This season of Game of Thrones has been about expectation. Expectation our characters have and the ones all of us watching have. And a lot of times, these expectations let us down. Bran finds out his noble father wasnâ€™t so noble; Tyrion finds out dealing with the slavers isnâ€™t so easy; we get nervous noticing this incredible show isnâ€™t as incredible as we remembered. But from the ashes of these expectations comes something brand new, outside of what we think things should be, completely different from what we imagined. Bran finds out the truth about who is in the Tower of Joy; Tyrion finds a ruler he believes in. And for us, the “The Winds of Winter” was that unexpected shining light, rising from an uneven seasonâ€” a sweeping, theatrical, nearly impeccable 69 minutes of television.
This episode looked different. It didnâ€™t feel like Game of Thrones, but in a way we needed. The cinematography and direction was sharp, majestic, and aesthetically more beautiful than the bleakness weâ€™re often faced with in Game of Thrones. Miguel Sapochnik directed both Episode 9 and 10 of this season, which I would argue were two of the most visually stunning episodes of the series. The blood felt redder, the ceilings higher, and the smoke thicker.
“The Winds of Winterâ€™s” opening was also tonally unique from how Game of Thrones opening scenes often pan out, and it set up the episode to be especially film-like. Sparse in dialogue and focusing on the smallest of details, like the parallels of Tommen dressing to be king, and Cersei dressing to go to war, the scene was tense and tight. From the little birds killing Grand Maester Pycelle and the panic when Margaery realizes none of them are safe, to the moment when the explosion as wildfire took over the city, all while Cersei patiently sips wine in her quarters â€” it was breathtaking. Iâ€™m not sure anything in the series has compared to this.
From then on it was hurdling to the end. “The Winds of Winter” did an excellent job progressing the storyline, and actually pushing it much further than I thought, but without feeling rushed. Tommen jumped to his death. Jon Snow is confirmed as Lyanna Starkâ€™s son, presumably by Rhaegar Targaryen. Arya is back to her kill list. And Daenerys is officially making her way across the narrow sea with Tyrion as her hand. It even managed to reintroduce Dorne and make it relevant without it feeling shoehorned in.
We spent so much of the season with the story expanding, much to my displeasure. It was worrisome how spread out our characters were, and how stagnant they seemed. It felt impossible to pull things back with such a limited time span. But with “The Winds of Winter,” our world has contracted, and weâ€™ve really come full circle, not just as a season, but I think to the beginning of the series.
We first hear that â€œwinter is comingâ€ in the series premiere, something Ned Stark remarks in both a literal and figurative sense. In “The Winds of Winter,” a raven comes to Winterfell announcing that winter has arrived, just as Jon and Sansa, for once, feel confident in their reign in the North. And we also started off with Robert Baratheon considering if he should have Daenerys assassinated, and deciding against it. And here we have her encroaching on Westeros with an army including the Unsullied, the Dothraki, the Greyjoys, the Martells, and the support of the remaining Tyrells.
Everything in the last six years of storytelling as culminated into this final set up for the battle for the throne, not to mention the Great War thatâ€™s still on itâ€™s way. Weâ€™ve managed to whittle down the playing field to just Jon Snow, Daenerys, and Cersei in the fight for the throne (disregarding that final look Sansa got when the houses in the North were pledging their loyalty to Jon). And they all have a compelling, or at least impassioned, claim to the throne.
That said, there is plenty of murmurings in the Game of Thrones fan space about claims to the throne and questions like â€œIf Jon is a Targaryen, doesnâ€™t that mean he has more claim than Daenerys?â€ â€œWhat if heâ€™s a Baratheon?â€ But, letâ€™s be clear, it doesnâ€™t really matter. We closed “The Winds of Winter” with Cersei of the House Lannister, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, on the throne. And she got there not because of her bloodline, though it was very important to her progress, but through terrifying, hellish determination.
We werenâ€™t shown any mourning for the deaths in the Sept. We werenâ€™t shown mourning from Cersei for Tommen. We werenâ€™t shown mourning from Lady Olenna about Loras, or Margaery, or any of the other slaughtered Tyrells. And itâ€™s a shame, but this was a cold, malicious path that Cersei took. And she has no â€œclaimâ€ to the throne. But make no mistake, she is the queen.
So where do we go from here? Itâ€™s funny that the season finale is the most excited Iâ€™ve been for Game of Thrones since the season began, but itâ€™s a calculated move on the part of the showrunners. Iâ€™m so pleased with how this season closed and Iâ€™m dreading having to wait another nine months to pick up where weâ€™ve left off. But Iâ€™m also dreading itâ€™s arrival, since itâ€™s only a matter of time until there wonâ€™t be more to watch. Until next season, thank you all for watching with me! It’s been a blast.
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