Game of Thrones, Season 6, Ep 10 “The Winds of Winter”

It’s another season finale! Let’s track the body count again.

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Kings Landing: The day dawns bright and clear – the day of Cersei and Loras’s trials. The High Sparrow assembles a group of seven priests in the High Sept, seated in plain wooden chairs at the corners of the seven-pointed star on the floor representing the Seven Gods. Gathered to watch are Margaery, her father, and a crowd of people filling the space around the central chamber.

Cersei looks across King’s Landing from her window in the Red Keep, and dresses formally in black. Tommen dresses and puts on his crown. He prepares to leave his room to go over to the Sept, when his way is blocked by Gregor “The Six Million Dollar Mountain” Clegane. And it looks like Cersei isn’t leaving for the Sept either. All of this so far is accompanied by sombre string music and no dialogue. It’s a very different episode opening, as we have to follow events with visuals only.

Grand Maester Pycelle is in his room when a servant knocks on the door. Pycelle has been enjoying the company of a naked young lady, who he shoos away, saying he’ll pay her later. The messenger asks Pycelle to come see Qyburn. He reluctantly goes to visit the wannabe Maester, demanding to now what’s going on. Qyburn merely watches as a group of his street urchin spies emerge from the shadows, armed with knives… Uh oh. Pycelle meets his demise.

Body count: 1. As I was watching it, I felt this was a little bit of an odd time for this move by Qyburn. But things became clearer pretty quickly.

Back at the Sept, Loras Tyrell is dragged out of his cell and brought into the Sept for trial. I expected him to be defiant, but his will has apparently crumbled. He admits to his crimes and begs forgiveness from the gods. He says he will renounce his title, never marry, never sire children, and serve the gods for the rest of his days. Margaery and Mace Tyrell watch with faces frozen like stone. I think for a minute that they have some sort of plan. Maybe they did, but Loras turned things upside down and they don’t have time to react.

The High Sparrow declares the gods to be merciful and accepts Loras’s plea, asking him to kneel to demonstrate his penitence. Lancel Lannister comes over with a knife to carve the symbol of the gods into Loras’s forehead. At this point Margaery objects loudly, saying Loras should not be harmed or marked in this way. The High Sparrow ignores her and Loras’s forehead is carved, blood dripping down his front to the floor.

With one trial down, the High Sparrow looks around for Cersei. One of the Faith Militant steps forward and nervously announces that Cersei isn’t here. Well, says the Sparrow, go to the Red Keep and get her! Lancel says he’ll do it and races off.

Watching this, I realise something is up a moment before Margaery. She starts looking around nervously. She knows Cersei is up to something. She tries to warn the High Sparrow, but he ignores her. She yells that they’re all in danger and tries to leave the Sept, but her way is blocked by the crowds.

Meanwhile, on his way out Lancel spots a suspicious looking street urchin. He chases the kid down a passage, under the Sept. He spots dozens of barrels stacked against the walls, leaking a bright green liquid. He turns around, and is tabbed by the kid, who then runs off. Lancel collapses to the ground, but then sees a couple of candles, standing in pools of the green liquid, burning down to stubs. The flame is just about to reach the liquid, as he drags himself across the ground to reach them…

These are more barrels of the wildfire that we’ve seen before, that Joffrey had been stockpiling in the city. And that the Mad King Aerys threatened to blow up the entire city with. And suddenly Cersei’s plan is horribly clear. Margaery is right.

Cersei watches the Sept explode in a massive fireball, spraying rubble and – comically – a huge bell across the streets of the city. She smirks to herself triumphantly as the smoke settles over the distant part of the city where the Sept used to be. Body count: Well, holy cow. High Sparrow, Lancel, Margaery, Loras, Mace, Kevan Lannister. and maybe a few thousand others. So with Pycelle, 7 named characters at least – there may have been some others in the Sept that I missed.

Tommen also watches the destruction of the Sept from his window. The camera shot is behind him, from inside his room, with Tommen silhouetted against the window and the view of the smouldering Sept in the background. He silently removes his crown and moves out of shot while the camera remains still, showing the window and the rising smoke. A second later, Tommen returns without his crown, steps up to the window… and falls forwards into empty space.

My wife and I both gasped out loud when we saw this. What Cersei did was kind of just what we expected, rolling out slowly on the screen. But this was completely unexpected. Tommen clearly loved Margaery – even if she didn’t love him and was only playing along for the power. Seeing her blown up was just too much for him. But the bigger issue now is the king is dead, and there’s no obvious heir. Cersei has taken down the High Sparrow, but she’s accidentally created a power vacuum as well. Her plan worked, but it had a horrible side effect.

Body count: 8 named characters, plus a cast of thousands.

Dorne: Olenna Tyrell is in Dorne, visiting the evil sister-in-law of Prince Doran Martell. This scene must take place some time after the events in King’s Landing, because Olenna is aware of the deaths of her family. She says she has nothing to lose now and only wants to bring Cersei down. This plays right into the hands of Evil Sis-in-Law, who suggests an alliance. And, she says, she has an ace up her sleeve. She gestures to someone entering the gathering… it’s Varys!

Why is Varys here? Two possibilities: He’s offering an alliance with Daenerys, or he’s doing some sneaky thing behind Daenerys’s back. It’s not clear exactly which.

Old Town: Sam and Gilly arrive in Old Town, which looks very much like ancient Alexandria, complete with a huge lighthouse. The allusion makes sense, but it’s a bit of an obvious one. They go to the great Library where Sam will train to be a Maester. They meet an extremely by-the-book reception guy who looks down his nose at them and asks what they want. Sam says he’s been sent by Lord Commander Snow of Castle Black to train to be the next Maester of Castle Black. The reception guy says that according to their records the Lord Commander is Mormont. If the commander had changes, then Maester Aemon would have sent word. Sam says yes, well, there have been a few things happen lately, what with mutinies and Maester Aemon dying and all.

The receptionist says this is all very irregular, and he’ll have to confirm it before Sam can be admitted as a student. But in the meantime he’s allowed to use the Library. Sam and Gilly start moving, but the receptionist says disdainfully, that women and children are Forbidden. Sam looks apologetically at Gilly, who accepts the restriction and heads off. Sam enters the Library and is astonished at the vast size of it.

The Twins: Jaime Lannister and Bronn arrive at The Twins to celebrate the success of taking Riverrun for the the Lannister-Frey alliance. Walder Frey is happy and talks up the Freys being the local regional power. Jaime is cold on the incompetence of Walder’s sons and remarks that the Freys would be nothing without the Lannisters. This brings a chill to proceedings. Jaime and Bronn take their leave.

Some time later, Walder Frey is eating alone. A serving girl brings him some more pie. He asks where his sons are. The serving girl says they were a bit tough to carve up, but they made a nice pie… Walder looks at her with horror. She pulls off a mask, Scooby Doo style, and reveals herself to be Arya. She tells him that she’s Arya Stark of Winterfell and that he killed her brother, before slitting his throat.

Body count: 9, plus thousands. All right, Arya is back in Westeros and ticking names off her list already. Looks like she wants to take care of this before heading back to Winterfell. Who’s left? Cersei Lannister, and Gregor Clegane, I think. Well, that’ll be a hard pair to cross off. It’s good to see Arya back, and this is a nice parallel to the previous season finale, in which Arya ticked Meryn Trant off her list.

Winterfell: Davos confronts Melisandre, asking about the carved deer he found, and demanding to know if Princess Shereen was sacrificed. Melisandre admits it, but says that it wasn’t her choice, it was the Lord of Light. Davos explodes and says that’s a crap passing of the buck. Melisandre says well if she killed Shereen, than Stannis and his wife did too, as they were complicit in the sacrifice. Davos says it didn’t work though, Stannis lost anyway, so the sacrifice was in vain, Shereen didn’t have to die. Melisandre basically shrugs and says people make mistakes. But she’s sure now that Jon is the prophesied king.

Davos goes to Jon and asks for permission to execute Melisandre for murder. She argues that the White Walkers are coming, and her powers will be needed to defeat them. Jon exiles her, saying she is to ride south before nightfall, and if she ever returns he will execute her. She rides off into the snow. Hmmm. Now she’s a rogue and who knows where she’ll pop up again, and on whose side. This might be a bad move by Jon. Or maybe she’ll return to his side later despite him, in a similar way to how Jorah Mormont managed to convince Daenerys of his loyalty after she banished him. (Speaking of Jorah, we haven’t seen him for a while – he’s bound to pop up again somewhere.)

Jon and Sansa argue about who should lead Winterfell. He says she’s the rightful Lady of Winterfell, but she says Jon has proved himself a Lord. They don;t really resolve it, but sort of agree that both of them will have to look out for their city. Sansa goes off to meet Petyr Baelish, and find out what he wants in return for saving the battle against Ramsay. Petyr doesn’t pull any punches now, and says he’s after the Iron Throne, and he wants Sansa to be his queen. Ugh. This guy gets more slimy every time we see him. Sansa sensibly rejects the offer, although rejecting someone as devious and determined as Petyr could be dangerous. At some point he’s going to start calling in favours and pressing his own agenda, at which point people better watch out.

There is a meeting to discuss preparations for defending against the White Walkers now that winter is upon them. House Glover is present, despite refusing to help in the battle against Ramsay. Young Lady Lyanna gives another spirited speech, telling off the houses who didn’t come to help Jon before, and declaring that House Mormont would support Jon as King of the North. She inspires the others to declare their support as well. Petyr looks on, plotting behind those cool eyes.

Okay, we have another united faction – Petyr aside. If Daenerys manages to take down King’s Landing, she’ll then find herself having to deal with a united North.

North of The Wall: Benjen brings Bran and Meera to the Wall. He declares that he can go no further, because the Wall is imbued with magic that blocks the undead. And as he’s supposed to be dead himself, that applies to him too. Okay, well this sounds useful – the Wall itself stops White Walkers from going past it? That should be good enough, no? Presumably they have some way of dispelling the magic, or else they wouldn’t be any threat at all, and people wouldn’t be so worried about them. All of this is a little bit confusing at this point.

Benjen retreats back north. Bran is near a weirwood tree and decides to touch it and have another go at that vision of his father entering the tower to save his sister Lyanna. Young Ned enters the tower and finds Lyanna in a bed, covered in blood. She’s just given birth to a son. As she lays dying, she pushes the kid into Ned’s hands and makes him promise to look after her son… Jon.

WHAT?! We’d been told that Ned Stark left Winterfell for some time and brought back a bastard son, and that was Jon. But now we learn that Jon isn’t Ned’s son at all, but rather the son of his sister Lyanna. So clearly Ned must have named him his own son as part of a deception to protect him, and possibly also the memory of his sister. But this raises the question of who Jon’s father really is. By male primogeniture, he’s not a Stark at all… he could be anything. If this comes out, what might it mean for Jon and his claims to be King of the North?? And will Bran keep the secret, or reveal it? Actually… Bran is now rightfully Lord of Winterfell. But then Bran doesn’t seem like the overly ambitious type to throw down his own brother/cousin/whatever. This will be very interesting.

Back in King’s Landing: Later, Cersei visits the Evil Nun who tortured her in the Sept dungeon. The Evil Nun is chained to a stone slab. Cersei taunts her and asks if she remembers that she told her that her face would be the last thing she sees before she dies. Evil Nun is defiant and says she’s prepared to die. Oh no, says Cersei, you won’t be dying today. Not for a very long time… You can hear the evil cackling in Cersei’s head as she plans to make the Evil Nun’s remaining years in this dungeon a living hell.

Jaime and Bronn return from the sojourn to The Twins. I think this is a bit odd, that they even bothered to travel to The Twins on their way home from Riverrun. I may well have the geography wrong (since none of it is ever made explicit in the show), but I somehow had the impression that The Twins were further north than Riverrun, making it a big detour out of their way home from Riverrun. Anyway, they see the still smouldering ruins of the Sept.

Shortly after, there is a coronation ceremony in the Throne Room. Qyburn places the crown of the Seven Kingdoms on Cersei’s head, declaring Queen Cersei, first of her name. Jaime watches as she sits on the Iron Throne. Okay, power vacuum solved. Maybe. Cersei has the support in high places to make this move, but will it stick with the common people? Her claim to the throne is flimsy – she was the wife of a king who now apparently has no heirs left. Though there don’t seem to be any better options around. Unless Gendry reappears. Davos let him free from Dragonstone, and we haven’t seen him since. Yeah… I’m betting Gendry makes a big reappearance in the next season.

Meereen: Daenerys tells Daario that she is leaving for Westeros, but that she wants him to stay behind and look after Dragons’ Bay, as she has renamed Slavers’ Bay. He protests, saying that he wants to fight for her, and that he loves her. She stands firm though, and Daario pouts a bit, but accepts his assignment. She then meets Tyrion, and pronounces him Hand of the Queen, giving him a brooch somewhat like the one that got blown up when Kevan Lannister met his end in the Sept.

In the final scene, we see Daenerys and her fleet finally setting sail across the Narrow Sea towards Westeros. Hundreds of ships, accompanied by her three dragons flying overhead. Daenerys looks across the sea to her destiny, standing by her are Tyrion, Yara, Theon… and Varys, back from Dorne.

It looks like the next season is going to be truly epic. The sides have finally set up all their pieces on the board, and now begins the Game of Thrones. (See what I did there?) It’s interesting that most of the major players are now women. Cersei, Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Yara, Olenna, and Evil Sister-in-Law. The wild cards are Petyr Baelish and Gendry. How much support does Petyr have? Is he a credible threat to anyone? And where has Gendry been hiding and what has he been doing? Will he appear out of the woodwork with an army? And will Jon’s parentage be revealed and what disruptions will that cause?

Final body count: 9 named characters, plus about a quarter of King’s Landing.

Season 7, bring it on!

6 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 6, Ep 10 “The Winds of Winter””

  1. nerdsholmferret says:

    Yes, the Twins are north of Riverrun and not at all on the road from there to King’s Landing. Clearly Westerosians will go to great lengths to insult people and/or take revenge upon them.

  2. Glen says:

    Good timing — I only just rewatched some of this episode.

    “But now we learn that Jon isn’t Ned’s son at all” — I am so glad that huge reveal wasn’t spoiled for you.

    “I somehow had the impression that The Twins were further north than Riverrun,” – nearly due north I think, though compared to the distance from Kings Landing, not very far apart.

  3. Lauri T. says:

    Bring it on indeed. So many satisfying moments in this season that it’s hard to pick a favourite. Ramsay getting devoured by his own dogs is a tough contender, but I think I’ll still have to go with the gloriously heartwarming moment of the Jon/Sansa reunion.

    One correction: “So with Qyburn, 7 named characters at least” <- I think you meant Pycelle there.

  4. Oops, Pycelle yes. Fixed!

  5. Javier says:

    “Why is Varys here? Two possibilities: He’s offering an alliance with Daenerys, or he’s doing some sneaky thing behind Daenerys’s back. It’s not clear exactly which” The clue is on what Varys says there, I just re-watched that part. He says: “Fire and blood”

  6. Javier says:

    sorry, something else. Jon’s name is not mentioned explicitly on Lyanna’s bed, you deducted it from context, I know because that’s how that scene happened. So, you can do the same excercise to deduct what Varys was talking about…

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