The same piece of music that brought the final moments of The Battle of Ice and Fire to an end plays as we enter episode 4 of Season 8. “The Last of the Starks” seems an ominous title considering there are four of them left.
We begin with great sadness as Daenerys weeps over the loss of her dear friend, and the one man who truly loved her, Ser Jorah. Sansa says her final goodbyes to Theon, Jon to Lyanna, Arya to Beric, Samwell to Edd and the many thousands of soldiers—Dothraki, Unsullied, Wildling and Northerners—who died in the battle. Their bodies are set alight in a very sombre moment then…its time to party! Yep, that’s enough crying, let’s get pissed and get laid.
I have been to quite a few funerals like that, I must admit. I guess the Welsh are pretty medieval in that sense. But hey, if you can’t celebrate surviving a battle in the pitch black and destroying the force which had been feared for thousands of years, what can you celebrate? What I’d like to know is where they got all that ale and wine from? They were out of it the day before; Tyrion drank it all. Maybe the Wildlings picked it up from the local Tesco Express? You think I’m joking, but of course Winterfell does have its own Starbucks so it’s not too far-fetched. (I do love it when faux pas like this happen.)
There is much merriment at Winterfell tonight and everybody is feeling a little fruity. Really, everyone. Even Podrick gets the attention of two young ladies (and boy are they going to have a nice surprise—don’t forget his notorious skills in the bedroom department).
A short but intriguing conversation between Sansa and The Hound takes place. This was actually the first time these two properly conversed. The Hound was originally the awful Joffrey’s bodyguard but always had a soft spot for Sansa, his “Little Bird.” He stopped her from killing Joffrey and saved her from an angry mob. He tells her that she wouldn’t have had to endure Littlefinger or Ramsay if only she had allowed him to take her from King’s Landing when he fled during the Battle of Blackwater. But Sansa knows she’s travelled a darker path for a reason. She’s internalised every lesson she’s learned along the way, from Littlefinger, Joffrey, Ramsay, and The Hound himself. She should never have gone through the things she did, but she reclaimed the power that those men took from her in every instance, and she is now an absurdly powerful woman in her own right. Terrible at keeping secrets, though, but more on that later.
Lord Gendry, high on the power of his new title, surviving the battle, and taking the virginity of the Greatest of All Time, Arya, seeks her out and proposes marriage. Sadly (or not), Arya quickly brings him down from that cloud and tells him that she could never be a Lady—it’s just not who she is—but someone will be very lucky to be his lady one of these days. They kiss and she says her goodbyes. Arya truly is the greatest: no messing about, no playing games like the rest of this power-hungry lot. She heads off, presumably to King’s Landing, accompanied by The Hound.
The Wolf and The Hound. Name a better duo. I’ll wait.
Tyrion, Jaime, and Brienne play a drinking game that leads to the revelation that Brienne is a virgin. She doesn’t really want to talk about that, though. I mean, it is a deeply personal matter so why would she? She excuses herself to the bathroom and Jaime follows, much to Tormund’s heartbreak (which lasts all of five minutes before he’s accosted by a brunette beauty).
I am glad that the writers didn’t just pay service to what the fans wanted in the Tormund/Brienne crush. It was clear that Brienne was never interested in the man and I don’t blame her. As adorable as he is, god he’d be annoying to live with—all that shit talk, tall tales, and pouring ale over his face, I’d be in a constant state of “kill me now.” I can’t say that I high-fived the air when Jaime and Brienne got it on either. Yes, I was glad that this unlikely pairing, who clearly do have very real feelings for each other, finally got together, but I just knew it would end in heartbreak for Brienne, one way or another. She’s already so in love that her usual stoic nature has been torn down. Sex has a lot to answer for.
Later she stands in the cold, in a nightgown, crying and begging him not to leave her. He goes anyway, telling her about all the terrible things he did for Cersei. “She is hateful,” he says, “and so am I.” I am pretty sure he’s not returning home to his sister’s bed, at least not for any reason other than to kill her in it. He may just be the only person who could get that close to her and who she might assume would never do such a thing, especially while she is carrying his child. The hopeless romantic in me wants to believe that now that he realises what true love is, he won’t fall for Cersei’s tricks again.
Since this aired there’s been a lot of talk on the Internet that Daenerys is losing the plot a little. I think that’s pretty unfair. Firstly, it’s not that easy to keep track of the plot. Secondly, you have to remember all she has been through, all the people she loved and lost to get this close to the Iron Throne (which she really should be the next in line for). To have it all fall apart right at the end is pretty soul-destroying. She tries as hard as she can to gain the respect of the people of the North. She even promotes Gendry to Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storm’s End, showing respect for the lineage despite their bloody history and forging a bond between her and the North. She’s not just a pretty face, our Dany.
But no matter what she does, Jon Snow is the North’s chosen one, even if he doesn’t want to be. He commands the respect of every man and woman there. Tormund jokes about him flying around on a dragon, ignoring the fact that Daenerys has been doing this for years. She even created the buggers!
We see Dany do something extremely rare: beg. She pleads with Jon not to tell Sansa and Arya about his real identity, Aegon Targaryen, knowing full well that if people find out they will want Jon to rule, not her. Besides, Northern folk aren’t really keen on incestual relationships. Dany knows that if word gets out, her relationship with Jon as a partner is over. The ever-devoted Jon promises her that he has no interest in ruling and that he won’t tell…and then he does exactly that.
Jon calls a family meeting at the Godswood and tells Sansa and Arya about his true heritage after he makes them promise they won’t let the truth be known publicly. Well done, Jon—you can almost hear the chain reaction happening across the Seven Kingdoms. It takes Sansa roughly five minutes to tell Tyrion. These Starks really aren’t very good at keeping secrets. (That’s not true, of course, as Ned Stark was the world champion of secret keeping.) But the “Little Bird” Sansa knows exactly what she’s playing at; trying to win the Hand of the Queen back over to her side would be a huge win. She has risked the relationship with her brother in betraying him in this way, though, and I for one cannot predict how that may turn out by the end.
Tyrion and Jaime have a brotherly catch-up and it is great to see Tyrion tease Jaime about his height comparison to Brienne. Their banter is rudely interrupted by Bronn, who comes in waving the crossbow about like nobody’s business. He tells them that Cersei has ordered him to kill them, but he gives them a chance to make him a better offer. He’ll join their alliance if they can secure him a better title and keep than Cersei is offering, once they defeat her. Did he just betray the wicked queen of the South? Hell yes he did, good lad.
Battle tactics are discussed and Sansa is one of the few who speaks up against Daenerys’s plan to attack King’s Landing, like, Right Now. Jon is sticking by his Queen’s side and so, of course, are what remains of the Dothraki and Unsullied armies. Varys has his concerns, too. I mean, c’mon Dany. Give the soldiers a rest! Her hunger for power is beginning to become a bit of a problem, but for Dany this is a race against the clock: take the Iron Throne before the world finds out about Jon/Aegon.
Sansa was right. Euron’s fleet was sat waiting for them on the seas surrounding Dragonstone, armed with some seriously large arrow shooters. Daenerys’s attempt to intimidate Cersei backfired tremendously when Euron shot the dragon Rhaegal three times with the arrows, killing him instantly and sending him plummeting into the sea—a truly sad and understated death for the Khaleesi’s child. I wouldn’t be too smug if I were Euron, though. He’s really on Dany’s shitlist now. You just know he’s going to die a truly gruesome death for that. Well, we can hope.
Euron’s not going to let that get him down, though—the crazy-eyed mofo—since he’s just learned that he’s going to be a daddy. Of course, it is not actually his child, but he did plant the seed of wanting to father Queen Cersei’s baby in her mind, which is good enough for her. She’s not stupid. Any woman who has carried a child knows how protective the male gets around them and their inhabited uterus. If and when he finds out that she’s been lying, though, things could get very unpleasant.
Euron destroys the ships Dany’s team have arrived on, and the survivors swim ashore. Grey Worm realises his love Missandei is missing. She has been captured by Cersei and is being held, her life up for ransom.
Back in Winterfell, Jon gets ready to head south and says goodbye to his friends. First Tormund, who is heading up to the far, far North beyond The Wall (which no longer really exists). Then to Samwell and Gilly, who reveal they are having a baby! Cute! That’s bound to end in tragedy. See what you do to us, Game of Thrones? We can’t take any joy at face value anymore.
Then Jon does the most despicable thing that has ever happened in the show: he doesn’t take his direwolf Ghost with him, or even say goodbye. Ok, I totally get the not taking him to King’s Landing part—wolves don’t do well in hot climates—but to not even give him a cuddle? That is harsh, Jon! And very telling. It seems that Jon is quite fond of the fact he is a Targaryen. He chose dragons over wolves at this moment. His actions this episode reveal that he may have more interest in the Iron Throne than he’d like to admit. The thought of such power is tempting indeed, and it ruins even the best of people.
With Dany not listening to the advice of her advisors Tyrion and Varys, the pair sit discussing who should take the Iron Throne. Of all people, Varys, Master of Whispers, now knows the truth about Jon, making what was the world’s best-kept secret now the worst-kept secret ever. Tyrion still believes Daenerys has what it takes to rule but Varys is not so sure. He thinks Jon is the man for the job. It’s a funny thing, I have nothing against Jon, but by god, he would be a dull choice.
Varys knows the sad truth that because Jon Snow is a man, he’ll be taken more seriously. While Tyrion argued the case, this is the reality of the situation and Varys knows that better than anyone.
Tyrion: “Joffrey was a man. I don’t think a cock is a true qualification.”
Varys: “Because he’s a man, yes. Cocks are important, I’m afraid.”
Varys clearly feels Jon is a better option, and it’s heavily implied he has a plan in place to put Jon on the Iron Throne. This scheming will undoubtedly spell the end of his life. Back in Season 7, Varys admitted to Daenerys that he’s not loyal to her or any other monarchs; he’s only loyal to the people. She asked him to look her in the eyes and tell her if she’s failing the people and he agreed. Then she said if he ever went behind her back, she would burn him to death. Varys did what he promised in telling her she was making a mistake, but she ignored him. It left him with little choice.
There is still a major mystery remaining. When Varys was a child, a sorcerer castrated him and threw his severed genitals into a fire. Varys then heard a voice in the flames that shook him to his core, but it has never been revealed what that voice said. However, when Varys encountered the Red Priestess Kinvara in Season 6, she appeared to know what that voice said, and Varys clearly found her unsettling. She told him:
“Terrible things happen for a reason. Take what happened to you, Lord Varys, when you were a child. If not for your mutilation at the hand of a second-rate sorcerer, you wouldn’t be here…knowledge has made you powerful but there’s still so much you don’t know. Do you remember what you heard that night when the sorcerer tossed your parts into the fire? You heard a voice call out from the flames….Should I tell you what the voice said?”
Melisandre also likely knew what was to come. She told Varys that they were both destined to die in Westeros, and she was right about herself (though it’s a bit of a cheat as she did ultimately commit suicide).
I have a feeling that we will find out the words Varys heard from the flames, and it might be his own voice as Dany burns him to death. Creepy. Well, at least if Varys does go down he can die with the honour of knowing he did all he could to make the people’s lives better. He may have been a spider, but he had a good heart. This all made me think of Bran, too, who ominously told Tyrion that he spends most of his time in the past now. Just what is he up to?
At King’s Landing, Dany, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Varys visit Queen Cersei in an attempt to free Missandei. Negotiations begin, but neither Queen is willing to back down. Qyburn and Tyrion talk but get nowhere, so Tyrion bravely steps up to address his sister directly. He attempts to appeal to her maternal side, telling her that she and her baby don’t need to die. But Cersei is far beyond any attempt of manipulation by now. She didn’t lose all her children, her father, and her brother/lover just to give up at this stage.
So she does the vilest thing she could to show her hand: she whispers to Missandei to speak her final words if she has any. Missandei calls out, “Dracarys!” before The Mountain decapitates her in front of her true love, Grey Worm. Please, Lord, let Grey Worm get some sweet revenge for this. Nothing will make up for it, of course, but this one hurt. Their love was strong and it didn’t matter that he was a eunuch, or that he had been a slave.
I don’t even know what Dany can do at this point. It will be a while before Jon arrives, but if next week’s teaser trailer is anything to go by, Euron looks a bit worried while looking at the sky. This would suggest a flying Daenerys, but I’d be surprised if he was that concerned considering the ease with which he took down Rhaegal. In a throwaway comment at the beginning of the episode, it is mentioned that the people of Dorne have pledged their allegiance to the Dragon Queen. Plus, Yara Greyjoy and her army will no doubt be back to help out. Do they have a big surprise to bring back with them? You can guarantee Dany doesn’t give two hoots about the people of King’s Landing anymore and she is ready to seriously kick some ass. It is going to be a blood bath, and I can’t wait!
Until next week…