If you’re not caught up through the GoT season six finale: Brace yourself. Spoilers are coming.
I’ve had a few days to process the sixth season and have engaged in two solid drunken debates on all the major points, which means I’m ready to look back on the season as a whole. It was the first season all of us smug book readers were just as clueless about what would happen as the TV only crowd, with all but a few minor plot points pushing beyond A Dance with Dragons territory, uniting the fanbase in suspense and speculation. It also brought back some characters we haven’t seen for years, successfully advancing every single running plot. Loose threads were not necessarily tied up but were at least woven back into the picture, a masterful bit of plot-wrangling considering how vast this world has become and how many characters there are.
A lot happened this season, and I’m sure there will be at least one rapt attention re-watch in store for me in the coming months to comb for minute details that can be the germs of my new fan theories. In the mean time, this season gave us a lot to chew on at the macro level, along with some important life lessons, such as:
1) When in doubt, kill it with fire
The Targaryen family motto is “Fire and Blood,” so of course it’s Dany’s go-to, whether she’s executing every Dothraki Khal or taking out the slaver’s fleet with a muttered dracarys. But our Khaleesi isn’t the only one who likes to watch the world burn. Up north, burning a body is the only way to keep it from turning into a White Walker, and fire is the Children of The Forest’s preferred method for killing their creations-turned-enemies. And then of course there’s Cersei, who takes a page from the Mad King’s handbook (because he was a great role model for successful leadership) and simply blows up the sept when the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant gets too big for her to control.
2) Unintended consequences are a bitch
…which is a pretty big theme throughout the series but especially true in this season. Obviously King’s Landing is full of this—the political interplay of Cersei and Margaery with the High Sparrow ultimately leads to Cersei blowing up the sept and Tommen’s subsequent suicide. Bran, though, is a newcomer to accidental fuck-ups. It’s his rogue tree-talking that brings the Night King down on them, and his interest in young Hodor that makes him Hodor in the first place (in a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey twist), though you could argue that Bran’s unintended consequences were more like destiny considering Hodor’s role in getting Bran north of the wall in the first place (time paradoxes FTW).
3) Revenge is sweet (and well-choreographed)
Remember the Red Wedding? Of course you do. Remember the ways everyone was killed? Robb was stabbed in the gut and shot through with arrows while Catelyn’s throat was slit. The three men responsible for orchestrating this betrayal have since been systematically picked off: Tywin Lannister, who was killed all the way back in the season four finale with a crossbow bolt; Roose Bolton, stabbed by Ramsey in pretty much the same way Roose stabbed Robb; and Walder Frey, whose throat is slit by Arya in the finale (anyone know why she’s allowed to use the faces? Part of a “at least you tried being no one” consolation prize? Did she slip a few into her pocket on the way out? A girl is baffled). Speaking of vengeance, Sansa’s ice cold delivery of Ramsey’s fitting puppy chow comeuppance in “Battle of the Bastards” is the capstone on her evolution into Lady Stark (more on her later).
4) All the characters apparently have transporters (oops wrong franchise)
I get that traveling isn’t the most exciting thing to show on screen, and there’s no way to say for sure how the chronologies of the major players align (just because one scene follows another in the episode doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happening concurrently, etc). Still, this season in particular said “fuck it” to little things like how long it takes to travel by ships or horseback. This started with Sansa and Brienne getting from Winterfell to the Wall in all of ten minutes and culminates in Arya’s appearance at Walder Frey’s side one episode after she’s seen in Braavos. It’s not just a Stark thing, either—the journeys of Jaime crossing the Riverlands, Varys sailing from Mereen to Dorne, and Yara/Theon taking an entire fucking fleet from the Iron Islands (off the western coast of Westeros) to Mereen (east of Westeros and across the sea) are all just poofed away. The only one who seems to be exempt from this rule is Sam, who was still sailing to Horn Hill until episode six.
5) The title sequence reveals more than we realize
This is one I can’t take credit for, but it’s a big one. Crystal Ro over at Yahoo! made the observation that the chandeliers inside the Citadel library in Old Town look identical to the big bright spheres adorned with house sigils in the opening credits. These chandeliers have lenses around them, which appear eerily similar to the “focus wipe” between map locations (click on over to Ro’s article for some gif action). This of course opens up a whole new realm of speculation. Is the steampunk map in the credits something that exists in the Citadel library? Or is the implication more far-reaching, indicating the Citadel has a lot more control over the course of Westerosi politics than we realize? Do the Maesters in each castle actually have a bigger end-game than giving advice? It’s a good time to give fans more to speculate about, since some popular fan theories have come to fruition this season, including…
6) R + L = J
It’s always a nice feeling as a fan when your theories turn out to be right. Bran’s vision of the Tower of Joy shows Lyanna dying in childbirth then entrusting her newborn son to her brother Ned, with a quick-cut to Jon’s face ensuring even the densest viewer understands the connection. Now that it’s confirmed, Jon’s right to the Stark name is unquestionable, and his Targaryen blood could make for some interesting plot movements going forward.
7) …and Coldhands is Benjen (at least in the show)
He didn’t ride in on an elk (more’s the pity) but based on the circumstances of his appearance and his role in getting the new Three-Eyed Raven south, Benjen Stark’s re-entry into the plot is at the very least the show’s homage to Coldhands. A note from GRRM to his editor on a manuscript of A Dance With Dragons pretty clearly debunks the Coldhands/Benjen connection in the books, but the show world is getting progressively more different with each passing episode. In this instance, I think it’s fair to say the show’s producers took a fan theory and ran with it.
8) Sansa finally took a level in badass
We’ve all been waiting for the eldest Stark daughter to live up to her family name. She didn’t wise up after Joffrey’s abuses and stayed relatively naïve through Littlefinger’s machinations, but Ramsey’s true bastardness succeeded where they failed. Sansa has been hardened into the Lady Stark that Winterfell needs to get them through what will surely be a bloody winter. Better late than never, right? Speaking of late bloomers, we’ve also learned that…
9) Theon’s more of a man without his dick
The Theon Greyjoy of season one was a womanizing douchebag. The Theon Greyjoy of seasons two and three was a traitorous, weak-willed princeling in way over his head. Post-castration Theon not only helped Sansa escape from her hellish captivity but returned to the Iron Islands and threw his lot in with his sister, Yara, facing both her anger and his people’s judgment with his head held high (and delivering a rousing, if unsuccessful, speech in her favor). In season six, we see Theon standing up for his principles and making amends for his past, the first positive progress for his character the entire show.
10) …but Edmure’s still a pussy
Maybe the Freys just didn’t treat him badly enough to push Edmure into the kind of character transformation that both Sansa and Theon underwent after their respective tortures. Regardless, Edmure hands Riverrun to Jaime without so much as a second thought, ultimately getting the Blackfish killed and pretty much ending any hope House Tully had of surviving past this generation. Still, as dire as House Tully’s situation is, they’re not the only family for whom…
11) Shit just got real
…and that’s saying something for a show that’s consistently slaughtered characters indiscriminately. Exhibit A is the combined Targaryen/Greyjoy fleet now headed across the Narrow Sea to Westeros. Dany’s path to the throne is much clearer than it once was thanks to the newly-formed alliance with both Dorne and Highgarden (and Cersei’s remarkable ability to make the worst possible decision). Most of the political power in King’s Landing went down in flames at the Sept of Baelor, and Jaime’s looking like he’s finally having second thoughts about choosing Cersei over Brienne (although he might have to fight off Tormund if he hopes to rekindle things with his Maiden Fair). Exhibit B is the seemingly imminent Stark family reunion. Jon and Sansa have re-taken Winterfell, Bran’s coming south from the Wall, and Arya’s not too far away in the Twins (and doesn’t she still have a wolf out there somewhere? Ghost needs a buddy). Exhibit C: The Night King (along with his zombie army) whose march south isn’t likely to meet any resistance from the Night’s Watch that’s fallen so far Dolorous Ed is its Lord Commander (I mean, I like the guy but come on now).
Where will season seven take us? If Jon stays true to his stated objective, he’ll return to fighting the White Walkers now that Winterfell is safe. An alliance with Dany—who has dragons, which make dragonglass, which kills White Walkers—only seems logical. If Jaime really is getting cold feet, a few words from his favorite little brother might just see the last remaining Lannisters helping to bring Cersei to her long-awaited demise. It doesn’t seem like Dany’s going to have much trouble at all taking the Iron Throne. It seems to me season seven will be more of a “Song of Ice and Fire” than it will a “Game of Thrones,” with the political machinations taking a backseat to the supernatural threat beyond the wall. As always, though, we’ve got ten months to discuss amongst ourselves before we get to WAFO.