Ago 28, 2017

Game of Thrones recap: season seven finale – The Dragon and the Wolf

A supersized, expertly paced and deeply satisfying close to the season, with a big reveal and a recurring theme: family


Spoiler alert: this blog is published after Game of Thrones airs on HBO in the US on Sunday night and on Foxtel in Australia on Monday. Do not read unless you have watched season seven, episode seven, which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 2am and 9pm, and is repeated in Australia on Showcase on Monday at 7.30pm AEST.

'His name is Aegon Targaryen … Promise me Ned'

What an episode. I might have been a bit up and down about some of the creative decisions this season, but they largely paid off for this supersized, expertly paced and deeply satisfying finale, which allowed every storyline the time it needed to breathe while still providing the ultimate spectacle of The Wall falling to the Night King and his ice dragon.

Almost more important than even that cataclysmic moment was the confirmation that viewers have long been waiting for: Jon Snow's real name is Aegon Targaryen and, given that Robert's rebellion was, as Bran pointed out, based on a lie, he's also the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

It remains to be seen both how his newly acquired Aunty Daenerys feels about that (although of course the Targaryens have always prided themselves on their close family relationships), and whether by the end of the series there will actually be an Iron Throne to sit on.

'We are a group of people who do not like one another. We have suffered at each other's hands. We have lost people we love at each other's hands'

The relationship between dragon and wolf, both past and present, might have been at the heart of this episode, but its emotional heft came from the way it probed a number of different relationships, some of which – such as Brienne's anguished cry of "fuck loyalty" managed to do a great deal of emotional work in a small amount of time.

In comparison to last week's episode, where a number of the conversations felt forced and carelessly written, tonight was full of moments of genuine power, from Jon's brief chat with Theon – "You're a Greyjoy and a Stark" – to Jaime's bleak realisation that his sister had lied one final, devastating time, promising help that she had no intention of giving, and agreeing to a meeting with Daenerys and her followers that was never more than a hollow farce, given that the Golden Company were already paid for and Euron in on the plot.

Best of all though was Cersei's meeting with Tyrion: a tense confrontation layered over with past lies and bitter regrets, and beautifully acted by Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey. He admitted that he mourned the deaths of her younger children, even as she could not quite bring herself to have her little brother struck once and for all from her path.

Cersei's inability to rid herself of either of her troublesome brothers might have struck some as slightly unbelievable (this is, after all, the woman Tyrion described as "the most murderous in Westeros"). But on the other hand, Jaime is her twin, part of her and the father of her children – and when it came to it she was never going to bring herself to give the order for his death. 

As for Tyrion, it served her better perhaps to lie to him, to make him think that he'd finally won a point against her and gained her support even as she knew that the opposite was true. But I also think he too remains her brother, however much despised.

'When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives'

The episode's other great confrontation came at Winterfell, where it transpired that Sansa, Arya and Bran had also been plotting (I knew there was more to that meeting at the Weirwood Tree than we were told).

Littlefinger, snared in a trap of his own making, died crawling and begging for his life in another very well-handled scene, which culminated in Arya, the executioner to her sister's ruler, slitting his throat with the very dagger that started all the trouble back in season one.

But the real joy came afterwards, as Sansa and Arya looked over the snowy ramparts of Winterfell and made common cause. They might not have always been the best of friends or closest of sisters – they might still have issues festering from that childhood that was so abruptly sundered – but after all the bloodshed and suffering and betrayal and loss, they are family. And as Sansa noted, if the Starks know anything it's that the pack survives.

That comment served to highlight the major recurring theme of this episode: family. Jon, who considers himself a Stark, is also a Targaryen, and the words he uttered to Theon may yet come back to haunt him. Daenerys, who has no family, believes she has found a soulmate in Jon – but his being family makes this a more complicated journey than she understands.

Theon, after seasons of despair and suffering, was finally able to turn his loss into an advantage, winning a brutal fight thanks to his ability to withstand pain, and a literal lack of balls. Yet his real strength came from his determination to save the sister who had never given up on him.

Meanwhile, even as the Starks stuck together, the Lannisters fell apart – and the lingering shot of Jaime standing alone as the snow drifted down suggests that Cersei's decision will have serious repercussions for her brothers as well.

Additional notes

  • Poor old Tormund and Beric – they survive Mission Improbable only to face near-certain death at Eastwatch.
  • I was wrong about the Wight – Cersei did seem genuinely shocked by it. I also underestimated Cersei's capacity for deceit.
  • I loved how fascinated Qyburn was by the twitching zombie arm. That man has a real affinity for the undead.
  • Talking of the undead, is there a point to Ser Gregor Ultimate Killing Machine if Cersei doesn't use him? That said, fans of Cleganebowl were no doubt thrilled to see their dreams come a step closer with Sandor's confrontation.
  • Bran might be the ultimate Deus Ex Machina, but he's certainly useful to have around. I cheered when he condemned Littlefinger with his own words.
  • I was amused both by Jon's stereotypically Northern view of a big capital city, and by his pointing out to Daenerys that prophecies aren't always reliable.
  • There was a lot of good acting this episode, but a special mention for Alfie Allen whose broken, brittle Theon always manages to hold my sympathy.
  • Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has commented this season – you've made it a pleasure as always. A special mention for the late Dan Lucas who always commented below the line with style, knowledge and wit, and whose astute thoughts were much missed this year.

Violence count

One Wight displayed, and then summarily chopped to bits. One brutal beating of Theon Greyjoy ending in a surprise victory for Theon. The deserved death of Lord Petyr Baelish, who finally ran out of people to lie to; and the destruction of The Wall by the Night King and his forces, possibly resulting in the deaths of any one unfortunate enough to be at East Watch.

Nudity count

The coming together of the dragon and the wolf on a gently swaying and candlelit boat. A moment which sadly seems likely to be forever sullied by Sam's news about Jon's parentage, which he and Bran, rather queasily for the audience, discussed just as the deed was occurring.

Oh Sam, there's cock blocking and then there's cock blocking (as I'm sure either Bronn or Tormund would point out).

Random Irishman of the week

So, farewell then Lord Littlefinger of the wandering accent. Of late your accent didn't really wander at all, but your time had still come. Aidan Gillen meanwhile heads to Peaky Blinders, where I look forward to seeing him try and plot against Tommy Shelby.

The Guardian

by Sarah Hughes