So, here we are, ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’, the final episode of the penultimate series of Game of Thrones. And after an hour and a half whopper, we’ve got a lot to think about for the coming year of Throne-less-ness.
My overwhelming feeling for this episode was one that things went either too fast, or too slow. Never in between, the episode brought revelations and slow-burning events that felt unworthy of a final episode. Maybe it was the extended time, but it felt like a weird one.
This is not to say the episode was without merit, there were plenty of events to be getting along with. The meeting of the biggest players in Westeros was both tense and pleasing, with reunions of old friends like Jaime and Brienne, and the clash of enemies, like Cersei and pretty much anyone. It was a strange collection of people, many of whom had not interacted for several seasons. These meetings were played out well, the threat of rupture palpable and even I was on the edge of my seat wondering whether this would be a ‘Red Wedding’-esque episode. Alas, it was not.
The arrival of Daenerys, on the back of her dragon, was so regal it firmly put Cersei in second place. This was not to be missed in her bitter reaction, and it seems that Cersei is so full of hatred at this point that even her diplomatic mask is slipping. There were strange moments during this scene, however, that seemed displaced. The meeting of the Clegane brothers jarred with the scene, an incredibly unimportant and unnecessary moment – especially for a final episode. The speeches were fairly well written, although they miss a certain passion and sharpness we’ve seen before. The dialogue is something I will come back to later, but it did feel a bit off-kilter.
a moment I have been waiting for since… season one, and how sweet it was
The subsequent interaction between Cersei and Tyrion felt a bit tired, rehashing old issues that – true – neither have discussed with the other, but were not new and exciting. The conversation follows exactly the path you would expect it to take, apart from Tyrion’s shocking ability to convince her (which we don’t see). Less shocking than her decision to join forces with the others, is the subsequent revelation that she intends to do no such thing. It is difficult to make her back-stabbing a twist when the Lannisters are well known for it (ahem, ‘The Red Wedding’). More interesting is the split between Jaime and Cersei, the only couple that have managed to withstand the turbulence of Westeros. Even Cersei’s pregnancy cannot keep Jaime in King’s Landing, and we see him ride off to who-knows-where, as snow begins to fall on the city. This moment is significant, as we finally see that Winter has come to the capital after a long time of hearing the Stark’s prophecy.
The introduction of the Golden Company presents an interesting alternative for Cersei. The sellswords who have only briefly been mentioned in the show before, seem to be notable. Several seasons before we were informed that Jorah Mormont used to fight with the Company, and as he is a particularly skilled fighter, it doesn’t bode well for Dany. It seems they will be introduced in the next series, and it will be an exciting addition of an unknown force. However, Cersei’s confidence in this new army of twenty thousand seems like wishful thinking, when the forces of the undead alone number above one hundred thousand.
The real highlight of the episode for me was the trial of Littlefinger. It is a moment I have been waiting for since his betrayal of Ned in season one, and how sweet it was. The scene was so unexpected, after the build-up of animosity between Arya and Sansa the moment they turn against him is a wonderful wrong being righted. The scene has the three Stark children playing to each of their strengths, with the strong Sansa sentencing, Bran’s powers finally being used for tangible effect as he recounts Petyr’s wrongs, and Arya acting as the executioner. The Stark pack has grown so much, and they are stronger together as they take down the seemingly invincible Petyr Baelish. Littlefinger has been able to glide through (and been the author of) much of the violence and treachery since the beginning. His plea was weak, caught off guard with all his immorality, and his final moments on his knees, begging Sansa for mercy, was so satisfying as we see him – definitively – broken before being killed by his own dagger. It was a great scene, and one that deserves its place in the final episode.
It was important, yes, but didn’t leave me staring at the credits in despair waiting for next year’s series
Another, not so surprising, twist was one that has been hinted at heavily for a long time now. Bran and Samwell reveal plainly Jon’s heritage, birth right, and real name – Aegon Targaryen. It was a long time coming, with this series chock-full of references to this: such as Jon’s moment with the dragon, and the revelation that Rhaegar had an annulment and remarried. It was crucial plot development, that seemed under-utilised. After almost two seasons of clues, we have Bran finally spell it out for us in minute detail. Was it rushed? Or were no viable alternatives found? Either way, it was a shame to put such a great twist into simple dialogue. What is interesting about Jon’s real name, is that his father Rhaegar also had another son named Aegon before him with Elia Martell. Will this come up in the next season or is it a misstep? Furthermore, the episode splices these revelations with a sex scene between Jon and Daenerys, pointing out the obvious incest between aunt and nephew. It seemed like strange timing to put these two together in this order. Further, while Jon will soon know he is heir to the Iron Throne, what exactly will convince the rest of the kingdom? There is little written proof, so will this revelation simply become moot?
The episode ends with a scene that brings the threat of the dead closer, with the destruction of Eastwatch and the eastern wall. It also finally answered the question in everyone’s minds: do ice dragons breathe red or blue fire? The breach of the wall is significant, allowing the army of the dead to break through. The scene did feel a bit disappointing, however, with substantial CGI and no actual fighting between individuals. It was important, yes, but didn’t leave me staring at the credits in despair waiting for next year’s series.
a hearty goodbye to Game of Thrones this year, and a sincere wish that next year every episode will get five stars
All in all, the episode had some highlights but felt marred by its lack of cohesive speed, strange interjections in the plot, and a stilted script. The lengthy scenes involving Theon’s decision to save Yara were bloated; with a fight scene that looked improbable and a mission that felt wholly irrelevant to the episode at hand. Some of the dialogue felt unnatural, as parts that should have been emotive fell short of the mark. The actors do a great job of making the dialogue seem much better and significant than it really is. This episode did not feel like a bombastic cliff-hanger, but rather an attempt to get the pieces placed for the final showdown of next series. And that is not what a final episode should be. I am unsure whether these problems stem from the show outpacing the books, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.
Despite my criticisms, there were plenty of things to think about. Scenes, such as Littlefinger’s trial showed Game of Thrones back to its old tricks and twists, and I am left wondering whether Arya has another face to add to her others. Jon Snow’s heritage has finally been revealed, however plainly, and the repercussions of this are yet to be seen. Theon will stage a daring mission to save Yara, and maybe this once he will be lucky enough to be successful in his endeavours. And, unforgettably, the dead are coming. So, a hearty goodbye to Game of Thrones this year, and a sincere wish that next year every episode will get five stars.
You can watch the show on Sky Atlantic in the UK, and pre-order the DVD on Amazon here.
Image: HBO 2017