Where do I even begin?! That was a kingly ending to the season (see what I did there, Jon Snow fans?). Even the good people have to be brutal this week, and all over Westeros and the Bay of Dragons there was bloodshed, or the aftermath thereof.
What I love about this show, and the book series on which it’s based, is how it makes you root for really, truly, incredibly troubled individuals. Like a teenage girl with a revenge obsession. Or an incestuous knight who wants to be honorable. Or a proud and angry young woman who wants the throne of a country that’s never wanted her. Or (and maybe this is just me) a vengeful mother who, justifiably, feels attacked and wronged and takes what she sees as decisive, violent action to protect what is hers, only to lose what she protected.
I was sad to see Margery go. It’s tempting, given this shows soap opera-esque tendency to bring back dead people unless their death is clear and visible on screen, to think she’ll return somehow, but I think it’s safe to say she’s dead. A nuclear blast of wildfire and a giant cathedral falling on you are nearly always fatal. Watching the High Sparrow engulfed in green flame was pretty satisfying, but then I immediately thought, “Tommen’s going to kill himself.” I mean, his mother just blew up his wife. What do you do at that point? Kill your mother? Carry on as if your mother isn’t fucked in the head? He chose to jump, and the prophecy Cersei heard in her childhood came to fruition, at least partially by her own hand.
Additionally, as many have noted, Jamie killed Rhaegar for ordering the wildfire to be lit. And now, the love of his life, his womb-mate, has done what he sought to stop. She is now the Mad Queen. Will he kill her, too? Will he again be honorable and receive no gratitude, only hate and derision?
Arya is fucking terrifying. I wish they hadn’t stolen the twist from Titus Andronicus (which South Park parodied with a chili cook-off). I don’t know that it was necessary for her to kill Frey’s sons. I don’t believe they were on her list. I think it would have been just as powerful to have her serve him, then cut his throat when he came on to her. Regardless, what made that scene so creepy was the look of satisfaction as he bled out, and how much I was excited to see a bloodthirsty young lady watching a man die. I love it when works of literature (in which I include television and film) point out my own uncomfortable comfort with violence. This show still does that exceedingly well.
Now, here’s my real question: is it OK in Westeros for first cousins to get married? Because then Jon Snow and Sansa could get married, and Littlefinger could suck it. But, in the real world of the 21st Century, that’s just gross. Either way, King Jon has fewer enemies than he thinks, as King’s Landing eats itself and his other sister/cousin starts picking off terrible people, but still, the number is not zero. He will need allies, especially from the Eyrie. And, as Daenerys pointed out, the best way to make alliances is with marriage. It’s at least a little bit possible that Jon will marry Sansa to Littlefinger against her will. Or, he could tell Lord Baelish that he won’t force his sister to marry someone she hates. The jury’s still out on that one.
We finally went back to Dorne. It’s stunning how bad Dorne has been since that location first came into the story. It was almost worth Dorne sucking so badly to see the Queen of Thorns throw some shade at the Sand Snakes‑almost. But I’m still scratching my head about Varys’s timeline. How, exactly, did he get back to Meereen with Dornish ships after Cersei blew up Margery Tyrell, but before Daenerys left? He must have had that high-octane wind.
Unfortunately, I’m really starting to sour on the dialogue writing for Tyrion, and the entire Meereenese plotline. And Tyrion’s accent is for shit. All that aside, the scene between Daenerys and Daario was stellar. And what her conversation with Tyrion brought out, however ham-fistedly, was that she is becoming numb to normal human emotion. This fits the long-standing theme of the Westerosi universe that a system that favors brutality, favors the brutal. Therefore, those who seek or hold power either never had normal emotions, or lose touch with their humanity the longer they rule.
And rule she will, what with a massive fleet, the Dothraki hoard, half of Pyke, an army of Unsullied, the Dornish, the Tyrells, and three motherfuckin’ dragons to sweep aside all who oppose her.
Here’s the thing: we’ve reached the point in the story where there aren’t really many surprises. There’s a reason the opening is a machine that ticks forward like clockwork. Once the machine is wound and all the pieces are in place, the end is inevitable. And so it is now. Daenerys will defeat Cersei, then her army will fly to the North (either to fight Jon Snow or to aid in the fight against White Walkers). Then, when it becomes known that Jon is her older brother, either that will seal the alliance, or they will marry anyway and rule. That’s the end: a reunited Westeros under the rightful heir in the Targaryen dynasty. But how we get there is still fun.
So, this season was a marked improvement over the last season and a half. It was far from perfect, but it got back to its strengths. And yet, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, as soon as they got out ahead of George R.R. Martin, their dialogue, pacing, character development, and overall quality took a dip.
Write faster, old man!