Game of Thrones Season Finale: Cersei Gets Hers

Typically the biggest events of a Game of Thrones season occur in the penultimate episode with the tenth and final episode reserved for the fallout from said events. That is not the case this season; while there was, obviously, a huge battle in episode nine, the greatest moving and shaking happened this week which was, not coincidentally, the best episode of the season. Much of Game of Thrones’ sixth season has been dedicated to set up, set up, and more set up. But after tonight’s eventful episode, everything seems to be in place for the series to move toward its conclusion.
This Game of Thrones Finale was an eventful episode, opening with Cersei’s Godfather-esque vengeful power grab. It’s a very effective sequence, resulting in the deaths of The High Sparrow, Margaery (sigh… I hoped she’d make it out), Lancel, Loras, Pycelle, Mace, and Kevan. Cersei has never been particularly skilled at playing “The Game of Thrones”; she suffers too greatly from tunnel vision, she does things because they will satisfy her in the short term, as she informs Unella before leaving the Septa to unimaginable horrors at the hands of Ser Gregor. Cersei’s short-sightedness in killing Margaery and the Septon of course has disastrous consequences as Tommen throws himself from the window in despair. The result of Cersei’s actions is that she has what she has always wanted: The Iron Throne, but she has lost what was most important to her: her children.When Jaime enters the throne room at the end of the episode he is seeing the Mad King in his sister, the Mad King whom Jaime killed to prevent from doing, like, exactly what Cersei has just done. Where the Lannister twins were resolute in their solidarity at the beginning of the season, this seems like the beginning of the end for these two, with no children left to bind them and humanize Cersei. Cersei wears the hell out of that armor-trimmed black dress though.
Littlefinger also gets to explain why he does what he does and his explanation is nearly the opposite of Cersei’s; he is always thinking several steps ahead, not doing what will make him feel good right away but asking himself whether or not a given decision will help him to realize his long term goal: sitting in the Iron Throne. He also lets it be known that he really has the hots for Sansa, but she’s not having it. Littlefinger wants Sansa to step up and become the Lady of Winterfell, rather than step aside in favor of Jon. He clearly still sees Sansa as something of a pawn he can manipulate and while he is wrong about that, he may be correct in thinking that Sansa should be in charge at Winterfell. The scene in which the collected northern Lords dub Jon the new King in The North at the behest of that adorable Lyanna Mormont was for me both cathartic, it represents a great reversal of fortune for Jon, but also a bit disappointing as I am rooting for Sansa to wield power. I never would have guessed during the first few seasons that Sansa would wind up one of my favorite characters. The look shared between Sansa and Littlefinger as the Lords are doing their chant suggest that Petyr Baelish will soon be a more active villain in this saga. Also, as a former wimpy kid, Littlefinger is apt to resent it when jocks like Jon Snow are successful.
In a very satisfying turn events, Walder Frey is now dead. Frey has had it coming for some time now, as a character he is amongst the most loathsome the show has had outside of Ramsey, Joffrey, and… well, there have been a lot of loathsome characters on this show but only this one hosted The Red Wedding. Unfortunately his death, since nothing on Game of Thrones can ever be wholly cathartic, comes at the cold hands of Arya, who has just fed Frey the butchered corpses of two of his sons. While Arya now gets to do really cool assassin stuff there can be no doubt that she is broken on the inside, this is the most cold-blooded we have seen her. In the past when she has killed it has been frantic or ill-considered; with Frey she easily slits the old man’s throat and smiles while he bleeds out. It is troubling.
It turns out that my hypothesis that the subplot in Dorne had been aborted was wrong. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes are back tonight, having a sit-down with the Queen of Thorns (always welcome) who gets to roll out some of her thorny schtick in telling the younger Sands to shut up and listen while “the grown women talk.” The scene is just a little bit more setup for next season, showing us what Varys was talking about when telling Tyrion about “friends in Westeros,” but it’s always fun to see Diana Rigg do her thing. Now that the future of House Tyrell is all but nixed, it’s time for Olenna to turn her attention to vengeance rather than game playing and the leadership of Dorne is right there with her.
Finally, Danaerys is on her way to Westeros. After breaking up with Daario in a scene that is not exactly heartbreaking but does demonstrate how serious she is about ruling and how politically savvy she is becoming, Danaerys pins the “Hand of The Queen” pendant on Tyrion and we are off to the races. The scene in which Dany dubs Tyrion The Hand is movingly cathartic, for Tyrion and the audience; It represents someone giving Tyrion something he has long wanted and deserved but never gotten: affirmation of his value. The episode closes with the amassed forces of Danaerys Targaryen setting sail for Westeros, dragons flying overhead. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of tableau on Game of Thrones but it is still effective. The heart swells to see Dany and her team standing on deck, looking forward to the horizon and the future. Oh, and Varys is there to carry on this season’s theme of characters inexplicably being on boats. Did he go back to Essos just to turn around and sail to Westeros? It seems like he could have just waited in Dorne and saved himself the trip.
Oh yeah! Also, Bran is in this episode, mostly to confirm what A Song of Ice and Fire readers have long suspected: Jon is not the bastard child of Ned Stark but of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. No surprise there but it is nice to know. Also, in the episode’s most comic scene, Sam arrives at the Citadel, where he receives a cool welcome, but is invited into the building’s massive library. It looks like Samwell Tarly has finally found his place in the world. That’s a good thing.
While this has not been the best season of Game of Thrones, even an off season of this show is pretty stellar television and it has given us some iconic moments with Jon Snow’s revival, Hodor’s tragic end, the “Battle of The Bastards,” and, now, Cersei’s hostile takeover. This is the first television series for which I have reviewed every episode of a season, and I have enjoyed it so much I will certainly be doing it again next season. Thanks for reading. In a couple of days we will post my big article predicting what will happen in the final two seasons.
Week 10 Power Rankings
1. The Lannister Twins: Yes, their son last child is dead and Jaime is certainly having some doubts about his sister’s stability and fundamental goodness but, for now, Cersei is the Queen of Westeros.
2. The Starks: Jon is King in The North, Sansa is sitting by his side, free for the time being from any man who would use her. Bran is safe and has accepted his role as the new Three-Eyed Raven. Things are looking very good for the Starks.
3. Dany and Tyrion: They’ve fallen a couple of places this week only because the Starks and Lannisters are looking so strong. Also, for the time being, Dany is not Queen of anything. She will be soon; just look at that fleet, look at those dragons. Tyrion is looking good in that new pin too.
4. Ellaria and The Sand Snakes: They’re back! Still large and in charge down in Dorne and looking to make some serious moves against the Lannisters now that they are allied with Dany and house Tyrell.
5. Euron: Not featured this week but we can assume he’s up to his usual tricks. Now that his plan to ally himself with Dany has been effectively stymied I think we can expect him to align himself with the Lannisters.
6. The Young Greyjoys: They’re not in power yet but they have made themselves valuable to Danaerys and will look to surge next year.
7. Littlefinger: His plans have been temporarily put of course with Sansa deferring to Jon, but he’s still the most powerful man in The Vale.
8. Sam: He’s not in power, per se, but he is right where he needs to be.
9. The Queen of Thorns: Her family is dead and she’s living only for vengeance now. She will be dangerous still but has little hope of gaining much traction in the power struggle.
10. Gregor Clegane: He wasn’t featured this week, we don’t know what he’s up to but you can bet he’s looking for trouble. Hopefully he reconnects with his brother next season…
Not Ranked: Stannis’ Old Crew; this is the last week that Davos and Melisandre will be listed as Davos knows now that Melisandre was responsible for the burning of Shireen. We will wait next season to decide whether Davos will be considered a player in and of himself or if he will be folded in with The Starks.

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