Game of Thrones: Winter is Here and the End is Near

By Logan Cutter | @cuttypants

In a word, the theme of this season’s Game of Thrones was “rebirth”.  Many prominent characters found a renewed existence by filling the void left by past characters that have since been relieved of their roles, usually a result of their brutal murder.  While some characters found rejuvenation by getting back to who they were at the outset of this story, others were simply brought back to life.  Among those who experienced a revival this season, for better or worse, were Jon Snow, Arya Stark, The Mad King (Queen), The Hand of the King (Queen), The King in the North, The King Slayer, The Hound, Theon Greyjoy and Uncle Benjen.

That’s not to say we didn’t lose a ton of characters and experience major carnage throughout the realm as usual.  When the dust finally settled this season we had lost Reek, The Prince of Dorne, The Warden of the North, The Lord of the Iron Islands, Osha, Rickon’s dire-wolf, Bran’s dire-wolf, No One, The Three Eyed Raven, Hodor (coming to a concert venue near you), the Blackfish, the Waif, the Sons of the Harpy, the youngest Stark, Smalljon Umber, the last known giant, the bastard Bolton, Grand Maester Pycelle, Lancel Lannister, The Lord of Highgarden, The Queen Consort, The Knight of Flowers, The High Sparrow, The King of the Andals and The Lord of the Crossing.

 Photo Cred: HBO

Photo Cred: HBO

The North

Fans only had to wait two episodes (and observe a 200-year-old witch’s bed-time ritual) before getting what we were anticipating all GoT off-season, the resurrection of Jon Snow.  We were also treated to our first major victory for the Starks when Sansa and Jon 2.0 triumphed over Ramsay Bolton in “The Battle of the Bastards”, one of the most visually striking battle scenes in television history.  The Starks finally took back their ancestral home and exacted revenge on some of the houses who had grievously wronged them.

Bran’s flashbacks to the Tower of Joy finally revealed the decades-long theory that Jon is not actually Ned’s bastard child, but is in fact the bastard son of his sister.  It is known by a select few in the realm that Lyanna had a love affair with Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s deceased older brother) while betrothed to Robert Baratheon.  The exact lineage of Jon was not perfectly spelled out but it was insinuated that Jon is a descendant of Targaryen and Stark blood. 

What does this mean for Jon?  The long term impact is hard to decipher.  He’s technically not the blood of Ned Stark and therefore shouldn’t be the King in the North.  Show creators have hinted at an ancestral lineage conflict between Sansa and Jon throughout season six and this will only add fuel to that fire.  As of now, only Bran seems to know the truth of Jon’s lineage but I’d bet that at least one of the realm’s most crafty deviants knows the truth about Jon and will try to use the information to take him down.

Speaking of things coming down, we can infer from Jon’s farewell to Edd (now acting Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch) that the Wall will crumble next season.  Dialogue is never wasted in Game of Thrones, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time.  There is too much story to tell and not enough screen time for wasted words.  Usually these conversations subtly foreshadow a future event.  A perfect example occurred earlier this season when Olenna says to Cersei, “You’re surrounded by enemies.  Will you kill them all yourself?”  Harmless conversational hyperbole, right?  Not so much.  Jon’s last words to Edd, “Don’t knock it down while I’m gone”, were not just a lighthearted goodbye between friends.

So far the Starks are the only great house to take the threat beyond the Wall seriously.  That likely doesn’t change next season with all that is going on in the south.  The north will stand alone against the undead army until Dany’s war has ended. 

 Photo Cred: HBO

Photo Cred: HBO

King’s Landing

The power struggle for the throne in King’s Landing culminated in a plotline annihilating blast orchestrated by the show’s new number one villain, and now current Protector of the Realm, Cersei Lannister.  The freshly minted holy alliance between the crown and the faith went up in flames along with The High Sparrow and nearly all of the Tyrell’s.  The opening scene of the season finale was one of the best scenes in show history in regards to tension building and shock value.  The Mad Queen has lost all traces of humanity and black is now the only color in her wardrobe.  Even Jaime, who’s regained his Lannister edge, looks at her sideways after discovering she executed the same exact plot he foiled during the Mad King’s command.

Long may she reign?  No.  After fully embracing the dark side and with Lannister storm troopers in tow, Cersei’s coronation seemed to be her last hurrah.  She’s ruined almost every alliance her father worked so hard to forge.  She’s grossly outnumbered by the forces headed directly for her throne and she’s fresh out of weapons of mass destruction.  Then there’s the prophecy that so far has been completely accurate, which predicts her death at the hands of the “Valonqar” (little brother in High Valyrian).  Not exactly good for longevity.  Who will be the one to choke the life from her?  Jaime, Tyrion?  Both now have cause and each would be a fitting way to end this Queen’s story.  Season seven will be her final act.

 Photo Cred: HBO

Photo Cred: HBO

Essos

Dany escaped her Dothraki captors in style and eliminated their entire leadership structure in one fiery swoop.  In that same swoop, she united and inspired all the Dothraki Khalasars to follow her, multiplying her army exponentially.  After quelling the uprising of the slave masters in Meereen, she parlayed all of the hate and destruction the Lannister’s have spread throughout Westeros into a few new alliances -- Dorne, Highgarden and the Iron Islands.  She’s also acquired the other necessary pieces, loyal advisors and a thousand ships, in readiness for the fight for the Iron Throne.  The parting scene this year was Dany’s massive armada sailing straight for Westeros, fulfilling her vision laid out in the opening episodes of the first season.

Her military force is ginormous and no living army in Westeros can oppose her now that she has half of its great houses rallied to her cause.  She should be able to wrest the throne from the Lannister’s rather quickly through Fire and Blood before turning her gaze toward the north.

Then there’s Arya.  She dropped out of assassin school, spurned the aberrant life that the faceless men laid out for her and whipped The Waif in single combat.  In the end she didn’t choose to be “no one” and once again became Arya.  She arrived back in the familiar wetlands she traversed during earlier seasons and slit Walder Frey’s throat; a cathartic moment for fans of the Stark’s revenge campaign.  Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and The Hound, all yet to be crossed off her kill list, are conveniently together in one location.  Expect her to be infiltrating their camp early on next season.

Say goodbye to Essos, all eastern plotlines have moved across the Narrow Sea to the Seven Kingdoms.

This season went a long way in clearing up George RR Martin’s master plan to conclude this great narrative.  Many storylines converged and chaos wiped others off the board entirely.  Watching these characters adapt and develop has always been the best part of Thrones and we only have two more (shorter) seasons left to see where they end up.  I can’t wait.