Game Of Thrones, Season 6 Finale Recap: Winter Has Come

Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Winter has come. Apparently, seasonal change in Westeros is made official not by the coming of snow, but by a white raven from the Citadel. Consider this just one of the many loose ends tied up in this behemoth episode, which basically crammed an entire season's worth of story lines into an extra-long installment. Consequently, "The Winds of Winter" felt more like a series of checks on the intricate chess board that is Game of Thrones rather than a regular narrative. It's time to break down the winners.
Winner #1: Cersei Lannister
Let's tally up her achievements, shall we? The episode opens with the queen mother staring out over King's Landing. It's trial day. But there's a twist. The many hints dropped throughout the series have led up to her triumph: the Sept of Baelor, and everyone in it, consumed by a green wildfire inferno. Cersei, not Daenerys, is the new Mad King. She was willing to sacrifice Margaery, Lord Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, and thousands of innocent people to satisfy her lust for High Sparrow blood. As she tells Septa Unella, now her unfortunate captive: "I do things because they feel good. I drink because it feels good, I killed my husband because it felt good to be rid of him, I fuck my brother because it feels good to feel him inside me. I lie about fucking my brother because it feels good to keep our son safe. I killed your High Sparrow and all his little sparrows, all his septons and all his septas and all his filthy soldiers because it felt good to watch them burn." (This, amidst chants of "Confess," and "Shame," is a truly satisfying moment. Cersei may be hard to love, but her suffering at the hands of this septa was harrowing to watch. Shame!) Unforeseen, however, is the sacrifice of her son. Tommen, unable to cope with the scene he has just witnessed, quietly removes his crown and jumps to his death. And as many have predicted, the vacuum of power ends with Cersei sitting on the Iron Throne, to the tune of the Rains of Castamere. The song choice is fitting: Cersei without her children is the most terrifying thing imaginable. She has nothing left to hold her back.

Winner #2: Jon Snow
Okay. So, can we all agree that R+L = J is canon now? We finally got to see the end of Bran's Tower of Joy flashback, which shows Lyanna Stark pleading with Ned to protect her baby. "Promise me," she repeats, over and over again. "Promise me." Ned takes the baby, who opens his eyes. Those baby eyes slowly fade into the deep brown soulful eyes of a very grown up Jon Snow. So, you do the math. Because this is Game of Thrones, we don't get to hear everything Lyanna whispers. That would be too easy. We still don't know who Jon's father is (or at least, it isn't officially confirmed) and my guess is that the show will milk this story line until the very end.
Ultimately though, it doesn't matter for Jon. Thanks to an inspiring speech by Lyanna Mormont, clearly the most qualified person in all of Westeros to sit on the Iron Throne at this point, he is now King in the North. Sansa's glance towards Littlefinger as the lords of the North, the Vale and Jon's wildling friends chant the familiar refrain ("The King in the North!") makes me think that she is not quite on board with this version of events.

Winner #3: Arya Stark

The rumours of this episode delivering another Red Wedding were true — ish. The scene starts out innocently enough. Walder Frey is sitting down to a meal in his hall. All good. He is behaving pretty lecherously towards his young serving girl. No surprises there. Then, he asks for his sons. Okay. "They're already here, my lord." This is where it gets weird.
"Here." She points to the pie. That he just took a bite from. HE ATE HIS SONS.
"They weren't easy to carve. Especially Black Walder." At this point, I was just frantic: who is this girl? Who does she work for? And then she pulls off her face. It's ARYA. As she slits Walder Frey's throat, she says: "My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last thing you're ever going to see is a Stark smiling down on you as you die." He takes forever to die, leaving me time to wonder if this means that Arya is on her way to join her siblings in Winterfell. News of this gruesome murder will definitely get out. How will she explain who she has become?

Winner #4: Daenerys
As if having Daario Naharis declare his undying love for you wasn't victory enough, Daenerys one ups herself by finally setting off for Westeros with her fleet of Greyjoy ships. Accompanying her is Varys, who it seems has successfully brokered an alliance with Dorne and the Tyrells. (Lady Olenna's quips were particularly excellent for a woman who has just lost her entire family.) This means that, in addition to a Dothraki horde and an army of Unsullied, Daenerys now has three powerful families in Westeros backing her claim to the throne. Jon Snow better watch out. Subwinner: Tyrion, who shares a rare, nice and thoughtful moment with his queen, and, abandoning his natural cynicism, declares that he truly believes in her. As a reward, she declares him Hand of the Queen and gives him a pretty pin to prove it. Her face as she gazes towards her future is triumphant, but tinged with apprehension. As Tyrion warned her: "You're in the great game now. And the great game is terrifying. "

Winner #5: Women
The women of Game of Thrones have steadily been taking over throughout this entire season. At the end of season 5, Cersei had just walked naked through King's Landing in disgrace, Sansa had just barely escaped Ramsay Bolton's torture, Arya was blind, and Daenerys was held captive by the Dothraki. Now, Cersei, a woman, sits on the Iron Throne. (Which also means Daenerys may have to battle a queen for control of Westeros, an exciting prospect.) Sansa has won Winterfell back from the Boltons and killed her rapist. Arya has defeated the Faceless Men and scratched another name off her list. And Daenerys is finally setting off to conquer her homeland by blood and fire. Jon Snow himself wouldn't be alive now if not for Melisandre, and he certainly wouldn't have the allegiance of the North were it not for a little spitfire named Lyanna Mormont. Women are the real winners this season, and I can't wait to see what a female-led Westeros brings.

Lingering Questions:
Will sending Melisandre away be Jon Snow's undoing? Where did Arya get that extra face? Did she steal it from the Hall of Faces? Will we ever see a library as grand as the one in the Citadel ever again? It was like Hogwarts on steroids. Will Jaime and Cersei's relationship survive her coronation? Will Brienne and Tormund ever hook up?
Until next season!

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