This review contains spoilers.
6.10 The Winds Of Winter
There’s a lot to discuss when talking about Game Of Thrones. Brilliant performances, incredible special effects, impressive writing, action, suspense, drama, comedy… there’s so much to take in that it’s very easy to forget about something when discussing episodes. However, music is one of the most important aspects to any television show or movie, and if you don’t believe me, then try watching a horror movie on mute and see if it has the same impact.
Game Of Thrones opens up with a person putting on a crown, and ends with a person putting on a crown. Margaery, Tommen, the High Sparrow, Cersei… they’re all busy getting dressed. It’s trial day, and King Tommen has declared that trial by combat is no longer allowed, which means that Loras Tyrell is faced with a trial courtesy of seven septons, just like the old days. Also, just like in the old days, the whole of the court is ready to crowd into the sept of Baelor to watch the trial unfold. All throughout, music plays, slowly increasing in tempo and complexity to create tension. While everyone is getting ready for the trial, Grand Maester Pycelle is getting dressed (after another night with a hooker), but on his way to the trial he’s stopped by a little girl and gets a secret whispered into his ear, which changes his direction.
Inside the sept, Loras circumvents his trial by admitting to pretty much every crime he’s accused of, and throwing himself on the mercy of the mother, The Faith agrees, and Loras becomes a member of the Faith Militant as Lancel pulls out a dagger and carves a seven-pointed star into the forehead of the Knight of Flowers. However, Cersei isn’t at her trial, and Tommen is stopped from leaving his chambers by the Mountain.
That smells like trouble to Margaery, but the High Sparrow is too high on himself to listen to reason, dispatching Lancel to retrieve his former lover from the Red Keep. Unfortunately, Lancel is distracted chasing after a child. In case you’ve forgotten, Qyburn has taken over Varys’s role as spymaster, and that means Qyburn—Cersei’s personal assistant—now has an army of children. Children who, as Pycelle and Lancel find out, are armed to the teeth with little sharp knives. Those who seek to underestimate Cersei Lannister will very quickly find themselves in a life-or-death-but-probably-death struggle. She’s not as smart as she thinks she is, but she’s got one advantage over her foes. Cersei doesn’t care how many people she kills or how many sacred monuments she destroys, provided she gets her way.
The whole slow build leading up to the destruction of the Sept of Baelor in a wildfire explosion is really handled well. The tension slowly rises until we get to the breaking point. Margaery is frantically trying to get out of the Sept, but the High Sparrow won’t listen to her. Lancel is bleeding to death, dragging himself down a catacomb under the city to try to reach the wildfire spill, in which two candles float. The candles burn down, and the wildfire explodes. It’s not a huge surprise that Cersei has access to wildfire; the Mad King himself put it under the city with a mind to destroying all of King’s Landing should he be dethroned. It also isn’t a stretch that Cersei is the person to finally blow up the city so many died to keep safe. However, it’s shot so well and grows so tense that when the literal blow-off happens, it’s more like stepping on the accelerator than a let-down.
That’s definitely a credit to the show’s masterminds David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who also wrote tonight’s episode. In one green explosion, four or five major characters died (and others died in the fallout), and yet it still feels like there’s a lot left to be done. The Tyrells are gone, but Olenna is making alliances with Dorne to get her revenge. Speaking of alliances, Daenerys Targaryen is on her way to Westeros, and she’s got allies of her own in the form of her Dothraki, her Unsullied, the Greyjoys, and if the presence of Varys can be seen as a give-away, the Martells and Dorne. There’s a new king in the North, and the withered personage of Walder Frey has been forcefully removed from power in the Riverlands courtesy of a girl who has a name.
And yet, there’s still a lot happening. Winter is here, courtesy of a horde of white ravens leaving Old Town. Sam’s taking his first steps towards becoming a Maester. As Lord Glover roars in Jon Snow’s triumphant return to Winterfell, “There will be more fights to come.” Dany has a political marriage to make, after all, and given what we learned about Jon Snow today, it’s not so far fetched that those two might become more than just political allies. Melisandre is outed by Davos (a great scene for Liam Cunningham) and Jon sends her away, but her war isn’t finished either.
The season’s final episode opened with a crown, and closes with a crown. Say what you will about Cersei Lannister, but she’s devious and (occasionally) very clever. Now she just has to weather the storms to come; she did wipe out an entire religious faith and wineboard the woman who might be the only surviving Septa. As we’ve seen all season, her every action has dire consequences, and without anyone between her and the throne, there’s no one to blame but her should the Seven Kingdoms fall apart completely.