The Symmetry in the First Episode of the Last Season

This is a very late recap-ish post because I was sick with bronchitis on Sunday night. But, despite nearly hacking up a lung, I loved every minute of Sunday night’s show.

Every season, I have a debate about whether I want to write a book or continue blogging. And every season I vow that I will limit blogging and write a book. At 376 posts, many of which are 2000-5000 words, this website has a lot of content (not all of it written by me), so clearly I’m not good at keeping my promises.

I personally have a lot more to say about Game of Thrones (and ASOIAF) that I have not published on this site. Sadly, copyright violations makes me nervous about publishing my best ideas.

So hopefully I will get a chance to write down what really matters in Game of Thrones. We will see.

But in the meantime, is this blog back for the next six weeks? Maybe. Apparently, I miss blogging sometimes… I’ve been secretly hanging out on Quora.

So here are my thoughts on the first episode of the ultimate season…

Overall, I loved the reunions and the homecomings. I’ve been betting for years that GoT/ASOIAF would end as a tragedy, but this episode made me cautiously optimistic that maybe this wouldn’t be the case.

But, maybe I should rethink this… After all, this joke exists for a reason:

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Winterfell

I loved the way the episode had symmetry – both in music and events – with Season 1, Episode 1: well played Dave & Dan. There’s a little Bran-like boy climbing to the tallest tree to watch the royal procession arrive, but this time for Targaryen royalty and not Baratheon.

Daenerys reminds me of nothing so much as Elizabeth I the way she is styled in some of these shots with the white fur coat and long white hair. I’m not quite sure what it is. Or maybe Jadis from Narnia. But in case, you’ve forgotten what I’ve been saying for years: Daenerys is a villain.

When she rides into Winterfell, she smirked smugly at her dragons. I have yet to add up all of the bad things Daenerys has done but conquerors are not heroes in George RR Martin’s universe. We just lose sight of this because she is a point of view character — and that’s deliberate.

Lyanna Mormont, one of my personal favorite characters, made an appearance in the counsel. Like Sansa, she is less than impressed that Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen) gave up his crown to bend the knee to Daenerys.

Finally, Sansa and Tyrion are reunited. I don’t ship a lot of characters, but I have been secretly shipping these two ever since they were married, so it was gratifying to finally see them together.

What’s more intriguing though is how my “Does Sansa Suck?” article now lies in the dust.

Sansa has gone from being the gullible dupe to the “smartest person” Arya has ever met. Wow. I guess all that private tutelage from Machiavelli (aka Littlefinger) pays off.

And Sansa, by the way, hates Daenerys. Case in point.

King’s Landing

Pregnant Cersei (Lena Headey) is in full defensive mode. (c) HBO.

Cersei reveals her true colors when she hears that the Army of the Dead broke through the Wall. Her main concern is her mercenary army’s lack of elephants.

The elephants, by the way, instantly reminded me of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, who famously took the elephants over the Alps during the Second Punic War (218 BC). As I once wrote in my other secret life on Quora:

Hannibal likely brought them for the shock and awe factor as they charged against the enemy (Rome) — and it worked in the first battle he deployed them in but not the second. (The Romans did not scatter and flee or break ranks the second time they encountered them.)

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Elephants are not a very practical animal for battle since they will generally avoid charging at and trampling over people. (However, I suspect the Indian mahouts developed ways to overcome this when they were used in India.)

Hannibal’s elephants ended up dying on campaign. This was probably due to improper food and care. If memory serves, they were given enormous amounts of wine to drink.

Cersei probably wanted the elephants because Daenerys has dragons: let’s wage a battle of the beasts.

Maybe it’s just because I have bronchitis, but I can’t quite make sense of what Cersei’s going to do next. I keep thinking she will redeem herself. But maybe it’s as simple as she’s the evil queen.

Euron’s Boat

While Euron is away bedding Cersei in King’s Landing, Theon finally gets his moment and rescues Yara from his ship. Yara hasn’t lost any of her spunk and soundly head-butted Theon the second he rescued her – and rightfully so (at least from her perspective).

Flights of Fancy

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Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke (c) HBO.

Daenerys and Jon went exploring the North on her dragons. Yet more proof that Jon is a Targaryen. Admittedly, my inner romantic loved this and my inner cynic wondered how the CGI would hold up in 10 years.

Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne

Randyll and Rickon Tarly met a nasty end.

Daenerys’ impulsiveness in killing the Randyll and Rickon Tarly may have sown the seeds of her own destruction though. While Sam’s family treated him like dirt, they were still his family. And Daenerys isn’t going to get away with “it’s nothing personal Sam. It’s just business” that I killed your family.

Sam is an emotional guy; he’ll never accept this.

Interestingly enough, Bran pushes Sam to reveal Jon’s parentage immediately after he learns Daenerys killed his parents. This is not a coincidence.

Jon finally learns his parents’ identity – and that his real name is Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne.

Even if nice-guy Jon doesn’t vie for the crown, his supporters – Sam and Sansa – will pressure him to challenge Daenerys. (And this is very medieval by the way: those below the noble would always push him to increase or at least maintain his status.)

Already Sam is saying to Jon: “You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?”(49:40)

And this is not the type of conflict needed now. This will be a true challenge to Jon Snow in the days to come.

Night’s Watch & Free Folk: the Night King’s Progress

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The Night King left this message on the castle wall to mark his progress. (c) HBO.

While searching what is presumably Last Hearth, Tormund and company encounter a message from the Night King: the body of the young lord Umber on the wall in a spiral pattern.

This is a marker of the Night King’s progress in what appears to be a day.

Final Reckoning

This isn’t quite the right image of Bran. This is him when he spoke to Sam. (c) HBO.

In terms of symmetry, the last episode of the season ends with Jaime’s encounter with the boy he crippled all those years ago: Bran.

In retrospect, when Jaime pushed Bran out of the tower years ago, it was one of the worst things he’d ever done. Possibly worse than killing the Mad King – which was actually a heroic act.

Now for Jaime to fulfill his heart’s desire of being a hero: he will have to come to terms with one of his most shameful deeds and secrets.

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

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