Season Seven, Episode Eight — “The Dragon and the Wolf”
By Jarrod Jones. The Wall is down. Ice dragons breathe blue flames. Cersei is a duplicitous monster. Jon Snow is not “Jon Snow” at all. And Littlefinger bled out into the stone floors of Winterfell.
I’ve been saying it all season: It was only a matter of time before somebody put that Valyrian dagger to proper use. Pity everyone pretty much knew where it was going, no matter how overwrought Season Seven’s “Arya vs. Sansa”… whatever that was had been written. (You didn’t really think Benioff and Weiss were gonna make Arya kill her older sister and steal her face, did you? Twist! ((Fuck this show for that subplot. For serious.))
Petyr Baelish is dead. What a waste of a once-intriguing villain. So what was Littlefinger’s end game? Was it truly as obvious as the show was making it out to be — that he wanted to sit the Iron Throne above all? It doesn’t matter anymore, the show seemed to be saying through our screens on Sunday night. Slash, blood, booga-booga!
For A Song of Ice and Fire, in HBO’s version of events anyway, it seems the tide has turned in favor of the angels. There’s cause to hope once more; villains are dying off left and right and once unheard-of alliances have come to pass, united in common purpose against the Night King. (This week’s moment of “wha-? Aw”: Sandor Clegane sharing a moment of mutual respect with Brienne of Tarth, who apparently was sent to King’s Landing for this very moment. And also that “fuck loyalty” line, which she delivered to Jaime Lannister with gusto. Irony!)
There’s still the matter of Queen Cersei and Euron Greyjoy lurking about, but I wouldn’t worry too much about them; if Theon’s victorious scrape on the shores of Blackwater Rush was any indication of things to come, the bad guys are gonna get theirs, overarching themes and source material be damned. And it’s gonna be a mess.
Of course, Winds of Winter is still at least forty years away, so we have no idea how any of this will play out in the books. Rest assured, it ain’t gonna look anything like this, thank the gods. (George R.R. Martin has even said as much.)
Cersei finally got her look at a wight this week, delivered to King’s Landing courtesy of the King in the North and the Mother of Dragons, who — as Cersei made a point to mention later — was minus one dragon. The wight wriggled about as Jon made his “know your enemy” demonstration, which spooked Euron back to Pike (not really), caused Qyburn to wet his lips, and genuinely made the notoriously imperturbable Cersei flinch.
In fact, Cersei lowered her guard a couple of times this week. Later, during a private back-and-forth with her estranged brother Tyrion, Cersei finally put her accusations to rest: Tyrion may not have killed Joffrey, but he sure as shootin’ killed their father, which makes him responsible for the deaths of Myrcella and Tommen. You left us wide open to disaster, she insisted, as Robert Strong mugged silently behind Tyrion, mere seconds from lopping his head off with his ludicrously over-sized broadsword. Tough room.
For me, the Cersei/Tyrion stuff worked best in this finale. I might even go so far as saying their sequence together was the strongest this season had overall. It was an emotional moment for both Lannisters, fraught with mutual disdain and mutual respect (as far as audacity was concerned), with a faint glimmer of the fanciful chatter typically found in classic George R.R. Martin tête-à-têtes. And, of course, it ultimately ended with Cersei’s betrayal.
No, Cersei will not be aiding Jon and Dany in their war against the dead. Instead, she’ll patiently await Euron’s return with that Golden Company mentioned two episodes back, and fortify the southron lands with her armies. Tyrion, who has become Game of Thrones‘ #1 sucker, fell for her “I’m pregnant, so naturally I want the world to live” nonsense. That means Dany, who was counting on Tyrion to stick the landing, is about to find herself between the hammer of the Night King’s army, and the anvil of Cersei’s wrath.
Naturally, the show slowed down its map-shredding globetrotting long enough for Dany to crawl into bed with Jon on the open seas, both satisfied that their hard work had paid off, and that no, Viserion didn’t die for nothing. (Oh, you beautiful fools.) It was here, where the series’ two gorgeous leads finally gave in to the most obvious of developments and fucked like bunnies, that the episode twisted the knife.
In an ending that spliced together three sequences and jumped through enough time and space that Christopher Nolan must have glanced up from his dogeared copy of A Tale of Two Cities, Samwell Tarly arrived to Winterfell to chat with Bran Stark about Jon Snow. While Jon and Dany laid down to see about this whole “infertility” thing, Bran and Sam compared notes on Jon’s parentage. Jon’s a Sand, not a Snow, Bran, who should have known better, told Sam. No no no no no, his parents were totally married, go look, Sam replied.
So Bran shifted into the past and witnessed the union of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, just as Dany stared lustily into Jon’s dopey brown eyes. Then Bran leapt a little further in time, and listened to what Lyanna told her brother Ned just before she died: This kid’s name is Aegon, but don’t tell anybody, okay?
And so it was that Aegon Targaryen and his aunt Daenerys had a roll in the hay, as Targaryen relatives are wont to do. Anyone else feel like they could use a scalding-hot shower?
“You’re even fucking uglier than I am, now.” – Sandor, to his brother. Rory McCann’s delivery is always 100%
BEST MOMENT: Rhaegar and Lyanna get hitched. It was our first-ever look at Rhaegar Targaryen in the flesh, and it portended dire things for the latest Targaryen union between Aegon and Dany. (Come on, Dany’s totally getting preggers next season, which means it’s Jon who is probably not gonna make it to the Iron Throne alive.)
EPISODE’S MVP: Ser Robert Strong, aka Gregor Clegane, who hung back for the entire episode but still made everyone — including the audience — gasp at the merest flinch from the Mountain That Rides.
– You know how this is going to end, Sandor Clegane said to his undead brother, to the squee-ing delight of millions. If there was any doubt that Game of Thrones has a single-minded duty to fan service, let this li’l harbinger chop its head off.
– Qyburn’s fascination with the wight’s severed (and still wriggling) hand was a nice touch.
– When the hell did Sansa learn about Littlefinger’s betrayal to her father? Bran’s sitting there with her in the Great Hall when Baelish gets his, so we have to assume this revelation happened moments before offscreen. Since there’s no other way to read how the events unfolded, it’s safe to say that Game of Thrones thoroughly screwed the Littlefinger/Sansa arc into a rushed and ignominious end. These characters deserved better.
– Does anyone else think it’s weird that Rhaegar would name two of his children Aegon? The first baby he named Aegon, with his then-wife Elia Martell, was murdered by Gregor Clegane after Robert Baratheon killed Rhaegar at the Trident.
– Is anyone still invested in the Greyjoy family squabble? Yeah, me neither. Hope Asha — er, Yara, makes it out okay, though.
– Eastwatch is down! What are the odds that Tormund and Beric made it out alive? (Pretty damn good, I’d say.)
– The army of the dead now march south, the Wall no longer an impediment to their mystical forces. How long do you reckon it’ll take them to reach Winterfell?
6 out of 10
Season Seven Score: 7 out of 10
Before: “Beyond the Wall,” here.