Opinion Piece

Game of Thrones, S8, Ep 4 “The Last of the Starks” Thoughts

When in doubt, set it all on fire.

As you may have already guessed this little rant is going to contain spoilers for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 4 titled The Last of the Starks. If you haven’t watched it yet then stop reading now. Otherwise, venture forth into my lovely word vomit. Be careful where you step, mind.

Truly the most important scene we can discuss from the most recent episode of Game of Thrones is how Jon didn’t give Ghost a proper goodbye. What a fucking dick. The direwolf reappeared in the episode prior after having been left with Sansa in Winterfell in season 7. Jon never seems to acknowledge him during The Long Night, and in episode 4 of this season we see Ghost sporting serious wounds from idiotic Dothraki charge. So, after saying goodbye to Sam and Tormund, Jon shares a glance with Ghost. And that’s it. He bids Tormund to take Ghost north where a direwolf can roam free and be happy, but considering the importance of Ghost to fans and to Jon it’s strange that we never get a proper moment between them. WHY DIDN’T YOU PET THE FLOOF, JON!?

But perhaps the scene was more about foreshadowing. Quite a bit of emphasis was placed on Tormund’s return North and how Jon should go with him. That Jon Snow would be happier there, free of responsibility. There have been theories that the fate of the direwolves somehow reflects their owners, so perhaps Ghost going North foreshadows Jon doing the same? Perhaps to appease Dany, to remove his claim to the throne entirely he goes into a self-imposed exile?

‘M sorry Ghost, but the CGI budget won’t let me pet you.

Sticking with Jon we saw him reveal his true parentage to Sansa and Arya. Annoyingly the camera cuts before we get to see their reaction which was a big mistake in my eyes. This is one of the biggest plot points in the current season, and Jon’s parentage has been one of the central pillars of the entire story. Not getting to see Sansa and Arya’s reaction to the revelation was a poor call. Anyway, from that scene we got to see Sansa putting her Littlefinger and Cersei experience into play when she told Tyrion who Jon really is. Obviously it’s a betrayal of Jon’s trust but it shows Sansa has learned how to play the Game of Thrones, unlike Jon who is sort of blundering through it like Ned Stark once did. And look what happened to poor Ned. Ultimately, Sansa is acting in the interests of the North. She doesn’t appear to have designs on the throne herself, although I’d actually say that out of the current crop of characters she might be one of the better options.

This triggered the debate between Tyrion and Varys about who should really take the throne. Over the course of the episode we really saw Dany getting torn down further. She’s lost Jorah, yet another dragon and now Missandei all in a short space. Her armies are severely weakened, and during the celebrations she was shown to be apart from the rest. Jon’s revelation has clearly shaken her, to the point where she was practically begging him to keep his mouth shut. I’ve noted some people saying they felt Dany broke down too quickly here, but I think they’ve built this for a long time. Ultimately Dany has always been a hypocritical character; the wants to break the wheel, free slaves and do all that good stuff, but she also wants to keep the bit of wheel that says she gets to be queen by birthright intact. She has shown her desire for the throne over all else, although in fairness she did help Jon and the North when she didn’t have to. She could have headed straight for King’s Landing.

With Missandei’s death and her final words being the very same Dany uses to order her dragons to set fire to everything, it seems like Dany is heading down a dark path indeed. Cersei is packing King’s Landing with people to force the attacker’s to kill innocents, but Dany herself confirmed that in her quest to rid the world of tyrants she is all too willing to burn the innocents to death. Tyrion raised the idea of simply waiting it out, cutting off the supplies and forcing the people to toss Cersei off the throne. Dany was quick to wave the idea off, just as she did with Sansa’s suggestion that their troops needed time to recover before marching into battle again.

I can see the friendzone burning right out of him.

So what will Varys and Tyrion do? Varys made no bones about the fact that he will support whomever he views as the best choice. Dany has always been prone to using her power in horrible ways and that has become clearer over time. Weirdly, though, Tyrion still seems to determined to support her, although he did admit, without saying it, that he things Jon would be the better ruler.

Over the last few seasons it feels like Tyrion’s character has been dumbed down. It feels like he should be the one questioning Dany’s current state of mind and figuring out how to help her cope. Now, though, Tyrion seems to make a lot of mistakes, many of which he should have seen coming.

Tyrion did float the idea of marrying Dany and Jon, which would really be the best possible solution. However, Varys countered by asking Tyrion if he really thought Dany would be willing to share the throne. It’s a valid point, especially as she doesn’t seem to have even considered ruling alongside Jon. Again, the show is doubling down on Dany’s obsession with the throne. Probably a little too much, actually, I agree. It’s as subtle as a brick to the face. However, the argument could be made that having two people close to Dany and a dragon killed across a few episodes is the perfect way to make Dany finally snap completely.

During The Long Night we got a reminder that Arya will close brown eyes, green eyes and blue eyes. It was always a vague prophecy, but with Arya taking it to mean the blue eyes of the Night King it has become fairly important. Many have taken this to mean Arya is going to kill Cersei, but I don’t think that makes sense. Arya already took out the Night King, so eliminating Cersei as well would be too much. However, there are two other characters with green eyes: Daenarys and Sansa. Considering the path Dany seems to be on, Arya killing her isn’t entirely off the table.

Arya and the Hound heading off to King’s Landing was a great moment. It also led to an intriguing comment from Arya when she said she didn’t plan on coming back. Unlike the Hound who probably assumes he’s going to die on his mission, Arya’s comment seemed more like her saying she won’t be coming back to Winterfell. Regardless, I’m looking forward to having The Hound and Arya together again, though I assume we won’t get to see them travelling because they’ll be teleporting down to King’s Landing shortly.

On the road again *whistles*

Speaking of Arya, let’s talk about Gendry! Awkward segue! Gendry was officially recongnized as a Barratheon by Dany, which was a slightly odd move since that does technically give him a claim to the throne. But it also helps indebt him to Dany, so I guess it checks out. Anyway, Gendry running off the ask Arya to marry him and become lady of Storm’s End was a surprise. It happened too quickly, though. Another episode of the two interacting would have helped it. And of course, Arya says no. Rejected by a Stark. Yup, Gendry really is a Barratheon.

I have to say that the whole sequence with Dany making Gendry lord of Storm’s End was…odd. On the one hand I liked that it made political sense for Dany to do. On the other hand, the speech she gives leading up to it where she talks about the Barratheon family and how they were her enemy was terrible. It was put in purely to make the audience think she might kill Gendry. But why would she say all that? I guess the idea is that she wanted everyone to be reminded of the Barratheon and Targaryen history before then being seen as a forgiving queen.

Jaime and Brienne finally got around to doing the dirty deed. Despite the show having no problem with gore and sex it cut away before we could see anything. Ah well, at least Tyrion got to make jokes about it. But then in another twist Jaime decides to head back to King’s Landing, and delivers a speech to Brienne where the claims to be just as hateful of a person as Cersei. He’s not actually wrong; this guy has done some pretty horrible things and I don’t think redemption is truly possible. I’ve never viewed morality as some sort of scale that you can balance out. Still, the speech could mean he’s heading back to deal with Cersei. For Jaime’s character this would fit because if he truly views himself as hateful, then killing his sister and unborn child might be his last act before killing himself. But it could also mean he’s heading back to join Cersei again, that he can never truly be free of her. He kept his promise to fight for the living. I hope not, though, because it would make his many seasons of development feel rather pointless.

Dany wants the Gian’ts Bane

The episode closed with Tyrion delivering a heartfelt and impassioned speech to Cersei that was so damn good I almost didn’t notice how Qyburn just disappeared. Aside from Missandei not tossing herself and Cersei off the roof I did enjoy this sequence. Peter Dinkelage once again proved how damn good he is as Tyrion.

There were a lot of examples of sloppy writing again in this episode. Chief among them was the way Rhaegal was killed by Euron Greyjoy. While I can suspend by disbelief enough to let the writers off with Euron somehow hiding his small fleet behind some rocks, the fact that Euron nailed three shots on Rheagal is rather dumb. Despite the vast distance and height he somehow managed to hit a small target perfectly, including a bolt through the neck. Yet just a minute later Euron and the other ships all fail to hit Dany as she flies straight at them.

Cersei missing the opportunity to kill the last dragon and even potentially murder Dany and Jon also felt strange. The last dragon, Jon, Tyrion and Dany were all just outside of the gates of King’s Landing, and all within range of the Scorpions on top of the walls. Given Cersei’s personality I feel like she would normally have ordered an attack, at the very least to take out the final dragon threat. I assume it’s because she wants to demonstrate her superiority over Dany, but it still made little sense. Dany shouldn’t have put her dragon in danger, nor ever stepped into range of Cersei’s weapons.

I also noted that everyone has magic teleporting powers again. For a show that used to put so much effort into showing the distances being travelled and the time it took they sure are happy to zip characters around like its nothing now. Jesus, where was this when Dany was taking like 6 damn seasons to reach The Seven Kingdoms? Bronn just magically turned up, although exactly why I’m still not sure. He’s gone from being a terrifically fun character to one that the writers don’t know what to do with.

So, who helps Bran up the stairs?

Despite what I believe to be generally weaker writing over the past few seasons, though, I’m still enjoying Game of Thrones. It’s hard not too when I’m so invested in the characters and finding out how it all ends. And if nothing else I’m curious to see it wrap up because G.R.R. Martin has said that the ending itself will be largely the same as his books. If the show’s finale is badly received, will Martin make some changes to his plans? Was Arya always going to be the one to kill the Night King? With just a couple of episodes left there’s still so much to wrap up. Things feel too rushed and scruffy compared to what Game of Thrones used to be. But I’ll still be watching to find out who sits on the throne, or if there will be a throne left to sit on.

P.S. Rest in peace Sir Jorah. You lived in the friend zone, you fought in the friendzone and you died in the friendzone.

P.P.S. Why is Varys the only one bringing up Jon and Dany being related? I suppose Tyrion grew up with Cersei and Jaime, so it’s no big deal in his eyes. God this show is fucked up.

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