‘Game of Thrones’ Retrospective: Looking Back on the Best (and Worst) of Season 6

Peter Dinklage, Nathalie Emmanuel and Emilia Clarke.

Peter Dinklage, Nathalie Emmanuel and Emilia Clarke. HBO

Another year, another season of Game of Thrones, another ten weeks of lives lost, battles won, alliances made, relationships shattered, and Septs  blown to pieces in wildfire explosions. Join us, one final time before the Long Winter, as we dive once more unto the corpse pile to take a look at the best plots, worst characters, and every Unsullied moment in between that Game of Thrones season six had to offer. 

BEST KILL

Vinnie: How does one choose just one kill, in a show that could be acted out using mostly stabby motions, much less in a season that included “Battle of the Bastards”? There was a literal mountain of killing going on! Well, when in doubt go with your heart, they say, and part of going with your heart is finding something to relate to. I relate to this:

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No, not Jon Snow, acting all valiant and handsome and athletic. That dude behind him, on the white horse, that just straight rams a horse into another horse at roughly the same speed as a handcart careening downhill. I loved the “Battle of the Bastards” because of how damn real it felt. No choreographed swordfights here. Not a backflip in sight. Not even a forward tumble. Because that’s not how human beings act in the eye of a murder-and-death shaped hurricane. This quick moment is immersive because I can point to an epic fantasy-drama with dragons and zombies and say “Oh, yeah. That’s me. I’m the guy who closed his eyes, screamed in an unwarrior-ly manner, and rode my horse forward until someone or me was very, very dead.”

Ben: I’m going to go with the hanging of one Lem Lemoncloak.

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Who, you ask? The main, yellow-themed rogue member of the Brotherhood Without Banners that the Hound hunts down, only to come across their hanging. Why that one? Because of the pure, abject dismissal of a man’s existence that comes with stealing (and putting on!) his boots while he’s still twitching for breath, a few inches away from you. Ruthless. It’s the new spitting on the grave.

BREAKOUT STAR

Vinnie: I bet you expected one of us to say Lyanna Mormont, didn’t you, Internet? Well, unfortunately the tiniest Northling sends Ben into fits of , and sassy 12-year-olds with accents and swords remind me too much of the time I got lost in Paris on a high-school trip to Europe *shudders*. So, no, instead of choosing a character that won her way into viewers’ hearts with many words, I pick a character that won his way into my heart with no words at all…Gregor Clegane.

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Is this cheating, because Gregor technically showed up before season 6? Kind of! But, no, so shut up. Before this season Gregor’s one big moment was crushing Oberyn Martell’s skull, and even that, cool as it looked, was bittersweet as hell because Oberyn was an incredible character that straight up made me question my sexuality. Still does actually, to this day. But like another hulking giant before him, nobody really cared who Gregor was until he put on the mask. Every good villain needs a good henchman, and who better to serve a narcissistic bananas-crazy woman like Cersei than an un-talking, unfeeling man-mountain? It’s like if a Kardashian pocket poodle took steroids and ripped people’s throats out. PLUS, this gif is seriously the gif that keeps on gif-ing.

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I use it, minimum, five times a day. Editor’s notes. Family party invitations. Girlfriend asking what I want to eat for dinner. EVERYTHING.

Ben: That’s pretty messed up considering his last scene with Unella. You’re a dark little puppy, Vincenzo. I give you Lady Crane.

Essie Davis as Lady Crane.

Essie Davis as Lady Crane. Helen Sloan/HBO

She was just a ray of light in the sea of sloppy, sloppy storytelling that was Bravos this year. And I actually love the fact that, no, she wasn’t some matronly Fantine figure who lost her own daughter or some such nonsense. Nah, Lady Crane was a storied spousal abuser who got great at patching up people because she herself stabbed so many of her fuckboi ex lovers. Into it. Also, playing a phenomenal actor on a show littered with phenomenal actors can’t be easy.

BEST LIGHTHEARTED MOMENT

Vinnie: Stark Hug. Come on. It’s gotta’ be Stark Hug. Look at this dang Stark Hug and tell me your heart doesn’t How the Grinch Stole Christmas right out of your chest.

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D’aw. HBO

These two hadn’t exchanged one word in five-and-a-half seasons. But when you’re a Stark, and saying “goodbye” to a family member is more like saying “Hope your eventual betrayal and death isn’t too gruesome!”, these reunions tend to hold more weight. For all these two know, they’re the only family they have. One of them was coming off a marriage to a sadomasochist, rapist goblin who enjoys skinning people, the other was coming off actual, literal death. This hug had so much damn emotion behind it I’m surprised it didn’t blow up Castle Black like wildfire.

Ben: That wasn’t lighthearted! That was deep PTSD release. That was plotlines converging; warmth in the face of the coming winds of winter; hope in the land of the hopeless. That moment was way too heavy and crucial for me to put it here. The correct answer is Pycelle fart at the sight of the Mountain moments after shit-talking the Mountain. Because Pycelle fart — and it definitely didn’t sound dry.

WEAKEST STORYLINE

Vinnie: Hey Internet, me again. Bet you’re expecting me to say Dorne here. But is that even fair? The Sand Snakes showed up for, like, five minutes of the premiere just to stab their own storyline in the face, then fucked off back to that Target outdoor table set that makes up all of Dorne until the finale. Getting upset over that would be like getting mad at China over Brexit.

Nope, instead I’m pointing the whacking stick directly toward Arya Stark, chilling forever in the House of Black and White and Dead All Over. Listen, nothing over in Braavos was outright bad, per se. But I only get 10 hours of Game of Thrones a year, rumored to soon be seven. Snap snap, people! Every second counts! I need meat and momentum. I do not need multiple, multiple scenes of a blind Arya getting smacked in the face, nor did I need seasons 1-4 of Game of Thrones reeanacted by an acting troupe that all need to get checked for genital warts immediately. None of it mattered! Seriously, cut out all of Braavos like Arya now cuts off the faces of innocent Frey serving girls, and what do you lose? Arya would no longer have the ability to fight in a pitch black room? We would’ve never met Lady Crane, who was just important enough to sew titanium strength stitches into Arya and then die one scene later? We wouldn’t have this admittedly hilarious photograph from HBO’s press site?

Faye Marsay as The Waif.

Faye Marsay as The Waif. Macall B. Polay/HBO

This was the first storyline I’ve ever seen that was so non-essential it literally ended with a character walking away from it. Jaquen Hagar just watched someone leave his super secret assassin society unscathed with a look on his face like “Ha, true.”

Ben: Strong choice. I could almost agree… God. The Waif. Like, what was your damage? Anyway, I am still going with The Siege of Riverrun.

Bronn agrees.

Bronn agrees. HBO

In the words of my dickiest 10-year-old little cousin “Omfg, who cares?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad we ended back at Riverrun and got to check in on the Freys, the Brotherhood Without Banners, and all that jazz, but jeeze was a useless storyline.

The Blackfish died off screen; Edmure — who might seriously be the worst, most ineffectual character in at least a couple of seasons — started in a dungeon and ended in the same dungeon. And no, I truly did not give a pile about the threat of his child getting catapulted into a wall. The Jaime & Brienne reunion didn’t lead to anything particularly interesting either. Sure, Bronn molested the crap out of Pod, which was truly delightful but, God, at what cost?

Close second: Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm bantering. I never thought I would mute a Tyrion scene upon rewatch, but I muted a Tyrion scene upon rematch. Two of them, actually.

The “Don’t Let The (Ho)Door Hit You on the Way Out” Award

Vinnie: Daario Naharis.

Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis and Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis and Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. Macall B. Polay/HBO

I hope it rings as a clear sign of my true feelings that I’m giving this to someone that didn’t even die. He was just simply deemed too unimportant to follow the plot across the ocean. It was the equivalent to a first draft script line getting crossed out with a red pen. If you went to Daario’s Wiki page next season it would just be a picture of a butcher trimming some fat.

It’s funny, because there’s a chance that’s the exact reaction Daario is supposed to conjure. He’s “shitty ex-boyfriend” personified. Daenerys Targaryen is queen-shit of all that is fiery, badass, plus she has actual dragons for children and an army of killer eunuchs behind her, and we’re supposed to think “Really? The sweaty guy with the goatee? Really?” But Daario as a character kind of failed to even reach that position, simply by being duller than Dolorous Edd’s dry-cleaning (It’s all darks!). Daario wasn’t strong enough to be Jaime, mysterious enough to be Jon, rogue-ish enough to be Bronn, or charismatic enough to be Oberyn. He just existed. He was a piece of white toast riding a horse. He made Jorah look cool, and Jorah would wrestle a full-grown bear for the chance to graze Dany’s boob in a crowded room.

Ben: I’d say, Ramsay Bolton but to go with people who are technically still alive but, mercifully unlikely to be seen again: Edmure Tully.

Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully.

Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully. HBO

I get no enjoyment from this guy. None. I didn’t need to check in on you; your hair is stupid; you gave up your castle for absolutely no reason and don’t have one strategic bone in your body. To quote another HBO icon: the incompetency of that character was STAGGERING.

SEASON M.V.P

Vinnie: Hey, take a drink if you accomplished all your goals today.

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That’s you, gurl. hbo

Ben: Preach….

Vinnie: If we’re going to treat the GAME OF THRONES like an actual game, the Most Valuable Player has to be the person who won the hardest.

Ben: …Preach…

Vinnie: Not in the most moral way, not with the least amount of collateral damage via wildfire explosion, but in the most absolute, no-questions asked manner. In that case, who else but Cersei Lannister?

Ben: Amen, brother! Praise the lord, she has risen, stronger and crazier than ever!

Vinnie: In the span of one afternoon, Cersei removed Margaery Tyrell from her path, obliterated the religious threat in King’s Landing, made the trial that almost certainly would have ended in her execution a non-issue, and established herself as the de facto ruler of all Westeros. You know what I did this afternoon? I made that Gif of Cersei up there. It took four hours. I had to get up and walk around twice just to get feeling back in my legs.

And sure, yeah, her son jumped out a window. But it was Tommen! He was already the softest Lannister incest-baby, and that was before he essentially swung the executioner’s sword himself by outlawing trial by combat. Losing Tommen after Joffrey and Myrcella is like losing the third button on a Hawaiian shirt. It’s almost for the better at that point.

And sure, YEAH, multiple armies are gathering to come take the Iron Throne from Cersei. And, OKAY, Jaime just got back to King’s Landing with a look on his face like he’s about to remove the “G” from his “KINGSLAYER” vanity license plate. But you know what those are? Obstacles. Do you know how many obstacles Cersei had when season six began? So many obstacles. Do you want to know what happened to those obstacles?

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Ben: Claim your throne, you psychotic monster!

Honestly, let’s take a moment to remember how Cersei exited Season 5, which is to say very literally covered in shit. All you wanted was retribution for that poor, naked and humiliated woman. And this season started equally rough on her. Her heartbreak at realizing that Jaime was returning from Dorne with their daughter’s corpse (the very last time she ever wore red, by the way); her constant sidelining at the Small Council meetings; her dashed hopes at Tommen banning trials by Combat… We were rooting for Cersei! We wanted her to get some power back.  And boy, did she just take that and run with it. Sure, it was telegraphed to holy hell that there would be a Wildfire extravaganza in the finale, but no one quite expected this: She killed everyone. You got to admire the gusto.

Also, like, props for scale. There were so many factions in King’s Landing, all vying for power through schemes, subterfuge, religion and politics and Cersei just blew them all to pieces. It’s not even tipping the chess board over: it’s taking out a gun and shooting your opponent

She is completely insane, has complete power and access to so much wine, she can use it to waterboard people. Honestly, now that she is officially, unrepentantly a villain, Cersei might go down in history as one of the best villains ever. Not only is she superbly acted but you also understand her journey. You get where that psychotic bomb of narcissism is coming from.

BEST ACCESSORY

Ben: Vary’s Fan

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Pure sass. HBO

So many choices this year! From Shaggydog’s desecrated head to Melisandre’s advanced night-repair necklace by way of the Mormont shield Jon used in his one-on-one with Ramsay, season 6 was full of choice props.

However, one stands above it all. I speak of course of Varys the Eunich’s fan used before his interrogation of Vala, the Sons of the Harpy agent. Frankly, it’s disgusting that this stupid show went on for six seasons before giving Varys a decadent leisurely fan. I don’t care how improbable his crisscrossing of Essos & Westerns is — as long as he owns that fan, Varys will own my heart.

Vinnie: Tyrion’s Power Cape

POWER CAPE.

POWER CAPE. HBO

Sorry Edna, there is a reason to wear a cape and that is when you need to power stroll through Meereen looking like a cross between a sexy Robin Hood and an upscale pimp. Look at that picture. Is there any doubt that these two dudes–one a eunuch, the other a dwarf–straight run the place? The characters stuck in Meereen did next to nothing this season waiting for Dany to fly back in, but Seven save us they looked fabulous doing so. [Runner-up shoutout to Grey Worm’s warrior jerkin. Prizes to anyone who lets me know where in NYC one buys a warrior jerkin.]

BIGGEST LOSS

Ben: Margaery Tyrell

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Man, fuck this show sometimes. Margaery was hands down one of the most interesting characters on the map and until she “took the green” she was looking to make big moves on the map. She reminded us of another form of power — that of weaponized charm. It was fascinating to see how she could adapt from Joffrey.

I had a dream of her and Sansa meeting again before the end of the series as two survivors who had indeed made the best of their situation and understood the power women could wield in Westeros by weaponing their charm. From Joffrey to Tommen to the High Sparrow, she could play the best of them and her loyalty to the Tyrells was evident from the first time she stood up screaming “Highgarden!” watching her brother spar with Brienne back in Season 2. RIP Margaery. At least you died as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Although, allow me to shame her grave by knocking her a few points for that truly ridiculous crown she died in. That’s just insult to injury. What is it with the liberal media shoving tiny crowns down our throats these days?

Vinnie: Losing Maergery was tough, but it does free up Natalie Dormer to appear in literally anything at which I can toss actual fistfuls of money. I’m tempted to say Hodor but, again, it kind of warms my heart to know Kristian Nairn can now throw raves for dudes dressed like Jon Snow on hallucinogens to his heart’s content. So, for something completely different, I’m going with Walder Frey.

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Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and David Bradley as Walder Frey. HBO

Man, what a contemptible, irritable, cantankerous piece of absolute shit Walder Frey was. God, I’ll miss him. He was like the post-60 Clint Eastwood of Westeros. He didn’t care if these millennials ran around killing each other over a chair, just show some respect and stay off his damn lawn. Really, in a world of political powerhouses, master strategians, secret assassins, and backstabbing double-crossers, who is more dangerous than a cranky-ass old man who is fine with blatantly breaking the rules about hospitality and not slaughtering your dinner guests? No one! Walder Frey was like a less nauseauting Craster. He was like Twywin Lannister’s distant cousin who lives in Boca that no one invites to Thanksgiving. He was Ramsay Bolton if Ramsay Bolton survived long enough to flay random people when his arthritis started acting up.

RIP Walder, you awful, awful man.

BEST POWER MOVE

Ben: BCC’ing Brienne of Tarth on Your Business Correspondence

Gwendoline Christie and Sophie Turner.

Gwendoline Christie and Sophie Turner. Helen Sloan/HBO

Yeah, yeah: killing your ruler in mid-sentence suddenly the hip new thing. Lord knows it was popular this year: Ellaria Sand did it, Euron Greyjoy did it, Ramsay Bolton did it — but the power move of having Brienne standing behind with a hand on her sword as you confront the person who has wronged you, is truly inspired.

Vinnie: Wearing a POWER CAPE Lighting all of your competition on fire

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. HBO

Literally blowing the playing field away was the power move du jour this year. Daenerys needs a Khalasar? She lights all the Khals on fire. She needs some ships? She has her dragons light the Masters on fire. Cersei has a trial coming up? She asks Qyburn to assemble a strong defense–evidence, witnesses, loopholes, the whole nine yards–and bolstered by a strong opening statement from Gregor Clegane she overcame her obstacles, absolving herself of all charges in front of the eyes of man and gods alike.

Just kidding. She lit the entire trial on fire. I don’t know, Ben. It’s just hard to argue with those results.

BEST SINGLE SCENE

Ben: The Torture of Septa Unella

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Hannah Waddingham as Septa Unella.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Hannah Waddingham as Septa Unella. Helen Sloan/ HBO

Again, we had plenty to choose from this year. I would sincerely watch the entirety of the Bravosi play covering the events of King’s Landing from earlier seasons. As someone who has seen some truly heinous college theater in his days not to mention FOX’s Grease: Live last year, it seemed like good theater.

However, I’ve watched the torture of Unella at Cersei’s hands four times now. It’s one of her best monologues ever. It is Cersei uncensored and unleashed: the confessions of all her sins. From the wine-boarding, to her forcibly holding Unella’s hand to the twisted, demented fate to which she condemns her, it is the best of the worst of Cersei and I loved it. And the ironic tragedy — tragic irony? — that her son is jumping out of a window while she is doing this is perfection.

Vinnie: HOLD THE DOOR

Annette Tierney and Sam Coleman.

Annette Tierney and Sam Coleman. Helen Sloan/HBO

Vinnie: I say this with the utmost respect toward  George RR Martin as an author, storyteller, and occasional sea captain…I just can’t see how he could hit Hodor’s origin story and simultaneous death as hard as Game of Thrones did on-screeen. It’s a sequence almost tailor made for TV–the frenetic jumping back and forth across time, the way Lost veteran Jack Bender pushed the camera in on Willis and Hodor at the same time. And hearing out loud actor Sam Coleman’s tortured “HOLD THE DOOR” turn slowly into “HODOR” was haunting, especially as Bran watches it happen. The show could have easily phoned this in because killing Hodor was going to pull some heart strings no matter what. Instead they went and created the most viscerally upsetting death possibly since “Baelor,” because HBO is here to ruin your emotional state ten weeks a year.

Best single scene of Season Six. Scenes? Whatever. Willis the stableboy forever. Or, until Bran Stark warps his mind forever through time travel.

‘Game of Thrones’ Retrospective: Looking Back on the Best (and Worst) of Season 6