Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 10: Winds of Winter

It’s the last episode so we know it’s time to return to Kings Landing where the trial is finally happening. All the Kings Landing dignitaries are gathered for the trial… except Cersei and Tommen. Cersei because she decides not to attend – and Tommen because Cersei’s undead knight is blocking his way

Pycelle, the High Septon, Margaery, Mace et al are all gathered along with the great and the good (presumably). Loras is finally dug out of his plot box long enough for us to continue his homophobic persecution (his one and only plot line… which even then wasn’t really his as much as his sister’s). Margaery and Mace are pretty infuriated but Margaery really should have had something better planned – or something planned – for this eventuality.

It’s the prelude before the main event though… Cersei’s trial. Margaery is the first to realise something is wrong but because no-one else has her mind, the High Septon refuses to let people leave when she yells at everyone to leave the September

Oh he should have listened. After both Lancel and Pycelle are killed by Qyburn’s incredibly spooky mobs of knife wielding children (uckies uckies no words for how creepy that is) we see the huge stacks of wildfire Cersei has planted under the Sept.

Which explodes… everyone within and anyone in the same neighbourhood is decimated by the incredible explosion. In one act, Cersei has killed Margaery, Mace, Pycelle, her uncle and the High Septon.

But not the Septa who tortured her. Oh no, Cersei has kept her, waterboards her with wine and then gives her to her zombie knight to torture while she leaves chanting “shame shame shame”

I said for a while that that Septa was definitely going to get it

Seeing the horrendous explosion and likely realising who caused it – and that the High Septon and Margaery are dead, Tommen, Cersei’s last child, jumps out a window to his death.

Ok so that happened?

Am I surprised? Not really – it has been increasingly clear as more of Cersei’s children died, as she was increasingly sidelined, increasing denied the power she felt was due her, the respect and honour she felt was due her. As she was repeatedly lessened, humiliated and generally gone from being the most powerful woman in the kingdom to a reviled, powerless being, not even able to influence her own family. This is not the act of a woman trying to regain power. This is not the act of a woman trying to get revenge even. This is the act of a woman who has SNAPPED. And I think the choice of Dragonfire is especially deliberate – because this is what the ”Mad King” Aerys tried to do to the city as well. I think we can see the definite parallel – especially when Jaime comes home from the Riverlands and sees what his sister has done. Remember, this is exactly why he killed Aerys in the first place. Him coming home to find his sister crowned queen while part of the city burns is not a cause of celebration for him – even aside from his son being dead.

When her last child dies she doesn’t even seem to react to it, Cersei is too far gone to respond to that. She seems more… resigned than anything. She no longer expects love or happiness so will take the power

This certainly isn’t even a political move. No matter how she is spared a trial and is now queen, there is no way she can hold the throne. I asked last episode how The North could stand against the army of the Lannisters and the Tyrells? Well, like this. Because there’s no way that House Tyrell will ever forgive the Lannisters this

Despite the drama of it all, I still find myself disappointed. Cersei’s storyline has been a frustrating one from the very beginning. In part it’s the story of a frustrated noble woman who was never able to achieve the great things that she could have because of the misogynist society she was born into that always limited her. Yet at the same time Cersei is dogged by making bad decisions for a long time and, notably, highly emotional ones as well. She hasn’t just been set back because of misogyny, she has been set back because she has continually been outmanoeuvred. This isn’t the act of a clever, capable ruler pushed over the edge by a ruthless, rigid society. This is the act of a rather inept, short sighted and not very clear thinking person who continually made bad decisions that led to their own destruction. After all, the Faith Militant is her creation.

More than Cersei, I am frustrated by the death of Margaery Tyrell. The minute she revealed to Olenna that she had a plan I was genuinely EAGER to see the clever vengeance she would dish out. Margaery has been everything I’ve wanted from Cersei: crafty, cunning and able to play the system in genius fashion: a political mastermind who deftly sailed the tides of politics and came out on top. I needed to see her. I needed to see her win. This? This is a devastatingly disappointing end to her.

A note on the final death of Loras; I’m generally annoyed with the way one of this show’s very very few LGBTQ characters being killed off, though I’m honestly glad they’ll stop pretending he’s a character. Yes, this is Game of Thrones and everyone dies – but Loras has been an underused, pathetic caricature of uselessness (he was a skilled knight and general in the books) whose sole defining point was him being gay – and that same point led to completely unnecessary fictional world homophobia, arrest and death. His character is terrible, has always been terrible when it hasn’t been non-existent and is a pathetic excuse or inclusion. I only hope Yara is treated better (which is not hard since she already has been)

Up in Riverrun, Walder Fray said goodbye to Jaime who is clearly not a fan only to find he has a new serving girl… who serves him his two sons in a pie before slitting his throat. Hi there Arya – she’s learned that whole face wearing trick and she’s now putting it to good use getting vengeance and working on her list. Oh the death numbers are going to increase. And with that, the Lannister/Fray alliance has likely lost the Riverlands

Time to go up North with Jon has a brief lamenting of being a bastard in the noble family and Mellisandre’s all “oh cry me a river, you had feats and lived in a huge castle with a family most of which cared for you. Boo fucking hoo.” Albeit a little more gracious than that.

Davos is more concerned with the proof he has that Mellisandre burned Shireen, a girl he loved as a daughter, to death. She died for her lies – her belief – that her god would help Stannis win. Davos rightly points out that she failed and any god who wants to burn children alive is an evil god. Can’t argue that. He wants her executed… she understands but appeals for how useful she can be in the coming war against the White Walkers.

He banishes her, which is a sort of compromise, I guess.

I can see why he does this… but isn’t it a very Stark decision? Melisandre is a powerful sorceress. She’s achieved amazing things, she can literally bring back the dead. Her god is literally the god of fire – the god of the one thing the White Walkers seem to fear (even Dragonglass seems to work as much because it is a product of ultimate fire). This is not someone you don’t want on side… but for the sake of honour and goodness he sends her away. Oh Jon…

Meanwhile Baelish tries to get Sansa to declare herself Queen so he can marry her and take the Iron throne and won’t it all be wonderful. Uh-huh. Except, as Sansa has made clear to Jon already, she doesn’t trust Baelish. She also wants to trust Jon. Sansa has grown up far too much to see Baelish as a viable person to be unified with

Unfortunately this is kind of the only time anyone considers Sansa as potential queen of the north. It’s a shame, especially with Jon’s legitimacy an issue – you’d think there’d be a token protest.

Of course part of that could be is that when they start debating this Lady Mormont stands up and SLAMS THE WHOLE ROOM. Her speech is epic. She is epic. No-one is spared. If she and Lady Olenna ever actually meet there may be a singularity of snarky awesome. I’ve not seen a child destroy an adult like this since Skai Jackson and Azaelia Bank’s twitter fight.

In the face of her awesome performance, the lords of the north fall on bended knee and hail Jon Snow, King in the North

We do get a little more information from Bran’s little magical trips down memory lane now his undead has brought him to the wall. In the past he sees his father, Ned Stark, finding Ned’s sister Lyanna dying after being captured by Rhaegar Targaryen. When he finds her she’s dying – in childbirth. She begs her brother to look after her son

Jon Snow. Yes, Jon Snow is confirmed not to be Ned’s son – but Lyanna’s. And the father is probably Rhaegar Targaryen who kidnapped and raped her

Rhaegar was Daenery’s older brother. I think this doesn’t stop Jon and Daenerys actually marrying – if anything, given that the Targaryen’s like marrying their siblings, it makes it even more likely.

Especially when we consider Daenerys. She is finally coming to Westeros – but first she is leaving Dario behind because she doesn’t think she can go to Westeros with a lover. She needs to marry to secure alliances (though Dario makes an awesome point that a king could go with a mistress in tow and he has no issue with being her mistress… alas we didn’t run with that because that would have been kind of awesome). Daenerys is following Tyrion’s advice – and she names him Hand of the King since he is the perfect person to guide her through the knots of Westerosi politics. After all, we know how bad Daenerys tends to be at the political side of ruling the countries she conquers.

So back to my theory of Jon and Daenerys having many many incest babies together – Daenerys is talking political marriage. While Varys has arrived in Dorne to meet her new allies:

Ellaria and the Sand Snakes pretty much rule Dorne now and would merrily ally with anyone who will bring down the Lannisters. They are joined by (and sarcastically savaged by) Lady Olenna of House Tyrell who has just seen her entire family destroyed. She is furious. She wants vengeance. And this throws the might of Doorne and Highgarden (which has the largest army of the Seven Kingdoms) behind Daenerys.

So who does Daenerys have to marry to secure an alliance with? Tyrell and Martell are already on side, as is Greyjoy (and unless Westeros is going to embrace same-sex marriage, which seems sadly unlikely, none of them seem to have marriable heirs anyway). The Baratheons no longer seem to exist. The Lannisters? Nope they’re the worst allies ever – literally EVERY OTHER HOUSE hates them (on that – I’ll note back in season 5 how the Lannisters would fail simply because they are terrible at alliances) and you could probably arrange an accident for Jaime and then Tyrion’s heir anyway. So who else? The Arryns? But Baelish has pretty much already declared the Vale for Jon Snow anyway. Edmund in Riverrun? Well, firstly he’s married, secondly his forces have been defeated by ALL the people and ties of marriage and family already pull him under the Stark umbrella (along with hating all things Lannister). Every House in Westeros (except the Lannisters) is now Team Stark or Team Targaryen. If Daenerys wants to make a political marriage, Jon Snow is the only viable choice. It’s going to happen.

Interestingly I’m not against this so long as they have Varys, Tyrion and even Littlefinger as advisors. Both are largely compassionate – Daenerys’s ruthlessness will be contrasted with Jon’s Stark-honour and their big dreams/naivety can be nicely countered by the huge amount of practicality from their advisors. Also Dragons vs White Walkers

Did I mention I like the politics? Because I really really do.

Oh, in other news Sam and Gilly have arrived at the Citadel for Sam to become a Maester. Honestly, I don’t really care. Back to the politics

No-one does epic season finales like Game of Thrones.