The final episode of this extremely busy season of “Game of Thrones” gave us: one entirely predictable death, one revelation that almost every viewer already knew, one aunt-nephew incest scene and one ice dragon that caused some serious damage. It was an episode that dealt head-on with the plot conflict at the heart of the show — the battle for the Iron Throne vs. the battle of Living and Dead — and also the theme at the heart of the show: family. Thanks for reading these recaps the last seven weeks. See you in a year or so?
Everyone who’s everyone meets in King’s Landing
In a season that has been marked by first-time meetings of major characters as well as major reunions, the great convergence at the Dragonpit of King’s Landing served as a fitting conclusion. In one corner, there’s Team Dragon Queen, with Jon Snow, Tyrion, Varys, Theon, Davos, Missandei, Jorah and the Hound. The Winterfell delegation of Brienne and Podrick is there as well, and Bronn leads them all to the Dragonpit, the former stable for the great beasts of the Targaryens’.
Like last episode’s march beyond the Wall, the trudging through King’s Landing gives everyone a chance to break off for private conversations and catch up. Tyrion and Bronn (the spark isn’t quite the same), Tyrion and Podrick (Podrick retains his title as Biggest Sweetheart in Westeros), Brienne and the Hound (commiserate in their own way on the current psycho killer status of Arya).
As Jon (who at this point is extremely overdressed for the warmer southern climate) and his crew wait, Cersei walks in with Jaime, Qyburn, Euron and the Mountain. The sight of the Mountain inspires the Hound to go and pay his long-lost brother a visit, where he notes that despite his own misfortunes in the looks department, big bro is looking even rougher these days. Those hoping for a Clegane Bowl this week were left disappointed, but the Hound saying “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known” sure tells us that the showdown will come at some point in one of the show’s final six episodes.
Ever the one to make a dramatic entrance, Daenerys flies in on the back of Drogon while Cersei does her best to act completely unimpressed. Tyrion tries to make some opening remarks but is quickly cut off by Euron Greyjoy, who uses this opportunity to demand his nephew, Theon, submit to him or else he’ll kill Yara, which has got to be the last thing on anyone’s mind at this point.
Tyrion tries to put the current situation in perspective, while Jon puts it bluntly: “This isn’t about living in harmony, it’s just about living.” The simple demand from Daenerys is a truce, but of course Cersei will not be won over this easily. And that’s why they have brought a box with a special guest for show and tell, which the Hound unlocks and unleashes. The wight goes wild upon release, charging at Cersei and striking fear into everyone, except for Qyburn who looks on in awe like Beavis and Butt-head when a Metallica video comes on. (“Thith is the coolesth thing I have ever theen.”) The Hound eventually chops it to pieces before Jon explains that they can be killed by fire or dragonglass. “If we don’t win this fight, then that is the fate of every person in the world,” he says delivering a fatal blow to the screeching wight with dragonglass.
For as ill-considered as the whole kidnap-a-wight caper was, there is something to be said about the value of a prop during a presentation. Euron inquires if these things can swim and when told they can’t (even though they can submerge themselves underwater to surface a dragon, but we won’t dwell on that right now), he tells the gathered that he will simply retreat to the Iron Islands and wait out the long winter. But as much as we may have wished that it really was the last we saw of Euron Greyjoy, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Cersei has seen enough and is willing to call for a truce, under one condition — that Jon Snow not take up arms against the Lannisters. (She doesn’t even ask this of Daenerys, since she knows it would be a nonstarter.) It would have been really easy for Jon to just say yes and seal the deal on something that’s been his one mission, but he cannot tell a lie and informs Cersei he’s already pledged himself to Daenerys so that promise is one he can’t make. Foreheads are smacked, Cersei calls everything off and the North is left to fend for itself.
“I wish you hadn’t done that,” Davos tells Jon. “Have you ever thought about lying just a little bit?” Tyrion wonders. Even Daenerys is baffled by this strategy. With Jon’s instincts for truth and honor getting the best of him once again, it’s up to Tyrion to clean up his mess by speaking to Cersei to try to salvage the deal, even though he knows he’s risking his life by meeting alone with his sister, “the most murderous person in the world, who’s tried to murder me twice” as he tells Jaime.
Tyrion walks away from the showdown fully intact, and viewers get a rare and surprising glimpse at Cersei’s humanity. She reels off her list of grievances against Tyrion — siding with Daenerys, spending his entire life trying to destroy the Lannister family, killing their father, bearing indirect responsibility for the deaths of Myrcella and Tommen. Tyrion speaks of his sorrow over the loss of the children and tells her that if she’s going to kill him, get it over with and kill him. But Cersei can’t bring herself to do it; she has always said family is her reason for everything, and that hated dwarf is still her family. The moment makes them both shed a tear, and makes Tyrion go for a glass of wine, while he pours one for his sister, too. It’s not like Cersei has forgiven Tyrion, but seeing that wight come at her did provide a moment of clarity. The sight of it made her realize that the only important thing for her now was keeping those things away from her family. And the rubbing of her stomach and that untouched wine glass next to her clue Tyrion in on the fact that his sister is expecting once again.
Back in the Dragonpit, Jon and Daenerys are dealing with the aftermath of the apparent failed negotiation. “No one is less happy about this than I am,” Jon says in a quote that applies to him pretty much all the time. Daenerys again mentions how she can’t have children, but in one of Jon’s most astute observations ever, he questions the legitimacy of this claim since the only person who has said this was Mirri Maz Duur, the witch who killed Khal Drogo, and who might not be the most reliable source of information on this matter. Cersei then returns with surprising news — she will commit her troops to the great battle in the North. Or so she says …
But why would we ever take Cersei at her word? When she sees Jaime preparing to march North for the battle she just committed to, she wonders if he’s a traitor or an idiot. Jaime is somehow shocked at Cersei’s change of heart; Cersei says if dragons can’t stop these things, what good will their men do? She smartly notes that there were only two dragons at the Dragonpit, not the three they had heard about, and that they must be vulnerable. She wants to let the monsters kill each other while they take back their rightful lands as battle rages in the North. An incredulous Jaime says that when fighting is over in the North, either the dead march on King’s Landing or the armies you betrayed march on King’s Landing and neither outcome is positive.
But to her credit Cersei is always planning ahead. With her recently acquired wealth, she’s retained the services of 20,000 men from the Golden Company in Essos, who are being corralled by Euron Greyjoy, who did not, in fact, just walk out of the picture forever but has been plotting with Cersei all along. Jaime is incensed at their scheming, but Cersei says it’s no worse than Jaime plotting with Tyrion. Jaime sticks to his pledge to ride North and for one brief moment it looked like Cersei would give the Mountain the order to kill her brother. But if she couldn’t do it to Tyrion, she certainly can’t do it to Jaime. He walks past the Mountain and rides off, against his sister’s wishes.
Littlefinger — finally — gets what is coming to him
There was a reason why Lord Baelish was the character at the top of the majority of the “Most Likely to Die” lists entering the season finale. The Stark girls were simply not going to let him drive them apart, plus the all-knowing Bran was there, if needed, to blow his cover. For a while it seemed like Littlefinger’s powers of persuasion would work in his favor yet again. He attempts to play a mind game with Sansa, convincing her that Arya wants Sansa dead because she wronged her own family in the past and that she came home to murder her and become Lady of Winterfell, with the letter to Robb serving as all the proof she needed as justification for the deed. Littlefinger even smirks when he thinks he’s convinced Sansa that she needs to dispose of Arya.
But it was to be one of his final smirks. Sansa orders her sister into the Great Hall of Winterfell, where Bran sits next to her and security forces are in full force. Sansa reads the charges of murder and treason, but levels the accusations at Lord Baelish, who is caught quite off guard by this swerve. How quickly the smirk disappears from his face as he tries to talk his way out of the situation, but Sansa’s long list of Littlefinger’s misdeeds is a tough one to explain away. Maybe if it was just the murder of Lysa Arryn he’d have an argument; she was a nutjob and the Eyrie is probably better off with her deposited through the Moon Door, let’s be real. But plotting the murder of Jon Arryn and getting the Starks to believe it was the fault of the Lannisters, thereby kicking off the Stark/Lannister turmoil that is basically at the foundation of the entire show, plus conspiring to kill Ned Stark, plus blaming Tyrion for the attempt on Bran’s life (when it was really his own dagger used in the attack), plus marrying Sansa off to the Boltons … it’s hard to explain away all of that.
He tries to defend his actions, tells Sansa how much he loved both her and her mother, but the decision has been made. “Thank you for all your many lessons. I will never forget them,” Sansa says to Littlefinger before her sister slashes his throat and leaves him in a lifeless heap on the Great Hall floor. RIP, Littlefinger. He rode that chaos ladder to just about the highest rung, controlled the actions of the Seven Kingdoms, but met his match when he tried to get between two Stark sisters. I will regret that we don’t get to see him attempt to craft some dastardly backroom deal with the Night King.
Jon and Daenerys consummate their … ew
The romantic feelings between Jon and Daenerys fully blossomed last week and it was only a matter of time before things progressed from sharing deep gazes and gentle hand rubs to sharing a bed below deck. Just before their big moment together, the writers were kind enough to finally confirm the most iron-clad of the show’s many, many theories — Jon Snow is the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
We find this out during a surprisingly amusing exchange between Bran and Samwell, who has made his way to Winterfell. “What happened to you beyond the Wall?” Sam asks Bran. “I became the Three-Eyed Raven,” he tells Sam, who speaks for many of us by saying he doesn’t know what that means. Sam says he’s come to help Jon, and it’s almost as if Bran has just been dying for someone to bring up his name, because he immediately launches into the details of Jon’s parentage. “No one knows, no one but me,” Bran says, not accounting for every single person who has even once Googled “Game of Thrones R+L=J.”
When Sam tells Bran about Gilly’s finding that Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia
Sand Martell was annulled, Bran uses his 3ER powers to travel back in time and confirm if this is true. And confirm it he does — Rhaegar didn’t kidnap and rape Lyanna Stark. The two of them were in love and were married. The entire reason for Robert’s Rebellion was a lie, Jon Snow is really Aegon Targaryen and he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Bran says Jon must know the truth.
But a little late on that one, Bran, because Jon has already consummated his relationship with his aunt. If you’re looking for a way to make a sex scene between two objectively gorgeous people pretty nauseating, having a teenager do a voiceover that confirms the aunt-nephew relationship of the characters that are rolling around naked is a solid effort.
The ice dragon breathes … icy fire?
The burning (freezing?) question over the last week was whether the newly undead dragon now under the control of the Night King would breath fire or ice. And the answer is … kind of both? At Eastwatch, Tormund and Beric man the lookout and what they see is not good. The army of the dead has arrived and its newest weapon is ready to inflict damage. The always laid-back Night King comes swooping in on his new ride, and lays waste to the enormous ice wall that serves as the Eastwatch fortress.
Do Tormund and Beric survive? It would seem improbable, but it would also seem unlikely that Tormund just dies offscreen, never to be heard from again. Do Tormund and Beric get turned by the Night King and join the army of the dead? In any case, the Night King and his army have broken through and Winterfell would seem to be the next stop on their itinerary.
Theon tries to salvage himself, yet again
Still with the Theon, huh? Inspired by a conversation with Jon, Theon decides it’s his mission to save Yara. She’s his sister, and she was the only one who tried to save him when Ramsay was holding him prisoner. As Theon tries to win over his fellow Iron Born to go on a rescue mission, he’s dismissed by the group’s leader as a coward. Which, true. Theon says he will go find her and set her free, which earns him a loogie in the face and then a punch in the face, and then many more punches in the face, which land him on the ground.
But Theon keeps coming back for more and turns the tables when his nemesis tries an old-fashioned knee to the groin which has no effect due to his castration at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. Finally, it pays off! Theon kills the man with his bare hands and leads his newly inspired men on a mission to save his sister.
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