The notorious R+J=L fan theory finally came to fruition during the Game of Thrones season six finale, “Winds of Winter”. The reveal has been teased throughout Bran’s arc as he continues to embrace his Three Eyed Raven abilities beyond the wall. In this episode Bran returns to the Tower of Joy to witness his father promising to protect his sister’s child at all costs, including his treasured honor. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is actually both a cousin to the remaining Stark children and more importantly possibly to Daenerys. This is really a minor victory for fans, after spending years speculating about Jon Snow’s parents, we finally have some confirmation! Victory, climbing up from the ashes is the theme for the seasons’ gameplay, “Winds of Winter” masterfully parallels “Mother’s Mercy” (5×10) in this manner. Season five ended with Jon Snow’s death; Cersei’s walk of shame; Daenerys’ capture; and Arya’s blinding. This time around the game’s bleakness is sharply contrasted with brisk hopefulness, as everyone moves into place for the long anticipated endgame that is in sight.
“He’s my King from this day until his last day,” yells Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) as she argues Jon Snow’s case to become the rightful “King of the North” following the events in the brilliant “Battle of the Bastards” (6×9). Side note: We all need to encourage both showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss to include scenes between Lady Mormont and Arya Stark next season; it would be amazing. Not everyone takes the “motherless bastard’s” side, as Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) observes the meeting to basically glare at Sansa (Sophie Turner) the entire time. Earlier in the episode, she turns him down as he shares with his dream about their shared destiny on the iron throne. Sansa’s small action of turning down Littlefinger illustrates her own disillusionment since leaving Winterfell in season one. We will see how far Sansa Stark has come, given her shared look with Littlefinger, after Jon accepts his place as “King of the North”; even though he is in fact both from the South and of Targaryan blood. Next season hopefully, Peytr Baellish will realize that he helped write that “Song of Ice and Fire.”
“Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger, and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear,” explains Maggy during “The Wars to Come” (5×01) to a young Cersei Lannister. A fate that was all but sealed during the series’ sixth season finale, when Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady) became the first Queen of Westeros; but not the last. Ironically, she said very little throughout finale, allowing her actions to speak for herself. Granted she had plenty to say to Septa Unella, whom put her to “shame” during the season four finale. Besides from that scene, our main game-player is removed from that action as she pulls the ultimate “Mad Queen” move. During a masterfully directed opening sequence from, Miguel Sapochnik, we slowly unravel Cersei’s grand scheme that has been subtly plotted throughout this season. Margarey Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) catches on too late, as she pleads with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) to call off the trial. Meanwhile, Lancel (Eugene Simon) follows a little bird through the city’s underground tunnels and stumbles upon the glowing green weapons of mass destruction buried within. Cersei would not be the new Queen, if she did not allow a few allies to join in on her fun. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) allows his little birds to brutally usher out the old for the new during Grand Maester Pycelle’s (Julian Glover) death scene. A small blimp on the radar in retrospect, considering a few scenes later the wildfire catches flame and blows up the entire Sept of Baelor; “Burn them all.” Meanwhile, Cersei is shown at the Red Keep, almost preparing for battle, dressing in her all black attire. The cold-hearted nature behind Cersei’s actions are almost amplified through the distance between her and her prey. There’s no empathy, sympathy, or regret felt on the matter… only acceptance. This remains true even after receiving word that abruptly following the explosion, Tommen committed suicide, “Gold will be their crowns; gold their shrouds.”
In contrast to Cersei’s sudden ascension to the iron throne is Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) final preparation before returning home. She breaks all romantic ties with Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) in a move that many have been comparing to Rob Stark’s fatal decision during the season two finale. For me this scene is quickly undermined during Daenerys’ heart to heart with fellow King’s Landing outcast, Tyrion Lannister (Pater Dinklage). “This is actually happening,” he explains to Daenerys as both realize that they are finally winning. There’s a sense of trepidation in the moment, to accentuate the bitter-sweetness of growing up; closing one chapter and starting another. “We’re in the great game now, and the great game is terrifying,” says Tyrion before accepting his rightful place as Hand of the Queen. This was such a poetically beautiful moment shared between these two. Now Daenerys isn’t only bringing along Tyrion to take down his sister, but Yara and Theon Greyjoy are onboard for the journey too. Plus, we were treated to a nice reveal about Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) travels to Dorne. “Cersei stole the future from me,” cries Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) to Ellaria Sand (Indria Varma), as both plot against Queen Ceresi. I love the irony in this moment as both women voice their own vendetta against the Lannisters, yet they each orchestrated the death of the fallen Lannister children. In addition to my joy felt as Varys steps into view and Daenerys unknowingly continues to collect allies from Cersei’s enemies. Seriously, women are the toughest players in the game, after these last few Game of Thrones episodes.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) even is able to cross a name off of her long held kill list. After boisterously declaring his victory at Riverrun, Walder Frey (David Bradley) has an unsettling exchange with an annoyed Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). For a brief moment during the season finale, I am on #TeamLannister as Jamie puts the old man in his place, “If we have to keep riding North to hold Riverrun, then why do we need you?” A good question that will be answered next season, considering Walder Frey has finally been taken off the board, after a surprise hit from a masked intruder; the Stark’s send their regards. Finally, after three seasons following the Red Wedding, Arya returns to the very hall where both her brother and mother were brutally betrayed. She finally gets retribution for the reunion moment that was stolen from her by both Westeros politics and greedy old men. Even after a few seasons spent in Braavos, Arya is not just another faceless “little bird” to be used, but a weapon forged from vengeance for her family. Now after this minor victory, will she head north to Winterfell? Or south to King’s Landing? Until next season… “Long may she reign.”
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