Good lord (of light), Game of Thrones episodes are lengthy these days, aren’t they? That was the first thing that ran through my head during the almost hour and a half of Westerosi politics to which we were treated this week. In what felt distinctly like two different episodes merged together (to me, at least), we were treated to a whirlwind of emotions. Join me, as we dive in together.
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Secondary Note: Sue is off this week, and has entrusted this week’s recap to me. You are cordially invited to tell me why you disagree with me, albeit your civility would be preferred!
Expectations, like power, are curious things, are they not? One day you expect a certain character to be in as position of power, and by night’s end you weep as their forces are decimated. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first 45 minutes of the episode were contained within the walls of Winterfell. In a truly serene montage, we watched as the many casualties of last week’s battle were honored as true heroes.
Everyone has someone to mourn:
- Sam mourns Edd
- Jon mourns Lyanna
- Arya mourns Beric
- Sansa mourns Theon
- Dany mourns Jorah (as do I)
- Davos mourns his lack of resolution with Melisandre
It is a very somber opening, with a speech by Jon, in which he puts on his very manly adult voice, because that did not sound like the Jon I know? Just me? It all segues into an initially quiet post-funeral feast. No one seems to be able to say much of anything until Daenerys calls over Gendry. To everyone’s surprise (his most of all), she proclaims him Lord Baratheon of Storm’s End. And Dany gets to prove to Tyrion that she has some clever tricks up her sleeve same as he does (I quite liked that). As I see it, this newly made lordship does two things:
- Gives those not entirely loyal to her a reason to believe in her, as she shows herself to be a fair and just ruler, and, most importantly:
- Gets a possible claimant to the Iron Throne the HELL outta the way.
Gendry of course runs to Arya and without any plan in place just drops and proposes – ah, to be young and in
love one-night stand. While flattered, Arya couldn’t help but throw a callback to season 1’s “That’s not me” and shuts it down. I’ve long said that Arya is not one for Westeros, and will go her own way once the fighting is done. As to where, your guess is as good as mine.
With the mood improved, the feasters proceed to play Game of LooksTM. Name a character who was present, and they give a sassy or surprised look at someone else in that room: Sansa, Tyrion, Dany, Bran, Davos, Tormund, Podrick, The Hou – nah, he’s too busy not caring and eating his damn chicken. Truth be told, I could have hung out at this joint for hours. We have another callback, with Tyrion, Brienne, Jaime, and Pod playing Guess the FactsTM which hearkens us back to season 1 when Tyrion, Bronn, and Shae first played on the eve of battle. Understandably, the question about Brienne’s virginity embarrasses her and she vacates the premises. And on this night of firsts, Brienne makes love for the first time, while Jaime makes love for the first time with someone who isn’t his own sister. It is beautiful, and to all those Tormund and ‘The Big Woman’ shippers, I extend to you my sincerest apologies. Jaime and Brienne have been on this path for 6 seasons now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If episodes 2 and 4 don’t earn Gwendoline Christie her Emmy nomination, so help me…
We have a quick little moment between Tyrion and Davos, exchanging pleasantries more than anything, and reminding us all why Davos needs to just buy his own piece of land in Westeros, settle down, and open a bar. But the real highlight for me of this whole set piece has to be the one that sets San-San fans aflame. The Sansa and Sandor of the show never had the relationship or as many interactions as they did in the books, but there was just enough for us to really connect with the characters in this moment. It seems there’s always destined to be a Stark girl in The Hound’s life. Rory McCann’s gruffness and Sophie Turner’s practicality mesh so well together. Their characters come alive so vividly and we think back to the Battle of the Blackwater when Sansa was rightfully afraid of the idea of leaving with The Hound. Houndsight is 20/20, of course, and she’d likely have been far safer with him than she would have with Littlefinger, but they are where they are because of the experiences that have shaped them.
Focusing on The Hound in particular, I cannot wait for more scenes between him and Arya. Of all the two-man quests the show has put forth, none has ever shined brighter than these two. We see them ride off together, presumably on their way to King’s Landing. Should he survive the seemingly impending #Cleganebowl, I kind of hope these two go off together. Not in a romantic way (gods no), but in a symbolic way, perhaps. TBD…
The most central plot, if you will, throughout the episode, is the question of who should rule the seven kingdoms? Dany makes sense as the last living Targaryen, and she tries to make Jon see this as they gather for some after dinner romance…but he cannot shake what he now knows. While he promises Dany he does not want the crown, and will serve her unconditionally, Dany gives him an ultimatum: Do not tell his sisters, or anyone else, what he knows. But, as we all know in the world of TV, no secret ever remains that way for long…
Amidst absolutely stunning cinematography, “the last of the Starks” gather in the godswood, for what might be their final family meeting. Words are exchanged but shade doesn’t come just from the trees in this scene; Bran tells Jon that it’s his choice. For Sansa and Arya, it would seem that the choice he faces is whether to stand with Sansa and hold the North, forgoing his newly sworn allegiance to Daenerys, or stand alongside Daenerys as she takes on Cersei. Of course, Jon knows the subtlety of Bran’s meaning, and while we don’t see it, we know that Jon comes clean to his
sibs cousins. The lesson here is never, ever tell someone a secret you don’t want to get out. Naturally, Sansa told Tyrion, Tyrion told, Varys, and we were just off to the races…but more on that in a sec.
If you thought the the episode was slow and boring at first, boy howdy were you mistaken. As the gang moves south (at season 7 pace, not season 3 pace), RHAEGAL IS KILLED LITERALLY OUT OF NOWHERE OH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING? I gotta hand it to the editors, if ever you are going to do a surprise death, that is the way to do it. Neither Dany nor we had any time to remotely process what was happening. There was no music, nor indication that the characters were going to be enmeshed in a battle until it actually happened. I guess while the rest of humanity was fighting for existence, Cersei kept her minions working day and night on making many Scorpions. With the fakeout death of Tyrion via fallen ship mast – nice try show, we’ve seen Jon climb back up from under a sheet of ice, and Jaime resurface miles from battle with a full suit of armor, so you aren’t fooling anyone with your water-based fake deaths – behind us, we learn that Missandei has been captured by Cersei. This one really hurts.
While Dany plots how best to storm King’s Landing, Cersei smartly fills the Red Keep with the common people, knowing Dany would need to become a butcher to win, which would certainly not help her solidify her rule. But Dany’s incensed desire to win whatever the cost (she literally says ‘whatever the cost’) does not sit well with her advisors. In scenes that are sure to send Twitter a tumblin’ (or is it Tumbler atwitter?), Varys and Tyrion debate what must be done about Dany. See, this is why Jon should have kept his stupid Targaryen mouth to himself. Arming Varys, who has only ever wanted to serve the realm, with information, is the most dangerous thing you can give a Spider. This gives him the confidence to suggesting overthrowing Daenerys, who he believes is rapidly spiraling downward toward madness. I will make this very clear: I do not agree with him. Tyrion, thankfully is on my side, and begs Varys to reconsider. I gotta say – going into this final season, I’d never have thought Varys capable of regicide, but it looks like this might be his path (for which he will likely die trying).
The final 10 minutes of the episode contain so much tension that my neck is still straining from all the blood coursing through it. Tyrion does his best to appeal to the human he believes lives somewhere amidst the shell of Queen Cersei. And here’s where I give Cersei some credit, but please hear me out, before you @ me. For Cersei – one track, one mind, pure evil Cersei, acting impulsively is one of her stronger attributes. But here, she did something very cold and calculating amongst greater pressure. She had three options: Surrender, which was never going to happen, kill Tyrion, or kill Missandei. We all know which one she took, but it’s the why she took that way about which I am so fascinated. Cersei has always been petty, and prone to put her own self-interests above others. Tyrion is the person she probably hates most in this world, and killing him would bring her extraordinary satisfaction. Yet, she believes hurting her enemy is more important than rewarding herself, and so she opts instead to go for Daenerys’ (and by extension Grey Worm’s) jugular. You could hear a pin drop in my viewing party. Unfortunately, we know how it turns out. As a white guy, I’m going to leave the discussions of representation to people better suited than I am, but I’ll say her death felt meaningful, and her character felt important. Nathalie Emmanuel poured her heart and soul into this show, and I am forever grateful. She is a treasure and I’m so glad she made her mark.
- Get it, Podrick!
- I don’t really get you, Tormund, you spurned man, but get it all the same!
- That scene with Bronn bursting in on Jaime and Tyrion did NOT go how I thought it would. I completely assumed that Bronn would head north, using Cersei’s edict as an excuse to escape King’s Landing. Was this scene out of character for Bronn? Yes, he is a sellsword through and through, but after 8 seasons, I do not feel confident that this is the character we know. I don’t know what else to feel. Help me feel things, commenters.
- Who is going to be Lord of Winterfell? Tyrion and Bran exchange brief words over this but it doesn’t seem too resolved at the moment. Sansa seems like the easy option, but as we know, nothing is obvious on this show.
- There’s a new Prince of Dorne? Huh? What? Details, please. That was pretty glossed over, though I suspect that was intentionally so.
- I seriously don’t get why Jon HAS to tell his sisters. If he swears unconditional love to Dany, then who cares? Telling other people only makes her more vulnerable to enemies. His commitment to being as honorable as Ned is going to get people killed!
- Jon had so many goodbyes! First with Tormund, then with Sam, and finally with Ghost…? Huh? It seems like the show just decided that CGI and FX are cool when it comes to dragons and leveling cities…but not when it comes to just kinda enhancing dogs to make them look bigger? What? Jon just writes Ghost off like that? That seems unlikely.
- I feel like the show just doesn’t know what to do with Gilly so they decided, “Hey, let’s make her pregnant!” with a Little Gilly.
- I don’t think it was out of character for Jaime to leave hastily in the middle of the night. He’s obviously very conflicted about his feelings for Cersei, and just hearing the news is enough to give him the jitters. It is not out of place, though. I think he has always been building to this moment. The timing of it does suck for Brienne, though.
This episode is sure to be divisive. My biggest problems were character inconsistencies and the episode length. There were basically two complete episodes stuffed into one, which makes this all very frustrating. The first 45 minutes of this episode was very strong, if you ask me. And then, the second half was so different in tone. It could have added 10 minutes of fleshing out, and been its own episode. Still, the show found ways to impress me, whether in the incredible feast scenes early on, Brienne and Jaime love, or the blood-pumping suspense of the episode’s harrowing final moments. Game of Thrones is a mammoth undertaking and you can’t please everyone, but I do think this episode has a couple cracks. However, it was largely very exciting, both in its small character moments, as well as its action setpieces.
What did you think, friends? Let us know in the comments below.