Spoiler alert: In the delicious season six finale, Game of Thrones delivers in spectacular fashion.
The season finale was a deeply satisfying experience for Game of Thrones fans: Villains were dispatched; Scores were settled.
In the final episode of season six revenge was the order of the day. After the sadistic and revolting Ramsay Bolton met his end in the Battle of the Bastards, ultimately being fed to his own dogs by his estranged wife, Sansa Stark; Arya Stark took her revenge for the Red Wedding massacre of the Stark family by slitting the throat of Lord Walder Frey.
But the most satisfying tale of revenge had to be Cersei Lannister’s use of a wildfire bomb on the Sept of Baelor that destroyed the High Sparrow and the rest of the Faith Militant, effectively separating church from state in a most brutal and breathtaking spectacle.
The death of the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant came as a joyous relief to many fans who came to despise the religious zealots.
Working on behalf of the Faith of the Seven, the High Sparrow was a judgemental and sanctimonious hypocrite reminiscent of many contemporary conservative religious figures.
As head of the Faith Militant, the High Sparrow enforced a draconian moral code. Among other things, he locked up Loras Tyrell for being gay. In addition, he had Loras’ sister, Margaery Tyrell, locked up for trying to protect her brother.
Perhaps most significant, the High Sparrow had Cersei Lannister locked up and tortured as well, despite the fact that Cersei was the one who originally empowered the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant.
Adding insult to injury, the High Sparrow forced Cersei to take a “walk of shame,” stripping the Queen Mother naked and forcing her to walk through the streets while being pelted with insults, rotten food, and feces.
In but one example of his abject moral failure, at one point the High Sparrow instructs Margaery that she’s duty-bound to sleep with her husband, coldly observing:
Congress does not require desire on a woman’s part.
One can imagine a contemporary conservative religious leader making a similar pronouncement.
Writing for Slate, Jack Hamilton opines on the infuriating High Sparrow:
… something about his arrogant literalism, faux populism, smug “humility” and the way he talks about the Gods like they are his close personal friends represents everything I can’t stand about the repressive and self-serving anti-intellectualism of fundamentalist religion generally.
Indeed, the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant are despicable religious fundamentalists and fanatics. Their over the top religious devotion fuels an all too familiar moral puritanism drenched in homophobia and misogyny, a deranged devotion that made many viewers cringe.
In fact, in his own way the High Sparrow was as sadistic and cruel as Ramsey Bolten, the only difference being that Bolten openly and honestly embraced his sadism, while the High Sparrow tried to justify his sadistic crimes under the guise of religious faith.
Towards the end of the season six finale Cersei confronts Septa Unella, the nun who tortured her during her imprisonment by the Faith Militant. After destroying the Sept and everyone within it, including most of the Faith Militant and the High Sparrow, Cersei has taken the nun prisoner.
In an ironic twist,and reversing their previous roles, it is now Cersei taunting the Septa Unella, asking the nun to confess. Cersei says:
Confess. It felt good beating me, starving me, frightening me, humiliating me. You didn’t do it because you cared about my atonement.
Cersei goes on to list for the bound nun some of the things she has done because they feel good: like killing her husband, having sex with her brother, and lying about it to protect their son.
Cersei then leaves the Septa Unella in the hands of the monstrous Ser Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, saying:
Your gods have forsaken you, this is your god now…
As Cersei leaves the two alone, she chants:
Shame, shame, shame….
It is all quite intense. Make no mistake, Cersei is a moral monster. More important, she seems to know and accept the fact that she is a moral monster. However, the same cannot be said of the Septa Unella, the High Sparrow, and the other fanatics of the Faith Militant: They are moral monsters that veil their monstrosity under the guise of religion.
Bottom line: For now Cersei Lannister sits on the throne, having successfully separated church from state.