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'Winter is coming' was a common refrain during the early seasons of Game of Thrones, but once it came it seemed to be barely mentioned again.

It didn't seem to have much effect on the ability of armies to wage war, or travel long distances across the continent, or sail on the seas. I think it's implied that winter is what allows the army of the dead to head south, but I'm not sure if even that is explicit. The Battle of the Bastards was fought in bad weather, but it seemed to clear up soon afterwards.

Did winter have any other effect on the plot as it ultimately unfolded?

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    You seem to be taking a very literal interpretation of the word "Winter" in the context of the phrase "Winter is Coming." You do understand that when Arya said "Winter came for House Frey" she was not talking about the weather forecast at The Twins, right? – krb May 23 at 3:54
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    @krb Sure, but the reason it’s supposed to be such a powerful metaphor in this world is that winter is supposed to be Bad and Scary. – Wossname May 23 at 9:54
  • Always thought it was a warning to stay vigilant and don't po the North! – Seamusthedog May 25 at 8:59
  • Crops and the ability for the common folk / peasants to survive significantly diminishes over the course of a long winter. This is hinted at during a discussion of the small council in the first episode of season 2. Within the scope of the events depicted in the Game of Thrones series, Lord Baelish mentions that only five years of wheat has been built up for the upcoming winter. – Charles May 28 at 1:21
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Winter mainly served as an excuse to stop various armies from conquering King's Landing and removing the Lannisters from power.

Stannis went north to answer the call and defeat the wildling army and eventually was defeated by the Boltons, mainly due to the winter conditions. Otherwise he may have been able to attack King's Landing.

Jon Snow would not have come south looking for Dragonstone and allied the north with Daenerys; instead she would have used her dragons to conquer the south before moving north and defeating the Starks uniting the 7 kingdoms under her rule.

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Winter, as referenced in GOT, is generally the time when "evil" (white walkers) gain strength. It's not like they literally become more powerful in the winter time, but it's a good time for them to try and conquer.

The only reference to winter is related to white walkers.

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I think "Winter's Coming" is a double entendre like many other popular recurring Game of Thrones mottos, "words", or phrases, which is used convey the notion of "in preparation of" (a warning) and/or something that is inevitably beyond one's control (ie: death), which in itself could play back into Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire's notions of existing in a "predetermined" universe with "cycle" cosmology with "seasons" and "songs" being metaphor.)

  1. The general tenor of a bad winter season does indicate harsh living conditions and generally bad or longer winters have existed more "naturally" in the universe.

  2. There is also the bigger Winter, which most likely [metaphysically] correlates between House Stark, The North, and the arrival of The Night King, White Walkers, [ice] Wights, and "Army of the Dead, deriving from a "winter cycle" started during the Age of Heroes when the Night King (TV Show Only) was made by the Children of Forest, as some kind of retaliation against The First Men or The Andals for being betrayed. This is something that plays into to the metaphysical nature of Game of Thrones universe, but also, as the Game of Thrones Showrunners have expressed, The Night King is one personification of "death" (See Also: Azor Ahai).

  3. Thus when Arya says, 'Winter has come for House Frey.', it's clear that it retains an association with death and extinction in metaphorical terms too.

So winter's plots on the story does effect the crops (there was food shortage, which then Dany furthered by accidentally burning them all while on Drogon's back, which may also played a role on how Cersei was able to retain some power by making Dany look bad), but the bigger Winter also disrupted the 'Game of Thrones', as the Night King was [finally] able to breach the [magically enchanted] wall, threatening the existence of every living thing, but it also tells us that because The Knight King was finally killed, that a cycle may have ended and broken into a new,because the show ends in a such a way where the Starks, nearly extinct, are closer to how they were when they arrived/united/ruled the North during the Age of Heroes and being in touch/close with nature (and/or The Children of the Forest's beliefs), the Kingdoms are being ruled differently (Because Bran is seemingly taking a backseat to let his council rule), and where Westoros feels like it's entering a time of peace!

The final two books that have yet to be released are titled, The Winds of Winter and the final book, A Dream of Spring, implying a hopeful future with spring onto a promising summer! Bran's Direwolf was named Summer and when Jon leaves with the Wildlings North of the Wall, there is a sprout of some plant piercing through the snow!

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