Winter has finally come in the season finale of Game of Thrones, and with it, one of the most game-changing episodes we’ve had. “The Winds of Winter” excelled, above all else, in dramatic storytelling and delivering the most unexpected plot twists. There was death and destruction everywhere, but also victory, and probably one of the most beautiful soundtracks we’ve had in all seasons past.
BRACE YOURSELVES, SPOILERS ARE COMING! From here on out, you’ll come across spoilers from Game of Thrones’ sixth season finale.
In under 70 minutes of screen time, Daenerys finally set sail for Westeros, Arya returned to check an important name off her black list and avenge her mother’s and brother’s death, Jon became King in the North and Cersei blew up her enemies and got her heart’s desire of claiming the Iron Throne for herself.
The extra-length of the finale gave the producers the opportunity to start if off with 25 minute sequence set in King’s Landing. As minutes pass, we get the feeling that something big is about to happen. The epic, suspenseful piano music contributes to the feeling of uneasiness that’s instilled in us as we watch Cersei get ready for her trial.
She’s putting on a black dress, unlike anything we’ve seen her wear before and, as we’ll discover later, quite fitting for the occasion. In the king’s chambers, Tommen is getting ready to participate in the trial that would seal his mother’s fate but he faces an obstacle, quite a big one. The Mountain blocks him from leaving, at Cersei’s orders, we presume.
Pycelle gets a message that he is needed by the king, but ultimately he’s lured into Qyburn’s chambers and slaughtered by a gang of children, Qyburn’s little birds. We’re surprised he has survived this long.
In the Sept, many have gathered for Sir Loras’ (and Cersei’s, had she ever shown up) trial. Loras is a broken man, ready to admit his sins – and he does – and to dedicate his life to serve the Seven. Cersei and Tommen, however, are nowhere to be found in the Sept, which makes Margaery concerned. And she is so right to be.
So the Sparrow sends Lancel to fetch Cersei, and he takes a few extra faith militant with him. On the way out, however, he gets distracted by one of Qyburn’s little bird spies and starts chasing the kid, who leads him to a dungeon. Not just any kind of dungeon, but one filled with a massive cache of wildfire.
We’ve seen this green napalm-like substance in action before, haven’t we? At this point, we’re sure this can’t end well, especially as we see a few candles almost burning down on top of a puddle of wildfire. Tic-toc.
Lancel is crawling towards the candles, trying to blow them out and avoid a subsequent carnage but no, that’s not how things work out in the Game of Thrones. Back in the Sept, Margaery becomes more agitated and wants to leave, taking her brother with her, but she is blocked by the faith militant.
She holds on to him as the explosion comes, and wipes out everything, the Sparrow, the people gathered there, her and Loras, the entire Sept.
Moral of the story? Don’t mess with Cersei. We see her looking out her window at the Red Keep, a gleeful little smile painted on her face. She’s won. It is a rather bitter victory, however, as king Tommen leaps off his balcony shortly after, appalled by the recent death of his beloved wife. Can’t really blame him, can we?
At The Twins, Walder Fray is having a chat with Jaime, who finds him utterly despicable and useless, pointing out that Walder hasn’t really accomplished anything other than murdering defenseless wedding guests. As they’re talking, Jaime eyes a serving girl, in a manner that we could almost consider flirtatious.
Well, that makes it awkward, since that girl turns out to be Arya Stark. She comes back later, when Walder is alone, to deliver him his food and her revenge. We learn that she has killed his boys and cooked them into the food.
“The last thing you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die,” she says as she slits his throat and smiles coldly. This episode is quite big on (evil) smiling.
In Dorne, more chatting ensues, as Lady Olenna is making a pact with Ellaria Sand to secure her vengeance. At this point, Lord Varys reveals himself, uttering “Fire and blood”, the Targaryen words. Thus, Daenerys enlists two more houses to her cause, the Tyrells and Dorne. Cersei, beware.
At the Wall, Bran and his uncle Benjen say their farewells. Bran decides to resumes his vision at the Tower of Joy. Time to tie up some more loose ends.
In the vision, we follow Ned Stark up to the chamber where his sister Lyanna lays dying. She whispers something in his ear, inaudible to us. “Promise me, Ned…” she repeats over and over, as she draws her last breath. And then we see her baby, young Jon Snow.
Alright, so we need a minute to process all this. This means Ned Stark is not Jon’s father, as we’ve all believed so far. Given their history, we can (almost) safely assume that Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is the father of the baby. If that were so, it would mean that Jon is half Targaryen and half Stark.
This also means he is Daenerys’ nephew, odd as it may sound, and a noble with a major claim to the Iron Throne, should he choose to pursue it. To emphasize the point of the whole scene, they zoom is on the baby’s eyes and back out on Jon Snow’s. Nicely done.
Admittedly, we skipped some scenes set in Winterfell, so all would make more sense in the end. First of all, Jon has a meeting with Melisandre when Ser Davos barges in, accusing her of murdering Princess Shireen. He’s so upset, and rightfully so, especially since he finds no meaning in the murder of an innocent young child. So he wants her executed.
Jon faces a tough choice, but ultimately makes a compromise, by sending her away and warning her that if she ever comes back, he’ll have her hanged for murder. Further on, Sansa apologizes to Jon for not telling him about the Knights of the Vale and he understands, stressing that “we have so many enemies now, we can’t fight a war amongst ourselves.”
Speaking of enemies, Littlefinger never tires of scheming and he is trying to drive a wedge between Sansa and her brother, by presenting her his “pretty picture” of his on the Iron Throne, with Sansa as his queen. But Sansa’s no fool, and she finds his “pretty picture” disconcerting at the very least.
Back in Feast Room, Lady Mormont shines again, shaming the bannermen who now have thoughts of crawling back home. Her epic speech rallies them to support Jon. “King in the North!”, they cheer and Jon looks almost proud for a change.
Sansa’s proud of her older brother (though Littlefinger’s sly gaze from afar seems to worry her every so slightly) and we’re just as proud. Once again, the extraordinary soundtrack helps to emphasize the climax of this scene, and make it a most memorable one.
Back in King’s Landing, Jaime and Bronn arrive just in time for the coronation of Queen Cersei. He doesn’t look particularly proud, probably because he realizes this also means their boy Tommen is dead. The general mood of the scene is dark and grim, and nobody’s clapping. It feels more like a mourning than a celebration.
Finally, in Meereen, Daenerys orders Daario to stay behind, as she marches towards Westeros, She doesn’t want a distraction, or to send the wrong message to whoever she will have to negotiate in the future. He’s frustrated and upset, as are we, but Dany doesn’t give in.
Later on, she and Tyrion have a chat about her breakup and what’s to happen next. She confesses to feeling nothing as she broke up with a man who loves her, which further proves the point that acquiring more power is making her less empathic. We hope this doesn’t degenerate any more, as after all, the Mad King’s blood run through her veins.
In turn, Tyrion confesses that although he’s been a cynic all his life, he now believes in her. You can see the emotion in his eyes, all the more so when she takes out a pin and anoints him Hand of the Queen.
In the final moments of the episode, they set sail for Westeros. The epic shots of Dany’s massive fleet are only matched by the exceptional soundtrack that accompanies them. We see her on her ship, looking out to the open ocean ahead, excited about her future.
What that future will bring exactly, we can only imagine. But our imagination might not even begin to fathom the new directions that the show will take. We’ll have more than enough time to delve into whatever theories we produce until season 7 begins, sometime next year. And then we’ll probably be proved wrong, as has happened many times before, but in a brilliant, unique and breathtaking kind of way.