Well, we begin in Kings’ Landing (there is a brief scene at Casterly Rock between Jamie and Bronn, but it’s pretty pointless. Dany’s team arrives there to meet with Cersei and discuss truce in light of the threat up north. Brienne and Podrick have also arrived (I guess that letter wasn’t a ruse of Littlefingers'), and so we have a begrudging reunion between Brienne and the Hound, who gets caught up on Arya, and a more light-hearted reunion between Tyrion, Bronn, and Podrick -the heroes of Blackwater Bay. None of them at any point talk to Davos who lost his son because of them. They arrive at the Dragonpit where the meeting is to take place, and when Cersei’s party arrives, the Hound sees his brother again and what’s become of him. Dany, making a dramatic entrance, arrives with her dragons before sending them away. Negotiations get off to a difficult start with Euron taunting first Theon about Yara’s imprisonment, and then rather unoriginally, Tyrion’s dwarfism. I do like the callback to Tyrion and Theon’s first conversation in Winterfell and Theon’s impressively public mocking of his uncle’s joke. But soon Jon steps in and shows everyone the captured wight. There is a moment when the Hound opens the crate and nothing happens, that I wondered if the wight had died or escaped. The scene in general is just very tense with so many characters in one place who want each other dead. But it comes out when kicked, and manages to nearly get at Cersei before being reigned in. Everyone in the arena is terrified until Jon demonstrates how to kill them. Euron then decides to high-tail it, taking his fleet back to the Iron Islands where they’re safe. Surprisingly, Cersei agrees to put aside the war and join the fight up north, but only on the condition that Jon swear no loyalty to either side in the meantime. But Jon can’t do that, publicly revealing he’s sworn loyalty to Dany. This is enough for Cersei to completely call off her deal and leave. Everyone on Dany’s team points out how dumb this was, and that Jon should have just lied. Tyrion decides the only option is to try and talk to Cersei himself, despite knowing how likely it is she’ll kill him.
In the Red Keep, Tyrion and Cersei have an intense conversation, with her accusing him of trying to bring down their family. It’s a very well performed scene, both Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey conveying the emotion of these troubled siblings confronting their actions and each others’ hatred. Tyrion even goads her on into having him killed. Though tempted, she doesn’t, and when she’s forced to acknowledge that Tyrion loved Myrcella and Tommen, and he deduces she’s pregnant she seems to relent. They return to the arena where Cersei pledges her support. Also, Jon and Dany share another moment as she thanks him for what he did even if she doesn’t think it was wise. So everything seems to be going as planned, perhaps too much so. Luckily for drama, it wasn’t that easy as Cersei later reveals to Jamie she lied, she won’t lend Lannister support, and in fact Euron is in on a secret plan to ship over the sellsword army she bought in Essos. She intends to let Jon and Dany exhaust themselves with the white walkers up north. Jamie is infuriated, pointing out the many flaws in her plan, namely that regardless of who wins that war, the victors will come and kill them all. There’s also the fact that Dany and Jon are obviously going to notice when no Lannister forces show up. But Cersei doesn’t care for logic anymore. After seeing a dragon and now a wight though, Jamie can’t ignore them. At long last, he leaves Cersei, declaring he swore an oath to fight this war. Though she declares it treason and threatens the Mountain, Jamie calls her bluff, and leaves freely to ride north. As he leaves he notices snow beginning to fall in King’s Landing. I’m so glad to see Jamie doing the right thing at last and abandoning the lost cause that is Cersei. I expect she’s going to lose more and more support as winter descends, and while there were predictions she’d die this episode, I’m glad she did not. Lena Headey’s a good actress and I look forward to seeing the repercussions of this decision.
At Dragonstone, Jon and Dany resolve to sail north and begin their war effort. Jon and Theon share a good scene where they reflect on their mistakes and Theon seeks counsel with Jon, admitting he always felt torn between being a Greyjoy and a Stark. Jon is able to sympathize with him and tells him he’s both. Remembering how Yara tried to rescue him when he was Ramsay’s captive, he decides he must go rescue her. The Greyjoy men aren’t moved however and after his cowardice have no reason to follow him. One of them beats on him pretty hard, but Theon keeps standing his ground until he’s able to amusingly use his castration to his advantage and gains the upper hand. The show of determination and loyalty in spite of his weakness, rouses the men and they get behind him. This is probably the last arc for Theon and I won’t be surprised if he dies fulfilling it, though I don’t quite buy the men’s quick accepting of him. Alfie Allen has been doing a really good job and I’m hoping this last redemption pays off.
The Winterfell arc concludes this week, and thank god they chose the right direction to go in. Littlefinger pressures Sansa into holding Arya accountable for the crimes she’s committed as a faceless man. His “game” of considering the worst outcome and acting on that presumption is pretty noticeably stupid, and backfires tremendously. Sansa gathers the Lords of the North and Vale and summons Arya. But early in her questioning she turns the tables on Littlefinger. She and Arya have been playing him this whole time, fully aware he’s been trying to divide them, which is great -but still doesn’t make last episode’s red herring of Arya threatening Sansa make any sense except to mislead the audience. It was a bad story arc and I’m glad it’s finally ended with the death of Littlefinger. Because as it turns out, Bran has been telling his sisters of Petyr Baelish’s betrayals, his murder of Lysa, his murder of Jon Arryn, conspiring to start the whole Stark-Lannister conflict, and betraying Ned. Littlefinger has nowhere to run, he begs Sansa, but she lets him know she’s learned from him before Arya slits his throat. And so the great conspirator of Westeros is dead and it is a little shocking. Littlefinger has been a major manipulator since the first season, and Aidan Gillan has all along played the character very well. He’ll be missed even if his character won’t be.
Shortly after, Sam arrives at Winterfell and meets Bran. When Jon is mentioned, Bran brings up Jon’s great secret, revealing to Sam what he for some reason hasn’t revealed to his sisters. And Sam I guess was paying attention to what Gilly nonchalantly read, as to Bran’s assertion that Jon Snow is really Jon Sand, Sam concludes that considering Rhaegar and Lyanna were married, Jon is actually a legitimate Targaryen, and more than that, heir to Iron Throne. This is all spelt out rather bluntly, so you don’t miss it. But it’s also set against some good counterpoints of Bran witnessing the wedding of Rhaegar and Lyanna in a vision, and more pointedly, Jon and Dany on the ship finally succumbing to their feelings and having unbeknownst incestuous sex. It’s good to have this laid out, even if its handled awkwardly. Just like Oedipus, Jon’s going to learn after the fact that he’s been having sex with his aunt. The drama that’ll come from that relationship going forward as well as the knowledge of Jon’s true parentage is bound to be interesting.
Finally, the army of the dead arrive at Eastwatch, and Tormund and Beric are already facing insurmountable odds, when the Night King comes in riding the dead dragon. I didn’t think we’d see it again quite this soon, but this season’s pacing makes it unsurprising. It’s a great effects scene and a pivotal moment to end the season on. Because the dragon just melts the wall, destroying Eastwatch, and killing everyone guarding it (if Tormund and Beric survive, it’s going to be ridiculous). The army has finally breached through the wall and they have a dragon. As Tyrion said “we’re fucked”.
For being the longest season finale of Game of Thrones, this episode is definitely above average. It corrects some of the mistakes of the season and sets the stage for the final conflicts. Jamie’s betrayal of Cersei and the death of Littlefinger were very satisfying moments, and the rest of the episode failed to make any major missteps. It doesn’t have the wallop of “The Winds of Winter” though, and was predictable in a few regards.
This season overall has been one of Game of Thrones’ weaker ones. It didn’t flow as coherently due to its pacing as any of the others, and made more than a couple poor decisions. As much as I’m looking forward to Theon’s rescue attempt, his abandonment didn’t really need to happen to warrant it. Casterly Rock was wasted, Bran wasn’t given as much to do as he probably should have, and that Arya-Sansa arc was pretty lame, regressing on character development and audience patience. It wasn’t until Littlefinger’s death too that I noted there weren’t many this season, I was sure more major characters would be axed off. And also, though I like Pilou Asbaek in the role, Euron was a little disappointing given how much book readers build up his awfulness -maybe it’s another example of bad adapting. That being said, the three battle scenes we got this season were among the show’s best, other arcs were satisfying, there were good performances all around, and I’m glad that characters are coming together and the grand story is more condensed, rather than every point of view character having something completely unrelated to occupy them. And I guess we should talk about the elephant in the room -Jon and Dany’s romance. To be honest, I don’t mind it. It’s obviously where the series has always been heading given the title A Song of Ice and Fire. But George R. R. Martin added another wrench, in the birthright of Jon Snow, making him really a Targaryen and transforming a relationship you could otherwise get behind into something more divisive. It’s weird that this is a show now sporting a key romance between an aunt and nephew. But the medieval model for this series should be taken into account, where incest between non-immediate family members was not uncommon, as well as the in-universe centuries of inbreeding within the Targaryen family. Also, that aspect of the relationship is certainly going to cause conflict in the final season. Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington have okay chemistry and I want to see how their characters respond to it, especially considering now they’ve done it, they’re probably already considering the possibility of marriage.
Season eight is only going to be six episodes, so Game of Thrones is in wrap-up now. Can they do it in a satisfying way? Game of Thrones is the kind of a show where even though there’s been a ton of backlash against certain decisions or deviations from the books, just about every complainer is going to be watching the last season. We’re too institutionalized now, we have to know! Martin’s not going to be publishing his finale for a number of years, so this is all we’ll have to go on. Game of Thrones has been a groundbreaking show that has changed television, one of the pivotal series of our times. There’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of the final season. I don’t envy Benioff and Weiss in the slightest.