Game of Thrones fans, how do we move on from Missandei’s tragic death? Is Jaime going to kill Cersei? Will Daenerys go full ‘Mad Queen’ on us? And is Westeros about to get its very own Starbucks? We weigh in.
There’s no getting away from it: Game of Thrones’ ‘The Last of the Starks’ was easily one of the most controversial episodes to date – not to mention one of the most divisive. Here at Stylist HQ, one longtime fan of the show vowed they’d never watch a single episode again after watching it, while entertainment director Helen Bownass declared it to be one of her favourites to date (primarily “because there was no fighting”).
It’s easy to see both sides. We know that fans were left outraged when Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister ‘virgin-shamed’ Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) before she slept with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). That the murder of the show’s only female BAME character Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) similarly sparked outrage online. That a deeply unsettling conversation between Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and The Hound (Rory McCann) prompted many to accuse the show of using rape as a “tool” in storylines. That a rogue Starbucks coffee cup made the fantasy show, which deals with dragons and zombies, feel “unrealistic”. That Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) is a complete Mary-Sue – aka an overpowered knobhead – and that there is NO FEASIBLE WAY he could have predicted Dany (Emilia Clarke) would have flown across that patch of sea at that exact moment. That, once again, the battle strategy of our heroes is woefully lacking.
And yet ‘The Last of the Starks’ had some truly brilliant scenes, too. Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion’s plotting at Dragonstone felt like a throwback to the GoT we know and love, while Arya (Maise Williams) turning down that proposal from Gendry (Joe Dempsie) felt seriously canon. A passionate argument between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen really lifted the drama. Plus, there was every hint that fans will get the Cleganebowl they’ve been dreaming of as The Hound trotted off to King’s Landing in order to deal with some “unfinished business”.
So, as we prepare for the show’s penultimate episode (rumoured to be this season’s tragi-equivalent of the Red Wedding), we’re here to talk about the things that really matter. Specifically, is Daenerys going to go full Mad Queen on our asses? Is Jaime Lannister going to kill Cersei before Euron does? Will Tyrion and Varys betray their queen? Is Rhaegal the dragon still alive? And who will survive the Last War? Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray and Kat Poole, two Game of Thrones superfans, weigh in.
How can Game of Thrones move on from ‘The Last of the Starks’?
KD: As it’s your first invite to this GoT party, Kat, I’ll kick off with something simple. How did you feel about episode four, and where do you think Game of Thrones can go from here?
KP: Let’s start with the dragon-shaped elephant in the room: Dany, unrightful protector of the Seven Kingdoms and drinker of Starbucks. Khaleesi had a rough ride this episode; without Ser Jorah by her side (RIP) she looked like the cool girl at school who stumbled into the wrong house party, and no one cared she was there. She’s losing support from all sides now; the North (aka Sansa) doesn’t trust her, her boyfriend-nephew is having second thoughts, her most trusted advisers are started to peg that her penchant for destruction
It was interesting to watch that revelation and its repercussions play out; Dany determined to keep Jon quiet; Jon grappling with his loyalties; Sansa using the truth to get a “better” choice on the throne; Tyrion deeply and stubbornly conflicted; and Varys totally up for some treason — as long as it serves the realm, of course. Arya doesn’t seem to care while she’s still got names (and a green pair of eyes) to tick off her list and only two episodes to do it in, which I can respect.
It pleased me on a deep level to see some intellectual sparring back in play between Varys and Tyrion — get it while it’s hot, everybody, because at least one of these men must die. But if a chat between these two was the highlight of the episode, then something has gone slightly array, no? I get it, the showrunners have run out of time to deliver all the payoffs they need to now we’re in the endgame (and I can only hope they sincerely regret the amount of screentime they gave to Osha and Meera’s incessant bickering in season three) but I mourn for the context and conversation that previously made Game of Thrones so delicious. How much time passed between Sansa learning the truth about Jon and telling Tyrion? How on earth did Tyrion survive Euron’s attack? And do all soldiers know how to swim? That is just the tip of my question iceberg, Kayleigh. What did you make of it?
KD: I wasn’t a huge fan of the episode, to be frank. It felt like a song being sung in the wrong key - everything we needed for a great show was there, yet something felt… well, it felt off. Daenerys didn’t even consider flying behind Euron’s ships, out of reach of his ballistas, and blasting them from behind with dragonfire. Jon was a sopping wet blanket. Ghost didn’t get a proper goodbye because the CGI budget had been used up on zombies and dragons crashing into the ocean. Gilly and Sam telling Jon that they’ll name their unborn child after him seemed to be a huge ‘JON SNOW IS DYING, GUYS’ red herring. We didn’t get to see how Arya, Sansa and Bran reacted to Jon’s not-so-small bombshell about his heritage. Euron somehow managed to kidnap Missandei from the ocean and get her back to King’s Landing in the space of a few hours, despite the two being miles and miles apart.The Hound and Sansa’s conversation wasn’t just troubling, it also made little to no sense; why on earth did she decide to sit next to him in the first place? And Cersei…
Well, I’ve always defended Cersei, because she’s a great character. But why would she break all the rules of combat and kill off a valuable prisoner of war if she wasn’t planning on going the whole hog and raining arrows down on Tyrion, Daenerys and co? Why? WHY?!
KP: All such valid points, KD! A quick note on Ghost, though: am I the only person who didn’t think of the CGI and figured they were showing us, via Meaningful Direwolf Moments, that Jon’s soul doesn’t belong in King’s Landing? I’m calling it: man’s going back to the wall before this show is out. Well, what’s left of it anyway.
KD: An intriguing theory, and one I can definitely get behind. We know all too well that Northern men don’t do well down South – just look at poor old Ned and Robb Stark, if you need proof. Jon should follow Ghost all the way beyond the Wall, before it’s too late…
Which GoT characters will die in the battle between Cersei and Daenerys?
KD: Jaime is a man with a deathwish, it seems. He knows Cersei is baying for his blood – she sent Bronn after him with a crossbow, after all – and he knows she’s got her back against the wall. So that means that he’s either planning on killing her before it’s too late, or he really is an idiot and wants to die alongside her. I’m voting the former: I can’t believe that he would leave Brienne in such a state if it weren’t for a higher cause. I’d much prefer to think that he said all of those nasty things to Brienne in a last-ditch attempt to stop her following him into the lion’s den (see what I did there?).
Daenerys has apparently been forced into the role of Mad Queen and Varys, like Sansa and Arya Stark, isn’t happy about it. Which, presumably, means Varys will die as a result of his plotting, just as Melisandre predicted. And that leaves Tyrion to recognise that the Mother of Dragons hasn’t got the people’s best interests at heart, and to do what he can to stop her (remember, though, that my Belfast insider informed me that an Unsullied soldier will arrest Tyrion at some point in this season). But will he do it before she bumps off Jon Snow? Because, let’s face it, she may claim that she loves our King in the North, but her eyes say otherwise at this point.
Cersei, meanwhile, seems doomed: there are a lot of people who want her dead, including Arya, Dany, Grey Worm, Sansa, Jon, Jaime (maybe), and possibly even her newest ally, Euron Greyjoy. Oh yes. Why? Well, when Tyrion attempted to negotiate Missandei’s release in the last episode, he called upon Cersei to think about her unborn baby. This will no doubt have come as a shock to Euron, as he only just a) slept with Cersei and b) found out she was pregnant, so how on earth did her brother, who’s been away up north for months, know about their happy news?
Exactly. If Euron puts two and two together, he’ll probably realise that Cersei is lying about him being the daddy and kill her off in an act of rage. And if he doesn’t? Well, then he’s an incredibly stupid man, as well as an overpowered knobhead. Bad combo, by anyone’s standards.
What do you reckon, Kat? Who lives and who dies in this season’s answer to ‘The Red Wedding’?
KP: I took Missandei’s murder as a sure-fire sign that we’re not playing by the rules anymore — that, and there’s going to be a hot and bloody fight to come. My smart money is on Dany to destroy Kings Landing (losing the rest of her A Team supporters in the process) but not to kill Cersei herself, which will be a job for Jaime. I’ve long thought Brienne would try and stop Jaime from going back to his sister and would be killed at Cersei’s orders, and that’s what will push Jaime into finally ending the current Mad Queen. Like Romeo and Juliet, but with knights.
I think Dany will make it through next week’s episode, but only just. As a leader, everyone who follows Dany tends to do so because they have either been freed by her or fallen in love with her. Which is a pretty cool line to have on your CV until you get to the point of actually taking over an entire kingdom full of families, loyalties and history in such an intricate web that it has to be stored within a man-raven so no one ever forgets. She’s only just realising that walking into King’s Landing and sitting on the Iron Throne isn’t actually that straightforward, and thanks to Cersei’s unrelenting badassery and some big ol’ crossbows, she’s thinking about… what? Burning it all down instead? Interesting tactics, Dany. Sounds like someone else we’ve heard stories about.
There’s a theory knocking around that everyone in these posters is marked for death, which is basically all the key characters except Gilly, Tormund, Gendry, Yara, Bronn and Pod. It’s a compelling idea, especially as many of them have copped it already, but I’m not convinced. Have we really just watched eight seasons of a competition where no one wins? Though I could think of worse things a kingdom run by Yara, tbh.
And as for the characters that are safe? Personally I don’t expect to see Sam, Gilly or their expanding family until the very end of the last episode (I’m a believer in Sam-is-George-RR-Martin theory). Tormund is the only other surviving wildling we know by name and is taking his people home. I think the newly promoted and evidently excitable Lord Gendry Baratheon is in the clear, and there’s no way Sansa has been set up as such a great Warden of the North for her to leave us now. Bran is the biggest question mark for me: he’s not going to die, but what is next for him? Let’s not forget: the kid had the first point of view chapter in GoT books. Could he round things off, too?
Also! Side note! Let’s not forget that Arya has taken herself down to King’s Landing on a mission that will involve at least one person dying — and there’s still one face she hasn’t worn: Littlefinger’s. I’m just going to leave that thought there…
Is Rhaegal the dragon really dead? Like, really?
KD: He may have been coughing up blood as he crashed into the sea, but a LOT of people seem to think Rhaegal is alive. This theory took root with the Episode 5 trailer and, in particular, a shot of Euron looking up at the sky and appearing surprised. It could be that Gendry has kitted out Drogon with some hot new armour to stop him being turned into a pincushion by scorpion arrows, sure, but maybe there’s a second dragon flying around up there with him.
How? Well, as redditor u/JasonDeBaxter1997 theorises, Bran Stark might finally put his powers as the Three-Eyed Raven to good use and resurrect the fallen Rhaegal. After all, he and the Night King shared some sort of strange connection and often mirrored one another’s actions: if the Night King could haul Viserion, brought down by spears, out of the water and bring him back from the dead, couldn’t Bran do the same with Rhaegal?
Or, you know, maybe they found some more dragons knocking around in King’s Landing and they’re bringing them along for the ride. To be honest, i’m not buying the whole “Euron looks surprised” as much as the rest of the internet. A flicker of the eyebrows does not a shocked character make.
KP: What is dead may never die, Kayleigh — or at least until we’ve seen a big old dragon corpse. I think there’s a chance we could see some interesting mirroring between the dragons and their riders here: could it be that The Night King and Viserion both shattering when Arya struck her fatal blow will foreshadow what’s to come? Rhaegal went down in a curiously similar way to his rider, Jon — with many vicious wounds. And who came back to life? Jon did, baby. What if Bran was able to resurrect (either by magic, or by warging) Rhaegal? We know people who die are brought back for a reason. Jon + Rhaegal vs Dany + Drogon would be a fitting way for Aegon and his Targaryen ride to see out the finale.
Also worth mentioning that we still haven’t actually see anyone fulfil the Azor Ahai prophecy yet — if the showrunners still care about that sort of thing. “When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.”
Could that actually be referring to Bran? COULD IT?
And on that note… what the fuck is the deal with Bran?
KD: We can’t keep beating around the bush (or the weirwood tree, I suppose), because something is up with Bran. For a very long time, I believed that he would prove himself to be the Night King. Then I figured the Night King had actually been sent beyond the Wall to kill Bran, because the Three-Eyed Raven, whatever he truly is, is actually a far bigger threat to Westeros than the White Walkers. And then I got suckered into all these fan theories that Bran is, like King Arthur before him, destined to take the Iron Throne. His apparent lack of ego or emotion means that he won’t fall down at the same hurdles as Daenerys and Jon Snow, and then there’s his Greenseer abilities: ain’t nobody gonna catch this king unawares, military strategy or otherwise. And yet there’s no denying that, if this all turns out to be true, his narrative arc will have been very odd indeed: he was almost entirely absent for the fifth season, and served as nothing more than an exposition mouthpiece in season seven. Plus there’s the fact that he will have been actively moving all of the chess pieces around him (Jon, Jaime, Sam, Dany) to ensure he winds up on the Iron Throne, which feels more than a little ‘Mad King’ to me…
Whaddaya make of our Bran, Kat?
KP: The closer we get to the finale, the more I find myself (begrudgingly, tbh) theorising about Bran. Let’s take a quick jog back to season 4, when Tywin Lannister gives Tommen a lesson in what makes a good king (they’re actually standing beside a dead Joffrey at this point, bit weird). Tywin tells the Littlest Lannister that it isn’t justice or strength that a king needs, but wisdom. Throughout the show we’re repeatedly shown Dany treat injustice with her version of justice (and once directly after the scene I mention above, in Mereen), and Jon is one of the strongest players in this game. But wisdom? There aren’t many people left who can boast that as a trait. Sansa, Tyrion and Sam are all
Perhaps Bran — he whose story flipped the ‘adventurous young prince’ narrative on its head in episode 1, season 1 — has been the obvious choice all along? Maybe kings (or queens) should be quiet, observing, unsociable and a little bit creepy. I actually thought he was going to turn into a tree at the end of the show, so what do I know?
Will the wheel finally be broken?
KD: Myself and a few other GoT fans have long suspected that the clue to the show’s big finale has been staring us in the face for years: nobody can ever win the Game of Thrones until the throne itself is removed from play. The wheel cannot be broken unless it is turned sideways into a table with iron seats, ready for seven rulers – one to represent the needs of each of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros – to take their place. Seven rulers who fulfill the roles laid out to us in the Faith of the Seven, otherwise known as the main religion of Westeros.
Oh yeah, I’m talking “father, smith, warrior, mother, maiden, crone, stranger”.
The only problem is… well, who fits those key roles? We could say that Sansa Stark will play the role of the maiden, Gendry the blacksmith, Arya the stranger (a girl is no one, remember), but everything else gets a little hazy from then onwards. Crone, after all, could be representative of knowledge, making Bran, Tyrion, Varys and Sam viable contenders. The warrior role could be fulfilled by Brienne, Jon Snow, Jaime Lannister, or Grey Worm (lol jokes, he’s so dying). Father could, likewise, be Jon or Sam. Mother… well, I’d like to think it’s Daenerys, our very own mother of dragons, but a lot of people think my beloved blonde queen isn’t going to survive the show’s finale. Who else have we got? Cersei is pregnant but, surely, is as good as dead, while Gilly doesn’t seem interested in politics. Hmm. Help me out here, Kat?
KP: This is my favourite of all of the endgame theories knocking around for three reasons: 1) as mentioned above, I thought Bran’s future was going to be more Oakie Doke than Iron Throne. 2) I don’t think anyone has actually proven themselves fit to rule on their own, bar maybe Jon (don’t @ me, it’s what I believe), but he takes everything so very seriously that you can just imagine him sitting by himself in King’s Landing, sobbing into his Ikea fur shawl. And 3) surely the lesson we’ve all been learning throughout GoT is that this is a kingdom with many peoples, faiths and communities, so would one king or queen really fit all? The only thing I can’t quite get my head around is how those leadership meetings would go with so much previous between them all. Can you imagine Gendry discussing like… corn rations or whatever it is leaders need to discuss seriously when he’s sat across the table from Arya?
Still, it seems like a decent way for things to end. And don’t forget that Tormund is still knocking around and could be lured back down South (wherever he thinks that is) if Brienne is suddenly single again. Sorry, Brienne and Jaime shippers, but that love story is as doomed as the Night King.
Game of Thrones airs on Sunday nights on HBO in the US and Monday mornings (and again in the evening) in the UK on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.