Recovering from last week’s bloodbath during the Battle of Winterfell, the final season of Game of Thrones continued on Sunday with one of the most hectic episodes out of the series yet.
With the Night King dead, the pressing threat still lures on our beloved characters, with the accumulation of negotiating the byzantine machinations of the patrimonial monarchy in a region where everyone loaves for the Iron Throne – the season’s latest breaking plenty of hearts with its shocking seventy-eight-minute run time.
Season 8, Episode 4, ‘The Last of the Starks’
The episode opens with the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell, and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) weeping over a dead Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), her second most trusted confidante. Khaleesi kisses him his forehead faintly, then proceeds to whisper into his ear, as tears fall from the faces of the audience watching.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is shown mourning over Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), a brother, and a friend, that shared a mass of dark times and traumatizing events with her throughout the seasons. Before his funeral pyre, Sansa quietly slips a wolf pin onto Theon’s body, a moment so sweet and laden with meaning. Dying defending Winterfell, by giving the pin to Theon, Sansa is acknowledging and honoring him as a Stark in spirit, if not in name. The fact he considered himself a Stark more than anything else, blood or not, leaves fans heartbroken and cemented with grief as this tribute leaves us thinking about the embellishments of courage and respect he stood with until his final breath.
During a somber scene where we see the scale of lives lost in the Battle of Winterfell, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) looks more like a King than ever. Delivering a powerful speech to commemorate the people who died, he says, “We’re here to say goodbye to our brothers and sisters, to our fathers and mothers, to our friends, our fellow men, and women, who set aside their differences; to fight together, to die together, so that others might live.” The rest of the survivors look on with sadness as Jon continues, “It is our duty and our honor to keep them alive in memory, for those who come after us, and those who come after them – for as long as men draw breath.” After Jon finishes his speech, the remaining survivors watch as torches are passed out and the funeral pyre begins. When the fires are lit, Winterfell looks on as the dead go up in flames, and say farewell to their fallen heroes.
In the halls of Winterfell, everyone gathers together for a great victory feast – although it’s not exactly a very festive sight. With every seat filled with a remaining survivor, Gendry (Joe Demspie) looks around for Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), and asks The Hound (Rory McCann) if he’s seen her, to which he answers, “You can still smell the burning bodies, and that’s where your head is at?” Caught off guard, Gendry tells him that he just wants to thank Arya for what she did, but The Hound hits back with a sarcastic comment regarding the pairs makeout from the last episode.
Walking away from his table, towards the exit of the hall, Daenerys calls to him, leaving the room to go awfully silent, and Gendry to face the Dragon Queen with a rush of nerves. She tells him that he is Robert Baratheon’s bastard son, and makes him aware that his father took the Iron Throne from her family and tried to have her murdered; to which Gendry states that he didn’t know Robert Baratheon was his father until after he was dead. With a stern look on her face, she asks him who the Lord of Storm’s End is, but he doesn’t know, so she follows up asking the rest of the hall, only to be met with the sound of the crackling fire. Showing a slight smile, Daenerys announces that she’s making Gendry the new Lord of Storm’s End, which leaves him quivering a look of shock. Replying that it’s not possible because he is a bastard, Dany then proclaims that he’s not a bastard anymore because she made it so. Speechless, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) raises a glass and states, “To Lord Gendry Baratheon, of Storm’s End.” The whole room immediately stands on their feet and praises Gendry for his new position, shouting, “To Gendry!” The new Lord stares back at Daenerys as she lifts a cup to him, smiling widely.
The hall is now filled with applause and cheers as Tyrion turns to his Queen and mutters, “A fitting reward for a hero. And a Lord of Storm’s End who will be forever loyal to you.” Smiling, Dany adds, “See? You’re not the only one who’s clever.” Grinning, Tyrion looks around the room and catches Sansa staring at him with a look of disgust. The Lady of Winterfell recognised Daenery’s speech almost as a political point to raise more power over herself, and not to furnish over Gendry’s introduction to lordship – and with the look that Tyrion gives back to Sansa, it seems clear that he had the same assumption as well.
Elsewhere in the hall, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is trying to fill Brienne of Tarth’s (Gwendoline Christie) cup with wine, and when she refuses, he makes a convincing argument: “We fought dead things and lived to talk about it. If this isn’t the time to drink, when is?” Smiling, Brienne accepts the wine with a nod.
On another table, Davos Seaworth chats with Tyrion about the Lord of the Light. stating, “We play his game for him, we fight his war and win, and then he fucks off. No signs, no blessings. Who knows what he wants?” Tyrion, noticing his friend’s grudge of the late Melissandre, tells him that “We may have defeated them, but we still have us to contend with,” – referring to his sister Cersei (Lena Headey) being the next battle now that they’ve killed the dead. Looking around the hall, Davos replies, “Thank you. I feel much better.” Handing him wine, the Hand of the Queen walks off leaving Davos to reminiscence in his own thoughts.
Tyrion stands in front of the fireplace as he turns around and remarks on Bran Stark’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) wheelchair – “That’s clever. Even better than the saddle I designed for you,” to which The Three-Eyed-Raven replies, “It’s the same as the one Daeron Targaryen built for his crippled nephew 120 years ago. I liked that one.” Bran sparks a sense of happiness for the first time in ages, which makes the audience watching stretch a smile – though it’s not likely that this attitude will last long. “You know our history better than anyone,” Tyrion tells him, “That will be useful as Lord of Winterfell.” Bran quickly interjects saying, “I’m not Lord of Winterfell,” leaving Tyrion to remind him that he’s the only surviving trueborn son of Ned Stark, but silence elevates as he finishes. Furrowing his eyebrows, Tyrion states, “You don’t want it,” leaving Bran to dismissively tell him that he doesn’t really want anymore. “I envy you,” Tyrion says with a smirk, but Bran stares at him with such sadness and reminds the half-man that he shouldn’t envy him – “Mostly I live in the past.” The scene ends with The Three-Eyed-Raven being wheeled out of the hall, and Tyrion’s face igniting sorrow.
From the top of the hall, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) is trying to get Jon to chug some ale, to commemorate and celebrate the victory that they surpassed, but he declines to state that “Vomiting is not celebrating,” to which Tormund replies that it is, causing the hall to burst into a fit of laughter. Moving onwards, Tormund raises his tusk of wine and shouts, “To the Dragon Queen!” As the hall fills with applause, Daenerys is generous in her words of praise for others, toasting Arya as the “hero of Winterfell,” generating another round of cheers and countless chugging of wine. While Tormund shows off with his idea of “celebrating”, Jon and Dany share a look that gives a discern of happiness and relief but causes Sansa to leave the hall with indignation.
From the beginning of season 8, when Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow came riding through the Winterfell entrance, the people of the North eyed their retinue of warriors, acolytes, and dragons with suspicion – and it’s easy to understand why. The Northern bannermen who pledged their allegiance to Jon Snow, the King in the North, felt utter betrayed when his newfound loyalty was given to the Targaryen Queen. Sansa Stark also inherited this same feeling, pouring a rivalry of distaste upon Dany and causing the pair to acquire a hostile relationship that lingered distrustful stares throughout the episodes. It first erupted when Sansa bared concern over food stores and denoted for logic and common sense, and then the threat that Daenerys had upon Sansa keeping the Stark stronghold in operation – Sansa has the rightful hold of power in her home, and she’s not about to give it up. The tenuous relationship between the two intelligent leaders makes complete sense because Dany wants a claim to all of the Seven Kingdoms, including the North, as it will secure her place on the Iron Throne more sufficiently. The fate of North doesn’t feel like a simple bit of character-driven conflict, but more of a question on whether or not Westeros will separate kingdoms, each with a different ruler.
After the cheering has died down, Tormund and the others start to sing Jon’s praises, as they commend his bravery, his return from the dead to “keep fighting” and his willingness to ride a dragon (“What kind of person climbs on a fucking dragon – a mad man, or a King!”) Naturally noticing the heavy praise that Jon is getting, Daenerys’ eyes start to grow very dark – like where only thoughts of power and envy linger to live and fest. Her commitment towards the Iron Throne is high, so when The Mother of Dragons rode to Winterfell she didn’t expect there to be an interference regarding the power that she holds or the enemies she would make. The dead look in her eyes suggests that her role as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms will be harder than she had intended, and more vigorous as she has to compete with Jon, whom she has learned is the rightful heir, and his followers, who’d back him in a second for his exchange to rule as King. As she looks around the room, filled with discern and tightness, she notices Tyrion having a good time with his brother, whereas she’s all by herself, so she gets up to leave, with Varys (Conleth Hill) watching after his Queen with concern – the same concern many viewers felt when watching her change from a generous leader to…something else.
Amid all of the feasting and merriment, Tyrion rounds up his drinking game with Jaime and Brienne, a version of ‘Never Have I Ever’ which essentially brings out the past and desires from the characters playing. Swigs of wine are taken from both Jaime and Brienne, with questions that are simply based around their home life and past positions. Laughter is shared among the group as they all drink away, Brienne mentioning to Tyrion that he was married before Sansa, to which he drinks. Now his turn, he proceeds to stare at Tarth with intent and then states with shock, “You’re a virgin.” Podrick (Daniel Portman) drinks to this, but Brienne’s face falls flat as she looks at Jaime with embarrassment. Remarking on Tyrion’s point as a “statement about the present,” the half-man goes on, still looking at Brienne, saying, “At no point in the past, up until this very moment, have you slept with a man or a woman.” Uncomfortable, Brienne stands up and tells the table that she has to piss, walking away only to be stopped by Tormund who praises the victory of the battle and relents to the group a joke that leaves Tarth unamused. Excusing herself for the second time, Brienne heads towards the hall’s exit, with Jaime following after her, as Tyrion fills up Tormund’s horn of ale to withdraw the sadness in his eyes as he watches Brienne leave with The Kingslayer. When the group all leave, Podrick finds a smiling girl to entertain.
Among all the drunken carousing and flirting, Giantsbane approaches The Hound and tells him that his heart is broken, saying, “And after all that, this fucker comes North and takes her from me. Just takes her, like that. I mean it Clegane. My heart is broken.” Swigging his wine back and forth, The Hound doesn’t seem the slightest bothered about Tormund and his anguish, but more bothered about being touched by the Wildling – “Don’t touch me.” A few feet away from the men, a young girl calls to Tormund telling him he can touch her, leaving Giantsbane to shift his head to the girl with curiosity. It’s not long before he leaves with the random wench, but when another tries to persuade The Hound to go with her, he scares her off.
Watching from afar, Sansa notices this and joins him – surprising Clegane when she sits down and says, “She could have made you happy, for a little while.” Startled, The Hound replies that, “There’s only one thing that’ll make me happy,” to which Sansa asks what it is, only to be struck by an aggressive reaction – “That’s my fucking business.” Staring on at him, Clegane tells her that she used to not be able to look at him, but her response tells him that her impudent behavior when she was a young girl was a long time ago, stating, “I’ve since much worse than you since then.” Telling her that he’s heard all about it, he remarks on Ramsay Bolton as Sansa declares, “And he got what he deserved. I gave it to him.” Asking how, the Lady of Winterfell, with a cold look on her face, tells him, “Hounds.” Chuckling, Clegane tells her, “You’ve changed, little bird,” telling her that none of this would have happened if she would have left King’s Landing with him – “No Littlefinger, no Ramsay…none of it.” It’s silent between them as Sansa puts her hand on his and tells him, “Without Littlefinger, and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a Little Bird all my life.” She faintly smiles then stands up and leaves, leaving The Hound to watch after her and process the words she had just told him.
With the celebration still going on, Gendry goes looking for Arya outside and finds her practicing her archery. “It’s night time, it’s freezing, and everyone’s celebrating,” he tells her, “You should be celebrating with them.” Firing another arrow at her target, Arya tells him that she is celebrating, in her own unique way. Quivering in the cold, Gendry says he is too and then swiftly states, “I’m not Gendry Rivers anymore. I’m Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. By order of the Queen.” Turning to face him, Arya beams a smile and congratulates him for his new position, just as Gendry pulls her in for a kiss, telling her with panic, “I don’t know how to be lord of anything. I hardly know how to use a fork. All I know is that you’re beautiful, and I love you, and none of it will be worth anything if you’re not with me,” and radiating with excitement he states, “So be with me.” He proceeds to kneel down and professes his love for Arya through a very touching proposal, “Be my wife. Be the Lady of Storm’s End.” Kneeling down next to him, Arya grabs him by his face and faintly kisses him, pulling away to tell him, “You’ll be a wonderful lord, and any lady would be lucky to have you,” but goes on to tell him, as sweetly as possible, “But I’m not a lady. I never have been. That’s not me.” Gendry is silent as Arya proceeds to practice her archery, but sadness flushes across his face. His feelings towards the Stark makes perfect sense; she’s smart and cool, and a highborn, and they’ve slept together, and she’s just killed the Night King – what’s not to love? But it’s clear that she isn’t ready for that kind of commitment of settling down with a husband, and doesn’t necessarily want to picture that kind of life for herself at all – which is more of an event for her older sister Sansa.
Back in her quarters, Brienne is putting wood in the fire when someone knocks on her door. Revealed to be Jaime, he walks past her into her room and tells her that she didn’t drink in the game, pouring her a cup as she stares at him with bewilderment. “This is not the game. This is only drinking,” Brienne tells him, as he hands her a cup and says, “Suit yourself.” Drinking the poured wine, Jaime crosses the room and remarks on the heat, leaving Brienne to reply that it was the first thing she learned when coming to the North – “Every time you leave a room, put more wood on.” Taking his jacket off, he walks towards Brienne and mentions that Tormund was quite upset when she left, leaving Tarth to comment on Jaime sounding quite jealous, just as the Lannister tries to unbutton his shirt with his one good hand. Agitated, she tells him to move aside and helps him take it off, when Jaime’s hands hover across Brienne’s, shocking her as she asks what he’s doing. “Taking your shirt off,” he says with heavy breath. They stare at each other for quite some time, until they both disrobe and Jaime tells her that he’s never slept with a knight before, and Brienne tells him that she’s never slept with anyone before. “Then you have to drink. Those are the rules,” Jaime tells her, but just as Brienne goes to answer to his resurfacing question, the scene ends with the pair kissing passionately.
In the next scene, Daenerys comes to Jon’s room, asking if he’s drunk, but when he stands up saying no, he stumbles, adding, “Only a little.” Closing the door behind her, Dany walks towards Jon just when he starts talking about not knowing Ser Jorah well, and that he would’ve chosen death in order to protect his Khaleesi. “He loved me,” Dany tells him, “And I couldn’t love him back. Not the way he wanted. Not the way I love you.” The pair stare at each other until they start to kiss but their passionate embrace abruptly stops, as Jon walks away flustered. Sadness lingers in Dany’s eyes as she tells him, “I wish you never told me,” referring to Jon’s true heritage, “If I didn’t know, I’d be happy right now.” She sits down and carries on, as Jon listens unbalanced, “I try to forget. Tonight I did for a while, and then I saw them gathered around you. I saw the way they looked at you,” tears forming in her eyes, “I know that look. So many people have looked at me that way, but never here,” shaking her head, “Never on this side of the sea.”
Uneasy, Jon states, “I told you I didn’t want it,” but with anger, Dany hits back, “It doesn’t matter what you want. You didn’t want to be King in the North. What happens when they demand you press your claim and take what is mine?” Turning to face her, Jon kneels down in front of Dany and places his hand atop of her’s, saying, “I’ll refuse. You are my Queen. I don’t know what else I can say.” Grabbing him by this face, Dany pleads, “You can say nothing. To anyone, ever. Never tell them who you really are. Swear your brother and Samwell Tarly to secrecy, and tell no one else.” Jon stands up uncertain about what his Queen is telling him to go forward with, but she carries on with reasoning, “Or it will take on a life of its own and you won’t be able to control it or what it does to people. No matter how many times you bend the knee, know what you swear.” Emotional, Daenerys takes Jon’s hand, and through gasps, tells him, “I want it to be the way it was between us.” Understanding her cloying attempts to manipulate him, he tells Dany that he has to tell Sansa and Arya the truth. Agitated, she mutters, “Sansa will want to see me gone and you on the Iron Throne,” to which Jon responds that she’s not like that, but Dany interjects telling him, “She’s not the girl you grew up with. Not after what she’s seen, not after what they’ve done to her.” With jagged breath, Jon tells Dany that he still owes Sansa and Arya the truth, leaving Daenerys to question, “Even if the truth destroys us?”
Imploring that it won’t, Daenerys goes on, “I’ve never begged for anything…but I’m begging you. Don’t do this. Please.” Throughout the seasons, Jon Snow has been fully capable of making sacrifices, whether that be towards service or sacrificing himself for the bigger good, but keeping a secret against the family that brought him up in their home since he was a child, is something that he could never do. Jon isn’t a dishonest man, and is quite lie-intolerant, as was Ned Stark. His character’s tragic flaw can be deemed as a negative quality but what makes Jon such a great character is his tragic flaw being something that’s usually so very positive – his honesty. Although being honest in a world where people are selfish and cruel, with life being unfair, is potentially a fatal liability. However, storytelling-wise, the episode fully compliments the perfect dilemma for Jon and his upbringings.
Tears start to prick in Dany’s eyes, as Jon picks up on this and tells her, with complete honesty, “You are my Queen. Nothing will change that. And they are my family. We can live together.” To this, Dany’s face turns cold as she responds saying, “We can. I’ve just told you how,” before leaving the room with irritation.
At the feasting and merriment, we return to the battle plans. At the war meeting, we learn the forces at Winterfell lost half their troops during the Army of the Dead battle, with Varys mentioning that The Golden Company has arrived in King’s Landing, courtesy of the Greyjoy fleet, stating, “The balance has grown distressingly even.” Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) tries to make good of the outcome, telling the table, “When the people find out what we have done for them, that we saved them-” but is cut off by Dany’s aggression saying, “Cersei will make sure they don’t believe it. We will hit her hard. We will rip her out root and stem.” Tyrion seems puzzled by this and responds to his Queen telling her, “The objective here is to remove Cersei without destroying King’s Landing.” The Mother of Dragons says nothing, so Varys fills in the silence by reminding the group that Cersei is losing allies by the day, stating, “Yara Greyjoy has retaken the Iron Islands in her Queen’s name. The new Prince of Dorne pledges his support.” Exasperated, Daenerys says, “No matter how many lords turn against her, as long as she sits on the Iron Throne, she can call herself Queen of the Seven Kingdoms,” and turning to Tyrion, she says with desperation, “We need the capital.”
Jon then speaks up about the plan, telling his Queen, “We’ll surround the city. If the Iron Fleet tries to ferry in more food, the dragons will destroy them. If the Lannisters and the Golden Company attack, we’ll defeat them in the field.” Tyrion props up the idea saying, “Once the people see that Cersei is our only enemy, her reign is over.” Daenerys agrees to this plan but Sansa interjects stating that the men they have left are exhausted, many of them wounded, and that they should “rest and recuperate” before fighting another battle. Testing Sansa, Dany questions how long the Lady of Winterfell suggests they respite the soldiers, but she responds uncertainly as it will have to be up to the officers. It’s a rational and perfectly sensible idea, but Daenerys responds with anger and pettiness: “I came North to fight alongside you at great cost to my armies and myself. Now that the time has come to reciprocate, you want to postpone.”
Thrown off by Dany’s response, Sansa reminds her that it’s not just Winterfell who is fighting, it’s her soldiers as well – “You want to throw them into a war they’re not ready to fight?” Dany is almost certain that every minute she waits, Cersei gets stronger, and with Cersei already acquiring an army, there’s no evidence waiting that will help her. “The longer I leave my enemies alone,” she says, “the stronger they become.” Adamant, Jon decides to side with his Queen, telling Sansa, “The Northern forces will honor their promises and their allegiance to the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.” Arya and Sansa look at Jon in shock as he turns to Dany and says, “What you command, we will obey.” Tyrion then declares if all are in agreement, “Jon and Ser Davos will ride down the Kingsroad with the Northern troops and the bulk of the remaining Dothraki and Unsullied. A smaller group of us will ride to White Harbor, and sail from there to Dragonstone with our Queen and her dragons accompanying us from above.” Smiling, Daenerys tells the table, “We have won the Great War. Now we will win the Last War,” and before leaving states, “In all Seven Kingdoms, men will live without fear and cruelty under their rightful Queen.” Following after her exit, Jon is stopped by Arya telling him that they need a word- the remaining Starks fitted in the background.
At the Godswood, Jon tells the remaining Starks that they’d all be dead if it wasn’t for Daenerys, “We’d be corpses marching down to King’s Landing.” Interjecting, Sansa reminds Jon that Arya’s the one who killed The Night King, but Jon remarks on the fact that Dany’s men gave their lives defending Winterfell, which Sansa interrupts stating, “And we will never forget them. That doesn’t mean that I want to kneel to someone who-” though is immediately cut off with Jon declaring that he swore himself and the North towards the Dragon Queen’s cause. To this, Arya admits that they needed Dany (“We needed her army, her dragons”) but adds that they don’t trust her. “You don’t know her yet,” Jon tells her, shaking his head, but Arya responds saying that she never will, and that “she’s not one of us.”
“If you only trust the people you grew up with,” Jon says, “you won’t make may allies.” Seeing her brother’s anger, she responds saying that she doesn’t need any allies, mentioning that they’re the last of the Starks, and that’s all they should care for. Jon is silent, until he states, “I’ve never been a Stark.” Still not telling them the truth about his heritage, Sansa says, “You are. You’re just as much Ned Stark’s child as any of us.” “You’re my brother,” Arya tells him, stepping forward, “Not my half-brother or my bastard brother. My brother.” The sound of the trees moving in the wind rings in the air, as Jon closes his eyes, looking like he’s about to pour tears, until opening them and looking at Bran, who tells him, “It’s your choice.” The two sisters look towards Bran, confused, as Jon begins saying, “I need to tell you something, but you need to swear, you’ll never tell another soul.” He makes them promise before telling, and they do, when the scene ends with Jon asking Bran to tell them the truth about his real heritage.
In one of the rooms, Tyrion is talking to Jaime, who says he’s staying in Winterfell with Brienne, as the half-man poses jokes about him and “climbing mountains.” “You’re a dog,” Jaime scoffs, just as Bronn (Jerome Flynn) comes into the room with the crossbow that killed the Lannister’s father. “I knew you were fucking her,” Bronn states as he walks towards them, “A pair of tall, blond toffs. Must be like looking in the mirror.” Tyrion looks down at the crossbow, saying with surprise, “Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. Where’s your drink? What are you – What are you doing up North?” Seeming less tense, Jaime asks his late friend what he’s doing with the weapon, to which Bronn proceeds to tell them that it was for them. Grabbing a chair and sitting down at the table, Bronn starts to mock the brothers’ traits just as Tyrion reminds him that he’s a knight, thanks to him. Insulting the title as a position of nothing, Tyrion proceeds to release a sarcastic comment but is interrupted with a threat from Bronn – “I’ve never hit a dwarf before, but say another word and I will belt you.” Oblivious to the claim, Tyrion states that he doesn’t believe Bronn would do that, but he certainly does and punches the half-man in the face.
Leaning back in his seat, Bronn proceeds to tell the pair that Cersei promised him Riverrun, but he declares he’s the better man and that their sister can’t pay him if she’s dead. “Now, your army may be torn to shit, but I’d still bet on your Dragon Queen to win. And it just so happens I’m a betting man.” Grabbing Tyrion’s drink from him, the half-man asks if he can speak, blood pouring from his “broken nose.” “We made a deal long ago. Do you remember?” he asks, to which Bronn responds, “If anyone offered me money to kill you, you’d pay me double. What’s double Riverrun?” Anger planted on his face, Tyrion replies “Highgarden” with such distaste. “You could be Lord of the Reach,” he says, but Jaime questions his brother’s train of thought, telling him he’s gone mad. “It’s better than being dead,” Tyrion replies, but Jaime goes on to tell him that Bronn isn’t going to kill them – which only ignites an arrow to soar through the air and plant itself in a wooden plank next to Jaime’s head. The brothers look at Bronn with fear as he begins to talk, “The way I see it, I only need one of the Lannister brothers alive.” “Highgarden will never belong to a cutthroat,” Jaime tells him, quivering, as Tyrion looks at his older sibling shaking his head. “No? Who were your ancestors,” Bronn goes on, staring at the Kingslayer with resentment, “the ones who made your family rich? Fancy lads in silk? They were fucking cutthroats. That’s how all the great houses started, isn’t it? With a hard bastard who was good at killing people.” Drinking his drink, he asks the pair to give them their word for Highgarden, and as they do they try to convince Bronn to come with them to the battle, but he replies saying that his fighting days are done – but his killing days aren’t, just before leaving the room with a grin. The scene ends with the two Lannister brothers looking at each other with dread.
Outside of Winterfell, The Hound is on horseback, when Arya approaches him, leaving him annoyed and stating that he doesn’t like crowds – and Arya to say she doesn’t either. “Why not? They all love you now. You’re the big hero,” Clegane tells her, referring to her killing of The Night King. “Don’t like heroes,” she tells him, as they ride throughout the midst of snow in their own thoughts. “It must have felt good,” The Hound says, breaking the silence, “sticking a knife in that horned fucker.” “Felt better than dying,” Arya replies, until asking him if he’s heading to King’s Landing. “I have some unfinished business,” he tells her, as Arya says she does too, the pair then stating that they’re not planning on coming back. “Gonna leave me to die again if I get hurt?” he asks, to which she replies, “Probably,” as he begins the laugh, causing Arya to stretch a smile.
It’s not exactly known what unfinished business The Hound has, though it is possible that it could lead to the long-awaited showdown between himself and his undead brother, The Mountain.
Daenerys is with her remaining two dragons, sending one off into the sky, which Sansa watches from the ramparts, when Tyrion approaches her, as Sansa asks, “Why her?” “You know she loves your brother,” he replies, but Sansa interjects telling him, “That doesn’t mean she’ll be a good Queen.” Scoffing, the half-man mentions that she seems “determined to dislike her,” and proceeds to walk towards her, saying, “A good relationship between the Iron Throne and the North has been the core of every peaceful, prosperous reign we’ve ever known.” Still not looking at him, Sansa tells him, “Jon will be Warden of the North, so a good relationship seems likely.” Shaking his head, the Hand of the Queen tells the Lady of Winterfell that he doesn’t expect her brother to spend much more time in the North going forward, which causes Sansa to question on what Jon proposes for himself. Clearly noticing something off-edge with Sansa, Tyrion asks her to look at him and reminds her that she would be the true power in the North with Jon in the capital – but the stern look on the Stark’s face still remains as he speaks. “You don’t have to be her friend,” Tyrion states, “But why provoke her? How is that in the best interest of your family or the North, or –“, but Sansa interrupts declaring that he’s afraid of Daenerys, causing Tyrion to gulp with a sense of shame and mutter, “Every good ruler needs to inspire a bit of fear.”
Moving forward, Sansa says that the men in her family don’t do well in the capital, but Tyrion mentions that Jon is not really a Stark, which causes her to sigh and turn from him. He asks if she’s alright, but when she doesn’t give him an answer, he proceeds to praise good in The Mother of Dragons, saying, “Her people love her, you’ve seen that. You’ve seen how they fight for her. She wants to make the world a better place. I believe in her.” Still getting no response, he begins walking away, but Sansa stops him, saying, “What if there’s someone else? Someone better?” The scene ends with the pair staring at each other, and it’s clear that the rather impulsive move of spilling Jon’s true heritage is to be revealed to the Hand of the Queen.
Jon is in the middle of packing his things when Tormund approaches him asking if he’s not going to ride the dragon South. Replying that Rhaegal needs to heal and that he doesn’t need him weighing him down, Tormund jokes about Jon’s size (for the second time) and the pair share a laugh. Tormund then goes on to tell Jon that he’s taking the free folk home, though Jon mentions that they can stay for as long as they like, but the Wilding responds, with a smile, “It isn’t home.” Understanding where his friend is coming from, Jon asks Tormund to take his direwolf Ghost back with him, as it has “no place in the South,” and that he’ll be happier up North. Replying that Jon would too, the pair share a hug as Jon says, “This is farewell, then,” and Tormund goes, “You never know,” before saying, “You’ve got the North in you. The real North,” and walking away.
Jon then says goodbye to Samwell (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray), with Jon learning that they’re expecting another child. “If it’s a boy, we want to name him Jon,” Gilly tells him, but Jon jokes saying, “I hope it’s a girl.” Samwell, filled with emotion, hugs Jon, telling him, “You’re the best friend I ever had,” with Jon, smiling, and saying the same. Walking towards the entrance, he gives one last look to his direwolf before leaving Winterfell behind, perhaps for the last time.
Dany’s fleet is setting sail, with Missandei holding Grey Worm’s (Jacob Anderson) hand, the pair both sharing a grin as they look out at the sea towards Dragonstone.
In one of the rooms of the ship, Tyrion remarks on the past twenty years, surrounded with an abundance of war, murder, and misery, and puts it against Robert Baratheon who loved someone who didn’t love him back. Varys, listening to his drunken friend, changes the subject to the secrecy of Jon’s real heritage, “How many others know?” he asks. “Including us? Eight,” the half-man tells him, and Varys goes on to declare that it’s not a secret anymore, but that “It’s information.” He then mentions how Jon has the better claim to the Iron Throne, though Tyrion reminds him that he doesn’t want it, but the eunuch carries on, stating that he’s not sure if it matters on what Jon wants. “The fact is, people are drawn to him. Wildings, Northmen. He’s a war hero.” Drinking his wine, Tyrion points out that Dany and Jon could always marry and rule together, but Varys objects to the obvious, reminding his friend that she’s his aunt. “You know our Queen better than I do. Do you think she wants to share the throne? She does not like to have her authority questioned,” Varys tells him, “I worry about her state of mind.” Tyrion relents and says having concern over their Queen is part of the job, as advisers of a monarch, but he knows what Varys means. They haven’t forgotten her father, Aerys, the Mad King.
Reminding Varys that they still have to take King’s Landing, the scene ends with Tyrion proposing a thought that maybe Cersei will win and kill them all, stating, “That would solve our problems.”
Daenerys’ dragons Drogon and Rhaegal left fans fearing for their lives following the bloody Battle of Winterfell in episode three, The Long Night. But, flying overhead with their mother, Rhaegal finally had his fate sealed when several arrows flew through the air and planted itself in his neck, wing, and the third and fatal arrow impaling the dragon’s neck. Plummeting into the sea, much to the horror of Tyrion, Daenerys and the rest of the Targaryen army, the ambush at Dragonstone was revealed to be from the scorpion crossbows from Euron’s ships.
Killing the second dragon she owned, this prompted a moment of pure adrenaline from Daenerys as she directed her only surviving dragon, Drogon, towards Euron’s fleet. A scream of anger lifted from her lungs as she headed towards the ambush, however, The Mother of Dragons managed to think rationally just in time and diverted Drogon away from, what looked to be, certain death.
Watching her go, Euron (Pilou Asbæk) decides to decimate Dany’s fleet instead and fires arrow after arrow, pulling the ships apart. Grey Worm tells Missandei to run to the skiffs, but when she stands there paralyzed with shock, he screams at her to go “Now!”
Euron and the rest of the fleet proceeded to open fire on Dany’s fleet, as Tyrion is forced to jump overboard, swimming above the water, only to have a mast fall on top of him – and the scene cutting off black.
Tyrion is alive though, washing up on sea with Varys and many others, coughing up water, though it seems their fleet is decimated. Grey Worm makes it to the shore and starts screaming for his beloved Missandei, looking around and swimming back into the sea, but she’s nowhere to be found.
In King’s Landing, Cersei looks out from her tower asking, “Our message was well-received then?” Qyburn (Anton Lesser) follows on this and tells his Queen that her people have heard the Usurper is coming, and that they are grateful for her protection within the walls of the Red Keep. Hearing this, she turns to Euron and asks, “You’re certain about the dragon?” to which he explains its gruesome death, stating that he saw it “sink beneath the waves.” “That must have been glorious,” Cersei states, as Euron grabs her by the arm and pulls his Queen towards him, telling her, “The glory is yours, my Queen.” Kneeling before her, she places her hands on Euron’s face and proceeds to tell him that their child shall one day rule the Seven Kingdoms, which makes the Greyjoy beam with happiness. Slowly standing, he states, “She’s coming for you,” which only makes Cersei grin and utter, “Of course she is.” Snarling, she looks out at King’s Landing for the second time and declares that she wants to keep the gates open and that if Daenerys wants to take the throne, “she’ll have to murder thousands of innocent people first.” Her current strategy for retaining is, characteristically, extremely clever and extremely cruel. She’s using the people of King’s Landing as a kind of shield – though there’s a callous, burn-it-all-down logic to Cersei’s gambit: even if the Targaryen Queen turns out to be ruthless enough to do it, she’ll be remembered forever as a monster, not a liberator, by the people of Westeros. Walking away with a smirk, Cersei states, “So much for “The Breaker of Chains,”” as the camera pans up on a disheveled Missandei in chains (a bargaining chip to be used in Daenerys’ surrender).
At Dragonstone, Varys reminds Daenerys that he promised her he would look her in the eye and speak directly if he ever thought she was making a mistake, then proceeds to look at his Queen’s following cold stare as he states, “This is a mistake.” Anger flushed on her face, the Targaryen Queen tells her trusted adviser, “You saw my child fall from the sky,” still bearing an expression of hate, “They took Missandei.” Nodding, Varys declares that Cersei needs to be destroyed, adding that if they attack King’s Landing with Drogon and the Unsullied and the Dothraki, “tens of thousands of innocents will die.” “That is why Cersei is bringing them into the Red Keep,” he goes on, “These are the people you came here to protect. I beg you, Your Grace. Do not destroy the city you came to save. Do not become what you have always struggled to defeat.” She looks up, blankly, at Varys, then proceeds to ask him if he believes they’re alive for a reason. Appointing a look of disfavor, Daenerys carries on, telling him, “I’m here to free the world from tyrants. That is my destiny…and I will serve it, no matter the cost.” Varys bares a stare of concern as he stares on at his Queen. He’s right to not trust that she’ll be anything other than the tyrants she truly believes she’s destined to overthrow – because she is showing every sign of megalomania.
Tyrion then speaks up and reminds Daenerys that it could be a fortnight before Jon and the allied armies make it to King’s Landing, telling her, “In the meantime, demand Cersei surrender. Offer her her life in exchange for the throne,” but when he sees Dany shaking her head he begins to plead, “If there’s a chance to avoid the coming slaughter, we should make the effort.” Looking down at her Hand, she states, “Speaking to Cersei will not prevent a slaughter. But perhaps it’s good the people see that Daenerys Stormborn made every effort to avoid bloodshed, and Cersei Lannister refused,” and before leaving, she utters, “They should know whom to blame when the sky falls down upon them.” Varys and Tyrion watch her leave with uneasiness as they watch their Queen relinquish the path she sought from the beginning.
In one of the halls, the two advisors share their concern over Daenerys, with Varys ridiculing the path of destiny to every other tyrant that he’s followed, to which Tyrion reminds him that their Queen walked into a fire with three stones and came back out with three dragons – “How could she not believe in destiny?” “Perhaps that’s the problem,” the eunuch states, “Her life has convinced her that she was sent here to save us all,” – to which Tyrion questions how his friend knows this at all, but he moves on quickly. “Then there’s the problem of Jon Snow,” Varys says, then asks the half-man which will be the better ruler, to which he replies that Jon Snow doesn’t want the throne but brings up his earlier proposal about the marriage. “They could rule together as King and Queen,” although Varys remarks on how Daenerys is too strong for Jon, saying – “She’d bend him to her will, as she already has.”
The two advisers keep arguing, with Tyrion saying Daenerys will make the right choice with help of her most trusted consultants, but Varys speaks loyal to the realm, not the ruler. Tyrion then begins to beg Varys, who says that he’s spoken as honestly as he can and that each of them has a choice to make, before leaving the hall and stating, “I pray we choose wisely.”
In Winterfell, Jaime sees Brienne and Sansa talking and approaches them, asking what happened. Tarth then proceeds to tell him that Euron Greyjoy ambushed Queen Daenerys and her fleet, killing one of her dragons, destroying several ships, and capturing Missandei. Jaime looks on at her in shock as Sansa turns to him and says, “I always wanted to be there when they execute your sister. Seems like I won’t get the chance,” before walking away.
At night, Jaime looks lost in reflection while looking at Brienne, asleep, but when she wakes up, he’s gone. Walking outside in her night garments, she finds him readying his horse, but doesn’t say a word until finally uttering, “They’re going to destroy that city. You know they will.” Jaime carries on preparing his exit, not looking at her, until asking, “Have you ever run away from a fight?” Running up to him, Brienne holds his face and proceeds to tell Jaime that he’s not like his sister – “You’re better than she is. You’re a good man and you can’t save her. You don’t need to die with her,” – as she begins begging him to stay with her. Tears in his eyes, he stares at Brienne and tells her, “You think I’m a good man? I pushed a boy out a tower window, crippled him for life, for Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands, just to get back to Cersei.” He carries on through Brienne’s sniveling saying, “I would have murdered every man, woman and child in Riverrun, for Cersei. She’s hateful. And so am I,” before getting on his horse and riding back to King’s Landing, leaving Brienne alone with tears streaming down her face.
At King’s Landing, Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Varys stand in front of their soldiers, while Cersei, Euron and a shackled Missandei wait on the castle ramparts, with several crossbows equipped beside them. The air is eerily silent as an Ariel shot shows Dany hardly has any Unsullied soldiers left, clearly outnumbered, and the King’s Landing entrance opening, presenting Qyburn coming out to meet their envoy, and Tyrion walking to meet him.
“Queen Daenerys demands Cersei’s unconditional surrender,” Tyrion begins, “and the immediate release of Missandei of Naath.” Listening, Qyburn states that his Queen demands Daenerys’ unconditional surrender saying, “If she refuses, Missandei of Naath will die here and now.” Breathing heavily, the half-man reminds Qyburn that the situation that they are at could be their last chance to avoid the carnage, asking him to help him, but he only replies that he is a mouthpiece for his Queen. He then claims that Cersei is the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms, stating that Daenerys and her armies are just her subjects. Interjecting, Tyrion states that Cersei’s reign is over, telling Qyburn, “You understand this. Help her understand it,” but he replies with indifference saying, “We understand nothing of the sort. Your Queen’s last dragon is vulnerable. Your armies are battle-weary and depleted, while ours have been reinforced with the Golden Compan–” though he is cut off short when Tyrion walks up to the wall – causing archers to pull back their arrows.
Cersei orders the archers to stand down, just as Tyrion begins talking to his sister about how she doesn’t care about her people, stating that she hates them, and they hate her. “But you’re not a monster,” he states, “I know this. I know this because I’ve seen it. You’ve always loved your children. More than yourself, more than Jaime…more than anything.” Tears start to form in Cersei’s eyes, but Tyrion proceeds to plead – “I beg you. If not for yourself, then for your child. Your reign is over, but that doesn’t mean your life has to end. It doesn’t mean your baby has to die.”
Cersei is silent for quite some time, until she walks up to a shackled Missandei (causing Daenerys and Grey Worm to immediately step forward with fear), putting a hand on her arm and saying, “If you have any last words, now is the time.”
We first saw Missandei act as an interpreter for her master Kraznys mo Nakloz when Daenerys Targaryen landed on Astapor with the intent to buy the Unsullied during season three. Translating Kraznys commentary on Daenerys’ words and diplomatically leaving out her master’s insults towards the Khaleesi, Missandei remained as professional as she could when Kraznys described the acts he used to discipline and strengthen the Unsullied. Announcing that she wanted Missandei as a gift and a show of good faith for the upcoming transaction towards offering one of her dragons, Missandei soon served Daenerys as her trusted adviser and handmaiden.
Set free from slavery from the Targaryen Queen, Missandei remained Daenerys’ aide-de-camp throughout the remaining seasons, teaching her languages and praising the Mother of Dragons’ entourage following her success; as well as intertwining a romance with Grey Worm, the Unsullied leader. For seasons, her soft-spoken tongue remained helpful and advised great treatment as she stood by Daenerys and her council, so the last remaining minutes of the episode came as a shock as viewers watching had to witness one of their favorite secondary characters die in such a brutal way, in chains, which is obviously hugely weighted due to the fact that she was once enslaved.
Redness in her eyes, Missandei looks up from where she’s standing at the platform, staring at the Queen who saved her and the man who loved her, until yelling the High Valyrian words, “Dracarys!” – the phrase Dany shouts when she wants her dragons to torch everything in sight. With a smirk, Cersei turns towards The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) as he pulls out his sword and beheads Missandei in front of everyone; Grey Worm turning away in horror as Tyrion looks up at his sister in disgust, who grins back at him.
The episode ends with Daenerys looking more vengeful than ever, stumbling as she walks away from King’s Landing – her rage plain to see, setting up an intriguing and unmissable next episode. The words that her friend had yelled had obviously spoken meaning to Dany, and it’s clear that Missandei’s decision to leave this as her parting message is because she wants The Mother of Dragons to proceed with lighting up King’s Landing despite it being the home of many innocent civilians. This could also lead her character to fully transition into her father, Aerys II Targaryen – also known as the Mad King: essentially causing the beloved character to end up as a villain.
Sunday night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones unfolded plenty of drama from a number of the series’ characters – a number of small moments, subtle exchanges, that settle you deep into this world and all these characters that are probably never going to be united and happy again. Now that The Battle of Winterfell is over, we’re left with the fallout of the Night King’s invasion and the revelation that Jon Snow is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne; the reality that Cersei’s reign is over – and Daenerys’ iron resolve to take back what was took from her family long ago.
Game of Thrones season 8 will air each Sunday on HBO until its final episode on May 19, 2019.