Monday, June 27, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Winds of Winter Season Six Finale

Well all in all this was a mostly satisfying season finale that wrapped up some storylines and opened other ones to ponder over the next year. Book readers will recognize how some events were altered for television. Other characters were folded into different ones. We open up in King's Landing at the Red Keep with Cersei looking out over the city. Everyone is getting dressed for the upcoming trials of Cersei and Loras. Pycelle being the dirty old man that he is, has just finished his business with a prostitute.  There may be snow on the mountain top but there's still fire down below. And Pycelle has apparently, ahem, stiffed the young lady on pay. Cersei is getting dressed in a severe tight gown that doesn't show any cleavage but is still quietly sexual and austere at the same time. At the Sept, Loras is brought in. The High Sparrow (THS) asks Loras if he is ready for his trial. Loras, who has had his hair cut for the trial and looks a particularly sorry sight, responds that actually there will be no trial. He confesses to his crimes of homosexuality and perjury. But this isn't enough for THS. To show that he's truly penitent Loras gets on his knees before THS (and maybe Loras isn't the only one with an alternate sexuality hmm) and says he wants to devote his life to the Seven. He will give up his claim to the Tyrell Lordship and Highgarden. He will live out his life in the "I'm not gay, really I'm not" brigade of the Faith Militant. Lovingly caressing Loras' head, THS announces that this is acceptable. But Lancel and team still need to carve a seven pointed star into Loras' forehead, an act which the watching Margaery and Mace find abhorrent. Margaery even tells THS that this wasn't part of the deal. A child tells Pycelle something as he comes out of his room. Pycelle follows this child until he winds up in a room with Qyburn. Qyburn has an almost pained facial expression. He tells Pycelle that Pycelle deserves better but business is business. He's sorry it had to come to this but you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs and all that. Pycelle has just enough time to say "huh?" before he's stabbed to death by at least 10 kids armed with daggers. The Mountain prevents King Tommen from going to the Sept. People at the Sept are impatient waiting for Cersei to arrive. THS tells Lancel to go get her. Lancel also gets sidetracked by a strange little kid. Lancel follows this kid to the basement or sub-basement of the Sept. And let me just mention how beautiful the soundtrack cello music was here. I will have to watch this again just for that. It was quite suspenseful and haunting. Seriously this was good stuff.

In the basement Lancel follows the kid into a large chamber. The kid stabs Lancel. Everyone in the Sept is still waiting. Margaery doesn't like it. She knows something is wrong. She tells THS that things aren't right. Cersei knows the punishment for not showing up and yet still isn't there. What does THS think that means? THS can't make a decision. Dying, Lancel looks around the room. It's crammed full of barrels of wildfire. Wildfire has pooled all over the floor. In a time before timers and electric clocks someone has evidently done the calculus necessary to determine exactly when a candle will burn down to its end. And someone has placed two candles at one end of the room in a pool of wildfire. Lancel starts to crawl to try to extinguish the candles. Margaery starts yelling that everyone needs to leave the Sept right NOW! This is good enough for Mace who starts to panic and push to get out. But THS still won't give the word, so the Faith Militant goobers are preventing people from leaving. Well that is a mistake. Lancel reaches the candles just as the flame touches the wildfire. Everyone upstairs hears a rumble below. There's not even enough time for Margaery and her father Mace to say I told you so before BOO-YAH!. There's an explosion of green fire the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Battle of The Blackwater. Everyone in the Sept is immediately incinerated! This includes Kevan Lannister as well. The Sept itself is blown apart. The explosion is so fierce that the Sept bell is hurled miles away into the streets. The Sept and the surrounding area is nothing but a smoldering ruin. Cersei drinks wine and gives her typical twisted smirk. Later on, Cersei goes to see Septa Unella, whom she has captured and tied up. She runs her hands over the woman's body. She reminds the Septa of all the nasty things she did to Cersei. Well payback is a b**** isn't it. Cersei says the Septa did those things not from faith but because she likes hurting Cersei. Well Cersei liked murdering her husband and sleeping with her brother. And she is going to love hurting the Septa. The Septa, in a bit of bravado, says she's ready to die and go to the Gods. Cersei says you must really be dumb if you thought it was going to be that easy. The Mountain enters. Cersei ironically says "Shame, shame, shame", as she leaves the Septa to what I presume is the beginning of a long nightmare of rape and other torture.

Tommen is watching the aftermath looking out at the Sept. Seems like he's crying. Silently he takes off his crown and jumps to his death. Cersei orders Qyburn to burn his body and place the ashes at the ruins of the Sept. At The Twins, Walder Frey is celebrating his victory with Bronn and Jaime Lannister. Neither Bronn not Jaime is in a particularly good mood, though both notice various cleavage baring Frey women and serving wenches giving them the old once over. At Jaime's urgings, Bronn takes advantage of this. Walder Frey is speaking as if the Lannisters and Freys are old friends and equal partners, something which rubs Jaime the wrong way. Like a lot of old people in fiction and real life, Walder no longer bothers to pretend that he cares what people say. Walder sarcastically jokes that he can't kill the re-imprisoned Edmure Tully because to do so would give the Freys a bad name. Jaime points out that Walder Frey never had a good reputation as a warrior in his own right even as a young man. Jaime asks rhetorically if the Lannisters have to do all the heavy lifting then why do they need the Freys exactly? Sam and Gilly reach Oldtown. Sam has to deal with a snooty bureaucrat who is suspicious that there's been no report of change in leadership at the Night's Watch. Nonetheless it's not his call to make on Sam's bona fides. He takes Sam's letter of introduction and tells Sam that for now Sam can hang out in the library until an archmaester can make a decision. But the bureaucrat won't allow Gilly and Sam Jr. in the library. Sam enters the library and is in 7th heaven. The library alone seems to be larger than all of Castle Black.

At Winterfell Davos finally confronts Melisandre about her murder of Shireen. This is Davos' big scene and the actor doesn't disappoint. He's seething with rage and loss. Davos says that he considered Shireen his own kin. Melisandre looks guilty and doesn't claim otherwise. But she points out that Stannis and Selyse agreed with her actions. Anyway there wasn't any other choice. Jon Snow stands alive today at Winterfell because of the Lord of Light. Davos strongly disagrees, stating that any God who kills children is evil. Period. End of story. Anyway Stannis died so apparently Melisandre was wrong about that. Although Davos wants to kill her right here and now Jon exiles Melisandre south on pain of death. Davos emphasizes that he will personally kill her if she comes back. Jon says that he's making the master bedroom (the Lord's room, Mom and Dad's room) ready for Sansa as she should be the Lady of Winterfell. Sansa says it should be Jon as he is a Stark to her. She apologizes for not telling Jon about Littlefinger (LF) and says only a fool would trust LF. Jon says they need to trust each other because winter is here. They are all that's left of the Starks. They still have a lot of enemies. LF goes to see Sansa at the godswood. Physically this is a beautiful scene. Sansa asks him what does he want. He says she knows what he wants. LF says that everything he does is for a little piece of Sansa's  so he can can sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side. Sansa points out that LF has "helped" other families before but that his help always seems to help himself first and most of all. LF says well yeah but don't hate the player, hate the game. He tries to go in for a kiss but Sansa turns away abruptly. Awkward, dude. Really awkward. Perhaps feeling the sting, LF calls Jon a motherless bastard and says Sansa should be the Queen in the North. Is someone watching LF thru the weirwood? Hmm.

In Dorne, Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, meets with Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes. Like Walder Frey, The Queen of Thorns is very pragmatic, very old, very rude and sees no point to social niceties. She's unimpressed with the masculine Sand Snakes. She wants Dorne's help going to war against Cersei. Cersei killed her son and grandchildren. And that she doesn't forgive. Cersei has declared war against Dorne. For no reason other than television drama Ellaria makes The Queen of Thorns say she wants revenge before revealing that Varys is there. Varys says he can offer Fire and Blood (The Targaryen House Words). In Meereen Daario tells Daenerys that the ships are almost ready. Daenerys tells Daario that he's going to stay in Meereen and run it for her. Daario doesn't like it and blames Tyrion for this decision. Daenerys says that for reasons of perception and alliance building she needs to be single when she reaches Westeros. Daario pulls out the Temptations Ain't Too Proud to Beg routine. He drops to his knees and says he loves Daenerys. In fact he loves her so much that he wouldn't even say no to being the other man if Daenerys needs to marry or be with someone else. Daenerys says that's nice but this decision is final. Besides a player like Daario will have a new special rider before the day is out from what Daenerys can see. All things considered, Daario takes this well. Well at least he doesn't throw himself off a building. Later on Tyrion gives Daenerys a pep talk. Tyrion says dumping Daario was the smart move. Daenerys is a little concerned that she didn't feel anything while she was telling Daario to hit the road. Tyrion says that he was always a cynic but surprisingly at this point in his life he believes in Daenerys. Daenerys is touched by this. She officially makes Tyrion her Hand, giving him a clasp which she hopes looks right.

Walder Frey is eating and drinking all alone. A serving girl brings him more food. As soon as he confirms that he's not actually related to her he starts sexually harassing her. But Walder wants to know where his sons are, the ones who murdered Catelyn and Talisa Stark. The serving girl tells him that his sons are here. Walder scoffs and says no one is here stupid, where are my sons? The girl insists that his sons are here. Getting it, Walder looks a little more closely at the pie as the girl talks about the difficulty of getting human remains into a nice pie. And the girl moves her hands over her face. This girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell. And she stabs Walder Frey. As she slits his throat and holds him down she tells him that she wants the last thing he sees to be a Stark smiling down at him. Benjen Stark drops off Meera Reed and Bran Stark near a weirwood tree. Benjen Stark can't cross the Wall in his half-alive/half-dead state. He will fight the White Walkers for as long as he can and wishes Meera and Bran good luck. Bran uses the weirwood to greensee/timetravel again. He goes back to the Tower of Joy. Ned Stark rushes inside to find his sister Lyanna on a bed of blood. She has hemorrhaged horribly. Ned can't accept that his baby sister is dying but Lyanna knows time is short. A newborn baby boy is brought to Ned. Lyanna whispers "His name is .. if Robert finds out he'll kill him" and demands that Ned "Promise me.. you have to protect him". Ned nods. As far as I am concerned this is confirmation of the long held fan theory discussed here. Just in case you still have any lingering doubts about this the director removes them by doing a long close up of the baby boy and fading out to a long close up of Jon Snow. Any questions? I didn't think so.

Jon and Sansa are leading a meeting of the surviving leadership of the North. This includes people who fought for the Starks at the last battle and some who didn't. The Vale men and LF are also there. Jon says that he knows everyone is tired but that the war isn't over. The White Walkers are coming. People start to look anywhere but at Jon and Sansa. Winter is here. People need to be back to their own lands and families. People aren't crazy about being on the same side as the wildlings. How much fighting can people be expected to do? Jon doesn't have too much to say to that. It looks like folks are going to slink away like people do in status meetings when a boss says he has a new project. But ten year old bada$$ little Lyanna Mormont isn't having it. Not today. She stands up and boasts that House Mormont has never broken faith with House Stark. She and her people were there at the last battle and they will be there at the next one. Because that is what it means to answer the call. She calls out other Houses who didn't answer the Starks in their time of need. She asks if that is really going to be their legacy. After all they lost people at the Red Wedding too. The leaders of House Glover and House Manderly, suitably shamed, admit their wrongdoing and beg forgiveness for their fears. Jon says there is nothing to forgive. And with that it's a "We're putting the band back together" moment as Wyman Manderly and Lord Glover draw their swords and re-pledge fealty to House Stark. They say that as Robb was the Young Wolf, Jon is the White Wolf. And all hail the White Wolf, King of the North! Everyone stands and chants The King of The North, even the Vale Knights and Davos. Everyone that is except LF, who is pretty clearly unhappy about this turn of events. He and Sansa lock eyes briefly. Sansa's smile at the acclaim for Jon goes away when she sees LF and his facial expression.

Jaime and Bronn arrive with the Lannister army back in King's Landing. They are of course shocked to see the burning pit where the Sept used to be. As the only Lannister left, Cersei, attired in a high neck tight dress, is proclaimed as Queen. She sits on the Iron Throne as her brother Jaime watches with an expression that is open to all sorts of different interpretations. Daenerys, The Unsullied, The Dothraki, Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm, Varys and of course Theon and Yara lead their invasion fleet back to Westeros as the dragons circle overhead.
And that's all folks!

What I liked

  • The Frey Pie served by Arya was done in a different context by a different character in Martin's books but that's not important. What is important is that the scene was lifted from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus play. Shakespeare likely lifted it from the Greek legend of Atreus and who knows where the Greeks got it from. The point is that by its actions House Frey curses itself. It's a brutal thing. It's a reminder that there is retribution in this world and the next for certain evils.
  • THS made the same mistake Ned Stark did. He told Cersei his plans when he didn't actually have Cersei in custody. That scene at the Sept was well acted and timed. I wish the whole season had that element of suspense. Really well done.
  • The entire Sept sequence compares well with numerous other revenge instances in film. Cersei Lannister, do you renounce Satan and all his works?
  • Tommen was too sweet and too stupid to live with what was going on. 
  • If I get in a tight spot I am unworried as long as Lyanna Mormont is watching my back.
  • Daenerys is finally getting out of Meereen. Past time for that.

What I didn't like

  • I didn't care enough but again Dorne is not just Ellaria and her daughters/nieces. I disliked the entire Dorne storyline but other houses have nothing to say about the kinslaying?
  • There was too much travel that didn't line up with the distances involved. Arya and Varys make it back to Westeros in one episode? Varys goes back to Meereen in less than one episode? Come on now.
  • So Arya can change faces without having a face from the House of Black and White? How does this work again anyway? We spent how many episodes at the House of Black and White but it looks like the only rules that matter are those which the writers need at a given time.
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