It’s time for the first in a series of plotline-specific retrospectives about the sixth season of Game of Thrones. For a series built on its political intrigue, we’ve elected to start right in the middle of all the action: Cheryl’s Landing, the capital of Weisseroff. Trigger warnings for suicide and violence.
Game of Thrones (GoT) has been off the air for a couple of months now. Sure, during its run we may have spent each week discussing its flaws, and Kylie even gave us a look-back at how horribly sexist the whole of Season 6 was. But to be perfectly fair to this artform, we felt we needed to rewatch it plotline by plotline, in order to really immerse ourselves in the vision of showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D)…just like they’ve done for George R.R. Martin!
We did this last year with Season 5’s plotlines as well. In those retrospectives, we tried to fairly consider the show from the perspective of storytelling pragmatics, asking questions about the nature of the story, as well as the adaptational choices made.
This year, however, we’re “beyond the books” right? Sure, there’s plotlines that are still using material from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons (if you squint), but it’s very, very clear that this show is its own, separate beast, a conclusion that really was the ultimate insight from our Season 5 retrospectives.
For that reason, we really can’t consider “adaptational choices” this year. We may pull in our dreaded book knowledge here and there, but our focus is going to be on the story in and of itself. This includes looking at the themes, central actors, and results of the story told, Implications™ and all.
But first, as always, before we can jump into such things, we need to brush up on what happened. To do so, we’re going to launch into a
Naming conventions are a touch…different here. For a full explanation as to why, along the meaning of each nickname, please refer to the Book Snob Glossary.
We also may slip by calling Olenna the “Dowager Sasstress” here and there, though not with any consistency. Be it known that she is very, very sassy. Also, once upon a time we had a nickname for Loras, but given how he was treated by the story this year, we’d like to accord this fictional dude as much dignity as we can at this point.
Here’s the story, of a lovely lady
That’s right, it’s our protagonist to end all protagonists, Carol Lannister, and her super cute summer ‘do that Septa Spoonella kindly gave her last season. We guess she still has phantom-hair though, since when we first see her, she’s just sitting in a room feeling her split ends. Boredom or D&D’s exploration of trauma? You decide!
Fortunately her day gets spiced up when some rando comes in to tell her a ship from Porne is in the harbor. Good thing Carol isn’t facing trial for charges of high treason or anything, because she just RUNS outside, unsupervised, to an empty-ass little jetty. Also a good thing Larry totally isn’t the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, or that there wasn’t an expected arrival of the heir to Porne and the return of a princess of the Seven Kingdoms, because otherwise what a rude reception this would have been! Unless maybe Larry wrote to everyone who wasn’t Carol to give them a heads up.
It’s probably for the best anyway, because boy does Larry know he messed the carpet.
We then shift to a scene inside where Carol decides to roleplay as Arianne Martell, blaming herself for everything that happened to Myrcella, and being so upset that she suffered alone. She also talks about how Myrcella’s corpse will soon be gross looking, which we’d say is showing her internalized misogyny, but somehow this trait doesn’t exist any other time for Carol. Instead we’ll just guess that she’s a book snob and liked “Jaime I” in A Feast for Crows.
Larry liked that chapter a lot less though, because he keeps going on about how he needs Carol in his life and he should have listened to her, and that they should “fuck prophecies and fuck fate” because they’re the only two people who matter. They have to team up to “take back” everything that’s been taken from them. What exactly is that, Larry? Consistent scripting?
Meanwhile in the sept’s dungeons (we guess), Septa Spoonella is busy being “overzealous” by…reading scripture to Marg Boleyn. The gist is that if you hide but one sin, you still go to hell. However, Marg and her canonical lack of sinning is less compelled by this, and she just wants to see her brother. Then High Grandpa pops in and kicks Spoonella out, in what is potentially a good cop-bad cop thing. Maybe. He also hints that Spoonella is acting on her own accord (those women, amirite?), so maybe she just really loves spreading the word.
High Grandpa tells Marg that she owes it to her husband to confess, since he misses his statutory rapist so much. However, Marg is legitimately confused about what this would entail since all she did was tell one lie because she wanted to save her brother. She points this out, so High Grandpa responds by trying to fish for a sin.
HG: So you believe you are pure? Perfect? Wholly without sin?
Marg: None of us are.
HG: You have started down the path. But you have many miles to go.
What path? How has she started down anything? All she’s doing is sitting in a cell on charges you haven’t seen fit to tell her… Like dude, you can’t just arrest people on spec and then play 20 questions to figure out why. Or if you do that, you can’t be confused when they’re not super co-operative.
In the next episode we open with a random dude in a bar regaling his buddies with the story of
a hot young body double’s Carol’s Walk of Shame. Apparently, our super mom was totally won over by the sight of his floppy fish.
No one particularly buys it, but Franken-Gregor is pissed that anyone would badmouth Carol like that. Either this man is notorious for his anecdote, or Gregor patrols the streets waiting for people to say mean things about his employer so he can smash their head against the wall.
Meanwhile, Carol is just sitting around looking vaguely bored until Gregor returns to take her to Myrcella’s funeral. But what’s this? She’s not allowed to go, says random Lannister guards? Poor Carol!
At the funeral, Larry and Poor Dumb Tommen have some father-son bonding. Tommen, to our admitted surprise, actually remembers about Trystane Jonas and how he was killed, and that maybe the heir to Porne being murdered on his watch might be important. TomTom is convinced that Carol did it because… Um. Because the writers are trying very hard to make the ending not come out of nowhere. No seriously, what previous behavior would make any sane person think that she would murder Trystane? No book projection please. Carol is just literally standing around being sad.
Larry loves Carol, though, and knows she would never do that.
Larry is super supportive in general. He tells his secret sonion that he should make up with Carol, and TomTom explains that he didn’t let Carol come to her own daughter’s funeral because he was embarrassed that he failed in his toxically masculine duty to protect his womenfolk. Poor Dumb Tommen seems under the delusion that he had any power at all in that situation, and that the Faith hadn’t completely taken over already.
High Grandpa comes in and starts to tell Larry about how he’s more humble than anyone. Or something. It’s all just an excuse for High Grandpa Speech #1: I Don’t Fear Death Because Eye Stones.
It’s not worth talking about in detail, though it’s actually not bad from a world-building perspective. Snaps for D&D.
Larry doesn’t give a fuck. He goes off about HG’s sexist double standard when it comes to sin, and in so doing, confesses all of his own sins. Then there’s this weird thing where he threatens to kill HG, but if you will recall, HG doesn’t fear death because eye stones, and also, he has an army of thugs that make him extra not afraid.
Why did High Grandpa even come in here again?
Later, TomTom takes
Dad’s Uncle’s advice and apologizes to Carol for not being strong in the real way. He should have killed people before letting his mom be slut-shamed. Carol accepts his apology and just stares off into the middle distances looking sad. Yeah, she seems very glad to see him.
TomTom asks for her help in ruling. File that one away.
Remember Qyburn? The only person willing to help out Poor Carol last season? And was branded a “sycophant” for doing his job? Well, he apparently woke up and realized that as Master of Whispers, he should probably stop spending all of his days dissecting frogs and actually figure out what’s going on in the city. So he finds a group of very chatty children and gives them candy, and that secures their loyalty! He also thinks it’s not a problem to confirm for them that there’s a reanimated corpse of Gregor Clegane following Carol around; not like a whole city watched this dude die or anything.
Even Larry isn’t too fussed that one of his Kingsguard has blue skin. (No wonder this was a Carol Award winner.) However, he does finally point that there are “hundreds” of Faith Militant. File that one away too. “Don’t worry,” Carol and Qyburn assure our befuddled lil’ knight. “Gregster just has to beat one.” So in case the intricacies of this plotline are over your head, this is what Carol’s plan is right now:
- Win trial-by-combat
Like, sure, short-term problems need solutions, but why are they acting like if this happens, the Faith will be done for? Oh and they haven’t revealed the “official charges” yet. What. But…we learned them last year and Carol confessed to one of them to do the walk? Are they just playing for Larry’s benefit?
Somehow Carol’s brill strategy also includes knowing when people are talking smack about her, which to be fair, could be a reasonable reaction to public sexual humiliation, so we’ll let it go. Poor Carol.
We then cut to the one person in all of Carol’s Landing who actually is concerned that Qyburn is a practicing necromancer: Pycelle. However, the show plays this as a joke for some reason, because they do the classic “he’s talking about someone who just walked in the room and doesn’t know it” thing. Then Pycelle releases a comedic fart.
Luckily for all of us, unintended comic relief takes form in Carol and Larry. They’re such an amazing, unified team (with matching haircuts!), determined to crash the Small Council meeting so that they can actually help elicit positive change in Carol’s Landing.
Unfortunately, Olenna and Kevan are equally determined to ignore them (we guess they want to go back to listening to Pycelle bitch about the Master of Whispers?), so Olenna smirks and points out how Carol has no power, making the events of last season a real head-scratcher, while Kevan cleverly pulls out the Barry-sitting-in-the-Small-Council retcon D&D had to use for Season 3 to make sense to shun Larry.
Larrol has their head in the game though, even mentioning how Porne was taken over by the crazed women who murdered Myrcella (this is a literal act of war). But this quickly devolves into a fifth grade lunch table spat:
Carol: And seeing as you cannot make us leave, we best get on with it.
Kevan: No, we cannot make you leave. And you cannot make us stay.
Somehow, Olenna acts like she just won this great victory.
But now we have a sad Larrol. Remember when the king ask Carol to help him rule last episode? No? It’s okay, it’s never mentioned again.
Meanwhile, Tommen continues his quest to be strong in the D&D way by barging into the sept and roleplaying as Joffrey to…make a very reasonable demand of High Grandpa. Carol wants to visit Myrcella’s corpse. However, High Grandpa really likes to dick-wave, because he says she can’t do it until she stands trial before seven septons. Gods, this makes the High Sparrow of the books seem downright feminist; at least his panel of judges included three members of “your female sex”. (It apparently included lay-people too, which might be even more significant.)
Rather than asking why High Grandpa is being so petty, Tommen just throws out a lame “I am the king”, so Grandpa then proceeds to take complete control of the conversation by rambling on about mothers. Jonathan Pryce adds monologue #2 to his reel.
This one can be summed up as follows:
“Your mom once told me the Crown and the Faith are the two pillars of society. Mothers are great. It’s through our mothers we first came to feel The Mother. Your mother loves you. I didn’t have a mother. My knees hurt. Your mother did the walk for you, but the gods want atonement. Gods = very yes. Kings should be godly. Let’s all help each other be more good.”
Oh, and this episode aired on Mother’s Day.
It’s also clear D&D don’t understand the whole one god in seven thing, but whatever. The point is that we can tell High Grandpa is playing TomTom like a fiddle, even establishing dominance by feigning weakness and contriving a situation where he’s the one asking the king to sit down. For a “true believer” and the only “honest man” in Carol’s Landing, he’s pretty dang cynical.
Speaking of the High Grandpa dick waving, in the next episode we open on Marg in her bare stone cell. The door opens and she blinded by the light before being lead down a hallway to the HG’s favorite chapel thing for High Grandpa bullshit session #3.
He tells her that she’s a bad person for wanting to return to her family because her family is a bunch of sinners. And they’re rich. Which is bad. And High Grandpa knows this because once upon a time he was a skilled craftsman who charged a premium for high quality and labor intensive goods, and thus prospered. Then he hosted one party.
What an asshole.
Really, the only takeaway from this scene is that Natalie Dormer and Jonathan Pryce are both way too good for this shit, and that The Seven-Pointed Star is just as badly written as this dialogue.
HG lets Marg see her bro Loras, who is also in a bare stone cell and looking even dirtier and more run-down than she is. He tells Marg that he no longer gives a shit about his family or being the heir to Highgarden, he just wants “it” to stop. What is “it”? We’ll leave that up to your imagination. And we’ll save the implications of the weak, suffering gay man for our next post. We’re sure you can’t wait.
Loras begs his sister to help him, and she promises she will. It’s actually a little heart breaking, because Finn Jones is also too good for this. And these two actors have always had strong chemistry.
Back in the Red Keep, Pycelle is doing his fucking job and giving the king innocuous advice about being careful when dealing with High Grandpa. Carol comes in and orders him out. He leaves, but not before receiving a catty smirk because…. Um, we have no clue. She finds him creepy maybe. It’s fine though: Carol is still winning because TomTom looked damn bored talking to the guy.
TomTom is beginning to notice that Carol and Marg don’t like each other very much. It doesn’t matter though, because Carol has decided to put aside her hatred of Marg for the greater good. This somehow convinces Tommen decide to give up the ‘secret’ he’s been sitting on: Marg is scheduled for a slutshaming walk of her own.
What. This wasn’t public knowledge? How? Why?
Then it’s time for another Small Council scene!
And again, Carol and Larry are the only grown-ups in the room. While Olenna and Kevan want to be petty, they want to get things done. Things such as discuss Carol’s trial, which is in “a few days” (Remember that!), and dropping this bombshell that Marg is going to be stripped down and marched around the city for…perjury?
Olenna is horrified, but she needn’t worry, Larry is on the case! He seems perfectly aware of the fact that they’re undermining the king’s orders (because Tommen is ruling in his own right now?) and doesn’t really care. They can get around this by using the Tyrell army, which is the “second largest” in Weisseroff (la la la, must not bring in book knowledge…). When Kevan still seems unconvinced, Carol reminds him of what the Faith Taliban did to his sonion Lancel, since apparently he forgot or stopped caring. This just serves to remind us of that fact that it appears that Larry still doesn’t know about the charges against Carol and that she banged Lancel. Emmy-winning writing, you guys.
Anyway, Olenna and Kevan are helpless against such well-reasoned arguments (and we guess they don’t feel like storming out in a huff again), so they agree to team up.
With the plot hurtling forward at a dizzying pace, it’s finally the day of Marg’s [secret] Walk of Shame! Real talk: was this ever truly a threat on the table for Marg, or was this High Grandpa and our girl teaming up to play TomTom? Because the idea that someone would be paraded naked through the streets due to a perjury charge—especially a popular and well-loved public figure—without any negative consequences for the person ordering such a thing is a wee bit out there.
Nevermind. We just remembered what show we were watching.
TomTom isn’t super happy about what his wife/abuser is about to go through, so he’s sadly lighting candles in the sept. Fortunately, High Grandpa is there to comfort him by pointing out that Marg is liked by the poor people, so she’ll be safe. And there’s a subtle implication that she’s got a hot bod, too, so it’ll be fine—just some ogling, no tomato throwing.
But then HG mentions that “now she’s devoted to the gods,” so he already knew this walk wasn’t taking place. Unless…did this all hinge on Marg convincing Tommen to see the light?
If so, she does a great job:
Marg: [High Grandpa]’s not quite what we thought he was, is he? (Laughs when TomTom stares silently.) You think I’m mad. I sound mad.
TomTom: No. No, you don’t. You—you could never. You’re right, he’s not. He’s a lot more—
Marg: He is.
Who wouldn’t be convinced by that? We’re also incredibly uncomfortable at how this is still so clearly an abusive dynamic. We know she’s 100% manipulating him, but especially the “You think I’m mad” line where she forces him into a position to comfort her…ugh. The only good thing that can be said is there’s at least a reverse-honeypot follow-through of this narrative.
Marg, who got a bath and a septa to brush her hair, then proceeds to admonish herself for being “good at seeming good” because she gave alms to the poor, but still had money. At least she’s faking, because if one more person buys into this “social contracts are sinning” mindset we might scream.
TomTom is a hard sale though, since he reasonably wants to know where Loras is and what’s going on there. Marg just hand-waves her brother’s continued imprisonment as part of the gods’ plan, and we guess this is all somehow enough to convince TomTom to hand the city over to the Faith. (Which is different from the way it’s been since “Sons of the Harpy” because…how, exactly?)
Larry and Mace are on it though! They’ve got an army, and they’re ready to use it. One minor problem: Larry, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, not only lost track of all his men, but forgot to secure the king before attempting to topple a central societal institution. Mace gives a speech that we think was supposed to be ponderous, but it sounded perfectly reasonable to us, given how the heir to Highgarden and the Queen of Westeros are both imprisoned, and zealots took over the city, smashed idols, established prohibition, and barged into brothels to arrest people for their very private crimes:
Mace: My friends, the hour has come. Madness has overtaken this city and grasped in its claws my children. But now we must drive it back under the rocks whence it came. Madness has had its day!
He said “whence.” LAUGH.
Meanwhile, High Grandpa decides it will be really fun to tease a Walk of Shame that he knows isn’t going to happen. For a secret Walk of Shame, the turnout is great. He’s also really committed to the surprise element, in fact, because he even made Spoonella stand there with her shame-bell. Unless maybe she was just hoping to perform a freestyle concert with all of her overzealousness.
High Grandpa Speech #4!
High Grandpa: Margaery of House Tyrell came to us a sinner. She stood before the gods in the holy sept and lied. She turned a blind eye to her brother’s sins. She disgraced her house, her king, and herself.
Well by all means, parade her naked then. This also confirms that lying to protect her brother was her only charge. Allyship is dangerous indeed. We’re just so confused; Marg, in this show, is established to be all about the sinful, sexy ways. At least connect that to something. But no, they decided to toss that out the window and give her a slut-shaming walk for purgery, as if it’s standard practice for any crime. Emmy-winning writing, you guys.
It’s fine though—Larry interrupts by marching the army into place. Even the Dowager Sasstress Olenna came with a bucket of popcorn! Our fearless Lord Commander rides up to High Grandpa and demands Loras and Marg be released, saying he speaks for the king. But lol HG knows he totally doesn’t since TomTom is inside the sept as they speak.
Doofus, this is why you secure the guy first…
Marg tells everyone to stand-down, even though the “second largest army in Westeros” would totally have been able to free Loras on-the-spot, which was supposedly her only guiding motivation this season. But no, instead she’s pleased to announce the religious oligarchy she and Tommen just formed, and he comes parading out of the sept with the Seven-Pointed Star on his banners. We guess if Marg had switched tacts, the new kingsguard armor might have gone to waste. She’s super frugal now, after all. Though it is kind of hilarious that High Grandpa takes a large issue with spending time making fancy shoes, but not unnecessary metalwork.
For some reason this means High Grandpa “won,” because Olenna is all:
We’re unsure what he actually won, and why Larry and Mace stopped giving a shit about Loras’s release, but okay. In fairness, Marg opening her mouth and telling everyone to stand-down kind of fucked them over.
What’s really funny is that had the Small Council just listened to Larrol the first time they crashed, they would have gotten to Marg and Loras before she made her horrible deal. Hindsight is a bitch. Also normal sight, because seriously Marg, what are you doing?
Either way, TomTom is reasonably disturbed by a Lord Commander of the Kingsguard who went to overthrow the Faith without even bothering to check where the king was, so he fires him. Does this mean Franken-Gregor gets to be the new Lord Commander? Who replaces Larry? Who did Franken-Gregor even replace? “Remember when Trant died?” said no one ever.
TomTom also just finished reading A Feast for Crows and decides it would be really nifty if Larry tried to hook up with that plotline, so he orders him to Riverrun to get the castle back from Brynden Tully. Unfortunately for our newest book snob, he forgot how unbreakable the Larrol love is, so we’re treated to a touching scene where Larry screams about how the High Grandpa “stole” their son. Good thing Carol isn’t going on trial for exactly that accusation, or yelling about it could be dangerous.
It’s also a good thing Larry has Carol, because she calms him down, tells him she’ll be fine at her trial without him, and that they’ll eventually get their revenge on everyone else, which he’s wanted all season. They talk about how they’ll always be together and then french.
In the next episode, we get to see the implications of this new order, or whatever the fuck it is. Marg is hanging in High Grandpa’s chapel thing and reading The Seven-Pointed Star. She shows us her new make-over: a blue dress straight out of an FLDS compound, complete with bitchin’ little crown.
The High Grandpa comes to interrupt her and she starts quoting a scripture passage that, coincidence of coincidences, happens to be relevant to want he wants to talk to her about. But first he takes some time out to shame her some more for daring to be charitable with less than pure motives, or something. See, she did it because she felt she should. And she pitied the poor, but she didn’t love them. And that’s bad. Bad enough to negate any actual good it may have done, we guess. Though she said she convinced herself she liked it…what is the difference at this point? Nothing is good enough for this man!
Anyway, it’s time for High Grandpa Speech #5.
In this one, he tells her how disappointed he is that she’s not raping her husband anymore. Poor Marg must have been confused and thought that sex = lust = sin = bad, but no, it turns out that the patriarchy exists for this scene, so Marg doesn’t have to be lusty, she just has to lie back and think of Weisseroff. The High Grandpa needs a little mini-TomTom to brainwash, we guess.
Then, kind of out of nowhere, the High Grandpa suddenly turns into a mob boss and basically says “That’s a nice grandma you have there. Shame if anything were to happen to her.” What has she done wrong, exactly?
Like, dude knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s saying that Olenna better come onboard with this whole new religion thing, or she’ll get shame-bells too. Consider this the last nail in the coffin of High Grandpa the Uncynical True Believer.
So Marg decides to have a meeting with the Dowager Sasstress to, we guess, either get her in on this fake piety plan, or tell her to get the fuck out. Unfortunately for her, High Grandpa has assigned her Septa Spoonella to be her probation officer and dog her every step. And double unfortunately, Olenna has suddenly turned into an idiot who can’t take a hint, because no matter how much Marg tries to telegraph that she can’t speak freely and “Dude, this shit is serious! We’re fucked!” Olenna just doesn’t get it and demands to talk to Marg alone. She also calls Spoonella ugly and threatens to have her beaten to death, because this show is so feminist.
Also, we find out just how crappy this deal that Marg made is. It requires Loras to give up his name and inheritance and live as a penitent for the rest of his life. Just a reminder, his “crime” was being gay. And her crime was perjury. And Carol, who’s accused of high treason, regicide, and incest is allowed to do whatever until her trial. Just in case anyone forgot.
Marg finally gets her point across by surreptitiously giving her grandma a doodle of a rose. Oh, that explains everything.
Isn’t Olenna supposed to be a super cunning, smooth operator? Why was she so ridiculously obtuse here? Are she and Marg not allowed to both be smart at the same time?
Later, Olenna is writing some letters when Carol pops in, apparently suffering from short-term memory loss. She proposes the exact same alliance between the Lannisters and Tyrells that they tried last episode, to combat the new Faith/Crown Union of Vagueness.
Olenna, however, won’t hear of it. After all, she has a rose doodle, so she doesn’t need help from anyone. She tells Carol that this is all her fault for arming the Faith Taliban. Which, yeah, we guess it is. Though you can argue that she only felt the need to do that because Olenna’s granddaughter has been coached her whole life to sexually manipulate children so that she could grab power for literally no reason and kick Carol out. And it could also be argued that it was Marg’s fault Alliance #1 turned into a sack of crap, because she illogically told everyone to stand down instead of letting Larry take the sept and freeing her brother.
Then Olenna calls Carol the most vile person she has ever met. Presumably because her homophobic perjury trap was so evil.
Do we need to remind you that this woman routinely encourages the sexual manipulation of a child, repeatedly threatens to let tens of thousands of people starve to death, told a woman she would have her beaten to death in this very episode, and, oh yeah, literally murdered Carol’s son? We didn’t think so. We’re not arguing that Olenna is worse than Carol, by the way, just that there’s not way we can see that either is “better” than the other. Carol could call Olenna “vile” with just as much justification.
Carol tries to be the bigger person and be all “we both love our children, we can make it work.” But Olenna just reminds Carol that she’s has no power anymore, and no support left, so, and we quote:
“Are you going to kill them all by yourself?”
Fuck you, D&D.
We guess this gives Carol something to think about. The same can’t be said for us, after that anvil to the head.
In the next episode, Carol decides to have a glass of wine (for the antioxidants), when Qyburn comes running in to tell her that her son’s unruly friends have crashed and are demanding to see her. She heads out to deal with the hooligans, who are led by her asshole cousin Lancel. Apparently, High Grandpa wants to see her in the sept. Carol was just about to get in her sweats and put on The Bachelorette, so she’s reasonably miffed.
She tells the thugs “well then he can fucking drag his ass down here himself.” Lancel keeps trying to find synonyms for “command,” while Carol points out that she and High Grandpa had agreed that she could stay in the Keep until her trial. Lancel just denies this, even though he wouldn’t have been privy to this information, so she yells at them to leave, leading an exchange that was probably only written for the epic trailer.
Carol: Get out.
Lancel: (to Gregor) Move aside, ser. (To Carol) Order your man to step aside or there will be violence.
We have trouble keeping our own wine down.
Then Gregor rips the head off of one of the Faith Militant, and we think we’re supposed to view this as unreasonable on Carol’s part, though damn if we we know why. We guess because Qyburn smiles too.
Some indeterminate amount of time later, the king is going to announce *something*, so Carol heads over to what is the most disorderly throne room in the history of throne rooms. It’s almost as if it’s a bunch of haphazardly arranged extras who were told “talk to each other!” three seconds before the camera began rolling.
Carol somehow makes her way through the crush to go stand by the king (since she’s the “Queen Mother”), but Kevan continues his trend of being a giant misgonyist who hates her and all of her friends, so he tells her she can’t sit with them! She has to go stand up with the ladies of the court in the gallery. Who also happen to think she’s poison.
TomTom decides to talk once again about the “pillars of society” because we think this is the only thing anyone bothered to explain to him. He decides to set the trial date that every other actor in this plotline already knew. We wonder if they announced her official charges off-screen? Larry was waiting on that, damnit. Plus they’re just about as important. TomTom also says there will be no trial by combat, since it’s a “scheme devised by corrupt rulers in order to avoid true judgment from the gods.”
Conspicuously absent from this scene: Carol being arrested for murdering a member of the Faith Militant. We’re pretty sure people out on bail can’t do that, even if she was being supes reasonable…
Qyburn can see she’s upset though, so he chooses then to tell her that his candy-loving birds looked into the “rumors” she mentioned, and found that they were “much more.”
Which leads us to…
That’s right! It’s the overwrought, plinky piano music sequence! Don’t get us wrong: this is visually stunning. The director knew what he was doing, guys. The music itself is a gorgeous piece, even if it feels out of place. The issue is how seriously it tries to take itself, which, for us detractors on the first time through was not exactly convincing. On a rewatch? It becomes hilarious.
The dressing montage comes first, which already has its work cut out for itself in the quest to be quality drama for one simple reason:
There’s almost too many jokes for us to pick from. It’s a Romulan! Empress Sissi’s hand-me-downs! A goth drum major! The priest Absolution Regalia! Janet Jackson on tour! No really, we could go all day.
However, the important takeaway from Cheryl’s Outfit of Supreme Evil (a Carol Award winner!) is that, well…Cheryl has emerged. We know this, because on Game of Thrones, costume changes of Significance™ always mean character development.
Nothing could have prepared us for Carol’s ecdysis, but nonetheless she shed her exoskeleton and emerged, glorious, as Cheryl. Cheryl loves red wine, murder, and giant rings.
TomTom’s outfit is equally fetching, with his necklace, but we have to give the most props to all of his servants who helped him get dressed and then ran out of the room never to return, because people are just always leaving kings alone these days.
We’re also treated to a scene of Pycelle getting dressed, leaving a sex worker in his bed who he says he’ll pay later. We’re under the impression that this is supposed to be amusing, but we’re not sure why. Theft of services jokes land for some people? Then as he heads out, some rando little kid whispers something in his ear.
Anyway, we cut to the sept, where High Grandpa is suddenly on such a tight timeline that he decides to begin Loras’s trial without bothering to wait for Cheryl or the king. “Well every else is here, wouldn’t it be rude?” Isn’t the king one of the pillars, ffs?
Moustache Mace is there, and definitely confused by everything happening around him, while NatDo somehow manages to make Marg look poised, concerned, and resigned all at the same time.
You can really feel for this woman feeling for the people around her, so upset with what the situation came to, but internally assuring herself that she did the best she could. She really did…the best she could. Better than any of us. Though we’re not actually sure if we’re talking about Marg or NatDo at this point.
The sept is also full of all these sleeveless Reach ladies. Put on your Sunday best, damnit! This is inappropriate.
The trial gets off to a really wonderful start, written by people who totally understand what a trial actually is:
High Grandpa: Are you prepared to stand trial and profess your guilt or innocence before the Seven?
Loras: There’ll be no need for a trial. I confess before the Seven and freely admit to my crimes.
Loras proceeds to professes all his guilt, including lying with Renly the Traitor, because D&D didn’t read Steve the Intern’s notes about how Renly became this weirdly rehabilitated wildly popular folk hero, and how that shines a light onto the inherent hypocrisy of the feudal order far better than the High Grandpa and his Marxist beliefs ever could. It’s really clear that Loras was coached by someone, so we have to assume Marg, but given her septa babysitter, does that mean she pulled this fake piety routine with her brother too? Or was this after Spoonella magically disappeared? Or maybe her brother actually can take a hint.
Either way, this whole thing reminds us of what a super bad deal this whole thing was, Loras giving up his claim. Like, Marg, if this was really the only path you saw you couldn’t have pushed a little harder to get him out on bail beforehand? Or maybe not told the second-largest-army-in-Weisseroff to stand down when they could have freed Loras without these concessions?
Whatever, Marg at least looks appropriately sad as the High Grandpa explains how her brother will now serve by defending the Faith against “heretics and apostates.” We know this movement was hardly the populist uprising of the books, but these are seriously their priorities? Not, like, defending clergy and ordinary people from the literal hordes of murderers and rapists? Also maybe they wouldn’t need all this defending if they didn’t spend their days terrorizing merchants and attacking brothels. Just saying.
Part of this awesome new “serving the Faith” thing means that Loras—the gay man who spent the season enduring off-screen implied torture, and possibly rape according to his actor, who was scripted as just wanting “it” to stop, damn the consequences, damn his House (the exact opposite of how his sister reacted)—has religious iconography chiseled into his head, while the camera zooms in on the blood dripping to the floor and the plinky piano music starts up again. How progressive!
Marg must agree that this is a click too far because she starts pulling a Lando and yelling about how they “had a deal”. Given how into scarification the rest of the Faith Militant are, we find this a little confusing, but we can just pretend there was an off-screen conversation where all these pesky deals were hammered out, and now High Grandpa is going back on his word because every single idiot noble has given him exactly what he wanted, no matter how unreasonable, so why not.
Well, every noble except one that is. And now the people suddenly realize Cheryl isn’t there! Need we remind you that a full “trial” and scarification has taken place. But no, she’s still back in the Keep, drinkin’ that wine. We’re not really sure what TomTom’s excuse was, other than sadness, or maybe the assumption that people would wait for the king, but he declares to Ser Gregor (the only dude in the room with him for some reason) that now he’s ready to go. The reanimated corpse just kind of stands there, blocking the way, until he gets the hint.
With all the excitement of mutilating one of Weisseroff’s dreaded gays behind him, High Grandpa can finally focus on he second defendant’s absence. Though he only seems to do so because Marg patiently explains it to him:
High Grandpa: Once the queen mother’s trial is concluded, Brother Loras is free to leave.
Marg Boleyn: And where is the queen mother? Her litter never left the Red Keep.
High Grandpa: It appears the queen mother doesn’t wish to attend her own trial.
This is framed as being very surprising to him. Good thing he never summoned Cheryl before and she didn’t show up, instead responding by killing members of the Faith.
It’s also really a good thing that Brother Lancel wasn’t one of the people who was right there to see Cheryl refusing summons and killing a member of the Faith, because when High Grandpa commands him and two moops to go fetch her, he doesn’t even think to raise any objection or ask for more men. Also good call, High Grandpa! Who wouldn’t send off their star witness to go do the summoning?
Unfortunately for the Faith, it’s been at least three months since Lancel played a good game of hide-and-go-seek, so when he spotted a little boy suspiciously…existing…he knew he’d have to chase after him. Like, don’t get us wrong, we know the kid is trying to lure him, but A.) why does that work given that Lancel had a rather important assignment, and B.) why would they even want to lure him there? Did the little boy just know that this would be more dramatically satisfying?
Meanwhile, over in…the Red Keep somewhere(?) Pycelle is also following a little boy, though at least we were shown this one talking to him, so you get the impression there’s a reason for this. He’s led to a room where book snob!Qyburn decides to quote his favorite Varys passage from A Dance with Dragons, and tells Pycelle that he “bears him no ill will.” How magnanimous given that Pycelle’s been talking smack about him all season. Or very reasonably raising concerns about necromancy. Whichever.
But Qyburn’s newly turned little birds step out of the shadows, and pull knives out. That’s when the music goes from good to great: the “choir ooo’s” begin, and boy are these singers really trying to sell how serious and weighty this scene is.
This is intercut with scenes of Lancel looking for his new friend, which is important, because both he and Pycelle get stabbed by little kids at about the same time. An Organ of Extreme Drama plays in the background while Qyburn monologues at a dying Pycelle, saying:
Qyburn: This pains me, my lord. Whatever your faults, you do not deserve to die alone in such a cold, dark place. But sometimes before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.
Um…dude, are you feeling alright? Cheryl is kind of the establishment candidate, if you will, and if it pains you to have him die alone in a cold, dark place, why didn’t you just let him go to the sept where he was already headed? We half expect him to start talking about how Cheryl has lived with fisherfolk and washes her own clothes for all the sense this makes.
Back at the sept, Marg is still trying to explain to High Grandpa that Cheryl (and the king!) not being there is a bit suspicious, but the dude just keeps being all “the trial will start soon, chillax.” But see, we know something is wrong too because we’re also being shown shots of a hamstrung Lancel crawling towards a most important discovery: shit-heaps of wildfire goo underneath the sept. There’s also very small candles that are almost burnt down.
Marg must be watching along with us, because rather than assuming Cheryl high-tailed out of Cheryl’s Landing, which actually seems like something someone might reasonably do in this context, she begins yelling about how everyone has to leave:
Marg: Forget about the bloody gods and listen to what I’m telling you. Cersei understands the consequences of her absence and she is absent anyway, which means she does not intend to suffer those consequences. The trial can wait. We all need to leave.
We’re torn, because her screaming at a surprised High Grandpa and telling him off for being an idiot is legitimately awesome (and that one sentence about consequences was actually well-written; we’re all astonishment), but the whole thing is undercut by her spidey-sense. Like yeah, these people know about wildfire from Blackwater, but the certainty with which Marg jumps to it is jarring.
Also, is she just wearing one of her old, revealing dresses over a turtleneck?
The High Grandpa just kind of stands there like a moron though, so Marg is all “whatever, I’ll do this myself,” grabs her bro, and tries to leave. Unfortunately the Faith Militant decide to block their way for no discernible reason that we can see. Why does Brother Loras have to wait for Cheryl’s trial to be over? Why is the incredibly popular and openly devout queen being forced to stay to attend a trial when the king and queen mother aren’t even there?
The scantily clad Reach ladies want out. If only Meredyth Crane had stayed in their retinue, she could have led the charge with her stabbing skills. But no, everyone is barred from leaving, and Brother Lancel doesn’t make it to the bitty candles in time.
Yup. It explodes it what might be the loveliest controlled demolition ever. The sept bell squashes a couple of people, but for the most part, there’s a neat radius of destruction. From afar, Cheryl watches out her window, smirking and drinking to proper construction site management.
But it suddenly makes sense that Cheryl didn’t have any time to go to her own trial. She needed those hours to plan and execute a Spoonella extraction mission! Like, we have so many questions… who extracted her, when, and from where? Was it Gregor? We thought he was chilling with TomTom making sure he didn’t leave that room. Was it Qyburn and/or his candy loving squad? Did no one, including Marg herself, wonder why this woman who’s been her constant shadow for the last few episodes was suddenly not there? Why did the writers think it was okay to gloss over this?
Maybe Cheryl let the script gods take care of that and spent her time standing, drinking wine, and thinking about how to retcon all of her own actions since the first season. You see, Cheryl only ever does shit because it “feels good”. So she fucks Larry because it feels good. Okay, we’ll give her that one. But then… She drinks because it feels good. No, we’re pretty positive that Cheryl is an alcoholic, even if it’s not as comedic as her little brother’s. She killed Robert “because it felt good”. Yeah, no doubt it feels great to be rid of an abusive-ass husband, but we’re also quite sure that she resented Ned for forcing her into getting rid of him sooner than she planned and that it was a matter of killing him before he figured out the twincest and killed her and her kids. The kids she only protects because “it feels good to protect [them] from hypocrites.” Sure? We guess. And she breathes because it feels good to not have oxygen deprived brain cells. What the fuck does any of this mean? Why is she framing everything as if she’s Hedonismbot?
Anyway, she continues her Bond-villain monologue, gloating about how she’s killed all the septons, and septas, and Faith Taliban dudes. Yup, they were all in the building. All at once. Remember, according to Larry, there are hundreds of these assholes. But she must have been successful, or else you’d think there’d been some kind of reaction from the survivors.
This is all while waterboarding Spoonella with wine, btw.
Then Cheryl mentions how she once told Spoonella that her face will be the last one she ever sees. Well, apparently she didn’t mean that, because she brings in Franken-Gregor and he shows us
the uncanny valley his cgi face. (Is his face supposed to be shocking? We’re so confused. Is the implication that he doesn’t have a face? Why would they bring up the last face thing and then immediately contradict it? Are we allowed to pull the “it’s so fucking dark we don’t know how we’re supposed to feel about this” card?)
Then Cheryl fucks off and leaves Gregor to more septa torture, along with probable rape.
Seriously, what even was that? Whose side are we supposed to be on? We’re so confused!
It’s a shame Cheryl was so busy taking care of that, and it totally couldn’t have waited another minute, because back in TomTom’s room, he’s having trouble dealing with the news that his new hero (the High Grandpa) and his abuser/wife, are dead. The random dude who tells him about this thinks it’s a great idea to leave him alone immediately after, too.
So then the traumatized child, who has spent the last three seasons being abused and manipulated by more or less everyone but Ser Pounce, commits suicide by casually walking off the window ledge.
And we know we’re probably going to hell for this, but it’s impossible not to find the staging a little comical.
Cheryl sort of reacts to this. Qyburn shows her Tommen’s body and she looks kind of… stoic while he asks her about funeral arrangements and what not. She must be sad that all her kids are dead. Maybe it’s just a really subtle performance that we’re too philistine to appreciate.
Also, Cheryl only now realizes that she blew up the building that her father and her two other children are buried in. Sad?
Later on, it’s the return of Larry to Cheryl’s Landing! He looks worried as he surveys the panorama of the city with its still smoking Sept of Baelor. It’s possible his head is just still spinning because he was at the Twins the night before. It’s nice of Batfinger to share his teleporter so freely, we guess.
In the Red Keep, Cheryl has apparently gotten the whole city, and whatever is left of the court, to overlook the mass murder and quietly accept the fact that she’s Queen Regnant now. Good for her. We wonder how she managed that. Maybe Qyburn was the clincher. He apparently has all the legitimacy, since he’s qualified to place the crown on Cheryl’s head. And he’s Hand now! Yay!
We guess she literally killed every single septon in Westeros and there’s no one left to perform any religious ceremony. But it’s okay, you technically only need one pillar for your society.
To be fair, there do seem to be more guards than not at this coronation. Which only raises the question of how she made that happen. Sure, there’s literally no-one else left, but you’d think it’d still be an uphill battle to get all the Lannister forces behind her. They were previously loyal to Kevan, right? And Cheryl kind of murdered him. Or is she not admitting responsibility for that? Also who did Larry bring to Riverrun? What happened to that giant Tyrell army?
And, like, Larry is there, and he’s no longer a Kingsguard, so we’re confused about how he could not be a wrench in this. He is Lord of Casterly Rock now, right? Did they ever address who was ruling that place before now on the show? Were we supposed to assume it was Kevan or something?
We’re so confused!
Larry is also confused? Or concerned? Probably concerned. Because Cheryl did what he’s been telling her to all season.
But who cares, because:
What a story, Mark! We hope you enjoyed this refresher. If you’re ready, take a deeper dive with us in Part 2, as we examine the meaning, character arcs, implications, followed by Part 3‘s exploration of the plotholes in this Emmy-nominated tale.
Images courtesy of HBO