Game of Thrones goes for crowd pleasing and teasing in a mostly strong episode

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The season finale of Game of Thrones is rapidly approaching and there are a few things we know will happen narratively. These are not spoilers, these are my opinions. At least one of the Lannisters will die. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen will hook up. Arya will do something that crosses the line. Bran will do something terrible. Sam will discover a dreaded truth. And Euron Greyjoy will be unimportant.

Like last episode, this time around also followed two separate timelines, for the most part. Time compression and elongation in the show has gotten to the point where it’s pointless to try and keep track. The show gives us scenes that are chronologically in order, for the most part, but the time between them is a complete mystery.

As for the title, it’s not particularly thematically useful except as the linchpin between North of the Wall and South of the Wall, the endpoint the episode is hurtling towards.

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So starting from the South, outside King’s Landing we get the narratively satisfying piece of Bronn saving Jaime for a fairly in character reason of wanting to be paid. It doesn’t entirely make sense logically for them to have escaped so easily from the dragon, but I did find the conversation to fit within the built up arcs so far. Bronn hasn’t lost his cynicism or humanity; he’s not interested in fighting against dragons but doesn’t want to miss out on gold. So it makes sense he hedges his bets by letting Tyrion into the palace.

And Jaime goes through a dramatic series of changes. He starts by being annoyed he’s still alive, but then gets frustrated by Cersei’s desire to fight to the death. Meeting Tyrion brings up old feelings of anger at how Jaime led to Tywin’s death because he let Tyrion out of the dungeons, but Tywin wasn’t exactly the best father either. And Jaime seems to like the idea of an armistice, especially after Olenna’s reveal that she was behind Joffrey’s assassination.

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Jaime’s explanation of her motive was excellent, painting Olenna as wanting to be the true power in the realm; it makes sense that Cersei finally accepted it. But Cersei had her own manipulations. She may very well be pregnant, but her back and forth was masterfully awful. First she took her brother off balance by asking about Bronn’s “betrayal” and revealing she knew about the meeting, but then she revealed the pregnancy.

It was clinched by the question she knew he must ask, about who would be proclaimed as the father. And she told him what he wanted to hear, that it would be him. One look at his face, and it’s clear this is what Jaime has always wanted, to be able to be a real father to his children. Cersei is no fool, but she’s still a monster.

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The arc of Dany is more intertwined with everyone else. Tyrion is discovering that his ideas aren’t always so great, feeling bad about the loss of his countrymen, despite how badly they always treated him. The scene with him and Varys discussing the perspective of “who was responsible” was pretty well thought out, and led to some classic amusing lines between the two of them.

Of course, the arrival of Jorah was a mild adjustment, but he easily slid back into the classic role of platonic older best friend. It probably stung Jorah a bit to see how Dany clearly was into Jon; Tyrion noticed her vehement “I did not give you permission to leave” to Jon while she said nothing about Jorah yet again going on a suicide mission for her. This all tied back to Jon’s tense but beautiful scene where he treated Drogon much like Ghost, his own animal familiar.

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As viewers, we know that Jon is likely the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, although it has yet to be explicitly said in the show. That connection to his heritage of dragon tamers and his Stark heritage of wolf warging puts him in a very unique position. It’s clear that Dany is shocked and impressed by how Jon not only reached out to pet Drogon in the first place, but that Drogon seemed to find Jon acceptable. That’s not something that anyone else has managed, not even Tyrion, who mainly got the other two dragons simply not to eat him.

There were a boatload (literally) of reunions in this episode, including Gendry and Davos, leading to a few great scenes. Davos had a great episode, giving great advice that wasn’t listened to and showing a lot of competence in what he knows: surviving and smuggling. Gendry has always been a snowflake, so it’s no surprise he immediately told Jon Snow the truth of his heritage. Whether or not it’ll matter or he’ll die quickly to annoy fans, I couldn’t say.

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I’ll get back to the “Snow-cean’s Seven” as I’ve heard it called after I point out the big tease of Samwell Tarly. Nothing wrong with the scene of the Maesters making fun of the supernatural threat; it fit their characterizations. But Sam getting angry at Gilly the very moment she was talking about Price “Reggar” and him conspicuously keeping the book as a plaything for Baby Sam was annoying; for people who don’t get it, it’s Sam being angry at Gilly, and for people who do, it’s just a big ol’ tease. It didn’t make much sense to me.

So moving on to the “North,” a lot of this storyline worked better. Bran finally using his gifts to spread information was good. And Arya and Sansa’s rivalry coming back as they butt heads about what’s really for the best. It makes sense; Sansa is worried her sister is damaged, and Arya, who is definitely damaged, worries that Sansa is a traitor to their family as she suspected for a while.

It ties into Littlefinger’s plan of using Sansa’s real (if made under duress) letter from way back in season one to Robb to make Arya think Sansa was sincere. Arya may be just annoyed enough to fall for it. It’s really Baelish’s best plan, since Bran’s not biting. I prefer to see conflict that makes sense given the characters, and although Sansa isn’t really in the wrong, it’s easy to misunderstand that.

And finally, to the group of fan favorite large men off to find a zombie. What a stupid plan. But hey, if it works, it works. To me, it seems more a contrivance to have an exciting battle against the zombies where some of our favorite characters are put at risk. And as nice as it was to have the show respect continuity, it was extremely rushed: “Oh I know you.” “Oh I know You!” And so on.

There were moments of very well built up character scenes in this episode, and a few decisions that legitimately made sense. Of course, there were also some decisions that made no sense, but that’s Game of Thrones for you. Dazzle you with petting a dragon and making you root for two different incestuous couples and hopefully you’ll ignore any little time compression weirdness or plotholes. I mean, I can’t ignore them, but I still liked the episode.

What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments below!


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