WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
Is Jon Snow actually a Targaryen? It’s a question that’s been eating at the Game of Thrones fandom for years, but something that’s only come into play on the show this season. We had always been told that Jon was the bastard son of Ned Stark and some southern woman, though we never found out who. But there was plenty of evidence in the books that refuted this claim. First, there was the matter of Ned having an affair. Could a man so honorable actually cheat on his wife? It didn’t add up. Then, there were the rumors about Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell of Dorne, but there were always whispers that he secretly had love for another woman, Lyanna Stark, who was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. As the history books told it, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna and took her to the Tower of Joy, where he raped and murdered her. That was one of the launching points for Robert’s rebellion against the Targaryens. But there were others that told the story differently. They said that Lyanna wanted to run away with Rhaegar to the Tower of Joy, and that Lyanna gave birth to their love child there. Ned found her, dying from childbirth, and agreed to take the newborn boy under his wing, and claim the child as his own. That way, the boy would be free from persecution, as he’d have a claim on the Iron Throne. According to the rumors, that boy was Jon Snow.
Well, we found out last night that the rumors were true. Jon is actually the bastard son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, making him Daenerys’ nephew, and Sansa/Arya/Bran’s cousin. The reason I broke everything down in so much detail is because the show could not have done a worse job in revealing this story altering twist. I seriously can’t believe how badly they botched it. They certainly laid the bread crumbs out there for book readers leading up to this episode. First, there was Littlefinger’s speech to Sansa in the crypts of Winterfell about her aunt Lyanna. He made a few vague references to not everything being as it seems. Then, there was Bran’s dream back to the Tower of Joy, where Ned found his sister. We didn’t get to see inside the building, but why else would the writers be showing us this pivotal moment? Then, there were the other dreams of Bran’s, where we got to see Ned, Brandon, and Lyanna Stark as children. All of these added up as significant evidence that we’d finally find out Jon true parentage. I even predicted that we’d see it in this finale as one of the show’s final moments. And then it happened. Ned ascended the steps of the Tower of Joy, followed closely by Bran. Ned saw his sister dying in bed. Then she pulled him close and whispered in his ear. We heard a baby crying. Lyanna asked Ned to watch over the child amidst more whispering. Then we got a close up of the baby, which faded to a now grown up Jon Snow. When I type it out like this, it’s easy to put the pieces together, but going from the Twitter reactions last night, this whole scene went completely over the head of nearly every “average” Game of Thrones viewer. That sucks.
This reveal completely changes the show. Jon is now King in the North, with his supporters flocking behind the Stark name, a name he doesn’t even really share. Dany is sailing to Westeros to take the Iron Throne, and little does she know, there’s still another living Targaryen out there. Ugh, it makes me so mad to see how this was handled. One of my least favorite storytelling devices in television is when characters whisper to one another so that the audience can’t hear. We’re the audience, we’re supposed to be all knowing and all seeing. If you don’t want us to know something, don’t show it or don’t say it at all. And it wasn’t even that the writers were trying to keep the truth from the audience, they clearly wanted us to put the pieces together. The problem is that the pieces were all different shapes and sizes, and there was no clear instruction manual.
I have two minor quibbles before we get into the meat of this episode, and they’re both dealing with the same problem. Characters on Game of Thrones are now completely capable of light speed travel, and it’s ridiculous. When did Arya leave Braavos, and how the hell did she make is all the way to The Twins so quickly? How on earth was Varys able to sail to Dorne, get there at the same time as Lady Olenna, and then get back to Meereen in order to sail west with Dany and Tyrion? It completely boggles the mind. The writers are clearly more concerned with having crazy, “couldn’t see that coming” reveals than they are in making sense, and that’s frustrating. Sure, Arya popping out of nowhere to get her revenge on Walder Frey was badass and unexpected, but it was only unexpected because it made absolutely no sense. Still, this is a small complaint. But when it takes Sam several episodes to get to Oldtown and only seemingly minutes for Arya to make it across the Narrow Sea, it raises some eyebrows.
And now, for a much larger problem I’m having with this show. Whenever the writers don’t know what to do with a character, they just kill them off. Back in the day, it was possible for characters to just be written off, with maybe some chance that they’d show up again. Remember Gendry? We didn’t get resolution to his story, he just kind of sailed away. Maybe he’ll come back, maybe he made it to King’s Landing and is in hiding, maybe he ended up hooking up with some sailors and heading to Essos, maybe he’s still sailing in a big circle around Westeros. We don’t know, and that’s interesting. But Game of Thrones doesn’t do that anymore, by and large. Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, the High Sparrow, Lancel Lannister, Kevan Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle, Tommen Baratheon, and Walder Frey all died in this episode. That’s a lot of characters that were completely wiped out, and the vast majority were in King’s Landing.
I completely understand the desire to wipe the slate clean in King’s Landing, especially considering there are only two more seasons of the show and Dany is currently sailing for Westeros. The King’s Landing story had been the weakest all season, with just a lot of wasted time. The writers kept dragging Cersei’s trail out, and they were obviously wanting to save it for the finale. I just take issue with the way everything played out. Many people, myself included, thought that Tommen would die in the finale, and that Cersei would employ the wildfire to do something crazy. Both of those things turned out to be true, but I definitely didn’t expect so many people to bite it as a result. What’s even left in King’s Landing now? Cersei is ruling and Jaime is back, and I’m sure he won’t be very pleased with her actions. But what happens next? Cersei has no one to fight against in the immediate future (unless that person becomes Jaime), and it didn’t even feel like she gave a shit about her last son’s death. To be fair, no one watching the show cared about Tommen’s death either, but still.
I’m guessing that the Martells and what’s left of the Tyrells will be marching for King’s Landing, but Lady Olenna is the only Tyrell left that we know, and the writers have mishandled Dorne and the Martells since they were introduced. Unless Dany gets thrown into the mix next season, which I doubt, I just don’t particularly care about what’s going to happen with any of those characters. The real action will be in the north, and with Dany presumably taking on the Greyjoys.
Now that I have the significant amount of negative out of the way, let’s talk about some cool shit in this episode. I said in my review last week that the final shot of the finale would be Dany sailing with her Unsullied, Khalasar, and Greyjoy ships, and I was right on the money with that one. Still, it was a cool shot. Arya got some more revenge, and Walder Grey was finally taken out of the picture. I may have been annoyed with how quickly she got there, but it was still a fun reveal. Sam and Gilly made it to the Citadel, a place that I’ve been looking forward to seeing on screen since I began reading the books. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about Sam since they left his family’s home a few episodes ago. But I’m guessing his story will be a major component of next season. There has to be some knowledge there to assist in the war against the White Walkers, right? And can we talk about how cool that library was? It straight up looked like something out of Hogwarts. And as I stated above, Bran learned the true parentage of Jon Snow. Bran is headed back south of The Wall, so it’s possible he’ll meet back up with Jon and Sansa next season. Arya is also close by in the Riverlands, so could we get all four remaining Stark children back together? I’m pretty sure the internet would explode with joy if that happened.
By and large, though, King’s Landing took up a bulk of this episode, story-wise. Most everything was just set up for next season, with some resolution to Jon and Sansa taking Winterfell, and Dany kicking Daario to the curb and naming Tyrion to be Hand of the Queen. Littlefinger is none too happy with Sansa since she turned down his figurative and literal proposal, but she seemed happy with Jon being named King in the North. Littlefinger has sworn to help her and to serve House Stark, but Littlefinger doesn’t give two shits about oaths. He also seems to know that Jon isn’t really a Stark, so maybe that will come out sooner rather than later.
I thought the stuff in King’s Landing was intense, and it played out pretty well. Maybe the build went on a little too long (especially once we saw the wildfire and everyone knew what was going to happen), but I’d guess the writers were trying to convince us that some people would escape the Sept of Baelor. No such luck, and pretty much every important character in King’s Landing is now dead, with the exception of Cersei and Jaime.
The biggest question now is: who’s the main villain of the show? For the first several seasons it was Joffrey, then Tywin, then Walder Frey, then Roose Bolton, then Ramsay Bolton. Now they’re all dead. Sure, there’s Euron Greyjoy, but he only seems to care about taking out Theon and Yara, not with ruling Westeros. Obviously, that will come into play when Dany reaches Westeros, but he and the Greyjoys just don’t seem all that important in the grand scheme of things. Right now it looks like Cersei is the “big bad,” but again, King’s Landing has been pretty closed off from everything else the last few seasons. If the Martells/Tyrells do march on the Lannisters, that’ll be two hated armies fighting each other. It’s not really a case where the audience wants either side to win. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the White Walker conflict start in earnest next season. We already know that the Night’s King is now capable of travelling south of The Wall after touching Bran, and I highly doubt Dolores Edd and the remainder of the Night’s Watch will stop him.
One final note: the music in this episode was totally exceptional. Game of Thrones has always had a great score, but this episode stood out. The opening scene with everyone dressing for Cersei’s trial was fantastic. I’ll be putting together some thoughts on where I’d like the show to go from here, but for now, leave your theories in the comments below! I was pleasantly surprised with this season. There were definitely some mediocre storylines and average episodes, but we also got some epic battles and long-awaited reveals. I can’t wait for season seven! Only 10 months to go!