10:00pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones': 10 Key Moments From 'The Winds of Winter'
[Warning: This story contains spoilers through season six, episode 10 of HBO's Game of Thrones.]
"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) took her own words of wisdom to heart during Sunday's season finale, "The Winds of Winter," putting into motion an awful act of violence guaranteed to incinerate every single one of her problems — albeit with massive personal consequences.
As if King's Landing weren't nuclear enough on its own, several other stories throughout the Game of Thrones finale caught fire, with long-held theories and hopes confirmed at long last.
Here are the biggest moments of the episode:
1. Cersei Goes Wild
Rumors of Cersei using wildfire to incinerate her foes are now confirmed, as she did exactly that at the start of the episode. It was one of the tensest scenes in Thrones history, as Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) tried and failed to thwart the plan, only to become the first victim of the wildfire explosion … but far from the last. Also killed: High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) and Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder). Basically, every power player not on Cersei's side.
2. Attack of the Birds
Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) also died, albeit under his own unique set of circumstances — betrayed by Maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser) and stabbed to death by his "little birds," a gruesome coming together of the young and the old. It's a scene ripped right out of the pages of A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George R.R. Martin's novel series on which Thrones is based, albeit with a few major modifications; in the books, Varys (Conleth Hill) is the killer, not Qyburn, and he also manages to kill Kevan Lannister in the act.
3. A Literal King's Landing
Giving the city new meaning, Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman) leapt from a window as soon as he witnessed the Sept of Baelor's explosion from a distance. With that, the last of Cersei and Jaime's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) three children has died, fulfilling Maggy the Frog's prophecy. Here's hoping Ser Pounce is still OK.
4. Die, Frey Pie
Add another body to the pile: Walder Frey (David Bradley), assassinated by Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), using her faceless skills to infiltrate the Twins. Lord Frey's death was a long time coming, ever since the Red Wedding, but the method of his demise was even longer in the making — or the baking, as it were. In the books, "Frey Pies" are very much a thing, a form of Northern justice that only eagle-eyed readers will pick up on.
5. Littlefinger, Big Dreams
What does Littlefinger want? "Everything." He made this clear many episodes ago, but that's not exactly narrowing it down. In the season six finale, however, he made his ambitions more specific: Littlefinger wants to sit on the Iron Throne, with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) at his side. She didn't seem particularly interested at the time, but is it out of the realm of possibility, given later episode developments?
6. The Prince Who Was Promised
At long last, Game of Thrones revealed one of the show's greatest mysteries: Jon Snow's mother. In a twist to some (if not to book readers), it turns out Jon's mom is Lyanna Stark — which means Eddard Stark isn't his father, but actually his uncle. Expect massive ramifications from this reveal as the story plays out, at least as soon as Jon learns the news himself.
7. The King in the North
Then again, Jon already has his hands full ruling over the land once commanded by his "father." In the episode, Jon earns several new titles: Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, King in the North and the White Wolf. That last one is especially evocative, and one that gives him a powerful name to throw down against the Mother of Dragons.
8. The Queen in the South
For her part, Cersei earns a new nickname of her own: the Mad Queen. In light of all the violence in King's Landing, including her son's suicide, Cersei is officially the new Queen of the Seven Kingdoms — at least according to Maester Qyburn, and at least for now, until other forces make their move.
9. The Queen in the East
The biggest force of all: Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke), officially sailing for Westeros in the finale, alongside House Greyjoy, the Unsullied, the Dothraki and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), the new Hand of the Queen. She's also aligned with Dorne and Highgarden, thanks to Varys' maneuvering. Cersei might have King's Landing right now, but not for long, with Dany on her way.
10. Winter is Here
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) finally reached the Citadel, where he witnessed a flock of white ravens fly out from the ancient tower. These ravens signify the changing of seasons, putting an end to House Stark's words for the time being. Winter isn't coming anymore; it's here, and with such a major upheaval of the Seven Kingdoms' political landscape, it won't be long before everyone comes to feel the frigid season's unlikely heat.
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