Published on June 29th, 2016 | by Bean0
Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale Review – Episode 10 “The Winds of Winter”
WARNING! EPIC SPOILERS!!
In keeping with the very real shift in tone that “The Winds of Winter” decides upon, allow me to approach this review slightly differently today. Season 6 of Game of Thrones ends with possibly it’s most satisfying and methodical episode to date. Narrative strands and character revelations long kept opaque come to fruition and statements are made where once were hints, lies or obfuscation. Best of all, it was worth the wait. The reveals, the progress and the shift feels earned. The tone is sombre, stately; mature. Game of Thrones has come of age.
The opening scene uses an oft used trope to build tension leading up to a conflict of some sort; the dressing of the players. How each character is clothed and their method of preparation communicates important information about their state of mind or position in the game. Margaery and Tommen are both dressed by others, now turned to puppets of the Faith. Margaery faces away from the maid, indicating her resistance, and real intention to retain her true self while acting a part, while Tommen stands head on, disconcertingly passive and accepting, but uninvolved.
The High Sparrow tosses on the sack cloth garb he wears, alone, the master of his own destiny. But is that a flourish of vanity as he adjusts his sleeves? Certainly, there is still ceremony. Cersei’s apparel is the most obvious signal that change is in motion. Gone are the Lannister golds and reds, the sumptuous velvets, satins and brocades. Her attire is nothing so much as impenetrable armour, and it is clear as soon as she dons it that this is her preparation for battle.
Scenes like this exist to denote not just power, but the extent to which a character is comfortable with their power. Cersei has never looked more at home, her hair masculine, her outfit rigid and fearsome. Lena Headey once posited that while Jaime truly loved Cersei, her belief was that Cersei wanted to be Jaime. Well, she’s gone beyond that now. As the scenes at Kings Landing unfold, we are first given a version of the trial we are expecting in the form of Loras’ humbling confession and conversion to monk-hood.
Every effort is made by the cinematography to denote the power of the seven and it’s followers. The grandeur of the sept is played for all it’s worth, and the High Sparrow is shot from below, allowing his form to loom in frame like the statues around him. Loras’ prostration is subdued yet harrowing, and the tension that builds begins to curdle as it becomes apparent Cersei doesn’t intend to attend another public humiliation. It is fitting that Margaery be the one to connect the dots, and her mounting worry as she realises the trap has been laid is beautifully delivered by the hawk-like Natalie Dormer. She has been played.
Also duped into walking into traps are Maester Pycelle and erstwhile sparrow, Lancel Lannister. The cogs of Cersei’s plan are already in motion, evident as soon as The Mountain halts Tommen’s progress to the Sept. Pycelle has always seemed more shrewd than he actually turns out to be, and his gruesome slaughter at the hands of the urchins he, Varys and Qyburn have used as spies and messengers is brutal. The weaponising of children, already made instruments in the great game, proves the level of corruption in Camp Cersei.
Cersei’s decision to enact the Mad King’s desire to ‘burn them all’ is a spectacle of terrifying magnitude, as Wildfire tears through Kings Landing, razing cathedrals to the ground, blasting through streets and people. The fallout of throne-turned-terrorist and the loss of his wife proves too much for Tommen, who ends his reign with the only act of autonomy left open to him. Since Cersei has always known that her children were born to die, did she know this would be his demise, and she would have directly led to it? And would she have acted differently with that knowledge? Her machinations regarding Dorne caused Myrcella’s death, and her conflict with the Tyrell’s, one could argue, led to Joffrey’s murder.
Was this the point she missed all along? That her thirst for power would obviously endanger her offspring, as their succession would prevent her from grasping the throne. And every action she takes advances her down a path, beyond the point of no return. The revenge she sets up for Septa Unella almost feels perversely just, until the monstrosity that is Gregor Clegane enters. Cersei has gone full dark side. There seem to be a burgeoning bud of honour trying to grow in Jaime’s heart since his meeting with Brienne; seemingly he doesn’t enjoy or entertain the ugly banter with Walder Frey. Is there any redemption possible for he or his sister. Interestingly, as she sits atop the Iron Throne, colder than ever and adorned in the armour that is an absolute expression of her will, there is still a twist in her eyes as she acknowledges what this desire has cost her. The exchange of glances with Jaime seals it; everyone.
In some light relief, and a nice tidy up of storylines, we follow Sam and Gilly as they arrive in Oldtown to register him as the new Maester at Castle Black. A scene mostly played for laughs, as Sam deals with the officious jobsworth at the front desk, the show takes the opportunity to maximise upon the potential of such impressive new surroundings. Sam’s invitation to the library will surely become a necessary plot device in future episodes, as our heroes attempt to foil their undead enemy, but for now it is simply an emotional moment for Sam, full of wonder at the world of knowledge at this feet. The later message from the Citadel to Winterfell of a white raven heralds the news that “Winter Is Here”, so even the Stark words have developed.
Winterfell makes as many gratifying moves as Kings Landing, with the consolidation of Jon Snow’s power, as the Northern lords back the claim he wasn’t even making. Once again, title and responsibility are laid at Jon’s feet; he is now the White Wolf, King in the North. The decision to place this scene directly after the show revealing, once and for all, Jon’s true origin is masterful. The plague of his mysterious birth has haunted Jon since all his life, and just as he is brought fully into the fold as a Stark, we are told he is also Targeryen! A theory proposed by fans for years, it is a fitting fulfilment of his leadership rite of passage. Of course, Bran is the only one who currently knows, so how this will unfold when his cousin Daenerys reaches Westeros is still up for grabs.
Jon’s leadership and sense of fair judgement is put to the test as Davos confronts Melisandre about the fate of poor Princess Shireen. Every way the Red Witch tries to play it, her reasoning for burning a child to death falls flat (as you’d hope – indefensible actions ought stay that way), and Davos’ rage demands her execution. The decision is Jon’s, and he chooses mercy that condemns, banishing Melisandre from the North, branding her a murderer. Removing the Red Witch from the heart of the action may have ramifications that outweigh right or wrong (if such things can), as her ability to ‘interpret’ the Lord of Light’s signs have proved sketchy at best, and heaven forfend should she decide to throw in with Cersei.
Sansa and Littlefinger share a scene in the Godswood that also draws a line under the latter’s obscure purpose. As he baldly voices what we have long suspected, that he wishes to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side, and that every move he has made in the history of the show has been directed to achieving that goal, Baelish loses some of his indefinable menace. It makes him vulnerable to speak the truth, and he even misjudges how Sansa will take such news, leaning in for a power-claiming kiss he is rebuffed from. Of course, we can’t count him out, tenacious and patient as he is, and the whisperings of dissent he leaves Sansa with seem to leave a mark which we see her subtly display as Jon is backed and she is sidelined.
Her sister makes a surprise appearance at Walder Frey’s side, taking relish in menacing her prey before slitting his throat, echoing her mother’s murder in the very same room. Arya’s abilities are now one with her personality; she may have reclaimed her identity, but you sense she’ll have no peace until she has fulfilled her self-appointed duty of vengeance. Or perhaps she is at this stage too broken to ever come back from what she has seen and done? Her calm satisfaction is eerily portrayed by Maisie Wiliams, and if the rest of her days are to be a kamikaze mission, it will be at the very least compelling.
In Meereen, Daenerys must cut loose her lover, bidding Daario Naharis farewell as she leaves for Westeros. The scene is played beautifully by Emilia Clarke and Michiel Huismann, as they portray a breakup which was inevitable and yet remains poignant. The ending plays like the relationship; one-sided. There was never any apparent passion from Daenerys in this union, though there was affection and trust. As Tyrion later says, when she admits she felt nothing but impatience at their parting, ‘he was not the first to love you, and he won’t be the last’.
Tyrion’s own agenda is voiced here too, adding to the sense of growth and action “The Winds of Winter” creates. His reluctance to believe in anything, stemming surely from an upbringing where he was continually beat down and any loving feelings he fostered were largely mocked or hampered, has led him to the one thing he can commit himself to; a cause worth fighting for, and the woman at it’s helm. Daenerys is responsive to his fealty in a way she could not be with Daario, who asked too much of her. It is not arrogance that causes her to name Tyrion Hand to the Queen, but deeply felt gratitude. The counsel she received from the now absent Jorah was laced with romantic notions, but Tyrion simply wishes to help her.
The final scene shows us a horde unlike anything we have ever seen on Game of Thrones. Daenerys’ amassed forces include three immense dragons, the Dothraki, the Unsullied, the Ironborn, as well as men from Dorne and the Reach. The armada of House Targaryen is sailing upon Westeros, and just like the newfound gravitas of “The Winds of Winter”, it finally feels truly earned, and Daenerys’ goal attainable. Until next spring!
Review by Nina Clark
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