This season of Game of Thrones has been one of the best in recent years. It was better paced, more revelatory and more visually and thematically interesting than last year to be sure, and though last years’ climax of Jon Snow being “killed” was shocking, this years climactic killings and battles seemed more gratifying and carried more weight. It was nice to see the slow burning rumbles of vengeance erupt in to glorious retribution in the last two episodes, especially at the hands of empowered female leads. But in Westeros, the thrills of vengeance and of power attained is never around for long, as even when you win, you lose. It’s always a pyrrhic victory. And in show, seemingly, as it is with lots of epics and stories through the ages, there seems to be a consequence, or a punishment for hubris, and especially when it involves females (a very interesting thing to study in gender politics and history). More on that later, but for now lots of plot threads were closed with a satisfying flourish of war, death, and execution! There is so much to talk about! Let’s break it down!
Cersei, Cersei Cersei. There really is NOTHING you won’t do, will you? Sometimes I think that she will never be happy until everyone around her except the Mountain is dead. Cersei was backed into a corner this season, walked through the streets and brought low at the end of last season, then demeaned relegated to second string of the King’s Landing political and royal elite this season, as her son Tommen took the Throne and Margaery became Queen.
But did she give up on her power mad ambitions? Did she let a little thing like a shaved head, public humiliation and political disenfranchisement keep her down? Hell no! She plotted and schemed her way through the season, using her son against the High Sparrow and setting things up for using her ace in the hole: her knowledge of the subterranean stored wildfire, courtesy of the Mad King of House Targaryen! And what a flawless execution! Her little birds acted in concert to take out key people at the time of her trial. Talk about turning and disadvantage into an advantage. The removal of trial by combat by Tommen, her son, at the behest of the High Sparrow and the Faith’s influence at first seemed like the file nail in her political coffin, since she couldn’t use the Mountain to be her proxy for political control in the arena. But getting everyone together in the Sept for her trial proved just as useful, when she blew the hell out of everyone there with Wildfire!
Taking out all her opposition and keeping her son safe and away with the Mountains help proved bitter, however, because Tommen, upon seeing destruction of the Sept, lept to his own death over the loss of his hot wife and realizing the full madness of his mother. Thus Cersei fulfilled the prophecy of losing all her children through her own lust for power. What is interesting is that this kind of proves the theme that no matter how you play the Game of Thrones, be it nobly or deceitfully, hatefully or loyally, you always lose, even if you win. She is punished for her victory. She sits on the Throne now, childless and torn.
And there still may be fallout with Jaime, as he has been out being a Lannister hero all season, but may change his feelings about Cersei when he returns and sees what she has done, and remember, he’s got the army with him! He loves her, but does that have a boundary? And if Cersei has broken it with her actions, will that mean he will rebel against her? And what of Dorne? Margaery’s death will not go over well, and her grandma and Varys have already visited there, asking for help. So we will see. But hey on the upside, trial by combat is probably coming back! so we may still see the Mountain and the Hound go at it! Gotta love it! And let’s us take a moment and remember the awesomeness of Johnathan Pryce, whose portrayal of the smug, pretending to be humble High Sparrow was impeccable this season!
Out in the good old land of Essos, Danny has united the Dothraki under her dragon’s wings by killing the Khals and showing off her naked “I don’t burn” powers, flashing her 3 dragons in everyone’s face, and making master drunk and sometimes-brilliant-statesman Tyrion her hand. I feel like Tyrion has learned from his misdeeds and his new perspective in exile, and while he is still quintessentially his drunken, lustful self, he has grown out of despondency and sees something of true hope in this world, that Danny might unite it, and this is solidifies in him when he accepts the position as Hand of the Queen. I think he believes he might actually be able to do the world some good, despite his hilarious and wry skepticism of it. His bravery showed through when he descended into the dragon’s den this season and survived. They spared him, I think, sensing his true heart and intentions, and he realizes this and finally proves his own strength to himself. Going in to the den thinking he had nothing to lose, and coming out realizing that he is stronger than he thinks.
The only worry is that Danny may go mad with power, as is the wont of her line. Indeed bring both the Dothraki and (thankfully) the slavers to their knees, both through patience, cunning and the shear power of her will, I hope she does not grow over confident, especially now that she is allied with Yara of the Greyjoys, and he fleet. (Yara escaped with Theon after her father Balon was killed by Euron upon his return, and took the Salt Thrown, consecrated to the Drown God FYI). But I think Tyrion will temper her, even her out, and keep her on track, at least for a while, until when and if she finds out that Jon is part of her line too!
And what’s this flirtation between Yara and Danny? We know they both go both ways, so perhaps this is the beginning of a relationship? What a development that would be! Danny is already suffering punishment for her power, by having to abandon the only man that loves her, citing that marriage will be the best way to secure her power in Westeros.
Yara, empowered by her feelings for Danny and alliance with her force, may face civil war upon her return to her islands, punishment for her vengeance and her fleet’s new strength.
Sansa steps up to the plate this season as a stronger character, steadily amassing favor and gets saved, thanks to the return of Brienne!
(the only female who seems to have dodged the punishment for power clause, as she was always powerful!) Sansa still seems overshadowed by Jon Snow’s destiny, as Bran’s revelation as the new Three Eyed Crow allows him to see Jon’s true lineage as half Targaryen and the nephew of Ned Stark (and surviving long enough thanks to his warging powers through time to Hodor of the past, whose name is a shortened version of “Hold the Door” in the show’s present, a command to help them escape the Wildling onslaught.) Jon revives thanks to Milesandre’s Red God magic but she is unsure of exactly how. She may prove to be an interesting thread next season, because she is banished from the North for killing Sheena (sentence of death commuted thanks to her miracle and Jon’s mercy) and will seemingly be out of sight out of mind until a crucial moment that may arise.
Jon leads the battle against Ramsay, and watches the youngest stark get shot down by arrows (though he could have run serpentine and dodged them, the fool!) as Ramsay Bolton looked on sadistically. Sansa arrives with the Cavalry just as Jon almost gets trampled (which would have been a lame second death!) and saves the day. Her vengeance is sweet after the battle as she leaves Ramsay to die at the jaws of his own starved Hounds, his slow penetrating death reminiscent of what she suffered under him. Her vengeance is another sweet fulfillment of this seasons running theme of female empowerment and vengeance.
However she is still the one in line for the Iron Throne, and her sidelong glance at Littlefinger at the end of the finale hints at consequence for her actions, a punishment perhaps, or karma? But that brings up the very charged question of whether or not, in culture, when females act out, assert themselves, gain power, and take charge, must there always be a hint of punishment or some act of contrition for it? Is it ever free?
And speaking of Stark vengeance, Arya abandons the Faceless God and returns to her true self, a Stark , and uses her shapeshifting powers to go undercover and finally use Walder Frey’s weakness for hot ass against him, and penetrates him with Needle. It’s another female getting her revenge on subjugation, this time with a very phallic object, and again, it feels so good! But after doing away with the Waif (or did the Waif do away with her an take her face? Westeros may never know!) and abandoning the Faceless God for vengeance, one can’t help but anticipate, as always in Westeros, that there will be upcoming consequences for giving into her hatred and vengeance, because as always in this cursed land, even when you win, you lose, and when you win, it’s not for very long! Will the Faceless God be the punisher of female empowerment in this case?
What a season! And what of the Whitewalkers and the war yet to come that Jon is constantly warning everyone about? Winter has finally come, and all sides are preparing to converge on King’s Landing, vying for the Iron Throne, and the walkers wait patiently for Westeros to rip itself apart, so they can sweep in in the aftermath and take it all. This, at least, seems to be their plan, since they’ve been waiting forever! Vengeance and hubris and looming punishment have shaped this season, and the pieces are set for backstabbing, violence, betrayal, and more crazy revelations next season. Take a listen to Episode 26 of the NerdFunnel podcast for more analysis and crazy theories on what may be in store for Westeros and all your favorite characters. And don’t forget to let us know what your thoughts and theories are in the comments or on the Facebook page!