What I love about Game of Thrones is that re-assuring confidence the show runners have. For something that has now completely deviated away from the books, the high standards has remained frightfully and emotionally consistent.
The show clearly has an end game and season 6 is the beginning of that end. For what it’s worth, Game of Thrones S6 is certainly rewarding!
Like most shows, season 6 is not without its faults and there are moments of clichéd acts and behaviour. However, amongst the doom and gloom that has gone on before, for the first time, season 6 represents a sense of justice for our favourite characters. In other words, it’s a fan pleasing, fist-pump season!
“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion
The latest series tackles three important themes. The first one is very obvious.
Season 6 is very referential towards season 1, reminding you and everyone else on this planet on how you got on this crazy train in the first place. From episodes such as The Door to No One, that journey is illustrated as a comical stage play for the locals. But throughout this season, there’s a huge emphasis on characters coming back full circle, remembering their purpose but most importantly, their identity. Whether they are a Stark, a Lannister or a Targaryen, remembering their house name and what they’re capable of, strengthens their position and power in Westeros.
Arya (Maisie Williams) went from a scared, timid girl when she first arrived in Braavos and fearlessly parkoured her way in reclaiming her Stark name in No One. Reek (Alfie Allen) ditched his Stockholm syndrome personality and reclaimed his true name – Theon Greyjoy and endorsed his sister to become Queen of the Iron Islands. Sansa reminded the North why the Stark name is still a powerful presence in her attempts to regain back Winterfell from Ramsey Bolton.
But the biggest identity change is Jon Snow and his parentage – freshly resurrected from his death in S5. The R+L=J rumours is officially confirmed. Whilst this fact is still unknown to Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) himself, this key bit of information is unlocked through Bran’s visions as part of his training with the Three Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow).
The question of identity is further explored in regards to the Westeros history. By delving into the past, we as the audience become witnesses to how enemies came to be such as The White Walkers. The revelations and consequences leave us wondering whether our favourite characters will inherit past frailties from their families.
Season 6 also represents the continuing rise in female empowerment. No longer the damsel in distresses or simply the victim in a cruel, harsh world. Each of the main female characters have taken control of their own destiny.
Although her storyline was very much stretched out, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her millions of nicknames, showcases her power by burning down a Dothraki temple with all their male leaders inside in Book of the Stranger. She could have easily been rescued but judging by her confident actions, no matter how bleak her captivity was, she was always in control, waiting for the right opportunity. Whilst I feel tougher tests lie ahead for Daenerys, out of all the characters, she has gained massively. She’s now in control of a Dothraki army. She returned to Meereen and liberated it again when Tyrion’s diplomacy with the slavers failed. Her three dragons are together again and finally, her alliance with Yara (Gemma Whelan) means she now has the vital ships to sail towards King’s Landing and the Iron Throne.
If there’s one aspect that’s concerning about Daenerys is that with the power she now possesses, is she in danger in becoming like her father, The Mad King? Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) hinted at the possibility in Battle of the Bastards and the consequences of her father’s actions. Dany has always worked best when she has good people around her, helping her make tough decisions. In some respects, Daenerys has learnt that the hard way. So to see her being forgiving towards Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and making Tyrion Hand to the Queen restored some much needed humanity in her character.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) shows her strengths by holding all the aces, even if it meant hiding that secret from her brother Jon. By being smart and using her personal insight, her intervention helped Jon from losing the war. Sansa in S6 becomes a game player, using her past torments to shape her into a tougher character. Yes she had help from Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) but it will be interesting to see how far she progresses. She’s clearly keeping her options opened. On a personal level, it was great to see the Stark children finally reunited in Book of the Stranger. Far too often in past seasons they’ve been close but desperately separated. It’s a small victory but a victory nevertheless.
But the ultimate game changer and player belongs to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Her plan was so vicious and murderous, you would think you was watching a Shakespearian play!
If the season 5 finale, Mother’s Mercy made you sympathetic towards Cersei for her walk of shame, then the season 6 finale completely turns that point on its head. We’ve long suspected what Cersei might do in terms of payback against the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), but this was power and revenge at its most devastating core. She did it without breaking a sweat. She drank her wine, dressed head to toe in black as if she was attending a funeral and watched the city fall.
The Winds of Winter was the Game of Thrones version of Bonfire Night and the gunpowder plot!
Whether it was the Mountain crushing people’s skulls or re-purposing Varys’ little birds around the city, Cersei was a woman hell-bent on revenge and every episode right up to the finale was a psychological chess move. You could argue in a twisted way that she was cleaning up a mess she created, but then you are reminded that she is someone who has always wanted the Iron Throne, no matter what the consequences were or how many casualties it involved. Cersei in some ways has become like Lady Macbeth – she’s not ashamed of what she is, in fact she embraces it because she has nothing to lose. Her children are dead and her lover/brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was exiled to the Riverrun.
Seeing her regain her power echoes a statement she made back in season 1 – “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There’s no middle ground.”
For her son Tommen, witnessing the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, the death of his politically astute wife Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and finally understanding what his mother is capable of, only gave him one permanent option.
King’s Landing is not for everyone and Cersei has survived playing the long game. As she sits upon her throne, you have to wonder how long before she’s truly tested. Who is brave enough to challenge her rule? The obvious prediction is Daenerys but I wouldn’t rule out Jaime. Why? Because as much as the Lannisters have a reputation, you do feel that he wants to change and become an honourable man. As a case example, when he was reunited with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), you could see the possible reluctance in fighting each other.
The third and final theme is vengeance and it was poetic justice for certain characters. You reap what you sow.
After graduating from assassin’s school, Arya finally began scratching off names on her list. She got revenge for Red Wedding by murdering Walder Frey. But it wasn’t just a simple kill. She infiltrated Walder’s party who was celebrating after defeating the Blackfish and reclaiming the riverlands. She goes all Sweeney Todd by murdering his sons, served them up to Walder as a meat pie and then slit his throat in the same way how her mother was murdered – all whilst under a disguise. The confidence that Arya now possesses just illustrates how much she’s transformed. She executes her plan with patience and judgement. If anything, her showdown with the Terminator-esque Waif showed how she always possessed the skill in becoming a “No-One”. The hard-fought test was making sure she realised that.
Sansa had the last laugh against Ramsey (Iwan Rheon). Everyone underestimated him and that included Jon Snow. Jon thought it would be a simple battle – round-up enough men and take the battle to Winterfell. But Sansa didn’t and takes it upon herself to ensure Jon won, calling upon the Knights of the Vale. When she’s alone with Ramsey, we finally found out the answer to that song of “Who Let the Dogs Out“…
Jon Snow got his revenge against the Night’s Watch but it ultimately costs him his position as Lord Commander. Whilst I understand his guilt and why he gave up the role – sorry but not sorry, those treacherous men (including Olly) had to go!
“I have never been much of a fighter. Apologies for what you are about to see.” – Ser Davos
Season 6 is not without its emotional surprises and that came in the form of The Door when we said goodbye to Hodor – and I’m placing that blame on Bran!
It was such an unnecessary death for a loveable character and you’ll never get over it, especially if you’re in an elevator and someone yells, “hold the door!” If only Bran followed the Three Eyed Raven’s orders. But Hodor’s death has got to go down as the deepest, saddest, profound death in the show’s history. Red Wedding is one thing, Prince Oberyn’s head being squashed like a melon is another but Hodor death was like having your heart ripped out multiple times.
We’ve long suspected that Hodor was hiding something and when I first started watching this show, I imagined Hodor being cursed, maybe even belonging to one of the house names in Westeros. It was an idealistic dream! Season 6 revealed his real name to be Wylis and as a young boy, he was a stable boy and loyal servant to the Stark family.
So what makes Hodor’s death so upsetting? It was the revelation that Hodor had only one purpose in life, a painful foreshadowing of his own future. In order to protect Bran and Meera from harm from the Night King and the White Walkers, he held the door, blocking the advancement and giving them enough time to escape.
It’s the emotional revelation as it dawns on you on what “Hodor” really stands for. The moment is cleverly juxtapose with Bran losing control of his powers in the past, causing young Wylis to suffer a seizure versus the present as the Night King invades the cave. The entire scene brought a heartbreaking tear to my eye.
We also said goodbye to another gentle giant in Wun Wun in Battle of the Bastards. Yep you’ve guessed it, that one hurt too. I hope he’s not the last of the giants…
But it’s not a coincidence that the best episodes from the series belongs to Battle of the Bastards (because the right bastard won) and The Winds of Winter. If you were thinking the first half of the series started off slowly, then the last two were definitely the big pay-offs.
Whilst I don’t think the battle in Battle of the Bastards is the best the show has done (Hardhome still resonates with me) but certainly Battle of the Bastards is the most cinematic the show has done. This was not a straight up fight. This was a battle that tested Jon Snow’s personal resolve and bravery. Naive yes when he should have listened to Sansa but you can’t fault him for trying. Jon knows there’s a bigger picture out there with the White Walkers and their continued advancement. Ramsey Bolton was not even on his radar until his brother Rickon was captured.
The battle had its own uniqueness. There were definite moments where the battle channelled The Lord of the Rings. There were genuine moments where I felt I couldn’t breathe, especially when Jon was trampled by his own men. We witness human bodies endlessly pile up on the battlefield. Whether it was archers shooting arrows into the sky or Ramsey’s army deploying moves made famous by Spartan soldiers, all these aspects brings into context on how bloody a war can be and the human sacrifice that’s involved.
Every season the battles get bigger in scale and in Battle of the Bastards, it epitomizes that sentiment.
“A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home.” – Arya
Despite the ever-increasing darkness, there were great little moments of humour such as Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) crushing on Brienne of Tarth or the introduction of Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), a character who you don’t want to mess with!
Once again, Game of Thrones delivers where it matters. Entertaining, emotional and shocking, all our game players have been tested and their true colours have been revealed. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for season 7 as we begin the journey into the final straight.
The White Walkers are coming. Summer has ended and winter is here.
P.S – Gendry must have big arms by now from all that rowing…