Game of Thrones 6×10 ‘The Winds of Winter’: The more things change…

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It’s shocking, but it all makes sense.  People are part of cycles, of waves in history, and while they like to think that they can stake their unique claim to a portion of history, often enough they’re filling a role created by somebody else.  That realization is difficult to have because it reminds us of just how small we are, just how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.  Even the greatest victories fade over time.  Even the most triumphant families and names eventually crumble away, covered by the snow of winter.  And when we think of that, we tend to forget the long game, how we really do resonate throughout time.  We tend to do things that make us feel good, things that may lead to darker times down the road.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Take Cersei, for example.  In what is probably the show’s most shocking moment since the Red Wedding, she detonates the cache of wildfire under the Sept of Baelor, where her trial is to take place.  The explosion completely levels the Sept, murdering Margaery, Loras, Mace Tyrell, Kevan Lannister, Lancel, and the High Sparrow.  Grand Maester Pycelle is even stabbed to death as part of the plot.  She sees the trial as being positioned against her in such a way where there’s no way out, where she has no allies and no friends, so she lashes out in a way where she is sure to find victory.  It’s the High Sparrow that is so focused on his religion and beliefs that he is unwilling to see the warning signs, effectively dooming everybody with the belief that his power is above and beyond all else in King’s Landing.  He believes that he can do whatever he wants.  He mutilates Loras’s face without consequence.  But it isn’t until too late that he realizes just how outgunned he is, just how ordinary he is.  Really, he’s just another religious fanatic who isn’t able to see past his power.  And he dies like the rest of them.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Cersei ends up the same.  She wanted to be able to play the game and save her children, but they’re all dead now.  Joffrey was poisoned by the Tyrells, his personality so vicious and malevolent that the Tyrells saw it as the only way to ensure Margaery’s safety.  Myrcella was poisoned by Ellaria Sand as vengeance for Lannister crimes against the Martells.  And Tommen ends up jumping out of a window, committing suicide because he saw his wife, his spiritual mentor, and his city eviscerated, his entire life vanishing in front of him.  It’s a death that Cersei is fully responsible for, the first of her children that died completely under her watch.  So the Cersei we see now, the Cersei amassing the zombie army, is exponentially more dangerous than before.  She’s the new mad ruler, the Mad Queen, the future of her family gone now that her children are dead.  She’s ruling and killing because she likes it, and considering the way that she has consolidated power, it wouldn’t be surprising if she is killed in the same fashion as the Mad King before her, slaughtered before she can raze the city to the ground.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Jon is the new King in the North, coronated in a fashion eerily reminiscent to Robb Stark back in Season 1.  There looks to be some friction between him and his closest allies (Davos is reeling after his discovery that Shireen was murdered by Melisandre, Sansa exchanges glances with Littlefinger after Jon takes the throne and she ends up just sitting there).  We finally learn Jon’s parentage (yes, R+L=J), but we don’t entirely learn the ramifications of that information yet. It’s another way to show how the old is being ushered out in place of the new, how those who have been done disenfranchised in the past are finding ways to power.  The same goes for Arya, who gets revenge on Walder Frey and his two sons after returning to Westeros.  But just like Jon is repeating Robb, Arya can also fall into a repetitive trap.  She’s so bloodthirsty that she forgets what it necessarily means to be a Stark, what it means to be better than tose who have wronged her.  The old is certainly being ushered out, but the new needs to work to be able to be different and better.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Meanwhile, Daenerys is ready to move across the Narrow Sea to King’s Landing, wanting to make her mark on history (even though she wouldn’t be the first queen anymore, now that Cersei is on the throne).  She wants to be better than old rulers, but constantly finds herself succumbing to adolescent, selfish traps.  She wants to burn away all of her enemies, but good rulers work within systems and utilize diplomacy.  She wants to have those she loves around her, but those she loves may betray her.  This season has her really listening to Tyrion and growing as a result, and it shows in her decision to leave Daario in Meereen.  Daenerys shows the most promise for escaping the cyclical nature of history.  She is actively learning, trying to become a better ruler with each new task she puts herself to.  It is what sets her apart from the other rulers so far, the ability to actually step back and adapt to the information she gets.  Cersei, Joffrey, Tommen, Robert, Ned, even Jon at his best have trouble adapting to change, to new ways of ruling, and it hurts them in the end.  It can be what creates these cycles, these waves of history that repeat again and again and again.  Daenerys, more than anybody else, really looks able to break that cycle.

“The Winds of Winter” is a fantastic, riveting follow-up to the insanity of “Battle of the Bastards”.  It raises the stakes in a very real way, cutting through character in a purge-like attempt to funnel the narrative into the final act.  And now with alliances pushing political groups together, with King’s Landing ready to self-destruct, the way is paved for Season 7 to funnel the narrative towards the final battle between Westeros and the White Walkers.  The end is approaching, and honestly, Game of Thrones has never been better.
What did you think of “The Winds of Winter”?  Are you excited for the (probably short) reign of the Mad Queen?  Let me know in the comments!
Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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