The last of the starks

As Jon Snow’s secret comes out, he và Tyrion are caught between Sansa & Daenerys. Meanwhile, Rhaegal & Missandei find trouble in King’s Landing.

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After last week’s episode, it was tempting lớn think that Game of Thrones was going lớn glide to an easier finish than many of us had expected và feared (or is it craved?). Yes, some big characters died last week—Theon, Ser Jorah, the dang Night King—but most of the marquee players survived the battle with the dead, even when that seemed to require us to lớn suspkết thúc more than the usual màn chơi of disbelief. (No shade but did anyone really think Samwell Tarly had it in hyên to lớn fover off a few thousvà wights over the course of however many hours that battle was supposed to lớn last?) To give you a sense of the mood, I happened to be at a restaurant bar arguing to lớn a friend that some of last week’s fatalities were genuinely important characters when a guy interrupted us & declared, “No one important died! No one!” The implication was that the show runners were chickening out a little. Now that they didn’t have sầu George R.R. Martin’s ruthlessly misanthropic books to lớn constrain them, they were going Hollywood.

Well, it remains to be seen if any of our true faves—your Tyrions, Daeneryses, Jon Snows, Jaimes, Aryas, and Sansas—are headed for extinction, but tonight’s episode definitely made it clear that the body count is far from final. For starters, we are down to lớn one Long, folks—though I think that, for historical accuracy’s sake, we can still Call Daenerys the Mother of Dragons, plural. And the show’s only notable woman of color is gone—in a fashion that seems bound to cause all kinds of Internet controversy. Euron, Cersei, và the Mountain are clearly adversaries to lớn be reckoned with, certainly moreso than the “ZZ Top White Walkers,” as one Twitter wag described the Night King’s weirdly inactive entourage.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? There was a lot lớn process in this episode, including some important love sầu developments between Arya và Gendry, Brienne and Jaime, and—we hardly knew ye—Grey Worm and Missandei. There’s also a sharp shift in the winds for Daenerys, whose ability to roast her enemies in Long fire was hugely valued in the war against the dead but feels less helpful when Cersei is using the citizens of King’s Landing as human shields.

The episode begins with the requisite mourning of last week’s victims, whose bodies burn in tank-shaped pyres—not that anyone’s worried about them turning into zombies or anything but … better safe than sorry, I always say. Then comes the booze & the sex. Daenerys puts everyone on edge by calling out Gendry for being the son of Robert Baratheon—singling people out for their involvement in killing her relatives is one of her least fun tiệc nhỏ tricks—but then she brings the vibes baông xã by making hyên ổn a lord và giving him custody of the family castle. Hooray! Gendry had already been on the hunt for Arya, but that sends hyên her way with renewed confidence. When he finally does find her, she’s “celebrating” with a little crossbow target practice, as one does. He kisses her, then gets down on one knee, all proper-like, & asks for her hvà. Thing is, a girl doesn’t want khổng lồ be a lady, & she sure doesn’t want khổng lồ be Mrs. Gendry. Sad! But probably for the best. Arya would be so bored by that life that she might start assassinating the neighbors one by one, just to lớn feel alive sầu.

Jaime, meanwhile, is deploying an old fraternity trichồng against poor, defenseless (in this context) Brienne. Let’s play a drinking game! It’s just a gaaaaame—not a cheap ruse khổng lồ create a false sense of intimacy while plying you with alcohol to lower your defenses or anything! Not that Brienne needs much cajoling to lớn get it on with the Kingslayer—if anything, it seems like he’s the one battling his own reservations. Either way, it has the expected effect, even after Tyrion’s very buzz-killing (but conveniently conversation-opening) virginity question. Even Tormund can tell from a glance where this scenario is headed, and he’s momentarily heartbroken, until he comes across one of the Winterfell groupies who magically appear after I guess surviving the battle in the crypt? The Hound declines his groupie’s offer, và instead has a quiông xã catchup with Sansa, who makes it clear that, lượt thích Bran, she doesn’t regret her misfortunes because they made her the forbiddingly intelligent and relentlessly skeptical hitter she is today.

And man, is she skeptical of Daenerys! Sophie Turner’s side-eye alone deserves an Emmy & has several submission-worthy episodes to lớn baông chồng it up. This is one of them. It actually makes me feel for Daenerys. It’s hard to lớn do your thing when there’s someone questioning every single move this blatantly, và the bức xúc is starting to lớn make the Mother of Dragons paranoid. Which is not good for anyone.

It takes a minute but, after an awkwardly abridged make-out session, she & Jon finally address the elephant in the room: what are they going lớn do about the fact that Jon is her nephew and the rightful (according to lớn these bullshit patriarchal rules but still) heir to lớn the throne. Jon’s answer, not surprisingly, is that he has lớn be honest with his siblings (sad trombone). Daenerys’s counter-suggestion, also not surprising, is that he should swear Bran & Sam to secrecy & never speak of it again. To be fair, she’s completely right that Jon’s delusional if he thinks he can control the narrative once this highly explosive sầu piece of information becomes known. But I think that, in addition khổng lồ being in denial and generally not that wise lớn the ways of the world, Jon is also a bit creeped out by her angry desperation. He’s not going khổng lồ keep this secret to lớn placate her paranoia, even if it is entirely justified.

Then there’s a war council, where Jon very theatrically takes Daenerys’s side against Sansa, even though Sansa is pretty obviously right that everyone needs a minute to lớn recover from the Great War before they go fight the Last War. When it breaks up, Arya blocks Jon’s path: “We need a word.” Ya think? So the Stark siblings have a little confab in the snow in which Arya & Sansa—và maybe Bran? it’s hard khổng lồ know if he agrees with them or is just lurking for plot-advancing purposes—come right out and say that they don’t trust Daenerys. And Jon is all: you don’t know her! And they’re like: yeah, we bởi vì, and anyway we’re family. And Jon is all: not really, & they’re lượt thích, yes, really. And that’s when, at the worst possible time if his goal was to lớn actually make them like Daenerys more rather than less, Jon decides khổng lồ have sầu Bran explain the whole backstory. But first he makes them pinky swear, because he actually is enough of a do-right dope khổng lồ keep a promise lượt thích that, even if no one else is.

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Next thing you know, Tyrion is sidling up lớn Sansa as she watches the dragons perform yet another irritating training exercise in the skies above sầu Winterfell. I actually had the same question for Sansa that Tyrion did: What’s your deal with Daenerys? Why can’t you just bover the damn knee & be glad that you’re the most powerful person in the north? But Sansa has seen a lot, and she knows a power-tripping nut when she sees one. And she also nails Tyrion when she says, “You’re afraid of her.” And once she sees her opening, her oath to keep Jon’s ancestral secret lasts about five sầu seconds before she’s spilling it inkhổng lồ the ear of the biggest information-trader in the Seven Kingdoms.

Make that the second biggest. Varys is the first biggest, & Tyrion tells him before their fleet hits Blackwater Bay. (Which takes about five seconds now, apparently, distances having collapsed by about 1,000X since season one.) So now it’s not a secret—it’s “information.” One of the things I love about this episode is watching Tyrion try khổng lồ suppress the thoughts that we know are occurring lớn hlặng as he processes this information, coupled with Daenerys’s reckless behavior. Tyrion made a big bet on Daenerys, & he has no desire khổng lồ change horses—or should I say dragons—midstream. Thankfully, we have sầu Varys to articulate those thoughts without the emotional baggage. Varys is at his worst when he echoes the truyền thông gasbags who say that male leaders are an easier sell than women, but he’s right that Jon’s aversion to the throne is part of what makes him less likely lớn act like a tyrant. (Or bởi I sound lượt thích a Bekhổng lồ apologist now?) And he’s also right that he’s only saying things that Tyrion has been thinking. In their second conversation, Tyrion scares hyên ổn off by calling their conversation “treason,” but it’s clear that Varys is not going khổng lồ wait for permission to lớn begin putting wheels into motion.

But baông chồng to Blackwater Bay! The good guys are feeling fine, Grey Worm flashes a rare smile as he holds Missandei’s h&, và Daenerys và her dragons are flapping around King’s Landing without a care in the world when suddenly a gigantic arrow lands right in Rhaegal’s heart. Then another hits hyên ổn, và another—this one piercing his throat. And just like that … he goes down. Under the waves. Dead. Daenerys wheels toward the origin of the attachồng & finds Euron Greyjoy manning a gigantic crossbow aboard his ship. Riding Drogon, she bears down with the very obvious purpose of incinerating his shit-eating mug and the boat he rode in on, but she has to lớn turn baông xã as another fusillade comes her way.

And then the Iron Fleet comes inkhổng lồ view, và there are a ton of these crossbows, which I guess are the kind of weaponry you can afford when you join forces with the Golden Company? And now they’re taking ayên at Daenerys’s fleet, và the ships are breaking into lớn splinters. Tyrion dashes around the deông chồng before diving into lớn the water, then gets hit on the head with the mast, and next thing you know our heroes are washing up on a beach somewhere.

The Mother of Dragons is incandescent with rage at losing her baby, and lớn make matters worse Cersei has captured Missandei. Daenerys’s plan is khổng lồ take her remaining rồng, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied & lay waste to lớn King’s Landing, kill Cersei, rescue Missandei, & seize the Iron Throne. Tyrion & Varys, who have both spent much of their lives suffering under ultra-violent tyrants in King’s Landing, very much want her khổng lồ reconsider. They finally persuade her that it would be prudent to lớn give Cersei the opportunity khổng lồ surrender, knowing she won’t, because then the people will blame her for the carnage that follows. That buys the advisors a little time, if nothing else.

Baông chồng in Winterfell, Jaime hears the news of all this và reconsiders his decision to spend the rest of his days sleeping in Brienne’s room while she keeps watch over Sansa và Arya (the latter of which is an impossible task, as we quickly see when she takes off down the road alongside The Hound). Jaime sneaks out khổng lồ saddle up his horse, and when Brienne comes out khổng lồ stop hlặng, he makes it clear khổng lồ her that the real Jaime is the one who does one awful thing after another in the service of his evil sister. We’ll see if that winds up being the case entirely but … well, we’re running out of episodes here, so it may well be. Poor Brienne. But also: he doesn’t deserve sầu her. (I skipped the scene with Bronn, but suffice it khổng lồ say that I never for one second thought that Bronn was going lớn kill Tyrion or Jaime. I love it when I’m right—it happens rarely enough!)

So now we’re in front of the gate at King’s Landing. Daenerys’s army is … not large. The decision lớn rush off instead of resting & regrouping appears to lớn have sầu been not so prudent. Cersei is at the top of the wall with her haircut và her eternal scowl that is truly one of the finest things on television in this or any era. Missandei is there too, as is The Mountain & more of those gigantic crossbows. The gate opens and out comes Qyburn to rendezvous with Tyrion. Tyrion explains that Daenerys demands Cersei’s unconditional surrender. Qyburn counters that Cersei demands Daenerys’s unconditional surrender. Tyrion tries khổng lồ reason with hlặng, but the sad fact is: reason isn’t really on Tyrion’s side here. When Qyburn points out that Dany’s forces are depleted and she’s down lớn one Long, he’s not wrong. So Tyrion is reduced khổng lồ making his case directly lớn Cersei, which he had to know would not work. He still seems to lớn think this pregnancy is somehow going to cause her to lớn act like another person, và he is still wrong. After crying a little và cycling through a whole bunch of other facial expressions that, again, prove that Lemãng cầu Headey is a dang international treasure, Cersei tells Missandei it’s time for her last words. “Dracarys!” she shouts. Which, yeah, is High Valyrian for “Burn these bastards to lớn the ground with dragon fire.” And then the Mountain comes forward, swings his sword, & Missandei’s head and body fall from the wall lớn the earth below.

Grey Worm looks away in horror, but Daenerys watches. God, the look on Emilia Clarke’s face. So much good acting in this episode. And then her sadness morphs inkhổng lồ something closer khổng lồ satisfaction: “Thank you,” the expression says, “for giving me every reason khổng lồ vị what I wanted lớn vì in the first place.” And then she turns & stalks off, and the episode ends.

So what are we khổng lồ make of Daenerys now? It would be disappointing, lớn say the least, if we’d spent all this time watching her rise, just to see her conveniently shunted aside for a male who’s an easier sell to some swing-voting lords in the midwest. I don’t think that’s quite what we’re seeing, though. I hope not. I think Daenerys’s flaws have been there from almost the beginning—she’s a visionary và a bit of a fanatic. We’ve always known that. She’s also been willing to bởi the things you have khổng lồ vày to gain and keep power, whether that’s been to project fearful power or to make sacrifices to prove sầu her good will. The ancestry twist has thrown her off her game, as has the loss of two of her dragons và this very complicated relationship snafu. I see Sansa và Varys’s side, but I also like that Tyrion is still saying he believes in her & believes she will make the right decision. And even if she doesn’t, I want khổng lồ believe this will over in something other than defeat & humiliation for her.

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Well, that’s all for now. Everyone seems to be converging on King’s Landing. (Everyone, that is, except Sam, Gilly, their growing brood, Tormund, & Ghost—is that really how their trò chơi of Thrones arcs end?!) Presumably the rest of the gang will arrive next Sunday & we’ll have sầu another big blowout. Until then … Vacarys?!

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