And now we reach the final episode of the season. Season 6 has been one of the best seasons of Game of Thrones and, for me, it’s really dispelled a lot of my fears about the show that the fifth season created. So, without further ado, the longest ever episode of Game of Thrones and hopefully the episode where the High Sparrow finally gets his wings clipped.

Season 6, Episode 10: The Winds of Winter
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik

Recap:

Before we begin, wasn’t it wonderful to see the Stark sigil replace the flayed man on Winterfell in the opening credits?

In King’s Landing, everyone is dressing and preparing for the big trial.

The crowd gathers in the sept of Baelor, including Loras, who is dragged up from his cell. The High Sparrow and six other lesser Sparrows arrange themselves at points of the star in the centre of the sept. The king, in his chambers, doesn’t seem super keen to attend.

Pycelle puts on his maester’s chains and dismisses a prostitute with promise of later payment. He is stopped in the hall by a child who tells him something we don’t hear.

Loras is brought before the nest of Sparrows, stood in the centre of the star. The Sparrow asks if Loras is ready for his trial and Loras says that there needn’t be a trial as he’s happy to confess his crimes (i.e. laying with men, laying with Renly Baratheon, lying in court, depravity, dishonesty, profligacy, and arrogance). He asks that he be allowed to dedicate his life to the Seven, renouncing his name/title/lands/etc. The High Sparrow agrees to this and the Faith Militant take Loras and carve a seven pointed star into his forehead. Because of course they do.

As Cersei prepares for her trial, the king’s chamber is opened again and Tommen jumps to his feet, ready to face the sept. Only, instead of one of his servants at the door, it’s the Mountain. Tommen goes to move past him and the Mountain stops him.

Margaery speaks with the Sparrow demanding to know why, after he had given her his word, he had Loras mutilated. The Sparrow tells her he has kept his word and once Cersei’s trial is over Loras is free to leave. However, Cersei is still in the Red Keep, not going anywhere.

Cersei pours herself a very big glass of wine and walks out onto her terrace.

The Faith Militant, sent to collect her, walk out of the sept and see a child running down the steps away from them. Lancel summons more men.

Pycelle follows his child from earlier into a room where he finds himself with Qyburn and a group of knife wielding children. He puts up some fight but is quickly overwhelmed by them.

Lancel follows his child underground. Lancel’s child runs through the tunnels, Lancel in pursuit. The child leads him to a chamber and stabs him in the back/leg/ass, leaving him there to die.

In the sept the king and queen mother are still absent.

Lancel tries to stand and we see the room he is in has some barrels in it that are glowing green. He drags himself along the ground.

In the sept, Margaery tells the Sparrow that there is something wrong. He dismisses her worries and tells her they can try Cersei even if she’s not there. Margaery doesn’t give a shit about the trial and demands that everyone needs to leave.

Lancel drags himself towards puddles of wildfire that have lit candles standing in them. Candles that are nearly burnt down. Lancel starts dragging himself with more conviction than before.

Margaery tells everyone in the sept they have to leave. The crowd mill around but she gets Loras to come with her. The crowd take the hint and begin to disperse. Lancel drags and drags.

The Faith Militant block Margaery and Loras’ path. Margaery turns to look at the Sparrow and perhaps then they realise that when it comes to playing games and getting back at people for wronging them, they’re good, maybe better than others. But they’re not Lannisters.

The wildfire ignites. The explosion seen in Bran’s vision was not a possible past but an actual future. Lancel takes a blast straight to the face and the fire spreads through the tunnels.

The sept, and everyone inside, is consumed with green flames and the building collapses.

Cersei (who is dressed fierce as shit, I may add) looks on with a huge grin. Checkmate.

Tommen looks on with a thousand yard stare.

In a dungeon, the evil nun is strapped to a table and woken with a glass of wine being poured over her head. Cersei tells her to confess and pours more of the wine over her in a sort of luxurious waterboarding torture. Cersei confesses her sins to the trapped nun. The nun tells Cersei that she’s ready to meet her Gods but Cersei lets her know that she won’t be dying for a while and summons the Mountain into the room. He removes his helmet, revealing a big decaying zombie head.

As the nun screams, Cersei leaves the room, calling out as does, “Shame, shame, shame.”

Tommen stares out at the ruins of the sept, smoke rising into the sky, screams on the wind. He walks out of shot, removing his crown. Then reappears, climbs up onto the window sill, and jumps.

At the Twins, Walda Frey toasts his house and the Lannisters, and their undying alliance.

Jamie wingmans Bronn and is joined by Walda, who mocks the Blackfish. Jamie makes veiled references to Walda’s lack of combat experience. Walda doesn’t care because as far as he’s concerned it’s winning that matters, and him and Jamie are sat there while their enemies are dead. Walda calls them two kingslayers, which distresses Jamie. Walda says that fear is a wonderful thing and Jamie reminds him that no one fears the Freys, they fear the Lannisters who back them up, and the Lannister won’t back them up forever.

Cersei and Qyburn stand over a body with golden shroud. Cersei insists on seeing the body, which mercifully we are spared. Cersei says that his body should be burned and his ashes buried where the sept once was.

Sam and Gilly arrive in Oldtown. Huge flocks of white ravens are leaving the citadel to announce that winter, once thought to only be coming, has come.

Sam gives his credentials to a rude secretary, and explains his situation. The secretary allows him to use the library but bans baby Sam and Gilly from coming along too. Sam finds himself in a vast, almost impossibly big library. Sam looks on with wonder and we’re left to wonder what season seven has in store for Sam and Gilly and baby Sam.

A white raven flies to Winterfell. Jon Snow talks to Melisandre about his time with the Starks. Davos enters with a face like a smacked ass and throws the wooden stag to Melisandre. He demands that she tell Snow what it is and what it means.

She tells Snow what they did to Princess Shireen, breaking poor Davos’ heart. He asks Snow if he can execute her for what she’s done. She defends herself to Jon, telling him that she is still needed for the war with the White Walkers. Snow banishes her from the North on threat of hanging should she ever return.

Snow watches Melisandre ride off from the battlements. Sansa joins him and he tells her he is having the Lord’s chambers prepared for her as she is the true Stark of Winterfell. She apologises for not telling him about the Knights of the Vale and they agree that they can’t trust Littlefinger but that they must trust each other. She tells him that a white raven has arrived so “winter is here” and we get some Stark smiles, which are always a welcome sight.

Less of a welcome sight is Dorne. Yes, this season we only saw Dorne in the opening episode and it was awesome but remember last season? Those Dorne episodes were garbage.

But I will say a meeting between the Sand Snakes and the Queen of Thorns has my interest.

Ellaria proposes an alliance against the Lannisters as Cersei has wiped out the Tyrells and the Dornish already have beef with them. Ellaria tells Olenna she will help her get vengeance and justice. She a bell and Varys appears, declaring ‘fire and blood.’

In Meereen, Daenarys meets with Daario. She tells him he won’t be coming to Westeros as he’ll be staying back to keep the peace. He is unenthused but she tells him it is a command. She will need to make alliances in Westeros and she may have to do it through marriage, something Daario would get in the way of, even though he doesn’t care about just being her bit on the side as long as he can have her. He tells her he loves her but she can’t bring him. He quickly realises it must be Tyrion’s advice that’s making her do it. She gives him his orders and dismisses him.

Daenarys meets with Tyrion who is drinking wine (obvs). He tells her that she now has an army, dragons, ships, and all that’s left is to conquer. She tells him that though is afraid of what comes next, she’s more afraid of the fact that she felt nothing as she dismissed Daario.

He tells her that be believes in her and she has his counsel always. She gives him a gift, a Hand of the Queen broach. He kneels to her.

Walda eats a meal by himself and has a pie brought to him. The maid who brings it is the same maid that was giving Jamie the eye in the earlier Twins scene. She cuts Frey a slice of pie as she smacks her ass. He loudly wonders where his sons are. The maid explains that his sons are already there and fans of the books and the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus grin widely. She points to the pie and he peels back the crust revealing a bit of Frey. The maid explains that the sons were hard to carve and removes her own face revealing that she’s Arya Stark. She tells him her name and cuts his throat. And it’s glorious.

Sansa meets with Littlefinger at the heart tree. She asks him what he wants and he tells her his every decision is only undertaken if it can help lead to him sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa as his queen. She isn’t into it though. He reminds her that the north will follow her over Jon Snow and she walks away.

Further north Benjen is parting ways with Bran and Meera, as he can’t cross the wall due to magic that was built into its foundations. He wishes them luck and leaves them at a heart tree. Bran touches the tree and white eyes himself into a flashback.

Ned Stark, young Ned Stark, is at the Tower of Joy. He hears a scream and runs inside. He finds Lyanna in bed, blood everywhere. He comforts her and she pulls him close and whispers something in his ear. We don’t hear it all but we do hear that she makes Ned promise to protect someone. A baby cries. Ned promises her she’ll protect the boy.

The baby’s eyes open and we cut to another man’s eyes: Jon Snow, son of Lyanna Stark and Raeghar Targaryen, and nephew of Daenarys Targaryen.

Snow is listening to his generals argue. The Vale knights don’t want to ally themselves to the wildlings and most of the generals want to take their armies back south to wait out the winter. Snow informs them that the war is not over and the true enemy has yet to appear.

Lyanna Mormont, the little bear, stands up and shames the Lords for not being loyal to Starks when the Starks needed their help. She reminds them all that there is one King in the North  and his name is Stark. And even if he’s a bastard, Ned Stark’s blood flows in his veins, and that makes Jon Snow a Stark in her eyes and King in the North too. Lord Mandalay stands up and admits he was wrong to not help when the call was out. He declares that Jon Snow has avenged the Red Wedding and is the White Wolf and the King in the North. He kneels. Lord Glover joins him and then they all do it, holding their swords aloft and chanting for the King in the North.

I’m not crying. You’re crying!

Jamie and his army return to King’s Landing, which still has smoke billowing from the hole in the ground that used to the sept.

Cersei Lannister, dressed like a techno empress, takes the throne, the Queen of Westeros. Qyburn, the Hand of the Queen, crowns her and she sits on the Iron Throne.

Finally, the Iron Fleet sets sail from Meereen. A thousand ships bearing the Targaryen sigil on their sails and three dragons flying overhead. On the bridge of the lead ship, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, and Daenarys look ahead to Westeros and a future written in fire and blood.

Review:

Wow.

This season has been spectacular. The showrunners really learnt some lessons from last season’s mistakes. The pacing was solid, the plotlines that were taking too long to go anywhere finally arrived where they were going, no one got raped, characters who needed killing got killed, Jon Snow got a haircut, Daenarys got tons to do, Sansa won my heart, and everything felt like it was moving towards something.

The wheel spinning of pasts seasons was replaced with momentum and the show benefitted hugely from it.

Final episodes of Game of Thrones seasons are tricky. Most of the big drama occurs in episode nine so the finale is really just to put people in their places ready to start new stories next year. There was some of that here as Sam and Gilly’s scenes were just to establish where they will be in season seven, but otherwise there was still a lot of meat to chew through. Opening with a solid twenty minutes in King’s Landing building to the wildfire explosion was genius. From the clues dotted through the season we knew that Cersei was going to blow something up but I had assumed it would be right at the end of the episode, maybe even as a who died/who survived cliffhanger. Nope. Instead we got that fantastic build up as we watched Pycelle get removed and Lancel have the joy of being the one to see the bomb about to go off. Margaery’s realisation that something was wrong made the whole thing even more tragic but it was intensely surprising to see the show clear the board of so many characters so quickly. When Margaery realised I thought that she would get out in time but alas no. And then, as we’re reeling from that Tommen jumps from his window.

There is that beauty of watching a show near the end of its run that knows how much longer it has left, and how bloodthirsty this makes the writers. There is a definite sense that nobody is safe on this show anymore considering how many major/major-ish characters were killed this season.

This episode managed to be completely compelling by itself and also whet the appetite for next year. Daenarys is finally on her ships and Cersei probably shouldn’t get too comfy on the Iron Throne. Jon Snow is King in the North and we finally know his parentage.

Also Arya Stark crossed a name off her list and that’s always a pleasure to see.

Who knows what the future holds, but if the writers can continue with this level of quality for another fourteen episodes, the future looks very bright indeed.

Nudity count – 1

Women – 1

Men – 0

Body count – Again, a huge one. Most importantly Pycelle, Lancel Lannister, The High Sparrow, Loras Tyrell, Queen Margaery, Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell, King Tommen, Walda Frey and his two useless kids.

Best line: ‘I suppose life is irregular’ – Samwell Tarly (more for the look on his face as he says it)

Prediction for next season: War.