How do we move on from the Battle of Winterfell? What is going to happen to Cersei? Is Daenerys going to kill Jon Snow? Is there way too much plot armour now? We weigh in.
For there are two superfans here, manning the keyboards and keeping you abreast of every twist and turn in the world of the Seven Kingdoms, and we might be on opposite sides of the fence about last week’s episode.
One had a serious problem with the episode protecting too many of its characters with plot armour, and with the anti-climactic feel of the finale. The other agrees with some of her complaints, but is a little higher on the episode as a whole. (She’s a cheap date.)
OK, so we’re not exactly a house divided here, more like a house that’s politely and pleasantly disagreeing. But still, the disagreements going on here at Stylist over how effective episode three was – and where the show can possible go from here – are representative of the wider conversations happening in the fandom.
If you were disappointed by episode three, don’t worry, you’re most definitely not alone. But, equally, if you laughed, cried, cheered and generally were in your feelings about episode three, we’re here for you too.
How can Game of Thrones move on from the Battle of Winterfell?
HRY: I’m also scared to ask, Kayleigh, but… How do you feel about episode three, and where do you think Game of Thrones can go from here?
KD: You have already felt my rage, Hannah, but as you asked… I’m deeply unhappy. This episode was tense and all, sure, but it was the most anticlimactic of all time. Yes, I’ve previously loved the way GoT pulls the rug from under my feet: Ned Stark’s beheading taught us that nobody was safe, as did the Red Wedding. The lessons we took away from these vital episodes was that nobody was bigger than the show’s overriding story – and that everybody was vulnerable.
This time, though, this need to shock us and catch us off guard – PSYCH, THE NIGHT KING AIN’T ALL THAT – felt clumsy and frustrating. Why? Erm, because he’s been the Big Bad forever, maybe? The White Walkers were some of the very first characters we met in the very first episode of Game of Thrones.
For eight long seasons, we’ve wondered about their purpose, about why they’ve suddenly been brought to power, about why they want so badly to get beyond the Wall. We know that the people of Westeros were forced to build the Wall to keep them out, eons ago, and that the world has enjoyed eternal summers since. We know that the Starks were pretty much the only people who still believed in the old stories. That winter has been coming for as long as this bloody show has been running.
And what have we learned? Nothing. Zilch. Kaput. The White Walkers were simple ice monsters, whose sole goal was apparently to get beyond the wall and end humanity. Why? We don’t know. What made them return? No clue. Why were they flammable and the Night King 100% fire resistant? Because!
I presume the answers will come in the inevitable spin-off show, aptly titled The Long Night. But in terms of this show – the one we have been following for a decade, now – the Battle of Winterfell has given us nothing in terms of plot development. The Starks were the only ones who joined the Battle of Winterfell and they wiped out the threat without anyone else in Westeros noticing, so nobody learned anything important.
Bran and the Night King had a stare down, but nothing was mentioned about their eerie connection other than the fact that he… touched him once? On the arm? Fine. Melisandre gave up her life because she met her goal of protecting Azor Ahai, except, actually, she didn’t: she simply fulfilled her smaller prophecy of Arya killing people with varying eye colours. And the few deaths we got were sad, sure, but they didn’t teach us that everyone is at risk - the opposite, in fact: everyone of note is protected by plot armour.
Essentially, it was a tense episode without much payoff. All we learned is that tired-old adage we already know: “War is bad”.
HRY: I do agree with you that it felt anti-climactic. Initially, when I first watched the episode, I was really satisfied by the tension and the release that it achieved. But on second watch, and as I thought about it more, I was disappointed at the lack of deaths. It felt a little bit like the last Harry Potter book – has Game of Thrones lost its nerve? Or maybe they’re keeping a few big fan favourite bow-outs for a shock exit in the series’ penultimate episode, which we know Game of Thrones loves to do.
We need to do a bit of a mea culpa here, because we were totally wrong about episode three. I mean, we knew that Theon and Jorah – knight of the Andals, knight of my heart – weren’t long for this world, but we definitely predicted the episode to be a bloodbath when it wasn’t. What do we know, eh?
KD: Nothing, apparently. And neither does George R R Martin. Can I remind you of the fact that the author of the books this series is based on George R R Martin previously told the NY Times: “The people in Westeros are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting them that they’re ignoring the threat of ‘winter is coming,’ which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world.”
Essentially, he’s saying that the game of thrones is nowhere near as important as the threat of the White Walkers – and that it mirrors our own politicians’ approach to global warming.
“While we’re tearing ourselves apart over this and expending so much energy, there exists this threat of climate change, which, to my mind, is conclusively proved by most of the data and 99.9 percent of the scientific community,” he said. “And it really has the potential to destroy our world. And we’re ignoring that while we worry about the next election and issues that people are concerned about, like jobs. Jobs are a very important issue, of course.
“All of these things are important issues. But none of them are important if, like, we’re dead and our cities are under the ocean.”
Essentially, A Song of Ice and Fire reckons the fight for the Iron Throne is nowhere near as important as the threat beyond the Wall. Game of Thrones, though, has gone for the opposite approach. Go figure.
HRY: It’s always interesting to look at what Martin has said about the series’ end. We know that he told showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss his intended conclusion, and that they are following that. But in other ways, the show has leapt far ahead of the book series and will be wrapping up their characters differently to the way they will be wrapped up in the books.
What Martin has said is that his ending is “bittersweet”, and he compared it to the end of The Lord of the Rings series, in that you get a big climactic battle and then, afterwards, a lot of stuff about sorting out the bureaucracy of this new world and and, let’s face it, a PTSD-suffering Frodo shipped off to chill with the Elves because he can no longer live a happy life sinking beers with Sam in Hobbiton.
This is what Martin has said he based the end of Game of Thrones on. So if there is going to be a battle in King’s Landing in episode four or five, expect episode six to be a quieter episode that wraps up just how our characters can continue in the aftermath of whatever that battle’s conclusion is.
Are Daenerys and Jon Snow no longer allies?
HRY: The episode four pictures could NOT be telling a plainer story: Daenerys and Jon Snow are like that Calvin Harris song. They are not talking anymore. Daenerys has Jon Snow’s name written in the back of the Bible with a line through it. Could these pictures make it any clearer that the alliance between Dany and Jon is over?
KD: Not necessarily over, but it’s certainly simmered down. I was sort of hoping that the loss of Ser Jorah would remind Dany of the importance of human life over the Iron Throne and her thirst for power, but, again, GoT producers have gone for a very different approach. Judging by her decision to pack up her troops and march on King’s Landing, despite the fact she just lost a lot of good soldiers in a far more important battle against mother-fucking zombies, she’s as keen to get her butt on that Iron Throne as she ever was. And Jon, with his superior claim as a male heir, is probably going to be irking her a little.
Then again, maybe it’s just that Jon is caught in the middle. The North doesn’t like Dany, and Dany doesn’t like the North. Their positioning in the new stills shows him stood firmly in the middle, straddling two lines. It kind of shows him as a unifying force… and could possibly hint that he’s going to play an important role in the future political dealings of Westeros.
HRY: It’s interesting to think about this in the context of where the show can go from here. For these past seasons we’ve been preoccupied with the spectre of the Night King and the horrible possibility that a zombie reign might be imminent. Thanks to Arya, that’s no longer the case.
But now that Game of Thrones is returning to the in-fighting and politic-ing that it was known for back in the day, I’m not sure that I’m that interested in watching Dany and Jon facing off against each other. It feels… small. And petty. After all, Jon still doesn’t want to be King. And we know that Daenerys wants it. So. BADLY.
I’m inclined to echo an argument we’ve been making on this site for a while now, which is that it’s not actually about the throne at all. These arguments back and forth about who is going to ‘win’ the game of thrones might actually be meaningless. Kayleigh, you’ve mentioned your theory that the throne will be melted down and that the survivors will end the season searching for a new place to live. How do you think that might play out in episode four?
KD: I still think that’s the only ending that seems to fit the message that George R R Martin has been trying to send us since the first book. The Game of Thrones can only ever end when the throne itself is removed from play. If only we knew someone brave enough to melt it down, eh? Someone with a dragon? Someone who has, so far, prided herself on placing power in the hands of her followers and allowing them to choose?
Yeah. That someone. Sort it out Dany.
HRY: I’d like to see that. I always want to know if Jon and Daenerys aren’t friends anymore, then who are they friends with? Could one of them make an alliance with Cersei? Or are we going to see a strengthening of the North as a force to be reckoned with? The show has been building up Sansa as one of the smartest, savviest women in Westeros, and episode three gave us Arya’s hero moment. Could we see a Stark alliance, in opposition to a Targaryen alliance?
And could any of those Targaryen supporters switch sides to the Stark one? We know that both Varys and Tyrion have expressed concern at Daenerys’ recent behaviour. Maybe they’d rather side with a different dragon ruler.
KD: I’d like to see Jon and Tyrion rekindle their friendship of old, especially if the youngest of the Lannister siblings is starting to doubt the intentions of his chosen queen. Likewise, it’d be good for Jon to “stop thinking with his dick”, as Maisie Williams put it, and start working with his family. That’s what Ned would have wanted: the pack survives, after all.
In terms of Dany, she’s lost her greatest ally in Ser Jorah, so she will be leaning heavily on Missandei and Grey Worm. I think Varys is still Team Targaryen at the moment, but that will no doubt change in the not-so-distant future. He’s very prominent in all the new stills, so I assume that’s pertinent to the events of the episode…
What is going to happen to Cersei in episode four?
HRY: Ah Cersei, we’ve missed you. The problem with season eight – and I don’t want to speak for you Kayleigh, but I’m pretty sure you agree with me on this one – is that we’re lacking a good, old-fashioned villain.
You know, a true blue, nefarious mastermind rather than an inscrutable ice zombie. A villain like Littlefinger, a villain like Tywin Lannister or a villain like his daughter Cersei. Whether or not you perceive of her as a bad guy (Kayleigh is way higher on her than I am, but I still appreciate that wine-swilling antagonist for the bad bitch that she is), Cersei’s presence has been sorely missed these last two episodes. And now, at last – praise the Old Gods and the New – she’s back.
We know she still has it in for her brothers. She gave that crossbow to Bronn to kill them with maximum theatrics. Maybe she’ll double back on it all… Or maybe she’s going to spend these last episodes making trouble until she finally dies.
KD: Also, there is no way on the Many-Faced God’s green earth that Bronn is killing either Lannister brother. He loves them. He loves them! And, if he proves me wrong, I wouldn’t put it past Cersei not to rig it so it backfires and shoots him in his own traitorous face. Because she’s a Lannister, and she does her own dirty work, thank you very much.
HRY: Can you indulge me in a teeny tiny bit of prophecy chat? We need to talk about the Valonquar prophecy in Game of Thrones. These were the words, uttered in High Valyrian by Maggy the Frog, predicting that Cersei would be killed by her Valonquar (or little brother). She has two of those, famously, and both of them have reason to kill her. Valonquar could also be the unborn ‘little brother’ to her late children that Cersei is currently carrying. Perhaps she is going to die in childbirth?
Or, and this is where episode three comes into it, could Valonquar be gender neutral, as many High Valyrian words are? And could it mean little sibling? And might it refer to a little Stark sibling, the smallest of them all? We’re talking about Arya, of course, who had a triumphant hero moment in the Battle of Winterfell, and who we know has Cersei on her list of names.
Melisandre, who was useful for the first time in the entire series in episode three, reminded Arya that she will shut many eyes over the course of her life. Brown eyes, blue eyes and green eyes. Who has green eyes? Cersei Lannister.
KD: So does Jaime Lannister, though, and if Arya has to wear his face to bump off Cersei, she’ll need to kill him first. And then she will have fulfilled that part of the prophecy, so presumably her attempt on Cersei’s life would fail.
HRY: Very good point. Maybe she’s going to kill them both? We know she’s got the skills, and courtesy of loverboy Gendry she has the weapon. I’d like to see Arya take out Cersei. (I’m more hopeful that Jaime survives, purely because he’s one of my favourite characters.)
I want to say, too, that maybe we’re all putting way too much store in prophecy. George RR Martin has said himself that he doesn’t care much for prophecies, and the Valonquar bit of the Maggy the Frog’s foreshadowing isn’t even mentioned on the television show. Is it right to care so much about this, when it’s not canon in the series? Are us fans getting way too bogged down in lore and red herrings?
Quite possibly. But gosh, it’s fun to do, isn’t it? The prediction side of things is why it’s so damn enjoyable to be a Game of Thrones fan, so even if 99% of what you and me think is going to come true doesn’t come to pass, I still like doing it. Do you agree, Kayleigh?
KD: You know it, biatch. And you’re right, they’ve skipped a fair few prophecies to date, so why not this one? I imagine that the Valonquar is redundant and the Azor Ahai/Coloured Eyes prophecies are going to be the bigguns this season, being as they’ve had so much screentime.
I’m also now of the theory that, if Bran isn’t the Night King, producers are going to have to do something with his character to MAKE IT MAKE SENSE. Which is why I’m now firmly in the ‘Bran is the True Villain of GoT’ camp. As Redditor Horse400 explains: “We are all disappointed that the Night King’s death felt anti-climactic, what if that was the point? We, the audience have now let our guard down and are focusing on Cersei and on the politics again.”
They continue: “We know that the Night King wants to end the spiral of what has been happening forever and that the Night King is hunting Bran and killing anything in his way as he tries to get him. He doesn’t care about Jon or the Throne. He doesn’t care about the people, he only cares about killing the [Three-Eyed Raven] who is a slavemaster and manipulator of everything.
“What if he was doing what he does best, enslaving people to do his bidding and protect himself against the Night King?”
Well, yeah. I’m here for that. And it means that all of the spoilers dropped by my Belfast taxi driver will all still, somehow, make sense. Maybe Tyrion finds out about this, makes a play for Bran’s life, and is arrested as a result? Eh? EH?! I’ve lost the plot.
Is Euron Greyjoy going to die?
HRY: Now that Theon Greyjoy is dead, my dream for Euron to die at the hands of his nephew have been scuppered. However, the man is far from safe. In fact, Euron better watch his back. He hasn’t exactly been gentlemanly to Cersei, and we all know how she likes to deal with those who mistreat her. Loath as I am to wish violent death on anyone, I’d love a violent death for Euron, please.
KD: Euron has to die, and he has to die at the hands of Cersei, to be honest. It’s the only suitable vengeance for that “finger up the bum” comment. If not her, than Yara Greyjoy should be the one to drive that dagger home - she had to listen to all of his insane ramblings for days on end, after all.
HRY: Justice for Yara! Justice for Theon! Say it with me, folks! What is dead may never die!
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.