the Seven Kingdoms. It was also a logical ending, given his personality. He loved Margaery too much, and probably loved his mother just the same. It would be too much on him to bring his mother to justice.

The Freys and Lannisters Send Their Regards

At this point, we’re about one-third into the season finale, and we head towards the Riverlands, where Walder Frey holds a celebratory feast with Jamie Lannister. He has the audacity to see himself as an equal to the Lannister, proudly proclaiming that when they kill their enemies, they would speak the words of their alliance, “The Freys and the Lannisters send their regards”. Thankfully, about a minute later, Jamie reminds Walder who’s the real boss.

Books > Women

Just as we’ve all forgotten about them, Samwell finally arrives at the Citadel (remember, he set off more than a season ago!) together with Gilly and Little Sam. Apparently, no one at the Citadel knows that Jeor Mormont has died and Jon Snow is/ was Lord Commander. So much for the knowledge they possess. Nevertheless, they trust Samwell enough to allow him access to the library, which upon hearing this he rubs his hands in glee. He’s told that women and children aren’t allowed. But books are more important to him, so he sheepishly leaves behind Gilly and Little Sam and enters the library…

Goodbye, Melisandre

Back at Winterfell, an angry Ser Davos throws Shireen’s little toy right at Melisandre, which she promptly catches. Jon Snow is somewhat bemused. Being overcome with emotions (or lack of vocabulary, perhaps?), Ser Davos asks Melisandre to explain herself instead. “If he commands you to burn children, your Lord is evil.” He then asks for Jon’s permission to execute her. Of course, Jon wouldn’t bite the hand that fed resurrected him and instead banished her down south. I’m not too sure if this is the right thing to do, given that they’ll probably need all the help they can get when facing the White Walkers next season.

Winter Has Come

Sansa and Jon look on as Melisandre heads south on her horse. I was half expecting Sansa to give Jon a look of reproach for what he just did, but instead, they ended up having a heartfelt talk. She apologises for not telling Jon before hand about Littlefinger, and tells him that she sees him as a Stark and therefore wants him to rule Winterfell instead of her. Which is a wise move, because later on, we find out that Littlefinger sees himself sitting on the iron throne eventually, with Sansa by his side. Sansa is obviously disgusted at the thought of this. At least by removing herself from the picture, Littlefinger will have lesser influence over the North.

Sansa also informs Jon that she received a white raven from the Citadel, informing that winter has come. As Ned “Winter is Coming” Stark always promised…

Dorne Not Written Off… Yet

For a while, we thought Dorne was effectively written off after its non-appearance for the past 9 episodes, but it seems that Lady Olenna, now the last surviving member of the Tyrell clan, has travelled there upon the Sand Snakes’ request. As always, Lady Olenna is sassy as hell. She also makes clear that survival is not what she’s after now. Ellaria Sand tells her she can offer her her heart’s desire.

Credits: HBO
Credits: HBO

“And what is my desire?”
“Vengeance. Justice.”

Then Varys walks slowly into the fore and chips in. “Fire and Blood.” So that’s where Varys went.

Hand of the Queen

Back at Meereen, Daenerys is making her preparations to set sail to Westeros. She tells Daario that he won’t be coming with them to Westeros, as she wants him to stay behind to hold the fort. “Fuck Meereen. Fuck the people. I’m here for you, not them.”

Despite this, Daenerys already has her mind made up. The best way to make alliances is with marriage, she says, and thus she can’t bring a lover to Westeros. Not even when Daario proclaims his love for her. “I don’t want a crown. I want you. I love you.”

Later, Tyrion asks Daenerys how Daario took the news. “No tears.” Later, she goes on to confess that she said farewell to a man who loved her, whom she thought she cared for, but she felt nothing, and this frightened her. Hopefully we’re not seeing her descend into a mad queen.

At least, not yet. She proceeds to give Tyrion the validation he’s been waiting for his whole life. “I have something made for you.” She then whips out a pin from her bosom, and pins it to Tyrion’s robes. “Tyrion Lannister, I name you Hand of the Queen.”

"I name you Hand of the Queen." / Credits: HBO
“I name you Hand of the Queen.” / Credits: HBO

Daenerys may be the first ruler to truly recognise Tyrion’s talents. Before, he did a good job while leading a war under Jeoffrey, and also as Hand of the King, but his efforts went largely unrecognised. You could tell that Tyrion almost had tears in his eyes… A poignant moment, really.

No One Sends Her Regards

We cut back to Walder Frey, who’s wondering why everyone is late for dinner, while his servant is serving dinner on his plate, not before making some sexually inappropriate remarks and moves, in typical unlikeable Walder fashion.

He tells the servant to “tell them to come here now”, to which she responds that “but they’re already here, my lord”. Bewaldered Bewildered, Walder does a double take. So the servant motions towards the pie. “Here… my lord.” He peers into the pie and sees a thumb (or toe?) sticking out like… well, a sore thumb. “They weren’t easy to carve”, says the servant.

Before Walder Frey has time to compose himself, the servant peels her face off and reveals herself. “My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last thing you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die.” Walder makes a feeble attempt to flee, but Arya catches him and slits his throat, in the same manner as Catelyn Stark’s was three seasons ago, at the same place. Full circle. Faceless school has trained her well.

Credits: HBO
Credits: HBO

R+L = J CONFIRMED.

We go back north of the wall, where Benjen has to leave Meera and Bran, as he says the Wall has magic preventing the dead, including himself, from crossing the borders. Bran assumes the role of the Three-Eyed Raven, and he immediately travels back to the scene where young Ned Stark looks back.

Ned sees nothing, though (thankfully!), and continues rushing up to the Tower of Joy where Lyanna Stark lay, bleeding profusely from childbirth. She mumbles something, and tells Ned “…if Robert finds out, he’ll … you know he will.” She asks Ned to promise her to protect him, which the honorable Ned does. The camera zooms in on the baby, who looks pretty spaced out, and pans to a close-up of Jon Snow, if it weren’t obvious enough already.

So, for those not really in the loop, a popular fan theory going around since the first book was released (that’s almost twenty years!) was that Jon Snow was the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Lyanna was bethroned to Robert, but was abducted by Rhaegar (some speculated that they eloped instead, since Rhaegar was always described as a good amn), thus sparking a civil war that eventually led to the overthrow of the Targaryen dynasty. Obviously, Robert would want any surviving members of the Targaryen family dead, including Jon Targaryen Snow.

While it isn’t explicitly confirmed that Rhaegar is Jon Snow’s biological father, it is still the most plausible explanation. Unless Ned had something incest-y going on with Lyanna…

So, now Jon the bastard could be even more of a bastard (if Rhaeger and Lyanna conceived Jon out of wedlock), or he could have a true claim over the throne (though, does that even matter at this point in time now?)

King in the North

Back at Winterfell, there is a meeting of the various Northern houses, together with the free folk. Naturally, the Lords are hesitant about pledging alliance with a bastard and the free folk whom they deeply mistrust. Then, the young Lady Mormont takes everyone on a guilt trip by giving the best speech of the season. “You swore alliance to House Stark”, she says, “but in their hour of greatest need, you refused the call.”

“But House Mormont remembers. The North remembers. … 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 the last day.”

On a side note, let’s hope that nothing changes when they find out that Ned Stark’s blood doesn’t run in his veins. Though, first we’ll have to pray that Bran Stark is still alive to tell them that.

After her rousing speech, everyone starts pledging alliance to Jon Snow as “King in the North!”, much to the chagrin of Littlefinger. (Sansa is watching you.)

Queen of the Seven Kingdoms

Back at King’s Landing, Cersei is proclaimed Queen. Jamie returns from Riverrun and looks aghast at the destruction she has just caused.

After the events that transpired, it is clear that Cersei doesn’t give a fuck anymore. She’s probably lost whatever little compassion that was left in her. When asked what she would do about Tommen’s body, she nonchalantly said to burn it.

As Cersei ascends the Iron Throne in her sickeningly awesome Darth Cersei attire, Jamie looks on, with a little look on disgust on his face. Cersei doesn’t look entirely happy either. She may have won the game (for now, at least), but she has lost everything that mattered to her. Her children, and perhaps even her lover.

I thought that would be a fitting end to the season finale, but the producers had a little something extra for us…

Setting Sail for Westeros

…which is Daenerys finally setting sail for Westeros after six years.

Credits: HBO
Credits: HBO

As time passed, I wondered if Daenerys was ever going tol land in Westeros, especially after the setback earlier this season. But here she is, with a formidable army, the allegiance of House Greyjoy, the Sand Snakes and what’s left of House Tyrell, a fleet of dragon boats, and of course, her three dragons. Finally, she has a real army. Oh, and we also see Varys standing right behind her, which I did a double take at first–did he just travel from Dorne in twenty minutes?! (Yes, he did.)

There’s a small cut of Theon Greyjoy in the last scene as well, and for once, he looks like the man he was once (even if he’s a lesser man now).

What’s Next?

I am really thankful with the way this episode turned out. Season’s 5 finale was torturous, as there were a number of unresolved questions left hanging–the fate of Daenerys Stormborn, the resurrection of the Mountain into something Frankenstein-ish (I’m surprised he didn’t turn out to be that much of a monster in this season), whether Jon Snow was really dead, whether Arya Stark was really blind for good and whether Cersei would ever recover from her humiliation. This season answered those questions and then more. It tied up the loose ends, and thankfully didn’t untangle others in the process. Right now, we have a clearer picture of where the series is headed, and while we will inevitably wait in anticipation, at least we won’t be waiting in anguish.

Next season, we’ll probably see Daenerys and her army setting foot on Westeros proper, and perhaps the Northerners fending off the White Walkers. Speaking of the White Walkers, I was a little let down by the fact that there wasn’t a closing shot of the White Walkers closing in towards the wall when the episode is so aptly named “The Winds of Winter”. But that’s just a minor complaint, though. This episode deserves a solid 10.

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