What can you expect in the Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale?
Vengeance. Justice. Fire and Blood. All that and more.
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers from the novels! Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
Ah, Game of Thrones. There’s nothing else like it on television. This show had me losing it before the episode even started, thanks to the Tower of Joy and Lyanna mentions in the “Previously On.” The feeling only grew with the ineffable rightness of seeing the Stark direwolf restored to Winterfell in the opening credits. I clapped, goddammit. I actually clapped.
So did the episode live up to the hype?
Oh hell yes. But let’s jump back and recap a bit. (A lot. That’s how I roll.)
The season finale of Game of Thrones opened up with a stunning sequence, depicting the trial of Loras Tyrell, and Cersei Lannister’s cunning method of using their attempt to bring her down as a way of destroying her enemies. With the scenes set to Ramin Djawadi’s lovely and unsettling “Light of the Seven” (on the newly released season 6 soundtrack, GO GET IT), we’re treated to the players preparing themselves for the big day (Cersei in her best Tywin Lannister cosplay) and gathering in the sept of Baelor.
Loras’s trial is a painful drama, with him forced by the High Sparrow to play his part to rob the Tyrells of their heir. Of course Cersei doesn’t show for her role in the affair, and Margaery wisely catches on that something is afoot, but too late. Cersei’s vengeance has already begun. Grand Maester Pycelle is viciously slaughtered by Qyburn’s little birds, while Lancel is lured underground to witness the lighting of the wildfire caches stored beneath the sept. (Cersei’s special punishment for the lover for who betrayed her, fitting since Lancel had a close shave with death at the Blackwater when he was injured.)
The wildfire explosion kills Lancel, Margaery, Loras, High Sparrow, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister and everyone else in the sept, while Cersei glories in it from the Red Keep (with a glass of wine, I mean this is Cersei). It’s a gruesome sight, the good and the admirable people going up in green flames along with the hateful. Cersei did save one enemy from the fire- Septa Unella, whom she hands over to the Mountain for horrifying up close and personal time.
But there is one casualty of the widespread slaughter that Cersei didn’t anticipate. Kept safely from the trial by his mother’s guard, Tommen is left alone to watch the smoking ruins of his wife and the sept of Baelor. The boy who never sought to be king removes his crown, and leaps from the Red Keep to his death. Poor Tommen. He was a good kid. He didn’t deserve the punishment of being crowned.
Cersei has achieved Rains of Castamere-style victory over those who tore her down, but nothing she did could keep Maggy the Frog’s prophecy from being fulfilled. Every step she took brought the doom closer.
This also confirms that the explosion we saw in Bran’s vision was of course a glimpse of the future, not the past. And that the Mad Queen we should probably be worried about is Cersei, not Daenerys.
At the Twins, the Freys are celebrating their victory in retaking Riverrun but Jaime just isn’t that interested. Not even banter with Bronn over women is picking him up.
Jaime: “Not my type.” Bronn: “Not blonde enough?” Are we talking about Cersei, Brienne, or both? I’m going with both.
He has a chat with Walder over the great victory in ending the siege, which is pretty weak since House Frey had to have their asses saved by the Lannisters. Walder draws comparisons between himself and Jaime, being kingslayers, and Jaime doesn’t care for that either. Unlike Walder Frey, he does care what people think of him, and Jaime’s growing unhappiness with his existence is apparent.
In King’s Landing, Tommen’s death is confirmed as Cersei views his body. She is strangely calm, as though the grief has been burnt away. She orders his body to be turned to ash, and buried in the place where the sept once stood so that he can be with his siblings.
Next up, we catch up with Sam and Gilly who have arrived in Oldtown, and can I just- I mean can I- holy jeez-
Oldtown is supposed to be incredibly beautiful, and Game of Thrones delivers with a gorgeous first shot of the city, with the Hightower in all its glory, and white ravens (signaling winter) flying away.
Once arriving at the Citadel, the duo encounter a hilarious bureaucrat- apparently no one was informed of the changes at the Wall, so Sam’s not quite in as a student yet.
But he does get a sneak peek at the library, and it is the stuff of nerd dreams. There isn’t any book-loving geek alive who doesn’t understand how Sam felt walking in that room. The awe-inspiring library, the endless shelves of books, and beams of light, and the hanging astrolabes (shout-out to the show’s opening credits!), all the knowledge Sam will have access to now… I cried.
And now I wonder if Sam will so easily be able to divide his loyalty between Gilly and the Citadel, if they accept him. Either way, I can’t wait to explore it more in season 7.
At Winterfell, the day of Melisandre’s reckoning has come. Davos confronts her with Shireen’s scorched toy stag, and the priestess admits to burning the girl at the stake in order to further their cause. Davos demands the right to execute her but Melisandre makes a strong case for her survival- she’s needed for the war to come against the White Walkers and the army of the dead. There’s also the little detail that this woman raised Jon from the dead.
Jon compromises by exiling Melisandre to the south, with the warning that she’ll be hanged if she returns.
She leaves Winterfell but I doubt we’ve seen the last of Melisandre. She’s going south, Arya is south- Mel did say the two of them would meet again someday…
Jon and Sansa sort out bedrooms (calm down, shippers) and Sansa admits she doesn’t trust Littlefinger, and that she should’ve told Jon about the Knights of the Vale before the battle. Jon reminds her that they need to trust each other, and they share a smile over the confirmation that winter has come.
We pop down to Dorne for a quick visit that will undoubtedly piss off some ASOIAF fans due to the adaptation of Doran Martell’s well-known speech from A Feast for Crows.
Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood.
But I liked the scene a lot. Doran’s already been killed and you gotta keep on moving. Yes I would have loved to see the original arc with Alexander Siddig giving the whole speech and blah blah blah, but that’s besides the point. What we saw onscreen tonight was good. We had Olenna reading the Snakes for filth because that’s what she does to people, we have Ellaria using diplomacy and cunning, and we have Varys stepping in to tie it all together, with the Martell-Targaryen alliance being born, with a side of Tyrell.
I think this episode is a good demonstration as well of the principle that a lot of time can pass in one episode of Game of Thrones, and people just have to roll with it sometimes. Varys is in Dorne, and pretty soon he’s going to be back in Essos. We can infer that the boring traveling happened.
In Meereen, Daenerys gives her boytoy his walking papers, due to the practical necessity that she may have to make marital alliances down the road. Daario is refreshingly lacking in ego, willing to be her sidepiece even when she’s married, but Dany won’t do that. Daario and his Second Sons will be staying behind to help maintain peace in the city, and the khaleesi is moving on. But first she renames Slaver’s Bay “Bay of Dragons.” No ego here.
Afterward, talking it over with Tyrion, Dany admits that she felt nothing while ending it with her lover. Tyrion claims to suck at consoling but then delivers a touching declaration of his own. He’s never believed in anything, but he believes in her. Daenerys gives him a gift she’s had made- a Hand of the Queen pin.
(So now he’s totally going to die, right? Maybe Tyrion is the recurring exception to that rule.)
Back at the Twins, Walder Frey is settling in to eat a heaping serving of pie, which isn’t surprising. He’s always eating or drinking, I’ve noticed. He’s a creature of avarice, always hungry for more.
Old Walder is looking for his boys Black Walder and Lothar, but the serving girl informs him- they’re already here. As in, right there, in the pie he’s dining on. That’s right, it’s time for FREY PIE.
She tears the face from her, and we see it’s Arya (I guess she swiped one on her way out of the House of Black and White?), relishing in Walder’s freakout. Arya identifies herself clearly, before slicing his throat and watching him bleeding out with barely contained sociopathic joy in her face.
In the godswood at Winterfell, Littlefinger finds Sansa. He shares with her his hope, his vision for himself: him on the Iron Throne, with Sansa by his side. His vast ambition is not surprising considering the maneuvers he’s gone through in the past six seasons. He takes the opportunity to push for more distrust between her and her brother Jon.
Further north, Benjen brings Meera and Bran to a heart’s tree close to the Wall, and explains he can’t go any further with them due to the magic built into the Wall, keeping the dead from passing. He’ll keep on fighting for the living, but Showhands departs as quickly as he appeared.
Bran touches the tree, and dives back into a vision- the one we’ve all been waiting for, the Tower of Joy.
This time, Bran is able to follow his young father up into the tower, where Ned (Robert Aramayo) finds his younger sister Lyanna (Aisling Franciosi) lying in a pool of blood on a bed. Lyanna is dying, and we quickly find out where the blood came from- she’s just given birth. She pulls her brother close, and whispers:
“If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.”
Ned holds the baby, and with a swell of music, the show non-too-subtly cuts from the child to a close-up of Jon Snow’s face.
This is it, the answer. Sure they held back a little with that whisper- they’ll make us wait until next season to get the confirmation on Jon’s father, but with the Kingsguard watching over Jon’s birth at the Tower of Joy, there is little doubt who fathered this baby. Unless they pull a fast one, R+L=J, y’all.
Now we return to Winterfell for another edition of “Lyanna Mormont is better than all of you.”
At a meeting of the northern lords (plus Littlefinger lurking suspiciously), Lyanna Mormont calls out the lords who didn’t rise to the Starks’ call to fight, and decides that bastard or not, Jon Snow is the king, the Stark, she’ll follow. Manderly and Glover apologize, and the assembled all declare Jon the new King in the North.
Now we know what makes little Lyanna Mormont smile- shaming old men into doing the right thing.
Jon Snow rises, the King in the North.
Sansa smiles too, but sees Littlefinger lying in wait, and we know there’s still mistrust and manipulations to be dealt with. Are Littlefinger’s insinuations working on Sansa or is she merely biding her time until she can find a way to smartly be rid of him?
You thought we were finished? Not even. After skedaddling from the Twins, Jaime and Bronn have headed back to King’s Landing to find a smoking ruin in the city.
Jaime heads back into town and the Red Keep to find people assembled in the throne room. Cersei marches in, all fierceness in her new black gear with metallic accessories- and takes the throne. As Jaime watches warily from the back, Qyburn declares Cersei queen in her own right. The power she’s always wanted is finally hers. Not by right of birth or marriage, but because she took it.
Oh man, you’re all screwed now.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, for seasons, books, decades- Daenerys departs Essos, heading westward from Meereen.
When we met Daenerys Targaryen, she was a frightened young girl with a mad brother and a rough marriage prospect. Now she’s headed back to Westeros with the might of the Greyjoys, the Tyrells, the Martells, the Unsullied, a Dothraki khalasar, Varys, Tyrion Lannister, Missandei…and three grown dragons.
Not bad, Dany. Not bad at all. Can anything stop her now?
Damn, almost forgot about those White Walkers, didn’t we.
The music: Ramin Djawadi has really stretched and outdone himself this season and this episode in particular. Beautiful work.
The Mad Queen: give Lena Headey that Emmy. But really that first 15-20 minutes or so was just incredible, so eerie and beautiful. The dread grew, and you know what was coming, but with the actors, the stabby children, the ghastly wildfire explosion, and Cersei’s icy vengeance, it was a stunner from start to finish.
The visuals: Give it up for the CGI people, and the writers and the director for their vision. The finish with Daenerys and her full following, Oldtown and the Citadel, the sept of Baelor and the trial, the godswood, and more. The episode was packed with eye candy.
Lyanna Mormont: You better watch out, GoT actors. Bella Ramsey’s going to walk away with the whole show if you’re not careful. She’s aces every time she’s onscreen.
FREY PIE: I’m glad to see it happen, but at the same time, damn. That was stone cold terrifying. Arya has gone to a deep dark place and I’m worried about her, more than ever.
Still rowin’: Yep, another season without Gendry.
Adaptation quibbles? I’m not bothered by having Pycelle’s death-by-little-birds come at Cersei’s behest instead of Varys’s. And I mentioned up above what I thought of the Fire-and-Blood speech popping up a bit tonight. I was completely blown away by the episode and I think the choices were sound.
Bless the Queen of Thorns: we think it, she says it.
RIP: Tommen, High Sparrow, Margaery, Loras, Mace (NOT NOW- okay, now, since you’re dead and all), Kevan, Pycelle, Lancel, Walder, Black Walder, Lothar. Unella will probably die terribly within a few days, given her company.
The only episode scene that lagged for me was Dany’s moment with Daario and Tyrion, until Tyrion took over and shared his surprisingly genuine thoughts. I’m not invested enough in the Dany/booty-call romance to care, though I do wonder if Daario will turn up down the road, and use the Second Sons against her. He’s a sell-sword, not a lapdog, and the decision may bite her in the ass.
Another fabulous season of Game of Thrones has come and gone. Hard to believe it goes by so quickly! Soon enough we’ll be looking ahead at season 7, and the speculation and spoilers and wondering cycle begins anew. Thank you for joining us all season, and I hope you’ve enjoyed spending this time with us here at Watchers on the Wall!