In one of best scenes in an episode loaded with them, 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont schooled a room full of grown men by telling them, essentially, that they're all stupid cowards. In Game of Thrones Season 6, women seized control from dumb men, so it fit that someone who could be playing with Bratz dolls told a dozen hardened lords where to shove their Valyrian steel.
The super-sized, super-satisfying "The Winds of Winter" was all about women making big moves: Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor and assumed the Iron Throne; Daenerys sailed to Westeros with her fleet; Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell teamed up with Dany (via Varys) to seek revenge on the Lannisters; Arya crossed Walder Frey off her kill list; and Sansa rejected Littlefinger and the master bedroom at Winterfell. The sisters are doing it for themselves as we head into Season 7 and, apart from that whole mass-murder-by-wildfire thing, it seems like the world might be better for it. Let's take a closer look.
King's Landing: trial by wildfire
First, let's hear it for Cersei Lannister's new look, which is like a cross between Joan of Arc at an S&M convention and Rhythm Nation-era Janet Jackson. Gone are the yellow and red dresses with the huge bell sleeves and the intricate hair. Now she's in a military black dress with an amazing silver chain across the front. (Not even Lannister gold!) It's as if she's become a clan unto herself: House Cersei.
The opening montage was absolutely gorgeous and established this episode as a major departure from the epic muck and blood of "Battle of the Bastards." The sequence focused in on the details: Margaery's braids, Tommen's adornments, and Cersei's cocktail ring, which I would give every woman in my life for Christmas if it were part of a Game of Thrones-inspired jewelry line from Kohl's.
Qyburn, her master of whispers, previously confirmed that the Mad King kept a cache of wildfire under King's Landing and that an abundant supply remained. Who could turn down such an opportunity? We knew Cersei couldn't. As the broken Loras Tyrell confessed his sins and renounced all his titles to devote himself the Faith of the Seven, the pieces of her intricate plan fell into place: the Mountain arrived at Tommen's crib to prevent the king from going to the Sept of Baelor; Qyburn's Little Birds lured Pycelle to his rival maester's laboratory and his stabby doom; and the similarly duped Lancel Lannister -- who'd followed a small child into the dark catacombs for reasons that were very unclear -- army-crawled toward a pool of ancient antifreeze, converted into a time bomb with three lit candles.
When the wildfire ignited to a massive, Jolly Rancher Green Apple-colored fireball, it was sayonara to the High Sparrow, Loras, Margaery, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister, the heaviest hitters of the Faith Militant, and any of the lords and ladies of the court stupid enough to want to see her publicly shamed. Of course it also had one unintended, and shocking, consequence: sullen, indecisive Tommen suddenly turning sullenly decisive and silently walking off the balcony of the Red Keep.
Before Cersei found out that her last remaining child had been collateral damage in her desperate scheme, she celebrated her victory by pouring red wine on Septa Unella, whom she'd apparently captured and tied down on a table in a torture room. Cersei wanted to hear the woman admit one thing: that she'd enjoyed making the King's mother miserable. Her speech on being a hedonist who acts because things feel good brought such a smile to my face that it looked like I had eaten 17 cheesecake brownies laced with Xanax. The capper was her saying, "Shame, shame, shame," as she closed the door to the cell, sealing Unella in there with the zombie Mountain. As RuPaul would say: she better work.
I'm still not entirely sure how Cersei secured the crown for herself. The court anointed her not just queen, but "Protector of the Seven Kingdoms," which seems like it might have some implications. After the death of Tommen, Robert Baratheon's bloodline has been exhausted, and it's not necessarily the case that Cersei would have been next in the line of succession. One Redditor figured out that if you trace Robert's history back far enough, the only surviving branch of the family tree actually comes back to the Lannisters, which would make Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion the next in line for the Iron Throne. But since that has yet to be detailed in the series, it looks like Cersei just declared herself the ruler because she'd killed anyone else who might object.
Anyone other than Jaime, that is.
Winterfell: it's a pretty picture
Well, it's official: winter has come. Break out the hot toddies and toboggans. Sansa and Jon celebrate with a talk about trust, how they need to be transparent to each other to thwart all of their enemies. Sansa apologizes for not telling him about the Knights of the Vale, although she never explains why she didn't tell him that they were coming. Hey, he didn't ask. He really should have asked!
Later, Sansa secretly meets Littlefinger in the godswood, where he confesses that he pictures himself sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa by his side. But as he leans in to kiss her, she goes all, "New phone. Who dis?" on his ass. Littlefinger becomes Blue Balls. By rejecting him, she is also rejecting her right to rule as the heir to Winterfell and relinquishing it to Jon Snow. She finally gets to make choices for herself, which she hasn't been able to do in the entire series. Her choice here is to stay behind the scenes and work as a master manipulator -- just as Littlefinger taught her. Those glances that they were giving each other as Jon was being crowned King in the North were pretty suspicious. What was that all about? She knows by now not to trust Littlefinger, but is she second guessing her decision? Does she know that he's plotting something and is trying to figure out what?
As for Jon taking the crown of the King in the North... man, I'm worried. The North supposedly remembers, but did they forget that Jon Snow knows nothing? He is a very good fighter, but he's a poor military tactician, not an especially strong leader, and a bastard, plus, he often lets his emotions cloud his senses -- the hallmarks of a poor decision-maker. This dude is about as fit to rule the North as a former reality star with hair made up of Cap'n Crunch dust and dreams fit to rule this fine country of ours.
The Twins: the secret ingredient is...
Speaking of dead kings of the North, our visit to the Twins only consisted of two short scenes, but both of them spelled doom for Cersei. Late in the episode, Arya Stark kills Walder Frey using a face she borrowed from the House of Black and White. (How does that work, exactly? Does she now have all the faces at her disposal and they're uploaded into the Westerosi cloud? Or does she have to carry them in a bag, like Batman's tricks in his utility belt?)
This was immensely satisfying, of course, because a Stark finally took revenge for the Red Wedding, Arya is back to crossing names off her Death List, and now there's only one remaining name: Cersei. (This assumes that she doesn't consider whatever Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane is now "alive.") It looks like her next stop will be King's Landing.
While not as exciting, the first scene that seemed less important could actually have far ranging importance. Jaime Lannister sits down with Walder Frey, who explains that they are pretty much the same man: those who have made their name by being "oathbreakers." Jaime, of course, thinks that he's much better than this and storms out trying to summon up all of the nobility that he can muster. This is how he's feeling when he returns to the smoldering King's Landing and sees Cersei getting crowned.
He seems very concerned. Is his newfound nobility and decency going to lead him to try to take down his sister? Tune in next week to find out! (JK, wait a whole year and maybe we'll get some hints.)
North of the Wall: a one-night stay at the Tower of Joy
After saving them from White Walkers and traveling with them for an unspecified amount of time, Benjen Stark leaves Meera Reed and Bran Stark by a Weirwood tree. He can't take them past the Wall because it is enchanted and death can't pass. They don't go much further either; Bran decides to get all jiggy with the tree, putting one hand to the bark and uttering the greensight version of, "Yo, baby, tell me your secrets."
He goes back to the moment when his father stormed the Tower of Joy that the Three-Eyed Raven tore him away from earlier this season. There we saw that Ned Stark turned around before mounting the tower, which is where Bran shouted at him last time, meaning Bran made a lasting impact on history by shouting at him, and now every time history is replayed, Ned turns around. Or this means that Bran really had no effect the first time and Ned turned around because he heard the Roadrunner meep-meeping its way through the desert or something. How this is interpreted is only important when considering just what Bran's powers are and the implications they have on the past.
However, what we do know is that the R + L = J theory, which posits that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, is actually valid. We can clearly hear Lyanna say that Ned must protect her son because if Robert found out he would kill him, the implication being that he is the Targaryen heir and since Robert is currently killing all of them, Lyanna's son would be on the list. However, when she told him the name, either it was intentionally obscured or she really meant for Jon's name to be "Shsshshahshshhasdh," which would be a very strange name indeed.
It was strange that Bran was accessing this information at this very moment in time. What does he want with it? How is he going to use it? And should he get himself and Meera to safety on the other side of the Wall before watching reruns of The Real Housewives of Westeros on his TV (in this instance, TV stands for "tree vision")? The answer to that last one is yes. Yes, Bran, get the fuck back to Winterfell! There is still an army of the dead after your stupid ass.
Meereen: the Unsinkable Daenerys Stormborn
So this was a little awkward. To begin, Daenerys is all, "Hey, Daario Naharis. I know we swiped right on each other awhile ago, but I gotta unmatch you now, baby. Sorry." That makes me very sad, because that means we won't get to see him naked ever again, and there aren't that many dudes on Game of Thrones we get to see naked, and none of them were as good at being naked as Daario.
And as sad as that made me, the scene that followed was the most emotional of the night. This season, Dany dealt with the personal sacrifices required to take rule. But the detachment didn't mean cutting emotion in her professional life, as evidenced in "Winds of Winter." When she pinned the Hand of the Queen brooch on Tyrion, I wanted to cry. Not only does the gesture show Danny trusting the counsel of others, but this was Tyrion finally getting the respect and responsibility that he deserved all along. I also love that the Hand of the Queen has a certain feminist ring to it, different from what we are used to hearing, but also the same. It's just like Dany and the promise she brings -- a conquerer-type we know well, but one who was ostracized, then self-liberated, which is an entirely different proposition altogether.
The ultimate ending of the episode was great, with the dragons swooping down into the water as all of those ships make their way to Westeros with Dany and her crew in them. (I assume Varys called an UberDragon to get there in time.) The episode ended with three coronations: Jon Snow taking on the crown of the North, Cersei taking on the crown of the Seven Kingdoms, and Daenerys taking the crown of being the awesomest in the whole universe. During Jon Snow's ceremony, Sansa and Littlefinger exchanged glances. So did Cersei and Jaime, who arrived just as the wildfire smoke cleared. But that didn't happen as Dany, who is sailing to take what is hers. All eyes were on the horizon, everyone focused on the same goal and seemingly immune to all the internecine plotting that we usually associate with the game of thrones.
Where does that leave us at the end of this season? Cersei rules over the Seven Kingdoms, Arya will definitely plan to kill her, and Jaime might try to take her down, too. Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell are out for vengeance, ready to free themselves from the government of King's Landing or take it over themselves. Cersei's control doesn't range very far considering the entire North, the South, Dorne, and the Knights of the Vale are all in open rebellion against her. Her soldiers who aren't recuperating from the War of the Five Kings do stupid things like campaign against the Blackfish. Pretty soon, Cersei's forces will contend with the Dothraki, the Unsullied, and three motherfucking dragons. That doesn't seem within her scope. The Seven Kingdoms as we know it is coming to an end, mostly because, as Tywin Lannister famously said, Cersei isn't as smart as she thinks she is.
Jon Snow and Sansa seem like they'll secede from the nation, but first they have a little something called the White Walkers to deal with. Game of Thrones' endgame has always been a massive fight with the dead, a thread woven into the first scene of the entire series. The squabbling over who gets the throne is nothing but a distraction; all those caught up in it will need to band together to fight the Night's King. We have two seasons of this show left, so the overarching plan seems to be destroying the kingdom as we know it, then all of the broken parts of the world unifying to take on a clear enemy. How we get there, though, is dark and full of terrors.
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