The last episode of the season was just about all you'd hope for in a setup for the final season, at a macro level. Very Game-of-Thronesian, in that a series of cliches has been set up, and now we get to wonder how many will follow the exciting but predictable path, and how many will be knocked arse-over-teakettle and result in the Monday draining of watercoolers around the world.
Would anyone be truly surprised if Cersei triumphs in the end? Or the Night King? I can't decide if those endings would cement GoT as the most game changing series of all time, or if it would destroy its claim to be among the best shows of all time.
In the book version of The Natural, Roy Hobbs strikes out. The movie ends with a dramatic homerun. On the flip side, the movie version of A Clockwork Orange is far darker than the ending of the novel. What will we have when both versions of Game of Thrones are done (assuming the books are completed)? How much more discussion would be generated by different outcomes, rather than the same outcome?
In order to find out, we'll have to practice the key skill taught to us by the author and the HBO series. We have to wait.
Daenerys brings all her forces to bear in a siege of King's Landing. The Unsullied in their orderly rows, and then the Dothraki in their wild abandon. It looks grim from where Bronn and Jaime are standing, and it seems clear that it would be a miracle for them to withstand the forces arrayed against them...and that's without the dragons.
Daenerys' key advisors are escorted to meet with Cersei and her team at the Dragonpit, which was built by the Targaryens to house their critters where they would be less likely to harm the populace. As we saw in Meereen, dragons don't hesitate to dine on kid (goat) or kid (human) when it suits them. That's why Daeny chained her dragons in Meereen, and it's why the Targaryens built the Dragonpit. More on that in a bit.
Team Daeny consists of Jon Snow, Davos Seaworth, Tyrion Lannister, Sandor Clegane, Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, Missandei, Varys the Spider... and they are joined by Podrick Payne and Brienne of Tarth, who arrived before they did. Tyrion and Podrick have a brief, warm reunion...and surprisingly so do Brienne and the Hound. When last we saw them together, they were having an intense battle to the supposed death, with Brienne the victor. Brienne informs the Hound that Arya is still alive, and in Winterfell. When Clegane asks who is protecting Arya if Brienne is in King's Landing, Brienne replies that Arya doesn't need protection any longer. Damn me if the Hound doesn't have somewhat of a paternal grin at this news.
Bronn and Tyrion's reunion is bluff and hearty and warm, as well. Tyrion pokes at Bronn's commitment to Cersei, and Bronn points out that he has delivered the hated dwarf right into Cersei's hands. And then they admit that they are happy to see each other.
In the Dragonpit, Team Cersei arrives. In addition to Cersei, there is Euron Greyjoy, Qyburn, Jaime Lannister, and Gregor Clegane.
Sandor confronts his brother, wondering what's been done to him. Of course, Gregor is non-responsive. Sandor says to Gregor "You know who's coming for you. You've always known." Presumably that means that Sandor has plans for revenge against his brother. Clegane Bowl still a possibility!
Daenerys arrives, on the back of Drogon. An entrance meant to impress, and intimidate. Keep them waiting, then arrive on the back of the single most powerful creature anyone present has ever seen.
Tyrion begins the discussions, but he's quickly interrupted by Euron. Euron calls out Theon, telling him he will kill Yara if Theon doesn't submit to him right there. When Tyrion suggests that there are bigger issues to discuss, Euron mocks Tyrion's height and points out that dwarves are euthanized on the Iron Islands. Euron is brought to heel by Cersei. It's an awkward beginning, but it has a point that will be revealed later.
Tyrion continues, discussing their obvious antipathy for each other. When Cersei asks why they are meeting if they are going to end up warring with each other no matter what, Jon steps up to explain. He tells them of the army of the dead. Cersei is predictably suspicious of the truce for which they are asking. She doesn't believe the White Walkers exist. She thinks it's a ploy to allow Daeny to consolidate her holdings and build her armies. Tyrion interrupts to point out that they have brought something to show Cersei.
Sandor walks up from the Dragonpit with a box over his shoulders. He sets it down, and carefully opens it. Nothing happens. Sandor kicks the box over, and the dead creature immediately bolts for Cersei's throat. Everyone is so stunned to see this creature that they watch it run for her, but Sandor pulls the chain wrapped around it so that it can't get to Cersei, and then cuts the creature in half. Predictably, Qyburn is fascinated. Jon demonstrates that fire can destroy the dead by burning the hacked off arm of the creature. And he demonstrates that dragonglass can destroy the dead by stabbing its torso.
Cersei is speechless. Daeny says that she too didn't believe it until she saw it with her own eyes. "How many?" asks Jaime, and he's appalled when Daeny replies that there are at least 100,000 in the army of the dead.
Euron gets to his feet and examines the dead. He asks if the dead can swim, and is relieved when the answer is no. He tells Cersei that he's leaving with his fleet. He's going back to the Iron Islands to wait out winter, and he advises Daeny to do the same on Dragonstone. And without further ado, he leaves.
Cersei acknowledges that all of their concerns and suffering would be for naught if they don't band together to fight the dead. She grants the truce...as long as Jon is willing to agree that he won't take up arms against the Lannisters. Cersei lays it on thick, stating that she knows the son of Ned Stark would stay true to his word, so all she needs is his word.
And Jon is part Stark, so of course he tells the truth. He has already pledged himself to Daenerys. There is a quick closeup of Daeny, then Davos, then Tyrion. They know what Jon's damnable devotion to the truth will do to their fragile truce. And it does. Cersei takes her ball and goes home. Brienne tries to convince Jaime to speak to Cersei about it, stating that this is a much bigger issue than houses and loyalty and oaths (which is a pretty big thing for her to admit). Jaime figuratively shrugs his shoulders.
In the aftermath, it's time to dogpile Jon. Davos merely says "I wish you hadn't done that." Daenerys says that her dragon died for nothing. Tyrion plaintively asks if Jon couldn't just lie a little bit.
Jon stands firm. "I'm not going to swear an oath I can't uphold. Talk about my father if you want. Tell me that's the attitude that got him killed. But when enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies, and lies won't help us in this fight."
Tyrion says there is a more immediate problem, in that they are royally screwed. Tyrion decides that he must go speak with Cersei.
Alone with Cersei, Tyrion has to get past the blind hatred and anger his sister has for him. He plays a dangerous game. He basically dares her to have him killed right there. She wants to. That's clear. But ultimately she decides it would be a bad move. Tyrion gulps wine in relief. He pours her a glass, too, which she doesn't touch.
Cersei talks about the impulses she felt when the dead came at her. About how she just wanted to save who matters most to her. She says, clutching her belly, that Euron had the right idea about just getting on a boat and leaving. Tyrion asserts that she's pregnant.
Back in the Dragonpit, Jon sifts through old dragon bones as Daeny approaches. She tells him that she respects what he did, as she takes the small jawbone from his hand. She states that the Dragonpit was the end of the Targaryens. Dragons were not meant to be slaves, which is the lesson she learned in Meereen. Because her ancestors felt the need to chain their dragons, the dragons became weak and ultimately withered and disappeared, just as the Targaryens became weak and will disappear.
Jon points out that she's not weak, and that the Targaryens are still around. Daeny says she can't have children, so the Targaryens are about to disappear. Jon suggests that Mirri Maz Duur, the woman who murdered Drogo, might not have had the truth uppermost in her mind when she told Daeny she was barren.
Daeny says she can't forget what she saw north of the wall. She also can't ignore that Cersei will march while Daeny's armies are in the north. Jon repeats Tyrion's assessment that they are royally screwed.
But Tyrion returns, and then so does Cersei and her retinue. Cersei says that not only will the truce be put in place, but her armies will march north to fight the dead.
Jon, Daeny and company prepare to marshal their troops and head north. Jon suggests that Daeny and he sail together to White Harbor, meet up with the Dothraki there, and ride together to Winterfell. Jorah cautions that the north will have people who have cause to hate the Targaryens, and that one or two might try to play Gavrilo Princip to her Franz Ferdinand. He suggests she fly Drogon to Winterfell. Jon says it will send a better message to arrive together. Daeny chooses to sail with Jon.
As Jon and Davos depart, Theon catches up to them. He tries to apologize to Jon for all he's done to the Starks, and to explain that choosing between Stark and Greyjoy put him in an impossible position. Jon points out that Ned was a far better father to Theon than was Balon Greyjoy. Theon agrees. Jon points out that Theon betrayed Ned's memory. Theon agrees. A generous Jon states that he doesn't have the right to forgive everything Theon's done, but that he forgives what he can forgive. And he tells him that he doesn't have to choose between Stark and Greyjoy. He's both.
Theon is almost overcome. He says to Jon that Yara is the only one who tried to save him when he was Ramsay's prisoner, and that she needs him now. Jon asks why he's still talking to him then?
Theon finds the Greyjoy men ready to set sail. He tells them they are going to rescue Yara. The leader spits in Theon's face. Karate Kid beach scene ensues, with Theon playing Danny LaRusso pre-Miyagi. He's getting worked over good, to the amusement of the Zabka hangers-on, but he keeps getting up. Finally, the leader tries to finish Theon with a few knees to the groin, but that doesn't work after Ramsay's surgery (this is where the "wax on, wax off" joke falls flat). Theon headbutts the guy, jumps on him and starts wailing away. The men cheer for Theon and agree to try to rescue Yara.
A raven arrives informing Sansa that Jon has bent the knee to Daenerys. Sansa is bitter because Jon didn't consult with her before doing so. Littlefinger points out that Daeny is supposed to be beautiful, and that an alliance would make sense. He also points out that the people who named Jon the King in the North could unname him. Sansa seems tempted, but says that Arya wouldn't go along with it, and that Arya would probably kill Sansa to protect Jon's interests. Littlefinger says that he likes to play a game and assume the worst motive for someone to explain what they say and what they do, and then see if it hangs together in a believable way.
He asks Sansa to assume the worst motive for Arya. Their Q&A leads Sansa to postulate that Arya wants to murder Sansa to become Lady of Winterfell.
Sansa tells a soldier to bring Ayra to the Great Hall. When Arya arrives, Sansa is seated in judgment, with Bran by her side and soldiers lining the walls of the hall. Littlefinger is there as well.
Arya asks Sansa if she really wants to do this. Sansa replies that it's her duty to protect the north from those who would commit betray it.
She says "You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges...Lord Baelish?" Oooooooh - it's a setup!
Baelish plays for time. Sansa starts to enumerate his sins.
You murdered Lysa Arryn by pushing her through the Moon Door. (I was protecting you).
You conspired to murder Jon Arryn. (Your aunt was crazy and you can't believe what she told you).
He conspired to create a conflict between Stark and Lannister. (I don't know what you're talking about).
He conspired with the Lannisters to betray Ned Stark. (None of you were there and none of you saw anything) - Bran spoke up and reminded Littlefinger of not only his actions (holding a knife to Ned's throat) but his words ("I did warn you not to trust me."). Didn't anticipate the three-eyed raven, did you Petyr?
Arya then pulls her Valyrian steel dagger and points out that Petry told Catelyn that the dagger belonged to Tyrion, when really it was Petyr's all along.
Littlefinger casts himself on Sansa's mercy, saying he's tried to protect her. "By selling me to the Boltons?" asks Sansa. She throws his words back in his face regarding playing a game and assuming the worst motive for why someone does what they do and says what they say.
Baelish orders Royce to take him back to the Eyrie. Nope.
He falls to his knees and tells Sansa that he loved her mother since he was a boy. "And yet you betrayed her."
He tells Sansa that he has loved her more than anyone. "And yet you betrayed me."
Sansa reminds him that he told her that justice doesn't exist unless you make it. "Thank you for all your many lessons, Lord Baelish. I will never forget them." And then Arya slashes Littlefinger's throat very casually but decisively. And thus ends one of the better players of the Game of Thrones, who played at a serious disadvantage of birth and circumstances but rose near the top. Undone by his dismissal (or love?) of the naive girl who was witness to so many of his moves in the game.
Samwell Tarly arrives in Winterfell and visits Bran. Bran recalls that Sam helped him get beyond the wall, and Sam asks what happened to Bran north of the wall. Bran tells him that he became the three-eyed raven, and that means he can see the past and the present wherever it may have occurred / be occurring.
Sam explains that he's there to help Jon fight the dead. Bran says Jon needs to know the truth about his parentage, that he's the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. In a demonstration that his knowledge is imperfect, Bran still thinks that Jon is a bastard. But Sam, recalling the passage Gilly read to him, states that Rhaegar legally married Lyanna. It's not enough to be able to see anything past or present...you have to know to look for it. Armed with this knowledge, Bran goes traveling and sees the wedding of Rhaegar and Lyanna. And then listens to what Lyanna whispered to Ned on her deathbed - "His name is Aegon Targaryen."
Bran points out that Robert's Rebellion, which was based on the idea that Lyanna Stark was kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar, was a lie. Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love.
Bran also points out that this makes Jon the heir to the Iron Throne.
Later, Sansa and Arya discuss Littlefinger, and their father, and achieve a kind of peace with each other.
Back in King's Landing
Jaime speaks to his men about troop movements to get north. Cersei interrupts, dismissing the men. She asks Jaime if he's an idiot or a traitor. She has no intention of marching north, despite her words. She's planning to take all the land while Daeny and Jon are distracted in the north. Jaime is livid. He believes that if they betray Daeny, they will lose to either the living or the dead. Cersei wants Jon and Daeny to blunt their strength against the dead, or have the dead blunt their strength against Jon and Daeny, and then swoop in. She intuits that something happened to one of the dragons, because Daeny brought all her forces to King's Landing. She then informs Jaime that she's hired the Golden Company with the aid of the Iron Bank. Euron wasn't running away. He sailed to Essos to bring the mercenaries back to Westeros.
It seems that Cersei never intended to ally with Daeny. All of her words were part of a ploy to convince Daeny that she didn't need to deal with Cersei before heading north.
Jaime says he still intends to ride north to fight the dead. Cersei calls that treason, and Gregor Clegane steps in menacingly. Jamie asks Cersei if she is going to give the order to have him killed, and she seems to do so. Jaime calls her bluff, and walks past Gregor and rides out of King's Landing. Snow begins to fall in the south.
Sailing to White Harbor
Jon knocks on Daeny's door. She lets him in. Brown chicken brown cow.
Tyrion seems concerned by this event. Not sure if it's jealousy, or the possibility of things going awry between the two key leaders, or something else.
Tormund keeps watch from the Wall. The army of the dead have arrived, but they pause...why?
Because they're waiting for the dragon. The new ice dragon (nee Viserion), whose blue breath is as damaging as that of his brethren. The Night King rides the dragon, and whole swathes of the Wall collapse. The dead now have a clear path into the realms of men.
And now we wait.
- Is Cersei really even pregnant? I think she baited both Jaime and Tyrion to mislead them as to her motives.
- What does Daeny do, presuming Jaime manages to give her the news of Cersei's actions? Can she bring a rep from the Iron Bank to see the dead? I'd think they wouldn't want to fund Cersei, since the dead don't borrow money. Or does Littlefinger (i.e. Arya) pay Cersei a visit? If "prince" in High Valyrian has no gender, then perhaps "valonqar" has no gender either, and it means little brother OR little sister?
- What is the deal with Tyrion's expression when he realized Jon was with Daeny in her room? Is a fallout going to occur?
- Jon and Daeny have fallen for each other, no doubt. What changes, if anything, when they find out a) she's his aunt, and b) he has the better claim to the throne?
- The next time we see Tormund, will he be in the Night King's army? Don't see how he survived that massive collapse.