The bad news is that we might not see Game of Thrones back on our screens until 2019! But the good news is that this epic, feature-length season finale gave us everything we’ve come to expect from the show in spades: Dragons, wights, surprise deaths, skulduggery, redemption, and a liberal dose of incest. Yes, my friends. “The Dragon and the Wolf” really delivered, and this episode proved once again that in terms of pure spectacle, sprawling mythology, pithy dialogue, emotional weight, and political intrigue, there is really nothing else to touch it.
We opened with the much anticipated meeting at King’s Landing, where representatives of House Targaryen and House Stark, met with Cersei and Jaime Lannister to broker a truce which would last long enough to defeat the common enemy currently marching on The North – The Night King’s Army. This afforded us some deeply satisfying reunions: Brienne and The Hound, their grudging respect for one another beautifully played out, Tyrion and Podrick, and Brienne and Jaime. Daenerys did little to endear herself to Cersei, making quite the late entrance on the back of Drogon, and Tyrion’s attempts at diplomacy were interrupted by Euron Greyjoy, who used the forum as an opportunity to taunt Theon about having captured Yara. The Hound also had a fleeting chance to face off with his long-estranged brother, and seemed to promise an imminent showdown, many years in the making.
There was a distinct shift in tone, however, with the introduction of the captured wight. Cersei appeared genuinely shocked by the creature as the magnitude of the threat from beyond The Wall slowly sunk in. Everyone looked appalled by the display except Qyburn, whose creepy fascination with (un)dead things was written all over his face. Cersei’s concession to a ceasefire on the condition that Jon swear neutrality could only have ever gone one way, and it was strangely humourous to see the whole deal ‘fucked’ because Jon is too damn honourable.
Tyrion may have been hanging out with Jon too much recently, as he came over all heroic when he offered to chance being murdered by his sister to speak with her alone in order to salvage the peace pact. I was quite anxious that Cersei really would give the signal for The Mountain to dispatch her sibling, and her inability to go through with it made for a convincing case of pregnancy hormones. I fear I underestimated her yet again though, as her later duplicity suggests leaving Tyrion alive was more to do with convincing Jon and Dany that she’d send her armies to support them than out of any real sense of familial love.
I’m not convinced that was the case with Jaime though. Even knowing that her betrayal would potentially drive him to defect, I suspect it was a warped and obsessive love which stilled her hand on that occasion. I am still uncertain as to whether her pregnancy is real, and if so whether the baby is indeed Jaime’s. Cersei’s scheming with Euron Greyjoy hints at her wanting to secure his allegiance, and what better way than to produce a Greyjoy heir to the Iron Throne?
Speaking of Greyjoy’s, Jon’s nobility seems to have rubbed off on Theon as well. In one of the most touching scenes of the episode, Jon encouraged Theon to take action in rescuing Yara, and told him he no longer had to struggle with the impossible choice of being a Greyjoy or a Stark, ensuring him that he could be both. Jon’s readiness to forgive, and to form alliances between the houses despite past transgressions gave a strong indication of his intent to marry Dany and sire a child with her, a plan which may be derailed spectacularly by the news Bran and Sam have unearthed in Winterfell. Yes, we finally got the confirmation we’d all been waiting for, that Jon is indeed Rhaegar Targaryen’s legitimate son, and the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. It was a stroke of genius to intersperse the reveal with a tender love scene between Jon and Dany. While intermarrying is not unheard of among Targaryens, I suspect Jon will have a few angsty issues about having bonked his aunt!
In what has to be the most delicious reckoning of the season, the Stark sisters surprised everyone by revealing that their feuding was actually a long con! I’d been frustrated by their hostilities for weeks, especially as they both had access to Bran who could have confirmed or allayed their suspicions about one another at the drop of a hat. But Sansa and Arya had been laying an elaborate trap for Littlefinger, tricking him into revealing his self-serving motives for driving a wedge between the women. This was a pivotal moment in terms of proving that Game of Thrones can still surprise, and reward those who have faith in the writing and intricacies of the world building. While I’m sure many would have cheered as Littlefinger met his fate at the sharp end of the dagger which effectively sparked the war between the Starks and Lannisters, I must admit I will miss his slimy, Machiavellian ways. Props must go to the wonderful Aidan Gillen, who put the BAE in Baelish for seven years. Amirite?
But there was barely any time to recover from the surprise execution, as over at Eastwatch, shit was about to get super real. Having survived the horror of being surrounded by wights last episode, Tormund Giantsbane and Beric were battling vertigo atop The Wall when the Army of the Dead appeared out of the forest. Uh-oh. And as well as giants and a one hundred thousand strong army of corpses, The Night King now has Viserion, his wings tattered, and his once fiery breath now made of ice, and capable of blasting through the only structure standing between the living and the dead. Having protected Westeros from undead creatures for thousands of years, the breach in The Wall is bound to have enormous ramifications for the final season. And what of Tormund and Beric, who surely must have been crushed beneath tonnes of rubble, or at least fallen to their deaths? We have to wait more than a year to find out, I guess!
A brilliantly paced, satisfying, beautiful, emotional, action-packed episode to end what has been a pretty consistently great season. Winter is well and truly here, and next season promises to be unmissable, groundbreaking television.
Final Grade: A
+ Theon’s redemption arc has been a long and bumpy road, and his literal lack of balls being his advantage in the fight to win back the respect of his men was pure poetry!
+ Brienne’s ‘fuck loyalty’ gave me goosebumps. For someone whose entire existence is about oaths and vows, this was a huge deal and shows how her feelings for Jaime break all of her self-imposed rules.
+ It’s so rare for a show to be able to strike a balance between real horror, emotional scenes, and laugh out loud moments. “The Dragon and the Wolf” was a real masterclass in how to do just that.
– I’m sad there was no Lyanna Mormont in the finale.
– It’s been a bone of contention all season and flogged to death, but the timelines were insane again this week. However, it seems churlish to call it out when the overall effect was so striking.
Extra Thoughts: I’ve been super impressed with all the fan theories which have proven to be correct this season, and this lends credence to the idea that maybe Bran could be the Night King! And what will happen when Sam finds out his BFF has pledged himself to the woman who burnt his father and brother to a crisp?
What did you think? Was this season more lit than Randyll and Dickon Tarly, or did it leave you colder than Viserion’s breath? Was it as magical as Pod’s peen, or flatter than Eastwatch? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter.