Despite a few unexpected deaths, Game of Thrones plods onDaenerys is again the centre of attention, but everything around her is falling apart: a second dragon is dead, her confidant is headless, and everyone seems to be rooting for Jon Snow.
[Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.]
Daenerys is again the centre of attention, but everything around her is falling apart: a second dragon is dead, her confidant is headless, and everyone seems to be rooting for Jon Snow.
The latest episode of Game of Thrones seems to be another toothless attempt at wrapping up a show in which people expect the unexpected, tying up timelines predictably and tossing a couple of non-consequential curve balls.
With the Night King reduced to ice cubes, the beginning was a time of relief, grief and revelry — writers DB Weiss and David Benioff decided to shoot everyone a barrel of wine for their battle efforts — the brunt of scenes seemed redundant, haphazard and rushed.
In a drinking game between Brienne, Pod and the Lannister brothers, for some reason, the subject turns to the lady knight’s virginity. The Kingslayer takes it upon himself to take it from her, in a vain attempt to give fans what they wanted all along, but the writers belittled the nobility of Brienne of Tarth’s story and her relationship with one-handed Jaime. Red-bearded wildling Tormund Giantsbane cries over his placement in the friend-zone, but gets off with some young northern girl, while Pod once again shows he’s a ladies man.
These scenes all acted as fillers between the real meat of the episode, which focussed on the politically problematic relationship between Jon Snow and his lover-aunt Daenerys, whose jealousy is palpable—her desire for the Iron Throne intense and her disdain for a lack of northern acceptance obvious. From the start, she looks at Jon with intense jealousy as he is drunkenly praised by everyone for his dragon-riding, undead-killing ways.
Daenerys gets a small vote of support when she dubs the bastard Gendry a Baratheon and lord of Storm’s End, which boosts his confidence enough to vainly ask Arya to marry him. She refuses and gets on a horse, heading to King’s Landing. Joining The Hound once more, Arya is likely resuming her murder list — and Cersei must be on it. Just what The Hound wants in the capital is unknown, but it almost certainly has to do with The Mountain, his now-mutant brother.
Bronn makes a visit to the Lannister brothers, promising them a morbid fate if he is not finally compensated for his sword-selling ways; Tormund takes his wildling people north, Jon’s direwolf with him; Sam and Gilly say goodbye to Jon, and announce they’re expecting a child; Jaime Lannister runs away, back to his sister-lover in King’s Landing, leaving Brienne a crying mess in Winterfell.
Somewhere between these insignificant scenes and Daenerys’ anger, Jon goes about betraying her wishes by telling the Stark sisters of his true lineage — he’s half-Stark and half-Targaryen — under secrecy. But no secret is sacred, not even in the Godswood, as Sansa leaks the truth to Tyrion and, in turn, to Varys.
While Game of Thrones and just about all of its characters wane into banality, perhaps the two characters to watch are Varys and Tyrion. Varys puts his cards on the table when speaking to Tyrion about the future of Westeros. With seemingly no other motivations than to help the everyman, Varys says Jon should be on the throne. Jon is well-liked, he is a war hero, he is stable and the rightful heir to the throne, he says. When Tyrion suggests marrying off Jon and Daenerys so they can rule together, Varys says what every viewer has been thinking: “She’s his aunt”.
Despite Tyrion’s half-hearted protests, one can see how conflicted the little man is about who will next sit on the throne. He loves Daenerys as much as any of her other supporters, but seems to know she might not be right for the job. Just what Varys will do to get Jon on the throne, whether he likes it or not, will be interesting. Will his little birds start tweeting throughout Westeros? Plus, when will the world find out about Jon’s true lineage? This eunuch and dwarf brain-trust could be the biggest influence on Westeros’ fate.
Every interaction Jon has seems to hint at a unintentional ascent to the Iron Throne, even if he says he doesn’t want it, and Daenerys seems to know he’s winning the popularity contest. But Jon is too besotted by his aunt to even want the crown.
The dogged dragon mumma is simmering quietly but an eventual boil-over seems imminent—she could snatch the throne by whatever means necessary. Her vying for the throne is no longer about breaking the so-called wheel, but more about her taking what’s “rightfully hers”. She wants to make quick work of Cersei and King’s Landing, and hurries everyone along, despite the army being decimated and tired.
But Daenerys is the biggest loser of this episode: her already battered dragon Rhaegal is shot out of the sky and her long-time confidante Missandei is beheaded in front of her by The Mountain. Daenerys is losing everything: her supporters, her lover, her power, her army, her dragons and, maybe soon, her mind. While these two deaths were perhaps meant to be shocking, they’re seemingly inconsequential — perhaps a mad queen is actually on the cards, however. While another battle is certain for Westeros, with a scorned mother of dragons ready to slay Cersei, just how that will happen is up for debate.
Euron Greyjoy has proven himself an expert marksman with his giant dragon-slaying darts, the united armies under Daenerys and Jon are underpowered and tired, and Cersei’s sellswords are aplenty. Perhaps a win will require some work from Arya, taking others’ faces, to slide into King’s Landing and do some dirty work from within, or perhaps Jaime is heading back to kill his sister?
Whatever happens in the following two episodes of Game of Thrones, it’s going to feel rushed and unsatisfying. The entire season thus far has been lacklustre and less thorough than the earlier ones, so how the show will appease a discerning fanbase in just 160 minutes is a curious prospect.