Throughout Season 6, “Game of Boners”—Jezebel’s somewhat cheeky/maybe derisive tag for our Game of Thrones reviews—became, increasingly, a misnomer. As we motored into the third act of this truly astonishing odyssey, there’s been nary a boner at all—and relative to other seasons, not even all that much killing, save for a genocide here and there. This season has overall become strategically more refined, incorporating less of the short shocks integral to to its early episodes, and concentrating on its chess moves. Watching “The Winds of Winter” just emphasized the way the scope of this show is so brilliantly calculated, now bringing us to an episode offering so much uncharacteristic denouement it feels like it’s only just dawned on us that it will, in fact, have an ending.
And George RR Martin’s mores, through the lens of show creators Benioff and Weiss, seem ever more apparent. For instance: What kind of monster would want to live in King’s Landing? The more elaborate the game of power becomes, the more its appeal crumbles, its final shot panning out on Cersei in the Iron Throne, who had to sacrifice everything—including, perhaps, her relationship with Jaime—in order to take the seat. She’s harsher and rougher than ever—she barely seemed moved over Tommen’s unceremonious suicide—and the imagery seemed to make a parallel pointing to the Mad King. In the end, though, the finale alluded to the tentatively hopeful concept that those who rule with honor will ultimately win, at least temporarily; it aligns with the “Battle of the Bastards” message that violence is never noble.
And yet let us never forget that Game of Thrones is a story about a hero, or heroes. For all its moral grey areas, a universe where even the most beloved and righteous characters can be cold killers under the auspices of the law—Ned Stark comes to mind—by the book’s mythology, we’re still bound to the idea of Azor Ahai, the rebirth of the warrior who will save the world. After “Winds”’s reveals about Jon Snow, it’s looking increasingly likely that he’s it—or maybe some combination of Jon, Dany, and Yara, with their power in numbers.
This is a show about its women, though. The season’s been driving in that direction, but it was hammered home last night when, by the grace of their wits, the most formidable warriors of all were the marquee queens and ladies who will, presumably, one day battle each other to the death. “All men must die” is perhaps more literal than we think
Miguel Sapochnik directed another beautiful episode, one even more cinematic than “Battle of the Bastards”; the use of parallel shots and natural light in the first 15 minutes alone—set to an ominous, out-of-character piano score—better get him a fucking Emmy.
The deliberate way King’s Landing’s major characters dressed for Loras and Cersei’s trials was foreboding enough, a death knell clear as the moment we saw Cersei, in a black gown with steel heraldry and a mock turtleneck reminiscent of her father’s, sipping wine and enjoying the view. The wildfire was in place beneath the sept; it was only a matter of time before the Sparrows were thwarted by her little birds. Loras converting to the Faith of the Seven just before he and his whole goddamn family got blasted in an alchemist’s weapon of chartreuse muck was a testament to his always-admitted weakness.
The High Sparrow’s weakness was that he believed in himself too much, perhaps more than the gods he swore to serve. Margaery, whose plot to flee King’s Landing we’ll surely never know, was the only savvy one of the bunch, but one common characteristic of evangelical cults no matter the denomination is that they’re not afraid to die, maybe even welcome death. The Sparrows thought their trial was too important to postpone, and the gods’s punishment for such self-importance was total obliteration! “What’s a king to a god?,” was the Sparrows’s main question this season; “What’s a god to a non-believer?” was the way Cersei answered. It was definitive.
Danaerys, en route to Westeros among a picturesque fleet of ships and some motherfucking dragons flanking her sails, left Daario behind in Meereen because she must marry a man worth her weight. Now that we know for certain Jon Snow’s true parentage—a mystery for literally two decades, since the publication of the books—he seems like a likely choice, not just because his morals align with Dany’s but because the dragon’s blood that runs through his veins help could carry on the Targaryen line, a main goal for his father Rhaegar. It doesn’t matter that she’s his aunt—you’ve been watching this shit for six years, there are worse things to be disturbed by than a little incest-dabble here and there!—but it does blow what I thought was my very credible belief that Warged Bran was Jon Snow’s true father. Oh well!
Lyanna Stark was, of course, Jon Snow’s mother; the deathbed promise Ned makes her is that he will protect Jon from Robert Baratheon, who would kill him if he knew his father was Rhaegar Targaryen. JON STARK-TARGERYEN, MY DUDES! Another somebody with a claim to the Iron Throne! Bran, having taken up the mantle of the Three-Eyed Raven, sees it after putting hands on a tree that’s crying blood, and looking exactly like one of those t-shirts mocking/celebrating Tammy Faye Bakker’s make-up choices. But as ever, every answer brings with it three or seven questions. How will he tell Jon? How will Jon take it? Will Littlefinger kill Jon before it all happens? Will Sansa kill Littlefinger before it all happens? Will DA KING OF DA NORTH even want to live in wretched King’s Landing? (See above.) Will Arya, face-shifting to cut the throat of Walder Frey and with Jaime in her crosshairs, eventually kill Littlefinger? Can Littlefinger be killed soon, is what I’m saying.
The one point of unity here, and of certainty, is that mad Cersei Lannister has made so many enemies, and they’re about to come home to roost. Danaerys and Tyrion, with the help of the Greyjoys, are formidable enough on their own (though I predict a dragon will die of wildfire in Season 7; book people, if there’s some clause that says dragons are impervious to wildfire, I don’t care, this is the TV show). But Lady Olenna Tyrell, one of the show’s best characters by far, uniting with the Sand Snakes and alluding to Dany as queen, is not willing to die before she sees the deaths of her entire family be avenged.
With major enemies out of the way—the Freys and the Boltons, in particular—the circle is tightening. (Or the wheel, if we must.) We have the set-up for what looks like a three-pronged war for power, between Cersei and Jaime at King’s Landing; Jon Snow and Sansa Stark (and eventually, we can presume, Arya Stark) at Winterfell; and Danaerys Targaryen with her dragons, Dothraki, Unsullied and Iron Fleet. Season 7 will commence in Spring 2017; until the next Game of Boners, I leave you with this:
Boners: Girl, we don’t care about dicks anymore.
Deaths: Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, Dad Tyrell, that one cousin Cersei fucked, every single Sparrow, the Maester of King’s Landing, goose-boy Tommen, a bunch of poor muhfuckas who happened to live in the near vicinity of the sept, also that one person who got smashed by a flying bell in the blast.
Images via screenshot/HBO