Wow. Just… wow. Over these last seven point four three seasons, Game of Thrones has left me in many states: Sad, exultant, angry, completely bereft of hope that the concept of “good” was anything but an illusion manufactured by our ape brains to cope with the sheer cruelty and meaningless of life…
…but never have I ever left an episode feeling so completely shaken, and unsure about where exactly my loyalties lie. Please meet me on the analysts couch after the break (spoilers abound).
At last, the remaining Stark siblings are all together (Jon’s a cousin now, even if they don’t know it). And no one seems especially happy. The writers continue to harken back to earlier seasons, and Arya’s confronting the guard at the gate was just an excellent call back to season one, where young Arya ended up outside Kings Landing, and had to talk her way past the guards. And it also drove home how much has changed and everyone the Starks have lost when she name drops Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrick, only to find them not only dead, but forgotten. (I assume those guards were NOT from the North). Still not sure why she hesitated when they told her the Lady of Winterfell was in charge… I mean, who else would it be?
Of course, these being Starks, the only place for a real reunion are the crypts and that’s where the sisters meet, in front of a substandard Ned Stark statue… “It doesn’t look like his face,” Arya gripes. “That’s because everyone who knew his face is dead,” Sansa counters, “We’re not,” Arya whispers, breaking the strain between them… and that may be the simplest way to summarize seven seasons in which it seemed you couldn’t spend a day without a Stark dying. After all is said and done, all the major houses and families – the Baratheons, The Boltons, the Freys, the Martells, even the Lannisters to some extent are dead or dying, and the Starks remain.
Granted, they’re a little bit weird now, what with Bran gone all emo and Arya now a faceless assassin. Sansa spent most of the episode with a troubled look, and I’m not entirely sure why, unless she was thinking about whether Winterfell’s EAP covered family therapy sessions.
Those troubled looks did leave me a little confused. As did Baelish’s patented slimy, self-satisfied smiles. I can’t figure out his play, giving the dagger to Bran, his delight in watching Arya show off her moves, I can’t see how anything works in his favor. Guess that’s why he’s the criminal mastermind, and I’m just the guy who writes about him.
Looks like those Jon Snow and Daenerys shippers still have a reason to hope… I’m not sure if it was the torchlight, the sheer romance of looking at eons old cave paintings, or maybe lack of oxygen in the caverns beneath Dragonstone, but Fire and Ice really put off some steam tonight.
I think I like the pace of this potential romance. You have two serious-minded leaders who have a responsibility to their respective people, and don’t want to let anything get in the way. Still nice to hear Davos’ little admonition… watch with the stary-stalker eyes, Snow!
Then again, Dany might not mind a little bit of crazy, stalker eyes, since she’s getting a little mad-queen paranoia action going. Maybe Tyrion’s ‘underestimation” is a subconscious rejection of the potential of killing his last remaining family. Events later in the episode seemed to indicate he wasn’t ready to let them all go. And if that’s the case, what does that mean to his alliance with Dany?
The best part of the Dragonstone scenes were really giving us perspective from outside the main characters’ point of view, especially Davos and Missendei. Of course we all know their back story, and ordinarily you’d ding a writer for having a character rehash events we’re all to familiar with, but it works here. Not because we have to hear it again, but because we get other characters reactions. “She’s the Queen we choose,” Missendei states, and you can see it impacts Jon and Davos “Can I switch sides,” Davos quips… when did he become the comic relief? Later on, Jon states “She (Dany) has a good heart.” And that’s directly related, not just to the things he has seeing Dany, but because of the stories of the people around her.
Which, of course, is direct opposite of the woman currently sitting on the Iron Throne. Cersei has no such loyalty from anyone except her brother, and (for now) her banker. Their discussion was probably the least important scene in the episode, really just their to re-establish that the Highgarden gold was going to be used to repay the Lannister (and the kingdom) debts and that she would likely be doing more business with the Iron Bank real soon (gotta go out and get some Essos mercenaries of her own).
The real action, of course was on the highways between Highgarden and Kings Landing, and wow, did it deliver, from the excellent segue out of Dragonstone (“The Queen is gone,” Jon tells Theon… wait, what?) to the shock and awe of the Dothraki attack, to Jaime’s near roasting of dragon fire, I’m fairly certain I didn’t breath the entire sequence. And not just because Dany finally struck back hard after three episodes of defeats. This really was another case study of how effective dragons can be in battle. The show runners have been touting this episode as one of the best battles ever, and boy did they deliver. The visuals here were breath-taken, from Drogon’s aerial maneuvers (I like that little twist to protect Dany from arrows) to the gory, ashen remains of Lannister and Tarley soldiers that still maintained their human shape, like something out of Pompeii, to Tyrion’s reactions while watching from afar, his mixed allegiances stamping his face and filling his voice with concern. “Flee, you idiot,” he whispers to Jaime. And Jaime, because he is a brave man, doesn’t. And nearly ends up on the menu.
And as I watched the end of the episode, not taking notes because I could not tear my eyes away from the screen, I realized that I might have the same mixed allegiances myself. I don’t want Jaime to die, or Bronn, or really anyone else on that field (except for maybe Randyll Tarley, he’s a dick), but, if I want the good guys to win, Jaime and Bronn, and all those young Lannister soldiers will have to die. Which means I’m going to be really stressed out over these last three episodes. Man, I think it’s time to check out my company’s EAP.
Who dove in last second and saved Jaime from incineration? Smart money would be Bronn, but I don’t think so. I’m thinking young Dickon (who I thought for sure was going to be toast this episode). It can’t be an accident the showrunners had him reflecting on his first battle, nor that writers seemed to be dropping hints that the bron-mance between the Merc and the Kingslayer seemed to be coming to a close.
My wife leans over to me after Bran hands Littlefinger’s strange gift to Arya and whispers, “maybe he’s giving it to Arya because he’s seen that she’ll need it later.” I think she’s on to something. Smart lady, that wife of mine.
I didn’t get teary-eyed at the Stark girls reunion, but Brienne’s face when she realizes Arya was there made things a little misty. What a great character Gwendoline Christie has given us with her steadfast portrayal through these years.
How great was Dany and Missendei’s girl talk moment? “Things happened,” Missendei says with a sheepish grin. “Things?” Our Dragon mama replies with a grin of her own. The fantasy/sci-fi geek in me should be annoyed at these little bits of humor, but they really make the characters sing. Glad the showrunners keep things like this in.
Well, the scorpion worked according to spec, but man, Dany didn’t help matters much by making a frontal assault on the thing AFTER she almost gotten taken down by the first shot. Still, if you set up a dozen of these on the walls of the red keep, they’d at least be an effective deterrent. Or not, I guess we’ll see.
So what’s next? Looks like Dany gives the captured Lannister army a choice (that’s not much a choice at all), and is doing something that makes Varys and Tyrion very unhappy, and Jon Snow gets back to Winterfell and that Bran’s visions and the dead play a prominent role, but we don’t know much else. Does Jaime drag his waterlogged corpse out of the river? And who put him there? Who draws next blood? I guess we’ll find out next week as all eyes turn towards Eastwatch.