Winter has come.
This season went off the rails a bit, and I'm seeing some unraveling in terms of character consistency and plot cleverness and dialogue. But it's still a great show, and the season finale episode had me on the edge of my seat. A 10-year-old girl lay the smack down on a bunch of grizzled Northern lords. Another girl killed some men and baked their toes into a pie, and fed it to her next victim before slitting his throat. A boy King tossed himself out of a window, and a Pope-like religious leader got barbecued in a fiery green blast. That was the episode getting warmed up.
I love how the show (and the books) is setting up for a Clash of Queens. Most of the powerful males in the show are either dead, can't rule due to some legality, or don't have enough supporters to rule. Meanwhile, their female family members are mopping up the remains of kings and princes who got themselves killed, and seizing control of armies.
Daenerys had her jerk of a brother killed in season 1, and now she is the sole member of House Targaryen. She rules the entire Eastern continent, except for the Free Cities. Yara inherited House Greyjoy with support from her beaten brother, and all she needs to do is kill her machismo uncle in order to inherit the Iron Isles and an armada of ships.
Back in Westeros, Sansa Stark is sort of ruling in the shadow of Jon Snow, now declared the new King in the North. She supports Jon Snow, but anyone loyal to House Bolton or to House Stark will be loyal to her. She has the North. And down South in Dorne, the Sand Snakes murdered the Prince of Dorne, and now the women are in charge there. They're joined by the Queen of Thorns, who must have inherited the whole army and lands of House Martell. Even the center of Westeros, castle Riverrun, is arguably ruled by the widow of Lord Walder Frey (assassinated by Arya) and/or the wife of Lord Edmure Tully (imprisoned by House Frey).
Now that House Martell has been destroyed except for the Queen of Thorns, Cersei Lannister can probably take control of the weakened South (Martell territory) along with the West (Lannister territory), and the Iron Throne. She is the most powerful person in Westeros. That won't last, given the fact that she's killed most of her supporters and multiplied her enemies. She's all about ruthless short-term thinking.
On top of that, we've got wildcard powerful women wandering about. Who is the sorceress Melissandre going to serve next? Is Arya Stark going to visit her siblings, or is she going to assassinate the last victims on her hit list? What will Brienne of Tarth do for Sansa next? And I'm hoping we'll see some character development with Missande the translator.
There aren't many powerful male characters left alive on the show. Littlefinger has the East (Arryn territory), but he's ruling through a child, and it's tenuous. He might manipulate his way into controlling the North via Sansa Stark. Then again, Sansa will never trust him. What other male characters are still kicking around with some power? Tyrion, who doesn't seem interested in ruling anything other than his wine cup. Varys, who clearly doesn't want to rule. Ser Jorah Mormont, who doesn't want to rule. The Hound, who doesn't want to rule. Lord Robin Arryn, a not-too-bright boy surrounded by enemies. Lord Edmure Tully, who betrayed his own army and is back in chains. Ser Jaime Lannister, who doesn't want to rule. Ser Davos Seaworth, who doesn't want to rule. Samwell Tarley, who will be spending the rest of his life reading books in the Citadel Library. And Jon Snow, who doesn't want to rule. He might abdicate to Sansa at the first chance he gets. Either that, or head back north as soon as the Wall breaks down and Castle Black falls.
There you have it. The female characters are in charge from here on out.
What will happen in the next season?
First, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. Queen Daenerys will show up with her armies, her fleet of ships, and her dragons. Maybe she'll have an ocean battle with Victarion Greyoy on the way, but she can easily defeat him and take his fleet. With the Ironborn at her command, she'll have the best naval power in the world.
In the books, a witch told Cersei that she will be replaced by a "younger, prettier queen." Now that Cersei burned Margaery to death, I think it's safe to assume that this replacement queen will be Daenerys. The same witch predicted that Cersei will be killed by "the little brother." In the books, Cersei assumes that this will be Tyrion, so she goes on a dwarf-killing spree. But Jaime is also, technically, her little brother. And The Hound is a little brother as well, to the Mountain. Cersei is surrounded by little brothers who are likely to kill her.
My vote is for Jaime. He's haunted by the memory of the Mad King saying "Burn them all." That was why he stabbed the Mad King in the back. When Cersei realizes that her enemies are closing in, she is likely to ignite the whole city with green fire, the way the Mad King wanted to do. Jaime prevented the Mad King from burning King's Landing to the ground, and he might do the exact same thing when he learns what Cersei is planning.
But before it gets to that point, the Queen of Thorns and the Sandsnakes of Dorne are going to march their armies towards King's Landing in an attempt to take the Iron Throne. They apparently made a pact with Daenerys, via Varys, so they'll be backed up by dragons and ships and whatnot.
I think the northerners will head towards King's Landing, also. Maybe Bran will show up and tell everyone that Jon Snow is a true-born Targaryen-Stark, and therefore deserves the Iron Throne. Maybe Bran will use his warg powers to take control of Ghost, and they'll all realize that he can control a dragon and they need to get him to King's Landing ASAP, so he can bring the dragons north to burn zombies. Maybe Brienne of Tarth will receive a letter from Jaime, and persuade Sansa that they must go to King's Landing to prevent a catastrophe. Maybe Littlefinger will find a way to guilt-trip Jon Snow into abdicating in favor of Sansa Stark. If the Wall begins to fail and zombies start coming through, Jon Snow might feel compelled to march north and fight them, while sending Sansa south with the idea of rallying more armies to fight zombies.
Everything is going to converge on King's Landing. Maybe all these forces will make a pact in order to defeat the Lannisters. Tyrion will counsel mercy for his siblings, so Daenerys will try to give Cersei and Jaime a chance to surrender and go home to Lannisport, if only they will swear fealty to the new queen. Cersei will refuse. She'll command Jaime to stay by her side and fortify the city with the Lannister army.
I think Arya will go to King's Landing, intent on finishing off her hit list: The Mountain and Cersei. The Hound might stop her and remind her of her humanity. He'll be like, "No one gets to kill the Mountain except for me." Chastised, Arya might offer her services to Daenerys instead, or maybe she'll head North and seek her siblings. But if the Iron Bank of Braavos shows up, intent on hiring a Faceless Assassin in order to kill Lannisters for not repaying their debt, I think that will tempt Arya into doing some work-for-hire.
Wandering sorceress Melissandre might also be part of Arya's journey back to humanity. She did tell Arya that their paths would cross again. I think that Melissandre will believe that Daenerys is the One That Was Promised, but she'll see danger in all the other Red Priestesses. Melissandre might actually become the Voice of Reason, or the one Red Priestess who stands up to the others, and says "No" to burning unbelievers. Maybe she'll hook up with the Hound. They can eat chicken together, and not have sex, and talk about nothing.
Meanwhile, what is Sam studying in the fantastic Citadel Library? In GRRM's books, the implication is that magic is returning to the world (due to the comet, or due to the dragons), and Sam is going to learn sorcery. In the show, I think he might learn some obscure lore about how the Wall was made, and if the Wall fails to hold back zombies, Sam will know how to fix it. He may be key to sealing the Night King back on the other side. He might also learn about wargs, and figure out how certain people can take control of dragons or walk through fire.
Looking forward to season 7! This show is the best TV-book-adaptation I have ever seen.