This show, for all the CGI wizardry, has been successful due to incredible writing and acting. This show, like the Harry Potter series, cast child actors in critical roles, and had to bet that the acting chops would continue to develop, and that nobody would do stupid Lindsey Lohan type things.
And GoT cast child actors older than in the books. Child actors aren't known, other than in exceptional cases, for turning in showcase performances. The older the better, as far as knowing your craft. There have been lots of kids or young adults cast in this show who made it to season Six: Arya, Sansa, Rickon, Bran of House Stark. Robert of House Arryn. Tommen of House Baratheon.
Six years makes a lot of changes to faces and bodies. Sophie Turner was 13 or 14 when she was cast, and now she's 20. 14 to 20 is a hell of a lot different than 23 to 29 (Emilia Clarke - Daenerys), or 28 to 34 (Natalie Dormer - Margaery). Art Parkinson (Rickon) will turn 15 this year, so he was likely 8 or 9 when cast (assuming it's the same Rickon - too lazy to look it up right now).
Why do I bring this up? Because time is sort of malleable in this show. Scenes appear very close together and you have to infer that significant time has passed between the two. I would assume at least 6 months passed between episode 8 and 10. More likely a year. And/or perhaps things are happening in episode 10 at the same time as happenings in episode 8 and 9. The storytelling has been like an accordion (sometimes events smooshed together, sometimes events drawn far apart), but the show hasn't been very clear about how much time it takes to do these things. Hence, jokes about Littlefinger's teleportation device.
Uh, how about Varys? Dude was in Dorne and in Meereen in the same episode!
But, while you can't mark time's passage in the show based on Cersei, the aging of the younger castmates do give you a sense of it.
By the way, a nod to the intro, with the reintroduction of the The Twins and of Dorne. But no Oldtown...yet
Cersei, ensconced in the Red Keep, looks out over the city. She takes in the tolling bells from the Great Sept of Baelor, signaling the imminent trials of herself and Ser Loras Tyrell.
Spectators file into the keep to witness these trials. First up is Loras. He is accused of a great many things, all to which he confesses without need for a trial. He seeks forgiveness from the Mother, and he is granted it. He forswears his name, his knighthood, his sexuality The seven pointed star is carved on his forehead, and he enlists in the Faith Militant, sworn to seek out enemies of the Faith.
Tommen prepares to leave to attend the trial, and Gregor Clegane prevents him from doing so. Gregor doesn't do anything unless Qyburn or Cersei ask it...
Lancel is sent to collect Cersei for her trial, but he doesn't make it to the Red Keep. He sends the other Faith Militant to gather the troops, but he decides to chase a vagrant child who was hanging out on the steps of the Sept. Why? Does he recognize an informant?
Similarly, Pycelle has been lured by a young child who whispers in his ear that Tommen wishes to meet with him. But it's not Tommen that awaits him - it's Qyburn. And the Children of the Corn. Qyburn's little birds (formerly Varys') repeatedly stab Pycelle. Perhaps it's fitting that a man who figuratively stabbed so many others in the back dies of being literally stabbed in the front.
Lancel's chase ends in a labyrinth. Picking up the torch dropped by the retreating child, he looks around at where he is. The child darts out as Lancel's back is turned, and he stabs Lancel with a knife in the kidney. Looking around, Lancel notices barrel after barrel stored in this underground repository, most of them awash with the greenish glow of wildfire.
In the sept, Margaery has put some things together. Cersei is not at her trial, and neither is Tommen. Cersei is not so stupid she wouldn't understand that skipping the trial is proclaiming her guilt...so if she's not attending, there is a good reason. Margaery grabs Loras and tries to leave the building, but the Faith Militant isn't allowing her departure.
Lancel sees the glow of a flame at the end of the tunnel. He crawls there just in time to have the initial ignition of green flame reflected in his eyes. The Sept goes up in a massive explosion. Everyone inside has to be presumed dead.
Loras was burned badly, but still alive, in the books. He received those burns taking Dragonstone from Stannis' men. Could the show marry that story back to the books, and have him be a future player?
End Possible Spoiler
Cersei enjoys a smirk and a glass of wine, witnessing the destruction. She turns her back on it, to go enjoy some time with Septa Unella, whom she has taken prisoner and shackled. She wakes Unella by pouring wine over her face, and telling her to confess (as Unella told Cersei over and over while preventing her from sleeping in the cells of Baelor's Sept). Cersei wants Unella to confess to enjoying beating and torturing her. Cersei then confesses that she does what she enjoys, too. She enjoys drinking. She enjoyed having Robert Baratheon killed. She enjoys sleeping with her brother Jaime. She enjoyed killing the High Sparrow and all his followers. She enjoys confessing this to Unella.
She reminds Unella that, while a prisoner, she told Unella that her face...Cersei's face...would be the last thing Unella ever saw. Unella, devastated by the loss of the High Sparrow, is ready to die. Not so fast, my friend (Cersei...Corsei...Corso?). Cersei's face may be the last thing Unella ever sees, but that's a long time from now. First she gets to entertain Gregor, who finally doffs his helm as he moves forward to enjoy Unella's company. "Shame" Cersei repeats as she leaves. For as despicable as it is, it is one of the great taking of vengeance scenes.
Tommen, saved by Cersei from being at the Sept when it erupted, is nonetheless ravaged by what he witnessed. In the aftermath of his wife's death, of his spiritual mentor's death, of the death of his father-in-law, his brother-in-law, his great uncle, and so many innocents, he too doffs his headgear (his crown). He sets it aside, then steps into the keep window and jumps to his death. Hey Cersei, your little brother told you your joy would turn to ashes in your mouth. How that ash taste?
Cersei has Qyburn burn Tommen's body and bury the ashes where the sept once stood.
As Jaime arrives back in King's Landing, he is just in time to witness Cersei being crowned as Queen. Not queen to a king, or queen regent to a son, but Queen in her own right. Jaime seems concerned.
Walder Frey is in fine fettle. He raises a toast to the Lannister/Frey alliance at a feast commemorating the same. He wishes for them to be friends and allies. He even has a motto - "The Freys and Lannisters send their regards!" - to attempt to cement the alliance. Jaime Lannister has done distasteful things in his life to get what he wants. But at least he recognizes them as distasteful. Walder Frey wants a bad taste logo - a Pied Piper jacket of sorts - to proudly display his treachery. Jaime's enthusiasm is lacking.
At the feast, Bronn notes that all the ladies, particularly the beautiful serving girl, have their eyes on Jaime. He's disgusted that all Jaime has to do is sit there - "a rich slab of beef, and all the birds come pecking". Jaime uses his powers to introduce Bronn to two ladies, and off Bronn goes.
Walder then joins Jaime, and attempts to point out how similar they are. They both killed kings (Aerys and Robb). They both have people grovel to their faces, but mock them behind their backs. They both have done what it takes to win. They are both feared.
You know, Jaime really enjoys being reminded of his #1 claim to fame, and he loves being told that people laugh at him behind his back. So he points out to Walder that nobody fears the Freys. They fear the Lannisters. And if the Lannisters have to keep coming to the Riverlands to keep others from taking the Frey's lands, then why do the Lannisters need the Freys? Jaime takes his leave of the feast.
Later, Walder sits alone at his lunch. The same attractive serving girl from the feast is serving him. He doesn't recognize her, but he's appreciative of her looks. He tells her that he is supposed to meet his sons (Black Walder and Lothar). She tells him that his sons are here. At Walder's look of confusion, she points to the pie she served him, and says "here". Walder peels back the crust on the pie, and sees a thumb...possibly a big toe.
Walder, sickened, looks up at her in bewilderment. She peels back her face to reveal...Arya Stark.
"My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last thing you're ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die."
Oldtown is the home of the Citadel, where Maesters are trained. This is where Aemon prepared to serve the Night's Watch. This is where Pycelle, and Luwin, and countless others trained. This is where Qyburn trained, before being kicked out for unethical behavior.
This is where Sam arrives, Gilly and the baby in tow. Sam presents his bona fides to the clerk. The clerk doesn't recognize Jon as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch (his records show Jeor Mormont as the Lord Commander, and Aemon as the maester). The clerk gives Sam the run of the library while he runs this "irregular" information past the Archmaester. Gilly and the baby are not allowed in.
Sam might have discovered something wondrous and new when he slept with Gilly, but I'm not sure it compares to what he feels when seeing this massive, awe-inspiring repository of knowledge. He is in heaven.
Jon is in the feast hall at Winterfell, speaking to Melisandre about his experiences growing up as a bastard. She tells him how lucky he had it. He had a family, and feasts. Jon concedes the point.
Davos strides in. He tosses the carving of the stag he found at the site of Shireen's burning to Melisandre. Davos demands that she tell Jon what she did. This version of Melisandre is not the version that wanted to burn Gendry...the one who birthed a shadow baby to kill Renly. This is the uncertain version. She still has faith in the Lord of Light, but not so much faith in her own ability to know right and wrong. She's clearly ashamed of her action in burning Shireen. The old Mel would have brushed off Davos' questioning, but this Mel...this Mel accepts blame...accepts doubt, where before she had none.
But she's not ready to give up. She'd like to die, it seems, but the Lord of Light is not yet done with her. She has a role to play in the war with the Night King.
Davos wants her executed. Jon banishes her instead.
Watching her ride away from Winterfell, Jon is joined atop the wall by Sansa. He tells Sansa that he's having Ned/Catelyn's room prepared for Sansa. Sansa believes Jon should take the room, but he tells her that she is the lady of Winterfell, and he is not a Stark. Sansa considers him a Stark.
Jon asks her if she trusts Baelish. "Only a fool would trust Littlefinger", she responds. Sansa confesses that she should have told Jon about Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale. She apologizes. Jon is a forgiving soul, and he forgives Sansa. He pleads with her that they should trust each other.
Later, Sansa is at the godwood. Baelish finds her there. He hesitates at interrupting her if she's at prayer. She replies that she's done with prayer, that she spent too much time praying for what she wanted, and ignoring what she had. She asks Petyr what he wants, and he finally says what we've known all along. He wants to sit the Iron Throne. And he'd like her there at his side. He goes in for the kiss, but Sansa ain't having it.
You're the future of House Stark, he tells her. Will the North rally behind a bastard, or behind the trueborn daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark? He's holding out a picture of power...her power...and letting her know that he's behind her.
She seems to utterly reject that picture. At a later gathering of Northern lords and ladies, Sansa sits by while first Lady Mormont (badass), then Lords Manderly, Glover and Cerwyn declare Jon Snow as King in the North. Sansa smiles fondly while this is happening, while Jon is a bit surprised. Did Sansa architect this? She smiles fondly, but she catches the eye of Lord Baelish, and her smile disappears very quickly at what she sees there. Trouble brewing, presumably.
Olenna meets with Ellaria Sand, the new de facto ruler of Dorne. After Olenna'ing the Sand Snakes ("do shut up"), Olenna speaks with Ellaria about a possible alliance. She lists all the wrongs done to her by Cersei (dead son, dead grandson, dead granddaughter). Survival is not a compelling reason for alliance. Ellaria believes she knows what Olenna wants.
And to cement the recruitment, Ellaria has a guest speaker - Varys - complete the pitch.
"Fire and blood", says Varys.
North of the Wall/Tower of Joy
Benjen Stark says goodbye to Bran and Meera at the Wall. He cannot pass beneath it, as the Wall is magic in addition to ice and stone. The dead cannot pass while it stands, and since Benjen is dead, he cannot pass. He will continue to fight against the White Walkers for as long as he can.
Bran sees a weirwood nearby. He goes to it to see the visions of the Three-Eyed Raven. The visions take him back to the Tower of Joy, when a young Ned Stark (having just gotten past the Sword of the Morning) hears a woman scream. Running up the steps, he finds his sister Lyanna lying in her deathbed. Lyanna has just given birth, and it didn't go well.
She knows she's going to die. She whispers in Ned's ear. The first part is indistinct, but she says "If Robert finds out, he'll kill him. You know he will." Ned turns to look at the crying little boy.
"Promise me, Ned", Lyanna implores.
Ned looks into the eyes of the little boy, and those boy's eyes transition to the eyes of Jon Snow.
So they've not yet actually said the name of the father, but we now know for certain that Lyanna Stark is Jon's mother. Hopefully nobody will say anything stupid about Ned still possibly being the father, so here's what we have.
A man, Ned Stark, to whom honor was more important than most everything else in his life, lied to his wife. Lied to his king and best friend. Lied by implication to everyone in the world, and allowed himself to be thought of as a hypocrite - all for his sister's child's safety.
Ned may have been a poor player of the Game of Thrones, but he compromised what was most dear to him because it wasn't, ultimately, what was most dear to him. He loved his sister, so he promised her. He held to that promise to protect his nephew.
At the end of his life, he lied again, in order to try and protect his daughters. In between, he refused to lie for personal gain or for any other reason.
If you were Jon Snow, how would you react when given this information?
Daenerys says goodbye to Daario Naharis. She commands that he stay in Meereen to help keep the peace while the Bay of Dragons (can't call it Slaver's Bay anymore, amirite?). Daario pleads his case, but not in an unmanly way. Daenerys isn't having it. Daario is savvy enough to know that Tyrion is behind this decision, but he can't argue the logic of the decision.
Tyrion and Daeny talk about how everything to this point has been building to this - Daeny has ships, cavalry, dragons. They are finally making their way to Westeros to take back the Seven Kingdoms. Daeny confesses to being a bit scared by the enormity of what they're doing.
Tyrion confesses in return - for all that he's made a living of not believing in anything, he believes in her. He will offer his service to her, now and always. Daenerys pins a brooch on him, and names him Hand of the Queen. He bows in homage.
A fantastic scene. I wonder if Dinklage (who has done great stuff) has ever felt that he's done such good work as he's done in this series. It would be interesting to speak with him about his expectations going in and how they have differed from his actual experience.
Later, Varys has returned, and they (Daeny, the dragons, Tyrion, Yara, Theon, Varys, the Dothraki... a massive force) set sail for Westeros.
Fire and blood.
- Grand Maester Pycelle
- Lancel Lannister
- The High Sparrow
- Mace Tyrell
- Loras Tyrell
- Margaery Tyrell
- Kevan Lannister
- Tommen Baratheon
- Walder Frey
- Anyone else?
Questions for Next Season:
- What will Littlefinger do to spike Jon's momentum?
- How badly will Cersei rule?
- What, if anything, can stand before Daeny, with Dothraki, dragons, Ironborn, Dorne and Highgarden? Only the White Walkers?
- What role will Bran play in the war with the Night King?
- When will the war with the Night King really get going?
- Is the Faith done now that the High Sparrow is dead?
- How important will Sam's studies be in the grand scheme of things? Seems like Oldtown will be pretty quickly part of the Targaryen/Martell/Tyrell alliance.
- Does Arya stay a free agent, or does she reunite with Jon? Or with the Hound?
- Melisandre - does she redeem herself in the war to come?
- Whom, if anyone, does Daenerys marry?
- Is the Blackfish really dead? Walder's mocking of him introduced a bit of doubt, IMO.
- Will Jon find out about his parentage?