***Spoiler Warning: This post contains Spoilers for Game of Thrones through Season 8, Episode 5. Spoilers***
With a sense of hopelessness and a growing dread from its opening moments, Game of Thrones‘ final penultimate episode and soul-crushing rendering of George R.R. Martin’s intentions left King’s Landing, several characters … and its audience utterly devastated. Despite Miguel Sapochnik’s skilled hands and Fabian Wagner’s eerily gorgeous slow-motion shots of death and destruction, almost nothing could save what the showrunners’ pen and paper hath wrought. If not for the continued nuanced performances of Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Conleth Hill, and Rory McCann, there would hardly be more than the lamenting of merciless destruction; thankfully these fine actors paved the way to something more.
A final betrayal (or three), lack of sustenance and inexplicably growing indignation send the once-empathetic defender of the common people completely off sanity’s edge. With (Ae)Jon fully and unfathomably emasculated — yet apparently best suited for an Iron Throne — Daenerys chooses to ignore all attempts at reason, heads out to decimate what she wants to rule. Like the object of her fury, this would-be ruler of the Seven Kingdoms loses sight of anything and anyone she would claim to defend and protect, stands stolid against rationality with base instinct.
A singular execution preceding scores bids fond farewell to our beloved Spider and Master of Whisperers; Tyrion’s melancholic demeanor mirrors our own. Though he begs for the people and sets up their saving at the sign of surrender, the last of the Lannisters is about to see his deceptions repaid. First, though, a heartbreaking aside (“You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster”) … as he returns Jaime’s death-sentence reprieval, Tyrion shares a last and poignant brotherly hug goodbye.
As those who would stop destiny (The Hound, Arya, Jaime) rush through the streets, Euron Greyjoy looks to the sky and spies the last of three dragons heading in to destroy his fleet. A wave of unending fire explodes across water, then land, then people, and as unbelieving eyes struggle to accept what they see, the entire world begins to burn. Horses and children and women and soldiers blend into scorched and burning piles of inexplicable waste. Instead of heading directly for the Red Keep where Cersei clearly and visibly waits, Daenerys daringly drives Drogon, Dracarys-ing everything in her particular path. When finally the Lannister army throws down their swords and the sound of surrender rings through King’s Landing, the seconds of calm tick away in a flash and under Tyrion, Jon and Cersei’s disbelieving eyes, the “mad queen” continues incinerating the city — Grey Worm reignites his attack.
Open-mouthed shock dominos from face to face as two momentous hand-to-hand battles begin. Jaime and Euron spar to the latter’s unsurprising death, while Cleganebowl’s fierce fighting ends in a fiery fall. Given no choice, Cersei flees to the cellar and Jaime reunites with his sister … only to relinquish every gain he’s ever made to desperately die in his lover’s fearful embrace. A girl gratefully takes a helping hand and later tries to return the save, but death has come for many today. As a castle comes crashing, the Queen of the Ashes claims her title. A dazed Arya finds her spirit animal, gently hushes and calms as she takes the horse’s rein and rides away. With little sense and nothing much but settling dust to pave the way, we head into Game of Thrones‘ last moments next week, our heads down and expectations lowered.
More than ever, I cannot wait to read The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring (possibly sooner than we thought — are the books already finished? — check the 31:00 mark) to know what George R.R. Martin’s true intentions are, because I have a very hard time believing what we’ve seen is how it was meant to go for some of these characters. Might they have died? Sure. Were they intended to die under the particular circumstances we’ve seen? No way do I believe that. For one thing, the series has ignored the important valonqar prophecy, and I have little doubt Jaime was intended to kill Cersei.
Speaking of, the character of Jaime Lannister went through so many redemptive moments, only to die holding Cersei as the Red Keep came crashing down? Bull-phooey. No effing way. What a slap in the face to everything we’ve seen Jaime do (defending and knighting Brienne, walking away from Cersei seeing the monster she’d become, owning his own evils, and wanting better for himself and others). He went through everything he did just to crawl back and die holding her? NO.
Likewise, this whole season, Cersei basically did nothing but stare and mutter a few determined statements about never giving in or losing. This character became, over the seasons, an incredible and horrific villain, only to end up screwing around with the joke that was Euron Greyjoy (Cersei wouldn’t be caught dead with that iteration) and along with Jaime, dying a cowardly and unsatisfying death? Again, NO.
Dany as “The Mad Queen” with no true motivation rang more hollow than anything we’ve seen this entire series. This sallow, unfeeling (how many times did she speak of standing up for helpless women and children, only to now burn them to the ground) image of a woman driven to kill everyone because Cersei killed Missandei and won’t cede the throne is ludicrous. And never mind that once again, she flew straight towards Euron and his fleet after recently foolishly doing so and getting Rhaegal killed. Never mind that once again, she could easily have gotten the target (Cersei) by doing what she did at the very end, and flying straight for the Red Keep where the impediment to her seat was practically waving “Here I am!” at Dany from the window. What the ever-loving fork is wrong with the writers that they envision these characters employing such idiotic strategy?
Jon? What is the point of Jon? Are we just waiting for him to kill Dany (unless Arya gets to her first), now? Does he even have the balls to do it? Does he do anything but say, “You’ll always be my queen”? Did he do anything this hour but look sad, shocked and confused? Is Jon truly the Song of Ice and Fire?
On the plus side …
Peter Dinklage should receive every television award for his performances in these last episodes. His scenes with Varys (*sob*) and Jaime (*double sob*) were perhaps the only redeeming parts of the episode. The brothers’ goodbye broke me; both Dinklage and Coster-Waldau were brilliant, eliciting goosebumps and tears.
Cheers to Conleth Hill for his ever-outstanding role as Spider and Master of Whisperers. Varys’ resigned acceptance of his coming fate, of his devotion to the welfare of the people, and his steadfast calm even in the face of fear is beautiful to behold. What a class act to the end.
The Hound laughing as he tried everything he could to kill his brother and exclaiming, “Fucking die!” was my everything. Cleganebowl was a disappointment, not the least because he was thrown into fire — something he truly didn’t deserve. Sure, he overcame his fear in those final moments and died a hero, but like recent others, his death felt pointless (and a big boo to that Oberyn Martell eye-squish redux).
Arya and The Hound’s last moments were just beautiful.
I don’t know what can be left, other than for Dany to die. Who cares about the throne? If the writers attempt to put Jon in charge, there’s nothing to do but laugh. It would be ridiculous to see him as ruler of anything. Of those who are left, Sansa seems the likeliest to land on the throne, with Arya as her hand. Jon wanders off, maybe goes after Tormund and Ghost? And Tyrion … well, he’s really not the best advisor, nor a good judge of character. I have no idea what he should do, or who is left to care about him (aside from the audience).
Recently, David Benioff and Dan Weiss said in an interview that it was their choice to do this rush job finishing up, because they felt the story was done. HBO would have let them do a proper season but somehow, the showrunners thought this was the way to go. What a disappointment. It feels like they gave up, and just wanted the show to be over. When I watch Weiss, in particular, in those aftershow commentaries, I often wonder if he’s watching the same series, never mind writing it. The impressions the writers intend are often not what viewers receive. I’m not a book purist, and I certainly think they did an excellent job with some seasons, but this isn’t one of them.
Another week, another whoopsie! Here’s Jaime’s right hand back where it belongs.
*Late addition: I wasn’t going to talk about the soldiers raping women and killing mothers in front of their children — I still don’t see that it’s worth much more in this context than: Why should we be surprised? Benioff and Weiss have proven many times over that they don’t know how to handle storylines involving women and their experiences, so I’d expect nothing less than more of the same.
All I’ve ever wanted was the right person on the throne.
It was me.
I hope I deserved it. Truly I do. I hope I’m wrong.
Goodbye old friend.
I’m Arya Stark, and I’m going to kill Cersei.
I drink to eat the Skull Keeper.
I want to eat the Skull Keeper.
Cersei once called me the stupidest Lannister.
All the worst things she’s ever done, she’s done for her children.
Tens of thousands of innocent lives — one not particularly innocent dwarf. Seems like a fair trade.
If it weren’t for you, I never would have survived my childhood.
You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster. You were all I had.
All we need is one good shot.
Your Grace, the Iron Fleet is burning. The gate has been breached.
The Red Keep has never fallen. It won’t fall today.
Go home, girl.
Look at me. Look at me. You want to be like me?
You come with me, or you die here.
Sandor, thank you.
Hello, big brother.
I want our baby to live.
Don’t let me die, Jaime. Please don’t let me die. I don’t want to die. Not like this, not like this.
Look at me, just look at me.
Nothing else matters.
Nothing else matters. Only us.