So, the end credits have rolled on the season six of Game of Thrones. The finale was a magnificent 69 minutes and was the longest instalment of the entire series.
And we needed every single one of those minutes to tie up story lines and clear the decks for season seven, which is an agonising 10-months away.
It’s been an interesting and eventful season and the finale was an appropriate way to see it out. Now that we’ve moved beyond the ‘book’ story, show runners David Benioff and DB Weiss have been given free reign to take the show where they like.
It’s also fairly obvious they have George RR Martin’s blessing to roam far and wide as the final episode had some MAJOR story developments. The question to be asked; will those events appear in the next book; The Winds of Winter?
It kicks off with an interesting ‘previous episodes recap’ that included the Sand Snakes in Dorne, Walder Frey at The Twins, the Crypt below Winterfell, the Tower of Joy with Old Ned’s face morphing into Young Ned: all fairly big indicators of what will be touched upon. But oh, there was so very much more in those 69 minutes.
The real action begins in the Great Sept of Baelor where Loras Tyrell and Cersei Lannister are to face trial and judgement. There are shots of the main players being prepared for what lies ahead: the High Sparrow, Loras, Cersei, Margaery and Tommen. There was no dialogue and a simple sound track added to the tension.
Loras is to the first to appear before the Seven Septs, but there is to be no trial. He makes a full confession, pleading guilty to all charges and pledges to take up the Way of the Seven.
“I take full responsibility for my many sins and unburden myself of my desires. My only remaining wish is to devote myself to the Seven. May I be a living example of their Grace for other witness”.
All is forgiven and he’s taken into the fold after giving up his House, his name and his claims to the Lordship of High Garden. To seal the deal, the Faith Militant emblem is carved into his forehead.
But there’s still no sign of Cersei or Tommen.
At the Red Keep, Franken-Mountain prevents the King from leaving his chamber. No reason given, no explanation delivered.
And still there’s no Cersei appearing before the Seven.
Lancel is sent to bring her to the trial, but is distracted by the sight of a child running off. He gives chase and is taken further and further away from the Sept.
Another child delivers Grand Maester Pycelle to Qyburn, the rather dodgy former Maester who indulges in a bit of experimentation with necromancy and the like.
As a child with a knife approaches, Qyburn delivers a chilling speech that does little to reassure Pycelle or explain what the hell is going on here.
“Please forgive me if you can. This pains me, my Lord. Whatever your thoughts, you do not deserve to die alone in such a cold place. But sometimes, before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest”.
And with that, the child begins to plunge a knife into the old man before others appear to hack him to death.
Lancel is still following the mysterious child and is led into the cellars, where he’s stabbed just once before the child disappears.
Hang on, what’s going on here and what’s that glowing green stuff in the background. Uh-oh. Wildfire. This will not end well.
And there’s Cersei in the Red Keep, dressed all in black and smiling to her self. Things definitely will not end well.
Back in the Sept, Margaery begins to suspect that something is not quite right and tries to convince the High Sparrow that something is afoot.
“There is something wrong”
“You have nothing to fear, your Grace. The trial will begin shortly”.
“Cersei is not here. Tommen is not here. Why do you think they are not here?”
But he still does not listen and the Faith Militant stop her from leaving, along with her father and other members of the Small Council.
Down in the cellars, Lancel spots the Wildfire and it dawns on him what’s about to happen. But it’s too late and the Great Sept of Baelor is destroyed by the Wildfire along with everyone inside.
From the Red Keep, Cersei watches the destruction, smiles and keeps on drinking.
With one fell swoop, she’s disposed of just about all her enemies; real and perceived. Except for the Sparrow Sister, who urged her to ‘confess, confess, confess’. Her she leaves to FrankenMountain.
And while the carnage is played out, King Tommen watches from his chamber window and takes off his crown. The camera lingers on the open window and the boy king steps onto the ledge and falls.
Talking about clearing the decks. Not only has she rid herself of her enemies, Cersei has also lost her only remaining child. This could send her over the edge. Or something.
That ‘something’ is power. She walks into the throne room and places herself on the Iron Throne as we are introduced to Queen Cersei, the first of her name.
At the Twins, Walder Frey is boasting about the defeat of the Blackfish and the surrender of Riverrun. Frey has never raised a sword in anger and his boating begins to grate on Jaime.
“We know what it’s like to have them grovel to our faces and snigger behind our backs. We don’t mind, do we? Fear is a marvellous thing”.
“They do not fear the Freys. They fear the Lannisters. We gave you the Riverlands to holdthe Riverlands. If we have to ride North every time you lose them, why do we need you?”
Why indeed? You can’t argue with Lannister logic.
A little further to the North at Winterfell, another confrontation is played out. In the Blue corner we have Ser Davos Seaworth and in the Red corner (see what I did there) we have Melisandre, with Jon Snow caught in the middle.
Davos holds her to account over the death of Princess Shireen, who was sacrificed to the Lord of Light just before the first battle of Winterfell. The Red Woman is defiant, insisting the sacrifice was the only option, even though Stannis failed and his army defeated.
“We are standing here because of Him. Jon Snow is alive because the Lord willed it”.
Her argument that she was just following ‘divine orders’ doesn’t hold with Jon or Davos. The Onion Knight argues for execution, Jon Snow banishes her from the North even though he know she’s right about the Night King and his army of the dead.
But off she trots as he watches from the battlements, where he’s joined by Sansa. It’s clear he’s still coming to terms with her rescue in the Battle of The Bastards.
Just as he was uncertain about becoming Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, it seems he’s just as hesitant about asserting any authority at Winterfell.
What starts as a discussion about sleeping arrangements (he doesn’t want the main chamber because he’s ‘not a Stark’) soon becomes a discussion on authority.
“You’re the Lady of Winterfell. We’re standing here because of you. The battle was lost until the Knights of the Vale rode in. They came because of you”.
It’s a theme Littlefinger touches on when he meets up with Sansa in the God’s Wood. He wants her by his side as he dreams of sitting on the Iron Throne. He recognises the power she could wield.
“You are the future of House Stark. Who should the North rally around? A trueborn daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, born at Winterfell. Or a motherless bastard born in the South?”
She walks away from the Littlefinger. Not wanting to be part of his grand plan for power in the north or the south.
His discussion about Jon’s birth segues nicely into a long awaited revelation about Ned’s supposed bastard. And as suspected, it’s Bran and his dream walking that provides the answers.
Benjen bids Bran and Meera goodbye near the Wall. The Children’s Magic that restored life to him also prevents him going beyond the Wall, just like the Wight Walkers. He leaves them near a Heart Tree, where Bran reaches out and is immediately transported back in time, when his father is a young man approaching a Tower.
A woman’s voice screams out and Bran follows young Ned into a chamber, where a young woman lies in a pool of blood on a bed.
It’s his sister Lyanna. If you believe the Baratheon propaganda, she was kidnapped and raped by Prince Rhaegar (Daenerys’ brother). A baby is brought to Ned and Lyanna begs him to look after him, whispering with her dying breath:
“If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know it. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me”.
She was engaged to Robert and his hatred of all things Targareyn is explained by the alleged abduction and rape. It also explains why he sent in assassins when he heard of Dany’s existence.
Now, to make absolutely certain we know who this is; the baby opens its eyes and then we have Jon staring into the camera as the former bannermen pledge their loyalty to Jon Snow after a bit of prompting from the young Lady Mormont.
One by one the Lords of the North pledge their loyalty to Jon; the ‘White Wolf’ and declare him “King of the North”.
I got goose bumps.
Now, the woman who could be his Aunty is bidding farewell to her lover Daario in Meereen. She can’t take him on her quest to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, despite their love. He is to stay in Meereen as the freed people choose a new leader.
She’s consoled by Tyrion, who tells her the sacrifice she’s made is the sort of decisions made by great leaders and she has every reason to be scared of what the future may hold, even though she has armies and ships to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
“You’re in the Great Game now. And the Great Game is terrifying. The only people who aren’t afraid of failure are mad men like your father”.
Tyrion then declares himself for the Queen, but it’s not his sword she wants, but his counsel. She presents him with a badge, declaring him the “Hand of the Queen”.
Meantime, Varys has turned up in Dorne, where Ellaria and her Sand Snakes now rule. They play host to Lady Olenna Tyrell and offer an alliance that promises vengeance on Cersei Lannister.
Varys has declared for Daenerys and its clear he’s now brought Olenna and Dorne to the party. Does Cersei have ANY allies?
Varys makes it back to Meereen to be by Dany’s side as her great fleet heads west. Her costume eerily similar to the clothes warn by Cersei when she took the Iron Throne.
Meantime, a serving girl waits on Lord Walder Frey in his empty banqueting hall. He demands his sons be brought to him as he begins to tuck into a pie.
The serving girl insists they are there already and looks at the pie. Yep, they’ve been killed and butchered to make his dinner. She then casually swipes off her face in a familiar gesture to reveal ARYA!!!! A girl has gone rogue.
“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”.
Justice has been served. It’s not just the Lannisters who always pays her debts
So, the season six finale has effectively drawn the battle lines for season 2017. On one side is Daenerys and her followers: Tyrion, Varys, Theon and Yara, Dorne and presumably the Queen of Thornes.
On the other side is Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime. The Lannister loyalists seem a little thin on the ground.
And in the middle we have Jon Snow. An undeclared Targaryen by birth and the proclaimed King of The North. And where does Littlefinger and his kingly aspirations fit in the ‘big picture’?
Is this how the fight for power in the Seven Kingdoms will be played out? Or will there need to be a reckoning with the Night King and his army of the undead before anyone can safely claim the Iron Throne?
Season six has been quite a journey into unfamiliar territory without George RR Martin’s books to guide us. The death of Hodor crushed us, but the death of Ramsay drew a collective ‘yey’ in response. The fighting in Battle of the Bastards set the bar very high for future ‘action scenes’ and the revelation of Jon’s parentage has answered the dreams of book fans.
May season seven provide us with more just like this.