This too-short season of ‘Game of Thrones’ comes to a close not with another epic battle set-piece (although, it kind of does that too), but with an 80-minute episode packed with uneasy alliances and fresh betrayals. Also, more incest. Because what would ‘Game of Thrones’ be without its incest?
Grey Worm and a huge phalanx of the Unsullied stand outside the walls of the capital, waiting patiently. Watching from a castle wall, Jaime and Bronn discuss the eunuch army and what it is that soldiers usually fight for. In a line that I was sorely tempted to make the headline for this post (especially given what happens later in the episode), Jaime quips, “Maybe it is all cocks in the end.” As if the Unsullied weren’t intimidating enough on their own, the Dothraki come charging in behind them and move to the front.
Tyrion and Jon Snow arrive by boat. Bronn greets them and leads them toward an old arena known as the Dragon Pit, which will serve as the setting for their armistice talks with Queen Cersei. Brienne, who has come on behalf of Sansa, is surprised to see The Hound alive. They exchange a few words about their mutual caring for Arya, and Brienne informs him that she’s alive in Winterfell. Tyrion attempts to recruit Bronn over to his side, but Bronn claims to be content with his current standing. As the various parties assemble and take their places in the amphitheater, Bronn invites Podrick to go have a drink with him while the fancy folks talk.
Cersei and Jaime arrive next with The Mountain hulking behind them. Everyone present eyes everyone else suspiciously. The Hound approaches his silent brother and warns him disdainfully, “You know who’s coming for you.”
All parties take their seats and wait, awkwardly, for Daenerys, who finally makes a grand entrance flying in on the back of her biggest dragon. Cersei holds steady, as if putting on a show of how unfazed by this she is.
The nervous tension in the arena is broken by Tyrion, who starts his opening remarks only to get rudely interrupted by Euron Greyjoy, taunting Theon about having Yara a prisoner. He makes some digs at Tyrion’s height, but Tyrion’s heard them all and worse before, and shuts down the heckling.
When the talk turns to the subject of the army of the dead, Cersei is flippant. She doesn’t believe such myths, and thinks the whole thing is a ruse to sideline her army while Daenerys marches southward. To prove her wrong, The Hound hauls in a large crate, removes the lid, and kicks it over. The captured wight bolts out in a beeline for Cersei, stopped just short of reaching her by a chain The Hound yanks back. The Hound then chops the wight in half at the waist, yet it continues to crawl toward Cersei. He lops off an arm, which Jon Snow picks up, its fingers still grasping. Jon demonstrates how the undead can be stopped by fire or by dragonglass, finally killing the ghoul. “There is only one war that matters, the Great War,” he declares. Cersei is genuinely unnerved.
At the end of the presentation, Euron Greyjoy bids his adieu to everyone and announces that he’s pulling his fleet back to the Iron Islands. He wants no part of this. He says that he’s been all around the world and this is the only thing he’s ever seen that terrified him.
Now convinced, Cersei accepts the truce. She will have her army stand down while Daenerys and the Northerners fight the undead… on one condition. She demands that, when the battle is over, Jon Snow must stay in the North and remain neutral in the war between herself and Daenerys. He can’t choose sides. Even though Daenerys appears to give him approval to accept these terms, he can’t do it. Jon reveals that he has already sworn himself to Queen Daenerys and is a man of his word. Cersei pissily calls off the truce and storms out of the area.
Brienne pulls Jaime aside and asks him to talk some sense into his sister, but he’s already chosen his side.
Daenerys is upset at Jon for choosing now to publicly proclaim his allegiance. If there’s no truce, that means her dragon died for nothing. Tyrion chastises him for refusing to lie, but Jon remains adamant that honor must still mean something.
Tyrion tries to salvage the negotiation by having a private conversation with his sister. The Mountain escorts him to her quarters. On the way, Jaime stops him for a word and they say their goodbyes to each other, in case Cersei should murder him, which is a very strong possibility.
Cersei isn’t happy to see Tyrion. The two exchange harsh words about their allegiances, but Tyrion calls her bluff about having The Mountain kill him. He also reads Cersei’s body language and correctly surmises that she’s pregnant.
While waiting in the arena, Daenerys and Jon discuss her alleged inability to have children. Jon points out that the witch who murdered her husband may not have been the most reliable source of information on that subject. They have a bit of a moment until interrupted by the return of Tyrion, with Cersei trailing behind him.
Tyrion’s talk worked. Without further explanation, Cersei announces that she will not just abide by the truce, but will send her entire army, including all her bannermen, north to fight the undead together with Daenerys and Jon.
Sansa receives a raven message announcing the news of Jon Snow’s pledge to Daenerys. She’s upset that he would make such an important decision without consulting her. Littlefinger suggests that he may plan to marry Daenerys, which would leave no room for Sansa as the Lady of Winterfell.
Sansa also worries about Arya. Littlefinger asks her to play a game he enjoys, in which she should assume that another person has the worst possible motivations for anything they do. If that were the case, Sansa says that Arya would want to kill her and become the Lady of Winterfell herself.
Travel between any parts of the world being near instantaneous this season, Jon, Daenerys and Tyrion return to Dragonstone and make plans for their next steps. Daenerys says that she will sail to Winterfell with Jon, to show the Northern people that she comes as an ally, not as a conqueror. Jorah worries for her safety. A disgruntled peasant with a crossbow and delusions of grandeur could kill the queen.
Theon asks to speak to Jon privately and begs his forgiveness for all the horrible things he’s done. Jon says that he can’t forgive everything, but he will forgive what he can, and tells Theon that he doesn’t need to choose between being a Greyjoy or being a Stark. He can be both. Relieved at this reconciliation, Theon resolves himself to save Yara.
Theon runs down to the beach and finds the remaining Ironborn packing their boats. He pleads with them to help him rescue Yara, but the leader of the pack, a man named Harrag, ridicules Theon for being weak and cowardly and knocks him to the ground. Theon tries to fight back, but Harrag is much stronger and keeps beating him back down. Nonetheless, Theon refuses to run away this time. He takes a brutal beating but keeps coming back again and again.
Their fight takes a turn when Harrag knees Theon in the groin, which has no effect on him. (What was that Jaime said about cocks?) Theon then gets the upper hand by hitting Harrag in the head with a rock and bludgeoning him until the man is either unconscious or dead. The other Ironborn respect his resiliency and return to Theon’s side. “For Yara!” they chant.
Sansa calls for Arya to meet her in the Great Hall. Arya arrives to find herself standing in the center of a ring of soldiers and noblemen. Sansa sits at the head of a table as judge. It’s to be a trial for murder and treason… but not for Arya. Sansa asks Lord Baelish how he responds to the charges.
Littlefinger is taken aback. He didn’t see this coming at all. As I suspected, the sisters were on to his scheme and merely played along to lead him to this point. Sansa accuses him of murdering her aunt Lysa Arryn, conspiring in the death of Lysa’s husband Jon Arryn, and attempting to murder Bran. Littlefinger tries to lie his way out of this, but Bran, as the Three-Eyed Raven, can see everything he’s done and confirms that the Valyrian dagger used in his assassination attempt belonged to Littlefinger, not to Tyrion as he claimed.
When he tries to escape, the Knights of the Vale turn against him. Littlefinger commences begging for his life, and insists that he loves Sansa, just as he loved her mother. Sansa thanks him for all the many lessons he taught her, and then Arya moves in swiftly and slashes his throat with the Valryian dagger. Littlefinger clutches his neck and collapses to the floor, dying painfully in a pool of his own blood.
King’s Landing (2)
As Jaime makes plans with his generals to ride north and join the fight against the dead, Cersei informs him that they’ll do no such thing. She’s double-crossing Daenerys and will withhold their army to “Let the monsters kill each other.” She very astutely noted that Daenerys only brought two dragons with her. If she’s right that something bad happened to the third, that means the dragons are vulnerable.
Cersei explains that she used the riches from Highgarden and the Iron Bank to purchase the alliance of a mercenary army from Essos called the Golden Company, and that Euron’s exit from the treaty talks was planned ahead of time. He isn’t retreating home to the Iron Islands; he’s sailing to pick up the new army.
Jaime is aghast at this. For him, this is one betrayal too many. He gave his word that he would ride north to fight, and he still intends to do that. Cersei accuses him of conspiracy and treason, and balks that, “No one walks away from me!” She even threatens to have The Mountain kill him if he tries to leave, but Jaime calls her bluff and walks out. He’s last seen riding north alone as the first snowfall lands on the capital. Winter has come.
Sam and Gilly arrive in Winterfell. Sam speaks to Bran, who explains the Three-Eyed Raven thing and tells Sam that he urgently needs to inform Jon Snow of the truth about his origin. He knows that Jon’s real parents were Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This triggers Sam to remember the maester’s journal passage that Gilly read about Rhaegar’s secret wedding. He asks if Bran can see that, and Bran indeed confirms that Rhaegar married Lyanna. He never raped her; they had a secret love affair. The entire cause of Robert’s Rebellion was based on a lie. More importantly, Jon Snow is not a bastard at all. He’s the true heir to the Iron Throne.
This also means that Jon Snow is Daenerys’ nephew. Unfortunately, neither of them is aware of this when Jon goes knocking on Dany’s door in the middle of the night and the two of them make sweet, sweet love. (It really is all about cocks in the end!)
Sansa and Arya have another talk in the aftermath of Littlefinger’s death. They talk about their dad, and Sansa jokes that her sister is still “very strange and annoying.”
Brans sits beneath a weirwood tree and wargs control of more ravens as they go flying to the Wall to witness…
Standing at the top of the Wall, Tormund and Beric spot an army of thousands of dead Wildlings (including a few giants) marching out of the forest. They immediately sound an alarm, not that it will accomplish much. Right behind the army, the undead dragon flies in with the Night King on its back and repeatedly blasts the Wall with blue fire.
Tormund and Beric retreat as the Wall starts to crumble. Many men fall to their deaths. The dragon pummels the Wall again and again, until a huge section of it collapses entirely, allowing the entire army of the dead to walk in unimpeded.
And that’s the end of Season 7, folks!
Having just finished watching it, I think I still need time to process Season 7 of ‘Game of Thrones’. While I had certain quibbles (the time compression issues really got to be ridiculous, especially in the last episode), my immediate inclination is to call this the best season of the series yet. Even just to say that it’s among the top seasons is an impressive achievement for a show in its seventh year. The plotting was pretty on-point all season (even without any George R.R. Martin novels to use as a roadmap), the narrative momentum picked up a lot of steam, and it truly felt like all the many disparate story threads are weaving together to lead toward the conclusion next year. And all that’s on top of some amazing action set-pieces that put many big-budget feature films to shame.
The finale episode is immensely satisfying on many fronts. Although I’m saddened to see the show’s most delightfully cunning schemer go, Littlefinger had a very fitting exit. The episode’s final scene is also one hell of an “Oh shit!” cliffhanger to leave us craving more.
Why did this season have to be so short? I want another episode right now!