There was a tremendous sense of momentum to "The Winds of Winter," a feeling of ends being tied up and of story threads dovetailing in satisfying fashion, with plenty of murder and darkness mixed in, of course. I loved it.
We've talked a lot this season about "table setting" and "moving the chess pieces around the board." But the season finale has wiped the board almost clean, and reconfigured the remaining players into a pretty clear alignment for the rest of the story.
Equal parts fan wish-fulfillment, culmination of a million crowdsourced theories, and good old-fashioned storytelling and magnificent direction, "The Winds of Winter" did not surprise so much as spellbind.