How about the fact that this is actually happening?
Rest in Peace:
— King Tommen Baratheon
— Queen Margaery Baratheon
— Ser Loras Tyrell
— Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden
— Grand Maester Pycelle
— The High Sparrow
— Kevan Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock and Hand of the King
— Lancel Lannister
— Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, Lord of Riverrun, Lord Paramount of the Trident
— Black Walder Frey
— Lothar Frey
— (Lyanna Stark)
Whew. I mean, whew.
That could probably be the whole recap right there. But then I wouldn’t get to point out that this also happened:
— We know that Jon Snow is a Targaryen. We also know, as if his charge to Rickon didn’t prove it unequivocally, that he is a Stark.
— Jon Snow, buoyed by the support of Lyanna Mormont, (who was named after his MOTHER), that he is also now The King in the North.
— The Starks have now ‘won’ back to back episodes, after being sidelined, derided and left for dead for most of the series.
— Arya Stark is back in Westeros, a day’s ride from Winterfell and her brother and sister.
— The Battle of the Five Kings is over, and in this age, women (Dany, Sansa, Olenna, Yara, Ellaria) are pushing the agenda.
— Tyrion Lannister, abused, shamed, hated, marginalized and despised, was finally rewarded for his intellect and his character, and officially made Hand of the Queen.
— The Red Wedding has been avenged fully, and each perpetrator was murdered by the means they used in the Red Wedding. Talisa Stark=Roose Bolton=stabbed in the stomach. Robb Stark=Tywin Lannister=shot with crossbow. Cat Stark=Walder Frey=throat slit.
— Jaime killed the Mad King for threatening (or intending) to burn them all. Cersei did it.
— The prophecy about Cersei’s children all dying came true.
— A Song of Ice (Jon Snow) and Fire (Daenerys Targaryen)
— Daenerys, with Tyrion, Lord Varys, Grey Worm, Missandei, Theon and Yara, and all the Dothraki, Dornishmen, Tyrells, Unsullied and Ironborn, are finally crossing the Narrow Sea.
Wow. Just wow.
Let’s just take a minute to reflect on what this show was when it began. For those of us who hadn’t read the books, it would have been impossible to predict that all of this —lo these many years— every small detail and subplot and doff of the cap was all meticulously tied together by a fascinating tether. What dooms so many of these pop-culture defining shows is that they don’t come together in the end. Looking directly at you, Lost. Or the ‘meaning’ changes because the showrunners at the beginning didn’t know/guess/anticipate how the fanbase would want the direction to go. But this, Game of Thrones is the most singularly well developed and tightly strung major plot line in television history, and the feeling we all have, even though we had either outright known about or correctly guessed major plot developments is known as satisfaction. Satisfaction. Pure, unadulterated satisfaction.
And that’s an amazing, powerful feeling, especially in a series that’s been so dark and full of terrors.
And now, the season finale of Game of Thrones…
And they open with that now iconic shot of Jon unsheathing Longclaw and facing down the charging Karstark cavalry. Man…just a rush of emotions went through me. I doubt I’ll ever be able to look at any scene from ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ and not feel swept away, AND THESE GUYS KNOW IT. That amazes me how well they know it. You can’t say enough about the story crafted by George R.R. Martin. You just can’t. It’s a masterpiece. But then, to have D.B. Weiss and David Benioff bring this to our living rooms every week, with such beauty and majesty and poetry? And to bring it like they were one of us. That’s the big thing. They love it like we love it, and they cherish these beats with such clarity and understanding that we can feel their unseen hand in them. Has there ever been an adaptation of material with the tone and feel and subtlety and perception and scope and skill as this? Have we ever seen its like in human history?
I don’t think so.
For my money, Game of Thrones is the best television show ever, and season six was the best season ever and the last two episodes were the best episodes of that season. And we all had a front row seat to the event. I feel incredibly lucky that it happened during my lifetime, and that I get to recap this brilliance — a show as close to artistic perfection as I’ve ever seen — and that all of you are in it with me, so we can appreciate it together, as friends. It’s a beautiful thing, every which way you cut it, and it begins this week with a vision of our hero, in the North, trying to retake his childhood home, facing down a mounted brigade of oncoming traitors. I mean come on.
The ‘previously on’ section of this episode was better than entire seasons of other shows. That’s how captivating it was.
In one beautiful series we saw Jon steeling himself, the charge of the Knights of the Vale that pierced the killing crush of the traitor Umber’s shield wall, Ramsay’s bloody face under Jon’s rain of fists, and then the Stark banner drops into frame. And THEN we actually get the graphic for ‘previously on Game of Thrones.’ By that point I felt like I had already heard the libretto, but no — now we’ll see previously on. Then we see the murder of Prince Dorian in Dorne and Walder Frey in his hall, the same place we saw the deaths of so many beloved characters. Characters, I’ll add, who had yet to be fully avenged. We go to the gutless Edmure Tully, handing over Riverrun to Jaime and his redcloacks.
Then we see Robert! From season one! Touching the face of Lyanna Stark in the crypt before he asks Ned to be his hand. And I’m like HOLY SHIT! WE’RE GETTING IT TONIGHT! WE’RE GETTING TO THE TOWER OF JOY!
At this point, I feel like I’ve run a marathon. My heart is racing and I’m excited and fired up and filled with anticipatory glee. That’s right, actual glee. We are exactly 53 seconds into the previously ons. I mean, holy shit.
Then they confirm it, with a shot of older Ned dissolving into younger Ned. We have the conversation with Varys and Tyrion before he left on his secret mission. We revisit the Yara and Daenerys throne room. I can’t get over Yara’s posture by the way. She’s a hell of a stander.
Then we get the “my reign has just begun” line as Drogon does a flyby. And I wonder how badly the masters could have misidentified the situation, to be routed so thoroughly and swiftly. Fuck ‘em. They’re dead, and so is Slaver’s Bay.
Then we see the dance of influence between The High Sparrow and Margaery and Tommen. We see the rose that Margaery passed to Olenna to confirm her loyalties. We see Tommen pronounce his mother’s virtual death sentence by eliminating trial by combat and then we kick into the opening title sequence.
It’s already so awesome, and we haven’t even started yet. But I said to Lady Castleton, “that’s a LOT of story they just splashed at us. Could they possibly tie it all up? Tonight?”
Before we jump in
Can everything in life be written by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff and directed by Miguel Sapochnik from now on? Is that too much to ask?
Let me just put this here:
The song you want, the one that has haunted and stayed with you, is track #3, The Light of the Seven.
We open with Cersei looking down across King’s Landing at the Sept of Baelor. It was a beautiful shot because I feel like we haven’t often seen the size of King’s Landing. We’ve seen so many parts of it over the years, but rarely an elevated perspective like that. And that Sept looms in the distance for Cersei. It’s the place of her imprisonment, and her doom. You can see how architecture is used in the city to subconsciously keep the hoi polloi in check. Look left and the Red Keep towers above, a symbol of the King and his power. Look right and the Sept of Baelor looms in constant judgement, a reminder that the gods see all. Intimidating. And is it any wonder that Cersei’s feet were so torn up from her walk of shame? You didn’t necessarily get the sense of how far it is in that episode, but this shot makes it clear. It’s a long walk, and now Cersei will have to take that walk back, without the Mountain to fight for her, and face her punishment in the eyes of the gods. No wonder she stares unblinkingly at it. Her fate will be locked up with the Sept of Baelor.
It is in silence that we visit the rulers of King’s Landing, all donning their apparel for the day. Cersei in black. Margaery, lovely Margaery with the best hair in the show, being dressed in shadow. The High Sparrow drops his finest burlap potato bag over himself. King Tommen is noticeably concerned, torn between the affection for his mother and his duty as King and as a religious leader of his people. He stares out the window in silence…and then…
…the doors of the Sept of Baelor open and we hear…piano? The gentle tickling of keys?
Wait, what’s happening? This is Game of Thrones! We’re strings only, people! You can’t signify doom and gloom with a piano!
And that’s exactly right. Because with that downward shot onto the opening doors, a new era has dawned in King’s Landing, and the music is very pointedly telling us that. Things are changing. Everything you thought you knew is over.
Beautiful people, the ruling class of King’s Landing, all the people that Tyrion wished he had let Stannis kill, come pouring in to the Sept of Baelor to watch the end of Cersei Lannister. That must have been quite a ticket. You can imagine that the people in attendance must have had some serious pull to gain admission to that.
Loras Tyrell, looking more haggard than we’ve ever seen him, has his hair trimmed by Cersei’s one time lover, and the High Sparrow enters backlit by the seven pointed star, the very symbol of his faith. Margaery looks around: where is Tommen?
In the Red Keep, a servant gets his Taft-Hartley as he reminds the King that it’s nearly showtime. Tommen says nothing. He’s conflicted, looking for answers. What’s the right thing to do?
We cut to Cersei, now donning either her Michael/Janet Jackson outfit or Darth Cersei outfit or, to me, her Skyrim: Queen of the Damned ensemble.
But she’s clearly dressing for the occasion. If she’s going to go out, she’s not going to do it in some ‘acceptable’ floral arrangement that Robert would have approved of. She’s embracing her inner demons and dressing herself in them. You want to know who I am? This is who I am.
“You got my money?” snorts a naked prostitute from the bed of a dressing Grand Maester Pycelle.
“Later. Go away.” He says, waving her off. Then he’s visited by one of Qyburn’s little birds, formerly Varys’ little birds. Something is whispered in his ear and we’re back in the Sept of Baelor. Loras has freely admitted to all of his crimes in a voice that’s surprisingly stronger than expected. The High Sparrow smiles. Everything is going swimmingly, and in front of all of the hoity-toity elite of King’s Landing, Loras calls Renly Baratheon, the love of his life, a traitor.
At this point, where Loras has clearly been coached by Margaery about what to say in a deal she struck with The High Sparrow (what can I do to save my brother?) It’s noticeable that this trial has started without the presence of the king. That seems like an overstepping of sorts, even for someone as fully in control of the King as The High Sparrow is.
The High Sparrow has Loras ostensibly kneel to the Mother, but clearly to him. Loras renounces his title and lordship of Highgarden. That’s a HUGE blow to House Tyrell. Not only do they lose a living heir, but they lose his progeny as well. Jesus, that’s a blow to House Tyrell, though I suppose that him being executed would have done the same. Maybe Margaery is counting on being able to have Loras’ titles reinstated by royal dispensation once she can finally outmaneuver The Faith Militant.
But first, they carve their symbol into her brother’s face.
Mace Tyrell reacts, moving toward the Sept floor, but Margaery holds him back. “Faith is the way, father.” She says through gritted teeth, her careful charade pressed to its limits.
Now, finally, King Tommen is ready. He stands up to leave, but The Mountain blocks his path. Is this it? Did Cersei send her goon to take out her own son? No. The Mountain puts one hand on Tommen’s shoulder to stop him, but that’s all. No weapon comes down. Tommen looks up to the hippopotamic landmass and we cut to Cersei, now in full Disney sorceress regalia, and then back to the toes of Ser Loras, blood from his now marked forehead dripping on them.
There’s a beat there where we pull focus past Loras and see Mace Tyrell in frame looking dejected, but more centered is Kevan Lannister. And I thought, you gutless, planless taint, Kevan Lannister. You’re not worthy of the Lannister name. Tywin must have beat you like a rented mule in every way when you were children. You know-nothing, garbage-person, cowardly shit. That’s YOUR SON with a fucking brand on his head, destroying another man’s son in there. You aimless, pointless, repugnant enabler. I spit at you. You’re no Lannister. You’re just a Frey with money.
“You mutilated him.” Margaery says quietly to The High Sparrow, her rage barely at bay. “You gave me your word.”
“And I have kept my word.” Says The High Sparrow. “Once the Queen Mother’s trial is concluded, Brother Loras is free to leave.”
So, that was the deal. Loras admits everything and he gets to walk out a free man. An excellent deal struck by Margaery, considering that he was almost certainly going to be killed. But The High Sparrow won’t just let him depart without marking him with the symbol of his power for all to see. I can control a king. I can turn away an army. I can walk a Queen Mother naked through the streets and I can take the heir of The Reach, the most fertile land in Westeros, controlled by one of the most powerful families in Westeros, and I can literally carve my mark into his face. That’s power.
And what do they say about power? It corrupts.
“And where is the Queen Mother?” Margaery asks, tension in her voice.
When Lancel Lannister reports that she never left her quarters, the High Sparrow says “Go to the Red Keep and show her the way.”
And it’s here that the piano music kicks back on, beginning one of the greatest sequences in television history.
Lancel Lannister is sent to retrieve her, and as he does he notices a little bird running down the steps of the Sept. He’s suspicious. He follows.
Now we start intercutting between him and Grand Maester Pycelle, who has been summoned by the king, he thinks, to a room in the lower floor, I think it’s a maester’s room. We cut to Cersei pouring herself a glass of wine in an especially ornate goblet. One little bird stays just out of Lancel’s line of sight, masterfully baiting him to follow. We’ll call him Little Bird #1 because he’s the #1 draft pick Little Bird. Meanwhile, #2 Little Bird, the girl who lured Pycelle down to the dungeons, closes the door behind him, and he sees Qyburn there. After some huffing about wasted time, and Qyburn’s detached manner, twice asking for forgiveness and assuring him it isn’t personal, Pycelle realizes the danger of his situation.
“I’m sorry my lord. No matter your faults, you don’t deserve to die alone in such a cold, dark place. But before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.”
The music picks up and the aria begins, haunting and baleful. Pycelle looks around, at Qyburn’s Little Birds, now all holding blades. The man who made Cersei’s monster has turned all of Varys’ little birds into monsters as well, and they fly at him without emotion. You rarely see someone stabbed to death by a mob of dagger-wielders - Caesar in the Senate comes to mind, but then it was only really once each, to say they had taken part in the death of a tyrant. Even the Night’s watch only stabbed Lord Commander Snow once each. But Pycelle? The Little Birds surrounded him and kept tapping away with their blades. Tap tap tap tap tap. It was a gruesome thing to watch. Almost as gruesome as children, who can’t possibly know the ramifications of erasing this moral barrier, being engaged to murder. Let that be a lesson to those of you who think there’s a limit to the power of caramel.
Meanwhile, Lancel is deep deep under the catacombs beneath the Sept of Baelor, where he picks up the discarded torch of Little Bird #1, and is quickly stabbed in the kidney for it. That’s why this Little Bird is the most badass. Because he’s alone inside a room with the #1 enforcer of the Faith Militant and he crushes him. It’s Gallipoli under there. It’s not even close. Paging Jaqen H’Ghar! Paging Jaqen H’Ghar! We got a Faceless Man candidate up in this mamma jamma. I mean, dear god that was efficient.
So yes, we didn’t need to see Lancel actually go down and we didn’t need to see him reveal the stash of Wyldfyre (that’s how you guys want it spelled) rack by disastrous rack. And of course he wasn’t going to foil the plan, but I like to think that in those moments before the candles burned down (a cool set piece effect I thought) he wondered what might have happened if he hadn’t gone holy, and instead had just stayed in Cersei’s bed, filling her up with cousinjuice? Alas, at this point, we’re almost at the end of Lancel Lannister, though cousinjuice may still have its day.
Let’s just take a second to say how cool looking and handsome Little Bird #1 is. Cripes! Paging my 10 year old daughter! Paging my 10 year old daughter! Get your future bedroom poster wall ready!
That boy’s got the shape of eyes you never ever ever ever want coming home for dinner with your daughter on his arm. Those are magic eyes.
Now Margaery’s instincts are piqued. Her internal warning klaxons are blaring. Like Leia feeling out for her wounded brother, Margaery knows something is horribly wrong. And as the High Sparrow blathers about how no one can escape the justice of the gods, Margaery’s carefully crafted mask comes flying off.
“FORGET ABOUT THE BLOODY GODS AND LISTEN TO WHAT I’M TELLING YOU.”
The High Sparrow looks astonished, like he’s been struck by lightning. Forget about the bloody gods? So it seems he was fooled by Margaery’s veil after all.
“Cersei understands the consequences of her absence and she is absent anyway. Which means that she does not intend to suffer those consequences.”
And the High Sparrow scoffs, but this time, not out of confidence. Margaery’s words are clear and 100% right. He can feel it. Everyone knows she’s right. “We all need to leave now!” She yells, and then she heads right for her brother. “Loras. Stay with me.”
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better sister in the Game of Thrones universe that Margaery Tyrell. What she accepted about her brother, without ever judging him. How she loved him completely, and the strength it took, once she saw how broken he was, to craft a ruse and hold it through such torment and for so long, just to buttress him, just to deliver him from evil. And when danger was closing in on her, the first thing she did was rush to her brother, to steady him, support him, and get him the hell out of there.
But without the say-so from the High Sparrow, his fanatics aren’t letting anyone go, and for the first time since we met Jonathan Pryce as the ashen Westerosi cult leader, he looks lost. What to do? Should he let them leave? Everything he’s done to this point has been so scripted, so well planned. Should he allow for a change to that script? If he lets Loras go, what leverage does he have with the Tyrells? It’s all rushing too fast. He can’t catch up to it.
As Lancel reached the candles and Margaery yelled for everyone to leave, I started mumbling “come on, come on” to myself. As the Faith Militant automatons blocked Margaery’s departure, I sat up in my seat, and it felt to me like the moment where Jon and Ygritte were on the wall and he’s holding her by the hand and it feels like a WHOOSH where time slows down.
You goddamn fools! Let her pass! Let her through!
And then the Wyldfyre alights, and we see the doom in the irises of Lancel Lannister, the final thing he ever sees as his body is blown apart.
The greenfire surges through the catacombs, looking for a weak point to emerge, and it roars upward, through the seven pointed star on the marble floor of the Sept of Baelor, and obliterates the High Sparrow,
And for a second, I thought, maybe it’s localized…maybe it rushed through beneath him…maybe Margaery-
And then the entire floor of the Sept exploded, and every person in attendance was incinerated.
Far away, in the Red Keep, Cersei smiled. A job well done. She smiles again and sips her wine.
Tommen, conversely, is catatonic. He watches the explosion with disbelief. They’re all gone, he must be thinking. His mentor and the love of his life - his queen - all in one enormous green eruption.
He stands there, poor rabbit, with his mouth agape. Behind him, The Mountain, his job complete, exits quietly.
We all saw this coming. We all knew what Cersei was planning. But to see it go down, to actually see it with all of the skill of storytelling and scoring and cinematography — well, it’s jarring and captivating and terrifying all at once.
Margaery’s loss is certainly the most difficult to take. I listed the deaths at the outset, but her loss leaves a gaping hole in our hearts. Even if she wasn’t your cup of tea, you have to admit that she was an expert player of the game. Roughly the same age as Sansa and Gilly and the Sand Snakes, she had them all beat in the intelligence and mental acuity department. She was the young hope of the feminine in Westeros, and with only Daenerys in terms of young women changing the course of the world.
Think about how she cared for the poor (or if you’re a cynic, how she pretended to care for the poor). Think about how she used her appearance as well as her brain. Think about how she asked Renly, without judgement, if he’d like her to invite her brother into their bedroom, and how she lay with three different Baratheon Kings without sullying her reputation in the least. Unlike Cersei, who was hated by the people, she was beloved. Unlike Sansa, who people were unsure about, Margaery — Queen Margaery I should say — controlled her own message. Unlike Cersei, whose family despises her as much as she despises them, Queen Margaery was loyal to the bitter end, embracing her brother as the fire came. Believe it or not, she wasn’t someone I particularly rooted for, one way or another, but even saying that, I’ll remember this episode as the death of Margaery as much as anything else.
Such a shame, really. Such a profound shame.
And somewhere, one prostitute is never going to get paid for having sex with an octogenarian. #NORAGRETS
Now we see Septa Unella locked into a room where Cersei is pouring wine on her to wake her. If it defies credibility that Septa Unella wasn’t torched in the Sept with every other member of the Faith Militant, that probably because you don’t know that there was a fantastic sale on handbells across town that morning. I mean, like once in a lifetime. It was just too good to pass up.
We’ll save our analysis of this scene and just say that they must have grabbed her ahead of time (which you’d think would have alerted the High Sparrow) and that this is when we get to see the worm actually turn for Cersei. She is now the monster that she claimed to worry that she might be. All pretenses are gone. She is evil. Pure evil.
And then The Mountain comes in to do something awful to Septa Unella, but I couldn’t tell what it is. Cersei leaves as Septa Unella screams, casually calling “Shame! Shame!” over her shoulder. That’s a textbook victory over a hated rival.
The Red Keep, King’s Quarters
We smash the screams away as we cut to a silent Tommen, staring out at the smoking husk of the now destroyed Sept. He is still. Silent, as he hears the screams in the distance. Poor. poor little rabbit. Like Ser Davos’ speech to Lyanna Mormont, he never expected to be in this position. He never expected to be so young and to be responsible for so many lives — lives which now lay in ruin before him. In plain view.
He is not a king. He is not up to this task. He waits for his manservant to leave, and then gently lays down the crown of the Seven Kingdoms. He walks to the window, and with no hesitation whatsoever, leans forward to end this miserable existence for good. A fitting bookend that we opened the series with a Stark boy being pushed by a Lannister out the window and we end this season with a Lannister boy doing the same, of his own accord.
As we focus on the window where he just vanished, the billowing Sept in the distance, we hear the pre-lap voice of Walder Frey:
“For House Lannister!”
“Hear me roar!” The men yell.
For House Lannister, indeed. A House that once wiped out the entire House Reyne. Jaime sits in Walder Frey’s mead hall, as elsewhere his son has just committed suicide. His sister wife has just murdered his Uncle and cousin, and for all intents and purposes, their last child, and though he doesn’t yet know it, his mood is glum. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Something feels off.
Walder blathers, flanked by his sons in their awful caps, about the Freys and the Lannisters sending their regards, but it’s trite and hollow to Jaime. The Freys and The Lannisters (and the Boltons) engineered the most dastardly scheme in history. Their legacy together is not one of honor, it’s of deceit and the utter lack of integrity. Jaime is still a buffoon in many ways, but he knows this isn’t what he signed up for.
Luckily, Bronn is there to call him a c*nt, which makes him feel better.
Then the elder Frey sidles up to him to chat, and Jaime can barely stand the stench of him. “Here we are, two Kingslayers.” He brags. A man who has never held a blade, but was only too happy to stab the Tullys, whom he was pledged to, in the back. As neatly as the Boltons, then Stark bannermen, did to Robb. “We don’t mind, do we? We know what it’s like to have them grovel to our faces and snigger behind our backs.” UGH. Jaime does mind, you asshole. It’s the thing he minds the most. But Frey goes on and on, maligning the Blackfish, celebrating his own lack of ethics and the power it has gained him. It’s nauseating, and as Frey says “The Starks mocked me, but where are they now?” The shape of a barmaid passes through the frame.
Jaime, to his credit, can’t stand this bullshit. He belittles Walder Frey and leaves him sitting at the table in shock, their alliance in question.
Oh, isn’t that just like you Jaime? Why do you give us hope, you fucking prick? Why does it seem like you get it only to find out that you don’t fucking get it. But in this scene, at least, our Jaime, the Jaime that usually wears a beard, was back. It was a fine piece of acting.
The Red Keep
Now Cersei stands over the body of her dead son and the prophecy is complete. Out the window go all her lies about protecting her family. She is free: free to become the evil monster she was always destined to be, without the burdensome garlands of family to hide behind. She’s not protecting her babies. Her babies are all gone, each in their own way because of her. And as Qyburn covers Tommen for the last time, he wonders what to do, now that the Sept of Baelor is gone.
“Burn him.” Cersei says.
Sam arrives in the Citadel, just as an entire flock of white ravens are being released. I like Sam, so I was happy to see him. Plus I thought Gilly looked beautiful in this scene, especially when she’s forced to wait in the lobby. But I can also see how if you’re not a fan of this, you’d be freaking out wasting precious seconds of airtime on Gilly.
Anyway, I don’t have much to say about the Vulcan at the front desk, but seeing Sam’s wonder as he entered the library was worth its weight in gold. His fingers placidly dabble over the chains that hold the spines of thousands of texts like Maximus’ fingers on the wheat in the fields by his home in Gladiator. And then…he’s in to the main hall.
It’s like: this exists? In Westeros? A place that so often seems devoid of culture and learning. This amazing Library of Alexandria thing exists?
And then I thought. Goddamn, it’s going to absolutely kill me to watch it burn.
Damn this show. Damn this show to hell.
But at least we now know what this thing in the opening sequence is:
We follow one of the white ravens as it glides toward Winterfell. Jon is in full remembrance mode, thinking about how he was forced to sit away from his family at dinners. Melisandre reminds him that he had a family. And dinners.
Then Ser Davos storms in and we finally get the scene we’ve been anticipating. Davos controlled himself through the battle, but now he will not be denied. It takes every fiber of his being not to execute her right there.
“Tell him what you did to her! Tell him!”
And she does.
“I only do what my Lord commands!” She says desperately “The horses were dying…”
“If he commands you to burn children, your lord is EVIL.” Davos says.
Now this is an absolutely key moment in the life of Jon Snow, right here. Because this woman’s fate is in his hands. She resurrected him from the dead, and because of that, he was able to vanquish his enemies and save his sister and his home. But, she burned a child alive, and his most trusted advisor, a man whose reputation is rock-solid with Jon, a man who fought to guard his dead body, has asked to kill her.
What to do?
Jon sends her away. He’s wise enough to understand the peril that awaits them North of the Wall, and he’s smart enough to know they might need her alive, but he can’t let this stand and he can’t refuse his right hand man. Plus, he’s a Stark. What she did is unthinkable. He looks at her with disgust and scorn.
“Ride south today. If you return to the North I’ll have you hanged as a murderer.”
YESSSSSSS JON SNOOOOO! Oh god that was so amazing. She knows how to probe the hidden desires of the megalomaniacal, but Jon Snoo doesn’t have those desires. He’s never sought out power. He just wants to make his papa proud. And by sending her away, he did. He made Ned smile. He made all of us smile. He’s not a puppet with strings to be pulled by this woman. He’s his own man. Thank god.
As he watches her ride South, Sansa joins him on the walls of Winterfell. He tells her that he’s having the Lord’s chamber, her parent’s room, prepared for her. She says that he should take it, and he says “I’m not a Stark.”
“You are to me.” She says.
We’re going to spend a lot of time over the next few months trying to figure Sansa out, what she thinks, what she wants and what she said to whom and when. But when she said that to Jon, it was probably the kindest and most powerful thing she could have ever said to him. He has been not really a Stark for so long, and as children she held it over him mercilessly. But in that moment, she accepts him fully, possibly for the first time ever, and really sees him as a brother. It’s honestly the most I’ve ever liked Sansa Stark.
Then Jon sticks it to her, gently, saying it was her victory. After all, it was her knights that rode in…
“You told me it was Lord Baelish that sold you to the Boltons?”
“And you trust him?”
“Only a fool would trust Littlefinger.”
Wait, now, officially, is the most I’ve ever liked Sansa Stark. It took one full generation of Tully girls, one Cat, one Lysa and finally one Sansa to understand what a Machiavellian dirtweasel Petyr Baelish is. At least she finally does. Thank fucking god.
She apologizes for not telling him about the Knights of the Vale. It’s simple and honest.
We have to trust each other he says. He kisses her on the forehead, like a father would to his daughter — someone he loves and would die to protect — and he nods at her, and magically, splendidly, and most importantly, believably, all is well between them.
As he walks away, she informs him that a white raven has arrived. Winter is here.
The snow falls down around them. Jon looks up and laughs.
‘Well, father always promised, didn’t he?”
How do you make a scene in Dorne stomachable? You have Olenna crushing the Sand Snakes into silence and Varys appearing. That’s just fanservice. Mea culpa, the showrunners say, we know Dorne was a clusterfuck. Our bad.
The takeaway: Targaryens + Dornish + Tyrells
That’s basically it. Olenna’s house is basically destroyed. She has no heirs. All she cares about now is seeing Cersei pay before it’s all over.
Daenerys breaks up with Dreamy Daario. Okey doke. The best part of it was when he realized that Tyrion was behind it. But he took it like a man.
In the next room, Daenerys, comes to Tyrion. She tells him Daario took it well and there were no tears. She also relays that she had no feeling about it. AAAAAOOOOGA AOOOOOGA Sociopath warning! Sociopath warning! Mental Illness at three o’clock! I’m just kidding. She’s just excited to get on with it.
Join the club, honey. We’ve been here for half a decade.
The best moment of this exchange was certainly the validation of Tyrion.
“Tyrion Lannister, I name you Hand of the Queen.”
God, the emotion! That flood of emotion on his face. God, that was sublime acting. I’m getting chills just writing about it.
It was wonderful to see him be appreciated. He really believes in her. I loved how he was embarrassed by that. Belief is a thing for cretins and people of low intellect, don’t you know! But it was nice to see him belong after all of these years. And this is two episodes in a row where Daenerys seems to be getting better and better.
God I love Tyrion. His story is unreal.
Have we ever seen that wine-soused little sonofabitch kneel for anyone? Ever?
He was overwhelmed, and had nothing to say for the first time in his life. The acceptance. The sense of being where he should be. The overt validation that he never got from his family. He had to cross the world itself in a crate and then slave pits and unshackle dragons to get here, but damn if it wasn’t worth it.
He kneels. He looks at Daenerys and just bows his head and kneels.
To make a man like that, of that depth of cynicism and petulance actually believe? Daenerys is truly onto something.
Walder Frey, alone in his hall, eats his kids.
The best part about this was that Arya is such a bauce! I mean, jesus! How did she have time to get there, kill everyone, bake a pie and then serve it? How did she get Walder Frey alone in that room?
Who knows. Honestly, who cares?
Watching the blood trickle out of that louse was as satisfying as hearing Ramsay scream last week. Dear god, what kind of Cersei Lannister has this show turned me into?
“My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last thing you ever see is the face of a Stark smiling down on you as you die.”
OH HELL YES!
So even. So unflappable. Arya’s a Faceless Man, yo! Or whatever. But she knows the tricks! Now I know why she was captured with Hot Pie and cleaned all those bodies! All roads lead to Rome.
Hot Pie sends his regards, bitch!
She smiled as she cut his throat and smiled as he bled out. Unlike Cat, who was dead on her feet before a blade ever touched her, Walder suffered.
Ptuh. More spit. Burn in hell, Walder Frey.
At the White Tree, so much as changed. Remember these days?
Now we have Sansa coming fully into her own. Littlefinger approaches and says he can come back if she’s in prayer, but she says “I’m done with all that.”
Boy oh boy. Is this episode a vilification of organized religion or what? Cersei blows the shit out of a thousand year old sept and kills every religious fanatic in the Capitol. Jon Snow banishes the Lord of Light from his inner circle and now Sansa says she’s done with praying.
What do you want? She asks Baelish.
“Every time I have to make a decision I close my eyes and see the same picture.” Which is basically him on the Iron Throne with her at his side. And by god he’s done surprisingly well to get closer to that picture being a reality, hasn’t he? From a relatively unimportant family to whoremaster to small council to Lord of Harrenhal to controlling the fate of the Eyrie and its army? Um, yah. But the next step is something he can’t control. Whether Sansa will edge her brother out to take Winterfell, and marry him.
Because then, he, Petyr Baelish, asshole extraordinaire, would be the de facto Kingindanorf.
I desperately wanted Sansa to say “Yeah? And what part of selling me to a rapist psychopath got you closer to that picture?”
He goes in for the kiss, but she stones him. (YES!)
And he’s like fuck. Have to think fast. He says he’s declared for the Starks and he tries to drive a wedge between her and Jon, the motherless bastard from the south.
OOoooooooh Baelish. You’re playing a dangerous game, dude.
But Sansa’s not biting. She turns and walks away.
North of the Wall
Every time I think I’ve written about all the good scenes, there’s still more to write about. I can’t believe I haven’t even gotten to my favorite scene of the episode yet.
Before we get there, we have Benjen dumping Bran on the ground and peacing out. OHohokay! You could, like, guard me and shit while I’m greenseeing or- no? Okay then later Unc Benj! You be you!
The Tower of Joy
At long last, we’re here.
And we are finally told what happened in the Tower of Joy. Lyanna Stark, Ned’s little sister, gave birth to Rhaegar Targaryen’s son. Jon Snow is a Targaryen. He’s the Wolfdragon. I don’t know if she was kidnapped like the history books say or if she ran away with Rhaegar but I kind of feel like it was the latter. I think that’s why Rhaegar sent his best warriors to defend her.
I read, months ago, that the Prince that was Promised was born under a bleeding star. And also also that the sword of Ser Arthur Dayne, ‘Dawn’, was crafted from a fallen star. Um, proof enough?
“Promise me, Ned. Promise me.” She says to her brother. Promise
We get a shot of the baby, his beautiful face and intense eyes filling the whole screen and then we cut to Jon Snow’s face.
It’s so moving it almost defies words. This is who he is. This is our guy.
This was my favorite scene. I can barely type about it it was so phenomenal. And I’ve never seen Lady Castleton yell or stand during a television show either, but this moment kicked up all the adrenaline.
We’re at a moot, I guess. Or just a meeting. No idea what it’s called in the North. There’s some generic squabbling as Jon and Sansa are the only two seated at the Stark table. They are even. Neither of them is claiming to be the Lord of Winterfell.
People are bickering, lords want to take their men home, Jon says the dead are coming, it’s a little messy, no one’s sure which way it’s going to go.
And that’s when Lyanna Mormont, probably the most amazing child character in TV history, stands up and starts destroying people.
“Your son was butchered at the Red Wedding Lord Manderly, but you refused the call. You swore allegiance to House Stark, Lord Glover, but in their hour of greatest need, you refused the call. And you, Lord Cerwyn. Your father was skinned alive by Ramsay Bolton and still - you refused the call.”
But House Mormont remembers. The North remembers! We know no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark.”
And here we have a precious moment where we’ll find out who Lady Mormont is throwing her support behind. But Sansa already knows. She looks down, accepting what’s about to happen and feeling honest happiness and relief. And you can see that she loves the fire of this speech and how Lady Lyanna, at ten years of age, is seizing control of this room.
“I don’t care if he’s a bastard. Ned Stark’s blood flows through his veins.”
“He’s my king, from this day until his last day.”
Wow. I mean, at this point I’ve actually run out of words to convey emotion. It’s one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. Delivered flawlessly by a little girl with the coolest brogue I’ve ever heard. I have no idea why I didn’t raise my kids in Scotland now.
Lord Manderly. Lord Glover. Lord Cerwyn. A ten year old girl has shamed them all.
Lord Manderly rises. Before he even says one word, Lady Castleton says “you love this guy don’t you?”
“Yep.” I say. Just met him. Love him already. Guess I have a type.
“Lady Mormont speaks harshly. And truly.”
OH MY GOD. YES YES YES YES.
This begins a snowball effect of awesomeness that we never could have hoped for.
“Jon Snow avenged the Red Wedding! HE IS THE WHITE WOLF! ::sword drawn:: AND THE KING IN THE NORTH.” ::He kneels::
OH MY GOD
Lord Glover follows suit. It’s a steamroller. The emotion is unstoppable. Everyone, including Ser Davos and a smiling, amazing, Lyanna Mormont, and the Knights of the Vale who aren’t even in the fahkin’ North start to get swept up in this testosterone fever dream and they all pull their shit out and start yelling
THE KING IN THE NORTH! THE KING IN THE NORTH!
And Jon, shocked, rises to his feet. Sansa assures him with a smile, and everyone is happy. For one amazing, blissful moment of complete unity, the North is at peace.
Well, almost at peace.
Littlefinger is fuming in the back, looking at Sansa like she’s his new worst enemy. With that tide that Lyanna Mormont started, his access to the North, and realistically the Iron Throne, is cut off. And he’s going to make her pay for it.
But fuck him for now, because Sansa is no dummy anymore, and she knows his tricks better than anyone.
Jon Snow is the King in the North. He has taken Robb’s place as the heir of Winterfell and he’s infinitely worthy because all he’s ever done from day one is the right thing. No matter what life threw at Jon Snow, fair or unfair, he always took the high road. He never wanted power, it came to him. He never sought influence, it sought him. He never wanted war, war came to him. He is the most brave, humble, appreciative, truly noble and honorable leader in the seven kingdoms and he deserves every accolade he gets, and if that means a group of veteran warriors yelling his title in a room made of rock, then that’s just great. He is an amazing character and he’s finally, like Tyrion, getting validated publicly.
My god. It’s exhilarating. I’ve been watching this scene on a loop since last night and between Jon and Lyanna and Santa Manderly it’s like an explosion of pure awesome. I can’t get enough.
So who’s in charge in the capitol?
Jaime arrives to find out. Hint: it rhymes with Dirty Bannister.
Cersei’s coronation is like the dawn of a terrible day. No one in the room is even smiling. It’s like a reign of terror has begun. Jaime and Cersei share a look, and does he know what happened? Where’s Tommen? In that moment it feels like Jaime sees the Mad King all over again, except that when he killed him, everything he gave up — his reputation, his name — it all came to pass anyway, and terrifyingly close to home. It’s hard to say what will happen between Jaime and Cersei — now Queen Cersei but it certainly seems like their relationship is changed forever.
Jaime has lived his life as Kingslayer. Does he have it in him to be Queenslayer as well? Time will tell.
We finally get the scene that we’ve waited years for. How could they have assembled everyone this quickly? Well, we have to imagine that months have passed. Time enough for Varys and the Tyrells and the Dornish to join the former Master’s fleet and the Ironborn fleet.
All our favorites are there. Daenerys with Tyrion next to her, not behind her. Varys. Missandei in her hot-ass battle gear. ::cough::Pajiba 10::cough:: Yara and Theon are aboard another ship and she’s like “I wonder how many Volantis whores I can get for that golden dragon on the front of Daenerys’- oh shit shit. I’m not a pirate anymore. Sigh.” Grey Worm. The Unsullied, sailing at full attention for some reason (unlock those knees, boys) and even the Dothraki are all there.
The Tyrell ships:
As well as the Dornish ships:
And of course, Drogon, with a water effect like Buckbeak’s claw or the X-Wings coming in low toward Maz Tanaka’s place. When they touch the water, it unleashes something primal in all of us.
And it’s all headed toward Cersei, who has what? Qyburn as her hand? Seventeen Gold Cloaks? Seriously, what am I missing? She’s pissed off everyone in the universe. We think Septa Unella has it bad? What sort of comeuppance is sailing toward Queen Cersei next season…a season which starts…in onlyyyyyyy…42 weeks.
Hang on I have to go cry in the bathroom for a bit.
Yes, it’s going to be a long wait, but we’re left being filled with hope and possibility instead of helplessness. Our people are firmly in charge. A storm is coming from the North and from the East, but something tells me before the Night King crosses the powerful magic of the Wall, some shit ‘bout to go down in KL.
I have a friend who rubs his hands together every time he gets excited. That’s how I feel when I think of Tyrion headed toward Cersei. OOOOOOOhhhhhhhhh! It’s too good! It’s too perfect!
Thank you all for taking the time to read through these long recaps. I used to visit a site called Television Without Pity before it shut down, and I felt like the age of detailed, meat-on-the-bone recaps might have come to an end. But because of you, a longer, more detailed look at a show is alive and well here at Pajiba. Thanks to Dustin for giving me way too much leeway to really digest every piece of this show. I feel like we’ve experienced something historic, and while it may just be television, this kind of art is powerful.
It’s the greatest season of television ever, and we saw it live, as it happened. Not years later. It sets the bar at such an all-time high that I can’t imagine what show could begin to approach it, much less eclipse it. But it was breathtaking and awe-inspiring and life-affirming and I’m glad we could experience it together. Make sure to come back tomorrow for Genevieve’s always-amazing book reader recaps. I never read the books and they’re like crack to me.
The King in the North! The King in the North!
Wow. A thousand times: wow.