It may have been another middling series focusing on the shenanigans of the Seven Kingdoms, but that’s not to say the sixth season of Game Of Thrones was without its moments. Alliances shifted, forgotten heroes/villains returned and the internet was torn asunder when someone simply held a *sniffle* door.
Now as we wait for another painstaking year for winter to come again, here’s a small list that left us shouting "What the Hodor?!" at the screen. Naturally there’s spoilers ahead, but frankly you’ve had 10 weeks — you’ve only yourself to blame.
1. Melisandre’s True Form — 'The Red Woman'
A good storyteller doesn’t necessarily give the viewers what they want, but something they didn’t expect and would enjoy, anyway. No show has stayed truer to this rule than Game of Thrones. While we may have hoped and prayed that the fallen Snow would rise again as soon as we got back, instead we got some focus on a character that was just as fascinating, and now even more mysterious.
Ever since her flame-grilled introduction, Melisandre has proven that she’s certainly into the dark arts and here we got a glimpse at the price she’s paid to be working in them. With the former Lord Commander still out cold on a slab, The Red Woman retires to bed, only to de-robe and show her true form. Always one for getting her kit off in the past, this was one occasion that we saw her in an all-new, and rather old light after the removal of that necklace.
This little detail wouldn’t be addressed for the majority of the season but just added more questions to a player in the Game that clearly has more tricks up her sleeve.
2. The Bolton Affair — 'Home'
Looking to outdo himself in terms of dastardly deeds this series, Ramsay Bolton continued to own the title of most hated character in the Seven Kingdoms since Joffrey bit the crust. After nonchalantly offing his father Roose (in the same exact way Roose disposed of Robb Stark), his bastard son continued to prune the bush on the family tree, proving just how horrible this guy is.
Calling for his step-mother and her newly-born son, Roose took a walk into the kennels, which we all know never ends well for someone. Releasing the hounds, Ramsay stood and watched as his pooches pulled his family apart and carried on about his day. Thankfully, the camera steered away from the vicious attack, but seeing Ramsay grinning from ear to ear at the sound of a baby’s stifled cry was more than enough.
What an absolute bastard!
3. Snow Way!? — 'Oathbreaker'
And on the third day he rose again, only for Ser Davos to deem it completely f**cking mad. Finally, someone addressed the Lord Commander in the room, bringing Jon Snow back from the brink. Were we surprised? Not at all. Was it worth the wait? Maybe. The real joy wasn’t seeing our hero take a long-awaited breath, but those around him see him do it — the ones that stood by, and against, him.
In his final task as Lord Commander, Jon lined up the traitors with a noose around each neck, having a closing conversation with the man that hated him ever since he entered Castle Black. There were no barbed words between the two, just a man facing the end of his days, warning another of the ones that lie ahead. “I fought, I lost, and now I rest. But you Lord Snow, you’ll be fighting their battles forever.”
And now their watch has ended.
4. Family Reunion — 'Book Of The Stranger'
Game Of Thrones has dragged fans through a bundle of emotions in the past six seasons, but one we’ve rarely ever felt was happiness. It felt almost alien then, to share smiles all around when Jon and Sansa were reunited. Look away dammit, I’ve got something in my eye.
Interestingly the two never shared a scene in the first series, but that didn’t stop Jon seeing one of his long-lost sisters from being a sight to behold. Finally after betrayals, beheadings and forced marriages, seeing some of the remaining Starks play catch up was undeniably satisfying, suggesting that there might actually be a chance for our favorite family after all. All that, and it gave us Brienne and Tormund, the most exciting meet-cute since Ross met Rachel.
Don’t you take this away from us GRRM, don’t you dare!
5. 'Hold The Door' — 'The Door'
Just as quickly as the minds behind this heartstring-shredding show gave us some hope, they yanked it away in the season’s fifth episode with the death of Hodor. Plenty of our favorite characters have met their end in the past five seasons but Hodor’s hurt the most simply because he was an innocent. This was a character that had no agenda from the beginning and he still paid the ultimate price, all while holding the door.
Bran’s part-giant protector had held off enemies many times before, but it was clear this was going to be his last stand and it was an undeniably important one. There was so much to process in The Door’s closing moments. Not only did we learn how Hodor had come to be, but we now discovered who was responsible for it, and just what kind of effect Bran’s power could have on everything if used incorrectly. The past and present had merged effortlessly, revealing another fantastic element in a story that was already teeming with them. The game had changed forever, but we’d lost a valuable piece in the process.
RIP Hodor, you held it like the best of them.
6. Leave Us Wanting Mormont — 'The Broken Man'
There are some things in the Seven Kingdoms that are just common knowledge. For example, only dragon glass can kill a White Walker, Jon Snow knows nothing, and the younger the royalty, the bigger the shit they are. Or so we thought.
As soon as Jon Snow tries to fill the awkward meeting with frivolous chit-chat, the 10-year-old head of the house is quick to cut him off. Direct and dominating in the meeting, she’s a pleasant surprise that you want more of as soon as she bids her guests farewell. Big heads behind the show take note: You’ve placed and pulled characters too quickly from us in the past, please make sure Lyanna isn’t one of them.
7. Release The Hound — 'The Broken Man'
He’s back. He may have been left to die on a hillside but the Gods have seen fit to keep Sandor Clegane alive to cause more mayhem. Now, while it’s uncertain where his allegiances lie (just like everyone on this show), it’s still great to have him back.
Getting the special treatment of his own pre-credit scene in his not-so-surprising return, it’s only taken two episodes to remind us why we learned to love The Hound so much. Taking up arms against the murders of those that were trying to help this fallen warrior, Clegane quickly got back into what he does best (and what he does isn’t very nice). Dispatching a small band of raiders and then bargaining with what to do with the rest of them, it’s safe to say that there’s still life in this old dog yet.
8. Return Of The Queen — 'Battle Of The Bastards'
The main event of Episode 9 was undoubtedly going to be the long-awaited Jon versus Ramsay showdown, but the warmup act was nothing to sniff at either. Appearing just in time for Mereen and its free people to be taken back by the slavers, khaleesi made a comeback like the legend she is.
As always, an attempt at peace was ditched straight away, forcing her to take flight with Drogon and the rest of her fire-breathing family. Unlucky for the opposition, right? Ships were scorched, sailors were screaming, and the Sons of the Harpy met with her new Dothraki force. Dany was back; rad, bad — and to the slight concern of Tyrion — perhaps, a little too mad? Thankfully, breathing time came with the union with the Greyjoy’s and another step towards seeing the last Targaryen return to Westeros.
‘Bout damn time.
9. The Battle Of The Bastards — 'Battle Of The Bastards'
When two tribes go to war in Westeros, you can bet it’s going to be a good blood-soaked scrap, and once again GOT did not disappoint. Not since Braveheart have I seen a medieval battle sequence so undeniably brutal. Setting itself apart from the rest, the "Battle of the Bastards" didn’t walk away with praise for its sword and shield clashing, but the pileup that followed.
After Ramsay’s army executed a pincer move (ask Tormund, he knows) those that were caught in its grasp were forced to crush one another, catching Snow in the middle of it. A scene that was settled upon last minute worked wonders and truly took our breath away. Once again (to our surprise), none of our favorites died. Given an immovable 10/10 on IMDb, "Battle of the Bastards" may not only have been the best episode of the show since it began, but one of the best hours of television in recent memory.
10. Sansa’s Revenge — 'Battle Of The Bastards'
The arcs that some of our favorite characters have experienced in Game of Thrones is what makes the show so exceptional. Case in point being Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark. The one member of our favorite family that was originally all for leaving Winterfell, we’ve watched her claw through six seasons in an effort to get back there, or to the way things were at least.
A pawn passed between sociopathic players ever since Ned got the chop, Season 6 proved that the eldest Stark daughter had finally learned how to play the game and her reward came by deciding Ramsay’s fate. On any other show it would’ve been a face-off between Jon on the battlefield, but instead the reward we got was so much sweeter. Seeing Ramsay smile through bloodied teeth only for his face to be pulled apart by his own dogs was a fitting end that you may have already predicted, but the satisfaction from seeing Sansa witness the whole thing was priceless. Ramsay is history and the future of Sansa and House Stark has never looked so bright.
11. Cersei’s Revenge — 'The Winds Of Winter'
There’s no doubt that "The Winds of Winter" raised the bar for the show's season finale, and Cersei was the one to set it at such a great level to begin with. All she needed was another glass of wine and a shit ton of wildfire.
Always the schemer, seeing her plan unravel was brilliant as the lioness stood patiently at the Red Keep waiting for the green light. First, the last bit of air left Maester Pycelle and Lancel was led into a trap. By then the penny had slowly started to drop as to how this would all end. Margaery Tyrell was the first to figure things out at the Sept, but by then it was all too late. A flame had been lit strong enough to wipe out her family, the High Sparrow and his followers in a single swoop, and all before Cersei finished her first glass of the morning.
Next round is on us your highness, you’ve earned it.
12. Davos Sees Red — 'The Winds Of Winter'
The relationship between the Onion Knight and The Red Woman has had its ups and downs. To be honest, after you’ve seen your former Lord’s advisor give birth to a shadow demon there’d be concerns from there on out. It seemed like things finally came to a head in the final episode when Ser Davos confronted Melisandre in front of Jon Snow about her previous deeds, and the life that was needlessly taken as a result.
After finding the gift he gave to Shireen before they parted ways, Ser Davos connected the dots (and the burnt firewood) as to what had really happened, leading to a confrontation with Melisandre that was a long time coming. Neil Cunningham’s performance in this scene shows why he’s one of the overlooked gems in this show. Ser Davos had already lost his son to the Lord of Light at the Battle of Blackwater and learning of another young life close to his heart being extinguished is even more heartbreaking, and it shows. Jon may have shown mercy for the priestess' punishment, but Ser Davos doesn’t look like he’ll show any should he ever cross paths with her again. Can’t wait.
13. Arya Hungry, Lord Frey? — 'The Winds Of Winter'
Arya must’ve paid first class for whatever ride she caught to get back across the Narrow Sea, traveling in style and arriving just the same. Of course, we didn’t know she’d even touched down, instead the Stark’s most lethal lady put her newfound skills to the test, striking one name off that nearly forgotten list and loving every second of it.
Another prized bit of payback that the show is continuing to bless us with, the scene was set just right with Walder Frey being his usual seedy self. Eyeing up the newest member of his kitchen staff rather than what she’d parked on the table, Arya literally gave him the finger before revealing her true identity and bringing justice to the family name. Easy as pie, really.
Now, who’s next?
14. R+L Really Does Equal J — 'The Winds Of Winter'
Well, finally we got our answers. Proving that a bajillion Game Of Thrones fans can’t be wrong, Uncle Benjen left Bran to his own devices, leaving him to jump back to the past to a part of history he’d previously visited. Rather than leave his father as he walked up those tower steps, we finally got to see what was waiting for him at the top. Turns out, it was a small bit of Snow.
Rushing to his dying sister's side, Ned saw one life come to an end as another had just begun. Whispering in his ear, the late Stark handed over a child that the Lord of Winterfell would masquerade as his own until his dying day, the only question was who the father was. It wasn’t even clear if Bran had heard what was said but no doubt we’ll learn the truth. What’s another year, right guys? Right?
15. The Beginning Of The Endgame — 'The Winds Of Winter'
The final farewell to our favorite characters in Season 6 showed a real shift in Westeros that is being left to simmer before exploding next year. The Northerners have found a new King of the North in Jon Snow, Cersei’s extermination has placed her on the Iron Throne and Daenerys has finally gone to sea to bring a fleet to end Lannister rule ASAP. Dragons will sort that out, no problem.
Finally, things are happening that will lead to the closing chapter of Game of Thrones. It’s going to be brutal, it’s going to be tragic, but right now, our key players are right where they needed to be to keep us hooked. Season 6 needed to go out on a high from the lull it was dangerously close to being in and this was the way to do it.
Winter is finally here, folks. See you next year.