Obviously my previous (relatively short) post about the Game of Thrones season finale wasn’t going to be my last words on the subject. Hell, I don’t even know if this one will be the end of that for this year.
So here are a few more random thoughts on The Winds of Winter
We started off the season in Dorne and ended it by bringing the Sandsnakes back into the mix. It is now obvious that the logic behind that entire storyline was to get peace-loving Prince Doran out of the way and solidify the Southerners’ desire to devise a revenge plan and act upon their hatred of the Lannisters. This way, the Dornish would be primed to align themselves with Cersei’s enemies as the situation becomes more volatile in Kings Landing.
I don’t know if that is enough of a plot point to justify that entire story arc, especially after wasting so much time in Dorne when we could have been following the action elsewhere – and, in retrospect, this season moved along much faster once we were done with them – but both Lady Olenna’s and Varys’ quick trip to meet with the Sandsnakes pretty much suggests that Daenerys’ ever-growing army will be attacking from the South (or, at the very least, that her invasion of Westeros will be a two-pronged affair).
With Arya safely back in Westeros doing her faceless assassin thing and Dany and her fleet on the way over, it looks like we’re pretty much done with Essos, at least for the time being. I wonder if we’ll see Daario again – my money is on him somehow teaming up with Jorah to show up towards the end of the show, possibly to get Dany’s ass out of a bind in a last hurrah. With the Dothraki, the Unsullied, the Greyjoys and the Dornish firmly in her corner, it would natural to expect an alliance with the Starks before the final showdown with Cersei, but there are many variables to consider:
Bran is close to the Wall, but the confirmation of R+L=J being the gamechanger we all anticipated, we naturally expect him to travel back south to reunite with his siblings and finally reveal Jon’s true heritage.
People have been shipping Jon and Dany for a while now, and it wouldn’t even be the worst case of incest on the show, but what about Sansa? She kept ominously quiet during the powerful scene of her White Wolf brother’s ascension to power and the charged look she exchanged with Littlefinger must be significant, even though she rebuked his proposition. He has no claim to the Iron Throne, but that never stopped him before; the question is, does Sansa want Winterfell for herself? The fans definitely seem to think so (or at least hope so), and also merit her political prowess much more than Jon’s impulsive, hot-headed style of leadership, despite his universally accepted skill on the battlefield.
As far as the tremendous news of Jon’s true lineage goes, the question is: who will be the one to tell Jon, and what will happen when the news becomes widely known? My money is on Bran and not some other character, although both Howland Reed and Littlefinger could also be privy to that information. Remember Littlefinger’s quizzical look and poignant silence when he was in the crypts beneath Winterfell with Sansa and she brought up her aunt Lyanna’s (alleged) abduction and rape by Rhaegar? And then of course there’s Jojen and Meera’s dad, who was with Ned at the Tower of Joy. Sending his kids on a suicide mission to help Bran seems like too much of a coincidence, doesn’t it?
Whoever breaks the news to Jon though, the most important question is how this affects him moving forward: for one thing, Sansa might have told him he’s a Stark in her book, but does her attitude change when she finds out he’s not Ned’s son, but another Stark’s altogether? What about his bannermen? Stark blood might technically run through his veins, like Lyanna Mormont said, but with just as much Targaryen blood mixed in. Will they still support him as King in the North, or will he have to seek out a Targaryen alliance before Dany even presents him such a proposition, after conquering the rest of Westeros is a done deal?
Meanwhile, the new Queen at Kings Landing was not received nearly as warmly or enthusiastically as the King in the North. No one seemed too happy about Cersei ruling the seven kingdoms during the crowning ceremony, so I’m not holding my breath for a long, successful reign. If the Lannisters implode before Dany even gets to Westeros, we might have a whole new regime to contend with. And what if Cersei decides to finish the job she started by burning the Sept of Baelor and blows up the entire city once she realizes her royal subjects continue to treat her with disdain and distrust? More to the point, news of the Starks’ victory over the Boltons must have reached the capital by now. Cersei’s quest for revenge for Joffrey’s murder will surely turn her gaze upon Sansa once again. Will the Lannister army march north before they face off against Dany’s own?
Cersei’s thirst for power and vengeance has landed her the Iron Throne, but at what cost? Her act of… terrorism, basically, drove her own son to suicide, and it’s also turning her ever-loyal brother/lover against her, if we’re to judge by the stern look on his face as we was watching from afar during the coronation. With Maggie the Frog’s prophecy almost complete, all that’s left is for her to die at Jamie’s hands; the one thing that humanized an otherwise villainous character was her love for her children. Her own actions led to all of them dying within the span of a few years, some more directly than others; her brother, just a couple of episodes ago, was giving heartfelt speeches about his devotion to Cersei, only to come back and find her half-mad and becoming Queen (in a ridiculous outfit, no less). He may have spent his life valuing his love for his sister above all else, but he’s seen her scheming backfire one too many times, and now he’s had the benefit of spending time with one of the most decent characters of the show, who always seems to bring out the best in him. Did his brief reunion with Brienne affect him in such a way as to finally see Cersei for what she really is?
Taking this even further: if Jaime does indeed end up killing Cersei – and if we accept Bran’s vision of the wildfire blast and Jaime’s stabbing *someone* as a vision of the future, it definitely looks like things are headed that way – then will he be joining his brother in support of Dany’s claim of the throne? It would add to the sense of symmetry, by giving Jaime a chance at redemption. Unlike Cersei, we’ve seen him display a decent, honorable side to his character, and aligning himself with the very descendant of the King he murdered could be his way of righting a ‘wrong’. Or maybe we could see him head north, to help fight the White Walkers and reunite with Brienne? So many possibilities.
As a side note: I guess this speaks to how amazing this entire episode was, especially in terms of how much goes on in it, but is anyone mourning the loss of Margaery?
She was poised to be a formidable opponent for Cersei but the queen mother seemed to emerge victorious rather easily, even though I’m inclined to blame the arrogance of the High Sparrow for not heeding Margaery’s warning just as much as I blame Cersei’s tactics. Margaery had been a fan favorite for a while now and I always considered her an end game character but we lost her pretty unceremoniously this week and haven’t even had time to discuss or process that death in the midst of all the drama and action. I guess ‘unceremoniously’ isn’t exactly the right word for a spectacular wildfire explosion, but you’d think she deserved her own death scene instead of going up in flames with dozens of other characters. In any case, RIP Queen Margaery. RIP Loras, as well: the poor guy not only had to confess but also withstand the painful experience of having that star carved into his forehead, and it was all for nothing. At least the most formidable Tyrell is still alive and kicking.
Why was it so important for Qyburn to have Varys’ little birds-turned-assassins murder Grand Maester Pycell in the dungeons? He was headed to the trial anyway and he would have most certainly perished in the blast. Not that I’m going to miss the old geezer, but I’m definitely a little disappointed by the fact that a small snippet of information we were made privy to 6 seasons ago never really came up as a plot point: he was far less weak physically that he let on, yet the children managed to overpower him pretty quickly.
Let me come back to the opening sequence for a second: in my earlier post about the season finale I emphatically praised the entire scene and I completely stand by everything I said about the long, tension-building sequence. I wouldn’t consider it a Godfather ripoff – indeed, the score was very evocative of the classic movie, but to me that’s just smart thinking on the part of the director; paying homage is never a bad thing when it’s done right, and both the music and the editing served the scene beautifully.
We’ve always had a hard time following timelines on this show, but this season the concept of time seems to have completely derailed. Littlefinger, Varys, the Greyjoys and Arya appear to have no trouble covering vast expanses of land and sea at warp speed while other characters take forever to move a few miles down the road. Case in point, Samwell Tarly.
He couldn’t have gotten very far after stealing his father’s valyrian steel sword, but no sign of the vile old man (or Sam’s awful brother) coming to reclaim the sword. (I would also like to point out that Dickon Tarly is probably the most hilariously named character on the show, with Euron coming a close second).
Instead, it took Sam, Gilly and little Sam several episodes to get to Old Town, and when he did get there, the only take-away from the awkward scene was a slow, albeit a bit funny, conversation that reiterated things we’ve known for ages now, and a couple of beautiful shots of the admittedly impressive library, which offered a not-so-subtle nod to the title sequence. Also frustrating: the Maesters announce that winter is here, but have no idea about the change in leadership at the Wall, or – more to the point – about the imminent White Walker attack?
If Sam is taking forever to get where he’s supposed to, Arya is moving full-steam ahead.
We all expected her to show up in Winterfell either by the end of this season or the beginning of Season 7, but she wastes no time in executing the plan she spent so long training for. We still don’t know how she managed to not only get to the Twins, kill Walder Frey’s sons and make pie – I guess we’re to assume that, aside from endlessly sweeping floors at the House of Black and White, there were also culinary lessons on offer during her time with the Faceless Men? It would be hilarious if next season it is revealed that she somehow met up with Hot Pie and/or Gendry on her way back to Westeros and they lent a hand, but I guess we’re not meant to wonder how she did what she did, only to be amazed at her new assassin skills. Like Jaqen H’ghar in previous seasons, it will be interesting to have random characters on the screen revealed to be Arya in disguise.
With Meryn Trant and Walder Frey both dead, the only people remaining on Arya’s kill list seem to be Cersei and the Mountain. Does that mean she will be traveling south instead of reuniting with her siblings? Surely she must have overheard the Freys talking about the recent change in regime over in Winterfell? And what about her uncle Edmure, locked up in the dungeons once again? Someone needs to get that guy out of there before the show is over, or we’ll have another Huell situation on our hands.
There are few pieces of the puzzle missing, a handful of characters whose stories didn’t advance in the season finale: the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners, Brienne, Euron Greyjoy. Just like the Dorne story, we now know to expect a payoff, even way down the line, for every story taking up screen time, no matter how tedious is may seem. Euron falls under that category in my book: I fully expect his men to keep on building ships until news of the Dany/Greyjoy alliance reaches the Iron Islands. More importantly, I expect the Hound and Brienne to cross paths soon. Any scene with Sandor Clegane is awesome, and a plotline where he might reconcile with the person who (almost) killed him – and confirm that he’s a changed man in the process – is one I’m definitely looking forward to next season.
Jorah was also AWOL in the finale, and as much as I would like to see him team up with Sam at the Citadel, I have to admit it’s an unlikely scenario, even though he could potentially have some pull there if he just namedrops his father, former Lord Commander of the Wall. How about this though: if Jorah doesn’t think the Maesters and their impressive library can help him with the greyscale, then would magic be the answer? Because there’s a certain despondent Red Priestess traveling south of Winterfell right now. If Melissandre can raise Jon from the dead, then surely she can cure a bit of skin disease on Jorah’s forearm. Looks like all the Lord of Light disciples in Essos are on board with Dany and her dragons right now, and if namedropping his dad at the Citadel might work, then surely namedropping Dany would garner him an ally or two.
We also haven’t seen much of the Wall lately, nor the few brothers in black still holding down the fort. I guess we’ll see more of them once Bran arrives at their gate. I suppose I’m in the minority when I say I don’t really enjoy Bran’s scenes, even those that have tremendous significance to other storylines, such as the R+L=J reveal. I found the scene a little anticlimactic, not only because we all knew what was coming, but because the show refrained from explicitly revealing the R part of the equation. Are they purposely holding back and taking their sweet time with Bran while the Westeros situation resolves itself before the final showdown of fire versus ice? That would be my guess, but I feel that they need to establish the threat of White Walkers a bit more while we wait, because at the moment only Jon, Sam, the Brotherhood and a few select others are aware of what’s coming. Also: the Night King and his myriads of zombies could attack the Wall and take down Castle Black at any moment, so the show needs to sufficiently explain why they’re biding their time, given that the living are so outnumbered over at the Wall.
Regardless of all the unanswered questions, however, I guess the one on everyone’s mind, after six seasons of plotting, scheming and watching a great number of characters die, is the one Tyrion voices in the final scene: can you believe this is actually happening?
Yes. And it’s going to be fucking amazing when it does, not least because, after Tyrion’s arguably weakest season yet, he’s standing right beside Daenerys as she’s about to conquer Westeros.