Game of Thrones Finale Recap: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
It happened. You know what it was. It was the thing many fans have been waiting for, even after it was clearly going to be between an aunt and her nephew. Game of Thrones season 7 finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” was about many things, but the title makes clear that it was at the very heart of the proceedings. Jon Snow, who never really was a Snow (the surname given to northern bastards) and Daenerys Targaryen have become a thing. They did it. Blissfully unaware that they are related through their Targaryen blood (“The Dragon and the Wolf” refers to both these two and Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s brother, and Lyanna Stark, Jon’s mother, who were officially wed before they did it and conceived Jon), Jon and Dany took their battlefield partnership and their former king/queen relationship to the logical (in a GoT sense) next step. It is a mark of this show’s cultural saturation that, if you had a viewing experience anything like mine, the moment these two were shown disrobed was met with a mixture of touchdown-like cheering and confused satisfaction. Yes! The relatives have finally done it!
So showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss went there. Not surprising, considering this series really began with an act of incest, although one with a far bleaker outcome. Season one’s premiere introduced viewers to the lovely Lannister clan, complete with a pair of siblings so irreducibly hot for each other that they were willing to risk all out warfare to keep their commingling secret. Out the window goes Bran and GoT earns its first of many shocks. It is often taken as gospel that the series proved its ruthlessness when it dispatched nominal leading man Sean Bean (Ned Stark) before the first season’s credits rolled—for my money, the second Jaime pushed Bran out of the window so he could continue sleeping with his sister was proof enough that nobody was safe and nothing was sacred or taboo. That we’d be cheering two family members getting in on seven years later is only one of the many, many, many things that are shocking about life in 2017. Let’s move on.
So Jon and Dany have done it. They did it. And now they’re in it. As “The Dragon and the Wolf” came to its’ close, Jon (officially named Aegon, but there’s been enough unsettling change this year so no, not ready to call him that yet), these two have set upon a path of shocking revelations to come. How might they handle finding out that Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne? How might they reconcile their passion for each other with their shared blood? What happens should Jon decide he wants to claim his birthright? Does Dany strike you as someone who would willingly play second fiddle? Could they arrange some kind of true power sharing over Westeros, with Dany as a queen with the same standing as her king?
This must have been really nice for you two, but you’re gonna want to sit down. Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington. Photo courtesy of HBO
But these are questions for season 8—for now, let’s reckon with what happened in the finale.
Drama at the Dragonpit
The big meet-and-greet in King’s Landing brought all sorts of former buddies and road trippers together. Bronn and Tyrion crack wise! The Hound and Brienne pay each other begrudging respect and, lo, the Hound smiles (!!!). Poor Tormund, many miles north at Eastwatch (which, in season 7 GoT terms, a 24-minute raven’s flight) can do nothing to stop the suddenly charming Hound move in on his dream girl. Bronn and Podrick! (I’ve forgotten how they’re so chummy). They all get to the Dragonpit, where Cersei, Jaime, the Mountain and some sensible outdoor furniture and drapery await them. Where’s Dany, Cersei wants to know? She’ll be here soon, Tyrion assures her. The mood? Weaponized awkwardness. The Hound spots the Mountain and they have a one-way chat. Then Dany arrives, fashionably late, via Drogon. Is that a hint, really just the slightest tremor, of game-respecting-game on Cersei’s beautifully cold face? Dany’s entrance, theatrical and menacing in equal measure, is just the type of move Cersei enjoys pulling. Lena Headey is so great on the show, so I’m sure that momentary flicker that played across her face wasn’t imagined.
Dany seats herself. Tyrion starts talking, doing a bit of set-up for the confused Lannister bannermen and the Mountain, who likely lives in a state of perpetual murder preparedness, nothing but a faint roaring in his ears, when Euron cuts him off for some eye-linered preening.
It’s a matter of taste, I suppose, deciding which preening sociopaths and murderers on GoT you like. The Hound and Oberyn Martell? Yes. Ramsay and Joffery? Of course not. Euron falls somewhere between these two poles, but he’s closer to the Ramsay/Joffrey side, is he not? Everyone’s annoyed with his preamble (he savages Tyrion, says in the Iron Islands, they kill dwarves, blah blah), but he’s shut up and finally the show begins.
We all know that phase one of Tyrion’s plan to snatch a wight and present it to Cersei was a disaster; Thoros died, Tormund nearly died, Jon nearly died, a zombie polar bear, mindlessly walking around in the Always Winter, was killed, and Viserion was killed and turned into a wight dragon. Phase two, miraculously, was so effective, so theatrically perfect, it was like a Westerosi version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” As a piece of theater, the only way Tyrion’s plan could have been improved is if the Hound channeled Michael Buffer and bellowed to Cersei and the assembled gang Let’s get ready to rumble! before flipping the shipping crate and sending that skeletal wight scrambling. How perfect the length of the chain was, so that the wight made it to within inches of Cersei’s pretty, horrified face, snapping its rotting jaws at her! How perfectly decomposed the wight itself was, exposed bones and bits of ragged clothing, the terrible teeth, the way it shot straight for Cersei as if she were the meal he was promised when he was turned. The Ice Queen looked truly horrified, ditto Euron, of all people, who did a whole strutting, eye-linered, “These things terrify me” bit, claiming he was taking his fleet back to the Iron Islands in fear. That seemed…illogical, and off, and of course it was, but we’ll get to that later.
Properly spooked, Cersei shocks everyone in attendance by essentially asking for the check. She will agree to an armistice, on one condition; the King of the North returns to the North, and make a bunch of Ned Stark-like promises of peace between Winterfell and King’s Landing. Jon, who is a terrible strategist and an overrated warrior (he’s brave as all get out, but he’s constantly in need of last-second saving, see the Battle of the Bastards, Uncle Benjen, etc.) doesn’t lie to her, like literally everyone in attendance was silently begging him to, and says he can’t do that because Dany’s his queen, and he can only serve one queen because he’s got zero imagination and is a terrible negotiator. Cersei predictably stomps off. Brienne tries to talk Jaime into talking to Cersei, but then we pan out a bit and see that Cersei is standing right there, hearing every word Brienne said, reminding us once again that all the noble characters on this show are terrible at persuasion and have awful peripheral vision.
Everyone’s annoyed at Jon, even Dany, who he just threatened to blow up everything for. Tyrion has another one of his bad ideas; he’ll go talk to his sister alone, despite the fact this almost will surely end in his death. Everyone agrees because apparently Tyrion’s the only one with a planning-area in his brain.
Tyrion and Cersei
There’s a brief, lovely moment between Tyrion and Jaime. God, these two are desperate to just get away from it all for a little while, maybe go to a winery in High Garden, spend a few blessed days getting drunk and telling old stories about what a mirthless buzzkill their father was. But no. Instead they talk about how their sister is likely going to kill Tyrion in a couple of minutes.
Once Tyrion and Cersei are face-to-face (with the Mountain, as ever, looming in the background), we’re treated to two of the show’s finest actors giving voice and gesture to a relationship that’s been central to the series for its’ entire run. It’s truly riveting TV, satisfying even if a touch redundant, as if we needed reminding that Cersei blames Tyrion for her current, childless, house-in-disrepair despair. The scene then takes a dazzling turn; Tyrion realizes he cannot reason with his sister, that her rage has reached a solid state and cannot be fractured by logic, and so he offers her what she’s always wanted, his head.
Cersei doesn’t do it. She either willfully or unconsciously gestures to her stomach (with her, is anything unconscious?) and Tyrion realizes she’s pregnant. Cersei wants to know why he supports Dany, and Tyrion’s honest with her. It’s not quite a breakthrough for the long suffering Lannister sibs, but it’s…something. Talk it out, you two!
Tyrion returns to the Dragonpit with Cersei in tow. The queen has decided she will help Dany and Jon fight the Night King and his army of the dead. Horray! She is a totally trust worthy individual and will absolutely do the thing she’s promising because her world view is all about honor and justice, and not vengeance, family-above-all and betrayal!
Back at Winterfell
Sansa’s workshopping her troubles with Littlefinger, which was met with a round of such strenuous groans from my viewing party I thought the pizza was repeating on everyone simultaneously. Of course who wouldn’t groan at the idea of Sansa confiding in Littlefinger about anything, especially about her fears of Arya. The two have just learned that Jon has sworn allegiance to Dany, and as they’re plotting next steps (Littlefinger is of course pushing Sansa into claiming the North for herself, thus getting him ever closer to power), he also asks her to play a little game in which she imagines the very worst possible reason for Arya’s behavior. Sansa’s conclusion; Arya wants to kill her, rationalize it with the years-old note Sansa was forced to write under duress, and become the Lady of Winterfell herself. Sansa looks chilled by this sororicide-by-numbers that Littlefinger has just walked her through. Littlefinger smirks. The pizza repeats again.
Dany, Jon and the gang plan their assault on the Night King’s army. Dany decides she will sail with Jon on the same ship, rather than the much safer route of flying north on Drogon. This seems an important bit, one that’ll likely have major ramifications in the final season. These guys aren’t the best planners.
Theon and Jon have a moment. Jon forgives Theon for what he can, and tells the dude to man up and go save his sister. Theon looks energized, un-Reeky.
Theon rushes out to the crew who had rescued him from the sea, you know, the one that claimed he was a coward. He tells them they have to go save Yara from Euron. They tell him to shut up. The captain pummels Theon, but Theon won’t stay down. The captain tries to put him down for good with a few brutal knees to the groin, but, ta da! Theon’s got nothing to crush in that area, so he wins the fight (?) and kills (??) or at least brutally maims the captain. This gets the men’s respect, despite having probably sailed with that captain for years, because the Iron Born are more or less the worst. They’re off to save Yara.
Arya’s Summoned to the Great Hall
So Sansa’s had it with Arya and is going to officially accuse her of a bunch of stuff in the Great Hall, in front of a bunch of northern lords and northern bannermen, and have her executed. Littlefinger’s at his favorite spot, leaning against the wall. Look, here’s an image of Littlefinger in his favorite spot, imagining the self satisfied hoarse whispering he’ll be doing later tonight, celebrating Arya’s death and his continued, maggot-like infestation of the Stark family.
Yes, my spot against the wall was open! Oooh I can’t wait to hoarsely whisper to Sansa later about how now we have to–wait, why is everybody looking at me? Aiden Gillen. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
But of course, this isn’t what happens. It could never be what was going to happen. As we wrote last week, the entire subplot of the Stark sister animus was so illogical and annoying, it had to be a head fake—and so it was. And yet the moment Sansa accuses Lord Baelish, not Arya, of treason and treachery and murder and every other thing he’s ever done, was truly delicious. The list of his crimes is a long one! Littlefinger begins, you guessed it, hoarsely whisper-refuting, then outright begging. “I loved your mother!” he cries. “And yet you betrayed her,” Sansa replies. “I love you” he tries. “And yet you betrayed me,” Sansa says. Who’s getting led right into the rejoinder realm now, you annoying scum!?
His sentence is death. His executioner is Arya. The weapon is catpaw, the Valyrian steel dagger that Littlefinger had used to frame and threaten so many Starks before. Arya cuts his throat, and Littlefinger hoarsely whisper-dies.
Goodnight, sour prince. Maisie Williams, Aiden Gillen, Isaac Hempstead Wright. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
Cersei Reminds Jaime Who Cersei is
You’re dumb! You’re mean! Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
While the longest show in the series history, by the time we were in the King’s Landing map room, we were quickly running out of time for any of the A-listers to die. Littlefinger is a satisfying appetizer, but he’s B-list at best. This is what made the scene in the King’s Landing map room so fraught and terrifying. Turns out most of us have some very real feelings for Jaime. It really seemed like he was about to die, and for this viewer, I felt a sudden rush of wait wait wait don’t do it!
While Jaime’s planning their moves with some of generals, plotting out how they’ll help Dany and Jon in the fight up North, Cersei dismisses his men and then ices Jaime, hard. She calls him stupid (the most stupid of all the Lannisters, in fact), and tells him the Lannister army is not heading north. Of course not. Of course Cersei had no intention of fulfilling her promise. Of course it was all a chess move, one in which she hopes the armies of the North and the armies of the dead checkmate each other while she amasses power in the south. Euron isn’t headed home after all, he’s off to Essos to buy the Golden Gompany, a bunch of sellswords who were once deemed unfit to join Stannis Baratheon’s army.
Jaime is shocked (??) and angry. He says he will not go back on his word, he’ll fight in the north. And here Cersei perhaps, perhaps seals her own fate; she stands prepared to kill Jaime. In fact, it seemed to everyone in my living room that she gave the Mountain the eye/head tilt signal to kill Jaime then and there, and the Mountain indeed unsheathed his sword a few inches, but Jaime calls her bluff and storms off.
Sam and Bran and Dany and Jon
Sam arrives at Winterfell with the Targaryen/Stark annulment news. He suggests that Bran warg into something other than an easily spooked bird to see for himself. Bran goes back and sees his aunt marrying Dany’s brother. This is all stuff we’ve known for a while now, but the thing is we now need the characters to know it, too.
Over on Dany’s ship, Jon comes a knocking, while Tyrion, perhaps sensing Littlefinger is dead, does some Littlefinger-ing in the shadows, watching creepily.
Back in the past, thanks to some fresh warg’ing by Bran, we see the Tower of Joy scene again, with Lyanna dying while giving birth to Jon, and telling a young Ned that Jon’s name is Aegon. Fine, but nobody’s ever going to call him that, Lyanna, so just stop.
We’re back on the ship again and my entire living room bursts into applause at the sight of Jon’s butt and Dany’s side boob. The median age in my living room is 41.
Blue fire! (?) Courtesy HBO.
Oh, Wall. You always seemed like more of a useful symbol than an actual deterrent against the dead. Granted, it seems a little…questionable…that in order to breach the wall, what the Night King needed was a dragon, and voila!, Tyrion’s idiotic plan handed one to him. So we see the Night King atop Viserion, the entire army of the dead below, and we watch as Viserion eviscerates the wall with some blue fire. So that answers that; wight dragons breathe blue fire. What is blue fire? No idea. Perhaps it’s cold fire (but wouldn’t that be ice?) Regardless, the wall comes tumbling down, taking Eastwatch with it. Did Tormund survive? Probably. Beric? Probably.
The dead come pouring through the breach, the one in the wall and the one in our heart. Game of Thrones season seven is over, and it’ll be a long time before season 8 begins. In fact, with our real world feeling ever more like some terrifying spinoff series to this show, one could be excused for feeling like we’ll never get to see how this all ends.
We will, though, folks, and as George R. R. Martin has already teased, and as life often is in the real world, the ending will be bittersweet.