And Then There Was One
A game of … intense glares and separations. With the White Walkers out of the way, we can finally get back to the heart of Game of Thrones: Politics, schemes, and interpersonal conflict. In “The Last of the Starks”, the aftermath of the Night King’s defeat sends our main characters in various directions.
While last week’s battle was intense and thrilling, it’s nice to get back to the more personal drama. It’s what makes this show so entertaining; even if certain plot threads are rushed. And with Cersei sitting on the Iron Throne, there seems to be one common denominator.
We open on a solemn note: All the soldiers who fought for the living are gathered into pyres, awaiting to join their ancestors in the night lands. Daenerys mourns over Jorah and Sansa joins her with Theon. Seeing the rows of pyres shows how devastating the loss is and how many were taken.
With the funeral reception, the living celebrates the Great War’s victory. The happy vibes are briefly cut short when Daenerys calls out Gendry and his Baratheon ancestry. However, instead of punishment, she dubs him Lord of Storm’s End. It’s clear the gesture had more to do with removing Gendry from Iron Throne contention, than being kind or gaining an ally.
The King & Queen
During the festivities, Tormund begins to celebrate the victory by boasting about Jon Snow, much to Daenerys’ dismay. It’s actually quite sad seeing him rave about Jon bravely riding Dragons, completely ignoring Dany’s contributions. Later, Dany confronts Jon about this. Despite his constant reassurance of not wanting the throne, Dany forbids Jon from revealing his Targaryen ancestry to anyone, including his siblings.
They both claim to love each other, but Dany has clear conditions laid out. While it’s easy to question Dany for her entitled attitude, you have to feel for her since she’s been working for this position since the beginning. Now, she’s all alone –most of the Dothraki and Unsullied (plus Jorah) are all dead. She’s in a foreign land where she has no support of a Great House, so all she has is her own conviction. She means well, even if she is stubborn.
We then have Tyrion, Podrick, Jaime, and Brienne amusingly play the drinking game he once played with Shae. The fun ends when Tyrion drunkenly brings up Brienne’s maidenhood. In an awkwardly forced and predictable move, Jaime visits Brienne and the two consummate their relationship. (Tormund is less than pleased about this)
Later on, out of nowhere, Bronn shows up, threatening Tyrion and Jaime. But they easily sway his allegiance again, promising him High Garden once they’ve overthrown Cersei. Jaime and Brienne’s romantic ventures end before they really begin. He decides to head for King’s Landing in pursuit of Cersei, leaving an understandably upset Brienne behind in Winterfell. As he brushes off Brienne’s praise, he also points out all the wrong he’s done for his sister. Here’s hoping that Jaime actually stands up to Cersei for once and that Brienne also gets in on the action in King’s Landing.
The Game Of Thrones
Meanwhile, Sansa and Dany continue to have disdain for one another, especially regarding the strategy to take down Cersei. Tyrion reasons that they need to defeat Cersei without destroying King’s Landing. He also mentions how in the past, the people rebelled against the King when the people grew hungry. Jon insists they block food from entering the city, so the people will turn against Cersei. Dany warily agrees, but Sansa, more politically minded and cautious, insists on resting the soldiers before battle.
Conversely, Dany wants to attack Cersei soon, before she becomes any more powerful. When Jon favors his Queen’s decision, the debate is over. Dany, Tyrion, Varys and the Unsullied sail to King’s Landing immediately, while Jon, Davos and other northern soldiers head there on horseback. Sansa is aptly worried about Jon heading to King’s Landing; her family has not fared well there in the past. Throughout the season we see Sansa’s more caring and pragmatic ways contrasting Dany’s fiery ambition. Why can’t they just work together?!
He’s Not A Stark
When Jon favors Dany over Sansa during the war council, the Stark siblings have a little chat. Sansa continues to be doubtful of Dany and is upset Jon keeps supporting her. Arya is a tad more understanding of Jon’s allegiance with her but still puts their family first. When the sisters try to remind Jon of his loyalty to the Starks, he reluctantly has Bran tell them of his Targaryen lineage.
Unfortunately, we never get to see the reaction of Arya and Sansa which should have been a big deal. Sansa later discloses the secret to Tyrion, and when he questions why Sansa distrusts Dany so much, she plainly asks: “What if there’s someone else? Someone better?”. Seasons 7 and 8 have really been showing off Sansa’s political intelligence. Maybe it’ll be Sansa sitting on the throne when all is said and done. She’s definitely proving to be a capable leader.
Shortly after his promotion, Gendry seeks out Arya and proposes to her. True to her character though, Arya delicately rebuffs him, stating: “That’s not me.” just like she told her father, Ned Stark, back in Season 1. She was never one to be somebody’s lady; Arya has always been the adventurer. Subsequently, Arya accompanies the Hound on his way to King’s Landing. They both have targets to take care of: The Mountain and Cersei, respectively.
Meanwhile, Tormund and the wildings intend to head back north where they get to explore. Sadly, Jon also commands Ghost to go along with Tormund. Despite being sidekicks for so long, John barely even acknowledges his direwolf, let alone gives a goodbye-embrace. Not everyone leaves Winterfell, however. Sansa and Brienne stay there, as well as Sam and Gilly who are expecting a child together. Unlike with Ghost, we do get heartfelt goodbyes between Jon and Sam, which was nice to see. And Bran remains back too, but we still don’t know what his plans are, other than not wanting to be Lord of Winterfell.
Jon’s secret spreads like wildfire, as Tyrion quickly informs Varys. Two of the most cunning men of the series, arguably, have a couple of debates over who should rule Westeros. Tyrion continues to vouch for Dany and insists that she will be a proper Queen, despite her arrogance. He suggests that if married, Dany and Jon would make a good ruling pair. However, Varys finds her dangerous. He’s wary of her temperament, citing her father, the Mad King.
As someone who is loyal to the realm above all, Varys not so subtly suggests going against Dany, to prevent her rule. Despite Tyrion admiring Dany’s confidence and believing she’s not like her father, Varys thinks a reluctant ruler, like Jon, would be more suited. These two characters have always had some of the best interactions this entire series, and their conversations regarding the throne are some of the best scenes in the episode.
As the Unsullied sail for King’s Landing, Dany and her dragons accompany them by air. Greyworm and Missandei affectionately hold each others hands thinking the worst is behind them. Unfortunately, Rhaegal is shot down by improved Scorpions launched from giant cross-bows on Euron’s ships. Dany is horrified at losing another dragon, and charges towards Euron full steam.
Luckily at the last second, she and Drogon swerve away, avoiding the onslaught of arrows fired at them. I’m not quite sure how nobody saw Euron’s armada lurking, or why they’re so overpowered, but they destroy all of Dany’s ships easily. As Dany, Tyrion, Varys, Greyworm, and a few Unsullied survivors make it to shore, Missandei is captured. Once again, Sansa was right – they should’ve been more patient.
The Mad Queens
We finally head back to King’s Landing this episode to check in on Cersei, who is thriving. Avoiding the fight against the White Walkers allowed Cersei’s forces to only grow stronger. Villainously cunning as always, she brings the people of King’s Landing inside the Red Keep as a defense – Dany will have to go through innocent civilians to get to her. She mentions to Euron that she is pregnant with his child, even though she told we know it’s Jaime’s. I’m guessing Cersei will use the baby as leverage against Jaime when he comes to confront her.
On Dragonstone, Varys warns Dany about attacking King’s Landing while civilians occupy the Red Keep. But Dany believes it’s her destiny to “free the world of tyrants” no matter the cost. Dany heeds Tyrion’s advice to offer Cersei a chance to surrender first. This way, when Cersei declines it, Dany has an excuse to use force against her without looking as destructive.
As Dany, Tyrion and the small Unsullied army march towards the gates of King’s Landing (with Drogon at a distance), Cersei awaits them with archers, giant crossbows, and a handcuffed Missandei. When talks with Qyburn fail, Tyrion pleads with his sister. He appeals to Cersei’s love for her children, referencing her current pregnancy, much to Euron’s confusion. Cersei is unmoved though, and after allowing Missandei to say her final words (“Dracarys”), the Mountain beheads her.
It’s sad to see one of the few genuinely kind and loyal characters on this show bite the dust. The pained, angry looks on Greyworm and Dany’s faces make it clear that they will not stop until they get revenge on Cersei. Will Dany end up going the Mad King route or will she find a more tempered solution? While being a character everyone rooted on for most of the show, Dany is quickly made to be hated this season. Her unreasonable entitlement and stubbornness do feel like a forced means to create more conflict. Whether or not she becomes Queen, I still hope she at least proves the haters wrong and doesn’t fall into complete villainy.
This weeks episode brings Game of Thrones back to the political drama audiences love. There was great character interactions, humor, and tension that will hopefully continue into the final episodes. There were a few questionable decisions made with some of the characters and certain plot points feeling forced or rushed. Such is the case when you have a shortened season with lengthier episodes.
With only two episodes, left, there are still several narrative threads to address and characters to give closure to. Also worth noting: Yara and her fleet are still in play, so hopefully they make a meaningful appearance soon. A lot of characters are on their own paths, so we look forward to them all eventually converging on King’s Landing. Until next week!
Check out the promo for episode 5 below: