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Game of Thrones – “The Winds of Winter” Review

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We did it everyone! We made it to the final episode of season six. There are only two more (shortened) seasons to go [Editor’s Note: This is still technically unconfirmed, though highly anticipated.] and then this journey through Westeros takes its bow. Unfortunately, not everyone will make it to our destination, especially if you were in the episode “The Winds of Winter”, where Game of Thrones just decided to make a lot of people eat their just desserts. Shall we proceed through this morose finale?

This season has been one of the best seasons Game of Thrones has had. I’d argue its best since the first season, which in my opinion isn’t that tall of an order. I think season three is well done, but six and one have a really good trajectory of things spiraling out of control and then landing in a place that feels resolute but also extremely tantalizing. The last five episodes of this season, including this episode, have been better than anything else on TV this year. That’s saying something when shows like Silicon Valley and Veep were having excellent seasons as well. “The Winds of Winter” was the showrunners sticking the landing on something that just seemed out of their grasp when the season began.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

Let’s start with the opening scene of this episode, where Cersei takes Tommen away from the High Sparrow and unleashes her plan to avoid trial. With a lot of wildfire underneath the building where the trial is meant to take place, she creates one of the most devastating moments in Game of Thrones history. Loras atones for his sins, gets that bloody head mark engraved in his skull and then he, Margaery Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, Lancel Lannister, and the High Sparrow are destroyed in a giant explosion. It isn’t enough that the scene’s death count was through the roof (several hundred characters would have died, with a handful of those being major characters), but the scene never lets up on the chills. The score behind everything that happens the entire time during King’s Landing is extremely good. It was uncharacteristic of Game of Thrones, in my opinion, and felt more like the music used for God of Light sequences than it did a giant setpiece.

To top it off, the scene couldn’t just end with everyone at the trial dying. It only made sense that Tommen would be devastated by Margaery’s death. So much so that he couldn’t live with himself knowing he was safe and she was no longer alive. This was another excellent shot that I think will go down in Game of Thrones history as well for its use of subtlety. It opens with him looking out at the destruction from the explosion, and then he walks out of the frame. There’s a moment of “Well, what now?” as we linger on the empty window space, but then Tommen quickly walks to it and throws himself off. This hit hard. Not because Tommen was a huge character or anything, but that he made huge decisions that specifically undermined his mother. It shows that Tommen was one of the nice Lannisters, and one that might have been a decent ruler someday.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

Okay, now for a moment that pleased me and a few other cinephiles out there as Samwell arrived in Oldtown to study and become a Maester. That’s not the part I loved. No, instead its the cameo by Frank Hvam as the guy who shows Sam to the library. Hvam is best known to most people as the star of Klovn, an incredibly funny TV show and movie. I hope we see more of him in the next two seasons.

And Melisandre got thrown out of Jon’s reach with an order for her to head South, all because she burned Princess Shireen. I mean, that’s fair. Davos really didn’t like her for doing that and I’m not surprised by Jon’s decision because he is probably a bit concerned about Melisandre’s power anyways. Jon doesn’t really need her, and her only service to him was bringing him back to life. With her around, there’s no guarantee he’d stay dead if he died again, which was his request prior to this episode. I think it would be interesting to see Melisandre end up working with Danearys, but anyone else and I’d be far less interested.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

Plus, Daenarys is basically amassing a crew of women to take over the world (it turns out Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” was her reciting history). Varys traveled to Dorne to remind us that Dorne exists. However, it had Oleanna Tyrell there, so all is forgiven. She put all the snakes in their place and then forged an alliance with the people of Dorne and Daenarys to wage war against the Lannisters and give Daenarys her place on the throne. Dorne might provide a lot of help, but I’m not entirely sure how much help the Tyrell’s will be. Regardless, “The Winds of Winter” managed to make a scene in Dorne enjoyable.

As for another powerful scene, Daenarys separated herself from Daario despite how handsome he is. Instead, she goes to Tyrion and names him Hand of the Queen. This makes a lot of sense based on last week’s “Battle of the Bastards,” where he essentially kept her in check so she didn’t ruin all good favor she had with the people of Meereen. Part of me kind of wants her to just marry Tyrion so he is King and can rub that in Cersei’s face. But that’s not going to happen. Instead, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Daenarys rule without a King. But anyways, she gets the final scene too as all the ships set sail for the North.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

Back to the Twins, where Walder Frey is about to finally get what he deserved. After eating pie filled with people’s fingers, Arya reveals herself to truly be A Girl with No Name as she peels off her face and kills Walder Frey. I did not see it coming, and that is perhaps the best thing you could say because you’re not suppose to see it coming. But it makes complete sense that she would go after Frey first for orchestrating the deaths of Robb and Catelyn. People had questioned me when I suggested that Arya was No One now because she finally understood what it meant to be Arya. This scene solidified that fact. It also helps to continue paying off the terribly boring time we had in Braavos.

In comes Baelish with his scheming and his plotting. He wants that Iron Throne and the fact is, I don’t think he’ll get it. But based on the final scene we see with Jon, Sansa, and Littlefinger, it is obvious that he is going to try and make Sansa believe she is entitled to the throne. Hell, I was convinced Jon was going to be like Theon and give it to his sister because he has never really had any interest in it. But he didn’t. And that is likely going to cause problems down the road.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

Bran also got to revisit the Tower of Joy memory from earlier in the season. Now, if you are not privy to Game of Thrones fan theories, the reveal in this scene may have been shocking. For me, it was a breath of fresh air to have some confirmation on who Jon’s mother was (though they still don’t confirm who the father is). The fan theory of who the father is makes sense and I’m not going to spoil it here for those who haven’t scoured the internet digesting every theory ever conceived. The fact that Jon’s parents have to be kept a secret only further enforces the idea of who his Dad is. Revealing that Ned’s sister was the mother though, was great, plus it was just good to finally see Lyanna in some respect.

[Editor’s Note (SPOILERS):  Since the episode aired, HBO has released an official “family tree” infographic that does, in fact, identify Rhaegar Targaryen, son of the Mad King and brother to Daenerys Targaryen, as the father of Jon Snow.]

We have now arrived at our destination for “The Winds of Winter”. From a perfect set up to the perfect moment where everything feels disastrous, Cersei becoming the Queen was an incredibly satisfying moment. We never really got to see her struggle for something, but the last two seasons had her fighting tooth-and-nail for survival, both physically and politically. This episode saw her utilize her reach as well as her wits to make a run for the throne. And she did it. If Cersei isn’t one of the best arcs in the show by the end of the series, then they screwed up somewhere after this season because it is incredibly well done.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

What makes it more interesting is the appearance of Jaime during her crowning. Who can forget Jaime’s famous nickname “Kingslayer”? A name given to him for killing the Mad King. While I don’t know if he will have to kill Cersei, it is clear to me that he is now completely conflicted about whether to continue his love for her. This is a great push to make Jaime go to Brienne, but it’s also a great way to see how he handles a situation like this when it is clear that Cersei has gone mad with power. His face tells it all, and he is not enjoying the sight of her with a crown. She has killed so many and does not seem like she will stop anytime soon. Jaime’s arc is very much being redeemed after some unfortunate time in Dorne and with Cersei. I can only expect him and his conflicted feelings to be a focal point of the seventh season.

Game of Thrones can often be a show filled with disappointment, and I actually found episodes in the earlier parts of this season to be downright boring. It isn’t enough to just have these characters present, but you need to do something with them. People complained about Arya suddenly ditching Braavos’s storyline, effectively saying “Why did we even do this?,” but I found the last three episodes of her arc to be the most satisfying moments she has ever had in the show. The same goes with Tyrion, who just felt like he was spinning his wheels in Meereen telling jokes to Grey Worm with no real plot movement. Now he’s Hand of the Queen because of a very smart move made by him in “Battle of the Bastards”.

“The Winds of Winter” also makes the announcement that winter is here. Sure, this could have been a plot point introduced at any point, but it is pivotal that it happened now. It happened when everyone got their bearings and was ready for war. Because now we know the armies and who will be fighting who, but what we don’t know is how impacting winter will be on the coming war. That is a huge wildcard that helps set up for the final two seasons of the show.

Game of Thrones

(Game of Thrones, HBO)

For me, this was a perfect episode and I have no complaints that even touch this episode’s rating. It gets a perfect 10/10, and it gets it for being satisfying, moving things forward, shaking things up, and being redemptive to characters previously maligned. That is the recipe for a perfect episode of the show, and I am honestly so excited for everything that will be coming in the next two seasons.


Season 7 of Game of Thrones will air on HBO in 2017

Game of Thrones - "The Winds of Winter"

Game of Thrones -
10

Score

10/10

    Pros

    • Every ingredient of a perfect Game of Thrones episodes was expertly used
    • Opening scene was one of the best in Game of Thrones history
    • Characters were redeemed and worth celebrating when previously ignored
    • We've got half the answer to who Jon's parents are

    Cons

    • We have to wait until next year for more Game of Thrones

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