Game of Thrones is filled with death, deception, depravity, the occasional act of decency, and dialogue acrobatics. Each week, we break them down. Let’s dive into Season 6 episode 10, “The Winds of Winter.”

The North Remembers

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan and you insist you didn’t feel emotional watching a crowd of Northerners proclaim Jon, “The King of The North!” then you’re a liar. Jon’s character arc this season has been debatable — the writing never did follow through on his resurrection in a meaningful way — but seeing him sitting in the halls of Winterfell with the glorious Lyanna Mormont persuading the Northern Lords to swear allegiance (while, unbeknownst to Jon and Sansa, Arya and Bran are both making their way back North) is one of the most cathartic moments the show has given us so far. And that’s only the beginning.

My dreams are diferent

Bran’s vision finally gave us confirmation on the longest-running Game of Thrones fan theory: Jon Snow’s real mother is, in fact, Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark, which means that his real father is Rhaegar Targaryen, which gives him a claim not just to the North,but to the Iron Throne itself. Much like Jon’s resurrection and Benjen Stark’s return, this development is not a surprise, but the reveal is satisfying, nonetheless . The camera cut from the baby’s face to Jon’s is also an indication that the show is getting more comfortable with telling this story in a more visual way, sans books.

The Lannisters Send Their Regards

Cersei’s burning of King’s Landing is also not a surprise (we predicted it several times. But the way it’s shot — with ominous piano music and cuts to each character going about their routines — is reminiscent of HBO’s other best show, The Leftovers. This season, writers have struggled with the switch to purely TV storytelling — most notably in Arya’s nonsensical characterization during her last few days in Braavos — but they shine in “The Winds of Winter.” This is a staging purely for television, and it expertly builds suspense and panic.

Margaery’s death is the only thing that sours this development, everything else about Cersei’s coup — her calm walk, her Morticia Addams attire, her Bond villain smirk, her revenge on the Shame Bell woman (“Admit it, it felt good, beating me, starving me, frightening me, humiliating me. You didn’t do it because you care about my atonement…I said my face would be the last thing you saw before you died, remember?”) — is a pure delight. In another actor’s hands, it could have been too hammy or cartoonish, but as usual, Lena Headey delivers.

Running around the Riverlands

Arya’s revenge on Walder Frey was not a surprise — it’s telegraphed from the moment the cameras linger on the serving girls and Jaime and Bronn take time out of the season finale to have a dialogue about them.

But the most interesting thing about Arya’s revenge isn’t her Sweeny Todd-like butchering of Frey’s family or the question of how on Earth she got to Westeros so fast, but the parallels it has with Cersei’s story. Arya’s parting words to Frey echo Cersei’s words to Shame Bell Woman (“The last thing you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die”). It’s fun to see Arya get her sweet revenge, but it’s also worrisome to see the dark path she’s heading down.

All Men Must Die

This episode’s body count is high: Walder Frey and his whole family, Lancel and Kevan Lannister, the High Sparrow and all his followers, the consistently creepy Maester Pycelle, Tommen’s underwhelming window suicide, and all the Tyrells save for Olenna. But the biggest loss to the show is Margaery, who was the best female character save for Sansa, Arya before Season 6’s questionable writing, and Lyanna Mormont. If this was a more character-savvy show, it would have killed Daenerys and kept Margaery around to be queen, but alas. Her death is the one true tragedy, both because she doesn’t deserve it and because she’s smart enough to realize what’s happening – but powerless to talk her way out of it, for once.

Uneasy is the head that wears the crown

Tyrion’s middling plot line has been a waste of Peter Dinklage’s talents this season, but his final scene with Daenerys is at last up to the high standards of previous seasons. His rueful acceptance of his own hopefulness is moving, as is his uncynical reaction to being named Hand of the Queen.

And as I said before, I have no love lost for Daenerys but thank the Seven she’s finally getting a move on to Westeros. The shot of her ships setting sail was one Daenerys ending that’s actually as resonant as the writers think it is.

Queen Cersei will certainly greet her with open arms next season, won’t she?

Spare Coins from the Iron Bank

  • Sansa’s shared glance with Littlefinger during the “King of the North” chant spells ominous signs for the future.
  • Sam’s whole Citadel sequence is a comedic delight, from sing-talking “hello!” as his greeting to “that is irregular” to his awkwardly apologetic wave at Gilly after the order “no women and children!”
  • Not enough Sandor Clegane this episode.
  • Melisandre is heading South. Since characters are teaming up left and right at this point, by the beginning of Season 7 she’ll surely be in Dorne with the Sand Snakes, Olenna, and Varys.
  • Daario speaks for all of us when he says, “Fuck Meereen.”
  • Littlefinger wants to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa as his queen? Do we really buy this? He surely wants to rule from the shadows with someone else in the spotlight. Is this bad writing and inconsistent characterization? Or does he want Sansa to think that’s his wish for unknown reasons?
  • Similarly, his comment about Jon being born “South” is an interesting slip that seems to indicate knowledge of his true parentage.
  • Do Jon and Sansa really need a letter from the Citadel to tell them Winter is coming? Can’t they just look up and see the snow falling? That was a nice self-aware wink to the constant “Winter is coming!” in Season 1, when Jon says, “Well, father always promised, didn’t he?”
  • So, Jaime and Cersei’s relationship should be great next season, right?
Photos via HBO