While still in the honeymoon phase with the season 6 finale of Game of Thrones, “Winds of Winter”, I think its safe to say the best season of the series closed out on Sunday night. Rebirths, revenge, reunions, season 6 strung together a collection of television episodes that, at this point, cannot be rivaled and somehow a show that has dazzled for six years is just now reaching its peak.
Great. Now that all of the platitudes are out of the way a lot has happened in Westeros and beyond this season with plenty of implications for the future. With no book guideline to follow (hurry up GRRM) this GoT offseason again allows our imaginations to run rampant with what will happen in the world of ice and fire. (I mean, Spoilers left and right ahead)
Taking a look back at my pre-season post I got a couple of things right and bunch wrong (Ollie Williams, predictably, nailed his takes). The Knights of the Vale did launch a devastating rear attack against Ramsay’s army at The Battle of the Bastards. Daenerys did show up on dragonback with a Dothraki horde to relieve the city of Mereen from the forces of Slaver’s Bay. Shit did go down between the Lannisters and the Tyrells in King’s Landing with blood and fire. How did it happen? Grab a drink and let’s get down to business.
The Seven Kingdoms Recap
We’re going to kick this recap off with the feel good story of the season, the North. Yes, that’s right folks, the Kingdom that’s been taking it in the teeth for most of the series finally righted the ship this season with the stunning result at Battle of the Bastards. Jon Snow, returned from the dead with some Melisandre mojo and given purpose by his reunion with Sansa, rallied a Stark loyalist army and deposed Ramsay. Yes, Jon royally screwed up and almost lost his entire army in a desperate, foolhardy charge but hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and maybe on one of those missed shots the Vale comes out of nowhere for the put back jam.
Yes, it was a little bit weird that Sansa didn’t tell Jon about an entire army showing up, especially after being pissed that they don’t have enough men when they, clearly, did have enough men just not enough that Jon knew about (he knows nothing). While a bit confusing on the surface, I’ve managed to talk myself into thinking she kept it secret for two reasons, one that has heart and one that is ruthless;
1.) Maintain a military secret. Sansa knows Jon’s men can do the math and are outnumbered. It’s not inconceivable that someone could defect in the night and, if the army knew of the Vale army Ramsay would’ve just shacked up in Winterfell and we have a siege with *NED STARK FROM THE RAFTERS* winter coming. Which leads us to…
2.) For the Vale flank attack to be a total and devastating success it was necessary for Ramsay to believe the forces arrayed before him were all of Jon’s forces. This assumption led Ramsay to his encirclement tactic maximizing his army’s exposure to and the damage done by the Vale’s charge. When Davos commits the archers to the battle, what appear to be Jon’s final reserves, Ramsay spring’s his trap. Sansa was relying on Jon to folly in order for her and Littlefinger’s battle plan to work to perfection. Sansa was willing to risk Jon’s life to win Winterfell. Jon was willing to do so too, just not with all of the facts.
In the end, Ramsay is kibbles n’ bits and the Starks hold Winterfell, and the fealty of the North, again. There’s a bit of an awkward conversation as Littlefinger gets shut down by Sansa in the Godswood but, overall, the Stark family is in the best shape its been in since Season 1. The look Littlefinger gives Sansa in the King of the North Jon Snow’s mead hall is a bit concerning though. I got the feeling that look was one of “I was a teacher before, now I’m an opposing player”. Sansa’s rebuff was her declaration as a competitor for the Iron Throne and any tender feelings Petyr Baelish allowed himself to have, that weakness that was known, has now dissipated. He played games with Sansa, now he’s playing the game against Lady Stark of Winterfell.
Speaking of the Iron Throne, how are things going in King’s Landing?
Yikes. Cersei Lannister, going full Nero, decided to skip her day in court and sit out on the porch with a nice bottle of red instead. Everyone’s favorite Queen Mother took a play out of the Guy Fawke’s game plan and sent the High Sparrow, Queen Margery, Loras, Uncle Kevan, and Lancel with the gimp legs all straight to a green hell. Bonafide serial killer tyrant, the Big C didn’t stop there as she had Septa Stoneface waterboarded with wine and introduced her to Gregor Clegane’s tender Frankentouch. Without a doubt the torch bearer for series villain now, Cersei has grabbed the Iron Throne for herself and, judging by her coronation the people are
pumped absolutely fucking terrified of her, Qyburn, the little knife birds, and Gregor. Also, Cersei’s revenge outfit? Sasha Fierce.
Now of course Cersei’s mad king gambit didn’t come without its consequences. Tommen took a leap of faith after having a front row view to the Sept of Baelor fireworks. King Tommen was clearly too soft for this world and watching hundreds, if not thousands, of his subjects, his vassals, his family, and his smoking hot wife get incinerated is probably a lot for a 16 year old to handle. Compound that with the fact that it was your mother who did it and all the guilt you must feel in that you were the King and everything you did led to this calamity and I can’t say I was shocked that Tommen decided to warg into a rock. No doubt his death led Cersei to claim the throne for herself and now, with only her desire for Jaime as her last, lingering emotion outside of ambition, its not if Cersei will go mad and sow the seeds of how destruction, its how long will it take.
Also, Jaime doesn’t looked too pumped. Here he was, getting a bloodless resolution in securing Riverrun and Cersei is out here going Godzilla on King’s Landing. That’s gotta sting, especially considering Jaime put a sword through King Aerys Targaryen’s back for wanting to do the same thing. Me thinks the tension, and not just sexual, is going to palpable between the Lannister twins moving forward. Especially when word reaches them of what has befallen the Freys.
Arya, back from Braavos and checking boxes off her list. Most of this season was devoted to Arya’s completion of her Faceless Men training in a somewhat meandering plotline but if that is the price to pay for a full blown Stark assassin then so be it. After defeating Waif-1000, Arya tells Jaquen to go screw and heads back home to get down to some revenge business. I have to say for her first foray as a Faceless Men assassin Arya *puts on Oldtown maester’s glasses* killed it. Couple of Frey pies, a bit of knife work, a monologue, and Arya out here for the Red Wedding y’all. Next on the list? Gotta be Queen Cersei.
Arya isn’t the only one gunning for Cersei either. With most of the prominent Tyrells up in smoke, Lady Olenna is out to take some names and we find her in Dorne shooting the breeze with the Sand Snakes. Dorne had a pretty rapid transition this season with the Martell family getting usurped rather easily but hey, Oberyn was the man and if Doran wasn’t going to step up then someone had to. With two very pissed off kingdoms having a pow wow in steps non other than the OG eunuch, Varys, offering vengeance in the form of Fire and Blood courtesy of Daenerys Stormborn.
Pretty wild season for Daenerys. After flying the coop and getting dropped off in Dothraki country, the last *ahem* Targaryen managed to burn her way to the top of all the khalasars, giving her one hell of an army. Storming back to Mereen, under siege from Volantis, Astapor, and Yunkai, Dany promptly burns their fleet, captures what remains, and crushes any thought of slavery returning to Slaver’s Bay. Not bad in a season’s work. Couple her captured ships with those of Yara and Theon Greyjoy’s Iron Fleet and we see the invasion of Westeros actually happening. Shit is about to get real. Oh, and she dumped Daario.
I’ve got to say, I like Daenerys’ chances. With Cersei being unbalanced and evil, Dorne and The Reach at war with the Crown, and now united North and Vale also committed to Cersei’s demise, the time is right for her to claim the Iron Throne. My guess is that Cersei is going to have to ally with Euron Greyjoy to form any sort of viable resistance to the Targaryen host. I guess the only question now is how quickly can Dany make it to Westeros and how long with Cersei have to prepare for its defense. Little does Cersei, or Daenerys for that matter, know there is already a Targaryen leading an army in Westeros and his name is Jon Snow.
Bran’s storyline this season probably made the biggest jump in terms of impact. Not so much in the action’s taken therein but in what was revealed as Bran completed his training and became the Three Eyed Raven. Finally, we are given confirmation that Jon Snow’s mother was Lyanna Stark and, while not spelled out for us, the heavy implication is his father being Rhaegar Targaryen. This means the true heir to the Iron Throne is not Daenerys but Jon Snow Targaryen, son of Rhaegar, heir to King Aerys. What remains to be seen now is if Bran and Meera Reed can make it to Winterfell before the Night King’s army and, if they reveal this information to Jon Snow, what he does with it.
Personally, I believe Jon Snow will ally with Daenerys and I do not think it will be through marriage (nephew to aunt, yick). He’ll abdicate his position in exchange for legitimacy as Jon Targaryen, Warden of the North. This will allow him to yield Winterfell to Sansa and Jon will most likely take his seat at one of the castles recently, shall we say, vacated (Last Hearth of the Umbers, the Dreadfort of the Boltons, Karhold of the Karstarks). Not that most of this will matter, however, with the war between the Light and the Night coming. Also, Jon will have to survive whatever wars may come between Queen Cersei and Queen Daenerys.
Its this coming conflict where the Brotherhood without Banners must come into play. Cersei’s forces, if the ones at King’s Landing are any indication, will probably become more brutal in their rule over the Riverlands, the Westerlands, and the Crownlands. The BwB, augmented with Sandor Clegane, are going to have plenty of work cut out for them and will be so good at it that the Mountain may come a calling. Cleganebowl, epic beyond description, probably won’t have as many nutshots/cunt punts as the Hound vs Brienne.
That is pretty much where the world stands for those looking to secure the Iron Throne. There are a couple of other things going on. Sam is signing up for student loans but it might be a pain to get into co-ed housing with Gilly and Little Sam. Also, the whole thing about stealing his hardo father’s Valyrian sword that is probably going to demand a reckoning sooner rather than later. It’s not like Sam didn’t tell papa Tarly he was heading to Oldtown.
Tyrion Lannister, despite proclaiming he boozes and knows things, muffed the Slaver’s Bay negotiations but, overall, did a good job getting Mereen back on its feet and has been promoted to Hand of the Queen. A final, irrevocably clash is set up as the Lannisters, Cersei and Tyrion, square up for a bloodletting. Poor Jaime. Stuck in the middle and most likely dead no matter what he does, I have to think he’s going to remain faithful to Cersei until the bitter end but, who knows. Jaime Lannister before losing his hand may have done so but older Jaime may seek redemption in a repeat betrayal, especially of Cersei keeps feeling the burn. One thing is for sure, the Lannister name is in serious jeopardy.
Brienne and Pod are floating down a river somewhere. I had predicted that both would meet their ends this season but was wrong. That said, I still don’t think Brienne and Pod are out of the woods yet and Brienne carrying around a Lannister sword with Pod in Lannister armor is going to bite them someday. Today is not that day and, honestly, I’m hoping we at least get a bit more Tormund swooning before whatever happens, happens.
Thus, another season of Game of Thrones has come and gone. I think season 6 will go down as Game of Throne’s best season and has set up the final two seasons wonderfully. The conflict between Cersei and Daenerys with the backdrop of the great conflict looming ever higher is nothing short of spectacular and its going to be a long, long wait until the summer of 2017 and season 7. Enjoy digging into the internet and devouring Game of Thrones knowledge until then and, hopefully, we may even have the sixth book to keep us occupied in the interim (seriously, George, publish that shit).
Oh, one more thing. Remember to pour one out for Hodor. He held the door.