A Few Thoughts on: The Winds of Winter

SPOILERS…BUT SERIOUSLY…YOUR ASS NEEDS TO SEE THIS RIGHT. NOW.

THIS IS THE BEST SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES

I don’t see any reason to open this up any other way. I’ve been saying it and after last night, I’m ready to declare it. Season 6 is my personal favorite season of Game of Thrones, and honestly I think the best period.

It’s the show flapping its wings and finding its own identity, showing grace in the slow moments as well as the big action beats. It was consistently engaging and began to grapple with the deviations of the show in a way that actually informs an overall thematic sense of what this show is about, of the collapse of the old patriarchal structures and of the costs of victory in a difficult world and the meta-fantasy narrative.

Moreover, this is just a finely made season. Dialogue picked up in quality significantly this season, direction (minus one sort of off episode) was superb, and every actor really sunk their teeth into the roles and making their hunger and vigor in the role feel fresh.

But of course, I could easily be resting on a high since…

THIS IS THE BEST EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES

I’ve been chewing on it for a little while, ever since I felt my heart still pounding an hour after. I couldn’t tell if I was reacting to what had happened or what the quality of the episode actually was.

But almost 12 hours later, I still feel the moments and the scenes racing through my head crystal-clear. I haven’t felt this way after a TV show since “Ozymandias” on Breaking Bad and since I believe that to be that show’s best episode, it’s only logical that I give this one the same distinction.

It isn’t just how damned thrilling the whole thing is, being an episode that contains more twists and turns than some whole seasons of television as well as what is one of the most Hitchcockian things I’ve seen on TV not made by Hitchcock since I found Body Double on a premium channel.

It’s that everything in this episode flows perfectly and pays off years and years of long-form storytelling. Cersei’s coronation and terrorist attack on the Sept of Baelor doesn’t work without all the build-up with the prophecy and her reputation among the people and the sympathy the show has imbued in her motivations so that it can pull them away as she finally gives in to her darkness.

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On the other side, Jon Snow’s victory, where he is finally named King in the North, has such power because we’ve spent so long seeing his journey. Seeing him grow into the hero of the kingdom and the challenges he will face and will still face ahead holds such satisfaction.

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By the way, can I say how much I loved that scene? Jon Snow really has earned it, and I know I wasn’t the only tearing-up eye in the room when it happened.

And of course, the episode is all-time gorgeous because…

MIGUEL SAPOCHNIK IS THE OFFICIAL MVP OF GAME OF THRONES

There’s a lot of praise to be thrown all around of course. The acting and the writing is spot-on, Ramin Djawadi did some of his finest musical work, and cinematographer Fabian Wagner has such an eye for the images here.

But it’s Miguel Sapochnik, director of easy-win classics like “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome”, who finally makes it 100% clear to anyone who doubts that he is the best director of this show.

His work flows effortlessly from scene to scene, and any lesser director could not have controlled the potential chaos of this episode. Nothing feels confused, everything is given breathing room to impact yet there is not a moment to let-up on the weight of the events transpiring.

And as great as his battle sequences are, I actually think the King’s Landing sequence in the first half of this episode may be his best work and the best sequence of Game of Thrones. It’s sheer masterwork. The way the tension builds, the melancholy dread, the way every element interacts. He shows his cards at just the moment he needs to. The way Cersei moves and holds herself is sheer brilliance, her torture of the Septon framed almost ritualistically. And Tommen’s suicide…just…damn.

It’s just so good. But in fact, let’s get into that sequence a little more…

CERSEI AS SUPERVILLAIN

If this episode had an SMVP (Second Most Valuable Player), it was Lena Headey. She’s been oft nominated for Cersei, but this is the first time I think she has a clear argument to win. She’s amazing in this episode, undergoing a transformation like we’ve never seen, a logical completion of her arc that still feels shocking.

It’s partially the costume work…I mean:

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LOOK AT THAT. So badass, so elegant, and really pulling off the evil Disney princess vibe.

I think it’s been really important to give Cersei more shading this season, because it makes this turn mean more. Part of the complexity a show like Game of Thrones hopes to achieve is to show the motivations for why evil people do evil, and I think that’s what they’ve pulled off with Cersei. Everything she does is out of hurt and a desire to live the life she wanted, not the one that was prescribed.

Or in her words, she does what she does “because it feels good.”

Speaking of something that feels good…

I’M WAY INTO TYRION AND DANY’S FRIENDSHIP

A huge part of Dany’s arc is representing the way forward. A world free from the judgments and flaws of the world that came before her. That’s why it was important for her and Tyrion to merge storylines, because his brilliance could only be truly understood by a character who didn’t look down upon him.

That’s why the scene between them, the banter and the gift of the Hand’s pin, was so good. It’s two characters coming together in a way that represents the themes of the show, and was just damn fine acting and writing to boot.

Seriously, Emilia Clarke has gotten so much better this season. I never would have seen that coming. But something we all saw coming…

R+L=J IS CONFIRMED

Like, for real, this time.

Okay, it wasn’t said out loud, but it’s pretty much been so telegraphed that we needed just one piece, and with that fantastic match cut, we have confirmation that Lyanna Stark is Jon Snow’s mother. And there’s no one who could be his father (especially someone that Lyanna wants to keep secret) but Rhaegar Targaryen.

So, Jon Snow is a Targaryen and a Stark. He is of ice and fire. It was a cool moment for the book readers and it not being said out loud means there’s still more to come with it, but interesting twist as…

THE THIRD ACT BEGINS

Last night also proved one final thing. That the end of the Game of Thrones has begun. The storylines are being cleaned up (mostly through copious death) and the players are starting to pull together. Dany set sail for Westeros with Tyrion, Varys (and Dorne), and the Greyjoys in tow. Cersei eliminated her enemies and now King’s Landing is her and Jaime (and let’s see how Jaime reacts to the Mad Queen). Jon and Sansa and Baelish and the Freefolk and Davos Seaworth, professional badass, are all in the North. And most ominously, Bran is at the Wall.

The pieces are in place for the final conflict to begin, the ultimate battle against the evil from outside their small world. The show cleaned house and now we begin to move towards the end.

Nothing is like this show at its best, so I’m sad to see it go. But if last night proved anything, the ride to get there will be something else.

 

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