What a "Game of Thrones" Season 6 finale. The "Winds of Winter" was a giant-sized episode that delivered shocking revelations across several continents. Whether it was confirming theories or establishing new reigns, the finale may have been the best episode of the season and one of the best to date from the series.
Warning: Full "Game of Thrones" Season 6 spoilers ahead.
One Mad Queen
Cersei delivered on her promise of violence with one incredible explosion. The seeds of the "Mad Queen" plot were established earlier with Qyburn confirming a rumor to Cersei. It turns out the gossip were the old stores of wildfire hidden throughout King's Landing by the Mad King.
The "Game of Thrones" Season 6 finale began with silence. It was a somber way to begin as each character prepared for the trials to come. Everyone has a costume to put on, even the High Septon. The stately music only adds to the impression that the entire act was just a performance.
Ser Loras Tyrell is no longer the shining knight of past seasons. Barely recognizable, Ser Loras is brought in front of the seven septons, where he confesses to a litany of crimes he was accused of committing by the High Septon. Loras renounces his claim as the Tyrell heir to Highgarden in order to enlist in the Faith Militant. It’s a painful scene to watch even before Loras is crudely branded with a knife.
Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Cersei’s plan is slowly coming together. Ser Gregor Clegane prevents King Tommen from leaving his chamber, while Grand Maester Pycelle is tricked into a meeting with Qyburn. On the streets outside the Great Sept, Lancel sees one of Qyburn’s little birds running into a tunnel. The Lannister cousin chases after the child, but it’s just one of the many traps in Cersei’s grand plan. The little bird stabs Lancel as he enters a chamber housing barrels of wildfire underneath the Great Sept. There’s nothing Lancel can do as the wildfire is set to explode.
Inside the Great Sept of Baelor, Margaery Tyrell realizes that Cersei’s absence is a sign of something terrible afoot. As Cersei’s rival, Margaery understands the lengths she would go to for revenge. The High Sparrow refuses to interrupt the trial while the Faith Militant block the entrances. A rumbling is the only warning given to those doomed within the Great Sept. The wildfire erupts from underneath to completely destroy the temple, killing everyone inside. In just one action, Cersei has eliminated all of her foes, including the High Sparrow and most of House Tyrell.
Cersei has a long list of those who wronged her. On that list is one Septa Unella. Cersei gleefully chants “Shame” while pouring wine on her. Septa Unella believes her torture will only last for one day, but Cersei has other plans. Ser Gregor Clegane enters the cell to continue the torture. Pulling off his golden helmet, the Mountain is revealed to be pretty hideous, which is to be expected from a reanimated corpse.
Somehow, the “Game of Thrones” Season 6 finale was not done with shocking events in King’s Landing. King Tommen, looking at the burning wreckage of the Great Sept, proceeds to jump out of the open window. With his death, Maggy the Frog’s prophecy of Cersei outliving her children came true.
Tommen’s death is just one unfortunate side effect of blowing up the Great Sept and killing countless people. For now, Cersei has to consider this a victory when she takes her place on the Iron Throne as queen. Jaime Lannister, arriving to a city in ruins, looks on at the coronation with a mix of fear and trepidation.
Another unforeseen consequence is the alliance between the Queen of Thorns, Dorne and Daenerys. Lady Oleanna Tyrell is in Dorne following the destruction of her family. Ellaria Sand can only promise revenge against the Lannisters. This leads to Varys stepping in to clarify that revenge will be served in the way of fire and blood.
R+L = J and a New King in the North
With everything happening in King’s Landing, the confirmation of the long-held “R+L = J” theory feels anticlimactic. Fans of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” have waited over a decade to find out what happened in the Tower of Joy. Bran Stark’s vision after Benjen Stark takes them to the Wall picks up right when a young Ned Stark climbs the stairs to find a dying Lyanna Stark within the tower.
Lyanna whispers something to her older brother before making him promise to protect her baby. The scene fades to Jon Snow, which is more than enough of an answer for fans. As for Snow, he’s still struggling with his purpose in Westeros. After getting killed for doing the right thing as the Lord Commander, he was bailed out by the Knights of the Vale in the “Battle of the Bastards.” Jon also has to exile Melisandre after he learns of what happened to Shireen Baratheon.
In Winterfell, he believes Sansa Stark should be the queen since she’s the legitimate child of Ned and Catelyn Stark. While it would have be great to have the “Game of Thrones” Season 6 finale end with three newly crowned queens, Sansa has other plans.
In the godswood of Winterfell, Littlefinger reveals his true intentions to Sansa. His dream is to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa Stark as his queen. A younger Sansa might have welcomed the idea of playing second fiddle to a man as his queen, but the more mature Sansa immediately dismisses this imagined future.
Sansa now has full agency as a character who has learned many valuable lessons from the terrible world of Westeros. There’s a touching moment where Jon Snow and Sansa commit to one another to stay united in the face of their many enemies. At a meeting of the northern houses, including Lord Manderly and Lord Glover, it appears Sansa has set it up so Jon Snow is crowned King in the North.
Young Lyanna Mormont shuts everyone up by saying House Mormont was the only one to answer the call from Snow. The white walkers pose a much greater threat than any human, which is why they need a leader who understands this danger. Lady Mormont pledges fealty to Snow with the other lords following suit. Ser Davos raises his glass to the new king. With this declaration, Sansa looks knowingly to Littlefinger, who knows he was bested.
More importantly, winter has arrived in Westeros, which means it’s time for new merchandise plastered with “Winter is Here.”
Daenerys Crosses the Narrow Sea
While viewers may be getting annoyed with the idea of Daenerys closing out every “Game of Thrones” season finale, her crossing the Narrow Sea was a great way to end “Winds of Winter.” Daenerys was pragmatic when dismissing Daario Naharis in her chamber. Daario declares her love for his queen, but she wants him to stay in Meereen to maintain order as power is transferred.
Daenerys has to think strategically with her arrival in Westeros. That means a marriage to secure a powerful ally, something that can’t happen if Daenerys is keeping a lover. Tyrion was clearly behind this move, even though Daenerys denies it to Daario. While Tyrion’s time in Meereen may be considered a failure, he is returning to a place he understands. Tyrion knows the politics of King’s Landing better than anyone, which is why he’s a great choice to be the new Hand of the Queen.
“Winds of Winter” had enough time to visit Sam in Oldtown. While the people there may be a humorless lot, Sam may have finally found his home within that beautiful library. In another act of sweet revenge, Arya Stark used her lessons learned from the Faceless Men to serve some humble pie to Lord Walder Frey.
Walder Frey is as despicable as ever while celebrating the return of Riverrun to the Freys. Jaime Lannister is on hand, but he’s clearly looking to leave as soon as humanly possible. The need to flee is only greater when Walder Frey tells him the two have much in common as kingslayers.
With the festivities over, Walder Frey is happily eating a mincemeat pie alone in his hall. Oddly, his sons have yet to appear. The helpful servant who’s serving him tells him otherwise, saying his boys are right here. Walder soon gets the hint and finds his sons were the sausage in the pie. Arya pulls off her mask before killing Walder Frey.
The final scene of Daenerys, Tyrion and Yara Greyjoy sailing among a large fleet of ships is a rousing end to the excellent “Game of Thrones” Season 6 finale. “Winds of Winter” needed all 69 minutes to tell a truly compelling story. The finale usually offers some closure and hints at what’s to come, which would have been fine after the excellent “Battle of the Bastards.” Instead, Cersei destroys the Great Sept, Daenerys is sailing to Westeros and Jon Snow is the new King in the North.