Greetings, and welcome! My name is Ben, and you have stumbled upon the ONLY Game of Thrones recap on the entire internet. Week to week I will be breaking down each episode of season 8, giving out highly prestigious awards, and wrapping everything up with a haiku.
Season 8, Episode 4: “The Last of the Starks”
Plenty of episodes of Game of Thrones don’t do much to move the plot forward, and for a bit over half its 80-minute runtime, “The Last of the Starks” felt like one of them.
But all that changed with one (gigantic) crossbow, which sent Rhaegal crashing to the bottom of the sea.
It seems odd to say, but I do miss those uneventful episodes. It took entire seasons to build to the Battle of Blackwater Bay and the Battle of the Bastards. Yet just one episode removed from what was by all measures the most important battle in the show’s (or Westeros’) history, we are already moving toward another massive confrontation—though this time all the parties involved are at least alive (except for The Mountain, probably).
Much like it was in season 7, the speed at which we are moving is a tad disorienting. Unlike that season, the story has been compelling enough to make me forget about that for the most part.
The episode begins with the mourning of the dead—Jorah, Theon, Lyanna, and thousands of others. Even from the opening shot, you can tell the recent victory has not given Daenerys with any satisfaction. Defeating the dead was necessary, but it meant very little to her personally. As she kisses the body of her longtime protector and advisor farewell, there appears to be a quiet rage building inside of her.
Her rage is only amplified at the subsequent feast “celebrating” the victory in muted fashion, as Tormund and company boisterously discuss Jon’s achievements (who would climb on the back of a dragon but a king indeed), and Jon’s subsequent refusal to keep his lineage from Arya and Sansa. The pair separated soon after—Jon to march south with the remainder of their armies; Dany off on an ill-fated plan to blockade King’s Landing rather than burn it to the ground at the cost of thousands of innocent lives—and it seems likely we’ve seen the last of their scenes together as a potential romantic pairing.
But before Jon leaves, he does indeed meet with the surviving Starks in the Godswood, and lets slip that he isn’t exactly one of them. Or presumably he lets Bran do it. Either way, we are curiously robbed of seeing Sansa and Arya’s reaction to this bombshell (perhaps they had already read up on the fan theories). Regardless, it takes Sansa exactly one scene transition to break her word to Jon about not sharing his secret; she blabs it to Tyrion, who tells Varys, which is as good as sending ravens to all points of the compass. The revelation kicks off a spirited debate between Tyrion (who remains loyal to Dany, either out of fear or stubbornness, or plain misguided trust) and Varys (who claims fealty to the common folk above any one ruler) over who should sit the iron throne. I thought we’d been over this?
No sooner do Daenerys and the blockade ships (carrying Grey Worm, Missandei, Tyrion, and Varys) reach the city than they were ambushed by Euron’s Iron Fleet, Daenerys’ payment for apparently forgetting not one but two of the primary weapons in Cersei’s arsenal (the Iron Fleet; the scorpion crossbows) costs her one of her two remaining children, a handful of her ships, and the counsel of one of her closest advisors in Missandei, who is somehow captured. In three minutes, the playing field is leveled considerably. Assuming Rhaegal is actually dead—it looked pretty definitive but we’re also lated treated to a suspiciously portentous line of dialogue from Euron assuring Cersei he saw the dragon sink beneath the waves, and as this is the same dude who apparently can’t tell how disgusting Cersei obviously finds him, his judgement is perhaps not to be trusted.
The subsequent “negotiations” between the Dragon Queen and the Queen of Westeros—conducted across an open field, with Cersei’s retinue perched atop high and heavily fortified castle walls—doesn’t go much better. After an ineffectual chat with Qyburn (a lovely reminder of just how creepy and matter of fact Cersei’s Hand is) Tyrion tires of his disturbing pragmatism and appeals directly to his older sister. Tyrion begs her to give up the throne and avoid sacrificing another of her children to her quest for power, and Cersei responds by ordering the Mountain to cut off Missandi’s head. Behind Tyrion, Daenerys looks pretty mad, in all connotations of the word. She has been talked out of burning King’s Landing to the ground several times, but after watching a second dragon die and witnessing Missandei ‘s execution, it seems that there might not be anyone left who can convince her to act otherwise.
This show (and it’s source material) has always excelled at inhabiting gray areas, and that’s certainly where we’re going to stay for the rest of the season. Is Varys properly looking out for the realm by attempting to conspire against the queen he spent so long supporting, or is he just a fickle man who will never be happy with any ruler? Is Daenerys truly losing her mind like her father, or is she correct that it will take a horrible act to truly “break the wheel” bring peace to Westeros? (If Varys is as smart as we are to believe he is, he should surely know by now that the man he’d prop up in place of the Dragon Queen has a track record of horrible strategic thinking, as well as ignoring good advice, no?)
Heavy plot lifting aside, before things got crazy in the latter half of the episode, there were actually a few moments of of levity, drunken debauchery, romance, and heartbreak in Winterfell.
The internet has been collectively pining for Jaime and Brienne’s hookup for years, and it was just as awkward as I always imagined it would be. His whole “is it hot in here?” routine was not as smooth as you’d expect from the guy who… has PTSD and is obsessed with his sister, actually, it was probably on point. And while the Kingslayer then choosing to ride off to King’s Landing to save (?) Cersei was obviously tragic for Brienne, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for her—TORMUND WOULD HAVE CHERISHED YOU FOREVER, GIRL!
The many layers of Jaime’s character often make for some good TV. They also make for some frustrating TV.
Speaking of heartbreak, it was an up and down episode for Gendry, who on one hand became Lord of Storm’s End, and on the other, unsuccessfully proposed to Arya. Even as he was dropping to one knee t I wanted to pat him on the shoulder and just say, “Oh, buddy.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bronn returns to give us one of the funniest scenes in recent memory. His conversation with the Lannister brothers is quick, witty, and it does away with my looming sense of dread over the fates of Jaime and Tyrion—I can stop waiting from one of Bronn’s arrows to come flying in from offscreen. At least for a while, anyway—Bronn made no concrete promises, even after Jamie offered him lordship over High Garden. Anything that makes me slightly less stressed out while I watch this show is a good thing. Just the same, it seemed like too quick way for the show to take a piece off the board, so to speak, giving the writers one less character to worry about.
A few random thoughts:
—Can Tormund get hammered in every episode? Please?
—We’re told Yara has reclaimed the Iron Islands and pledged for Dany in one sentence, never to be mentioned again. Classic Yara.
—I was bummed that we didn’t get any insight into where Bran went when he “left” the battle last week. Also, Bran is still a big weirdo. “I don’t want anymore.” Whatever you say, Bran.
—Arya and the Hound are a great combo and I’m glad we will get to see more of them going forward, but Sansa’s scene with him was better—he reflected that he couldn’ve saved her from a lot of pain, and she claimed that pain as her own, and said it made her strong. Hard to argue with her at this point.
“I don’t know how to be Lord of anything, I can barely use a fork.” —Gendry, you adorable bastard
“Maybe Cersei will win and kill us all. That would solve our problems.” —Tyrion, looking on the bright side
—The “We Miss You and Wish You Weren’t Murdered in Horrifying Fashion” award is back this week, and it goes to the recently deceased Jorah Mormont. I am getting reports that he was unable to accept the award because… well, he’s dead.
—The “Weak Sauce of the Week” award goes to Sansa Stark, who managed to keep the biggest secret in all of the Seven Kingdoms for all of seven minutes.
—The first “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying” award goes to the moment Ghost whimpered as Jon left without saying goodbye. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Jon Snow is the worst.
And Now, a Haiku by Samwell Tarly
Hey guys, I had sex
Yep, definitely had sex
Everyone hear that?
What kind of guttural noise did you make when Rhaegal got shot? Let us know in the comments!
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