We open on Bronn pulling Jaime out of the water. I did some googling, and apparently people were actually writing articles like “is Jaime really dead??” after the last episode aired. Did anyone actually believe that? It’d be pretty lame for the show to literally knock him out of the way of dragon fire and then just have him drown from his escape. Either way, he’s alive, and he’s pissed. Even Jaime’s lion shoulderpad looks sad.
Sidenote, but it’s been pointed out to me (hi, dad) that lion shoulder armor was a very real medieval thing, and so I shouldn’t laugh about it so much. Here are some pictures. But it being real doesn’t make it not hilarious. I stand by all my mockery, and any mockery to come.
Meanwhile, Tyrion is walking across the remains of the “battlefield.” It’s covered in ashes, the ground still smoking. This is what Dany didn’t want, right? I’m pretty sure she mentioned ashes being bad, quite explicitly, multiple times. I’m not sure whether the sudden change of heart is weak writing or just an indictment of Dany. Maybe both.
The music is all mournful, so I guess Tyrion doesn’t approve of Dany’s methods so much either. The place is beyond recognition. It’s just… pure destruction.
Drogon rests atop a hill, while an army trudges towards him. And I swear to god, I was so confused for a moment. They literally look like an army of zombies. They’re trudging like they’ve just come from the set of The Walking Dead, and since we saw so much destruction last time, I didn’t think they could be the Lannister army, since they’re obviously all dead. But apparently, a small crowd of them survived, and now they’re off to meet their dragon queen.
Dany steps out in front of them, and Tyrion is pretty much full-body cringing as she prepares to speak. She says she knows what Cersei has told them. That she’s come to destroy their cities, burn down their homes, murder them and orphan their children. DANY, YOU LITERALLY JUST DID THAT. Five minutes ago! We all saw it! There was burning and killing and orphaning galore!
She says the burn-y, murder-y, orphaning-y queen is Cersei, not her. She says this while wearing a black dress that’s pretty similar to Cersei’s fashion aesthetic these days, as the fields around her still smoulder from her dragon attack.
Seriously, what is she doing?
Blah blah, destroy the wheel, blah blah, she’s liberating them, etc etc. Dany offers the captured men a choice. They can bend the knee and join her, or refuse and die.
This is 100% how you become a liberator queen who is loved by her people. No doubt about it.
Tyrion does not look happy, as you’d expect. Some of the men kneel, but not many, and then Drogon roars down at the crowd, and a whole lot more drop to the group. But a few men still refuse, including the Tarlys.
Dammit, Dickon. I knew that humanising of you last week was bad news.
Lord Tarly tells Dany that he already has a queen, one who was born in Westeros and who has lived here all her life. Cersei might be evil incarnate, but at least she’s not a foreign invader.
Tyrion suggests that Lord Tarly could take the black, but Lord Tarly disagrees. Dany can’t send him to the wall, since she’s not his queen.
Now Dickon steps forward. I guess it had to happen. He says that if they kill his father, they’ll have to kill him as well. Pretty much everyone tells him to shut up, but he refuses.
Tyrion is clearly panicking at this point. He suggests they just put Dickon in a cell, but Dany isn’t going to go back on her word. She gave them a choice, and they’ve made it.
Dany, you’re a tyrant and you’ve barely even done anything yet. Tyrion still protests: “if you start beheading entire families–“
“I’m not beheading anyone,” she says, and Tyrion looks at her like WHAAAAT as Drogon roars. To be fair, it’s probably a quick death. Dragon fire has got to incinerate people pretty fast, like lava. But also, wtf Dany???
Lord Tarly grasps Dickon’s arm as they face down the dragon. “I, Daenerys Targaryen, first of my name…” Oh god, is she going to do the whole thing?? That’s just cruel. But she abridges it a bit, to just “Breaker of chains and mother of dragons,” which seems a weird thing to bring up when she literally told her a whole bunch of people they had to follow her or die. Not such a breaker of chains now, huh? She sounds almost bored as she says, “Dracarys,” and Drogon breathes fire.
And I was wrong. Really, really wrong. This isn’t like getting hit with a pyroclastic flow (although, tbf, I don’t know what that’s like either). This is MESSED UP. By the end, there’s nothing left of them.
All the other men quickly kneel.
I mean… that’s a bitching braid you’re rocking right now, Dany. But that’s about all the good things I can say about you.
And in fact, let’s press pause for a second. Let’s consider this scene. Game of Thrones has never been good at nuance. It takes all the complexity of the characters in the books and railroads them directly into whatever stereotype the novel was originally trying to subvert. So now Dany is conquering Westeros, she is A Conqueror. She’s show-y and cruel.
I literally don’t know what to make of it. Thinking about it too much only makes the knots wrap tighter together. It’s easy to watch the scene and get pulled into the drama and hate Dany. It all gets muddier when you stop and think… why, though? How did Dany get from there to here? How do we have the sympathetic, passionate figure we saw in the caves last episode, and also have this unflinchingly cruel conquerer? Is it character complexity, or is it just the sloppy writing of making her fit whatever box the narrative needs at the time?
OK, unpause. I don’t have answers for any of this. I feel like I need to get my hands on Winds of Winter. Seeing how the book presents Dany’s perspective and how this Dany differs from George RR Martin’s vision will be really helpful in puzzling this out. But we can’t have that, so… that’s that.
We jump to Jaime, hurrying to Cersei’s side. She asks him how many men they lost. Jaime claims they haven’t counted yet, but I’m pretty sure the answer is all of them. Cersei obviously doesn’t care about the people themselves, but they need an army. Oh well, she says. They have gold, and mercenaries will fight if they’re well paid.
How much exactly does she think you need to pay someone to face that?
Jaime says the Dothraki will beat any army he’s ever seen. They cannot win this war. Cersei’s just like, “We don’t have a choice, you dumbass.” Cersei makes an aside about Tyrion and how he killed Joffrey, and for some reason, Jaime thinks this is the perfect time to pipe up and says that, actually, Olenna murdered him.
Cersei is pissed. “I shouldn’t have listened to you,” she says. It’s a fair point. He is pretty useless these days. “She should have died screaming.” Jaime points out that they wiped out her entire house, but whatever. She’s done listening to his nonsense. She’d rather fight and die than submit and die, and so should he.
Jon is brooding on a cliff in Dragonstone when Dany and Drogon return. Drogon lands and runs straight for Jon, roaring. There’s this super cool shot where Drogon stretches out his neck and bares his teeth, and my god, the CGI looks cool. This is a TV SHOW, and yet those eyes!
Dany peers down looking mildly… confused? Concerned? She can’t really see what’s happening, although I assume she knows Jon’s there. Meanwhile, Jon takes off his glove and holds out a hand to Drogon, like Drogon is a cat or something. Drogon lowers his nose slightly, and lets Jon stroke it.
BECAUSE JON IS A TARGARYEN, GUYS. I assume there were some viewers of the show who’d never heard that theory and considered it a genuine plot twist. But I am not one of those people, and I doubt anyone who reads Game of Thrones reactions online is either.
Drogon shifts slightly, so that Dany can see what’s going on. She stares at Jon as Drogon pulls back. Jon is shaking, looking like he might cry, as Dany steps down, and Drogon flies away to join his brothers.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” Dany asks, and I guess she’s not jealous of Drogon letting Jon stroke him, which is a plus. “Wasn’t the word I was thinking of,” Jon says, but Dany glowers at him, and he quickly changes tune. “But yes,” he says. “They are. Gorgeous beasts.”
I’m not sure calling them beasts will endear him to Dany, somehow. But she just corrects him gently. She always thinks of them as her children.
She asks him what Ser Davos meant with the whole “knife in the heart” business, and Jon deflects, saying Ser Davos gets carried away. That is blatantly untrue, since he literally introduced Jon in the throne room as just “yup, this is Jon Snow.” I’m surprised he included that much.
Dany asks if it was just a figure of speech, but of course Jon can’t answer that, because that would actually be lying. Luckily, he’s saved by the arrival of Ser Jorah.
Dany is so, so happy to see him. She confirms he found a cure, and then goes up and hugs him close. Meanwhile, Jon frowns in the background like “wtfffff.” Seriously, look!
He’s only seen him for three seconds and he’s already marked Ser Jorah as sketchy AF.
In the snowy North, crows are gathered on a tree. Their eyes go white. One caws, and they all fly away, controlled by Bran. He flies them over the Wall, until they find the army of the dead. They’re not moving very fast, since they’re, you know, dead, but they are vast. Then the Night King looks right up at the crows, and they scatter, jolting Bran awake. He says they need to send ravens at once.
Assumedly a few days later, Sam carries a pile of scrolls into a meeting of maesters. They’ve received Bran’s message, and they are not responding to it well. But as they mock the Northerners, you can kind of see their point. Bran claims to have seen an army of dead men beyond the Wall with the magical help of a raven. Couldn’t he at least reframe it so it sounded a little bit less nuts?
Sam interrupts them, and they all stare at him, like, oh, you’re still here? Sam tells them he let Bran through the Wall years before. Bran somehow survived out there for years, when no one else could. Maybe he’s worth listening to. Sam tells the maesters everyone trusts and respects them, and you can tell he’s gearing up for a Big Convincing Speech. If they say the threat is real, people will believe it, and send their men north on their word. And if the maesters read all the scrolls they own, they may figure out how to defeat the dead for good.
Sam, I thought you were going to bring up more of… well, a plan. Something realistic. A stepping stone, something between “this is all nonsense” and “everyone should send all their men north immediately on our word.” The maesters just stare at him some more.
“It could be done,” the Grand Maester says. “And this news could be authentic. It’s possible.” He sounds like goddamn Socrates. “It’s also possible that this message is part of a ploy by the Dragon Queen to lure southern armies away from the lands they are currently defending.” Sam insists it’s real. He’s seen it, he says.
In the end, the Grand Maester decides to write back to Winterfell for further clarification. Which seems like a fair conclusion, to be honest. But Sam is furious. The maesters all laugh about false prophecies and gods and heroes, while Sam storms out.
Then, I kid you not, as soon as he’s gone, one of the maesters goes, “Is he the one whose father and brother were just burnt alive?” He sounds so conversational about it! Like, “oh yeah, Sam, he’s the one whose dad is a blacksmith,” except, you know, about death and dragon fire. The Grand Maester confirms that its true, and that he hasn’t told Sam about it yet. He says Sam is a good lad. For a moment, he almost seems sad about it, but then the moment passes, and they move on to new business.
Back at Dragonstone, Varys sits with a scroll from Winterfell, while Tyrion drinks, trying to rationalise all this to himself. “All rulers demand people bend the knee,” he says. “It’s why they’re rulers.” Varys is silent. “She gave Tarly a choice,” he continues, and yup, he has so much regret right now. “What else could she do?”
“Not burn him alive alongside his son?” Varys asks. It’s a good point. Tyrion says he can’t make decisions for her, but Varys has an answer for that too. He used to tell himself the same about her father. He grabs Tyrion’s goblet of wine and takes a big gulp, before launching into the story. The details of her father’s fire and cruelty, and how Varys stood there, taking in the horror, telling himself, over and over, “I’m not the one doing it.”
Tyrion insists that Dany is not her father, and Varys agrees. She never will be either, he says, with the right council. He tells Tyrion he needs to find a way to make her listen.
And hold up. Hold up, show. This is our set-up, isn’t it? Dany survived so much before these guys came along, but now, she’s the impulsive dumbass, and they’re the smarts and power behind the throne. They don’t believe she’ll make a good queen, or even that she deserves to be queen. They just want to get rid of Cersei, and they think Dany will be more malleable than Cersei would ever be as queen. Have I got that right?
Varys literally promised, like three episodes ago, that he would tell Dany if she ever did anything questionable. But now they’re sitting and drinking their wine, thinking about how best to manipulate her to do what they want.
I’m intrigued by the “Dany is like her father” plot thread in the books, but I’m not really here for it here. But I guess we’ll see how it goes.
Varys says the letter in his hand is for Jon Snow, and it contains nothing good. Jump to Jon, reading it. “I thought Arya was dead,” he says. So that was a pretty harsh analysis, Varys, that it contained nothing good. Maybe true, knowing Arya now, but still. Harsh. “I thought Bran was dead,” Jon continues. Dany says she’s happy for him, but he doesn’t look happy. Neither does she, to be honest. Jon says he needs to go home. They’ll fight with the men they have, unless she joins them. But she won’t. She knows Cersei will march in as soon as she leaves.
But Tyrion has another idea. Cersei thinks the wights are just a story, so they have to prove her wrong. They can bring a wight to King’s Landing.
There are two major problems with this plan. First, if you bring Cersei a zombie, she’ll just add it to her crew. She’s already got Ser Gregor. And second, how on earth do they intend to get a wight that far without killing it or it killing them? But no one in the council room recognises these things. Tyrion thinks he can get through to Cersei if he speaks to Jaime, and Ser Davos offers to smuggle him into the Red Keep.
Meanwhile, Ser Jorah offers to ride north to find a wight. But Jon says the free folk won’t follow him. The King in the North has to go. While he says this, he stares at Dany all wistfully, like, “We could have been in looooove.”
Dany pipes up that she hasn’t given him permission to leave. “With respect, Your Grace, I don’t need your permission. I am a king.” He tells her he puts his trust in her, even though she was a stranger, because it was the best chance for all of their people. “I’m asking you to trust a stranger,” he says, “because it’s our best chance.” Dany looks at him, and then glances at Tyrion, with a look of regret. It’s a face that says “but this one is so pretty, and Drogon likes him. It’ll be sad when he’s dead.”
We jump back to Winterfell, where men are arguing in the hall. “We did not choose you to rule us, my lady,” they say to Sansa, and I am all ready to jump up in her defence — I literally pause the video to write down how OUTRAGEOUS this is — before they add “but perhaps we should have.”
Alright, Northerners. You get a pass this time.
Sansa says they’re very kind, but Jon is their king, and he’s doing what he thinks is best.
Later, Sansa and Arya walk away down a corridor, and the height difference is amazing. I realize, watching it, that this must be what my best friend and I look like to outsiders. Then again, while I’m the same height as Maisie Williams, my bestie is taller than Sophie Turner, so we probably look even more ridiculous.
Anyway! Sansa’s annoyed, because she warned Jon about this. Her face is all “fucking dumbass.” But Arya is mad at her. The men were all insulting Jon, and Sansa sat there and listened. I’m not sure what she thinks Sansa should have done. Stabbed them? Sansa says it’s her responsibility to listen to their complaints, and that they need their men. Offend them, and lose their army.
“Not if they lose their heads first,” Arya says. I’m not sure she understands the concepts of allies and diplomacy. Maybe she should go over to Cersei’s side after all. When Sansa points out that beheading people can’t solve every problem, Arya accuses her of wanting the throne for herself. Sansa’s shocked; how can she even think such a horrible thing?
“You’re thinking it right now,” Arya says. Which, yes. That’s how thinking works. You mention something to someone and they give it space in their brain. But Arya thinks it’s something worse. “You don’t want to be,” she says. “But the thought won’t go away.”
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion and Davos are pulling their boat onto a beach. I guess at this point in the series, we don’t have time for long, drawn-out travel. The Westeros Teleportation Machine is in full effect, and honestly, I can get behind it. Very little about this show makes sense any more, and at least this way, we get more interesting plot and less monologues from Littlefinger.
Meanwhile, Bronn is taking Jaime down into the depths of the castle to train. Except it’s all a clever ruse! Tyrion is there! Jaime says that he once said if he ever saw Tyrion again, he’d cut him in half. But Tyrion has a lot to say to him too. Their father was going to execute him, even knowing he was innocent. Tyrion gets choked up as he says, “He hated me because of what I am. Do you think I wanted to be born this way? Do you think I chose–“
But Jaime interrupts him. “What do you want?”
The problem here, Tyrion, is you were assuming Jaime functions like a normal human being, with emotions and empathy. He doesn’t. He’s just a robot of The Plot now.
So Tyrion gets back on track. He tells Jaime that Dany will win the war, and Jaime must know it. But Dany is willing to suspect hostilities if Cersei will agree to “certain terms.” But she doesn’t want Cersei to bend the knee, despite that being her catchphrase this season. She has a more important request.
Over in Fleabottom, Davos wanders into a blacksmith. “Wasn’t certain I’d find you,” he says to Gendry. “Thought you might still be rowing.” Ser Davos, always here for the memes. He’d have an excellent deadpan Twitter account. Gendry looks a lot older than I remember him, or maybe just… different. I even look up if it’s a different actor, but apparently it’s not. I just have amnesia about what he looks like, I guess.
Davos gets ready to give a big speech to convince Gendry to join the cause, but Gendry is instantly like, “cool, I’m ready.” We’ve got a plot to get on with!
Back at the boat, Davos tells Gendry to keep his father’s name to himself. As they’re putting stuff in the boat, guards approach, but Davos slickly bribes them, showing off his cool, affable smuggler skills. But as they leave, Tyrion approaches, and instead of HIDING or TURNING AROUND or ANYTHING, Tyrion just continues straight on past them. They spot him and get suspicious, and before you know it, Gendry has brained them with his hammer.
So I guess that problem is resolved, at least.
Jaime goes to tell Cersei that he met with Tyrion, which seems like a dangerous way to open a conversation, but Cersei just rolls with it. She asks what he had to say, and Jaime tells her: Dany wants an armistice because an army of the dead is marching on the Seven Kingdoms, and Tyrion says she’ll have proof.
This is an absolutely terrible plan. Dany doesn’t even need to worry about Cersei! Even if Cersei retakes the Reach, Dany can swoop in with Drogon again and take it back in a second. And there’s no way Cersei will send them men, no matter how convincing their zombies are.
Cersei asks Jaime if he’ll punish Bronn for betraying him, and Jaime realizes Cersei let the whole meeting happen. Maybe someone should have told those guards whose brains are now all over the beach. Cersei thinks this meeting could be in their immediate interest. “If we want to beat her, we have to be clever. We have to fight her like father would have.” Soooo… murder them all at Dany and Jon’s wedding?
“Whatever stands in our way,” she continues, “we will defeat it. For ourselves. For our house. For this.” And she touches her stomach, while Jaime’s face is all oh shit. He kisses her, and she hugs him. Then, as they’re hugging, she speaks into his ear. “Never betray me again,” she says.
How did he betray her? She knows he was tricked into going down there.
None of this makes any goddamn sense.
Davos teleports back to Dragonstone, where Jon is preparing to leave. I know the show needs a bit of leeway on travel time, but they’re literally saying that Davos and Tyrion travelled to King’s Landing and Jon stood about and waited until they got back? I guess it makes sense that they need to find out whether or not they got that information through to Cersei, but on the other hand… no, it doesn’t! It’ll take them forever to get north of the wall. Why were they waiting??
“If I don’t return,” he says to Dany, “at least you won’t have to deal with the King in the North any more.”
“I’ve grown used to him,” Dany says. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
“I wish you good fortune in the wars to come, Your Grace,” he says. Then he nods and leaves. Somehow, I feel like Dany was hoping for a better goodbye.
Meanwhile, back in Oldtown, Sam is carefully transcribing, while Gilly reads a book. Then they have this exchange.
“What does annulment mean?” Gilly asks.
“It’s when a man sets aside his lawful wife.”
“Meynard says here that he issued an annulment for Prince… Rag-gar and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.”
Except Sam’s not listening. He interrupts Gilly’s REALLY IMPORTANT PLOT POINT to rant about the maesters instead. This is the problem with the patriarchy. Gilly’s here, solving mysteries, but does he listen? Nope. Sam storms to the Restricted Section, and I guess steals some books to do research with or something? There’s dramatic cello music, anyway, as he looks over all the books, before leaving. In fact, he’s leaving Oldtown with Gilly. He’s tired of reading about other men’s achievements.
Didn’t Jon ask Sam specifically to go to Oldtown to do research and give them a connection to the maesters? I don’t think stealing a few scrolls will make up for that, somehow.
Back in Winterfell, Littlefinger is doing his usual Littlefinger things. We see him whispering with a maid, while Arya watches. Then he talks to some older men, and finally, Arya catches him talking to the maester. The maester hands him a scroll, and after Littlefinger confirms that this is the only copy of whatever it is in Winterfell, he says, “Lady Stark thanks you for your service.”
Arya looks away as ominous music plays. As soon as Littlefinger has deposited the scroll in his room and left again, Arya breaks in and hunts for it.
And omg, it’s the letter that Cersei made Sansa write, all the way back in Season 1. We can’t see all of it, but there’s enough “… Joffrey and tried to steal his throne… swear fealty to King Joffrey… your faithful sister, Sansa.” It’s hard to tell anything from Arya’s face, but as she leaves, we see Littlefinger, watching her. He knew he was there the whole time. So yup, he’s definitely trying to play them against each other.
About three seconds after they left Dragonstone, Jon and his men land at Eastwatch. And again, I don’t want to nitpick, because fast travel makes for a way more fun show, even if it’s not a very consistent or sensible one. But let’s look at a map, here.
Dragonstone and King’s Landing… they’re not that far apart. Not a hop and a skip from one another, but probably a few days travel. But look at Dragonstone to Eastwatch. A journey half the distance took Arya three episodes.
But whatever. It beats Jon taking five seasons to get off that ship, I guess.
Anyway, Eastwatch. Tormund asks Jon if he really wants to go out there again, and Jon nods, which seems like a total lie. Like, he might have to, but it’s cold out there, Jon. There are zombies. Want and need are different things. But Tormund says they’re not the only ones.
And hey, the Brotherhood are here with the Hound! Although they’re more into semantics that Jon: “We don’t want to go beyond the wall. We have to.” Gendry says not to trust them, since they kind of sold him to Melisandre to be murdered and all. I’ll be honest, I don’t fully remember this. Without Lady Stoneheart, they kind of lack purpose. The Brotherhood don’t help to make themselves more compelling, just rambling about a greater purpose, and how they can serve it together. And Jon, at least, agrees. They’re all on the same side. After all, they’re all breathing.
And they set out into the snow.