A fully operational Ice Dragon, Littlefinger bloodily hoisted on the sharp end of his own machinations, a hastily-undressed Jon and Daenerys rocking the boat… The longest Game of Thrones episode yet was also among the most jaw-dropping and gore-packed.
At the end of a overwhelming yet uneven season, The Dragon and the Wolf was also a stirring return to Westeros’ first principles as the Hollywood bombast of recent weeks was replaced by a solid 1 hour and 20 minutes of betrayal, nudity and trickery in dimly-lit rooms. Not that it had ever truly been away but it was good to welcome the old, happy-stabby Game of Thrones back with a vengeful gleam in its eyes.
Moreover, the series seven finale pushed past recent awkward plot twists – Wight kidnapping and so on – and found the show reconnect with the dark majesty of George RR Martin’s original vision. The silliness with the purloined undead was quickly dispensed with while the early spectre of a backslapping session in King’s Landing as our favourite characters crossed paths proved a temporary distraction.
This was a grim and slow-burning Game of Thrones episode 7, with heart-stopping scenes – blue-eyed Viserion blitzing the Wall, King’s Landing shivering beneath its first snowfall in years – and truly wrenching interactions.
Indeed, it says something for the sweep and gut-punching power that the once-and-future bombshell regarding Jon’s parentage – he is obviously the child of the happily-betrothed Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark – was presented as an interesting nugget rather than continent-quaking pivot (there was already quite enough quaking, what with the boat-cuddles and the Night King at the Wall).
Likewise depicted matter-of-factly was the sundering of Jaime’s toxic love affair with Cersei and his apparent redemption as a noble hero dashing to join Jon and Daenerys in the last stand against the Night King. Game of Thrones kicked off with Jaime pushing a child out a window. Now, with the saga turning towards its end game, he’s one of many players who find themselves in a place they could never have possibly imagined. The greatest thrill of all is knowing there’s more – if not quite as much as we would like – to come.
Did Daenerys and Jon give us the weirdest Game of Thrones love scene yet?
A devastating juxtaposition came riding over the hill as Westeros’s preeminent mighty couple (Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington) had their unavoidable romantic get together – with witty Queen’s Hand Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) all but peering through the keyhole – while, miles away in Winterfell, Time Lord Bran revealed to Sam the major facts of the King in the North’s parentage.
He was the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark and they had loved one other – meaning Robert Baratheon’s rebellion against the Targaryens (accused of kidnapping and raping Lyanna) was built on a lie. The upshot of all this being Jon is a Targaryen – first name Aegon – who has just slept with his aunt. It’s been a game-changing season of Game of Thrones, with the series at moments threatening to go full Fantasy Blockbuster. So it was good to be reminded that, in its heart of hearts, the series is as wickedly subversive as ever.
Has Tormund survived the destruction of the Wall?
Like an undead mirror-image of president Donald Trump, the Night King came at Eastwatch to fulfill his oath to break down the Wall. This he did with maximum creepiness, courtesy of recently resurrected Viserion’s magic zombie breath. Into this breathtaking set piece the show dropped a character we loved in Wildling leader Tormund (Kristofer Hivju).
Did he make it out as the ancient battlements crashed earthwards? On the face of things, it seems unlikely – and even if he has, the Night King and his army are sweeping into Westeros. Either way, the outlook is gloomy for Westeros’s amiable ginger (Ed Sheeran is disqualified on the basis that he’s Ed Sheeran).
Littlefinger’s death was the most contrived moment in an otherwise flawless episode
Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) believed he was pulling the levers at Winterfell. However, the joke was on Lord Baelish as Sansa (Sophie Turner) claimed he was the surprise guest at his own trial. Out it all came: his killing of Lord Arryn and Aunt Lysa – and, most damning of all, his part in the downfall of Nicest Man in Westeros, Ned Stark. Important witness for the prosecution was the omniscient Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whose testimony concerning Littlefinger’s betrayal of Ned brings about a swift execution at the hands of Arya (Maisie Williams).
It was a nicely played exit, in which Baelish’s advice to Sansa to suspect the worst of your enemies was used against him. Still, having led the great and the good of the Seven Kingdoms on a merry dance this was an ignominious farewell to a Game of Thrones character many of us so loved to hate. Obviously Littlefinger had to be bundled into the wings to leave more room of next year’s zombie slaying. Nevertheless – what an unsatisfactory conclusion to the Arya v Sansa plot strand and a sad departure for the reliably slithery Aidan Gillen.
Should Jaime have died?
Cersei (Lena Headey) had zero intention of keeping her promise to send Lannister legions to battle the Night King alongside Daenerys and Jon. Cue a gasp of horror from Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who had for some mystifying reason taken her at her word (you do realise you’re in an episode of Game of Thrones, Jaime?). He would head north anyway – the only thing that could stop him was Cersei having the The Mountain bring her love/twin/betrayer/… down.
For a moment there appeared a real possibility that this is how everything would end for Jaime – but Cersei, when it came to it, could not kill her one true love and off he galloped. Having already miraculously escaped Drogon’s dragonfire, Jaime has now cheated death twice. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the suspicion Game of Thrones of seasons past would not have been that merciful. Another more delicious possibility, of course, is that show-runners David Benioff and DB Weiss are keeping Jaime alive so they can have more fun bumping him off later, à la Tormund (please don’t be dead Tormund).
Forget Jon Snow and Daenerys – the Mother of Dragons encountering Cersei in King’s Landing was the reuniting worth waiting for
“We’ve been here for some time,” snapped the Lannister Queen as Daenerys, evidently in no hurry, was dropped off by Drogon. They’d only just met yet already the hatred between the regents could have burned a huge hole in the Wall. Oh for an entire episode consisting entirely of Cersei and Daenerys exchanging death-glares and putdowns.
The terrible “kidnap a wight” storyline was still terrible – and still a distraction
Fancy set-pieces at the Dragonpit of King’s Landing, tear-jerking reconnections between beloved characters – but all in service of the clunkiest Game of Thrones plot this side of season five and Jon Snow-dying-but-not-actually. The wight was duly sprung from Sandor’s Clegane’s box of frights and we were in Evil Dead III territory as the beastie ran roaring towards Cersei. Sigh. In terms of story contrivances – and this perhaps qualifies as nitpicking in a Game of Thrones episode involving a zombie dragon destroying a 700-high foot wall – why didn’t Jon Snow pass out dressing in his dire wolf pelt in the wilting King’s Landing heat? You felt faint just looking at him.
Was this the talkiest Game of Thrones episode of the season?
Series seven has been a blur of dragons, Walkers and implausible plotting. You were braced for further sound and fury – so it was a delight when this near feature-length finale (90 minutes including ads) turned out endlessly chatty. Tyrion confronted Cersei, Jaime reunited with Brienne, the Hound and the Mountain exchanged terse looks. Having Cersei walk out of negotiations only to reconsider as Tyrion rumbled that she was with child was, in particular, a hokey twist the show sold you on thanks to devastating performances by Headey and Dinklage.
Then there was the long-waited reveal that Euron Greyjoy was, at Cersei’s behest, discretely rushing to Essos to take delivery of a mercenary army (with elephants!). To those who had despaired Game of Thrones was descending into workaday fantasy, it was back to the glory days of untrustworthy people exchanging veiled threats in candle-bedecked chambers.
Did you think you would be touched to tears by Jon and Theon’s deep conversation?
How unexpected that the emotional centre-point of the Dragon and the Wolf should be a whispered confrontation between Theon (Alfie Allen) and Jon. The Greyjoy prince longed for forgiveness – from Jon and also, from himself for his betrayal, so long ago now, of Winterfell and the Starks. Jon couldn’t give it – but he could comfort Theon with the truth that he was both Stark and Greyjoy and bestow his blessing on his adoptive brother’s mission to rescue sister Yara.
Theon’s redemption was a low-key bliss, amid the week’s speechifying and huge alliances. However, along with the understated catharsis it gave us the best action set-piece as Theon tangled gruesomely with the leader of the Iron Island thugs. “Stay down or I’ll kill you,” said the assailant. But Theon didn’t stay down – and didn’t flinch when punched in the crotch (Ramsay had seen to it that this was no longer a vulnerable point).