I commend each and every one of you for making it back after the utter desolation that was the Battle of Winterfell. We’re all gluttons for punishment, but at least we’re in it together.
While not as traumatic, this week’s episode still saw its share of death. Let’s pour one out for all that we lost last night: one dragon, three ships (the romantic kind), many ships (the boat kind), a good chunk of our collective lingering hope, and saddest of all, Missandei.
This week started off strong with a recap from The Long Night that sparked a severe bout of PTSD and sent me sprinting to the kitchen for the wine that I told myself I’d save for at least halfway through the episode. Like, yeah, throw in that cute supercut of everyone dying last week just in case we somehow forgot, you absolute sadists.
We open on a nice solemn scene of the survivors from the battle saying goodbye to the fallen.
HBO reminds us that they are not here to play games by kicking things off with a nice, slow pan of Jorah’s dead body. Dany drops the world’s longest kiss on his forehead and honestly I’m surprised it didn’t wake him from his eternal slumber.
Next we cut to Sansa, weeping over Theon. Again, I hate it, but I respect Theon and thus will allow it. She attaches her Stark pin to his chest before stepping back to join Jon, Arya, and the rest of those gathered to watch. Amongst them is Ghost, in the first of his two appearances tonight. His agent must have stepped in to secure an additional 30 seconds of screen time in his contract.
Jon, of course, must make a speech before they burn all the bodies. It’s wild that the guy who constantly reminds everyone that he doesn’t want to be a leader is also the one who refuses to turn down an opportunity to yell inspirational things at a crowd of people.
Jon: All these people died at the hands of zombies for us, so it’d be cool if we could all stop being petty and maybe get along from here on out.
Dany and Sansa: Read 7:32AM
Everyone takes a nice lingering look at the person who effectively saved their life before they’re all set ablaze, giving us a last glance at Beric, Edd, and Lyanna Mormont.
Like, I’m sorry, I know it’s a time to be respectful, but why isn’t Arya sitting on Tormund’s shoulders and chugging ale or something? Our girl killed the NIGHT KING. Where is her recognition? Why is Gendry still wearing pants? What is going on?
Afterwards, everyone heads inside to enjoy an incredibly uncomfortable meal and is not making eye contact with each other. It’s understandable—feels like it’d be rough to make small talk after watching half of your people get slaughtered by a dead army.
Gendry: So uh…. Where’s Arya? Asking for a friend.
The Hound: My dude, people are still burning outside, please keep it in your pants for 30 seconds.
Gendry heads off in search of Arya before being called out by Dany, who casually announces to the entire hall that he’s Robert Baratheon’s son. Could she calm down for one second?
Dany: Hey remember that time your dad slaughtered my entire family?
Gendry: No, but I do remember the time that he abandoned me at birth.
But the conversation takes a turn for the better when Dany instates Gendry’s status as the lawful son of Robert Baratheon, the Lord of Storm’s End. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that no one saw that coming. Mercy? In my Khaleesi? Sounds fake.
Except it makes total sense when you realize it was an entirely self-serving move on her part, solidifying Gendry’s life-long loyalty and cutting down a potential competing claim to the Iron Throne at the same time. Tyrion picks up on it, as does Sansa. Their reactions are opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of being impressed.
This proclamation changes the tides of the night, kicking off the celebration in full. What follows is about 25 minutes of nonstop revelry and drunken hookups. It’s equal parts heartwarming and anxiety-inducing to watch, because we all know that happiness does not last long in this show.
Tormund cements his status as Jon Snow’s number-one fan by going on an alcohol-fueled tirade about all the things his little crow has accomplished, all while plying the guy with more wine. In a not-at-all-shocking turn of events, Jon is a lightweight and Tormund believes in puking and rallying.
Tormund: MY TINY DRAGON RIDER CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD Y’ALL REMEMBER THAT.
Tormund: HE SHOULD BE KING.
Tormund: WOW IF ONLY JON COULD BE KING.
Tormund: WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT IF JON WAS KING.
It looked for a second there like alcohol had cured the awkward tension between Dany and Jon, but it slowly starts creeping in as she takes in her surroundings. Around the room she sees him being celebrated by the Northerners in a way she knows she never will be. She watches the Lannister brothers, once her greatest foes, laughing together as if they’ve never been on opposing sides of the same war. It’s becoming abundantly clear that her road to the Iron Throne isn’t as clear as she once thought it was.
Over at the Lannister table, the drinks are flowing, the romance is brewing, and everything is looking super chummy in the midst of this drinking game where people try and guess things that have occurred in other people’s pasts. 10/10 would destroy relationships if you tried this with your own friends, but I say we do it anyway.
Brienne: You’ve been married before.
Tyrion:Jaime: * chokes on his wine *
Brienne makes a hasty exit from the game and the room just as a drunk-ass Tormund approaches the table. He starts to follow her before being blocked by Jaime, who runs out after her instead, at which point Tormund turns into every drunk girl you’ve ever met in a bathroom at a bar and starts crying over Brienne. I have truly never loved him more.
There’s one person who is distinctly not enjoying the festivities, and that’s the Hound. He is spurning the advances of women, drinking wine like it’s his last day on Earth, and growling any time anyone mentions that Arya saved all their lives.
Dany: To Arya Stark, true hero of Winterfell!
The Hound: I taught her everything she knows, but WHATEVER.
Sansa approaches his table and the energy here is…weird. Someone recently brought to my attention that they think these two should be together, and in unrelated news I recently started punching people who offer up bad opinions.
The Hound: So what happened to Ramsey?
Sansa: I fed him to his dogs.
The Hound: Wow, okay, so the two Stark girls are the only things I’ve ever loved.
These two start strolling down memory lane, which is a sad road littered with trauma. The Hound tells Sansa that she could have avoided every terrible thing that happened to her—Baelish, Ramsey—if she’d only left King’s Landing with him when she had the chance. But all that sh*t is what made Sansa who she is today, and she tells him as much. The last time they saw each other she was still a Little Bird, and now she’s the stone cold Lady of Winterfell. For better or for worse, Ramsey and Baelish played a role in that transformation.
Upon becoming a full-fledged Lord, Gendry immediately bails on the party to track down Arya. Her finds her practicing archery alone, of course. No rest for the wicked and/or murderers of ice zombies.
Gendry: I can’t even use a fork but I would like to marry you.
Arya: You didn’t have to mention that first part.
Gendry drops to his knee and throws out the sweetest, most heartfelt proposal that has probably ever existed in the history of Westeros. We cried. We rewound it and cried again. We hoped and we prayed and we wished, but deep down we all knew what would come next.
Gendry: Marry me and be the Lady of Storm’s End.
Arya: Lol I’ll make you the Lady of Storm’s End.
Arya comes through with the swerve of the century, kissing Gendry and then turning down his proposal. She tells him that she’s not a lady—never has been and never will be—and while she’s right, it didn’t make it any less heartbreaking to watch.
But where one love dies, another flourishes, which is something I whispered to myself as Jaime arrives in Brienne’s room. You know this man has had a lot of sex in his life, sister or not, which makes the fact that he’s so incredibly nervous possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Is the bar low? Yes. Yes it is.
Jaime: Wow it’s so hot in here would be a shame if all my clothes just started falling off.
Brienne accuses Jaime of being jealous of Tormund, and he proves her right by immediately undressing both himself and her. They’re bickering, all the way up to the moment where they just leap at each other. Was truly hoping we’d get a shot of Jaime being the little spoon, but we just can’t have nice things I guess.
Jaime: I’ve never slept with a knight before.
Things are slightly less romantic over in Jon’s room, where Dany has arrived for a drunk confrontation. She starts out by telling him that she loves him before immediately segueing into the whole “true heir to the iron throne” bit. Sure, there’s a hefty makeout session somewhere in there, but who among us hasn’t gotten drunk and then kissed our nephew someone we shouldn’t have?
In a rare moment of vulnerability, Dany confesses that she’s jealous of the support that the Northerners so obviously have for him. Jon tells her he doesn’t want the throne, but that’s not enough for Dany. She wants Jon to keep his secret buried, because she knows that everyone will rally behind him once they find out who he is.
Jon: I have to tell Sansa though.
Dany: No that’s literally the last person I want you to tell.
The next day, we’re back in the strategy room, the time for celebrating clearly over. We learn that we’ve lost half the Unsullied, half the Northmen, and an undisclosed amount of Dothraki. Considering the whole wall of torches disappearing into the solid wall of deadly night, we can probably assume it was most of them. On top of all that, Varys announces that the Golden Company has arrived in King’s Landing, and suddenly this isn’t an even playing field anymore.
Dany: We’re going to destroy Cersei.
Tyrion: But not destroy King’s Landing in the process.
Dany, with barely concealed rage: Yes….that too.
Jon and Tyrion’s plan is to starve the city and force the people to revolt against Cersei. It is far too diplomatic for Dany’s liking, but she acquiesces. At least, until Sansa starts talking.
Sansa: Hey what if we let everyone recover from the great zombie fight that happened last night before we march them to another war.
Dany: Yeah what if we also shut the f*ck up, Sansa? Hm?
Dany thinks that Sansa is trying to renege on their deal when in reality she’s just trying to make sure everyone doesn’t die of exhaustion. Jon steps in and sides with Dany, effectively pissing off everyone in the room. Sansa and Arya share the universal look that women recognize as “men making terrible decisions” that will doom us all.
The game plan they land on is this: Jon and Davos will ride down the Kingsroad with the bulk of the remaining Northmen, Unsullied and handful of Dothraki. Dany and Tyrion, with the dragons, will lead a smaller group to White Harbor, from which point they’ll sail to Dragonstone and then onto King’s Landing. Jaime will stay at Winterfell, as a “guest of Sansa’s” aka Ser Brienne’s boyfriend. Sansa is out here giving Davos a run for the Wingman of Westeros title.
Afterwards, Jon is immediately summoned to the Godswood for a Stark family meeting. Sansa and Arya are, understandably, pissed. Bran, predictably, is silent.
Arya admits that Jon did the right thing by initially bending the knee to Dany and recruiting her support, but that doesn’t mean they’re ever going to trust her. Her and Sansa’s argument is effectively the North’s equivalent of “Locals Only.”
Jon: That’s not a great way to make allies
Arya, standing mere feet from where she killed the Night King: Bold of you to assume I am in need of allies.
Sansa and Arya veer into territory that, ironically, Jon has wanted to hear all his life: you’re a true Stark, son of Ned, our brother who was definitely never resented, blah blah blah. It’s comical watching them both wax poetic about this while Bran stares in the background, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Sansa: You’re a Stark.
Arya: You’re my brother
And then he does it. He tells them the truth. Or at least, he has Bran tell them after swearing them both to secrecy. They cut away before we can watch that conversation unfold, which is a real bummer because I would have loved to see the look on Sansa’s face.
Elsewhere, Jaime and Tyrion are catching up over the only topic that matters anymore: Braime. Or Jienne. I haven’t worked out the details yet but you catch my drift. However, they are interrupted by Bronn, who casually strolls into a tavern in the North wielding a crossbow as if this is a normal thing to do.
Bronn: Is f*cking Brienne, like, looking in a mirror?
Jaime: Considering I used to have sex with my literal twin, not really.
In what may be one of the best interactions all season, Bronn opens negotiations with the Lannister brothers for his loyalty and in turn, their lives. He lets them know what Cersei sent him there to do, but also admits that he doesn’t think she’s on the winning side of this war. As we know well by this point, Bronn is loyal only to victory.
Tyrion brings back his original deal with Bronn, doubling the price anyone offers to kill him for, by throwing Highgarden on the table. Jaime is aghast, but Bronn takes them up on the offer. He leaves as quickly as he arrived, letting them know he’ll be back to collect his debt when all the fighting is said and done.
The next day, the Hound is making his getaway when he comes across Arya on the road outside Winterfell. She is clearly also sneaking out without saying goodbye to anyone. This is a trend that I am beginning to hate. They commiserate over their shared distaste for people, their unfinished business in King’s Landing, and the fact that they won’t be returning to Winterfell. It looks like our favorite buddy cop duo is back.
The Hound: Will you leave me to die again if I get hurt?
The Hound, softly: Love that.
Up on the ramparts of the castle, Tyrion finds Sansa watching as Dany and the dragons fly into the distance. What follows is an almost entirely fruitless conversation in which Tyrion tries to get Sansa to drink some of that Targaryen Kool-Aid. She’s not budging.
Tyrion: You don’t have to be her friend but you could try not being an asshole.
Sansa: Yeah… I’m good.
It’s obvious that Sansa is distressed about the idea of Jon leaving, and she has her reasons. She points out two facts that everyone knows to be true: Dany rules by fear and Stark men don’t do well in the South. The combination of those two things make for a precarious situation for Jon. Tyrion counters with the fact that he’s not actually a Stark, at which point Sansa almost loses it. She sees something in Dany that Tyrion is steadfastly ignoring, and honestly I trust her here. If Sansa has learned anything over the years, it’s how to recognize psychopaths. So if she’s wary, there’s likely a good reason.
Down in the yard, Jon faces a series of rapid goodbyes. First is Tormund, who comes to tell him that he’s heading home with the Free Folk, finally having conceded in the battle for Brienne’s heart. As a parting gift, Jon gives Tormund Ghost, who appears to have lost an ear in battle? Or they’re just running low on that CGI budget, who’s to say?
Jon: A direwolf has no place in the South.
Narrator: That was a metaphor.
The next farewell is with Sam and Gilly, who are apparently pregnant. There’s not a lot to do at the Citadel other than have sex and read about your friend’s true lineage, I guess.
Sam: You’re the best friend I ever had.
Jon: You too.
Me: There wasn’t a lot of competition there but okay.
But the saddest parting of them all comes in the form of Jon and Ghost, because this asshole just walks right by his loyal wolf without so much as a goodbye pet? A coward. That direwolf did not battle wights and live to tell the tale only to suffer this blatant disrespect.
Aboard the Targaryen fleet, Tyrion and Varys start the first of their many conversations this episode about who should really be sitting on the Iron Throne. Tyrion is still in fierce support of Daenerys, although it appears to be wavering by the second, while Varys has slowly shifted over to Team Jon.
Tyrion: He doesn’t want the throne though.
Varys: When in the last nine years has anything that Jon wanted actually mattered.
Tyrion attempts to compromise by floating the two getting married and ruling side by side, but Varys comes out staunchly anti-incest. What a novel idea. More than anything, he’s starting to have some legitimate concerns about Dany’s temperament as a ruler.
Tyrion: Look on the bright side, maybe Cersei will kill us all and we won’t have to ever worry about it.
Varys: Fingers crossed.
And just like that, we’re already back at Dragonstone. I love how fast time flies when there are only three weeks left to wrap up the entire show. All in all, this episode has been smooth. Too smooth. People are hooking up. Marriage is being thrown around willy nilly. Missandei and Greyworm are holding hands AND smiling. Which means we should have all expected what came next: the death of a dragon.
Euron and his fleet lay waiting to ambush Dany and Co, and they brought some giant dragon slaying crossbows with them. They shoot Rhaegal out of the sky no problem, and he plummets to the ocean below. Is this a metaphor? It feels like a metaphor.
Dany flies off into the distance to protect Drogon, her last dragon, leaving Euron to turn his attention towards her ships. He starts skewering them left and right with giant harpoons, and Tyrion is forced to jump overboard to escape. Cut to the shore, where Varys, Tyrion and Greyworm have dragged themselves to dry land, followed by a handful of their soldiers. Missandei is nowhere to be found, at which point the panic starts to set in.
In King’s Landing, Cersei is gathering the people inside the walls of the Red Keep in preparation for Dany’s attack. For a second you think she’s doing it to be a kind and benevolent ruler, until you realize that she’s actually just going to use them as a human shield between herself and the oncoming army. It’s nice that she’s not even pretending to have a soul anymore.
Euron is by her side, and she celebrates his victory at sea by telling him that she’s pregnant with his child. Remember when I was like “wow are we really worried about whatever Cersei is going to pull after all that White Walker nonsense?” Well the answer is yes, we are, because we pan out to see that she’s taken Missandei prisoner. Apparently this woman truly is scarier than an army of zombies.
In the war room at Dragonstone, Varys gets real with Dany. He thinks their plan is a mistake; innocent lives are on the line, and slaughtering them all to get to Cersei is bad optics, not to mention just bad for like, humanity. Dany reminds Varys that she’s going to rid the world of tyrants, no matter the cost. Apparently even if the cost is…becoming a tyrant. Irony is fun.
Tyrion takes a softer stance than Varys, but one that is still prioritizes negotiations over all-out bloodshed. Against all odds it works, and Dany agrees that people should see that she tried to avoid slaughtering an entire city full of bystanders and that it was actually Cersei who forced her hand. Not sure if that’s how it will be received, but it’s a nice thought.
Varys and Tyrion gather for their second discussion RE: Dany might be the Mad King. Varys may have been skeptical before, but he’s now fully in favor of Jon, who he believes should be on the Iron Throne precisely for the reasons that Tyrion thinks he shouldn’t: because he doesn’t want it. Putting a man who does not seek power in charge, and a Targaryen/Stark at that, is their best bet at peace in Westeros.
Varys lays down the facts – Jon is the true heir, better suited to rule, and is in possession of a penis, something that they’ll need to sway the Lords of Westeros. Wait, are they talking about the 2020 election? Sounds familiar.
Tyrion: I believe in our queen.
Tyrion: No doubts here.
Also Tyrion: Chugs a gallon of wine.
The conversation ends at an impasse. Varys brings back his tried and true line: that his only alliance is to the realm and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it safe. We stan a true chaotic neutral.
News of Cersei’s attack has reached Winterfell, and if Sansa wasn’t anti-Dany before, she sure is now. The news rocks Jaime, who sneaks out of his room in the middle of the night to make his way to King’s Landing, leaving a sleeping Brienne in his bed. She follows him out to the yard, tells him he’s a good man, and then goes full Meredith Grey on him, throwing down a “pick me, choose me, love me.” It works out about as well as her as it did for Meredith.
Jaime may love Brienne, but he hates himself more. He goes on to list all the horrible things he’s done for Cersei which are, to be fair, numerous. It seems like Brienne takes this as confirmation that he’s going back to be with her, but I read it differently. Jaime knows that he’s the only one who can stop Cersei, and he’s going to go do it. He also knows that he’ll probably die in the process. Is this the last time they see each other alive? Probably. Am I okay? Absolutely not.
Outside the gates of King’s Landing, Dany, Tyrion, Varys, Greyworm, and a handful of Unsullied are lined up, ready to begin negotiations. Cersei, Euron, the Mountain, and Missandei watch from the ramparts, giant crossbows at the ready. Qyburn exits the gate to deliberate with Tyrion, and the both lay out their terms: unconditional surrender on both sides, with Missandei’s life on the line. Tyrion tries to reason with his sister’s Hand, hoping to avoid all out warfare. It is, as was expected, ineffective.
Tyrion: I really don’t want to hear the sounds of children burning alive.
Qyburn: Funny because that’s literally my ringtone.
Tyrion quickly tires of speaking to the mouthpiece and moves forward to address his sister directly. She doesn’t have him immediately shot down, which seems like a step in the right direction, but it’s short-lived.
You know things are going downhill when Tyrion opens with “I know you’re not a monster.” If there’s one thing Cersei loves more than being a monster, it’s proving Tyrion wrong. She listens in a manner that almost appears thoughtful while Tyrion appeals to her more tender nature: being a mother. It’s a cute attempt, but one that ultimately fails. And what do his efforts get him? A dead Missandei.
Cersei allows Missandei some last words, which is a shouted “Dracarys” across the open space between her and her friends. For one fleeting, hopeful second, I thought it might spur Drogon to action, but then remembered the crossbows. The dragon is no Jon Snow, and stays a safe distance back.
The Mountain steps forward to decapitate Missandei, and in that moment you can see Dany’s resolve to burn King’s Landing to the ground solidify, innocents be damned. Remember that time Greyworm was happy? That one time? No more. We’ve been set up for a bloodbath next week, and I, for one, am not ready.
We all need a friend who’s ready to tell the hard truths, and that’s Varys. He’s out here fighting for the people of Westeros and campaigning against incest, probably the first person in this entire show to accomplish both tasks. He’ll likely die by fire for his efforts, but at least he’s trying.
Images: HBO; Giphy (5)