Now that the Battle of The Bastards has happened on Game of Thrones, Ramsay is dog food and the Stark banner flies in Winterfell once more. For once, we walk away from an episode with satisfied smiles, as the good guys win and the bad guy got what was coming to him. But because “The Battle of The Bastards” was huge on every level — production, budget, scale, bloodshed, drama — you have to wonder how Season 6 will close.
Traditionally on Game of Thrones the penultimate episode is the big one, while the finale does a mixture of tying up loose ends and throwing in some more variables for next season. But, though the show generally follows a pattern, each season’s final scene alternates between ending on a cliffhanger and ending on a note of hope, and it’s up in the air which route Season 6’s “The Winds of Winter” will go.
Recall that Season 4 had the hopeful ending of Arya sailing off to Braavos, unaware she’d spend the next two seasons sweeping floors and dealing with a bratty roommate. Season 3 also chose hope, in the form of presenting Daenerys as a savior figure. Season 2 went the cliffhanger route by having Sam stumble upon the White Walker army, and I don’t think I need to remind you whether Season 5 chose a hopeful ending or a cliffhanger.
The question is then, does Season 6 deserve a cliffhanger, or warrant a more hopeful ending? And which is more likely?
The Hopeful ending
If it choses the hopeful ending, there are two possibilities: Daenerys finally arriving in Westeros with the help of Yara and Theon’s ships, or Bran revisiting the Tower of Joy in his visions and confirming that Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen are indeed Jon’s real parents.
The second is more likely, as Daenerys must honor her agreement with Yara and first take a detour to help kill Euron Greyjoy and his big cock. Also because the writers seem determined to draw out her arrival to Westeros as long as possible, no matter how many fans respond by giving them the Lyanna Mormont Look of Disdain.
If it opts for a hopeful ending that’s even quieter, it could be a simple shot of Jon and Sansa together in Winterfell, wearing their Stark Avengers furs and plotting their next move with Ghost by their side. But that’s probably too subdued for Game of Thrones post-Bastardbowl.
The Holy Shit Cliffhanger ending
Cersei is going to go nuts and burn King’s Landing, Mad King style. Just like Jon’s resurrection, this is inevitable: The question isn’t “will it happen?” so much as it is “when” and “how.” It’s been telegraphed by Cersei’s discussion with Qyburn in “No One” about that “rumor” he has confirmed; by Tyrion recently telling Daenerys about the Mad King’s stores of wildfire around the city; by Jaime telling Edmure Tully that Cersei would “burn cities” for her children; by Lady Olenna asking Cersei in “Blood of My Blood” if she intends to kill all her enemies. The show has been all but waving a flashing sign reading, “This is Going to Be a Thing This Season!” every time a burning reference comes up.
It’s even been telegraphed as far back as Season 2 when Tyrion told Cersei, “your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.”
But the question is, will Game of Thrones use this as the final shot of Season 6, or will it carry it into Season 7? It depends on whether the show can and should go on for two more seasons with no Lannisters in power. (We’re not counting Tyrion because he’s firmly Team Daenerys).
When Cersei burns the city, Jaime will be forced to repeat history and kill her. It will be the ultimate twist of irony, and it will make sense why the show has had Jaime profess his love for Cersei (by this point in the books, he’s emotionally estranged from her). In typical Game of Thrones fashion, it wants to hurt us, and what’s more hurtful than a misunderstood antihero being forced to kill the woman he loves? The show won’t be able to resist the poetic tragedy of it all.
Plus, Jaime and Cersei came into this world together; they’ll go out together. He will most likely either be so distraught by having to kill her that he’ll take his own life, or he’ll die in the attempt. Even in the event that he lives, he’ll be a broken man, and the prevalence of House Lannister will be no more. On the one hand, “The Battle of The Bastards” just returned to Season 1’s status quo, with Starks presiding over Winterfell once more. To continue on this path, the writers might decide to keep House Lannister around for one more season. In that event, the cliffhanger will be Jaime riding up to the city, hopeful about his reunion with Cersei, just as it begins to burn. His reaction to it and the fallout from it will be shelved until Season 7.
On the other hand, “The Battle of The Bastards” also forged new territory by putting forth a woman ruling the Iron Islands for the first time, drawing attention to Daenerys as the first female ruler of Westeros, and having Sansa coldly come through with battle reinforcements, heedless of the need to sacrifice Rickon and many of Jon’s men for the greater good. Perhaps the show has decided it’s time to get out with the old and shift its focus from human squabbles to the clash between man and White Walker. In that event, we can say adios to Jaime and Cersei next episode.
Jon’s parentage and Lyanna Stark have been mentioned quite heavily this season, but if we want to get technical about it, those references have been outnumbered by the Cersei as the Mad Queen references. And as Cersei is batshit insane yet oddly compelling, that would be the most satisfying and earned conclusion.
On the other hand, the show might have blown its entire production budget in “The Battle of The Bastards” and be forced to only use its lowest paid actors. If that means we’ll get an entire hour of only Direwolves, nobody can say that wouldn’t be a satisfying end.