Season Six, Episode Ten — “The Winds of Winter”
By Jarrod Jones. Perhaps the most shocking twist that occurred during Game of Thrones‘ sixth season finale was the revelation that three players have been concealing the mutant power of teleportation from us all along.
Those covert X-Men? Varys, Arya and Lady Olenna, the last of whom somehow popped up in Dorne dressed in black, mourning the ignominious deaths of her dimwit son and her beautiful grandchildren and ready to concoct a devilish plan of revenge. (“Survival is not what I’m after, now,” she said to the entire world on Sunday night.)
So how did Olenna receive the news that her family had just been burned to death by Cersei, the Mad Queen? Was she already en route to Dorne to broker a deal with the vengeful Ellaria Sand, when a raven flew over the Narrow Sea to land on her ship? Or more likely, maybe the news was waiting for her when she arrived at the gates of Sunspear? Olenna never said. (She was too busy making the Sand Snakes feel like they were two feet tall, in true Olenna fashion.)
Of course, the combined might of Dorne and Highgarden won’t be enough to sack King’s Landing (despite Cersei’s rapidly waning list of allies), but since Dany finally has her dragon-faced fleet of ships ready for the next conquest, it stands to reason that Varys would be the person responsible for bringing these three forces together. (Varys hasn’t provided much counsel to Dany in this or last season, but it’s readily apparent he’s a Targaryen booster.) And so it was, in a fog of sulfur and brimstone, that Varys bamfed from Meereen to Dorne and back again, just in time to set sail to war.
Varys’ silver tongue, the show tells us, was enough to bring these two allies to Dany’s cause, effectively glossing over what would have probably been a gorgeous back and forth between Lady Olenna and Varys. (Think of it: figs and spiders!) In the run up towards its series’ finale, Game of Thrones has decided to substitute grace with expedience.
It has always been a bloody and nasty tale, but Thrones‘ eloquence has often been the connective tissue of the series, holding together the disparate splashes of violence and horror with its lyrical back and forths, most of which have shed light on the rich histories of Westeros and Essos — all while teasing hints, dodges, and feints concerning their futures in tandem. Hundreds of theories have spun out from these exchanges, but since we’re heading towards the end of it all, it’s time for those theories to be addressed or outright quashed. There’s no more room for discovery now. Only inevitability. Eloquence set aside for comeuppance.
Take Arya’s murderous visit to The Twins. Joined with Varys’ Dornish pop-in, not only was Arya’s teleportation to the Westerosi South another example of cross-country shorthand, it was an example of this show’s newfound brevity. Here, eat this mincemeat pie and also I’m Arya Stark was all we got out of a moment that should have had a more visceral effect for those who still mourn Lady Catelyn and Robb. Walder Frey was still swallowing bits of his family before Arya did him in.
Yes, it was an indulgent moment of badassery in an episode rife with indulgence — but what kept it from feeling achingly trite was that “The Winds of Winter” had nothing but hat-tips for every prominent female character in the series. The power of Thrones‘ oppressive patriarchy has been quietly shifting towards these maids of might for a long while now. But it seems that, with the ascension of Lady Mormont, Game of Thrones has decided to be a lot less subtle about it. I suppose that would be the point of all this narrative transience — when it comes time to cut the throat of your enemies, it wouldn’t do to halt the proceedings with a bunch of talk.
WHAT WORKED: What was that look Petyr Baelish gave Sansa as Jon was named King of the North? Baelish’s very presence threatens Thrones‘ feminist power shift, and that little nod he gave to Sansa as Jon took his new title means big things are still to coming for Winterfell — and I’m not just talking about those damn White Walkers, either. Will Petyr have his heart’s desire? Sansa isn’t so easily swayed by cunning these days. (“Only a fool would trust Littlefinger,” she warns Jon.) And don’t forget — Sansa was in the room the last time a woman allowed herself to fall for Petyr’s tricks. (R.I.P. Lady Lysa, I guess?)
Besides, whatever plans Petyr has for Winterfell aren’t probably going to be won so easily — Jon Snow is now the King of the North, so-called by the bannermen who have already known defeat under the charge of another King of the North. Jon’s ascension was hard-won, and you can bet he won’t let it slip through his fingers so easily. There is the small matter of The Wall — Castle Black will need to fortify its strength for the onslaught of the Night’s King — magic, catapults, and 700 feet of ice and stone is most certainly not going to keep a horde of White Walkers out for long. If Baelish is going to play his hand once Jon heads North — if he actually goes North — he better start practicing his High Valyrian if he wants to hold any sort of throne. Dany doesn’t suffer cunning assholes lightly.
WHAT DIDN’T: Ah, Daario Naharis. Poor Daario. The former sellsword is being ditched to run a city — seems an odd fit for the Second Son, but he doesn’t seem to perturbed by it. “Fuck Meereen. Fuck the people,” he says in a hushed whisper, as he daintily sets his wine glass on a table. Either love has tamed his wild hand, or Michiel Huisman has far less animal sexuality than his predecessor, Ed Skrein. (I’m inclined to believe the latter.) Dany is about to set sail for King’s Landing, finally, and she’s leaving her bedroom buddy behind. After all you’ve done, Daario? Where’s your lover’s fury? Oh, it never existed? Okay. “I said farewell to a man who loves me, a man I thought I cared for… and I felt nothing,” Dany confessed to Tyrion. It’s okay. I didn’t either.
We finally got our first peek inside the Citadel this week. (That’s where the maesters learn how to maester.) Sam, Li’l Sam, and Gilly sauntered up its steps and demanded they have access to all its White Walker-slaying secrets, in the name of Night’s Watch. Waitaminnit, ain’t Jeor and Aemon still in charge of Castle Black? we heard from the Citadel’s help desk. *sigh* I know it’s been a busy time over at the Wall, and I know that it wouldn’t have been as interesting had Sam merely waltzed into the Citadel’s Hogwarts-looking interiors, but for being the standing embodiment of the Seven Kingdoms’ version of the internet, it is surprisingly behind in the times. (Jeor was killed in Season Three, and Aemon passed away in Season Five.)
“Even confessing feels good under the right circumstances.” – Cersei, to Septa Unella.
“You don’t have to do anything, do ya? You just sit there, a rich slab of beef, and birds come peckin’.” – Bronn, to Jaime.
Front Desk: “This is highly irregular.” Sam: “I suppose life is irregular.”
Sansa: “A white raven. Winter is here.” Jon: “Well, father always promised, didn’t he?”
BEST MOMENT: Cersei’s revenge, and Tommen’s regret. It should come as no surprise that Cersei would get her way by the end of this season — the Sparrows subplot wasn’t nearly as tantalizing as it could have been, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun to watch Dany get hers over the High Sparrow (no matter how good Jonathan Pryce was in the role). Set to stark, ominous piano keys, Cersei’s plot to do in all of her enemies was a stunning thing to behold. I bid farewell to Margaery and Loras, and a not-so fond adios to Maester Pycell, Kevan Lannister and the High Sparrow. Sorry, dudes: this world just doesn’t have room for the likes of you anymore.
SEASON’S MVP: So who shall it be this season? Could it be Jon, our man-bunned samurai come back from the dead? Or Sansa, who turned her shitty husband a hearty can of Alpo? (Special thanks, @GeneHa.) No, surely it must be Arya, who covertly slaughtered the hated Walder Frey, thus avenging the Red Wedding in lockstep with her would-be half-brother? Perhaps it is Lady Mormont, whose wee mush-face is a mask of steely resolve and determination, and who is also the best new character this show could ever possibly hope for? (The future looks very bright for Westeros, indeed.) As much as any of these characters would wear this title well, I’m giving it to Thrones‘ greatest unsung hero, Hodor. Bran Stark will have some very interesting things to say to Jon next season thanks in no small part to the man once known as Wylis. *sniff* You’ll always hold the door to my heart, good Ser.
– Who will feed Ser Pounce now that King Tommen is dead?
– For all those R+J= Jon truthers out there, I salute you. The worst-kept secret in all of Game of Thrones finally came to light. How Jon finds out about his true parentage remains to be seen, but if I had to guess, the news will likely come from his warg half-brother — er, cousin.
– Speaking of Bran Stark, how the hell is Meera supposed to get him to the Wall now that Benjen’s gone back to fight the White Walkers? Did they have a horse? Is Meera gonna drag Bran the rest of the way?
– With the icky Walder Frey slain, Arya’s kill list grows shorter. Though the Wee Stark had already sent Ser Meryn to whatever hell he was subscribed to, two of her targets have already been taken out by forces beyond her control — Joffrey was killed by Lady Olenna, and Tywin was dispatched by his son, Tyrion. Sandor Clegane, Beric Dondarrion, and Thoros of Myr are seemingly set on a path that may lead to them taking out Sandor’s dreaded brother, Gregor, and with Melisandre persona non grata virtually anywhere in the North, maybe Arya would do well to just head to King’s Landing to give Cersei and Ser Ilyn a little visit and let fate work out the rest.
– If any episode from the seventh season is titled, “A Dream of Spring,” I am going to scream.
– Not present for this week’s skirmish: Brienne, Podrick, Jorah, Ghost (where the hell is Ghost), Sandor, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr.
8.5 out of 10
Season Six Score: 8 out of 10
Before: “The Battle of the Bastards”, here.