Game of Thrones Season 6 is finally over, and it was a fantastic thrill-ride. After Episode 9’s climactic “Battle of the Bastards,” fans thought the season couldn’t get much bloodier — oh boy, were we wrong.
Season 6 has been a rampage of jaw-dropping surprises, from Jon Snow’s resurrection to Daenerys’ second emergence from the flames. This year has been a thrill ride, but the latest episode, “The Winds of Winter,” did the best to finally wrap up the story and get us ready for the (rumored) last two seasons.
Named for the forthcoming next book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, this episode tied up a number of loose ends and sped up the pace of storytelling a great deal. Parts of Seasons 5 and 6 had begun to really drag, but the last few episodes of this season, and this one in particular, returned the show to the fast-paced dramatic effect that made Seasons 1, 2, and 3 such strong successes.
“The Winds of Winter” felt a great deal like Season 1 Episode 10, “Fire and Blood.” In that episode from 2011, we saw northern lords swear fealty to the King in the North, Daenerys emerging “unburnt” from the pyre of Khal Drogo, and Arya heading north. In Season 6 Episode 10, we saw…
1. The King in the North!
After Jon’s surprise victory in “The Battle of the Bastards,” the northern lords unite to proclaim Jon Snow (Kit Harington) the new King in the North. And this wasn’t even the most exciting part of the episode!
— Salim Stark (@SalimAlSamar) June 27, 2016
Many of the northern lords had refused to follow Jon into battle against the heartless Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), but the little Lady Lyanna Mormont roused them all by proclaiming that her tiny house had risked life and limb, and they should follow her example. “The North Remembers!”
Here is the “King in the North” scene from Season 1.
Here is the “King in the North” scene from Season 6.
Next Page: The Queen in the South!
2. Cersei gets her revenge.
Early in the season, the queen mother Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) walks in on a meeting of the Small Council (the king’s closest advisers), and the council gets up and leaves. Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), Hand of the King Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder), and Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) openly defy her. This builds on the humiliation she faced last season, being walked naked through the streets of the capitol, with dung thrown at her.
At the time of her trial, Cersei is nowhere to be found. Inside the Sept (the great church of the religion of southern Westeros), the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) meets with Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister, and the young queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Meanwhile, Pycelle is led into the dark cellar of the Red Keep.
Cersei’s trap springs — blowing up the Sept with wildfire and having Varys’ child informants or “little birds” stab Pycelle over and over again. In one fell swoop, Cersei takes out all of her enemies. Checkmate!
The sheer death toll in terms of major characters is staggering: While Margaery made her debut in Season 2, her brother Loras (Finn Jones) and Pycelle had appeared in every single season, and even though the High Sparrow and Mace Tyrell were much newer characters, they each had a large role in the last two seasons. Also, the destruction from this explosion spread throughout the capitol, and countless commoners lie dead as a result.
Game of Thrones finale was so satisfying. I need this Cersei wine sip gif ASAP pic.twitter.com/pWzCQMLbUU
— Brennan Blagg (@Brennanblagg) June 27, 2016
3. Cersei is crowned queen.
Upon the death of his beloved queen, King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) commits suicide by jumping from his window. (On a side note, this confirms the “Maggy the Frog” prophecy, that Cersei would be queen and would have three children, but each one would be killed. Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen have all died. Now Cersei’s next.) Once again, Westeros is without a king, and now there is no one else, so Cersei accepts the mantle herself.
Even as Cersei becomes queen, her twin and lover Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) looks on in astonishment and fear. He knows how unhinged Cersei can become, and seeing her made the unequivocal ruler of Westeros frightens him. He killed the king who ordered the capitol destroyed with wildfire, and now Cersei has blown up a huge historic monument with the explosive substance. Will he turn on his own sister for the good of the people?
Queen Cersei, First of her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Realm pic.twitter.com/lsRPmwqWuP
— rođeni da umremo (@lezbejkaizpakla) June 27, 2016
Next Page: Queen in the East!
4. Daenerys sets sail.
As “Fire and Blood” ended with one new king, one new powerful queen, and a main character setting out on a journey, so “The Winds of Winter” concludes with the haunting beauty of Daenerys’ fleet finally leaving Slaver’s Bay (or should we say “The Bay of Dragons”) and setting off for Westeros. Ever since Season 1, Dany has dreamed of crossing the Narrow Sea and returning to her homeland, conquering the crown of her ancestors and claiming her rightful place as queen. Throughout Seasons 4 and 5, fans kept waiting, with bated breath, to see Daenerys Stormborn take sail and return home. Finally, after all these years, they saw it — and it was a sight to behold!
5. King from the Vale?
Lord Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), better known as “Littlefinger,” finally declared his ultimate goal in a secret discussion with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). Littlefinger told her that he wants to sit on the Iron Throne, with Sansa at his side.
Sansa was visibly taken aback, but in the scene where Jon was crowned king she gained no credit for bringing victory to the Starks against the Boltons. This is significant because during “The Battle of the Bastards,” Jon’s army was being slaughtered and it was only Sansa’s arrival with Littlefinger’s army that saved the day. Jon gives Sansa credit earlier in this episode, but the lords of the North choose Jon, not Sansa.
Here is the scene of Littlefinger’s army in “The Battle of the Bastards.” It reminds me — just a tad — of Gandalf’s march in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or the march of the Rohirrim in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Here’s the Rohirrim:
Next Page: HUGE fan theory confirmed.
6. Yes, Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon. R+L=J confirmed.
Jon Snow’s true parentage has been a major Game of Thrones mystery for many years, and rumor has it that George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series off of which the TV show is based, only allowed David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to produce the show once they correctly guessed Jon’s true parentage.
The Season 6 finale confirmed one of the most popular fan theories of the show and the books. This theory is a bit complicated, but essentially it says that Jon Snow is the son of Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) sister and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. If this is true, Jon would have a claim to the Iron Throne and may indeed be the rightful King of Westeros — or at least, he could be.
Rhaegar was the son of the Mad King Aerys, the king whom Jaime killed and King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) replaced. Robert killed Rhaegar in a major battle before the events of Game of Thrones, but since Rhaegar was the crown prince, the throne would pass to him or his offspring when Jaime killed Aerys. Lyanna was not Rhaegar’s wife, but they could have been secretly married, and if so, that would make Jon a true born son and the rightful heir.
The finale confirmed this theory by showing Ned’s sister Lyanna giving birth to a boy. As she lay dying, Lyanna said, “Promise me, Ned.” She also mentioned that “if Robert knew,” he would kill the boy. King Robert would have killed Jon if he knew that Jon could claim to be heir to the throne. As the camera zoomed in on the little baby boy’s face, it switched immediately to Jon, confirming the theory and making fans go crazy everywhere.
— Kerri Copello (@KerriWGXA) June 27, 2016
Next Page: The North Remembers, Frey-style
7. Walder Frey gets his comeuppance.
Something very complicated happened very quickly in “The Winds of Winter.” Walder Frey (played to perfection by David Bradley, who was also Filch in Harry Potter) is eating a meat pie, and starts asking about his sons. The girl who served him the pie then says, to the man’s great horror, that his sons are in the pie.
This is a wonderful homage to both the books and an earlier scene in the show, when Northerners discuss what happens to people who violate the tradition of guest rite. You see, when someone enters your home, you offer them bread and salt, as a symbol of peace and hospitality. If you then do any harm to that person while under your roof, you are guilty of one of the most heinous offenses imaginable.
The legend of the “rat cook” states that one man who violated guest rite was not only turned into a rat, but he could only survive off of the bodies of his sons and daughters. He would starve for long periods of time, only abated by eating the flesh of his own family. By feeding Walder Frey the bodies of his sons, the woman (who is revealed to be Arya Stark, played by Maisie Williams) is serving his just reward for the infamous “Red Wedding.”
Then, Arya reveals who she is, and proceeds to slit Walder Frey’s throat. This is also very fitting, as Frey’s men slit Arya’s mother’s throat at the “Red Wedding.”
Arya’s story of cold-hearted revenge is legitimately terrifying, because the young girl has grown to enjoy killing. Besides, the show has basically made her invincible. In earlier episodes this season, Arya survived multiple stab wounds in the stomach, a fall into a very dirty river (Medieval rivers had all sorts of unmentionables thrown into them, which would infect any open wound almost immediately), and after her wounds had been sewn up, she opened them up again with another large fall.
Somehow, she not only survived, but was able to defeat a fighter more skillful than herself — despite the fact that the very woman whom she killed had routinely defeated her in combat over and over again. If any character in Game of Thrones is invincible, it’s Arya. And if any character in Game of Thrones is truly terrifying (after the death of Ramsay Bolton), it is Arya Stark.
Here’s an explanation of Arya’s death list. (Spoiler — most of them are dead)