Game of Thrones – Episode 6.10 “The Winds of Winter”

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Synopsis: It’s the day of Cersei’s and Loras’ trials and everyone is getting ready. Cersei puts on her best Wicked Queen in Snow White outfit. The Tyrells, minus grandma, are gathered in the Sept of Baelor with Kevan Lannister, The High Sparrow, the Faith Militant, and dozens of townsfolk. Loras bypasses his trial and simply confesses, and he is branded/scarred by the Faith. Margaery is upset, this was not part of their deal. Back at the Red Keep, Tommen prepares to leave, but the Mountain arrives in his room, and refuses to let him pass. Pycelle follows one of Qyburn’s little birds (a street urchin) to Qyburn’s lab, where he faces down Q as he has an army of little birds take out the old man, stabbing him all over. The High Sparrow orders Lancel to fetch Cersei and when he leaves the Sept, he sees another of the kids, running away and he follows him. In the  cavernous tunnels beneath the city, Lancel follows the kid, discovering hundreds of barrels, a green liquid dripping out. Looks a lot like that stash of wildfire that the Mad King was rumored to have. Before he can react, Lancel is stabbed in the back and falls to the ground, where he sees candles slowly burning away in a pool of the wildfire. He drags himself closer. Margaery, realizing Cersei and Tommen are absent, puts it together that Cersei is up to something and if they don’t leave the Sept ASAP they are well and truly fucked. She pleads with the High Sparrow to let them go, but he says no, and the Faith Militant bar anyone from leaving. Lancel crawls forward, but doesn’t make it and the fire erupts, bursting green flame everywhere, turning him to ash. Margaery, Loras and the others hear the rumble, but can’t react fast enough, and the Sept goes boom, exploding into green flame, with everyone inside now ashes. The High Sparrow? He gone. Margaery? Toast. Loras? Bye bye. Kevan? Seeya. Mace? You too. You get the idea. Cersei watches from the Red Keep, a smile crossing her face as she takes a sip of wine. And we’re only fifteen minutes in.

In the dungeon, Cersei approaches Septa Unella, strapped to a table. She tells her that she has killed the High Sparrow, she has killed the entire Faith Militant, and she even confesses to fucking her brother and murdering the King. No matter, who can the Septa tell? When the Septa says she’s ready to die, Cersei assures her that she won’t be dying for a very long time and introduces the nun to her new god, the Mountain, who is about to do some unspeakable things to the woman while Cersei exits, chanting “shame!” Tommen looks at the smoke-filled sky where the Sept once stood. He takes off his crown, sets it aside and then walks to the window and faceplants right out of the tower. At the Twins, Jaime and Bronn celebrate with Walder Frey for taking back Riverrun. Walder toasts Jaime, but he reminds Frey that all of his victories are due to the Lannisters’ efforts. They are the ones the people fear. Bronn notices a serving girl eyeing Jaime and laments how easy it is for him. Qyburn shows Cersei Tommen’s remains. Maggy the Frog’s prophecy is now fulfilled, Cersei has outlived all of her children. Coldly, Cersei tells Qyburn to burn his body and spread the ashes where the sept once stood. Sam and Gilly arrive at the Citadel where Sam is to take Maestering 101. Sam checks out the massive library in awe, but Gilly isn’t allowed past the foyer. Davos confronts Melisandre about what happened to Shireen. The Red Woman defends her actions saying that Stannis and Selyse were a part of it as well. Jon banishes Melisandre and Davos says if he ever sees her again he’ll murder her. Later, Jon and Sansa try to bury the hatchet, both apologizing for doubting the other. Snow thanks Sansa for saving the day with her letter to the Knights of the Vale. In Dorne, Ellaria and the sand snakes meet with Olenna Tyrell, partnering up for vengeance against the Lannisters. They are soon joined by Varys, offering unity with Daenerys. In Meereen, Dany dumps Daario. She wants him to stay behind and keep order in Meereen while she goes on to Westeros. He is upset, and would rather be her sidepiece than a full-on ex, but Dany assures him he’s staying behind. Afterward, Dany tells Tyrion how little she felt breaking it off. When Tyrion reiterates his support of Dany, how she turned his cynical belief system into something positive, she presents him with his own pin, naming him Hand of the Queen. Sansa catches up to Littlefinger who tells her that his goal is to sit on the Iron Throne with her by his side, but when he leans in for a kiss, she rebuffs him. Baelish tries to plant a seed of doubt in Sansa against her half-brother.

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Walder Frey asks the serving girl where his sons are and she surprisingly tells him that they are right there. When he’s confused, she reveals a toe in the meat pie that he’s been eating. She peels her face off Mission Impossible 2 style and reveals that she’s Arya Stark. She tells him the last thing he’s going to see is a Stark face as he dies, and she slits his throat. North of the Wall, Benjen tells Meera and Bran that he can’t continue with them. There are ancient spells that prevent the dead from moving past the wall, so long as it stands. Bran wants to understand what happened in the past with his father and he jumps back into his brain DVR as Ned climbs the tower. Inside he finds his sister, Lyanna. She’s bloody and dying, but begs him to take care of her child. Ned turns and sees the baby, thus confirming that Jon Snow is not his bastard, but Lyanna’s child, with Rhaegar Targaryen. At Winterfell, the noble houses of the North are gathered complaining about siding with the Wildlings. Lady Mormont chastises the other lords for their fair weather support of the Starks, and they all agree to back Jon, the King in the North. As they shout and cheer, a smiling Sansa catches a displeased Littlefinger. This was not his plan. Jaime and Bronn arrive back in King’s Landing, but are a bit confused as to why there’s a big smoky hole where the Sept of Baelor ought to be. Inside the throne room, Jaime witnesses Cersei being proclaimed the new Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. They trade glances, as Jaime realizes his last child is dead, and Cersei finally gets her wish to rule, but not at the cost she was expecting. Across the Narrow Sea, Dany rides on a ship as her dragons fly overheard. She travels with her armada, including the Unsullied, the Dothraki, ships from the Ironborne, the Tyrells, and the Martells. Cersei better watch out. This bitch is coming for her.

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Comments: First off, and I’ve been waiting for this episode in particular to address this, but wanted to give a special shoutout to Ramin Djawadi, the composer for Game of Thrones. His score has long been one of the unsung heroes of the show, but here it was front and center, with a lot of the first ten minutes being without dialogue and only the dark and ominous score carrying us through scene to scene. The music stands alone as a strong and moody composition, but as the backdrop for the show it elevates the scenes and helps build to one of the most climactic moments in the entire show. It’s worth pointing out that for all masculine bluster, Game of Thrones could be interpreted as a rather feminist show. Most of the heads of households now are women: Yara is the de facto leader of the Greyjoys, Lyanna leads House Mormont, Sansa is kind of the head of House Stark since we, the audience, know that Jon isn’t half Stark so much as Targaryen, with Dany, Olenna, and Ellaria leading their families as Cersei is finally full Queen repping House Lannister.

After the highs of last episode, a bit of a comedown was expected with this one, but in actuality it was the knockdown hit of the one-two punch of episodes. With all of the deaths from Cersei’s revenge kicking off the installment, and so many payoffs throughout, there was barely any time to pick up my jaw off the floor, before the next huge thing hit. Even the smaller scenes, Sam at the Citadel for example, were filled with these huge awe-inspiring moments. The library itself was rendered beautifully, but with the hanging structures mirroring the ones from the intro it suggests that perhaps there is a deeper importance to this place. Because the show spent so much time both defying expectations and completely denying them, there was something well-earned about the culminations of so many storylines. Although Arya’s plan was a little convoluted. Did she really have time and freedom to murder the Frey sons, sever their limbs, bake them into the pie without anyone seeing her? Still, her revenge against Frey has been building for three seasons and as hard as it feels to root for tween girl to get her murder on, no one can say Walder didn’t have it coming. Speaking of the way the show invites complex emotions, lets dissect Cersei’s revenge for a moment. While she’s always been a villain, thanks in part to Lena Headey’s performance, but also the strong writing, there’s also been something so endearing about Cersei, certainly she’s someone that is compelling to watch. As she taunted Septa Unella, there was a moment where I felt like Cersei deserves this win, where I was practically cheering her on, before realizing I was basically watching a woman waterboarding a nun and commissioning her to be endlessly raped. It’s best to constantly remind yourself that this show is not our world. Cersei was humanized by her unwavering love for her children, and the prospect of her untethered without them, with the only shred of her humanity being her incestuous love for her brother, and there’s something truly frightening about that prospect. As Dany set sail, it can be easy to forget that Westeros and all its territories, this place where she’s been talking about taking over since day one, is a place where she has not set foot. At least not in the show. With all the households tossing their support her way, the promise of a stronger showdown fuels the interminable wait for another season. Oh yeah, and there’s also that huge revelation about Jon Snow and his real parentage. Though it was obviously hinted at, it’s good the show didn’t waver from the spoilers and try to shock us with something new. Jon being a Targaryen, adds a different layer to his character and adds a more exciting prospect in his eventual meeting with Dany.

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Quotes:
Margaery: Cersei understands the consequences of her absence and she is absent anyway, which means she does not intend to suffer those consequences. The trial can wait, we all need to leave.

Cersei (to Septa Unella): What? Now? Today? You’re not going to die today. You’re not going to die for quite a while. This is Ser Gregor Clegane. He’s quiet, too. Your gods have forsaken you. This is your god now.

Olenna (to Obara): You look like an angry little boy. Don’t presume to tell me what I need.

Olenna (to Nymeria): Do shut up, dear.

Olenna (to Tyene): Anything from you? No? Good. Let the grown women speak.

Olenna: Cersei stole the future from me. She killed my son. She killed my grandson. She killed my granddaughter. Survival is not what I’m after now.

Dany (to the Greyjoys and Tyrion): Our fathers were evil men. They left the world worse than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.

Arya: 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.

Tyrion (to Dany): You’re in the great game now. And the great game is terrifying. 

Foreshadowing: Not exactly foreshadowing, but Qyburn’s wearing the symbol for the Hand of the King (Queen?) indicating he’s moved up in the world. Cersei has now shown she’s willing to do anything to see her plans fulfilled. Benjen’s comment about the dead not being able to pass the wall so long as it’s standing is big spotlight to the end of season 7. 

Title: The white raven brings the first sign of winter, but Cersei’s coldfront of revenge is also rather chilly.  

Deaths: First is Pycelle (1) stabbed by the little birds as Qyburn watches. Next Lancel (2) who is also stabbed, but discovers the wildfire before he succumbs and is actually burned by that. As it destroys the Sept of Baelor we lose the High Sparrow (3), Margaery (4), Mace (5), Loras (6), Kevan (7) and countless others in the town. Then Tommen (8) swan dives out the window. Arya kills a couple of Frey sons, Lothar and Walder Rivers (9, 10) and feeds them to Walder Frey (11) before slitting his throat. That’s eleven pretty regular characters that all hit the end of their journey (I mean, nine really, the Frey kids were never that prominent, but still). This is also the last time we see Septa Unella, though Cersei assured her she wasn’t going to die that day.

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