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Game of Thrones Recap S8-E3

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Season 8, Episode 3 “The Long Night”

It was the best of shows. It was the worst of shows. Game of Thrones built much of its reputation and fan base with thoughtful character development and plot building. The scintillating action was a byproduct of the buildup, like the whistle of a tea kettle after there’s too much pressure in the pot. If there’s a valid criticism of the show it’s that as we’ve gotten closer to the end, over the last two seasons in particular, we’ve gotten more microwave plots than the Crock Pot storytelling we are used to.

Season 8, Episode 3 is the perfect mash up of old Thrones and more recent Thrones. It’s an amazing episode in and of itself. The first viewing will have you holding your breath for what feels like the entire 82 minutes but there are issues with the storytelling that make you wonder why HBO and the show runners didn’t just opt for another season or 2 to let some of these stories stretch their legs.

I’m an optimist so let’s just talk about everything wonderful about this episode first. And there is a lot to be in awe of. It was tremendously well crafted and executed. The problems are almost all in how it fits into the larger story arc.

The episode begins with last minute preparations and everyone getting into place around Winterfell. Bran is being wheeled to the Godswood by Theon and his men. Tyrion looks angry as he has to go to the crypts. Sam looks scared shitless as he prepares to join one of the flanks outside of the castle walls. Sansa and Arya are atop the battlements. The dragons screech overhead.

We see Jorah outside ready to lead the Dothraki infantry. We hear horse steps and lookie here Melisandre has joined the dance. The Red Woman helps to set it off by casting a spell that lights all of the Dothraki arakhs aflame. It’s like several thousand Dothraki Beric Dondarions now. This new advantage is a psychological lift to everyone. Melisandre exits into the castle as Ser Davos orders the gates open for her. Arya and Melisandre lock eyes for a moment as she enters the gates. Davos meets the Red Woman on a staircase ready to question her for returning to Winterfell. He told her if she ever returned he’d execute her himself but she cuts him off before he begins. “There’s no need to execute me, Ser Davos. I’ll be dead before the dawn.”

The problems are almost all in how it fits into the larger story arc.

We see Dany and Jon sitting sentinel atop a nearby hill where they have flown with the two dragons. Their plan is to protect Bran without being close enough to scare the Night King away. From the two leaders’ point of view we see Ser Jorah and Dothraki charge off into the night with their flaming arakhs. The dead are waiting at the far end of the field on the edge of the forest and as is the Dothraki way they will bring the fight, not wait for it to come to them. Thousands of screaming warriors take off on horseback. It looks like a wave of embers moving in unison from Jon and Dany’s perspective. Behind the riders, the castle launches flaming balls from trebuchets into the darkness beyond. Ghost is running with the Dothraki. As they get to the far edge of the field we see one Dothraki fighter’s shocked expression as he runs into an undead giant. We can’t see much else. We do see the flames from the fireballs extinguish and the lights from all of the Dothraki arakhs start to go out. There is no forward momentum from the thousands of Dothraki once they hit the far edge of the field. From the perspective of Winterfell behind them you start to see the embers at the far edge of the field extinguished until there is nothing but darkness again on the horizon and no more warriors screaming. It’s a chilling moment. Think back to King Robert in season 1 saying that nobody could defeat the Dothraki in open field combat and the scene from season 7 when the Dothraki, alongside Dany and Drogon, routed the Lannister army. Now the Army of The Dead has massacred them all in just minutes. Ser Jorah manages to retreat back to the castle on his horse.

From the hilltop, Dany is ready to join the action. Jon cautions her to wait for the Night King. She snatches her arm away from him. “The dead are already here.” Imagine how she felt in this moment knowing the Dothraki followed her across the Narrow Sea only to be slaughtered in one fell swoop.

Dragon fire rains down on the dead

Back on the field you can hear the dead screeching in the distance and hear the rumble of their approach as we see the faces of some of our favorites; Grey Worm, Gendry, Brienne, Jaime, Tormund, Sam, The Hound, Beric, and Podrick along with unnamed northmen, Unsullied and Knights of the Vale. In seconds the soldiers are overrun by a tidal wave of undead soldiers and you see unnamed hero soldiers getting hacked and sliced and driven off of their feet. Brienne is gang tackled and we hear her screams but Jaime makes the save. A beat later, dragon fire rains down on the dead as Jon and Dany change their plan and help the ground forces as best they can. They make several laps around the battlefield frying up undead soldiers. They fly off to the far edge of the battlefield and see the Night King’s lieutenants at the edge of the forest and start to fly closer for an attack when a wintry storm cloud comes out of the forest. The Night King brings the cold, we’ve been told, but now he’s manipulating the wind and snow creating another layer of darkness to confuse the army of the living. We can see Jon and Dany covering their eyes as they fly with the dragons. Arya sees the battle getting thicker and tells Sansa to go down to the crypts. Sansa is reluctant to leave but Arya hands her a dragonglass dagger and when Sansa says she doesn’t know how to use it Arya tells her to “stick them with the pointy end.”

On the ground we get shots of many of our heroes fighting. Nobody is dead yet from that initial surge although Sam almost dies before Edd saves him. Then Edd takes a knife through the back of his head. He’s our first name brand casualty of the night.

In the air we see Jon flying through zero-visibility skies and crashing Rhaegal into treetops and finally into Dany and Drogon. They all recover.

On the ground the Unsullied are doing an amazing job of fighting their united defensive style, moving as one, guarding the castle and letting the other groups of northern fighters move around them to get into position. They are badly outnumbered but you see their value here when they fight the way they have been trained.

We see Arya save the Hound by shooting a flaming arrow into a dead man who was chasing him.

We see Grey Worm break off from his group of Unsullied and run back into the castle. He made the determination that he would have been trapped outside of the castle if he didn’t retreat. The Unsullied are all that was  protecting the retreating northerners from being overrun by the Army of the Dead. Basically at this point it’s the castle walls, the trench filled with wooden spikes and on the other side of the trench it’s the Unsullied. What is about to happen will trap the Unsullied on the opposite side of the trench and keep them from having a way to retreat.

Davos reads the situation and gives the order to light the trench and an Unsullied soldier destroys the only bridge over the trench. There’s now no means of retreat for the Unsullied. We see Grey Worm looking back at the point where he just was in the front of his group of Unsullied soldiers and he sees the dead ripping them apart. Grey Worm sees what would have been his own fate if he had not retreated and that would have mean he never gets to see Missandei again.

Because of the storm Dany cannot see Davos atop the battlements trying to signal her to light the trenches. We see Melisandre though, and the few Unsullied who are inside the castle create a shield of soldiers for her so that she can walk up to the inside edge of the trench and try to light the wooden spikes with her magic. She is praying to the Lord of Light trying to create a flame. The line must be busy because nothing is happening. She repeats her chant over and over and you can see her sensing that time is running out around her. The Army of the Dead are flinging themselves into the trench and navigating their way around the spikes getting closer and closer to the other side. Finally the spell works; the spikes go up in a huge fire and we see the reflection of the blaze in her eyes as it roars around the trench and surrounds the castle creating a pit of fire between the enemy and the walls of Winterfell.

Of course the fire has The Hound all in his feelings and he’s unable to fight so he cowers around a corner atop the battlements.

In the crypts, Tyrion is still angry that he isn’t a part of the battle. He believes he may see something that could make a difference. Sansa tells him that he would have died outside and the most heroic thing they can do now is to “look the truth in the face.” They share a warm moment where she tells him he was the best of her husbands. Oh you mean he was cooler than the inbred psycho and the rapist psycho? High five, Tyrion!

We see Theon guarding Bran in the Godswood. Theon apologizes for his terrible past and Bran tells him his mistakes have brought him to where he is now, which is home. Of course for Bran there is nothing to forgive. There’s a wisdom in his non-reactions. The burden of having so much knowledge leaves little room in his mind for old squabbles.  Bran wargs into a murder of crows that serve as his eyes for what’s going on around the castle. Bran, as the crows, spots the Night King riding on the back of Viserion in the skies not far away from Winterfell. The Night King is commanding the dead to lay down on the flames at different points around the trench. They are sacrificing themselves making themselves into bridges across the flames.  There are so many of them that it doesn’t matter if a few dozen turn into area rugs.

Jon spies the Night King and takes flight after him.

The Army of the Dead are on the castle walls in a moment having used their corpse bridges to get over the fiery trench. We see Brienne, Jaime, Gendry, Beric, Jorah, Gendry, and Sam all still alive and all atop the battlements fighting their hearts out. Everyone except the Hound who is having a Theon moment because of all the fire and monsters. Next we see Arya comes on the scene with her new custom made sex spear and she starts ripping every undead person she comes across a new asshole. The dead spill over the walls, past our heroes and into the Winterfell courtyard where we see little Lyanna Mormont just as a dead giant crashes through the gate. He swipes her aside with one hand and rampages on.

Beric tried to snap the Hound out of it but the Hound curses him and tells him you can’t beat death. But then Beric spots Arya being a ninja and says “tell her that!” That snaps the Hound to attention and he starts to fight on.

Little Lyanna has survived getting slapped by the giant and she picks up a dragon glass sword to charge the undead Giant. For some reason she screams first instead of just doing it quietly. This will become a recurring theme. He picks her up and starts crushing her body in his hand. We hear her bones cracking but in a dying effort she stabs the Giant through the eye with the dragonglass sword, killing him as he kills her. Not Lyanna Mormont!

In the skies we see Jon and Dany both tussling with the Night King in a dragon fight but they lose him in the clouds.

Inside the castle; Arya is on the run from the dead. She’s inside a library playing hide and seek with a few of them and her stealthiness is what saves her. She escapes out of a door while they chase after a distraction she’s made inside. She’s only safe for a moment until they are charging after her and we see her running down a twisting hallway to escape.

Beric and The Hound are inside the castle now, intent on finding Arya. They find her with an undead soldier on top of her trying to murder her. Beric tosses his flaming sword at the wight knocking him off of Arya and then picks Arya up so they can escape. He gets stabbed in his ankle for his troubles and then gets stabbed several more times in his torso as the three of them try to navigate the halls to safety. Beric is able to use his body to block the hallway for a moment and allow Arya and the Hound to get a headstart and then after getting stabbed several more times a clearly wounded Beric still outruns the dead to catch up with Arya and The Hound just as they are going through a door and locking themselves into a safe room before any of the dead can follow. Kind of hard to believe but okay.

Beric dies on the floor of the safe room with Arya holding his head.  Over Arya’s shoulder we see Melisandre. “The Lord brought him back for a purpose. And now that purpose is served.”

“I know you.” Arya says.

Duh. You were literally talking about this chick to your boyfriend yesterday, Arya.

Arya: “You said we’d meet again.”
Melisandre: “And here we are at the end of the world.”
Arya: “You also said I’d shut many eyes forever. You were right about that too.”
Melisandre: “Brown eyes. Green eyes… and blue eyes.”
Arya nods.
Melisandre: “What do we say to the God of death?”
Arya: “Not today.”
Arya runs off.

The Army of the Dead have reached the Godswood and Theon and his team are sniping them away with arrows. Bran is still warging.

Jon gets into another dragon wrestling match with the Night King up in the clouds. The Night King tries to get an angle so that he can stab Jon with a spear while their dragons are entangled but the dragons are snapping at each other and the ride is too bumpy. Both dragons get pretty beat up during this exchange. Rhaegal has Viserion’s neck in his jaws poking even more holes in the undead dragon and Viserion has his claws in Rhaegal, bloodying him. Finally Dany swoops in on Drogon and claws the ice dragon and the Night King gets tossed off and falls from the sky. Rhaegal manages to make it to the ground but it’s a rough landing and Jon falls off. Dany is now the lone person riding a dragon and she spots the Night King on the ground. He survived that long fall. He doesn’t even look like anything has happened. He’s standing on his feet like he fell off a tire swing.

Dany swoops Drogon down for a closer look and the Night King is standing there empty-handed. Dany sees the opportunity to end it and says the magic word to Drogon. “Dracarys!” And it’s flame on. Jon is a couple of hundred feet back on the ground watching the scene. The flames are intense and the leader of the Army of the Dead is now a puddle. Show is over time for a new episode of “Insecure.”

Wait, what?! By gawd that’s  the Night King’s music! He didn’t feel a thing. His clothes aren’t even burnt. He’s not even sweating. He smiled at Dany as if to say “nice try, sis.” Then he tossed his ice spear at her trying to repossess her 2011 Lexus Drogon. Dany managed to duck the spear and fly away.

The Night King starts walking towards the Godswood. He’s just outside of the castle gates. Jon sees the Night King has survived so he draws his sword and takes off running after him. The Night King stops and turns towards Jon. Jon wisely decided to stop and assess the situation. Now the Night King sees a mass of newly dead bodies all around him and he slowly stars to raise his arms. Jon has seen this movie before. The eyes of all of the dead start to open and they start to rise. We cut back to the battlements and the courtyard inside the castle and we see those newly dead starting to stir as well… including newly dead Edd and Lyanna Mormont.

Inside the castle; we go back to the perfectly safe crypts and the dead there have started to stir as well. They poke their way out of their tombs and begin attacking the people who are being kept safe from the fighting. Don’t worry, nobody we know died.

Back outside Jon is fighting off the newly undead soldiers but he is badly outnumbered. He’s saved by Dany and Drogon who have now landed and blast him a path to the castle and incinerate everyone in his way. Jon takes off running and Dany spends a little too much time looking at Winterfell’s ass. Behind her Drogon is being swamped by the undead who always wanted to ride a dragon and never got a chance while they are alive. Drogon is trying to shake them off and fight them off as they climb, grab and stab him. In the commotion Dany gets knocked to the ground where she’s almost killed by an undead Thenn but Jorah runs up just in time to chops off his head. Dany picks up a discarded dragonglass sword and she and Jorah fight side by side.

The music changes to a slow dramatic beat and we get a medley of shots showing the current predicament of everyone:

-Back inside the crypts the undead Starks are doing a lot of damage. Tyrion and Sansa are hiding behind a tomb and share a tender moment where it looks like one of them won’t make it. They have to make a run for it. They find safety… elsewhere in the tomb?

-We get a shot of Podrick, Jaime, Brienne and Sam all fighting their hearts out. Everyone still alive. Jon’s in the courtyard but Viserion has landed in the courtyard is blowing his blue fire everywhere and Jon cannot get around him.

Dany and Jorah fighting their hearts out. Jorah is really beaten up and is being hacked almost as often as he makes a killing blow.  Theon is out of arrows but he’s still killing dead men with his bow.

-The Night King enters the Godswood with his white Walker lieutenants.  A wide shot shows Theon to be the only surviving Ironborn that is there with Bran and there are a lot of undead soldiers standing on the periphery.

-Bran comes back from the warging state and opens his eyes.

“Theon.” He says. “You’re a good man. Thank you.” Well, that’s a wrap for you, Theon.

-He charges off towards the Night King with a spear in hand and gives a guttural scream. The scream probably doesn’t help if your potential victim will be even slightly more off guard if you just keep your mouth shut. The Night King snaps Theon’s spear in half like a twig and stabs him through the gut with it. Theon lays dying. Maybe just stand there next to Bran and wait until reinforcements show up Theon. Maybe don’t run up on the King of The Dead with a spear and maybe don’t announce yourself doing it. The Theon experience was not my favorite part of Game of Thrones.   

In the courtyard we see Jon is still pinned down by Viserion. Every time he tries to get out he winds up having to duck for cover.

The Night King is approaching Bran now with nobody in his way…

Jorah and Dany fight on. Jorah moves Dany out of the way of an attack and takes a sword strike to his chest. It’s been nice knowing you Ser Friendzone.

The Night King walks right up to Bran. Bran raises his gaze to meet the face of death. The Night King reaches back over his shoulder to unsheathe his sword. The camera is in front of him looking over his shoulder…

… Outside; Jon knows time is running out and he gets desperate. The ice dragon has sniffed out where Jon is trying to hide for cover and Jon stands up and faces him… and yells! Viserion opens his mouth to smoke this fool. Do dead dragons eat? Because he should eat this idiot…

… In the Godswood; The Night King is still reaching and over his shoulder we see Arya jumping into the picture, Catspaw dagger in her left hand to sneak attack the Night King. Until she screams for some fucking reason as she is about to land and he catches her by the throat and her left arm. He starts to squeeze the life out of her should’ve been quiet ass. But Arya drops the dagger from her trapped left hand into her free right hand and drives it into his chest at the same point where the Children of the Forest put the dragon glass in his heart to create him. It’s the same move she did when she sparred with Brienne. It’s reminiscent of Jon asking how she snuck up on him in the Godswood in the season opener.

And as she does it the Night King explodes into shaved ice. He’s not smiling anymore. Half a beat later his lieutenants all explode as well and the entire dead army they have created fall dead where they stand all over the castle. Viserion collapses into bones in front of Jon. Dany and Jorah get to stop fighting and Jorah collapses. We see Jaime, Brienne and Podrick in the courtyard, Tyrion, Sansa, Missandei, Varys, Gilly and Little Sam in the crypts. all of them are safe.

Outside the castle; Dany is crying over Jorah who dies in her arms. Drogon lands behind her and uses his body to shield her and it looks like a big dragon hug. The Hound and Melisandre exit the castle. Davos is right behind her ready to draw his sword but she exits the gate and walks into the field. Melisandre discards her magic necklace and immediately turns into her true older self and dies.

RIP Dothraki army, Edd, Lyanna Mormont, Beric Dondarion, Jorah Mormont, Melisandre, Night King and my expectations.

Epilogue:

You can’t build up the army of the dead as this unstoppable behemoth, double down on that by allowing them to make shredded cheese out of the Dothraki but then for the rest of the episode have them only kill 1.5 important characters. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to see any of the main characters killed but the storyline dictated more than just some supporting players getting offed.

What made Game of Thrones great initially was the life or death stakes of the game. Cersei told us “when you play the game of Thrones you either win or you die.” The whole story of the White Walkers and the Night King was suppose to amplify that. Political squabbles are nothing when you are facing death itself, or so we were told. But what happens when you face death and the casualties are almost all casual? This episode was amazing in and of itself but in the framework of the series it seems like the writers are starting to get sentimental. That’s not bad, but it’s not what what we were introduced to.

We saw Sam fighting his way of the ground against multiple dead men. Sam? We saw Brienne get gang tackled by a crew of untiring, unrelenting dead men, just after we saw them kill thousands of Dothraki, but she’s just fine. We saw one handed Jaime Lannister make it out just fine. I can suspend my reality every Sunday night but let’s agree on what I’m supposed to think is realistic.

Also we spent the last seven plus seasons being told that Jon is the Prince that Was Promised but now Arya is the one who kills the Night King. Okay, that doesn’t make a ton of sense but at least we can ask Melisandre about it next week. Oh wait…

Next week we get back to the war for the Iron Throne. I’m still on board but it feels like a different show than the one I met in season 1.

Post Epilogue Notes:

The episode description on HBO is “Arya looks to prove her worth as a fighter.”

Good one HBO! Let me try.

Avengers: Infinity War – “Thanos looks to do some spring cleaning.”

Or how about:

Batman – “Young Bruce Wayne has issues coping with parental loss.”

TV

Game of Thrones Recap S8-E6

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Season 8, Episode 6 “The Iron Throne”

It’s been a long twisting road to get here but here we are. Most of us would have liked to see a slower pace the last two seasons as the series wrapped things up. The speed at which characters moved around the map mirrored the pace at which storylines were tied up. In early seasons it took weeks to get anywhere and on those trips we got to know everyone and became invested in their stories. Think Arya and The Hound going North or Robb Stark going south or Daenerys going from east to west. With everything now having wrapped up we see that the best part of the ride was the trip itself. The last season will leave a lot of people wanting, but as far as the final episode goes I thought it was well done.

We start from the perspective of Tyrion walking through the ash and rubble of King’s Landing. He passes charred corpses everywhere, and a badly burned man aimlessly walking down the street. You’re left to wonder the man’s story and think about how far Daenerys has gone. Over Tyrion’s shoulder we see Jon and Davos. The three men stop and Tyrion says he needs to speak to Daenerys. He goes forward alone. Jon and Davos encounter Grey Worm and a group of Unsullied getting ready to execute Lannister soldiers. Jon and Davos try to stop him but Grey Worm is undeterred. His orders from Queen Daenerys were that all who follow Cersei Lannister must die. There’s a confrontation between Jon’s Northern soldiers and Grey Worm’s Unsullied but Davos staves off any violence between the two groups by telling Jon they must find the queen. They leave Grey Worm to his work and he begins executing the Lannister soldiers.

Tyrion has gone ahead to the Red Keep, alone. He finds a torch to light and finds his way down to the bowels of the half-destroyed castle. He sees the rubble blocking the pathways beneath the Keep and already senses that his plan for Jaime and Cersei to escape did not work. He presses ahead and spots Jaime’s gold hand under a pile of bricks. As he inspects the pile he finds Jaime and Cersei’s lifeless bodies. Tyrion breaks down weeping for his family and slams a brick against the pile in frustration.

On ground level we see the Dothraki and Unsullied waiting as Drogon arrives with Dany on his back. She somehow has had time to change her clothes into a sleek all black outfit and get her hair done even though this seems like the immediate aftermath of last week’s episode. Drogon lands inside the Red Keep with Dany and all of the soldiers are outside in the courtyard. Notable that Northmen aren’t among the soldiers but we do see Jon making his way to the Red Keep and Arya lurking in the crowd.

When Dany lands there’s an incredible shot of her walking out of the castle while Drogon takes off behind her. As he spread his wings in the background you see her body walking towards us  in the foreground and it looks they could be her wings. She is the dragon now she’s no longer our tender hearted khaleesi.

From atop an elevated platform in the courtyard Dany addresses the Dothraki and Unsullied soldiers and thanks them for following her across the sea and giving her the Seven Kingdoms. She singles out Grey Worm to make him her new Master of War, Commander of all of her forces. Dany fires up her forces with a rousing speech. She entreaties them to keep fighting for her to liberate to the whole continent. “From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannister to Qarth from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea.” It feels like we’re getting a rundown on where Varys sent all of his letters last week telling of Jon’s true parentage. Dany’s message while directed at the armies is really a note to Tyrion that any lord or lady who opposes Dany will be prosecuted and we’ve just seen how she deals with any and everyone who she believes supports another ruler.

Tyrion and Jon are behind Dany as she exhorts the soldiers on. Tyrion steps forward at the end of her speech. She turns to him and says, “you freed your brother. You committed treason.” Tyrion admits it but rebuts with, “you slaughtered a city.” The real traitor is Dany is what he’s indicating. She betrayed their cause. He takes off his Hand of the Queen pin and tosses it down the steps. The Unsullied who have been banging their spears on the ground saluting Their queen stop when they see Tyrion’s action. It’s so quiet you can hear the pin drop.

Dany commands her guards to seize Tyrion. They escort him away and she follows them back into the castle. Tyrion and Jon lock eyes as he is led away. Dany and Jon lock eyes as well as if she’s expecting his betrayal as well. Jon says nothing. He watches silently as they walk off. Arya, ninja style, appears by Jon’s side as this happens. She startled him and he’s startled more by how she looks. She’s obviously been in the city the whole time. What is she doing in King’s Landing? Arya tells Jon she came to kill Cersei but Dany got to her first. Jon tells Arya to wait outside the city gates. He fears for her safety and she fears for his. Arya warns Jon again that Dany is a killer who won’t allow Jon to live because she knows who he really is.

Jon goes to see Tyrion where he is being held prisoner. It’s the type of scene we have missed the last two seasons, two characters having a long, meaningful conversation where the words have room to breathe. Tyrion laments betraying Varys but know what he will be joining him soon. He asks Jon about life after death since Jon has some experience. Jon tells him he doesn’t think there’s anything after you die. Tyrion talks about all of his sins that would keep him out of paradise, treason amongst them and thinks oblivion was his best hope anyway. Jon objects to that but Tyrion will have none of it. It was treason and he’d do it again. Tyrion says he chose his fate but the people of kings Landing did not. Jon cannot defend what Dany has done but says it was in the heat of battle and now it’s over. Tyrion says it’s not pointing out that the enemy had surrendered and pointing out that Dany did not sound like she is done liberating the Seven Kingdoms. Jon is defensive of his queen as he fights within himself to stay loyal to Dany. Dany saw her friend beheaded, he reasons. She saw her dragon fall from the sky, he explains. He tells Tyrion that it’s easy to judge when you’re not on the battlefield. Tyrion asks Jon if he would have done it? Jon has ridden a dragon. He’s had the power to scorch enemies. Would he have destroyed the city after the fight was over? Jon says he doesn’t know. Jon does know he just won’t answer because he doesn’t want to betray Daenerys and Tyrion knows it. Tyrion tells Jon that Dany’s single mindedness will make her go further down this path because she believes it is her destiny and as she piles up more victories and more bodies there will be no stopping her. Tyrion says that it was vanity to think he could guide her as her Hand. Her nature is fire and blood, after all. Jon spits back at him “do you think our house words are stamped on our bodies when we’re born and that’s who we are? I’d be fire and blood too. She’s not her father no more than you’re Tywin Lannister.”

This conversation is more powerful when viewed through the lens that Tyrion may be a Targaryen. Tyrion responds “my father was an evil man. My sister was an evil woman.” He is ostensibly talking about Tywin and Cersei but  he could just as well be talking about the Mad King and Daenerys. This theory was never confirmed on the show but it seemed like a wink to the audience from the writers.

Tyrion tells Jon, “I know you love her and I love her too. Not as successfully as you but I believed in her with all my heart. Love is more powerful than reason. Look at my brother.”

“Love is the death of duty” Jon responds. He’s echoing Maester Aemon’s words to him when Jon wanted to ride south and fight alongside his brother Robb to avenge Ned Stark’s death. That scene was powerful on its own but later we realize the man offering the advice was actually Jon’s uncle unbeknownst to either of them. Jon repeating the words of a good Targaryen man who refused the throne is powerful when presented against the backdrop of the choice he must make. In itself, it supports Jon’s statement about choice. Maester Aemon was a kind soul even though he was a Targaryen. His life wasn’t fire and blood even though that was his house’s words.

Tyrion responds, “sometimes duty is the death of love.” The two statements bookend Jon’s character arc. With Aemon’s words he threw  himself into being a member of The Night’s Watch and accepted his responsibility at the time. Now wise counsel from a different (possibly) Targaryen uncle is shaping Jon’s destiny again. In a show that loves symmetry from different seasons this doesn’t feel coincidental. No, the show never confirmed that Tyrion was half Targaryen but it gave us a lot of evidence to support the theory from Tyrion’s rapport with the dragons to his mother dying giving birth to Tywin flat out telling him, “you’re no son of mine.” The writers are teasing us here and this is the kind of moment that we missed the last two seasons. You can enjoy it on a surface level as moving conversation between two compelling characters or you can dive down the rabbit hole like it made me do. Ultimately, what made the show so interesting is the layers of relationships between characters and the questions about destiny versus choice.

Jon gets up to leave Tyrion. The conversation has moved him but not enough to betray Dany.  She may be wrong she is the queen and she has the right to be wrong and Jon must be true to his word. As Jon gets to the door Tyrion asks, “but what about your sisters? Do you think they will bend the knee?” Tyrion asks, “why do you think Sansa told me in the first place? She doesn’t want Dany to be queen.” Jon says, “they don’t get to choose.“ Tyrion says, “no, but you do. And you have to choose now,” as a guard comes and lets Jon out.

At the Red Keep we see a scene that looks like Dany’s vision from the House of the Undying. She approaches the Iron Throne with snow falling all around her because the roof and walls of the throne room have been destroyed. In her vision she approached the throne but never touched it. This time she lightly grabs one of the arms of the throne and holds it for moment. Outside, Jon is approaching the Red Keep and a large figure stirs in front of him. Drogon has been covered by falling snow as he naps in front of the Red Keep. He raises up and takes measure of Jon by means of a taking a deep whiff of that Targaryen musk. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time. Drogon lets him pass.

As Jon enters the ventilated throne room she starts to tell him about what she imagined the Iron Throne looked like as a girl who couldn’t yet count to 20. When she imagined a throne made of a thousand swords it was so large in her mind’s eye that you could only see the soles of the king’s feet as he sat on it. Jon interrupts her and berates her with what he has seen in the streets: prisoners executed in the street and little children burned. Dany says she tried to make peace with Cersei who tried  to use the innocence of civilians as a weapon against her. He shakes his head. Jon asks about Tyrion. Dany says Tyrion betrayed her. Jon asks her to forgive him. She says she cannot. Jon says they need a world of mercy. Dany says she will be merciful to the next generation but not to the people in this world who are loyal to the past. She says the new world will be good. Jon asks how does she know? She says that she knows what’s good and Jon does too because it is their destiny. Jon says he doesn’t. In this moment, especially, he isn’t sure what is right. He knows everyone needs to heed counsel sometimes though. Jon asks “what about everyone else who think they know what is good? Dany answers, “they don’t get to choose.” It’s the same line he just said to Tyrion back to haunt him. Where Jon used to to justify what a leader has earned by making sound choices Dany uses it to justify destiny. Jon knows in this world you get what you have earned, not what you think you deserve. Another uncle, Benjen told him that.

Dany exhorts Jon to build the new world with her. “This has been our reason since you were a little boy with a bastard’s name and I was a little girl who couldn’t count to 20. We do it together. We break the wheel together.” She goes in closer and they embrace.

Jon kisses her deeply and tells her. “You are my queen, now and always” his words signifying that doesn’t want to rule but he cannot let her do it either, not when she is making terrible choices. He stabs her in the heart with a knife. He catches her body as she falls dying. Jon cries as he holds her lifeless body in front of the iron throne. We hear Drogon roar but do not see him yet as he stirs outside of the Red Keep.

As Jon holds Dany’s lifeless body Drogon flies past in the background of the destroyed throne room.

Jon is crying and putting her body down as Drogon circles back and lands in the throne room. Jon steps away from her as Drogon, huge and terrifying, gets closer to see what has taken place. He sniffs her body, knife still in her chest and then nudges her with his snout. Her limp body doesn’t react. Drogon raises up and roars fiercely, mourning his mother’s death. He locks eye on Jon Snow and you see the fire build within his throat. Drogon then he lets fly a flame but not at Jon. He destroys the Iron Throne melting it down to nothing. Jon looks amazed, at not being incinerated by the dragon and also at what Drogon has done.

They talked about breaking the wheel and what Drogon has done was symbolic of that. The Iron Throne is no more. When you call back the earlier scene when Dany and Drogon appear to be one entity this furthers that. She did destroy the mechanisms controlling the old hands of power but her madness made her become what she hated. Jon killing her dismantles the wheel for the future. All of a Cersei’s forces are gone. Jon will not take the throne.  “We break the wheel together” were among Dany’s last words.

Drogon reacting to her death without seeing or hearing her die shows there was a spiritual connection between the queen and her dragon. Did death free her from the madness that took her down the wrong path? In her vision at the House of the Undying the next thing she saw after the Iron Throne was Khal Drogo and her dead son. Perhaps being reunited with her lost loves put her at peace and her spiritual connection to her dragon led to Drogon destroying the iron throne. Jon should be toast right there but instead Drogon completed Dany’s work, the work she told us she wanted to do for most of the series.

Drogon gently picks her body up in his claw and flies off with her body. He’s last seen flying east.

We flash forward a few weeks and this is where the episode got goofy. Tyrion is still a prisoner and we see him escorted from his cell to a meeting in the dragon pits with all of the high lords of Westeros. Sansa is there along with Arya, Bran, Gendry, Robin Arryn, Yara Greyjoy, the new prince of Dorne, Edmure Tully, Samwell Tarly, Lord Hugh of the Vale, Ser Brienne, Ser Davos and a few other people.

Jon Snow is being held prisoner by the Unsullied after killing the new queen and there are 20,000 northmen outside of King’s Landing ready to take Jon back. Everyone is there to discuss making peace. Tyrion somehow leads a conversation about how to choose a new king or queen even though he’s:

    • been locked up for weeks and shouldn’t know many details about any of this as it is happening.
    • not Lord of anything at the moment because he was wanted by one queen the renounced his only title to the next one and there’s currently nobody to pardon him.
    • Grey Worm told him to shut up because his words have led to entirely too many terrible choices. Great point, Grey Worm.

Tyrion says that nothing is more powerful than a good story in uniting power, not gold, not flags. He nominates “Bran the Broken” who has as interesting a story as anyone and definitely has the wisdom to do the job. The nickname sounds harsh when it’s first said but Tyrion said in a conversation with Jon Snow early in series, “never forget what you are. Others will not let you forget so wear it as armor and it will never hurt you.” Bran hasn’t responded yet but Sansa says Bran has no desire to rule and can’t father children. Tyrion says that is a good thing because sons of kings are often tyrants. From now on the high lords and ladies will meet at this spot to choose a new ruler, it will no longer be about succession but rulers will be chosen based on merit. It’s another choice versus destiny moment.

The lords and ladies vote “aye” on the nomination of King Bran the Broken. When it comes to Sansa she abstains from voting saying that the North has suffered too much to be a part of this mess anymore. She declares the North to be an independent kingdom. Brandon agrees. Nobody voices any disagreement. Not sure why Yara doesn’t bring up independence for The Iron Islands since she insisted on it with Daenerys but she votes “aye.” The North is now a free country and Bran is now officially Bran the Broken, first of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of The Six Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. As his first act Bran names Tyrion his Hand. Tyrion doesn’t want it. He points out that he has made many awful mistakes. Grey Worm says no but Bran says he is king so the answer is yes. Grey Worm says that this isn’t justice. Bran says that Tyrion has made many mistakes and he will spend the rest of his life fixing them. Grey Worm says that this is not enough. It seems like he’s still talking about Tyrion but instead we flash over to Jon in his cell.

Bran has negotiated that Jon will go to The Wall and join the Night’s Watch. Tyrion tells Jon he will hold no castles, father no children… the whole nine. It is a solution that ends the standoff. The lords are unhappy with this solution and so is Grey Worm so it must be a good compromise.

Jon is freed and as he departs King’s Landing Grey Worm and the Unsullied are departing for Naath, Missandei’s home island.

Bran, Sansa and Arya meet Jon at the docks before he ships off. Sansa asks Jon’s forgiveness for not being able to stop him from being sent to The Wall. Jon notes that she freed the North. Jon loves the North more than his own freedom. Arya and Jon say goodbye as she says she isn’t going North again. She will sail west to discover what is west of Westeros. Jon kneels before King Bran and apologizes for not being there for him (presumably when The Night King was about to kill him but) Bran assures him that he was where he was supposed to be. This lends credence to the idea that Jon really did draw away the dragon’s attention so that Arya could sprint over and shiv the Night King. That’s as close to resolution as we’ll get on that question, I guess.

Inside King’s Landing, Lady Brienne writes some more of Jaime Lannister’s history in the Book of Cool Knight Stuff, ensuring that he won’t be remembered for only being the Kingslayer. She doesn’t mention him being taker of V cards.

At the first Small Council meeting we see Lord Hand Tyrion, Master of Ships Davos, Master of Coin Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (Bronn!) and Grand Maester Samwell Tarly. Sam presents Tyrion with a Song of Ice and Fire which is the archmaester’s history is the wars following the death of King Robert. Tyrion is surprised to know that he has been left unmentioned. Curious, because in the book about knights  that Brienne is updating it says that “Tyrion Lannister killed King Joffrey Baratheon” so you’d think Tyrion would be mentioned in a thorough history book in some way.

King Bran enters escorted by the new head of  of his Kingsguard Ser Brienne. We learn that Bronn has become Lord of Highgarden, Davos has been granted a lordship and Podrick has been knighted.

We see Arya sailing west on a ship with a Stark sail with, Needle and the Cats Paw dagger on her waist. We see Sansa crowned and hailed as Queen in The North at Winterfell by enthusiastic bannermen.

Lastly, we see Jon enter Castle Black. Tormund is there waiting for him. Jon greets Ghost and this time gives him a proper nuzzling. Together they escort the Free Folk north of the wall where we now know that it is safe. Jon looks back as the gates close at Castle Black. There’s a realization that comes over his face as he sees everyone through the gate.  I wonder if this is what it was:

He is home and he’s still a king even if he doesn’t have a crown. Bran rules all of Westeros, Sansa rules the North and Jon is ostensibly the King beyond the wall. Who would deny Jon if he wanted to go south? It’s bittersweet on the surface but he’s somewhere that made him happy and the most powerful people in the country are in his debt and his enemies have gone back to Essos. There’s a look on his face as the gates close behind him. I hope that it was a look of peace.

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Game of Thrones Recap S8-E5

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Season 8, Episode 5 The Bells

The director of this episode, Miguel Sapochnik, is the Mariano Rivera of the show. When he directs an episode, he saves everyone from sloppy pacing and questionable storylines with the beauty of the images and by making everything look epic. We open at Dragonstone with Varys furiously writing letters to be sent out that tell of Jon Snow’s true identity. You can’t see everything but you can see “Rhaegar and Lyanna” “Ned Stark, “last Targaryen” on the scroll. He’s interrupted by a knock on his door. It’s a little bird who works in the kitchen who Varys has been trying to use to poison Daenerys, making good on the loaded look that he gave Tyrion in last week’s episode when Tyrion asked, “what will you do?” They’ve been unsuccessful because the queen will not eat. She hasn’t left her chambers or seen any visitors Varys tells her they will try again at suppertime.

Next, we see Varys greet Jon Snow as he arrives on the beach of Dragonstone. Varys basically makes his plea here for Jon to take his place as the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms questioning Dany’s temperament and mindstate and praising Jon’s. Jon refuses him and repeats his loyalty to Queen Daenerys. Tyrion is watching all of this from the distance.

Inside, Tyrion goes to see Daenerys who looks a hot mess. He approaches carefully and she already knows what he will report, someone has betrayed her. But her guess as to who it is– Jon Snow, catches Tyrion off guard. No, it was Varys he tells her. But Dany does the math that Jon told Sansa of his true identity who told Tyrion who told Varys and gets back to the same conclusion. Her deductive skills are impressive but also underneath what she is saying is her questioning the loyalty of everyone who knows this news. Why would Sansa calculate that Tyrion would share this information unless she knew he was ready to go behind Dany’s back? Tyrion says it’s his job to know the threats that make her vulnerable but Daenerys rightfully asks why he shared the information with others first?

Later that night Grey Worm and some of The Unsullied come and seize Varys from his chambers. He knows it is coming and takes off his rings and burns the last scroll he was writing. We’re left to wonder how many of those he sent and who they went to via Raven Express.

Tyrion admits to Varys that Tyrion is the one who snitched on him. Varys is executed on the beach by Drogon, Tarly style. His last words to Tyrion are that he hopes that he deserves it and that he is wrong about Daenerys. You’re not wrong, homie and that makes it worse.


Jon goes to visit Dany in her chambers where she is meeting with Grey Worm. Grey Worm is with the shits now, there’s no more warmth in him. He’s lost the love of his life. He exits the room when Dany says she wants to speak to Jon, subtle shade, because this layer of formality and security between Jon and Dany shouldn’t exist. Dany asks immediately “what did I say would happen if you told your sister?” Jon responds, “I don’t want it and that’s what I told him.” Dany’s right though, this information has taken on a life of its own now that he shared it. Sansa is a politician and she will use any advantage she has in the game now. Dany is upset that all she has in Westeros is fear and not the love she was receiving in the cities she ruled in Essos. Jon again declares his loyalty to Dany and his love but when she starts to get romantic he is not enthused at the thought of getting it in with his aunt. After feeling Jon pull away from kissing her you see the last bit of warmth leave her face. She says, “alright then, let it be fear.”


That same night in the Dragonstone throne room Dany, Tyrion and Grey Worm make final preparations for the attack on King’s Landing which will begin tomorrow. Tyrion believes that they will win easily and is intent on keeping Dany from burning the city to the ground unnecessarily. Dany believes that Cersei senses weakness in her and will use civilians as shield to stop her attack is insulting. Challenge accepted, she seems to indicate. Tyrion is alarmed by her seeming nonchalance about thousands of civilian lives and pushes Dany to relent and say she will accept a surrender without destroying the city if the Lannister army surrenders quickly. “Just listen for the bells, that will signal their surrender” he tells her. As Tyrion exits Dany stops him and informs him that his brother Jaime was stopped trying to get past their lines. It seems Jaime hasn’t forsaken Cersei after all. Another miscalculation by Tyrion. Dany warns him “the next time you fail me will be the last time.”

Tyrion meets with Jaime where he is being held prisoner. He has made plans for Davos to smuggle a small boat to the beach under the Red Keep. Tyrion frees Jaime and tells him to find his way to the lower levels of the Red Keep to the beach where he will find the boat. He tells Jaime to sail with Cersei to Pentos and start over. Jaime doesn’t think the plan will work but Tyrion tells him with certainty that Cersei cannot win and their only choice is to escape. Tyrion tells Jaime he wouldn’t have survived childhood if not for his older brother. We get a tearful embrace from the Lannister brothers as they say goodbye.

Finally, day breaks and we see a shot of a bell in King’s Landing again reminding us of Tyrion’s message about surrender and mercy. The camera finds Euron’s navy docked and his men notching scorpion bolts. All the ships have scorpions on their bows. Inside the walls, archers are readying themselves and civilians are scrambling for shelter and safety. We’re being reminded of the real cost of this war. Jaime is hooded and making his way towards the gate of the Red Keep but it is closed before he gets through. The Golden Company is outside the city walls. Across the field from them are the united Northern army, Unsullied and Dothraki forces. The tension is thick. Tyrion reminds Jon Snow that if he hears the bells that means surrender and that the Starkgaryen forces should stand down. Okay, we get it. The bells are the crypts of this episode.

We flash back to Euron who looks up in the sky and sees a shadow in the clouds. Drogon is flying down like a bat out of hell with Dany on his back and he attacks Euron’s navy with a fury. The scorpion bolts can’t catch him in what starts the ridiculousness of this episode. There are dozens of scorpions mounted on the ships who are anchored at sea, ostensibly waiting for this very moment and more scorpions on top of the walls of King’s Landing. For some reason nobody can hit Drogon. It’s like they were surprised to see him. Drogon’s fire cuts through the ships and the castle mounted scorpions like a hot knife through butter and he kills many soldiers while at it. This action is all at the back end, port side of the city which would make you think it’s near the Red Keep where Cersei is. Couldn’t Dany have just gone right to the Red Keep at this point? Instead she flies back to the front entrance of the city. Moments later Drogon blows a fiery hole through the front wall from the inside knocking out many of the Golden Company soldiers who are on the other side of that wall waiting for the attack to come from the soldiers in front of them. They didn’t expect the castle to be taken from inside. That signals the Northern Army to attack and they easily run through what’s left of the Golden Company. We see Grey Worm take out Captain Strickland of the Golden Company as he runs from the entire northern army in a scene that is supposed to evoke Jon standing up against the Bolton forces in the Battle of The Bastards. The CGI in that moment was awkward. The soldiers chasing Harry Strickland looks to be in an entirely different place in terms of lighting than Strickland. The Northern army are making mincemeat out of whoever they encounter and soon we see a standoff between Lannister soldiers and our hero forces. The Lannister soldiers all drop their swords and we hear people in the streets screaming “ring the bells.” We hear the refrain echo through the streets all the way back to Cersei who is in the window looking over the city, much the way she did when she blew up the Sept of Balor but this time she is not smiling. She looks to be in shock. She’s still thinking they have a chance although Qyburn tells her that shit isn’t looking good at all. Dany has landed Drogon on a rooftop not far from where Jon, Tyrion and Grey Worm are standing with their forces. Dany’s face is a little blackened from the smoke because she clearly wanted all the smoke today.

Finally, we hear the bells ring and Cersei closes her eyes. She knows she has lost.

Tyrion is relieved. This has been a quick victory as he hoped. Beers back at his place after everyone gets cleaned up? We look to Dany who is going all Winter Soldier on us as the bells ring. She’s gasping, crying, recalling all that she has lost as she eyes the Red Keep in the distance. She has officially lost it, it’s all in her face. She flies off towards the Red Keep. In that moment we’re all thinking if she’s going to fry Cersei it will be unnecessary, but satisfying. That’s not what she does. She starts raining fire down on the city streets on soldiers and civilians alike. No, Khaleesi! Tyrion’s face is a mask of horror and Jon’s is as well. Upon seeing Dany set it off, Grey Worm throws a spear into the chest of one of the Lannister soldiers who has surrendered. This signals the other soldiers to keep attacking. Jon is commanding his forces to stop but many of them are caught up in the bloodlust ripping through Lannister men and civilians alike. We see Grey Worm take notice of Jon telling his men to stop fighting and he seems like he wants to confront Jon. No time to settle the beef now though, as Grey Worm is too busy murdering his way through his grief to stop and square up with Jon. Look for that to be settled next week.


Qyburn convinces Cersei that it’s time to abandon the Red Keep and that Maegor’s Holdfast would be safer. He takes her hand and the two of them, guarded by The Mountain, leave the Red Keep.

Jon kills one of his own soldiers who is attempting to rape a woman in the streets.

Jaime has finally made his way to the Red Keep finding his way down by the beach. He’s met by Euron who was blown from his ship by the dragon but has survived, this shows how close Dany was to the Red Keep in her initial attack and makes everything just a tad bit sillier. Why didn’t she just chop off the head of the snake right after she destroyed all the scorpions? Cersei was right where she was! Anyway, Jaime tells Euron they must save the queen but Euron laughs at that and for some reason wants to fight instead of escaping. Jaime and Euron go at it on the rocky shore with Euron seeming to get the best of Jaime, stabbing him deep in the side twice with a short sword. Jaime survives and stabs Euron in the gut. Euron lays on a rock seemingly dying but he’s happy. “I got you. I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.” But Jaime is walking off under his own power as Euron is saying this and nobody will know because nobody else is there. Weird dialogue.

Arya and the Hound have arrived at the Red Keep. The castle is starting to crumble but Arya wants to forge her way ahead and find Cersei. The Hound stops her and tells her she should go home. She ignores him but he grabs her arm. “Do you want to end up like me?” he asks. We’ve seen his character do quite a few noble things starting with defending Ser Loras against The Mountain during the joust in season 1, saving Sansa from being raped by the men during the riot in King’s Landing and all the times he defended Arya during their time traveling North. But we’ve also seen him do hateful vicious things like killing the butcher’s boy, and attacking and stealing from the man who fed Arya and The Hound who he decided were too weak to live. The Hound is a character who we might have seen become a noble night but he’s fueled by his demons and the hatred stems from The Mountain burning his face as a boy. He’s never been able to shrug off that cruelty despite the good he has seen and the good he has done. We saw how uncomfortable the merriment made him at Winterfell after they survived the battle with the dead. The character’s struggles are one of the most fascinating parts of the series. The bitterness inside him ultimately led him back to King’s Landing to face off with The Mountain. Characters being true to their nature is a big part of this episode which makes the ending that much more frustrating.

We finally got the highly anticipated Clegane Bowl. It was beautifully set up. The Hound is heading up a spiral staircase as Queen Cersei and her Kingsguard head down. Some of them are wiped out by falling bricks as Daenerys has Drogon destroying everything in sight and the remainder are easily dispatched by The Hound until all we have left are Cersei, Qyburn and The Mountain. “Hello big brother” The Hound says and The Mountain stares a hole through him. Cersei, still in danger as the building is coming down all around them, demands that The Mountain get her to safety. He gives her a chilling glare through those dead bloody eyes and starts toward The Hound. Qyburn makes the mistake of thinking he can control the monster he created and order Ser Gregor to obey his queen and The Mountain crushes his skull crushed against some rocks for his trouble. So long Qyburn, you were highly entertaining as Cersei’s mad scientist for the last several seasons. Cersei walks right past the The Hound, who is laser focused on The Mountain, and descends further into the lower levels of the Red Keep. She winds up in the room with the painted map of Westeros on the floor where she sees Jaime. Cersei is scared shitless by this point. We’re setting up for a nice death here. Is Jaime going to kill that ass?

We flash back to Arya in the streets of King’s Landing who is seeing all the damage that Daenerys and her rabid soldiers are doing and all of the civilians being massacred. There was a beautiful edit of The Hound getting tossed around by The Mountain and Arya getting tossed around by the crumbling city. Miguel Sapochnik is amazing at weaving images. Arya is trying to get people to safety and the city is not letting her and The Hound is trying to take down the Mountain with the same lack of success. The Mountain at various points in the fight:

  • grabs and holds the blade of The Hound’s sword while The Hound is snatching it away without as much as blinking even though his hand is being shredded.
  • has a sword shoved all the way through his torso and out his back without any reaction.
  • is stabbed by a knife in the neck multiple times and doesn’t seem to notice.
  • gets stabbed in the eye with the blade going through the back of his skull and pauses to remove the knife like one would do with a splinter.

I get that he was brought back from the dead by Qyburn but he was still a sentient creature. He wasn’t just wandering around aimlessly unable to think. How does one get stabbed in the brain and treat it as a mild inconvenience? Seeing him get impaled through the chest and then the brain without any real reaction took away from the moment. Something should have slowed him down. We were told he was a monster but I didn’t realize he was a walking corpse with a brain. After getting his ass kicked by this zombie The Hound stays alive long enough to drive The Mountain through a wall where they both fall to their deaths in the fiery hell outside the castle. Salute Sandor Clegane. We wouldn’t be here without you taking care of Arya on the road. You may have been more bad than good, but your good was really important.

Jaime and Cersei hug as Cersei fully realizes her plans were maybe not that well thought out. Maybe you should have killed everyone when you killed Missandei and they were all just standing around. The castle is crumbling around them. Jaime tries to take her out of the Red Keep via the passageway that Tyrion told him about but it’s blocked by rubble. Cersei cries that she doesn’t want to die. Jaime is true to his nature. He loves Cersei and he snaps her out of it with his patented “nothing else matters, only us” line that we’ve heard before after their kids died and we see them embracing as they are consumed by the rubble and… wait a minute is that it? That’s how Cersei dies?!! No the fuck it isn’t! We spent 8 seasons building up an intense hatred for this sadistic, selfish, hateful, incestuous, Joffre birthing, city bombing bitch and we don’t get to see someone slit her throat or see her get burned alive by a dragon? I don’t know if the writers fell in love with Lena Headey and couldn’t bear to watch her suffer but the show owed everyone a much grander death than that for arguably the chief antagonist of the series. Joffrey got gruesomely poisoned, Ramsay was fed to the same hounds that he terrorized people with, The Night King was stabbed by in the heart by a ninja, Littlefinger had his throat slit with the same dagger he used to sow chaos, Tywin Lannister was killed by his despised “son” while he was on the shitter… but Cersei goes quietly under a pile of rubble in the arms of the man who loves her? Where’s the poetry? Of all the poor storytelling choices that have been made this season that’s perhaps the most egregious one. Cersei deserved to be executed. George RR Martin is rolling over in his grave. Wait, he’s still alive and almost definitely writing a much more reasonable ending than this tripe? Okay, okay… (deep breaths.)

The Hound has reminded Arya who she is. She is a fighter for justice, not just vengeance. She is trying to save a woman and her daughter who are our avatars for civilians in the city The mother saves Arya from being trampled. It’s the same mother and daughter we see earlier not make it through the gates of the Red Keep before they close. Arya barely escapes as the mother and daughter who refuse to leave each other are turned into piles of ash by Drogon. Arya is knocked out in the chaos but when she comes to she sees their bodies and the body of a Northern soldier who has also been reduced to ash. Arya is bloodied and bruised but she sees a white horse all alone who has managed to survive while everything else is dead around them. Arya comforts the horse as she approaches it. Then she mounts it and rides off down the street and out of the chaos. The white horse was supposed to embody death “behold a pale horse and his name who sat on him was death” is a quote from Revelation and it seems to signify what Dany’s fate will be next week.


Back to Danykin Skywalker… this episode was ultimately about Dany embracing the dark side, inhaling all the betrayal, loss and hurt that she’s experienced and exhaling fire. I just can’t buy it. We’ve spent 8 seasons building her up as the main heroine of the show, she was juxtaposed as the southern version of Jon Snow. We’ve seen her free slaves and promise that slavery would never return to Mereen, even though her ultimate goals had nothing to do with Mereen. We saw her allow a son to bury his father after hearing him plead that his father wasn’t a cruel master to his slaves, because she was merciful to people even when she hated the crimes they were attached to. She paid a poor farmer for the loss of his child when the child was killed by one of her dragons because even though a dragon is wild you must protect the people they can hurt. She locked the dragons, her children, away beneath a pyramid rather than see them hurt more innocent people. She asked another Khaleesi to trust her rather than allow Daario or Jorah to kill the girl when she was held with the other widows of the khals at Dosh Khaleen. She forgave Jorah for betraying her to King Robert. She outlawed the fighting pits in Yunkai because she thought it was too savage and that life was too precious to risk so arbitrarily. She later reinstated the fighting pits because she was thoughtful enough to listen to counsel. She was not unhinged and she was not callous, until suddenly, she was. She lost a dragon saving the North from The Night King and another dragon because she didn’t face the threat of the Lannister army quickly enough. Both dragons were ultimately lost in service to the needs of others. Daenerys wasn’t the Mad Queen and I don’t think they sowed enough seeds to have us believe this was going to come out of her when she was on the doorstep of power. Even last season she was going to let the Iron Islands be free if they promised to stop raping and reeving, but now that’s what she is allowing from her own soldiers? The character has been through trying times before but has maintained her sanity. She was hot tempered but not insane.

Had she been double-crossed by a fake surrender– which is what I thought we were building to in this episode- I could see that causing her to break from who she was. A bold-faced betrayal by Tyrion to have the Lannisters attack the Northern and Unsullied forces after getting everyone to believe that they had surrendered would have been a shock to viewers and something that understandably pushed Daenerys past her breaking point. Or one last hidden scorpion inside the Red Keep that fired at Drogon after all was quiet because Tyrion had made another mistake and I would have believed that she snapped… but that’s not where we went. Her chief complaint since she arrived at Winterfell in the first episode of this season was that she wasn’t loved. Now when presented with a choice between:

a) winning over the hearts and minds of the people who would have seen her be merciful or
b) destroying a city and killing a bunch of innocent people—innocent spokes in the wheel she wanted to break

She chose carnage?

When we first hear the bells Dany and Drogon take flight and they’re seemingly headed straight towards Cersei in the Red Keep ready to send her to seven hells. It would have been a vicious statement, considering the Lannister army had surrendered, but a fitting one because Cersei deserved to die a nasty death and Dany needed to obliterate an enemy who deserved it. It would have been a dragon move. From the point that Dany decides in mid-flight to make a detour and burn the city the character arcs for Daenerys and Cersei detour from what we had been taught they earned.

Only one more week to see where everyone ends up. Who will sit on the Iron Throne? It seems that Danykin Skywalker has won even though she’s no longer the Dany we rooted for. Will she take out everyone who knows Jon’s secret now that she has gone over to the dark side? Jon will not be able look her in the eye knowing how much he hated everything he saw her do. What will that mean for him? Does Tyrion have one more clever moment left in him? We still have things to settle and we have an assassin who can wear other people’s faces who will be lurking in the crowds.

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Game of Thrones Recap S8-E4

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Season 8, Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”

We begin with the aftermath of the battle for Winterfell. We see the dead piled on funeral pyres including our favorites that we lost last week, Ser Jorah Mormont, Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Beric Dondarion, Dolorous Edd and Dothraki soldier number 1. Jon gives a great speech about honoring the memories of the dead and memorializing them for generations to come. He talks about the dead the way one would memorialize members of the Night’s Watch who had given their lives. Interesting because all of them ultimately wound up being de-facto members of the Night’s Watch because the Night’s Watch had fallen. It also may be a wink at where Jon will end up at the end of the series.

Inside, we see everyone having a celebratory feast. We spy on a few conversations. Bran tells Tyrion he has no desire to be Lord of Winterfell. He has no desire for anything. Davos laments not being able to kill the Red Woman and not knowing what the Lord of Light ultimately wants because he seems to come and go. Tormund is drunkenly lauding Jon Snow to the soldiers and survivors. The crowd loves Jon. He was the King in the North and gave up his crown to bring the Targaryen army north to defeat the Army of the Dead. His sacrifice, while panned at first, looks brilliant in the afterglow of a victory. They’ve seen him ride a dragon. Now the rumors of him returning from the dead are starting to make the rounds. Jon is like Jordan in Chicago. He’s got the adulation of the crowd. Dany feels insecure. She’s like her dragons, out of her element in the North and not as strong as she would be anywhere else. It’s interesting how fighting together has endeared Tormund to these Northmen. Tyrion, Jaime, Podrick and Brienne are playing the Westerosi version of “Never Have I Ever.” Tyrion guesses that Brienne is a virgin and she excuses herself from the game rather than respond. Tormund wanders over and starts to follow her out but Jaime cuts him off and follows her instead. Tormund goes and cries in the corner.

Gendry is looking for Arya at the feast when Daenerys stops him and questions him about his father, King Robert. He says he never knew who his father was until after he was dead. It seems like a confrontation but Daenerys uses the moment to legitimize Gendry naming him a Baratheon and bequeathing him Storm’s End, the Baratheon family castle. On the surface it’s a clever way to prevent him from pursuing a claim to the Iron Throne and reward him for creating the weapons that helped the united forces win the war. But underneath the move she just made Gendry the legitimate heir of the last undisputed king. Dany and Tyrion have a brief exchange where she tells him he’s not the only one who can be clever. Sansa spies them talking and this is more fuel for her not believing in Dany’s true nature. Some people are using this scene as a knock against Dany and proof of her going to the dark side. I see it as completely the opposite. Robert had all her siblings and relatives killed rather than have them on the chessboard as rivals. Dany is being magnanimous. Politically calculating yes, but not cruel or violent.

Sansa and the Hound have what amounts to a warm conversation when judging by conversations with The Hound standards. The language is rough but Sansa doesn’t blink. The Hound tells her “you’ve changed, little bird.” He laments that she should have left King’s Landing with him years ago because he could have protected her from Littlefinger and Ramsay and everything else. She’s clearly thankful and touches his hand as a thank you, but tells him she’d still be a little bird without going through those things. Sansa is Littlefinger now, only with a better family name and a smidge more honor. She’s very smart and the Starks need some of that after years of being idiots but I don’t enjoy seeing that cold expression on her face in every exchange.

Our new Lord Gendry runs outside to find Arya and he catches up with her firing arrows into a target. She almost shoots him with an arrow in her trademark flirting style. It’s funny because Gendry actually has already been hit with an arrow by Cupid. He tells her his good news and then drops down to a knee and proposes. Arya kisses him and tells him he’ll make a great lord but she declines his proposal telling him she’ll never be a lady. We hear her repeat her famous line. “That’s not me.” So, in addition to being perhaps the best assassin in the Seven Kingdoms Arya’s apparently got that snapper to write home about. Gendry was ready to get married after one night

Jaime and Brienne have an awkward build up to an awkward sex scene. Between them they’ve been with a combined total of one sexual partner and that partner was his sister. I’m not into this as a happy ending for either of them I’m just going to move on.

Dany goes to Jon’s room after the feast and they have a tender moment. Jon offers condolences for the loss of Ser Jorah. Dany says Jorah loved her in a way that she couldn’t love him back. Not the ways she loves Jon. They start to kiss but Jon stops, getting sucked back into his new reality that this woman is his aunt. This new dynamic has changed them. Jon believes they can all live together in harmony. He swears he will remain loyal to her no matter what the new reality is. Dany agrees but tells him there is only one way to ensure that: never tell anyone else of his true parentage and swear Bran and Sam to secrecy.  She knows that if this story gets out it will take on a life of its own and he will be pushed to take the crown by his supporters no matter how much he objects. Later in the episode when she’s meeting with her top advisors she says that she’ll take back the Iron Throne because it is her destiny, no matter the cost. In context it’s a line about attacking King’s Landing but it’s a window into her overall focus. This moment between Jon and Dany feels like their last tender moment. We get a close-up of their clasped hands as Jon tells her that no matter what he will remain loyal to her. But Jon also has a loyalty to his Stark family and he feels he must be honest with Sansa and Arya before he puts this story to rest. I don’t think we’ll see them kiss again in this series.

In a war counsel meeting we confirm what we know about last week’s battle and learn some new information; half of the Unsullied, most of the Dothraki, and half of the Northmen are gone. There are some Dothraki left, surprisingly. Where were they last week after the failed charge? No matter, the overwhelming numbers advantage that Daenerys came North with is gone. She still has an advantage but Cersei has also added the Golden Company to her forces so the numbers are much more even. Sansa tries to tell everyone to wait and give the soldiers time to heal from the last battle but Daenerys wants to press on and not give Cersei more time to build up her army. Jon says that the Northern army will fight for their queen as she commands. Tyrion lays out the plan that Jon and Davos will ride the Kingsroad south with some troops while others will sail to Dragonstone with the queen and her, uh two dragons.  

After the meeting, Arya and Sansa need to speak to Jon in the Godswood. They tell him they don’t trust his queen. Jon tells them they needed her and Arya surprises Sansa by agreeing with Jon about that. However, Arya counsels against trusting Daenerys now, though. She tells Jon they are the last of the Starks and they must all stick together and trust one another. Jon looks physically pained by the burden of the new information he has because they are his family and they don’t know the truth. He forces Arya and Sansa to swear that they will keep secret what he is about to tell them and then has Bran reveal his secret to his sisters… who are now his cousins.

Bronn pops up with crossbow in hand and finds the Lannister brothers as Tyrion is trying to pry details about sex with Brienne from Jaime. Bronn punches Tyrion in the nose for talking too much and threatens Jaime by firing a crossbow shot that intentionally just misses him. Bronn tells them that their sister wants them dead and has offered him Riverrun if he kills them. Tyrion long ago told him that he’d double the price if anyone ever offered to pay Bronn to kill him. What’s double Riverrun? Highgarden is the answer and it brightens Bronn’s expression. He mentioned wanting it last season right after they took it from Lady Olenna. Tyrion tries to talk Bronn into joining their forces but Bronn says he’s done fighting, but he’s not done killing and he just wants his prize. Bronn exits and tells the brothers to stay alive and he’ll see them after the war is over.

The Hound is leaving Winterfell on horseback and Arya runs into him on the road so they ride alongside each other. They’re both headed for King’s Landing, The Hound is after The Mountain and Arya wants Cersei. Neither intends to return to Winterfell. The Hound asks if Arya will leave him for dead again if he gets hurt again? She says “probably.” She’s lying. A girl has a friend.

We see Dany tending to the dragons. Rhaegal is beat up from the battle with the dead but he can still fly, if not as steadily as normal. Jon is not going to ride him because he is injured.

Tyrion and Sansa speak outside as the army begins to exit Winterfell and head south. Sansa expresses her distrust for Daenerys. Tyrion senses that there’s something more bothering her. She’s reading him as well and sees that Tyrion is afraid of Daenerys. “All good rulers inspire a bit of fear” he says. He doesn’t seem particularly enthused by his own speech or by his queen at the moment though and Sansa seizes the opportunity to tell him there may be someone else, someone better to rule the Seven Kingdoms. I disliked this moment immensely. Do I think Jon could rule effectively? Absolutely. But so can Dany. And she wants it. Jon has had to ask Sansa many times if she trusts him -because she has kneecapped him and publicly undermined him on many occasions. If she trusts him to be king then she should have trusted his decision to not pursue the throne. Sansa is being Littlefinger here and looking out for herself, not looking out for Jon.

Jon says goodbye to Tormund who says he’s taking the free folk back north of the wall now that it’s safe. Tormund tells Jon that Jon has the “real north” in him. Jon tells Tormund to take Ghost with him so that he can be free.  He doesn’t even bother petting him goodbye. The showrunners says it’s because it was a CGI ghost in the scene. I think it’s because this isn’t goodbye. When Jon says, “this is farewell then” Tormund tells him “you never know.” Next, Jon says goodbye to Sam and newly expectant Gilly. Gilly says, “if it’s a boy we want to name him Jon.” Jon says he hopes it’s a girl.

On a ship sailing south Tyrion and Varys spill all the tea. Varys thinks Jon has the stronger claim to the throne and has more support from the people and he is worried about Dany’s state of mind. Varys is a sucker for this. He should be supporting Daenerys and offering steady counsel instead of going behind her back as if she has lost her mind and can’t be communicated with. She just won the Battle for Winterfell against the dead and Varys is jumping ship at the first opportunity to find another leader because he sees her looking sullen at a party or he’s uncomfortable with her being stern in her meetings? I’m sorry, what?

In the skies above, Dany is flying with the two dragons and we see how close everyone is to arriving at Dragonstone and Rhaegal looks like he’s getting a little steadier when Rhaegal is suddenly hit with a scorpion bolt in his chest. We don’t see where it comes from but we see another bolt hit his injured wing and then a third through his neck dropping him from the sky into the sea. Rhaegal is dead. How do you get ambushed in the sky by people in the sea? Why the fuck wasn’t she looking around? She flies the way Rickon runs. You’re up in the sky use it as an advantage. We’re down to one dragon, folks. Dany sees a group of Euron’s ships who were hiding on the opposite side of Dragonstone. They fire on her again as she flies Drogon directly towards Euron’s ship in a rage. She gathers herself and evades the attack but her ships are being ripped apart by the bolts being fired by multiple ship-mounted scorpions. These things are being manufactured in bulk now? Grey Worm orders Missandei to get on a skiff so that she can be safe. We see the mast from one of the ships falling on to Tyrion who has jumped into the sea. He blacks out and so does the scene for a moment. When we see everyone again they have made it to the safety of the beach but Grey Worm is screaming for Missandei and we find out she has been captured by Euron’s forces.

At King’s Landing Cersei tells Euron she’s pregnant with his child. Outside of the Red Keep the soldiers are letting the citizens of King’s Landing inside the courtyard to forestall Dany attacking the city with Drogon and burning it down.

Daenerys meets with Varys, Grey Worm and Tyrion. Grey Worm wants to storm the city and kill all of Dany’s enemies. Dany is inclined to as well. Varys suggests they come up with another plan to spare the civilians of King’s Landing. He’s clearly fearful that she’s bloodthirsty. Tyrion suggest they offer Cersei her life in exchange for the throne. Dany believes that offer is foolish but she goes along with the plan, theorizing that that the people should know that Daenerys made every effort to avoid bloodshed.

Varys and Tyrion sit and chat in the Dragonstone throne room after this meeting and Varys laments spending most of his life serving tyrants who believed they were following destiny. Varys wants to get rid of Dany and install Jon Snow, having been told the secret that Sansa shared with Tyrion. “He’s got a better temperament.” According to Varys. Tyrion again suggests getting Jon Snow and Daenerys to marry so that “he could temper her worst impulses.” Varys shoots back “as you have?”

Note: Actually, yes. Tyrion has tempered Dany’s worst impulses and even more importantly she still heeds his advice even after seeing him fail repeatedly. She hasn’t killed him. She hasn’t even fired him. She followed his plan when she originally arrived at Dragonstone and she has continues to trust him, if understandably more cautiously. I don’t think Daenerys is given the same benefit of the doubt as men. Every tough decision is met with this “Mad Queen” fearfulness from everyone who wasn’t in her original circle. It’s as if she’s supposed to make every decision with tender care. Why isn’t she allowed to be ruthless and driven? Dany executes an unrepentant enemy after a battle and that makes her crazy? Rulers must be ruthless and cunning, especially in times of war. While I do think her focus on the throne is an obsession I think we’d admire that if it were say, Jaime. This “Mad Queen” sacrificed half her army and two dragons to save the North before going after the throne because it made sense. People with insane obsessions cannot be reasoned with. Even in this episode she relents and decides to go with the advice of her cabinet and parlay with Cersei while correctly surmising it would be pointless. Again, and again she makes sound, measured decisions but because you can see anger in her face when someone fails her or crosses her we’re supposed to just accept that she’s losing her mind. She’s human. She’s suffered huge losses. She’s entitled to get angry but I don’t think we’ve seen her out of control. Jon has made emotional, unrestrained moves and we all love him and still think of him as even-tempered. Now with the loss of Rhaegal and Missandei maybe we will see Daenerys cross over to the dark side but the idea that we already have seen that is overblown.

For all the apprehension we see from the Starks, Varys and Tyrion we never saw Missandei or Grey Worm or Jorah react as though they have seen any change in their queen. When Jorah last advises Dany before the battle with the dead he’s helping her navigate the politics of the North where they don’t trust her or know her, there was no hint of him telling her that she had changed. Just as importantly she accepted his advice and worked at building a better relationship with Sansa and kept Tyrion on the payroll. She lost thousands of Dothraki and Unsullied, Jorah, Missandei and two dragons that she believes are her children all in a very short time, all for a battle she didn’t initially intend to fight to protect people who still regard her with suspicion.

Back in the scene with Varys and Tyrion the camera doesn’t show them both at the same time but cuts from one to the other as each speaks. Perhaps this is to emphasize that they are on opposite sides of a discussion.

Camera on Tyrion: “what happens to her?”
On Varys whose face says, “I’m going to have her killed”
On Tyrion: “Please…”
Back to a surprised expression on Varys’ face.
Back to Tyrion, who finishes “…don’t.”
Back to Varys who looks surprised.

Tyrion isn’t trying to spare Dany’s life, he’s trying to save Varys from getting himself killed.

Back at Winterfell, Sansa and Brienne are talking in the courtyard when Jaime sees their serious expressions and approaches. They tell him Daenerys was ambushed by Euron with Rhaegal being killed and Missandei being captured. Sansa tells him she always wanted to be there when Cersei was executed but now she won’t have the chance.

Later that night, we see Jaime sitting at the foot of the bed while Brienne sleeps. Then you hear him exit their room and close the door. This wakes Brienne who goes outside in her damn housecoat to see Jaime saddling his horse. “Sorry ma, I gotta work in the morning.” She doesn’t ask any questions just cups his face and tells him he is a good man, better than his sister and he doesn’t have to die for her. She begs him to stay with her. He looks pained as he runs down the terrible things he has done; pushing Bran from the window, strangling his own cousin, being prepared to kill everyone at Riverrun all for Cersei. “Yes, Cersei is hateful but and so am I” Jaime says before riding off and leaving Brienne in tears in her damn housecoat. Jaime may be going to try and save Cersei or he may have realized that his sword would be more merciful than dragon fire. He doesn’t say he’s going to save her. It’s difficult to know what he has in mind. Jaime, Arya, The Hound, Daenerys and Grey Worm all want a piece of The Mountain and Cersei.

Finally, we get to the gates of King’s Landing where there will be one last attempt tom make peace with Cersei. The gates are shut and there are Golden Company archers atop the walls. The city gate opens and Qyburn comes out. Tyrion steps forward to meet him. They both encourage the other to give up. Tyrion believes he’s getting nowhere so he walks past Qyburn to approach the walls. The archers all take aim at him from atop the walls but Cersei commands them to stand down. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Let me get this straight: You hired an assassin to kill him with a crossbow but as he walks up to you and you can literally have him shot full of arrows you decide to let him talk to you… about something that you’re going to ignore anyway? Okay.

Tyrion makes one last plea to Cersei to surrender. He says he knows she doesn’t care about the people of King’s Landing but she can save her own life and the life of her baby. Curiously, we don’t see Euron’s reaction to Tyrion knowing about the baby that he thinks he just made. Cersei’s eyes well up as she hears Tyrion’s pleas but she ultimately doesn’t even offer him a word in response. She walks up to Missandei who is at the edge of the wall and asks her if she has any last words. Missandei looks out to the Unsullied force that accompanies Dany and sees Dany and Grey Worm. She locks eyes with them both for the last time and loudly says “Dracarys!” Cersei signals the Mountain who unsheathes his sword and chops off Missandei’s head. Her body falls to the ground outside the walls. Grey Worm turns away and looks like he can barely stand. Tyrion’s face says, “I can’t stop what is about to come” as he looks back at Dany. Dany’s face flashes a rainbow of emotions, first disbelief, then hurt, then absolute rage as she turns and walks away. We may have just unleashed the Mad Queen the show seems to be priming us for but at this point hasn’t Cersei earned the fury that she’s probably unleashed?

Notes:

We don’t get a lot of detail from the coming attractions for next week’s episode. We don’t see Drogon but we do hear him roaring in the sky and see a startled expression on Euron Greyjoy’s face. Maybe they put some Iron Man armor on him next week so that he’s not susceptible to the scorpion bolts or maybe he’s going to fly up high and then dive straight down like we saw them do at Winterfell. The Scorpions may not be able to defend against that.  

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