This article is part of a series of reviews on the “Game of Thrones” television adaptations of George RR Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series.
Episode 1: “Dragonstone”
Fan reaction to this season opening episode was positive but mixed in that plotlines were slow to develop (as usual). It seemed like people were expecting a rapid movement ahead but the show still had fourteen episodes remaining and there was talk that most of the eight season’s episodes could run ninety minutes each.
The season’s first episode opened with Walder Frey seeming to have gathered the extended Frey family together to reveal plans. After everyone had taken drinks, he uncharacteristically belittled his family for having killed the Starks at the Red Wedding under less-than-noble circumstances. The Frey family members then all died of apparent poising while ‘Walder Frey’ was revealed to be Arya in disguise.
Arya then journeyed around the Riverlands and encountered a group of Lannister soldiers. She seemingly camped for the night with them after first joining them around a fire. The scene gave Arya the opportunity to meet some of the faceless enemy army and to learn that they were just doing their jobs and leading ‘normal’ lives. They all thought that Arya was joking when she said that she was headed for King’s Landing to visit the queen.
Some fans seemed to think that the Ed Sheeran cameo during Arya’s fire scene was way too distracting but he seemed to settle into the scene fine enough by the end.
Arya’s old travel partner, the Hound – Sandor Clegane – continued his ride north with the Brotherhood Without Banners. He questioned the notion of resurrection with Beric Dondarrion, who admitted that he was uncertain why he keeps being returned from death to life by the Lord of Light. The group stayed the night at the farm where the Hound had stolen from while still with Arya, the farmer and his daughter who lived there having since died. The Hound later saw a vision in fireplace flames that showed the White Walkers marching in the vicinity of the Wall. He concluded his evening by burying the farmer and the man’s daughter while offering the words that they deserved better.
Over at Winterfell, John Snow had settled in as King of the North and he pushed to have everyone, including girls, over age ten to be trained to fight. Lady Lyanna Mormont gave him support for this plan over the objections of some. Tensions arose with Sansa over Jon’s plan to forgive the Umber and Karstark families for turning against the Starks during recent events. Petry Baelish seemed to be lurking around, continuing to whisper into Sansa’s ear. A note arrived for Jon from Cersei, who demanded his kneeling to her while Sansa warned him to not underestimate Cersei.
North of Winterfell, beyond the wall, viewers saw a large army of White Walkers that included at least three giants. At the wall itself, Bran arrived to request passage. A reunion of him with Jon and Sansa seemed eminent.
Down at King’s Landing, Cersei seemed to have moved past the death of Tommen while she planned the strategy for what was ahead for them. Jaime pointed out that without an heir, the dynasty that she had in mind was moot. They were basically surrounded by enemies, with word having reached about Tyrion being aligned with Daenerys. Cersei was left having to try to arrange an alliance with Euron Greyjoy, who wanted to marry Cersei. She turned down his proposal after he came to her court but he left with promises to return to King’s Landing when he had his ‘finest gift.’
It was hard to deny that Cersei was increasingly incapable of pulling off an ending in her favor. Many fans had already vented that she felt like she had outlived her usefulness as a character but the theory was that the producers liked her too much as an actress to not keep her around.
Sawell Tarley was shown to still be at Maester training in the Citadel in Oldtown. He was busy with menial tasks such as emptying chamber pots. While dissecting a corpse, Archmaester Ebrose refused to help Sam to gain access to a restricted book section of the library. Sam eventually stole a Maester’s key and was able to borrow a restricted book. He used information from that book to figure out that Dragonstone had a large cache of obsidian – i.e. dragon’s glass – near the castle. Wise to the potential importance of this discover, he rushed to share the information in a letter to Jon.
The time with Sam this episode ended with a jump for viewers as they learned that Jorah Mormont was staying in the Citadel as a patient of sorts, his greyscale having nearly covered his arm.
The episode’s concluding minutes were surprisingly sparse with dialogue. Daenerys made her way to her ancestral home and birthplace, Dragonstone. She bent down to touch the sand upon landing on the shore. Her entourage followed her up to Dragonstone castle, with Daenerys encountering one of Stannis’s leftover banners and ripping it down. The Targareyen throne, molded out of volcanic rock, did not hold her attention long. Rather, Daenerys strode past it with the intent to start with battle plans. The episode ended on her words “shall we begin?”
Critical reaction to the episode was positive if somewhat resigned to it conforming to the norms of past season premiere episodes.
Episode 2: “Stormborn”
Daenerys indeed went to work, briefly confronting Varys about his checkered history and gaining his allegiance. Melisandre arrived and her status as a red priestess was welcomed by Dany, who remembered the help of such a woman in dealing with her problems in Slave’s Bay. Melisandre brought news of Jon Snow being King of the North, news that surprised Tyrion but Tyrion vouched for Jon’s character. Daenerys ordered a letter be sent to Jon and Tyrion complied but left out the part where Dany wanted Jon to take a knee to her rather than form an alliance.
Daenerys’ battle plan, per Tyrion, became clear early in the episode. She did not want to ravage Westros and instead hoped that her conquest would have minimal bloodshed. The Greyjoy fleet would bring the Dornish forces up to King’s Landing and join the Tyrell forces in a siege on King’s Landing. The combined foreign army of the Dothraki and the Unsullied would be used to attack the Lannister home of Casterly Rock in a canny move to avoid those in Westros from rallying behind an attack on King’s Landing as a true foreign invasion. As the dust settled on that plan, Olenna Tyrell had a nice moment offering advice of sorts to Daenerys regarding the need to act like a dragon toward the ‘sheep’ of Westros.
The episode’s hottest moment took place after all of that planning when Missandei visited Grey Worm. Grey Worm, in his own way amid talk of weakness, professed his feelings to Missandei and she seemed to take the statements to heart since a sexual encounter followed. At least, so far as it being mostly one-way given that Grey Worm’s status as Unsullied meant that he had no male sexual organs.
Over at King’s Landing, Queen Cersei met with her banner men to confirm their allegiance to her. Jaime managed to talk Lord Tarly into a position as general, making a promise that he would oversee the South in the aftermath of the coming battles. In private, Qyburn showed Cersei a new anti-dragon weapon that amounted to basically being a crossbow.
In Oldtown, most of Sam’s segment revolved around his using a supposed greyscale cure on Jorah Mormont. It involved the ugly task of pulling the greyscale off of Jorah’s body and then putting a salve of sorts on the open wound.
Tyrion’s letter to Jon seemingly arrived swiftly as Jon was soon discussing it with Sansa and Davos at Winterfell. Davos felt that Dany would make a good ally but Sansa feared a trap. Later, Sam’s letter arrived saying that Dragonstone had a cache of dragonglass and Jon felt that he had little choice but to meet with Dany. He decided to leave Sansa in charge, a move that seemed to surprise her. Later, John was visiting the Stark family catacombs and had an uncomfortable encounter with Petyr Baelish, who talked about his love for Sansa. Jon threatened to kill Baelish if he approached Sansa again. Jon’s segment this episode ended with him biding farewell to Sansa and traveling to see Dany.
Over in the Riverlands, Arya ran into Hot Pie at the Inn at the Crossroads. There was a nice bit of dark humor in her reference to having recent experience in baking pies that viewers would recall were made with the remains of the Freys. Hot Pie updated Arya on recent events and she made the remarkable decision to change her plans, riding off to meet up with Jon Snow rather than continue for King’s Landing. Soon after making that decision, her camp was ambushed by wolves and she was saved by her old direwolf, Nymeria. Nymeria did not stick with her though, seemingly having been away from Arya for too long.
Yara was busy transporting Ellaria Sand on the Narrow Sea, openly flirting with her prisoner in front of Theon. They seemed to be about to engage in full-on hanky-panky when Euron attacked. Euron’s portion of the Iron Fleet waged battle against Yara’s stolen portion of that same fleet and the conflict did not go well for Yara. Euron eventually boarded Yara’s ship and killed at least a couple of the Sand Snakes. Euron then captured both Ellaria and Yara, with Theon turning coward when he had the opportunity to fight Euron. It was hard to blame him since Euron had been a virtual killing machine and his forces had already won the sea battle but it was still a bad look for Theon in front of his sister. Theon escaped and watched as Euron took his prisoners back to King’s Landing, Yara’s stolen fleet having been left to burn.
This episode was a strong follow-up to the season premiere, save for some of the convenient aspects of it, such as Sam so casually having stumbled onto a cure for greyscale.
Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”
Things went bad for the captives from the end of the last episode as Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene were paraded through King’s Landing as prisoners. Cersei eventually had Ellaria and Tyene chained in the same holding area, with Tyene given “The Long Farewell,” thus forcing Ellaria to witness Tyene die under the same means that was used to kill Myrcella.
In the aftermath of recent events, Euron was named as Cersei’s naval commander and Jaime was made the army commander. Given that the stage was set for Euron to eventually marry Ceresei, Jaime was not amused when Euron needled him about tips for bedroom behavior with the queen.
Cersei later seduced Jaime and made no point in hiding their relationship the next morning when word came that a representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos was waiting to meet with her. Cersei later met with the representative and promised to soon pay back her family’s outstanding debts.
Up in Winterfell, the food stores had been found to be likely too low for the pending winter. That revelation was the backdrop for a reunion between Sansa and Bran that was odd if only because of how both characters had so changed over the years. Bran declined his right to take Sansa’s leadership position and he confused her by claiming to now be the Three-eyed Raven. He tried to explain this situation by recalling details about Sansa’s wedding, not exactly a topic that she wanted to re-live.
Over in Oldtown, Jorah Mormont was declared to be greyscale-free and he departed to seek out Daenerys. Archmaester Ebrose confronted Sam about his having made the cure and Sam credited his work to simply following instructions from a book. Ebrose gave Sam the ‘reward’ of no being expelled.
The cornerstone of the episode was the meeting between Jon Snow and Dany. First though, Jon met with Tyrion and the pair had a lot of catch up on, with topics ranging from Tyrion’s scars to his short-lived marriage to Sansa.
Melisandre had departed before Jon’s arrival, doing so while referencing her past mistake with Shireen and talking of travel to Volantis. She made a cryptic mention to Varys of being destined to eventually die in Westros though, a fate that he also apparently shared.
The formal meeting between Dany and Jon then began. After debating recent cross-family history that included the ‘Mad King’ burning Jon’s grandfather and killing his uncle, Dany asked Jon to consider bending the knee to her to form an alliance. Jon stayed on point regarding the true enemy being the White Walkers and, amid further debate, suggested that failing to stop the White Walkers would mean no kingdom left for Dany to rule.
Jon was eventually given permission to mine the Dragonglass that Sam had indicated was under DragonStone. The situation between Jon and Dany was left open though as she became distracted by recent events.
Theon, an escapee from the prior episode’s ambush by Euron, showed up at Dragonstone, a clear failure amid lies that he tried to prevent Yara’s capture.
The episode concluded with a significant, if quiet exit for Olenna Tyrell that related to Tyrion’s continued strategic failures. Olenna looked out from her balcony in Highgarden to see an approaching Lannister army. Casterly Rock had been left as a near-empty decoy of sorts with Tyron and Danenery’s plan to start their attack there having been foiled through misdirection. This action was seen in full with the Unsullied having been duped and then taken from behind by Euron’s approaching fleet.
After some discussion, Jaime produced a poisoned wine for Olenna and she drank it. While waiting to die, Olenna confessed to having poisoned Joffrey, an admission that would surely hurt Cersei.
This episode marked a continued shift forward in events with a number of notable characters making exits from the series. Some highlights included the ending with Jaime and Olenna, while Cersei continuing to at least seem credible. Of course, the Dany and Jon meeting was epic for what it signaled.
One could not be sure what to make of Bran these days but have one never knew what to make of him. He was obviously more interesting now than he was in the early seasons of the series but his role in everything was still unclear.
Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”
The stakes just kept raising, with this episode picking up on the aftermath for the Fall of Highgarden as the Lannister army was hauling Tyrell gold back to King’s Landing to pay off the Lannister debts with the Iron Bank. This move seemed to also set up the hiring of the sellsword Golden Company from over in Essos.
Reunions continued in Winterfell with Arya showing up for an awkward reunion with Sansa. They were at least more emotional than Bran was in his reunion with Sansa but it was evident to Sansa that her sister had dramatically changed since their last time seeing one another way back in the first season. Arya gave viewers a barometer for her skills by sparring with Brianne and winning. One tie to the past popped up as Bran gave Arya the Valyrian steel dagger that kicked off major events of the first season, having been the weapon that Littlefinger claimed was used to try to kill Bran.
Also in Winterfell, Littlefinger visited with Bran but that visit seemed to backfire. Littlefinger was given a shock when Bran quoted him back his “Chaos is a ladder” line from season three. How a knowledge of Bran’s new powers might affect Littlefinger’s behavior toward him was unclear. Meera Reed appeared to make her exit from the show, with Bran having continued to be emotionally distant.
An interlude at Dragonstone picked up on the goings-on there with Dany and Missandei connecting on Missandei’s romance with Grey Worm. Also of note was Jon’s successful start to mining the dragonglass under Dragonstone. Romance of another kind was seemingly in the air as Dany and Jon shared a discussion about the Children of the Forest and their relationship back to the White Walkers. Davos gave him a hard time over these sparks that viewers knew were between aunt and nephew.
The centerpiece of the episode was undeniably Dany’s dragon attack on the Lannister ‘treasure train’ that was headed through the Reach. The approach of the Dothraki horde was everything that fans could have hoped for, being obvious as the army was glimpsed crossing an approaching hill. Things went nuts when Dany swooped down on the Lannister soldiers with Drogon and burnt great swaths of those forces. The Dothraki then came in to handle the remaining cleanup.
Cersei’s ballista was used by Jaime and, particularly, Bronn to try to do something to slow the damage on their army. Bronn was able to take out a particularly pesky Dothraki fighter with a shot from the ballista. He then used it on Drogon and was able to, at least temporarily, bring the dragon down while Dany had to tend to what was a shoulder wound on the great beast.
Jaime thought that he had an opening to attack Dany but that was highly questionable notion as Bronn ended up having to push Jaime into a lake to avoid being hit by an attack of the dragon’s fire. Jaime was clad in his battle armor and the episode ended with a silent credit sequence that left viewers assuming that perhaps he had drowned to death. Bronn’s fate was also unclear.
The battle at the end of this episode fell right into the sweet spot of what fans had hoped we we see. Dreams had been formed from hints of this kind of thing, going all the way back to the hopes planted in the first book. It was then surreal to arrive at this point on the show and to then find that it was actually delivering. To the contrary, it always felt like somehow George R. R. Martin would die or HBO would never approve enough seasons to get this far, or something else altogether would stop it. Wow!
One could assume that the ballista had served its purpose and it was doubtful that we we see it again since Drogon destroyed it. That clunky device was seemingly needed to offer something as a dramatic tool and it was good to see Bronn in the spotlight again.
Some fans voiced negative reaction around the notion of a Jon/Dany romance but such a coupling seemed to fall into the boundaries of odd family relations on the show. At this point though, the coupling remained a tease.
Episode 5: “Eastwatch”
Fans did not have to wait long to learn that Bronn and Jaime had somehow made their way from the river water in the aftermath of the last episode’s battle. Some might quibble regarding how easily Jaime’s armored body was pulled from the water but the story marched on as the duo headed back to report the disaster to Cersei.
At the same time, Tyrion took in the destruction from the battle and seemed disturbed by it. He was further unnerved when Daeneryrs has the battle’s prisoners bend the knee to her, save for Randyll and Dickson Tarly, who refused. Tyrion tried to talk the Tarly’s out of their decision but the pair ultimately agreed to be killed by Drogon’s fiery breath.
Up in Winterfell, Bran uses his warg ability to take flight in a raven and the raven scouts the Army of the Dead that is approaching the Wall. Most of the drama at Winterfell centered on Arya and Sansa though, with Arya first hinting at assassinating some Lords who were pushing Sansa to take over from Jon Snow. Later, Littlefinger seemed to set Arya up by having her discover the pro-Lannister letter that Sansa had been forced to write while under duress. For some reason, Arya appeared to misunderstand this letter as containing Sansa’s true feelings.
Arguably the longest-reaching revelation in the episode occurred in Oldtown. The Maesters feared a trick by Dany in Bran’s warning about the coming of the Army of the Dead, despite Sam’s support of Bran’s claims and their reaction was slowed by requesting further information from Winterfell. That evening, Gilly randomly read from a book the key revelation that Rhaegar Targaryen was given an annulment to his marriage and presumably married Lyanna Stark, thus making their presumed-son Jon Snow the most-legitimate claim holder to the throne. Unfortunately, Sam appeared to disregard this information while being focused on leading Gilly and her son on an escape of sorts from his Maester training.
Down at Dragonstone, Daenerys arrived back at the castle with Drogon and she was surprised to find that the dragon was oddly friendly toward Jon Snow. Around this time, Jorah Mormont arrived in Dragonstone and he was reunited with Dany, amid a re-pledge of his loyalty. Tyron also arrived back at Dragonstone and he spoke with Varys about what he had witnessed in the aftermath of the recent battle, seeming to get past the disturbing scene for the time being. Finally, the same warning from Bran regarding the White Walkers that the Maesters had received arrived in Dragonstone and Jon lobbied to take Jorah and Davos to kidnap a White Walker. It was felt that they needed the proof regarding the threat for both Dany and Cersei. The group plotted their departure but Davos took a detour by first stopping at King’s Landing to get the long-forgotten Gendry.
The big news out of King’s Landing was not Jaime’s warning to Cersei that they had no chance of holding off Daenerys but rather the revelation that Cersei was supposedly pregnant. Also cleared up was Jaime’s announcement to Cersei that Olenna and not Tyrion had killed their son, Joffrey. After this meeting had concluded, Bronn helped facilitate a secret reunion between Jaime and Tyrion, with the brothers discussing the losing Lannister position and Daeneyrs’s call for an armistice amid the pending war against the Army of the Dead. Cersei appeared upset when later learning of this meeting but it served its purpose with her seeming to consider a truce.
The episode wrapped up with Davos, Tyrion, and Gendry – who had met up at King’s landing – all returning to Dragonstone and re-grouping with Jon amid the dragonglass mines. Jon, Davos, and Gendry all ended up traveling to Eastwatch where they met up with captured members of the Brotherhood without Banners. Strangely, a motley crew ended up being formed with Jon leading Jormund, Gendry, and some of the Brotherhood, including Thoros and Sandor Clegane, north of the wall on their White Walker capture mission.
By this point in the season, there was a feverpitch of naysayer fans complaining about how the show’s speeding up of events had created all sorts of problems regarding how fast characters were able to move around Westros. For reference, Westros had been described as being the size of South America, so there were significant distances to cross. Criticisms also rang out regarding how quickly the oddly-matched band of men set aside their differences in order to undertake the mission with Jon. Sam’s sudden departure from his training also made many wonder what, exactly, had been accomplished with that detour for the character.
There was much to like about how the episode gave food for thought regarding Tyrion’s view of Dany and the ambiguity around Cersei actually being pregnant or not was interesting. The pieces continued to move regarding how the final two episodes of the season might play out.
Episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”
Some of the lack of character interaction amongst the members of Jon’s ‘hunting party’ at the end of the prior episode was addressed at the beginning of this episode. Minor loose ends were tied up, such as Jon trying to give Jorah his family’s Valyrian steel sword but Jorah refusing it. Bonds between a few of the men seemed to form.
While most of the episode focused on events north of the Wall, viewers did check in on Winterfell with Sansa and Arya’s odd situation continuing to escalate. Arya continued to act out of character as Littlefinger’s rouse appeared to work and she was upset with Sansa about the letter that Sansa had written under duress back in Season One.
More to the point was Tyrion and Daenerys discussing the pending conflict with Cersei. Her immediate plans would change though…
Back north of the Wall, Jon’s party ran into a White Walker bear and had a heck of a time defeating it. Thoros from the party would later die from injuries sustained during the efforts that led to the bear’s eventual death-by-fire-sword. The group moved on to find some White Walkers and their wight, having managed to capture the wight but not before it had signed to the others in the White Walker army. The situation then turned crazy with Jon’s group taking their kidnapped zombie to a small island in the middle of a frozen lake. The White Walker army could not cross into the lake due to the lake’s ice giving way and a standoff ensued with Jon’s group surrounded by the White Walkers.
Gendry had been dispatched to Eastwatch for help and he managed to get a raven back to Dany. All nearly seemed lost when the Hound had taunted a White Walker by throwing a stone at it, the act revealing that the lake’s ice had re-frozen. Given this vital new information, the army attacked just as Dany arrived with her three dragons to lay waste to thousands of White Walkers.
Dany’s attack was thwarted in one key way though as the Night King used a spear of his own making to kill Viserion. The dragon fell from the sky, into the lake’s icy waters and Dany was rightly spooked when she saw the Night King working on yet another spear. She was able to avoid his then using it to hit Drogon but she took the cue to load all of Jon’s party (and the kidnapped White Walker wight) onto Drogon to flee.
Jon, of course, managed to literally get pulled away from the rescue by some White Walkers and was left behind. He was only saved by the out-of-left-field reappearance of his half-White Walker uncle Benjen Stark. Benjen sacrificed what was left of his life to get Jon onto his horse. Jon then somehow rode that horse back to Eastwatch.
The episode ended with Dany reunited with Jon, declaring that her entire focus was now on the White Walker threat. She and Jon headed toward King’s Landing and a meeting with Cersei that was sure to make the season finale another interesting episode.
By this point in the season, an increasing chorus of online reviewers had been complaining about how the show has basically turned into ‘wishful fan faction.’
Yes, everyone on the show seemed to have personal teleporters that quickly let them travel across an entire continent. Yes, the character development was pretty jacked up and sometimes barely hanging on. But, the bottom line was that things were pretty much playing out exactly how I had personally wanted it to, so maybe my critical mind was cutting the show more slack than others are doing. Unlike other controversial show endings like “Lost,” I did feel like the major loose ends would wrap up by the end of the eighth season. Rather it seemed like the big debate would be from people who wanted things to be more complicated, perhaps only an attainable demand with another 2-3 seasons of material. Realistically, the showrunners were having to do what they were having to do, given their circumstances.
Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
The gathering of the show’s main players that had started to get lined up in the prior episode took center stage in this season finale.
The Unsullied and Dothraki armies arrived in King’s Landing, as did a ship carrying Tyrion, Varys, Missandi, Jon Snow, and Davos. Euron Greyjoy’s fleet sat in the water. The visiting leadership was taken to the Dragonpit, the ruined former stables of sorts for the Targaren dragons, for the meeting. The meeting’s other distant arrivals were Brienne and Podrick, who represented Sansa. Of side note, the Hound and the reanimated Mountain met up with the Hound mocking his brother’s disfigured appearance.
Cersei called the meeting to order as soon as Daenerys arrived on Drogon. The Hound unveiled the captured White Walker wight and it attacked Cersei, horrifying her. The Hound and Jon then demonstrated the various ways to harm the undead. The situation horrified Euron Greyjoy enough that he promptly decided to depart for the safety of the Iron Islands.
Cersei initially brought up a truce offer with the assumption that Jon would play a neutral party but Jon shocked everyone by revealing that he had already pledged loyalty to Daenerys. This revelation upset pretty much every character in attendance, enraging Cersei enough to cause her to walk out of the meeting.
The Hound then escorted Tyrion to a meeting with Jaime and, ultimately, a meeting with Cersei. The two ended up verbally sparring before Cersei relented on her threat to have Tyrion killed. Cersei seemed to then agree to pledge the Lannister army to face the White Walker threat. After the meeting has adjourned though, Jaime was shocked to learn that Euron was actually headed for Essos to ferry the Golden Company to Westros and that Cersei intended to hold back her forces before using them to finish off the leftovers of the White Walker battle.
An angered Jaime had his life momentarily threatened by Cersei but he was allowed to walk out on her. He departed King’s Landing as snow began to fall on the city.
With all of the action in the south at King’s Landing, it might have been easy to forget the ongoing sister drama at Winterfell. Littlefinger thought that he had manipulated Sansa into having Arya seized and killed. Arya was apprehended in a big public show but the surprise was on Littlefinger. Sansa instead turned her attention to rattling off all of Littlefinger’s crimes, such as being in the middle of having orchestrated the Lannister-Stark conflict and killing Lysa Arryn.
Littlefinger tried to save himself from the escalating situation by re-asserting his position as the Lord Protector of the Vale but those who were previously sworn to protect him did not do so. Sansa then sentenced Littlefinger to death and, despite his plees of having loved both Sansa and her mother, Arya wasted little time in carrying out the sentence by slashing Littlefinger’s throat. She used the now-famous Valyrian steel dagger that had shown up to cause so much trouble during the show’s first season.
Sansa and Arya then had a moment together to reflect on how both have changed. They acknowledged how different they were but also respectful of one another.
Back down in the south, Jon and Daenerys’ allies made plans for their trek north. It was ultimately decided that Daenerys would travel north with Jon as a show of unity.
That wasn’t he only show of unity though, as Jon later visited Dany’s cabin aboard their ship and the two of them had a night of passion. Tyrion happened to witness Dany welcoming Jon into her cabin and he did not seem impressed by the coupling. Of course, at this point, none of these characters were aware of Jon’s true parentage and that fact made the coupling was even more unfortunate than Tyrion might have otherwise imagined.
The conclusion of the episode was largely made up of what would end up being a very awkward cross-cut with the above scene. Sam and Gilly arrived in Winterfell and Sam met with Bran. Bran decided to reveal to Sam that Jon’s parents were actually Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Gilly’s earlier discovery of Rheagar’s annulment and subsequent secret wedding to Lyanna was confirmed by Bran via his mental time travel powers. Audiences also learned that Lyanna’s words to young Ned Stark was that Jon’s real name was Aegon Targaryen.
Not to be ignored was an odd amount of discussion as of late on the show regarding Daeynerys’s presumed infertility but Jon was one voice who sounded skeptical of this assumption. Time would tell of Daeynerys had become pregnant with Jon’s child.
Sending the season off with a bang was Tormund and Beric Dondarrion witnessing the arrival of the White Walkers to Eastwatch. The zombified dragon Viserion flew into the scene with the Night King on its back, blowing a powerful blue flame that destroyed a section of the Wall. While Tormund and Beric appeared to have survived the attack, a large portion of the wall fell, leaving a path through for the White Walker army.
In the past, I was skeptical that “Game of Thrones” could ever hope to wrap up its various storylines. Starting with season six though, the number of storylines started to wind down and the pace of such activity only grew faster in season seven.
Let’s first summarize some of the season’s rough edge that led to debate amongst fans…
Many fans and critics decried the pace and, not without reason, became upset that the generally ‘realistic’ approach by the show in the past was being broken. The rapid movement of characters throughout the season did require a certain suspension of disbelief but one could not help but feel like critics were being somewhat unreasonable. The cast and creative staff will soon have completed a remarkable eight year run on the show and to demand more seasons from them was not realistic. As such, fans had to choose between having the story tied up or having some of the show’s ‘realistic’ elements bent. Given that choice, it was easy to see why certain decisions were made.
Specific to the character development of this season, the romance between Dany and Jon Snow had its moments of romantic tensions but it was hard to say that the actors had much consistent chemistry across the entire season. Having Jon’s back story finally revealed and the positioning of him as the show’s ultimate hero was satisfying if not surprising.
The intrigue at Winterfell, just like the reunion of the Stark characters at that location, was undeniably underwhelming. Granted, the Arya-Sansa conflict paid off in the end with the demise of Littlefinger but the entire situation ended up feeling much lower-stakes than one might have guessed at the end of season six.
All of these complaints are largely nitpick-y within the context that “Game of Thrones” remained a juggernaut of a television show, with the episodes this season often feeling like miniature movies. In the past, there was perhaps one ‘big’ episode per season, but with season seven, every episode had one moment or another that might have previously been season-defining.
In the end, Dany’s hordes and dragons thundered into Westros and the first glimpses of their power was everything that a longtime fan might have hoped they would be. Where this season worked best was in those power punches and related battles. We’d seen impressive battles in the past on the show but this time the showrunners surely pivoted more into the fantasy underpinnings that had long been flashed. The closest that the show had come that way in the past was the memorable fifth season episode “Hardhome” and much of what occurred this season, with a focus on the White Walker threat, built on the foundation set in that episode.
Looking ahead to the final season, the table seemed set for some sort of winner-take-all conflict with the Night King. This season’s revelation that destroying the King would likely have a ripple effect where his entire army would be destroyed made for a convenient path toward a quick ultimate resolution to the White Walker threat. More complicated and, hopefully, more interesting will be the resolution found in the game of thrones itself. Will Cersei die at the hands of one of her brothers? Is she pregnant? Is Dany pregnant, a future co-parent with Jon? Are there any deeper surprises or twists in store that explain the nature of Westros?
It will be a long wait for fans, perhaps into early 2019 before we get answers to those questions.