An eighty-minute episode, written by the show’s creators and showrunners, featuring a whole host of twists, turns, and eye-candy, closed out the penultimate season of GoT. And as with much of this season, girls rule the world and sisters are doing it for themselves (literally in the case of the Starks). As always, spoilers ahead.
Forget A Clash of Kings (the second novel in the series of A Song of Ice and Fire that climaxes in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, for those of you who only know the HBO series), season seven was a clash of queens: Cersei, Daenerys, and the Sisters Stark (although Arya admits she isn’t a queen, nor even a lady - just the most dangerous person below the Wall and above King’s Landing). Indeed - rule one of Westeros now is don’t mess with the ladies. Just ask Littlefinger - oops, sorry, you can’t. (Too soon?)
As if to confirm the series’ exhaustion with failed masculinity, the episode begins with a shot of Grey Worm and the Unsullied standing outside King’s Landing whilst Jaime Lannister and Bronn stand above, discussing penises (or lack thereof). “Maybe it is all cocks in the end,” Jaime opines. “And yet your brother has chosen to side with the cockless,” Bronn rejoins. “Yes, he’s always been a champion for the downtrodden.” Jaime has already admitted his army is no match for Daenerys’, especially when the Dothraki go riding through the Unsullied. (Tangentially, I thought this was a beautiful moment - the orderly structure of the companies of the Unsullied being fluidly transversed by the Dothraki - the organized warriors and the unorganized intermixing to show the threat to Westeros from Daenerys’ legions. Visually, it is quite stunning and quite telling!)
The détente that allows Daenerys and Cersei to meet face to face is visually fun. The dragonpit, the garden in which the Targaryens allowed their dragons to devolve to lizard dogs for the public to gawk at, is the site for the historic gathering of everyone but the Sisters Stark, Lyanna Mormont, and Hot Pie. Daenerys, making a power play, ensures Cersei arrives first and must wait for her. (Classic ploy!) Everybody is awkward and tense. Then, Daenerys arrives on a dragon, and the Lannister party are all nervous, except Cersei, who is trying hard to look unimpressed (and might just be unimpressed).
Team Daenerys wants a truce because they believe the war against the Night King is more important. Last week, they lost Viserion getting a wight for show-and-tell, and Team Cersei is unimpressed with the arguments of Team Dany until said wight is unleashed. Then, every team is profoundly terrified and impressed, except for the Hound who is happy to beat the thing down. Euron Greyjoy asks if the dead can swim and, when receiving the answer no, announces he is returning to the Iron Islands. Cersei agrees to a truce and to fight the dead, if Jon Snow agrees to remain neutral in the Queenswar which will follow. Nope, says Jon: turns out he has already bent the knee to Daenerys. Everyone says Jon was a very good boy for being honest, but would it have killed him to lie? Because Cersei must be lying, too. (She is.)
Tyrion, still under sentence of death in Westeros, visits his favorite sister, who decides not to kill him and who “accidentally” reveals she is pregnant. Tyrion argues the importance of a truce. At this point, one should realize she is playing him. She walked away from the negotiations, got information from her enemies, then returns in a gesture of magnanimity and agrees to the truce, with no stipulations or conditions.
Except she is lying! She tells Jaime as soon as the armies head north, her military will reconquer the parts of Westeros that Daenerys has won and then fortify King’s Landing. (Classic ploy!) Shocked! He is shocked that his sister, who blew up a church full of people, betrayed and killed everybody who has looked at her sideways, is going to double-cross her enemies and not keep to the truce or her word! As everyone breathes a sigh of relief and thanks the old gods and the new believing that Cersei saw the light and is working with them, when in reality she is going through a Fingerhut catalog, picking out pikes to put their heads on. Cersei is playing the game of thrones like a master. Jon and Dany argue “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and Cersei says, “Yes, that’s true, but who is the enemy and who is the friend? I want to kill you. The army of the dead want to kill you. Ergo, the dead enemy of my Daenerys is my friend. Oh, and psyche!” Euron Greyjoy is not running away home but is going to Essos to bring the Golden Company back to fight for Cersei. So now, each queen has her own army from Essos, which just makes me think they could have saved on time and transportation cost by just having the war in Essos and agreeing to abide by the outcome. (Proxy war is a classic ploy, but it’s only classic if you do it in someone else’s country!)
Jaime is shocked; so shocked, he risks being killed by the Mountain, something we saw Tyrion do previously. Cersei let both brothers go, but it is all part of her ploy to win the game, Maggy the Frog be damned! Jaime wants to keep the commitment to ride north and fight together on behalf of humanity. But let’s all go Three-Eyed Raven for a sec and take a trip down memory lane: In “The Broken Man” (season six, episode seven), Jaime arrives to take over the siege of Riverrun and talk some sense into the Tullys. He explains that he loves his sister and will do anything and everything he can to return to her quickly, including kill everybody and everything. So, if that guy bails, you know something is going wrong.
So now in this Tolkienesque telenovela, we have two queens with foreign armies ready to rumble, agreeing to set that rumble aside on account of the army of the dead (Cersei agreeing with fingers crossed), and we all separate to get ready for season eight. Oh, they have one more thing in common: their dating pool. Cersei doesn’t need Jaime anymore, because she is ready to be a mommy to their incest baby. Meanwhile, Jon and Dany enjoy an awkward hookup that gives Tyrion pause and makes the rest of the audience now wonder if we’re secretly cool with incest now. Given how things are happening on this show, if Tormund wants to have a chance with Brienne of Tarth, he should tell her they’re cousins.
The Queen in the North is also doing it for herself. Littlefinger’s death struck me as a bit anti-climatic yet still emotionally satisfying, even if I did want to see him turned over to a Bolton cousin for fun. He tried to turn the sisters against each other. Instead, they call everyone into the room, let the Knights of the Vale learn he killed their two previous bosses. He tries to talk his way out of it, but Sansa ain’t listening and Bran is supplying the evidence. Arya slits that honey throat that poured out so many sweet, but lying, words. Mmm mmm good.
Here’s the thing about Bran, though - he’s still learning his powers. He can jump anywhere in time in his mind it seems, anywhere on the planet. He can and should use that one a lot more. He’s just using his power to confirm things we already know. C’mon, Bran. Have some fun. Do something interesting and useful. (Fun callback: a repeated line from when Sansa and Bran were reunited. Sam and Bran meet again. Sam: “What happened to you north of the wall?” Bran: “I became the Three-Eyed Raven.” Sam: “Oh. I don’t know what that is.” If this were a John Carpenter film, every time Bran mentioned he was the Three-Eyed Raven, someone would say, “I don’t know what that is.”)
FUN FACTS FROM THE THREE-EYED RAVEN:
Jon Snow’s real name is Aegon Targaryen, although I bet he keeps going by Jon Snow. “You know nothing, Aegon Targaryen” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way.
Jon has the most legitimate claim on the Iron Throne.
Jon is currently, therefore, having sex with his aunt right now on a ship. They both look like they are enjoying it. Not.
“He needs to know the truth,” Bran tells Sam. “Robert’s rebellion was built on a lie.” Jon needs to be told who he is.
I really, really, really hope when Jon is told who he really is, we get to see it.
Here’s my version:
Bran: Hi, Jon.
Jon: Hi, Bran. This is Daenerys Targaryan. My queen, this is my little brother, Bran.
Bran: I’m the Three-Eyed Raven.
Daenerys: I don’t know what that is.
Bran: Brother, I have some news for you. You are not my brother. You are not father’s son.
Jon: What do you mean?
Bran: You are dad’s sister’s son and the legitimate child of Rhaegar Targaryen.
Bran: You are not a bastard.
Sam: (to self) We must change the name in the history books from “The Battle of the Bastards” to “The Battle of the Bastard and the totally legitimate heir to the Iron Throne!”
[Jon and Dany growing visibly uncomfortable, stop holding hands. Jon looks a little ill.]
Bran: This is good news, why are you not pleased? The mother of dragons is also the aunt of you!
[Jon begins to throw up in his mouth a little].
Bran: Brother, are you ill? Perhaps you ate something last night that is giving you food poisoning? Let me see what you did last night. [His eyes roll up in his head. He is now seeing the past.] Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew! EW! EWWWW! What is wrong with you two? You think Cersei on the throne for a few months has made us all cool with incest all of a sudden? [Jon puts his head in his hands]
Dany: I’m cool with it.
Dany: I’m a Targaryen. It’s what we do.
Jon: That’s so wrong!
Dany: No, Aegon. It’s what we do. You’re a Targaryen, too.
Jon: [the light goes on] Oh, yeah. Excuse me, my queen. [Begins making out with her.]
Bran: I’m out. [Eyes roll back and he wargs inside the mind of a sleeping dog.]
Truth and lies and the lying liars who tell them has actually been a fairly standard theme this season and especially this episode: Jon’s honesty is presented in contrast to Cersei’s deceit. Sansa and Arya’s honesty is presented in contrast with Littlefinger’s lies and manipulations.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER…
Theon Greyjoy finally grows a pair (too soon) and finally fights on the side of righteousness. His countrymen despise him and count Yara as dead. He insists they go rescue her. The men do not want to go out after her. One in particular brutalizes him, telling him to stay down. Theon gets his butt handed to him, until the other gentleman tries to knee him in the groin. You can’t hurt what’s not there, and Theon is able to rally and beat the gent. He smiles when he realizes the one small blessing from his castration is that he cannot be hurt there, which leads to the strength to kill his (superior) opponent who cannot fathom how kneeing a castrati in the groin has no effect. This gives him newfound respect in the eyes of the ironborn who agree with him to go and free Yara.
SPEAKING OF PEOPLE WHOM WE DON’T KNOW IF THEY ARE ALIVE OR DEAD…
Fingers crossed that Tormund Giantsbane and Derek Whats-his-face are on the part of the wall that didn’t fall down and go boom. They are literally having a cliffhanger.
The Wall is there. Night King and zombie Viserion are there. The Wall is not there anymore. Uh-oh.
Army of the dead is now south of the Wall whilst everyone but Cersei’s troops are gathering at or near Winterfell. Pieces have been eliminated. The chessboard has been cleared of all but the final players. Two wars on the way: living versus dead and Jonerys versus Cersei. All of season eight has been set up. And that dragon is pretty sweet. Far more scary now that it’s dead.
The episode is called “The Dragon and the Wolf,” which the internet has taken to refer to both Daenerys and Jon. But what if it refers only to Jon, who is, after all, both dragon (on his father’s side) and wolf (on his mom’s)? The queens are clashing, but the king in the North might be the winner solus.
And we have to wait a year to find out. Now, my night’s work begins. It shall not end until season eight airs. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory, nor watch any other shows.* I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. And I am waiting for this show to return.
* I lied. Imma going to watch other shows. But you’re still my favorite, boo.
Kevin Wetmore is an author and professor at Loyola Marymount University. His books include The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, Post-9/11 Horror in American Cinema, and The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion, and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films. For more information about Kevin, check out his website, Something Wetmore This Way Comes, and to purchase his non-fiction and fiction books, see Amazon.