*Spoilers, naturally, follows for those yet to watch Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 10 ‘The Winds of Winter’*
Game of Thrones has a tried and tested formula for its episodes, a formula which has worked consistently for its six years on the air. It’s a formula which most shows use, except tweaked in the tiniest way, concerning the functions of its penultimate and finale episodes.
Whilst most shows would build everything up to an explosive finale, Thrones typically keeps those blockbuster episodes for its penultimate ones, the dreaded episode 9; episode ten just becomes the vehicle to tie up all the storylines in a nice little bow.
This season bucked that trend, and it backed it so beautifully that the finale delivered the show’s best episode in its six season run. The most amazing thing is that we were handed our token bloody episode nine, yet still got ‘The Winds of Winter’ that blew anything the show had ever done into oblivion – including its largest ever battle in just the previous episode, plus iconic episodes like ‘Hardhome’, ‘The Door’ and ‘The Rains of Castamere’.
Going in ahead of time, we were aware the episode would be the longest in Thrones’ history, and every single second of it was utilised to the max. From King’s Landing to Meereen, Dorne to the North, plus the resolution of the parentage of the show’s no.1 bastard, there wasn’t a single, non- epic moment in the hour and ten minutes of screen time we witnessed.
I have a sneaky suspicion my fawning over the episode has a lot to do with the rate at which fist pumping, heart stopping, and mind blowing things happened, especially to the characters we love so much. After five seasons of being stomped, spat at and trod on, the Starks are rising, and rising fast and uniformly. Excuse me for enjoying it so much.
After Sansa’s shenanigans last episode, keeping such vital battle info from her brother immediately after complaining she was not consulted enough, we gladly got a resolution to the entire event. People have theorised to death the reasons Sansa withheld the crucial info from her brother. Some said she was ‘playing the game’ and thus did it to be viewed as the ‘saviour’, which would help in the mini battle of deciding who rules the North that she would have with her ‘half brother’. Most, like myself, viewed it as dumb Sansa just being dumb.
After she apologised, Jon made clear the need for the pair to trust each other to the max, as their enemies circled around them. The question of who gets to rule the North between the two of them, was settled emphatically in Winterfell’s great hall not long after, in a scene too reminiscent of the same one from the first season.
The Northern Lords and the River lords crowned ‘The Young Wolf’, Robb Stark, as ‘King in the North’ in the halls of House Tully in Riverrun way back in season 1. In an almost an identical scene in Winterfell’s great hall, the ‘White Wolf’, Jon Snow, was also crowned King in the North, in the most uplifting moment of an episode filled with uplifting moments. If you didn’t jump out of your seat and scream at your screen at that moment, you must be dead inside.
Lady Lyanna Mormont! House Mormont has been very good to Jon Snow, from former Lord Commander Jeor Mormont grooming Jon and giving him their ancestral sword, to the 62 good men who fought bravely at the Battle of the Bastards, to Lyanna starting the avalanche leading to Jon’s crowning. There’s a bit of dramatic irony in the fact that the reveal of Jon’s parentage shows us that it is his mum’s namesake who just fought so hard to have him crowned.
Finally, after dragging their feet the whole season, the reveal of Jon Snow’s true parentage was laid before us. Jon is not the son of Ned Stark and an unknown woman, as previously thought, but of Ned’s sister Lyanna and the crown prince at the time, Rhaegar Targaryen. Ned agreed to raise the child as his own based on his promise to his sister, who knew how Robert hated Targaryens and what he would do to the child if he knew his parentage.
The revelation is an interesting one, coming as it does just before Jon is crowned King in the North. He is actually the heir to the Iron Throne, having a superior claim to Daenerys in the sense that he’s the son of the crown Prince, and also by virtue of being male. But Jon is probably not interested in the Iron Throne, considering he has a bigger war to fight.
The last King in the North took his kingdom South, and whilst he was a damn good battle commander, he was a poor strategist, leading to his death at the Twins and the decimation of the Northern houses. The war with the Night’s King would be equally as brutal, and the allegiances of all the houses who just declared for Jon would be tried before the end of this series.
The ascendancy of House Stark stretches beyond the North, as No One returned to take sweet, sweet revenge for her family. Walder Frey was barely being tolerated by Jaime in their conversation together, as he realised the odious man his father had made an allegiance with to commit the greatest crime in Westeros, murdering your own guests. Luckily, after two seasons of watching her train, Arya put all her skills to use in carrying out the most satisfying assassination on the show.
The feel good moments were not limited to the Starks, whose return as a collective force was cemented this episode. In Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen finally got her forces together, solved all outstanding issues, and set sail for Westeros. At last count, Dany commands The Unsullied, The Dothraki hordes, and parts of the Greyjoy fleet. With all the carnage and war Westeros have gone through, she easily has the largest army of any single house. Add in her Dragons of Mass destruction, and it’s difficult to see any credible opposition to her when she lands.
And that’s even before factoring in the batsh*t events in King’s Landing this episode. The episode had a hovering sense of doom hanging over it with the beginning, with us being fed simple images for close to five minutes, with only sparse interspersing dialogue. It was a deliberate, brilliant choice by the showrunners, making us aware of the momentous events about to occur without many words being spoken, as well as keeping a sense of dread in the air. And wow, did the events not disappoint.
That Cersei would burn the capital to the ground so as not to suffer the consequences of her actions have been foreshadowed enough. She usually threatens to burn everything to the ground if it would protect her children, saying that to her father and to her brother. The capital being rigged with wildfire has been shown to us in Bran’s visions, and through Jaime, who killed the mad king to prevent him from doing exactly what Cersei has done. Cersei’s actions killed everyone in the sept of Baelor, lost her any future allies, lost her her son, but gained her the Throne. Cersei’s short-sightedness has never been on full display as it was in this episode.
What Jaime met on his return is sure to be the strongest test to his mettle yet. It is now time to see the kind of man Ser Jaime plans to be. He has often made it clear he cares about no one but his sister, even their children are just by products of their incestous love. He’s made strides to be a better man the past few seasons, but he continues to fall in his sister’s lure every time he comes back to her. Cersei just committed what should be an unforgivable sin, and it would be fascinating to see how Jaime responds to that next season. He killed the mad king for the same reason, and there is no doubt that Cersei Lannister is the mad queen. Would Jaime become a kingslayer twice over?
Irrespective of what happens in the capital though, they are doomed, they just do not realise it yet. Varys turned up in Dorne this episode, to recruit the Dornish, who in turn recruited the lovely Lady Olenna, who has lost everything – her son and grandchildren – to Cersei’s madness. With Dorne and Highgarden set to join Dany, there is no way in hell Westeros would not be hers.
The end of a Thrones’ season is usually a dreaded point, when fans have to come face to face with the reality of not having an episode to watch for a full year. However, the events of this episode were so feel good, after years of our feelings being trampled in the dirt, we can look forward to a new season for the first time with hope and not trepidation. Compare this to the end of season’s one, three and five, and you can see why the smiles would not be wiped off our faces for a long time to come. The Great War is coming, aye, but the White Wolf arises. The Starks have Winterfell, and all is well in Westeros for now.
See you next year.
PS: I bow to the fans who rated the episode 10/10 on IMDB before it aired. It appears they were right.