[For Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
The Winds of Winter. Latest episode of the hit series.
Certainly “The Winds of Winter” was close. We got crucial background information, found out what all our favorite characters are up to (no matter how far flung), and even saw multiple arcs come full circle. With so many important storylines being resolved I decided to go big on my overarching theme this week with…
My Top 8 Aw Shit Moments of “The Winds of Winter”:
1. Cersei Blows Up the Great Sept of Baelor
Going into “The Winds of Winter” young King Tommen really put his mom into a pickle. By banning trial by combat Tommen took away Cersei’s ace in the hole — the Mountain — as her preferred champion. The High Sparrow tried Ser Loras first.
Loras fell far, though pointlessly, here. He “admitted” his many “sins” (“I lay with other men including the traitor Renly Baratheon”); and was mutilated by the Faith Militant for his troubles. A broken Loras capped off his confession with a knife to the forehead, renouncing everything that made him who he is [was], to the horror of other Tyrells present.
Margaery noticed — and soon enough — that there was something wrong. Cersei didn’t show up for her own trial. Unfortunately the Faith Militant kept Margaery and the other nobles from successfully fleeing as the great Sept went up in a green explosion of wildfire.
Some decades before the action of “The Winds of Winter” began, Jaime Lannister betrayed his Kingsguard oaths to save King’s Landing from the caches of wildfire hidden beneath the streets by a mad Targaryen. Once she was put into a corner, Jaime’s sister took all of one episode to blow the place up using those same damnable resources; High Sparrow, Tyrell family, and landmark all at once.
2. Tommen Flings Himself Out the Window
Tommen, like his absent mother, was supposed to have attended the day’s trials. However the Mountain kept King Tommen in his room; a safety measure to prevent him from entering an exploding Sept.
After seeing the destruction — destruction that cost him his wife and his new best buddy the High Sparrow — Tommen was overcome with emotion. Was it just loss? Was it the realization that he cast the proximate die by outlawing trial by combat? We’ll never know because Tommen didn’t say hardly anything this episode before committing suicide.
And so, in consecutive season finales, Cersei and Jaime lose actually decent child after actually decent child.
Even as she gets a measure of revenge over a cruel septa (and in anticipation of #8, below) we must ask Well Cersei, was it all worth it?
I’ve seen every episode of this show, read every novel (some more than twice), and even comics like The Hedge Knight… And I honestly don’t know what she would answer.
3. A Conspiracy in Dorne
“The last time a Tyrell came to Dorne he was assassinated.”
-The Queen of Thorns
The Lannisters declared war on Dorne after the murder of Princess Myrcella at the end of last season; and old Olenna must take the deaths of her house’s Lord, as well as grandchildren Loras and Margaery, in the Sept explosion as declaration of war on House Tyrell (though knowing Cersei it is unclear if this was by accident, design, spite, negligence, or even jealousy). As she says, Cersei stole her House’s future.
Dorne and the Reach, close neighbors, have traditionally been enemies; but here they begin to entertain an alliance of strong women, the Red Viper’s paramour and Sand Snake bastards + Olenna Tyrell… and another strong woman from across the sea.
“Fire and Blood.”
-The words of House Targaryen, also Varys
We find out where Varys went a couple of episodes ago. The Master of Whispers set out to Dorne to help forge a waiting alliance for Dany’s invasion force. The Martells (or Sands, I guess) would have been formidable allies; but thanks to Cersei’s wildfire play, it seems Dany gets the wealthy Tyrells to boot!
4. “My name is Arya Stark”
“The Winds of Winter” is one of the most philosophical episodes of Game of Thrones ever. Cersei is on the precipice of everything she ever wanted (if also nothing); so is Dany. All it cost either woman was love after love after love. We learn a bit about how Littlefinger’s brain works (more on that in one bullet), and get quite a meditation on war from Walder Frey.
Old Walder — never himself much of a warrior — has quite the pragmatic outlook on battle, on fear, on power… Which seems to fit given his best buddy position with dominant House Lannister (presumably both Lannister and Baratheon, but we don’t hear much about the actual royal house). Jaime points out that if the Freys are supposed to hold the Riverlands, but the Lannisters have to come up to bail them out every time, What do they need the Freys for?
Well, Walder won, and he’s going to have his dinner.
Where are his sons?
His serving girl says the sons are there already.
In the most Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street moment we will likely get on Game of Thrones, Walder peels back his meat pie to reveal a human finger. Is he horrified he is eating human, or is it that he is eating his own son?
The serving girl reveals herself, removing a Braavosi false face… and it is Arya!
“My name is Arya Stark…”
Arya appears to have the full abilities of a Faceless Man, having been declared “finally no one” last week… but while retaining her own personality. Woe to her enemies list! This is the last we’ll see of Lord Walder Frey, whose neck is opened from ear to ear by presumably the most powerful assassin on two continents; a teenage girl.
5. Sansa Turns Down Littlefinger
Littlefinger, remember, was deeply intermingled with the troubles of the Stark family (and of the Seven Kingdoms) from the beginning. The Valyrian steel dagger that implicated Tyrion, the betrayal of the Gold Cloaks at the end of Season One, the conspiracy with Olenna against then-King Joffrey, and even “selling” Sansa to the Boltons all had his ahem little fingers pulling the strings.
Littlefinger thrives on chaos. He is both one of the smartest players in the Game of Thrones and one of the most patient. Finally, in what seems like a moment of true candor we see where he is coming from and what is actually motivating him.
“Every time I am faced with a decision I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider an action I ask myself, will this action help me make this picture a reality? Pull it out of my mind and into the world? And I only act if the answer is yes: A picture of me on the Iron Throne and you by my side.”
Littlefinger has been carrying a torch for the Stark girls — Catelyn really — for decades; heck, he even engineered the death of her husband! Sansa is the younger, prettier, version of Catelyn Tully; with her fair features and light hair, she is the opposite of Jon or Arya’s darker Stark coloring. You almost have to admire Littlefinger’s focus if not his methods.
… But more than that you have to admire Sansa’s resolve: Knights of the Vale to the rescue or not, she rebuffs him (for now), throwing in with Jon. It is an interesting question, though: Who makes for a stronger [King] in the North, the nameless bastard or the trueborn daughter of Ned Stark? He certainly seems to favor the latter… King in the North being a nice stepping-stone to Iron Throne for himself, maybe.
6. The Secret Origin of Jon Snow
To the surprise of literally no one (shout out to Arya and Jaqen!) Jon Snow is confirmed by Bran-warg as the bastard child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. After the fight at the Tower of Joy, young Ned encounters his sister, so bloody she has sprayed the room in childbirth. We see her secure the promise from her big brother to “Protect him, Ned” … Fearing Robert, their ally and her betrothed; Jon, so many ways, a threat to Robert’s young crown.
7. The King in the North
The contrast is, ahem, Stark.
Led by the ever-decisive Lyanna Mormont, the Northern Lords, Knights of the Vale, and Free Folk unite under Jon Snow “whose name is Stark” as King in the North. It isn’t even clear that Jon wants it; but he’s through and through the leader they all want. All the Manderlys and Glovers prostrate themselves, beg forgiveness, and promise to be true the next time Jon calls. He is gracious in victory and reminds them that though winter has finally come (as his father and the Stark words always promised) the true enemy will not wait out the storm, but bring it.
Now that Jon is confirmed to be the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, the rhetoric about Jon being Ned Stark’s son in the North takes a very different color. I mean if the Northern Lords are going to accept the bastard carrying Ned Stark’s blood, is there much difference if he has Lyanna Stark’s blood? I guess Sansa officially has the better claim (“boy + bastard” v. “younger daughter of the same father” being more up for debate). But at the same time, if you’re willing to swallow the “bastard” bit, Jon has the stronger claim on the Iron Throne relative to Auntie Dany.
8. Cersei on the Iron Throne
The final moments of “The Winds of Winter” see Jaime return to Kings Landing, oblivious to the death of his last child, but arriving just in time for his twin’s coronation. It is impossible to read his true emotions — or hers — as Cersei is sworn in as the First of Her Name next to Hand of the
King Queen Qyburn. Jaime and Cersei are so controlled in this scene… It’s hard to contextualize given the world of trouble they are about to be in so soon after a seeming victory.
The ending is ominous and perfect: “The Winds of Winter” gave us so much, revealed so much… Yet more than anything else, left us begging for the next episode… Which is unfortunately a year away.
Top 8 Assorted Thoughts:
- Tyrion, now Hand to Dany, has served twice in the role, under two different “Kings” of Westeros.
- How long does it take to cross the Narrow Sea? Varys left Meereen, negotiated a conspiracy with the Sand Snakes and Olenna, and managed to make it back onto Dany’s flagship before the invasion force left; ditto Arya.
- How do the actual Game battle lines look? With Frey dead you almost feel like Tully will reclaim the Riverlands (sadly without the Blackfish) and declare for House Stark. That leaves the Lannisters essentially alone (their last “Baratheon” dead) versus a conspiracy of Martell + Tyrell + Targaryen + Greyjoy to the south and southeast; and the old coalition of Stark + Arryn + presumably Tully + presumably Baratheon to the North (the Onion Knight being Hand of the Baratheon King, now declared for Jon Snow). Sans Dragons I’d give the edge to the Stark coalition; it will be interesting to see how Jon’s old friendship with Tyrion and the Dragon reaction to an undead Targaryen King of the North play out.
- Can Jon cross the Wall?
- Will Arya reunite with Nymeria?
- Will Dany see political blowback from dismissing Daario, a man who truly loves her?
- Who is going to finally give Cersei hers? Queen of Thorns? Someone with the last name “Sand”? True Queen of the Seven Kingdoms Daenerys Targaryen? Fetchland money is on Arya!
- I get the Dothraki are showing off being ripped and all, but in case they didn’t get the memo in Essos, Winter is here.