“Before we usher in the new, the old must be put to rest”
There is a fan theory that was created by book readers as early as the release of the first book in the series. This theory is known across the nerdy corners of the internet as R+L=J and states that contrary to the story Ned Stark told the rest of the world, Jon Snow’s real parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, his sister. The Tower of Joy scene Bran once again flashes back to the forefront in this episode and confirms a part of this theory, that Jon is Lyanna’s daughter and not Eddard’s bastard son. Season six of Game of Thrones has played a deft balancing act by presenting the fans of the show with things they have wanted to see for years without overplaying their hand. We saw the beginning of this vision early on in the season and we were cut short by the old Three-Eyed Raven because we needed to be strung along to build the mystery. The Tower of Joy scene is recalled by Ned in the first book but the show has shied away from flashbacks and so they waited for Bran to become the all-seeing master of the universe before they could reveal that information. We have barely spent much time with Bran after ‘Hold the Door’ with Benjen leaving as soon as he arrived and finally I arrive at my point. Season six has pivoted away from the heart of George R. R. Martin’s books (and what also makes them super long) by cutting out the journeys to get its characters to their destination. Fans of the show are not concerned with the journey and want to see their favourite characters interact and that is the same with events. Fast forward through the journey to get to the big finale and the action. For a show now officially in its third act this is a smart decision to strive for as the pieces of the board need to be put in place for the remaining two seasons. The broad scope of earlier seasons filled with set up to conflicts that have not happened yet is gone and as everyone finally is set to be on Westeros for the last thirteen episodes, the end of journeys has become the place where stories occur.
I was surprised by the reveal that Arya Stark was at the Twins to kill Walder Frey because just two episodes ago, she was still in Braavos having just cut off a face and suffering from multiple stab wounds to the gut. Think back to the final shot of season three, with Arya on the bow of a ship looking to Braavos on the horizon, the end of two seasons worth of journey involving the bastard son of Robert Baratheon, The Brotherhood without Banners, The Hound and the Red Wedding. Her escape from Westeros was the culmination of gruelling circumstances and hope that we would see her evolution into a badass assassin. Suddenly, after two seasons of stalling in the House of Black and White, she is back ready to strike names off of her list. Yes it is thrilling to see Walder Frey die at the hands of a Stark (so god damn thrilling!), but it was disorienting because we are unsure of the timeline. To make this episode believable, in the context of a world with ice zombies and dragons, many months should have passed during this hour as characters jumped around the map to be where they needed to be at the end of the season. For example, Varys left Meereen a few episodes ago and meets Olenna in Dorne and within a few short minutes, is back beside Dany on her ship. As long as the showrunners focus on consequences of the actions the characters undergo when they reach their destination, this is a strong step for a show built on spectacle. Seeing Arya kill the enemies of the Starks one by one is deeply and scarily satisfying, but what does it mean that the sweet girl we saw in episode one has become a ruthless, human pie baking serial killer? Using a smaller frame of travel, the emotional journeys will help to keep the show grounded in what makes it great television.
Another spellbinding aspect of Game of Thrones is its ability to surprise, even in its twilight years. the red sept is not a surprise in the traditional sense, unlike the Red Wedding, it has been hinted at and slowly revealed over the course of the season. What is so shocking about it is the ruthlessness in which such an act takes out most of the King’s Landing cast and eviscerates any positive sentiments we have had for Cersei. Now that Ramsay ‘Literal Dog Sh*t’ Bolton is now literal dog sh*t, a new villain has to be put into place and the mass murdering, unhinged queen is firmly thrust into that position. For years we have watched Cersei yearn for the Iron Throne, her gender and myriad of others in front of her in the line for the throne rendered her rule nearly impossible and so she cared for her children, caring for their wellbeing first and her quest for the throne second. With the deaths of Joffery and Myrcella coming to pass, as foretold by the prophecy that has governed her adult life, she became more detached from sentiment and seeing her only son deny her any status in the court, her tunnel vision became lethal in the most grandiose of ways. As she smirks and drinks wine, hundreds of people are slaughtered to appease her thirst for revenge and in that moment, Cersei is finally and unequivocally victorious. Then, she finally loses everything she held dear as Tommen throws himself through a window and the consequences of her actions begin to take hold. Tommen was only ever a young boy waiting to be moulded by whomever wanted to, using words to create the king that would serve their needs. Cersei used motherly fear to keep him in line, Margery seduced him and the High Sparrow presented him with a better world. And in the end, the death of his wife and mentor at the hands of his mother was something he would never recover from. As Cersei sits on the Iron Throne, her steely eyed gaze meets Jaime’s worried one and the emotionless queen is fully realised. If the Cersei who still had love in her heart was capable of exploding half a city to get what she wants, it scares me to think of what she is capable of now she has nothing to lose.
On the other side of the moral equilibrium, Jon Snow has everything to lose. His banishment of Melisandre shows he has the capacity to rule but his battles are still being won for him. Sansa and Littlefinger brought him victory over the Boltons and the amazing Lyanna Mormont delivers the speech that crowns him The King in The North. As winter finally arrives to Westeros, a new king is crowned and with the remaining Starks coming home, the tattered and broken family has begun to rebuild an army fit enough to re-enter the great game.
But nothing they could conjure can match the force Dany has mustered as she finally (FINALLY!) sails for Westeros. An army made up of Dothraki, Unsullied, Greyjoys, Tyrells, Martells and three dragons is the culmination of years of watching Dany grow into the leader she is today. While her plots did feel a bit tedious at times, she has changed drastically from the timid girl being used by her brother. She inspires devotion in her followers, and with Tyrion at her side, a man who lived in Westeros his whole life, making sure she takes a step back from her bombastic speeches, she is the person who resembles the ruler the kingdom needs. The only question is, who will emerge from the other side of the fight for the Iron Throne, to face the army who brings winter with them?
- I teared up when Dany made Tyrion the Hand of the Queen. I’m not ashamed to admit it! It was a beautiful moment I have wanted to see ever since I read ‘A Storm of Swords’.
- Jon’s status as the “Prince that was promised” is also hinted at through symbolism in the Tower of Joy flashback. Look it up if you are interested but there is a little bit of lore that you may have to wade through (although there are probably hundreds of videos explaining every detail of the episode).
- I want to see a mini episode which shows how Arya managed to kill and cook two men into a pie without anyone noticing. Not dissing the scene, just curious.
- And so my watch had ended. Thank you so much for reading my reviews, even if you skimmed them or read just one, it was awesome to see how many people actually cared and took the time to read them. I hope they added to your experience of this awesome show.