Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter – Review

by SC

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“Jon, a raven came from the citideal; a white raven… Winter is here.”
“Well, father always promised didn’t he?”

[MAJOR SPOILERS]

Whilst there are certainly lulls in season six of HBO’s record breaking, culture changing franchise; Game of Thrones, the final two episodes; Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Water were absolutely magnificent.

As film director Rolf de Heer famously said “Sound is sixty percent of the emotional content of the film” and the music in season six was breath taking. So whilst, the season finale was a celebration to how amazing the actors and actress are in this franchise, not enough credit gets given to Ramin Djawadi; the lead composer for Game of Thrones. Without Djawadi’s magical touch, this franchise would only reach a fraction of its true potential and the awe-inspiring scores helps elevate this piece of art so much more. Kudos to a true musical genius.

JON TARGARYEN

“Listen to me Ned, his name is… If Robert finds out he will kill him, you know he will, you have to protect him… Promise me Ned… Promise me.”

Rejoice Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark theorist, today is our day! Today our goblets shall be filled with wine, we shall sing merry songs and we shall dance in the hall of the kings!

This was perhaps my favourite scene from such a splendid, action packed, violence packed episode. For the last two seasons, Jon Snow Targaryen has been my favourite character, he is one of the only currently living characters (along with Ser Davos and possibly Daenerys) which acts as the moral compass of the franchise. Whilst Daenerys has her compassion for the slaves and her desire to liberate the Free Cities, Jon is really the only character that constantly demonstrated his beliefs through his PHYSICAL actions, to the point he was ready and willing to die for his beliefs, I always respected him for that.

So, my heart was pounding during Lyanna and Ned Stark’s final conversation. This series had been teasing out this reveal since episode one and to the disappointment of the fans, the directors seemed to have completely forgotten about this plot during the middle of the season. However, the exchange was every bit as sad, emotion and epic as I could have hoped for. The transition from the little baby opening its eyes to Jon Targaryen sitting at the head of the Stark house, as the music crescendoed, sent shivers down my spine.

I’ve also grown particularly attached with Lady Mormont of House Bear, her confidence, wit and Ayra-like charm won me over the moment she appeared on television. But the scene after Jon’s heritage was revealed, completely cemented my love for her.* In a moment which mirrored the original ‘King in the North’ christening of Robert Stark, the great Lords of the North pledge their allegiance to Jon Targaryen. However, despite the similarities, there was clearly a tonal shift from the conclusion of season one; those were simpler, more innocent times. This christening didn’t have the glamour or the glory which accompanied Robert’s affirmation, instead it foreshadowed even greater conflict and death as the North prepares for the war against the dead.

Jon Targaryen, first of his name, the King in the North, the Lord Commander, the blood of old Valyria, the Dragon and the White Wolf.

*I was nearly in tears at that point, for a character who had suffered the shame of being a bastard, the shame of being abused by Ser Alliser Thorne and even being betrayed by the Night’s Watch. It felt amazing that finally, finally, his fate was turning.

Ayra Stark is also finally in the game again, the Starks have really bolstered their position compared to the beginning of this season. As much as I enjoy Ayra’s tomboyish traits and her confrontational charms, it is slightly concerning to see a teenager display such a ruthless desire for revenge. Whilst the audience has always supported Ayra avenging her family and having a goal to work towards, it is slightly unnerving to see the awe and joy in her eyes after slitting Walder Frey’s throat.

QUEEN CERSEI LANNISTER

“This is Ser Gregor Clegane… He is quiet too… Your gods have forsaken you… This is your god now… Shame… Shame… Shame.”

A Lannister always pays their debt. After close to two whole seasons of being lurking in the shadows, Cersei is ready to become a major player in King’s Landing again. In one suspenseful scene, Cersei managed to destroy most of her opponents in one single blow with wild fire under the Great Sept of Baelor.

Cersei is back, with a vengeance, except this time she is without any of her children, her only link to sanity, the only things which were able to humanise such a vicious woman. Cersei was always power hungry, yet she always seemed to symbolically cover that up with beautiful floral dresses and sparkling jewelry, as if to distract from her less than stellar personality. But it seems Cersei has no time for such trivial fancies. As she ascends the Iron Throne dressed in a dressed in a beautiful black dress, perhaps to foreshadow her fall into madness, Cersei begins to resemble Aerys II Targaryen; the Mad King even more. Shockingly, it was not the Dragon which burnt King’s Landing with wild fire, but instead the Lion. Isn’t it even more symbolic that her most trusted adviser Qyburn was an former maester who was shunned by the order for practicing forbidden arts?

In many ways, the scene of Cersei preparing herself for the explosion at the Great Sept reminded me of the infamous baptism scene in The Godfather. Where Michael Corleone stands completely stoic at the altar after ordering the assassination of the rival families, his unflinching stare making the audience question whether or not he had become an emotionless monster. This time it was Cersei who failed her child, her kinder traits seemed to have been blackened after Tommen declared that trial by combat will be outlawed specifically to handicap his mother’s only trump card; Clegane. Cersei wasn’t at Tommen’s room trying to comfort the naive boy after he had lost his wife and his faith. In fact compared to her reactions when Joffrey and Myrcella, she seemed cold and aloof. No one crosses Cersei and lives to tell the tale, not even her own children.

The question remains, how does Mad Queen Cersei aim to keep not only her Iron Throne, but also the love of Jaime Lannister? The cold glare between the two signaled a clear shift in their relationship; she had become the very monster he killed to protect the city. How does a woman who has isolated all her allies and supporters maintain the crown against Daenerys Stormborn, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons?

Will Jaime Lannister be adding the Queen Slayer to his long list of titles?

DAENERYS TARGARYEN

“What is my heart’s desire?”
“Vengence… Justice.”
“Fire and blood.”

I am so glad that Daenerys finally got out of Meereen, she was a big fish in a small pond. It is time for Daenerys to leave her isolated world and join the rest of the cast in the battle for Westeros. It is time to announce to the world that the Dragon is back.

I thought that Meereen was rather dull this season and it was only Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Jacob Anderson (Greg Worm) and Nathalie Emmanuel’s (Missandei) performances which were keeping this narrative afloat. After all the entire point of the unrest and the emergence of the Son of the Harpies was to teach Daenerys how hard it is to rule and that the crowd is fickle, particularly if you do not know the city’s culture. I thought season five really effectively showed us the pains of leadership with Daenerys facing the first real test of her queenship; public backlash. However in season six, Daenerys was completely missing from Meereen, her absence meant that the rise in tension lead to more character development for Tyrion than the Mother of Dragons, thus I just wasn’t very emotionally invested Meeren during this season. The Free Cities always felt like a stepping stone to Daenerys’ true purpose and I’m glad she has is on her way to her true goal.

Whilst the main theme of Daenerys’ character growth has been her becoming more stern and less forgiving, changing from a beautiful, soft young lady to the authoritative and inspiring queen. It was very touching to see Daenerys display a more compassionate side of her personality with Tyrion. His emotional reaction, shows just how much his past has shaped him and despite having killed his father and been exiled from Westeros, Tyrion belongs in the western continent. He will never be able to undo his love for Shae, he will never be able to forget his brother or wash away the emotional scars caused by his father.

The ending sequence was also breath taking, the transition from Theon Greyjoy standing alone to Grey Worm standing proudly to the rest of the immense fleet was breath taking. The sheer scope of this production combined with Djawadi’s perfect composition ended the season in a manner befitting on of the greatest television series ever to grace the screens.

Valar Morghulis. Westeros, doesn’t know what is about to hit it.

CONCLUSION

In general, I find that the later seasons of Game of Thrones haven’t been as ‘lean’ or ‘sharp’ as the first three to four seasons. Part of this is because they lost George R.R. Martin as a key editor on the show and also because David Benioff and Daniel Weiss have started to drift into territory which isn’t covered by the novels. In particular I felt this season dragged on from episode six to eight (straight after Hordor’s death to before the Battle of the Bastards). There were a few questionable decisions, such as why bring Sandor Clegane back if he is not going to spar with his brother during the Trial by Combat? Why reestablish the Brother Without Banners so many seasons after they were first introduced?

So this wasn’t a ‘perfect’ season, but the final two episodes in particular was one of the best pairs of episodes I have ever seen. It reminds me of Avatar Wan’s double episode in The Legend of Korra for raising the bar in animation and television respectively. Most of all, I am hyped for season seven already and it pains me to announce that we as the fans, have to wait another ten months before we can get our weekly fix of this show.

THE KING IN THE NORTH.

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