Here’s a tip for anyone vacationing while their favorite show is drawing to a close: don’t make plans to travel on the day when you’re supposed to be watching the most awaited episode of the season.

Luckily, I was able to hold off on checking out social media and didn’t get spoiled before I could finally sit down and watch The Dragon and The Wolf, and even though a hell of a lot of ink has been spilled discussing the supersized season finale, I’m back to share my ramblings with you.

The Dragon and The Wolf was the last episode we’ll be seeing for the next year and a half, so it had to be a good one to keep us on the hook. Actually, let’s face it, we’re all on the hook regardless, but, after a couple of underwhelming installments, we really needed a spectacular end to the season.

And boy, did they deliver in spades. Enough to make up for the random blunders of the previous episodes? Very possibly.

The season finale checked all the boxes: Intrigue? Check. Fan Service? Check. Great dialogue? Check. Incest? Err, check. It even managed to surprise us, which is a big ask when there are hundreds of theories floating around out there, which basically cover any and all eventualities, much like the late Petyr Baelish advised Sansa to do.

Speaking of whom, let’s kick this off with our favorite family.

Winterfell

I was not-so-secretly hoping that the disappointing arc Sansa and Arya’s story had been following lately would eventually reveal some kind of underlying plot twist, and I’m so happy that my hunch was right. Not only did we get an immensely satisfying character death, but it was done in such a cleverly suspenseful way as to trick us one last time before giving us what we really wanted.

I must admit, I was initially fooled by the way things where shaping up with Sansa, and cursed at my television a couple of times as she kept going back to Littlefinger for advice, seemingly allowing him to poison her against Arya. It’s not the first time she’s been less than… insightful about people’s true intentions, after all: like she admitted, she’s a slow learner. In retrospect, Arya’s absence from all these scenes should have tipped me off, but I was glad to be duped because it made the twist all the more exciting. The minute Sansa turned towards Littlefinger and laid out the charges against him I literally cheered.

Let’s just take a moment and admire Aidan Gillen’s performance here, shall we? I loved the way he played the entire scene, basically putting the full range of his acting abilities on display before his final moment. From his eagerness to refute the accusations to his failed attempts at sweet-talking Sansa and from his attempt to command the Vale soldiers all the way to the moment he realized he was doomed and allowed his dispair to show, down to his begging and blubbering, Gillen was brilliant (and actually hilarious). And let’s not discount Sophie Turner’s performance, either: the rage she let show as she was questioning him was powerful yet understated, and managed to instantly win me back over despite her failings in previous episodes.

The entire scene was captivating, no less so because of Arya’s swift execution. I’m sure the poetic justice of being killed with his own dagger – the very same one he once held to Ned Stark’s throat, no less – didn’t escape anyone. I loved that, even amidst the gurgling sounds of his final breaths, Petyr still tried to use the one thing that had given him the advantage during the seven seasons of the show: his words. I loved Yohn Royce’s ‘nah, don’t think so, dude‘ (I’m paraphrasing) reaction to Petyr’s commands. And I also loved that Bran finally made himself useful this week and shared the pertinent information he had been sitting on for a while now (although I can’t help but think it would have been even better if the two girls had just figured things out on their own).

Does this scene make up for Sansa and Arya’s bickering we’d had to endure? Yes and no. I can understand that it was a timing issue – the writers needed to stretch out the story line so it would have its place in the finale; I can also understand that keeping the Stark sisters’ conspiracy off screen was a necessity for it to truly be a plot twist. But was it really? We all knew Littlefinger was a goner the minute the Stark siblings reunited, and we all knew Arya would be the one to do the deed, so in that sense, the show simply delayed the inevitable, frustrating us just enough before it could deliver a bit of fan service.

So what now for the Stark girls? With this latest display of power and political prowess, Sansa has proven to the Northern lords that she is fully capable of holding down the fort while Jon wages war in the North, but now that the war is moving south, Sansa’s idea of ruling might be a moot point. Arya, on the other hand, seems to have a much larger role to play from here on out. Not only has she just added a (very useful) new face to her collection, she no longer has any concerns in Winterfell that will keep her from going south. My guess is she’ll stick around long enough to finally reunite with Jon and then be on her way to Kings Landing to use her newly acquired Petyr face to get close to Cersei. I may have only gotten one of the two big deaths I was looking for this season, but Cersei’s days are definitely numbered after this latest turn of events.

Dragonstone

I’m sure there are many people out there who gawked in disbelief when Theon absorbed those kicks to the groin with no sign of discomfort – I, for one, can attest that a blow to the pubic bone does, indeed, hurt, even when you don’t have a package down there – but I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes at Dragonstone.

For one, Jon proves once again that, although naive and a Stark man through-and-through, he’s the ultimate good guy: forgiving those who wronged him while brooding like the dreamboat he’s become.

For another, Theon is once again on a journey to yet another redemption arc, after his recent lapse into his Reek persona. If Euron left any number of his men behind to guard Yara, his quest to save his sister will probably turn into a suicide mission, but it will effectively complete his story arc in a heroic way. His time with Ramsay has made him quite resilient to pain, and he managed to not only beat his disobedient asshole of a captain, but also take a page out of Jon’s book (whom I kept expecting to show up and save the day during the fight), and uphold Yara’s pledge to put the Ironborn days of raping and raving behind them. He is, after all, both a Greyjoy and a Stark.

Hopefully we won’t have to sit through a futile trip to the Iron Islands only to find out that Euron took his captive along for the boat ride to Essos, and we’ll get a satisfying conclusion to the Greyjoy storyline.

Kings Landing

Everything about the scenes at the capital was wonderful. This is what GoT does best, as far as I’m concerned; as impressive as the battle scenes can be, as amazing as the CGI has been this season, nothing quite beats the carefully crafted interactions between the main characters, which walk the line brilliantly between understated dialogue and nuanced acting.

From Sandor’s confrontation with his mountain of a brother (does this mean a CleganeBowl is in the cards? Oh please, Game of Thrones, don’t dash my hopes this time!) to Dany’s epic, fashionably late entrance on Drogon’s back, to the various reunion shots on the way to the dragon pits, everything was done expertly. I loved seeing Tyrion and Pod together again and thoroughly enjoyed his banter with Bronn. Sandor and Brienne discussing Arya was spot-on, as was the Hound’s ever-dour attitude towards the Lannister guards. Cersei’s resting bitchface is always perfect – in fact, every single character in these scenes was written and acted brilliantly.

As for the actual plot points, I actually enjoyed those too. Euron’s jabs at Theon, completely disrespecting everyone at the meeting and showing zero decorum, were perfectly on par with his character; Cersei’s disgusted reaction was gold, and her barely concealed terror at the Wight display was even better. Jon and Tyrion said and did everything one would expect of them. I was initially on the fence about Dany’s too-cowed demeanor throughout the meeting, but on rewatch I thought it perfectly complemented and counter-balanced the most impressive entrance of any character on this show, ever: when you arrive on dragonback, your savage armies having preceded you in perfect formation and utter intimidation, a subtle and understated approach really helps drive the point home.

In true GoT fashion, we got a brief moment of reprieve when Cersei agreed to declare a truce, and then swiftly got our hopes dashed when Jon ran his big mouth about swearing fealty to Dany. Once again, it was nothing we didn’t see coming, knowing that, if anything, he’s his (adopted) father’s son. I enjoyed seeing Cersei walk away in a huff almost as much as I loved both Dany and Tyrion’s scolding of Jon’s extreme sincerity. Those Stark men just can’t help themselves, can they?

This, of course, led to one of my favorite scenes of the episode, a true return to form for GoT, with Tyrion finally in the same room as his sister after years of nurturing deep, unrelenting hatred towards each other. The scene had everything: the dialogue was clever, the outbursts were authentic, and underneath the emotions on display there was a literal mountain of a threat looming in the background.

And then, of course, the big ‘surprise twist’ no one bought: Cersei agreed to a ceasefire AND to dispatch her troops north and aid in the war against the army of the dead. It takes a few very gullible people to actually believe she’d go through with this (Dany, Jaime and Jon all fall under this category), but we as an audience know better than that. You know who also knows better though? TYRION. He’s been piling up blunders left and right this season, and the fact that he thinks he managed to convince Cersei to join their cause and can hold his sister to her word is beyond me. If we don’t get a scene where Varys tells them all they’re being idiots next season, I’m going to be pissed.

And for the sweet summer children among us who actually fell for Cersei’s performance, I’m sure the vicarious insults weren’t meant to be taken to heart: Jaime might be the stupidest Lannister, but at least our favorite Kingslayer regains the honor he so painstakingly earned back in 7 seasons. And hey, maybe he’s not that stupid after all: just like Tyrion earlier, he calls Cersei’s bluff, and, once again, she reveals herself to be more trigger-shy than we gave her credit for. We may not have gotten the sweet, sweet satisfaction of seeing the Valonqar prophecy come true right then (the Mountain was standing right there, after all, and Jaime only has the one good hand), but this latest betrayal was the last drop and he has FINALLY had enough.

This turn of events also opens up a ton of possibilities: will the Golden Company actually show up, or is this just a tease for us book-readers? Does the brief detour back to Essos mean we haven’t seen the last of Daario just yet? With Jaime riding north and everyone who’s not Cersei focused on the big threat that just crossed the Wall, who will be Cersei’s undoing? Is Arya going to ride south and use her newly acquired Littlefinger face to get close to the despicable queen? Perhaps a detour to the Riverlands is in order, now that House Frey no longer exists – and poor imprisoned Edmure, a long dangling thread from season 6, can finally get some screen time? Will we get the CleganeBowl we’ve been pining for? Once again, the show manages to leave things open-ended enough to invite several plausible theories, which I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to discuss in the long months to come before the final season.

The Love Boat

And then we have the scene every Jon & Dany shipper has been waiting for all season long, complete with a spectacularly gratuitous shot of Jon’s impressive buns of Valyrian steel, and plenty of scowling outside Dany’s door, courtesy of Tyrion, as Bran and Sam discuss the biggest upset we’ve had on the show so far: thanks to their combined knowledge, we already know that Jon is not only Rhaegar’s trueborn son and legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, he also has the most predictably Targaryan name ever: Aegon. The show decided to hammer the point home as Jon is hammering away on his aunt for the slow members of the audience, and that’s fine by me.

What bothers me isn’t so much the incestuous relationship Targaryens are widely known for, but the fact that the writers decided to go back to their beloved sexposition method to spell it out for us, while remaining quite cryptic about Tyrion’s reaction.

Is he simply upset that Dany chose her new lover without consulting with him first? And if so, isn’t it hypocritical of him to mind, since he was the one who advocated a marriage alliance before they sailed off to Westeros? What better way to solidify this new partnership with the King in the North?

Is Tyrion jealous? We haven’t really seen any underlying romantic side to loyalty and admiration, but she’s still a beautiful, powerful and (most of the time) kind woman, so such feelings wouldn’t be exactly far-fetched.

Or, more likely, is he worried about the political implications this relationship might have moving forward? If that’s the case, then it makes little sense to me. Jon is an all-around good guy and seems completely taken with Dany. He’s not apt to betray her (or anyone he pledges allegiance to, for that matter). He may not have the most powerful army, but he certainly commands the most loyalty and respect, and his position is instrumental to winning the battle against the ice zombies. Besides, what other alternatives does Dany have? House Tyrell and House Tarly are gone, so she couldn’t marry into a Westerlands lordship even if she wanted to – and even if Cersei hadn’t already robbed them of their wealth; House Frey, ditto. House Tully is weak and (presumably) already on Jon’s side. Dorne is pretty much finished. The non-homicidal batshit crazy Greyjoys are on Dany’s side and Euron has chosen Cersei. Who’s left? Jaime, maybe, now that he finally let his crazy sister go, but Tyrion doesn’t know that yet. He doesn’t even know about the big reveal of Jon’s heritage, which is the only thing that might complicate things for the new couple. So why so dour, Tyrion?

Eastwatch

The recurring motif of the season finale continues at the easternmost end of the Wall: of course we expected an ice dragon attack; of course we knew the Wall was coming down this season. And yet the shock and awe this entire sequence elicited isn’t to be discounted: the blue flame-breathing dragonwight was spectacular – I especially loved the detail work on his tattered wings – and the devastation the late Viseryon caused was like nothing we’ve seen before: just imagine what he could do when his targets are actual human beings, rather than a humongous block of ice.

If I didn’t know better, I’d be betting that both Tormund and Beric are goners, but GoT has apparently decided not to kill off any good guys this season (well, aside from Thoros) so I’m not counting Tormund off just yet. Beric’s words to Jon in Eastwatch pretty much seal his own fate, if we’re to take that bit of foreshadowing at face value, but Tormund’s hopes and dreams of making giant babies with Brienne can’t be so unceremoniously dashed, can they? If anything, our favorite ginger deserves a hero death, and I don’t think this was it.


With only six episodes remaining until the show finally wraps up, I’m hoping the rumors about supersized episodes are true, because there’s quite a lot of story left to be told. Benioff and Weiss have done a stellar job of flying solo this season, despite our various complaints about how they handled certain story lines, and they’ll have even more time to really polish the writing and give us the satisfying ending we demand.

I’m sure there are already plenty of theories out there concerning Jon and Dany’s relationship – will he ascend to the throne, which is rightfully his? Will his new bae be pissed, or will they rule together as aunt and nephew husband and wife? If they are, indeed, the heart of the show, does that mean the White Walker threat will be dealt with first, and we’ll then get the big showdown with the true villain of GoT, Cersei?

Which of our main characters will make it out alive? What’s the role the peripheral characters will be playing – Sam, Jorah, Varys and so on?

Will we get a long, drawn-out conclusion, LOTR-style, that depicts the state of affairs in Westeros after Dany (and Jon) break the wheel, or will the showrunners choose to hold that part of the story back, for later use in one of the rumored spinoff shows?

I, for one, can’t even dream of speculating about where the plot will take us in season 8. I fully expected Cersei to be dead by now and everyone focusing on the threat to the North, and obviously that didn’t happen, so whatever predictions I may come up with will probably have the same fate. One thing’s for sure: 2019 can’t come soon enough.

 

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