Game of Thrones
“The Last of the Starks”
May 5, 2019
FUNERALS! PARTIES! NEW LORDSHIPS! ERRRYBODY GETTIN’ BIZZY! JON AND SANSA UNABLE TO KEEP SECRETS! TERRIBLE PET OWNERS! AND A LOT OF PROMISE OF DRACARYS COMING UP IN HERE!
(But no commentary — yet. Commentary is coming.)
Updated: Scroll down below Raleigh Ritchie’s Instagram post to find all my yelling.
Before I get started here, a note. I’ve had a very long week and an even longer weekend (Friday was the biggest day of the year for television cancelations; Saturday there was a wedding; Sunday I hosted a Lost panel at Houston’s annual comic convention, Comicpalooza, and I had to prepare for that on top of it being Mother’s Day) and I just wasn’t able to finish this post before the next episode began.
I was stuck with a dilemma: either hold off on the entire post until I could finish it, or put out a recap with a half-assed commentary, or put out a half-completed recap and finish it when I had a half-second to breathe. I’ve chosen the latter because I wanted to get something out there before this next episode aired so that I wouldn’t get into a complete spiral of lateness. If that makes sense.
My plan is to return to the commentary beginning tomorrow morning and hopefully complete this post by Tuesday or so, but considering that the Upfronts — when the networks put out their fall schedules — is happening this week, I’m just going to warn you, it’s going to be a struggle.
Listen, I know I suck. I don’t want to make excuses, but I also don’t want to publish something I am embarrassed by, so this is my compromise. I will re-up this post once it is done and I thank you for your understanding and patience.
The battle is over and there are a LOT of people who are dead. Not as many as I expected, but still several piles worth of corpses. After Daenerys and Sansa have tearful goodbyes with Jorah and Theon respectively (Sansa tucking a Stark pin of some sort onto Theon’s uniform, suggesting that in the end, he was a Stark), Jon leads the funeral, cribbing a bit from the speech Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (and father of Jorah) gave for one of his Crows, namely the “we shall never see his like again,” part.
Then Jon, Dany, Arya, Grey Worm, Tormund, Sansa and Grey Worm take torches and set fire to their friends.
Finally, it’s time for everyone to get their DRANK ON.
At first, everyone is all somber, what with having just torched their buddies and all. But the mood changes when, Gendry, while looking for Arya, catches Daenerys’ attention and she decides to make him not just the legitimate son of Robert Baratheon, but the new lord of the Baratheon castle, Storm’s End. Hurrah!
As Daenerys points out to Tyrion, he’s not the only clever one around here — she just made herself a very valuable new ally.
As everyone begins to loosen up a bit, Tyrion and Davos make a few things clear to the audience: Melisandre is really dead dead; and now that the Night King is dead — and the Night King and that whole plot thread is very much dead, y’all — they have to deal with the living, namely that bitch sister of Tyrion’s.
Tyrion then visits The Three-Eyed Bran, complimenting him on his wheelchair which The Three-Eyed Bran claims is modeled after one Daeron Targaryen built for his crippled nephew.* Tyrion is impressed with The Three-Eyed Bran’s command of history, noting that it will come in handy as Lord of Winterfell. And The Three-Eyed Bran is like, “Dude, do you still not get it? I don’t have use for lordships, I’m a bird wizard —
and anyway, it’s a moot point since clearly Jon is the people’s choice to rule up in here — and blah blah blah I live in the past. Now wheel me away, someone!”
Once Bird Boy is out of the room, the partying begins in earnest.
Tormund offers a toast to the Dragon Queen, and everyone is all, “yay.” Daenerys offers a toast to the real hero of the day, Arya Stark, and everyone is all “YAAAAAAAAYYYYY!”
Later, Tormund is busy praising Jon barely being able to steer a dragon (and crash landing it) and insisting that this, plus the whole getting murdered and coming back to life business is king material, while Daenerys is like, “BITCH, I TAUGHT HIM THAT. NOW SOMEONE GET ME A GODDAMNED STARBUCKS.”
Meanwhile, Tyrion, Brienne, and Jaime play a round or two of Tyrion’s “Truth or Drink” game, culminating in Tyrion guessing — correctly — that Brienne has never done the deed with a man or a woman, and sending her fleeing from the table in embarrassment.
Tormund, seeing his chance — FINALLY — tries to follow Brienne, only to very literally be cock-blocked by one Jaime Lannister. And had Jaime not cock-blocked him, I’m sure Tormund would have locked that business down with the following line he drops: “Now, which one of you cowards shit my pants?”
Tormund complains about his love woes to The Hound who is very not interested. Some Northern girls approach the men suggesting that they celebrate still being alive, and while Tormund is ALL ABOUT THAT, The Hound is “no thank you please.”
Soon, Sansa joins The Hound and points out that spending a little time with a lady friend might have made him happy, but he growls that only one thing will make him happy (killing his FrakenBrother). When Sansa asks what that might be, he grumps that IT’S HIS FUCKING BUSINESS.
The Hound does note that Sansa wasn’t used to be able to look at him, and she’s like, “Girl, I’ve been through worse.” The Hound replies that he heard she was “broken in … rough.”
But Sansa assures him that she took care of that bit of nastiness with his own hounds. The Hound laments that none of it would have happened to her if she had left King’s Landing with him, but Sansa insists that she would have never become the woman that she is now had none of it happened to her. OH, WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS LATER, TRUST.
Elsewhere, Gendry finally finds Arya off by herself practicing her archery and announces that he is no longer Gendry Rivers*, but has been made Gendry Baratheon, and now he would very much like her to become Mrs.
Rivers* Baratheon, please and thank you. But anyone who remembers season one remembers that that’s not Arya.
Oh, and over in Brienne’s chambers, she and Jaime be fuckin’.
Yeah, I reject this.
Finally, Daenerys slides into Jon’s room. There, he expresses his sympathy for her loss, and Daenerys tells him that Jorah loved her but she was unable to love him back the way she loves Jon. They make out because as Targaryens they aren’t going to allow a little aunt/nephew incest stop them from getting down. However, Daenerys is still troubled — not about the incest thing — but by the fact that Jon has a better claim to the throne than she does … and the pesky fact that the people of Westeros seem to love him and they don’t love her.
However! She’s come up with a solution to this problem: since he doesn’t want the Iron Throne to begin with, how about he just swear Bran and Samwell to secrecy, and never tell another soul who he really is for the rest of his life, including his sisters. YOU KNOW, LIKE NED STARK. Jon protests that he needs to tell Sansa and Arya. For reasons. Daenerys begs him not to tell — and Dany is not one to beg — but Jon’s like, “But they’re my family! We can all live together happily!” And Daenerys, she agrees! — and she told him how.
The next morning, the gang begins a little, “Let’s Kick That Cersei Bitch Off the Iron Throne” planning. Apparently, they lost half the Unsullied, half the Northmen, and, somehow, only half of the Dothraki.
In any event, now that Cersei has the Golden Company, the fight is now “distressingly” even. Daenerys makes a bunch of worrisome talk about “ripping” Cersei out, “root and stem,” which prompts Tyrion to tell her to turn down her Targaryen to about a three. The plan is to NOT destroy King’s Landing. The good news is, Daenerys is losing allies: Yara has taken back the Iron Islands, the new prince of Dorne, whoever the hell that is, is Team Dany.
Jon and Tyrion’s plan is to surround the city and starve Cersei out, and Daenerys is like, “BORING. BUT FINE.” Sansa suggests that they give the troops some time to recuperate — which FAIR POINT, QUEEN SANSA — but Daenerys is like, “Nope. Any more questions?”
So the plan is: Daenerys and the dragons will fly down to Dragonstone with the fleet and a small force; Jon and Davos will ride down with the troops and then they’ll surround King’s Landing and bore Cersei to death. Bring a book!
As Daenerys, et al, take leave of the war room, the Stark girls ask for a word with their brother. The Stark kids retreat to the Godswood where Arya — the one who actually killed the Night King — insists to her sister that they needed Daenerys and her troops and dragons. NOW THAT SAID, she informs Jon that she and Sansa don’t trust Daenerys as far as they can throw her. Arya reminds him that they are family, that they are the last of the Starks, to which Jon pouts that he’s never been a Stark. Arya and Sansa protest that he’s their real brother and The Three-Eyed Bran is like, “Tell them or don’t — it’s on you.”
So Jon tells Arya and Sansa that he has a HUGE secret, but he’s not going to tell them unless they PINKIE SWEAR not to tell anyone. They promise, and then Jon doesn’t even tell them — he instructs Bran to tell them.
NOT THAT WE GET TO SEE THEIR REACTION, because the next thing you know we’re drinking with Jaime and Tyrion whose conversation about how Jaime is going to stay in Winterfell with Brienne is interrupted by one crossbow-wielding Bronn. Who apparently just wandered through the gates of Winterfell despite the fact that EVERYONE IS AT WAR. Arya’s right: Winterfell needs better guards.
Anyway, Bronn explains that their sister sent him to kill them in exchange for Riverrun, to which Tyrion reminds Bronn of his own promise to him: he’ll pay double whatever anyone offers Bronn to kill him. And double Riverrun = Highgarden. Bronn finds this acceptable but declines their suggestion that he ride south with them — his fighting days are over. And with that, he and Chekhov’s Crossbow exit the scene.
The next morning, The Hound begins his ride down to King’s Landing, accompanied, obviously, by Arya where they talk about their unfinished business and the fact that they have no intention of returning. STAGE WHISPER: THAT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE BOTH GONNA DIE.
Meanwhile, Daenerys checks on her dragons, both of whom are, in fact, alive, but worse for wear after the Battle of Winterfell. Rhaegal, in particular, has giant holes in his wings and really shouldn’t be flying, but you can’t tell a Dragonqueen what to do, SANSA.
Sansa watches the dragons from the walls of Winterfell, where Tyrion finds her wondering, “WHY DAENERYS?”
Tyrion points out that Jon is in love with Daenerys, and Sansa’s like, “Oh, so that makes her a good queen?” Tyrion pleads with Sansa to try to have a good relationship with Dany for the sake of the realm. And then, in one breath Sansa says she doesn’t want Jon to go south, men in her family don’t do well down there (FAIR POINT), but then follows that thought by asking Tyrion what would happen if there were someone better suited for the Throne, i.e. Jon. SO WHAT DO YOU WANT, SANSA? FOR JON TO STAY NORTH OR NAH?
Anyway. Jon is riding south, but before he hits the road, he says his goodbyes: first to Tormund, whom Jon encourages to stay in the North, which is, of course, the South to Tormund. Everything’s relative! Tormund and his people want to go back home now that it’s not crawling with ice zombies. Jon asks Tormund to take Ghost with him, because “a direwolf has no place in the South.”
HOW DARE YOU BE A NEGLIGENT DIREWOLF OWNER, JON SNOW. GHOST IS NOT JUST SOME PLAYTHING YOU CAN DISCARD BECAUSE YOU NOW HAVE A COOLER PET. HOW. DARE. YOU.
I REJECT THIS.
Jon then says his goodbyes to Samwell and Gilly, whom Jon realizes is pregnant after hugging her through her heavy northern coats.
She informs Jon that they plan on naming the baby “Jon” if it’s a boy, and somehow this idiot manages to not blurt out, “UH, ACTUALLY, IT’S AEGON.” For once.
Jon and Samwell cry about being each other’s best friends — RIGHT IN FRONT OF GHOST’S FACE, WHOM JON DOESN’T EVEN HUG OR PET GOODBYE.
I WILL NEVER GET OVER THIS.
So, the Targaryen fleet head to Dragonstone, and on the way, Tyrion blabs to Varys about the whole Aegon thing, and Varys is like, “Welp, the cats out of the bag now. You know this means that she loses the North, right?” Tyrion suggests that they marry Jon and Daenerys off — it’s not like they aren’t superhot for each other. But Varys points out that Daenerys isn’t the type who likes to share, and that while the Targaryens are known for banging each other, incest really isn’t a thing where Jon comes from. And that’s when Tyrion hopes that Cersei just kills them all. I know the feeling, Ty.
Just as they are dropping anchor at Dragonstone, however, out of FUCKING NOWHERE, Rhaegal is struck by a giant scorpion bolt in his chest, another one goes through his neck and he crashes into the sea.
Turns out that fucker Sea Pacey had, somehow, hidden his fleet around the backside? of Dragonstone?
And between now and the last time we saw him, Sea Pacey and Cersei have been busily building hundreds of dragon-killing scorpions and attaching them to every ship in his fleet.
So Daenerys, FUCKING FURIOUS NOW, turns Drogon towards Sea Pacey’s ships but does not go all Dracarys, steering away at the last minute, and managing to not get hit by any of the many many bolts flying at her because plot armor is powerful stuff.
Unable to shoot down another dragon, Sea Pacey and his fleet turn their scorpions onto the Targaryen ships. Grey Worm orders Missandei to a skiff while the rest of our characters fall into the sea and have to swim to (or, more accurately, are washed up on) shore.
Except for Missandei. There’s no Missandei.
That’s because she’s in King’s Landing as Cersei’s prisoner, while Cersei and Sea Pacey twirl their mustaches and Cersei lies about how Sea Pacey is her baby daddy. Hey, it’s worked for her before.
Back in Dragonstone, Daenerys is FEE-YUR-EE-US, and understandably so, what with Cersei taking her dragon and her bestie, and she is ready to storm the city and kill errrrrrrrrrybody. But Varys is all, “Could you turn the Targaryen down to at least a five? If you go dragon-blasting King’s Landing, you’re going to kill the very people you came here to save. Does that make any sense?” But Daenerys is all, “DESTINY!” and “KILLING TYRANTS!”
Tyrion suggests a third route: how about she try negotiating a surrender with Cersei while they wait for Jon and the troops to arrive, and Daenerys is all, “BORING. BUT FINE.”
After she storms out of the room, Varys and Tyrion wring their hands about how she is going all Mad Queen on them. Varys argues that Jon would make a better ruler, what with his brooding and his Ned Stark-ness, and the fact that he’s a dude will make it easier for the Lords of Westeros to rally around him because he’s just more “likable.” Tyrion calls Varys’ talk treasonous, but Varys insists that his loyalties have always lied with “the people.” And Tyrion is like, “OK, but then what happens to her,” and Varys gives him a look that says, “Baby, you already know the answer to that one.” SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE WANTS TO GO OUT IN A DROGON BLAZE OF GLORY, VARYS.
Back in Winterfell, Sansa and Brienne — and by extension, Jaime — receive news of Sea Pacey’s attack on Daenerys’ troops and Rhaegal, and the capture of Missandei. Sansa is PISSED.
That night, Jaime broods, and then slips out of Brienne’s chambers while she sleeps. She notices, however, and finds him packing his shit for King’s Landing. Brienne insists to Jaime that he’s a good man, and she knows he believes he can save his sister, but he can’t. In response, Jaime informs Brienne that he’s NOT a good man and begins reading out his bullet-point list of all the bad shit he’s done: push a kid out a window and cripple him for life; kill his own cousin; seriously considered killing every man, woman, and child in Riverrun — all for Cersei. And with that, Jaime leaves Brienne while she sobs piteously.
Finally, Danerys, Tyrion, Varys, and Grey Worm and about 15 Unsullied go to the walls of King’s Landing where Cersei, Sea Pacey, FrankenMountain, Qyburn and their prisoner Missandei look on. Tyrion approaches the gates where he meets his fellow Hand of the Queen, Qyburn, and they are all, “YOU surrender,” “No, YOU surrender,” and it settles nothing.
So Tyrion walks past Qyburn and marches up to the gates while Cersei’s men level their arrows at him. There he yells at his sister that he knows she’s not a monster — he’s seen the way she loves her children. So it’s time for her to think of the baby she’s carrying right now, and do the only sane thing: surrender before Daenerys roasts her ass.
Instead, Cersei turns to Missandei and instructs her that if she has any last words, now is the time. And to that end, Missandei yells, “DRACARYS!” right before FrankenMountain lops off her head with one swing of his sword.
OH, CERSEI, YOU DONE DID IT NOW.
As I noted above, this week and weekend have been A LOT. So I’m posting this recap now and putting a pin in the commentary until I can get a solid night of sleep. Hopefully, I will be able to post something early this week, but I will certainly repost this post as soon as I do. I’m sorry, I know I suck, but real life be hard sometimes.
In the meantime, comfort yourself with the knowledge that in another universe, this is happening:
So. Look. I’m not going to get into any theorizing in this post. I’ve already watched the next episode, so I know what is about to happen and to pretend otherwise is silly. I try very hard to finish my posts before the next episode of any show airs, and if I can’t, I avoid watching the new episode until I’ve written my post because I don’t want what happens in the new episode to color what I write about the previous one. That’s proving impossible with Game of Thrones this season, in part because I’m having a busy May but in large part because there’s no way to avoid being spoiled, and also because it is such a short season. I don’t have time to go back and do three posts in a week like I can with Real Housewives.
Which brings me to my principal complaint about this episode: it is episode four of a six episode season, but this should have been episodes four and five. (Actually, this should have been episodes 1 and 2 of season 8, but that’s a conversation I’m saving for the next entry.) There was at least two episodes worth of show here — the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell, and then Daenerys’ return to Dragonstone. But because Benioff and Weiss are in some race with only themselves to end this show, it was all crammed into one ultimately frustrating episode.
I don’t want to be entirely negative — there were moments in this episode that were satisfying and rang true. Gendry’s big moment and Arya’s gentle rejection of him, in particular, was a well-written conclusion to their story. I appreciated Sansa being, once again, the only reasonable voice in the room when she argued that the troops needed more time to recover (and she was correct, at least where Rhaegal was concerned). Some people were angry about Daenerys begging Jon not to reveal his secret, but I thought the scene rang true to both of their characters: he’s the only person she can be vulnerable with, and him not revealing this secret meant just that much to her. And I enjoyed the feast scene as much as anyone, particularly the not-so-subtle reminders to both Daenerys and the audience that this is a patriarchal society that is not going to embrace her so readily.
But speaking of the patriarchy, we need to talk about what is going on with our female characters in this episode. In too many places, it felt like male writers weren’t writing actual strong female characters, but instead were giving lip service to feminism and the idea of strong women. The best example of this is the conversation between Sansa and The Hound. It’s a necessary scene: these two characters need to acknowledge their relationship and say their goodbyes in their own way. But it was wholly unnecessary to make it so explicit that Sansa considers her rape to be what made her strong. While I agree that Sansa’s character had been through a lot, and that the sum of her experiences with the Lannisters, Littlefinger and Ramsay made her into the shrewd and intelligent woman that she is, the writing could have been more sensitive so as to not equate her strength with having been brutally victimized.
I’ve never had a problem with the use of rape on the series. I’ve always argued that it was not gratuitous but rather a reminder that this world is a dangerous place for women, and to establish just how much more is stacked against our female characters. It’s like that Ginger Rogers quote about how she did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and with the constant threat of being raped. Or something. That said, using rape as character development — either to strengthen a victimized character or to motivate a male character into action — is not just a tired trope, it’s a dangerous one that suggests, however subtly, that there is an upside to rape. And more than that, it’s just so easily to avoid.
Similarly, there are the problems with Missandei’s death. First, people are mad that they killed the woman of color on the show. Let me be clear, I’m not mad that they killed a woman of color on the show. I’m mad that Missandei was the only woman of color on the show. But more than that, I’m mad that they turned Missandei (regardless of color) into a woman in a refrigerator. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “women in refrigerators” are female characters who are murdered, raped, injured or otherwise victimized so as to move forward a male character’s arc.
Now, I’m sure Benioff and Weiss convinced themselves that they avoided the trope, because it’s not just Grey Worm who is being motivated by Missandei’s death, but Daenerys, too. And I’m also sure they felt really great about giving Missandei that defiant last moment, screaming “DRACARYS!” But ultimately, Missandei is just being used to push other characters’ stories along. And the thing is, her death at Cersei’s hand wouldn’t have been that infuriating had Missandei had any real scenes of her own this season, or even one scene alone with Daenerys, a scene that might have been able to help establish Daenerys’ increasing paranoia and fear that she’s never going to be accepted in this strange land. It would have solved a lot of problems all at the same time.
But, like I said, they’re in a rush. We had to get this season done in 6 episodes rather than 7 or 8 or 10. FOR NO GODDAMNED GOOD REASON.
And then there’s Brienne.
It’s profoundly disappointing that the last we see of her (I mean, hopefully not forever — I assume we will see her again in the finale), she’s sobbing over a man, a man she’s only really been with for what — two days?
So let’s talk about this whole Jaime and Brienne thing. On the one hand, it’s not as though Brienne is asexual — she definitely had an unrequited crush on Renly, and there was a spark between her and Jaime. But for five seasons, that spark was something born out of begrudging respect both of them had towards one another, and the climax of that should have been his knighting of her. Not with an actual climax. Having Jaime and Brienne make it physical, it’s just cheap fan service.
And here’s the part where this commentary is changed by virtue of my having seen the next episode. Because had I written this a week ago, I would have said that the only way Brienne and Jaime’s relationship becoming sexual is halfway redeemable and not a complete betrayal of BOTH characters is that it could be considered part of Jaime’s overall hero’s arc. That the writers needed to make their relationship something more than just respectful peers so that once Jaime hears that Cersei has gained an advantage over Daenerys by killing her dragon and taking Missandei hostage, he has to make a real sacrifice. In that moment, Jaime realizes that he is the only person who can stop his sister, and therefore he has to tear himself away from the only woman who made him feel like a good person, the only one who saw his true self, and go do the final right thing: kill his sister.
AT LEAST THAT’S HOW I INTERPRETED THIS SCENE BEFORE I SAW THIS PAST EPISODE.
But we can talk about that more in the next post.
A couple of final things that irritated me about this episode, things that could have been included had they not decided to cram everything into one episode. I’m not going to bitch too much about Sea Pacey’s assault on Daenerys except to ask … how long, exactly, did he sit out there waiting for her to return to Dragonstone? A day? A week? A month? Whatever. They wanted to shock us with Rhaegal’s death, and mission accomplished. BUT HAD THIS BEEN ITS OWN EPISODE INSTEAD OF TACKED ON AT THE END OF ANOTHER, MAYBE WE COULD HAVE EXPLORED THIS WHOLE SEQUENCE MORE. MAYBE WE COULD HAVE SEEN MISSANDEI GET CAPTURED. MAYBE SHE COULD HAVE HAD A SCENE OF HER OWN WITH SEA PACEY AND NOT JUST BEEN USED AS A GODDAMNED PROP FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO EMOTE OVER.
No, the thing that bothered me (although it might have been an inadvertent spoiler of a sort now that I think about it) was that Jon had all these big goodbyes with Tormund, Samwell and Gilly, but that we didn’t see him say goodbye to his sibling-cousins. After being separated for years, after all this trauma and strum and drang, Jon and Arya are just going to Irish goodbye Sansa and Bran? For real? “THE LAST OF THE STARKS” IS THE FUCKING TITLE OF THE EPISODE.
I mean, I sorta kinda get Arya sneaking away, as I’m sure she worried that one of her siblings might try to stop her. But Jon is going off to battle, isn’t anyone worried that they’ll never see him again? Perhaps the lack of a goodbye scene between the Starks accidentally telegraphs that it won’t be the last time Jon or Arya see their siblings or each other, but it just feels all wrong and it is 100% because we are rushing through the season. For reasons no one can explain to me.
And speaking of wrong:
EVEN IF YOU CHOSE TO MAKE THIS CRAP DECISION TO HAVE JON JUST UP AND ABANDON HIS DIREWOLF, EVEN IF THAT MADE ANY SENSE AT ALL, YOU HAVE TO HAVE HIM SAY GOODBYE TO GHOST. HE HAS TO PAT HIM OR HUG HIM OR SOMETHING. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO FILM WOLVES OR ABOUT YOUR CGI COSTS WHICH IS A COMPLETE BULLSHIT EXCUSE ANYWAY CONSIDERING WE JUST SPENT 80 MINUTES WATCHING — SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT EPISODE BUT WHO ARE WE EVEN KIDDING — A DRAGON FLYING AROUND BURNING ALL THE SHIT DOWN, YOU COULD HAVE USED 1% OF THAT BUDGET TO HAVE JON SNOW GO BOOP GHOST ON THE NOSE JUST ONE LAST TIME. COME. THE. FUCK. ON.
I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THIS SHOW.
And get ready, because I have A LOT MORE SCREAMING TO DO ABOUT THIS NEXT EPISODE.
Game of Thrones airs on HBO on Sundays at 8 p.m./9 p.m., CST/EST