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This Show Still has Teeth

Game of Thrones, “Last of the Starks” Review

After what happened last week with the Battle of Ice and Fire, I admit that I had my worries. That the show has jumped the shark. But I was wrong, because this week’s episode just sent us on an emotional roller coaster as hearts were broken, faces were broken, and any chance at a happy ending flew out the window.

Except for Sam and Gilly. I think they’re pretty much the only ones who will live happily ever after.

The episode starts off on a somber note as we say goodbye to those who fell in the Battle of Ice and Fire. I thought that this was an emotionally powerful scene on a number of levels. For one, we were saying goodbye to characters that we had known for years, with Theon and Jorah being theirs since episode one. For me, in particular, it felt like this was the funeral for Night’s Watch itself.

Think about it. With the White Walkers extinct and the Free Folk and the North on good terms, there’s no point for them to keep operating. They fulfilled their purpose. And now their watch has ended. It’s up to the living to pick up the pieces.

A big part of this episode is trying to find the answer to an unspoken question: can those left remain united? For a while, it feels like they can. The feast in the Great Hall start out quiet and awkward, but it turns into a party when Daenerys singles out Gendry.

Since he came back in Season Seven, one of my biggest hopes was to see Gendry be legitimized as Gendry Baratheon, Lord of the Storm Lands. I got my wish, and I was happy to see that Daenerys didn’t hold a grudge against him for his dad running her family out of Westeros.

Too bad Arya turned down his marriage proposal. Their kids would have been so bad ass.

So after Gendry’s made a lord, everyone starts getting drunk and celebrating. Brienne and Jaime consummate their relationship, which was a nice sub-plot. But amidst all the merriment, cracks are starting to form. Almost everyone goes around praising Jon for his heroism (and riding a dragon) and treating him like a King, while Daenerys gets little praise.

Jon has said it several times by now: he doesn’t want the Iron Throne, though as Daenerys points out in private, that won’t matter. People will still try and put him on the Throne, regardless, and that makes him a threat to her. They could resolve that issue if they either A.) kept quiet about it, or B.) get married, making it a moot point.

As Daenerys prepares to move her remaining forces south to take King’s Landing. She’s lost a lot of the Dothraki, and only half the Unsullied remain alive. But now she has the support of the Iron Islands (Yara’s taken them back) and Dorne. Jon will lead the North and the Vale south down the King’s Road while she flies for Dragonstone with her fleet. Meanwhile, people start to go their separate ways.

Arya and the Hound are headed down to King’s Landing on their own to settle with Cersei and the Mountain. I’m rooting for her to kill Cersei.

I don’t know where Sam’s going, but with the Night’s Watch pretty much disbanded, he can become Lord of Horn Hill, with Gilly, Little Sam, and their unborn child with him. That’s right, they’re having a kid; and if its a boy, they’ll name him after his best friend, Jon.

Jaime and Tyrion get blackmailed by Bronn into giving him Highgarden in exchange for not killing them. And since Jaime can’t stay away from Cersei, he ends up leaving Brienne and Winterfell to head back to King’s Landing. Hopefully to kill her.

That’s a jerk move, Jaime, and we get it. You used to be a huge jerk, but the fact that you’re owning up to it means you’re a better person than you think you are.

Tormund decides to take the Free Folk back up North now that the White Walkers are gone. With the hole in the Wall and the Night’s Watch having no reason to fight them anymore, they can come back whenever they want. And Jon decides to send Ghost with them so he can with the other direwolves (poor Ghost. No love anymore).

And right before he left, Jon did the one thing he shouldn’t have done: he told Sansa and Arya his heritage. And despite swearing not to tell anyone, Sansa tells Tyrion, who then tells Varys, who then rightfully says that it’s not a secret anymore. And now Varys is considering backing Jon instead; not because he’s the rightful heir (or because he’s a guy) but because Daenerys may not be suited anymore.

The Mother of Dragons has lost a lot since she came back to Westeros. Most of her original allies are gone, she lost one dragon, and she just found out she may not be the rightful Queen, after all. So what does the show do? Break her even further.

As soon as she returns to Dragonstone, Euron Greyjoy’s fleet ambushes her and wrecks her ships. Worse, they’ve mass-produced Qyburn’s Scorpion, and they use it to shoot Rhaegal out of the sky. In another blow to her mental state, they capture Missandei and, in the episode’s final moments, behead her as Daenerys watches from outside the city gates.

I saw the look of grief and rage in her eyes when Rhaegal died. It was like a fire that threatened to consume her. But the look she gave in the final shot of the episode scared me: it looked like she was one step away from losing her sanity.

What. The Heck, GoT? I know that the Targaryens have a history of mental instability, but I wanted to see Daenerys dodge it. Yet ever since she got back to Westeros, it feels like the show is determined to push her to becoming similar to her father. I’m not even sure I want her on the Throne anymore, but since I hate Cersei and Jon doesn’t want it, she may be the best chance we have left.

Regarding the question that I posed before, I think the answer that this episode gives us is a big no. Even after standing united in the face of death itself, humanity can’t help but turn on itself the moment the crisis is past. It’s sad to watch, and its made even more difficult by the fact that the people who survived the Great War may end up dying at each other’s hands. Which is as sad as seeing World War 1 Veterans die from the Flu.

But, that’s what Game of Thrones does. It messes with our expectations. Sometimes, they work. Other times, it doesn’t work. Here, I think it does both. Either way, though, this episode proves that even after a climatic war against death incarnate, Game of Thrones still has what it takes.

But I’m still upset at how Daenerys, Brienne, and Missandei get treated, so that brings down the experience.

I Give “Last of the Starks” a 3.5/5, at best

Stray Observations

  • Cersei promised Bronn Riverrun. Last time I checked, Edmure Tully’s alive. Even if he wasn’t, he has a kid.
  • The improbable travel speed of the dragons strikes again
  • My reaction when Rhaegal died:
  • I wished that Missandei chose to walk off the wall instead of letting herself get decaptitated. And I’m not the only one.
  • Daenerys needs to find more dragon eggs. Unless Drogon turns out to be a girl.
  • Why is the show not giving any love to the dire wolves? First we don’t get to see Ghost fight in the Battle of Ice and Fire, and now they’re setting him free north of The Wall?
  • Who saw the coffee cup?

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