Death! Sex! Dogs! Dragons!
Being so f***ing stressed out you need to call for a double shot caramel macchiato just to get through dinner!
Yes, somebody brought a sip cup to a quaff party, and although it was quickly photoshopped out, the anachronistic gaffe went around the world faster than dragons can fly across Westeros.
Rather than focus on the misplaced coffee cup as an embarrassing blunder, let’s reframe it as a metaphor for a key theme of this episode.
Clearly, a ton of Very Important Choices were made. After the sturm and drang of last week’s Battle of Winterfell, we returned to the simmering tension of what I call Game of Thrones Classic, or “Grande Flat White” if you’re still talking coffee, in which characters we know and love or know and hate take decisions totally in keeping with or radically against what we expect; and we analyse the fallout.
But I’ve done “choices” and “choosing paths” as themes before, probably loads of times. The whole bloody show is about choices. So this week I wanted to go a bit further, and dive deeper into a scribbled phrase I found in my watch notes:
“What is real?”
I wrote it as Varys told Tyrion he was standing up for the realm, for the millions of people our grand lords and ladies never see but who are just as real and deserve to have their interests considered.
Now it may have just been the rambling scrawls of a mad woman on half a can of Red Bull, but bear with me as I try to explain what I *think* I was thinking when I posed that question to future recappespondent Natalie.
The coffee cup was real, in that it existed in the universe of Game of Thrones. It was there, on the bench. Physically in that world. And yet it wasn’t real, because only we outside the universe observed it. Nobody in the universe did.
Now I’m not a scientist. I always thought “Max Planck” was a gym exercise.
But the somewhat Schrödinger nature of that coffee cup got me thinking - when does information/suspicion/rumour/a state of mind become real?
Was the truth about Jon’s birth real from the moment he discovered it, or the moment Dany discovered it, or the moment he told his family? Did it become real when Sansa broke an oath to tell Tyrion, a man who is in a prime position to potentially do something with the information?
Did Dany’s worrying trend towards madness become real because there was a slight against her in the North, or because she perceived a slight against her?
Was Cersei’s pregnancy real when she told Tyrion about it last season, or when she told Euron about it this episode?
Of course, Jon’s origins were always there. Dany’s rage was always there. Cersei’s pregnancy has been there for a little while, we think. The coffee cup, unfortunately for some poor set dresser, was always there.
But when do they become… REAL?
Based on this concept alone, I’ve come up with a WILD theory about Ghost, but I’ll get to that later.
For now, let us raise our horns and drink to the dead, the living, and the soon-to-be razed from the face of the earth.
S8E4: “The Last of the Starks”
It’s a sombre mood outside Winterfell, where dozens of funeral pyres have been built to cremate the thousands of bodies that fell in the victorious fight against the White Walkers.
Daenerys weeps over the corpse of Ser Jorah Mormont, her first and most loyal adviser and protector. Jorah knew her best; his loss cuts a tie between Dany and clarity of purpose, like the twang of a broken guitar string. She even goes all Lost in Translation and whispers something inaudible to him - whether it was “I’m sorry I friendzoned you” or “I feel like burning all of them instead of you”, it’s hard to say.
Sansa honours Theon’s body by pinning her direwolf brooch onto his chest. It’s a symbol of thanks, but also a recognition that he died a Stark.
Both women rejoin their squads; standing further apart than what you might expect after a battle that should by rights have brought them together. Ghost is also there, looking a tad forlorn with a ripped right ear.
Jon Snow steps forward to deliver a rousing speech, complete with a noticeably deeper timbre to his voice. It’s his Churchill moment; saluting the dead and reminding the living that they can never repay their sacrifice. He says it’s important to remember they put aside their differences to fight and die together, and it’s the survivors’ duty to keep that memory alive, which I’m sure they’ll do and not immediately revert back to hating on each other’s differences.
All of our key characters take torches to light the pyres - seeing the faces of the lost one last time: Sam and last Lord Commander Dolorous Edd; Arya and warrior of light Beric; Jon and the little bear, Lyanna Mormont.
It’s a bleak moment, made even more so by the plumes of thick black smoke that soon cover the castle and surrounds. It’s grief itself, smothering the living and making it hard to think of anything else.
There’s only one thing to do to escape such pungency of mind and nostril...
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999!
Crank up the stereo, it’s time to let a formal group dinner get MESSY.
There’s a hilarious initial shot of the head table, with Sansa and Dany both staring in different directions and giving off chilly vibes, while Jon in the middle awkwardly tries to get a sneaky glance back from the Dragon Queen.
It sets the tone between Sansa and Dany for the whole episode. It’s easy to label this a “fightin’ females” trope, but to give them credit, they’re intelligent women who have simply developed a distrust and dislike of each other.
Women are allowed to not like other women too, while still advocating for women’s advancement overall. I may have an irrational distaste for Keira Knightley, but that doesn’t mean I want to scrag fight everybody with an annoying underbite.
Gendry has cheery conversation with the Hound, who basically accuses him of having a post-battle boner despite the stench of death hanging over everything. The Hound seems to prefer comfort eating, and look, I can dig it. I too have often turned to a bucket of the Colonel’s finest to soothe my soul in troubled times. And frankly I prefer living with the cranky chicken-chewing Hound, rather than finding out if he does indeed do it doggy-style.
Gendry gets up to try to find Arya, but before he can get very far, Dany up and legitimises him, creating Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. Gendry is floored, but accepts the honour - a clever bit of buying loyalty as Dany and Tyrion confirm.
Gendry of course is mad with panic about moving from smithing to lording, so he does the only thing he can think of - runs through a debauched crowd of carousers to find Arya and propose. It’s a sweet, stumbling declaration of love, which only makes Arya’s inevitable rejection all the more painful.
“You’ll be a wonderful lord. Any lady would be lucky to have you. But I’m not a lady. That’s not me,” she says, and like the Simpsons episode in which Lisa dumps Ralph Wiggum on TV, you can pinpoint the moment Gendry’s heart breaks.
Arya of course is not at the celebrations, because she’s a mysterious loner who plays by her own rules.
Tyrion, however, is a people person who likes nothing more than showing off his wit and genius to fellow partygoers, so it’s no surprise seeing him mingling about.
He compliments Bran on the design of his wheelchair; only to have Bran in true creepy style tell him that it’s vintage, a 120-year-old design by a former Targaryen.
Tyrion says Bran’s knowledge will be an asset as Lord of Winterfell, but realises Bran doesn’t want the title. “I don’t want at all anymore,” says Bran, his personality chip now thoroughly replaced by that of a vending machine. “Don’t envy me,” he tells Tyrion. “I live mostly in the past.” Poor Bran. He can’t live a whole life in the present; instead he spends most of his time finding memories that aren’t his own, like digging up a forgotten photo album of your Mum on a Club Med package holiday in the 70s and discovering she sure drank a lot of blue curacao. Like, there’s photographic evidence, but it still doesn’t seem real.
Ser Davos ponders the realness of the Lord of Light, and Melisandre’s role as his acolyte. Given she helped win the war against the Night King, then died, he wonders if R’hllor could be real given he just f***ed off. Tyrion advises against analysis paralysis, but the Onion Knight retorts that he’s not that concerned with being happy.
“Then you’re in luck,” Tyrion drawls, nodding towards the awkward head table. “We may have defeated them, but we still have us to contend with.” Oh, you sweet summer child, how you know nothing.
Tyrion winds up playing his old Never Ever drinking game with Brienne, Jaime and Pod. We first saw him play with Shae and Bronn back in season one during the War of Five Kings, and if I recall correctly, he attempted to get Grey Worm and Missandei to play it with him in Meereen but they were too square. Here though, Jaime gets past Brienne’s no-drinking policy by citing the fairly reasonable excuse that if you can’t get pissed after surviving the end of the world, when can you?
Jon sits easily among people, lords and soldiers and wildlings alike. He perches on the head table swilling wine. He doesn’t mind Tormund Giantsbane grabbing him in a headlock and calling him “little”. He probably wouldn’t mind if I gave him a little buttock squeeze, nothing seedy you understand, just a gesture of “job well done, m’lord”.
Dany is awkwardly stiff and formal, wanting to preserve a level of authority and distance with her new northern people, but also turning green with envy at the way everyone adores Jon.
You couldn’t get more efffusive praise than that heaped on Jon by Tormund Giantsbane. Jon befriended wildlings! He got murdered and came back! He got on the back of a dragon and rode it into battle! What a guy!
You just know Dany is just thinking “You motherf***ers, I’ve been riding dragons for years, they’re MY dragons, I just LET him ride one, and by the way, I lost the other bloody dragon saving YOUR LIFE Tormund you worthless ginger giant-f***er.”
Dany looks around the room and sees her hand Tyrion all warm and brotherly with Jaime - the man who killed her father - and the wildlings all feting Jon, the man with the better claim to the Iron Throne than she. And Sansa’s been doing nothing but death-staring her all evening.
Even when Tormund toasts her victory, it’s hollow, because her counter toast to Arya Stark gets an even louder roar. Dany is still the outsider.
And of a sudden Dany recognises where she is. She’s back in that tent in Vaes Dothrak, back when she ate the horses’ heart and all the Dothraki hailed her and her unborn child. But this time, she’s her brother Viserys, furious that he’s the rightful King and nobody cares.
There are kings and queens on paper of course; but their actions make them real. Viserys was a waste of space; Dany was a true dragon. She freed slaves and stopped oppressors - that was real. But this is the North. They became suspicious of dragons a long time ago, back when Ned Stark’s father and brother were being burned alive. So for the first time in Dany’s life she’s not in the glory spotlight.
It’s no wonder she stalks out of the room, barely noticed by anyone except an ever-watchful Varys. The alternative was to start bawling or screaming, neither of which befits a dragon.
Never-Ever is all fun and games, with the flirting escalating between Jaime and Brienne. Our girl could be GETTING SOME TONIGHT.
But then Tyrion, quite tipsy by this stage, looks deeply into Brienne’s eyes and declares she’s a virgin. If you missed it, Pod took a quiet swig, which was half “oh, awkward” and half “Yeah, I’m totally not a virgin”.
All of that, what would you call it, “fun” that Brienne’s been having, hanging out, being a knight, celebrating being alive, vanishes. Jaime tries to shush Tyrion but he’s insistent. Oh it’s so awkward.
I totally feel you, Brienne. I remember being 12 years old and not knowing the meaning of a phrase some of the more… ahem, “mature” girls in Year 7 were using in an effort to seem adult and worldly. I thought I was getting away with pretending like I knew until Tanya Packer, who famously carved her boyfriend’s initials into her left thigh with a compass, told me I was an idiot and blurted out the definition of this particular intimate act. Well, readers, I blustered and pretended like I *did* know but had been pretending *not* to know, you know, for comedy. Or something. Let’s just say it boggled my mind as I wasn’t aware that, ahem, contact could be made by such means.
Speaking of big mouths, Tyrion’s opened his way too much, and Brienne is embarrassed. She tries to leaves the table, saying she has to relieve herself. Tormund intervenes and makes sexy eyes in her face. She seizes the opportunity to leave, and Tormund watches Jaime take after her. Tyrion tops up Tormund’s horn with a look of “Sorry bro, Tormienne is no more.”
With Jaime following Brienne out of the room, Tormund bemoans his broken heart to the Hound, who just wants to drink in peace. Thankfully Tormund’s attention is captured by a local girl who says she’s not afraid of wildlings. Tormund’s on it like giant’s milk, and away he goes.
But the Hound isn’t interested in local girls - except when Sansa rocks up for a chat. There’s no doubt she impresses him, especially considering she used to cower in fear at the sight of his face. But Sansa’s seen much more of the world; and there’s a moment of shared dark humour when she tells him she had Boo Hiss Ramsay Bolton eaten alive by dogs.
The Hound’s way of dealing with the horror that happened to Sansa is to hold it at arm’s length, saying it wouldn’t have happened if she had left King’s Landing with him during the Battle of the Blackwater. But Sansa has to make it real for him - literally placing her hand on his, she says if it wasn’t for Littlefinger, Ramsay and her other abusers, she would still be his “little bird”.
It’s a brutal yet somehow beautiful reality. Sansa’s girlish nature was naive and idealised; she was “broken” by Joffrey and Ramsay and Littlefinger, but has reformed. She brings to mind kintsugi - the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics by filling the cracks with lacquer and metal. Sansa has mended herself, poured iron into her veins. She’s no little bird anymore; she’ll keep her feet firmly on the ground. Sansa’s a motherf***ing cassowary.
"Hello, I'm the Lady of Winterfell."
Brienne’s back in her room, but her night is only just beginning. Jaime knocks on the door and demands they continue their drinking game, which Brienne rightly corrects him is now just drinking. He questions her a bit about Tormund Giantsbane, and whether he’s grown on her. She gives him a withering look that makes me feel a bit sorry for Tormund, until I remember he’s probably happily moved on. Jaime admits that he sounds somewhat jealous of the wildling leader - and why wouldn’t you be?
Jaime then pulls a classic 1980s teen movie move - “Oh hey, it’s really hot in here, I’ve got to take my coat off”, and look, I’m not hating it. But he can’t untie his shirtlaces properly so Brienne steps in. He then tries to manoeuvre his fleshy hand to undo Brienne’s own shirt, but she stops him and does it herself. Then she takes his shirt off and they face each other, two tall blond knights, hearts bare to each other.
GET. IT. GURRRRL.
I’m not going to lie, I was very into the way Jaime smash-kissed Brienne’s face. Nothing like the release of some long term pent-up sexual tension, phwoar.
Brienne is a virgin no more - but congrats must also go to Jaime Lannister for popping his “finally sleeping with someone who isn’t his sister” cherry.
Later that night, we find Jon nursing a slight headache in his chambers. Or rather, Dany finds him, asking if he’s drunk. He’s fine though. Totally fine.
OK, maybe he’s a little wasted.
Things start to get hot and heavy between the two when Dany tells Jon that Jorah loved her, but she couldn’t love him back the same way. Not the way she loves Jon.
Cue smooshy-facing and NO STOP IT STOP IT RIGHT NOW.
Jon’s into it, because he’s a bit drunk, but then he remembers that she’s his auntie and pulls away. See? Jon’s not that dumb, haters. He can recognise a complicated problem while intoxicated. That’s classy. Shut up.
Dany is so forlorn when she says she wishes Jon hadn’t told her the truth, because then she’d be happy right now. Awww, poor Dany. Jon tries to reassure her that he doesn’t want the throne and she’s his Queen, but she rightly points out that if he tells Sansa and Arya, he will lose control over what happens to the information. Jon’s scrupulously honest; he believes his sisters are too. Dany is more circumspect.
Then she does something she’s never done before. She begs. Begs Jon to stay silent, begs him to keep Bran and Sam quiet, begs him to let her have what she has always believed is hers by right. Jon says they can all live together even if he tells Sansa and Arya - but the room turns cold. Dany says that can only happen if Jon does what she says, and stalks out.
Yes, she’s unravelling a bit, but I think that’s understandable. The whole rug has been pulled out from under her feet, I’d be cranky and depressed too, particularly when you see the real heir apparent being feted like you thought you would be when you came “home”.
But you can’t open half a can of worms, or in this case, half a 23 and Me DNA kit.
A quick aside to cover Bronn’s surprise visit up north - he busts in on Jaime and Tyrion in what appears to be a local pub. Tyrion’s been demanding Jaime give him the goss about Brienne, including a rather crude demand for a description of her, ahem, “Sapphire Isle”. But Jaime’s become a gentleman.
Bronn though, is most definitely not. He’s been offered gold and Riverrun by Cersei to murder her brothers, but ever the opportunist, he wants to see what they can offer in return. To Jaime’s surprise, Tyrion promises Highgarden, also sitting empty since the Tyrell line ended. Jaime insists a cutthroat will never be lord there, but Bronn points out all the great houses owe their fortunes to cutthroats. Not even in the distant past either, he was highborn but there was no throat-cuttier than Tywin Lannister.
This scene alone really should score Jerome Flynn some sort of acting gong. He was flawless; truly the Bronn we grew to love in season one. However it was somewhat anti-climactical as it puts Bronn out of action for whatever happens next: his fighting days are over, he says, just his killing ones left. He’ll find them if and when they win to claim his prize. I hope we see him again.
At the next session of Risk: Westeros, Jon, Grey Worm and Varys move their pieces off and around the board, reflecting the losses taken in last week’s battle, and Cersei’s reinforcements from the Golden Company.
Sansa wants to keep the northern forces at Winterfell for a time, to allow them to rest and get ready for the next fight. Dany is not impressed; but Jon insists the North will honour its pledge and follow her south. It’s a tense moment, and poor Jon is once again in the middle of his sister and his auntie-lover-whatever.
When the meeting is done, Jon is bailed up by Arya, who tells him the family need a word. Cut to the Godswood, the only place the Starks can confer in total privacy; and also the scene where Arya and Bran triumphed over the Night King. It’s their symbolic reminder to Jon of who he is, a Stark, a Stark, forever a Stark, A STARK, JON.
Jon tries in vain to defend Daenarys, and even Arya agrees he did the right thing by bending the knee to bring her army north. But that war is over now, and they don’t trust the outsider.
They’re really closing ranks; it’s either from the trauma inflicted on their family by outside forces, or they’re just getting a little too paranoid about anyone who doesn’t look like them, and as we know from our own histories, that path is never great. Check yourselves, ladies.
Jon has become more of a global thinker, and knows the value of alliances. Arya seems to be calling for a northern exit, a “Nexit” if you will. Last season was all about the lone wolf dying but the pack surviving - now Sansa and Arya seem to have established that the pack only extends to Starks and northerners. “And you Jon, you’re a STARK, you’re our BROTHER, a STARK”, and all the while the awkwardness intensifies.
Jon, being unfailingly honest, knows he’s going to spill the beans, particularly when Bran says “It’s your choice.” There was no choice really, Jon was always going to tell them, and he’s naive enough to think that making his sisters (actually cousins) pinky swear to not pass it on is enough.
I was sad to not see the girls’ reactions - this is a huge moment for them in terms of family identity as well, and it would have been great to see their response.
I understand from a technical perspective we’ve already seen Jon’s reaction, and Dany’s reaction, and there’s probably only so many ways you can play “shocked and trying to process”. Besides it’s not like the girls would have cast Jon aside. The truth doesn’t render their history with him unreal.
Of course what does Sansa do? As she watches Daenarys take Rhaegal and Drogon to the skies, she blabs the whole thing to Tyrion.
Their scene on the battlements was really engaging to watch, particularly Tyrion picking up on the bristling vibes Sansa was giving off, asking her if she was all right. Yes, she broke her oath almost immediately after making it, but she knows the consequences of doing so will be heavy. Keeping oaths is an important thing in Westeros - Brienne named her sword after it.
Yes, Sansa is playing politics hard, but she’s broken her oath not just because she’s a cold bitch who hates Dany, but because she does believe it’s right. It’s telling she chose to pass the information to Tyrion, once a former hated husband, now the only person who can really do something productive with the information.
At least we get to see Tyrion’s reaction, or part of it, as he bemoans the situation to Varys on the boat back to Dragonstone. Twenty-odd years of murder all because Robert Baratheon loved Lyanna Stark, but she didn’t love him back. We as viewers have known this for a couple of seasons, but seeing Tyrion grapple with it gave the sheer tragedy of it a new weight and texture, like an extra-large chilli-flavoured Chupa Chup shoved in your gob.
Varys, ever the pragmatist, doesn’t have an emotional reaction. Eight people now know about this truth, which makes it very much real. The question now is how to proceed once the information gets out there.
Tyrion repeats what Jon told Dany - that he doesn’t want the Iron Throne. Varys repeats what Dany told Jon - that it doesn’t matter what he wants. The North and the Vale will rally behind Jon; his better claim to the throne and charismatic nature might see the whole realm rally to him.
Tyrion suggests they marry and rule together, and Varys finally says aloud what nobody has said yet except for me, loudly and often: SHE’S. HIS. AUNTIE.
Tyrion half-heartedly tries the old “Targaryens married each other” line, but Varys points out that’s not the way things go down up north. He also asks Tyrion whether the Queen would want to share the throne, and we see on Tyrion’s face that it’s about as likely as me attending a 6am gym class.
The boats approach the island, and Daenarys flies overhead, enjoying a rare carefree moment as her giant scaly airborne babies soar through the blue skies.
Rhaegal is speared through the heart.
Another spear, through his left wing.
A final spear, skewering his neck, sending cascades of blood through the air.
The dragon is done for, and with Dany watching in horror, crashes into the sea near Varys & Tyrion’s ship. They run to deck to see what’s going on; Grey Worm tells Missandei to get in a skiff
Surprise! It’s Euron and the Bad Greyjoy Fleet, hiding very conveniently being a rocky outcrop. The ships are all stocked with ballistas, and one by one they fire off at Dany and Drogon.
Dany turns her remaining child onto Euron’s ships and begins a divebomb the Dam Busters would be proud of. Euron has the decency to look slightly freaked out before readying his ballista again (ooer). But Dany pulls out of the dive, and flies Drogon out of harm’s way.
See! This is progress! She had an understand emotional reaction and let her rage take control, but then she grabbed it back! All is not yet lost for our Mother of Dragons… um, Mother of Dragon.
Euron then turns his guns on the fleet itself, pounding it harder than he pounded Cersei - oh that’s a bit unnecessary, Natalie.
There’s some Star Trek acting from Grey Worm as spears through his ship off kilter; and I loved how Tyrion saw the writing on the wall, and decided to take his chances by jumping overboard. He seemed in danger when a mast fell on his head; but no, they went to black then cut to Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm and a bunch of other soldiers washing up on a Dragonstone beach.
There’s no clue given as to how Varys got out alive, but more importantly, Grey Worm cannot find Missandei. She had run to a lifeboat, but it turns out Euron’s forces grabbed it. She might have been better off finding a piece of a wooden door and using that to keep buoyant.
Before we move into Ultimate Girl Boss Battle mode, a few Winterfell things to tie up.
First was Arya joining the Hound to ride south to King’s Landing. Two lone wolves, forming a pack. We saw no goodbye between Arya and Sansa or Bran; just her agreeing with Sandor Clegane that she had no intention of returning. Both Arya and the Hound have been chasing death for years now; staying alive just to deliver it upon their enemies. She doesn’t want to be the Hero of Winterfell, or a great Lady.
Arya had the chance to reject ta life of death and go with Gendry; but it’s the only reality she knows, and she’s comfortable in it. She may have reclaimed her name, but she is still a Faceless Man. The downside may be once her list is completely checked off it might all be over. But at least Arya will have accomplished what she promised to do in the moment her father’s head was parted from his body.
As for the Hound - Clegane Bowl 2019, baby.
Then we saw a progression of goodbyes for Jon Snow, as he saddled up to ride south with Davos and the rest of the forces to support Daenerys.
Sam and Gilly bid a fond farewell - they seem fairly settled at Winterfell. Jon embraces Gilly and realises she’s sporting a tell-tale baby bump. It turns out the nights were long and boring at the Citadel, so Sam and Gilly got busy. Gilly declares they want to name the child Jon if it’s a boy; and Jon counters that he hopes it’s a girl. Nawwww. How can people hate on my beloved when he says charming things like that?
It feels very final as he hugs Sam goodbye and Sam tells him Jon was his very best friend. I hope we see Sam again and Gilly again, but if this is it, well I’m happy enough. They’re alive, they love each other, they have a family. They represent real hope for the next summer, and that’s a nice reminder to Jon what he’s fighting for.
Tormund declares he plans to take the Free Folk back up to the north once the winter snows clear, because they’ve all had enough of the south - and besides, the women here mysteriously don’t seem to like giant ginger milk-swilling bruisers.
Jon then asks Tormund to take Ghost with him because he belongs in the true north - and only gives him a nod goodbye.
Given this weirdness, and in the context of asking “What is real?”, I have an alternative and slightly wild theory about Ghost.
I put it to you that Ghost…
...WAS NEVER THERE.
That’s right, I’m Sixth Sensing this bitch.
My theory runs that Ghost died just after Jon Snow came back to life at the start of Season 6. Jon apparently kept him out of the Battle of the Bastards for his safety because of what happened to Shaggy Dog. But nobody really asked him to put Ghost in; perhaps it was a flight of fancy and a way of justifying to himself why Ghost wasn’t there.
If that’s too far-fetched, then perhaps Ghost died during the charge of the Dothraki in last week’s battle.
Think about it. Nobody really noticed Ghost lately; in the opening scene of this episode where they burned the dead he was just standing there.
Jon asks Tormund to take Ghost with him back to the real North because as a direwolf he’ll be happier up there. But Tormund doesn’t say yes, he just says “So would you”. What if Tormund (and by extension, everyone else) was just humouring Jon? Saying “Yes of course Jon, your imaginary dog friend is lovely”?
Perhaps the reason Jon didn’t give Ghost a goodbye pat was because in his heart he knew that Ghost was already gone, and he was finally making peace with it. After all, why wouldn’t Ghost have run after his master? I’d run after Jon Snow no matter where he tried to send me, despite all of his questionable decisions. Sigh.
The reason I have had to concoct this elaborate story is that I CANNOT believe my beloved Jon Snow, noble, kind-hearted Jon Snow, would leave Winterfell, possibly forever, without at least giving his faithful doggo a scritch. That CANNOT be real.
Sure, you might say they’re writing Ghost out because it’s difficult and expensive CGI, and it would take more work for Jon to actually make contact with him, but I say BOLLOCKS. The doggie deserved PATS.
But At least now we can create a new dream for ourselves - a spin-off series called “Tormund & Ghost”!
Does anybody remember that fantastic 1990s dramedy Due South, which featured an upright, do-gooder and somewhat hot Canadian mountie and his white wolf who move to Chicago to fight crime?
I envisage that, but with more drinking and f***ing.
Let’s head to King’s Landing. Cersei has opened the gates of the Red Keep, letting her people flood into the stronghold for safety from the impending invasion of the Dragon Queen. Qyburn’s obviously had his Himmler hat on, because the propaganda war is raging and Cersei is coming across as... nice.
There’s another big time jump here; Euron is already back by Cersei’s side, bragging about killing Rhaegal. Cersei finds it way more of a turn-on than Euron himself, particularly when he tries to touch her. Sooooo fishy.
Cersei tells Euron that the lion will rule the land and the kraken the sea, and OUR CHILD will one day rule them all. Euron’s impressed his swimmers hit their target so quickly, and a nod from Qyburn confirms diagnosis: tuna bun in oven. He warns her Daenarys is coming for her, but Cersei already knows, and she’s grateful for her bargaining chip - a re-chained Missandei. “So much for the Breaker of Chains,” she sasses as she flounces out of the room.
Back on Dragonstone, Dany is pissed. Grey Worm is too, and suggests they run in and burn the whole bally lot of King’s Landing.
But Varys fulfils a promise he made to Daenerys when he first entered her service - that he would look her in the face and tell her if he thought she was making a mistake. He tells her that thousands of innocents will die if she directly attacks King’s Landing.
Dany is indignant: her child died, Missandei was taken, can Varys not understand the need for urgent action?
He begs her: “Do not destroy the city you came to save. Do not become what you have always struggled to defeat.”
That last line has a double meaning. It refers in the first instance to not becoming a tyrant like Cersei. But it’s also a plea for Dany not to give in to the rage and madness that she knows stirs within her, as it did in her brother and her father before her.
Dany responds with a speech about fulfilling her destiny to free the world from tyrants - and by gum, if she has to burn down every city and lock up every remaining person on Westeros until they understand how she’s freeing them, so be it. Just call her the Great Emancipator.
At least she agrees to Tyrion’s suggestion that while they wait for Jon and Davos to arrive with reinforcements that she offer Cersei the chance to surrender. She won’t, of course, but at least the people will know whom to blame when the sky falls in on them.
This prompts another Tyrion/Varys chat, in which Tyrion expressed concern they’re talking treason, and yet they don’t make an effort to leave the throne room in which they’ve gathered. Maybe the best place to have your quiet rebellious talks is in plain sight.
Tyrion is so weary and yet Varys’ mind is crystal clear. When he says “Who do you think would be better?”, Tyrion pauses and then answers “He doesn’t want it”. Tyrion KNOWS Jon is a better idea, but he’s thrown his lot in with his queen, she really does seem to be destined for greatness
But Varys is becoming more insistent that Dany is a risk to the realm. He’s not keen on Tyrion’s repeated suggestion of a marriage, saying Dany is too strong for Jon. It’d be like a Hyacinth Bucket situation.
Varys is clear - he will act to protect the realm, protect the people, the ones who are just as real as he and Tyrion and deserve food and safety. He finishes off by going a little bit 900-year-old knight from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
“We both have choices ahead of us. I pray we choose… wisely.”
Varys hopes, at any rate.
They’re both at Daenerys’ side when she and her worryingly small company of Unsullied soldiers turn up outside the gates of King’s Landing. It’s somewhat confusing geographically as they would have had to sail to Blackwater Bay and then march around the walls to the land gate… but once again the beauty of TV means never having to show the awkward transition bits.
It’s a stand-off worthy of a Western, as Cersei holds Missandei hostage on the battlements, a dozen or more ballistas ready to strike should Drogon move. The dragon himself is hiding up the back, just out of firing range.
The gates open and Qyburn walks out to parly with Tyrion. Two Hands of two Queens coming together - but no shaking to be had.
Both demand the other side’s immediate surrender; that much was expected. Both have reasons why the other should be fearful; Dany’s forces are weakened, while Cersei has innocent lies to protect. There’s a brilliant moment when Tyrion says he doesn’t want to hear children burning alive, and Qyburn’s like “Yeah, it’s not a pleasant sound,” and Tyrion’s like “DUDE what did I JUST SAY? I don’t want to hear it, bro” because you just know Qyburn’s been Mengeling his way through creepy experiments ever since seeing that dead hand burn in the dragon pits.
Anyway, Tyrion eventually thinks blow this, and marches up to address Cersei directly. Her archers nock their bows, and it’s within Cersei’s power to rain death down on her hated little ‘bro once and for all.
But once again, she squibs it. She cannot resist Tyrion’s big sad puppy eyes. Those two really have a weakness for each other, despite their mutual blinding hatred. Tyrion tries to reason with Cersei, saying her reign is over but her life doesn’t have to be. He then totally snookers her by declaring she should give up to save her child. Tyrion doesn’t know it of course, but she’s only just told Euron she’s up the duff and it’s his. He’s standing right there - surely he must wonder how this enemy knows about Cersei’s pregnancy when it’s still just a rumour on the front of the King's Landing tabloids?
I think this is part of the reason behind Cersei’s next move. She and Tyrion have always had this thing about destroying people the other loves. Sure, Missandei’s Grey Worm’s girl, but she’s also Dany’s dearest companion, and Cersei would hazard a guess on how hurting her will inflame the Dragon Queen’s temper. She knows that won’t be good for Tyrion as her adviser.
Of course the other reason Cersei chooses to have Missandei killed is that she’s just a sadistic psychopath who takes pleasure in murder.
Missandei does, however, bring it when it comes to final words. “Dracarys,” she shouts, her voice ringing out over the plain. We may not be the linguist Missandei was, but we all understood that was the biggest “F*** You” she could have given. That was her cutting the ribbon on Dany’s path of retribution.
Missandei’s death at the sword of Gregor Clegane is not just devastating because of her character, but because of the symbolic way in which she died - in chains. Missandei was the very first slave Dany freed, back in Astapor, just before her hero moment freeing the Unsullied. For her to die in chains represents an attack on Dany’s basic ideals of freedom for all.
And hoooooooo boy, Dany is pissed. Grey Worm is devastated, of course, and I’m sure will unleash the power of a fully operational, junkless, bereaved lover next week.
But more importantly is what hangs in the balance: Dany’s self-control. She has lost another cool-headed restraint, and she already seemed less and less interested in Tyrion and Varys’ advice. As he turns away from Missandei's decapitated corpse, Tyrion knows Daenerys is at a point of no return
Her tendency to madness has been drip-fed for many seasons now, intensifying as her goal of taking the Iron Throne got closer and closer. The one person who may be calming now - Jon Snow - is technically part of her problem, AND he’s still on the King’s Road, nowhere near.
So a theoretical quandary pondered over by Varys and Tyrion all episode has become critically real. Their Queen is unhinged, and we don’t know whether she still has that ability, as she did with Drogon, to pull herself back.
And so with apologies to Tears for Fears, or perhaps more accurately, Gary Jules’ Donnie Darko version, let’s delve deep into a mad world:
All around me are these Northern faces
Fireplaces and big embraces
I would think that in such joyful cases
They would love me, but they don’t love me
Cheap wine is filling up their glasses
My impression? Passive-aggression
Bite my tongue, I feel like bro Viserys
But I’m Daenarys, Queen Daenarys
And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The nephew sex with Jon Snow was the best I’ve ever had
But now he wants to tell them
The secret of his birth
You won’t like me when I’m angry
‘Cause I could become a… Mad Queen
Jon kept peace between me and his sisters
As we were planning, to take King’s Landing
But Euron ambushed me with his ballistas
Shot my Rhaegal, it was fatal
Turned up to demand Cersei surrender
She looks smarmy, at my small army
Doesn’t listen to Tyrion’s pleading
Sucky plan, hey
And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
I thought my Iron Throne claim pretty f***ing ironclad
I know there will be victims
But I’m out of f***s to give
So I might just burn the city
If I do become a… Mad Queen
It’s in the genes
Yay! Best Moments
I’m going to court controversy here and say I loved Jaime’s leaving of Winterfell. I’ve seen some people angry that Jaime’s “ditching” Brienne to go be with Cersei, his real love, but I didn’t take that from it at all.
There was Jaime, staying in the north to help Brienne protect Sansa, almost having a happy families moment for the first time in his life. But then came the news that Cersei had ambushed Daenarys and killed Rhaegal. Suddenly Jaime’s past caught right back up with him. Remember, he travelled north to fulfil an oath, to fight with the living against the dead. He did that - but it hasn’t erased the sins of his past.
It prompts a personal reckoning that was just beautifully played. Jaime goes to leave in the middle of the night, but Brienne catches him. She pleads with him to stay, that he’s not the same as his sister, that he’s a good man. But how can he be? Jaime lists his litany of crimes, all done for Cersei. “She’s hateful… and so am I.” This was not a declaration of love for Cersei, but a self-esteem imploding. Jaime realises he has yet to atone for his own crimes, not to mention his sister’s.
He rides off, once again to the fight. Brienne is left in tears. She has always been a vulnerable character; there’s always been hurt just behind her eyes. The beauty of her character has been in the way she suppresses that vulnerability, that deep desire to be accepted for who she is. Finally she let herself be real with someone, but it could not last. I thought it was a terrific moment, and leaves us with many options in coming episodes - Jaime dies killing Cersei, Brienne going after him, they both die, they both survive. I am more invested in them now than ever before.
Also - Pod totally got picked up by two sexy girls for sexy times. The legend grows...
Zing! Best Lines
Tormund keeping it real:
Jon: Vomiting isn’t celebrating.
Tormund: Yes it is.
...and Varys and Tyrion bringing home some political realness:
Varys: She doesn’t like to have her authority questioned.
Tyrion: Something she has in common with every monarch who ever lived.
Varys: I worry about her state of mind.
Tyrion: We are her advisers. Worrying about her state of mind is our job.
Missandei’s death was brutal and shocking, if not unexpected. That Zombie Mountain has it coming BAD.
A final bit of pondering for this week.
I normally try to avoid social media chatter about each episode because I want to keep my reactions genuinely honest, and I would hate for any readers to think I was copying or was influenced by any of the multitude of other recaps/reviews/opinion pieces/hot takes out there.
However this week it’s been somewhat difficult to avoid a lot of feedback describing this as a terrible episode, one of the worst, an insult to George R.R. Martin’s world, all that sort of stuff.
For those critical of the episode, my coffee cup metaphor becomes a small f***-up symbolically representing a larger one.
Winding up a popular TV show like this was never going to attract universal praise.
In terms of my recaps, I try to come at it from an inside-the-story perspective.
I am disappointed in the treatment of Ghost, and I wish we’d seen the Stark girls’ reaction to Jon’s true status.
I don’t *really* care if the death of Rhaegal was slightly ham-fisted: frankly I was expecting a second dragon to die in the Battle of Winterfell, so if anything this upended that expectation for me.
But I write first and foremost as a tragic fangirl, and I do believe most of what we saw happen had justification from earlier seasons and generally makes logical sense within the world.
This is how the producers are working towards their ending; this is what I’m experiencing and recapping.
I’m very happy to turn a more critical eye on proceedings, but I will probably wait to do that until the season is over. We are right in the middle of it, we know not what is coming our way in the final two episodes. I believe I shall hold any full, harsh judgement until then - that's just my way of keeping it real.
Thank you once again for reading, my beloved Throners!
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