Back in 2011, when the Game of Thrones was first aired, even the writer George R.R.Martin wouldn’t have thought that in the next few years, it will be one of the greatest shows ever aired on TV. Hold your dragons. On the other hand, especially during the last season, he would’ve exactly known how the show writers David Benioff and D.B.Weiss are treating the crescendo of this saga and how they are keen on rushing it towards the finish line. Majority of the viewers felt cheated as they were made to look like Robb Stark during the Red Wedding. D&D send their regards.
Right from the beginning, Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire for that matter) was not just about the robust set pieces, terrific war sequences that swallow the entire 80 minutes of an episode, like Drogon’s diet. If the throne games can be played only by invading other nations directly, the show would have barely lasted 8 episodes. Game of Thrones is all about conversations and strategies. Game of Thrones is all about how crooked minds can just sit there and move mountains (literally and not literally) somewhere else by just talking to the others. For example, every conversation made by the Littlefinger aka Lord Petyr Baelish regarding the Iron Throne is much more powerful than a war sequence in which the dragons destroy a fleet. Chaos is a ladder, that vice man told once. But, the Game of Thrones towards its conclusion didn’t allow some of its finest characters to climb the ladder and thus created more chaos.
Season 7, which had only 7 episodes ended on a high note with an army of Whitewalkers and wights penetrating the great wall with the help of a reanimated dragon led by the Night King. With the undead bomb ticking, the first episode of the Season 8, started off with the arrival of Daenerys Targaryen’s fleet entering the Winterfell to offer protection. In exchange, the unburnt with her unsullied expected allegiance and support for her to sit on the Iron Throne. That means the Northern army should fight alongside their old enemies, the Targaryens to overthrow their common enemy, the Lannisters. Or should we say just Cersei Lannister? Considering, Jaime Lannister and Tyrion Lannister already switched their sides, even before the great war.
The episode gets punctuated with several filmy reunions such as Jon Snow – Arya Stark, Jon Snow – Bran Stark, Gendry Waters – Arya Stark, Yara Grejoy – Theon Greyjoy, Samwell Tarly – Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister – Sansa Stark, Arya Stark – Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane, Jaime Lannister – Bran Stark. While some of the reunions brought us happy tears, some of them created an eerie feeling as one’s life choices affected the other one pretty badly. Consider Jaime meeting Bran. He made him a cripple. Even though it is one of the things he did for love, it changed the fate of that boy forever. (Only good thing is, very soon, the broken boy, who went on to become the three-eyed raven, is going to change the fate of entire Westeros) “Hello, old friend!” the broken boy greets Jaime. That soul-piercing stare of Bran (even though he sees everyone like that) may have completed the redemption arc of Jaime Lannister, who just switched sides to fight the undead.
Clearly, the northerners are not impressed with Jon Snow swearing allegiance to an outsider, even though it is for the greater good. Even Lady Sansa Stark is disappointed over Jon’s choice as she thinks Jon made this decision only out of love for the Khaleesi. Even Sansa teases Tyrion for working with Khaleesi by saying, “I used to think you are the cleverest man alive!”. At that juncture, even we thought Sansa can be wrong, as we know Dany is clearly not her father. Alas, how the tables turned and how disappointed we became over Dany’s later decisions. Or should I say how Sansa was right? However, the disappointment, is it just on Dany’s character’s arc or the entire show’s progress in this season? I will leave that for you to judge.
The key takeaway in the first episode is the talk between two cleverest men of Westeros, Lord Varys and Tyrion Lannister. But the cleverest idea there came from Ser Davos, the Onion Knight. Dany can get a strong foothold in the North if she agrees to marry Jon Snow. We also see Sam and Bran Stark revealing the penultimate secret to Jon, scratch that Aegon Targaryen. Following that, we have a long stretch episode that depicts the preparation for the great war in Winterfell. The war against the undead.
It also includes a beginning where Dany and the Northerners discuss whether to keep Jaime Lannister with them or not. As expected, the Kingslayer didn’t get any support from Daenerys as the king he murdered was her father. Another as expected event, Lady Brienne vouches for Ser Jaime Lannister and the Lady of the North agrees to that. Soon, the episode becomes more like a free hit for the characters to do what they want. Lady Brienne becomes a Knight, Tyrion, Tormund and Jaime drink all night, Arya sleeps with Gendry, The Hound and Beric Dondarrion just do what they always do.
The Battle of Winterfell, named ‘The Long Night’ is the best episode of this season. Yes, the great war was indeed better than the last war. Why? The last war with all its buildup lost its momentum completely and became a landslide towards the Mad Queen, Daenerys Targaryen. But the Winterfell battle had some great moments, credits to the arrival of Melisandre, who shows the path as instructed by the Lord of Light. Even with that powerful support, the Northerners are clearly losing the battle. Even the Unsullied and the Dothraki were no match for the reanimated corpses. The Night King proudly displayed that he is immune to the dragon fire, which ultimately spoils the plan of Jon and Dany sitting on the dragons eager to meet the Night King on open ground.
A small dagger with a greater purpose saved the world that day. It is the same Valyrian steel dagger which was used by the assassin who came to kill Bran Stark. While it was speculated, it belongs to Littlefinger, who manipulated that to look like it belonged to Tyrion Lannister, which in turn caused the war of five kings, which eventually leads to the death of Robb Stark, the King in the North. Looks like, the dagger did more things in Game of Thrones than any other living characters. Last season, the dagger was spotted as it was given to Arya Stark by her brother, Bran Stark, the three-eyed raven. “It will be of use to you than it is to me!” he says. How can the three-eyed Raven be wrong anyway?
“What do we say to death?”
Arya Stark of Winterfell told the exact same dialogue to ‘the death’ on that episode, but it is sad that Ser Jorah Mormont, Lyanna Mormont, Beric Dondarrion couldn’t say the same. While we thought everything was lost, the ‘No One’ Arya appears out of nowhere and pierces the body of the Night King with the dagger in her own style. This unexpected twist created a stir on social media as we witnessed people both praising and criticizing it equally. While that can be left for an individual’s perspective, the real hero of the episode other than Arya Stark is the music composer Ramin Djawadi. The last sequence was flawlessly orchestrated by the director Miguel Sapochnik and the music of Ramin just elevates the setup to a whole new level. It will take years to beat this wonderfully shot and composed sequence in TV history.
While the survivors mourn for the death of others, Daenerys is keen to start the last war. After all, it is the purpose of her life. The war council disagrees with her but Jon insists on following the Queen’s instructions. While Daenerys pleads Jon to not to reveal his Targaryen identity to anyone, Jon feels Sansa and Arya should know the truth. As Bran says it was clearly Jon’s choice. But as soon as it happens, Sansa sets things in motion as truth reaches the nobleman Lord Varys through Tyrion Lannister, the hand of the Queen also the ex-husband of Sansa Stark. As mentioned earlier, once again, we have a wonderful ‘Game of Thrones’ moment as we see Lord Varys and Tyrion Lannister just sitting and discussing how Jon can be a better ruler than Daenerys. Moments like this earlier moved the story for several episodes, and here also it does the same. A confused Tyrion didn’t want to conspire behind his Queen’s back even though he thinks Lord Varys is right about Jon being the perfect ruler.
In the King’s Landing, we see Daenerys fleet getting ambushed by the mighty Scorpion weapons and we see Euron Greyjoy taking the dragon slayer title all for himself. Poor Bronn, who should’ve earned this title last season just traded this for Highgarden and its castles. Missandei gets killed by the Mountain as per Cersei’s instructions and we exactly knew what Daenerys is going to do next. Before all this chaos, we witnessed the completion of several character arcs including Gendry who gets Stormborn after being legitimized as a Baratheon. We see Arya rejecting Gendry’s proposal to become his lady. After all, it is just a one night stand for the ‘no one’ girl.
As expected, Lord Varys gets caught for conspiring behind an already fuming Khaleesi and he kisses the death hoping he should be wrong about her. But we haven’t seen a situation where Lord Varys goes wrong. He was on point this time as well. An enraged Mad Queen, just like her father, burns the Red Keep to ashes with Drogon. Despite her hand, Tyrion’s advise, Dany goes full throttle even after the troops agree to surrender. BURN THEM ALL! Arya who gets caught in this chaos realizes the impact of war as she wanders all around to defeat death once again. Perhaps, the most interesting part of the episode is the Clegane Bowl, the fight between two brothers which has garnered quite a fan following on social media so far. The Hound and the Mountain face each other, but the reanimated Gregor Clegane is too strong to be defeated. We also see him disobeying the Queen Cersei’s command for the first time in years. After all, this battle is too personal, right?
Understanding his brother is immune to any kind of attacks with swords or daggers, the Hound makes a difficult choice. He pulls the mountain along with him to the burning inferno below. Right, from childhood, Sandor Clegane is afraid of fire, all credits to Gregor Clegane. But considering the inevitable, here he boldly kisses the death by fire only to satisfy his ambition. It was indeed a bittersweet ending for the most flawlessly written character on the Game of Thrones. Adieu, the Hound, Sandor Clegane. You have fared well.
Who cares about ruling the ashes and the skeletons of the dead? Certainly, the mad queen cares. We may criticize the changeover of Khaleesi to a mad queen, as the time needed for that transformation is considerably small. But that is not the only problem here. If the Red Keep and the Lannisters army can be defeated just like that by a single dragon despite the mighty Scorpion weapons, what is the need for such a big army of unsullied and the northerners? Of course, burning the people was not Dany’s intentions before. But she had all the edge in the world to lure Cersei to death even without killing the innocents on the Red Keep. After defeating the Scorpions, she could’ve easily crossed all the barriers and reached for Cersei’s head in no time with Drogon. Yet, she chose to commit genocide. In her defense, she points out the people of King’s Landing had made their choice by choosing Cersei over her. This explanation only makes her more Tyrant and immediately she becomes a threat like her father.
Jaime and Cersei meeting on the map room was indeed poetic. Their death like that might have worked for the older version of Jaime. But now, considering his redemption arc, and the way he treated Lady Brienne, he deserved a better death. More like killing Cersei in his own hands. Once again fooling all the fan made theories, including the green eyes and Arya Stark theory, the Red Keep’s castle itself takes the credit for Cersei’s death. We see Tyrion getting arrested for freeing Jaime earlier and he does what he always does. Talking his way out of death. This time he manipulates Jon to see the truth that Dany is definitely not a ruler material and she is a threat for the Westeros and its people. Jon who is nothing but a mirror image of Ned Stark fails to live up to his name and obliges to take the Queenslayer title. He runs a knife through Daenerys’ heart, both literally and metaphorically.
We see an angry Drogon melting the Iron Throne, which was once forged with the help of Dragon fire as per the history of Westeros. Drogon also carries his mother to a place far away which was not revealed and even the three-eyed raven fails to understand that. Once again Tyrion regains the title of being the cleverest man of Westeros by once again manipulating a handful of Lords in choosing the next ruler of Westeros. Bran Stark. Of course, he is the ideal one. Remember, if Robb had won the war, Bran would’ve been his successor to the throne. Dany crossed the seas to break the wheel. Tyrion, her hand, indeed fulfilled by making Bran, the Broken who cannot bear children to sit on the Iron Throne. The wheel is now broken with the help of someone who runs on a wheelchair.
Tyrion becomes the hand of the king again, the one thing he is good at. He also frees Jon from the death penalty and sends him back to where he started. Where he first met him. On the wall. Perhaps, Jon was never a king material, but only a great leader. Unfortunately, a king can’t just be a good leader. Bran Stark is certainly a wise choice. But how it all went to that is the only problem here. First 4 seasons of the Game of Thrones literally moves like Bran’s travel beyond the wall, at a slower pace. Then it all goes at the speed of Lord Varys traveling back and forth in the previous seasons creating more time glitches. The consistency of the screenplay is the worrying thing and the disarray it created on the characters and their decisions, generated more hatred among their loyal followers. The impact of poor writing is clearly visible. But the finale gives a mixed feeling. Just like the wise man’s quote… “No one is very happy, which means it’s a good compromise.”
Also, “There is nothing more powerful than a good story,” says Tyrion. Hope the show writers bookmarked that for their future references. Listen to Tyrion. After all, he is the wisest of all.