I’d rather not think about the fact that the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones may not air until 2019. Thrones came and went in a flash this summer, and while the seventh season further proved how much of a social impact this show has on the world, it was certainly a divisive one. Between time jumps, character decisions, and a near total lack of source material, there was certainly a lot to talk about each week. I want to take a hot second just to thank David Yurman for filling in for me last week with his unique and incredibly detailed recap of last week’s episode; and thank you, everyone who followed me through this season. I hope you had as much fun reading my recaps as did writing them for you. Let’s get into it.
It took seven seasons, but we finally put every relevant character in the same room talking about the same thing. You have Cersei, Jaime, the Mountain, Qyburn, Euron and Bronn sitting down with Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Davos, the Hound, Brienne, Pod, Theon, Varys, Missandei and Jorah, while Grey Worm, the rest of the Unsullied, the Dothraki, two dragons, and the Iron Fleet wait outside. You can count on one hand how many main characters AREN’T in this meeting. We knew this meeting was going to feature a number of one-on-ones between characters who haven’t seen each other in years – and/or when they last saw each other, something incredibly dramatic happened. Even though blockbuster action and visual effects really upped the ante this year, it’s still grounded conversations and character interactions that made Thrones stand out from other fantasy shows. One great example is Bronn and Tyrion questioning Bronn’s loyalty. Tyrion challenges him and says he’s loyal to Cersei. Bronn retorts and says he has his own interests in mind – thinking of the pretty penny he’d earn bringing two traitors back to King’s Landing. “It’s good to see you,” Tyrion says, and after a dramatic pause Bronn sighs, “Yeah, you too.” It was a beautiful moment between two characters who care about each other (whether they want to admit it or not), finding themselves on opposite sides. There’s a lot of this in this episode and some of it works, but some of it could have been left out. For a minute it feels like the writers were treating characters like how I used to treat my action figures: You pick two up; they square off; you throw ’em to the side; you pick up two more and do it again.
The meeting begins with Tyrion being interrupted by Euron Greyjoy, who threatens to kill the captive Yara if her brother Theon doesn’t bend the knee; further proof that half the characters involved don’t really understand (or care) how politics operate. The meeting eventually gets down to business, but not before a little Cleganebowl tease. The Hound hauls up the chest holding the captured wight from last week’s Fellowship of the Wight. Just as you had hoped for, everyone is terrified. Cersei jumps back, and even the Mountain hesitates for half a second. If Jaime wasn’t convinced of the threat from one example, Dany telling him she saw 100,000 more North of the Wall certainly does the trick. Cersei addresses the threat and swears to help in the fight against the dead (wait for it)… so long as Jon Snow retreats North and does not partake in the Lannister/Targaryen conflict. OBVIOUSLY Cersei isn’t going to just leave the country more or less vulnerable to attack. The thing is, it’s not a terrible compromise at all. Cersei even pulls the Ned Stark card (not the first time Ned Stark’s name is mentioned in this episode) and claims the word of Ned Stark’s son is something she trusts. However, Cersei didn’t count on Jon having already swore fealty to Dany (or did she?) – Jon attests that he will never go back on his allegiance to Daenerys, so why should he make a promise he knows he will not keep? The deal is off. Euron makes his smartest move and leaves immediately – taking the Iron Fleet with him back to the Iron Islands to wait out the end of Winter; Cersei takes her company inside and, as Tyrion points out, “We’re f****d.”
You could make the case that the next scene is one of – if not the – best in all of Game of Thrones. Tyrion chooses to go, alone, to meet with Cersei and negotiate a truce one-on-one. Lena Heady and Peter Dinklage lock themselves in for Emmy nominations as they go back and forth about their family, their allegiances, and themselves in an emotional and powerful confrontation of siblings. Family and identity have been two themes this season I’ve brought up before, and the two are certainly put on display as one character thinks the other is destroying their family and vice-versa. The two come out alive and Cersei agrees to call her banners and send her armies North to aid in the fight against the dead. (WAIT FOR IT)…
When Jaime and Cersei have a moment alone, she explains to him that Euron Greyjoy did not run and hide from the dead; he’s escorting the Golden Company (a group of mercenaries) from Essos to Westeros to help keep the Lannisters’ territory. Yep, Cersei did what Jon couldn’t and lied through her teeth and said she would help. Because she didn’t tell Jaime, he’s all in on going North for this fight and the idea of calling this bluff is absolutely absurd. Yet again, however, Cersei proves why she is where she is and notices Dany is missing a dragon, concluding that her enemies are indeed vulnerable. In the most Tywin move of the century, Cersei plans to let the dead ravage the North and let her enemies fight each other while she bides her time and waits to rule whomever remains after the dead are defeated. Brilliant, if the other possibility wasn’t facing an army of dead men. It’s a HUGE gamble with terrible odds, as Jaime clearly points out: Either the dead mow through everyone and kill them all, or their enemies defeat the dead and then march back South and kill them all. Cersei is ruthless but I honestly think she’s one of the most compelling characters on this show. She isn’t hiding anything either – she doesn’t care about saving the world. Cersei only wants to save her family and her future, and she has stayed true to her character all the way up until now. Jaime calls Cersei’s bluff on killing
him if he leaves, and I think this could have been an opportunity to really shock audiences and end with one of them not coming out. Cersei is incredibly capable of making that jump from sister to “family savior” and Jaime has already stabbed one ruler in the back. Instead, Jaime heads North and the prediction I made YEARS ago comes true. JAIME IS GOING NORTH. It didn’t happen exactly as I said, but this was the endgame in my longtime Jaime prediction so I’ll take that as a small victory. As Jaime leaves, it begins to snow in King’s Landing. In any other It’s a Wonderful Life instance, this would be a magical moment with families coming together in warmth and happiness. In Thrones, it means death and darkness are imminent, and the Lannisters are split farther apart now than ever.
Jon and Dany reconvene at Dragonstone and decide the next step is to sail to White Harbor, and ride for Winterfell from there. Jon and Dany agree that they should ride together as a sign of unity and the fanboy in me automatically imagined the two of them on dragons. Of course they mean boats, Reed, come on. Jon’s not riding a dragon until next season! Before they depart, Theon and Jon have an incredibly unexpected heart-to-heart. It’s another instance of developing character identity as Jon tells Theon he forgives him for the crimes committed against the Starks – as much as Jon can let himself forgive. I’m happy Jon has no intention of writing Theon off or completely absolving him of his crimes. Theon doesn’t deserve redemption, he deserves healing. I’m happy he’s going to save Yara, and he proves to his Iron Born that what is dead certainly never dies, but rises harder and stronger. Let Theon have a quiet conclusion. He doesn’t need to die in a blaze of glory or sacrifice himself for something bigger. He is certainly Stark and Greyjoy, but don’t forget he is still a Greyjoy.
There’s honestly not that much to say here about Winterfell. If I wrote last week’s recap, I would have said that I think Arya and Sansa have the jump on Littlefinger and that they’re faking this entire sibling rivalry. I’ll admit, Thrones‘ writing this season could have been stronger; but to have the two Stark sisters going toe-to-toe with each other was completely backwards for the characters and the show. I knew the writers had to be smarter than that. And much to my satisfaction, Sansa accuses Littlefinger of all the crimes he’s committed the past season; from the straightforward murder of Lysa Arryn to betraying Ned Stark and offering him up to the Lannisters. Hell, Littlefinger practically started this whole show when he killed Jon Arryn and convinced Catelyn Stark it was Tyrion Lannister – effectively starting the entire feud between the Starks and Lannisters that led to almost every main character’s death. Littlefinger finally gets his due and we see him begging, on his knees, before Sansa. After Sansa passes the sentence, Arya swings the sword and slits Littlefinger’s throat open. He bleeds out and chokes on his own blood and dies suffering – like the rat deserves. Littlefinger’s death is such a relief because he made Winterfell’s storyline the blandest part of this season. He dug his own grave by selling Sansa to the Boltons and putting her back under Winterfell’s roof. Sansa was right the whole time, the North will always remain loyal to the Starks. At that point, Littlefinger no longer became relevant in this show, and he was the device of his own unraveling. One could argue that the writers grasping for straws with the Arya/Sansa rivalry was a reflection of Littlefinger’s irrelevance and his grasping for straws to remain a player in the game of thrones. I guess it’s up to the viewers’ interpretation but if it were me, I would have gotten rid of him sooner rather than just before the final season. Arya, Sansa, and Bran could have been essential in Jon’s quest to prepare the realm for what’s coming, and instead they were held up in Winterfell dealing with pest control, more or less. I’m excited for the lovely ladies of Winterfell next season; and I’d say I’m excited for Bran as well, but I think that every season and he somehow finds a way to stress me out more.
Of course, we do get one more reunion with Sam arriving in Winterfell and sitting down with Bran. Bran immediately makes Sam feel uncomfortable by talking about how he’s the Three-Eyed Raven, and after a dramatic pause, we get down to the reason Sam’s in this one scene. Bran and Sam are both anticipating Jon’s return to Winterfell and Bran goes into the whole, “Jon’s not Ned’s son, he’s Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen’s.” Of course Bran is under the impression that Jon Snow is actually Jon Sand – bastards in the south have the last name Sand. Then, Sam decides to take TOTAL CREDIT for Gilly’s discovery that Jon is not a bastard at all. I hate to be that guy but I had a good amount of issues with this scene. For one, it would have been a great character moment for Gilly to be there and be the one to correct Bran about Jon since she is the one who read it. Now Sam comes off as a mansplainer. Next, if Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven, how come he doesn’t know this already? He even went into the past to watch it as it happened after Sam tells him. Can Bran only see into the past of what he knows? But if that’s the case, how did Bran know about Littlefinger telling Ned not to trust him? Does Bran know that as he breaks down the fact that Jon is heir to the Iron Throne because he’s Dany’s nephew that they’re finally wish-fulfilling Jon and Dany’s union? It was certainly beautiful to cross-cut the two – Dany and Jon’s love for each-other paralleled Rhaegar and Lyanna’s. The biggest implication for me is that Robert’s Rebellion was founded on a lie. Rhaegar never kidnapped and raped Lyanna; they ran away together and loved each-other. I guess history really is written by the victors. The Targaryens were big on the whole incest thing to begin with to keep their blood lines pure, but I’m not sure how Dany and Jon are going to take it that they’re related. Their love is far more complicated than that, however, with war coming. Not a great time to start caring about new people.
Wow, remember when I said I didn’t have a lot to say on Winterfell?
It happened. Seven seasons of foreshadowing and predictions and it finally happened. As Tormund and Beric man the Wall at Eastwatch, the White Walkers come knocking with 100,000 friends and an undead dragon. The Night Man certainly cometh as Viserion, Dany’s now undead dragon, puts a MASSIVE hole in the Wall and the White Walkers mosey on through to the land of the living with all the dead men and undead giants at their command. To once again quote Tyrion, “We’re all f****d.”
The end is certainly here for Game of Thrones, but I can’t deny I’m nervous. Fireworks went off in this season as promises were fulfilled and character narratives were clarified for the end game. Everyone has picked their side and Westeros is certainly still divided on the matter. Only more fireworks are going to happen next season with speculation that each episode could run at feature length. What scares me is I don’t want the writers of this show to sacrifice great character moments for the sake of battle. Dragons and zombies are great to watch. There is no denying the climaxes of “The Spoils of War” and “Eastwatch” were watershed moments for this show and television as a medium. But I maintain the scenes in Season 7 that focus on two-to-four characters, all with conflicting ideals and mingling personalities, are worth their weight in run-time far more than ten minutes of dragons lighting zombies on fire. I don’t want to sound like I don’t appreciate the marvelous set pieces and action sequences that Thrones had this season. They are on another level. But characters are what made this story great and I don’t want Thrones to lose sight of that next season.
OVERALL SEASON RATING:
Thank you again for coming on this journey with me. I’m not entirely sure where I’ll be when this show comes back on but I can assure you I’ll find a way to come back into your lives with Game of Thrones content.
My final Dot Dots…
Surprised they didn’t recall the previous 5 seasons in this week’s recap… Unsullied looking like Battle Droids in Phantom Menace… very weird to see Bronn giving orders… if armies in Thrones were alcohols, the Dothraki would be tequila…. watching the Mountain move is terrifying… Pod and Bronn leaving make them the brightest two of the whole group… the Hound’s reaction shot to seeing the Mountain is right up there with any Jim Halpert reaction shot… “You know what’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” – The Hound; CLEGANEBOWL CONFIRMED… Dany needed the John Cena song for that entrance… OF COURSE Qyburn’s fascinated by this wight, sick bastard… everyone gave this, “That was easy,” look to one another when Cersei agreed to the truce… of course until Jon decided to be an honorable fool… Cersei’s Queensguard looking like Mayweather Promotions… Tyrion confirmed what I’ve been saying all season, “We’re f****d…” “I’m about to step into a room with the most murderous person in the world who’s already tried to have me killed twice, that I know of; who’s the bigger idiot?” – Tyrion… I think I’d take a drink too if the Mountain was about to eviscerate me… Dany, “I can’t have children.” Jon, “Hold my beer…” Winterfell, more like Winterhell, with all that snow, amirite? *taps microphone* this thing on?… Wow, Alfie Allen (Theon) is actually a really good actor… what a horribly satisfying way for Littlefinger to go… can’t even be surprised by Cersei lying about everything… Jaime still proves himself to be my favorite character… how does Bran not know about Rhaegar and Lyanna’s marriage?… Winter might be coming but it looks like Snow already came (sorry if you’re reading this, Mom)… “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” – Sansa; goddammit pour one more out for Benjen Stark… three horns for White Walkers, I’d say now is a good time for three horns… I’d honestly prefer if they chose to play “Tom Sawyer” over the Night King’s entrance… so I guess if you’re an undead dragon you automatically get holes in your wings?… wow, I have to wait until (maybe but probably) 2019 for this?!
SEASON 7 RECAPS