Spoiler note: “A girl says nothing. A girl keeps her mouth closed. No one hears.” —Girls, boys, and everyone alike, Jaqen H’ghar has spoken, so please remember: This recap is primarily for non-book readers (book fans can discuss the show here). If you’re a book reader, please avoid posting any spoilers here so as not to ruin the fun for those who don’t know what’s coming next. Thank you!
We open on a ‘90s teen movie montage of everyone dollin’ up for their first day of school—okay, actually, preparations for Loras and Cersei’ trials are much more somber than that, but I can’t help it if Whatever It Takes came immediately to mind. It’s the season finale and I’m emotionally compromised.
My inability to process aside, the finale’s opener is the stuff of television legend. Fraught with leisurely pacing and tension and played to the tune of the eeriest score I’ve heard on the show so far, the show takes us on a tour between the Sept of Baelor and the Red Keep. Cersei drinks, Tommen sulks, and elsewhere in the castle, a little bird whispers in Maester Pycelle’s ear. Meanwhile, in the sept, Margaery is apprehensive as Loras is brought forth to stand his long-awaited trial—which doesn’t come to pass. Rather than subjecting himself to the torment of a trial, Loras confesses his sins, renounces his rights and privileges, and devotes his life to the Seven. While his forehead is being sliced in one of those ill-advised face tattoos, Mace Tyrell makes a move to stop it, but Margaery placates him in her efforts to keep up the charade.
Back at the Red Keep, Tommen is preparing to leave for the sept when the Mountain bars his way, which can’t be good news for anyone in the sept, especially since Cersei has also neglected to attend her trial. As such, the High Sparrow sends his minions to collect Cersei, but Lancel is led astray after getting suspicious of a small child who’s lurking about. Maester Pycelle, too, has been lured away, to Qyburn’s laboratory, where he meets his foil and foe, Maester Frankenstein, who sics his little birds upon him. Pycelle is full-on murdered by a squad of knife-wielding children. Harsh.
Lancel, meanwhile, is felled with one near-fatal knife to the back, but he lives to drag himself down the underground corridor to find the caches of wildfire that have been spilled, the puddles set with rapidly dwindling candles. Cersei remains in the Red Keep, eyeing the sept from a safe distance. Margaery, in no such safety, knows something’s afoot, and demands that the sept be evacuated: “There’s something wrong…. Cersei is not here. Tommen is not here. Why do you think they are not here?…. Forget about the bloody gods and listen to what I’m telling you. Cersei understands the consequences of her absence and she is absent, anyway, which means she does not intend to suffer those consequences. The trial can wait. We all need to leave.”
But the Faith Militant bar the people from leaving, and in the history of the series nothing comes to mind that is quite so chilling as watching Margaery attempt to battle through with her brother in tow, as she senses what we all know. Margaery and Loras turn to lock eyes with the High Sparrow, who’s frozen in the middle of the sept as he realizes all too late that Margaery is right, and there’s nothing he has time to do. The music that has played behind the scene so far is cut off by the eruption of wildfire, and the sept and all those in it are no more.
When the explosion has met Cersei’s expectations, she heads down to the dungeons to spill perfectly good wine all over Septa Unella, who’s bound to a table. Cersei confesses her sins—binge-drinking, husband-murdering, brother-(ahem)-canoodling—and mocks Septa Unella’s belief that she will be granted an immediate and therefore merciful death. No such luck, as the Mountain would prefer to try his hand at torture first. Cersei has gone off the deep end, and chants “Shame… Shame… Shame…” as she bolts the door upon her exit.
Like his mother, Tommen watches from a window as the Sept of Baelor continues to smolder in the distance. He removes his crown and walks out of the camera frame, and we hear him set his crown down. He reappears, steps upon the windowsill, and lets himself fall. He knows what his ignorance and ineptitude cost him, he knows that his wife is dead and gone, he knows that there’s nothing left for him to believe in. He knows what his mother’s done, and he knows that this is the way to punish her. The simple, unhurried action here makes this scene akin to Gothic horror, and one of the most chilling of the series.
Upon learning of her youngest and last remaining child’s death, Cersei orders his body burned and his ashes spread over the remains of the Sept of Baelor.
Of the Lannisters remaining in Westeros, Jaime is having the easiest time of it, as he and Bronn play guest to Walder Frey in a celebration of the retaking of Riverrun. Personally, I would be hesitant to break bread at this man’s home, but to each his own. Jaime plays wingman for Bronn and notices one of the serving girls eyeing him not-so-surreptitiously, but he has no time to dwell on it when old man Frey takes a seat and starts gloating about his achievements. Jaime, in less of a mood for it than the rest of us, sweeps the leg of Frey’s self-esteem and tells him that no one fears his family—they fear the Lannisters, because it’s they who orchestrated the murders Frey is credited for, and it’s the Lannisters who took back Riverrun. And if they have to keep doing things like that, well, then, Walder’s rather expendable, isn’t he? He can’t fight his own battles or keep the lands he’s won by the grace of the Lannisters, who did all the fighting for him in the first place.
In an attempt at light-heartedness in this otherwise dark and dreary hour, Sam and Gilly arrive at the Citadel, where Sam’s résumé results in some raised eyebrows since the details don’t quite match up with the Citadel’s official records. But no matter—the archmaester will meet with him, and he’s allowed access to the library while he waits. He has a real Belle-in-the-Beast’s-library moment, and then we dive right back into the drama.
Jon and Melisandre are in the middle of a game of “Who’s Had It Worse?” when they’re interrupted by Ser Davos, who storms in and tosses Shireen’s carved stag at Melisandre. Fun’s over. They argue bitterly over the morality of her actions, of the end justifying means that weren’t even met, of how Melisandre was wrong and what that cost, of Melisandre’s faith in a murderous god, and Davos’ grief is truly every bit as heart-wrenching as we all imagined it would be.
Still, Melisandre pleads with Jon to grant mercy and not execute her as Davos demands—she knows the White Walkers are coming, and she can help. Honorable to his core, Jon banishes her to the South, and decrees that should she return, he’ll have her hanged as a murderer. She did, after all, give him back his life, so he owes her that much, but Jon can’t condone what she’s done. He can no longer trust her to do what’s right, only what she sees as right. While this decision is understandable and even predictable considering Jon’s character, it’s probably not the smartest move. But I have no doubt that Melisandre will return when she’s needed, threat on her life or no.
As Jon watches Melisandre leave from the ramparts, Sansa joins him and the pair debate who should get Ned and Catelyn’s old room (meanwhile, Jonsa shippers everywhere are like, “Share it”)—both of them acknowledge the other’s right to the lord’s chambers and to Winterfell as a whole. They apologize for their behavior leading up to the battle, and vow to stick together as the double trouble dream team they truly are. There’s some vaguely romantic music, a forehead kiss, and smiles exchanged between two people who have hardly ever had reason to smile in the past six years. Look, if Jon/Sansa isn’t endgame, then I don’t know what’s going on anymore.
Now, to a seldom-visited and hardly cared about region—Dorne, where Ellaria and the Sand Snakes pique interest only because they’re surrounded by more interesting characters. Olenna Tyrell, dressed in mourning clothes, has arrived at their tropical vacation resort, and informs them that now with her family gone and nothing left for her, that “Survival is not what I’m after now.” It’s really something to see this seasoned, whip-smart and clever and resilient woman so broken, and for once I agree with Ellaria’s vendetta, if only for Olenna’s sake. Varys has arrived on the scene as well, and it looks as though all these wily coyotes are about to get in on some vengeance together. Doubtful they’ll need it, since it doesn’t seem that Cersei and Jaime are long for this world and Tyrion is already on Daenerys’ payroll, but we’ll see where it takes us.
Speaking of…away in Meereen, Daenerys dumps Daario so she can date Yara instead, and the internet rejoices. Well, not quite, but she does give Daario the ol’ heave-ho: he’s to stay in Meereen with the Second Sons to keep the peace and establish democracy. Under Tyrion’s influence, Daenerys has made a good call in this attempt to preserve the work she’s done in Essos, but Daario doesn’t care about that. He cares about Daenerys, he loves her or whatever, and he wants to go to Westeros with her, any way he can, but she remains firm (high-five, Dany). She may have to make another marriage pact upon her arrival in Westeros (I’m sure Euron Greyjoy would be thrilled), and she can’t have a lover following on her heels.
Although Tyrion claims she’s done the right thing, Daenerys is frightened by the fact that she didn’t care about calling it quits with Daario. It’s not the sacrifice Tyrion makes it out to be, but Tyrion’s no great shakes at breakups since he strangled his last girlfriend to death so what does he know? Well, apparently enough to swear loyalty to Daenerys, and she names him Hand of the Queen; she’s got a pin for him and everything. And Tyrion is finally, officially, back where he belongs—at the side of someone who needs his counsel. He doesn’t have the best track record in this respect, so let’s see how long Daenerys is receptive to it.
Back at Walder Frey’s House of Pancakes, the man himself is crude with the serving girl who flirted with Jaime Lannister before, and then demands through mouthfuls of pie to know where his sons are. The girl tells him, “Here,” and it comes to pass that Walder pulled a Tamora in Titus Andronicus and totally started chowing down on his kids, who have been baked into the pie before him. The girl peels back her face as Walder did his pie crust to reveal herself as—we all knew it—our girl Arya: “My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last thing you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die.” And she slits his throat, just like her mother’s throat was slit on Walder Frey’s order.
Arya smiles, much as Sansa did when she got her own justice in Episode 9, and it goes to show what war and tragedy can do to even the most honorable of people, as the Starks are often perceived. Perhaps this should make us worry for them, but at the end of the day, the Stark sisters are playing the same game that everyone else is playing, and they deserve this brand of vengeance perhaps more than most of the people on the board. They kill with purpose, not for glory. It’s a disturbing road to go down, but that’s the world Game of Thrones is.
Sansa sits in the godswood of her reclaimed home when Pizza Bagel—er, Petyr Baelish—comes calling. Rather stupidly, he reveals to Sansa that his goal is to sit upon the Iron Throne with her as his queen, but she rejects both the prospect as well as the moves he’s trying to put on her again. Thoroughly rejected, he attempts to manipulate her into distrusting or betraying Jon, to present him as a threat to her rightful claim on Winterfell. Perhaps this tactic would have worked once upon a time, but Sansa doesn’t trust Petyr anymore; he may be the devil whispering into her ear, but she’s all but flicked him off her shoulder by now.
At the base of another weirwood tree, Benjen Stark leaves Bran and Meera, as his undead form won’t be permitted to cross the Wall’s apparently magical barriers. Left alone with only Meera to care for him now, Bran touches the weirwood and returns to the vision of his father at the Tower of Joy, and this time the Three-Eyed Raven can’t stop him because Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven now, and he’s ready for answers. He follows Ned up the stairs and into the tower, where Lyanna Stark is bleeding out something fierce. She’s afraid but knows she won’t make it out alive, so she urges Ned to “Promise me”—to take her newborn son and protect him, because Robert will kill the boy if he finds out where he truly came from (that is to say, he was fathered by Rhaegar Targaryen, who stole Lyanna away in the first place).
The camera focuses on the newborn’s face, and then the image shifts to Jon Snow. As I live and breathe, finally we have some confirmation of Jon Snow’s true parentage. Or confirmation enough for the fandom, anyway.
In the present with the fully grown Jon, he and Sansa hold court at Winterfell, where the wildlings, the Northern houses, and the Knights of the Vale are bickering and everybody wants to go home to wait out the winter that has finally arrived. Jon tells them there’s no such luck, because it’s not only winter that’s descended upon them, but the threat of the White Walkers that come with it. Lady Lyanna, who’s had it up to here with all these old lords and their whining, schools them all—she calls out the houses who bailed on the Starks when they were called upon, and she reminds them of where their loyalties and vows lie. She is the first to declare Jon “King in the North,” and the other houses follow.
Sansa and Jon exchange looks of triumph and agreement, and all at once Jon is King in the North and Sansa is Lady of Winterfell, and the Jonsa ship has sailed, my friends. Sansa smirks at Petyr as if to say, “Ha ha, nice try, pizza bagel, gotta get up earlier than that to cut a successful rift between the Starks!” but her expression falls when she sees that he hasn’t stood for their proclaimed king. She knows what he’s capable of and she knows what he wants, and Jon is standing in his way. Considering that her lack of faith in Petyr is so overshadowed by her newfound faith in Jon, I’ll bet money that she saves Jon’s life and ends Petyr’s next season—perhaps inadvertently, but Mr. Bagel is not long for this world. He slipped up big time by revealing his master plan to Sansa, and she’ll use it against him.
Jaime and Bronn return to King’s Landing to see the city smoking. Whether or not they find the source of those billowing gray clouds is uncertain, as Jaime heads to the Red Keep’s throne room, where he’s just in time for Cersei’s coronation. That’s right—there are no heirs and no wives left, and Cersei has taken the Iron Throne as a result. She’s gotten what she’s always wanted—absolute power from atop that wretched old chair—and she paid the price in her children’s lives, however unintentionally. Her expression seems to indicate that she knows this, and Jaime’s suggests that he’ll be changing his Facebook relationship status for good. Those two are donzo.
We close the hour and the year on Daenerys, her fleet, and her dragons en route to Westeros. The ships are many, the sails flap in the wind, and the three dragons soar around them. It’s not the most exhilarating shot we’ve seen, but it’s impressive as heck, and a great setup for where we’re headed next year. The wait is on.
Well, my Unsullied friends, that’s that—another end to another season. What did you think of Season 6, and what do you think Season 7 has in store? Will Daenerys usurp Cersei, or will the newly instated queen meet her end another way? Where is Arya headed now that she’s crossed perhaps the biggest name off her list? How will Sansa get the best of her last remaining manipulator, and can I get Jon decking him in the face before he’s gone for good? Will Bran be able to get word to Jon about what he knows, and what will this mean for Jon’s role in the Seven Kingdoms? Will Brienne and Pod run into Gendry on their forever-long boat ride back to where they’re supposed to be? And what can we do while we wait out the next ten months for some answers?
Remember—speculation is encouraged, spoilers aren’t! Please refrain from posting book spoilers here! Feel free to discuss the episode in the comments or Tweet me @kattymaj, but don’t ruin any surprises for the viewers who haven’t read the books. While the show has largely diverged from its source material, you never know what details will crop up later. Thanks, and see you next season!