"Even confessing feels good, under the right circumstances." So says Cersei Lannister a few moments after obliterating not only her foes, but the status quo of Game of Thrones ' sixth season. And, although I'd rather not be known to align myself with Camp Lannister, it is all too easy to agree with Cersei's sentiment.
At the beginning of this season, I thought that GOT showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had a lock on the narrative – one that was in their own hands, now that the HBO series had outpaced the novels of George R.R. Martin. Yet as the season progressed – as the wheels on everyone's stories began to grind, slowly and almost unforgivably into atrophy – I was less sure that GOT, the show, had any idea what to do with GOT, the source material.
Arya's adventures in Braavos, for instance, were as bland and all-purpose as the faces that line the hallways of her murderous mentors. Jon Snow was brought back to life, sure, but only after much episodic teasing that felt more like a slap in the face to any fan with an ounce of intelligence than actual, deliberate pacing. Ramsay Bolton was pushed into the furthest reaches of cartoonish villainy, so much so that his callous death was all but inevitable. For a series that was built upon expecting the unexpected, on tearing down the hallowed paths of fantasy fiction, it felt all too familiar, delivered all too slowly.
But last week's brutal and bold Battle of the Bastards episode began to shift the sentiment. And after Sunday night's season finale, I can admit that it indeed feels good to confess – confess that I was wrong to doubt the GOT powers that be. That I never should have wavered in any commitment to Benioff and Weiss, that A Song of Ice and Fire now belongs wholly to HBO, and that Westeros is in the best hands possible.
Plenty of others will be able to dissect the minutia of who died and how, and proffer their own pet theories as to what it means for the future of the series, both in print and on screen. And yes, it was shocking to see so many perish, even if few (save Margaery Tyrell, if only because of Natalie Dormer's performance) will be truly missed. (Um, sorry, Tommen!)
And yes, it was all thrillingly paced and tightly directed – just as captivating as Battle of the Bastards, albeit with heftier storytelling stakes.
But the most important reveal to come out of Sunday night's blood-soaked finale is that Benioff and Weiss truly have a plan. And not a half-baked, "oh, yes, the producers of Lost also had a plan" scenario. This is concrete, block-by-block storytelling – deliberate, careful and precise. Even if it took them just a little too long to get there.
Whether this is a story mapped out by Martin, as most on-set whispers suggest, or pieced together in some other fashion doesn't really matter. All we, as audience members, need to know is that by clearing the way of such narrative obstacles as the High Sparrow, by placing Cersei on the Iron Throne, by sending Dany's ships across the sea, by clearing the path for a united North, GOT is finally entering its long-promised end game. There will be a war, there will be a victor, and winter – finally – has come.
For the GOT faithful, it's not a moment too soon.