Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 – The Winds of Winter

Game of Thrones season six came to an epic conclusion with an episode full of momentous events, crucial character turning points, and the confirmation of a theory book readers have been speculating over for years. “The Winds of Winter” was easily one of the best episodes of the show: flawlessly acted, beautifully scored, and wonderfully executed (in many senses of the word.)

The finale was Game of Thrones in its essence, focusing on the rise to power of the three great houses of Westeros: Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen. We saw each group overcome the hurdles that had plagued them for years and emerge on top of their game and ready for the wars to come. And after watching these characters struggle and suffer through unspeakable horrors, it was a relief to see them triumphant in their causes, even if for some, these victories came at a heavy price.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 - The Winds of WinterThere were also a few small but pivotal moments with other characters, such as Sam and Gilly reaching the Citadel and Olenna beginning an alliance with Dorne. Sam’s moment in the great library was particularly moving, as this was most likely a dream come true for the young Tarly. And I wasn’t expecting to see Dorne again this season but this was an intriguing development. It also makes sense that Olenna would team up with Ellaria and eventually with Dany. (Varys sure gets around fast, though, doesn’t he?) But on to the three big chunks of the Game of Thrones finale.

The North Remembers

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 - The Winds of WinterJon and Sansa share some quiet moments after their hard-won victory in the Battle of the Bastards. In such a short time, they’ve developed a strong bond that they both will need in the struggles ahead. Sansa looked proud when Jon was declared the new King in the North, although the latter looked worried about the weight of this responsibility. But Jon’s never been one to shy away from duty and I’m certain he will do well.

Then there was also the massive reveal about Jon’s parentage (that book readers have been waiting for for years). Bran finally resumed his flashback journey long enough to see the Tower of Joy, and that unforgettable moment with Ned promising his sister Lyanna to protect her child: Jon. People have suspected this much for years, but it was unbelievably rewarding to have official confirmation.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 - The Winds of WinterSome words must be said about the inspiring force that is Lyanna Mormont. The small but formidable lady stood up for Jon and declared him King of the North, while individually calling out the various lords for their lack of support for Jon and Sansa’s campaign. They were all properly shamed, and rightly followed Lady Mormont’s lead. And the new King of the North was declared, one who has proven himself many times over and who has a better understanding of the real war approaching Westeros.

Sansa’s support will be invaluable to him, especially since Littlefinger is probably plotting against him. But the lady’s become an astute player in the Game of Thrones and it will take her skills to protect Jon from the other’s scheming. She is his strongest and most important ally and a true queen of the North.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 - The Winds of WinterAnother Lady Stark was busy avenging her family for the Red Wedding. In a dark but satisfying twist, Arya used her Faceless Men skills to infiltrate the Twins and murder the Freys. Revenge was served on a plate (literally) to Walder Frey, before Arya revealed her identity right before slitting his throat. It was a thrilling and also morbidly rewarding moment that will lead hopefully to Arya’s soon reuniting with her other siblings.

Hear Me Roar

The most explosive part of the finale was the fate of King’s Landing. Cersei finally bared her teeth and showed her claws as she executed the Mad King’s plan of burning the city with wildfire. In a suspense-filled opening sequence (with amazing music) where the High Sparrow and the Tyrells prepared for their trial, the pieces were put in place. Disgusting Maester Pycelle was murdered by Qyburn’s spies and so was Lancel Lannister, who discovered, to his horror, that there was a huge cache of wildfire beneath the Sept of Baelor.

Margaery realized the danger early on and immediately tried to protect her brother, who had just confessed and been mutilated by the Faith. But the High Sparrow was too stubborn to see the signs and the poor Tyrells had to burn along with everyone else. Cersei even got to torment horrible Septa Unella, and it was again strangely satisfying to hear the queen repeat the words “Confess” and “Shame” to the woman who had made her life hell last season.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 - The Winds of WinterBut Cersei’s revenge came at a steep price as Tommen decided that he had enough of Westerosi misery and simply gave up on life, unceremoniously jumping out the window. The prophecy was fulfilled and Cersei buried her last, precious child. But her loss led to her gain as she finally takes her place on the Iron Throne.

Jaime arrives just in time to see King’s Landing up in smoke, a tragedy he had tried to prevent by killing a king and ruining his reputation forever. In a painful Game of Thrones irony, his sister becomes the new, destructive monarch. The veil has been lifted from his eyes and in that final, gripping scene in the throne room, we saw Jaime reaching a decision about his sister and perhaps contemplating the necessity of becoming a Queenslayer.

Fire and Blood

Daenerys Targaryen finally set off to reclaim Westeros, now fully equipped with a fleet of ships (from the masters and the Greyjoys), a formidable army (composed of the Unsullied and the Dothraki), and cunning advisors to guide her (Tyrion and Varys). The queen decided to leave Daario behind to manage Mereen, and because it would be disadvantageous to have a lover when she could build alliances through marriage. And she was disappointed to find out she didn’t really care for him that much.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep10 - The Winds of WinterShe shared a quiet but moving moment with Tyrion as the latter pledged his loyalty to her. He confessed to having always been a cynic, but after seeing what this impressive young girl had accomplished (with the help of her dragons), he found someone to believe in. And it was great to see Dany naming him Hand of the Queen. Tyrion has been a capable player of the game, despite the odds often being stacked against him, and his counsel will definitely be of great value to Dany.

The season concluded with a breathtaking sequence of the Targaryen fleet sailing off to Westeros with the three dragons soaring overhead. We caught a glimpse of Theon and Yara as well as of Varys, Missandei, Tyrion, and Dany, facing their destiny with grim determination. This was an unforgettable image, and complemented with a wonderful score.

Game of Thrones season six has been a thrilling ride, full of major revelations and big payoffs for years of waiting. With only a few more episodes to go to wrap up this epic saga, events will be moving faster than ever in the next season of Game of Thrones. The players have advanced significantly and the stage is now set for the last, great war. The balance of power has shifted and the three great families of Westeros are all on top. But the true enemy, the White Walkers, will be wreaking havoc soon and all the powerful houses will need to work together if they want to survive the long winter.