ROUND-UP: Game of Thrones – ‘The Last of the Starks’ (Season 8, Episode 4)

Honouring the Dead

Marieke:  After a full-on war episode, the 4th one of the last season started as quietly as was needed; with the cremation of the fallen and a terrific eulogy by Jon Snow. Say whatever about him, but the man can give a speech! It was Dany saying goodbye to Jorah, which had the most impact, as I will also explain later. It was nice to see Emilia Clarke improvise some words to him, as we can puzzle forever about what she said. Perhaps ‘I’ll leave the coffee cup on the table to honour you’. It was nice to see each of the people closest to each major death to light their pyres. Arya looking at Beric, knowing this is the last fire he’ll ever be around. Sam walking towards Edd, knowing very well he’d be dead without him. Sansa giving her Stark sigil pin to Theon, cementing forever that yes he was a Stark in the end. Tormund as wildling leader took care of his own, as did Grey Worm for his Unsullied. One complaint, no attention for the Dothraki?

Jon Got Ep 4
Jon (Kit Harington) about to light the funeral pyre.

Danielle: It’s really fascinating that Jon fell back into Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch mode, and delivered the kind of eulogy that Maester Aemon would have been proud of. Of course they’d opt to burn the bodies. The Night King might now be dead, but nobody would want to take any chances after all those dead Starks made an appearance in the crypts. I actually found Sansa saying goodbye to Theon the most moving. Her leaving him a little token of his ‘Starkness’ was fitting in light of his sacrifice, and it’s worth remembering that he was the only one who had any real idea what she went through with Ramsay. Jon being the one to light little Lyanna Mormont’s pyre was interesting in itself too. After all, she was the first one to name him the King in the North, and was a steadfast Stark supporter when other Northern Houses refused to help them after the Boltons took Winterfell. Not only is losing her a major blow, but I can’t help but feel that losing her is the final death knell to him retaining any sort of control in the North as his family and his girlfriend/auntie duke it out.

 

Fun, Games and Burgeoning Madness

Marieke: Then after the funeral, paaaaaartyyyyyyy. Food, lots and lots of drinking and lots of sexy times around. Is there a better way to celebrate being alive? Dany thinks she understands the game by ‘unbastardising’ Gendry. I would love for Cersei to hear about this, although she won’t acknowledge it. However, it did not matter much what Dany did. Jon was the hero and a wasted Tormund celebrated him like only drunk people can. Also apparently vomiting IS a celebration, FYI. Dany looked lost and alone. She seemed even smaller in size than she really is. It IS hard not to be worshipped like she has been before, and to see it happen to someone you know has a better claim to the throne. Dany was mourning and not really able to celebrate. That hurts. Not even a nice cup of coffee will help with that…

The Lannister Bros played a drinking game with Brienne and Pod. I have never seen them all smile like that before. It was nice, playful and light, until Tyrion went on too long about Brienne’s lack of sexual history. You totally ruined the mood there, Tyrion! Maybe talking to Davos, who lost all faith in Gods, or at least does not understand the Lord of Light, dampened his spirits a little. Tormund wanted to go after Brienne, but Jaime did not let him and Tormund’s heart broke. He has never managed to convince the big woman that he is truly interested in how she is. Partially because she most likely could and would not believe it; but mostly because her heart already belonged to someone else.

Sandor Sansa Got Ep 4
Sandor (Rory McCann) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) reconnecting.

 

Sansa tried to reconnect with The Hound a little. It was nice to see she was not scared of him, she has indeed seen and been around worse. It would have been nice had Sansa not felt that she needed to experience all those bad things (thanks for talking about rape on such an evening, The Hound) to grow. But she has indeed changed and I liked that he was amused by Sansa unleashing hounds on Ramsay. The girl interested in him did not get what she wanted. The Hound has only one thing on his mind now. As for the girls who went away with Pod, well, we all know they had the best night ever.

Danielle: With no Netflix, naturally Winterfell’s heroes resorted to food and alcohol to celebrate and commiserate their victory over the Night King. That doesn’t mean that everybody had a great time though. As Dany sat more or less alone with only a stray coffee cup for comfort, Tormund and Jon were engaging in next level backslapping and the former was extolling the kingly virtues of a man who would jump on a dragon to fight, completely disregarding the fact that Dany did the self same thing. That must have smarted somewhat. To garner some of the good will in the room, the Dragon Queen decided to legitimise Gendry and give him Storm’s End. Whilst it’s a smart move in the short-term, firstly she’s not yet in a position to be handing out castles whilst Cersei is still on the throne, and secondly, is it really the best idea to hand over such a grand piece of real estate to someone who has zero leadership experience? Probably not.

Marieke’s right. Jaime, Tyrion, Brienne and Pod playing their own version of ‘Never Have I Ever’ solicited some of the broadest smiles we’ve seen amongst them, particularly Brienne. Having survived the ‘Long Night’ she was able to kick back and drink whilst sharing a few longing glances with the man she’s been in love with for years. Of course Tyrion had to ruin it by referencing the fact that she’s a virgin. I almost wonder if he was setting up the events that led to his big brother following her. It’s not too hard to divine that someone known as the ‘Maid of Tarth’ is lacking in sexual experience, especially when she’s been ritually ridiculed by so many. Honestly though, what Tyrion lacked in tact there, he made up for in sass when he poured his wine into Tormund’s horn just after Jaime had cockblocked him. I love that Brienne looked back to check that Jaime was following her, and that moments later Pod has managed to acquire not one, but two bed partners for the night.

I genuinely don’t know how to feel about that scene between Sansa and The Hound. On the one hand, it’s good to see that Sansa is no longer that young girl who was afraid of looking him in the eye, and the acknowledgement of the fact that her life could have been different if she’d left with him during the Battle of Blackwater Bay. On the other, I’m not sure what the writers are trying to imply by having her say that she needed to be raped, brutalised and manipulated by Ramsay and Littlefinger to become the woman she is now: the person who was unflinchingly capable of feeding her abuser-husband to his own dogs. It felt a little too close to the knuckle for me.

 

Snog, Marry, Avoid

Marieke: There was a lot of heartbreak going around. Not only Tormund did not get the woman he wanted, but Gendry joined his club too. As a fresh new lord he wanted to marry Arya and have her as his lady. But as we knew from the very first episode, that is not for her. She did not celebrate with the others, she was just shooting arrows. She does not want to be celebrated by others, she just did a job. Arya is not your typical lady. It is a shame Gendry asked her to be that. They could have modernised house owning by being together, but by allowing Arya to do what she wants. Probably a bit too modern for GoT, though!

Instead of Tormund it was Jaime visiting Brienne. Some wine, a little fire and they finally got together. They spent some time together until Jaime heard about casualties by Cersei’s hand. He broke Brienne’s heart with harsh words about himself, being so enormously tied to Cersei. I still think he won’t go back to her, but that he realises he will never be able to be the good man Brienne sees as long Cersei is still alive. Knowing of his plan, Brienne would either try to stop him, or consider breaking her vows to the Stark girls to go with him. He could never ever have her even think about that, the honourable Ser she is. Harsh words were necessary, but is this going to be the last conversation they have? There was also a lot of talk that a woman like Brienne would not break down like that. She already bawled her eyes out once when unrequited love, Renly, died. And now her love was returned and the man she sees as good thinks so low of himself that he needs to run back to his sister/ex-lover? Of course she is hurt! She is allowed to be. Brienne is tough, but she is not a machine.

Jon also broke Dany’s heart. She does not know it yet, but after begging him to not tell THE BIG SECRET, he did it anyway. Jon also seems to pull away a little from her, physically at least. They know, but being related still only has come up in conversations about the throne. Never about their personal relationship. If Cersei is still looking for an elephant, this is the room she needs to be at! Jon may not be Ned’s son, nevertheless, in his actions he really is: honesty above everything else and it could very well be the death of him. He made his ‘sisters’ swear not to tell anything, but could not even tell THE BIG SECRET himself and let Betamax Bran go for it. We have no idea how this conversation went, but we can guess. Sansa wanted him to take the throne, but Jon kept talking about how Dany is his Queen. Arya kept quiet, plotting about her next move and decided then and there to go to King’s Landing. As it happened, The Hound was on his way too and the Arya/Hound buddy travel adventures are back. Maybe he can distract and kill his brother whilst Arya sneaks into Cersei’s chamber and then they can high five after. So very GoT too….

Danielle: I did feel for Gendry when Arya turned him down, but I could see that coming a mile off. She’s never been interested in the conventional life of a lady in Westeros, so being the Lady of Storm’s End would equate to her own personal idea of one of the Seven Hells. I do get the sense that while she does requite the new lord’s feelings, she’s not necessarily reached the madly in love stage yet either. Still though, I have this strange feeling that things could turn out well for them yet, after she crosses another name off her list down in King’s Landing. As I’ve already mentioned, Dany has to actually win the throne for Gendry to become the liege lord of the Stormlands. There’s no guarantee of that happening. Should Arya wish to find out what’s ‘West of Westeros’ like she told Lady Crane back in Season 6, after she’s done what she has to, Gendry might be in a position to come with her anyway.

So, my ship sailed… and sank in the space of one episode. I did, however, really enjoy the scenes that Jaime and Brienne shared together subsequent to the feast, even if they felt like they should have been stretched over more than one episode. Him, not so casually turning up at her chamber door, with the wine he’s obviously stopped off to find along the way, all because he was terrified that she’d actually slept with Tormund, was golden. There’s so much subtext going on in that scene, from their discussion of the North standing in for how they’ve ‘grown on’ each other, to Jaime’s line about never having ‘slept with a knight before’ betraying the fact that in some ways he shares her sexual naivety. Also, in spite of the fact that he initiated their first kiss on his tippy toes (LOLOLOL!), it was gratifying to see Brienne really get the ball rolling before that and be the one to undress them both. In a show that’s often filled with sexual violence, it was great to see a scene that was wholly consensual.

Jaime Brienne Got ep 4
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) begging Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to stay with her in Winterfell.

As for Jaime leaving Brienne for his sister after what must have been several weeks of them together, having returned to his hateful persona, like Marieke, I really don’t think all is as it seems there. Through his conversation with Tyrion, we know Jaime was happy staying with Brienne, even though he’s not fond of the North. Even when Bronn stated that he knew Cersei was dead the moment he saw those dragoons, he didn’t automatically decide to leave. It was only when Sansa revealed that Cersei was actually winning the war that he decided to high-tail it and leave. Now, Jaime’s many things, but he’s not a coward. His sister living puts both Tyrion and Brienne in danger. My gut feeling is that he was once again playing the bad guy, and decided to break Brienne’s heart so that she wouldn’t follow him. Maybe I’m just wearing my shipper goggles too tightly, but I do feel like there might still be some hope for these two.

As for Dany and Jon, their interactions in this episode spell DOOM! She’s clearly jealous of how he’s viewed in the North, and there’s a genuine fear that that popularity could spill over into the South should people become aware of his better claim to the throne. There is still a physical attraction between them, but thankfully we were spared another Auntie/Nephew sex scene when Jon just got too grossed out by it. Her imploring him not to tell anyone who he really is was first class manipulation. When she finds out that he told his sisters, well, things may go nuclear!

 

For the Realm

Marieke: A lot of people online tore into Sansa for immediately spilling the beans to Tyrion. We know Sansa never liked nor trusted Dany. She sees in Jon a better leader. Things have changed. Yes, Ned kept his secret for ages, but that was because Jon had always been in direct danger: had King Robert found out, he would have killed him. It was so serious Ned never told his wife and rather faced the shame of being seen as an adulterer. Now the only direct danger to Jon might be Dany and she already knows. In fact, 8 people know. And according to Varys, when 8 people know, it is no longer a secret, it is information! After seeing Dany unhappy after the celebratory dinner, he has already concluded what to do. Tyrion and Varys talking was the most exciting scene this episode and felt incredibly old school GoT before any true known White Walker danger. Tyrion seems a bit lost, as in I do not really understand why he fully pledges his allegiance to Dany. He knows just like Varys she might not be a good enough Queen, but he thought he could talk to Cersei and he thinks he can talk to Dany. Varys, always pro realm, realises he picked the wrong side (again?). He sees how unstable Dany is and realises a foreign girl will never get everyone on board. Her heritage also speaks against her.

Missandei Dany Varys GoT ep 4
Missandei (Natahalie Emmanuel), Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Varys (Conleth Hill) appearing to be on the same team. 

Maybe the ‘not wanting to rule’ ruler might be better, as in Jon won’t be as impulsive and full of vengeance. He indeed will be accepted more easily because he has a cock, and because he is a war hero. Westeros is conservative and old fashioned, everything Dany is not. I won’t be surprised if this conversation and the following actions will lead to Varys’ death for treason. Dany has warned him before, and Melisandre has predicted his death. However, Varys might be right. Whatever the outcome, for now there is only trouble ahead.

Danielle: Sansa was never, ever going to keep Jon’s true parentage a secret now that she knows the truth. Honestly Jon, you’re so dense! Of course she’s going to want you on the throne if it makes Northern independence all the more likely. She certainly doesn’t trust Dany to grant it. Her passing on the information to Tyrion was aided by the fact that the ex-spouses have rekindled their amiable dialogue, and by her vague awareness that, as an intelligent man, he too must be asking questions about Dany’s fitness to rule. In turn, he passes on the information to Varys, who having had a ringside seat to Dany’s Aerys-like behaviour during the feast at Winterfell, sees that this is a runaway train, and has decided to act once more in service of the realm, even if that means Dany has to be dealt with and that he could be executed by dragon fire for treason. The truly interesting thing is that Tyrion seems to be wavering, as his head and his heart duel over what path to take.

 

Would the Real Mad Queen Please Stand Up!

Marieke: Has the mad queen created the one true mad queen? Dany has always been an impulsive leader. We witnessed this in Winterfell when Sansa wanted the trooops to rest and gain strength, and Dany wanted to march to King’s Landing right away, which is what happened. Without any proper planning they rushed back to Dragonstone, where Euron had created an ambush for them. He even took out Rhaegal with one straight arrow shot. He also captured Missandei. So now she wants to burn the place, but first let the people know she wanted a peaceful transition of power. In case of a horrendous fight, it would be Cersei’s fault. They wanted it to appear that the armies are of the same strength, but to me it seemed Cersei had the upper hand all the time. Dany only has one dragon left and Cersei has the city walls equipped with proper anti-Dragon artillery, her army is well rested, and Qyburn has unleashed propaganda into the city, making Dany the usurper from abroad and Cersei the more harmless choice, as she opened the gates to keep the citizens safe *cough human shield cough *.

Qyburn also seems a way better hand than Tyrion at the moment. He has all the evil Nazi propaganda and experiments down to a T. Tyrion thinks he can still talk to his sister (she wanted to unleash the arrows but also possibly figured that would be too easy. I have a feeling she would still like to torture Tyrion). Tyrion, yes Cersei LOVED her children, but she is ALSO a monster! Someone can be both, you know! It seems that lately Tyrion is completely out of his depth and not the clever schemer he once was (or maybe he was just lucky before?). Of course Cersei won’t give in AND she has a hostage. Whilst jumping with or without Cersei might have been the courageous thing to do, it was not Missandei’s style. DRACARYS, that was all. We had not seen a beheading in quite some time. At that point Cersei had Dany, or at least her state of mind, right where she wants it. She wants to the mad queen to appear and ruin her chances. Cersei herself has used wildfire, like the ‘Mad King’. It made people wonder if she would become the mad queen instead, but blowing up the Sept of Baelor was calculated as a plan to deal with her enemies. So what better way to upset the Mad King’s daughter and hope there’s some blood of him left in her to become just as unhinged, than by killing her beloved translator and friend? Dany lost so many loved ones in so little time. Amongst them her dragon children, but also the most important person she ever had around her. Jorah. He could always calm her, talk sense into her, make the fire of vengeance go away enough to make sense of things again. He was not her Hand anymore, but he was her confidant. His death is not only a personal loss, but possibly a danger for the realm. The real Mad Queen will arise in the next episode. Maybe the big arc will be that it is hard to get rid of the burden left by parents. In that case, Missandei’s words will be shouted repeatedly: DRACARYS.

Missandei GoT ep 4
Missandei just before the fatal blow.

Danielle: It’s hard to contradict what Marieke said about Cersei having the upper hand. We’ve been so focused on the fight against the dead for so many seasons now that it never occurred to us that was even possible. Euron really did make short, sharp work of Rhaegal with Qyburn’s new and improved scorpions, and he nearly managed to take Drogon down too. As the broken Targaryen fleet landed on the beaches at Dragonstone, and it became clear that to Grey Worm and us that Missandei was missing, we knew that Cersei had secured herself a hostage. When they finally arrived in King’s Landing with depleted forces, sans the knackered Northern troops who are still on their way, Dany’s plea for Cersei to surrender and hand over Missandei seemed utterly pathetic. Similarly, Tyrion’s attempts to appeal to Cersei’s better nature as a mother fell as flat as a pancake. Moments later, we saw Dany’s BFF’s head being detached from her body, shortly after her one word plea to rain fire down on the capital. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a less than rational Dany doesn’t somehow blame her Hand for what transpired. The only silver lining for #TeamDragonFire seems to be that Tyrion’s comments about the baby his sister is ‘supposed’ to be carrying seemed to baffle Euron, who must have been wondering how the hell her little brother knew about the child she’s only just conceived with him. Hmmmm…

 

The Verdict?

Marieke: After an action packed third episode, we returned to typical GoT territories: scheming, secrets, houses, lords, kings and queens. I enjoyed it immensely, because this has always drawn me to this show. I wish they did not have only two episodes left to wrap it up, as stuff like this deserves a little more time like in the older seasons. It feels like most characters are still true to themselves, apart from perhaps Tyrion. I do not really understand him anymore, and I hope there is more to this than just inconsistent writing. Jon not saying goodbye to Ghost is a missed opportunity. I immediately figured it was down to the CGI budget, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. It just makes it feel incomplete and combined with ‘coffee cup gate’ I understand why people feel a bit let down by it all. With such an expensive show you need to pay attention to detail.

However, it does not take away from the episode as a whole. Dany never was a smart, calculating leader and Cersei is (short-term only maybe, but still, she can plan some evil shit). Jon is the reluctant hero who maybe cannot deliver what people see. People like Tyrion and Varys want to call the shots, but only one of them can really acknowledge what is going on. So far the only sane leader seems to be Sansa. At least she thinks about the health of her people! I cannot predict what will happen, but apart from another battle I still hope to see a little scheming. Sadly there aren’t many big secrets to spoil anymore. Although Euron can’t do the maths when it comes to pregnancy and knowing when someone is pregnant. You would expect better from such a sharp shooter! Maybe Jaime will come and tell him. Krakenslayer has got quite a ring to it.

Ghost GoT ep 4
Ghost being left behind at Winterfell with Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), Sam (John Bradley and Gilly (Hannah Murray): did the showrunners do the direwolf dirty by not allowing Jon a proper goodbye with him?

Danielle: After the storm whipped up by the Night King, ‘The Last of the Starks’ seemed to offer us some much needed respite after such a monumental battle in the North. The characters grieved, they laughed, they drank, they lost their virginity. It was all going relatively well until we realised that Cersei had a chance at winning this war, and what’s more, we’re not sure how we feel about that now that Dany is revealing herself to be a less than worthy ruler. Props to the showrunners for turning this whole thing on its head, and asking us to question the validity of what we both want and expect. I have no idea what’s going to happen over the next couple of episodes, but I’m preparing to brace for impact as it’s surely going to be a bumpy ride.

My main issue with this episode is that it’s clear the storytelling has become rushed, and that plot has taken precedence over character, which is a crying shame. When you have actors who are as talented as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie, you don’t throw their characters into a brand new situation, and then condense their interactions within said new situation to one episode. Similarly, the jet packs that allow the characters to scoot from one end of Westeros to the other in a matter of seconds have become jarring. It seems a shame that GoT might be on the brink of spoiling itself for the sake of a little more care and attention.

 

Our Fezzy Score: rsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_tiny_fez

What did you think of ‘The Last of the Starks’? Let us know in the comments…

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