Game of Thrones season 6's finale, explained

The watch has ended for Game of Thrones again, as the series wrapped its sixth season with an explosive finale that tied up loose ends, brought several of its characters progress and resolution, and set up what is bound to be an epic conclusion to the saga surrounding the Iron Throne. So much went down in the action-packed episode that even the most veteran Song of Ice and Fire fans might've blinked and missed something. Let's review.

The Mad Queen has risen

Cersei's corner was empty. Even King Tommen wouldn't take his mother's side against the High Sparrow to allow the Mountain to fight for her in a trial by combat, so she needed a new plan to avoid being punished for her crimes. Margaery Tyrell was responsible for Tommen's affiliation with the religious zealot and his fanatics, so Cersei made sure she and her brother Loras were among the victims when she ignited wildfire to watch all of her enemies burn.

What Cersei didn't expect was for her last living son to be so anguished by the sight of this devastation he'd end his own life, but as they say, a Lannister always pays her debts. The price of Cersei's power was exactly three children, just as a fortune teller once prophesized.

She's now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and even her brother-slash-lover Jaime looks concerned at her coronation. He became a Kingslayer the last time someone was crazed enough to use wildfire like this, and their children were the most humanizing part of her, so now there's no telling what Cersei's capable of.

Meanwhile, a (New) King in the North has been crowned

The North finally remembers. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark had a lot of trouble recruiting troops to rise up and reclaim Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton, but now that the hard work is done, everyone's following little (but tough as nails) Lyanna Mormont's call to recognize Robb Stark's brother (but really cousin) as the true King of the North. Considering Jon started this season as a corpse, he's come a long way.

But a House Stark civil war could be on the rise

Sansa Stark supported Jon's right to reign in Winterfell, but with Littlefinger here and in her ear, it's possible she might be having second thoughts. Littlefinger, who led the Knights of the Vale in at the last minute to save the day against Bolton's forces, wanted Sansa to take his hand and declare her right to royal recognition. As the great houses of the North chant Jon's name, the eye contact Sansa makes with Littlefinger indicates that she might be reconsidering his ideas about who's in charge. Without her forethought, Jon would almost certainly be dead (again), and Winterfell would still have that flayed man flag on display instead of House Stark's direwolf sigil.

What's left of House Tyrell is now allied with the Martells

Olenna Tyrell is now the last of her line, and the only thing she can possibly do about it is to exact vengeance upon the woman who killed her grandchildren. She turns to the Dorne and the Sand Snakes to strike an unlikely alliance (Varys is also there to lend some of his sneaky wisdom to the cause), and Ellaria Sand is game because she still hasn't gotten justice for what Gregor Clegane did to Elia and Oberyn Martell.

The Mother of Dragons has finally set sail

It took Daenerys Targaryen almost six full seasons to gather an army faithful and strong enough to support her claim to the Iron Throne, but with the Greyjoys' fleet, the Unsullied and Dothraki might, all three of her dragon children, and her now-official Hand to the Queen Tyrion Lannister primed and ready for action, it's go time. She left Daario behind to watch over Meereen, officially, but she also wanted to be single to mingle with potential allies/suitors because Dany has always had her eye on the long game. For Khaleesi the Unburnt, Queen Cersei's just a seat warmer waiting to be dethroned.

Arya avenged the Red Wedding at long last

Arya spent almost the entire season training to become one of the Faceless Men, but ultimately she chose not to become just "a girl" and finally got back to work on her long-neglected kill list, executing another of its most deserving members, Walder Frey. The crotchety Lord of Riverrun had it coming; he was responsible for the shocking deaths of her mother and her brother Robb. Arya killed Frey in the same neck-slashing fashion he'd used on her mother, and she made him eat a meat pie filled with the flesh of his sons (and heirs), which means Riverrun is now open for the taking by her uncle Edmure Tully.

Bran's accepting his new role in life, but still poses a potential threat to the North

Bran Stark and Meera Reed have finally been delivered by his Uncle Benjen Stark to the Wall. Benjen can't pass through because he's been in contact with the White Walkers, and there are ancient spells in the Wall keeping out the dead. Bran was also touched by the Night King in a vision—so is he still able to pass through? We'll have to wait to find out, because instead of moving on through the stronghold, he linked into a weirwood tree to become the three-eyed raven again and bear witness to a monumental piece of his family's history.

R L = J is now confirmed

Jon Snow was raised as the bastard son of Ned Stark, who held the secret of his birth so close to heart that even his wife thought he'd betrayed her to father an illegitimate child. Fans have long suspected Snow to be the son of Lyanna Stark, Ned's sister who died in the Tower of Joy nearly two decades before the events of the show, and Rhaegar Targaryen, fallen son of the Mad King and brother to Daenerys. The show finally confirmed Ned's adoption of Lyanna's newborn baby during his siege of the Tower, shown during Bran's final flashback of the season. She was shown making him promise to protect the baby from Robert Baratheon, her betrothed, as he would likely destroy the child for having Targaryen blood and thus a rightful claim to the Iron Throne.

Samwell Tarly has finally reached the Citadel

In other news, Sam, Gilly, and Little Sam are still alive and well and have finally reached the Citadel, where there are endless books and he can finally train to become a maester.

The Red Witch is now a free agent

Ser Davos discovered young Princess Shireen had been burnt at the stake by Melisandre in service to the Lord of Light, and asked Jon Snow to make his first authoritative decision as the new head of Winterfell and kick her out of the North forever. It feels good to banish her for this grave and horrific mistake, but she's still a very powerful individual—assuming her usefulness has not yet run out. Surely someone'll recruit her for the final battle.