Warning: Here be spoilers!
Also death… Lots and lots of death!
Let’s open with a body count shall we?
Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister, Tommen Lannister, Alliser Thorne, Lancel Lannister, The Three Eyed Raven, Trystane Martell, The High Sparrow, The Waif, Olly, Lem Lemoncloak, Brother Ray… Is that everyone? Or am I missing some more character deaths in the latest blood-drenched season of Game of Thrones?
Oh no wait, there’s also Doran Martell, Areo Hotah, Walder Frey, Leaf, Smalljohn Umber, Walda Frey & son, Ramsey Bolton, Roose Bolton, Grand Maester Pycelle, Lady Crane, Khal Rhalko and et al, The Blackfish, Osha, Hodor, Shaggydog, Summer, Rickon Stark… I think we’re… Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun (the giant).
That’s a lot of death in this season, and for GoT that’s really saying something! From the outset the show has been quick to remind us that our favourite characters are never safe but the knives are out quite spectacularly this year.
From well established characters like Rickon, to near entire families in the case of the Tyrell’s and even new characters, whose time with us was brief but impactful, as in the case of the wonderful Ian McShane’s Brother Ray and his relationship with Sandor Clegane (knew he was still alive!), characters this season have been dropping like flies.
Where do we start aside from all the death? With alliances, Wildfire, White Walkers, Dragons, and revealed parentage?
Plot-wise, this has been an incredibly strong season; fast paced, packed with character development and clever dialogue. It wasn’t without fault, of course.
By now the show’s in uncharted territory with many threads spiralling away from the books and beyond (as expected) and as such some characters did not get the screen time/endings they deserved. The conversation between Jaime and Cersei after Myrcella’s death felt a little off, the CGI for the dragons in some shots felt a little shoddy for what should be the biggest show on TV, some plot points felt skimmed over, we saw little of the Sand Snakes etc. but overall the season had some of GoT’s finest moments.
To summarise the season, I’ve narrowed it down to five main character groups:
Sansa Stark & Jon Snow
In the first ‘twist’ of the season, (and the worst kept secret in TV history) Melisandre resurrected Jon Snow, who proved himself his father’s son when he executed Olly et al. for their betrayal, then left the Nightswatch with Davos to take back Winterfell. While some have argued he took the oath of the Nights Watch, and was bound to stay, I say that the oath only applies until death, and Jon technically died.
Did any one else cry at Sansa and Jon’s reunion? The relationship and interactions between these two have been flawless, and really showcases how far these characters have come. Sansa is no longer a young, naive girl dreaming of her marriage to Joffrey. Rather she is strong and noble, and while she loves her brother and acknowledges his lineage she still has the to challenge Jon when she disagrees with him.
Her awareness that Rickon, though alive, is essentially already dead in the hands of Ramsay was haunting and as for the evil-Hobbit faced bastard’s execution and the smirk on her face, nothing made me happier.
Jon continued to prove himself a leader during the battle with Ramsay Bolton – though as Davos feared, his emotions overcame his strategic mind and he fell right into the trap. Seeing Jon near crushed was giving me palpitations, the whole epic, cinematic ‘Battle of the Bastards’ episode felt like one of the best GoT episodes ever.
I was near to cheering when the chanting of ‘King of the North,’ started, thanks to her, though Littlefinger is right when he reminds Sansa that she is the true born heir of House Stark. In fact, a small part of me wanted her to be Queen in the North. The relationship between Sansa and Petyr is one that fascinates me, I feel it is only around her that his Littlefinger mask slips and Petyr is revealed.
The end of Season 6 saw Bran as the three-eyed raven after his curiousness forays into the past caused the death of his predecessor, child of the forest ‘Leaf’, his direwolf Summer and of course, (heartbreakingly) Hodor.
We saw the ‘Tower of Joy’ where the revelation that Jon is not Ned’s son but in fact Lyanna Stark’s, was made as per predictions. Whilst we did not hear the name of the father spoken, editing and cutaways combined with the words Lyanna spoke, suggest to me there can only be one father – Rhaegar Targaryen.
It seems that Bran can have some impact on the past too, as seen in the much-discussed Hodor/hold the door) scene, which leaves me wondering what else he will reveal next season.
It was also through Bran and his sight that we finally saw how the White Walkers came to be.
Cersei & Jaime Lannister
The final episode ‘The Winds of Winter’ (also the title for the sixth as -yet unreleased book), had me hooked from the opening second. It was so cinematic I had to remind myself that i was at home. From the music to the long establishing shots, luscious the scenery and lavish costumes, my breath literally hitched.
Sure, for the biggest TV show on our screens we have to expect the amazing, but GoT outdid itself in the concluding episode ‘Winds of Winter’. The music, composed by Ramin Djawadi was hauntingly fitting; a slow build to the death of so many in a whirl of spetacular green wildlife. “A Lannister Pays his debts” may well be the House Words but Cersei was making sure others paid their debts, so to speak. While she calmly dressed, put on jewellery and sipped wine, she seemed utterly unconcerned at her impending trial, but with Qyburn on her side it seemed inevitable that she had some sort of plan for survival.
When the Wild Fire raged, killing all in the Sept including most of the Tyrells and even members of her own family Cersei showed little concern, only smug satisfaction that put me in mind of the legendary cruelty of Mad King Aerys. She finally appeared herself again, the proud and savage mother lion, doing anything for her family, unaware of the destruction it caused as Tommen, mortified, took his own life.
The joyous hatred in her voice when torturing Septa Unella was terrifying to behold yet utterly pleasurable. With Tommen gone, she is now free to reign (THAT dress though) but what will her future hold?
As for Jaime, he has also changed a lot since Season 1, now wanting to help The Blackfish live and let Podrick and Brienne go free. Not to mention the look Jaime gave Cersei at the very end suggesting that he may have to be the one to kill her, as much as it will pain him.
Dany may be coming with her army, but it may be too late for her to get revenge against the Lannisters.
Daenerys Targaryen/Tyrion Lannister/Varys
It’s not been the most eventful season for Dany. It seemed this Season was building up to the Martells, Tyrells and Greyjoys pledging allegiance. Daenerys’ most epic moment of the season had to be showing her true power with the burning the Khals and of course heading to Westeros, not to mention finally persuading the Dothraki to sail and finish what Khal Drogo pledged to start!
This season has finally addressed one of the biggest concerns with Daenerys; her suitability to be a good and honourable Queen for the people of Westeros. She never considers that before Aegon I ‘conquered’ Westeros, the seven Kingdoms were relatively happy. She can come across as self-righteous and indignant and when she gave her speech to the Dothraki regarding conquering Westeros, tearing down their houses and in essence beginning a violent reign of terror. This to me isn’t a fair Queen speaking, it is as Daario (I believe it was he) said, the words of a conqueror.
What with the three dragons and her desperation for revenge, it doesn’t seem so far off the fate of the Mad King – the series even juxtaposed scenes of Aerys II on the throne/wildlife and Daenerys.
Daenerys has had many good intentions and I believe she still does, that she believes what she is doing is the best thing for the people, but it comes off as contrived and self-centred more than often. There is little consideration of consequences for a land she barely knows, and her speeches remind me more of Cersei.
What gives me hope is that Tyion believes in her, Tyrion has faith in her, as does Varys. Both characters are wise, their judgements often right and with honourable hearts. Both have seen the Westerosi at their best and at their worst. With the council of these two, Daenerys has the potential to be the Queen that the people need. Her conversation with Yara and Theon regarding her allowing the Iron Islands be independent again on the condition that there be no more raping and pillaging was when I remembered why I originally loved her so much.
It was also refreshing, if not slightly out of character, to see her so emotional in front of Jorah Mormont when ordering him to find a cure for his greyscale.
Yara (Asha in the books) hasn’t been in the show much, but this season made up for it. Following the murder of her father and her Uncle Euron Greyjoy taking the crown at the Kingsmoot, Yara is back on form; ferocious, strong-willed, honourable and proving she is a born leader with many men abandoning Euron to follow her across the sea to Essos. I loved seeing Yara with another woman at the port where her and her men were resting for the night, it’s a more playful side of her than we had yet to see. I feel Yara will have an important role in the next season and it has been a joy to see such strong women taking the reigns.
Of course, I haven’t yet spoken of Arya Stark. My reason for this is simple; as much as I loved her character in the beginning, I’m simply not sure where she is going to go next. The whole of this season was focused on her becoming a faceless ‘man’ when it was pretty obvious she wouldn’t be and would just be training to kill with more stealth. She killed Walder Frey and many members of his family, that was pretty awesome and I’m sure her path will cross with Sandor Clegane once more.
But will she be reunited with her family at Winterfell? Will she see the White Walkers? I’m not so sure, but maybe there’s a surprise to be had there.
Other highlights included; Melisandre revealing her true form (eww!), Lady Lyanna Mormont (literally everything about her is awesome!), Olenna Tyrell’s sass with the Sand Snakes, Podrick and Bronn’s hilarious yet touching reunion at River run, Davos’ heartbreaking realisation of Shireen Baratheon’s execution, Gilly standing up to Sam’s father, Sam reaching the citadel and seeing inside the library, Osha nearly getting the better of Ramsey (before being stabbed – sad face) and finally, Brienne and Tormund Giantsbane, there’s a ship that is already sailing.
It has been confirmed that Season 8 will be the last, and there are likely to be only 12/13 episodes left in this televisual epic.
If the next season is similar to this, and with far less characters, it seems feasible that we will soon see the main players side by side, though whether it will be as enemies or allies remains to be seen. What GoT does so well is show that the world is not as simple as good and evil, many characters are born onto a side and are who they are due to habitat and circumstance. It’s the watching them change due to their experiences and who they meet on their individual journeys that’s so fascinating and leaves me excited to see on which side they will end up come the endgame.
Where we leave most of these characters is in a perfect place for them to slowly gravitate towards one another, for the much awaited battle – hopefully dragons against White Walkers (it is a SOng of Ice and Fire after all).
It’s anyone’s guess who will end up on the throne; Daenerys, I feel unlikely, but maybe if she married Tyrion – as hinted at this season this could be successful. Jon, considering his parentage seems more likely, but there’s the possibility of the seven kingdoms being dissolved and each ‘state’ ruling themselves again, that the White Walkers may win and countless other possibilities.
As a white raven reaches Winterfell, winter has finally come, the white walkers will not be far off, when the final battle comes it is likely not to be between the houses of Westeros, rather it will see most of them joined to fight the real enemy.