Monday, June 27, 2016

Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter

by Melissa Parkin

It’s time for Cersei to face the music. She prepares for her trial as Loras Tyrell arrives in the Great Sept. On his way to the trial, Grand Maester Pycelle runs into one of Qyburn’s little birds, who whispers something into the man’s ear. Loras fully admits to his crimes, pledging devotion to the Seven Gods for mercy. In return, he must abandon his family’s name and his claim to Highgarden. Loras is then branded with the seven-pointed star on his forehead. Furious by the mutilation, Queen Margaery confronts the High Sparrow, reminding him of his promise. He confirms that her brother will be free to leave, as soon as Cersei’s trial commences. And that’s what plagues Margaery the most. The Queen Regent is nowhere to be found.

Cersei remains in the Red Keep, sending The Mountain to keep King Tommen from attending the trial as well. The Sparrow orders Lancel to fetch Cersei, but Lancel’s curiosity gets the better of him when he sees a child fleeing from the Sept. As he follows the youngster down into the underground, Pycelle follows another child to a remote chamber. The Grand Maester, clearly misled, demands to know where the king is. Qyburn assures Pycelle that none of this is personal. His "little birds" suddenly surround the old man. They pluck out a variety of daggers and knives, attacking him until he draws his last breath.

Lancel finds himself led to a secret storeroom hidden beneath the city. He loses track of the child he followed, only for the boy to emerge from the shadows and stab him in the back. Lancel collapses to the ground as the little assassin runs off. Hauling his dying body across the barrel-filled passageway, Lancel comes across a green puddle and a dying candle. Just as he feared, the green substance is Wildfire. Margaery knows Cersei is up to something. She warns the High Sparrow that the Queen Regent is plotting an attack. The plea falls on deaf ears, as the High Sparrow bars everyone from leaving the Sept.

The Queen tries to fight her way through, but isn’t fortunate enough. A dying Lancel crawls over to the singular lit candle melting on the floor, trying to extinguish the flame before it reaches the spilled concoction. His eyes burn a fiery green, and the entire tunnel goes up in ablaze. The High Sparrow senses the quake, but it’s all a little too late. The floor beneath the Sept shakes just before the Wildfire engulfs the building, blowing it and everyone inside to smithereens.

Taking additional pleasure in her victory, Cersei ties up Septa Unella and begins tormenting her, demanding she confess. The Queen Regent knows the woman enjoyed torturing her when she was a prisoner in the Sept. Unella declares she’s ready to face the Seven Gods, but Cersei informs her that she will not be dying today. In fact, Lannister plans to keep her alive for quite some time. Cersei invites The Mountain into the prison cell. The brute removes his helmet, revealing a disfigured face. “Your Gods have forsaken you. This is your God now.” Cersei begins smugly chanting, “shame, shame, shame” as she walks out of the cell, leaving the two to get better acquainted. Tommen receives word of the Sept’s destruction. Once alone, the young man removes his crown and falls from a window.

Walder Frey makes a toast as Jaime and Bronn feast at the Twins. A particularly pretty girl seems to take fancy with Jaimie, igniting yet another eye roll from Bronn. He promptly leaves with a couple of other young ladies for the night as Frey joins Jaimie at the table. Walder Frey begins gloating over all his victories, which Jaimie quickly mocks. He knows his enemies don’t fear Frey; they fear the Lannisters. 

“We gave you the Riverlands to hold the Riverlands. If we have to ride North and take them back every time you lose them, why do we need you?”

Jon is joined by Melisandre in the Great Hall of Winterfell. The two dabble in polite conversation before Davos storms into the room and tosses the stag he made for Shireen at Melisandre. He demands the red sorceress come clean for her crimes. Melisandre tries to justify Shireen’s death, but Jon’s mercy only spares the woman her life. He orders her to flee South, and to never return to the North again. If she does, Snow will see to it that she be hanged. Davos promises to kill her himself if he crosses paths with her again. She promptly leaves Winterfell.

Olenna Tyrell goes to Dorne to meet with Ellaria and her daughters. The Sand Snakes try to appeal to her softer side, but this feisty old lady isn’t having any of it. She demands to know the purpose behind this arranged meeting. Ellaria wishes to broker an alliance between the two houses. Olenna makes it clear that she’s not in this game anymore for survival. After the death of her son, grandson, and granddaughter, she’s in it for vengeance. Ellaria shares the sentiment, ringing a bell to invite an additional guest to the party. Varys.

Daario is all geared up to hit King’s Landing, only to discover that Dany has barred him from leaving Meereen. She wants him to stay with the Second Sons in the city to maintain the newly acquired peace. Daario confesses his love to her, demanding to go with her. Still, she refuses. Dany needs to make alliances in Westeros, most likely through marriage. “I can’t bring a lover.” He doesn’t care if he’s seen as her "mistress," but he quickly realizes this idea is Tyrion’s doing. Knowing he will not be able to sway Dany, he wishes her the best and leaves.

The youngest Lannister asks the Mother of Dragons how Daario took the news the moment she arrives. Even though she knows she broke his heart, Dany confesses to not feeling anything when cutting ties with Daario. Tyrion tries his best to console her, but does so rather miserably. To his surprise, Dany names him Hand of the Queen and pins the designated badge to his chest, in which Tyrion kneels.

Walder Frey dines alone in the hall, awaiting his sons’ arrival. The servant girl who caught Jaimie’s eye the night before tells him that they’re already here. He demands they come in. Yet, she replies, “they’re already here.” She then gestures to the food on Frey’s own plate. In true Sweeny Todd fashion, he discovers she baked his sons into the meat pies. “They weren’t easy to carve. Especially Black Walder.” The woman pulls off her face. “My name is Arya Stark. I want you to know that. The last you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die.” She slits his throat, Red-Wedding-style, and watches him bleed out.

Littlefinger finds Sansa sitting in the Weirwood. He admits to her that his motive is to claim the Iron Throne, with Sansa by his side. He then leans in to kiss her. Sansa, having told Jon earlier that only a fool would trust Petyr, stops him. Littlefinger tells her he’s declared for House Stark. She doesn’t buy it, as he’s already done so for many other houses in the past, with only his own self-interest at heart. “You, my love, are the future of House Stark.” He wants the North to rally behind her rather than Snow, as she’s the legitimate heir.

Benjen says his goodbyes to Meera and Bran as they reach the Wall. The magic guarding it keeps the White Walkers and the undead from heading south, but it stops him as well. Bran notices blood coming out of the eyes of a nearby Weirwood tree. Ready to take his place as the Three-Eyed Raven, he touches it. He returns to the vision where he sees a young Ned Stark going into the Tower of Joy. He finds his sister lying in bed, covered with blood. She whispers something in his ear, asking him to promise to protect her child. Ned gazes into the young boy’s eyes, and the screen cuts to Jon Snow.

Struggling to rally the houses of the North, Jon warns them of the impending doom of the White Walkers. The room erupts into a petty shouting match between the Lords until Lyanna Mormont stands. She calls out each traitorous house for not joining Snow on the field before declaring Jon the true heir. The lords quickly rally behind the proclamation, ending with them chanting “King in the North!” Sansa spots Littlefinger amongst the crowd, and he doesn’t exactly look pleased by the turn of events.

Upon Jaimie’s return to King’s Landing, he sees the Wildfire smoke still billowing over the city. He enters the throne room just as Cersei is re-crowned the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, the Greyjoy siblings join Daenerys as the Iron Fleet sets sail with her dragons soaring overhead. Seems someone is finally heading for Westeros.

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