‘Game of Thrones’ Season Finale Recap: ‘The Winds of Winter’


Cersei’s day of reckoning is here. But rest assured, it won’t end the way her enemies have hoped. As it begins, we see Cersei, Tommen, Margaery, and the High Sparrow all getting dressed for the day. It’s time for the trial — of both Cersei and Loras.

But Margaery knows something’s up from the start — she looks around, and neither Cersei nor Tommen are to be found in the sept. Who is? All of Cersei’s enemies: the High Sparrow and his flock, the Tyrells, and her uncle Kevan. This bodes well for none of them. The first to go is Pycelle, who, back at the Red Keep, is summoned by one of Varys’ (and now Qyburn’s) little birds, and suffers a grisly fate at the hands of the rest of them.

In the sept, Loras, broken and bowed, confesses to his sins, renounces his lands and title, and has the seven pointed star carved into his forehead. But when it comes time for Cersei, Lancel is sent to fetch her—and is led down to the crypt below the sept by a little bird, where he discovers Cersei’s secret instead: a shitton of wildfire, with candles burning down slowly in a rudimentary timer mechanism. Margaery, having realized that something is very wrong, tries to convince the High Sparrow to postpone the trial and get everyone out, but in hubris, he underestimates Cersei, and seals their fate: when the wildfire in the crypts ignites, they’re all consumed by green flame. She watches from her window in the Red Keep, sipping wine, grinning with glee. Tommen has a similar view, but is considerably more distraught — left completely alone by his mother, he chooses death, with a leap from the window. The prophecy from Cersei’s youth is now fulfilled. All her children are dead.

Cersei, more consumed with revenge than a desire to be with her son, spends the moments immediately following the massacre in the dungeon, introducing her former tormenter, Septa Unella, to her new tormenter, the now-unmasked reanimated Gregor Clegane. When she hears of the news, she can’t even be bothered to plan a funeral; she orders his remains cremated and buried where the Great Sept of Baelor once stood. At Cersei’s coronation, Jaime, fresh off returning from schooling Walder Frey on just how useless he is, is quite troubled — the love of his life has lost the last thing that made her human, and is officially “The Mad Queen.”

Futher south, Sam has arrived at Oldtown, and the Citadel. His first sight of the second-largest (and oldest) city in Westeros is the white ravens being released, signaling the end of summer, and winter’s arrival. With Gilly, her Craster baby, and Heartsbane in tow, what’s he gonna do? His ticket in is the letter from Jon Sow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, ordering him to study to become a maester, but really, there is likely only going to be enough time to study the essentials…you know, like researching how the F they’re going to defeat the white walkers. This scene, where Sam reaches the Library in the Citadel, the central repository for knowledge in Westeros, has quite possibly the biggest reveal from this season. Yes, it’s the fiery compass thingie from the credit sequence: This is where it lives!

As the white raven arrives at Winterfell, all the Great Houses of the North gather, along with the knights of the Vale, in order to plan their next move. In private, Jon defers to Sansa as the Lady of Winterfell, but asks Sansa if she trusts Littlefinger. She’s too smart for that, but offers ZERO explanation for keeping his proximity a secret. Jon immediately forgives her, and gives her a patronizing kiss on the forehead. In the Godswood, Littlefinger admits to Sansa that he wants to sit on the iron throne and have her by his side. From the start, all his moves have been with this in mind. Sansa refuses, but with Jon named “King”, where does that leave her?

After a rousing speech from Lyanna Mormont, in which she verbally bitch slaps all the lords who punked out on the second Battle of Winterfell, Jon is declared King in the North, even though he fell victim to his own battle strategy and was only saved by the knights of the Vale. And technically, Bran still in line for the whole “King in the North” title, even if he can’t carry himself — but no one knows he’s actually alive. Hopefully he and Meera can hitch a ride south, and fast.

In Dorne, there’s a seep historical tension between the Dornish and The Reach — it took the conquering Targaryens 200 years to bring Dorne into the Kingdom — and even then, only via marriage. Olenna references this tension with her first words in her parley with Sand Snakes. She’s looking for vengeance, as Cersei has just “stolen the future” from her, murdering her son, Mace, and her grandchildren Loras and Margaery, along with everyone else in the sept. Both the Tyrells and the Dornish realize they need help, and the newly arrived Varys promises to provide it; in the form of a Targaryen queen, a slave army, a Dothraki horde, an Ironborn fleet, and a trio of dragons. For what it’s worth, it’s interesting to note that this newly formed Southeastern host is led by a gang of women: Olenna Tyrell, Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, and Dany, the mother of dragons.

In Meereen, preparations for the invasion are almost complete. Dany knows she needs to appear available to attract allies through marriage, and that means Daario needs to take a seat. He correctly guesses its at the suggestion of Tyrion, who has cemented his place as Dany’s most trusted advisor, and is named her Hand of the Queen to prove it. She’s finally ready.

At the Twins, the babe that Bronn made eyes at during the celebratory feast at the Freys, well… there’s more to her than meets the eye. She pulls an Eric Cartman and makes him eat his sons, shows him her real face… the one that belongs to Arya Stark. As she slits his throat and washes her hands in his blood, she crosses one more name off her list, and smiles as she does.

Bran, who apparently has been inching towards the Wall for the past few episodes, is dropped off at a local Weirwood downloading station to finish that episode he was watching at the Tower of Joy. As Ned enters the Tower, he follows, to see his aunt Lyanna and a baby, bleeding out from what looks like a grisly cesarean section birth. With her dying breath, she whispers her secret… which is revealed with a ham-fisted smash cut from Lyanna’s baby to Jon Snow’s face. After 20 years, we finally know who was in that damned tower. One of the longest and most commonly held fan theories is finally revealed: Lyanna Stark is Jon Snow’s mother. And while everyone assumes Rhaegar is the father, it hasn’t been confirmed, so… have fun with that one.

Until next time…