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After a summer lasting almost ten years, the words of House Stark have finally become reality once again: winter is here.
In King's Landing, Cersei Lannister has finally seized the power that she has craved for many years. In one swift move, she has eliminated nearly all of her enemies, rivals, and obstructions; Queen Margaery Tyrell, Lord Mace Tyrell, Ser Loras Tyrell, Cersei's uncle Ser Kevan Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle, the High Sparrow, and most of - if not all - members of the Faith Militant were killed when the Great Sept of Baelor was destroyed using large amounts of wildfire, an event orchestrated by Cersei. She has crowned herself the undisputed Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, with Qyburn as her Hand and the undead knight Ser Gregor Clegane at her side. After nearly four decades of serving as the power behind the throne, House Lannister has finally become the new royal house. However, Cersei is still haunted by the prophecy she was told during her childhood, which claimed that the deaths of her three (future) children would predate her own; Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are all dead, Tommen having taken his own life shortly after the Sept's destruction. This has made Cersei all the more determined to crush her enemies once and for all, but the number of her enemies has just increased exponentially. Though she now sits on the Iron Throne, she has effectively undone all of Tywin Lannister's efforts to ensure that his family stay in power as her actions have undoubtedly earned her the hatred of all of Westeros. Most of the realm is either in open rebellion against the Iron Throne or has fallen out of her allies' control, leaving Cersei effectively as the Queen of King's Landing and the lands owned by the Lannisters. It is the beginning of the end.
While not a lot actually happened, this episode asked us to visualise the key alliances and enmities of the coming season. It cemented the idea suggested in trailers that Daenerys, Cersei and Jon are the three rulers to watch.
Game of Thrones, as always, leaves us conflicted and confused. It remains a show that hates the weak, but loves its small victories. It is the most delicious of cheeseburgers, but also hard to evaluate without seeing more.
We ladle so many highbrow metaphors onto it, mention God knows how many Plantagenets, but essentially this is just a fantastically, lavishly self-assured show that reaches and even extends the limits of its medium.