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Game of Thrones - The Last of the Starks - Review

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My apologies for the lateness of this review of Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch due to being out of my home country and in – ironically – the home of Game of Thrones, Belfast – but better late than never, right? Let’s dive in to “The Last of the Starks” written by showrunners David Benioff and DG Weiss and directed by David Nutter. Also somewhat ironically, Benioff and Weiss seem to have plummeted in their fortunes as we see Gendry’s (Joe Dempsie) fortunes rise in this episode…

The recap ends with the deaths of all those we lost in “The Long Night,” and this episode begins with a tribute to them and the burning of their bodies. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) says good bye to Jorah (Iain Glenn). She whispers something in his ear that we can’t quite see as her mouth is hidden by his face – is she telling him that she loves him?

Sansa (Sophie Turner) cries over Theon’s (Alfie Allen) body and slips her own Stark pin into his breastplate. It’s a lovely way of acknowledging him as her brother. She more than anyone can understand all that he’s been through – the thirst for power and then the descent into torture to emerge stronger on the other side. I’m very happy that Theon at least gets the redemptive arc we’ve been wanting.

Daenerys returns to the onlookers to stand between Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Varys (Conleth Hill), and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) – the remaining few of her personal circle… We finally see Ghost in the crowd – looking battered and missing an ear. Jon (Kit Harington) delivers the eulogy, emphasizing that they are honoring the dead – men and women – who came together, set aside their differences and fought and died together do that others might live. Jon tells them that those who are left must honor the dead by keeping their memory alive – for as long as men draw breath.

Arya (Maisie Williams) lights Beric’s (Richard Dormer) pyre; Sam (John Bradley) lights Eddison’s (Ben Crompton); Jon lights Lyanna Mormont’s (Bella Ramsey); Grey Worm lights the Dothraki pyre; and Daenerys lights Jorah’s. Once again, the music takes center stage in this scene as the smoke gradually obscures our view and we transition to the banquet being held. It’s a somber affair.

Gendry hilariously goes to the Hound (Rory McCain), looking for Arya. The Hound knows exactly what Gendry is thinking and I loved him calling him on it! But the Hound isn’t disturbed about it – he’s pragmatic. The dead are dead, but Gendry isn’t.

Before he can leave the hall, Daenerys stops him and names him Robert Baratheon’s son in front of the entire hall. She points out that Gendry’s father took her family’s throne and tried to have her murdered. Gendry points out that he didn’t know he was his father until after Robert was dead – to which Daenerys points out that Robert AND his brothers are dead. She asks him who is Lord of Storm’s End now? He says he has no idea, and she asks the assembled crowd if anyone knows.

The crowd looks uneasy, and then Daenerys makes him Lord of Storm’s End – everyone is stunned. But Davos (Liam Cunningham) is first on his feet to toast Gendry – and the entire mood of the banquet changes. Tyrion points out that it’s a fitting reward for a hero – and ensures his loyalty. Daenerys counters that he’s not the only one who’s clever. And then there’s an interesting look that passes between Tyrion and Sansa – who has also become quite clever. She sees what Daenerys has done as well, including changing the tone of the room.

Davos tells Tyrion about Melisandre’s end. Davos is still confused about the Lord of Light. Tyrion points out that they might have defeated the dead – but their jobs aren’t over yet. Tyrion also spends a moment with Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and tells him that his wheelchair is even more clever than the saddle Tryion designed for him – it’s a nice call back to the early episodes. Bran tells him it’s an exact replica of one built by Daryn Targaryen built for his crippled nephew 120 years ago. Tyrion remarks that Bran knows their history better than anyone, and it will prove useful as Lord of Winterfell – but of course, Bran has no intention of ever being Lord of Winterfell. He tells Tyrion that he doesn’t really want anymore – but Tyrion shouldn’t envy him because he mostly lives in the past.

Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) tries to get Jon to celebrate with him. I loved Jon telling Tormund that vomiting was not celebrating, and Tormund telling him “Yes it is!” Tormund toasts the Dragon Queen and Daenerys toasts Ayra Stark – the hero of Winterfell. Even the Hound can get behind that one. Sansa watches the smile between Jon and Daenerys and leaves the high table.

Jon is surrounded by the Wildlings as Tormund goes on and on about his friend – he’s little, but he’s strong! Strong enough to befriend an enemy and not stay dead! Hivju is hilarious as he goes on and on about how Jon kept fighting – here, north of the wall, here again! And what kind of a person climbs on a dragon? A mad man! And doesn’t that just drip with irony?! Meanwhile, Daenerys sits alone looking increasingly unhappy. Varys alone watches her – and notices as she also notes Tyrion drinking with his brother. Varys follows as she leaves the hall.

Gwendoline Christie (Brienne) is simply magnificent in this episode as we see that other, incredibly vulnerable and almost child-like side of her. Has she finally won her prince and her happiness? It’s even more painful to watch knowing where it’s going. She and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) play a drinking game with Tyrion and Pod (Daniel Portman). The game is hilarious until Tyrion calls Brienne on being a virgin. She claims that she has to piss and gets up without answering.

Oh Tormund. Could your timing be any worse? I think not. He picks that very moment to accost the love of his life. Brienne pardons herself, and Tormund makes to follow her, but he’s stopped – bodily – by Jaime. He pats his arm and in a single look completely dashes Tormund’s hope (AND MINE!!!!). Tyrion confirms it by pouring his wine in Tormund’s cup and Pod just smiles at him. Poor Tormund! He’s still the better man….

It’s hilarious as Tormund pours his heart out to the Hound. He declares his heart is broken – but quickly seems to recover as one of the serving girls declares that she’s not afraid of Wildlings. The Hound is not to be tempted, however.

Sansa takes the opportunity to have a moment with the Hound. She tells him that he could have been happy – but he knows that’s fleeting. He knows what his purpose is – and so do we even if he doesn’t share it with Sansa. She looks him full in the face, and he remarks that it used to be that she couldn’t look at him. She points out it was long ago and that she’s seen much worse than him since then. He tries to push her away by saying he’d heard that she got broken in rough.

Sansa tells the Hound that “he got what he deserved” – and it was at her hands – with hounds – and I’d never made that connection before. The Hound actually laughs at that and remarks that Little Bird has changed. He also says that none of it – Little Finger or Ramsay – would have happened if she’d gone with him. He’s surprised when she reaches out to squeeze his hand, and she points out that without all of that she would have stayed a little bird all her life – and we come back to the theme of how our history shapes us for what we must become.

Gendry finds Arya practicing her archery – her way of celebrating. He tells her about his new identity. She congratulates him and is clearly pleased. Gendry kisses her and tells her that he doesn’t know how to be Lord of anything – and then he proposes. He even goes down on one knee to ask her to be the Lady of Storm’s End. She kisses him and pulls him to his feet. She tells him that he’ll be a wonderful Lord and any Lady will be lucky to have him, but she’s not a Lady – she never has been. That’s not her. I can’t help but wonder if she will change her mind.

Jaime comes to Brienne’s rooms and accuses her of not drinking. She does seem remarkably sober though she says she did drink in the game. Jaime seems a lot less sober as he makes her drink more. He complains that her chambers are too hot, and she explains that the first thing she learned in the North was to always keep the fire going. Jaime remarks that he hates the North, but Brienne says it’s grown on her.

Jaime then throws Tormund in her face – has he grown on her? He tells her that Tormund was very sad when she left. Brienne points out that Jaime sounds quite jealous – and it seems to be a revelation to him. The two help each other undress, and Jaime says he’s never slept with a Knight before. Brienne confesses that she’s never slept with anyone before – finally answering Tyrion’s question.

Daenerys comes to Jon’s chambers – he’s only a little drunk. He tries to comfort her about Jorah. She confesses that he loved her, but she couldn’t love him back – not the way he wanted or the way she loves Jon. The two kiss, and it looks like Jon is going to ignore what he knows, but he breaks it off. Daenerys wishes he’d never told her, if he hadn’t, she’d be happy. She saw how the others looked at him and she knows what it means. It doesn’t matter what Jon wants – they will force him to press his claim. She tells him to tell no one else and to swear Bran and Sam to secrecy. It will take on a life of its own if he doesn’t.

Jon insists that he has to tell Sansa and Arya. Daenerys clearly has a better handle on who Sansa is! Daenerys of anyone knows exactly what has forged Sansa – what she’s seen and what was done to her – the two are so much alike! But Jon – who is often too honorable for his own – or anyone else’s good – insists that he owes them the truth. Daenerys insists that the truth will destroy them. Daenerys even begs him not to do it. He insists that she is his Queen and nothing will change that. He also insists that his family can live with them – and Daenerys tells him that she’s just told him how. Once again, when he won’t bend to her will, she hardens herself. How many times can she be expected to submit to a man’s insistence that he is right – when we all know that he is wrong…

Jaime wakes next to a sleeping Brienne – and in the light of a sober morning, he seems to feel regret.

They hold a council of war, and things don’t look too good. Half the Unsullied and half the North are gone. The Golden Company has arrived in King’s Landing. Varys points out that the balance is equal now. Missandei thinks that the people will join them upon learning of the fight with the Night King, but there’s no way that Cersei (Lena Headey) will ever let them hear that story! Daenerys is ready to rip Cersei out “root and stem” already. Tyrion reminds her the plan is not to destroy King’s Landing. Varys tries to add some good news – Yara has retaken the Iron Islands. The Prince of Doorn has pledged his support.

Tyrion still thinks that given the opportunity, the people of King’s Landing will turn against Cersei. He saw them turn when the food was scarce before Winter began. Daenerys looks unconvinced. Jon maintains that the dragons can take care of the Iron Fleet and the armies can take care of any advances on land. Tyrion insists that as soon as the people see that Cersei’s their only enemy, her reign will be over.

Sansa insists that the men who are left are exhausted and need time to rest and recover. Daenerys is prepared to listen but wants specifics which Sansa can’t give – until she talks to the officers. Daenerys points out that she came North to help them – at great cost to herself. Sansa points out that she’s also talking about Daenerys’ army. Daenerys, however, insists that any delay allows her enemies to grow stronger. Sansa looks like she’s ready to push, but Jon jumps in and insists that the North will honor its pledge. Jon turns to Daenerys and tells her “What you command, we shall obey.” Sansa and Arya exchange a look.

Tyrion sums up – if everyone is now in agreement – Jon and Ser Davos will ride down the northern road with the bulk of the army. A smaller group will go to White Harbor and sail to Dragon’s Stone. Ser Jaime is staying as a guest of the Lady of Winterfell. There’s a nice shot of a tiny smile passing over Brienne’s face. Daenerys states that they’ve won the Great War and now they will win the Last War. In all 7 Kingdoms men will live without fear and cruelty (what about the women?? Rather poor writing there….) under their rightful Queen. Sansa doesn’t blink or lower her eyes, but she’s clearly not happy.

Both Sansa and Arya stop Jon before he can leave the room. However, they hold their family meeting in the godswood under the Weirwood Tree. Jon points out that they own their lives to Daenerys, but Sansa points out that Arya was the one who killed the Night King. Sansa still refuses to kneel to anyone, but Jon gave his word. Arya surprises all of them by declaring that she respects what Jon did. She concedes that they needed Daenerys, her army, and her dragons, and that Jon did the right thing. But she also points out that they are doing the right thing by telling Jon that they don’t trust his Queen. Jon insists that they don’t know her yet, but Arya maintains that she never will because she’s not one of them. Jon points out that if you don’t trust people you didn’t grow up with, you won’t need many allies. Arya’s fine with that – she doesn’t need many allies. But the four of them are family. The last of the Starks.

Jon insists that he’s never been a Stark. Both Sansa and Arya are quick to insist that he’s always been their brother. Bran simply tells Jon that it’s his choice. Jon insists that they must swear not to reveal his secret – because they are family. Arya swears without hesitation – and Sansa also swears eventually. Jon asks Bran to tell them.

Tyrion says good bye to Jaime, and enjoys making tall jokes. They toast to climbing mountains. The two are interrupted by Bronn (Jerome Flynn). He’s arrived with the crossbow – and Jaime is the first to be uneasy about it. I’m really sad that they’ve squandered the use of Flynn. It seems that this may be his last scene. He tells them that Cersei has paid him to kill them. Bronn, however, doesn’t feel confident that Cersei is going to win. Tyrion goes back to their old deal – he’ll double Cersei’s offer of River Run by giving him High Garden. Bronn points out that every Lord started from cutthroat beginnings. Tyrion tries to get Bronn to come and fight, but he tells them he might have a few killing days left, but his fighting days are over. He disappears to sit out the war.

The Hound sets out on his own, only to be joined by Arya. Both agree that they don’t like crowds. The Hound points out that she’s a hero now, but she doesn’t like heroes either. I loved the Hound’s comment: “It must have felt good sticking your knife in that horned-fucker.” She simply tells him it felt better than dying. They both have unfinished business in King’s Landing and neither plan on coming back. He asks her if she plans on leaving him to die again if he gets hurt – and they both chuckle as she says probably. It’s another nice call back to the earlier seasons as the two now head in the opposite direction together.

Tyrion takes his leave of Sansa. She asks why her. Tyrion points out that Daenerys loves Jon – and Sansa is quite right that that doesn’t mean she’ll be a good Queen. Tyrion points out that every peaceful reign they’ve had has seen good relations between the North and the Iron Throne. Sansa says that with Jon as Warden of the North, that seems likely. Tyrion points out that it’s unlikely Jon will spend much time in the North – and Sansa says that’s up to him.

Tyrion asks Sansa to look at him as he tells her that he expects that Sansa will be the power in the North and that he’d feel better leaving if he knew that she and Daenerys were allies. Tyrion tells her that they don’t have to be friends, but provoking Daenerys is in no one’s best interests. Sansa accuses Tyrion of being afraid of her, and Tyrion doesn’t deny it, saying every good ruler needs to inspire a bit of fear. Sansa then admits that she’s afraid for Jon – the men in her family have not fared well in the south. Tyrion points out that Jon once told him that he’s not a Stark. Tyrion insists that Daenerys’ people love her and believe in her. He tells her that he believes in Daenerys and that she wants to make the world a better place. And then Sansa calls him back and asks what if there’s someone else, someone better.

Tormund takes his leave of Jon too. Tormund tells him that he’s had enough of the south. It isn’t home and the Free Folk need room to roam. Jon asks Tormund to take Ghost with him. Jon insists Ghost will be happier in the north – and Tormund points out that Jon would be too. Jon declares that it’s farewell and Tormund says you never know – Jon has the real north in him.

Jon also says good bye to Sam and Gilly (Hannah Murray), and as he hugs Gilly, he realizes that she’s pregnant. Sam’s hilarious as he prattle on about how it happened. Gilly tells him that if it’s a boy, they want to name him Jon. And Jon hopes it’s a girl. The two declare that they are the best friends they ever had – and Jon doesn’t even pet Ghost good bye! We get a final tableau at Winterfell of the four Jon leaves behind – is this their last moment in the show???

Tyrion doesn’t keep the news to himself about Jon. He tells Varys. And yes. That’s how rumors are spread. Tyrion points out that Daenerys will lose the North and Sansa will make sure she also loses the Vale. But Varys points out the real problem. Jon has the better claim – and it doesn’t matter what he wants. People are drawn to him and he’s a war hero. Tyrion points out that they could solve their problem by marrying them – they love each other. But Varys points out that she’s his aunt – and EW!!! While a Targaryen might be ok with it, it’s not common practice in the North. And Varys knows that Daenerys does not want to share the throne. Varys worries about her state of mind. Tyrion points out that they are getting ahead of themselves. They still have to take King’s Landing.

And then this episode really does fall apart. Euron (Pilou Asbaek) kills Rhaegal and Daenerys almost gets herself and Drogon killed as well. This comes completely out of left field. Then Euron turns the giant harpoons on Daenerys’ fleet. And Missandei is lost. Taken prisoner. Have any of these people heard of scouting the enemy?

Euron reports to Cersei and she tells him she’s pregnant. It seems she is willing to share her power – at least until she wins. It seems that Cersei is actually looking after her people by bringing them into the Red Keep, but she’s really just using them as a human shield.

Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) pledges to kill everyone in the Red Keep. Varys tries to reason with Daenerys – but she’s now lost another one of her children and her best friend. Varys tells her that Cersei does need to die, but her plan means that tens of thousands of innocents will die. Varys begs her not to destroy the city she vowed to save and not to become what she’s always struggled to defeat. Daenerys states that she’s there to free the world from tyrants and that is her destiny and she vows to serve it no matter the cost.

Varys and Daenerys exchange a look. Conleth Hill is tremendous here – it’s clear that Varys’ hopes have been dashed. Tyrion urges Daenerys to ask Cersei to surrender – it’s still two weeks before Jon will arrive with the army. Daenerys is unwilling at first but finally concedes that it will look better if she’s seen to do everything possible to avoid the bloodshed and Cersei refused – so that they’ll know who to blame when the sky falls down upon them.

Varys and Tyrion talk again. Varys says every tyrant he’s known has talked about destiny. Tyrion continues to defend Daenerys – she walked into a fire with three stones and walked out with three dragons – how could she – and we! – not believe in destiny? Varys, however, has clearly already shifted his allegiance. He asks Tyrion who he thinks would make the better leader – Jon or Daenerys? Varys points out that maybe the best ruler is one who doesn’t want it. Tyrion points out that they are talking treason – even while admitting that he’s thought about it.

Varys goes on to list Jon’s qualifications. He’s a man – the Lords of Westeros will be more comfortable following him. He is both Stark and Targaryen. Tyrion takes a dig at Varys by asking how many kings he’s now served. Tyrion insists that at some point you have to take a side and stand behind the person. It’s interesting given Jaime’s history with the last Targaryen King. Will Tyrion turn out to be the Queen slayer? In this scene, he insists that he believes in their Queen will do the right thing with the help of her loyal advisors – he’s clearly trying to save Varys from himself. Varys, however, remains true to himself too. He reminds Tyrion and us that his loyalty is to the realm. Varys tells Tyrion that he will act in the interests of the nameless thousands regardless of the personal cost. Tyrion asks him “Please don’t.” Varys tells Tyrion he’s spoken as honestly as he can, and now they both must choose wisely.

Jaime sees Sansa and Brienne have news and asks about it. They tell them about the dragon and Missandei. Sansa rubs it in as she says she always wanted to be there when they executed his sister and now it looks like he won’t get the chance.  And here again, the episode fails us.

Jaime leaves Brienne in bed, but she follows him out to his horse. She tries to convince him not to die with his sister. That he’s a good man. To stay with her. Jaime lists his crimes: he pushed a boy out of a window, for Cersei; he strangled his own cousin, just to get back to Cersei; he would have murdered every man, woman, and child in River Run, for Cersei. He admits that she’s hateful – but insists that he is too. Is there any redemption in him not letting Cersei die alone? At this point, I was still hoping that he was going to give her a quick death…. Oh Brienne. You should have chosen Tormund…

The scene at King’s Landing with Daenerys in front of the gates with the Unsullied and Drogon, felt like so many others we have seen with her. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) comes out and meets with Tyrion. Both wear the badge of Hand. The contrast between the two Queens is readily apparent. Cersei wears red and has done everything she can to make herself more manlike – short hair, armored shoulders – yet she’s still letting men use her (Euron). Daenerys retains her long blond hair and wears white, soft fur – but it’s intercut with red. The red scarves coming out of the sleeves are perhaps foreshadowing of her soon to be very bloody hands. Daenerys continues to maintain her dominance. Both demand the other surrender unconditionally.

Tyrion tries to convince Qyburn to help him prevent carnage. He asks Qyburn to help save the people of King’s Landing. Qyburn insists that he is just a mouthpiece for the Queen. Tyrion simply bypasses Qyburn and walks up to the wall to address Cersei directly. Daenerys looks worried as the archers nock their bows. Cersei raises her hand and enjoys their discomfort before dropping it again and releasing the archers. Even Euron is puzzled.

Tyrion tells her that he knows she doesn’t care about her people, but he also declares that she is not a monster. She’s always loved her children – more than herself or Jaime or anything. He begs her – for her child. Her reign is over, but it doesn’t mean her life is or that her baby has to die. I loved the look on Daenerys’ face. Is that empathy? Or is she imagining punishing Cersei as she’s been punished with the loss of a child.

For a moment, I thought that Cersei was going to push Missandei off the wall or perhaps pull her back – and then she asks for her last words. And again, what a waste – but it does set up Grey Worm to also lose his mind. Her last word is Dracarys – which is perfect. The Mountain (Hafbor Julius Bjornssson) steps forward and cuts off her head, both head and body fall to the ground. Cersei looks victorious, but the look on Daenerys face is terrifying. Cersei has no idea of the rage that she’s just unleashed….

This season has been all about how our past makes us who we are in the present. So from that standpoint, I can see why we had to lose both a dragon and Missandei to push Daenerys to lose her way. However, both deaths just felt too abrupt. Jaime finally giving in to his feelings for Brienne only to abandon several seasons of a redemption arc also felt like a misstep. However, I think that it’s important to wait to see how the final pieces play out in this Game of Thrones before judging completely. I am enjoying the attention to detail on costuming and music – abandoned coffee cups notwithstanding. This wasn’t my favorite episode, but great performances her by Conleth Hill, Gwendoline Christie, Kristopfer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, and Rory McCain. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

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