Wow. What a finale! Last night’s season six curtain call of Game of Thrones was full of wages settled, alliances forged, and a definitely feeling that the show was building towards the final moves of the “Great Game.” There were some revelations, and big payoffs as years of build-up paid off for certain characters and saw the unassuming exit of several more, but let’s ask the obvious question: What happens now? Let’s pick at the story threads of season six and untangle them as we look to where we’re going, and where it all might end as we start our long annual wait for more Game of Thrones. Spoilers follow obviously.
The Mad Queen
No matter how you feel about Cersei Lannister you have to admit that last night’s immolation of the Grand Sept and the killing all her enemies in one, foul swoop… Well, she earned it. Okay, she brought it on herself because she was using the High Sparrow to get Margaery out of the way and it blew up in her face (metaphorically), but her revenge came together splendidly, and it blew up (literally) in the face of her daughter-in-law, her uncle, her nephew and every member of the Faith Militant. (Grand Maester Pycelle was also eliminated, but it was death by a thousand stab wounds by the tiny knives of children.) Only one small cost (aside what is surely the tremendous property damage), the suicide of her sole, surviving child Tommen. Cersei’s reaction: cremate the boy and seize his crown.
Gone is the Cersei that sorrowed over the death of her two elder children, and in her place is a more pragmatic Cersei, one that, perhaps, accepted that Tommen’s death would be an acceptable loss to achieve her revenge. She could have easily went to Tommen, but instead she sent the zombie Mountain to stop the King from going to the Sept. Part of getting Margaery was to stop Tommen from pulling away from Mommy Dearest, and perhaps after outlawing trial by combat, Cersei said “F**k it” and let the prophecy take him. Yes, the first part of Maggy the Frog’s vision has come to pass, Cersei has lost her three children, but what of the rest?
We know that for Cersei “there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear,” and we’ll get to that, but it’s the last part of the prophecy that’s particularly intriguing: “When your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” As you may know, Valonqar means “little brother” and the obvious meaning would be the new Hand of the Queen, Tyrion, but the subtext of the episode’s finale though points to another, Ser Jaime himself. Younger than Cersei by a couple of minutes, her twin’s return to King’s Landing coincided with her coronation, and from the look on Jamie’s face he doesn’t recognize his sister, the woman he loves, anymore. More than that, the look on Cersei’s face said she didn’t care.
Also note the discussion between Ser Jaime and Walder Fray, where the Lord Fray compared himself to the Lannister heir saying they were both “Kingslayers” and though Jaime didn’t care for the comparison, it served as a bit of foreshadowing. As if to say, only a few people in this world know what it’s like to kill a king, and Ser Jaime is one of them. Prompted to act at the mere idea of the Mad King burning King’s Landing asunder using wildfire, his sister actually (partially) did it, and that’s got to make you wonder what exactly was going through the head of the Kingslayer at the end of “The Winds of Winter.”
Who’s Your Daddy?
Bran Stark, still having visions up North, finished an important insight into what happened to his father at the Tower of Joy back in the day, and likely proved an important fan theory in the process. There was always more to Jon’s heritage than the “your mother’s a whore” cover story, and Ned Stark way back in episode two seemed to dread the day he’d have to tell his son about his mother. And although no one explicitly said it, it’s pretty clear that Jon Snow is the child of the Mad King’s son Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna. We don’t hear Lyanna’s entire hushed conversation with young Ned, but we do hear her say, “If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know he will.”
She would be right, of course. King Robert had a hate on the Targaryens that lasted decades; he even wanted Daenerys dead though she was on the other side of the world and far from a threat (at the time). It would hardly be like Ned to ignore his sister’s dying wish, so a story was concocted: Ned had a bastard, and he was raised like one at Winterfell while Robert was none the wiser. It does raise an interesting question though: why didn’t Ned let Catelyn in on the secret? Was he so concerned for the boy’s safety from Robert’s wrath that he couldn’t even trust his wife, or is there more to the story?
The implications for Jon Snow are somewhat clearer, though who can say how he, or others, might find out what Bran knows. If Jon is indeed Lyanna’s son, then he has neither a claim on Winterfell, or on the title King of the North. We saw that tensions between Jon and Sansa are also strained, as she never told him about the imminent arrival of the Knights of the Vale, and Sansa seems fine keeping Littlefinger’s ambitions to herself. On the other hand, it could be said that Jon has more of a case to take the Iron Throne than Cersei, and maybe even his Aunt Dany, which means we must sadly put to rest the possibility of a Jon/Daenerys marriage, which would have been a powerful strategic move for both sides. Still, incest is not unusual amongst Targaryens specifically, and Westeros generally.
Of course, just because marriage is off the table doesn’t mean that Jon and Dany can’t be powerful allies; two Targaryens are better than one after all. According to Game of Thrones lore it takes someone of special skill to ride a dragon, and in the book, a Martell tried and failed (with extreme severity) to take flight on the back of a dragon. We also know that Dany can’t switch back and forth between dragons, a dragon rider can only be bonded to one dragon at a time, and since Daenerys seems to have made Drogon her dragon of choice, might it be Jon’s fate to be the second dragon-rider, aided by his Targaryen heritage? That would leave a third potential dragon-rider in the mix, another secret member of the Targaryen family tree, or something else entirely?
The War of the Queens
When Game of Thrones began it was a man’s world, but “The Winds of Winter” seemed to tilt things in the ladies’ favour. It didn’t take Ellaria Sand long to meet with Olenna Tyrell to talk about their mutual justification for revenge against the Lannisters, and it didn’t long for Varys to reveal himself as an emissary from Daenerys. Combined with Yara Greyjoy throwing her support (and ships) behind the Mother of Dragons, and you’ve got a movement led by four powerful woman coming across the sea for another powerful woman, Cersei Lannister. And if we keep in mind some things we learned about Jon Snow last night, that means that Sansa Stark is rightfully the inheritor of Winterfell, which means many of Westeros most powerful houses are in the hands of women now.
As much as everyone’s put their hopes on Daenerys to bring peace and justice to Westeros, the question is, can she? Being the Breaker of Chains in Meereen and other parts of Dragon’s Bay (formerly Slavers Bay) did not go as smoothly as she had hoped, and it may have proved that while Daenerys is good at getting what she wants with overwhelming force, it’s tough to say just what kind of ruler will she be over the long term, and will the Iron Throne accept her. (Remember, it cuts those who are unworthy to sit upon it, including the Mad King and Joffrey.) On top of it all, will she have anyone to rule when she finally sits on that throne. Daenerys has promised independence to the Iron Isles, and there’s already a new King of the North, so what will the others want when their common enemy is out-of-the-way?
Perhaps having the right team behind her helps. Perhaps having the squid, sun, and rose symbols of House Greyjoy, House Martell, and House Tyrell along with her own banner embroiled on the sails of her ships gives Daenerys a good, grounded collection of allies in the Seven Kingdoms to build her rule upon. In the aforementioned prophecy, it’s clear that Daenerys will take the Iron Throne from Cersei, but the real struggle is whether she’ll be able to keep it, and what happens afterwards in the North?
Winter is Here
It was a small moment, but an all-important one since it was fulfilling a promise made since episode one. Sansa tells Jon that a white raven had arrived with its obvious message: Winter is here. Now, how long until the Night King and his army hit the Wall? It must have been in the back of his mind when Sansa told Jon about the raven, and proving that his eyes were still on the prize, Jon’s intention with the meeting of all the lords was to get them organized for what’s coming from the North, not the South.
With Daenerys on the way, things in the South are about to get very complicated indeed, and you have to wonder if Westeros is going to get caught in the middle of two different wars with the battle for the Iron Throne on one side and the invasion of the White Walkers on the other. Cersei may look vulnerable, but don’t expect her to go down easy, and don’t expect her to go down quickly either. Meanwhile, we last saw the White Walkers several episodes ago, and Bran and Meera, with the help of Uncle Benjen, put some distance between them, but an army of the dead doesn’t need to eat or sleep, to they can make up a lot ground fast. Especially if they’re chasing the new Three-Eyed Raven.
It’s not hard to see the arrival of Daenerys and her dragons as fortuitous in this regard. Her six years of climbing the ladder and marshalling her forces to cross the sea and take the Iron Throne may have been about making her ready to fight the White Walkers than about beating the people who wiped out her family and took their power. In an odd way, this almost gives Dany more power, as Westeros is so outgunned and outnumbered by the Night King, that her dragons will be key in not just being important weapons in and of themselves, but in that they can create more much-needed dragon glass. Daenarys Targaryen may end up being the saviour of Westeros, and considering her already impressive list of titles, that would likely just fit with her growing legend.
And the Rest…
For the aforementioned Littlefinger you’ll note that he wasn’t exactly hailing Jon as the King of the North. His ambition is to take the Iron Throne for himself, and he wants Sansa to be there by his side, but while the elder Stark daughter may trust just him just far enough to save Jon’s bacon, you’ve got to think that she’ll never forgive him for turning her out to Ramsay Bolton. The real question is how might Lord Baelish adjust his plans with the pending arrival of Daenerys and her army. Presumably, his plans are predicated on just dealing with the people presently in Westeros that are between him and the throne, or has he really thought that far ahead? Also, are we going to get a reunion of former small council frenemies Littlefinger and Varys any time soon?
Everyone punched the air (presumably) when a girl, Arya Stark, began her revenge tour of Westeros with the cannibalism and throat cutting of the Freys, Walder and sons. Many on her list have fallen to others, but there’s still a lot of work for her to do including Cersei, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, the Mountain, and, oh yes, the Hound. Although she doesn’t yet know that the Hound still lives, it will be interesting to see what Arya will do with that information, especially since he’s now with the Brotherhood without Banners. Presumably, the Hound will work his way towards a rematch with this zombie brother, and the Mountain is presently Cersei’s personal bodyguard, which could lead to a Arya/Hound reunion to team-up to take on their mutual enemies, but can they let bygones be bygones? That just leaves Melisandre, and when we last saw her she was heading south…
The most mystical stuff with Game of Thrones is reserved for Bran Stark, who continues to do on the job training as the new Three-Eyed Raven, but the real question is what the extent of his powers are? His visions about the past don’t seem to be mere visions, as he can influence them too; his father hears him at the Tower of Joy, and Hodor screamed “Hold the door!” This has led some to suspect that Bran will end up greenseeing his way back to the construction of the Wall and end up being the Bran responsible for building it. And then there are those theories that suggest an ice dragon is frozen, waiting in the wall to be awakened. Might Bran’s visions lend some insight into that too?
Finally, Ser Jorah Mormont is out there somewhere looking for a cure for greyscale. Will he find one? Stay tuned.