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SEASON FINALE REVIEW: Game of Thrones 6×10 “The Winds of Winter”

Written by Grace Davis

It’s an eerily calm beginning for this extra-long finale of mayhem: people are getting ready for the day, the High Sparrow is donning a fresh sack… Nothing good ever happens after this much quiet. This episode really was beautifully and stylishly directed – visually it seemed quite different from the style I’ve come to expect on Game of Thrones, but it worked really, really well. Every single silent second was filled with tension until finally the trial began. Loras first: as predicted, he said anything to get out of there alive. I question how intelligent the Sparrow is if he believes ‘conversions’ like this are even remotely sincere but I suppose the real world has plenty of examples of this sort of thing. Sometimes the people doing the converting don’t really care if it’s sincere, as long as they can crush people under their will: that doesn’t seem like the Sparrow and yet, who knows? Either way, that was dispatched with pretty quickly – sad as it was to see Ser Loras renounce everything and be forced to call the man he loved a traitor, it obviously wasn’t the main focus of the scene. No. That came after. That came as Margaery, intelligent, quick-thinking Margaery, was the only person to realise that something might not be quite right in this scenario. Alas, the Sparrow’s consistent stupidity ruled out any chance of escape. I loved how intense this whole section was: ominous shots of the Mountain in Tommen’s chamber, Cersei slowly pouring wine, Lancel dragging himself toward the candles as he realised what was happening… Also, weirdly, large teams of child assassins trained by Qyburn with the aid of nothing but a few sweets. I mean, ok, I guess that could happen.

And then it happened. The entire Sept engulfed in green flame. It was certainly sight to behold. I was mostly busy screaming ‘Nooooo, Margaery, noooo’ so I really wasn’t ready when Tommen up and jumped straight out of the window. The sudden bluntness of his actions lent a horrifically dark tinge of comedy to the moment which I guess wasn’t meant to be there. But aside from that, the implications are terribly sad: Tommen was so alone in that moment, knowing that his wife was dead, the Sparrow was dead and all because of his own mother. What else was he going to do? Poor King Tommen. He never really had a chance.

Oh and we can’t forget, during this first twenty minutes of shock (great choice to put it at the start of the episode, rather than the end: I loved how it mixed up the pace, and left me going ‘What on earth can even happen next?!’) we see Cersei attempting to waterboard a nun with wine before leaving her to be tortured (and presumably raped, judging by his past behaviour) by de-helmeted zombie Mountain. So that’s a horrific sentence I never expected to type. Yeah, that nun was mean but obviously she doesn’t deserve this: it’s sick and disgusting and it’s very Cersei. I’m still reeling from shock at how evil Cersei has become: to kill that many people to save herself, to smile while they burned to death and again at the memory… I knew she was bad but… Well, I’m not glad Tommen died but I do think his death is one of the only things in the world that could have hurt her.

It took me a while to calm down from all this so I really wasn’t in the right mental state to listen to Bron and Jaime banter about women. Or to hear Walder bragging about being in the Kingslayer club with Jaime. Rightfully Jaime looked pretty grossed out by Walder and brought him down a peg or two with his remark about having to rescue the Freys every time they lost Riverrun. Classic burn Jaime. Poor guy has no idea what’s awaiting him back home…

Moving on, Sam arrives at the rather beautiful Oldtown and adorably sings ‘hello’ to a grumpy Maester. Oh Sam. The love is deep. According to this Maester, literally everything Sam says is irregular (mate, you don’t know the half of it) and is going to need some sorting out. Sadly Gilly isn’t allowed past the guy’s desk and doesn’t get to witness the most incredible library I’ve ever seen –  even the dangly gold thing from the titles is here! I know it’s only CGI but I love it and I want it, this was beautifully shot.

Back in Winterfell, Jon is looking sad as he reminisces about the past – although Melisandre’s point about him at least having a family is very valid. I wasn’t sure where this scene was going until Davos stormed in with Shireen’s stag toy. Oh dear. Major props to Liam Cunningham in this scene; you could really feel the anguish in every choked-up word he spoke. Once again the cinematography was beautiful – in comparison to the library this is visually very simple, and yet it still looks amazing just because of the positioning of the actors and the sparing use of light through those high windows. Melisandre at least looked deeply ashamed and accepted her banishment without protest. Jon does not need to deal with this right now! I thought it was interesting that although Davos called for Mel’s death, he immediately accepted Jon’s ruling of exile: an example of the absence of violence in his heart or more a showing of his respect for Jon?

In other Winterfell news: WINTER IS HERE. Now it really gets serious. Also here, unfortunately, is Littlefinger and he’s creeping over Sansa. To that I can only say, ew you loved her mum. Please stop.

Speaking of people who need to stop, finally someone tells the Sand Snakes to shut their damn mouths. THANK YOU OLENNA. I love this: the writers know how hated the Sand Snakes are, what better than to make Olenna talk to them exactly how we’d all like to. Plus, her presence is one of the only things that could make me even remotely interested in Dorne again – well, that and the fact that Varys has just lurked up out of nowhere! And they’re all off to team up with Daenerys…

…Who is busy giving Daario the ‘it’s not you, it’s me – except it totally is you cos you’re gonna be zero use in Westeros’ speech. Who hasn’t been there? It’s kinda sad for him, I liked his not-proudness, but it makes sense I guess. Annoying that kings would be able to march in with a mistress while she doesn’t feel she can, but maybe that’s an issue for another day. Something that really interests me about Daenerys is her self-awareness (or lack thereof) – you sometimes get the impression that she totally buys into her own myth, which is surely a way to ruin, and sometimes the impression that she isn’t all that far off from becoming her father. But then she says something unexpected – as she did tonight when she admitted feeling nothing about saying good bye to Daario (which ok, they never seemed like they loved each other so I’m not sure I’d worry too much) BUT importantly, she did feel very scared of feeling nothing. I really hope that this complexity is explored more in the future. And nothing but cheers for the beautiful moment when she officially made Tyrion Hand of the Queen – again, lovely acting, particularly from Peter Dinklage.

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Back to repulsive Walder Frey now: the party is over, the Lannisters have trotted off, and his sons are late! But it’s ok, he’s got this lovely pie to comfort him… oh dear. I feel like I should have so expected Arya. But I really didn’t. She did the face thing! And she actually took the time to bake a pie! That is commitment. Who’s she going to kill now? And in what bizarrely creative way? Just like Sansa, she is so young to be this hardened to the world.

Finally the show begins to draw to a close. Of course there’s still plenty of time for a stunning (purely because they actually confirmed it, because let’s face it, we’ve been saying R + L = J for years now) revelation: JON IS A TARGARYEN-STARK. And only Bran knows. Please, please Bran, get to Winterfell quick-smart. I need this dealt with. It’s a great day for Jon being things, as he is also passionately declared King in the North – and it’s basically all thanks to a storming speech by the fabulous Lyanna Mormont (people called Lyanna having a big impact today). As happy as I am about all this, two things made me nervous – Littlefinger lurking and smirking in the corner, and the memory of what happened last time someone was declared King in the North. Please don’t let this be a death warrant for Jon.

Unbelievably there was still time for two more scenes. We had the awful: Cersei is now actual Queen. Oh crap. And Jaime is looking bemused and mighty pissed. And we had the wonderful: finally Daenerys sets sail. And so, with dragons overhead and sails flapping as far as the eye can see, that’s where we’ll leave Game of Thrones for another year…

Season summary: This season was an incredible improvement from the previous one. Season five actually left me feeling like I couldn’t really be bothered to keep watching, and I feared this would more of the same – but thankfully they completely turned it around. Ok, there were still storylines I didn’t care for, some things got way more time than I believe they deserved (High Sparrow, the House of Black and White), there were even a couple of episodes that didn’t impress, but overall I think it was pretty great. The things that were already done well – costumes, music, cinematography – got even better and things that were bad – basically all of Dorne, to name just one – got cut or improved. It’s left me interested for next season, but also with the feeling that there really is an end in sight.

Episode grade: A

Season grade: A

Extra thoughts:

  • Ok so I’m still mourning Margaery, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop planning my new vote for future rulers of Westeros: Daenerys marries Yara with Tyrion as Hand, Jon keeps the north, Lyanna Mormont is his Hand. Done.
  • If I were Daenerys I’d have made time for a bit of ‘good bye forever, here’s something to remember me by’ time with Daario. Priorities, man!
  • I really thought Varys had either teleported or had an evil twin until someone pointed out to me that there were both Tyrell and Martell ships in Dany’s fleet. So I’m guessing time passed.
  • When Walder lifted the lid of the pie, I was seriously expecting a little eyeball to be winking back at him, not a dirty old thumb.
  • Still no Gendry. I will never let go.

About the author

Grace Davis