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Raven On Recap: GoT S8E5 "The Bells"

Posted May 15 into Raven On by girlclumsy

Throners.

Beloved Throners.

I have said many things about Game of Thrones.

This is the one thing I never thought I would say.

It goes against every fibre of my being.

Bear witness to this moment.

*Draws a deep breath*

FOR F***’S SAKE JON SNOW, YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST HAD THE GODDAMNED SEX WITH YOUR GODDAMNED AUNTIE.

Seriously, dude, tens of thousands of people had to BURN because Jon Snow couldn’t get his Jon Thomas to rise to the occasion? Because he couldn’t lie back and think of Westeros?

You even SAID “She shouldn’t be alone” and then you TURNED HER DOWN when she NEEDED SOME LOVIN’ because of your PRINCIPLES and seven hells just DO THE INCEST and MAYBE WE WOULDN’T BE IN THIS MESS.

There’s one episode to go, Jon, and quite frankly - I’m starting to think you make some dumb decisions.

And also, while I’m at it, WHAT THE F*** JAIME LANNISTER?!

I backed you last week. I said you left Brienne because your self-esteem had crashed and you had to go kill Cersei, or at least stop her path of destruction. I SUPPORTED YOU when others were saying you were TRASH because you ROOTED & SCOOTED. I had your back, Kingslayer, and you repay me with the most mystifying change of mind since Bran became the Three-Eyed Raven.

I mean SURE, it kind of fulfils the Valonqar prophecy in that he is Cersei’s younger brother by several minutes, and he did wrap his hands around her throat as the life was squeezed out of them both by falling rocks. And SURE, it was bleakly poetic that these two moral vacuums should find each other again in time for the world to literally cave in on them.

But all that self-betterment Jaime did! All those self-help books and personal improvement courses and mantras on cassette! Awaken the Giant Within? Only if by “giant” you mean “Gormless Incest Addict with Neutered Testicles”.

I’m so disappointed in you, Jaime. You had a chance to let Cersei suffer for her crimes, turn a new leaf, and do good with Ser Brienne for the rest of your days. Instead you let yourself slip back into that freaky weird folie à deux with your sister.

Congratulations. You’re basically Fred & Rose Westeros.

These all-too-familial relationships - one concluded, one further complicated - brought me to mind of another power couple, also distantly related.

American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour as “a day that will live in infamy”, and for certain, Daenerys Targaryen created one of those in this episode.

But he’s even more famous for his 1933 inaugural speech in which he declared that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. In this episode, Dany turned her own fear of being alone into fear itself, expelling her pain outwards in a blaze of annihilation.

Was the Targaryen coin flipped by madness, by genetic inheritance?

Perhaps more insight can be gained from FDR’s rather more clever wife (and cousin!), Eleanor, who had lots of wise words about personal development, including:

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

I’ve been blaming Jon for not giving Daenerys a right royal seeing to as the reason behind her flip into the most vicious roaster since Don Rickles. But that’s not entirely fair.

Queen Daenerys had been f***ed over. And she chose to f*** back.

That’s on her.

Jaime saw another way to live, free from his sister’s grip. He chose to grip her back.

That’s on him.

In terms of characters acting, well, out of character - those were stories we wrote in our own heads, narratives we created. Ultimately we want redemption arcs, we want people we like to turn to the light, we want there to be satisfying paybacks and victories.

We want a lot of things in life we don't get.

There is much to discuss, Throners, so let’s fire up the… oh, yikes, too soon.

S8E5: “The Bells”

The drama was present from the first frame of the episode, but the real fury was unleashed in the second half, so let’s establish where all of our key players were before hell literally broke loose.

Varys can be seen penning letters revealing the truth about Jon Snow’s heritage. I felt a little flash of something when I saw the name “Eddard Stark” glint in the candlelight. How long ago that feels. Back then, Varys’ motivations confused me. He was a spymaster and chief conspirer; when he visited Ned Stark in the Black Cells, I could never quite believe him when he said he served the realm. Now, he seems to be the only true champion of the people’s interests.

A servant girl updates him on Daenerys’ physical state - she won’t see anyone, she’s not eating, probably not bathing, eyebags for days, a real hot mess. Varys tells her they will try again tomorrow, and reminds her that the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Does that point to him attempting to quietly assassinate her on Dragonstone, before she can carry out her assault on King’s Landing?

Jon Snow arrives to report on the progress on the Northern forces, but Varys isn’t wasting time with troop movements. He springs the idea of ruling on Jon, who realises his secret has got out. Varys is confident Jon’s coin has flipped on the side of “good guy”, but Jon isn’t having it. “She is my Queen,” he says, shutting down discussion. Jon keeps saying he doesn’t want the Throne, but my sad beloved is already wearing a very heavy invisible crown.

Tyrion goes in to see Dany in the tabletop gaming room, where she appears to be calculating a version of Cards Against Humanity in her head.

She knows someone has betrayed her, but Tyrion is surprised when she says it was Jon. He counters with Varys, but she says he’s at the back end of a human centipede of whispers that began with the former King in the North.

Tyrion says it was right for he and Varys to know that information to protect Dany. However, Dany says they’ve just played into Sansa’s hands - she trusted Tyrion wouldn’t keep his trap shut and Dany will pay the price for it. Tyrion knows he’s screwed up, but uses the phrase “Our intentions were good”. We all know what road good intentions pave.

Grey Worm and two Unsullied guards come for Varys that night, as he writes more letters by candlelight. He burns the most recent one, but one wonders whether he got any out. And who would he send them to? There are big power gaps all around the seven kingdoms.

I liked the touch of Varys taking off his two rings, leaving them behind in a bowl. I have no idea of the rings’ significance - as far as my memory goes, they’ve never been a particular focus of his character. But as a gesture of “the end is nigh, no point letting these be wasted”, it was well-placed.

Tyrion confesses to Varys it was he who outed him to Dany. Varys is not upset; he rolled his dice and got snake eyes. After so many successful outings at the craps table that is Westerosi politics, he had to bust out eventually.

“I hope I’m wrong. I hope I deserve this,” he tells Tyrion with a tone of voice that suggests he doesn’t think he’s wrong at all. Tyrion looks genuinely miserable as he gives his friend and long-time intellectual sparring partner a pat goodbye.

“Power resides where men believe it resides,” was perhaps Varys’ most famous rejoinder - indeed, he said it to Jon Snow earlier that day.

Dany believes the power lies with her, and with Drogon looming out of the blackness, it seems this time she is right. “Dracarys,” she orders coldly, and the Spider is no more.

Vale Varys, technically not a Lord, but worthy of the title nonetheless.

There’s a moment where Jon Snow looks at his Queen, and for the first time, a flash of fear runs across his beautiful face. Oh Jon, I would never make you scared. I mean, as long as you don’t count the now eight years of constant stalking and inappropriate references to what I would do to you should I get you alone.


"Hmm, maybe the Mother of Kittens is a better option."

Dany gives Grey Worm Missandei’s slave collar, the only possession she kept with her when Team Targaryen crossed the Narrow Sea. But Grey Worm tosses it on the fire. He doesn’t want a reminder of his loss; Missandei was his “weakness”, remember? Now she’s gone, he needs to resume peak humano-droid-killer-bot status.

Jon Snow rocks up, and there’s an interesting moment in the subtitles where “Grey Worm” is not translated from Valyrian, but rather spelled out as “Torgo Nudho”. It doesn’t feel like a coffee-cup-esque mistake, so is it reinforcing his return to a more Essosian state?

Torgo Nudho leaves Dany alone with Jon Snow, who once again vehemently denies he wants anything to do with the Iron Throne. Dany says his sister Sansa killed Varys just as much as she did by breaking her oath to Jon; and now the Lady of Winterfell knows what happens to people who try to act on the truth about Dany.

Dany’s eyes are in raw blinkless crazy mode as she declares there is no love for her in Westeros, only fear. “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go and eat Grey Worm” - which is frankly inappropriate so soon after Missandei’s death and also physically impossible.

“I love you. You’ll always be my Queen,” declares Jon, slightly avoiding eye contact. Dany rises from her chair, and asks if that’s all she is to him, his Queen. She goes in for another snog, but Jon once again pulls away.

“All right then,” she says. “Let it be fear.”

Frustratingly, the camera cuts away from the conversation we should have seen, which was Jon telling Dany he’s just a bit weirded out because she’s his aunt and everything, and while he very much WANTS to ride the dragon again, he needs some time to work around the ethical quandaries in his head, having grown up in the non-incestuous North and all that. And then Dany might have said, oh, OK, well it’s super normie for us Targaryens, so I’m ready to bust your nuts as soon as you realise I’m a cool aunt, like, a punk rock aunt, not some fuddy duddy who used to make you cookies as a kid or whatever, and also, I’m feeling particularly isolated right now, and you’re in a prime position to help a gal out, with all due consent of course, I’m not a monster.

In the Dragonstone throne room, Tyrion begs Dany on behalf of the thousands of innocent residents of King’s Landing who will die if she burns the city. He compares them to the slaves of Meereen, but Dany says they rose up against their tyrant overlords, so is it her fault that the people of King’s Landing are too dopey to do the same? Tyrion’s like, bitch please, they’re scared and Dany’s like I know you are, but what am I.

Dany then launches into a worryingly Bond villain-esque speech about how Cersei thinks her mercy is weakness, but it’s actually strength, because Dany is showing sympathy for future generations by wiping out the possibility of future tyrants.

And to be fair, you can’t be held hostage by a tyrant if you don’t actually exist. That’s just basic maths.

As Dany tells Grey Worm to sail the Unsullied to King’s Landing to join the Northern forces for battle, Tyrion panics. He pleads with his Queen to call off the attack should the people turn on Cersei, ring the bells and open the gates. “Give them that chance,” he begs. Dany considers, and eventually nods her consent.

As he leaves, Dany surprises Tyrion with the news that Jaime has been caught trying to cross Targaryen lines to get back to Cersei. “The next time you fail me will be the last time you fail me,” she warns him. Tyrion is in divided loyalty territory now.

The next morning, Tyrion and Jon take a tender back to their forces’ encampment at the base of the cliffs outside the capital. There they are, two little men in a boat, neither able to find their Queen’s sweet spot.

Ser Davos tells them on landing that the rearguard will arrive by daybreak. Tyrion says the Queen wants to attack now, but Jon shows some backbone and declares daybreak at the earliest.

Tyrion asks Ser Davos Seaworth for a favour, something that will call on his smuggling skills. The Onion Knight knows he’s not going to like whatever it is.

That night, Tyrion goes to see Jaime, and there’s a brief moment of levity as he tries to speak Valyrian to the Unsullied soldiers guarding his brother. “We speak the common tongue,” one eventually says with perfect deadpan timing. Clearly the Unsullied are also trained in the speaking style of comedian Steven Wright along with the baby-killing and nads-removing.

Jaime and Tyrion’s final scene together was heartbreakingly good, full of the idiosyncrasies that made us love both of these characters. Tyrion is clever, Jaime is arrogant, both of them love with full hearts - even if it’s somewhat misplaced (particularly in Jaime’s case). In the end, Tyrion accepts that Jaime has resolved to be with Cersei, whether it’s in life or death. He pleads with his brother to make it life, and will help him escape as long as he convinces Cersei to leave with him by boat and sail away to a new life.


"You can sail, you can sail, with the Orinoco flow..."

It’s another insurance policy for Tyrion - he feels he can trust Jaime to order the Lannister troops to stand down, and to ring the bells and save a bloodbath. “Your Queen will execute you for this,” Jaime responds, but Tyrion thinks the life of tens of thousands of innocents is a fair trade for one not-so-innocent dwarf. He may be small, but in this moment Tyrion towers over everyone else in the land.

The pair embrace for what they seem to know will be the final time, with Tyrion breaking down in tears. He credits Jaime with being his only friend, for helping him survive a childhood his father and sister would rather he didn’t. The impending loss of that brotherly connection is more than Tyrion can bear. We talk a lot about Daenerys’ increasing isolation, but Tyrion is also losing friends faster than James Charles post Tati Westbrook call-out.


Unless you also spend your internet time in the black hole of beauty YouTube.

The morning in King’s Landing opens with a shot of the bell tower, the one Tyrion hopes will sound out the news of Dany’s victory in time to save the city a fate worse than death. The last time we saw a bell on Game of Thrones, it was the one from the Sept of Baelor, exploding out onto the street in a cloud of wildfire, crushing several peasants below. One can’t help wonder whether this bell will ring for liberation, or also be unexpectedly complicit in disaster.

We’ve already seen some short establishing shots of the city getting ready for invasion, with smallfolk flooding into the gates, including a mother and her daughter, holding onto a white horse toy for security.

The Hound and Arya, who rode confidently past the Lannister forces to get into King’s Landing, now join the human tide flowing towards the Red Keep, the ultimate stronghold. A newly escaped Jaime is there too, covering his face and hand in an effort to stave off further unwanted questions. But it turns out this time, nobody will care.

The cinematography in this episode is superlative, and not just in the battle sequences we are about to witness; but here, capturing the movement of soldiers into defensive positions, as well as the mad panic of civilians unprepared for what’s about to happen. The last time the city was sacked properly (Stannis having failed at the Battle of Blackwater Bay) was when Tywin Lannister marched his army in during the fall of Dany’s father, Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King. That was nearly a generation ago, so for many people they will be new to the sheer terror of a city-wide freak out, making it all the more intense.

Plus this time there’s a dragon - which makes all that closing of wooden shutters and doors somewhat pathetic.

The Golden Company march out to form the first line of defence at the northern gate, Harry Strickland sitting confidently atop a white horse out front, not even bothering with a helmet. They face the northern forces, the Stark rearguard forming in place, as Tyrion, Jon and Davos keep watch.

Tyrion reminds Jon that the sound of bells means a surrender, and to call off his men. Jon nods. Ever the reluctant conqueror, he would wish to avoid as much bloodspill as possible.

At the Red Keep, The Hound and Arya just make it inside before the gates close, pushing aside that mother and daughter the show has chosen to be our point of view inside the civilian population. They escape to the side before the crowd surges in against the doors, bringing to mind horrible images from the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.

Jaime tries revealing his hand, but luck is not on his side, and no Lannister soldiers recognise him. He flees the crowd to find a back way into the Red Keep.

Out on the Bay, the Iron Fleet watches the sky, Scorpions at the ready. It’s quiet.

A little too quiet.

Something stirs in the clouds high above. Euron tries to shield his eyes from the sun, but this time conditions are batting for Dany. Both she and Drogon have learned from the mistakes that saw Rhaegal taken out, and they are not inclined to repeat them.

Taking her cues from early airborne dogfighters, Dany dive bombs with the sun at her back, making it difficult for the Iron Fleet to get clear shots with their ballistas. Euron orders them to reload, turn and fire again, but it’s no use, the dragon is too close, and Dany is able to dodge. Drogon lets loose the first of what will be many streams of terror breath, then repeats and repeats.

From the aerial shot, there looked like dozens of Iron Fleet ships in the Bay; despite the Iron Islands famous lack of trees. Drogon burns them all.

Dany’s usual triumphant burning music underscores the scene, but in a different key; it is discordant, darker, building a more menacing tone as she heads towards the Lannister defences on the seaside of the Red Keep. Dany keeps Drogon close to the water, long enough for the Scorpions to be pointed low; she then breaks upwards as they fire. The Lannisters don’t have enough time to reload. Drogon burns them all.

All is quiet on the northern front; the Golden Company and Stark/Unsullied/Dothraki forces staring out at each other, waiting for some sort of sign.

Dany told Grey Worm to wait for her signal to attack; he would know when it was time. He steps forward; sensing it isn’t long now.

And something changes in the air.

The Golden Company soldiers feel it, and start to look around. Fear creeps over Harry Strickland’s face.

The gates blow out behind them, shattering stone all over the fancy mercenary army. Strickland’s horse is blown out from under him, landing twisted on the ground.

Grey Worm and the Unsullied charge forward; knowing the nightmarish inferno is probably the sign they were waiting for. Harry Strickland manages to get up as his soldiers burn, but turns to run back towards the blaze as a horde of Dothraki screamers bears down upon him. But it’s Grey Worm who ultimately dispatches Strickland with a spear through the back. Vale, Harry Strickland, you had about three lines in your minor appearances so late in the game.

Sidebar: seeing so many Dothraki was something of a shock, was it not? I thought they had all been taken out in the first charge against the White Walkers during the Battle of Winterfell. Nevertheless, there’s enough here to make a terrifying push into the streets of King’s Landing, their arakhs sweeping Great Grass Sea-style justice through the capital.

The Stark men follow suit, while Dany and Drogon burn the remaining Golden Company members outside the gate, and take out all the Scorpions stationed on the battlements, as well as most of the battlements themselves. We can see Tyrion picking a trail through mounds of bodies.

Watching over all of this from the top of the Red Keep is Cersei, resplendent in red velvet and golden armour. She’s a picture of ill-placed confidence, determined this is not her day to die.

Cersei: We just need one good shot.
Qyburn: Ummm, so yeah, about that. The Scorpions have all been burned.
Cersei: Well, Euron took down Rhaegal, he can do that again.
Qyburn: Hooo boy, so the thing is, the Iron Fleet is f***ed. And like, the Golden Company is mega-f***ed.
Cersei: Pffft, they were just dodgy sellswords and I wasn’t even gonna pay them anyway. Glad they’re dead. Now our fine fighting Lannister boys can get the job done!
Qyburn:

Grey Worm leads Jon Snow, Davos Seaworth and a phalanx of troops towards the Lannister army, and soon the two sides are facing off against each other across an intersection in front of the bell tower.

The leadership group move to the front, and the two sides stare each other down. It’s a callback to season one, to that moment Jaime confronted Ned about Catelyn capturing Tyrion outside Littlefinger’s brothel, when the wolves and lions brawled in the streets. Here they are again, Starks and Lannisters, but this time it’s on a macro scale.

Dany lands Drogon atop a turret on the northern wall of the city, the dragon seemingly inexhaustible despite pumping more napalm into the atmosphere than Richard Nixon.

For a moment, there is silence, the score ceases. The Lannister men throw down their swords; a surrender.

Tyrion can see the bell tower in front of him, and Dany on Drogon up to his right on the city walls.

“Ring the bells!” comes the distant cry, as someone, somewhere, tries to get through to the ropes of the bells and bring the invasion to a relatively peaceful conclusion.

Tyrion waits.

Jon waits.

Cersei waits.

Daenerys waits.

BONG.

The bells start to ring.

Cersei closes her eyes.

Dany’s eyes burn with tears, rage, fear and resolve.

This is the moment.

Eight seasons of build up have led us to this one moment, this one decision for Daenarys Stormborn, of House Targaryen, First of Her Name, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.

She stood by as her brother was crowned with gold for insolence.

She burned Mirri Maz Duur for effectively killing Khal Drogo.

She locked Xaro Xhoan Doxos in his own vault for arranging to steal her dragons.

She burned the slave masters of Astapor to free and recruit the Unsullied.

She crucified the slave masters of Meereen as punishment for their own crucifixion of slaves.

She burned the Masters’ fleet in the Bay of Dragons for failing to bend the knee.

She burned the Dothraki leaders at Vaes Dothrak for being weak and insulting her status.

She burned the Lannister forces in the Loot Train Battle after her allies from Dorne, Highgarden and the Iron Islands were betrayed.

She burned Randall and Dickon Tarly for failing to bend the knee.

She burned Varys for betraying her trust.

Yes, most of those she punished had blood on their hands as well. But while our girl Daenerys has always had high ideals, her execution of them is as grey as the beard on beautiful Ser Davos Seaworth’s face.

In her final march to the Iron Throne, she has lost two of her dragons, her close advisers Ser Jorah and Missandei of Narth, and half of her hard-won armies. She has lived her life with the one truth - that she was the true heir to the Seven Kingdoms. Now she has discovered that the one person she found love with turns out to have a better claim that her - not only by blood, but by the acclamation and love of the people.

Perhaps her fear of failing made her remember that her ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, did not have a claim to Westeros when he arrived 300 years earlier.

He took it - by fire and blood.

As she pulled Drogon into the sky once more, heading for the Red Keep, I cried out “No, Dany, no! Stop it right now!”

But while Game of Thrones may have had supernatural elements, it was never about superheroes.

Missandei’s last words were “Dracarys”, and that rings in Dany’s ears louder than any bells.

Daenerys Stormborn has made many good choices, many decent choices, and they still happened. But the closer she got to the Iron Throne, the more tenuous her grip on why she wanted it became. Now it is simply about possession, and destruction. She is breaking the wheel; but the people of King’s Landing are the spokes that will go in the process.

From this moment, we never see Daenerys Targaryen’s face again. She is removed from us as a human; we see only the fire made flesh, and the consequences of her terrible choice.

Sidebar: It would have been nice for Bran "Three-Eyed Raven" Stark to give somebody, anybody, a heads-up about that vision he had over a dragon flying over King's Landing. Around season 4 or 5 the shot of a dragon shadow over the capital flashed through one of his visions; we finally saw how it happened in this episode. Damnit, Bran, what's the use of you if you can't give Jon or Arya or even Dany herself a clue? But then, he wouldn't have felt scared by that shot as we did. Bran doesn't feel anything, least of all fear.

Cersei still can, though. She stares out as Drogon approaches the Red Keep, and the truth begins to sink in.

The people begin running again in the streets as the monster lets loose on the civilian population and their homes.

Tyrion is horrified. His victory is turning into a massacre.

The dragon’s movement breaks the spell over the soldiers below, and Grey Worm makes the same choice as his queen - he flips his spear up and kills the Lannister captain.

A frenzy of bloodlust ensues, with the northmen and Unsullied running wild with pent-up fear, anger, and revenge.

Jon Snow experiences the turmoil in a dreamlike state of shock. His breathing slows, his eyes bulge, he tries to turn his men back but can’t. Grey Worm doesn’t care - if he dies today, fine, it’s just a question of how many Lannisters he can take with him as he goes.

Bodies are destroyed, carved up, shattered. At one point a bloke has both hands cut off.

Ser Davos, ever kind-hearted, tries to help civilians escape, but it’s mayhem in the streets.

Jon’s own men begin slaughtering women and children; mothers and daughters.

Jon himself is forced to kill one of his own men who doesn’t take kindly to being pulled off a woman he plans to rape.

This is the reality of ground fighting; you may be on the “good” side, but you are not exempt from the terrors men do when they have no need to think of consequences.

But Jon is processing consequences - he has the brutal realisation that he leads a conquering invasion force, that the Lannister soldiers still standing and helping civilians where possible are trying to protect their home, just as Jon and the gang stood to defend Winterfell against the White Walkers, the great evil.

Jon has always seen himself as a man of honour, Ned Stark’s son. Now he is grappling with his new identity - is this what it means to be a Targaryen?

Jaime Lannister finds his way to the secret entrance to the Red Keep, and finds the dinghy there, as promised.

But he also finds Euron MacGregor, who managed to survive being blown off his vessel only to swim to this exact point of the shore at this exact time. It’s a little too convenient, but we’ll overlook that for the dramatic effect.

As far as he’s concerned, Euron’s f***ed the queen, which makes him a king (his status as King of the Iron Islands being somewhat in flux given his niece Yara has apparently taken them back). Jaime only wants to get to Cersei, but Euron wants to fight the man who f***ed the queen first, saying they’ll talk about Jaime forever if he kills ANOTHER king.

The two have a brutal hand-to-hand fight to the death, with Jaime taking multiple stab wounds before managing to get the sword he picked up somewhere in the city through Euron’s gut. The Kingslayer (x2) manages to stumble off to climb his way into the Red Keep, while Euron dies ecstatic that he killed the Kingslayer. Vale Euron, you crazy bastard.


"What do you mean, nobody ever really liked me as a character?"

With Drogon blasting down the Red Keep’s towers one at a time, and almost the entire city burning below her, Cersei can no longer ignore reality.

She cries as Qyburn tells her it isn’t safe anymore and they should head to Maegor’s Holdfast. She puts her hand in his, literally handing over her authority to him as to what happens next.

Down below, the Hound and Arya have made it to an old Season Seven favourite - Cersei’s GIANT WAR ROOM FLOOR MAP! How great to see it one last time.

Arya has been intent on finishing her list and killing Cersei this whole time, but with the keep under attack, the Hound decides it’s time to lay down the law. He tells her Cersei is dead, no matter what happens, and Arya should go home. He even grabs her and makes her look at him, to see what life is for someone wholly motivated by revenge. You want to be like me? In that moment, Arya is not the stone-cold assassin, but a little girl again.

For almost two seasons, the Hound was her twisted father figure, and it’s fitting in this moment he gives her the greatest gift of all - a mission other than death. He puts his giant hand around the back of her head, easily encasing her skull. “You come with me… and you die today,” he declares, then pats her on the shoulder and walks off.

What do we say to the God of Death? Not today. It’s been a ruling mantra for Arya since her dancing lessons with Syrio Forel, another father figure who made her leave to avoid death.

“Sandor,” she says, using the Hound’s real name for the first time. “Thank you.”

It’s a bittersweet parting, as we know what’s about to happen.

~~~ CLEGANE BOWL ~~~

The Hound greets his brother, the Queen and Qyburn on the stairs, and easily dispatches the rest of Cersei’s Queen’s Guard.

“Hello, big brother,” he deadpans, as Cersei demands the Zombie Mountain stay by her side. Ser Gregor’s red eyes turn on her, and why Qyburn steps in to insist he protect her, he squishes the Hand’s head with one hand, and tosses him down the staircase where he splatters all over the stone work (lucky the keep is about to fall to pieces, that would be hell to scrub out). Vale Qyburn, you creepy bastard.

Cersei does a polite “Well, you two obviously have a thing here, so I’m just going to, yep, I’ll just get out of your way, bye then” move out of the way, allowing the brothers to face up against each other for the first time since the dragon pits. With all the annoying diplomacy of that occasion not here to stop their baser instincts, the pair begin their ultimate annihilation of each other.

Sandor knocks Gregor’s helmet off, revealing his Darth Vader-esque “face”. “That’s what you’ve always been,” the Hound growls, continuing his attack. The writers are no doubt reminding us that while the Zombie Mountain is a terrifying flesh machine with no soul or ability to feel pain, there is a remnant of Gregor still inside, a remnant still motivated to finish what he started when he thrust his younger brother’s head on the fire all those years ago.

Their fight scene lives up to the Clegane Bowl hype, and exceptionally well-choreographed and shot. The Hound delivers blow after blow upon the Mountain, and his plaintive cry of “F***ing die!” will go down as one of the best lines of the season. We all felt you in that moment, Sandor.

Zombie Mountain goes for his finishing move, the one he pulled on Oberyn Martell pre-zombification - the double eye crusher. The Hound screams in pain, but manages to grab his dagger feel his brother’s face, and stab him through the head.

He can barely see, but enough to know the Mountain is just calmly pulling the dagger out of his face, ready to recommence his assault once more. It’s in this moment the Hound knows there is only one option left. After a lifetime of being deathly afraid of fire, he pushes himself forward, and crash tackles his brother through the weakening wall behind them, and the two plummet out and down, into the flames, like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty going over the Reichenbach Falls in the style of a WWE Hell in The Cell match.

Cersei finds her way to the GIANT WAR ROOM FLOOR MAP, just in time for it to poetically, ironically and spectacularly crack right through the continent.

It’s then, with everyone left to her lost, that she sees Jaime, stumbling out of the dust.

They embrace, and no words need to be said between these hopelessly co-dependent twincestors. That is, until Cersei realises she literally has Jaime’s blood on her hands. “You’re hurt,” she says. “It doesn’t matter,” replies her brother.

Jaime leads her all the way down to the caverns under the keep, where the skulls of dragons past are kept. They were once the conquering forces, particularly Balerion the Dread, Aegon Targaryen’s own dragon.

The city built on the site of their conquest is now being destroyed by their descendants.

Jaime leads Cersei to the tunnel out of the cavern, only to find it blocked by debris. He tries to find another way out, but they are stuck. They can’t go forward and they can’t go back.

It’s at this point of realising she has no way out that Cersei breaks down. “I want our baby to live,” she repeats, over and over. “I don’t want to die, not like this, not like this.”

There’s an old tale that Jaime Lannister came into the world holding onto his sister’s foot. If Cersei led them both towards life, it’s Jaime now who leads Cersei towards death.

“All that matters is us," he tells her.

Cersei is calmed, and lets Jaime comfort her, as the world falls in on them.

With apologies to Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson, I present a final song for the Twins Lannister:

It’s a fiery afternoon
In King’s Landing
The big city
Geez, it’s been forty years
Cersei, you were so fine

Beautiful, beautiful girl from the south
I kissed your ass whenever you kissed my mouth
I had Brienne, but she wasn’t for me
You gave me kids, all three

Cersei, Cersei, Cersei, I can’t let you go
All my life, you’re haunting me, I loved you so
Cersei, Cersei, Cersei, I can’t let you go
You’re so crazy
Cersei, baby

Yeah, well it hurt me real bad when you left
But now, I’m too scared of death
To be pissed with you

I’ve had a bun in my tum for so long
I tried to fake it, said it was Euron’s
Outside the Keep
The dragon roars and flames
There goes my Throne
of Games
of Games

Jaime, Jaime, Jaime I can’t let you go
Help me leave this shithole or else it’ll blow
Jaime, Jaime, Jaime Edgar Allen Poe
Was not as crazy
As us two, baby

Cersei Cersei Cersei, look at me and know
All that matters now is how we leave this show
Jaime Jaime Jaime, here come tumbling bricks
Hate mail’s pending
With this ending

When it comes to Cersei and Jaime’s end, we do have to address Cersei’s elephant-NOT-in-the-room: why didn't she suffer more?

Would it have been great to see Cersei stabbed by Arya? Maybe - but then Arya scolded the Freys for killing Talisa, a woman with a babe in her belly, before she murdered them all. Could she have brought herself to do the same thing to Cersei? Isn’t it better for Arya’s future that she reconsider her life of 100% pure vengeance as per the Hound’s entreaty?

So who else was there to do it? Would it have been satisfying to have Euron kill her? For Qyburn or The Mountain to turn on her? For the mob to tear her to pieces in the street? Where would the emotional satisfaction be in that?

And what of Daenarys? She’s ultimately responsible for Cersei’s death with her assault on the Red Keep. Conceivably, a stand off between the two could have been great television. But we know how it would have ended - with Cersei being burned alive. We’ve already seen Varys die that way this episode, so wouldn’t that have been slightly anti-climactic?

Cersei has ALWAYS skated close to the edge of oblivion and somehow got away: Robert Baratheon died before Ned Stark could tell him her children were all Jaime’s; King’s Landing survived the Battle of Blackwater Bay just when she was about to poison herself and Tommen; her father tried to marry her off to Loras Tyrell but she snaked out of it thanks to his death; the Faith Militant threw her in jail but her walk of shame punishment only gave her more justification for their murder; she lied to Jon, Dany and Tyrion about sending her army north to fight the White Walkers to bolster her own position in the south.

With this conclusion, Cersei doesn’t escape punishment, but she gets to face it in the arms of the only adult she’s ever loved, the only family she has left. I felt sorry for her in the same way I felt sorry for Joffrey when he died, despite four seasons of relishing in my hate for the little prick.

These characters were terrible, they did dreadful things, they had golden looks but rotten cores. But to those that would say Jaime’s redemption arc crashed out, perhaps consider instead the good he was able to do before this moment, thanks to his experience in captivity, and with Brienne, and fighting against Dany, then with Dany against death itself. He showed himself to be a man of honour; but still a man with a fatal flaw. If there is a figure worthy of Shakespearean tragedy in all this, surely it is Jaime Lannister.

The final moments of the Hound’s struggle against the Mountain are juxstaposed with Arya making her way through the crumbling city.

There are some incredible tracking shots of Arya scrambling through passages, courtyards and side streets trying to find some way out. Eventually she is knocked down, but the mother and daughter with the white horse toy help her back up, only for Arya to be immediately swept away from them again by the torrential sweep of terrified citizens.

As for Jon Snow, my beloved, still in the centre of the fighting, still in shock, sees caches of wildfire going up all around the city. These were no doubt leftovers Cersei had the pyromancers hang on to after she blew up the Sept of Baelor, you know, just in case. Although perhaps not - you’d think if Cersei knew she still had wildfire she would have tried to better weaponise it to fight dragons.

It’s also a horrible callback to Mad King Aerys wanting to blow up King’s Landing with wildfire back when Dany was being born. Turns out he was just twenty-something years too early.

Jon sees Davos, and understands what’s happening. The Queen he loved, the Queen he bent the knee to, the Queen he insisted others would come to know and love, has gone rogue. He always knew it was a possibility; he said as much to Varys at the beginning of the episode - "It is her choice." But now he sees the full cost of Dany making a terrible decision - and orders his troops to fall back, and get out of the city, lest they be sitting ducks for her barbeque.

Arya wakes, covered in ash and shoot, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the September 11 terror attacks in New York. She coughs up half of Fleabottom realising the bell tower is about to fall on her. She manages to escape its plummet to earth, finding herself in an as-yet-untouched house, facing the same mother and daughter with the white horse.

Arya insists they leave in order to survive. It’s entirely possible she was right to do so, as the house could have been flambed at any moment. But by taking the mother and daughter into the street, she unfortunately guaranteed their doom. In the mad rush, the mother is run over by Dothraki horses, the bloodriders cutting down anyone they see, their tradition for generations before Dany told them to behave better.

Arya tries to help her up, the girl’s cries of “Mama! Mama! Mama!” hard to hear. But Drogon is bearing down on them all, and she can’t move fast enough. “Take her, take her!” she begs, and Arya tries to get the girl away from the direct path of danger. But the girl snaps back, screams at Arya and runs back to her mother - as any scared child would. Arya dives behind a wall just in time to avoid the blow from Dragon that roasts the mother and daughter alive.

When she wakes, Arya is the only survivor. The hero of Winterfell, the girl who slayed the Night King - beaten and bloodied by the collapse of a city under dragonfire.

She sees the mother and daughter’s bodies, entwined in death, the white horse toy still in the girl’s small hand. Arya, not known for her emotions, cannot stop tears sliding down her ashen face. For the first time in a long time, she had put other people's safety over her own single-minded pursuit of her own murder-y goals. And when she failed them, she couldn't just be an expressionless killer. The Hound gave her back some of her humanity.

And then, amidst the smoking and burning ruins, she hears a sound, and turns to find the white horse writ large. Like a miracle, the horse appears in the middle of the street, riderless, saddle-less, with blood on its body and burns on its legs.

Arya approaches the horse gently, and soothes the anxious beast. She mounts the horse and takes off, a lone figure, galloping out of the city, on her way to who knows what.

White horses have all sorts of mythic properties, connected to both life and death in many cultures. Perhaps the most famous quote about them for our purpose comes from the Book of Revelations: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”

Death is the theme that has followed Arya Stark through eight seasons of Game of Thrones, and while she’s promised the Hound she won’t lead a life like his, there’s still a good chance of her saddling up for a vengeance ride at least one more time.

What might Jon say to Dany if he sees his little sister (actually cousin) so badly beaten up from the sack of the city? And what might Dany say to the God of Death, if it comes in the form of a tiny assassin on horseback?

So with apologies to Daryl Braithwaite, Arya gets a song as well:

She survived, way up high
Where Cleganes trade blows
But in the ash, falling thick and fast
With all the innocents she goes
And this whole situation will get her aggravated
She’ll watch the whole world fall apart
She will see the beautiful horse
That manifests her heart
Can’t you hear her?
The girl has a name
Stark of Winterfell, and from there she came

That's the way it's gonna be, little Arya
You’ll go riding on white horses, yeah yeah
Choose whom you want to die, little Arya
But if Jon falls, go pick him up, pick him up

She will go, and you just know
She will get really steely-eyed
And even then, she won’t give in
To Dany’s journey to the dark side
I hear all the people of the north
In one girl’s gutteral cry
You’ll see her try every way she knows how
To make the bad one fly
Can’t you see her?
She’s not on the ground
She’s atop a steed, it’s all quite profound

That's the way it's gonna be, little Arya
You’ll bring death on those white horses, yeah
You will make ‘em cry, little Arya
But if Jon falls please pick him up, pick him up

That's the way it's gonna be, little Arya
Keep on riding those white horses, yeah yeah
Your bro should be the guy, little Arya
Jon may be dumb but pick him up, pick him up

Yay! Best Moments

In terms of emotional punch, Jaime and Tyrion’s final scene was so touching I nearly cried.

In terms of spectacle, Dany torching all of King’s Landing was ferocious, terrifying and incredibly well produced.

Zing! Best Lines

Arya telling a confused Lannister soldier that "I'm Arya Stark. I'm going to kill Queen Cersei" was badass, but just pipped by another Tyrion/Jaime classic exchange:

Tyrion: How did they find you?
Jaime: shows golden hand
Tyrion: Did you ever consider taking it off?
Jaime: Cersei once said I was the stupidest Lannister.

Ew, gross

The gore factor this episode rocketed up on the Battle of Winterfell, which to be fair was a lot darker. Here the blood glistened wet and red in the sunlight, as swords cut through torsos, heads were speared, and did I mention the dude who had both hands cut off? Crazy.

Boo, sucks

Once again, I’ve been sensing there’s a lot of anger about this episode. Yes, there are issues of pacing, and disappointment that character development we have grown to cherish felt abandoned. There’s a valid argument to be made that this season could have done with a few more episodes to build tension (although I would counter that had that been the case, we’d all be reading backlash takes on how slow the action was moving).

But this is the story the way the writers and producers have chosen to tell it, and they are still doing shocking things to upturn our expectations. All of the heroes we built inside our minds were just that - our own creations, not theirs.

I also get the sense some will be angry that the victory of women against their oppressors and tyrants in earlier seasons may have been undermined by the fall of Cersei and Dany into super villain territory. But why do men get a monopoly on power corrupting? To suggest women aren’t capable of making terrible choices as much as any man undercuts the very plea that we be considered on the same intellectual playing field, and susceptible to the same human vices. Women aren’t the problem; untethered power is.

Dany did much that was right in her career as a conqueror. As mentioned, many of her brutal decisions were justified or at least understandable for this kind of world. But tyrants are sometimes good guys first.

Daenerys has committed an unthinkable war crime, and it remains to be seen if she will escape any retribution - or if Arya or Jon or anyone else will deliver justice to her.

There is one episode left.

May we have good fortune in the wars to come.

Goodness me, kittens. I could be completely wrong on all of this. There has probably been a million recaps and reviews and critical think pieces released already that make better arguments than me. I don't even know how funny this recap is, and god knows if I don't bring the funny, what's the use of me?!

It's very late as I finally get this posted, so I want to say a special thank you to all readers for your patience, and a particular thank you to all of my Patreon subscribers for still paying me. This week's Patreon champions are: Anna, Bernadette M, Eoin N, Jan D, Anthony B, Chris L, Patrick C, MTE, Tony L, Jarrah G, Kostas S, Michael C, Sean J-W, Robert L, Jake F, Eric L, Dominic H, Kynan N, Michelle B, and Katie B.

I'm slightly stunned that there is only one more episode of Game of Thrones ever. What am I going to do without you all!?!? The time is upon me to work out some other recap options - but first, let us dance with dragons one final time. Valar Morghulis!

3 Responses to ‘Raven On Recap: GoT S8E5 "The Bells"’

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 16
I haven't watched this season yet, waiting till all are down to binge and reading other pieces on this episode I was feeling like I was going to skip the season entirely as it seems to boil down Dany's rage as 'Bitches be crazy', your recap gives a depth to her choice I hadn't read and while problematic with all the reasons you outline above I am feeling more like I want to watch it thanks to your take.

It's a shame I was hoping Urine Greyjoy would escape and flee to the Iron Islands only to find Yara sitting on the Salt Throne when he got there.

Also possible another editing mistake https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/14/entertainment/game-of-thrones-jaime-hand-trnd/index.html

And for those of us who watched the Neverending story as children the scene with Arya and the horse was a joy since it looks like Artax escaped the swamp. I assume Natalie has never seen The Neverending Story, the Stu that was promised can bring up to speed on this topical reference.

Someone on twitter did make the observation the scene with Jamie and Cersei was foreshadowed in series one when Jamie pushed Bran out of the window, much as they threw Jamie's characterization out the window this series.

The last episode of Game of Thrones ever airs next week, and the finale will be 1 hour and 20 minutes long.

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she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted May 16
Look this is not your funniest recap, but I think it's possibly the best one you've done, out of the many many many amazing recaps you've written. I'm in the minority that thought this was a great episode, and I'm so on board with your argument about the issue being unchecked power, not "wimmen" being betrayed by Dany and Cersei becoming supervillains.

I had a long discussion with a work colleague about all this, and our discussion boiled down to "no one is a villain in their own story." Dany's switch to supervillain has been foreshadowed for EIGHT SEASONS as you pointed out; the difference was that her story was told from her POV, and she's the last person to think that she's evil. If her story had been told from the POV of the people she's been conquering all this time, then our take on her would be different. I think the switch from Dany's perspective to the perspective of the thousands of innocents trying to escape their Sept 11/Pompeii was a key storytelling feature - suddenly she's not the merciful conqueror, but a supervillain on a dragon.

People seem to be angry because Dany's switch to supervillain seems too sudden, but they've been building up to this all season. She was raised to believe that she would be welcomed as a liberator by the people of Westeros, but she was smacked in the face by reality when she finally turned up and literally no one cared. And THEN she discovers that her lifelong personal narrative has been a lie, when she finds out Jon has a better claim to the throne than she does. Now that I've had several days to ruminate on this episode, I think it would have been less realistic and out of character for her to NOT burn Kings Landing to the ground, especially after the loss of Jorah and Missandei, and in particular the way Missandei died.

Tyrants, when they realise their grip on power is slipping, their advisors are having second thoughts and the people are maybe not on board with their policies, NEVER say "oops, my bad, I'll just go retire to the Caymans somewhere." No, they double, triple down, and if they have to kill every one of their citizens to make the point that things could be worse if they weren't in charge then they will do so and not think twice about it. And Dany proved she is a tyrant several seasons ago :(

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Oldy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 16
Fun fact: I have a box of hammers in my shed that are individually and collectively 100x smarter than Jon Snow.

Good grief, have we ever met a dumber character? He's handy in a fight, but imagine him on the throne, being manipulated by, frankly, anyone, all of whom can outmaneuver him intellectually. He makes Ned look positively sophisticated.

A lot of good in that episode, but the twins' resolution was meh. And quite possibly it's the most GRRM thing in it, the whole 'you thought this was a redemption arc, bwah-ha-ha suffer' thing. As a surprise twist on the valonqar prophecy it was, sorry George, pissweak.

Ah well, only one more to go. Will Tyrion make it to the credits?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1URvDyzh8uI

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Sobering afternoon

Posted May 15 by John Birmingham

I'm prepping for the publicity demands of two books at the moment. ZERO DAY CODE, coming out on Audible, July 4. And THE CRUEL STARS dropping in hardback and ebook later in August.

I've been busy.

I was tweaking the marketing plans for both, going back though my Twitter followers looking for journalists and publications to send samples and freebies.

So many journos have left the industry. So many mastheads have closed down, just in the last couple of years.

And of course there's people like poor Adam Denny, who used to be a regular here, who moved to Alaska to be with a new partner, and down to San Francisco when that didn't work, and who died there, alone. I felt terrible when I came across his Twitter page, and couldnt bring myself to unfollow. It seemed like it would be cruel.

He wasn't the only one who passed. I still follow Sam de Brito and Mark Colvin and a couple of other souls no longer with us. But it was sobering, having seen so many individuals who just sort of dropped out of contact, to then find Adam again, and to wonder how many are gone for good, like him.

7 Responses to ‘Sobering afternoon’

Dirk would have you know...

Posted May 15
Sometimes the best tend to go first ...

Begs the question: is that hovercraft of yours Podcast enabled?

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Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15
I spent a breakfast with him.

I always thought he'd get the better of the Gods of Fate.

Little did I know.

On the Outer Marches
Murph
A guy who teaches history to a few.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted May 15
Those names.

I remember Adam mainly for his fanfic. Think he did a couple for the Axis of Time series. Had a link to that old stuff but it got hoovered up.

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Bangar would have you know...

Posted May 15
Vale Adam

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jl has opinions thus...

Posted May 15
Met a lot of interesting people over the years, others I can only regret I didn't and can't. A proposal; there should be a 'Burger get-together somewhere at a set time and date. Brisbane is fine, but there needs to be a long lead time for planning purposes.

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted May 16
I'm up for this!

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted May 18
We had a couple of grey, off-label Burger get togethers. I remember one Jen attended via Tele-presence.
Respect to Adam. Adulting is hard.

As for the new Birmo 'Splodey, insert greedy glee emoji.

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The cage, he assured a mortified human race, “was never used and we have no plans for usage”

Posted May 15 by John Birmingham

Did a quick bit for my brother's site about an Amazon patent for 'caged workers'.

Robots will probably kill us all one day — but first, they’ll put us in cages. A truly forward-thinking entrepreneur would get in on this exciting opportunity to grab the first-mover advantage in the cutting edge field of robot slave/worker drone relationships … and a truly forward-thinking entrepreneur did.

Jeff Bezos, come on down!

In 2016, one of the sentient organ banks from Amazon’s terrifying legal division filed a patent application to secure the intriguing idea of caging warehouse workers in the Beast of Bezos’s fulfillment centres. Not because they might run away when they realised what sort of gig they’d signed on for, but because killer robots on the warehouse floor might hyper-efficiently package them up and despatch them in a small cardboard box, overnight, anywhere in the continental US.

Resistance is futile.

which50.com

4 Responses to ‘The cage, he assured a mortified human race, “was never used and we have no plans for usage”’

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted May 15
Having a patent is a negative right, so Amazon don't specifically have a right to use this technology, but they can prevent others from developing it, so they're the good guys, right? Right?

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jl mutters...

Posted May 15
Holy. Sh*t.

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Naut swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15
I have worked at some places that should consider launching a patent dispute

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Therbs asserts...

Posted May 15
The cage looks like a chicken wire dunny construction with a mechanical claw for arse wiping. Its the kind of thing a thirst maddened bushie with a near-death grin would put together after reading a compilation of Barnaby Joyce tweets.
Everyone knows mechanical claws are only good at shit picking, not wiping. That's why the design was rejected.

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Man medicine

Posted May 13 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Having brought a terrible southern cold back north of the Rio Grande, there has been only one palliative measure I will contemplate. Hot rum toddies.

Here is my recipe.

Get a big ceramic mug. I mean, really fucking big.

Fill it at least a third of the way up with rum.

Add a teaspoon of real honey, not that shitty Chinese sugar syrup.

Squeeze some lemon juice in there. The fuck if I know how much? I'm not your mother.

Add a cinamon stick. Yes you have to do this. No it won't make you soft. Stop whining and just do it you stupid, fucking homophobe.

Pouring in boiling water. There, manliness restored. Nothing more manly than boiling water, right? Unless it's boiling oil poured on the heads of your enemies, which isn't approriate for this recipe.

Stir.

Destroy that fucking rhinovirus!

11 Responses to ‘Man medicine’

Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted May 13
Wish I'd known of this a week ago, being on the tail end of some lurgi. I wonder about the rum vs flu thing though - does the rum burn out the viral infection, or do you just end up plastered and forget about being sick?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 13
Why must you ruin everything with your endless questions?

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Rhino reckons...

Posted May 13
I am forced to point out that calling it a rhinovirus is hate speech.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 13
I am forced to respond that calling out my hate speech makes me uncomfortable and that's not cool.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 13
I believe the traditional Hot Whisky Toddy is served in glass? Also in the US national Hot Toddy day is January 11. Not sure if it has a date in Australia, so I am fine with May 13.

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted May 13
I leave out the rum and the cinnamon, perhaps because the manly:girly ratio is 1, and go hard on the lemon juice, which works for me.

Bondiboy66 has opinions thus...

Posted May 13
Pfft - as I learned from my father, leave out everything but the OP Rum! Also, refer to my earlier post....

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she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted May 13
I am bookmarking this for when I am inevitably brought low by some plague rat who thinks it's acceptable to come to work with their sniffle and spew their germs everywhere.

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jason would have you know...

Posted May 14
Is this how Conan shakes a cold?

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Dirk ducks in to say...

Posted May 14
Swap the Rum out for this and you have a winner.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beerenburg

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted May 18
Democracy and stuff, but how do we introduce mandatory, instant & appeal free quarantine for these vectors that insist on stinking up the place?
I'm a humane and gentle man, I don't want punitive conditions, just a cattle-truck with an articulated arm to snatch the snufflers and snotty from public spaces.

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Marvel timeline. (Very helpful, kind of bonkers)

Posted May 9 into Movies by John Birmingham

The Washington Post has a great 'condensed' time line of all the key events leading up to Avengers: Endgame. If you've lost track or missed a few episodes this will save you dozens of hours of catch up viewing. Fair warning, it might also cause you to question why you spent so much of your life invested in this crazy shit.

Grab it here.

4 Responses to ‘Marvel timeline. (Very helpful, kind of bonkers)’

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 11
I when do you think Marvel Studios realised what a franchise monster they had created, do you think it was when they said, sure make a goofy Guardians of the Galaxy movie we can take the loss and it was a mega hit? Also I really like the observation that Guardians of the Galaxy is the Australian series Farscape Marvelised. Not as amusing as the theory Guardians of the Galaxy is just the Avengers playing a RPG.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted May 11
This extended timeline has Hudson Hongo over at IO9 musing on their mortality.
"I’ll be honest, events like the 2008 financial crisis have conditioned me not to plan too far ahead. At my most optimistic, I’ll entertain two- or three-year goals. But there’s something disturbingly concrete about a date like “December 2027.” It’s a date that will certainly come to pass, whether we’re all here to see it or not.

What will life be like 2027? Will there still be bees? Coral reefs? Discrete meteorological seasons the average person would recognise as “summer” and “winter”? Hard to say, but Disney is pretty sure there will be five Avatar movies.

And more importantly, what will my life be like in eight years? "

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 13
Five Avatar movies? We're doomed.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted May 13
the kids watched the first one yesterday. It's okay, but it does have that white man saves indigenous people vibe to it that Dances with wolves had. I also tremble at the thought of four more avatar movies to come. Because of MCU everyone is going to try and milk us all for extended story line not very good movies. I sat back and counted how much we spent on those marvel movies. Spoiler: it was a lot.

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GoT Raven On Recap: S8E4 "The Last of the Starks"

Posted May 8 into Raven On by girlclumsy

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.

Awkies.

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.

Then BANG!

Rhaegal is speared through the heart.

BANG!

Another spear, through his left wing.

BANG!

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
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
Bye Missandei

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
Mad Queen
It’s in the genes
Mad Queen

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.


Ewww, gross

Missandei’s death was brutal and shocking, if not unexpected. That Zombie Mountain has it coming BAD.


Boo, sucks

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!

As always, this recap wouldn't be possible without the generosity and kindness and all around sexiness of my Patreon subscribers. I cannot stress enough how much your support means to me - you have been the shield that guard the realms of me (ooer).

This week I'd like to give special thanks to: Andrew; Barney J; Chi H; David R; Emma C; Holly G; Ian W; Jac; Kathryn A; Leanne McK; Lizzie M; Mark M; Naomi M; Rachel G; Pam M; Sally H; Tash R; Valerie C; Trent S-J; sugarwookie and Tracey W.

Don't forget you can catch me on episodes 1, 3 and 4 of Foxtel's Thrones360 Live, a companion show to Game of Thrones. I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be going back on next Monday 13 May for the penultimate episode!

14 Responses to ‘GoT Raven On Recap: S8E4 "The Last of the Starks"’

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted May 9
Another corker of a re-cap, if Thrones360 is having you back for the 2nd last one surely they MUST have you back fro the final. You have been fantastic on the show, and now knowing what's coming you can decide what stance to pull when you do the promo on the Iron Throne.

As you mentioned above you try not to read others recaps. Over on Tor publishing, Tyler Dean's piece 'Rewriting History Can’t Change the Past as Game of Thrones Reaches Its Endgame' "Bronn articulates the ease with which histories can be rewritten, saying: “all the great houses started […] with a hard bastard who was good at killing people. Kill a few hundred, they make you a lord. Kill a few thousand, they make you king.” Rewriting history proves to be frighteningly easy" and yet "But if capital “H” History—the force that Bran embodies and that Westeros’ traditions and conventions are built upon—is rendered mutable and without agency, the insidious personal histories of individual characters prove impossible to shake".

Did you know there are only TWO more episodes?

girlclumsy reckons...

Posted May 9
Only two! My heart will break!

Yeah, Bronn's insight into rewriting history was pretty sharp. And that whole idea of personal histories being less changeable really comes through in Jaime's arc this episode, I think!

Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted May 9
Bronn’s Theory in action: The Kennedy family in the US.

The embodiment of Will to Power.

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Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted May 9
In awe at the Mad World song, Westeros Women Weekly is laugh out loud funny -and absolutely agree - everything which happens has previous justification - but.... Hilarys emails....I mean but Ghost....that was wrong...and in exactly the same way Chewie not getting a hug from Leia after Han died....

girlclumsy mutters...

Posted May 9
Awww, thank you! I have a lot of fun with the songs. I was on the plane leaving Sydney and Mad World just popped into my head, that dinky-dinky piano melody. Then it's just a matter of getting it to make sense in context!

And I suspect that Westeros women's mag might make a comeback before the season ends. That was too much fun to do. :)

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted May 9
Great recap as always MoK, I really loved your theory about Ghost, because the goodest doggo DESERVED PATS and your theory is the only way it is acceptable that the good boi did not get his pats.

I applauded Varys when he pointed out the screamingly obvious in that Dany is Jon's aunt; like the tweet referenced on 360 said, he's the only one that's consistently made sense on this show.

God poor Brienne. My initial reaction to Jamie's leaving was that she should have picked Tormund (Tormienne LIVES) but I was really swayed by your analysis of their coupling and Jamie's collapse of self esteem, and I too find myself even more invested in their story.

Poor Gendry though, I was in agonies of "oh boy, wrong way to read the room!" when he proposed to Arya, but I think she let him down as gently as she was able to, although it wasn't nice to watch the poor guy's heart break in real time. *sniff*.

I am in agonies of anticipation over the next two episodes; I can't believe we're down to the final two! But great choice on the part of the producers of Thrones360 by having you back on again, they've clearly recognised the immense talent and GoT nerddom that you bring to the table, and if they don't have you on for the finale then there's going to be strongly worded words in my household.

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girlclumsy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 9
Thanks Elana! I too had a moment of regret for Brienne choosing Tormund, but really, she was never going to do that. :)

It's been so exciting being on Thrones360 Live - I've been so fortunate to be asked back so many times! Really thrilled, and hope I add something positive to the show! <3

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted May 9
You do an amazing job on the show, I've really enjoyed your insights on each episode :)

I know Brienne was never going to pick Tormund, but it was nice to dream haha!

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Goann_38 reckons...

Posted May 9
After the 1st episode of season 8 I wrote a rough treatment of how I'd end the series If I was writing the last season. Most of this is more miss than hit, but I stand by the final paragraph as the only way to finish it in style.

Imaginary spoiler alert ahead.

Jon Snow (A.K.A Aegon Targaryen 6th of his name) and Auntie Daenerys take their whole host, including the Lannister army (which consists of Jaime), North to do battle with the King of Cool (No, not Jean Reno) and after quite a lot of having at it, claim a glorious victory.
Jean Reno (Ok, it should be him) is destroyed, as is his entire army of white walkers, after his recently acquired fire breathing white flyer caught sight of mummy (She’s not called The Mother of Dragons for nothing) and turned away from the dark side, but the price was heavy. Many are dead including Tyrion Lannister, who seriously misread the depth of a puddle and froze to death, and Beric Dondarrion.
Not having time to mourn their dead, the former King of the North and auntie Sweetheart turn their host to face the threat (Cersei’s recently hired Golden army and the rest of The Casterley Rock Crew) that is now approaching them from Kings Landing.
After much planning, battle is joined and after a lot of firebreathing from the two remaining Dragons, victory on this second battlefield is reached and the host continues to march on Kings Landing to either get Cersei to bend the knee or part her from her head. Either option is deemed acceptable.
They arrive at Kings Landing and the last battle is fought inside The Red Keep. It is ultimately quashed but this time the price is devastating.
Jon Snow is despatched in single combat by the Zombie Mountain, who in turn is killed by his brother, the non zombie Hound.
Daenery Targaryen is killed when one of her dragons is shot out from underneath her and falls out of the sky, crushing her to death rather messily.
Jaime Lannister is trying to talk his sister into bending the knee, and as soon as he drops his guard she pulls a knife of Valyrian steel and she steels herself to stab him to death. As she is about to make her move the non zombie Hound leaps out from behind a pillar and batters her to death with the still impressively solid corpse of Tyrion Lannister.
Jaime Lannister, sick with grief at the untimely end of his sister/love kills the Hound and storms outside to have a big cry.
As he emerges into the daylight one of the dragons , into which Bran has warged, turns him into a pillar of flame. Apparently Bran is still harbouring a small amount of resentment for being thrown out of a window.
After the final victory the people of the seven kingdoms gather for the coronation of their new regent.
Given the heavy toll the battles took the pickings were exceedingly thin. Made thinner by Sansa meeting a grizzly end in Winterfell at the hands of an unknown assassin and Bran disappearing, doubtless moving into a tree root lined cave to live out the rest of his days as a three eyed raven.
The only candidate left is Arya Stark, so it’s she who is crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and much celebrating is done.
After a full day of drinking and partying the new queen excuses herself to make her way to her new chambers, passing Brienne of Tarth and Tormund Giantsbane walking hand in hand towards the nearest empty room, giggling like giddy teenagers.
She ascends the stairs and finally, once inside allows herself to relax, sitting for several minutes rubbing her eyes.
Finally, as the closing music is just starting to play she scratches at her cheek before pulling off her face to reveal Jaqen H'ghar the faceless man, who looks knowingly at the camera with just the hint of a cheeky grin on his face as it fades to black and the credits roll.

girlclumsy mutters...

Posted May 10
This is most excellent. Tyrion's frozen corpse used as a weapon was a highlight - and I actually would love to see Jaqen H'ghar again!

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Oldy has opinions thus...

Posted May 9
Tidy.

I think Jon will be reunited with Ghost at the end, when he makes like Frodo and goes into the West, erm, North, to turn his back on the lands of men. I think Samwise, erm, Samwell, talking about naming their son after Jon (hope it's a girl) is a clue to that.

girlclumsy ducks in to say...

Posted May 10
Yeah, that was really interesting, Tormund telling Jon he has the real north in him, and Jon saying he wishes he was going up there. I know Jon came to "enjoy" his time with the wildlings as much as one could when one is spying on them - but I fancy that was more because of Ygritte being there.

I've always seen Jon as a northman; Winterfell & Castle Black. Hence why I could see him becoming the true King, but not being super happy about it. Much like Ned as the Hand in the south.

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted May 9
Damn, I look forward to these each week!

I need one of you blokes or Sheila’s to share a foxtel login so that I can see the glorious MoK on the teevee box.

girlclumsy puts forth...

Posted May 10
I have to work out what my password is, then I'll happily send to you. Mine's saved on the computer and I can never remember! :P

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