Great UnExpectations

(Warning:  If you haven’t seen Season 6 of GoT, please don’t read the following. The night really is dark and totally full of spoilers.)

I have to say I loved Season Six. Many things happened that I wanted to see happen. Everybody I wanted to live--surprise, surprise--actually did. Ser Kevan Lannister was the sole exception, but I didn’t have high hopes for him. Many of those I wanted dead died spectacularly. How do you like your sons, Lord Walder--rare or medium? Shades of Dante and Shakespeare and Jacobean revenge drama.

The last two episodes were off the scale for TV--largely because they were so well set up by the preceding episodes. Okay, there are some holes in Ayra’s plot line in Braavos, but still, it was good. And for all those whinging about not seeing the final fight with the Waif--because it was in the dark--well, that’s what all that blind fighting was for in the first episodes. It’s called Chekov’s Iron Law. If a gun is on the wall in Act I, it’d damned well better go off by Act Three. The blindness was the gun, and it went off with the fight, which she survived. She remembered she is Arya Stark of Winterfell (yeah!), but she’s become a stone cold killer. 

The Battle of the Bastards went much the same way, at least for Ramsay. He did for his father exactly the same way Roose had done for Robb Stark--after Roose told Ramsay if he got a reputation as a mad dog, he’d be treated like a mad dog. Ramsay then fed his good mother and his baby brother to the dogs. Well, son, karma is a direwolf. After having so many ‘mad dog’ references--and you yourself mention your dogs haven’t fed in seven days--you are going to be dog food. And Ramsay was. 

I didn’t expect Jon Snow to go off the reservation quite the way he did by beating Ramsay. He crossed the line, showing that given sufficient provocation, any decent person can do things typically out of character. That was disturbing enough. My own enjoyment of that crossing the line was deeply unsettling. Is it too much character identification or is it simply a realization that I’ve got my own baser nature? 

I was startled by Sansa’s behavior, but I shouldn’t have been. I’m glad to see she’s grown up, doesn’t think life is a song, and can do the manipulating instead of being a pawn, but I worry about two things. I’m not sure she can stand up to Petyr Baelish, whom I believe will be the last to be killed--unless he takes the Iron Throne. (C’mon, Drogon. Baelish can’t rule the ashes if he IS the ashes.) Also, Sansa’s in danger of becoming the next Tywin. Not good. Tywin Lannister was, to quote Charles Dance, “something of an emotional desert”. 

It also brings up the question of when do we get over the demand for revenge. I’m hoping that’s what Daenerys meant when she said she was going to break the wheel. 

From a cinematographic standpoint, Battle of the Bastards took the audience right to the wall with the claustrophobia of war. It was suffocating. If viewers didn’t ask What cost war? then they weren’t paying attention.

Speaking of revenge and war, Cersei fried all her enemies at one go by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor. She, not the Mad King, used the wildfire, but we knew it was there. She found out about it, and she used it because she would be damned before she’d be spurned. We all knew she was going to do something terrible when she was reduced to a mere “lady of the court”. Bad move, Uncle Kevan, for Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She and her henchman, Qyburn (who’s beginning to make Tywin look like a choirboy), took care to set up quite the blow.

The opening to this episode was the most unexpected, but brilliant, homage to THE GODFATHER, particularly the last ten to fifteen minutes of that film, that so beautifully, brutally, viciously intercut the baptism of Michael Corleone’s baby with the murders of all his enemies. The flowing intercuts of all the major players as the move--or not--into their positions in the Red Keep and the Great Sept and then amongst them as Cersei’s trap springs, everybody a touch too late in understanding was compelling viewing. 

On one hand, I enjoyed the end of the High Sparrow. He was as drunk on his own power as Cersei ever was (or as Savonarola ever was). Just as the mad friar of Florence was torched after several years of puritanical tyranny, so was the High Sparrow. He had no clue until the very end that he’d been outplayed by a tougher, nastier narcissist that he. 

On the other hand, I’d forgot about Margaery, who’d claimed Tommen and who was playing the High Sparrow--good on you, girl--but who’d made a very dangerous enemy in Cersei. Margaery was the younger, more beautiful Queen to replace Cersei, and the Tyrells were set to displace the Lannisters (particularly in the wake of Tywin’s death). Ser Loras wasn’t collateral damage because Cersei was supposed to have married him. Mace Tyrell’s mute heartbreak was enough to make me loathe Cersei more--if that’s possible.

As is typical of Cersei, she never thinks of consequences to herself or anyone else. The most shocking moment, in silence, was Tommen’s suicide. I didn’t expect him to survive this season, but I had no idea he would step out of a window. Brad and I turned to each other with equal expressions of OMG and WTH? after Tommen took the header. Brad’s right, though--too young, too inexperienced, too much in love with his wife, much too conflicted to withstand the demands of mother, wife, High Sparrow. The body blow his mother dealt him was simply too much. Tommen was the only person in the Seven Kingdoms who needed his grandfather--if only to run interference against Cersei. Now, there’s dysfunctional irony.

So Cersei loses her son. It’s the fulfillment of prophecy. She’s emotionally dead. Not a desert--dead. And she has created an implacable enemy--Lady Olenna Tyrell. She’s the most dangerous of all because she’s got nothing left to lose. She’s allied with those damned Dornish bastards, something I didn’t expect, but it works. It at least makes the Sand Snakes useful, if only for Lady Olenna’s infamous tongue. (Who didn’t enjoy her telling those twits to shut up?) She’s put all her resources to Daenerys’s cause, for she will have the surviving Lannisters go down in fire and blood.

(For the record, I still want Ellaria and the Sand Snakes dead, largely now because they are a danger to Tyrion Lannister. They aren’t going to reconcile themselves to a Lannister in any capacity. Will Olenna? Not looking good for the Imp.)

Speaking of Daenerys, I knew she’d be moved by Ser Jorah’s devotion. He helps her take down the khals, then has to leave her, taking self-exile. I didn’t expect her to order him to find a cure for greyscale. Certainly, no one can be more motivated to carry out his orders, but honestly, this quest is just short of the Holy Grail in enormity. The one person who had a lead on it, Stannis, is dead.

I also didn’t expect her to dismiss Daario. To give up a man she loved should’ve hurt. It was necessity--logical self-sacrifice. A sign of greater maturity in leadership. The revelation to her that she didn’t feel much, just a desire to get on with it, disturbed her. I see it as evidence of growing personal maturity--as is taking Tyrion as her Hand. 

(Oh, great irony. Tyrion’s spent his whole life trying to avoid doing anything like his father. Now, he is his father, Hand to a Targaryen.)

One major character rising, two on the precipice, and one clearly going down in flames. All of them important women. Now, there’s the great unexpected in epic fantasy, but that’s what one expects in GAME OF THRONES.

Copyright KG Whitehurst