Right from the get go, Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been all about answering expectations. Things like The Hound’s continued survival and Jon’s parentage have been the subject of speculation for years by fans and this season of Thrones has been all about setting the record straight.
“The Winds of Winter” very much encapsulates that quality, wrapping this year’s plot-lines up in a neat bow. It’s an episode filled with fire, blood and payoff that sets the stage for the series’ final 14 episodes quite nicely.
Opening in Kings Landing on the morning of Loras (Finn Jones) and Cersei’s (Lena Headey) trials, it was very clear that something big was about to happen. The sequence danced along to an unfamiliar melody as the different pieces of Cersei’s plan came together. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) cornered and butchered Pycelle (Julian Glover) while his “little birds” set aflame the wildfire stockpiled below the Sept of Baelor.
It’s a fiery declaration of dominance for Cersei over her enemies and a plot that wipes out both the Sparrows and Tyrells in one fell swoop. If nothing else, “The Winds of Winter” will go down as Cersei’s moment of triumph. The destruction of the Sept made for an incredible visual spectacle that further cemented the reputation of wildfire as a Westerosi weapon of mass destruction.
While the suicide of Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) was a surprising turn, the episode’s final scene left no room for doubt as to what comes next. Cersei has spent the last two seasons playing at being the next Tywin Lannister. However, with her children dead the throne is her for the taking and she’s done ‘playing’ the game. Like Dany, she’s ready to build a new world out of the ashes of the old one – no matter the cost.
There’s a similar elegance at work in the riverlands this week with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) leaving The Twins just in time for Arya (Masie Williams) to strike another name off her list. The interaction between Jaime and Walder Frey (David Bradley) was a neat send off to his character and Arya’s “Frey Pie” was a fun not to book readers. With a fully capable Arya back in Westeros and on the loose, those left on her list of names better watch out.
Further north, the episode stopped in briefly with Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Benjen (Joseph Mawle) to touch on the magic laid into the foundations of The Wall and to revisit the battle at the Tower of Joy.
As seen earlier in the season, a young Ned Stark (Robert Aramayo) arrives too late to save his sister (Aisling Franciosi) but not her newborn child. It’s a big moment for fans but the episode coasts a little off it, stopping just short of making Jon’s parentage explicit. Still, It’s a cool scene to finally see the show finally tackle – even if the impact feels a little undercut by the years and years of theory-mongering.
Of course, Arya’s return and Bran’s revelation was only part of this week’s time for wolves. “The Winds of Winter” did a good job of picking up the pieces from “The Battle of the Bastards”. With the Boltons out of the picture, the biggest issue facing the reconsolidated North is whether they should rally behind Jon (Kit Harrington) or Sansa (Sophie Turner). Both Jon and Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) encourage Sansa to press her claim but by the episode’s end, it is Jon who is proclaimed The White Wolf and King in the North.
The third pillar of “The Winds of Winter” saw Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) settle her affairs in Meereen and finally set out across the narrow sea to make her bid for the Iron Throne. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) gets promoted to Hand of the Queen, Daario (Michael Huisman) gets dumped and both Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and the Dornish radicalists hop on board the Targaryen ticket. The finale leaves Dany in transit and while we won’t see her arrive until next year, her homecoming feels very earned.
It’s time to break the wheel.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Arya returning to Westeros!
- Olenna Tyrell vs The Sand Snakes. I didn’t know I needed this in my life but here we are.
- Cersei’s new armor
- Sam’s arrival in Oldtown and his struggle to choose between Gilly and his love of books
- Tyrion’s face when he gets offered the Hand of the Queen pin
- Jamie’s face when Cersei crowns herself
- Dany renaming Slavers Bay
- Littlefinger’s creepiness
- Melisandre’s exile leaves her character in a weird spot
- Varys magical teleportation powers
- R + L = J teased so much it wasn’t that impressive
- I wonder if this is the last we’ve seen of Benjen
- I wonder if Slaver’s Bay will be renamed in the opening credits next season
- Love how this finale set the final act of Thrones up as one pretty dominated by female rulers
Episode MVP: Cersei