Another Game of Thrones season is over, and by some reports possibly the last one to have ten episodes. That means it's time to look back at what we saw, and identify the moments that wowed us, the ones that brought us to tears and ones that were basically meh. This time around, the bulk of the big events were quite lopsided towards the final two episodes, so you're bound to see that reflect below.
Editor's note: spoilers below for Game of Thrones. If you haven't seen the sixth season finale, please stop now.
Before we begin, a moment of silence for all the direwolves we lost for narrative, and budgetary reasons. Rest in peace, Summer and Shaggydog. Ghost, we hope to see you again.
And now, Gadgets 360's awards for the sixth season of HBO's Game of Thrones:
Award for Most Terrifying Moment: The Massacre at the Great Sept of Baelor
In the seventh episode, when Cersei pays a visit to the departing Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell, the latter says: "You're surrounded by enemies, thousands of them. You're going to kill them all by yourself?"
It seems the Lannister woman took that to heart, or maybe it served to augment her plans that had been put in motion. Using the caches of Wildfire placed by the Mad King during his reign, Cersei managed to end all her enemies in one go.
A lot of the scene's power was down to how director Miguel Sapochnik and his crew handled the scene, by way of meticulously crafting the set-pieces, building the pacing and tension towards the big explosion.
Sapochnik started off with the mundane - all the characters getting ready for the day in extreme close-ups of clothes being fastened, hair being braided - and then upping the drama with the seven-pointed star being carved into Loras Tyrell's forehead. And then he set off the ticking bomb as Lancel tries desperately to get to the candles planed in a pool of Wildfire while Margaery put two and two together even if the High Sparrow was oblivious to what Cersei had planned for them all.
But there was another shocker after the Sept erupted: a horrified King Tommen took his own life!
By the way, we don't actually have a good enough name for the event yet. The Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor doesn't have that catchy ring to it like the Red Wedding. If you have any suggestions, let us know. We propose Baelor Blow-Up.
Award for Best Sending Off: Hodor
Since the beginning of the show, fans had wondered what the mystery was behind Hodor's name. And with George RR Martin having not penned the sixth book yet, it was down to the HBO showrunners to reveal how Hodor got his name and became simple-minded. And boy, did they do it well.
By cross-cutting between Bran's vision of Winterfell past where a young Wyllis is just a stable boy and the present where Hodor, Meera and Bran try to escape from the wights, the show provided some just great juxtaposition. Helped by wonderful acting and Ramin Djawadi's background score, the fifth episode of the season provided a touching send-off for a character that had always loyally served the Starks.
To experience your traumatic, final moments when you're young, come out of it with a short-circuited brain that can only repeat the slurred variation of three words - "Hold the door" and having to live a life with a single purpose, that's devastating.
(Also see: Game of Thrones Season 6: Hodor, Bran Stark and the White Walkers)
Award for Best Personal Vengeance: Arya killing Walder Frey
Arya's return to Westeros may have been unconvincing to say the least - see Award for Most Unconvincing Survival below. But the way she dispatched old Walder Frey has got to count for something, even if she is one of the many characters this season who travelled great distances in very short span of time.
Killing two of the Freys and feeding them in a pie to their father, who was responsible for killing half your family - Robb and Talisa Stark along with mother Catelyn Stark - is no doubt awesome, but the showrunners noted that this is a very much changed Arya. No one is going to cry over Walder Frey, David Benioff said as much, but you almost fear for her. Or perhaps fear her.
From our recap:
"My name is Arya Stark, and I want you to know that. The last thing you're ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die," she calmly states, before drawing a blade and stabbing the Frey lord in the neck.
The path she is on isn't a very forgiving one, indeed. Being an expert assassin is very different from having a brutish side, which she displayed since the beginning of the show. And as much good you think she's doing in the name of vengeance, it's still a bit frightening to see your hero kill without remorse.
Award for Best Reveal: Melisandre's true nature
While the audience was waiting to see when Jon Snow would return, the opening episode of the season instead had another important reveal - Melisandre is really, really old.
From our recap:
After taking off her clothes, she unclasps the necklace with the ruby around her neck and puts it down on the table. The camera turns to reveal a wrinkly old woman with flaky skin, in complete contrast with Carice van Houten's usual self. It seems the necklace holds the power to everything she does, including making her seem young and beautiful.
Although her actual age had already been hinted at in interviews and the books, it's something that still came as a shock to most people. Post that episode, we dove into all the hints sprinkled across the books regarding magic and how she kept up her appearance - or "glamour" as it is called in the Known World.
Award for Best Easter Egg: Daenerys is closer to Westeros than you think
If you follow the final episode's events, you'd think that Daenerys Targaryen is nearer to Meereen in Essos than she is to Westeros towards the end. But that's not the case.
Her massive fleet, seen in the last scene of the tenth episode, is either near or has crossed Dorne. How can you tell, you ask? If you look closely, you can spot the ships with the sigils of House Martell - "a red sun pierced by a golden spear on an orange field" - and House Tyrell - "a golden rose on a green field".
That can either mean two things: a) she is somewhere near Westeros which is why the Martells and Tyrells have joined up with her, or b) both the Westeros houses travelled towards Essos to join up with her. The former seems logical, and it also solves Varys jumping from Meereen to Dorne and back to the Targaryen ship (which would have been only possible with a wormhole, we believe).
What makes more sense is that he was picked up from Sunspear on Daenerys' journey to King's Landing. The scene also shows the sun rising behind the entire fleet which means they are still heading west - even though King's Landing is north of Sunspear - or that was done just to confuse audiences further. Or we are overthinking this, and the writers just did a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Award for Personal Satisfaction: Sam seeing the largest library in the world
Most moments of happiness in Game of Thrones are based on the death of someone - see Daenerys emerging from a huge fire, Sansa's faint smile after Ramsay was eaten or Cersei after handing Septa Unella to elder Clegane. So if there was one moment of unadulterated joy that wasn't built on the cornerstone of blood, that was Samwell Tarly arriving at the Citadel.
While the maesters may harbour no love for women and children, they do love their books. And Sam got to see that first-hand after he was led into the Citadel's enormous library, stretching as far as his eyes could see. The expression on Sam's face upon realising he had made it to paradise was just priceless.
Good for you, Sam. Now hurry up, we don't have much time.
Award for Worst Storyline: House Martell in Dorne
The show has never treated the Dorne storyline seriously, except for when Oberyn Martell and his paramour Ellaria Sand were at King's Landing back in season four. Since then, Dorne has received secondary treatment at best - ever since Jaime and Bronn arrived in Dorne in disguises back in season five and were caught five minutes later. After that, they would dilly-dally for the rest of the time until the writer decided to raise the stakes by giving Myrcella an early death at the lips of Ellaria in the fifth season finale.
And then in the beginning of this season, Ellaria went for a coup, killing the ruler of Dorne - Prince Doran - whereas her daughters aka the Sand Snakes did in his heir, Trystane. The Martells had already failed in their alliance with Lannisters by killing their daughter, and we failed to see what the writers achieved by cooking up more senseless killing.
That was that though, and Dorne wouldn't appear for the rest of the season. Except for three minutes in the closing episode, and only because they were serving the interests of Tyrells and Targaryens. HBO has completely botched the Dorne storyline, and we doubt it's going to get better with the series heading towards its conclusion.
While Dornish involvement in the books was minimal in the beginning, their presence has grown with the likes of Princess Arianne Martell - a point-of-view character, too - instead of the useless Trystane. Plus the Sand Snakes have gotten more time for character development too, two currently in King's Landing and one likely in Oldtown.
Award for Character With Most Epic Moments: Daenerys Targaryen
Cersei came close by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor in the final episode, but the Targaryen queen has too much fun on her own. She got to display her immunity to fire in the fourth episode, then rode on dragon back and recruited the Dothraki bloodriders to her cause two episodes later and finally used all three of her dragons to announce her rein had just begun in the ninth episode.
But we do need to talk about the former here. In the books, when Daenerys steps into the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo with Mirri Maz Duur and the three dragon eggs, it's a miracle. A one-off event, author George RR Martin termed it. For sheer dramatic value or to give the Mother of Dragons a quick exit out of storylines, the writers - including David Benioff and DB Weiss - have chosen to give Daenerys a permanent immunity to fire. It's probably not the wisest decision considering it gives her an extra edge over mere mortals - like she needed one - so hopefully her ability won't be used again to cheat her way out of dire situations.
Award for Being a Terrible Leader: Jon Snow
Even after Sansa repeatedly told him to wait and not rush it, and to guard himself against Ramsay's cunning and clever ways, everyone's beloved Jon Snow went ahead and did the most foolish thing among the realm of the living. Instead of sticking to the plan that he himself put forth on the eve of the battle, Jon Snow disregards everything because Ramsay Bolton gave him hope of saving his youngest brother, Rickon, and then snatched it away at the last second.
(Also, while we're on this topic, can anyone tell me why Rickon Stark didn't even attempt to run in a zig-zag fashion? The actor who played Rickon - Art Parkinson - thought as much, but that clearly evaded the writers.)
Unlike Jon, a more mature battle leader would have returned to his battalion and used the trenches they dug. But here, Jon lets the emotions get better of him and forces his cavalry to charge headlong into the Bolton's counterparts. Just because he was too angry at that moment, Jon Snow put the life of thousands of his men on the line, not to forget possibly the future of mankind itself since the Boltons would have never united with the other Northern houses and prepared themselves for the big bad - the White Walkers and their army of wights.
Award for Using Your Kin as Sacrificial Lamb: Sansa Stark
The eldest remaining trueborn Stark - Jon Snow is the son of a Targaryen prince, after all - saved the day in the Battle of the Bastards, by calling in a favour from Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale. But they didn't need to arrive just as the Stark-allied forces were at their lowest point - they could have been much more effective if Sansa had just told Jon about her letter to Littlefinger earlier.
She had multiple opportunities to do this, on the day she met him at Mole's Town in the fifth episode, right after she sent him a raven in the seventh episode, or even on the eve of the battle the ninth episode when Jon does eventually ask for her advice.
Just tell him hundreds of knights are on their way, and give your side a chance at winning. But maybe Sansa was thinking ahead. The only way Ramsay Bolton would have been drawn out of Winterfell was if he believed he had the upper edge. And so, despite knowing full too well Littlefinger would come to their aid, Sansa choose to keep that information secret. She used Jon and his free folk army as bait for Ramsay, so that the Knights of the Vale would be an out-of-the-blue surprise for the Boltons.
It worked, too. But as badass and cunning as that might make Sansa, there was no way for her to predict the battle's outcome until that moment. For all you know, Jon Snow might have already been killed. Hell, he almost did die. And Sansa was willing to take that risk, all to get her revenge on Ramsay.
Award for Most Unconvincing Survival: Arya Stark
After a bit of casual strolling and tourist sightseeing in Braavos, Arya Stark gets stabbed on a bridge by the Waif in disguise. She somehow manages to jump into the stream below and survive, later going to Lady Crane for help. But while she's resting at her house, the Waif pays them a visit and ends Crane's life. Seeing this, a stitched-up Arya does the following: jump from the first floor and land without hurting herself, run across town, and jump across another stream and open up her stitches as she rolls down the stairs.
After that, she scrambles somehow to her previous hiding place underground with the Waif in pursuit. While the latter think she has her cornered, Arya brings out her retrieved sword Needle and sends the room into pitch black, which we are to believe gives her an edge in the fight. A trained and expert assassin in the order of the Faceless Men (the Waif) up against a severely injured and bleeding girl with far less experience (Arya)? As we said, unconvincing.
Award for Most Obvious and Ignored Moment: Jon Snow coming back from the grave
Game of Thrones had put a lot of effort in building this up, by making its cast members lie about it for a year - even though people had spotted Kit Harrington on the sets - and then beginning the season at Castle Black in the opening episode of the season. It even let him be dead for two full episodes, dragging on his resurrection at the hands of Melisandre and Lord of Light until everyone present in the room - Tormund Giantsbane, Dolorous Edd and Davos Seaworth and the Red Woman herself - had left.
But when Jon Snow did actually return to the living world gasping for air, the shock value had long disappeared. And somehow the Northern lords didn't seem to care too, even though none of them had any clue that he had been killed as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and then brought back. Did the show no longer had time to waste explaining all of that Red God stuff to everyone and was more focused on moving things forward? It just seems really odd, considering how much was invested into it between two seasons.
Award for Best New Character: Lyanna Mormont
The Lady of Bear Island stole the show at every appearance. She first skewered Sansa and Jon's futile attempts at securing her support - and then reprimanded the other Northern lords after the battle for not standing up for themselves. Without her voice, Jon might not have become King in the North. Tough kid, has guts.
Award for Worst Death of a Character: Brynden Tully
The writers bought Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully back after a gap of three seasons, made him spar with Jaime Lannister and then killed him off-screen. Why in the name of the Old Gods and the New?
Award for Most Heartfelt Moment: Tyrion becoming Hand of the Queen
After Tyrion Lannister fails to console Daenerys for her lover's loss, she tells him she had something made for him. Taking out a lapel that we've seen before - Hand of the King - she attaches it on his suit. Tyrion becomes a rulers' hand for the second time, but this time he's Hand of the Queen. More importantly, it's the look on Tyrion's face and how moved he is by this gesture. The character has gone from being hated by most of his family members to being accepted in a foreign land. He even bowed. Go Tyrion!
Award for Disregarding the Geography of the Known World: The show's writers
This was the first season that was fully untethered from GRRM's books and it gave the writers liberty to craft their own narratives between the big tent-pole moments. Instead, they chose to just make the characters jump right from one location to the next, and by effect stating that nothing important happened during their journey. For what it's worth, one of the show's writers - Bryan Cogman - did address the issue.
This is completely unlike how GRRM usually works, filling in various adventures on the characters' travels that tells you more about them. Here is a list of wormhole/airplane-type travel events that seemed impossible - along with a map:
- Yara and Theon Greyjoy left their home in Iron Islands in the fifth episode, reached Volantis in the seventh and Meereen in the ninth.
- Arya was in Braavos at the end of the eight episode, and then at the Twins in the finale.
- Varys leaves Meereen in the eight episode same as Arya, and covers a much larger distance to Sunspear by the finale.
- The White Walkers and wights showing up outside the three-eyed raven's crib moments after the Night King grabbed Bran's arm in his vision.
Touch / click the map above to see it in all its glory.
Award for Doing Justice to a Fan Theory: R+L=J
The truth about Jon Snow's parents had been on the mind of every fan since ages, and remained the most talked about theory. And until the sixth season finale, it was just that - a theory. But then it all changed. Bran took us back into the past and we got to see Lyanna Stark in the flesh, bleeding out after giving birth.
The writers and director executed it wonderfully too, cutting from the baby's face straight to Jon as we know him. Now we wait for the moment Bran next sees Jon. What will he do then? Can he stay in the North knowing Daenerys is family? How will he convince her? Will Jon Snow ride a dragon? Okay we are getting ahead of ourselves here, sorry.
Since we're on the topic, there's a side note we'd like to end with. We now know Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark and was born in Dorne. So according to standard bastardy practice, his last name ought to be Sand - since bastard children are given last names according to where they are born; Snow in the North, Rivers in the Riverlands, Flowers in the Reach, and so on. But that's usually to identify his mother - who in this case is from the North - which means Snow might actually be fine.
Unless of course, Lyanna had married Rhaegar in secret, and wasn't kidnapped as most assumed. In that case it makes him Jon Targaryen, though we have to admit 'Jon' isn't a Targaryen name by any imagination.
We've digressed enough for one day - if you have any thoughts, leave them in the comments below or tweet to us @Gadgets360 with #GameofThrones.