The show starts off with the trial of Ser Loras Tyrell where he is tried for essentially being gay. He admits to his guilt and accepts his fate in casting away the Tyrell name. Virtually, everyone important is at the Sept except Tommen, Ser Robert Strong, Qyburn, Pycelle and Cersei Lannister. Because it also is Cersei’s trial, Lancel is sent off to locate her. However, he spots one of the children hanging around nearby and becomes suspicious, ending up following the child into the lower city.
At any rate, once Ser Loras admits his guilt, the High Sparrow demonstrates a certain mercy by having Ser Loras’ forehead carved with the symbol of the Faith Militant. Mace Tyrell attempts to protest the methodology but Queen Margaery reminds him that this is the best solution.
Pycelle receives word from a child while he is with a prostitute and follows the child away. Eventually, he’s led to Qyburn’s laboratory where he’s ambushed by Qyburn’s Little Birds who mutilate the maester with daggers. Essentially, Qyburn apparently takes Varys’ spot as the one who has Pycelle murdered.
Back in the Sept, Queen Margaery starts becoming suspicious of the missing Cersei who remains in her chambers while wearing a black armored gown. Margaery implores the High Sparrow that something is not right and is keenly aware of Cersei’s understanding of the consequences for not appearing. In turn, she tries to escape and has others attempt to leave. Yet the Faith Militant block their exit.
In the meantime, Lancel gets stabbed in the back just as he encounters the underground storage of wildfire. He attempts to crawl towards a few candles lit near a forming pool of the pernicious liquid. However, he’s too late and gets blown to bit along with the Sept and the trapped occupants.
The way the High Sparrow is blown up is quite disturbing as he’s completely eradicated by the blast. But the mistake he made was in underestimating Cersei completely and having too much faith in faith for protecting him and the others in the Sept. Although Margaery offered sage advice to evacuate the Sept, the High Sparrow ignored her and essentially allowed the destruction of other “innocent” people.
Cersei watches in celebration within the tower of the Red Keep with her signature cup of red wine. On the other hand, Tommen, who attempted to reach the Sept was blocked by Ser Gregor up until this point. Once the Sept is blown, Tommen looks at the window and sees the destruction. He removes his crown, climbs up to the window and falls to his demise.
Tommen’s own demise mostly can be attributed to knowing what happened to the person he loved the most, his wife in seeing the destruction of the sept. But at the same time, he probably understands that his rule is a farce and that his mother committed this heinous crime. All that he was made to believe from Cersei and the High Sparrow were meaningless in the end since he wanted simple peace and love. Instead, he probably realized that with Ser Gregor preventing him from joining his wife at the trial, this all was Cersei’s doing and all the foul rumors about her was true. So to absolve himself and his powerlessness, he leaps from the Red Keep.
Down below, Cersei has Septon Unella tied to a table and splashes her wine over her face, similar to how the Septon would torment Cersei. Finally, Cersei unveils the darkness in her heart about how she does things for enjoyment, similar to how Unella would take pleasure in mistreating the queen. Although Unella admits being ready for accepting her fate, Cersei does not provide her the luxury of a quick death. Instead, she introduces Ser Gregor who removes his helmet and begins torturing Unella and getting her to scream while Cersei walks out and mocks Unella with her own, “Shame.”
Before moving on, I want to say the part about King’s Landing was magnificent, amplified by the tragic score that lead to the tragic end of quite a few characters. The scenes were very heavy handed with a sense of impending doom for most people involved. There isn’t a great deal of dialog and everything is emotionally driven. Much of the beauty of the scenes are a combination of the music and attempting to guess the contemplations of each character as they witness this trial.
But you can see that the trial isn’t just about Ser Loras. It’s really Cersei’s personal trial through hell as she slowly has accepted her fate to a degree. Once she sees Tommen her reaction is extremely cold as if she has willingly embraced her prophecy. Instead, she seems to turn towards hatred/revenge as her only remaining motivation for life. Her confession to Unella demonstrates what’s really in her heart, which has always been hedonism and utter selfishness.
At the same time when she dons the black armored gown, she resembles her father in a very perverse manner. It’s the harsh heritage that she decides to embrace as being a Lannister. It’s basically her true form, this creature devoid of emotion beyond pure hatred and vile pleasure, she is the manifestation of human power and achieves the pinnacle of what she’s always wanted in her life.
After that heavy scene, we end up back in the Riverlands at the Frey’s with Walder Frey celebrating the victory over Riverrun. Ser Bronn and Jamie Lannister join the celebration. Both detect the odd, yet comely girl starring at them. However, Jamie provides a distraction of Ser Bronn with two other serving wenches. That allows Walder Frey to have a private conversation with Jamie over the victory. Jamie questions Walder about his own experiences with battle to which Walder replies that he won which is all that matters. You can see the disgust from Jamie especially as he points out that the Freys are a useless group.
In many ways, this is a discussion about Jamie’s complex notions of honor. We all know by now that Jamie’s king slaying was a far more difficult situation for him which earned him a poor reputation. Yet he still has his own code of ethics and becomes disgusted by the dishonorable Walder Frey in his own weaselly tactics. But it does show along with his previous scenes with both Brienne and how he managed to handle the Riverrun conquest without bloodshed that Jamie’s arc is one of continuing redemption.
Over at Old Town, Sam and Gilley finally manage to reach the Citadel. Sam has some bureaucratic problems attempting to gain entry into the Citadel and is promised to meet with the arch maester. However, he’s given permission to enter the library (minus Gilly and the baby). The image of the library is stunning and is absolute heaven for the bookish Sam.
From there we return to Winterfell, seeing a White Raven approach the Stark stronghold. Melisandre and Jon Snow discuss Jon’s background a bit where Melisandre reminds him that he’s still luckier than most. However, Ser Davos storms in, tossing the remnants of the charred stag toy to Melisandre and accusing her of murdering the young Princess Shireen by fire. Melisandre points out that both of Shireen’s parents agreed to the sacrificial pyre but Ser Davos counters that Shireen was a good child and Melisandre’s actions were evil. Ultimately, it’s up to Jon Snow to decide on Melisandre’s fate. So he banishes her from the North and Ser Davos swears an oath to slay the Red Priestess if he ever encounters her there again.
There’s a great part where Ser Davos accuses Melisandre, “How many have died because you were wrong?” This goes back in some ways to the High Sparrow’s own misguided faith in how he misjudged Cersei. With Jon Snow dying and seeing nothing in death despite returning, we still have no concrete evidence what faith and the gods really mean. Yet there are strong arguments that fate ends up becoming self fulfilled prophecies, which lead people to perform what normally maybe viewed as irrational actions. In this case, the outcome of Stannis’ battle against the Boltons in retrospect was unnecessary and avoidable if Melisadnre hadn’t been absurdly obsessed with her visions.
With Jon Snow’s sentencing of banishment for Melisandre, it’s somewhat reminiscent of how Daenerys banishes Ser Jorah. On the one hand, you get the feeling that he recognizes some truth to Melisandre’s statements. Also, he’s probably tired of bloodshed, not to mention somewhat grateful for being brought back by her. Yet he cannot deny the crime she did to an innocent child.
As Melisandre rides away from Winterfell, Jon Snow and Sansa watch on. They have a discussion about the future. Jon respectfully wants Sansa to take their parents’ bedroom chamber and become the lady of Winterfell. However, Sansa still believes in Jon as being a true Stark, despite how Jon recognizes (maybe a bit bitterly) that the battle was won as a result of Sansa’s involvement with the Knights of the Vale.
The discussion turns towards the topic of Littlefinger and having any trust in him. Sansa straight out admits to not trusting him. Sansa apologizes for not divulging her information about Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale as well to Jon. Jon earnestly wants Sansa to be truthful to him above all else as they have numerous enemies. He kisses her tenderly on the forehead. But she gives him the last bit of information about the white raven arriving, signifying that winter officially is here. Both smile in melancholy knowing that while the idea is beautiful they will be facing grim odds with the army of the dead elsewhere.
Over in Dorne, Queen Olenna treats with the Snakes. It’s a bit humorous here with Olenna essentially shutting up the rather dialog-useless Sand Snakes. Her purpose though is quite obvious as Ellaria detects that her real desire is vengeance for her lost family. Ellaria rings up a special guest in Varys, who, previously had admitted to Tyrion his secret mission. So essentially, it looks as though with Queen Cersei effectively alienating herself from everyone, Queen Daenerys will be receiving quite a formidable alliance with the younger Greyjoys, Dorne and the Tyrells in the future.
Of course, when you deal with Dorne and the Snakes, you have to question what their ulterior motive maybe. At least in the near term, it seems evident that they will maintain an alliance with the Tyrells and Daenerys to clear out the remaining Lannisters (or at least Cersei). In Olenna’s case, she really has nothing to lose at this point but only vengeance and justice to gain so she will support the alliance in any manner that she can.
Back over in Meereen, Daenerys makes her final preparations to leave Meereen and start sailing for Westeros. She denies Daario in permitting him to join their quest along with the Second Sons. Instead, she wants him to stay behind with specific instructions to maintain the peace that was established in Meereen. Daario detects that Tyrion has played a hand in this situation, which is understandable considering that Tyrion’s own adventures with Shae had led him to strangling the one he loved.
Of course, an isolated Daario seems quite even more dangerous. Daario claims to love Daenerys but Daenerys in “breaking up with him” felt nothing (compared to how she felt in ordering Ser Jorah to heal himself). No one really trusts Daario so it’ll be interesting to see what role he plays next season (if any at all). Will he eventually return to take up a better off down the road in betraying Daenerys? That seems likely but we’ll have to wait on that.
The next scene occurs with Tyrion and Daenerys. Tyrion tries to console her but he’s not good at it. They talk further going into fear. Daenerys reveals that she fears how she felt nothing when she broke up with Daario. The only thing she felt was impatience to do what she needs to do. In the end, Tyrion did not provide her much in terms of making her emotionally feel better but he does tell her that he believes in her. In turn, Daenerys has the symbol of the Hand of the Queen and places it on him. For once in his life, Tyrion Lannister kneels but this time to someone worthy of respect.
In the Riverlands, Walder Frey seemingly enjoys some pie alone. The mysterious, comely servant girl provides him a larger piece. He calls out for his two sons to which the girl replies right here. She unveils a finger underneath the piece of pie, causing Walder to violently choke.
The girl unmask herself revealing Arya who slashes the elder Frey’s throat akin to how her mother’s throat was cut. He bleeds to death as Arya relishes the moment.
It seems that with her newfound skills, Arya’s revenge plot will move further along. Unfortunately, her mind is still quite damaged. This leaves two remaining names on her list that she called out this season in Ser Gregor and Cersei. It’ll be interesting to see if her plot takes her to King’s Landing. Before she couldn’t be seen since she was known to be Ned’s daughter. Older and with the ability to disguise herself, she’ll easily be able to infiltrate the city.
Up in the North, Sansa is greeted by Littlefinger in the Winterfell Godswood. Littlefinger reveals what he truly wants which ends up being him sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa by his side. However, she denies his advances which displeases the skulking character greatly. Just before Sansa is able to leave, Littlefinger halts her in talking about the future of the kingdoms. She states how Littlefinger ultimately serves himself but he starts planting the notion of Sansa being the rightful heir to Winterfell.
Just before The Wall, Benjen Stark escorts Bran and Meera to a weirwood tree. He talks about how The Wall’s magic prevents the dead from passing through, which implies that he cannot go much further. Still he will continue to fight for the living and departs the pair. Bran connects himself one last time for the season to the weirwood network and finishes up his vision of Ned Stark and the Tower of Joy. Essentially, we see the bloody Lyanna Stark on the bed with nurse maids. As Bran observes his dying aunt, he hears her mutter over and over, “Promise me Ned,” before a young baby is brought to the young lord.
The scene cuts to Jon Snow in Winterfell with the other lords of the North. There’s still conflict and unease between everyone, especially with the Wildlings, the lords that did not attend the call to battle and the Knights of the Vale. In the end, the Young Lady Mormont declares Jon Snow the King of the North and soon everyone else follows. Still Littlefinger sits in the back brooding and exchanging knowing glances with Sansa.
One thing about this scene that differed from Robb Stark’s King of the North scene was how all the lords who did not pledge found themselves humiliated by a little girl. Yet this goes along the theme of how it’s up to the young to guide the rebuild the world. On top of that their sincerity seems larger because of their regrets and Jon’s own humility in accepting their offer.
Returning to King’s Landing, Jamie along with Bronn and some Lannister men see from the outskirts the fiery remnants of the Sept and seem quite concerned. However, I think he already suspects what the outcome is and needs to confirm everything with his own eyes. What he witnesses is the coronation of Cersei as Westeros’ new Queen and Protector of the Realm. Despite his love for Cersei, Jamie is very concerned especially when they exchange glances.
It’s clear that Jamie needed to be by Cersei’s side not just to protect her, but to protect her from herself. For him history is repeating itself but in a far worse manner since it’s his own sister and lover committing this act of mass murder. Her subjects seem in awe/fear of her and she projects an aura of utter oppression. Like in the books, it’s likely that she’ll surround herself only with sycophants and those completely loyal to her. But the court she constructs is a perversion of the lessons that her own father, Tywin, attempted to instill into Tommen but that Cersei seems to ignore, which is having good advisors to receive council. Her color is almost completely black and she has discarded the red and gold colors of her house. This is significant in representing void and darkness in her soul that has finally consumed her.
The last scene involves awe inspiring shots of Daenerys’ new fleet of the Greyjoys, Unsullied, Dothraki and her Dragons with her ship leading them along with Tyrion, Missandei and the amazingly quick Varys heading towards Westeros.
It’s clear that next season will leave only a few real major players, namely the Lannisters, the Starks and Daenerys. Of course, the true foe is the White Walker army but it’s yet to be seen how they will overcome The Wall, which Benjen states contains magic wards to prevent the dead from crossing. Of course, the missing player that probably will make a huge impact on all of this is Euron, who currently is building 1000 ships. With Daenerys’ impending invasion, Cersei will most likely join forces with Euron as Cersei’s own allies have dwindled tremendously.
Another growing conflict is that of Sansa and Jon. Littlefinger, though declaring outwardly for the Starks, most likely will find some manner to betray them down the road. There isn’t any question that he sees Jon as his main threat in securing the North for himself. But Sansa’s true loyalty is uncertain as well. Her own history with Jon points at the possibility for further conflict down the road, perhaps even jealousy.
In some way, I see the Jon/Sansa potential growing conflict as being parallel to the impending division between Jamie and Cersei. The difference is that the gender on each side has been switched. Also, the way both sides have claimed their position of power are in opposition. Cersei will rule through sheer ruthlessness, wealth and the power she has while Jon does so through heart, sincere loyalty and the ability to command the respect of his peers. Yet in the middle of this are Sansa and Jamie who both are bereft of some power. Sure, Sansa has the Stark name but we’re seeing the old methods for feudalism in this world disappear. In the case of Jamie, his own nearness to Cersei increases his impotency and it’s only when he’s far enough away from her can he be his own person.
The real question is which direction will the show turn towards in terms of the initial conflict for these groups? Will Cersei assault the north in seeing Jon’s growing power base as an insult to the crown? Or will she be forced to defend herself against Daenerys’ invasion?
With winter finally arriving, there’s no question that Jon’s primary focus will be to strengthen the northern forces for the possibility of the White Walker invasion. However, the biggest immediate threat is Littlefinger. While he does have a certain amount of influence over the Knights of the Vale, that influence in itself is unpredictable as the true ruler is Lord Arryn, whose mental condition is less than stable.
They might set their attention to Edmure though considering that he’s still a prisoner of the Freys. Sansa might attempt to retake Riverrun and with Walder Frey assassinated, it implies that the Riverlands have no true power base. Of course, that could mean that Cersei through Jamie might simply annex that whole region. But it’s remains that her army would be spread thin.
And what will become of Arya? Will she attempt to return home or will she continue to cross the biggest names from her list? On top of that where are the Hound, Brienne and Podrick? Many people pointed out that Lady Stoneheart would appear tonight and that never manifested. In all likelihood at this stage, she won’t ever make an appearance. Instead, the Brotherhood without Banners looks to perhaps join the Northern cause as Berric and Thoros both know that the White Walkers might be creeping down south. Of course, that leaves the much HYPED Cleganebowl up for the grabs. So will the Hound eventually meet up with his brother? At least the much HYPED encounter for this season was put off for now in the context of what many fans had imagined it. Instead, it might be that the Hound battles his brother down the road on behalf of the Brotherhood without Banners in gaining vengeance for the Faith Militant. At this point in time though, that doesn’t seem too likely because his destiny seems to point northward.
With the Lady Stoneheart story seemingly dead in the water (pun partly intended), that leaves Brienne and Podrick meandering about. There’s no question in my mind that they will some day return to meet with Jamie. However, with Arya wandering the Riverlands at the moment, it’s entirely possible that she’ll encounter the young Stark and make a second attempt to return her to her sister.
Overall, I suppose if I’m disappointed by anything it’s mostly in the lack of the White Walkers or something happening to The Wall. There’s been tons of speculation (some on my part) that The Wall would fracture this season and that the White Walkers would start their invasion, leading to next season. But the way the story line is turning out, next season seems to be all about eliminating the last major players before turning everyone’s attention to the war of the dawn. The only remaining “pure” villain is Cersei. Will she partake in the war of the dawn? Will she be conquered then banished? Will Daenerys get her to surrender? That seems to be the big question. It could be that Cersei has an epiphany to simply destroy everyone as she descends into madness. Now that she has made her biggest power move yet it and eliminated all her immediate enemies in King’s Landing, I imagine that she might try a similar move with everyone else that has ever insulted her.