Another year, another Game of Thrones season concludes. But unlike at Season 5, which was met with considerably mixed reviews (now that the show has more or less surpassed the books), Season 6 has been one of its best seasons yet.
The pacing, the character growth, the scheming, the WTF moments, plus the catharsis of wronged people getting their revenge and evil bastards (literally in some case) getting their comeuppances. Season 6 was epic, intense, massive, heartbreaking and thrilling!
One of the big themes I noticed in Season 6 wasn’t just how the chess board reshuffled and realigned once more, but how many characters who began the season powerless, imprisoned or dead in Jon Snow’s case, now are power players in Westeros. So I’ll review the season via three main characters’ journeys.
So this is how Jon started off Season 6.
Jon Snow, bastard son of Ned Stark, was dead. Betrayed by his own, short-sighted men in the Night’s Watch, the young Lord Commander had played the game of thrones and lost, just like his brother and ‘father’ before him. Can’t get any lower than that!
But thanks to Davos Seaworth, a few loyal Night’s Watchmen,an army of Wildlings, and Melissandre, Jon is brought back to life. And while he captures and hangs the traitorous bunch who had murdered him (Bye Olly! Won’t ever miss you!), Jon is a man adrift. Death freed him from his obligation to the Night’s Watch, but where does he go from here? And how can he stop the greater threat of the White Walkers?
Enter Sansa Stark. Freshly escaped from Ramsay Bolton’s clutches, Jon has an emotional reunion with the eldest of his younger sisters. The dynamic between Jon and Sansa has never been truly explored before as they only shared one scene together in Season 1 before Season 6. But in short, Sansa and Jon are in essence starting from scratch in their brother-sister relationship. She used to look down on him for his bastard status, following in her mother’s footsteps. Now, they’re the only family each other has left. But so much has happened to both Stark siblings, they now see the other through different eyes.
Their sibling bliss doesn’t last long, as Ramsay sends a letter demanding that Jon returns Sansa and announcing that he has their brother Rickon. At this point, Jon is tired of fighting. The betrayal and resurrection truly effected him deeply and it takes a good portion of Season 6 to get out of this funk. But Rickon is the last trueborn male heir of the Star line. Rescuing him from Ramsay’s clutches isn’t even a question.
So Jon with Sansa send ravens to every house in the North, visiting several personally. All the major Northern houses replied with silence or refusal. Many are afraid of the Boltons, while others were still smarting over Robb’s foolhardy choices during the War of Five Kings.
The only army Jon and Sansa can muster up are House Mormont (led by the bad-ass ten-year-old Lyanna Mormont) with their 62 men, 2,000 wildlings (led by Tormund Giantsbane and Yun Yun the giant). While the Bolton forces, combined with House Umber and Karstark, number over 6000.
This battle is not just essential, but inevitable. Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both were bastards born into powerful Northern houses. Both were raised by their fathers. Both have risen far despite their bastard statuses. Other than that, the two of them couldn’t be any different. No need to rehash Ramsay’s 100-mile-long list of atrocities. All the more reason why Jon had to face his evil Northern twin as he continued his journey.
But Jon does screw up badly in this battle and before it. Sansa warns Jon the night before battle not to underestimate Ramsay’s cruelty and penchant for games. Then, right as the battle begins, Ramsay springs his trap by trotting Rickon out. And Jon falls for the trap hook, line and sinker. I’m all but yelling at the screen for Jon to not go after Rickon. This MONSTROUSLY selfish and stupid move nearly gets Jon and his entire army killed as they abandoned their battle plan to save his stupid ass. It was a frustrating event, especially because Jon is supposed to be a better commander than that, able to see the bigger picture. And at this level and stage with everything they’ve lost, Jon making decisions of that magnitude would be fatal to House Stark. Thankfully, Sansa had an ace in the hole with the Nights of the Vale coming to the rescue. Then, Ramsay is defeated, but not before Jon Snow beats him to a bloody pulp. The beating was a release of all Jon’s anger, sorrow, grief, loss, everything leading him to retaking Winterfell and he unloads it onto Ramsay’s face. He’s this short of killing him before he realizes that Ramsay’s death is for Sansa alone.
Now that Winterfell and the North are back under House Stark, Jon is content with just marshaling the Northern Houses to face the real enemy, the White Walkers. He has no interest in power or leading. In Jon’s mind, Sansa is Lady of Winterfell and rulers the North. The two siblings realize how much they need each other now and maybe this will be a positive step toward a better, deeper relationship. However, thanks to some harsh truths from that ten-year-old bad-ass Lady Mormont, Jon now finds himself in a most unexpected position. The Northern houses unanimously crown him Jon Snow, the White Wolf and King of the North.
And to add to the Jon Snow love, Bran uses his greenseer powers to confirm the most popular theory in GoT history. We now find out that Jon Snow is definitely not Ned’s son, but his nephew. Lyanna Stark, Ned’s long-dead sister is Jon’s mother. She begged Ned to protect Jon’s identity and raise him as his own son. And while we aren’t abel to hear who the father is, its kind of a given. at this point.
This is how Dany started off Season 6.
Daenerys’s rule over Mereen had gone disastrously. The Sons of the Harpy were sweeping through the city, this close to killing the Mother of Dragons and her companions. While Dany escaped on Drogon’s back, the dragon was seriously wounded in the attempt. So Dany lands in the Dothraki Sea and soon then finds herself surrounded by a Dothraki horde.
Dany is taken miles away from her queenly power and dragons to Vaes Dothrak, just another slave who will most likely be used and abused sexually by the savage Dothraki. She is able to spare herself that fate by telling the gathered khals who he is and who her husband was, which only sends her to the fate she avoided at the end of Season 1. That would be a seat within the dosh khaleen. All the former Khaleesis whose husbands die are supposed to join the dosh khaleen till the end of their days to rule over the Dothraki city. So Dany is now without any options as the Dothraki khals gather to decide if she should be put to death for shirking her duties or remain with the dosh khaleen.
Jorah and Daario arrive at Vaes Dothrak to sneak Dany out. But she has another plan. Dany realizes that she is in dangerous territory with her latest gambit. But when brought before all the khals, unarmed due to the laws of Vaes Dothrak, Dany decides to burn them all by knocking over every torch in the room. The Hall where all the khals meet goes up in flame and the khals with it. Thousands of Dothraki bystanders are horrified, as are Jorah and Daario. Except, apparently Daenerys is fireproof and walks out of the building in her birthday suit. Awed by this sight, all the gathered Dothraki kneel before her in reverence. Now, Dany gained her freedom by sheer force of will and has all the Dothraki in the world at her fingertips.
She then goes back to Mereen, handles the Masters and the Sons of the Harpy and sets the city back to order. I will admit, Dany’s journey back to power didn’t seem as much as a climb as other characters, but more of a temporary inconvenience. Even when she breaks up with Daario, she’s barely phased by it. Don’t get me wrong, her getting control over all three of her dragons was awesome and a half. Still, it just felt a tad too easy at times.
Now that the Masters have been put to route, giving Dany access to their ships, she finds more allies in the former of Theon and Yara,. The two heirs of Balon Greyjoy had fled the Iron Islands to escape their uncle and stole the entire Iron Fleet. That gives Dany all the ships she needs to take her massive army back to Westeros.
And due to the actions of House Lannister in the past (the Sack of Kings Landing) and in the present (the Destruction of the Great Sept), Dany gains new allies in the Dornish and the Reach. Finally, after so long, Dany is coming home to take her throne.
But who would possibly defy the Mother of Dragons?
Just like you don’t put Baby in a corner, you sure as shit do NOT back Cersei Lannister into one. In the beginning of Season 6, we found Cersei cowed and powerless after a humiliating Walk of Penance from the Great Sept all the way to the Red Keep. Her plan of using the High Sparrow to rid herself of the Tyrells, mainly Queen Margaery, backfired in epic proportions. Now the city is overrun by the Faith Militant and Tommen is too weak a ruler to do anything about it. Even worse, the season opens with her second eldest daughter returning to Kings Landing as a corpse (Myrcella was murdered in cold blood by Ellaria Sand).
Now Cersei found herself facing a trial by combat to prove her innocence of the faith’s charges against her, along with her power effectively diminished due to the Penance Walk and her removal from the Small Council. Her only true allies at this point are the disgraced former Maester Qyburn, her brother-love Jamie and her silent personal Kingsguard the reanimated Gregor Clegane. As the season progresses it became a game of chess between Cersei and the High Sparrow, and each time she kept losing. She proposes an alliance between the Lannister and Tyrell forces to wipe out their mutual adversaries. Except, the High Sparrow surprised them by converting Margaery and Tommen to their side. Then Tommen strips Jamie of his white cloak and orders him not to return to KL until Riverrun (taken by the Blackfish) is retaken for the Freys.
It got to the point that even Cersei’s ace in the hole, Gregor Clegane, became useless after Tommen (via the High Sparrow) outlawed the trial by combat. Cersei was without allies and options, save one that had been hinted at all season. So on the day of her trial, the High Sparrow, the whole Faith Militant, Magraery, Loras (also on trial) their father, Lancel, his father Kevan Lannister and several nobles all gathered in the GReat Sept of Baelor. Cersei never showed, and she prevented Tommen from appearing via Franken-Gregor. Who would question a Kingsgauard protecting his king? Then this happened.
So basically Cersei wiped out all of her enemies in one, masterful stroke. The first consequence was quick and swift. Tommen watched the Great Sept blow up, which held his wife (Margaery), his granduncle Kevan, and his pseudo-father figure in the High Sparrow. Even worse, he knew his mother was behind it. Devastated and unable to deal with any of it, Tommen peaces out on life and jumped out a window, giving new meaning to the name “Kings Landing.”
The second result of Cersei’s actions brings the Reach, Dorne and Dany together against her. Should be a crazy-ass battle royale in Season 7.
With Tommen dead, Cersei is crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, the first woman to sit the Iron Throne. And she did it in an amazing Disney villain outfit. Now we have a Cersei with all the power and no children to keep her tethered to humanity. That’s a frightened prospect. And by the look on Jamie’s face as he watches the coronation, we’re not alone in that feeling.
Arya kills Walder Frey and his heirs. Unexpected but very much welcome!
Tyrion is named Dany’s Hand of the Queen. Quite the leap for someone who two seasons ago was a fugitive for killing his lord father.
The “I Hate Cersei” Super Posse has their first official meeting.
In short, Season 6 exceeded all expectations. Other than some worthless crap with Dorne, almost everything worked and clicked. Cannot wait until Season 7 next year!