‘Game Of Thrones’ Season Finale Recap: Reign In Blood

We're finally getting the song of ice and fire we were promised.

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

This is a recap of the latest episode of Game Of Thrones. Spoilers!

Game of Thrones has always been preoccupied with blood, as a sign of kinship and dynastic succession as much as violence and death. Jon Arryn – whose death kicked off the entire series – was murdered in part because his interest in genealogy had uncovered the illegitimacy of Cersei’s children.

Blood is on Ser Loras’s carved-up face. Blood is the colour of Melisandre’s hair and clothes, and of the wine quaffed by Tyrion, Daenerys and Daario to seal their conscious coupling and uncoupling. It spurts from Grand Maester Pycelle’s mouth. Someone should send a raven to the Citadel, so that passive-aggressive receptionist who forced Sam to lean right over his desk can update his Maester Master List


Shake it off, Pycelle.

Speaking of master lists, Arya Stark is back home and ticking off names like a boss, with a few parting gifts from the Faceless Men in her pocket. In Caravaggio-like chiaroscuro, and a pose that recalls her mother’s own death in the same hall, she announces that blood is on Walder Frey’s menu, in more ways than one.

But has this perverse pie cursed Arya? Since she’s not well known for her culinary prowess, clearly she’s put in a special order with her old friend, now a well-known pastry chef…

Chief on Arya’s death list now is Cersei, who downs a goblet of finest Dornish red as she watches the carnage at the Great Sept of Baelor, then wine-boards Septa Unella before abandoning her to the eye-gouging attentions of Ser Gregor. I knew Cersei would try to use wildfire against her enemies, but I didn’t know how wildly successful her plan would be, or how coldly she was plotting to seize the throne for herself.

The bombing of the Great Sept played out like Michael Corleone’s slaughter of his business rivals in The Godfather. Worst of all is that Margaery knew what was happening; yet the High Sparrow’s arrogance doomed everyone in the building. His calm wavered just a second before their deaths, and the show’s audacious culling of characters blew me away, too.

Margaery never got to play out her long game. Kevan Lannister never got to pull the struggling Westerosi economy back on track. Ser Loras never got the freedom he richly deserved. And Tommen got his own king’s landing: a bittersweet kind of dignity in which nobody else could ever manipulate him.

Now it’s fascinating to see the power blocs shift as those whose bloodlines have been extinguished find new loyalties. The stage is now set for two conflicts in season seven: Lannister v Targaryen in the south – aided by Martell, Tyrell and Greyjoy – and the King in the North v the Night King – aided by the northern houses, the Free Folk and the Brotherhood without Banners. It’s the song of ice and fire, all right. As Sam and Gilly watch a flurry of white ravens leaving the Citadel, winter has officially begun. The Night King’s season.

There may have been “not a soul to hear” the rains weep o’er the destruction of House Reyne, but the Queen of Thorns, the sole Tyrell survivor, is now clad in deepest green, a creature of pure spite. She treats Ellaria Sand and her idiot daughters with all the respect they deserve. But Varys points out, teleporting between Dorne and Meereen, that they can offer her heart’s desire: “Fire and blood.”

Ellaria may herself have extinguished the legitimate line of House Martell – but only to avenge Oberyn Martell, who in turn was obsessed with vengeance for the Lannister-led rape and murder of his sister Elia and her children Rhaenys and Aegon. And, much as Rhaenys’s pet kitten haunted King’s Landing after the death of its innocent owner, perhaps a fluffy vengeance awaits Cersei.

ser pounce vengeance

At Winterfell, Ser Davos is quivering with rage as he confronts Melisandre with the little charred stag from Shireen’s pyre. Deep down, Davos had to have known Stannis had sacrificed his daughter to the Lord of Light. After all, he’d seen Queen Selyse sacrifice her own brother in a similar pyre on the beach at Dragonstone. And he had to have realised that Stannis had sent him on a busywork mission to the Wall purely to prevent him from intervening in Shireen’s sacrifice.

But actually visiting the site of Shireen’s death has really hit home. Davos loved that girl – partly in place of his own son, who died at the Blackwater after following Melisandre’s teachings. And he loved Stannis, who elevated and respected him. Melisandre’s capricious “I didn’t lie; I was wrong” ignores that she manipulated Selyse’s fervour and Stannis’s ambition. Her flames have seared away House Baratheon forever. Davos can never forgive that.

Perhaps she’ll cross paths with the Brotherhood without Banners as she rides south – or Arya, who’s had “the red witch” on her death list since Melisandre kidnapped Gendry back in season three. At that time, an unnerved Melisandre looked into Arya’s eyes and saw darkness, with many other eyes staring back: “Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”


*Knowing nothing begins*

It was almost anticlimactic to see one of the show’s most famous fan theories confirmed in the Tower of Joy. It probably means more to viewers than to Bran Stark, greenwarging in from beyond the Wall. (The fact Uncle Benjen left Bran and Meera by the weirwood with no means of transport shows, perhaps, that Bran’s future travels are to be metaphysical, not geographic.)

The same blood that drenches Lyanna Stark’s childbed legitimates her son Jon Snow’s claim to be King in the North… and perhaps more. “I don’t care if he’s a bastard!” says fierce little Lyanna Mormont. “Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins. He’s my king, from this day to his last day.”

I love this tiny spitfire who so eloquently shames her elders. It’s tempting to mistake all Game of Thrones’ fierce women for feminist avatars. Yes, they struggle to play a game that’s weighted against them, seeing them only as breeders and helpmeets. And yes, it completes Sansa’s stunning character arc that she coolly walks away from Littlefinger’s latest seduction attempt. (He totally thought he was in with those white knights of the Vale.)

But Sansa can never be Queen of the North in her own right, no matter whose bedroom she sleeps in. And her smile fades as she realises Littlefinger is now a powerful enemy. Just as Daenerys understands (as Daario doesn’t) the sexual double standard that applies to women, Sansa knows she can only help steer the course, not command the ship. And Sansa hasn’t got the wily Tyrion as her advisor, nor Varys recruiting her allies.


Ship gets real as Dany finally, finally sails for Westeros.

It’s chilling, not empowering, to see that women can be just as cruel, just as arrogant, and just as foolish as men. In the flashback that began season five, the witch Maggy the Frog tasted Cersei’s blood and predicted her marriage, King Robert’s bastards, and that all three of her children would predecease her: “You’ll be queen… for a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” Cersei has always assumed Margaery was this young queen… but what if it’s Daenerys?

Maggy also predicted that Cersei’s own younger brother would choke her to death, which Cersei always assumed referred to Tyrion. This is why she’s repeatedly tried to have him killed. But Jaime is Cersei’s younger twin. And from the look on his face as he watched Cersei take the Iron Throne, her callous sacrifice of her one remaining child has killed his love for her. Blood is indeed powerful, but it can be your downfall.

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.