“No one can protect anyone.”
Not since “valar morghulis” have we been given such a succinct, universal truth of the world of Game of Thrones. As we’ve seen repeatedly over the past 6 years, and quite poignantly in last night’s penultimate episode, no one can protect any one – from death, from betrayal, or from the war to come.
Jon and Sansa could not protect their little brother, and a true-born heir of Winterfell, Rickon, from the fate that befell honorable Starks before him. Cut down by Ramsey’s arrow, poor, sweet Rickon was not long for this world. The ragtag wildling army could not protect Wun Wun, the last giant, from the massive attrition of Bolton artillery, ending with a fatal arrow through the eye (once again by Ramsey’s hand). But in an uncharacteristically satisfying farewell, Ramsey ultimately cannot protect himself from his own blood thirsty hounds.
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As Sansa drops the mic and walks away, back into a fortress where the grey direwolf Stark banner now rightfully hangs once again, what comes next for our newly-anointed Queen in the North? What exactly will Littlefinger expect in return for riding in with the white knights of the Vale to save the day? I think we all have some guesses.
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves this week, extending all the way across the Narrow Sea, as Daenerys decisively dropped the hammer on the Masters of Slaver’s Bay. Finally, Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal are ready for battle, easily extinguishing the entire fleet at the gates, while a horde of Dothraki screamers and Second Sons storm the city walls to finish off the Sons of the Harpy. As for the final piece of Dany’s Westerosi invasion puzzle? Enter the orphans Greyjoy, laying 100 ships from the Iron Fleet at the khaleesi’s fleet in exchange for her support against their murderous Uncle Euron and the independence of the Iron Islands. The condition? No more reeving, raiding, or raping. Is the palpable sexual tension between Yara and the Dragon Queen enough to change the Ironborn's way of life?
Will we see another (Mad) Queen take decisive action as Season 6 comes to a close next week? The evidence is mounting to support a circulating Internet theory that Cersei will attempt to burn King’s Landing to the ground. We’ve seen some significant allusions to the Mad King and his stockpiles of wildfire: first, Bran’s far-reaching vision melding past, present and future, giving us our first glimpse of Aerys Targaryen, as well as a green flash of wildfire exploding. Since Aerys and his pyromancers were stopped by Jaime’s kingslaying, this explosion is likely still to come. Second, last week Qyburn confirmed the truth of rumors unknown, thought to be the wildfire stores underneath the city. Finally, this week, Tyrion revealed to Dany her father’s plan to “burn them all” in an effort to elicit mercy from the Queen. Season 6 has seen a more subdued Cersei, chastised and humiliated by the High Sparrow and cast aside by her only living child. In A Feast for Crows, Cersei burns the Red Keep to the ground after Tywin’s death, beginning her slow, paranoid unraveling. Will we see the Queen Regent reduce the city to ashes rather than submit to the control of the Faith Militant?
"Battle of the Bastards" (Season 6, Episode 9) is now streaming on HBO GO and HBO NOW.