Game of Thrones: Season 6, "The Winds of Winter"

By Aaron Bady, Sarah MesleJune 28, 2016

Game of Thrones: Season 6, "The Winds of Winter"
Previous episode: season 6, episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards."

Following episode: season 7, episode 1, "Dragonstone."

LARB’s Collected “Game of Thrones” Coverage


Winter is Here!

Sarah: Aaron! I write you from rural Iowa, which is basically the Riverlands, I think? I’m in this placid little nook, thinking about drama happening in big cities elsewhere: what Brexit is doing to beloved friends in London, what the Texas ruling means for all of us, how as I’m writing this, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are taking the stage together for the first time. Lots is going on! Unification! Women!

I was actually a little sorry to sit down to television in the midst of this, to truck over to Westeros and see how Jon and The High Sparrow were getting on with the brooding and piety. But let me tell you, my response to this episode was: FUCK YEAH, GAME OF THRONES. Full throttle, dragons and ships and swords! Revenge! Justice!image13Aaron: Lots is going on! But your outward gaze is interesting, because I don’t know if the show will allow it. Has there been a Game of Thrones episode that felt so resolutely Game of Thrones-centric? So totally uninterested in the larger world? I mean, this was an episode that paid off so many of its own plots, that resolved all sorts of things and moved the ball forward, but the show feels much less like a mirror held up to our reality than it often has in the past. All the loose threads led back to the show itself. I mean, Cersei waterboarded the nun with wine, and I did not see that as HRC; I considered making a Brexit joke about how Dany was Merkel come to impose the Euro by force or something, but, I dunno, I’m not really feeling that. The Game of Thrones universe is feeling very complete-unto-itself.

Sarah: You are totally right. My sense is that the show has fully committed to a new approach. At the beginning, the subject of this show was: politics. How to establish a steady government. As many, including me, have often said: “politics” is not a problem with any kind of tidy end point. There is no satisfying resolution to the question “Who will be king?” because the answer is always going to be, “Well, someone, for a while, and then someone.” History, as we have come to see, doesn’t end! And I am really proud of Benioff and Weiss for just being like: you know what, let’s forget about the version of Game of Thrones that is a particularly nebulous Samuel Beckett play and really double down on Dragons vs. Ice Zombies.

Aaron: And wildfire in the middle!image16image14image18Sarah: Wildfire, yes! That is a story that can have a really satisfying end! I am so happy: I love Beckett obviously, and I’m a little sorry we’re not going to get richer narrative meditation on the existential crisis that is the human condition. But what completely delights me is how brilliantly confident this show is right now. It is like: reaching Beyoncé levels of choreographic excellence. (Speaking of: Beyoncé and Kendrick? SO GOOD. What would we do without all these artists, in this fucked up time?)

Aaron: I think we can’t understate how much of this is the work of director Miguel Sapochnik; I’m sure there’s credit to go around, but the “choreographic excellence” of this episode, and the last episode, which he also directed — since you need two iterations to detect a trend — are at the level of implementation, in ways that Game of Thrones has sometimes been pretty lackluster, or at worst, disinterested. After all, in the past, this show has often approached mise-en-scene as a problem of which room to put the characters in while they talked about things. “Sexposition” is a good example of that cinematic laziness, and expression of an essentially foreground-background sense of what staging is: the actors have a Content they need to deliver, and so, the question is how to deliver it? I know: we’ll have Littlefinger deliver his theory of politics against a backdrop of Sexytimes! And … scene. There was no necessary coordination between form and content, just co-existence. Rooms were the places where conversations happened; conversations were what happened in rooms. And sometimes there was violence.

That worked, mostly, for a show that was about people scheming in elegant rooms; as a show about people scheming in elegant rooms, It Was Good! But it’s not that show anymore. It’s much more cinematically ambitious; they don’t just make expensive sets and costumes, they make them for a reason, and film it like they know what they’re doing. And this episode had SO MANY MOMENTS where the execution was the MVP, where whatever it was that makes the scene work falls under the broad and vague rubric of “Directed by.” The music in the long opening, for example, and the Cersei drinking wine looking over the city foreshadowing what is to come. Oh! And the non-moving camera when Tommen takes off his crown, goes off frame, and then comes back; the way the camera doesn’t follow him anymore was (makes kissing fingers in joy gesture). The entire wildfire crawl of death. Olenna Tyrell telling off the sand snakes, Lyanna Mormont’s speech … There wasn’t a missed opportunity; every single beat was like watching a playoff team at their best or something.image20Sarah: AARON YES THIS WHOLE EPISODE WAS KISSING FINGERS IN JOY GESTURE! IT WAS LIKE LEBRON’S SMACKDOWN IN THAT FINAL MINUTE OF GAME SEVEN!I guess what we should talk about, first, is where we’re at, overall? There’s a North, sword-wieldingly united behind The White Wolf, our man-bunned brooding hero of destiny. There’s the Bay of Dragons, full of the most gorgeous ships ever, carrying a triumphantly unified force of: Orphan Queen, Dwarf, former slaves, Dornian Ninja-ladies, and fantastically bitchy old ladies. ARMY OF MAJESTY! And then, in King’s Landing: Queen Cersei, dressed up all like Maleficent and in control of a wildfire nuclear arsenal. What’s your take? Are you excited?

Aaron: Here’s my question: Is it too neat? I used to think that this show couldn’t possibly resolve all its narrative threads in only two more (foreshortened!) seasons. Now, it’s sort of clear that they can and they will. The show could be over in like one episode, if they really wanted to hustle. Dany’s alliance with everybody conquers King’s Landing, the Starks hang out in the North, the white walkers… well, they’re what this episode didn’t even touch. Were it not for Winter Coming, this show is basically over. It’s Cersei against literally everybody else!

Arya killed literally every single Frey — I suspect she killed everybody in the entire castle, to be honest — which leaves Jaime’s army, the empty Lannister bank account, whatever’s left of King’s Landing, and… on the other side, everybody else, right? Tyrells, Dornos, Iron Islands, Dany’s Armada… and even the Starks are so resolutely anti-Lannister that they’ll probably at least stay neutral. Cersei has King’s Landing, sort of, and literally nothing else. Could Melisandre join Team Cersei? Probably not, but that’s the level of scrambling we have to do to think of allies for her.

(Parenthetically: the Dothraki are converting nicely to being sailors.)image17Sarah: Right! Cersei immediately loses, some white ravens are sent, Dany and Jon fight the Night King and then get married in the final shot? Sean Connery makes some benevolent appearance, showing up like Richard the Lionhearted just so we all know things are really okay now?

Aaron: Who wasn’t in this episode? Brienne? But other than that, pretty much all hands were on deck. When’s the last time you could say that? They’re definitely checking every box.

Sarah: We also missed The Hound: and, I did miss him! But I do not mind this neatness, actually, and I am always happy to see Sean Connery, real or metaphoric. My problem is not that it’s too neat, it’s that I am actually not sure how we are supposed to be feeling about Cersei’s queenship at all.

Lena Headey won the shit out of last night’s episode — she was truly magnificent at every moment — but this season has been such a let down for her character’s development she is almost vacated of narrative force. She looks great, and it is really fucking something to see her on that iron throne — like, literally, my heart turned over a little — but what does she want to do? What does she represent?image15Last season worked magnificently to make her into a woman dealing intently and meaningfully with what womanhood — being an aging woman, particularly — means in a fundamentally patriarchal world. And this meant that she was resonant with me as a viewer, regardless of the moral quality of her character. She’s terrible, killed some Starks? Whatever. She was still entrancing to watch, because she was intelligently solving problems I cared about. But I don’t know what she cares about now. Our only insight into her is that she “likes to feel good.” Which, that scene was amazing, and if they really double down on her tormented and tormenting selfishness, there’s some richness to be plumbed there. But I feel like it’s bad faith on Game of Throne’s part to make this gesture towards WAR OF FIVE QUEENS, STRONG FEMALE HEROINES, ETC. ETC. without actually making a commitment to showing us who these women really are.

Aaron: Right. In the tradition of Dany burning down the Dothraki house, it’s immensely satisfying as a narrative climax, but it’s much less neat than that burning-down-the-house was, and so, ultimately, Cersei is a deeply bad person again. Despite how much narrative energy the show has devoted to rehabilitating the Lannisters, having the mountain-zombie rape a nun for all eternity is a pretty terrible thing to do, no matter how shitty that nun is, and it brings us back to not caring so much about Cersei. I mean, you’re exactly right about the feel-good speech, which works hard to reinforce the idea that her motivation is simply empty, nihilistic pleasure: I DO IT BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD. As a speech you give to someone you’re about to full-time torture, it’s pretty horrifying; but is it meant to be a true confession of Cersei’s inner life? If so: boring. There’s so much more there.

Sarah: Oh wow, I had not realized that this was a rape scene. I was mostly just thinking about the horrible things he was going to do to her hands. That makes the “shame” line Cersei says so much worse. Wow, I guess they really do want her to be a terrible person? I know I just said that it didn’t matter to me so much what she did, as long as she was interesting? I stand corrected!

Aaron: Well, in that moment she’s pretty horrible. But you know how this show is. Do you watch the things after the show where the D’s talk about what was happening and what the different characters were going through? They pretty reliably seem to have very crude and flat accounts of characters that might otherwise seem quite subtle and interesting on the screen; I don’t know if they’re talking down to an audience they don’t respect very much, but they always seem to have very un-subtle accounts of characters and their narrative uses. So, for example, on this one, they talked about how Cersei’s one redeeming feature was her love of her children, and that she’s a monster now, because she doesn’t have that. Which, ok, that’s not wrong, not exactly. But it’s the least interesting part of her character’s trajectory; for a start, she’s been living with the death of her children for ages. But more importantly, Cersei as a character is super not reducible to the kind of Evil Mama Bear caricature they so lazy reference. And in moments like that, I wonder if the show is as good as it sometimes is in spite of the showrunners, rather than because of them.

Sarah: Yeah, I feel like this show leans on motherhood in the stupidest ways. It wants motherhood to be a rock-like moral center — I will do what’s best for my children! I will put them first! — which is a very nice idea that keeps us buying Hallmark Cards, but doesn’t get you very far otherwise, especially if you’re trying to write a story that actually deals with some real world complexity, or embodiment. Motherhood is fucking messy! Occasionally Game of Thrones approximates some of its complexity, but usually that is only because the actresses can bring so much intelligence to their performances.

Maybe it’s because the writers are really unwilling to think their way into some of the darker moral waters of motherhood that they don’t know quite what to do with Cersei? I don’t know. But I do think that right now, they’re doing a better job with the women who are mostly thinking about sex. I thought the Dany and Tyrion scene was a little clunky in its discussion of Daario, but I liked that she was genuinely not having any of his love shit.

Aaron: That break-up scene was so real. Daario was even kind of okay with it, after he had a little time to think it through; the whole "How am I going to find a girl as good as you” and she’s all “You totally will, though” and he’s like “Yeah, I guess so, actually.”

I feel like the showrunners occasionally want to go into darker mother-places; they do have a super-ambiguous mother figure sucking up a lot of screen-time, which would be a great place to think through Murky Motherhood. But…. alas. Is there anything interesting to say about Cersei having Tommen burned and ashed on top of the Great Sept? Or is this the final Wow, She Doesn’t Care About Her Child, That Monster?

Having the Mountain leave Tommen so he can go torture what’s-her-nun-face was sort of annoyingly schematic: she chose spiteful vengeance over nurture-motherhood! What a Very Bad.image03Sarah: I really can’t tell if Cersei has many plans at this point? And that’s what makes her plotline so uninteresting. Which is a problem because if Cersei is uninteresting, Dany’s plotline gets less interesting too. Just think about how fascinating what’s coming could be, if we really hated and respected Cersei’s power, the way we respected Ramsay or Tywin? Even Margaery had a clear perspective and a set of complex motivations. Watching a Margaery/Dany showdown would have been really strange and fascinating! I guess that’s why she had to die?

Aaron: YES. And the problem is, it doesn’t seem like Cersei actually has a base. If she did, that would be interesting; we’d be talking about how Dany’s entry into the Game of Thrones really is terrifying. But it isn’t, because she’s clearly going to win, and not only because the prophecy said so. Dany has a massive force and tons of allies. Cersei is a paper queen, by contrast: nobody is left to contest King’s Landing, because she blew them all up, but that makes King’s Landing very small, in a world that’s become big. It’s what she wanted, in an ironic way, her and Jaime against the world, but that turns out to be a much less stable (and much less formidable) coalition than we might hope for.

Sarah: Who even is in that throne room?! Like, she burned all the nobles up! I guess she just had to go hussle up some peasants? She hates peasants!

Aaron: I think it was just soldiers and truly random NPCs.image23Sarah: Aaron let’s move on and talk about Sansa. What did you think? Once again, tremendous lady face times! Sophie Turner, like Lena Headey, got a lot done with not much to work with. My sense is that the GoT writers read Lili’s piece last week, decided, “Hmm, I guess we’ll just go with Dim Sansa? Seems like less work?” and then Sophie read the script and was like: “Fuck you, you can give me these crap I’m sorry, Jon!’ lines, but my eyebrows are just going to continue on earning their Emmy nomination.”

Aaron: Such bad lines. Lili was right: ultimately, the writers just want it both ways, and Jon cares so little that he’s not going to press the issue. He’s all “You saved us, you’re the queen! Also, let’s have fewer betrayals in the future, thanks! Other than that, I guess it’s all good, do you want mom and dad’s room or should I have it, lol whoops, I’m a bastard.”

Sarah: What we’re circling around, here, is the question of how this show is managing what is clearly its biggest cultural ambition: to really put powerful women front and center. Game of Thrones has been such a mix of so awful and so smart about its depictions of women’s lives; it has taken so much heat, and one way it’s responded it seems, is by really committing to the question of what it would mean, in this world, to have women rule. Dany, Arya, Oleanna, Cersei, Ellaria Sand, Yara, Lyanna Mormont’s big speech! I guess my overall sense is that the execution of all this has been a little uneven.

Aaron: I think Occam’s Razor is our friend, here: you have male showrunners tasking themselves to interrogate Powerful Women, and they fundamentally don’t have the range. They sometimes do better and sometimes they do worse. But, thus: “uneven.” Emily Nussbaum called the show’s cognitive dissonance “like an anti-misogyny pamphlet published in the form of a Penthouse letter,” which, yeah; there are some contradictions baked into the problem of pandering to two different audiences. But the problem is also that they see Having A Strong Woman (or a Battle of Five Strong Women) as the end-goal, rather than seeing that as an opportunity to explore the interesting character space it opens up.

Sarah: One moment you could really feel the tension around their desire to import Strong Women Characters™ into Westeros is in the otherwise super satisfying scene when Jon is declared King of the North. Now, that scene was truly stirring: I got a little teary-eyed! Speeches! Swords! The White Wolf! And it’s not exactly a problem that Sansa just sat there — that, too, could be interestingly managed, and seemed not unreasonable to me. What I’m more interested in is the unexamined deployment of the most conventional, patriarchal fantasy story remains — not just the swords, but the “Ned Stark’s blood runs in his veins” and all that. Basically I think that you can’t commit to overturning the patriarchy and still ask your viewers to unquestioningly embrace what seemed like about 45 minutes of toasting Jon’s dick. Penis and phallus!

Aaron: Though, interestingly — and I’m about to blow your mind here, so hold on — that’s also the scene that comes right after we were shocked, shocked to learn that Jon Snow is actually the bastard son of Lyanna Stark and Targaryen!

Sarah: WHAT.

Aaron: I should have warned you, it’s quite a shock. I didn’t see it coming at all.

Sarah: This changes EVERYTHING.

Aaron: For example, just before everyone gets all excited about how Ned Stark’s blood flows through his veins, we learn — just out of the blue, who could have expected — that Jon Snow actually doesn’t have much Ned in him at all. We could quibble about whether Ned Stark’s blood runs in his nephew’s veins; presumably there’s some office of Keeping Track of Patriarchy at the Maester’s keep where they care about these things. But Lyanna Mormont’s moment of shaming the northern dudes is premised on a very strategic invocation of The Honorable Bond Between Men: This Man made the Man Call and You Man did not heed it! SHAME. In some technical sense of the patriarchy, however, they would have been right: he’s not Ned Stark’s blood.

Sarah: “I don’t care if he’s a bastard!” That’s actually a kind of amazing line in this world — not as radical as all the queens, at all, but definitely a new relationship to family and fatherhood. I think that’s part of why I was so moved — and still am, not gonna lie — by this “White Wolf,” business. It’s really embracing the fact that he is a “Snow,” and incorporating that into their vision of him.

You can see I’m a little conflicted about all this! I did really like that little segment of television. But it is worrying that they got us so excited about this embrace of Jon at the same moment that they have told us of his SHOCKING PARENTAGE! I don’t like getting all excited about something just to have the show unravel it. Also I’m a little bit interested in how this is going to play out in terms of the Jon/Dany marriage plot that is obviously going to follow. (Not saying that they’re obviously going to get married. But we are obviously going to have to/get to spend a long time thinking about it next season. I for one am very fascinated to see Dany wrangle Jon’s brooding!)

Aaron: Nerd note: apparently in the books, bastards are only allowed to fly the sigil of their family with the colors reversed, such that Jon’s version of the Stark banner (grey wolf on white background) would be a white wolf against a grey background. HOW INTERESTING.

Sarah: NERD ALERT! Aaron, I like it. Did the books also explain how Jon managed to actually have some banners to unfurl at Winterfell, after the long Bolton residency? Because I remain confused on that point.

I feel like I’m getting pretty down on Jon here. Did you notice he took his manbun out for the big sword moment? Also I loved him on the roof with Sansa, after they got over the disappointing “I guess let’s not talk about how you almost let me die” portion of the dialogue. White Ravens! Winter Came!

Aaron: Winter came! I did enjoy the moment of levity where they made fun of old dad’s favorite saying… Dear old dad, always being all solemn about winter was gonna come, lol. There haven’t been enough moments of genuine shared experience like that, where two characters genuinely bond over some random ephemera of life; it does a lot to make those two seem like people that actually have a connection, rather than just sharing a plot contrivance.

I do have a question about winter, though: is winter supposed to be a season like it is in our world? Probably not, since it doesn’t follow a regular pattern; in that case, then, is winter just an epiphenomenon of the Winter King? If so, and it seems so, does that also mean that they don’t have winter in Essos? Or does Essos also count as The Enemy of the Children? Perhaps next season will have some ideas about that; maybe GRRM will write a book or two.image19Sarah: Truly Aaron I am not sure about this winter situation. It is a season; there have been many winters without an appearance of the Winter King. But what Winter means for Essos is completely unclear to me, and the show hasn’t addressed it at all. Maybe this is a book thing? I wonder if the Iron Bank can help out a bit with funding some White Walker defenses? I’m not sure. I think we’re not supposed to be worried about it yet. What else should we talk about?

Aaron: So, I can’t believe we haven’t talked about the first scene, where everybody puts on their game-faces. Like, how have we not discussed Cersei’s armor-blouse? Or is it that it’s just too obvious?

Sarah: This episode was all about clothes. If I’ve faulted it for for trying to be all pro-woman while not giving its women much emotional depth, I do think the lingering shots of dressing and costuming were one way it was very interesting about gender. The moving back and forth between Tommen, Margaery, Cersei, and the Sparrow was a great account of how all identities are fashioned at least partly through these dramas of fabric.

I thought Cersei’s armor blouse was fucking great, a real masterpiece of evil queen sexual impermeability! I also loved how Tommen, just like the women, had to be laced up. Other narratively significant wardrobe decisions: Gillie looked completely aces! I am so glad they let her have one of this show’s truly best hair days; it was a big deal for me when they let her enter the world of Game of Braids, which is the world where women on this show really get to make shit happen. (Of course, she didn’t get to make shit happen in the library. I’m trying not to let that spoil my excitement about that wonder library!)

Also, Arya! So, that was interesting, right? Arya’s sex servant disguise was really good, and I for one was totally fooled. Did not see it coming! Partly because: doesn’t it take awhile to get from Bravos to the Riverlands? If Arya is there, why isn’t Brienne in Winterfell yet? Let’s not talk about these logistical issues, actually, they’ll spoil our fun. What did you think of Arya?

Aaron: Arya! First of all, I love the switcheroo where the “Hey that chick is checking you out” scene turns out to be an extremely close brush with death for Our Lad Jaime, who is saved by his fidelity to True Love. Also, Arya-disguised-as-randy-serving-wench is a threat that Bron totally did not see coming, as he bragged to Podrick about being so good at. That was good. Though there is also some dark stuff in the way Arya is playing the role of randy serving-wench as part of her assassination plot; somehow that’s almost more bothersome than the fact she is murdering people constantly? Which speaks to the show’s need to desensitize violence while making sure we still find sex titillating. Or just my own sensibilities? Even so, it’s been interesting that Arya’s ability to kill has so often been attached to her ability to sexualize herself: that’s what makes her targets let their guards down, and so, it’s what she must do, and does.

Also important to note: Arya continues to connect death and pastry in new and exciting ways. And I really like the moment when Walder Frey is like “Why is literally no one in the dining hall?” and Arya is all, “Well, it’s because I have literally murdered all of them. Enjoy your dinner!” Walder Frey seemed upset, but given how shitty his family is, and how shitty he is to his family, I feel like he was mainly bummed that Arya ruined his pie. Old people do not like it when you fuck with their desserts.

Sarah: Right, that’s what we learned from Titus Andronicus! I really thought the Frey Pie was a great reversal of the Red Wedding: he butchered her family at a feast, and so she makes him feast on his own wedding.

To me what was most interesting about Arya in this scene is not the titillation of the old men, but rather Arya’s erotic relationship to the act of murder. We got some of this last season, too, when she murdered Meryn Trant, holding his head over her groin while she slit his throat. I’m really into it! We’ve liked Arya’s scrappiness, and it will be sort of amazing if they let her mature into a woman who is very sympathetic and also sadistic.image21Aaron: I would like that … if they could let Arya’s development be something other than the question of Will She Go Over to the Dark Side.

Can we also take a minute to mourn Margaery? One of the good characters, always scheming, always having depths, always also kind of … not a terrible person, even if she would have also found a way to get along with Joffery. That was my favorite thing about her, that even though the Tyrells are totally playing the game for keeps — and totally killed Joffery, and would kill other people if necessary — they were basically pretty half-decent people. They seemed like they were going to legitimately be nice to Sansa, to the extent that they could be, and Margaery’s caring about the poor pretty much makes her humanitarian of the year in Westeros.

Sarah: Yeah, I was super bummed to see her go like that. And it also seemed stupid, and not very Margaery-ish. Why would she not just leave? She could have totally snuck out! I get that it’s awesome that she gets to yell at the High Sparrow and be all right and shit, but I didn’t love the execution there. How much better would it have been if Cersei thinks she had killed everyone, but had not! What if Margaery were suddenly really interestingly scarred, by the explosion some how? So sad. I hope she gets to sit in GoT-heaven with Lady Crane! They would probably like each other.

Aaron, should we do our best and worst? My worst I already mentioned: the disappointing treatment of Sansa’s potentially-interesting backstory of scheming. That seemed like a mess to me. But I really liked almost every other scene in this episode!

Aaron: You know, I’m having a hard time thinking of a solid worst. It was a very solid episode, through and through; the worst parts are the interesting threads not followed up on, as usual. I do think Cersei’s Nun-torture was gratuitous, though, and concretely made her and the show less interesting. Yes, the Septa tortured Cersei, and yes, naturally, she’d be a bit steamed about that. But the sadism of it, and the necessary choice it forces between Motherhood and Revenge is just such an unnecessary simplification of the character (and so moralistic). Ultimately, I just don’t think Cersei would care that much about some random person; she’d kill her and move on.

Sarah: It’s hard to pick a best, too, out of so many good ones. So here’s a somewhat comprehensive one: my best was the feeling I had, watching the “previously on” Game of Thrones. I was watching that, and I was like: really? Really? It was the narrative equivalent of watching someone call the shot in pool, except the shot is a Rube Goldberg machine that involves the cue ball going up in a pulley and rebounding off the weather vane or some shit. I just could not believe they were going to attempt to synthesize all of those threads so completely. But then they totally did, and I wanted to applaud. I gasped my way through this episode. I said this in my IndieWire wrap up, but I truly had the same visceral feeling I get when I’ve been reading a novel that’s just okay, and then suddenly it gets amazing and you just decide you’re going to stay up all night and finish reading. That is one of my favorite feelings in the world, when you just can’t get enough and you know what’s going to happen is going to be good. Feeling pretty grateful to Game of Thrones for giving it to me, right now!

Aaron: I’m going to give Lyanna Mormont my best, but I want to clarify that it isn’t just for all the obvious reasons of how awesome that scene was (though, to be clear, HOW AWESOME WAS THAT SCENE). It’s because they created a new character only a couple episodes ago, and have successfully woven that character into the web and woof of the show going forward. It gives the sense that the world is still growing, still vital, still organic. Especially now that we’re in a countdown to the end of the show, I worry that Game of Thrones will keep getting smaller and smaller, and forget about what a big world it has to play with. That it will stop trying to surprise us, stop trying to make new discoveries. Lyanna Mormont came out of nowhere and made sure that wouldn’t happen.

Sarah: Aaron, yes! That’s exactly right. I’m excited for next year! See you here, then?

Aaron: Right here!

Let the grown women speak!
Sarah and Aaron


Previous episode: season 6, episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards."

Following episode: season 7, episode 1, "Dragonstone."

LARB’s Collected “Game of Thrones” Coverage

LARB Contributors

Aaron Bady is a writer in Oakland.

Sarah Mesle (PhD, Northwestern) is faculty at USC and Senior Humanities Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books. Prior to arriving at USC, she held postdoctoral fellowships in English at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a 19th-century Americanist by training and is interested, generally speaking, in the long history of the American popular novel and in the many ways pop culture can excite, estrange, and surprise.


With Sarah Blackwood, she is co-editor of You can follow her on Twitter.


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