Game of Thrones: Seven things we learned from season finale 'Winds of Winter'
*WARNING* Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season six, episode 10.
Wait - what? Did all of that JUST happen? Darth Cersei – in her natty new Lord of the Sith outfit – has seized control of King’s Landing. Daenerys is Westeros-bound. And the mystery of Jon Snow’s parentage was finally (sort of) unlocked. Let’s all sit down and take a deeeeeep breath.
1: Cersei plays the game of thrones better than anyone
With her trial before the High Sparrow imminent, the jig appeared very much up for Cersei. Particularly in view of the cruel pleasure the Sparrow took in mutilating poor Ser Loras. But Cersei had this one covered, as she blasted the High Sept and everyone within it back to the Age of Heroes with the help of Qyburn’s wildfire. It was a triple whammy, as the Sparrows were removed as a threat, her toxic nemesis Margaery got what Cersei will have felt was her due and silly King Tommen was eliminated.
We presume, of course, that Cersei had strongly suspected Tommen would kill himself after Margaery’s demise. Certainly the Queen Mother did not look a broken woman upon receiving the news. With two of her children already snatched away , it is a obvious a flame has died inside her, her last humanising attribute snuffed out. Oh well, she has the rule of the Seven Kingdoms as compensation.
2: The John Snow stuff was a letdown
Anyone with access to the Internet knows all about the rumours regarding Jon Snow's real parents. Far from Ned Stark’s bastard, Jon is in fact the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. His parentage was confirmed as Bran time hopped back to the Tower of Joy and saw Ned pledge to his dying sister to raise Jon as his own. But Rhaegar’s part in all this was not explained. So we had an answer - just not the one we wanted.
Back in present day Winterfell meanwhile Jon continued to prove himself as Lord Commander of Faffing Around, as he pulled his punches in exiling Melisandre to the south and, even as he was crowned King of the North, seemed not to recognise the threat posed by Littlefinger and his potential ally Sansa. Snow’s half sister had reacted with incredulity when Lord Baelish suggested they come together - politically and romantically - and seize the Iron Throne. But Stannis had been just as firm shooting down Operation Torch Shireen last season - and look how that worked out for his daughter.
3: Arya had the year’s ultimate girl power moment
Game of Thrones has had more than a few lapses into unfettered sexism down the years. This season, though, show-runners David Benioff and DB Weiss put their female protagonists firmly in the ascendent. In addition to Cersei winning the throne, the week’s stand out girl power moment came courtesy of Arya as she made use of her abilities as a Faceless Man to uncork the jugular of Walder Frey. After Freys’s demolition job at the Red Wedding, the Starks had equalised deep in time added on.
4: Daenerys might be the last best hope for the Seven Kingdoms
It has been hinted through the past several seasons that the Mother of Dragons might also be the Mother of Power Crazed Lunacy and certainly Tyrion has had to work hard to trim her more despotic tendencies. With Darth Cersei in situ in Westeros, though, suddenly Daenerys looks the last best hope for the Seven Kingdoms. We’ve been encouraged to feel ambivalent towards her power-play to date. But after this week, it is fair to say most are now in her corner.
5: Where was the Night King?
Given the title, many had assumed the Winds of Winter would feature lots of White Walker action - and might even see the Night King and his horde breaching the enchantments of the Wall and surge south. Instead, we had to make do with a brief scene of Coldhands/Benjen Stark wishing Meera and Bran well and taking his leave. In an episode that exceeded expectations, here was a rare flub.
6: Oldtown was properly epic.
In George RR Martin novels, Oldtown is an important centre of learning - home to the Maesters whose lore is relied on by rulers of every disposition. Sam and Gilly’s arrival lived up to our hopes – that closing shot of the vast library in the Citadel was properly awesome.
7: Was it the best Game of Thrones finale yet?
The show has often favoured melancholy final episodes, laying the track for future plots and encouraging us to reflect on the terrible events that unfolded earlier in the season. This was different – a lurid, violent sign-off that will take some time to fully digest.