Game Of Thrones S06E10 “The Winds Of Winter” REVIEW
SPOILER WARNING: This is a review of the episode that aired at 2am this morning in the UK on Sky Atlantic and can currently be seen on-demand. It is airing again at 9pm tonight.
Airing in the UK on Sky Atlantic, Mondays, 2am & 9pm
Writer: David Benioff, DB Weiss
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Essential Plot Points:
- At King’s Landing: Cersei blows up the Sept during Loras’s trail using the wildfire left in the catacombs below by the mad king.
- Margaery, Loras and Mace Tyrell, plus The High Sparrow, Lancel, most of the Faith Militant and hundreds of other innocent onlookers all die in the explosion.
- Qyburn lures Maester Pycelle to his laboratory where his “little birds” stab the Maester to death.
- Cersei uses Frankengregor to prevent Tommen from going to the trial but her efforts to save her son prove pointless; Tommen kills himself by leaping from his window in the Red Keep.
- At The Twins: Walder Frey celebrates another great victory with a feast, but Jaime ruins his mood by pointing out that the Lannisters have won all his great victories for him. In which case, what’s the point of House Frey?
- After Jaime and the Lannister army leaves, Frey is served some pie by a girl he doesn’t recognise but he presumes isn’t one of his own, because she’s too pretty.
- The girl is actually Arya in disguise. The pie filling is Wader’s sons.
- Arya reveals herself and slits Frey’s throat, making sure that the last thing he ever sees in the face of Stark killing him.
- At Oldtown: Sam turns up at the Citadel to train to be a Maester.
- The officious Maester manning reception is concerned by irregularities between what his records are telling him and what Sam’s telling him, but he agree to let Sam see the Archmaester anyway.
- He lets Sam wait in the library… which looks like it belongs in Hogwarts. Sam is mightily impressed.
- At Winterfell: Davos tells Jon about how Melisandre sacrificed/murdered Shireen. Davos wants her executed but Jon banishes her instead.
- Littlefinger reveals to Sansa his vision of the future: he’s on the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side.
- Thanks but no thanks, says Sansa.
- After a rousing speech by Lady Mormont, the houses of the North all pledge their allegiance to their new king, Jon Snow.
- Which is great timing as a white raven from the Maesters at the Citdel brings the news that winter is no longer coming… IT’S COME! Next season: lots of battles with White Walkers.
- In Dorne: A grieving (though no less sharp-tongued) Olenna Tyrell makes a pact with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes to wreak bloody revenge on the Lannisters.
- Varys has also been in talks with Ellaria. Now Dorne and Highgarden is allied to Team Targaryen.
- In Meereen: Dany dumps Daario and tells him he cannot join her on her mission to Westeros because she may need to make a “political” marriage and can’t have her boyfriend muddying matters.
- He reluctantly agrees but senses Tyrion’s advice at work.
- He’s right, though Dany later tells Tyrion that she doesn’t actually feel any grief about dumping Daario.
- Dany makes Tyrion “The Hand Of The Queen” and brings a lump to the throat of every single viewer.
- Dany’s fleet sets off for Westeros with the dragons in support.
- North Of The Wall: Benjen drops Meera and Bran off at a weirwood tree, as he can go no farther: the magic of the wall prevents the dead from crossing (which includes him… hmm, could this have an effect on Jon?) He rides off to prepare for the coming war.
- Bran uses the weirwood tree to watch the end of the
flashbackvision that the old Three-Eyed Raven prevented him from seeing – the one at the Tower Of Joy.
- In the vision Ned runs into the tower to discover his sister Lyanna Stark dying in a blood-soaked bed. A handmaiden hands him a baby. Lyanna makes Ned promise to keep the child safe, because Robert would kill the child if he knew its true father. A dissolve from the dark eyes of the baby to the dark eyes of Jon Snow in the present pretty much confirms who the baby is. Oooooh, so Jon Snow isn’t Sansa’s half brother but her cousin!
- In King’s Landing: Jaime arrives just in time to witness the coronation of Queen Cersei. He is not a happy bunny.
How do you follow an episode like “The Battle Of The Bastards”? With a bloody big explosion. This is why the mad king and his handy stockpiles of wildfire have been mentioned a couple of times this season; it was all building to this. Bang! Another batch of main characters up in smoke. Literally. Green smoke.
The actual explosion – pretty as it is – isn’t actually as impressive as the impeccable build-up. Tense hardly sums it up. From the tolling bell and the almost fetishistic way the camera lingers on close-ups of characters’ costumes, through to unsettling hints that all is not right (Qyburn’s little birds flitting in shadows, Frankengregor holding Tommen in his room, Cersei’s no-show), to the panic as the Faith Militant prevent the crowds from exiting the sept, this is a masterpiece in mounting dread. Slow, methodical… and relentless.
It’s just the opening volley in an episode full of stand-out moments. As ever, the finale to a season of Game Of Thrones has to overcome two creative hurdles: following up a barnstorming episode nine and having to set up things for the following season. “The Winds Of Winter” handles both effortlessly. Well, with the possible exception of the scene where Sam, Gilly and Little Sam arrive in Oldtown which does feel a little out of place, but the library is bloody amazing so we can forgive it.
It’s also the longest episode of Game Of Thrones ever, though most of the extra running time seems to be taken up with burly northerners chanting, “King Of The North! King Of The North!” for half a day. Again, we’re not complaining. It was a moment of chest-swelling fan-service that was pitched perfectly. And it wasn’t the only example. Lips must have quivered world wide when Dany made Tyrion her “Hand Of The Queen” while Arya slitting Walder Frey’s throat after feeding him his own sons is exactly what we all wanted to see happen. (Let’s hope Arya hasn’t peaked too early, though – Frey must have been the biggest name left on her list, so it’s all downhill on the poetic justice front from here on in).
It’s all going rather well for the good guys at the moment, isn’t it? Is this what happens when the show goes off-book? Or are the writers lulling us into a sense of false security before traumatising us next year?
We are left with some interesting question for season seven as well. Does Tyrion know he’s considerably nearer the throne now than he’s ever been (there being so few Lannisters left)? And will that claim help out Dany in any way?
Is Littlefinger going to step up to chief villain mode now that Sansa has basically turned round and said, “Thanks for all the help, but you’re deluded if you think I’m helping you claim the Iron Throne, mate.”? The way he refused to stand and cheer Jon at the end, and the look he gave Sansa, was chilling. Will we be seeing a Littlefinger/Cersei alliance?
How will the revelation about Jon’s parentage affect things? Although we had issues with the rather obscure way the Tower Of Joy scene was handled (see below) that fact that Jon isn’t Ned’s son but the secret child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen is a big deal indeed. Especially for Jan and Sansa ’shippers.
And is the Blackfish actually dead? Walder Frey’s line about the ignominy of him being killed by foot soldiers seems rather pointed. It’s not on the same level as “Is Jon Snow really dead?” for sure, but there’s definitely something odd about all this.
“The Winds Of Winter” was a hugely satisfying end to a season that gathered momentum as it went on and finished with a flourish. Now we wait to hear if the rumours are true and next season will be shorter. To be honest, the way the plots are all coming together that may not be such a bad thing. A leaner, meaner, pacier penultimate season might be a case of less is more.
- The entire opening sequence, which has to rate as the tensest moment ever in the show’s history. Superbly scripted and directed for maximum impact to make sure that this is not just another Game Of Thrones massacre.
- Ramin Djawadi’s music throughout is majestic, but the haunting repeated riff that underpins the opening sequence (reminiscent of Max Richter’s Piano Theme from The Leftovers) is particularly effective.
- The bell flying out of the belltower during the explosion and crushing a passer by is gloriously gratuitous but a great effect. Plus, this is presumably the bell we heard tolling during the first few shots – nice touch.
- Cersei’s merrily repeating, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as she leaves Frankengregor to do his worst with Septa Unella.
- Jaime taking Walder Frey down a peg or 20 and leaving him slack-jawed: “They don’t fear the Freys though, they fear the Lannisters. We gave you the Riverlands to hold the Riverlands. If we have to ride north and take them back for you every time you lose them, why do we need you?” This was strangely more satisfying than seeing Arya slit his throat later.
- Though that was good too.
- The library at Oldtown was beautiful. That’s what the interior of the TARDIS should have looked like in “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS”.
- Okay, you’re probably tired of MyMBUZZ being the unofficial Olenna Tyrell fan club, but the way she made mincemeat of those tiresome Sand Snakes was joyous to behold and worth repeating in full:
“What is your name again? Barabora…?”
“Obara. You look like an angry little boy. Don’t presume to tell me what I need.”
“Forgive our sister. What she lacks in diplomacy, she…”
“You, shut up, dear. Anything from you?” Tyene opens her mouth… “No? Good. Let the grown women speak.”
- Since Tyene uttered what is generally regarded by fans as the worst line ever in the series’ history (“You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy!” in the season five finale) we can only give Olenna our undying thanks for not letting her spout any more Roger Moore Bond-era single entendres.
- How could anybody not be moved by Daenerys making Tyrion “Hand of the Queen”? Do you reckon she made the pin badge herself? One of the dragons could have helped with soldering and forging.
- Arya serving up a finger buffet for Walder Frey – this is actually similar to something that happens in the books, though Arya isn’t involved; the Freys are served a pie containing three of their brethren at the Purple Wedding. The man who “cooked” up this scheme in the books is Wyman Manderly, who makes an appearance in this episode during the big meeting in Winterfell, pledging his allegiance to the new king of the north.
- Talking of which – Lady Mormont! What a star! We want to see her on the Iron Crown. In fact, Olenna vs Mormont slanging match for season seven please.
- Lots of really pretty, exhilarating special effects shots of the fleet at the end.
- Sorry, but the weirwood face looked slightly comical, and the tears of blood were far too on-the-nose.
- Anybody else think Melisandre got off far too lightly? And that Ser Davos accepted Jon’s decision to banish her instead of executing her with surprisingly little protest?
- The Tower Of Joy scene makes little sense unless you’re really familiar with the books or you’ve been making notes while watching the show for the past six years. You can tell that you’re witnessing SOMETHING REALLY SIGNIFICANT about Jon’s parentage but without a detailed knowledge of families trees it’s not clear what that is. Devout fans will have been excited by the revelation, but the rest of us needed a little more information.
- It seems a little odd for the scriptwriters to have played that whole game of “Is Margaery faking her obedience to the Sparrow?” when they knew they were going to kill both of them off anyway, meaning we’ll never get a proper resolution to that plot. Admittedly Game Of Thrones has always operated on the understanding that random events may cut through traditional narrative tropes but this instance building up a storyline only to nuke it seemed especially pointless.
- What the frick is going on with Littlefinger’s hair? At times he looks like he’s wearing a black swimming cap to cover the grey!
And The Random:
- The episode shares its title with the next book in George RR Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series.
- At 68 minutes this is the longest episode of the show so far.
- Did you spot that House Stark’s dire wolf sigil is restored to Winterfell in the title sequence for the first time since season two?
- Visual metaphor alert! Visual metaphor alert! Winds of change! Winds of change!
- Let’s hope dragons are good endurance fliers because we dread to think what’s happen if one tried to land on one of the ships.
- It’s probably not on purpose, but Arya does look uncannily like the Waif in this shot.