“I pity the lords of Westeros. They have no idea what's coming for them.”
So utters the heartbroken Daario Naharis, as Dany leaves behind her lover for the sake of her kingdom to come. However, as “The Winds of Winter” made clear, it’s the ladies in Westeros that you need to worry about. Since geography and time seemed to be pretty flexible concepts this week, let’s restore some order and break this down by region.
Cersei's plan to ignite the Mad King’s caches of wildfire tidily rids her of all her enemies in one fell explosion: the High Septon and his Sparrows, Queen Margaery and Ser Loras, Mace Tyrell, Uncle Kevan Lannister, and close to a hundred others present at the trial in the Sept of Baylor. With pervy Grand Maester Pycelle swept aside by the little birds and Septa Unella sent to her Clegane Torture Chamber, the only death Cersei didn’t plan for – poor, sweet Tommen, taking a long walk out a short castle window – does not destroy her, but rather emboldens her ambition for revenge. With her last living child in his golden shroud, the Queen Mother lets go of all pretense and seizes her own reign on the Iron Throne as Queen Cersei, First of Her Name. Alas, as Jaime returns to her coronation, he’s confronted with the fact his beloved twin has perpetrated the very same atrocity he once slew a king to prevent. Could it be that Jaime, not Tyrion, is the valonquar destined to choke the life out of Cersei?
While Jon may be the new “King in the North,” it’s Lady Lyanna Mormont who steals the show as she rallies the Stark bannermen to fall in line now that winter has finally come. In the present, little Lyanna pushes Jon to the helm of the Northern army. In the past, Weiss and Benioff finally let us inside the Tower of Joy to see Lyanna, First of Her Name, laying her newborn son in Ned’s arms, begging her brother for the boy's protection. This moment, twenty years in the making, finally confirms at least 2/3 of A Song of Ice and Fire gospel, the R+L=J equation. What does this mean for Jon as the new leader of the Stark army, and does it set up a possible alliance with another Targaryen across the Narrow Sea?
While Lord Wyman was raising his sword for the new King in the North, the showrunners repurposed his storyline from A Dance with Dragons and had Arya the Assassin serve Lord Walder his Frey Pie before slitting his throat. (Would it have killed her to at least let him take a bite first?) Though she had a prize Lannister in her sights at the earlier feast, Arya chooses instead to christen her return to Westeros with the blood of Walder Frey, violator of guest right and the man who carried out the order of the Red Wedding. Since apparently defeating the Waif qualified Arya for the House of Black & White's face rental program, she's now able to combine the assets of the Faceless Men with a kill list long overdue for some attention. All enemies of the Starks should consider themselves on notice. So, where do we think Arya Andronicus is headed next?
Meanwhile in Dorne, Lady Olenna has united with Oberyn’s bastard brood in an unprecedented alliance against their common enemy. (Varys coming in hot with the assist!) By my count, that’s now three badass ladies and their ancient Houses firmly in the Targaryen camp, promising to rain fire and blood down upon Lannisters. With another lady assassin looking to cross Cersei’s name off of her list, does the Mad Queen have any hope of holding her throne?
Speaking of Varys, the Master of Whisperers has racked up some serious frequent flyer miles in the last few weeks. He must have caught the red-eye to the newly-anointed “Bay of Dragons,” just to turn right back around and take the scenic route to the Seven Kingdoms at the head of Dany’s fleet. Don’t worry too much about the timeline, one GOT writer took to Twitter to assure us. Essentially: forget it y'all, long journeys by ship are hella boring.
Now that the Mereneese knot has finally been untied, after six years, our Known World starts to contract. Looking out over her painstakingly assembled army - the Iron fleet, flanked by Tyrell and Dornish sails, carrying an army of Dothraki and Unsullied - Dany is ready to descend upon Westeros and reclaim her throne. As she pledged to the Wise Masters last week, her reign has just begun.
"The Winds of Winter" (Season 6, Episode 10) is now streaming on HBO GO and HBO NOW.