Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter Review

More happened in this episode than in some entire seasons (I’m looking at you, Season 5). So many storylines paid off I could literally explode with delight (too soon?). Firstly, hats off to Miguel Sapochnik, the episodes director, and Ramin Djawadi the show’s composer (same as Person of Interest and the 2008 Iron Man film).

Other memorable episodes have had one or two defining moments that you remember them for. This was an episode constructed entirely of them. The opening scene effectively builds a sense of foreboding and dread. As soon as you see this shot, you just know something is not quite right. I guess it helps if you read a lot of Reddit theory posts too…

Sept

The Director and Composer combine forces here with the unusual piano score building and building. The cuts away to different elements, such as Lancel’s spelunking excursion and Pycell’s death by a thousand tiny knives (seriously they stabbed him so many times). Tommen looks like a man who is getting ready for his own funeral (and in a way I guess he was). Sadly Loras gets put through some brutal punishment for nothing, with Margery the only one smart enough to work out what is happening, alas too late. The way the wildfire is slowly introduced, with the glow slowly coming into Lancel’s view is great work. And the resulting explosion is spectacular in the same fashion as it was back in Season 2’s “Blackwater”.

Feature

Next we get Cersei getting some revenge against Septa Unella, with some wine waterboarding and light bondage. Cersei monologues about all the reasons she is evil just to get us back up to speed in case any of us forgot, as if the tight fitting military style jumpsuit wasn’t enough of a clue. She invites Ser Zombie Gregor in for a chat and leaves them, softly shouting “Shame……Shame………….Shame”.

Window

And poor Tommen, always felt sorry for the guy. He was afraid of himself, and in Game of Thrones land, that will get you killed pretty quickly. Again the shot of him at the window is among the best I’ve seen in the show. The way he takes off his crown, sets it down, walks back to the window, stands up, and just falls down, is just beautifully put together.

A relatively short scene next with Jamie, Bronn and later Walder Frey. If anything this chat serves to remind us how much we dislike the Frey’s, but Jamie puts it into words for us – “Why do we need you?”. It’s almost as if the show is now saying the same thing to several people (and houses). To paraphrase Tyrion later in the episode: “Make no mistake, we’re in the endgame now”.

Citadel

Same finally arrives at Oldtown and the Citadel. Seriously it took him a whole season to get here and yet Varys can get from Meereen to Dorne and back in a few episodes. Yes I know we are moving characters around at the pace that the story demands, but it’s a little jarring. One aspect I originally liked about Game of Thrones was how it took real time to traverse the various countries and continents. It gave real grounding to the world, well as much as you can get with dragons and ice zombies. It’s a shame the show has had to abandon that. It feels like someone only just realised how much story we’ve got left in a short amount of time.

Some great acting next from Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos) as he confronts the Red Woman about the murder of Princess Shireen. He really sells the love he had for her, as he fights to physically restrain himself while unleashing emotionally. I did wonder for a second if Jon would order her execution (he’s big on law and order, ask Janos Slint or Alister Thorne) but no, she’s allowed to ride south and into the plot holding cupboard. Maybe she will bump into Gendry? We can only hope…

Jon and Sansa have a little chat on the battlements, and a notable Jon Snow smile occurs, I think only one of two ever recorded, when Sansa tells him a white raven arrived, signalling the beginning of winter. When I first saw them at the Citadel earlier in the episode, I thought they were just a fancier kind of raven, so I’m glad someone spelled that out for me.

Olenna

Olenna in Dorne has actually made the whole thing worthwhile for me. It’s as if she is standing in for the audience when she berates the Sand Snakes – “What is your name, Barbara? Obarra? You look like an angry little boy”. Cue the quickest alliance talks ever made, and with the ring of a bell Dany now has houses Tyrell and Martell on her side, along with the Greyjoys (or half at least), the Dothraki, and the Unsullied. Oh and the three dragons. Not bad…not bad….

Speaking of Dany, she gently but firmly puts Darrio in the friendzone, and he is not amused. I don’t blame him. But it’s the next scene that is fantastic. A quiet, talking scene with two of the shows best performers in which Tyrion is named the Hand of the Queen. You can see the pride and joy in his eyes as he finally is doing something he loves, for a cause he believes in. He’s never had those two things line up before. I hope this doesn’t mean his days are numbered….you know Game of Thrones logic.

Arya

Arya makes it over from Bravos to serve up a slice of revenge to Walder Frey. Demonstrating not only excellent assassin skills but formidable baking skills (seriously nice crust on that pie), she cuts Walders throat and then smiles as he holds his head back so he bleeds out quicker. She’s learned all the skills of the Faceless Men but when she kills she wants you to know who she is. Who’s left on the list? Cersei?

Littlefinger gets shot down by Sansa, but I’m glossing over that scene as it is creepy. I’m sure that will come more into focus in Season 7. Benjen drops Bran and Meera off near the Wall, and he carefully mentions there are some powerful magic spells that protect it. Could the Night King’s mark on Bran cause them to fail if he passes through it? Watch this space…

But no time for that now as we finally get the answer to the biggest question on the show. Who is Jon Snow’s mother? Well the answer was you weren’t even asking the right question, as it should have been parents. We now know that Jon is the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Congrats on the casting department for finding a baby that looked as moody as Jon. Notice the focus on the sword puts down at the foot of the bed, Ser Arthur Dayne’s sword Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. Cue my interest in the prophecy that the Prince that was Promised was born “beneath a bleeding star”.

Sword

I think it’s only us, the audience, that will ever find out about this at large. I mean, Bran will tell Jon, and I’m sure he will tell Dany when they meet. But with Bran the only one who has seen this through a vision/time travel, how will anyone believe him? Still, it feels good to find this out and have some closure, I can’t believe they stretched out the Tower of Joy for a whole season, but at least it wasn’t drip fed throughout several episodes.

King North

And it doesn’t matter really anyway, as Jon is crowned King in the North. Season 2 flashbacks abound, as Lyanna Mormont says “The North Remembers”. How fitting that he is crowned thanks to an impassioned speech made by someone named for his Mother, awww.

Cersei Throne

Cersei goes full on evil Queen in the penultimate scene, I guess now that we are out of Kings the people will just go along with anything? Though presumably she will burn anyone who gets in her way. A Mad Queen you might say, and the Kingslayer just arrived back in town. Can’t wait to see how this plays out next season.

Cue the final scene with Dany finally, yes finally, sailing to Westeros, and I think you can just make out the coastline. She’s bringing a sizeable army and a sizeable number of powerful houses as allies. Will there be much of a King’s Landing left by the time she arrives? Maybe Cersei will decide to burn it all when she sees Dany’s fleet approach in something of a ‘scorched earth’ policy?

Game of Thrones is running at full tilt and won’t be slowing down – bring on Season 7!

Fleet

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