Tony Black on what could be in store for Game of Thrones in ‘The Winds of Winter’…
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve managed to recover from the televisual onslaught that was Game of Thrones season six episode nine, ‘Battle of the Bastards’. Spoilers will inevitably follow for this monster, this narrative titan of an episode, so get thee to Riverrun behind those walls if you haven’t seen it yet. If you have, perhaps your palpitations have stopped, or perhaps not. Either way, we can breath easy. The battle was won, and not in GoT‘s usual style by the worst Westeros has to offer. For once, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have given us the justice we have so desperately craved for years now, even more than the day King Joffrey choked on his own smugness. Barmy Bolton is, at last, a goner, and if there was more of a poetic way for Ramsey to meet his doom, then I don’t know what it could be.
I gasped. I cheered. I almost cried with relief. The Stark banners fell over Winterfell and it felt like England had won the Euros, or the UK had remained in the European Union. Chances are of those three battles, Jon Snow’s victory is the only one I’m going to get, so let’s make the most of it. Drink some wine. Let Littlefinger throw you a whore or two. Dance a jig to Sigur Ros. Only just remember one thing: the good guys may have won the battle, but by gum they have not yet won the war. Jon, Sansa, Davos – they don’t even realise what war they need to fight. As they continue looking to the North, no one is keeping an eye on the East.
For it wasn’t just the bastards who ended up battling this week, as Daenerys Targaryen reminded us she’s Stormborn by riding in with the best defence, which she knows is a good offense; for the first time, she took all of her dragons into the air and unleashed the fury on the male usurpers who would try and dare challenge her might. Drogon & his boys flayed ships. The Dothraki slaughtered the Harpies. Oh and Grey Worm gets a bloody cool kill. The crucial point is this: Dany is *finally* ready. Not only has she fully set Meereen free, but she now has her first Westerosi allies of substance in the renegade Ironborn. It was a joy to watch her clear admiration for flirty Yara, getting a kick out of the possibility of installing an independent Queen on a Westerosi nation, but importantly Daenerys now has ships, and plenty of them.
The question is – where does she take them? Does she sail for Pyke first to install Yara & Theon, with her first Westerosi challenge being the opposing fleet being built by Euron ‘I have a big dragonhorn’ Greyjoy? Incidentally, what if he *does* have that dragon horn? We haven’t seen it yet in Euron’s brief appearances but that doesn’t mean it’s not tucked away in his breeches. That could well make any attempt to claim the Iron Islands for her new allies a mite trickier for Dany than she understands, and mean she can’t quite laugh Euron off as they all do here. Regardless, season finale ‘The Winds of Winter’ could see her at last set sail.
What will she find when she gets there? That’s the bigger question. Assuming she does manage to sort out Pyke, getting her Ironborn supporters, she now has a new and largely unified North right in her immediate crosshairs given how far up the Westerosi map she is. The Stark’s regaining Winterfell means decisions must be made on who takes control of the North, and surely as it stands King’s Landing would have a say? This is where Littlefinger could cash in on saving the day, Gandalf-style, with the Knights of the Vale. He’s not about to let Sansa get away scot free for his aid, and remember Cersei did last year send him North to sort out the Bolton situation. With Rickon dead, which Stark naturally becomes Warden of the North?
Dany hasn’t broken the wheel yet so Sansa won’t necessarily be the obvious choice. Jon’s true parentage hasn’t been confirmed yet, and that puts him in line for a much bigger crown anyway, plus he’s never craved power. Littlefinger could well make a move on marrying Sansa and gaining control of the North that way, and she may not really be in much a position to refuse. There is one other person, of course, who has a claim on Winterfell, who nobody is expecting to crop up again: Bran. Last we saw him, Benjen Coldhands was protecting he & Meera from the White Walkers now hunting him, but he’ll be making for the Wall and now he’s granted the Raven’s powers of timey-wimey greensight, will ‘The Winds of Winter’ see him take Jon on a journey of ultimate discovery of a destiny which doesn’t involve ruling, at Winterfell or anywhere else, but rather his true parentage unlocking his role in stopping the Night King? Ironically it could be Bran who ends up in a battle for control of the North.
If Dany was likely to make any allies as she arrives to conquer Westeros, it would be a North tired of war and strife, and ready to welcome with open arms a ruler with a fairer iron hand than her crazed father, or the corrupt betrayal of the Lannister’s. A reckoning still waits in King’s Landing too, and the finale may well begin to see the tensions that have built over two seasons finally unfurl. All signs point to Cersei about to get her hands on a cache of secret wildfire (which Tyrion handily reminded us of this week) and she may be planning to overcome her upcoming trial by the Faith, by planting a nice bomb right under the High Sparrow’s nest. It could do far more damage than she expects.
Remember Maggy the Frog’s prophecy, after all? She would rule but she would lose all of her children. King Tommen is looking on increasingly shaky ground, bewitched as he is by the Faith, and if Cersei looks to regain control by choosing violence, it could be her son who pays the ultimate price. Imagine for a moment a Cersei with nothing left to lose. A Cersei backed by the FrankenMountain. A Cersei with absolute power over Kings Landing. A Cersei rejected even by Jaime for simply going too far. She may have been muted for a while since her Walk of Shame, but a crazed Cersei is a terrifying prospect, and one who would provide a fierce combatant for an invading Daenerys. ‘The Winds of Winter’, surely, will seal her fate either one way or another going into the final season, and it’s a dangerous and terrifying proposition either way.
Lastly, considering the last episode of a pretty terrific season of Game of Thrones, we must bear in mind the title. ‘The Winds of Winter’. The name indeed of George R.R. Martin’s next, yet to be published novel in the A Song of Ice & Fire series, and a proclamation of the show’s most legendary phrase we have been teased about since day one: winter is coming. Could this title signify the beginning of the end? Could this finally be the moment, as Dany prepares to break the wheel, that the White Walkers tear down the age-old Wall and invade the realms of men?
In a week, we’ll know. And Westeros may never again be the same.
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.
. url=”.” . width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]