Spoiler alert: Do not read unless you have watched season six, episode 10, which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm, and is repeated in Australia on Showcase on Monday at 7.30pm AEST.
A couple of episodes back, when the Hound was negotiating over the right to avenge the death of Septon Ray, he was brought up short as he attempted to swing his axe. “No no no no no,” Thoros of Myr muttered. “We’re not butchers. We hang them.”
Game of Thrones recap: season six finale – The Winds of Winter
Talk about saving the best until last: it was a heart-stopping and spine-tingling conclusion heavy in blood, revenge and death
“Hanging?,” the Hound spat back. “All over in an instant. Where’s the punishment in that?”
“They die,” said Thoros, and the Hound was almost amused by his naivety. “We all bloody die,” he replied.
As the bodies piled up in the last episode of this series of Game of Thrones, we were reminded that Thoros and the Hound’s debate is always going to be salient in Westeros. We do, indeed, all bloody die; the best that can be hoped is not to die bloodily. A quick and painless end, or one that comes in a manner of your choosing, is so hard to guarantee that you can often see the relief in the eyes of those who manage it even as they pass away. Torture and delay, on the other hand, are the show’s lifeblood: the exquisite agony of the wait, and the Freudian satisfaction when the inevitable finally comes.
One way of diagramming this episode, called The Winds of Winter, is as an exercise in the practical advantages of speed on the one hand, and the vengeful pleasures of taking it slow on the other. Either way, death is usually horribly thrilling, particularly in an episode where its application is so shot through with comeuppance: whereas last week’s battle was bracingly indiscriminate, the death meted out here was always with specific political or personal ends.
Cersei torched the Sept, and the speed and ruthlessness of her move was like a slap in the face; Margaery, the High Sparrow, Loras and a crowd of hapless hangers-on incinerated in an instant, and the queen mother’s supremacy suddenly restored. Tommen’s suicide was beautifully constructed and heartbreakingly matter-of-fact, a good-hearted boy’s inescapable response to the proof that he is not cut out for this world: he didn’t so much leap to his death as give up trying to stand.
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In this first episode, it’s about the gathering of steam, building toward something new, and leaving the old behind. New energies, new coalitions, new vengeances. First there’s Sansa (Sophie Turner), who received the brunt of the brutality last season, married off in a political gesture to sadistic rapist and dismember-er Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). She finds something to live for when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) invites her to jump from Winterfell’s walls and escape into the forest, murdering Ramsay’s lover Myranda (Charlotte Hope) in the process.
So, it’s not the greatest plan, and they’re almost immediately caught by a search party with bloodhounds (Ramsay needs that precious Stark womb for heir-making and North-taking), but by the luck of timing, they are rescued by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), fresh off killing Stannis Baratheon, who murcs the whole crew with the help of trusty Podrick (Daniel Porter). She re-pledges herself to Sansa’s service, and the broken, hypothermic young woman promptly swears her in, because… what other option does she have? Still, seeing Sansa out of Ramsay’s grasp, with people by her side who are truly on her side is truly heartening for the Stark sister who has seen the worst in humanity.
Her sister Arya (Maisie Williams) is also at rock bottom. She transgressed her training at the House of Black and White, taking a face from the Wall in order to murder Meryn Trant in a crime of vengeance for the death of her teacher Syrio Forel. She hadn’t yet been able to become No One, keeping her Someone status, her Arya Stark-ness. Jaqen H’ghar punished her with blindness, and now the young girl is just another Braavosi beggar, and her mean old roommate is beating her up with a stick. But that beating just might make the feisty youngest Stark sibling into a superhero — a Daredevil/Zatoichi type.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) also saw her lowest moment last season, atoning for her many, many sins with a casual Shame Stroll through King’s Landing. But just when she drove that bell from her mind, and thought things couldn’t get any worse, her brother/lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) returns from Dorne with her precious daughter Myrcella in a golden body bag, the victim of a Sand Snake’s poison kiss.
Headey has but a few minutes on screen but they are some of the best of her “Game of Thrones” career. Podeswa wisely puts the camera on her face throughout, especially during Jaime’s approach in the harbor. Cersei’s face goes from hopeful to horrified to wistful sorrow in about a minute, and it’s incredible to behold.
She mourns the loss of her sweet daughter, the one good thing she made that she believed made her less of a monster. She rages at the truth of the witch’s prophecy, which foretold she would lose all three children. Though Jaime assures her, “fuck prophecy, fuck fate, fuck everyone who isn’t us,” the look on Cersei’s face as they embrace shows that she can’t buy into this.
It’s clear that Cersei’s wrath will reach Dorne, but the women of Dorne are also making big moves to assure their power in the Nation. No sooner does Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) read the news of the death of Myrcella, his future-daughter in law, than he is shivved in cold blood by Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), who stands over his bleeding body and promises that “weak men will never rule Dorne again.” Trystane, Myrcella’s beloved? He’s dispatched by two of the Sand Snakes with a spear rudely through the nose on his pretty face. Looks like Dorne’s getting a lady president! #ImWithHer
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) might have some advice on the pitfalls of ruling kingdoms though. Meereen’s currently in the hands of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hall) who are minding the shop after Drogon the dragon flew his mother off to random field (typical dragon hazards). The former King’s Landing bigwigs are getting the lay of the land—things seem to be going well with the outright rebellion, what with the anti-establishment graffiti, Lord of Light street preaching, and every ship in the harbor up in flames. Looks like those two are stuck there for a minute.
Meanwhile, boring handsome, pit fighting detectives Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) are off mooing over their lady and playing CSI: Dothraki. Thanks to the horse tornado crop circle, they find the ring Dany dropped. Good job, boring handsome detectives. Mormont Greyscale level: very ashy, needs some Neosporin on that thing.
Dany’s on her own with the Dothraki, who have death marched her to the camp of Khal Moro (Joseph Naufahu), keeping up a litany of gross sexual commentary all the way. Little do they, or Khal Moro and his sassy wives know, that Dany, of the House of Targaryen, the first of her name, the unburnt, the Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and of the the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons (that definitely doesn’t fit on a business card and that’s gotten longer, right? When did she add in the Rhoynar?) speaks perfect Dothraki. When she mentions her ex, Khal Drogo, Khal Moro decides that no, he won’t lie with with her, instead choosing to send her to a temple where the other Khal widows live, which could be either awesome or super lame, but at least there might be less rape threats?
The episode begins and ends with the complicated power of a woman and whether or not she can, or will, save our Jon Snow (Kit Harington). The opening shot is of our dearly departed Lord Commander, freshly daggered by Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), but dead as a doornail. Hearing the howls of Ghost, Lord Davos (Liam Cunningham) steps outside to find Snow’s body (dude, where were you when the group stabbing went down outside your door? Total Kitty Genovese moment).
He brings his body inside with the help of Snow’s loyal men, and invites Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) in too. Davos knows what she can do, being a Lord of Light Priestess and all — remember all the reanimating Thoros of Myr got up to? But he still wants to stack the deck in their favor against the usurper Thorne, so he sends one man off to negotiate with the Wildlings, who may be loyal to Snow.
But we’re not sure if Melisandre is actually going to do her thing with Mr. Snow. The last scene is of the priestess getting ready for bed, inspecting her nubile flesh as she undresses. The last thing to come off is her formidable choker, with a stone that seems to glow red. Suddenly she’s a white-haired, wizened old woman, seen in all of her nakedness before she climbs into bed. Old people are very tired, after all, and that bed looks comfy AF.
What are we to make of this development? Of course, it’s not so much of a surprise that the magical Melisandre is approx. 400 years old. Is she too tired to reanimate zombie Jon Snow? Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter, and leave your nice and respectful commentary below!
Wanted to share a little game that my GOT Watch Party and I do every week that you all might enjoy yourselves. The name of the game is “Boobs, Deaths, Dinks,” and the originators of the game are Patrick Davison and Michelle Forelle. The official rules are on Patrick’s site here, but here’s a quick primer: before the show airs, have everyone predict the following: 1. Number of individual exposed boobs, 2. How many on screen deaths or off screen deaths of a named character and 3. How many scenes with Peter Dinklage (follow screenwriting rules: if there would be a new scene titled “INT.” or “EXT.” it counts as a scene). You can do a bonus round for a tiebreaker — this week we predicted who we would NOT see in the episode.
Tally up who gets closest to the total count to determine the winner, and then decide what the winner gets. In our game, the loser has to draw a scene from the show of the winner’s choosing — it can even be an (erotic) fan fic illustration too.
The most recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones largely evaded the two major questions from the previous chapter, and instead lined up its sixth season to gravitate around the heroics and cunning of its female protagonists.
The first question left unanswered is whether the death of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) means the definitive end to his character. The show erased any doubt that Snow might live after being stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen at the end of season five, but it didn’t rule out the possibility that his death might be reversed. The idea of his resurrection is both the product of teasers for season six as well as a general sense of verisimilitude within the story.
Without Snow, the show loses both its most formidable heartthrob and one of its most captivating narrative lines. He’s perhaps the only character that allows viewers to see how a possible defense against the White Walkers may eventually take place. Not only has Snow formed unions among otherwise warring societies, but he has learned what weapons are needed to defeat his frozen enemies.
Unexpected and unjust deaths certainly aren’t new to the show (just ask Ned Stark [Sean Bean]), but the complete removal of Snow would represent both a waste of emotional capital, and the elimination of one of the series’ last remaining male heroes.
The second question—why is Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) smiling?—also left room for discussion. The arrival of her incestuous brother-knight Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) prepares the way for her vengeful return to power, but it was accompanied by a crushing emotional setback. Her excitement at seeing Jaime was quickly nullified by the death of her daughter.
The episode puts into motion what may be a change in the way audiences perceive Cersei Lannister. Her humiliating walk of shame through King’s Landing and the sudden death of her daughter have left her in such a dire situation that it’s only fair to begin cheering for her.
Moreover, our patience with Unella (Hannah Waddingham), High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), and the Faith of Seven is also waning. At first, they seemed reputable because they were the only ones who could hold Cersei accountable for her actions, but their overblown punishments have now reached more noble characters, and we’re left with the impression that their brand of religious extremism is profoundly threatening and unjust.
Cersei’s personal knight, Ser Robert Strong, will likely lead the rebellion against the Faith of Seven in the upcoming episode. If this does take place, I believe Cersei won’t be the only one applauding the violent death of High Sparrow and his brethren.
From there, the show was all about the women.
The show’s female characters live under the threats posed by largely violent and unruly societies, but they now hold control of the major storylines. The Stark daughters, for example, continue to pique interest and make us wonder when they’ll cross paths.
Since the death of their father, both have lived miserable lives. Ayra Stark (Maisie Williams) has lived in poverty as a scoundrel and a rascal, while her sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) has been a slave in royal clothing to suitors and kings. Ayra first seemed to be the Stark most likely to avenge her father’s death, but her association with the Faceless Men may have led her too far astray. Broke and blind after a misstep at the House of Black and White, she’s now on the street, and is being tortured by her previous master’s favorite student.
Sansa, on the other hand, has slowly evolved into the more likely future leader. Her escape from Ramsay Bolton represents the first time she’s been free from conspiring men since the death of her father, and her new protection, offered from Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), may allow her to begin a new phase of her life.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), on the other hand, suffered the opposite fate. Her return to the Dothraki was not as well received as she had hoped, and she now faces a stiff transition from royal life to the realities of an enclosed chamber.
From there, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) and her harem of sexy Sand Snakes killed King Doran (Alexander Siddig) and his legacy, and the only other male star of the episode—Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)—walks through the empty city of Meereen, both as a bored and passive observer, and a potential leader capable of bringing it to relevance.
The closing scene returns to the story of Jon Snow vis-à-vis another female character. Snow’s last surviving allies—and a dire wolf—wait cornered and ready to die for their murdered leader, but it is suggested that Melisandre (Carice van Houten) may be of help.
The show ends as the only hope for Snow takes off her clothes before bedtime. Melisandre’s uncovered breasts are no strangers to the camera, but this time there’s a twist. The removal of her necklace externalizes her true form, that of an aged witch who may not be healthy enough to save Snow and his men.
Melisandre’s tendency to disrobe has made her an object for what some call the “masculine gaze” of television and film, but the removal of her necklace frustrates expectations and instead suggests that her beauty—like that of many other characters—is not indicative of her true physical or moral nature. Melisandre’s breasts consequently raise questions about the nature of reality in the sixth season, and they invite speculation as to whether she’s the only character who possesses a second, sinister identity.