GAME OF THRONES S6E10: “The Winds of Winter” Discussion

We Liked It!

Scott:  I really love Game of Thrones.  We’ve gotten a lot of flack for our often critical opinions on this very up and down season, but at the end of the day I do love this show. I critique because I know how good this story can be. And I know that when this show hits its high points there’s nothing quite like it.

“The Winds of Winter”, like the season it culminates is filled with highs and lows. At times, this is the best Game of Thrones has ever been. And in others, the writing is confusing, stupid, and almost silly.

Gentry: Here’s the thing. A lot of fans who read out reaction have to remember this is our surface reaction to each episode a mere 12 hours later… Relax peeps, we still love the show and last night brought us back to redemption town quite nicely I thought.

Scott: A lot happened this week (for once) so let’s start where the show does: in King’s Landing

The Trial 2

Gentry: King’s Landing… wow! Talk about change upon change upon the ashes of the Great Sept of Baelor… Cersei, on top of lighting the Tower of the Hand on fire (I forget, was this left out of the show??), she has now destroyed one of the most a sacred and celebrated buildings in all of King’s Landing, let a lone Westeros. She has spit right in the face of every human who has ever prevented her from gaining what she feels is “her rightful place”, including the Gods.

Scott: I’ve long been critical of the King’s Landing storyline because I’ve felt it was just a tangent thing, dividing attention from the real overall plot of the show: White Walkers invading from the north. But now I think it’s safe to say that the events in King’s Landing were the best part of season 6.

Gentry: I agree, it was one of the few lines that stayed the course and I thought it paid off well.

Scott: We’ve talked about the writing a lot this year and how it has been for the most part a pale shade of the earlier seasons, but everything in King’s Landing just works! It all culminates in this wonderful moment this week.

And how fucking wonderful was it! Everyone was raving about how well “Battle of the Bastards” was shot last week, but I submit that the direction in the King’s Landing scenes was, while simpler, much better. The score, the camera work during the trial, how Director Miguel Sapochnik played with the natural light streaming in from the sept windows, even the Wildfire reveal all came together to create this beautiful moment of suspense, anticipation, and horror.

The Trial 
Tommen’s death scene in particular: By keeping the camera stationary and allowing Tommen to completely exit the frame before returning and, without pause, leaping to his death, the director has simultaneously created something both shocking and  casual. This wasn’t a dramatic, bold death. At the end of the day this was just a little boy, who in one moment realized the depths of his Mother’s insanity and quest for power. He was simply done with it.

Gentry: Yaaaas! WELL. SAID. SCOTTY. This episode starts in the most magnificent way. You have a quick tease (pre-intro) of the remaining Tower of Joy sequence which already gets fans amped….only to move slowly into this beautiful introduction where the  music and characters and playing out this horrific ending to a pretty solid story.

I feel like we don’t hear a lot of piano in this series (I could be wrong), so to hear it mesh so well with the trial (or lack thereof) was brilliant. They managed to actually show us what these characters are thinking rather than just tell us and boy they did it well.

The mini chase of this mysterious innocent looking child into one of the worst weapons of mass destruction was a highlight for me.

Scott: And what’s more, all the character’s motivations in these scenes made sense.

Gentry: Oh for sure.

Scott: This wasn’t “fanfiction”, it was just a natural progression for each character involved. Nobody said “Wouldn’t it be cool if Cersei blew up the Sept.” She did it because of course she would. That’s Cersei and that’s what Cersei does when she’s backed into a corner. She lashes out with no regard for anyone or anything. Also, we don’t talk about costume design too much on this show, but her outfit was on point. She looked deadly as hell.


Cersei 2

Gentry: Cersei’s outfit was pretty perfect, I’ll agree.

Scott: The Destruction of the Sept of Baelor was a high point for me, in both this season and in this episode. It reminded me of what this show can be when everything is clicking.

I wanted to get your opinion on something though, Gentry.

Gentry: What’s that?

Scott: When Jaime returns to King’s Landing right in time for Cersei’s coronation they exchange a long look. Now, we know in the books that by this point Jaime has totally fallen out of love with his sister. He has seen what she really is and knows about all the other dudes she was banging on the side.

Gentry: Correct

Scott: I’m of the opinion that this was the beginning of Jaime’s departure from his sister’s side in the show. You could see that realization in just his eyes. A brilliant performance by both Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Heady, by the way.

Jaime has finally realized that:  
1) She has and always will love power more than me.
2) She’s just as mad as the king who put the wildfire under the Sept in the first place.

Gentry: Ugh…just reading these reasons makes me so sad. At one point in the book AND the show, Jamie and Cersei hint at running away with their family and attempting to live a peaceful life. Something we know Jamie ultimately wants, and probably something their kids (the 2 remaining sane ones at least) would have wanted. Now we know that could have never happened with Cersei placing her stamp on history….a very dark stamp

Scott: So I’m completely convinced that Cersei is dead next year. She now has enemies basically everywhere and very little actual support. I’m 99.99999% sure that it will be Jaime that does the Queenslaying.

Gentry: Haha, yes… The prophecy is coming true in a way.

Scott: Well I think the show took extra time over the last few episodes to play up just how much Jaime loves his sister. His whole conversation with Edmure and all.

Gentry: Right. Which I really liked. If we can’t see in his mind there aren’t many other ways to determine just how he feels. If this season did anything good, it very obviously kept Jaime squarely in Cersei’s corner up until her coronation.


Scott: Right, which I think increases the dramatic weight of it all. You play up just how much he loves her so that the moment of his realization lands harder. It was really, really well done. King’s Landing MVP!

Let’s move away from King’s Landing though and head up north – to the aftermath of the Battle of the Bastards.This, my friend, is where the episode starts to go downhill and it’s all Sansa’s fault.


Davos

Firstly though, the scene where Davos confronts Melisandre.  I loved this moment so much. Again, I want to call attention to the excellent lighting and blocking of the scene. I might be critical of Game of Thrones a lot, but I will never speak ill of it’s directing. Not since Breaking Bad have I seen work this consistently good.

In this scene Melisandre is on one side of the room and Davos is on the other. Davos is basked in the light from a nearby window,the light beam almost completely envelopes him, making him glow. Melisandre on the other hand is off to the side, covered in darkness. This is the woman who worships the Lord of Light, mind you.

In the middle of all of this is Jon Snow, his face lit from one side (Davos) but shadowed on the other (Mel). That is until he makes his decision to cast out the Red Witch. He steps forward, more fully into the light and is lit like Davos for the remainder of the scene. Television is a visual medium and I love to see it use visuals to convey information to us. This scene used lighting and blocking to reinforce character actions and themes. You might not even caught these things while watching…but your brain did.

Jon Snow

Gentry: VERY good eye Scott. I noticed the lighting but didn’t realize it was an equal blend of light and dark. It was done in a way that still kept it natural, with Jon continuing to be in the center of these struggles.

What I did notice was just how small and frightened Mel looks in a post-Stannis world. This scene really drove it home. She’s not only completely wrong in some of her decisions but also lost, unwanted, a scared slave girl almost awaiting punishment, or judgment in the face her inevitable death. She has the look of a frightened animal in this scene, with hardly being able to say a word…cause honestly what can you say at this point? You sacrifice innocent people for this supposed power that may or may not even work. Stannis was unfortunately always blinded by this, putting his duty and prophecy in front of his subjects, or in case his family. Just a sad sad ending to another Baratheon character.

Scott: I agree, as much as a crazy bitch as she has been, you can tell she is ashamed of her actions. She did this all in the name of a faith that basically let her down.

Gentry: Right. AND the mystery still concerning her is nobody still knows who actually sent her to Stannis in the first place. Not as important at this point, but just one of the many puzzles still out there. If you recall no other Red Priest has mentioned her name… just interesting to see her still around after so many around her are perished

Scott: Do you get the feeling the show is done with her, or do you think we will see her again before the end?

Gentry: Well I made a joke last night after saying she would now appear randomly next to Cersei in the shadows spouting out her bullshit, but for real I am not sure where she goes from here.  

I can see her disappearing for good and it just left up in the air or I could see the showrunners taking it another way and making her go for some redemption against the White Walkers. Using the last of whatever gift she really has at this point and sacrificing herself for the cause.

Scott: Yeah, if she honestly believes that Jon is the “Prince that was promised”I find it hard to believe that she’ll leave him completely

But, Gentry.  I hate Sansa.  I hate Sansa so much.

Jon and Sansa

Gentry: You mean Sandra Sterk? Did you notice how she didn’t give a reason for not telling Jon??

Scott: Yep! It was just “Sorry Jon, my bad!”

“Oh it’s cool, thousands of people died needlessly, including your fucking little brother. But you seem really sorry about it now, so we’re good!”

Gentry: “Let’s just watch out for each other from now on!” (high five)

Scott: Here’s the thing: The show seems like it can’t make up it’s mind with her. Either it wants her to become basically a Littlefinger 2.0 – Turn into an ultimate manipulative badass…and consequently kind of a bad person.

Gentry: Yeah…The other one being, what? The last Stark of Winterfell ready to pwn all assholes including manipulative Littlefingers?

Scott: Yeah! Either she’s good or she’s bad and the show can’t make up it’s mind. So instead she just looks really stupid, which ruins all the progress she’s made as a character up until this point.

Gentry: Yeah, it’s a bit unfortunate, but agreed. She seems on a concrete path to badassery in her Vale story coming up… sucks to see so much flip flopping still. I honestly didn’t expect them to make Jon King in the North this quickly…. or maybe even ever…. what do you take away from that? For me it’s… humans of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds are finally realizing Winter is here and we need a great leader to lead through it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of family/succession politics come from this appointment at the beginning of next season

Scott: I think a lot of feminists are gonna be pissed that they went with another King in the North as opposed to a Queen. I’d be more upset about it too if I didn’t think Sansa was such a useless peice of shit. I do appreciate the irony that it was done after the reveal that Jon’s claim is actually even worse than we thought it was…

Because R+L=J is confirmed!

Gentry: Shit, that’s right…so it goes all children first (even the ladies) when the Lord dies correct? Just brain farted for a moment.


Scott: Well, not technically – in this world, except in Dorne – women are passed over in the line of succession. But we’re very intentionally seeing that change with Lady Mormont, Dany, Cersei, even Yara… It would have been nice to see that change up North as well. And a bastard that isn’t even the son of the lord, but rather just the nephew, has barely any claim at all…

Gentry: But yes, let’s move on the biiiiiig (finally over thank the lord) reveal. Which makes me happy cause ever since I did my first re-read I’ve been on the R+L=J wagon and I’m soooo glad the wait has paid off.

Scott: Here’s the thing about R+L = J. If you’ve been paying attention and have read both the books and watched the show, it’s not even really a reveal. This thing was so heavily telegraphed through both that it’s hard to believe this came as a big shock to anyone really paying attention to the story.

But the scene was done so weirdly. By masking the conversation between Lyanna and Ned in whispers it almost seems as if they’re afraid to completely confirm everything. Even though all the important parts are there: Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark, not Ned. Lyanna makes Ned promise to keep this secret safe, which is why Eddard decides to claim the boy as his own. They don’t reveal who his real father is in this scene, but I think we all know who that is…

Also, because I’m crazy I cranked up the scene to really loud and was able to hear most of what she whispered.

Tower of Joy

Gentry: Oh wow! Please tell us what these whispers were Maester Scotty

Scott: “His name is (inaudible, but probably Jon). If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.”

Gentry: Amazing. Good call on raising the volume. Yeah and that’s honestly all we can really take from Ned’s fever dreams… and the Kingsguard. And you’re right the clues have always there.

Scott: Moving on: Sam gets to Oldtown! These scene, as well as Sam’s whole role in this season was pretty inconsequential, but I enjoyed it anyway. Absolutely beautiful library shot.

My problem with it is the problem I have with the season as a whole: Not much actually happens! Wouldn’t it have been much more engaging to give Sam some time at Oldtown? Show his training, show him learning what the Maesters know about the White Walkers. You can even mirror those scenes with Bran’s discoveries in the north!

Gentry: Well this is why you should be a write on the show Scott, cause that would have been an excellent idea! Opt for a solid parallel, gives us a better Oldtown teaser and actually gives us some quality Sam time instead of the splotchiness that goes on throughout the season.

Scott: Right, you set up his relationship with the Maesters and can have some character growth there. Then at some point Sam asks his instructor what the origin of the Others are. He talks about how there are many theories, but no one really knows for sure…  Then cut to the Bran scene where he discovers their origin in a green dream. Game of Thrones is such a spread out show, you’re constantly cutting between things happening halfway across the world. It can make things seem choppy and disconnected. But you can use moments like that to show the inter-connectivity of the world

Gentry: Yeah, it’s just a bit surprising to not see them try things like this out. It’s not a stretch by any sense, it’s just more like “Oh crap, we need to keep doing Sam in the south….let’s think of something where his dad makes an appearance and then tease Oldtown at the very end, that’ll be cool right? “

Scott: Exactly, but let’s move towards the part I’ve been avoiding talking about all morning…

…Let’s talk about Arya.  

Arya

I officially don’t understand this character’s arc at all anymore. In this episode Arya kills some dudes, chops them up into little pieces, feeds them to Walder Frey and then slits his throat.

Gentry: Haha, apparently she is Manderly and the Rat Cook ghost all in one.

Scott: So riddle me this, Batman.The point of Arya’s time in the House of Black & White was to…
 
A) Learn cool assassin skills so she could kill all her enemies
B) Come to a better understanding of who she is, re embrace her nature and become Arya Stark once more.
C) Get really good at shucking clams.
or D) All of the above

Gentry: Once upon time it should have just been A)…but the show has us grabbing a bit of “All of the above.”

Scott: Exactly, but here’s the problem. All of the above doesn’t work! She turned from the house of black and white because she was unable to take an innocent life. She takes this lesson and heads back to Westeros and IMMEDIATELY starts fucking people up in the most gruesome, terrible way possible. Sure Walder Frey was a total dick, but his son’s were only guilty of being born into a shitty family. Also did she kill a random girl just to use her face? How does this face wearing shit even work?

Gentry: I don’t even know.

Scott: Anyway, one of the central themes to Game of Thrones is the destructive nature of violence. War, cruelty, revenge. These are all explicitly treated as bad things. But then the show seems to revel in them when it’s our good guys performing the act. Last week Sansa smirks happily as Ramsay is brutally ripped apart by dogs. Today, Arya feeds two sons to their father and then takes pleasure in killing him.

Are we supposed to celebrate these moments? If, so that’s in direct contrast to some of the central tenets of the show. If not, they’re not doing a good enough job at portraying these moments as bad for our characters. They feel like victorious moments for the good guys and really shouldn’t.

Gentry: Haha yeah man, well said. It’s all a bit confusing. If anything I thought the writers could have determined pretty easily what person they think Arya Stark is and was becoming from whatever details they were privy to. I am not sure what element confused it all so much. I really think they just came up with this “super cool looking” moments for her and ran with it. The Frey insert was pretty random and the fact that she took down 2 grown men and turned them into meat pies is even more random.

In hindsight, I feel like Arya could have been cut way short (minimal appearances), focusing on her training/mental state from all the loss in her life and the lives she herself has taken. I thought it would have been better to keep a lot of her “current situation” somewhat of a secret, so that the payoff of having her show up in Westeros is better delivered… I thought it was a bit early for her to just show up and be killing Freys…it would have been a really cool intro episode in season 7 to have her to it then.

I also thought when they were having discussions of “how to write Arya and this Jaquen teacher” they may have been shitfaced.

Scott: Haha, I completely agree. Also yes, Arya should not have been in this episode. Her season ending arc was here proudly declaring that she was Arya Stark and she’s just going home. The Frey murder wasn’t needed or necessary as part of this season.

Gentry: What else Scott? Shall we finish with Mereen and then predictions and such?

Scott: Yes, let’s go to Meereen (and then finally leave it!!!!!!) and then conclude with overall season thoughts.

Ty & Dan

Gentry: Scott…I think I enjoyed Tyrion and Dany’s conversation more than I enjoyed the whole Dany story this season put together. Am I a jerk for thinking that? These moments are what I love about the show. Thoughts on Daario being told to stay behind and…..rule Meereen? Is that happening?

Scott: No, you’re absolutely right. There was so much promise to the Tyrion/Dany thing that I felt was never delivered on in past episodes. We finally got it last night.  And again I have to stress that this moment worked because it felt true to the characters involved. Tyrion has been looking his whole life for someone who respects his talents and recognizes that despite his size he truly has something to offer this world. Dany is that person to him. The pinning of the Hand broach on his ]shirt was more than just handing him power, it was finally the recognition he has been craving his entire life. When Tyrion says he is with Dany til the end, you know in that moment that he means it.

As for Daario, I honestly don’t care. I thought he was a boring character from the beginning and I’m glad he’s gone. I really thought they were setting things up to let Greyworm and Missandei to lead Meereen in her absence, though. Trusting some sellswords to do it seems…problematic.

Gentry: Hahaha no joke. Zero sense right there.. Ditto on Daario… Good riddance! Just a boring crap adaptation of a pretty colorful and interesting sellsword.I think that because we are running out of actors (especially after yesterday) that they decided to bring Grey Worm and Miss with her, just a guess though.

Dany

I’m glad it was a nice ending with Tyrion, and I’ll be honest the visual on the ships was breathtaking.For once a “good” fleet is sailing into the storm that is current Westeros and we have some movement!

Scott: Yes the scene at the end was visually impressive and we have finally, finally, finally left Meereen. Maywe never see that stupid pyramid ever again! Also apparently Varys has learned to teleport since we last saw him?

Gentry: Bahahaha. Oh lord….glad we all caught that. He’s clearly descended from House Nightcrawler….just like Littlefinger and Arya and Gendry.

Scott: Oooo, an X-Men reference. That’s a new one. The amount of time passing in this show is really confusing. There were also Dornish sails in that shot at the end. So we’re meant to believe that Varys went to Dorne, brokered a deal with both the Martels and Tyrells and sailed back to Meereen with some more ships all in the time it took to get Dany’s ships ready to travel. Did it take that long to paint the sails? On a list of important ship stuff to do, I feel like painting the sails is pretty low on the totem pole.

Gentry: Apparently Tyrell ships were seen as well

Scott: WHAT?

Gentry: Yep… so from the time Queen of Thorns meets with Ellaria to that final scene… ships were built, painted AND Sailed (with zero troubles) to the other side of the world…

Scott: Over how many years did this one episode take place?

Gentry: At least 1.5…

Scott: Alright Gentry, we’ve reached the end…

Gentry: Sadly..

Scott: So overall, what was your thought of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Are you excited for what is to come, or has the lows of the episode tempered your excitement for next year a bit?

Gentry: Well to sum it all up as always it’s enjoyable to see our favorite characters and the story progress. Knowing this, I feel this season was a bit of a letdown in terms of that progression. I half-expected this given the last two books have yet to come out. What added a black mark for me was the fact that this was all done at the expense of the characters, and overall I think some opportunities to do some really fun and exciting things were lost in this season.

I think the visuals have jumped up to the highest notch yet, and I can’t recall seeing a more impressive season when it comes to establishing shots and background settings (Meereen, Oldtown, Riverrun, Hornhill)

I’m sad we lost the dire wolves due to the budget being focused on dragons, Battle of Bastards, settings….but hey can’t have it all I guess. At least Ghost still lives!

I was pretty happy overall that we got a taste of the Tower of Joy, but on the other end I wasn’t a huge fan of the how the Three Eyed Crow/Cave scene story ended.

I for one am NOT for time traveling non-sense using the Weirwood network, but whatevs…at least we got to see the origin of the White Walkers

King’s Landing was great, and Jon is now confirmed as being part of two ancient and powerful houses (a first in terms of lore) and I am interested to see how this truth can be revealed to him (probs Bran).

My expectations, because of the hit-or-miss writing this season will be heavily tempered for next season. When you have crap like Euron and Ellaria (and fake Michelle Rodriguez as a sandsnake) running around still, it’s enough for me to keep my eyes half closed and hope for the best!

Oh and lastly, I was off in one of my few predictions…. The Wall still stands

Scott: Yeah, I was hoping we’d see that come down last night, but we’ve always got the season 7 finale!

Overall I agree with you Gentry. This season was pretty disappointing. I’ve really appreciated getting to talk this out with both Matt and you each week as it has allowed me time to parse through my issues with the show and find their root causes. I think, at the end of the day it all comes back to the characters. Game of Thrones isn’t a great show because of the dragons, or the epic battles, or even the boobies. Game of Thrones is a great show because it has some of the most well written, interesting, and fully fleshed out characters in the history of television. Characters who are three dimensional and act according to their own wants and desires. Characters who you hated at first glance, but then learned to appreciate as you learned more about them.

When the show allows plotlines and story to unfold in a way that feels true to the characters and their wants, it works amazingly. We get moments like the destruction of the Sept, Tyrion’s pep talk with Dany, and even Davos’ undying love for Shireen. This is transcendent stuff.

But, when we bend or break characters in order to serve story elements, that is where this show starts to falter. When we say “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” instead of “What would ___ do in this situation” the show breaks itself. Motivation stops making sense and characters are unrecognizable. Sansa, Arya, and even Jon at times suffered from this a lot this season.

Look, Game of Thrones is still some of the best TV out there. As I said at the top, I demand a lot from it because I know it has the capability to deliver. You’re always more critical of the things that you like. I want Game of Thrones to be it’s best. There were moments in season 6 where it was, but there were a lot more where it wasn’t.

Season 6 was disappointing based on my high standards, but I will of course be back next season. And I’ll probably be just as excited next April as I was this year. Because I am stupid.

Gentry: Agreed Scott. I’ll never get away from this cause I truly love these characters that much. And hey, not every season is going to make it big. I can’t even say this is the worse season until I do a rewatch of the whole series. I don’t recall being super impressed with Season 5 (minus Hardhome). I’m sure we’ll even come back to this season and find things we liked. But for now I’ll hold on to some of the individual moments a lot more than the whole season.

Scott: Absolutely.  Thanks Gentry for joining me this season. I really enjoyed our talks. Special shout out to Matt who couldn’t be here today because he’s taking care of his newborn baby girl!

If for some reason you haven’t gotten enough and want to hear us talk about Game of Thrones even more, tune into our Podcast this Wednesday where Gentry and I will break down and recap the season and even give some predictions regarding what happens next year!

 

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