When Sunday’s season finale of Game of Thrones commenced with a haunting mash-up of the iconic Lannister and Targaryen theme songs, fans knew they would be hanging off the edge of their seats in agony for a record-breaking 79 minutes and 43 seconds.
A potential “Red Wedding” scenario was thankfully avoided when the first 40 minutes placed more than a dozen principle characters in one location and not a single one lost a head. But the sigh of relief was short-lived as we realized the episode was only halfway through.
The Starks out-Littlefinger Petyr Baelish. A Game of Thrones season finale isn’t complete without the death of at least one major character, and this one came as no surprise. Littlefinger has had Sansa under his wing since she was 14. With or without Bran as their informant, Sansa was bound to learn a lesson or two from Littlefinger, and Arya is trained in the art of deception. The only one in the dark this whole time was Petyr Baelish, and the Stark sisters share MVP for the week. After Sunday’s finale, I only wonder whether HBO is making me a bad person for enjoying a slow, painful death and a sex scene between an aunt and her nephew.
Rebellions built on lies. Just as Arya and Sansa learn that the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters was built on one of Littlefinger’s lies, Bran learns that Robert’s Rebellion was also built on a lie: Rhaegar Targaryen did not kidnap nor rape Lyanna Stark. Not only were they in love, but Rhaegar and Lyanna were also legally married, making Jon (aka Aegon) the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. In addition to what we already knew would cause issues in Dany and Jon’s budding relationship—the fact that they’re related—it also poses a conflict in that it challenges Dany’s claim. Leave it to HBO override what could have been a perfectly lovely display of R-rated affection with a reminder of just how inappropriate it is that we’re enjoying it. (Or at least enjoying it more than Tyrion, apparently.)
Bran needs to make himself more useful. Even if Jaime isn’t able to warn Tyrion of Cersei’s deceit, there should be no reason that Bran can’t. If Bran could warn Jon about the Night King’s whereabouts and his sisters about Littlefinger’s treachery, he should be able to warn them about Cersei’s true intentions. Prior to the finale, Bran had seen the truth about Jon’s birth, but not about his parents’ secret wedding because he didn’t know to look for it. Sam Tarly proved that Bran has the ability to pinpoint and witness any current or historic moment, which could be invaluable in both the war to the north and the one to the south. If Bran Stark died in that cave, so be it, but the Three-Eyed Raven could be humanity’s best hope of survival.
A battle of incest. Daenerys has been insisting she can’t have children since Season One and Jon is apparently intent on proving her wrong. Jon Snow may not be a bastard, but he may be on his way to creating one. By publicizing her pregnancy and laying off the wine in front of the enemy, Cersei has Tyrion convinced that the wight showed her what really matters—but we know the truth. She thinks her new bastard will be the rightful heir to the throne. Unless Dany and Jon get married despite their relation, the way Targaryens have for generations, the two couples could bring the phrase “Battle of the Bastards” to a whole new level.
Say what you need to say. Tyrion preached that while Jon’s declaration of loyalty to Daenerys was honorable, a lie would have better served their cause for the time being. It’s never revealed how Tyrion manages to convince Cersei to agree to a truce in the first place—but seeing as he knows Cersei better than anyone and that the two siblings are more alike than they realize, it concerns me that Tyrion didn’t immediately see through Cersei’s fib. While Dany and Jon march north to await the arrival of Cersei’s bannermen, Euron is heading to Essos to ferry 20,000 highly skilled soldiers, along with a host of horses and elephants, to Westeros. Littlefinger proclaims in Season One that gold wins wars, not soldiers—a belief Cersei adopted from her father that Jaime apparently did not. Thanks to Tywin Lannister, Cersei is confident that securing the Golden Company through a loan from Iron Bank will help her win this war—and the truth is, Tywin has never been on the losing side of a war (despite dying at the hands of a family member).
The Kingslayer honors his knighthood. Whereas Cersei saw the demonstration as a strategic advantage for the Lannisters, Jaime understands what the threat to the north means and once again does something drastic for the good of the realm. Despite the arrogant and selfish qualities that make him an unfavorable character in the first few seasons, we eventually learn that Jaime saved the lives of nearly a million people when he broke his vow and slayed the Mad King. He walks away from Cersei not only because he no longer trusts her, but also because he intends to honor his family’s promise to ride north and help defend the living. Until now, his primary motive has always been to defend his family, which is still on his mind as he turns his forces to the north. But he’s also learned a thing or two about chivalry and loyalty over the years and intends to honor his vows as a knight.
Daenerys redefines fashionably late. Prior to arriving at the Dragon Pit Summit, Cersei asserts her power by surrounding Jon and Co. with armed forces who could easily eliminate them all at once. Dany one-ups her entrance by arriving a dragon big enough to swallow the Mountain whole, and Cersei makes every attempt not show her frustration. From the beginning, Cersei has been writing the foreign threat off as irrelevant—referring to Daenerys Targaryen as a child with “baby dragons” and a weak claim to the throne. Robert Baratheon was the only one to comprehend the inevitable threat that Dany and her Dothraki posed—and that was before her dragons were even born. And yet, instead of inducing fear, the two remaining dragons only convince Cersei they are vulnerable and that, if anything, the Targaryen girl as even less of a threat to her.
A Greyjoy and a Stark. Theon has been battling with his identity for seven seasons—and not with just Reek vs. Theon, but with Stark vs. Greyjoy as well. Jon solidifying the fact that Theon has always been both a Stark and a Greyjoy gives Theon the strength he needs to do what needs to be done. In Season Two, when Theon captures Winterfell, he is unable to kill Ser Rodrik Cassel with a single swing of his sword—the way Ned and Robb Stark always had, and the way any true Ironborn would have been able to. With Jon’s reassurance and partial forgiveness, Theon finally snaps out of it enough to inspire a rescue mission. If anything good came out of being Ramsay’s prisoner, it’s that the man can take a hit. With Euron heading to Essos on Cersei’s orders, Theon might be lucky enough to succeed in rescuing Yara while his uncle is distracted.
Winter comes to King’s Landing. When the snow began to fall in King’s Landing, my mind immediately went to Dany’s Season Two experience at the House of the Undying, where she enters a snow-covered Red Keep. The Great Hall, complete with an icy Iron Throne, appears to be mostly destroyed. The snowfall in the finale seems to align with many of theories that are out there about Daenerys’ fate, but I’ll let you decide what it means. In the meantime, with barely enough food to feed the fighting men as it is, the cold and starvation might pose a more imminent threat to King’s Landing than the Army of the Dead.
Welcome reunions. Although fewer characters died than many fans expected, the satisfaction of the finale came from the many reunions that occurred in the early moments. Brienne told the Hound what he needed to hear about Arya as way of apology for nearly killing him; the Hound asserted his intention to eventually bring an end to the Mountain; Tyrion reunited with both Podrick and Bronn, who was offered a safe and profitable transition to the other side; Cersei offered Brienne what I can only describe as a death stare, and yet she ignored both the Hound and Varys; and the list continues.
Unanswered questions to think about over the next year and a half:
Now that the Army of the Dead is past the Wall, how does one become a soldier in it? Thus far, any man who died north of the Wall automatically became a wight unless the body was burned. Are all men doomed to become part of the Night King’s army? Or do the White Walkers have to create them?
Is Jon ever going to tell people about the Valyrian steel? He offered his own sword to Jorah last Sunday and didn't even mention the fact that it kills White Walkers.
Where is Meera? And does her father know about Rhaegar and Lyanna? He must know that Jon, at the very least, is not Ned’s son.
Lastly, how is no one concerned about Edmure Tully rotting in the Frey dungeons somewhere? And what about his son? …I’m still confused.
Don’t worry, we only have to wait until late 2018 or early 2019 to find out…
To read last week's recap, click HERE.
For Episode Five, click HERE.
For Episode Four, click HERE.
For Episode Three, click HERE.
For Episode Two, click HERE.
For Episode One, click HERE.