First of all, just have to say, we totally called it with the Night King you guys. Can’t say we’re especially happy with that though – for every way in which series 6 ended on a rousing, feel-good note, series 7 was deeply macabre, a dark and depressing promise that things are going to get a whole hell of a lot worse before they threaten to get better, like a storm or any time we try dancing.
Oh, Game of Thrones, loving you is such sweet sorrow. All the moreso when we won’t know what happens next until twenty actual nineteen. So, for the last time this year (and next year *sobs uncontrollably*) let’s recap, review, and recover.
King’s Landing and the Dragon Pit
It’s happening – after 6 series of backstabbing, front-stabbing, side-stabbing, and face-stabbing, all the principal powers still left in the game are coming together for one great big, group therapy session. But first – dick jokes!
Jaime and Bronn watch from the battlements of King’s Landing as Daenerys’s Unsullied and Dothraki forces make a big song and dance about how cool and threatening they are. Jaime and Bronn respond by questioning why anybody without a cock would bother fighting, like having a cock is the only reason it’s worth fighting at all, conveniently forgetting that literally all of the power in Westeros at the moment is governed by decidedly cockless Queens.
Moving on, we have a few fun reunions on the road to the Dragonpit where everyone has chosen to meet for some reason with Tyrion, Pod, and Bronn (with a reference to Pod’s magical penis – finally!) and a particularly enjoyable catch-up between the Hound and Brienne. The Hound’s wry smile when he found out about Arya was everything – “my little murderer all grown up.”
Ignoring the fact that it seemed like it took longer for everyone to walk to the Dragonpit than it did to sail all the way to the Wall, we’re treated to the world’s most magnificent collection of dirty looks this side of Mean Girls as everyone takes their seats (seriously, there was so much shade being thrown it felt like the Long Night had come early).
Shortly after Bronn and Pod take off for a timely drink (Jerome Flynn and Lena Headey’s personal beef is clearly still going strong), everyone else is here – Cersei, Jaime, Euron, Qyburn, and the Mountain, facing off against the Dragon League of Jon, Tyrion, Theon, Jorah, Missandei, and Davos. Daenerys arrives, fashionably late and suitably flashy upon Drogon’s back, and takes her seat – it’s an oddly cavalier attitude for someone who just lost a dragon due to an enemy’s unknown weaponry, but who are we to question. What’s not up for debate here is how fantastic the scenery and framing is; the decrepit ruins of the Dragonpit are wonderfully evoked.
Next it’s TIME FOR CLEGANEBOWL GET HYPE – oh, wait, it was just a bit of a pre-match face-off with the Hound at least confirming Cleganebowl is going to happen with a little brotherly smacktalk. Maybe. One day. One thing’s for certain: if anybody gets the Mountain before him, he won’t be happy. While he’s off collecting his dead-old-zombie-man-in-a-box (coming soon to stores near you!) Tyrion’s introductory statements are interrupted by Euron doing what he does best – not giving a fuck and pissing people off, trying to taunt Theon into an early surrender by threatening Yara.
Cersei quiets him down and it’s time for show-and-tell, yay! The Hound returns with his zombie friend and, after a well-played potential fake-out, the flaky deado that cost our heroes a dragon performs his job admirably – running, screaming, generally creeping everyone the fuck out, before the Hound chops him up and Jon gives his best YouTube demonstration on how to kill them (not before a brilliantly played moment with Qyburn practically salivating while holding the wight’s dismembered hand; megacreep’s gonna megacreep).
Euron asks if the wights can swim and, reassured they can’t, makes the genuinely smart decision to get the fuck out of dodge and wait the whole hairy thing out on his island. Cersei, while annoyed, sees the danger and agree to the Dragon League’s truce – provided Jon does so as well for the Northern forces; no picking sides. Ever his
father’s uncle’s son (?) Jon is bound by the oath he made to Dany in the last episode and refuses, so Cersei calls the whole thing off and storms home. Everyone’s annoyed – “Have you ever considered learning how to lie now and then, just a bit?” Tyrion asks him, to which Jon makes the fair point that lying just makes things worse (the history of conflicts in Westeros is a history of lying). More to the point, as Brienne tells Jaime: “Fuck loyalty.” “Fuck loyalty?” Jaime replies in a neat summation of his entire character arc to date, and we’re left hoping he can bring Cersei around.
Tyrion insists only he get through to his sister, er… okay? I mean, there’s literally no basis for believing that but sure. After saying a quick goodbye to Jaime, Tyrion joins Cersei in her study in what is, hands down, the best acted scene this series. Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey are in an entirely different league to the rest of the cast and this scene is a showcase of that – every word, every expression, every little moment is filled with emotion and energy; by turns bitter, hateful, and melancholic, and watching it is uncomfortable in the best way possible as they tear their mutual demons apart. They’d quite happily kill each other at a moment’s notice, and with Darth Vader – sorry, the Mountain – hanging around, it almost feels inevitable, but they also know that nobody will ever understand them so well as they understand each other. Tyrion clocks that Cersei is pregnant (though she wasn’t exactly being subtle about it, more on that here) and we cut back to…
The Dragonpit, where Dany and Jon are in the middle of another intimate moment, discussing Chekhov’s baby no less, when Team Lannister returns: Cersei reaffirms her commitment to the truce and, not only that, she’ll send her troops to aid the fight. Hooray, the plan went flawlessly, everyone wins!… I mean, if you actually believe that then may all of the gods bless you; where have you been for the past six series of crushing heartbreak? If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
The mind boggles trying to understand how difficult the Dragonpit sequences must have been to put together – scripting, designing the sets, blocking the shots, pacing the scenes, all with a hundred moving pieces. It could have so easily gone so wrong and for it to be one of GoT’s strongest moments is an outstanding achievement. The plotting is strong, Ramin Djawadi’s score a masterpiece, and Michelle Clapton’s costume design game is beyond plaudits. Everyone looks incredible and we aren’t remotely jealous (*prays desperately for H&M x GoT*).
The Dragon League makes battle plans to travel North overlooking Dany’s tablemap – Jorah suggests that Dany travels on dragonback for protection but she instead decides to follow Jon’s advice to put on a show of unity and travel by boat together (bow chicka wow wow levels are rising…). Unlucky, Jorah!
Theon catches up with Jon on their way and explains that he needs to do what he can to help save Yara. Jon, now firmly in the role of great conciliator, absolves Theon of whatever sins he can and the men part on amicable terms. Theon isn’t finished yet however and gets into a seaside fist-fight with the remaining Greyjoy men in order to convince them to join him in his mission. It’s a bit touch-and-go, but his lack of cock-and-balls saves the day (see Bronn, dicks aren’t everything!) and he turns the fight around, concluding with one of the episode’s most powerful shots as he smiles kneeling in the sea. The treatment of Theon this series has been one of its biggest shortcomings, so while having a character-focused heart-to-heart cropping up in the finale feels a bit off (and butchers the pacing) it’s a long overdue spotlight for one of the show’s most interesting characters and best actors in Alfie Allen. We’re looking forward to seeing how/if he brings his uncle to justice next series.
One last thing… where’s Gendry? Like, seriously. Dude goes rowing for four series and disappears after 2 episodes? Not on our watch!
King’s Landing II
Jaime and his generals make battle plans for the long march North when Cersei interrupts – shock horror: she had no intention of staying true to her word. Jaime seems genuinely shocked (maybe he is the stupidest Lannister) and Cersei lays out her plan: with the gold they routed from Highgarden she’s bought the Golden Company, an elite sellsword group from Essos, and she’s secretly set Euron the mission of ferrying them over. While the Dragon League is busy fighting in the North she’ll reclaim the South and fight whatever remains of whoever wins. She points out that if dragons can’t win the fight against the army of the dead then what can the Lannisters hope to achieve which, frankly, makes a shedload of sense. Evil Queen she might be but it’s hard to poke holes in her strategy here.
Regardless, Jaime is upset, all the moreso when Cersei threatens to set the Mountain on him. The honour of the Kingslayer may not mean much to many people, but it’s all he has left and he’s desperate for the opportunity to prove himself; he made an oath to aid in the fight against the undead and he’s determined, finally, to be true to his word.
“Nobody walks away from me,” Cersei says, except both her treacherous brothers apparently with Tyrion earlier and now Jaime, who finally claims his independence and sets out for the North, a lone figure as the snows start to fall (ignore the fact that it’s slightly ludicrous that he would set out, unarmoured, by himself, across thousands of miles of unfriendly terrain, because it’s a beautiful shot with fantastic music and we got goosebumps goddamit).
Stark Family Values continues full throttle with Sansa still fearing a sudden pointy-ending from Arya. Littlefinger, a being who photosynthesises drama for nutrition, stirs the pot and seems to convince Sansa that Arya is gunning for her Lady of Winterfell title…
Later, Sansa summons Arya to the Great Hall where a room full of hairy identikit men circle the room – at least somebody though to wheel Bran in from the snow eh? To the show’s credit it does seem, implausible as it may be, that Sansa is about to take Arya down, but it’s all a majestic bait-and-switch as she turns to Littlefinger, accusing him of murder and treason.
For the very first time Littlefinger has been caught out and his reaction shot will be a GIF for the ages. It. Is. Delicious. This entire scene. Watching the proverbial snake of Westeros desperately trying to squeeze his way out of yet another corner makes for wonderfully cathartic viewing, especially when Sansa starts reading off his crimes to remind us all how big of a shit he actually is.
The Winterfell storyline this series hasn’t been great, it’s meandering and hard to follow, too often like a waste of a time in a series that’s felt so desperately short of it. Arya slicing Littlefinger’s throat open while he weeps pathetically on his knees for forgiveness, his final “I..” remaining unfinished and gargled in his throat, sets it all to rights. Watching the Stark siblings finally allying against their family’s original enemy is enormously satisfying and will live long in the memory. Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger will be sorely missed, but Aiden Gillen as Arya wearing Littlefinger’s face feels like a distinct possibility. How do they work out the royalties for that? It is a mystery.
Later, Sam and Gilly pull into Winterfell (HOW DID HE RIDE THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF WESTEROS SO FAST – no! No inner-pedant! Get back in your box) and he quickly has a suitably awkward audience with Bran “did you know I’m the Three-Eyed-Raven” Stark. They put two and two together regarding Jon’s true lineage – what Bran saw at the Tower of Joy in his vision and what GILLY (not you, Sam! Men, always taking credit where it isn’t due…) discovered about Rhaegar’s secret annulment and marriage to Lyanna Stark.
Bran quickly finds the right vision (we can only assume the tree internet works like the actual internet: while you have the potential to know anything, you still have to search for what you want) and watches Rhaegar and Lyanna’s ceremony (we checked and no, it isn’t Harry “Viserys Targaryen in series one” Lloyd playing Rhaegar, it’s just that GoT has a masterful casting director in Nina Gold and she discovered the total unknown Wilf Scolding who happens to be a dead ringer. Also it’s the same wig). In what may be the least erotic sex scene ever (with the sound on anyway), we cut to the Dragon League’s ship as it sails northwards, with Jon and Dany getting their incestuous freak on, bending knees all over the damn place, and Tyrion broods outside the cabin looking upset about something (much more on that here), while Bran narrates what we’ve been waiting all these years to be confirmed: Jon is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne and his real name is the deeply unsexy Aegon Targaryen. Or Aegon Targaryen VI to be exact.
To attempt to answer a prevailing fan question after the finale, we think Rhaegar named him Aegon — despite already having a son called Aegon from his first marriage to Elia Martell who were both killed by the Mountain in Tywin’s sack on King’s Landing (keep up now) — because the first Aegon was no longer legitimate after Rhaegar and Elia’s marriage was annulled and he wanted to ensure he still had a legitimate one. Yeah, let’s go with that.
Tormund and Beric have been left to man the Wall and it takes roughly 2.5 seconds for the shit to hit the fan – they watch as the White Walkers and their army assemble at the Wall; they clearly had no trouble getting there sharpish once they had a dragon onside, so we’re thinking our theory was mostly on the money. They wait, horns blowing, and then the moment we’ve all been dreading – there’s a screech and flying through the mist comes the Night King atop Zomberion.
He wastes no time getting down to business, blue-flaming (definitely not ice!) the Wall into tiny pieces. Tormund and Beric make the smart decision to run across the Wall, away from the Night King (rather than down it) and we think they make it safety before the Wall collapses; they run inland while the Wall collapsed as far as the shoreline, plus we didn’t see them die and to kill them off camera would be such a bad move.
The army of the dead shuffles over the Wall’s crumbled remains, entering Westeros for the first time in 8,000 years, while the Night King watches from on high. It’s terrifying, it’s exciting, it’s like nothing else on television – it’s pure Game of Thrones and it’s going to be an awfully long wait until the next, final, series.
Our watch begins.
Fancy a bit more reading? Check out our theory piece on what Tyrion was up to this episode here.