‘Game of Thrones’ season finale: A fitting ode to the Song of Ice and Fire
There are several reasons why Game of Thrones has the unprecedented, universal following it has – more than most television shows have ever seen and definitely more intense than most pop culture fandoms. Maybe because it is based on a book series that already enjoyed a decade-long, strong following. Maybe because it constantly reinvents itself with plot twists and new characters and production quality. Or maybe because it’s more than just television – the show has stretched the boundaries of TV. And with the sixth season, which invoked mixed responses initially, it has firmly reestablished itself right at the top.
If ‘Battle of the Bastard’, the penultimate episode was epic, then the final episode, ‘The Winds of Winter’ was explosive. And not just because of the plot twists, (or rather plot fruitions since we all knew what would happen) but because it literally, actually exploded in the first 20 minutes, in what can be called one of the best scenes in the six-season history of the show. We have seen several heart-wrenching, jaw-dropping, gut-punching, goosebump-inducing scenes in Game of Thrones, but the introduction of the episode 10 surpassed that.
King’s Landing. The Sept bell chimes. The actors in the upcoming tragedy are getting ready in exquisite detail – Tommen, Margaery, Cersei, the High Sparrow – there is silence and a vague sense of foreboding. The long frames, the layered background score, the ambiguous expressions on Cersei’s face add to the aura. The crowds are all gathered in the Sept of Baelor (the same place Ned Stark died so long ago). The Faith Militant try Loras Tyrell, they mutilate him. The Mountain does not let Tommen attend the trial. Elsewhere Maester Pycelle is lured by a child – the same birds that Varys and Qyburn use – and he is stabbed to death by the little children, in a creepy scene that outdoes the scary zombie children in Daredevil. The crescendo builds, the music score gets ominous. And then we see it – the glint of green in an underground cell and it takes an agonizing minute for the green to spread – like wildfire, exactly like wildfire. Poof, goes the Sept, taking the High Sparrow, his Army, the Tyrells and hundreds of citizens. The wildfire shots are glorious, even better than what we saw in Blackwater. Cersei has indeed burned a city to ashes to save her child. Except she cannot. Because Tommen see the destruction and jumps off his window. The seer’s prophesy is fulfilled, Cersei will lose her children.
Note: Tommen jumping can also be seen as a callback to the very first episode, where his parents pushed Bran Stark off a window. Retribution.
All of this happens with minimal dialogues but the sense of dread the acting, the eerie music and shots convey in stasis, hits you just as hard as the manic battle scenes from last week. In one slow, long-drawn, well-paced, singularly edited scene we see the fiery supremacy of Game of Thrones when it comes to television shows. They really have taken the ‘show is going slow’ complaint seriously and turned it around! And this is only in first 20 minutes.
Just as you wonder what else the show is going to do after that – there are many, many plotlines to be tied and less than an hour left – it shows you that slow but steady does indeed win.
Over the next 40 minutes Game of Thrones takes you on a roller coaster ride that is too topsy-turvy to recall. But here are the finer points –
– Samwell Tarly and family have finally reached the Citadel, just when the raven departs, and his reaction on seeing the massive library is exactly how any bibliophile should respond.
– Ser Davos Seaworth confronts Melisandre over Shireen’s murder in a strong scene and Liam Cunningham deserves high praise for his utterly heart-breaking acting.
– Bran has been brought to safety by Uncle Benjen Stark and is now Warging alone, but thankfully with more purpose as we finally sees the Tower of Joy properly (more on that later). There has been no news from the other side of The Wall lately.
– Dorne is back but we get no more clarity on the plot there except that Lady Olenna is there, insulting the Sand Snakes in her typical style. But wait, the whole plot has some meaning as Varys turns up and enlists the Martell and Tyrell support for the cause of ‘Fire and Blood’
– Daario Naharis is left alone in Mereen as the Queen he loves leaves. This short scene provides a wonderfully melancholy counterpoint about lost love in an otherwise bloodthirsty episode.
– Tyrion Lannister is Hand of the Queen, complete with the pin (nice touch there!) The interaction between him and Danerys reminds us once again why Peter Dinklage is the star of the show.
– Peter Baelish is not happy – he wants the Iron Throne and Sansa Stark now, an idea she is adamantly against. This does not bode well for the Starks as if there is one things they should have learnt, it is not to cross Littlefinger. He did cause Ned Stark’s death after all.
And now for the big ones – the finale had three major arcs that set up the next season so brilliantly, we already want it to be next year.
– Daenerys – with her entourage consisting of three large dragons, the Unsullied and Dothraki Army, Greyjoy ships, alliances with other houses, Tyrion and Varys– is sailing to Westeros to finally play her part in the great game. BUT guess who is on the Iron Throne? Cersei Lannister has crowned herself queen and after the wildfire, Tommen’s suicide and her torturing the nun who shamed her, there is no doubt that this is a woman who has crossed the line, even for a Lannister, and far more than she has ever before. If Jaime’s enraged expression is anything to go by, she is not going to have an easy reign. Shame.
– Arya Stark is now officially faceless, fearless assassin and has ticked off more names of her kill list AND AVENGED THE RED WEDDING by slitting Walder Frey’s neck just as Catelyn Stark’s was. This storyline is brilliantly played – you notice the pretty girl in green at the feast when Jaime does but think nothing of it when she is seen several times in the background. Till she brings Walder Frey a pie when he is all alone and gives him a strange smile. That’s when it hits you that something is amiss and even before you see her face you know that this is Arya Stark of Winterfell – and a girl has baked Freys in a pie and fed them to their father who was gloating about his victories only a while back. Valar Morghulis, indeed.
– Jon Snow is now considered a Stark and proclaimed the King in the North. But wait he is an actual king because R+L=J AND ALL OF US WERE RIGHT ABOUT IT!! We finally see the full Tower of Joy scene through Bran’s eyes, and while it comes as absolutely no surprise that Jon is indeed the royal heir sired by Rhaegar Targareyn and Lyanna Strak and that honourable Ned protected him, to see the years-long fan theory become canon is sweet relief. For book fans, there was actual ‘bleeding star’ in the scene and if that is indeed what I think it means, then we may soon have another fan theory established – that Jon Snow, Stark, Targareyn is the Azor Ahai aka the prince that was promised.
Note: The way the Lords of the North draw their swords and proclaim Jon King of the North is eerie, mainly because the last time that happened, Robb not only messed up but was murdered.
Further note: Lyanna Mormont won this episode as well with her rousing speech supporting Jon. Give this girl the throne already.
And so we have it, another season down and another year of internet speculation and hysteria to come. This season will be talked about for a while to come, the middle three episodes forgotten, the next season (and the book) awaited, the shooting spied upon and analysed. The awards will and should flow – for the exceptional acting and the extraordinary production and showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff deserve all the accolades they get. But above all of that, the sixth season should be remembered for the story – that went beyond George RR Martin’s work – but is still, in essence, a testament to his genius.
Jon Snow or Stark and Daenerys are the same blood, the Targareyns, and are both proclaimed rulers with a claim on the titular throne that is now occupied by a Lannister, a common enemy. THIS is the real song of ice and fire and we cannot wait to see how this song will continue. In one line – the Game of Thrones season six finale was a fitting ode to the Song of Ice and Fire.