In the Season 7 finale of “Game of Thrones,” Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen hooked up, Viserion demolished the Wall, Arya killed Littlefinger and Jaime finally left Cersei. By the end the show had boiled the roughly 9,000 subplots it introduced over seven seasons down to two: Jon and Dany’s coalition of the willing vs. Cersei and Euron the mad pirate. And the White Walkers vs. everyone.
‘We don’t have time for this. The Night King has your dragon. The Wall has fallen. The dead march south’
Hello everyone, and welcome back for the final six episodes of Game of Thrones, complete with fancy new credits. As the end looms into sight, it’s clear there’s not going to be any messing around. This was a thrilling episode with its pedal to the floor, in which new alliances were made, old ones tested and long-awaited reunions occurred (hurrah for Jon and Arya’s tenderly scripted meeting).
That said, I do sympathise with Bran’s testy reminder that there are bigger things to worry about than whether Dany or Sansa AKA the Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle of Winterfell (I’ll leave you to work out who’s who) should have precedence.
Beneath the snarking, though, some serious points were made. This was an episode about the need for family. As Arya reminded Jon when he bitched about Sansa: “I’m defending our family, and so is she.” Arya, back in her home and reunited with her family, is instantly reverting to the girl she was in season one. It’s as though she can finally relax now her pack are by her side once more.
That’s important: as far back as the first series we learned that the pack survives but the lone wolf struggles. Now the Stark family are together and should be stronger for it, as, at least temporarily, are the Greyjoys.
Meanwhile, although the Lannister brothers are about to be reunited, the fact that their sister is trying to have them both killed – and by their former bromantic companion at that – is more than a little problematic.
Arya wasn’t the only one who appeared to have relaxed. Tyrion, too, was less bitter, not apparently drinking, and even a little bit hopeful. Of course this is Game of Thrones so Sansa, who won’t be reverting to season one type any time soon, swiftly set him straight. Her “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive” was one of the saddest lines ever uttered on this show.
‘I never wanted a crown. I only wanted to protect the North’
Oh Jon. Sometimes I worry that the newly revealed “King of the Bloody Seven Kingdoms” (TM Samwell Tarly) is doomed to stay trapped in the same circle of hell where he understands that the Night King must be defeated, gathers an army from a problematic source to defeat them, then faces rebellion on all sides from those who don’t accept that source.
Still, at least this time (in contrast to the battle over the Wildlings with the Night’s Watch) he gets to ride dragons over the snowy wastes and have a dalliance with the dragon queen. Although I can’t be the only person who heard the sad shade of Ygritte sighing “You know nothing, Jon Snow” as Dany suggested they hide out by the icy waterfall forever.
In truth, Jon is about to have far bigger problems. One of the most intriguing things about this show is its increasingly ambivalent attitude towards Dany. At first, she was positioned as a person to root for. The girl who saved herself and birthed her dragons, who amassed an army and freed those who, like her, had no power. But as that power has grown, so has her absolute belief in her divine right to rule. With both Sam and Sansa raising questions about that, there’s clearly trouble ahead.
If you want a whore, buy one. If you want a queen, earn her’
In the end, is there much difference between Dany and Cersei? Both are keen to ensure people bend the knee to them. Both have a somewhat final way with those who annoy them. Both enjoy a dramatically staged tableaux of power.
That said, Dany is better at arranging her romantic entanglements. Honestly Cersei, what’s the point of laying down groundrules if you instantly break them because you’ve always liked an arrogant man?
Cersei will surely come to regret the decision to sleep with Euron, and not only because you should never trust a man who cheats at cards and boasts about it. Euron hides his real steel under the pantomime villainy. He spends a lot of time telling people ‘oh I’m awful’ which serves to make them think it’s all a joke. But I don’t believe for one second that all he wants is to bed the queen of King’s Landing – he’s got his eyes firmly on the Iron Throne.
- I loved the final scene between Bran and Jaime; such a huge amount was said in a mere glance. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau captured Jaime’s sorrow over the man he once was, grief and pity over what happened to Bran (to whom he’d probably never given a second thought) and fear over what might happen now.
• I’m in two minds about the Night King’s apparent branching out into serial killer-style sacrifices. There has always been an element of horror to George RR Martin’s writing and this did fit with that, but it did also seem out of character. Does the Night King really have time to fly around on his ice dragon arranging bizarre warnings for people to stumble across? Or is there more to this?
Tell us what you thought of Game of Thrones season eight’s first episode
• Euron is exactly the kind of person who would have an entirely mute crew as a fashion accessory, but who clearly hasn’t thought through the consequences: what happens when there’s an ambush and they can’t raise the alarm?
• I was so pleased something finally went right for Theon as he managed to rescue Yara. I’m not sure this newfound desire for redemption will work in his favour at Winterfell, but you’ve gotta love a tryer …
• The bigger budgets clearly enabled Dany and Jon’s dragon ride, although it did bring back uncomfortable memories of The NeverEnding Story.
• I enjoyed both the scene between Arya and Gendry, in which we were treated to the slightly awkward spectacle of Arya flirting, and Sansa explaining that Arya was probably ‘lurking somewhere’. She does love a lurk.
• The line of the episode, however, was Cersei’s ‘I wanted those elephants’, which Lena Headey delivered with panache.
Several mute sailors shot or killed with axes to the head during Theon’s rescue of Yara, plus one headbutt from Yara to Theon because that’s just how Greyjoys roll. The removal of a number of nameless people’s limbs which were then set in a circle with a zombified Little Lord Umber sacrificed in the centre in a bizarre homage to serial killers by the Night King.
One scene of Bronn with three nubile young women, which was so much like the sexposition scenes from series one that I’m pretty sure it was homage.
Random German of the week
Hello to Marc Rissmann, best known for playing thugs in shows from The Last Kingdom to The Man in the High Castle and now turning up as Captain Harry Strickland, leader of the Golden Company.
So what did you think? Was it the opening you expected? Which reunion did you like the most? And who would win in a knockdown fight between Sansa and Dany? As always, all speculation and no spoilers are welcome below …