Game Of Thrones Season Finale Recap: Wildfire Of The Vanities
Well, here we are, my friends: Game of Thrones’s Season 6 finale. We’ve been through a lot together this season, you and I. We’re on the other side now, 10 weeks older and infinitely less wise. Let’s get to it, lest we waste any more of our precious, mortal lives.
The finale (which is 69 minutes long—nice!!!!) begins with the exact vibe and soundtrack of The Leftovers, the only other drama that has not brought great shame upon HBO. Perhaps the network is attempting some sort of #brand #synergy? I’m here for it—The Leftovers is great—but also I am not here for it, because The Leftovers is too good to be hijacked to lend temporary gravitas to Game of Thrones. Everyone in King’s Landing is solemnly prepping for the trial of Cersei and Loras. Margaery is getting her braids done. Little Tommen Cruise is masturbating into a goblet. The High Sparrow is putting on his daily potato sack.
Nobody speaks. Church bells ring ominously. Actually, everything is ominous—just assume this from here on out so I don’t have to type it again. Hundreds of unwashed plebs walk silently into the Giant Fancy Room that is sometimes a tomb and sometimes a courtroom and sometimes a place for weddings, idk. Loras shivers in his cell. Pycelle rebuffs a prostitute. The Leftovers theme soars. Tonally, this intro is the most off-brand stuff Game of Thrones has ever done. This show is rarely this deeply, quietly somber—the showrunners didn’t even bestow this much Sturm und Drang to the death and subsequent reanimation of its most beloved character. In other words, they want us to know that Something is going to happen.
The first Thing is that Loras confesses to all of his “crimes”—being gay, being a liar, being profligate, using the word profligate, and wearing a Yeezy Season 3 sweater to court. As punishment, he is forced to give up his family name, donate his remaining Boosts to charity, and get a cartoon pizza carved into his forehead.
Margaery stands watch through all of this nonsense, looking troubled but holding her tongue. She speaks up only after the pizza incident. “You promised not to carve a pizza into my brother’s head,” she fumes at the High Sparrow. It’s the first time Margaery has broken pious character in front of the Sparrow, and it really makes me wonder what her plan would’ve been if she’d been able to get herself and Loras the hell out of Dodge. Would they have traveled back to Highgarden and opened a Little Caesars? I’d like to think that, yes, they would.
It’s Cersei’s turn for judgment and pizza-carving now. But, for some reason, girl is still at the Red Keep, day drinking. Tommen tries to leave for the trial but is blocked by The Mountain. It becomes clearer that the Something is going to happen to everyone at the court/tomb/wedding-reception hall and spare Cersei and Tommen. What could this Something be???? I’m kidding; this show is as subtle and nuanced as neon green, building-obliterating explosives shoved beneath a city and referred to three times per episode.
The High Sparrow sends Cersei’s bitchy cousin Lancel to retrieve her from her eternal Sunday Funday, but on the way, Lancel gets distracted by a Little Bird. The Bird scampers beneath the city, where nothing is stored, nope, nothing here, just lots of tombs and absolutely no stockpiles of neon explosives. Lancel follows him, because any child in King’s Landing who moves with a spring in his step and a sense of purpose instead of dragging listlessly through the streets, waiting for the sweet release of death, is suspicious.
What do you know, there’s good old Pycelle, also lured beneath the sandy sidewalks by a small, inexplicably sociopathic child. Old What’s-His-Face-With-The-Hair is down there, too, having spent months (years?? whatever) enlisting these morally bankrupt children in his forthcoming act of face-melting destruction. For some reason, the Little Birds descend on Pycelle, Children of the Corn–style, and stab him to death. An interesting and old-fashioned choice to make when you’ve got cases upon cases of radioactive explosives, but OK! I’m not here to judge.
Another Little Bird stabs bitchy Lancel and, rather than finish the job, leaves him stranded in the tunnels. Surrounded by barrels of said explosives, Lancel caterpillars his way over to a giant pool of neon green stuff with a cute little candle in it. What could this be? he seems to ponder all too casually. A liquefied birthday cake … for me? A quaint factory for glow-in-the-dark nail polish? A fun, Halloween-themed cocktail?
Upstairs, Margaery, too, realizes Something is about to happen. Everyone else is too distracted/sad about their pizza heads to realize how weird it is that Cersei hasn’t shown up to her own trial. Margaery, who is too smart for this show, seven gods bless her, tries to convince the High Sparrow to let everyone leave, but he’s like, “I did not struggle to get my head through the hole in this burlap bag just to go home and get stuck inside of it all over again.” Margaery instructs everyone to leave anyway, and the unwashed plebs start flooding the exits. Margaery’s own exit is blocked by the High Sparrow’s lackeys, and she begins to panic. I have a brief stress flashback to the one time I went to Lollapalooza.
Bitchy Lancel crawls ever closer to the puddles of glow-in-the dark death syrup oozing from giant barrels. He, too, looks appropriately terrified. He, too, will never make it home from Lollapalooza. Because King’s Landing explodes.
Over in the Red Keep, Cersei is calmly watching her town explode. She takes a deep, self-satisfied swig of her wine. Tommen is less enthused about said town explosion. It’s weird, because they both have the same hair.
In a highly unbelievable twist, Cersei wastes alcohol by using it to wineboard the Shame Nun, whom she has strapped to a table. Cersei then shares with the Shame Nun that she is Westeros’s drunken, incestuous answer to the Unabomber because it “feels good.” Thirdly, Cersei informs the Shame Nun that she is going to enlist the Mountain to torture her in unimaginable ways for the foreseeable future. Lastly, Cersei does a sassy callback to the beginning of her relationship with the Shame Nun: “Shame,” she says as she shuts the cell door. Cersei understands memes.
Tommen Cruise takes off his Anthropologie crown and rips off Tom Cruise one final time.
The Freys are having a celebration after doing absolutely zero things to recapture Riverrun and just making Jaime do it. Jaime appears miffed by this. A hot waitress hits on him, but he is too busy dreaming of screwing his domestic-terrorist sister to do anything about it. Blueballing real hard now, Jaime decides to crap all over a gloating Walder Frey. “Nobody is scared of you, except all the kids in Harry Potter,” says Jaime. “To be real, I just realized you were in those movies. Those are good movies.”
Cersei is confronting the corpse of her last living child. She does not appear terribly upset; her eyes water, but she does not fully cry. Cersei is as upset about having three dead children as I am when I realize the crab wontons are missing from my Seamless order. “Burn him,” she instructs her diabolical white-man friend—Herpgot—who just helped her explode thousands of people. Burning is Cersei’s solution to everything. Her entire city? Burn it!! Her children’s fresh corpses? Burn them. Jaime’s cherished collection of Dave Matthews B sides? Burn them. Like, to another CD. So she can listen. Cersei loves DMB because she identifies with the way Dave Matthews’s priorities changed once he became a parent.
This next section is so—to borrow a word from late pizzahead Loras Tyrell—profligately stupid and egregiously mood-breaking that I refuse to devote more than one sentence to it. Here is the sentence: Gilly and Sam and Aryan Sam (who has aged at least a year, don’t worry; time is a construct) go to the library, have a very low-key tiff with a bitchy librarian, and then Sam freaks out over how big the library is. Like, I enjoy books, too, so I understand that it can be fun to walk into a big library, but what right does this show have to celebrate knowledge as the highest virtue when its highest virtues are sibling-screwing and stabbing? Or is this show just gaslighting George R.R. Martin at this point? “OTHER people managed to write a bunch of books, George…”
In Winterfell, Jon Snow is nostalgically caressing a chair. He and Melisandre have a chat about how he used to feel left out because he had to sit at the bastard kids’ table at Passover. The wistful mood is broken when Davos walks in carrying the Magical, Nonflammable Wooden Toy. You’ll recall that, upon seeing this toy lying in the snow last week, Davos knew exactly how Shireen had died and who had killed her. Davos is a Mary Sue. He confronts Melisandre and asks her to confess to her unspeakable crime. She’s like, “My bad! I had bad intel.” Melisandre is George Bush. Jon kicks her out of Winterfell and tells her never to return. I see how it is. Jon and Davos want Melisandre to convene and bargain with malevolent demon gods when it’s CONVENIENT for them, but not when it offends their delicate non-child-burning sensibilities.
Jon and Sansa are arguing over which of them should take their parents’ bedroom. It’s all very platonic and normal, which is to say, not. Finally, they agree that Sansa should have the room, because she won the war. On Game of Thrones, as in life, all is fair in love and war, i.e., it’s fine to screw your sibling in your dead parents’ ancestral bed and it’s also fine to hijack your siblings’ battle by bringing in thousands of soldiers from the army of the guy who sold you to a maniacal rapist. Jon kisses Sansa’s head before Sansa flirtily tells him that “winter is here.” (Honestly, I thought winter had been happening for a long while, so this is annoying news.) One of three things is happening in this scene: (1) Kit Harington and Sophie Turner are screwing and it is impossible for them to turn off their torrid sexual chemistry, rendering every single one of their scenes torridly sexual; (2) We’re actually being set up for a Jon Snow/Sansa Stark plot next season; (3) This show is trolling us all. I’ll let you be the judge!
Somehow, this episode is not even close to over. I feel like the fat little boy in Matilda eating the cake onstage; I just keep shoving cake into my mouth as fast as I can, but the cake is not getting any smaller. Hm, this metaphor does not hold. So Lady Olenna is in Dorne. She has already heard about the deaths of Margaery and Loras—I don’t even want to know how Game of Thrones would explain the logistics of this—and is plotting revenge with Ellaria Sand. Ellaria reveals the ace up her sleeve: Varys, who has somehow made it to Dorne even though it took Sam multiple episodes to get to his library and Bran is still in the middle of the forest.
Sansa and Littlefinger are having an uncomfortable talk by a tree that is very much in its “autumn” phase, which is needlessly confusing. She asks Littlefinger what he wants from her, and he admits that he wants to rule over Westeros with her alongside him. She turns him down because he is an untrustworthy lech, but not before he mindfucks her: “You are the future of House Stark,” he says. She makes a face at this point, a face that telegraphs, “I am going to turn on Jon Snow next season and take Winterfell for myself.”
Uncle Benjen is dropping off Bran and Meera at another tree and leaving them there to do god knows what, they’re not his problem. Bran thanks him, and he goes on his merry corpse-y way. Bran immediately makes Meera drag him 4 feet so that he can warg into a tree. Meera, a husk of a person, gets to sit and watch. Inside the tree, Bran is back at the Tower of Joy, where his father, Ned, is about to rescue his aunt Lyanna. Ned storms up the castle steps and comes upon Lyanna, who is bleeding to death in a bed. The two have an extremely intimate reunion, presaging the odd Stark sibling relationships to come.
Ned neither asks why Lyanna is bleeding to death nor makes any immediate moves to stop said bleeding, other than bark at a random woman to bring her water. Ned is more interested in flirting with his dying sister than saving her. Lyanna leans over to whisper something in his ear, but we can only hear the end of it, which is: “If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him, you know he will. You have to protect him.” She hands Ned her baby, who will one day grow up to be Man Bun McGee himself. This confirms a long-held fan theory that Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen are Jon’s parents, which means Jon isn’t Sansa’s brother, just her cousin. But it also means Dany and Jon are related, which means they probably can’t get married and rule Westeros together.
Present-day Jon Snow, who looks finer the sadder he gets, is trying to convince the North to support him as their leader. Nobody wants to because he is a bastard, blah blah blah. Lyanna Mormont, the best character in the history of television, stands up and effortlessly slays every white dude in the room: “Your dad was skinned by Ramsay Bolton. Your dad was a pile of old boxes stacked on top of one another. Your dad was a clown car with googly eyes stuck to the headlights.” In this way, she convinces everyone to side with Jon Snow. Everyone, that is, but Littlefinger, who glances at Sansa and reminds her that she is supposed to be selling herself as a possible villain for next season.
Cersei—who, judging by the age of Aryan Sam and the thousands of ships and the fact that Olenna is already in Dorne and it’s winter now for real, should really have longer hair by now—is queen. She has the Anthro crown and everything. Totally worth it. She and Jaime, who has just returned to King’s Landing, exchange an unintelligible look. The Leftovers music begins again. We are almost done with theMatilda cake.
Weirdly, we check in with Theon, Yara, and Dany last. They are sailing to Westeros on, yes, one thousand ships. We get it. All of the ships are built. Very good, nameless ex-slaves. Varys is somehow back on one of the ships, which, what the actual hell? Clearly Varys has access to some kind of sound-barrier-smashing motor scooter. =
The dragons fly overhead as the camera zooms out to convey that, yes, there are 1,000 ships on this ocean. The dragons fly directly at the camera to convey that, yes, this show is not afraid to go there, it will put dragons right up in your face if it wants to. It doesn’t give a crap about your opinions vis-à-vis dragons and the flying in your face thereof. “Tune in next season,” this final shot seems to be saying, “if you’re not a little BITCH.”
And you know what? For some godforsaken reason—we are all masochists, dousing the castles of our souls in wildfire, carving pizzas into our own foreheads? We are all engaged in an incestuous plot with Game of Thrones? We are all, deep down, confused about whether we should have sex with or eat our blood relatives in a quiche?—we will.