This explosive (…get it?) season finale included everything we could’ve wanted and more.
Cersei. Margaery. The High Sparrow. Tommen. Loras. Not a word is uttered as Game Of Thrones opens with each person preparing in their own way – or being forced to prepare – for the trial before The Seven. Loras, in a surprising act of brainwashed “humility,” renounces his name, title, and rights to High Garden, and admitted to his crimes before The High Sparrow and all in attendance. He asks to join their cause, and Mace and Margaery watch on as they carve a 7-pointed star into his forehead. Margaery brings it to the High Sparrow’s attention that Cersei has not arrived, to which he replies that she will be tried nevertheless. While they discuss her absence, her cousin, Lancel, attempts to retrieve her from the cellars, one of Qyburn’s “children” surprises and stabs him, before leaving him to die. Margaery tries to explain to The High Sparrow that Cersei being absent is no happy accident and that she does not expect to suffer the consequences that the Gods will deal. As she tries in vain to get her brother past the baby sparrows, and as The High Sparrow realizes how fully he underestimated Cersei Lannister, Cousin Lancel attempts to crawl out of the cellars. Instead he happens upon a candle burning down, ready to ignite barrels of Wildfire that will surely destroy the area. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make it close enough to stop the candle’s mission and the sept, everyone inside, and surrounding houses disintegrate. Thousands are murdered as Cersei watches on from the Red Keep.
Tommen attempts to attend the trial, but in Cersei’s insane way of motherhood, The Zombie-Mountain is sent as a sentry to guard the boy king in his chambers. After receiving news of his wife’s death, Tommen removes his crown, climbs to the edge of the window, and pitifully falls to his own death.
As Ser Gregor returns to Cersei, she wakes the Septa that tortured her by pouring wine on her face. Bound to a table, the Septa is only minimally affected by Cersei’s taunts and threats, and tells her that she is ready to meet the gods. Cersei laughs and introduces her to Ser Gregor, her NEW god. As the Mad Queen locks the two in a room, she repeats the word “Shame,” effectively giving the Septa a taste of her own medicine.
JON, DAVOS, & MELISANDRE
A confrontation we’ve expected all season finally took place last week: Davos and Melisandre. In “Battle of the Bastards”, Davos found Shireen’s stag figurine in a pile of burned logs, and jumped to the correct conclusion that Shireen was burned at the stake (in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire series, I might add). Thankfully, Davos waited until after Jon got settled in a Winterfell before bringing this to his attention. Melisandre confesses to the crime, but still pleads that she was doing what the Lord of Light commanded. What kind of Lord would command a thing like that? Davos implores, the same Lord that brought Jon back, she responds. Basically, what we’re getting at here is that Melisandre was blinded by her feelings for Stannis, and it led her to (one) believe that he was the prince who was promised, and (two) do some pretty unspeakable things. After hearing their argument, Jon banishes Melisandre and tells her if she ever comes back, she’ll be hanged as a murderer. I’m not really sure how this will affect Jon going forward; she doesn’t actually do much…aside from, you know, resurrecting him.
JON & SANSA
Jon and Sansa have come so far this season. It’s truly remarkable, and the evidence was no clearer than when we see them looking out over the land outside of Winterfell–the home that they’ve taken back. They had a sweet scene together where Sansa reiterates that Jon is family to her and he tells her how important it is that they trust each other. It was honestly such a full circle, classic Stark family moment. Jon spoke so similarly to how Ned spoke back in season one. It was fitting that their conversation ended with Sansa informing Jon that winter is here. After all of the times we heard “Winter is coming” did anyone expect to hear Jon laugh? We see little glimpses of light between the two of them; light that we don’t see in any other relationship, so I hope they really can get to a point where they trust each other completely. Speaking of that, I’ve read a lot about Sansa possibly betraying Jon, but I hope she would never do that. He’s the one man that has truly treated her with kindness and love in the past 5 years.
SANSA & LITTLEFINGER
Petyr Baelish seeks out Sansa in the godswood and tells her that—shocker—his every move is and always has been toward one goal: sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side as queen. It comes as no shock to Sansa that Littlefinger is hungry for power (and pretty damn thirsty for her). When he leans in for a kiss she lets him down gently, telling him that it’s “a pretty picture.” She’s on Team Jon and is pretty cool with being single for a while as she’s only just gotten out of the World’s Worst Marriage. Sansa is all about Stark family unity since reuniting with her bro but Littlefinger wants to drive a wedge between them. He reminds Sansa that she is the trueborn daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, born at Winterfell, whereas Jon is just some motherless bastard, born in the South.
Littlefinger believes that the North will rally behind her if she wants to take power, and he is not (entirely) wrong. It could be argued that Sansa understands the game of thrones much better than Jon, just as Jon understands the dangers beyond the Wall much better than Sansa does. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and together they could Make House Stark Great Again, but Baelish wants power for himself and the only way he can get it is to urge Sansa to seize it for herself and ride her beautifully embroidered coattails.
SAM & GILLY
Samwell Tarly and Gilly finally made it to the Citadel where Samwell can really get into his studies to be a Grand Maester. Right now Samwell is lucky, like the person who gets to be inside with the AC while everyone else is outside in the 100 degree heat. His task is still very important to try to find how to stop the white walker invasion. A few things to keep an eye on, what happens with the Valyrian steel sword? Is he the one or perhaps his son, who documents the history of the seven kingdoms and in turn lives? Samwell Tarly looks at books the way I look at tacos, if you don’t believe me bring me some tacos with no sour cream.
After Daenerys breaks up with Daario, Tyrion asks how it went. He tries to console her by saying that it is the kind of a self-sacrifice a great ruler would make – but it isn’t as comforting a notion as he would have hoped. They sit on the steps and marvel in awe at what is about to happen: Daenerys has her army, her ships, her dragons, and her support – and she’s returning to Westeros. Daenerys is more concerned that she told Daario he couldn’t come and felt nothing but impatience, and Tyrion points out there will be more men. Dany announces that Tyrion has completed failed in consoling her.Tyrion tells Dany that he has been a cynic for as long as he remembers, always refusing to believe in family, gods, kings, and himself – he saw where “belief” got people. And now he finds himself embarassed, truly believing in Daenerys Targaryen. He swears his council and imaginary sword to Dany, now and always. She tells him that she made him something, but isn’t sure if it’s right. She fastens a Hand pin on his jerkin, and proclaims him the Hand of the Queen. Tyrion is overwhelmed with emotion; he has been Hand before, but this time, it means something.
The Freys and The Lannisters send their regards,” Walder boasts as both houses celebrate the recapture of Riverrun and the death of The Blackfish. At a frontside table, Bronn and Jaime shoot the bull and Bronn jokingly-but-not-really-jokingly expresses his jealousy that all women are attracted to Jaime. Jaime introduces Bronn to a couple of beautiful women and the trio wander off. Walder Frey takes his seat and attempts to buddy up to Jaime, but instead insults him by referring to him as “Kingslayer.” Jaime tells Lord Frey that he’s not a true conqueror, and questions why The Lannisters even need him before exiting as well.
As the Lannister Army, Jaime, and Bronn return to Kin’s Landing, they see the dying embers of The Sept and Jaime arrives in the throne room just in time to see Cersei be crowned as queen. It’s in that moment that I think Jaime sees her as the Mad Queen. She’d done the very thing Jaime sacrificed his honor and reputation to protect. He murdered Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen to prevent the use of Wildfire against the city, yet here his beloved stood, betraying him in the worst of ways.
Post-celebration, Walder sits in the banquet hall enjoying a midday meal. The servant girl attending him is not one of his, something he notes by telling her she’s too pretty and copping a feel. He demands the attendance of his sons, and she responds by saying they’re already in the hall. After watching his confusion, she gestures to his plate of food and describes how hard it was to carve his sons up. He stares in horror as she removes her face. “My name is Arya Stark,” she says. “I just wanted you to know that…” and as Walder Frey tries to make a bolt for it, she yanks him back to his seat and slits his throat. My little baby is all grown up and off to destroy her enemies. I’m tearing up a bit.
Uncle Benjen drops Bran and Meera off just short of the Wall, which he can’t cross because of ancient magic. This is, presumably, the same kind of magic that kept the wights and White Walkers out of the cave until Bran went and got himself marked by the Night’s King. That’s interesting considering Bran is planning on passing through the Wall on his way south. Could he end up being the reason that the undead army is able to pass through? We will just have to wait until next season to see how all that shakes out because Benjen takes off with his horse, leaving Bran and Meera totally screwed on transportation. She can barely drag him a few feet to the weirwood tree but soon all my questions about how the hell they are going to get any farther disappear because Bran does the thing and we’re back at the Tower of Joy.
This time around the show finally confirms the long-held “R + L = J” fan theory: Jon Snow is in fact the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. [That Rhaegar is Jon’s father wasn’t explicitly said during the episode but it was confirmed in an HBO infographic released after the episode aired.] As Lyanna lies dying in a “bed of blood” due to complications during childbirth, Ned promises his sister that he will keep her child safe, which he knows means keeping Jon’s true parentage a secret. As we all know, Robert Baratheon and his squad have absolutely no problem killing Targaryen babies, so Ned takes Jon on as his “bastard son” to protect him and the rest is history.
JON & SANSA (Part II)
Jon and Sansa sit at the main table in the feast hall at Winterfell with other Lords of the North. As the Lords bicker over the Wildlings and wanting to go home to prepare for winter, the baddest bitch of them all, Lyanna Mormont, stands up and calls out Lords Glover, Manderly, and Kerwin for not standing behind House Stark during the Battle for Winterfell; she then claims that Jon Snow is her King, and House Mormont stands behind him. After a moment of silence, Manderly stands up and agrees, stating that Jon Snow avenged the Red Wedding, and he regrets not supporting him. Lord Glover admits the same. Manderly then dubs Jon the White Wolf, and the King in the North. Everyone in the hall joins in a boisterous chant of “King in the North” for Jon as he slowly stands and smiles down at Sansa. Littlefinger watches it all from the corner; he gives Sansa a smirk and she responds with a worried look. It’s safe to say Littlefinger’s new target is Jon Snow…which means, now more than ever, he’s got to go. The question moving forward is: will Sansa trust in Jon enough to let him know Littlefinger’s plans?
Dany’s plot opens with her commanding Daario to stay in Dragon’s Bay (formerly known as Slaver’s Bay) with the Second Sons, keeping the peace and equality that she planted. The scene is emotional, but only with respect to Daario. He is visibly upset, while Dany is level-headed in explaining that the presence of a lover in King’s Landing would lower her prospects for marriage, which she may have to do if she wants to secure the throne. Daario practically begs, but The Mother of Dragons is firm in her decision.
Later, Dany reveals her anxiety to Tyrion about following in the Mad King’s footsteps. She felt nothing when breaking things off with Daario, and she sees the apathy as an indication that she may be a chip off the ol’ block. She’s not wrong, though, we’ve seen Dany’s rage take a dark turn before; like when Tyrion called her out for wanting to burn Slaver’s Bay to the ground. She certainly has “Mad Queen” potential, but I’m doubtful that she’ll yield to it: Dany is self-aware. She knows when compassion is appropriate and she has Tyrion (newly named the Hand of the Queen) to keep her in check, which already makes her more fit to rule than Cersei.
In her final act of this season, Dany sets sail for Westeros with her army of Dothraki, Ironborns, The Unsullied, and her dragons (Olenna Tyrell and the Sandsnakes of Dorne are new allies too, thanks to Varys). Still dead-set on taking the Iron Throne with Fire and Blood, she is set to be an unstoppable force next season.
As Tyrion put it:
“This is actually happening.”