Tomorrow night sees the final episode of Game of Thrones‘ sixth season, “Winds of Winter,” directed like last week’s epic “Battle of the Bastards” by Miguel Sapochnik. The title refers to the still-unreleased sixth novel in George R.R. Martin’ A Song of Ice And Fire series, but reveals nothing specific. Given the fast pace of the season and the important events unfolding, it’s likely serious changes are inbound. Which means, as it always does, the certain death of several characters.
We can probably rule out doom for Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jaime Lannister. Actors Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau were all reported this week to have secured big new deals through a potential season 8. But everyone else is fair game. We have no idea who will buy it, but you’re welcome to speculate. To help, read on for a primer on where the story stands and what the stakes are for its various characters leading into the season finale.
Last week’s “Battle of the Bastards” saw Jon Snow and Sansa Stark take back Winterfell and reassert Stark family power. But they still have to solidify their position, and help for that is likely to come from Petyr Baelish AKA Littlefinger. Littlefinger recently installed himself as the power behind the throne in The Vale, and his motivations are unclear. Expect him to make whatever move he has planned before “Winds of Winter” ends.
Arya Stark, meanwhile, was last seen vowing to return to Winterfell after leaving the Faceless Men. She also plans to kill everyone responsible for the Stark family downfall in season 1. Many of them are already dead, but Walder Frey – who engineered the Red Wedding – still lives. Frey received control over the Riverlands as reward for that treachery, but his wealth is depleted and his armies whittled down. A trained assassin who looks like a nondescript young girl could easily exploit that weakness, and Arya will have to pass through the Riverlands to make it back to The North.
And Jon Snow? Most pressing to fans is the question of who his mother is. We’ll leave non-book readers unspoiled, but if you’re curious, google “R+L=J” for a hint. Confirming Jon’s origins will involve his brother Bran, who recently learned to project his mind into the past. Early on in season 6, he had a vision in which it was strongly hinted he was about to find out about “R+L=J” for himself. Expect a return to that tomorrow.
“Battle of the Bastards” saw Queen Daenerys reassert control over her empire in Essos, and set her up for the invasion of Westeros she’s been planning since season 1. That’s thanks to the arrival of Theon Greyjoy and his sister Yara, who offered their fleet of fugitive ships in exchange for help reclaiming rulership of the Iron Islands. With the Dothraki, Unsullied, and Iron Islanders behind her and Tyrion Lannister established as her trusted advisor, the forecast for Westeros may be dragonfire from the skies rather soon.
Likely to be the episode’s centerpiece, season 6 has been headed toward a three-way confrontation in the capital city. The factions: Cersei Lannister (along with creepy Doctor Frankenstein-esque Qyburn and reanimated henchman The Mountain); Queen Margaery, pretending to be a sincere convert to the faith of the Seven, and her brother Loras, currently captive of the Church; and the High Sparrow, leader of the Faith and commander of the Faith Militants, who has captured the loyalty and religious devotion of Cersei’s son, King Tommen. The wild card is Cersei’s uncle, Kevan Lannister, who despises her, is fanatically loyal to the king, and has allied with the Tyrells.
Cersei is still under religious injunction, facing trial for her many sins. She naturally invoked the right of Trial by Combat, confident The Mountain would crush anyone the High Sparrow picked to fight him. Unfortunately she played her hand too soon – having failed to secure her son’s loyalty and rejected by her family (aside from her brother, Jaime), in episode 8, “no one”, she provoked a confrontation with the Faith Militants that revealed The Mountain can’t be killed. This led High Sparrow to convince King Tommen to outlaw trial by combat, decreeing that Cersei (and Loras) would instead face jury trial by members of the Church.
Viewers who pay attention noticed some creepy foreshadowing throughout the season. Notably, Qyburn told Cersei several weeks ago that “certain rumors” had been confirmed. Which rumors? We’ll let Tyrion explain. Last week during “Bastards,” the pep talk he gave Daenerys to convince her not to engage in genocidal slaughter included the reveal (to her) that her father, the Mad King overthrown decades earlier, had stored away caches of Wildfyre (Westeros napalm) under King’s Landing’s most significant buildings, including the Sept, headquarters of the Faith of the Seven where – you knew this was coming – Cersei’s trial is set to take place.
Chances are by the end of the episode, Westeros is going to be sans a significant portion of its religious leadership and ruling class.
Other loose ends
Brienne and Podrick haven’t been seen since escaping from Riverrun a few weeks ago, while Samwell Tarly and his companion Gilly haven’t been seen since Sam stole his family’s ancestral Valyrian steel sword “Heartsbane.” Expect both threads to appear. And the show hasn’t revisited Dorne since season six, episode 1 when Oberyn Martell’s widow and daughters overthrew the kingdom’s ruler. However, Varys went on a diplomatic mission to Dorne on behalf of Daenerys several episodes back; expect to see both these threads converge.
Meanwhile, Jamie Lannister is still out and about having secured Riverrun for Walder Frey. He won’t make it back to King’s Landing most likely but as seen in the photo further up the page, he does drop by The Twins for dinner with Walder Frey. We also need to mention The Hound, last seen apparently considering membership in the Brotherhood Without Banners. Finally, during “Bastards” last week, Ser Davos finally figured out that Red Priestess Melisandre sacrificed King Stannis’ daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light back in season 5, and as seen in the previews for “Winter”, he’s going to demand Jon Snow bring her to justice.
There you have it. Feel free to speculate wildly in comments about the fates of everyone involved, and remember not to get too attached to anyone.
The article was updated after publication.