‘Game of Thrones’: Winter Is Here, and What That Means for Westeros

Everybody’s been talking about how winter is coming for six years, and its arrival during the season 6 finale is a bad omen of what’s to come

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(Spoiler alert. Herein lies major plot details for the season 6 finale of “Game of Thrones.”)

The “Game of Thrones” season finale had everything: death, destruction, reorganization. The pieces were shuffled all across the board, and the Grand Game moved forward in a major way.

It began with chaos — Cersei and Qyburn blowing up the Sept of Baelor and taking the High Sparrow and Queen Margaery with it. That chaos, oddly, created a new order. King Tommen killed himself, Cersei became queen, and Olenna Tyrell went to Dorne to discuss revenge — and now both Dorne and the Tyrells have joined up with Daenerys.

And in the North, meanwhile, Jon Snow is king, and the White Walkers are still coming. And their coming appears to be imminent.

At Winterfell, Sansa Stark told Jon that they’d received a white raven.

White ravens only have one use: to announce that a new season has begun. And in this case, that means winter has come.

We’ve been hearing about this occasion since the very first episode of the series. The Stark motto, even, is “winter is coming.” And the timing of its arrival, in the finale after all that madness, is no coincidence. For “Game of Thrones,” it marks the beginning of the end. The endgame of the series has begun.

Seasons in “Game of Thrones” are peculiar, as you’ve no doubt noticed — they don’t operate on a standard yearly cycle like ours do. Instead, they go seemingly at random. At the start of the series, they’d been in a summer that lasted nine years. At some point, summer switched to autumn — in the novels, that occurred during “A Clash of Kings,” the second book.

Though the length of seasons is unpredictable, conventional wisdom says winter should be roughly as long as the preceding winter. Early in the series, King Robert’s small council is seen discussing how to prepare for an exceptionally long winter. They weren’t prepared then, and after all the madness of the subsequent seasons they can’t possibly be any more ready now.

And this won’t be just any long winter. The seasons have a “fantasy explanation,” “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George RR Martin has said. One line of thought has the odd seasons originating with the Long Night thousands of years before the show, when the White Walkers first invaded Westeros. That winter is said to have lasted a generation, and was no doubt caused by the presence of the White Walkers. With what seems to be another long winter on the way, another invasion seems logical.

It also seems logical, of course, because we know the White Walkers are coming. Their threat has lingered over the show since the very first scene, before we ever met any Starks or Lannisters or Targaryens. The White Walkers will use the cover of winter to again make an assault on the realms of men.

And now, after six seasons of the show, that winter is finally here and that assault is afoot.