Game of Thrones Recap: The Queen of the Seven Kingdoms


Winter is here

Just a few weeks ago it felt like Game of Thrones wan’t going to be able to put all of its pieces together in any meaningful sort of way before the end. As of last night’s season finale, “The Winds of Winter,” there’s no longer such concern. Let’s get to the point: “The Winds of Winter” is the best season finale that Game of Thrones has ever had. It may be the best finale it will ever have, and it certainly one of the finest episodes of this series ever produced.

It all kicks of deceptively slow, with beautifully subtle music. It’s finally time for Cersie’s trial, sans The Mountain zombie monster due to Tommen’s decree to end trial by combat. The Sept of Balor is where, five seasons ago, Ned Stark met his end. It is where Tywin Lanister was buried. It is therefore fitting, then, that it is the spot of Cerise’s grand revenge.

Game of Thrones is serious now, and it has never been less afraid of pushing its own boundaries.

Game of Thrones wastes no time here.  Loras had it with his suffering and is quick to repent his sins and openly become a Sparrow. Loras, The King of Flowers, has been a shell of his former self for multiple seasons. But it’s not his fate that interests us here. Lancel is lured out by one of Varys’ ex little birds, and taken through the underbelly of King’s Landing. At the same time, in an expertly plotted move, Maester Pycell is tricked by the same ring of spies. Children, for the most part.

When Qyburn appears out of the shadows, doom is in the air. It’s true that Pycell had been largely forgotten by Game of Thrones, and that makes him easily dispensable. Surrounded by children with little knives, however, Pycell is dealt with cruelly and beautifully. In terms of cinematography, of course.

By the time Margery realizes that neither Cersei nor Tommen is in the sept, it’s not only too late, but the High Sparrow is too sure of himself to react properly. Underneath the city, Lancel crawls towards candles lit on top of Wildfire. In one move, Cersei orchestrates the death of all of her enemies within the city, and then some. It’s a move that the Mad King Aerys was killed for, though he never got to actually see it through.

Later, Cersei gets revenge on the Septa that followed her on her naked walk to King’s Landing. It’s the only time this episode she shows actual joy, and it is short-lived.

Tommen has no lines this episode, and when he jumps from his window to his death, it’s still shocking. This all takes place within the first twenty minutes. Game of Thrones is serious now, and it has never been less afraid of pushing its own boundaries.

Honestly, there’s not that much to say about it all. It’s shocking, powerful, and a testament to what this show can accomplish. If only because of its opening sequence, “The Winds of Winter” will go down as perhaps Game of Thrones’ finest moment.

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That’s not to say it’s all perfect, but the rest of the episode rarely stumbles. Darnerys is ready to move forward toward Westeros, finally, and she wants Daario to stay behind. This is only surprising to him. Daario represents some of the fat that Game of Thrones has to cull as it strips down to its bare essentials for next season. The reason given is that someone needs to stay behind to rule Mereen. It’s true, but the reason ultimately doesn’t matter. Daario is no longer important, so he has to stay behind.

Dany and Tyrion then share a rare touching moment in which she makes him her Hand of the Queen. And then it’s all in motion. Varys, over in Dorne — the first time we’ve seen Dorne since the assassination — offers Lady Olenna vengeance for her granddaughter. And grandson. And son, all who died in the Sept of Balor. This all ties back to Daenerys, of course. The one who will bring “fire and blood” to Westeros.

Dorne has never worked in Game of Thrones, but it’s finally found its place alongside Daenerys. Dorne makes sense again, thankfully. At least in its new, limited role.

In terms of television, in terms of film, it’s a stunning display.

Over in the River Lands, the Freys dine with Jamie and Bronn. A Frey feast never brings good tidings, and this is no different. Jamie is fed up with having to deal with Walder Frey, and it’s a small wonder that he doesn’t kill him himself. But that’s not his style. It is, however, Arya’s. In a deftly performed scene, a serving woman brings Walder a pie in his empty dining hall. He wonders where a few of his sons are, and is informed the they’re here. In the pie. That’s when Arya reveals herself.

Arya’s vengeance has been a long time coming, and she revels in it like she should. It doesn’t matter the entire situation is improbable, even by Game of Thrones standards. In terms of television, in terms of film, it’s a stunning display.

Sam finally arrives at his destination, Gilly and baby in tow, though there’s not much to talk about there yet. He has obviously founds his place, though we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see how it turns out.

And then there’s Winterfell. Daavos is furious about what happened to Shireen, and rightfully so. He wants blood vengeance, and even Melisandre admits she was wrong having her burned. Jon isn’t brutal, and instead chooses to banish Melisnandre. That could serve as a costly mistake; she has changed a lot from the religious zealot she once was, and has been valuable asset. Once the White Walkers come, it will be inserting to see what becomes of her.

Littlefinger finally reveals what he’s been after this entire time — the Iron Throne. Surprise? And he wants Sansa by his side, but Sansa has other plans. She wants to rule the North, and certainly not with Littlefinger. That transitions into a bittersweet moment when the houses of the North declare for House Stark — Jon, specifically. That’s inconvenient for Littlefinger. It must be said that Jon and Sansa, sitting at the table at the front of the room, bear a striking resemblance to Ned and Catelyn. Touchingly so.

This also marks the return of everyone’s favorite leader of House Mormont, who brings all of the others to task for not supporting Jon in the battle.

“The Winds of Winter” is about finally putting grand plans into motion, but some main characters get still get cast aside. Bran and Benjen make it back near the Wall, just to have Benjen leave again. We get to spend no time with Benjen, making his return feel shallow. Bran is also entirely wasted this episode — his only purpose is to bring us back to the Tower of Joy, which of course, is all about Jon.

We get to spend no time with Benjen, making his return feel shallow.

After a strong early showing this season, Bran was largely forgotten after “The Door” and his appearance doesn’t inspire confidence for the future. At least we now know for sure that Ned isn’t Jon’s father, so there’s that.

Next: Does Game of Thrones have room for another Ramsay?

The episode ends with Cersei being crowned Queen and Dany’s ships, made up of Dothraki, Iron Born, and Dornish, heading toward Westeros. Game of Thrones is ready to face the end, and it’s doing so at the top of its game. The coming wait between seasons feels both painful and strangely deserved — as if so much has happened that the inhabitants of Westeros and Essos alike deserve the break.

It has never been more exciting and fulfilling to be a fan of this show.