The sixth season of Game of Thrones can best be described as predictable. As the show outpaced Martin’s novels, major book theories were confirmed as show canon and the large cast reunited in fast-track ways that were best suited to television’s shorter timeline.
But this is not to say that this show isn’t still capable of the mother of all surprises.
MAJOR episode spoilers ahead.
Spoilers for the currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.
I can’t even comprehend the full scope of what happened tonight. This is my mind:
Goodbye, High Sparrow, Loras Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister—a very different method of delivery to his same ultimate end from the books—Lancel “I Doth Suck At Speed-Crawling” Lannister, and Pycelle, set upon by Qyburn’s army of children from an Aphex Twin video. Pycelle was just gratuitous. Nobody hated Pycelle that much. Well, except Cersei, so… I guess that explains that protracted demise.
But Queen Margaery!? Oh, that was cruel. And anticlimactic, really. She was one of the best players in the great game, until she really wasn’t. That gamble with her conversion to the Faith didn’t pay off. But I wanted to see her at the end of the great final battle, sitting on a landscaped balcony in King’s Landing with Dany and Yara, sipping Dornish rosé. What added to the tension and made her death all the worse was that she could guess Cersei’s moves until the very end. Only too late this time.
Cersei. Cersei, whose evil powers surely reside in her Alexander McQueen armored shoulder pads of Fucking Slayage, who strokes her goblet of Merlot instead of a white Persian cat as she tells her enemy that, no, she expects her to die, slowly. Kudos to Lena Headey, who gave this, Cersei’s grand revenge, just something a little perfectly campy, a bit Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest with the fashion sense of Angelina Jolie in Maleficent.
Goodbye, “Shame Nun,” whose fate at the hands of Gregor Clegane is too disgusting to contemplate.
Of course, we’re barely scratching the surface of mind-blowing turns. I mean:
Whoa. Goodbye, Tommen.
Goodbye, Melisandre, heading south to the land of The Showrunners Are Surely Saving Your Stupid Ass For A Later Plot Device.
Goodbye, Uncle Benjen, who can’t travel south of the Wall because he’s dead.
Goodbye, Walder Frey, who took issue with Arya’s cooking.
Goodbye, Daario Naharis, dumped by Dany with a “It’s not you, it’s me and my claim to the Iron Throne.” At least Daario had some pride and didn’t ask for breakup sex.
And lastly, goodbye, Meereen and the Bay of Dragons!
But with all of these farewells, there were some hellos.
“Hullo,” said Samwell to the grandeur of the Citadel. How gorgeous was the cinematography this episode? So glad the director of last week’s BastardBowl stuck around for the finale. I want to make my home in that awe-inspiring library, too.
Hello, Tyrion, Hand of the Queen.
Hello, Qyburn, also Hand of the Queen.
Hello to the new King in the North, Jon Snow. Who is also not quite the bastard we thought he was. Well, okay, no book reader thought Jon was Ned’s biological son because R+L=J has been tossed around since the first book came out.
Hello, Queen Cersei. Hope she enjoys the ten-month Game of Thrones hiatus because, with the death of Tommen, which she brought about, she’s also signed her own death prophecy. What does Cersei want now, now that her children are gone? How dangerous is she now that she’s proven, more than anyone, that she is capable of atrocity like few others in the great and horrible game?
And with “The Winds of Winter,” Game of Thrones is truly entering its endgame.
- Quote of the night: “Winter is here.” The Starks are always right in the end, remember?
- The piano in the beginning was super odd.
- How the hell did everyone travel around so fast and yet time in King’s Landing moved hardly at all? I know it’s a dumb nitpick to stick on, but, really. Should we assume Cersei is not growing out her pixie cut and that Arya learned how to teleport in the House of Black and White?
- I loved how Varys was just chilling in that alcove, waiting for Ellaria Sand to ring her bell. Who even does that in real life? Now that Dorne backed some ships for Dany, can we never see these terrible characters ever again?
- After last season, I feel almost as if the showrunners were throwing viewers a lot of bones this year in the form of some fan service because people were getting fatigued by constant tragedy. So, sure, let’s reward readers with some confirmation of theories and let’s reward casual viewers with some gratification for House Stark that felt really inorganic. Yeah, last week’s death of Ramsay Bolton is still really bugging me. It should have been a public beheading to prove that he was dead—a lesson for the masses. That would’ve made political sense. Would it have been as emotionally satisfying as the very telegraphed “ironic” demise? Probably not, but it was awfully corny. I also thought this season lacked a lot of poetry, a lot of words left unsaid, because Martin’s material isn’t really here to adapt any longer. There’s a lot of exposition, but not a ton of motivation beyond the obvious need to get character from Point A to Point B because… because, well, the showrunners say George Martin says so. Which is a fine enough reason, but I miss the earlier season’s great monologues on power, hate, honor. Now that we’ve taken the bloody express train to the (allegedly) final 13 episodes, will we get a chance to spend more time with the characters themselves and less time with their destinies?
- Can Jaime do anything of note next season?
- Lastly, thanks again to another year of thoughtful (and mostly very respectful) discussion of Game of Thrones. Will you keep watching next year, or will you refuse the call?
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Send her a raven through Twitter.