I GASPED. I CRIED. I UGLY CRIED. I LAUGHED.
AND I LOVED EVERY MOMENT.
Beloved Throners, I am so, so pleased with that final episode. There was no perfectly happy ending for everyone (because this is Game of Thrones, you were never going to get that). There were, in fact, mostly new beginnings and challenges.
But it was soothing, and I left the world contented. I did not feel like I had been messed with.
I believe this recap, like the previous ones this season, will take me some time, so I wanted to provide an initial set of thoughts and reactions to help fill the gap.
So here ‘tis, a Not-Necessarily-in-Numerical-Order-of-Occurrence-or-Preference, Just-A-Top-Ten-Hot-Take-of-Amazing-Things-That-Happened-Pre-Recap-Recap.
1. TYRION FINDS THE BODIES
This was an acting masterclass from the impeccable Peter Dinklage. Determined to go alone to the Red Keep to see if his brother managed to smuggle his sister out safely, he ends up deep beneath it, where the plummeting structure hit hardest.
Yes, it’s somewhat convenient that in all that mess he can spot his brother’s golden hand - but it still made my heart ache for him. Anguish and tears follow when he digs in enough to reveal their beautiful and miraculously-not-too-busted-up faces. He loathed his sister, but she was still family, and of course Jaime was his best friend and ally. His grief is palpable and real.
2. EVERYONE GETS SCARED
Daenerys’ speech to her all-conquering Dothraki and Unsullied armies is fierce and frightening. She thanks the Dothraki for keeping their promises to kill men in iron suits and burn stone houses; she calls the Unsullied liberators and vows they will not put down their spears until they repeat this “liberation” all over the world.
Ummm, hey, that’s new Dany, what is this rejigged plan, lady? The Dothraki and Unsullied seem pleased - as does her new Master of War Grey Worm - but Arya and Jon watch on with mounting horror, and Tyrion manages to rip off his Hand of the Queen badge in disgust before being seized for committing treason.
Later, Jon visits Tyrion to have the awful conversation about what Dany has become. Tyrion’s statement that she had a series of victories over evil men - and that “we cheered her on” - which resulted in her believing she was ultimately good, was a key summation of the problem with Daenerys’ journey. At some point she crossed a line, but when was it? After which surprising and triumphant display of power? It was also a nod to us as the audience - we ALL cheered Dany along the way. We agreed with the accepted wisdom that she was destined for not just “greatness”, but “goodness”. We were like Tyrion; thinking we were right, but ultimately misdirected.
It’s Tyrion’s unfortunate duty to tell an overwrought Jon all of this - although I would point out here that if Jon had NOT been having doubts, he would not have visited Tyrion at all. If he was committed to all the Queen’s wishes, he would have let sleeping lions lie.
Jon is not convinced Dany is the monster Tyrion accuses her of being; he still hopes for a different path. He hopes with every fibre of his sexy, rugged, being. He keeps hoping and he keeps hoping and he’s straining right at the crotch…. Sorry, what was I saying?
3. JON SNOW KILLS DAENERYS TARGARYEN
Full of passion, lament, despair and proper tragedy, Jon made the ultimate big call - killing his once and always Queen. Daenerys had touched the Iron Throne, but in a moment of self-reflection, chose to ponder her childhood focus on its size and alluded to it not being as imposing as her imagination had constructed it, particularly with the debris of the Red Keep around it.
So Dany never sat in it, never felt the discomfort of its shape and feel. Instead, she tried to convince Jon to join her in her quest to free all the enslaved peoples of the world, following a series of rules she laid out, because she knew what was right and good.
Jon gave her numerous chances to prove his loyalty wrong, to show that she was capable of change and compromise after this horrific unjustified slaughter. “What about all the other people, who think they know what’s good?” he asks. “They don’t get to choose,” comes the reply, and Dany’s fate is sealed. With a deep kiss, he plunges his dagger into her heart, the most awkward incestuous kiss since Princess Leia laid the smackers on Luke Skywalker.
Dany dies in disbelief, the same way Jon himself went at the end of Season 5. He too was tricked and stabbed in the heart, and like Jon, Dany’s corpse weeps blood over a white ground, only this time it was ash instead of snow.
Vale Daenerys Targaryen. You’ll always be my mighty Khaleesi turned Khal-EEEEEK-si.
4. DROGON MOURNS AND BURNS
What utter heartbreak I suffered when Drogon, sensing the loss of his mother, nudged her body with his nose, trying to rouse her. His reaction to roar in anger was understandable, but why did he choose the Iron Throne as his target for revenge burning? We take it that he can sniff out Jon’s blood as Targaryen, thus preventing him from sending Jon out of this world, Varys-style. But although dragons are intelligent, is Drogon capable of understanding what the Iron Throne is, or means, or how it is in a fairly direct way responsible for Mumma going night-night?
I’m more inclined to think he could detect the scent Daenerys left by touching the throne, the last thing she ever touched, and turned his fury on it.
The way he scooped up her body tenderly in one giant claw was also heart-breaking. He flew off, destination unknown, with his mother. In my mind, he’s returned to Valyria, the original city of the Targaryens. He knows how to get there; Tyrion and Jorah saw him flying over it in Season 5. I think he has taken Dany back to her ancestral home; the home of the blood of the dragons.
5. KING BRAN THE BROKEN
A twist that some may have seen coming (especially Bran himself, the clever clogs), but one that I admit I was delighted to have thrust upon me (now if only Jon Snow would thrust himself etc etc), happened in the extraordinarily calm blue daylight some weeks post-Destructathon.
Tyrion is brought before a meeting of The Great Council of Fine High Lords and Ladies and Fancy People and Wait Isn’t That the Way-Too-Old-To-Be Breastfed Kid from The Vale and WTF Was He Off Getting Queer-Eyed or Something This Whole Time Because Damn?
That slap Sansa gave him sure worked a treat.
Grey Worm wants to execute both Tyrion and Jon Snow; Tyrion, as always, uses his words. With no King or Queen, he suggests Bran, the 2TB Hard Drive of Westeros, accept the Crown under a new system in which rulers are elected by the council, rather than inherit the title. Bran’s “Why do you think I came all this way?” response to Tyrion’s entreaty was super cheesy but I LOVED IT and I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK.
Let’s not forget the hilarious moment in which Sam Tarly - present one imagines as the heir to Horn Hill, but also possibly because of his connections to the Citadel - suggests that perhaps everyone should have a say in choosing the ruler because, I dunno, it ends up affecting everyone eventually.
There’s a solemn silence and some serious looks, before everyone bursts out laughing.
Given Australia had an election just two days before this episode which left a number of people fairly dirty at democracy in general, I found this moment quite cathartic.
You don’t jump from absolute monarchy to democracy in half a day in the dragon pits. The compromise agreed to here was much more achievable in this medieval-esque world.
I know some people may be unhappy it wasn’t Jon who wound up on the Throne - what was the point of all that Targaryen/Stark lineage if not to see him take his rightful place? But by what right? He killed a queen; perhaps he no longer has a right. The good he did in taking out Dany does not wipe clean the stain of her blood on his hands.
Besides, it’s not unprecedented. Maester Aemon of Castle Black gave up the throne to become a Maester and serve the Night’s Watch. It was no accident that Maester Aemon was the fellow who told Jon “Love is the death of duty”, the very line Jon quoted to Tyrion in that earlier scene.
6. EDMURE TULLY’S TIGHT FIVE
As a brief aside, I have to mention this, for it brought me much mirth.
Step forth, Edmure Tully, Lord of Riverrun, veteran of two wars and a lengthy imprisonment, groom at the Red Wedding, general toff, man of no real consequence and Westeros’ newest stand-up comedian.
Faced with general silence at the Great Council about whom should be the next king, good old Edmure shakes off two years of irrelevance and delivers the funniest pitch for selection since ex-rugby league player Mal Meninga announced in 2001 he was running for office - only to quit 28 seconds later.
“Sit down, Uncle,” came the polite but firm directive from his supremely serene niece, Sansa. Edmure even stumbled backwards into his chair, his nascent ambition neatly thwarted.
His appearance though did beg the question - where WERE you when Winterfell was under attack by the White Walkers, Eddy? Why did you not send your troops to your nieces’ aid? There has never been a wetter blanket than poor Edmure Tully, but at least he had a shining moment as a brilliant court jester.
7. JON REUNITES WITH TORMUND AND GHOST
Reader, I lost it.
Ned Stark was almost exiled to the Night’s Watch way back in Season 1; it’s where he would have gone for committing treason had Joffrey not been a right little shit and decided to snick off his head. There’s a bittersweet logic to Jon being sent back there, despite having already given his life to it, and despite the very real issue that the Night’s Watch has effectively ceased to exist despite Tyrion’s insistence that there must always be a place for bastards and broken men.
But still, Castle Black is where Tormund Giantsbane and Ghost are, where the rest of the Free Folk are, waiting for the worst of the winter snows to pass before moving back north. It’s a joy to see them again - and for Ghost to finally get his well-deserved pats. Good doggo, Ghost. Good doggo.
We last see Jon accompanying Tormund the Free Folk out beyond the Wall, the place where the whole story began. Is he leaving the Night’s Watch behind, and becoming a true northerner? Is he simply doing his duty and protecting them? Either way, one thing is certain - he’s fully Jon Snow now. He’s part Stark, part Targaryen, but none of that really matters, perhaps it never did. He’s Jon Snow - good man, one-time Jesus impersonator, regretful Auntie-shagger-and-dagger, but his own person, wearing what he is like armour, so it can never be used to hurt him.
How do we know?
BECAUSE HE IS NO LONGER HOSTAGE TO THE MAN BUN.
BEHOLD THE GLORY OF THE RETURNED LUSTROUS FULL HEAD OF HAIR.
Glorious. Glorious. And Jon's also beautiful.
8. STARK SISTERS REPRESENT
Queen in the North!
Arya the Explorya!
Sansa firmly negotiates with her brother - and new king - to keep the north as an independent state. It’s convenient for her, sure, because as Jon Snow has been banished, she will be the head of this renewed state.
But she’s doing it for the right reasons - for her people - and also, DAMMMMNNNN MY GIRL DESERVES IT. She always wanted to be a Queen, but a Queen from fairy tales, who wore pretty frocks and served lemon cakes and stood proudly but dumbly next to a King.
Everything Sansa has experienced and learned has put her in the best position to be the best ruler the North could ever hope for.
And hopefully with her bro on the ? Throne (no more Iron, remember), there will be good relations between the North and the new Six Kingdoms, and the North won’t just huddle itself away and get more insular.
Sansa’s changing hairstyles have always been a talking point in the show, which is why I loved seeing her go full Elizabeth I for her coronation: magnificent, free-flowing red hair:
Arya also got a new ‘do, but she opted for a tightly braided bun, very practical for seafaring.
Arya once told Lady Crane, the actor who played Cersei in that Braavosi theatre troupe, that she would like to see what’s west of Westeros, beyond where the maps end.
And so she does; flying a Stark sigil on her sails, she heads into the unknown once more. She has grown used to a life on the move, and she isn’t about to stop now.
9. BRIENNE GRABS A PEN
In the musical Hamilton, George Washington sings to the petulant Alexander Hamilton that “You have no control/who lives who dies who tells your story”.
Lucky then for Jaime that he had Brienne still watching his back, despite his midnight bolt from their cosy bed at Winterfell.
She takes it upon herself to fill in all the blank pages of Jaime’s entry in the Kingsguard history book - and doesn’t even cast a little bit of shade. She paints him as the man of honour she knew, even when it comes to his death. “Protecting his Queen” is true, sure, but so is “Slipping Back Into Toxic Twincest”. Brienne is nothing if not tactful. I love that she becomes head of Bran’s Kingsguard - once again, she’s the best and most deserving person for the job.
10. THE SMALL COUNCIL NEEDS A SPIN-OFF
The final scene of the new Small Council is GLORIOUS COMEDY and I will not hear a word against it.
From the members wrecking Tyrion’s carefully straightened chairs, to Sam’s pride in his
A Song of Ice and Fire book title, Tyrion’s disbelief at not being mentioned (typical), and the clunky “Long May He Reign” (which will get better, we promise) farewell to Bran, it was a delight.
Sure, Bronn got his Highgarden position a little too easily, but he’s the Master of Coin now! And he wants to rebuild brothels instead of ships! And Ser Davos survived, and is brilliant, and even calls back to Stannis when he corrects Bronn’s grammar. And Podrick Payne has been KNIGHTED!
Bran’s special abilities mean he probably doesn’t need to attend small council meetings - he can just read the mental minutes anytime. But it’s a good sign that he’s there, even for a little while, before deciding he’d like to try to find Drogon. A good move? Who knows. It’s probably worth having a bit of an idea what the world’s remaining nuclear weapon is doing.
Finally Tyrion gets to have another crack at telling his favourite joke:
“I once took a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel…”
But the action cuts away before he can deliver the punchline. Does anyone have one? My attempt is thus:
“The madam said ‘What do you plan to do with those?’ and I said ‘Hind your own beeswax’!”
Look, it’s not great. But the best and shortest I could come up with.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this Hot Take Pre-Recap Recap - I'll be back with a full recap as soon as I possibly can! Don't forget this is your last chance to get onboard my Patreon if you want to support my writing. Thank you so much.