Whew. For a season that seemed to lack momentum, things sure picked up in the final two episodes. There is a new ruler in King’s Landing, there’s a new ruler in the North, and there’s a coming invasion from Meereen. A major theory was kind of, mostly confirmed. Here’s what happened in an overstuffed season finale.
As always, check out Alyssa Rosenberg’s review on Act Four and catch the two of us on Facebook Live at 11 a.m. Monday, when we break down the episode and the entire season. It’s earlier than usual this week because there are very important things to discuss.
Cersei of House Lannister … long may she reign
Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. Cersei Lannister would say that revenge is a dish best served with scalding hot wildfire. Cersei’s elaborate plot to not just get back at the Faith Militant but to also usurp power was a thing of twisted beauty. Last season ended with her being paraded naked through the streets of King’s Landing, getting spit on and heckled. This season ended with her sitting on the Iron Throne. Not a bad recovery. Let’s revisit how she got there.
On the day of her trial, Cersei looks out over King’s Landing from her spot in the Red Keep. Everyone is getting their best outfits prepared for the big trial. Except for the High Sparrow, of course, who sticks to his usual burlap-sack outfit. One of those getting dressed is Grand Maester Pycelle, who was enjoying a pretrial tryst with a prostitute whom he promised to pay later. (Sorry honey, you’re not getting that money any time soon. Then again, you probably just got exploded by wildfire, so you’ve got other problems.) As Pycelle trudges his way to the trial, he gets stopped by one of Qyburn’s little birds, who whispers something into his ear.
Back in the Sept of Baelor, Loras Tyrell is brought in for his trial. But there’s no need for that — he confesses to all of his crimes, including laying with other men (one of them being the “traitor”) Renly Baratheon. He also dings himself for depravity, dishonesty, profligacy and arrogance. That just sounds like a good weekend, IMO. Under his plea agreement, Loras must abandon the Tyrell name and renounce his lordship and claims on Highgarden. He agrees to all of this and gets a seven-pointed star carved into his forehead to seal the deal.
As Tommen tries to make his way to the Sept for the trial, he runs into a bit of a roadblock in the form of Robo-Mountain. Oddly, Tommen’s meek “I have to go; I’m late for the trial” explanation does not make the Mountain get out of his way. The Mountain will not be letting Tommen get anywhere near the Sept of Baelor.
Back in the Sept, the assembled are starting to realize that Cersei is going to be a no-show for her own trial. The High Sparrow sends Lancel to fetch Cersei, but he gets sidetracked by chasing down one of Qyburn’s little birds. Those little birds have been trained well by their deranged master, as they have also lured Pycelle to Qyburn’s dungeon. “Before ushering in the new, the old must be put to rest,” Qyburn tells Pycelle, who is jumped by a dozen tweens who stab him hundreds of times. That’s some instant karma for not paying your prostitute. But all told, Pycelle lived a very long life and got to live it in relative luxury in King’s Landing. He came out ahead. Meanwhile, Lancel has been lured to the depths of King’s Landing where he, too, is shanked by one of Qyburn’s little birds. Pycelle got a few hundred stabs, but Lancel gets only the one. It’s enough to keep him alive long enough to notice that he is surrounded by dozens and dozens of barrels of wildfire and that he’s only a few feet away from the fuse that will soon incinerate him.
In the Sept, Margaery is the only one smart enough to realize that something is very wrong. Tommen is not there, Cersei is not there, and that can’t be good. The oblivious High Sparrow wants to continue with the trial with Cersei in absentia, but Margaery knows it’s time to get the hell out of there. Margaery tries to force her way through the crowds, but it’s too late; a spectacular explosion lays waste to the Sept and all of those within. The High Sparrow, Margaery, Loras, Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell and hundreds of others — they are all killed instantly.
Cersei smiles as she watches the smoldering Sept from a distance; Tommen looks on in shock. Cersei’s revenge tour continues with her primary antagonist, Septa Unella, who has been chained down and is now Cersei’s prisoner. Cersei waterboards her with wine, which you have to admit is kind of a perfect manner of Cersei torture. Cersei wants Unella to confess that it felt good when she beat, starved and humiliated her; she didn’t want Cersei to atone, she simply did it because it felt good, Cersei says. And Cersei can sympathize with that. She also does things because they feel good, anything from drinking, killing her husband (via persuading Lancel to ply Robert with wine on his fateful hunting trip), sleeping with her brother (her description was a little more graphic), killing the High Sparrow to imagine his pain. (Honestly, Cersei, he almost certainly died instantly so the pain was nonexistent. But still.) Cersei has some long-term, Marsellus Wallace-like torture planned for Unella, and she calls in the Mountain to go medieval on her. We finally see the unmasked Mountain and he looks … as what you would expect a zombie-like, undead Mountain to look like? For those of us who root for Cersei (raises hand), this was a very fulfilling scene that unfortunately ended with that good old “Game of Thrones” go-to: implied rape.
How is Tommen feeling about all of this? Let’s attempt to get inside the Soft King’s mind as he looks over the burning Sept. He must have regrets for selling out to the High Sparrow, and not even being able to do that correctly; his own mother has stolen his authority; his wife, whom he legitimately loved, just got melted by wildfire. He was never ready to be a king and has now presided over one of the great disasters in King’s Landing. So what to do? Take off your crown and step off the ledge to your death. RIP, Tommen.
Upon learning the news of Tommen’s death, Cersei did not seem to be all that traumatized. This is an odd reaction for someone who has proclaimed that family has always been the most important thing to her, but then again, this was the same son who sold her out to a rando who wore a burlap sack. Also, because Cersei clearly believes in the prophecy that told her that all of her children would die, perhaps she was at peace with the fact that Tommen was not long for this world. And there’s also the possibility that she simply snapped. And with Tommen out of the way — and with Margaery out of the way, and every person of importance in King’s Landing out of the way — she’s next in line for the crown. Cersei tells Qyburn to burn Tommen’s body (she sure is obsessed with fire these days, huh?) and bury his ashes where the Sept once stood.
And all that’s left for Cersei to do is take her place on the Iron Throne. As she walks into the throne room, past the onlookers (who never would have been able to score a ticket to such an in-demand event before the big blast) and sits on the throne, Qyburn proclaims her the new protector of the Seven Kingdoms. (Big ups to Qyburn for working his way up the ranks, BTW.) “Long may she reign,” he says. Who walks in just as the new queen’s reign starts? Her brother-lover, Jaime, who looks on with seeming disapproval or skepticism. Or maybe just abject terror because he knows better than anyone exactly what she’s capable of. Or maybe something else entirely? Let’s get to that in a little bit.
One less name on Arya Stark’s list
Jaime was traveling from the Riverlands, where he was attending a party he clearly regretted RSVP-ing yes for, at the Frey residence. As he and Bronn enjoy some drinks, Bronn complains that Jaime just has to sit there doing nothing and all the ladies on the waitstaff make eyes at him. One of them in particular…
Walder Frey tries to engage Jaime in some conversation, but Jaime isn’t really in the mood. Frey notes how easily the famous Blackfish was killed by ordinary foot soldiers, which just raises a red flag that he might not actually be dead since we never saw his body. But that’s a mystery for another season. Jaime questions Frey’s credibility when it comes to fighting, but Frey waves him off and says that if fighting is about defeating enemies, then the Freys’ recapturing Riverrun means that he is a good fighter and that everyone cowers in fear at the Frey name. A still-annoyed Jaime quickly notes that it’s the Lannisters whom people actually fear,and that if the Lannisters have to ride in to save the day every time the Freys get into trouble, why do the Lannisters even need this alliance?
Later Frey is eating by himself, which isn’t all that surprising because he seems like terrible company. The maid who was making eyes at Jaime earlier is the one serving food to Frey, who is annoyed that his “damn moron” sons are not there to share the meal with him. About that. “They’re already here, my lord,” the woman tells him. “They weren’t easy to carve. Especially Black Walder.” Frey inspects his food a little more and … yep, that will not pass health inspection. There’s a toe in his food! And that woman is suddenly Arya Stark. “I want you to know that the last thing you’ll ever see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die,” she tells him before standing behind him and slicing his throat, killing him in the exact manner that Black Walder killed her mother in that very room.
So Arya can renounce the ways of the Faceless Men yet retain the shape-shifting abilities she learned from J’aqen and Co.? Seems like a pretty sweet deal. Also, if I may throw out a leftfield theory, that I expect to be rudely debunked in the comments? We saw Arya (in her disguise) take special notice of Jaime at the Freys. Is there any chance she killed Jaime and rode back to King’s Landing as him, which is why he looked on with such disapproval as Cersei took the throne? It seems unlikely, if only for the reason that Jaime is one of the show’s great characters and needs a better send-off. But because theories are the new spoilers, I may as well throw one out there.
Winter is here. The Jon/Sansa feud is not here … yet
The Stark banner once again flies in Winterfell, but nobody is in a particularly celebratory mood. Especially Davos, who confronts Melisandre with the stag figurine that he gifted poor little Shireen Baratheon, the one he found in the snow before the Battle of the Bastards. That discovery helped him piece together those unfortunate events from last season and he angrily calls out Melisandre for sacrificing Shireen. She does not try to deny it, claiming that she was only doing the bidding of the Lord of the Light. “If he commands you to burn children, your lord is evil,” Davos says. “Jon Snow is standing here because the Lord willed it,” she replies. Touche. Davos will not be placated, though, and he asks Jon to execute her for the murder she admits to. For her part, Melisandre has been ready to die for many years, but the Lord is not done with her yet. She tells Jon that the great war is still to come and that she can help win that war. Jon makes a quick decision, telling Melisandre to ride south immediately and that if she returns to the North she’ll be hanged as a murderer. “If you ever come back this way, I’ll execute you myself,” Davos says. His love for Shireen was one of the most pure relationships on this deranged show, so it’s no surprise he feels this way.
As Jon watches Melisandre ride away (last season ended with her riding alone into Castle Black, this season ends with her riding alone out of Winterfell), Sansa approaches Jon. She apologizes for not telling him about arranging for the Knights of the Vale to ride in to save the day. Jon says they need to trust each other. “We can’t fight a war amongst ourselves. … We have so many enemies now,” he says, clearly signaling that they will have it out next season. Sansa tells him a white raven arrived from the Citadel. Winter is here.
Sansa’s next conversation is with Littlefinger, who offers us a glimpse into his sociopathic/slightly romantic mind. Every time he is faced with a decision he asks himself whether it will help make that picture a reality. That picture is of Littlefinger on the Iron Throne and Sansa by his side. He goes in for a kiss, but Sansa pushes him away. As she walks away, he makes a plea to her. She should be the one to claim leadership of Winterfell. “Who should the North rally behind? A true-born Stark or a motherless bastard born in the South?”
But the Northerners have other ideas. After being roused by none other than Lyanna Mormont, the houses of the North rally behind Jon Snow. “We know no king but a king in the North whose name is Stark. I don’t care if he’s a bastard,” she says. “Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins.” (Actually, hold that thought, Lyanna.)
Soon enough, all of the house leaders fall in line and raise their swords to the new King in the North, Jon Snow. As Jon rises to accept his position, Sansa and Littlefinger share a look. I interpreted the look as Littlefinger saying: “That should be you, not him. Don’t you regret letting him have this power?” And yes, Sansa does seem to regret it. This could get ugly.
R + L = J, basically confirmed
Elsewhere in the North, Benjen tells Meera and Bran that their time together is over. “The great war is coming, and I still fight for the living,” he says upon his departure. Benjen leaves them at a weirwood tree, which Bran — who is now the Three-Eyed Raven — uses to launch himself back into the past, to collect more knowledge.
Bran returns to the Tower of Joy, where he finds his father, Ned, who has just killed Ser Arthur Dayne (with some major help from Howland Reed). Ned races into the tower where he finds his sister, Lyanna, soaked in blood, having just given birth. She tells her brother that she doesn’t want to die, but she seems resigned to the fact that she doesn’t have long. She whispers something into Ned’s ear — along the lines of “if Robert finds out, he’ll kill him” — and makes Ned promise to protect the newborn child. Young Ned holds the baby and the scene cuts to current-day Jon Snow. So that means that Jon is definitely not Ned’s bastard. And since Lyanna says Robert Baratheon would want the child killed — he wanted all Targaryens wiped out — that pretty much confirms the already-accepted-as-canon theory that Jon is, in fact, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
Is Khaleesi really, really for real on her way to Westeros? Finally?
It’s time for Daenerys to take her conquering ways away from Meereen. And that means saying goodbye to Daario Naharis. She says he needs to stay in Meereen and make sure the peace remains, but the real reason he can’t come along is that Dany can’t come into Westeros with a boy toy on her side; she’s going to have to marry for an alliance. “I love you, and I made you happy,” he tells her. “Bring me with you. Let me fight for you.” But Dany cannot budge, and they say their goodbyes. Goodbye, Daario.
Dany is upset she has to abandon her lover, but Tyrion tries to console her with the fact that her self-sacrifice makes her a good ruler. Then he speaks for all of us watching the show for the past six years by saying, “How about the fact that this is actually happening?” Dany has her armies, her ships and her dragons, and she’s ready to actually go to where all of the other characters are. One last order of business before leaving — Dany names Tyrion the new Hand of the Queen.
And with that, they are off. Yara; Theon; the Unsullied; the Dothraki (who seem to have taken the ins and outs of hoisting sails rather quickly); dragons Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal; Grey Worm; Missandei; and teleporting Varys (more on that in a second) — it’s time to wreak some havoc on Westeros.
It was weird to see Varys on the ship with Tyrion, Dany and Missandei because he was just in Dorne. (Collective groan that we are even talking about Dorne.) That’s where Olenna Tyrell escaped to after leaving King’s Landing at exactly the right time, and she’s come here to insult some Sand Snakes and to try to get some revenge on Cersei. Elaria Sand tells Olenna that the Lannisters have declared war on Dorne and House Tyrell and that it’s in their best interest to become allies in an effort to survive. Because Cersei is responsible for the deaths of her entire family, Olenna is not interested in simple survival right now. “It is not survival I offer. It is your heart’s desire,” Elaria tells her. “And what is my heart’s desire?” Olenna asks her. “Vengeance and justice,” Elaria says. Which is when Varys emerges from the shadows. So add the armies of Dorne and House Tyrell to the growing Khaleesi alliance.
Sam went to the library
Sam went to the library.
PREVIOUS SEASON 6 RECAPS