Well, that was a hell of a way to end a season. Thoughts under the cut to avoid spoilers, as per usual:
- While clearly some parts of this are very different from the books – Pycelle’s death at Varys’ hands being transferred over to Qyburn, Kevan dying of wildfire, Loras not being a member of the Kingsguard and not being on trial, Lancel not being in the Riverlands, Mace not being in the Stormlands – I think I can see what they’re doing in the meta sense. My guess is that they’re combining a few things – Margaery, Tommen, et al. dying at Cersei’s hands/doing and Cersei setitng off the wildfire bomb. Quite sad to see Natalie Dormer go especially.
- The entire opening sequence, which played out like something out of a horror movie, from the slow burn in the Great Sept, to Cersei’s ironic torture of Septa Unella, to the children butchering Pycelle, to Tommen taking a header off the Red Keep, was astonishing and my hat is tipped and then off to everyone who worked on that.
- On the other hand, I’m really quite surprised that Cersei is so blase about Tommen’s death. I guess they’re going with her either being dead inside or the prophecy about her children dying and then the Younger, More Beautiful Queen (who at this point is clearly, clearly Daenerys) “tak[ing] all that you hold dear” suggesting Cersei goes completely power-mad before the end.
- I’m also very, very surprised at Cersei taking the Iron Throne in her own name. Not that I couldn’t see Cersei wanting to, but she’s got no claim whatsoever. Outside of pure despotism, why would anyone obey or acknowledge her rule? Not only is not the case that the mother could inherit from the son, but she just committed what in the minds of the masses is the greatest crime in Westerosi history (the simultaneous murder of the High Septon, the Most Devout, most of the court, her in-laws, and, as everyone will believe, her son).
- With Jaime’s shocked appearance, it does seem like this is the episode where people leave for five minutes and everything goes to hell.
- Well, no Lady Stoneheart, which makes the copious discussion of the Red Wedding, Catelyn Stark, Brienne’s storyline for half the season, the return of Sandor Clegane, the appearance of the Brotherhood Without Banners, seemingly completely pointless. Still might get her next season, as Melisandre is heading south as the BWB heads North, but it’s weird.
- Jaime’s discomfort with the ramifications of his actions I liked Walder and Jaime jabbing at each other I liked.
- I even liked Arya killing Walder Frey, even if her teleportation was ridiculous.
- But taking Wyman Manderly’s revenge away from him, and throwing in the Frey pies as a complete afterthought of Arya killing Walder Frey is…HOW FUCKING DARE YOU, BENIOFF AND WEISS. More on this in the Northern section, but talk about wasting enormous potential by completely short-changing everyone outside of the main cast.
- Yer a wizard, Samwell Tarly. Welcome to Hogwarts.
- Speaking of characters who get completely slandered by Benioff and Weiss….”Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood.” YOU MOTHERFUCKERS. You ignore Arianne, pornify the Sand Snakes, 180 degree Ellaria, and then you have the gall to give Prince Doran’s master plan to this crew…and Varys, who might have well stayed in Westeros for all the impact he’s had the last two seasons? Talk about completely and comprehensively misunderstanding theme and character.
- Also, if I’m understanding Ellaria correctly, Cersei’s declared war on the Reach and Dorne? Which means she’s got, what, all of eight thousand men to fight all of Westeros plus Dany’s invasion fleet? I mean, I buy it from Cersei, but it’s still lunacy.
- I…actually loved everything here. I cared about Dany and Daario for the first time ever, I loved Dany and Tyrion together for the first time in a while, I loved Tyrion being made Hand of the King, and Dany’s going to Westeros! The visuals of the fleet were absolutely stunning, some of the best the show’s ever done.
- What I’m annoyed at is how clearly the seams show on this plotline. Clearly the only good material they had came straight at the end, and Benioff and Weiss decided to just load up Meereen with filler until Episode 10. So much time wasted here.
- Melisandre being exiled by Jon for burning Shireen…not happening, for reasons I explained last season.
- I’m really glad that Sansa said she should have told Jon about the Vale knights. That was something that needed to be acknowledged, and I’m glad that Sansa recognized that what she did was problematic.
- Winter is here…oh come on, the white raven showed up in Episode 1 of Season 2, and Gilly’s baby has been an infant since Episode 3 of Season 3. Stop with this timeline bollocks.
- Littlefinger revealing that he wants to be King and basically tries to reshape reality to make Catelyn 2.0 happen fits, as is his attempt to try to get Sansa to take the North in favor of Jon. There was some debate in my watching party about Sansa’s response to this: my feeling was that Sansa rejected Littlefinger’s offer and then was quite pleased to be standing beside Jon as the King in the North, which obviously precludes her being Littlefinger’s queen on the Iron Throne.
- Benjen can’t pass through the Wall – as expected. Bran communing with the Heart Tree and confirming R+L=J was oddly satisfying, given how long that’s been all-but-confirmed. I missed the whispered bit, which apparently was “If Robert finds out, he’ll– you know he will.” Makes sense. Still thought we’d see her asking Ned to raise her son as his more explicitly.
- Kind of surprised the Wall didn’t come down this episode…
- So here’s where I got really annoyed. Jon becoming King in the North is a bit tropey, but not completely unexpected. But while I liked Lyanna Mormont being a pint-sized badass and leading the charge for him to be named as King, I was really really annoyed by the way that secondary houses got slandered in this episode. Wyman Manderly did not forget the Starks – he’s rescuing Rickon, avenging himself on Freys, and raising an army to restore the Starks. Robett and Galbart Glover did not forget the Starks – Galbart is carrying Robb’s will, and Robett’s working with the Manderlys. And all of this is symptomatic of a Northern plotline that lacks all of the subtlety, intrigue, and intelligence of Theon and Davos’ storylines from ADWD. It really feels to me that Benioff and Weiss think that their audience is too stupid to grasp an actually complicated plot.
Thoughts on the Season as a Whole:
Well, you can’t say that this season lacked for narrative propulsion. From beginning to end, the show galloped through plotlines and left us with a completely transformed status quo. And along the way, we got some really good episodes, and a major improvement from the trainwreck that was Season 5.
However, I won’t say that there wasn’t a cost to some of this deck-clearing. A lot of really stupid shit happened this season for no reason other to move characters from Point A to Point B, often without doing the necessary foundational work to make moments and changes feel earned. And ironically, at the same time, there was a lot of stuff that now feels like it went nowhere, that was likewise done only to make sure that Point B was reached at the right episode number, which reminds me a lot of the needless box-ticking from Season 2.
Overall, I’m certainly looking forward to watching the next season way more than I was same time last year, but this show remains a flawed interpretation of a richer more intelligence source material. I cannot wait for TWOW to finally come out.