In a season which had a pedestrian build-up, to say the least, slowly putting in place the pieces it needed to deliver an impressive finale and it didn’t disappoint. After setting it all up, the final two episodes roared to life with explosive scenes that redefined the phrase “must see television”. All the plot threads have had significant screen time dedicated to establishing events but the payoffs were more than worth the wait. If you’ve not caught up then do not hamper your enjoyment by reading further, there will be spoilers!
Last week saw the epic ‘Battle of the Bastards’ for Winterfell and certainly lived up to expectations. Fortunately good triumphed over evil as the Starks recaptured their home and Ramsey Bolton finally got his just desserts. More than that the episode saw a truly spectacular battle. It’s epic scale alone set new standards for what can be achieved with a supposed TV budget. There was a gritty, and at times suffocating, realism which heightened the brutality and the chaos of such a battle. From the very start there were moments where the viewer is left concerned that things were not going to go the way of the Starks, beginning with Rickon’s death. This was at the hands of an arrow from Ramsey Bolton, at his most manipulative and despicable that continued as he instructed his archers to shower down arrows on his own men, building a grotesque wall of corpses with soldiers from both sides. With the Wildling Warriors and Jon Snow surrounded all seems lost. But then as the audience’s collective heart sinks, Sansa and Littlefinger come to the rescue with the Knights of the Vale. The overhead shot of the cavalry sweeping away the Bolton army was beautifully created, sending Ramsey into retreat behind the walls of Winterfell to little avail. Jon Snow gets his shots in as he pummels at Lord Bolton’s sickening face but it would be for Sansa to have the final triumph and the last shot of the show. Ramsey’s cruelty ultimately proves his undoing and Sansa walks away with a subtle smile knowing she has got her revenge.
‘The Winds of Winter’ picked up the mantle from ‘Battle of the Bastards’, an episode many have considered to have been one of the best the show has produced, and somehow delivered even more punch. From the very outset there is a beautiful melancholy tone, beginning before a musical note is even heard as a lone bell, watch out for it later, chimes impending doom. The incidental music then assists the drama so skilfully and has to be acknowledged.
All the scenes in King’s Landing for effectively the last two seasons have been building to this moment, the Trial of Cersei Lannister before the Seven Gods. The rise of the Faith Militant had of course proved to be a catastrophic miscalculation by Cersei, having to endure the humiliating walk of shame at the end of Season 5. But you always knew she was going to have her revenge and boy did she, also wiping out the Tyrell’s at the same time. Loras admits his guilt and dedicates his life to the Seven Gods, meaning the graphic mutilation of his pretty forehead. His life didn’t have long left however as, in a plot stolen from Guy Fawkes, wildfire tore through the Great Sept of Baelor in another spectacularly delivered effect. Yet in a typically unexpected twist Cersei’s greatest victory resulted in her cruelest loss as King Tommen drops to his death in a shot similar to the humourous demise of Denholm Reynholm in ‘The IT Crowd’. You feel that with all her children gone, like Lady Olenna Tyrell, there will be no limits to her madness.
The extended running time of ‘The Winds of Winter’ was fully utilised as a number of threads were tied together, such as Sam and Gilly arriving at Oldtown and Shireen’s brutal demise last year finally catching up with Melisandre. Arya Stark’s personal journey finally begins to be accelerating as she ticked another individual off her kill list in this episode. The time spent learning the ways of the House of Black and White finally come to fruition as she wreaks her revenge on Walder Frey on behalf of her mother, brother and all the viewers shaken by the events of the Red Wedding.
For the really hardcore followers Bran’s journey into the past would reveal the true identity of Jon Snow’s parents, Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. The gut wrenching realisation that after all this time Ned Stark was not in fact his father but had kept up a lie to protect his sister’s son was another example of how incredible Game of Thrones is as a television series. As well as delivering the explosive sequences and epic battles already discussed it also provides deeply intelligent plotting which elevates it to the ranks of a television masterpiece.
Jon Snow’s own journey during this season, which of course started with him being dead and in need of resurrection, also ends in triumph as he is declared ‘The King in the North’. Once again however it is young Bella Ramsey who steals the scene as Lyanna Mormont, shaming the other Lords of the North, turning the tide and triggering the acknowledgment of his place as ‘King in the North’. A particular thread still left outstanding is that of Sansa Stark and Littlefinger, the lecherous and goateed individual revealing his intentions for the Iron Throne in this episode. However you feel that Sansa will not ever forgive him for handing her over to the Boltons and his comeuppance may come in Season 7, when he will surely pay a heavy price.
Another exciting prospect for Season 7 is of course the fact that finally, FINALLY, Daenerys is making her move for the Iron Throne and heading for Westeros. The building of her army has taken an eternity but now she stands with Dothraki and Unsullied warriors, the ships of Yara and Theon Greyjoy, an alliance with the Martels and Tyrells, the council of Tyrion and Varys plus three freaking dragons! As will probably be the case there might be an extended period of build up before a battle between the Lannister and Targaryen armies that will surely raise even higher standards for epic television storytelling than we have already enjoyed in Season 6. Beyond that I predict we will also be treated to a thrilling climax between fire and ice because lest we forget in all this excitement, “Winter is Here”.