The thrilling finale to the HBO epic saw several major developments take place, from Cerseis vengeance to the series biggest reveal yet. [Warning: Spoilers] “>
Winter is here, dragons are coming, and the Game of Thrones endgame has begun.
The Winds of Winter, the Season 6 finale named for the still-unreleased George R.R. Martin book, mercilessly cleared the board of all but the final players in the fight for control over Westeros. The Freys are now but a musty and dimly lit memory. House Tyrell was nearly crushed out of existence. And the High Sparrow, his fanatics, and the aristocrats of Kings Landing exploded into unholy flames in the most staggering display of ruthlessness all season.
Mad Queen Cersei detonated the dozens of barrels of wildfire that Aerys Targaryen once kept squirreled away under the Red Keep. In one precisely orchestrated coup, she rid herself of all her enemies, viciously exacted her revenge on those who dared humiliate her (RIP Septa Unella), and forcibly took back power after two seasons of surrendering it.
Not even she could have known this would end with her sitting on the Iron Throne, though. Cersei is one of the shows most fascinating characters: a squandered intellect, a fierce mother, and a selfish, proud, and petty woman, unabashedly attuned to her own desires. Shes chafed at the limits of her station and her gender for most of her life; much of Cerseis early characterization focused on her frustration at her father for refusing to teach her how to rule along with her brothers.
So watching those limits suddenly be lifted, watching her don a crown and sit on the throne at the same time that shes just lost her last child (Tommen walks out a window with the gravitas of a Bugs Bunny cartoon strolling off a cliff), is to watch an unknown entity assume the highest position of power in the Seven Kingdoms. Shes no longer a king’s wife, no longer the Queen Mother. Shes an unmarried queenlikely the first in Westeros history.
Of course, Cersei isnt likely to rule for long. The prophecy that Maggy the witch foretold for her, the one that predicted the deaths of her children, also said Cersei would rule one day, but only until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear. (Sound like any dragon queens you know?) After that, the prophecy predicts Cerseis demise: When your tears have drowned you, the Valonquar shall wrap his hands around your pale white throat and choke the life from you.
Valonquar is Valyrian for little brother. Tyrion, newly appointed Hand of the Queen, is en route back to Kings Landing with Daenerysthough it would be the ultimate test of (technically younger twin) Jaimes honor if he again had to kill his ruler to save the city of Kings Landing. Or maybe in this case, all of Westeros.
Cerseis revenge on the elite of Kings Landing is also likely to go down as the shows greatest-ever feat of prolonged suspense and one of its most stunningly crafted sequences, period. Director Miguel Sapochnik (Hardhome, Battle of the Bastards) makes the best of the episodes extended 80-minute running time by dwelling on small, meditative moments at firstthe High Sparrow, Margaery, Cersei, and Tommen each preparing for the trialthen escalating into moments of unease, then abject horror, then jaw-dropping shock and spectacle.
Much is owed to composer Ramin Djawadis flawless musical direction, peppered with soft pianos that add unease to dazzling visuals: from the debut of Cerseis war-like new gownblack embroidery, high neck, silver chainsto the chilling sight of a dozen of Varyss little birds turning on Maester Pycelle, to the agonizing moments before the explosion itself as Margaery desperately tries to convince the High Sparrow to evacuate.
Seeing as sharp a mind as Margaery done in by the High Sparrows patronizing arrogance (he underestimated Cersei; she would not have but she was entrapped by her own double-agent plans, sigh) is a blow more severe than the show has been willing to deal all season. Its been a relatively bloodless 10 weeks in terms of main character deaths, and none all season have redefined the parameters of the game the way Margaerys (and Tommens) have.
Cersei now sits on the Iron Throne with nothing to lose and newly-allied enemies (Olenna and the Sand Snakes, aided by Varys and his new teleportation powers) plotting her death in the south. Daenerys, also now free of emotional strings, finally set sail toward Westeros in the perfect farewell shot of the season: dragons soaring over the fleet we waited five years for, thousands strong and bearing the Targaryen crest, the newly re-named Bay of Dragons left behind. (Dragons on the ships, dragons in the air, Bay of Dragons, Dany is never not on brand.)
Jon Snow is now King in the Northat least for as long as Littlefinger bides his time, futilely trying to turn Sansa against him. (There is every reason for Sansa not to trust Littlefinger over the brother she only just got back from the dead. Please do not let this happen, show.) Jon admits that Sansas claim to Winterfell is strongest but accepts the impromptu coronation anyway. Which is understandable. Lyanna Mormont is a very persuasive speaker.
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