Game of Thrones season 6 finale recap - King in the North

A New King in the North

Every major storyline in “The Winds of Winter” was united by a common thread. The system is breaking down, the old power structures are dying, and unlikely new leaders are emerging to lead people through uncertain times. Jon and Sansa somehow feel like the least likely new leaders of the bunch. After watching as their family was decimated over the course of six tragic seasons of television, they’re now back in their childhood home, victorious after defeating a monster, and attempting to balance a collection of allies that includes wildlings, various northern houses, and the forces of the Vale. The initial wave of anger and frustration soon turns to shame courtesy of a well-timed Lyanna Mormont speech (this girl may be the MVP of season six) and everyone gathered in Winterfell’s hall remembers their old oaths. They are ready to follow the Starks again…and they’re ready to declare Jon the new King in the North.

We know what happened to the previous King in the North. Robb Stark fought valiantly when the odds were against him at every turn, gained serious ground, and was then murdered at a wedding by supposed allies. For this crowd of Northern lords to once again pledge their swords to a new King in the North, to chant this title and promise to fight in his time, they have to take an enormous leap of faith. This kid is Ned Stark’s son. He’s the best choice they have and because Sansa isn’t a man, the only choice they have. The patriarchy may be tumbling elsewhere in Westeros, but it still has some distance to fall up here.

But we know something they do not. We know that Jon is not Ned Stark’s son. A Stark yes, but something more. I can’t shake the feeling that Jon will soon have bigger things on his plate and that the future of House Stark and its various allies will depend on Sansa.

And while we’re here, let’s take a moment to reflect on the new King in the North siding with Davos Seaworth over Melisandre, banishing the red witch after he learns that she burnt Shireen Baratheon alive. It’s a powerful scene (it may feature the finest work Liam Cunningham has performed on the series to date) and also a Big Huge Deal. Were does Melisandre go now that Jon has cut her loose? What chance do Jon and his forces stand against a mystical army of the undead without one of the few sources of reliable (if frequently ugly) magic in Westeros? We surely haven’t seen the last of her, so it’s only a matter of who she joins up with next. Maybe she’ll run into Jorah and Gendry and Hot Pie and form a traveling club?

Game of Thrones season 6 finale recap - Cersei

Cersei on the Iron Throne

Sansa quietly rules alongside Jon in the North. Daenerys preps an army to the east. Lady Olenna now speaks for House Tyrell. Ellaria Sand rules Dorne with the Sand Snakes. It’s only appropriate that Cersei now sits on the Iron Throne. The old systems are dead and dying. After all, the patriarchy went up with the Sept of Baelor. The men have been failing the Seven Kingdoms for centuries. Why not give the women a chance?

Of course, giving Cersei a chance means allowing someone calculating and cruel and spiteful a chance to rule, and that is a frightening thing indeed. She is uncommonly effective at getting things done and should she actually dedicate her skills toward preserving King’s Landing instead of dismantling it, it’s actually possible to imagine her doing a great deal of good. King Tommen, a kind king and a king of faith, failed miserably. Maybe the city needs a ruthless politician, someone who is willing to make tough choices. Someone selfish enough to preserve her power at all costs. King Joffrey was unstable. King Robert was a drunk. The Mad King was, well, mad. Cersei is none of those things. She is terrifyingly competent when she wants to be and now that she’s all out of children, the barriers that may have kept her from committing to her decisions have vanished.

But we cannot forget how she got here. She got here through mass murder, by literally burning the opposition to the ground. And what are we to make of Jaime’s concerned look when he watches her take the throne? After all, he stabbed the Mad King in the back when he threatened to burn the city and now his sister, the love of his life, his new Queen, used that exact same method to reach the throne. By burning down the High Sparrow and the Tyrells and a few lingering Lannisters, Cersei may have also burnt the bridge between her and her beloved twin.

Game of Thrones season 6 finale recap - Targaryen ships and dragons

Daenerys and Her Allies Finally Set Sail

It only took six years, but Daenerys Targaryen is finally, officially, sailing for Westeros. Remember how some people thought she’d make it there in season three or so? Ah, we were so adorable back then. Anyway, the Mother of Dragons is sailing toward a new Westeros, a kingdom now ruled by a woman as cunning as her chief advisor and as ruthless as Dany herself. She thought she was sailing toward a war with a kingdom she understood, but the game has changed. War with Cersei Lannister isn’t going to be easy. She’s no pushover and she will not give up her new throne without spilling a great deal of blood.

The final shots of “The Winds of Winter” are the necessary antidote to Cersei taking the Iron Throne. Dany and her crew now feel like liberators, the heroes coming to the rescue, and it’s impossible to not root for them. Just look at this line-up: Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Varys, Grey Worm, Missandei, Yara Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy, countless Dothraki warriors, a couple thousand Unsullied and, of course, three dragons. And that’s before you include support from Dorne and Highgarden when they make landfall. This is not a force to be taken lightly.

And yet, Cersei and Jaime and Qyburn and Gregor Clegane are nothing to sneeze at, especially now that they have complete control over the crown and its resources. And then there’s Jon Snow and Sansa and Littlefinger in the north, feeling like a big wild card in the war to come. And beyond the wall, the Night King still waits with his army of the dead. As Benjen Stark tells Bran, the only thing keeping them back is the ancient magic built into the Wall. If they find a way through, all the armies amassing in the Seven Kingdoms are in for a wake-up call.

Winter is here. The dead are coming. Who will still be alive to fight them when they arrive?

Pages: Previous page 1 2 3

Cool Posts From Around the Web: