The Winds of Winter is a stunning season finale
Game of Thrones fans have come to expect a certain come down in Episodes 10. The ninth episodes tend to be the grand slam outings for the year. The Winds of Winter followed last week’s fan pleasing installment with another sure to thrill season finale.
In many ways Season 6 has felt like sweet vindication for fans who’ve endured a slew of soul-crushing moments since the series began. The Winds of Winter may have been a brief moment of pleasant respite for the atrocities to come, but this was the first finale I felt that the good guys might actually win this thing after all.
Still, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones without some terribly awful things happening to (somewhat) decent people. But in keeping with this season’s theme, truly terrible people are finally getting their long-deserved comeuppance.
Chief among them was Walder Frey. This guy has lorded over everyone how his traitorous actions at the Red Wedding led to the death of Robb Stark and his army. I was happy enough that Jaime chewed Frey out for always needing their help, but it somehow got much better.
The random servant girl eying Jaime and Bronn during the celebration returned to a nearly empty chamber. Frey was there awaiting his sons and dinner. The servant girl provided both as she’d chopped up his sons and put them in the pie. The Girl removed her mask to reveal Arya.
Arya said she wanted him to know the last thing he would see was a Stark smiling over him. Then she sliced Frey’s throat in a similar manner in which her mother was killed in those very chambers. I couldn’t love this more if I tried. The North remembers. Jon and Sansa got revenge on one half of the conspirators who killed their family while Arya killed the other.
Director Miguel Sapochnik can now lay claim to having directed three of the series best episodes (Hardhome, The Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Winter). It’s a legit question as to which is the best of the series. Only The Rains of Castermere offers any real competition. At this point when Sapochnik is attached to an episode just assume it’s going to be another classic. And oh what a classic we got tonight.
The opening sequence of EP 10 played out like the final act in The Godfather. Ramin Djawadi’s score was hypnotic as King’s Landing prepared for the trials. Cersei was preparing to get payback on …er, all her enemies. Lucky for her they were all gathered in one place — The High Sept.
Qyburn had his little birds kill Grand Maester Pycelle. Of all the Season 1 King’s Landing players, Pycelle was living on borrowed time. He was satisfied playing the doddering sage with pliable loyalty and his death in a dank chamber was fitting.
Another of Qyburn’s spies lured Lancel Lannister to the cellars. With his Achilles’ sliced, Lancel slowly crawled to extinguish two candles before they ignited the barrels and barrels of wildfire. Only Margaery realized Cersei and Tommen’s absence hinted at grave danger. In the end it didn’t matter as the wildfire exploded destroying the High Sept and killing the High Sparrow, Margaery, Loras and Kevan Lannister.
If I had one tiny gripe it would be the Faithful Militant not letting people leave the High Sept. The blast fallout was so intense that even if Margaery managed to get Loras and her father out they would have died. That cruel tease of an escape would have made the fate of the Tyrells more tragic.
I hated losing Margaery. She always seemed to have some great subplot just out of reach and was a character who knew how to play the game. Horrified by his mother’s actions, Tommen sat down the crown and jumped to his death. While I felt bad for poor Tommen, this was the immediate repercussion Cersei needed for her murderous act.
Major victories demand tragic losses. Jon and Sansa reclaimed Winterfell, but lost Rickon. Prince Oberyn got his much desired confession, but lost his head. Jon stopped the Wildling invasion of Castle Black and lost Ygritte.
For Cersei that tragedy birthed even greater power. With no other surviving family members, Cersei was named the queen. Cersei has always been one of the series’ great villains. It’s why no matter what indignity she faced this season, I couldn’t manage any sympathy for her. Now with everyone else off the board she is the clear top heel and she might be the vilest one yet. But a new challenger is on their way.
With Yara and Theon’s ships, the Dothraki army and the Unsullied, Daenerys was ready to stake her claim on King’s Landing. First she had to ditch Darrio in case she needs to have a political marriage. Tyrion pledged his loyalty as she appointed him her Hand of the King.
The narrative demands everyone fall in line with Daenerys, but it’s hard to see why she’s earned such devotion from anyone of importance. By episode’s end she’s gained new allies as the Sand Snakes and Olenna Tyrell accept Varys’ recruitment for a chance to destroy the Lannisters. Daenerys’ theme song really should be ‘All I Do is Win.’ Jon loses his brother and his kick-tail giant ally to retake Winterfell while Daenerys has people falling in line with her.
Davos confronted Melisandre about burning Shireen Baratheon. Thankfully Jon wasn’t conflicted and exiled her. While she might be of assistance in battling the White Walkers, Jon won’t willingly throw in with someone who would burn a child.
Littlefinger revealed his end game to Sansa. Every move he’s made has been to claim the Iron Throne with Sansa by his side. Initially, Sansa blows him off, but there’s no doubt he’s in her head. Sansa’s potential lust for Winterfell may be a moot point though …
Bran’s vision confirmed what fans have speculated for a while. At the Tower of Joy, Lyanna Stark was dying from giving birth to a son. With her dying breaths, Lyanna gave her brother Ned a final request that he promised to keep. And now Bran knows the man he grew up with as his half-brother is not a sibling at all, but his cousin and potential heir to the throne of Westeros.
There was a beautiful symmetry to this episode and the finale of Season 5. In both, Jon Snow was presented with swords and daggers. But where Season 5’s finale saw them plunged into his chest, this season he saw them raised in the air proclaiming him the King of the North. I loved this scene on multiple levels.
There was the obvious callback to Season 2’s goosebumps-inducing moment where the North rallied around Robb Stark. Lady Mormont stepped up again and called out the assembled lords for failing to answer Jon’s call for aid in battling Ramsay. It worked and now the North is once again following a Stark preparing for the gravest battle to come.
The Winds of Winter was a tremendous conclusion to Game of Throne’s finest season. Season 6 rarely felt like scenes and subplots were wasted and in the case of King’s Landing politics, it had an explosive conclusion. Jon’s fate was an effective cliffhanger last year, but the series’ momentum has never been stronger making the wait for Season 7 even more agonizing than usual.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Image Credit: HBO Entertainment