This is a recap of the Game Of Thrones season 6 finale “The Winds Of Winter” (season 6, episode 10).
Non-spoiler summary: “Shit goes down in King’s Landing. Then we learn some new shit elsewhere.“
See below for full SPOILER-ific recap!
It feels like the first eight episodes of season six of Game of Thrones were laying the groundwork for the ninth and tenth episodes. Last week’s ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was an incredible display of GoT action at its finest; this week’s finale, ‘The Winds of Winter,’ was a cinema-quality masterpiece of huge, earned moments revealing their potential.
Okay, let’s get into it. This recap is divided into two parts:
Part One - King’s Landing
Part Two - Everywhere else
PART ONE - KING’S LANDING
1) The bell tolls …
In a series of shots without dialogue, the episode sets the tone for what is to come. It is as if we the audience are being told to take a breath and to also prepare ourselves for what is to come.
Cersei looks out over a peaceful King’s Landing, her resolve is clear.
The bell tolls.
Tommen sits in his room, his face betrays his anxiety for the trial to come.
The bell tolls.
Margaery is dressed by a servant.
The bell tolls.
The High Sparrow dresses himself.
The bell tolls.
In the final shot of the sequence, Tommen looks out through the window, presumambly towards Baelor’s Sept, his face full of apprehension.
For now, Tommen is safely behind the shuddered window of his room in the Red Keep.
2) … the music plays …
Melancholy piano keys replace the tolling bell.
People file into the Sept for the trial.
Loras shivers in his cell, a broken man.
Strings join the piano as the High Sparrow enters, making eye contact with Margaery.
Marg turns away from the Sparrow and looks around, her instincts correctly telling her that the absence of Cersei and Tommen is a bad sign.
After an opening two minutes and twenty-six seconds without spoken dialogue, a servant says to Tommen, “Your grace? The trial will be getting under way soon.”
Tommen remains in his room.
3) … and the city explodes.
After building to a powerful crescendo of piano, strings and choir, the music gives way to the explosion of the stockpiles of wildfire (the “rumor” that Qyburn alluded to earlier this season) underneath Baelor’s Sept, annihilating everyone inside.
After a masterful fifteen minute sequence that manages to steadily build tension throughout, we return to the opening shot of the episode, seeing from Cersei’s point of view the exploding Sept beyond.
Other important things happened in this incredible opening sequence, of course:
Loras confesses his sins and had the star of the seven carved into his forehead.
Marg finally calls the Sparrow out for going back on his word and is the only one who correctly surmises that Cersei is planning something terrible, and she tries and fails to urge everyone to escape.
Lancel finds the wildfire candle-detonators, but he isn’t able to stop the inevitable.
And Grand Maester Pycelle, after not paying a prostitute, gets stabbed by some orphans.
But none of that matters, because Cersei killed them all.
She smiles. She takes a sip of wine. Cersei is happy.
Cersei’s reaction is juxtaposed with Tommen’s:
Tommen is crestfallen. He is beyond despair. He can’t seem to process what he has just witnessed.
The Mountain Murder Monster leaves his post at his door, leaving Tommen alone, in order to help Cersei with some unfinished business…
4) Tommen ends his reign and his own life
In one of the most powerful moments of the entire series, we watch as Tommen tries to take in all that he has seen. He removes his crown. He does not want to be king anymore, if he ever did. Perhaps he realizes he does not have the constitution for this sort ruthlessness if this is what it takes to rule; or perhaps his sensitive soul simply no longer wants to live in a world that is as cruel as this one is. Perhaps, simpler still, his heart is broken for the loss of his Margaery, whom he seemed to truly love. Or maybe, in some small way, this is the Lannister in him getting back at his mother, and he knows that this is the only action he can take that would possibly hurt her.
Whatever his motivations are, we don’t know, because the scene transpires without words and Tom leaves no note.
Ah, shit, this is about the time in the recap where I remember this is for a website called “Funny Or Die” and I should probably try to make some jokes in here. Hmm, I can’t think of anything funny about a child jumping to his death, so I’ll just insert this silly thing from Coub that has Tommen falling on loop set to “Eye of the Tiger” for some reason:
5) Cersei wine-boards Septa Unella
I suppose we should feel some sort of narrative harmony here, even if it is spelled out for us explicitly: Cersei reminds Unella that she promised her that the last thing she’d see before she died would be her face.
The purpose of this scene seems to be threefold:
One, we are reminded to never underestimate Cersei. The High Sparrow’s fatal flaw was that he didn’t think that Cersei would do the unthinkable. He thought that he was playing an opponent in a game of chess and he thought he was being clever thinking several moves ahead of her; he didn’t realize the possibility that Cersei had no problem flipping over the board rather than allow herself to be put in check mate.
Two, we get a speech from Cersei in which she explains why she does what she does, a possible thesis for the Hobbesian brutality that is a major theme of the show:
— Cersei Lannister, season 6 episode 10
I do things because they feel good. I drink because it feels good. I killed my husband because it felt good to be rid of him. I fuck my brother because it feels good to feel him inside me. I lie about fucking my brother because it feels good to keep our son safe from hateful hypocrites. I killed your High Sparrow, and all his little sparrows, all his septons, all his septas, all his filthy soldiers, because it felt good to watch them burn. It felt good to imagine their shock and pain. No thought has ever given me greater joy. Even confessing feels good under the right circumstances.
The right circumstances for Cersei being when you’re torturing your former torturer.
And the third purpose of the scene is to show that for Cersei, vengeance was more important to her in this moment than tending to her son, Tommen. She knew he would have watched what happened to the Sept and would have known Margaery, whom he loved, was dead. She knew how sensitive Tom was and how much this would have destroyed him emotionally. But she abandoned him and took the Mountain from standing guard in order to torture Unella.
We’ve been led to believe that Cersei loved her children more than anything else, and that this was her primary motivator in all of her despicable actions. But here we have a clear example of when Cersei was thinking of carrying out a personal vendetta rather than care for her only remaining son. What do we make of Cersei now?
6) Cersei takes the Iron Throne
Later in the episode, Jaime returns to King’s Landing in time to see Cersei sit on the Iron Throne. In some ways this is a surprise, but in others this has been a long time coming.
Jaime does not look pleased to see her seated in the position of Queen. Of course, he is upset because her assuming the throne means that Tommen is dead, but from his look we can read that there is more in his thoughts. Despite Jaime’s love for his sister, even Jaime is worried at what will happen with Cersei in power.
With the abomination of the Mountain Murder Monster to her left and the Dr. Frankenstein who created him to her right, and without any offspring to protect, what or who will the unbound wrath of Cersei be directed at next season?
PART TWO - EVERYWHERE ELSE BESIDES KING’S LANDING
7) Sam goes to a grad school with a big library
But he’s going to have to wait to enroll in Maester classes until they sort out some bureaucratic irregularities.
Good luck, Sam! Currently your storyline feels largely inconsequential! Perhaps you’ll discover some arcane piece of knowledge and relay that for Jon to use in the battle against the White Walkers? I hope it is something better than to stab ‘em with dragon glass because we already know that!
8) Winter is here
The Big Boy Maesters release the white ravens, which is the official signal that Winter Is Here, so everybody, take out a sharpie and amend your Ned Stark “Winter Is Coming” posters accordingly.
In other words, season 7 is going to be Humans (and dragons and maybe some more giants and such) vs White Walkers.
9) Melisandre is banished from Winterfell for burning Shireen at the stake
Davos, shouldn’t you have already figured this a while ago?
Rather than a necessary emotional confrontation, this felt more like a plot device to come up with a reason to send the Red Lady south to get up to some hijinx down there.
10) Jon tells Sansa she can have the big bedroom …
Sansa admits to Jon that she should have told him about Littlefinger, but does not really give a reason for why she kept this from him.
Jon tells Sansa they need to trust each other, and that she deserves to have the Lord’s chamber since she is a true born Stark…
11) … but then Jon decides that maybe he wants the big bedroom after all since everybody chanted his name and called him King and all
Thanks to a speech from season 6 breakout star Lil’ Lady Mormont, all of the houses of the North declare their support for Jon in the great war to come (against the White Walkers, you know, since winter is here and all).
Jon might even smile as they chant his name and call him King of the North. After getting stabbed by his brothers up at the Wall, getting a little positive reinforcement is good for him.
But meanwhile, Sansa and Littlefinger exchange a look as this happens. What does that look mean? Is Littlefinger trying to wormtongue his way into Sansa’s psyche that it should be her who is Queen of the North instead of Jon?
Speaking of Littlefinger…
12) Littlefinger confesses his love for Sansa
But she is all, “Boy, you thirsty” and rejects his advances after he describes a picture of him seated on the Iron Throne with her at his side.
It’s as if he just wants Sansa to forget that he was in love with her mother Catelyn, which for a long while was his character’s primary motivation for doing what he did (he wanted to become a great lord so that he would have a chance to marry Catelyn, since as a commoner she would never be allowed to marry him).
Speaking of people’s birth, let’s talk about Lyanna Stark…
13) Jon Snow’s true parents are revealed to be Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s brother)
As fans have been theorizing for a while now, Jon Snow wasn’t just some bastard. He is both Stark and Targaryen (his very essence a song of ice and fire, if you will).
Even though people have been theorizing it for a while, this was still immensely satisfying to have confirmed.
This is the type of twist that makes more sense of the world that is being created. For a long while, it just didn’t make any sense that Ned Stark, who is more noble than any other character on the show, so noble that it leads to his death in the end, would have had an affair and fathered a child out of wedlock.
Instead, via one last Bran flashback, it is revealed that Ned found his sister too late to save her life, but in time to save the life of her new son. In order to protect Jon from Robert Baratheon, who would have been intimidated by the baby’s claim to the throne, Ned raises Jon as a bastard in his own home, keeping it a secret from everyone.
14) Benjen foreshadows the wall falling down
Benjen / Coldhands tells Bran that he can’t pass through the Wall with them because of the strong magic that keeps out the evil forces from beyond the wall.
We don’t, however, watch Bran go through the wall. Some suspect that since Bran was “marked” by the Night King, if Bran passes the threshold of the wall, it will undo the magic keeping it up, and the entire thing will come crashing down. This seems like a pretty epic way for them to kick off season seven, eh?
15) Arya uses her face-hiding skills to kill Walder Frey
Obviously, I’m as happy as the next guy to see Walder Frey get the death he deserved, but this felt a little rushed to me.
I think overall this season has been fantastic, but the Arya storyline is perhaps the one that didn’t live up to its potential for me. Arya was already an incredibly capable killer before she went to train at the House of Black and White, and before she ever went there she was able to pose believably as a street boy and nobody suspected she was Arya of House Stark. She could have easily posed as some random servant girl and worked at House Frey and then when she had a moment alone with gross old Walder she could have slit his throat. So was the entire multi-season character development at the House of Black and White for nothing, at most a semi-interesting detour? Arya was a good fighter willing to kill people on her vengeance list … then she went to the Faceless Men … and now she is once again a good fighter willing to kill people on her vengeance list? Is Arya going to use Walder’s face to pose as him to some greater end next season? Doesn’t really seem like her style, but there has to be some pay off, right??
If you think I’m missing something here, please let me know in da comments. Heading into this season, the Arya storyline was the one I was the most excited about, so I am very willing to be told why I’m wrong.
Also, feeding someone a meal that unbeknownst to them is made up of the meat of their dead loves ones is Cartman’s move, right?
16) Varys’s secret mission was to recruit Olenna Tyrell and the Dornish Sand Snakes
Varys apparently has the ability to teleport, an ability which he uses to travel to Dorne in order to recruit Olenna and the Dornish sand snakes. It goes unsaid, but the implication seems to be that his mission is a success. Is there anything that can stop Dany now?
17) Dany and her army set sail for Westeros
It’s been six seasons in the making, but it is finally happening. Dany is sailing for Westeros, along with her Dothraki horde, Yara, Theon, Greyworm, Missandei, and her new Hand of the Queen, Tyrion.
Notably not invited along was Daario, her lover. Daario loved her and he was loyal to her, but Dany is all about that Throne, baby. Tyrion tells her to leave Daario behind, sort of like a boxing coach telling a fighter no boom-boom the night before a match.
Season seven will see some early rumbling in King’s Landing, but with the strength of her army, even with all of Cersei’s cunning it shouldn’t take too long for Dany to take the Throne. The real war of season seven, of course, will be the fight between the living and the dead. I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I say I can’t wait.
That’s it for now! Thank you for reading and see you next season! To tide yourselves over, please enjoy the season finale of Funny Or Die’s own ‘Gay of Thrones’: