With this past week’s episode in the books, the sixth season of Game of Thrones has come to an end. It was a monumental buildup to a colossal final two episodes. This was originally going to be a smaller part of my regular Captain’s Log post, but I figured I would want to discuss this season in depth, so I dedicated an entire post to it.
Formal warning: Since I will be discussing this season in its entirety, there will be spoilers. Of course.
Who’s playing the game?
One thing that I noticed was a shift in exactly who is playing “the game.” What game, you ask? Why, the game of thrones! One feels that the entire series is a game between Varys and Littlefinger; Varys trying to put someone on the Throne. who would rule justly and fairly, and would be good for the realm, whereas Littlefinger is trying to put Littlefinger on the Throne. But Littlefinger and Varys both seemed to move deeper into the shadows this season.
Littlefinger had his deus ex-machina moment in the “Battle of the Bastards,” but before that we had Sansa standing up to Littlefinger, a standout moment that marks the first time that Littlefinger hasn’t had complete and utter control during the series. It’s unclear just how he plans to get there, but he admits that he wants the Iron Throne, and he wants Sansa by his side.
Varys, on the other hand, did his best to keep the peace in Mereen. Part of the way through, he left to go to Westeros, before we could really see him manipulate the situation. Similarly to Little Finger, we see Varys feel powerless in the presence of the Red Priestess and her near-magical abilities.
As I said in my post about Varys, when I heard that Varys and Tyrion would be together again this season, I figured it would be similar to Season 2, in which they manipulated the political situation of the city, but they were just trying to hold everything together. But at least, at the end, we saw Varys Nick Fury-ing to appeal to Olenna Tyrell and the Sand Snakes, helping build the alliance that will ultimately put Daenerys on the throne.
The only question now is the possibility of a division; with Varys in the South, and Littlefinger in the North, one wonders if the two sides will work together to de-throne Cersei. If they did, they would likely crush whoever stands in their way, but one wonders if Littlefinger’s ego would get in the way.
The Time/Transportation Problem
Now this was a minor objection that I would not be inclined to mention, if it was not mentioned by many fans. Really a minor gripe, but people criticize how arbitrary time and location is in the series. Littlefinger shows up suddenly in the North, in a journey which, looking at the map, people expected should have taken longer. Theon and Yara make it from the Iron Islands (around a continent, mind you) over to Pentos and then to Mereen in a few episodes. Varys pops over to Westeros to recruit the Dorne and the Tyrells, and gets back to Mereen for the end of the episode. Jaime is in the Riverlands at the beginning of the finale, but makes it back to King’s Landing before the end of the episode.
By the end of that last episode, it was pretty apparent that time in Thrones is not perfectly linear, but these minor gaps got people scratching their heads, and drew viewers out of the action for a second. Yes, this is a simple thing, and in such a large story with so many characters on such a large map, it’s bound to happen, but things like this tend to take people out of the story.
Burn them all
The action sequence in which we saw the Sept of Baelor tumbling to the ground in a fiery explosion was one of the most suspenseful and best-orchestrated on the show. The music built tension, watching the Tyrells trying to leave the sept kept viewers trying to figure out if they would make it out, and having Lancel crawl towards the burning candle provided just enough of a possibility for the city to survive. But it all burned, in a visually stunning fashion.
The character deaths are significant, yes, but one feels that Cersei destroying part of the city and losing her son feels more significant than losing the High Sparrow or any of the Tyrells. This marks a big change for Cersei, who is now doing just what the Mad King did; burning her enemies.
In the finale, it was revealed that Jon is in fact the son of Lyanna Stark, and Ned raised him for her. Yes, that “bed of blood,” referred to in the first book was, in fact, a birthing bed. While it wasn’t overtly stated who Jon’s father is, most people expect Rhaegar. I would be remiss not to mention the reveal, seeing as I wrote an entire post about it earlier. In “A Revised R+L=J” I boldly suggest that an alternative to that theory.
This theory being right would mean a great deal for the fans of the series, and for fan theories in general. George R.R. Martin has said about fan theories that many are entirely off-base, but some, on occasion, are right. This theory began with the release of the first book, A Game of Thrones, in 1996. We’ll have to wait and see if the theory is confirmed fully in the way fans expect it to be.
The fight sequence from the Tower of Joy flashback is now widely considered among the best in the course of the show,
“Battle of the Bastards” had some spectacular moments, notably when Jon was showing just how powerful he was. There was the one-minute continuous shot and then at the end in which he took down Ramsay.
My favorite moment, however, is the final shot of the season, focusing on Daenery’s fleet as it leaves Essos and makes way for Seven Kingdoms. We’re one step closer to the series’ ultimate payoff. Daenerys is all set to take the Iron Throne. In the first episode, the show made us a promise, and now, we are on the verge of seeing this promise come true.
The Iron Throne Award for Best Actress goes to…
There were a lot of wonderful girl power moments this season, making this a tough selection. Gemma Whelan’s Yara Greyjoy appeared in a handful of episodes, trying to bring the Iron Islands into the game of thrones, attempting to restore Theon to who he once was, and appealing to Daenerys, with whom she really seemed to hit it off. Then there was the standout performance of child actress Bella Ramsey as Lyanna Mormont, a 10-year-old noble who takes sass from no one. I thought she’d only be in that first episode, but she showed up, in full force, during the finale. This was an angry performance that quickly made a side character into a fan favorite.
And I’d be a fool not to mention Daenerys, whose story grows more interesting the closer she gets to setting out for Westeros. Since many of the best scenes involve Dany speaking another language, such as her burning down the tent of the khals or giving her speech to her Dothraki supporters, it’s easy to forget how good of an actress Emilia Clarke is. That being said, the best female-led performance this season was definitely found further north. And how about Cersei? She didn’t have much of a range in terms of performance, seeing that her character consists of placid and constrained anger or placid and constrained sadness, she’s but seeing her on the throne at the end of was an awesome moment of girl-power.
But despite all those great performances, I have to give it to Sophie Turner’s performance as Sansa Stark. She started the season fleeing from the Boltons, going through the joyful reunion with Jon, her cold fury with Littlefinger, and the amazing moment where she walked away from Ramsay Bolton being eaten alive by dogs. Although the gif below does not show it, the last shot of “Battle of the Bastards,” is Sansa walking away from the violence as a small smile creeps across her face. It’s haunting.
“Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” Sansa is a survivor. Terrible things have happened to her during the series. Many people criticized some of the scenes with Sansa and Ramsay last season – yes, it was problematic in some ways – but Sansa’s Season 6 quest for revenge certainly paid off, and it certainly paid off when Sansa got her revenge.
The Iron Throne Award for Best Actor goes to…
The male performances were all solid, but with no true standouts. Iwan Rheon as Ramsay gave a competent performance, bringing all the understated psychopathy that he had left. However, this must be a tie between Kit Harrington and Liam Cunningham. Kit Harrington’s Jon proved, once again, to be a viable action star, while giving a somber performance at some moments, contrasted with a desperate frustration before and during the battle for Winterfell. Liam Cunningham’s Davos Seaworth, who began with a crisis of faith with the death of Jon, and began to find meaning at Jon’s side, only to have the explosive fury in the last episode, accusing Melisandre of murder. It was a pleasure to watch both characters this season, and I wish both actors long and successful careers.
The character death(s) I’m most sad about
As always, this season had its fair amount of traumatic deaths. I had originally thought of this category as simply listing the one character death that I was most saddened by, but there were quite a few.
One that got to me was the death of Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully, also known as Brynden “IDGAF” Tully. Originally, I had an entire post about the Blackfish written, along similar lines as my Why Varys is my favorite Game of Thrones Character post, but the post just never really had enough content. The Blackfish appeared only a handfull of times throughout the series, each time doing something badass or saying something funny, or narrowly escaping the Red Wedding just because he stepped out to use the bathroom. In this season, he was defending Riverrun from a Lannister/Frey invasion, being a stubborn old man with nothing left to lose. When the Freys threatened to kill his nephew Edmure, Blackfish called their bluff like a boss. “Surrender the castle, or I’ll cut his throat.” And what was the response? “Go on, then. Cut his throat.” It’s just a shame that his death happened off-screen. The Blackfish didn’t appear frequently, but he certainly never disappointed. I’ll certainly miss him.
But the Blackfish’s death wasn’t all that shocking, unlike that of Hodor. As I said in my Captain’s Log post for May, Hodor’s death was shocking. I covered this more in that post, but Hodor’s death was one of the shows most memorable, because Hodor was such a light-hearted and lovable character, and seeing his death is such a tragic and heroic thing that is indicative of life in Westeros.
I’m inclined to mention Margery; from whom I expected a few more schemes. But her death was more about the fiery explosion that caused it, rather than the end of her story. And Tommen’s death felt like a footnote to that.
And I’m inclined to mention Rickon, but Rickon was the Stark viewers were most inclined to care about. We never bonded with him as a character, and he never impacted the plot a great deal. In this season, he was a catalyst for more important events. He didn’t even have any lines. Did you notice that? I expect not. Go back and watch, and you’ll notice that between the two scenes he appears in, he says zero words.
The character death I’m most relieved by
There are lesser characters here whom I could mention, but I won’t. This almost goes without saying. Ramsay Bolton, easily. Basically for all the things I said about it above, but also because it was such a physical death. Everyone talks about how satisfying Joffrey’s death was, but this was also such a cathartic kill. Joffrey was only poisoned, which seems relatively tame to being mauled by dogs. Also Sansa had the vengeful justice of being the one to do it, whereas Joffrey was only killed as a grab for power.
Of course, there was also Walder Frey. Arya got revenge for her family, and made sure he knew what was happening. After the entire Season had her doing absolutley nothing
Greatest Character comeback
I thought about including Jon in this section – Jon came back from the dead, yes – but so many other characters came back, not only from the dead, but from out of nowhere really. Bran and the gang came back after his season absence, Rickon turned up, the Blackfish returned, and Benjen Stark came back after disappearing in the seventh episode, not to mention Walder Frey and Yara Greyjoy, and smaller characters. But I would be remiss in not highlighting the Hound.
There have only been a handful of “Cold opens” in the course of the show – at the beginning of the first, third, and fourth seasons – so when they showed a small, faithful community building a sept, you know they had to be doing something special. The reveal itself was done in such a cinematic way, showing how the community worked together to build the sept, eventually panning over to the people carrying colossal logs in groups of four, and having another log carried by one single man – calling attention to the man’s strength while also indicating his solitary nature – only to reveal that we knew this man. The sequence was shot beautifully. Then seeing him take out the people in the woods and meet up with the Brotherhood was an interesting step for his character. After everything is taken from him, where does he go? To the Brotherhood, I suppose. The tragedy of Thoros of Myr joking “”You have friends?” and hearing the Hound say “Not anymore,” really drove home the Hound’s arc from the nihlistic-fuck-the-king warrior, to someone who’s just trying to find his place in the world. We didn’t see him in the last episode, but we’ll definitely see him going forward.
What I enjoyed most this season
The North – plain and simple. Everything came together beautifully. Gradually, a team was put together – Jon, Sansa, Davos, the Wildlings, the Vale, House Mormont; Team North – and they had a quest to punish the evildoers who had taken Winterfell, and they completed it.
It was a story with a lot of build-up – an episode of going house to house and asking for help – and incredible payoff – the bad guys get punished, Jon is proclaimed King in the North.
Not to mention in the finale, as the snows fell on the North, and the kingdoms were alerted to the official change of seasons, we finally heard a Stark say those words we’ve been waiting six seasons for:
“Winter is here.”
What I enjoyed least this season
Sam and Gilly’s storyline. It was fun, it was heartfelt, and it was nice seeing Sam stand up to his father, and arrive at the Citadel’s library (I, too, look that way at books), but in the grand scheme of things it didn’t feel all that necessary.
What I’m looking forward to in Season 7
More story payoff. Dany arrives in Westeros and fights for King’s Landing. Cersei is promptly de-throned. There is an epic episode in which the White Walkers make it through the Wall. Bran returns to Winterfell, but Arya instead searches for revenge, ultimately realizing that she should have gone back to Winterfell (she dies before she can get there, though). Bran tells Jon that he should be King of Westeros, because he is of royal birth. Dany learns about the walkers, and goes North with her dragons and/or starts forging Valyrian steel.
But eh, that could all be wrong, and frankly, I hope it is. I enjoy being pleasantly surprised by what every season brings. I just don’t know what I’m going to put on this blog for the next 43 weeks.