This 'Game of Thrones' discussion is written by someone who has read George R.R. Martin's books, but will generally only discuss events that have happened on HBO's televised version -- not that it matters much now that the show is going its own way. Still, please respect these boundaries should you choose to participate in the comments section.
Episode 6.10, "The Winds of Winter"
FINAL SCORE: Violence 160, Sex 1
(Scoring is typically 1 point per on-screen death or nude character, but the reviewer reserves the right to award bonus points or adjust the score as necessary.)
Totals: One terrorist attack that blew up a church (and several major characters); one horny maester stabbed to death by a pack of feral children; one king Wile E. Coyote'd out a window; one throat gruesomely slashed; two bystanders outside the Sept of Baelor burnt by wildfire; three more bystanders crushed by a church bell; one quick stab to Lancel's guts; one seven-pointed star carved in Loras' head. But hey: At least word of his homosexuality will never get out! His secret is safe with everyone who got blowed up real good.
Notes: Two overhead shots of the trial that allowed me to estimate the number of people inside the Sept of Baelor: 150, ballpark. So wait, why am I guessing at the number dead from this attack and not big battles with massive piles of dead? Scale is one reason -- it's easier to approximate a few score than a few thousand. And finality is the other: I know for a fact that everyone inside the sept is dead; I can hardly say the same for a battlefield. (This is why I'm not also estimating the carnage in the neighborhood surrounding the sept aside from the deaths that were shown.)
Totals: One nude prostitute, stiffed.
Notes: Do the showrunners read this column? That flash of boob felt like a desperate attempt to ensure Sex didn't get shut out. So, thanks fellas. I can't get by on cleavage alone.
Back in Black
Cersei, baby, LOVE the rebrand! Black is perfect for you right now -- it's always fashionable, slimming, and oh yeah! The color of mourning. So sorry to hear about your last remaining child, by the way. Almost forgot about him, King Whatshisface. Doughman? Doughface? Am I close?
Red and gold were never really your colors, I see that now. You look so sleek, so badass in black. And did you dim the throne room? It's AMAZING, I always said it was too bright ("I love Game of Thrones, but everything's too bright." -- me, all the time). I'm getting a kind of a throwback fascist vibe, and fascism is TOTALLY in right now. Er, nationalism. That's what the news organizations call it, for some reason. But YOU wouldn't call it that, Cers. You tell it like it is. Just ask Nurse Ratched.
Oh that's right, she can't talk because you're WINEBOARDING her!!! Haha, classic Cersei. Even your torture is opulent and groundbreaking, I love it.
WHO RUN THE WORLD?
The last thing I ever want to argue about is whether a TV show is or is not feminist, but for all the ill will Game of Thrones has earned for its troubling depictions of sexual assault, it deserves some applause -- or at least a fist pump -- for the late-season arcs of its female characters. Cersei sits on the Iron Throne; Daenerys is sailing to Westeros to challenge her claim. In the North, Jon Snow needed the support of Lyanna Mormont before the houses named him their king, while Sansa may ultimately have the more viable claim to Winterfell. Arya, not Jon Snow, avenged the Red Wedding.
But what I enjoyed most were the alliances of women: Daenerys and Yara brokering a deal last week to bring Dany's horde to Westeros, and Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand uniting this week joining to provide, presumably, an unopposed landing for the invasion force.
Recap culture bends toward the same talking points, and a critique of this season will certainly be "fan service" -- i.e., by delivering what viewers want (Jon resurrected, Ramsay Bolton and Walder Frey killed, etc.), George R.R. Martin and the showrunners have moved away from the ruthless plot turns that made Game of Thrones stand out in the first place. I think that misses a larger point: Martin created a fantasy world that marginalized women -- often violently -- and slowly, over the course of six seasons, women seized that world. I'd say that bucks fantasy convention.
Oh, but no chicks in the library. Rules are rules.
The King in the North 2.0
"We have so many enemies now," Jon said, cautioning Sansa against turmoil between them. And I thought: "As opposed to WHEN?" Because, uh, it's kinda been a six-year, non-stop parade of enemies, plus one lover who shot Jon with an arrow (totally worth it, Ygritte was way hot).
Just this once, though, Jon may actually know something. One minute he's trying to set up Sansa in the master bedroom while they play a cordial back-and-forth of "No YOU'RE the rightful heir to Winterfell," the next minute Jon's the King in the North while Sansa weighs a power play with Littlefinger.
Could she break bad? DID YOU EVEN SEE SEASON ONE? She was like, "My family is dumb, the North is bad, I wanna marry Joffrey." Homegirl has flaws, OK?
It didn't hit me, not right away. The explosion at the Sept of Baelor claimed so many characters that I didn't immediately feel Margaery's loss. The High Sparrow was dead, after all, and there was wine to drink and #tealizard memes to think about. But then Tommen walked out a window, and I felt his loss almost as deeply.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Margaery had artfully planned a long con to wrest her husband and the realm from Cersei while dodging the judgment of the Seven. She endured far too many episodes in a dark cell, far from her shampoo and sexy dresses, and when she escaped, her feline sensuality was watered down by the demands of religion: Her hair in plain natural waves instead of artful curls, her gracefully smashed cleavage hidden by high collars, the smile of a supplicant instead of her trademark smirk.
She was supposed to get back to her full self, and because the stupid-ass Faith Militant refused to react to her timely terror alert, she never did. It is a goddamn shame, and I REFUSE to remember her as dowdy Marge. She will always be Queen Margaery of the Plunging Neckline, 100 percent Pure Sex from Concentrate, Too Much Woman for Three Kings. I will miss her always.
MFW People Treat Fan Theories As Spoilers
So, thanks to Bran time-warging, we finally learned -- or were able to deduce -- that Jon Snow's parents were Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, not Ned and some southern whore. Now, if you've spent a fair amount of time on "Game of Thrones" forums or reading recaps, you've likely seen "R+L=J," the shorthand name used by internet folk for that theory.
Now, shortening things is fine; that's how the internet works, and I'm fluent in Acronymish anyway. But what I'm not okay with is treating R+L=J with the proviso of "WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER," like, "Watch out, this shit we're guessing at might be right, in which case you should probably stop thinking about any possible future event, lest you spoil the real world for yourself."
And who are we warning from the spoilers? Even the thickest of book readers suspect that SOMETHING is amiss regarding Jon's parentage (it's me: I am the thickest of book readers); I found the Rhaegar + Lyanna explanation pleasantly instructive. So who could object? The TV-only viewers? "No, don't ruin Jon's parents for me! I want to put it together myself when future-Ned visits the sister we've never seen before so she can say her baby's father is the guy we've heard about approximately once each season." Please, I'd have a better chance of putting together IKEA furniture without the instruction book. (I'm good with dowels!)
ONE MEME TO RULE THEM ALL
As reliant as this column is on memes, I've never tapped into the bottomless well of tears that is Crying Jordan to prop it up. It wasn't for lack of opportunity, mind you (hello, Theon at the kingsmoot); I wanted to save something special for the season finale, so much so that I made Crying Jordans of Arya earlier in the season AND DIDN'T USE THEM.
Do you recognize the restraint that it takes for me to do that? I'm not just taking Michael Jordan's head and slapping it on top of a screenshot like one of those lazy morons who never learned Photoshop. I put REAL effort into those Arya 'shops, and then I put them away like the Ark of the Covenant -- all so I could bring you Crying Tears of Joy Tyrion without showing my hand.
OK, Tommen didn't work out so well because his doughy face is shaped weird:
But I'd like to think the Crying Weirwood redeems it.
Weekly feature next season? Weekly feature next season.
R.I.P. Lancel, at least you banged your cousin
PICTURED: Mark Sanchez starting a two-minute drill inside his own 20-yard line. We've all seen it before buddy, we know how this ends.
Hey, speaking of wildfire:
"I always say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Unless you're going to blow them up. That's a good time to be far away."
"If you find a fingernail in your meat pie, don't complain. It probably belonged to your murdered son, and the waitress is an assassin. Hey, who chose this restaurant?"
"A tie is like kissing your sister: foreplay without sex."
Look at this Hufflepuff chump
Uh, I think I liked the Citadel better when it was called Hogwarts and served as the centerpiece of a series of wildly successful books and movies. Nah, just kidding, I'm like the only person who finds Harry Potter boring.
Oh gosh, now I've done it. Listen, let's not make it a whole thing. The characters are fine, OK? The world-building of J.K. Rowling is brilliant. I just think it's weird that a bunch of adults would stand in a line around the block so they could get their hands on children's books. No, of course it's fine if you grew up with it. Of COURSE it's fine if you read it with your kids. I didn't. Leave me alone. I SAID IT'S FINE.
But seriously, this is some Rowling shit:
I bet you didn't even see the golden snitch when you watched the episode. It's a good thing I make such honest screencaps, this will be evidence in Rowling's lawsuit against HBO.
More like Danavys Targaryen
If the U.S. Navy is any precedent, recruiting advertisements for the Targaryen navy oversell your chance of flying a dragon or riding a horse off a ship and into battle. Chances are you'll probably just be shoveling horseshit on the boat, or stitching red dragons onto the hundreds of new sails the navy needs, or waiting dockside for some bigwig to have a 15-minute meeting in Dorne before you have to rush his ass back across an ocean.
Profiles in Profiles
I would be remiss if, somewhere amid all the armpit farts and bike horns, I didn't point out what a technical marvel this episode was. Yes, it balanced massive plot developments with smaller moments of dialogue that built characters, but that's par for the course. But "The Winds of Winter" shined everywhere else, too, particularly in its pacing and music (it was bookended by very different versions of the show's theme song, setting starkly different tones).
And oh yeah, all the profile shots. The camera captured faces in profile as characters faced each other, faced their fears, faced death and new realities. I could probably tell you what the director was trying to achieve if I'd ever taken some kind of film class, but I studied real things in college.
The lesson, of course, is take bullshit classes whenever you can on the off chance you end up writing about a zeitgeisty TV show.
Block of the Night
Helpful tip to all my single dudes out there: If you're trying to convince a woman that your whole world is built around the idea of marrying her, it is SUPER helpful if you have not previously brokered a deal to make someone ELSE her husband. Just my two cents.
- Bells rung in opening scene that made me want an AC/DC song to start: 9
- People killed by that bell: 3
- Paragraphs I should have dedicated to Lyanna Mormont: at least 3, probably more like 5
- Years the Glovers have stood behind the Starks: 1,000 (minus a couple key months, but who's counting?)
- Sand Snakes torched by Lady Olenna: all 3
DNP, Coach's Decision
Jorah, Ghost, Ser Pounce, the Night King, the ability to appropriately convey thanks to everyone who read the Scorecard this season. It's been fun, let's do it again next spring.