This week on the season finale of #GameofThrones: fans cheer for incest, Sansa holds a trial, the ice cookie crumbles, Cersei remains the best.
Spoilers through Game of Thrones 7×07: “The Dragon and the Wolf.”
Game of Thrones has lost its way. The race to finish in eight seasons, as well as the lack of source material, has led Thrones to become a shell of its former self. It was an inevitable shift, moving from political intrigue to high fantasy magic. Years ago, Thrones viewers could expect one or two massive scenes a year, large-scale battles like the Battle of the Blackwater or acts of immeasurable loss like the Red Wedding. Season seven of Game of Thrones has been plagued with catapulting the story forward at a breakneck pace, which in and of itself wouldn’t be an issue, if it didn’t come at the expense of the character development for which Thrones is so well known. On top of that, nearly every episode is jam-packed with epic battles, which again, wouldn’t be an issue if they focused more on storytelling than spectacle. Thrones has certainly been entertaining television this season, with a few great moments, but I’d wager that upon rewatch, the season won’t be as fulfilling as the earlier years.
Never has so many Thrones main characters been in the same place before. Anytime Thrones characters gather it usually ends in a bloody wedding, a large battle, or an explosion. Luckily for our heroes, that isn’t the case at the Dragonpit meeting. No one dies. In fact, you might even call the meeting…cordial. Even Cersei was on her best (ish) behavior. Sure, Dany didn’t help settle the tension by riding in on a freaking dragon. What did they do? Ride the boat from Eastwatch to Dragonstone and then stop off so Dany could get on Drogon to make an entrance?
The Dragonpit meeting brings together several pairings we haven’t seen in years: Tyrion and Bronn, Jaime and Brienne, the Hound and the Mountain, Jon and his fear of human interaction. For the most part, each reunion is…acceptable. The Hound threatening his undead brother felt more like fanservice than something that might occur naturally, which has been a trend in the seventh season. But the best reunion of the bunch was between the Hound and Brienne. Their last meeting ended with Brienne throwing Sandor off a cliff, but his near-death experience has lightened his attitude a bit and he’s just happy to hear that his murder daughter Arya is doing well and definitely not plotting to kill her sister.
Jon breaks out the undead demonstration, showing Cersei and the rest of the King’s Landing elite what they face if the Night King breaches the wall. Jaime is too old for all the mystical nonsense he’s had to fight in recent weeks and he’s ready to tell Cersei they need to just move. Euron pees his pants and peaces out of the arena, but not before reminding Little Theon that he still has his sister.
Cersei, in a rare moment of kindness, agrees to let Dany have her truce to fight off the undead in the north, but only if Jon Snuh pledges to remain neutral in the war for the Iron Throne. Jon, proving that nurture is stronger than nature and that he is ever Ned Stark’s son, he stupidly admits he’s already sworn allegiance to Dany. Cersei’s head explodes because even she can’t believe that Jon would admit that fact and she storms off singing “No good deed goes unpunished” until she reaches the Red Keep.
The Drumhead Trial of Littlefinger
After the inane journey beyond the wall, Arya and Sansa’s journey this season has been the biggest “what the fuck” in terms of storytelling. Since the end of last week’s episode, I’ve been trying to figure out the point of Arya and Sansa’s spat that ended with Arya threatening to wear her sister’s face. It turns out, that was a genuine argument between the sisters and not for Littlefinger’s entrapment and now I’m even MORE confused at what’s going on with the Thrones writing.
Last year, it seemed as though the writers didn’t know what to do with Arya and her Faceless Man training, resulting in the ridiculous chase through Braavos and Arya happily saying goodbye to Jaqen H’ghar. This year, they’ve taken that happy-go-lucky murderer and turned her against her sister, for reasons even I can’t explain.
One of the things Thrones has struggled with of late is whether or not a scene makes sense in terms of a character. Arya’s arc hasn’t made much sense since her arrival to Braavos and her subsequent return to Westeros has only added to the confusion of who, or what, she is. Moreover, Sansa finding the “bag of faces” only raises more questions about Arya’s training. Much like Star Wars introducing the midichlorians, Arya’s bag of faces ruins some of the magic behind the scenes. If all she has to do to “become someone” is wear their face, how does her body change? What kind of toll does this magic take on her and her soul? By showing more elements of the craft, Thrones opens up a new can of “what the hell” element that they certainly don’t have the time to explain.
Midway through the episode it seems as though Sansa still trusts Littlefinger’s advice. There are hints that she might not trust his actions but mostly, her one-on-one sessions seem stupid when compared to how she acts around Arya. By the time Sansa brings Arya in for trial and turns the act on Littlefinger, it’s satisfying in the moment, but upon further inspection, it asks more questions than it answers. When did Sansa plan this turn of events? Judging by news of a cut scene in which Sansa turns to Bran for help, it’s clear that she hasn’t been playing the long con with her mentor and instead it was a spur of the moment decision. This means that all of the arguments between Arya and Sansa were real and not a ploy to make Littlefinger think they were at each other’s throats. So how do you explain Arya’s ridiculous actions, then? It seems we’re supposed to just overlook those huge character flaws and instead focus on the fact that Littlefinger finally got his?
It’s one thing if Sansa had been biding her time to build a case against Littlefinger. Using Arya’s ability to wear faces and acquire proof of his misdeeds would have been one thing, but this setup just seemed like Bran spilled the beans, confirming Sansa’s theories, and then they trapped him in the great hall. It’s no secret that all of the lords already distrust and despise Littlefinger, but given the Stark history of being betrayed by their own lords, it seems in poor taste to do the same. Or maybe they had evidence and it was shown to all the lords behind the scenes, but for as awesome as it was to watch Littlefinger meet his end, I can’t help but wonder if that entire arc could have gone a bit differently. At least in way that doesn’t make Sansa and Arya seem like children who haven’t learned from their previous mistakes. But man I did love Arya’s smug little face when Sansa pinned Littlefinger’s receipts to the wall:
Also, I kind of hate that Bran seemed to know Littlefinger was an evil dude who manipulated most of the kingdom BEFORE all of this went down and it seems like it was up to Sansa to come to him for the truth. Was he just going to let Littlefinger intercede and get one of his sisters killed? I know he’s BranBot now, but come on, little dude.
Did Cersei Manipulate Tyrion?
After Jon completely flunks Diplomacy 101, Tyrion meets with Cersei mano a vino to try to make things right. And here’s the thing about Cersei: by coming to her alone, Tyrion proves to the Queen that she holds an immense amount of power. Prior to the Dragonpit meeting, Cersei may have doubted her role in Westeros. Jaime may have cast shadows on their failing legacy, but Tyrion pleading with Cersei to show mercy was the move she needed to put her plan into action, so she ups the ante.
Cersei is an amazing actress. Early on she teaches Sansa to use what men cannot: feminine wiles. And boy does Tyrion fall mercy to his sister’s emotions. She doesn’t drink the wine he offers, she gently touches her stomach, she plays up the legacy talk. She doesn’t overtly say she’s pregnant. That would give Tyrion pause, but she lets him think he’s clever for guessing it.
Once Tyrion does, it’s up to Cersei to play up the one quality she knows Tyrion admires: her love for her children. With the guilt of Tommen and Myrcella’s death heavy on his heart, and the complete destruction of the Lannister army at the hands of Dany’s dragons, Tyrion feels he owes it to Cersei to protect the last bastion of hope for the Lannister line. He knows his sister is a monster but he also knows that if he wants the Lannisters to survive this war, he needs to protect her.
And Cersei knows it, too.
We don’t see the deal that Tyrion cuts with Cersei. We can only guess from Cersei’s smug face and Tyrion’s disheveled state that he cut a deal with the devil that he didn’t really want to make. My guess is that since Dany’s inability to have children has weighed on Tyrion’s ability to guide her, he probably told Cersei that he would make the Lannister child Dany’s heir. Or at least have Dany consider the child. It doesn’t seem likely that Dany would, but Cersei knows that if Tyrion makes a promise, he’ll do what he can to uphold that deal.
A deal like that might explain Tyrion’s sadness when Jon shows up at Dany’s door, all sex eyes and orphan loneliness, but I posit that with Bran’s voiceover, it’s another kind of warning. All over Westeros, love has been the downfall of great nations. Robb Stark crippled Stark rule in the north by marrying for love and not honor. Rhaegar propelled that entire continent into war because he loved Lyanna Stark. Basically: Starks should not be allowed to love. Love spells dangerous things for rulers, especially when those rulers hold as much power as both Dany and Jon. How will Jon’s lords react when they learn that not only has he bent the knee, but he’s in a relationship with the Mother of Dragons? Tyrion sees the danger in a romance between the two, even if they don’t.
Game of Thrones is at its best when it does the political intrigue. Scenes like the one between Cersei and Tyrion or Jaime and Cersei are highlights because it forces the characters to make tough decisions. In both scenes, Cersei has the opportunity to kill her brothers and twice she chooses not to. Tyrion, she opts not to kill because it would be political suicide at this point and with Jaime, she hesitates out of love. These are great moments for the characters that don’t rely on CGI dragons to make them stand out. Jaime’s scene, in particular, is great television because given Cersei’s volatile history, it seems almost inevitable that she would respond in a way that says, “If I can’t have you, no one can.” But she doesn’t. And even Jaime is shocked by the result. As much as I love the battles, these are the scenes that make Thrones better.
Game of Thrones XXX edition
Since Jon and Dany were introduced like four episodes ago, they have been careening toward a romance for the ages and all the while, fans knew that Jon was Dany’s nephew. I’m not sure if it’s just that fact that puts a damper on the romance or that it was forced to happen over the course of four episodes, but I do know that I am not a fan. Sure, Jon and Dany are two pretty people in two powerful positions in Westeros. Sure, that scene discussing Dany’s inability to have children was a step in the right direction. We needed to see more scenes with the two of them not being leaders and just being their vulnerable selves.
Instead of having the two be leaders who simply get along, the romance is inevitable and once on board the ship sailing for White Harbor, Jon goes to Dany’s door and without words, the two have sex. The scene is beautiful, even with Bran creepily narrating their relationship, it’s romantic. The music is soft, the touches are tender, the lighting is gentle. Were it any other couple on Thrones, it would have been stunning. But the fact that Bran spilled the familial beans just as Jon was getting down to business absolutely ruined the moment.
BRAN. THAT’S WHY YOU ALWAYS LEAVE A NOTE. SEND A RAVEN, BRAN. PLEASE.
And maybe that was the point. Maybe Jon, the man who was so concerned with fathering a bastard, who was so concerned about putting duty and honor before everything else, is meant to act recklessly this one time. Maybe he was so consumed by his failings at the Dragonpit that he decided to act outside his usual self. It’s understandable, if only they had shown it as such. In the end, we learn that Jon and Dany are both as pretty naked as they are clothed, Jon has a nice butt, and we’re all just going to be okay about this incest thing, I guess.
Beyond the wall, the Night King is out NOT have sex with his aunt, and hey, because of that, I kind of feel like I have to root for the guy. He seems like he takes pretty good care of his one hundred thousand or so followers and now he’s adopted a new pet, so that makes him more appealing. The Night King (who gave him that name?) takes UnViserion out for a quick stroll around the wall and they accidentally knock it down with some blue fire magic that it’s probably better that Thrones doesn’t explains. Unfortunately, Tormund and Beric are caught atop the wall as it crumbles down into the ocean and at the end, it’s unclear if they survived the fall. My guess is that Beric will give his life force to Tormund somehow so that beautiful ginger can head south to Winterfell to warn the Starks and then make babies with Brienne. BECAUSE THEY AREN’T RELATED AND THAT’S HOW I’D PREFER THINGS TO BE.
Grey Worm is alive! Thank goodness.
I love the parallels between Jon and Theon. They’re both raised in Ned Stark’s household as young boys who are told often that they aren’t Starks. Jon goes one way with that knowledge and Theon goes takes the other, darker route. And now they’re both coming to terms with what it means to grow up a Stark. A lot of people hate Theon, even with his ongoing redemption arc, but goodness it’s a beauty to watch. Alfie Allen, after Lena Headey, is the best actor on the show. The little twitches his gives Theon, the anxious movements, the scared looks in his eyes, all phenomenal work.
I’m happy to see Sansa and Arya getting along like I knew they could. I’m just sad that Arya genuinely threatened to wear Sansa’s face before they could come to terms with their respective pasts. I guess family is more complicated than I imagined.
This was totally Qyburn when he saw the wight in King’s Landing:
Game of Thrones returns to HBO….we don’t know when. Sometime in the far future. Because HBO hates us almost as much as GRRM does.