Well, that’s it: There’s just one episode to go before Game of Thrones is done. (Admittedly, it’s feature-length, and then there will be that prequel series, but Game of Thrones as we know it is about to draw to a close.) And this week, the show’s writers continued to whittle down the ranks of major players, leaving us with just a handful of egos to contend with heading into the final couple of hours of the show.
We’re plunged immediately into the aftermath of last week’s shocking execution; Daenerys Targaryen, Grey Worm, and Tyrion Lannister are still mourning the death of Missandei at the end of season 8's fourth episode. But after a bit of housekeeping—Daenerys weeding out some pesky gossips in her midst—it’s all action, returning to the front lines for a brutal confrontation between Daenerys and her allies, and the Lannister army and the Golden Company. (Miguel Sapochnik returned to the director’s chair, which is as sure a sign as any that we’re in for a bloodbath.) Some may have claimed—despite the high death toll of the third episode, much of it among immigrant communities—that not enough people died during the Battle of Winterfell; those people were likely far more satisfied this week, which saw the deaths of two-thirds of the surviving Lannister clan, both Cleganes, another Greyjoy, and so many King’s Landing civilians.
This also means that winners in the game of thrones this week were hard to come by; one Clegane clearly did better than the other, some Starks managed to get in a few jabs, and a dragon lived to breathe fire another day. Things are looking bleak. Read on to see where everyone ranks ahead of next week’s series finale.
Arya avoids a lot of the real action this week but, honestly, she’s done her service and we salute her nevertheless.
Sansa’s mall goth days might be behind her, but she’s still got a mall teen’s penchant for gossip: After non-brother Jon Snow swore her to secrecy and told her of his true parentage, she proceeded to tell Tyrion Lannister, who absolutely cannot keep a secret. In any case, this seems like the most immediate catalyst for Dany’s psychotic break on dragonback midway through the episode. And Sansa doesn’t even appear in this week’s installment. (Plus, Sophie Turner handily deflected blame for that coffee cup onto Emilia Clarke.) Sansa for the Iron Throne.
Points to Jaime for bringing back an underappreciated dig—that time Cersei called him the “stupidest Lannister.” More points for taking out Euron Greyjoy. We might once have considered him defecting back to King’s Landing to cancel out these points, but Daenerys and Cersei’s respective moral standings are no longer so clear. (Brienne deserved better, though.)
Quite dead, but hey, at least he got to take his brother down with him. And once again he saved Arya Stark. (“You win or you die,” of course, but sometimes you can also win and die.)
The last surviving dragon
Got to do a lot of heavy breathing tonight.
“We have won the great war; now, we will win the last war,” Daenerys said earlier this season. It’s just not entirely clear what “winning” means when you unnecessarily raze an entire city in the process. She starts the episode not eating and not taking visitors; she ends it turning King’s Landing to rubble after it had rung the bells in surrender. She’s really letting her mad queen show through, which, to be fair, she came by genetically; the series just opted to forgo much in the way of character development to get there. (Her advisors remind her of the cities she mostly peacefully liberated across the narrow sea; the word “mercy” is batted around a bit. None of it makes much difference.) People on the Internet are already quite upset about this development.
Everyone in King’s Landing
Grey Worm made it through this week, but he was a very willing participant in the bloodbath, bearing as much responsibility for starting the battle on the ground as Dany did in the air. So we’re putting him right up here with his queen.
Jon Snow still doesn’t want to be king, but Lord Varys really, really wants him to be king. Still. Incredible how this show can repeat the same conversations several weeks later. He still calls Daenerys “my queen” like it’s a sex thing. Which, obviously, it is. It’s just that by the end of the episode it looks like he’s realized Dany’s not temperamentally suited for the throne, really.
Whole lot of good ringing them did.
For someone who’s been pretty subtle in his manipulations over the past eight seasons, Varys’s latest move was really unsubtle. It's almost as if the showrunners are trying to wrap up all those loose ends. The episode opens with him writing a letter that contains the words “true heir to the Iron Throne,” anathema to Dany. So, as she promised, she burned him alive. This week, prophecies were fulfilled.
It’s so much clearer now how Lena Headey managed to spend production for the entire season sitting in a room in Belfast drinking wine. Daenerys might not be the clear winner of tonight’s battle, but Cersei Lannister obviously lost. At least she and Jaime went out together—just not quite as was prophesized. (There was a brief moment this evening when I thought that maybe the Hound was the “little brother” who was meant to kill her.)
Daenerys promised to execute Tyrion if he crossed her again, and she’s been really good about keeping her murdery promises. This week, Tyrion freed his elder brother Jaime, who was briefly her prisoner; schemed to get King’s Landing to surrender, even though it looks like Daenerys wanted to burn it down; and proved himself a real, real gossip. It’s not looking great for him going into next week.
Very dead. A loss for Westeros’s foremost Rick Owens fan, a win for the rest of us.
Well, that’s it for Qyburn, too.
Starbucks—or whichever Northern Ireland café Emilia Clarke frequents
No free product placement this week.