77 The last of the starks mới nhất

As Jon Snow’s secret comes out, he and Tyrion are caught between Sansa and Daenerys. Meanwhile, Rhaegal and Missandei find trouble in King’s Landing.

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After last week’s episode, it was tempting to think that Game of Thrones was going to glide to an easier finish than many of us had expected and feared (or is it craved?). Yes, some big characters died last week—Theon, Ser Jorah, the dang Night King—but most of the marquee players survived the battle with the dead, even when that seemed to require us to suspend more than the usual level of disbelief. (No shade but did anyone really think Samwell Tarly had it in him to fend off a few thousand wights over the course of however many hours that battle was supposed to last?) To give you a sense of the mood, I happened to be at a restaurant bar arguing to a friend that some of last week’s fatalities were genuinely important characters when a guy interrupted us and declared, “No one important died! No one!” The implication was that the show runners were chickening out a little. Now that they didn’t have George R.R. Martin’s ruthlessly misanthropic books to constrain them, they were going Hollywood.

Well, it remains to be seen if any of our true faves—your Tyrions, Daeneryses, Jon Snows, Jaimes, Aryas, and Sansas—are headed for extinction, but tonight’s episode definitely made it clear that the body count is far from final. For starters, we are down to one dragon, folks—though I think that, for historical accuracy’s sake, we can still call Daenerys the Mother of Dragons, plural. And the show’s only notable woman of color is gone—in a fashion that seems bound to cause all kinds of Internet controversy. Euron, Cersei, and the Mountain are clearly adversaries to be reckoned with, certainly moreso than the “ZZ Top White Walkers,” as one Twitter wag described the Night King’s weirdly inactive entourage.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? There was a lot to process in this episode, including some important love developments between Arya and Gendry, Brienne and Jaime, and—we hardly knew ye—Grey Worm and Missandei. There’s also a sharp shift in the winds for Daenerys, whose ability to roast her enemies in dragon fire was hugely valued in the war against the dead but feels less helpful when Cersei is using the citizens of King’s Landing as human shields.

The episode begins with the requisite mourning of last week’s victims, whose bodies burn in tank-shaped pyres—not that anyone’s worried about them turning into zombies or anything but … better safe than sorry, I always say. Then comes the booze and the sex. Daenerys puts everyone on edge by calling out Gendry for being the son of Robert Baratheon—singling people out for their involvement in killing her relatives is one of her least fun party tricks—but then she brings the vibes back by making him a lord and giving him custody of the family castle. Hooray! Gendry had already been on the hunt for Arya, but that sends him her way with renewed confidence. When he finally does find her, she’s “celebrating” with a little crossbow target practice, as one does. He kisses her, then gets down on one knee, all proper-like, and asks for her hand. Thing is, a girl doesn’t want to be a lady, and she sure doesn’t want to be Mrs. Gendry. Sad! But probably for the best. Arya would be so bored by that life that she might start assassinating the neighbors one by one, just to feel alive.

Jaime, meanwhile, is deploying an old fraternity trick against poor, defenseless (in this context) Brienne. Let’s play a drinking game! It’s just a gaaaaame—not a cheap ruse to create a false sense of intimacy while plying you with alcohol to lower your defenses or anything! Not that Brienne needs much cajoling to get it on with the Kingslayer—if anything, it seems like he’s the one battling his own reservations. Either way, it has the expected effect, even after Tyrion’s very buzz-killing (but conveniently conversation-opening) virginity question. Even Tormund can tell from a glance where this scenario is headed, and he’s momentarily heartbroken, until he comes across one of the Winterfell groupies who magically appear after I guess surviving the battle in the crypt? The Hound declines his groupie’s offer, and instead has a quick catchup with Sansa, who makes it clear that, like Bran, she doesn’t regret her misfortunes because they made her the forbiddingly intelligent and relentlessly skeptical hitter she is today.

And man, is she skeptical of Daenerys! Sophie Turner’s side-eye alone deserves an Emmy and has several submission-worthy episodes to back it up. This is one of them. It actually makes me feel for Daenerys. It’s hard to do your thing when there’s someone questioning every single move this blatantly, and the stress is starting to make the Mother of Dragons paranoid. Which is not good for anyone.

It takes a minute but, after an awkwardly abridged make-out session, she and Jon finally address the elephant in the room: what are they going to do about the fact that Jon is her nephew and the rightful (according to these bullshit patriarchal rules but still) heir to the throne. Jon’s answer, not surprisingly, is that he has to be honest with his siblings (sad trombone). Daenerys’s counter-suggestion, also not surprising, is that he should swear Bran and Sam to secrecy and never speak of it again. To be fair, she’s completely right that Jon’s delusional if he thinks he can control the narrative once this highly explosive piece of information becomes known. But I think that, in addition to being in denial and generally not that wise to the ways of the world, Jon is also a bit creeped out by her angry desperation. He’s not going to keep this secret to placate her paranoia, even if it is entirely justified.

Then there’s a war council, where Jon very theatrically takes Daenerys’s side against Sansa, even though Sansa is pretty obviously right that everyone needs a minute to recover from the Great War before they go fight the Last War. When it breaks up, Arya blocks Jon’s path: “We need a word.” Ya think? So the Stark siblings have a little confab in the snow in which Arya and Sansa—and maybe Bran? it’s hard to know if he agrees with them or is just lurking for plot-advancing purposes—come right out and say that they don’t trust Daenerys. And Jon is all: you don’t know her! And they’re like: yeah, we do, and anyway we’re family. And Jon is all: not really, and they’re like, yes, really. And that’s when, at the worst possible time if his goal was to actually make them like Daenerys more rather than less, Jon decides to have Bran explain the whole backstory. But first he makes them pinky swear, because he actually is enough of a do-right dope to keep a promise like that, even if no one else is.

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Next thing you know, Tyrion is sidling up to Sansa as she watches the dragons perform yet another irritating training exercise in the skies above Winterfell. I actually had the same question for Sansa that Tyrion did: What’s your deal with Daenerys? Why can’t you just bend the damn knee and be glad that you’re the most powerful person in the north? But Sansa has seen a lot, and she knows a power-tripping nut when she sees one. And she also nails Tyrion when she says, “You’re afraid of her.” And once she sees her opening, her oath to keep Jon’s ancestral secret lasts about five seconds before she’s spilling it into the ear of the biggest information-trader in the Seven Kingdoms.

Make that the second biggest. Varys is the first biggest, and Tyrion tells him before their fleet hits Blackwater Bay. (Which takes about five seconds now, apparently, distances having collapsed by about 1,000X since season one.) So now it’s not a secret—it’s “information.” One of the things I love about this episode is watching Tyrion try to suppress the thoughts that we know are occurring to him as he processes this information, coupled with Daenerys’s reckless behavior. Tyrion made a big bet on Daenerys, and he has no desire to change horses—or should I say dragons—midstream. Thankfully, we have Varys to articulate those thoughts without the emotional baggage. Varys is at his worst when he echoes the media gasbags who say that male leaders are an easier sell than women, but he’s right that Jon’s aversion to the throne is part of what makes him less likely to act like a tyrant. (Or do I sound like a Beto apologist now?) And he’s also right that he’s only saying things that Tyrion has been thinking. In their second conversation, Tyrion scares him off by calling their conversation “treason,” but it’s clear that Varys is not going to wait for permission to begin putting wheels into motion.

But back to Blackwater Bay! The good guys are feeling fine, Grey Worm flashes a rare smile as he holds Missandei’s hand, and Daenerys and her dragons are flapping around King’s Landing without a care in the world when suddenly a gigantic arrow lands right in Rhaegal’s heart. Then another hits him, and another—this one piercing his throat. And just like that … he goes down. Under the waves. Dead. Daenerys wheels toward the origin of the attack and finds Euron Greyjoy manning a gigantic crossbow aboard his ship. Riding Drogon, she bears down with the very obvious purpose of incinerating his shit-eating mug and the boat he rode in on, but she has to turn back as another fusillade comes her way.

And then the Iron Fleet comes into view, and there are a ton of these crossbows, which I guess are the kind of weaponry you can afford when you join forces with the Golden Company? And now they’re taking aim at Daenerys’s fleet, and the ships are breaking into splinters. Tyrion dashes around the deck before diving into the water, then gets hit on the head with the mast, and next thing you know our heroes are washing up on a beach somewhere.

The Mother of Dragons is incandescent with rage at losing her baby, and to make matters worse Cersei has captured Missandei. Daenerys’s plan is to take her remaining dragon, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied and lay waste to King’s Landing, kill Cersei, rescue Missandei, and seize the Iron Throne. Tyrion and Varys, who have both spent much of their lives suffering under ultra-violent tyrants in King’s Landing, very much want her to reconsider. They finally persuade her that it would be prudent to give Cersei the opportunity to surrender, knowing she won’t, because then the people will blame her for the carnage that follows. That buys the advisors a little time, if nothing else.

Back in Winterfell, Jaime hears the news of all this and reconsiders his decision to spend the rest of his days sleeping in Brienne’s room while she keeps watch over Sansa and Arya (the latter of which is an impossible task, as we quickly see when she takes off down the road alongside The Hound). Jaime sneaks out to saddle up his horse, and when Brienne comes out to stop him, he makes it clear to her that the real Jaime is the one who does one awful thing after another in the service of his evil sister. We’ll see if that winds up being the case entirely but … well, we’re running out of episodes here, so it may well be. Poor Brienne. But also: he doesn’t deserve her. (I skipped the scene with Bronn, but suffice it to say that I never for one second thought that Bronn was going to kill Tyrion or Jaime. I love it when I’m right—it happens rarely enough!)

So now we’re in front of the gate at King’s Landing. Daenerys’s army is … not large. The decision to rush off instead of resting and regrouping appears to have been not so prudent. Cersei is at the top of the wall with her haircut and her eternal scowl that is truly one of the finest things on television in this or any era. Missandei is there too, as is The Mountain and more of those gigantic crossbows. The gate opens and out comes Qyburn to rendezvous with Tyrion. Tyrion explains that Daenerys demands Cersei’s unconditional surrender. Qyburn counters that Cersei demands Daenerys’s unconditional surrender. Tyrion tries to reason with him, but the sad fact is: reason isn’t really on Tyrion’s side here. When Qyburn points out that Dany’s forces are depleted and she’s down to one dragon, he’s not wrong. So Tyrion is reduced to making his case directly to Cersei, which he had to know would not work. He still seems to think this pregnancy is somehow going to cause her to act like another person, and he is still wrong. After crying a little and cycling through a whole bunch of other facial expressions that, again, prove that Lena Headey is a dang international treasure, Cersei tells Missandei it’s time for her last words. “Dracarys!” she shouts. Which, yeah, is High Valyrian for “Burn these bastards to the ground with dragon fire.” And then the Mountain comes forward, swings his sword, and Missandei’s head and body fall from the wall to the earth below.

Grey Worm looks away in horror, but Daenerys watches. God, the look on Emilia Clarke’s face. So much good acting in this episode. And then her sadness morphs into something closer to satisfaction: “Thank you,” the expression says, “for giving me every reason to do what I wanted to do in the first place.” And then she turns and stalks off, and the episode ends.

So what are we to make of Daenerys now? It would be disappointing, to say the least, if we’d spent all this time watching her rise, just to see her conveniently shunted aside for a male who’s an easier sell to some swing-voting lords in the midwest. I don’t think that’s quite what we’re seeing, though. I hope not. I think Daenerys’s flaws have been there from almost the beginning—she’s a visionary and a bit of a fanatic. We’ve always known that. She’s also been willing to do the things you have to do to gain and keep power, whether that’s been to project fearful power or to make sacrifices to prove her good will. The ancestry twist has thrown her off her game, as has the loss of two of her dragons and this very complicated relationship snafu. I see Sansa and Varys’s side, but I also like that Tyrion is still saying he believes in her and believes she will make the right decision. And even if she doesn’t, I want to believe this will end in something other than defeat and humiliation for her.

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Well, that’s all for now. Everyone seems to be converging on King’s Landing. (Everyone, that is, except Sam, Gilly, their growing brood, Tormund, and Ghost—is that really how their Game of Thrones arcs end?!) Presumably the rest of the gang will arrive next Sunday and we’ll have another big blowout. Until then … Vacarys?!

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