Monday, July 31, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.10: "The Winds of Winter"

Read the previous entry in the series here. 
Read the next entry in the series here.

6.10 “The Winds of Winter”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Commentary by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Len Headey (Cersei), and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion)

Well, here we are. The end of season 6; the true end of any claim to rewatching. The end of an era, almost, as something like 90% of the characters get murdered in this episode. The rest of it is just wrapping up loose ends and getting ready for season seven.

I don’t know if I talk up the good parts of this series enough. The writing, plotting, and adapting might be terrible, the costuming sometimes questionable, and the acting occasionally slippy, but usually the acting is really good, the cinematography gorgeous, the effects well done.

And the music. You guys, the music. Ramin Djawadi is a master. I’m still not tired of the main theme. “The Children” gives me goosebumps every time. And in this episode, he completely changes technique and instrumentation and gives us “The Light of the Seven,” which is a gorgeously melancholy piece that plays for nearly 10 minutes over the extremely long opening of this episode that leads up to the boom. Near the end, the piano shifts to organ, which, combined with the introduction of the main motif, adds menace, then shifts back to melancholy piano, then back to organ, following the main beats of the scene.

Here, just listen:

This plays over a montage as the various King’s Landing personages get dressed and prepare for Cersei’s trial at the Sept. The militant collect Loras from his cell. Pycelle is stopped on his way to the Sept and redirected elsewhere.

Loras’ trial is held first, and he confesses to sodomy, perjury, depravity, profligacy, and arrogance. He agrees to renounce name and title, to never marry or father children. Instead, he’ll join the Faith Militant. They carve the seven-pointed star on his forehead, much to Mace’s dismay. Margaery is angry; she reminds the Sparrow that he promised not to hurt Loras. The Sparrow says he didn’t, much, and Loras is free to go as soon as Cersei’s trial is over, and where is Cersei, anyway? And Tommen?

Cersei’s still getting dressed. Tommen’s trapped in his room by a looming Ser Gregor Robert the Strong. Pycelle’s been led to Qyburn’s lab, where the little birds stab him to death. Meanwhile, Lancel discovers another kid running away from the Sept and follows him, discovering the racks and racks of wildfire under the Sept.

Margaery takes stock of the Sept and figures out Cersei’s plan. She tries to get everyone to evacuate, but gets pooh-poohed because everyone on this show is an idiot. Just as panic starts to spread and the Sparrow realizes that just maybe someone besides himself can be right about something, the Sept explodes in green fire. From the Red Keep, Cersei and Tommen watch the Sept burn.

Cersei goes downstairs to torment Septa Unella, who she’s got tied to a table, tells her that sinning is fun and feels good, so ha, then leaves her with Gregor Ser Robert, who starts stripping off his armor and frankly I don’t even want to know what’s going on in there. Meanwhile, Tommen gives up on everything and throws himself out his bedroom window. (Benioff and Weiss, of course, blame Cersei for this plot point—if she “had been more focused on her family” instead of torturing Unella, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I—what? After all of this, you’re telling us Cersei isn’t focused enough on her family?! That’s all she’s been focused on since episode one! Also, don’t even get me started on the issue of Cersei as a bad mother being the reason bad things happen to her.)

So, rather than actually deal with complicated politics, Benioff and Weiss decided to just axe the entire King’s Landing storyline by getting rid of everyone but Cersei and Jaime in one fell swoop. Kind of like they did with Dorne at the beginning of the season (so at least there’s some symmetry!).

Jaime returns to King’s Landing and arrives just in time to see Cersei in her new badass dress of badassdom ascending the throne. Qyburn crowns her queen and everyone looks grim, including Jaime. Is he finally realizing that Cersei is a Bad Person and that, by association, he’s a Bad Person, too? Better late than never! (Martin got him there two books ago.)

It’s not just King’s Landing where death is happening, either. Back at the Twins, Walder’s cackling about how Brynden was killed by common foot soldiers. Jaime (who hasn’t left yet at this point) tells him that he’s a bad leader and if the Lannisters have to keep giving him the Riverlands because he can’t hold them, then they’re not likely to keep backing him. That shuts Walder up for a second. Later, a serving girl brings Walder his dinner, which just so happens to be Lothar and Black Walder very badly baked into a pie. The serving girl, of course, is Arya wearing a face, and she opens Walder’s throat while making her dead-eyed murder-face.

Now, the whole pie thing does happen in the books (not like this, of course). However, I don’t understand why it’s happening here. In the books, it’s set up with Bran’s story about the Rat Cook and how breaking guest-right is an unforgivable sin. Then Wyman Manderly feeds the “envoys” from the Twins—three Freys sent to keep him in line—to the Boltons at the wedding feast for Ramsay and “Arya” in meat pies (after having the bard sing the song about the Rat Cook to make it that much less subtle). In the show, there’s no indication that Arya’s particularly familiar with the story; she’s probably heard it, but Bran’s the one who loves scary stories. There’s no reminder of the Rat Cook and the story’s theme about breaking guest right. It feels more like Benioff and Weiss remembered this particular plot point and thought it would be macabre, so they threw it in without any of its accompanying context (because they’ve never done that before).

Benjen/Coldhands gets Meera and Bran to the Wall, leaving them at the godswood where the Night’s Watch men say their vows. Bran wargs into the tree again and goes back to the Tower of Joy, where he sees Lyanna giving birth. There’s a hard cut from the baby’s face to Jon’s, and this apparently confused a lot of people because it wasn’t made clear enough that the baby was Rhaegar’s (some people thought he was Ned's by Lyanna and got rightly squicked out), so the major R+L=J reveal was completely botched. Thanks, guys.

The rest of the episode is really wrapping things up. Sam and Gilly reach the Citadel, and Sam is introduced to the library, which he totally abandons Gilly for because women and babies aren’t allowed in. Davos finally gets to confront Melisandre about killing Shireen, which gets her expelled from Winterfell. Olenna, Ellaria, and Varys create an alliance to support Daenerys, who’s on her way after she dumps Daario, names Tyrion Hand of the Queen, and gets on her Ironborn fleet with . . . Varys. Who has magically appeared back at Slaver’s Bay The Bay of Dragons. I don’t even attempt to keep up with the timeline/geography of this show anymore. Petyr corners Sansa in the godswood and pervs on her, which she’s finally having none of, thank the gods.

Finally, Jon gets to have the same argument with the northern lords that he had with the Night’s Watch—they need the Wildlings to help them fight the coming winter. Lyanna Mormont declares that Jon should be King in the North despite so many reasons why he shouldn’t, and Sansa doesn’t assert her own rights as the rightful heir of Winterfell.

So that’s season 6, which might be the bloodiest season so far. I’d argue it’s also the worst in terms of everything—characterization, plotting, writing, pacing, internal consistency. As gleeful as Benioff and Weiss were about leaving Martin behind and getting to tell their own story, they sure made a hash of it.

Grand Maester Pycelle
Lancel Lannister
The High Sparrow
Loras Tyrell
Margaery Tyrell
Mace Tyrell
Kevan Lannister
Tommen Baratheon
Black Walder Rivers
Lothar Frey
Walder Frey

Next week: Dany comes home. Jon can’t lead. The Wonder Twins plot.

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