Truly we have reached the endgame for Game of Thrones. The Wall is down, snow is falling on the capital, and perhaps most heartbreakingly, Sean Bean’s Ned Stark was commemorated tonight. A lot. When showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss remind you of Lord Eddard Stark’s honor (and horrific stupidity), you know they’re bringing back into focus what this has always been about. A pack of Stark wolves and the world out to devour them. Well the wolves bit back tonight, and it was a glory to behold. Oh sure, we also reconfirmed Jon Snow is really a Targaryen—and in the classic biblical sense as he spends a night of passion with his aunt—but now winter is really here. It’s the season of the wolf, and one of their own has the best claim for the throne.
So as we prepare for the Long Night of waiting on the season 8 endgame, it’s time to dig into this season 7 finale, which certainly scratched the itch of moving past all the variable table-setting. In fact, at this point Game of Thrones showrunners are knocking the pieces of china off the shredded cloth, and they’re smashing to the floor like so many pieces of the Wall.
The episode begins strong by returning to some of the elements that made the early seasons so appealing: a bunch of people sitting around and talking. Mind you, that penultimate season budget has been able to change it from a darkly lit corridor into an actual beautiful Roman amphitheater ruin, which they’re calling the “Dragonpit.”
Aye, this is where the dragons used to be kept, and it is where Jon and Daenerys’ family power first began to drain away. As Dany later crystalizes for her ruggedly handsome nephew and the audience, the Dragonpit was built to chain the first great beast who conquered Westeros, Balerion the Black Dread. Khaleesi has already made a similar mistake when she shackled Viserion and Rhaegal beneath the Great Pyramid of Meereen. There, her children suffered in the dark, and Dany’s power likewise waned as the slave city tried to tie a weight around her neck. She could only really break free from it when the dragons were loose, and she looks like she’ll never chain them again… which is curious for the future for both Daenerys and her children.
But in the build-up to what is essentially that moment where the Five Families meet in The Godfather and decide if they want to do business with Sollozzo, the episode has a cascade of reunions, each more heartwarming (or hilarious) than the last.
There’s Tyrion and Bronn, who are all business—explaining away why Cersei didn’t kill Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, even though she probably should have—plus Podrick and Tyrion sharing a grin. My personal favorite though was Brienne of Tarth’s double take at seeing the Hound alive and technically on her side. If ever there has been a better personification of “politics breeds strange bedfellows,” I haven’t seen it. A man who uses the word “cunt” in the same way that Van Gough plays with oils, and the woman who kicked his ass seven ways till Sunday, and then took a chunk of his burnt ear as a memento.
Of course they must end up sharing a laugh, if for no other reason than their mutual prize has become a source of pride. Arya is at long last home in Winterfell, and no one is going to be able to screw with her again. Hearing that the little she-wolf has blossomed into a masterful murderer is the closest the Hound will ever come to knowing what it’s like to see his child learn to ride a bike.
However, the early moment that probably has the most importance to the wars to come is one that actually signals quite early the war to come. The Hound versus the Mountain will definitely happen in the final season. Up until this episode, I’ve always fancied “Cleganebowl,” as its acolytes call this potential showdown, to be just that: a flight of fancy. And I’m still unsure George R.R. Martin would ever give readers something as anticipated as these two awful brothers entering mortal combat.
But Game of Thrones is Benioff and Weiss’ alone now, and they foreshadow Cersei’s inevitable betrayal when the Hound indicates that no one gets to kill (or re-kill) Gregor Clegane except him. “You know who’s coming for you, brother. You’ve always known.” This can only end with one Clegane killing the other, and given there are only six episodes left, that means Cersei and Daenerys’ truce would have to be shorter lived than Jon Snow’s autonomy as King in the North.
Speaking of the King in the North, he cuts a striking figure with his black cloak in the ruins of the Dragonpit. The true meaty satisfaction of the episode is Jon, Tyrion, and (eventually) Daenerys trying to convince Cersei Lannister of an existential threat. But convincing someone of inherited wealth that there is climate change and actually getting them to do something about it are two different things, eh?
Dany at least makes a grand entrance with the ultimate power move. Retroactively confirming that she totally commanded Drogon to dive bomb Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth back on Dragonstone before rushing to the throne room for their first meeting, she one-ups that little mind game by having Drogon carry her directly into the heart of the Dragonpit while Rhaegal circles from a distance. Before the confrontation began, Cersei hilariously asked the Mountain to kill Dany if/when things go south. Good luck with that, buddy. While Bronn being intimidated by the Unsullied and Dothraki is a bit surprising—it’s not like any of them apparently brought catapults or siege towers—that dragon has the Lannister Queen in checkmate before the game’s even begun.
And to top it all off, Dany’s late. You don’t need fire breathing monsters to have a CEO pull that kind of shtick on you nowadays.
Cersei is annoyed, and for good reason. Staring at Dany across the way while her impish brother’s mouth moves, it’s likely she is finally starting to realize that Maggy the Frog’s prophecy from her childhood was not foretelling the coming of Sansa Stark or Margaery Tyrell to her court; it was about a Dragon Queen potentially incinerating sad court on a whim.
I must admit I’m curious about what Cersei’s original plan was for this meeting. She obviously did not believe White Walkers and zombies existed. While playing reluctant before ultimately signing onto a truce gives her the breathing room to recruit the Golden Company, I cannot help but ponder if she had a Red Wedding-esque Plan B. Almost every last one of her living enemies was in the same place at the same time. Granted, if she actually acted on her impulses, Drogon would turn her to ash, but such punishment has never assuaged her thought process before. Mayhaps grappling with the Sparrows has actually given Cersei what she’s long bragged about possessing: Tywin Lannister’s sense of perspective.
Whatever her initial plan was, it ultimately would fall apart very quickly. Euron Greyjoy tries to regain political advantage for Team Lion by making fun of Tyrion’s height, but when your jokes are so bad that the Lannister Imp and Theon Greyjoy are giving each other telekinetic high fives, you know the punchline is a flop. It’s no matter though, Tyrion is just setting up Jon Snow to deliver the most stunning power point presentation of all time.
It’s short but effective: The Hound hauls in a coffin with an Ice Zombie in it, and lets the little guy give Cersei a face full of decomposing gum lines.
There is something satisfying about a plan coming together. To be fair, it was a stupid plan, and one of the many foolhardy decisions Tyrion has made in season 7. But nonetheless it came together, because he finally provides irrefutable proof that seas levels are rising the dead are walking. It is hard to dismiss corpses when they’re breathing down your face. Jon Snow even behaves like an old timey magician with the Hound as his assistant. One helpfully carves the subject in half, and the other burns his hand for maximum impact.
It’s like someone blasted a gust of icy wind across the arena. The two reactions that most impressed me were Jaime Lannister and Qyburn. Jaime has ever more reluctantly followed Cersei toward the Gates of Hell, even though he knows exactly where their destination lies. Seeing a zombie though gives him perspective; if he’s headed to one of the Seven Hells, it might be getting here sooner than he thought. It also will be arriving for the million or so people he’s already saved from the Mad King 20-odd years ago… and his unborn child.
A lightbulb finally went off for Jaime Lannister, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau visibly flips it for audiences in a split second. I do wish we had more time on Qyburn’s reaction though, because unlike everyone else, he was super-jazzed to see a zombie that was not reanimated by presumably lightning bolts and “Sitting on the Ritz” dance lessons. Nay, unlike his Franken-Mountain creation, here was a zombie that through magic could live past death and even be split in half. Here’s hoping they burned all the pieces of the wight’s body before Qyburn got it back to his lab.
But Cersei is much more practical. So the dead are walking? What’s in it for her? She’ll reluctantly sign on to a truce with Daenerys, but she needs some assurances that give her an advantage later—and all it will take is for Jon Snow to offer a little white lie. Ruh-roh.
Some readers over the years have pushed back on my assertion that Jon Snow should not end up on the Iron Throne, or that he is a great general but an incompetent monarch. Well, here is Exhibit… Z? There have been many instances of Jon proving he is Ned Stark’s son, but none are more glaring than in the first utterance of Sean Bean’s beloved bonehead tonight. Cersei will agree to march with the North and the Targaryen horde if Jon makes concessions that he will not march back south in the inevitable war between queens.
And Jon cannot make that pledge. Instead, he reveals that he has bent the knee to Daenerys Targaryen and will support her claim as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. I suspect that when Cersei invoked Ned’s name, she did not do it out of some wistful nostalgia for the former Warden of the North’s upright truthfulness. Rather, she remembers Ned Stark as the fool who warned her that he had proof that her children were fathered by Jaime Lannister, not Robert Baratheon. By going to her with a reprieve, for her children’s sake, he condemned himself to his eventual fate. If Jon Snow is anything like Ned, his damnable pride will force him to stay out of the war… unless he’s already pledged to House Targaryen. In that case, he’ll do exactly what followed.
Hence more evidence that it doesn’t matter on a personal level who biologically sired Jon Snow. He is Lord Eddard Stark’s son. Aye, he’s more Ned than any of Ned’s actual children. And like Ned, he walked straight into a trap laid by Cersei Lannister. Admittedly, this failing might ultimately be moot, but that is why he probably gets to leave King’s Landing with his head while Ned was prematurely separated from his own.
Dany and Tyrion also are far too quick to coddle the King in the North. Jon Snow is allowed to be right in his big soap box speech about the importance of truth and facts—I’d daresay it is probably the closest Benioff and Weiss have ever come to making an intentional commentary about our real world politics—but Tyrion has a more pressing point in this context. Yeah sure, Jonny, but “we’re fucked.”
And Jon’s inability to acknowledge that, at least in Tyrion’s presence, or come up with a solution to it is why I maintain Jon Snow and Daenerys ruling from the Iron Throne would be an awful ending. Jon wouldn’t end up with any better results in the south than his papa did.
Luckily, Tyrion is on-hand to give us the best scene of the night. No matter what happens, be it through thick or thin, terrible war strategy or ill-advised climate summits, Tyrion is my favorite character on Game of Thrones. He hasn’t had a whole lot to do since meeting Daenerys Targaryen at the end of season 5, and no matter how many scenes they give him to play off the Breaker of Chains, she still broke the momentum in his character arc, which has long plateaued.
So it’s a fairly shocking jolt of electricity when he unexpectedly got a scene to play next to Lena Headey’s Cersei. These two’s fireworks have lit up probably more than a third of Game of Thrones’ best scenes, and seeing them interact tonight added more triumph to that pile. The last time Tyrion was in King’s Landing, the idea of Cersei allowing him to leave without taking his head seemed absurd, but in this scene it’s agonizingly plausible. She needs Tyrion and Daenerys to believe that she has been swayed by their admittedly air-tight science.
But she is still sooo tempted to kill him. The shot of Franken-Mountain towering behind Peter Dinklage as he enters her chamber is the stuff of nightmares, and even the most cynical viewer must’ve flinched when Ser Gregor slightly unsheathed his sword. Unlike the last time Tyrion came home to King’s Landing, Cersei cannot get Dany’s pause of hostilities unless Tyrion lives. But as the siblings bring out all their sordid, glorified soap opera angst, the taste of his crimson blood whets her mouth, and she is ready to feast.
Dinklage, for his part, has his best moment in years when he dares Cersei to order his death. The deep breathing and anxiety draining the color out of his face would suggest that even he didn’t expect to walk away from this one. So instead he walks over and has a drink, like the proper English gentleman realizing he’s on borrowed time and has an alcoholic habit that must be drolly observed.
Tyrion gets Cersei to concede that he didn’t kill Joffrey, but it really doesn’t matter how much he claims to have loved Myrcella or Tommen. On this solitary point, I side with Cersei. He couldn’t have cared that much considering that he partnered with Myrcella’s murderer on Dragonstone, and also sought to aid Daenerys’ conquest of Westeros while Tommen was still happy on the throne and with his dear Ser Pounce on his lap.
Cersei is correct. Tyrion, on a certain level, took satisfaction in throwing Cersei’s family and House into chaos with the murder of Tywin. Tywin deserved to die, and Tyrion deserved that vengeance. Yet he knew Cersei was no Tywin and couldn’t keep things together, nor did he want her to since he partnered with another queen with the express purpose to see her dragons use his sister’s crown as dental floss.
Their battle of Lannister wills is the other crucial half of this finale, bringing everything from season 1 back to the fore. While Game of Thrones has never been more spectacularly fantastical than in its endgame of dragons vs. zombies, it still largely boils down to two families. The first is the Starks, and how they will in the end carry on through any storm. And the other is that of the Lannisters, a family with everything, but whose own grievances and doomed flaws will devastate one another until they sit upon a pile of smoldering ash. And honestly, Dany might just be the fuse to make that smoky ruin commence.
Upon coming out of the Lannister tête-à-tête, remarkably with both siblings still alive, Cersei agrees to the deal, and pledges to raise the banners across the south to join in the fight against the Army of the Dead. This is interesting since I’m not entirely sure how many bannermen are left in the south. The Tyrell army is gone; the Dornish aren’t leaving their dessert; the Baratheon bannermen fell before the walls of Winterfell on some fool’s crusade; the rest of the Reach forces were decimated by Daenerys; and the Lannisters have been fighting one blasted war or another for the past five years. And they too got burned up pretty badly on the Blackwater Rush.
Still, Cersei and everyone seems to think there are plenty of fresh young boys out there ready to die. And Jaime is ecstatic. In his one brief exchange with Brienne tonight, the Kingslayer lamented that he’d have to face off against the woman he really loves on opposite sides of the battlefield. His regret probably only dug in Cersei’s resolve to screw the North over further. Plus, fairly out of character, Brienne said, “Fuck loyalty.” This is akin to Daenerys swearing off the Iron Throne (which ain’t going to happen). The times are a-changin’ when the Beauty of Tarth is dropping some beautiful four-letter words regarding her honor.
So Jaime finding out that Cersei has supposedly come to her senses appears like a reprieve from oblivion for the male Lannister. At last, the Kingslayer can be on the right side of history, fighting side by side with Brienne.
Yet Cersei would love to deny him this. Revealing her master plan to her brother, which to be fair she totally telegraphed several weeks ago, Cersei unveils she’s made a truce with Daenerys only because it will give her time to rebuild. And this betrayal goes back to Jaime’s strong reaction to seeing a wight with his own eyes. Here before them is an existential threat; the world is going to end and his descendants will have no future if they don’t fight the Army of the Dead.
But you cannot reason with the unreasonable. Cersei Lannister does not care about existential threats, for in her mind, her selfish desires are the world. Her life, and the life of her child, who is simply an extension of her narcissism at this point, is all that matters. If it is not feeding her ego, she doesn’t care, and the fact that Ice Zombies are real does not mean they’re necessarily her problem. She has money and power, and assumes someone else (the North and Dany) will deal with it. She fairly astutely figured out one of Dany’s dragons is at least wounded, but like a completely deluded despot, she doesn’t believe that the problems of the world matter if she can hide behind her walls.
Sweet Merciful Mother, the realization that Benioff and Weiss wrote this before Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, yet it fits exactly what happened in reality to a tee, is as terrifying as the idea of Cersei Lannister thinking that there is a version of this that ends with her on the throne. At least it inspires Jaime Lannister to finally do what other leaders should: abandon the Mad Monarch.
Jaime’s leaving of Cersei long overdue. He left her to the Sparrows’ judgement while in a position of strength in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” so it is curious that Benioff and Weiss make it more a point of pride and weakness in Game of Thrones. When Cersei is first imprisoned in the fourth of Martin’s novels (and before her walk of shame), she writes to Jaime begging for his help, and he elects to instead keep his vows to Catelyn Stark and save as many of her Tully bannermen from being massacred by the Freys as possible. He also chooses to follow Brienne of Tarth.
In the show, he is now finally following Brienne too, from a great distance, but it is in large part because Cersei insulted his honor for the last time. Even though they vowed to help the North, she will use this as a chance to betray everyone… and she bluffs she’ll kill Jaime if he doesn’t help her. The Kingslayer calls it and waltzes right past the Mountain without looking back.
In the end, Tyrion’s gambit and the loss of Daenerys’ Viserion gained their cause Jaime Lannister, and Jaime Lannister alone. Exchanging the Wall for a one-handed knight of questionable morality does not seem like a good trade, so hopefully Jaime will do something more than just bro out with Ned Stark’s “son” when he gets to Winterfell.
These sequences between the Lannister twins also lays some of the most important groundwork for season 8. Cersei will bring in the Golden Company, which for my book readers to me suggests they are conflating Cersei’s role on the series with “Aegon Targaryen” (not Jon) in the books. Yep, in the book series, there is another supposed Targaryen descendant calling himself Aegon, who may in fact really be a “Blackfyre” (the bastard off-shoot of the Targaryen family tree). He too is supported by the Golden Company, who were founded by a member of the Blackfyre family. This could confirm my suspicion that Game of Thrones is extending Cersei’s role in the great game past her literary counterpart’s end.
Also, it now becomes clear what is going to happen. I previously predicted that Cersei would march with the North and then crush them against the Wall as they fought the White Walkers. But that is not to be. First of all, there is no more Wall. More importantly though, the final battle against the living and the dead will now be at Winterfell. It also isn’t the true final battle.
It is easy to imagine that whatever heroes survive the White Walkers will be stunned when, in the distance, Euron Greyjoy leads an army of sellswords to their gates to finish the job on the beleaguered survivors. Yep, the eponymous “game of thrones” will outlast the fantasy “good versus evil” expectation that comes with the genre. This isn’t Middle-earth, and the final battle will be between shades of living, fleshy gray.
Among those living are the members of House Stark, who finally got their act together. Returning to Winterfell during this finale was likely bittersweet for viewers. We’re finally given a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the drama that has unspooled there, and yet we had to get through some scenes that felt contrived in spite of the fact that Arya obviously does know how to carry a grudge.
And the first of these scenes is arguably the most artificial one yet. While I believe that Arya would overreact upon finding Sansa’s letter that was written under duress in season 1, I struggled with Arya going so far as to threaten to wear the older Stark girl’s face. More incredulous still was the fact that Sansa turned tonight to Littlefinger for advice on how to handle homicidal Arya.
It is unclear when the Stark girls became wise to Lord Baelish’s games (I’ll give my own theory in a moment), but whether it was a con or not, I cringe at Sansa letting Littlefinger slow walk her to the conclusion that Arya should be executed.
With that said, Lady Stark took it pretty well that Jon Snow surrendered the North to Daenerys Targaryen. Littlefinger does his Lucifer thing by whispering that she could essentially challenge his claim, but Sansa pretty much accepts that Jon has made the call to abandon his crown after wearing it for only a few months. And after some dramatic, snowy soul searching, Sansa makes her final decision: to take Littlefinger’s head.
The scene is played beautifully enough where despite pretty much every viewer predicting that Sansa and Arya would eventually turn the tables on Lord Baelish, it comes in a moment so fraught with tension, that the inevitability is partially obscured. Sansa brings Arya before her in the Great Hall with all the Lords and many guards gathered. The scenario would suggest that it will take all these men to merely arrest Arya, and the fact that there are so many makes me think Sansa really is doing the stupid thing.
And then comes that million-dollar beauty of a line: “You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges, Lord Baelish?” Snap.
What follows is so satisfying that I needed to watch it a second time to wipe away the goofy smile. For the first and last time in Littlefinger’s life, he got played and then got pretty much flayed. Aidan Gillen has had so much fun hamming it up as a masterclass in greasy sleaze over the years that it’s easy to forget Littlefinger is made of flesh and blood. I half-expected his body to collapse into a legion of red-eyed rats that would scurry across the floor, squeaking, “Sansa!” as they vanished. Instead, the human-rat just pathetically pleaded it again and again, looking for his salvation.
Sure, I do believe Littlefinger loved Sansa, at least so far as a creepy sociopathic pervert can love anyone. He betrayed her multiple times, but he would have squealed to have Cat 2.0 at his side while he sat on the Iron Throne. And as long as he kept the Knights of the Vale in Winterfell, Sansa was chill with letting him have his fantasy, even though he blew the opportunity when he sold her to the Boltons, and completed her journey toward becoming “Dark Sansa.”
So as he pleads and begs for a private audience where he can whisper in her ear, it just becomes increasingly pathetic. Eventually, all he can do is wheeze with that endearingly smarmy Irish gravel, “Sansa!” as Arya uses his own knife to slice his throat wide open. It was the unavoidable ending to this subplot that all viewers knew was coming. That doesn’t change the level of glee that came with watching him bleed.
As it turns out, there was some justice left in this world for Ned Stark. Arya never got Joffrey and will never get Cersei, but Littlefinger orchestrated it all, and since at least his siblings take his rambling as gospel, Bran Stark essentially CSI’d Littlefinger’s culpability in betraying Ned. And for that, he received his long overdue death.
With that said, the question is when did the Stark girls know they were pulling one over on the weasel? It seems Arya knew her being summoned into the Great Hall was a charade, as she turned without shock or anything less than amusement toward the condemned after Sansa changed gears. I’m sure some will argue that the Stark girls were playing the long con on Littlefinger since this season’s fifth episode.
I will preemptively disagree. Personally, I think Sansa pensively pacing the Winterfell ramparts is due to her not knowing how to handle the Arya problem. The look of realization on Sophie Turner’s face is because Sansa finally put Littlefinger under the microscope he suggested Sansa place Arya. What is the worst possible reason for someone to do something? That is when she clicked in that Littlefinger was turning her against Arya. She then probably went to Bran and had him confirm this, as well as Littlefinger’s other forgotten or hidden sins.
That is when Sansa laid the trap. So kudos to the Lady of Winterfell for figuring out Littlefinger’s game and beating him at it, but that still means Arya threatened to cut off her sister’s face, and Sansa in turn at least entertained the idea of executing Arya when Petyr implicitly broached the subject earlier in this episode. Which to me is still too much of an attempt to milk suspense at the expense of logic, especially given the Stark sisters’ satisfying final scene of the night.
It comes with both of them standing on the ramparts again, and remembering old Eddard for the umpteenth time. It’s also a very nice sequence for sullied book readers. Arya begins quoting Ned with a line he actually said in the show: “In winter we must protect ourselves. Look after one another.” These are words Ned tells Arya after she’s being particularly spiteful to Sansa. Now the older Stark girl answers by quoting Ned herself—but a quote only those who’ve read A Game of Thrones know that Ned told the Stark girls (after they were likewise fighting): “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”
Ned Stark’s surviving children, despite their many pains and tragedies, have endured and did not forget his lessons. We love the Starks for those lessons and their virtues. They may be doomed in King’s Landing, ending with Littlefinger’s knife at their throat or with everyone at the Dragonpit just shaking their head at Jon’s idiocy. But in Winterfell those words blossom even in the snow, with their true meaning accentuated by the frost on your breath.
And they sing here, as finally the two Stark characters most at odds, as well as many a fan’s favorite pair, repeat them and finally mean them. They know what it is to be a pack again, and the show comes to its true endgame as they both finally come home.
Starkness is also the order of the day in a nice scene between Theon Greyjoy and Jon Snow, proving the latter’s heart is bigger than his head. He forgives Theon for as many of his trespasses as he can. There is a wonderful moment where Jon suggests that however strong he looks from the outside, he has suffered from plenty of internal conflict about what to do, and Theon counters “not compared to me.” Jon throws as much as shade as is possible in his countenance. “No, not compared to you.”
Still, Jon more or less forgives Theon, telling his one-time little brother that Eddard was a far better father to him than Balon ever was. This is curious since Ned was a bit of a cold, judgmental figure toward Theon in “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Apparently in Game of Thrones lore though, Ned raised Theon as much as Jon, which makes Theon’s black sheep status all the sadder. Nevertheless, Jon says to Theon that you are a Stark, which is all Theon really ever wanted to hear.
This is likely important to Jon’s storyline as well, because he is suggesting who you call family is more important than actual biological relations. Or as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 memorably surmised it this past summer, “He might be your father, but he ain’t your daddy.” It doesn’t really matter if Jon’s real father is Rhaegar Taragaryen, a man he never knew, or if Theon is really descended from the knuckle-draggers on Pyke. They’re children of Ned Stark. And the Starks belong in the North.
It’s such a good scene, that it is a shame it’s undercut by the only bad one of the night: Theon gets in a donnybrook with another Iron Islander, beating him to death after being told to stay down like it’s the last act of a Karate Kid movie. So because Theon didn’t run and was able to get an advantage in a bit of fisticuff since he didn’t have any junk to break, this means all these other sailors want to join him on a suicide mission against Euron Greyjoy? Fine, whatever. The only reason this cheese is consumable is because one should never underestimate the stupidity of the Iron Islands.
Jon Snow ends the hour where fans have likely wanted to see him since season 1: in Daenerys Targaryen’s bed. Also one must give credit to Game of Thrones for using this moment to objectify Kit Harington much more than Emilia Clarke. Given how some fanboys salivate, that’s a nice subversion.
Be that as it may, the scene’s romance is doubly undercut. The first slice against it is that Tyrion Lannister stands outside, longingly. Is he jealous of the King in the North? Mayhaps. It seems all men must die… and fall in love with Daenerys Targaryen upon meeting her. (And who can blame them?) More likely though, he is just lonely since he doesn’t have a bedroom companion of his own as their boat drifts across the Narrow Sea towards White Harbor. But why put this in the finale of the penultimate season? It would seem that Benioff and Weiss are setting up Tyrion’s need for romantic love to be concluded. It’s a tragic feature of the character that dates back to his first wife whom in the show’s canon was merely a prostitute that Jaime hired to take his virginity.
And yet, with only six episodes left, it seems a little late in the game to be introducing a romantic conclusion to Tyrion’s storyline.
The more prominent undercut though is the show reconfirming what we already knew: Jon Snow is really a Targaryen—one named Aegon Targaryen, at that. The reveal comes from Samwell Tarly and Bran Stark having a heart-to-heart. That scene by itself is worth celebrating since John Bradley’s slow awkward smile at Bran declaring himself the Three-eyed Raven is priceless. Riiiight.
But very quickly, they realize between Bran’s visions and Sam’s book, they can prove that Jon Snow is really the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. Ergo, he has a better claim to the throne than Daenerys Targaryen. Undoubtedly this will prove awkward next season when Jon and presumably Dany find out that they’re related. Oh, and she should be bending the knee to him.
That opens up a whole new can of worms about what will happen in season 8 and in the endgame, which I will dive into in a separate feature to be published by early Monday evening at the latest. In the meantime, suffice to say that even though Game of Thrones has made monsters of us all, and gotten an entire swath of TV-viewing Americans to cheer on incest, that I am doubtful this romance will have a moment as blissful as that boat ride. And if children truly do become involved, it will only make things more troubling and confounding as Dany processes that her nephew is also her baby daddy.
The final sequence of the night was inevitable since poor Viserion opened his icy blue eyes. This dragon died, for all intents and purposes, so that Jaime Lannister could ride North by himself. I suppose it also is what gave Dany the push she needed to prioritize the threat of zombies over killing Cersei Lannister. That remains a steep price though.
I had expected the Night King to use Viserion to fly over the Wall, instead he brings down the structure by way of ice-breath. After so many seasons of Bran the Builder’s wonder standing in the way of the White Walkers, it’s somewhat surreal to see it tumble like a pile of Legos across the floor. Yet it is also necessary. The Wall inevitably would come down, and somehow an Ice Dragon is more satisfying than a magic mark on Bran’s arm or some enchanted horn ushering its collapse.
Inevitably the final battle between Life and Death will be inside the Walls of Winterfell where any of the named characters can and probably will die. Thus the Wall’s destruction is almost a formality. Yet I wonder if this confirms the Night King was waiting for Daenerys to arrive with her dragons during last week’s episode, self-assured that he needs to turn at least one flying lizard into his own mount. We’ll likely never know for sure, but I’m going to choose to believe that, because the Night King has some latent psychic ability, and it just makes him seem much more threatening than the dippy incompetent villain who was just waiting two or three days for a lake to refreeze.
As the Wall falls, we’re also left unsure about the fates of Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion. But it’s an old TV trope logic that if we don’t see a body, they’re alive. How did they survive an ice wall falling on their heads or the tens of thousands of zombies who then marched over them? I enjoyed the episode too much to worry about those plot contrivances right now.
And with that, Game of Thrones completes its journey into the endgame. I genuinely hope that the aforementioned plot contrivances are over. There are no more subplots to wrap up with season 7 leaving the Tyrells, Martells, Tarlys, and Littlefinger in the dustbin of history. The Starks are united, the Lannisters have finally completely imploded, and Cersei is making her final moves to screw over the living by sending sellswords after anyone who survives the Battle of Winterfell.
Benioff and Weiss have been planning this ending for five seasons, so hopefully it will move much more smoothly than season 7. While I thoroughly enjoyed the season, it definitely stumbled more than once as it finished putting together the third act. I described the premiere as having “early third act movie pacing,” in that it was about the deep breath before ice hits the fan in the climax.
Well that ice literally is flying through the air in the final moments of season 7. The end is here. We’ve reached the point where Frodo is at Mt. Doom and Aragorn is charging the Orcs. We’ve at last come to the end of things. Whenever season 8 gets here, hopefully it will be a magnificent conclusion. This season finale was an overall damn fine start.