Well, that was essentially a happy ending, right? The Game of Thrones Season 6 finale started off with a bang, killing off Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell, Kevan and Lancel Lannister, the High Sparrow, Pycelle, and Tommen Baratheon all in one fell swoop. It was sudden and shocking and tragic. But pretty much everything that happened after was good news. Jon was declared King In The North, Arya arrived back in Westeros and crossed a name off her hit list, and Dany finally set sail for the Seven Kingdoms with two new powerful allies. But this surprisingly cheerful sequence of events should actually make us worried about next year, rather than hopeful. Given the way things ended, Game of Thrones Season 7 is shaping up to be the most tragic season of the show to date.
There's a very specific reason for this: The show is running out of true villains. Last month, I argued that GoT 's next villain should be a woman. This Sunday, my wish came true, as Cersei burned down the Sept of Baelor and everyone inside it, then installed herself on the Iron Throne after her son committed suicide. But other than the Mad Queen, Season 6 pretty much cleaned house when it came to villains. Roose Bolton, Alliser Thorne, Ramsay Bolton, Walder Frey, and the High Sparrow were all murdered, hanged, devoured, assassinated, exploded.
But the story's not over yet. And as long as the story continues, there has to be conflict. Where will that conflict come from now that most of the villains are dead? The answer is as heartbreaking as it is inevitable: It will arise from the heroes themselves.
Remember back when Season 2's penultimate episode "Blackwater" was the most epic hour of GoT to date? "The Watchers on the Wall," "Hardhome," and "Battle Of The Bastards" may each have upped the ante in terms of sheer scale and spectacle, but none could match the show's first battle for moral ambiguity. We all knew who we wanted to win each of those latter skirmishes: Jon Snow. That's a foregone conclusion when he's facing off against the wildlings, the White Walkers, and Ramsay Bolton.
But who did we want to win the Battle of the Blackwater? On one side, we had Stannis Baratheon, true heir to the Iron Throne, and lovable Ser Davos. On the other, we had a city full of fan-favorite characters, including Tyrion Lannister, Sansa Stark, and Sandor Clegane. We didn't want anyone to lose! And that's precisely how we'll feel next year when all of our favorite characters start fighting each other, now that all the bad guys are gone.
In order for Dany to win the Iron Throne, she's going to have to conquer a continent full of characters we care about. Even within Dany's own awesome feminist army, there's likely to be infighting. Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, and Olenna Tyrell can't all sit on the throne with her. What will they do once they've helped her take Westeros? Will she give them all their independence? If so, whom would she rule over?
Then there's the Stark camp. There's already plenty of tension between Jon Snow and Sansa, which might manifest in unexpectedly tragic ways next year. But now that the North has once again proclaimed itself an independent kingdom, that puts a crimp in the theory that Jon and Dany will immediately team up upon her arrival. If Dany wants to be Queen of Westeros, she'll have to take back the North — the largest of all Seven Kingdoms — which will mean fighting the King in the North himself.
That's not to mention all the beloved minor characters who will undoubtedly get caught in the crossfire of Dany's impending invasion: Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Sandor, Davos, Melisandre, Sam, Gilly, and more. They can't possibly all make it out of Season 7 alive … yet any of their deaths will hurt infinitely more than the satisfying demises we got to witness this year.
"If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention," Ramsay once told Theon. And although we may have been temporarily distracted by Ramsay's defeat at the hands of Jon Snow and all the happy endings that the Season 6 finale gave us, that maxim still holds true. This is Game of Thrones, after all. I have a feeling that Season 7 is going to be very, very hard to watch.
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