It’s somewhat difficult to pick just one thing to talk about with regards to last night’s Game of Thrones season six finale given that ALL OF THE THINGS HAPPENED. Two decade old fan theories were finally confirmed, revenge (and Frey Pies) was served cold, old Hands became new Hands, and Meereenese Knots were untangled. 1 Yet, despite all the happenings throughout the realm my mind keeps returning to King’s Landing and the culmination of Cersei’s six season long bid for the Iron Throne.
The finale’s extended opening sequence in King’s Landing may very well be the most flawlessly executed twenty minutes of Game of Thrones. The montage of Cersei, Tommen, and the High Sparrow slipping into their respective regalia as the bells tolled at the Sept of Baelor wordlessly built tension from the start. The piano notes that followed were as unexpected as they were haunting — an absolute tour de force from composer Ramin Djawadi. While the music temporarily gave way to Ser Loras’ trial — which in itself demonstrated the heartbreaking extent to which the Knight of Flowers had been completely broken in his captivity — as soon as the Mountain barred Tommen from leaving his chambers, the eerie melody resumed. The pacing of the moments that followed was executed in such a way that the audience realized what was about to happen just moments before the characters themselves.
Margery alone was able to deduce that Cersei’s absence from her own trial wasn’t an act of cowardice but rather one of cold calculation, yet even she was unable to slip out of the Queen Mother’s expertly laid trap. Of course despite the total elimination of all of her political foes in King’s Landing — The High Sparrow, Margaery Tyrell, Pycelle, even her uncle Kevan — her triumph was quickly soured Tommen’s unceremonious suicide.2
Cersei has always been defined by two overpowering desires — to keep her children safe and to take the power she felt that everyone dismissed her from attaining. The former drive was what gave her character at least a modicum of sympathy, especially once it was revealed that it had been prophesied in her youth that she would watch all three of her children die (“and gold shall be their shrouds”). While her means of protecting her children ranged from dubious to downright evil, there was at least a shred of humanism to her intent which made it hard to paint Cersei as much of a pure antagonist as Joffrey or Ramsay.
Yet with the loss of Tommen — and you could argue Cersei had already considered him somewhat lost the moment he banned trial by combat — any remaining empathy underlying Cersei’s motives was burned away. By the time Cersei ascended the Iron Throne later in the episode, there was little doubt that she had indeed assumed the role of Mad Queen.3 With Ramsay eliminated in episode nine, it seemed for a moment that Game of Thrones may have a villain problem, but Cersei seems more than capable of wearing that crown as well.
The impact of Cersei’s actions reverberated much beyond the walls of King’s Landing, however. Earlier in the season I openly wondered about the implications of another would be queen’s plan of conquest — which at that point seemed to be won on the backs of reapers and ravers. While last episode’s “Okay guys promise you won’t rape and pillage” request from Daenerys seemed like a half-measure at best, Cersei’s homicidal demolition of the Sept of Baelor managed to rally House Tyrell and House Martell behind the banners of Daenerys Targaryen. Any concerns of Daenerys playing the part of foreign invader now seem tempered by the support of two of Westeros’ more powerful houses. Given that House Martell and House Tyrell hold the lands south of King’s Landing, I would imagine that Jon and his aunt Daenerys won’t meet until after the Mother of Dragons has already dealt with Cersei and King’s Landing. Cersei seems vastly outmanned in that fight but she also seemed doomed just two episodes ago. I have a feeling the Mad Queen won’t go out without a bang.4
- Though despite all of it the moment which made my eyes well up the most was the Stark Sigil restored to Winterfell on the opening credits. ↩
- Though she did take a long moment to flourish in the end zone by ruthlessly mocking and torturing Septa Unella ↩
- The unsettled look from Jamie heavily foreshadowed the potential of the kingslayer eventually becoming the queenslayer. ↩
- This is when I remind you that in the season two House of the Undying sequence, Daenerys walked through a burned Throne Room covered in snow. Food for thought. ↩