Because someone (I think, facetiously) complained on Facebook: SPOILERS!
There. Happy now?
I suppose those craving a repeat of the Sept of Baelor could feel a twinge of disappointment that Cersei didn’t reprise last year’s remorseless annihilation on those attending the conclave. But we got to see plenty of other stuff crumble in the Season 7 finale. Relationships, loyalty, schemes, shame, structures. Oh, plenty.
The Dragon Pit
Someone should count the number of long-awaited reunions granted this season. In the first fifteen minutes of this episode, there were at least half a dozen more.
- Bronn and Tyrion reacquaint themselves, with Tyrion making the same tired, empty offer to double whatever the Lannisters are paying him. Bronn insists he’s doing fine for himself, bringing the queen two traitors so she can lop off their heads. At this point, they confess just how dearly they have missed each other.
- Tryion also sees Pod again, but Bronn usurps the reunion to take him drinking while the fancy folk talk.
- Brienne and the Hound sound like proud foster parents, having helped Arya along the path to becoming a devastating killing machine.
- Brienne’s rapport with Jaime allows her to decry him for standing on loyalty even when it’s stupid. He ignores her at first, only to come around later.
- Though they have not been apart long, Theon and his uncle trade what passes in the Iron Isles for pleasantries, until seemingly everyone at the meeting orders Euron to sit down and shut up.
- The Hound also reunites with his brother, the reanimated Mountain, now the uglier of the two brothers, and swears he’ll be back to finish him. Not Cleganebowl, but the next best thing: A promise of it.
Daenerys makes an ostentatious production of her entrance, arriving on Drogon’s back after the others have taken their seats. At least she didn’t make Missandei spout out her laundry list of self-awarded titles. Cersei complains about being kept waiting. She should chill. Dany has dragons. You’ll do things on her time.
Rhaegal soars overhead. Beyond the gates, the Unsullied stand in ranks while the Dothraki stampede their horses about. Cersei later notes that Daenerys made of show of it, with all her forces on display, but only two dragons. Somehow, nobody else seemed to notice this crucial detail.
The captured wight from the army of the dead has the desired effect on the Kings Landing party. After a long pause, it bursts out of the box and charges straight at Cersei, evil drawn to evil. When the Hound pulls its ravenous charge up short, only inches from Cersei’s face, she is petrified. Even when the Hound slices the wight in half, the severed pieces of it keep struggling to get free and murder someone. Jon gives a clinical lecture about destroying them with fire or dragonglass. Qyburn is fascinated, picking up the still-moving hand for closer inspection. Euron declares that in all his travels he’s never seen anything that horrified him so much. Since the undead can’t swim, he’s taking the Iron Fleet back to his islands.
After the sight of the undead and some pretty speechmaking by Jon, Cersei agrees to a truce, but with a condition. When hostilities between Cersei and Daenerys resume, Jon and the North must remain neutral. Jon chooses this moment to announce that he can make no such promise, because he has pledged himself to House Targaryen. Cersei storms out. The deal is off.
After everyone chides Jon for his damnable honor, Tyrion risks his own head to treat privately with his sister. She could order the Mountain to kill him, and seems on the verge of doing it. Given Maggy the Frog’s prophesy to Cersei about being strangled by the valonqar, she should do it. But when he deduces she is pregnant, she not only lets him rejoin his party, but returns to the dragon pit herself to announce her forces will join in the battle against the Night King, and she expects nothing in return. We do not see the change of heart, and we are left to wonder what else Tyrion must have said—and promised—to sway her. If this seems uncharacteristically reasonable of Cersei, that’s because it is.
Cersei’s reversal is strange. The attention on her pregnancy raises suspicions that the promised “valonqar” may reside in her own belly. When you consider her hatred of Tyrion, in part for the crime of killing their mother when she gave birth to him, dying in the same matter would have a kind of dark symmetry to it. It would also deprive lots of deserving people of up close revenge, of course. Not sure how that would satisfy the “hands about your pale white throat” part of the prophesy. This whole pregnancy angle raises all kinds of new possibilities, including Munchausen Syndrome.
Theon’s Redemption Arc Turns Upward
Theon, who as a child picked on Jon the bastard because he was the only one at Winterfell of lower station than he, the Ward taken from Lord Balon Greyjoy. Theon was a prisoner by treaty, but at least he was trueborn. He humbles himself to apologize and to confess admiration for the King in the North, who always seems to do the right thing. Proving gentle of heart again, Jon forgives Theon, to the extent forgiveness is his to extend.
When Theon says Yara was the only one who came to save him, and that he owes it to her to return the favor, Jon asks, “Then why are you standing here talking to me?” It is testament to his growth that Theon does not ask for Jon’s help.
Instead, he confronts the remaining members of Yara’s crew. The leader of the group pounds him. Twice he says, “Stay down, or I’ll kill you.” Theon shows his Ironborn mettle, standing on wobbly legs each time. When the fool leader knees him in the groin, it has no effect. Theon, emboldened, tackles the traitor and knocks him unconscious. Theon’s sudden resurgence was Rocky I-level silly (maybe worse; Rocky didn’t have any castration jokes that I can recall). But you can’t help smiling a bit for poor Theon-turned-Reek-turned-Yara’s champion. Next stop: get Euron.
Speaking of Euron, Cersei says his claim to be going home was a ruse. He is really going to pick up the Golden Company, a 20,000-strong mercenary army purchased with Iron Bank gold. She finds Jaime giving orders to his companies for the march north. She sends them away and tells Jaime she always knew he was the stupidest Lannister. She lied about helping with the war in the north. They are not joining a usurper and a cavalry of savages; they are going to busy themselves reclaiming lost lands while Jon and Daenerys are occupied with the Night King. Jaime points out that one side or the other will win the war up north, then turn south and kill all of them. She doesn’t care. She will fiddle while King’s Landing burns. Or freezes.
When Jaime expresses his intention to honor his word and ride north, Cersei threatens to have Ser Gregor kill him. That’s two potential valonqars in one day, if you’re keeping count. More understandably than with Tyrion, she cannot bring herself to do it. We later see Jaime north of the city. As he pulls a glove over his hideous golden hand, a symbolic snowflake falls and melts. Snow in King’s Landing. As rare as stable rulers. And just as fleeting.
Having earlier in the day admitted being an idiot, like Tyrion, for trying to reason with Cersei, it appears Jaime may finally have made a break from her. If so, Cersei is left with nothing for support but a bank that will demand repayment with interest soon, a giant undead automaton whose brother has sworn to finish the job Oberyn Martel started, a creepy mad scientist whose most useful attribute is a complete lack of scruples, a lascivious sea captain who cannot be trusted, and an unborn baby who, if you believe in prophesies, will remain unborn. Some allies. Steadfast in her fury, she remains convinced that she will win.
Sisterhood on Trial
Littlefinger is pouring venom in Sansa’s ear again, this time in the form of his “Assume the Worst” game. Through this manipulation, he convinces Sansa that Arya came to Winterfell to kill her, acquired the “Dear Robb” message to justify the killing, and had everything to gain because with Sansa gone, she would be the Lady of Winterfell. After a contemplative walk along the parapet, Sansa has Arya summoned to the Great Hall.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Arya asks. “Well, get on with it, then.”
Sansa reads out the charges: Murder and treason. “How do you respond…Lord Baelish?” Baelish is dumfounded, of course, so Arya prods him, “My sister asked you a question.”
All this time we were worried he was winning Sansa over with his slick deceits. When he professes to have done it all to protect her, she responds, “yet you sold me to the Boltons.” Among all his misdeeds and foul steps, that was the most unforgivable sin. He tries to sidestep accusations that he caused Ned’s unjust execution, insisting, “None of you were there.” Bran quashes his argument saying, “You held a knife to his throat. You said, ‘I did warn you not to trust me.’” Man, it sucks having a clairvoyant in the room when you’re lying to save your wretched life.
When he is reduced to groveling on his knees, Sansa pledges to remember the many lessons she has learned from him, and Arya deftly cuts his throat. The unpacking of this surprise, the sudden realization that Lord Baelish, and not Arya, was on trial, and the airtight way that the Stark siblings pinned many of the ills that began in the first episode on Littlefinger served as ample reward for the frustration of the battles between the sisters over the past few weeks. It doesn’t explain why the most confrontational of these scenes, orchestrated to manipulate Littlefinger, occurred behind the closed door of Arya’s chamber. But in our euphoria, we’ll let that slide.
As Sansa puts it, the pack survives. But man, we’re running out of villains.
Sam the Revealer – and New Incest (ugh!)
As predicted, Sam goes where the fight is, showing up at Winterfell. Bran engages with him emotionally far more than he has any of his siblings, remembering that Sam let them through the Wall and declaring he’s a “good man.” Between the two of them, they piece together that Jon was not only Lyanna’s son, and not Ned’s, but also that he is not a bastard, since Rhaegar Targaryen married Lyanna in Dorne. Robert’s rebellion, the definitive event in recent cannon history of Westeros, which was fought when Rhaegar supposedly kidnapped and raped Lyanna, was based on a lie. One of many lies to change history in Westeros.
“We must tell him,” Bran says.
Unfortunately, the message is too late to prevent Jon from sleeping with his aunt. Eh, the Targaryens were known for that, though, right? Still, I can’t help objecting to just how insistently the show pounded us over the head with it. While Jon knocks on Dany’s cabin door, Bran voices over the union by declaring, “He loved her. And she loved him. He was never a bastard. He’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.” Sorry, but whatever parallel they are trying to draw gets lost in the inherent ickiness of it all.
While Jon and Daenerys consummate their relationship, Tyrion skulks about in the ship’s foyer. It's weird. Is he jealous? Or is he having a bout of conscience? Although the imp did step out of Daenerys’s shadow by brokering a (fake) deal with Cersei, it still seems there must be more to him than adviser to the queen. What, exactly, did he promise Cersei in order to make it out of that chamber alive? Man, it’s terrible being suspicious of Tyrion. But don’t we have to be?
Winter at the Wall
Through Bran’s warging eyes, we see Tormund and Beric atop the Wall at Eastwatch when a white walker and the army of the dead emerges from the woods. The horn sounds, but before anyone can marshal any defenses, a dragon scream pierces the night. Reanimated Viserion soars in, with the Night King on his back. The dragon has holes in his wings now (because bad guys can’t have nice stuff), and his flames are electric blue. He assaults the wall, and a section of it crumbles, allowing the undead army to spill into the realms of men.
Some have said this “plan” is too far-fetched. If the Night King was relying on capturing a dragon to get beyond the wall, his chances were poor, at best. If a magical horn had brought down the wall, we’d have called that predictable. What would have been satisfying? Maybe the Night King had a plan, but the captured dragon just became a better one. In any case, the real war is on now. Someone had better be making dragonglass arrows while Jon and Dany are fooling around.
The iridescent blue flames were an awesome and sensible touch. Something about the dragon’s movements seemed more mechanical than other dragon sequences, though, and the shot of the night king on Viserion’s back was so clearly a guy on a stationary apparatus in front of a green-screen. Maybe the production budget was exhausted, because it just didn’t look as realistic as others (“sealistic” being a funny word since we’re talking not only about a dragon, but an undead one).
Are we supposed to make anything of seeing the breach of the wall through Bran’s eyes? Something to contemplate during the long winter.
As a concluding episode, this one hit the right notes. The show has narrowed its focus from many story lines to a handful, and it should be able to manage them in the coming season. When will that season air? Nobody knows, but speculation is it may be as long as 18 months from now. Filming begins in October. Another chance for GRRM to release a book before next season, right? I’m not making that prediction for a third time.
More Questions to contemplate:
- What is Cersei’s angle? Is she counting on the forces of men winning, then being able to capitalize on attrition? Does she not care that taking back lost territory will cause a distraction to the forces that are defending all of humanity? Man, she may be more evil than the Night King.
- How will Jon and Daenerys be received in the Great Hall at Winterfell. Sansa calls the northern lords “proud.” They have also shown themselves to be rabid traditionalists. When Lord Umber hears that their king has submitted to a Targaryen, and worse, is himself a Targaryen, will all Jon’s (ahem, Aegon’s) good deeds evaporate?
- Is Tormund alive? He has to compete with Jaime to win Brienne’s heart. In a real world, he would be dead. He was halfway down the wall when it fell, and even if he survived that, the Night King’s army would finish him off. But this is a TV show, and he has unfinished business. He’s surely alive still.
- What happened to Ellaria and the last of the Sand Snakes? We assume they are dead. We even hope so. But do we know?
- What’s next for Arya and Sansa. With Littlefinger gone, it seems as if Sansa’s role may be played out. Another warrior is always useful, though. And Arya's reunion with Jon could be the most special of all the reunions.
- Is Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven, key to all this? Is he the narrator? Is he the Night King? Or is he just a useful piece in the battle for humanity?
- With the action moving almost entirely north next season, will HBO exhaust the world’s supply of blue camera filters?
- How in the hell can the forces of men and women defeat the Night King’s army? As the Night King introduced his terrible new weapon and the 8,000 year old wall crumbled, a sense of helplessness had to set in. Viserion seems augmented under the magical hand of his new master. The army plods on, relentless and insurmountable. Will dragonglass kill (immobilize? Defeat? Unsure of the nomenclature) an undead dragon? You have to suspect all of the dragons will ultimately fall, and mankind will have to pick up the pieces the old fashioned way.
That’s it for Season 7. Just in time for football. If we could have one character on Bill’s team, who should it be?
The best thing that happened this season was:
This poll is closed
The girl-power trial, and Baelish’s demise
The battle of the bounty train
The bear and wight battle scenes in "Beyond the Wall"
The Night King and his forces finally breaching the Wall
Other (explain in the comments)