Woe be upon us, this year’s season of Game of Thrones is now over. To invert T. S. Eliot, this season went out not with a whimper but with a bang. It was, I would hazard, as good an episode as this show has yet produced, a fitting end that raises the quality of the entire season. I award this episode a 9/10, on a scale where the best episodes of say Deadwood or True Detective gets 10/10.
The episode begins with a long segment in the Sept of Baelor, at what is supposed to be Cersei’s trial. Cersei, of course, doesn’t show up and instead blows up the building with everyone in it. The way this was presented is very interesting, it became apparent relatively soon what was going to happen, and then the suspense was about how the people would react to the big boom rather than whether or not it would all blow up. This, combined with the excellent choice in background music, helped create exactly the right sense of doom necessary for the buildup to the wildfire going off.
To the extent that there were any downsides to this episode, they had to do more with the macro then the micro perspective. For example, the scenes in and around the sept were very well made, I am just not entirely sure how Cersei’s coup bigger picture. She murdered what I assume is most of the higher society in King’s Landing, possibly leaving several armies leaderless. She also killed a man genuinely appreciated by the poor huddled masses (whatever we viewers think of fanatics like him) , for which there will be resentment. She cannot claim to not be guilty of this enormity since everyone in King’s Landing will see that of the major players she is the only one left standing and a simple quo bono? argument settles the issue. There should also, among those living in the city and familiar with wildfire, be great concerns about what the next part of the city to go is, they are after all possibly all at risk.
My point here is that sure, Cersei won, but if there is any causality between events in this show then the next season better start with Cersei being shown to have enormous problems with either general chaos, riots or agitators in the streets. If nothing else, for this to hint at realism, I want next season to show us streams of people trying to leave the city. This would in a way be a fitting development, having King’s Landing be a deserted ghost town in next season, with Cersei’s victory having turned her into the queen of nothing. The problem is just that I suspect this will be glossed over somewhat and, I fear, not have a significant enough aftermath. Well then, so be it, that takes away not from the greatness of this episode but perhaps the following three or four ones.
I like the way Loras’ sentencing turned out, him being converted to the Faith after being broken down would have made an interesting plot for next season if it hadn’t all gone up in fire and smoke. That he was “branded” there on the spot also helped set the tone nicely, though it also gave me a vibe or two of Inglorious Bastards. To be sure, I don’t like what the writers have done with Loras overall, nor the fact that he and Margery are gone, but if they had to go in a big explosion in the Sept of Baelor while Cersei watched, the way this episode portrayed it was about as good as it gets.
The deal with Arya and the pie was a bit too much. It was too much in the sense that it is inconceivable that she would kill the two Freys, carry around their bodies on her own and then find a hidden kitchen somewhere where she could discretely butcher and prepare them. She could have killed them out in the woods and then sneaked a chopped off finger or two into the pie, but that is not the way it was presented. They seemed to want to shore up several references to AFFC and ADWD in this episode, and in ADWD there were hints made of Freys ending up as pie stuffing, but there wasn’t in my opinion any convenient way to introduce this in the show at this moment and it should have been skipped.
Arya killing Walder was however a good turn of events, he needed to go and I after seeing the two trailers for this season I got a feeling that this was the way in which he would die. I don’t mean having his throat cut necessarily, but that Arya would be the one doing it. It was perhaps a bit unbelievable that they would remain undisturbed for so long in that big dining hall, I mean the chances of anyone walking in on her were large enough for a trained assassin like Arya to decide to do it in some other way. I would have preferred it if we had seen Walder and a bunch of other Freys dying after having their food poisoned and then Arya sneaking away while discarding an empty vial or something. Or, if one likes references to the past, the writers could have had Arya facilitate Walder doing a Tywin, by shooting him with a crossbow at the privy. Thus the two of them, Walder and Tywin, who had been united in pulling off the red wedding would now be united in their method of dying.
This season ended with something that has been anticipated since perhaps A Storm of Swords, namely Daenerys leaving for Westeros. We were shown, at Hardhome and at the lonely tree in the middle of nowhere, that Ice is coming to the Seven Kingdoms. Now, finally, Fire is also on it’s way. The scene with the armada sailing west and dragons flying overhead was beautiful, only slightly ruined by the fact that Varys who had just been seen in Dorne was also there. Unless it is not varys but a Faceless Man, that would be interesting though it’s implausible that a Facless Man could pass among people who knew the original subject after the first attempt of conversation is made.
Finally, I liked how they mirrored the revelation of Jon being the child of Lyanna and Rhaegar with Jon being made King in the North, but I don’t know what to say about Jon’s coronation itself. That will have to wait until next year.