As the suns sets on yet another season of Game of Thrones, I can’t help but think that the end is really near—characters that we’ve seen for years clawing their way to reach closer to their goals are either within a hare’s breath of said goal or they have achieved it. Winter is here.
This year saw the rise of women to power all across Westeros. Episode one of this season saw Ellaria Sand and her Sand Snakes usurp Dorne by murdering Prince Doran and his son Trystane, proclaiming that Dorne would never be ruled by weak men again. We saw Sansa get revenge on her abuser Ramsey Bolton by literally feeding him to the dogs. We saw Danaerys defend Meereen from the Slavers and finally assemble her forces to head towards Westeros. Yet the greatest grab of power came from the most unexpected place—Cersei becoming the Queen of Westeros.
The opening shot of “The Winds of Winter” really set the pace of the episode: the quiet before the storm and the assumption that all players involved will act accordingly. Tommen, the inexperienced boy king, dressed in the visages that demonstrate power yet he has none, the High Sparrow putting his best burlap sack on and readying himself for Loras’ and Cersei’s trials; he thinks he has power, but he has none, and finally Margaery, dressing in a pared down version of her once lavish gowns, she, unlike the men, is readying herself for anything, she knows the players in this game. We also see Cersei being dressed in a chainmail-like ensemble, emblazoned with silver lion heads at her shoulders. She is a Lannister heading into war, one that for now, she knows she’s going to win and she does so by igniting the payload of wildfire King Aerys stockpiled under the Sept of Baelor.
In the Sept, Cersei’s absence is only truly recognized by Margaery, who has always been tuned into the game, remarking that Cersei understands the consequence of her absence, which only means that she does not intend to suffer the consequences. The High Sparrow takes little notice of this, but Margaery’s spidey senses are twitching—something is rotten in the state of Westeros. She tries to get everyone to leave the Sept, but is met with the resistance of the High Sparrow, blinded by his determination to punish Cersei and Loras for their crimes against the Faith of the Seven. It is because of this blind faith that they all meet their fiery end.
Cersei’s master plan eliminates all of her enemies in one fell swoop: Margaery, Loras, Mace, Kevan Lannister, the High Sparrow and all of the Faith Militant, Maester Pycelle, and Lancel Lannister and she does this while Jaime is away dealing with Riverrun. Her grab for power, however, results in the death of her last living child, Tommen. Faithful Game of Thrones viewers will remember that near the end of the Battle of Blackwater, Cersei sits on the Iron Throne with a much younger Tommen as she prepares to take their lives instead of surrendering to Stannis and his army. She was prepared then to take his life by her hand, and in classic Game of Thrones fashion, his life is taken by her hand, indirectly.
For Season 7, I do see Cersei becoming the “Mad Queen” and will have to eventually be killed by Jaime, paving the way for Danaerys to take the Iron Throne. In episode 1 of Season 5, we saw a young Cersei and her friend visit Maggy the Frog, a seer in the woods near Lannisport, and here is what she prophecized to Cersei:
“Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.
Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds, she said. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar (high Valeryian for younger brother- maybe Tyrion, most likely Jaime) shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you”.
So far, the prophecy has mostly come true. All of Cersei’s golden-haired children are dead, and she believed, up until now, that Margaery had been the “younger and more beautiful” queen that was foretold to take her place, but what if Cersei misinterpreted the prophecy and it is Danaerys instead who will “cast her down” and take all that is dear to her? Dany has not been anywhere on Cersei’s radar and Cersei’s only mention of her is at the small council meeting in Season 4, Episode 6 when she dismisses her as “a child halfway across the world with baby dragons” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4xtl5psU-k). That child is now a Queen with an army, a fleet and three giant dragons, and she’s heading for Westeros.
The season really wrapped itself around some major themes: women taking control, free from the yokes of men; the consequences of blind faith (High Sparrow and Westeros, Davos and Melisandre), and finally belief versus desire (Cersei/ Baelish wanting the Iron Throne versus Danaerys believing that the Iron Throne is hers by right); this is a reference to Varys’ conversation with Oberyn in the Throne room about desire and what desire has done to Westeros (Watch the battle of wits here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cudxwhDO0gQ)
I just must mention that the first time since the cautionary tale of “Rains of Castamere”, has score played such an important role in the episode. The quiet, which culminates into a haunting piano-driven score, only serves to emphasize to the viewer the mounting tension, not only in the Sept with Cersei’s absence, but underground with Lancel’s discovery of the wildfire. This score comes to hilt with the murder of Pycelle by Qyburn’s “little birds”. Nothing makes your skin crawl more than dirty little children stabbing an old man to death, even if it was Pycelle.
So what’s next for our favorite characters?
Cersei: “Mad Queen” no doubt. She has no children to shield, and unfetted power at her feet. She’s got the brute force of Ser Gregor and the occult-like powers of Qyburn and she did the one thing that her brother scarred his reputation to prevent. I predict that she’s not making it out of Season 7 alive.
Jon Snow: bastard of Winterfell no longer! R+L=J! I hope that Jon and Sansa find a way to trust each other especially with Baelish lurking in the corner of the dining hall. I don’t think that the look that Sansa gives Baelish at the end is a plotting one, I think that when Jon is declared King of the North, she realizes the danger he poses to Baelish’s picture of sitting on the Iron Throne. What she does about this, I don’t know but I hope she confides in him and does not try to take Baelish on alone. No one manipulates better than Littlefinger.
Jaime: Poor Jaime! He’s just come back from dealing with the Freys and reclaiming Riverrun to find that Cersei has just blown up the Sept with wildfire and she’s crowned herself Queen of Westeros. For as much as he loves her, he knows that this is the single worst thing that could happen and perhaps it is only in his power to stop her.
Dany and her squad: What a squad! She has Tyrion as her Hand (what a sweet scene between those two), Varys, Missandei, Jorah (if and when he returns), Greyworm and the Unsullied, the entire Dothraki horde, a good chunk of the Iron Fleet with Yara and Theon Greyjoy, the Martell fleet, the Tyrell fleet and probably the Knights from Highgarden, and three goddamn dragons! Cersei has the hate of everyone in Westeros, the Gold Cloaks, a failed Maester, a Zombie knight and maybe Jaime. My bet is on Danaerys.
What a supremely satisfying season finale. We’re in the great game now, and the great game makes for some excellent television.
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