Warning: spoilers ahead for season 6, episode 10 of Game of Thrones, entitled "The Winds of Winter." If you haven't seen the episode yet, turn back now.
This season, I wrote some quick thoughts about each episode the day after it aired. I didn't get too deep into full-on recaps (you can find those all over the internet, and you've probably already read a few today if you're into that sort of thing) and instead focused on what I considered to be each episode's best moments. This could be as many or as few as I wanted, and it varied every episode — for the final entry in this season's lists, there are six. I also tossed in some additional observations that didn't fit into the "best moments" category, and I'll do that again in this article at the bottom of the post. For the best moments of earlier episodes this season, click here. Onward!
Cersei's Big Plan
The show laid enough breadcrumbs for us to be able to figure out Cersei's plan before it happened, but that didn't make seeing the execution of it any less spectacular. Margaery realized a little too late that something was off in the Sept of Baelor, the realization played out slowly for the audience, and the suspense built as we saw Lancel Lannister in the underground tunnels. Mad King Aerys' wildfire was put to good use — the candles burned down, and boom. Cersei drank her wine and watched as everyone in the sept got roasted, and we got that glorious shot of the High Sparrow caked in green as the wildfire consumed him from below. RIP, Margaery. You were good at playing the game, but it turns out Cersei was better.
I know this was the longest episode in the show's history, but I wish they had a little more time to show us how Cersei reacted when she first heard the news of Tommen's suicide. She seemed almost numb to it, like she knew there was nothing she could do to stop that horrible prophecy from coming true, and that shot of her sitting on the Iron Throne was chilling. It'll be interesting to see how this new dynamic changes her relationship with Jaime moving forward.
The King in the North
I hesitate to call this one of the "best moments," but it's too big for a small bullet point, so here we are. Sansa apologized to Jon for not telling him about the Knights of the Vale last week, which still doesn't excuse her actions in my mind, but at least she acknowledged it. (She also turned Littlefinger down after his creepy advance.) When Jon was crowned King in the North, I half expected him to give a big speech about how Sansa is the one who deserves the title of Queen in the North, similar to what Theon Greyjoy did at the Kingsmoot. But he just stood there and took all of the praise from the northerners without giving her anything, and the most troubling part of the scene for me was the look Sansa and Littlefinger exchanged. What scheme does Littlefinger already have brewing in his head?
This moment was so big, I wrote an entirely separate article about it. Check that out here.
Dany Heads Home
A big part of why I loved this episode so much is because it felt like a culmination of things we've waited years to see. Chief among them was Daenerys Targaryen, armies and dragons in tow, finally setting sail for Westeros. She had to leave Daario behind (bummer), but the scene in which she and Tyrion talked afterwards was one of their best scenes of the season. Emilia Clarke and Peter Dinklage did great work, and the way Dinklage balanced the humorous remarks ("I don't actually own a sword") and fought back tears as he was anointed Hand of the Queen was perfect.
The Red Wedding Avenged
Arya celebrated her homecoming to Westeros by taking revenge against Walder Frey for what he did to her family at The Red Wedding. I'm not entirely sure how she got that girl's face — did she steal it from the House of Black and White before she bailed from Braavos, or kill an innocent serving girl at The Twins? — but either way, she used her Faceless Men training and took him down...but only after feeding him his own sons in a pie. It's complicated: there's a primal part of us that wants to see Arya enact vengeance for all the wrongs that have been done to her and her family, but at the same time, there's something disturbing about seeing her slit a man's throat without batting an eye. She's been on this path for a while, and I wonder how she's going to factor in to the larger war to come.
Composer Ramin Djawadi earned his paycheck in a huge way here. I'd need to rewatch the series to confirm this, but I feel like music factored into this episode more than any other in Game of Thrones history. I'm not sure whose decision it was, but whoever decided to put a major focus on Djawadi's score made the correct call. In an episode packed with suspense, epic moments, and quiet reflection, the score was essential to its success. These tracks were so good, if they put out an album with just the songs from this episode on it, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
Melisandre burning Shireen at the stake caught up with her as Davos called her out for what she did, and Jon banished her to the south. Sucks to be the Red Woman: she's finally found the Prince That Was Promised, and now she's been ordered away from him. I guess that's why the show couldn't have had this scene play out any earlier in the season. Big ups to Liam Cunningham (Davos), who was terrific in that scene.
Samwell Tarly had a nice little Beauty and the Beast moment in the cavernous library at Oldtown. I was glad we got to check in with him and Gilly again, but also glad we didn't spend too much time with them overall.
Varys' "little birds" can do more than just acquire secrets — they're capable of carrying out assassinations, as Pycelle learned the hard way.
Cersei has done some horrifying things over the course this show, but perhaps the most horrifying is what she's done/is doing to Septa Unella. Leaving her alive as The Mountain's play-thing is some next-level cold blooded shit.
At this point, it seems as if the show has simply given up on trying to reasonably depict travel times. Varys begins in Dorne, but over the course of a single episode, he somehow gets back to Essos to ride back to Dorne with Dany on her boat? OK then.
I love that Lady Olenna survived and is now hanging out in Dorne. Her inclusion in that subplot should finally make those scenes bearable in seasons to come.
What did you think about the season six finale, and the season as a whole?