After last week’s episode of Game of Thrones aired, I argued that it was the greatest television episode ever. Almost everyone who watches the show agreed that “Battle of the Bastards” was a great episode, so this week’s season finale had a lot of hype to live up to.
And boy, did it ever. “The Winds of Winter” was not only a great episode (not as good as “Battle of the Bastards,” but close), but also an incredible season finale that sets up what could be an absolutely bonkers season seven.
The episode started in King’s Landing, where everyone important in the city gathered at the Great Sept for Loras Tyrell’s trial. We’ve been waiting two years (more or less) to see how the High Sparrow’s big plan would come to fruition and see how his duel with Cersei would end.
Loras confesses to his crimes and agrees to join the Faith Militant, rejecting his name and titles to repent. So now Cersei’s trial is set to begin. Except…where’s Cersei?
Lancel Lannister goes to retrieve the Queen, but he’s distracted by a little boy running into a dark tunnel under the Sept. Once he’s down there, he gets stabbed by the little boy. Meanwhile, Margaery Tyrell realizes that the only people not in the Sept are Cersei and Tommen, and realizes it’s a trap. But as she tries to leave, the High Sparrow stops her. Perhaps the High Sparrow is blinded by his faith or his pride, but he doesn’t seem to believe Margaery’s suspicions until it’s too late. Underneath the Sept, Lancel crawls to the end of the tunnel and finds a giant cache of wildfyre. It explodes, destroying the Sept and killing everyone inside, including the High Sparrow, all the Tyrells and Kevan Lannister.
It appears Cersei wins. All her enemies and rivals are dead. But King Tommen watches the Sept blow up, and can’t bear it. Tommen is the opposite of Joffrey. Where Joffrey was cruel and manipulative, Tommen is kind and merciful. He makes the deal with the High Sparrow to save his wife and preserve peace, only for his mother to destroy that. Instead of living with what his mother did, he commits suicide.
That image of Cersei sitting on the Iron Throne was almost haunting. Through the first six seasons, we’ve learned she’ll will do anything for power and to protect her children. However her pursuit of former led to the failure of the latter. Her quest for personal glory put her family in danger. Remember what she said when torturing the religious woman? She talked about how she does whatever she wants because it makes her feel good. Well, I’m guessing she’s not feeling too good right now.
Cersei has also created a giant power vacuum in Westeros. She’s lost her family’s only ally in the Tyrells, her son’s death means the Baratheons are all dead and her claim to the throne is pretty flimsy. Will the Seven Kingdoms really rally behind their new queen, who is willing to kill innocents to achieve her goals? They started a rebellion against the last leader who did that.
Not only will she be dealing with a civil war next season, but she’ll probably have to figure out a way to justify her actions to Jaime. He killed the Mad King many years ago because he planned to use wildfyre to destroy King’s Landing, and now Cersei’s done that very thing. But what option does he have other than to support her? Start his own rebellion in Casterly Rock?
Cersei was always a great villain on Game of Thrones, but last night she cemented her status as truly despicable. She actually makes the White Walkers look benevolent.
As Cersei ascended to true villain, Jon Snow’s rise to hero became complete as well. We’ve waited for Jon to come back to Winterfell and take over the Stark fight ever since Robb died in season three. And now that moment has finally arrived.
However, he still needs some coaxing in this episode to get there. It begins with Davos revealing that Melisandre burnt Shireen at the stake and demanding punishment. Jon exiles her from the North and tells her not to come back. Considering she brought him back from the dead, not killing her seems like a good repayment.
Jon and Sansa talk as Melisandre rides away, and he seems reluctant to become the Lord of Winterfell. After their conversation, Sansa goes to meet Littlefinger who reveals his big plan: to take over the Iron Throne and have Sansa become his Queen. She turns him down, but Littlefinger will probably not take no for an answer.
Arya Stark made her grand return to Westeros disguised as a servant at Walder Frey’s dinner. We’ve been waiting for her to come back to her homeland to get started on her revenge list, and she ends up crossing one of the names off by cutting Walder’s throat, the same way he killed her mother. It’ll be exciting to see Arya going around Westeros next season killing all her enemies, particularly since Cersei is probably near the top of that list and she really deserves to die now.
Bran Stark also returned this week as Benjen sent him and Meera back across the Wall. But before he did, he decides to have one last vision. We’re transported back to the Tower of Joy, where Ned finds his sister, Lyanna, dying in bed. She makes him promise to protect her newborn son, who is none other than…JON SNOW.
This confirmed one of the longest fan theories in the Game of Thrones universe. Ned Stark adopted Lyanna’s son and kept his mother’s identity a secret. Why? Because Robert Baratheon would’ve killed him. Robert hated the Targaryens, and back in season one he promised to kill every last one of them to prevent them from taking back the Iron Throne. Rhaegar Targaryen impregnated Lyanna after he “kidnapped” her, and that child became Jon. So Ned kept Jon’s mother (and father) a secret so Jon would not become a target for Robert and his supporters.
Here’s a great compilation of every time the show hinted at Jon’s true parentage:
Right after revealing Jon’s true parents, it cuts to him in Winterfell being crowned the King of the North by the other houses (led by Lyanna Mormont, who’s becoming one of the best characters on the show). We’ve waited six seasons to see Jon become the hero and lead the Starks back to greatness. Perhaps he’ll build a new Wall and make the White Walkers pay for it! But really, it’s great to see Jon finally embrace his true identity (although it’s technically a false identity that Ned created for him, but still).
The only question is how will the revelation about his parents affect the show. Will Bran go to Winterfell and tell him? And how will that affect his relationship with a certain other Targaryen?
FINALLY! After six seasons of Daenerys talking about taking her army to Westeros to take back the throne, it’s finally going to happen. She left Daario in Meereen to govern Dragon’s Bay (New name!), and to also ensure that she’s single when she gets to Westeros. She made Tyrion her official Hand of the Queen. Varys went to Westeros to forge an alliance between Daenerys, Dorne and the Tyrells. And then she packed her bags, got on Yara and Theon’s boats and set course for her homeland.
I’m guessing the season seven premiere won’t begin with Daenerys landing in Westeros. There’s probably been enough time for Euron Greyjoy and his Ironborn supporters to build a new fleet, and there will be a giant sea battle next season where Euron tries to stop Daenerys, Yara and Theon. But still, we’re finally getting close to seeing Daenerys’ dragons torch the Red Keep as Cersei looks on in horror.
Everything about last night’s episode delivered on what the fans wanted. Jon Snow proclaimed King of the North and confirmed as a Targaryen. Cersei became the ultimate villain. Daenerys finally put an end to all her stupid causes to focus on the only one that matters. Samwell Tarly found a giant library.
Season seven is set up to be pretty special. The Starks are back in Winterfell, but their alliance with Littlefinger seems tenuous. Jaime and Cersei now have to figure out how to hold the realm together. Daenerys is finally bringing her dragons and army to Westeros for the invasion. Everything the fans have wanted for six years is finally all set to happen next season.
Winter has finally come.
Joseph Misulonas is an assistant editor for Playboy.com. He can be found on Twitter at @jmisulonas.