GAME OF THRONES 6.10 ‘The Winds of Winter’ Review

Winter finally arrives as Cersei makes her play for revenge and power, a new King rises, and an alliance is formed.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

GAME OF THRONES Season 6 Episode 10

Episode Title: “The Winds of Winter”

Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss

Director: Miguel Sapochnik

Previously on Game of Thrones:

Episode 6.09 “Battle of the Bastards”

There are spoilers ahead for last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, but don’t pretend that you didn’t know that!

Do you know why there are so few surprises in television anymore? Because everyone loves a mystery. Or rather, they love solving a mystery. Game of Thrones fans figured out the riddle of Jon Snow’s parents a long time ago…and they haven’t shut up about it since! R + L = J was spoiled for me years ago, so the impact was lost when the theory was finally revealed to be true. Imagine if no one had seen that coming. It would have been among the show’s most powerful scenes.

That’s the inherent problem of serialized stories. The audience can get ahead of the narrative and collectively guess where it’s going to go. The GoT fans have had a pretty high batting average when it comes to predicting the twists in the first season that has gone beyond George R.R. Martin’s published novels. But even with the lack of true shocking moments, “The Winds of Winter” still had a few genuine surprises amidst an extremely well crafted episode.

Nearly everyone saw the wildfire twist coming, but director Miguel Sapochnik filmed the early King’s Landing scenes like they were from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The tone of dread that created was palpable as Cersei made her play for revenge and ultimate power by having the Great Sept destroyed with almost all of her enemies inside. Even though it worked, it was a horrible plan and Cersei has once again chosen a temporary solution that will only come back to haunt her.

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Keep in mind, the rise of the Faith Militant was completely Cersei’s fault and she used them against Margaery and the rest of the Tyrells before she was also imprisoned by those fanatics. As satisfying as Cersei’s latest move was, it only invited open rebellion from the remaining Tyrell army and likely from other kingdoms as well…especially if there’s an alternate ruler finally coming to Westeros with a stronger claim for the crown. Even before she became Queen once again, Cersei was hated by the people of King’s Landing. That’s not likely to change now that she finally has real power, and the vindictiveness to use it.

Tomen’s suicide was well handled, but Margaery is the character I’ll really miss. Margaery had to drop the facade of her conversion act when she realized what was about to happen. But the High Sparrow was too arrogant to take her warning seriously. Jonathan Pryce was excellent as the unconventional adversary right up until the High Sparrow was incinerated. He may have really believed what he was selling the people, but he was still just a man…and as vulnerable to wildfire as any other man.

Related: ‘Game of Thrones’ Nears Season 8 Pickup from HBO

As a counterpoint to Cersei’s rise, Jon Snow was named the new King in the North moments after the show revealed his true parents: Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Funny how Daenerys is suddenly single and the Targaryens are well known for marrying within the family. Of course, that’s not a coincidence at all. And Jon Snow represents the union of ice and fire. It was truly a nice moment to see the young Lyanna Mormont (the internet’s new favorite character) declare Jon the new king despite his status as a bastard. That was unexpectedly moving, although Littlefinger already seems to be quite unhappy about that turn of events.

In fact, Littlefinger out did himself this week when he made his intentions clear to Sansa: he wants to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa as his queen. Yeah, totally not creepy at all, dude who lusted after her mother for decades. Littlefinger actually lost a bit of power with the audience by being so direct. As the man pulling the puppet strings, Littlefinger is terrifying. As the man desperate to recreate a love that was one-sided at best, Littlefinger was just pathetic…but still dangerous.

Speaking of dangerous, Arya Stark, ladies and gentlemen! Three seasons after the Red Wedding, the Starks have their revenge and Arya personally crossed off Lord Walder Frey. She even did it by recreating the death of her mother by slitting Frey’s throat, and by cooking his two eldest sons into a meat pie. That’s hardcore, and I love it. Now that Arya is back in the seven kingdoms, she’s overdue for some scenes with Sansa and Jon, since they haven’t appeared onscreen together since the first season!

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The only false note in the episode was Daenerys ordering Daario to stay in Meereen while she invades Westeros. That was some BS, and the show is much more entertaining when he’s still around. I didn’t buy into Daenerys’ reasoning that Daario would be a distraction from a potential political wedding/alliance since he really loved her. That felt very forced, and it was followed by one of the best moments of the night when Daenerys named Tyrion her Hand of the Queen. Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke played that beautifully. And as predicted, the final shot of the season was Daenerys taking her new fleet across the Narrow Sea. It only took sixty episodes to get to that point, but the show is finally pulling that trigger. Frankly, it’s been overdue for a while now.

If there’s anything negative about this episode and the season on the whole, it’s that Sam’s plotline was completely useless this year. He and Gilly essentially showed up on a ship, had dinner with his family and stole the family’s sword, and finally arrived at the Citadel to visit the library. That’s it. At least when Bran went off to train with the Three-Eyed Raven, the show kept him off screen for the boring parts!

But it’s hard to get too upset when the series did almost everything else right. The payoffs in this episode were impressive and the satisfaction they delivered was immense. Game of Thrones has earned its place among the pantheon of great television series. And this episode served as a stark reminder that it really is the best show on TV. Nothing else even comes close.