The Penultimate Season’s Finale Delivers Chills

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The finale of Game of Thrones‘ second last season delivers some long-awaited moments and solid chills (no pun intended). Let’s take a look.

Parley in the Dragon Pit

The Lannisters and the Targaryens meet to discuss a potential truce so Daenerys’ armies can march north to fight the armies of the dead.

The decrepit dragon pit is a great choice for the truce talks. The pit represents the beginning of the end of Targaryen power.

The Targaryens stabled their dragons in these pits to prevent them from terrorizing the surrounding lands. Unable to fly freely, the dragons became smaller and weaker with each generation, or so some people say. The pits, which on the TV show resemble a decaying Roman coliseum, were even once a site for Targaryen coronations and, in the novels, housed a stash of the Mad King’s Wildfire.

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The Targaryen faction enters the dragon pits for the truce talks.

The parley unites many strange bedfellows:

  • Brienne and the Hound — Brienne comes face-to-face with a man she tried to kill (awkward!)
  • Bronn and Tyrion — two friends who now fight on opposite sides
  • Jaime and Tyrion — Jaime once swore to kill Tyrion for killing their father — although presumably this is resolved after their meeting in the Red Keep’s dungeons.
  • The Mountain and the Hound — The two brothers almost fought to the death in Season 1 and both want to kill the other. Not surprisingly, the Hound bears a lifelong grudge against the Mountain for burning off his face. While this episode hinted at a conflict to come, the Cleganebowl sequence was unsatisfying.

To name but a few…

By far, the best part of the dragon pit parley is when the Hound kicks over the wooden crate containing the wight. Cersei is clearly stunned, and Jaime is astonished by the 100,000 corpse army. Euron makes a show of storming out, claiming to be afraid of the Army of the Dead. He is taking the iron fleet back to the Iron Islands.

After seeing the wight, Cersei agrees to a truce with Dany while she fights the Night King. Cersei has one condition: Jon must stay out of the Lannister/Targaryen battle. But it is too late. Jon has already sworn allegiance to Daenerys.

Once Cersei hears that Jon won’t stay out of the battle, she halts the truce talks.

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The truce talks are held in a decaying dragon pit. In the real world, HBO filmed the scene at the ruins of a Roman coliseum in Spain.

As the negotiation breaks up, Brienne urges Jaime to “f*&k loyalty” and talk to the queen – words that likely resonated with him as we will see later.

Now, to be fair to Cersei, she’s absolutely right. How does she know whether or not the wight theater is an elaborate trick? If she agrees to a truce with Daenerys, Cersei could be the one who ends up dead even if Dany’s armies stop the Night King.

After Tyrion and Dany scold Jon, Tyrion goes to the Red Keep to try to persuade Cersei to reconsider. Tyrion is taking his life in his hands with this stunt, but he feels they are out of options.

Obviously, there’s a ton of bad blood between Cersei and Tyrion. Tyrion killed her father and she blames him for Myrcella and Tommen’s deaths. Cersei argues that nobody would have touched her children if Tywin was there. (This argument doesn’t hold up though when you consider Joffrey’s death.)

Tyrion goads Cersei into almost ordering his death. Cersei restrains herself – after all, there is an end game here and she needs to leave Tyrion unharmed to win it.

Cersei does question why Tyrion wants to make her blonde rival (aka foil) ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion believes Dany will make the world a better place. Cersei bats that statement right back to Tyrion: “You said she would destroy King’s Landing.” Tyrion’s take: “wise counsel” will erase this threat. (I question that but moving along…)

Meanwhile back in the dragon pit, as Tyrion and Cersei come to an agreement, Dany and Jon share a moment.

Cersei returns to the dragon pit and claims that she will march her armies north to fight in the Great War with Dany’s forces. “When the war is over, perhaps you will remember that I chose to help with no assurances,”

Now, this is Cersei’s moment – and it is fantastic. It looks like this could be Cersei’s redemption arc. To bad it isn’t real.

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Cersei and Jaime argue about what the priority is: the battle for the living or the battle for the throne.

Later, it becomes all too clear that Cersei had orchestrated her own theater for the parley, and she has no intention of honoring their agreement. Euron is not going back to the Iron Islands. He’s going to pick up the Golden Company from Essos and ferry them to the North, so they can attack Daenerys’ army from behind.

When Jaime learns of this plan, hatched without his knowledge he sees Cersei for what she is. After she threatens his life by nearly siccing the Mountain on him, he finally leaves her and breaks his oath.

Graduation Day

After watching Cersei and Littlefinger school Sansa in real politik for seven seasons, it seems the little bird has learned to fly on her own.

Littlefinger underestimates his pupil and he assumes he can manipulate Sansa into turning on her sister like he manipulated Lysa Arryn. Flashback to reality, Littlefinger: Lysa was in love with you and Sansa is not.

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Sansa at Winterfell, where Petyr Baelish meets his downfall.

Sansa convenes an assembly of all of her great lords and feigns to accuse Arya of treason. At the last minute, she names Littlefinger instead. When Littlefinger tries to weasel out of the charge, his words come back to haunt him about imagining a person’s worst possible motives. You can’t help but think of Machiavelli here.

It’s also clear the Starks have figured it out. Littlefinger was behind the War of the Five kings. He was responsible for their father and mother’s deaths. He killed Jon and Lysa Arryn. Littlefinger orchestrated a war that cost thousands their lives solely to help him climb onto the iron throne.

This scene makes it clear that Sansa – and Arya – have grown up. They now have the political savvy and the ability to pass the sentence they need to rule Winterfell. In short, this is Sansa’s graduation day.

Gilly is Robbed at Winterfell

Samwell Tarly arrives back at Winterfell where he is talking to Bran/the Three-Eyed Raven. In one of the best sequences in the episode, Bran travels back in time to confirm that Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen were secretly married. It turns out that Jon is the rightful to the Iron Throne (or so Bran says).

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Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark marry in secret.

Now, I question that assessment since figuring out succession wasn’t always that clear in the real middle ages. I mean, if you seize the throne from a conqueror, isn’t the throne just as rightfully yours as it was the conquerors? On this basis, I’d say Gendry is the rightful heir (perhaps) and not Jon.

What bugged me the most about this scene was why didn’t Gilly get her moment? She was robbed I say! Why couldn’t Gilly have been in this scene too so Sam could have felt the consequence of his manterruption? I’d have loved to see Gilly interrupting Bran to say, “Actually Jon isn’t a Sand…” – and stealing Sam’s thunder.

Dragonstone

Meanwhile at Dragonstone, this episode’s eponymous Wolf and Dragon finally do it. Or, so they believe. It turns out, however, that it is really a Dragon and a Wolf-Dragon hybrid that spent the night together. Aegon Targaryen: meet your Aunt Daenerys.

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Theon (Alfie Allen) just before he challenges the ironborn captain. Although few like Theon, you’ve gotta hand it to Alfie Allen: the guy is a great actor to portray all those different Theons.

It was so-o-o tempting to entitle this section, “Dragonstone: Theon finally finds his balls” but that feels like it is in bad taste somehow. Poor Theon. Regardless, the still visibly weakened Theon challenges the Iron Born’s defacto captain when the latter refuses to attempt to rescue Theon. Amazingly, Theon manages to beat the man to death.

Before this, Theon also makes amends with Jon Snow, who forgives him and wishes him godspeed in his mission to rescue Yara.

Maybe, just maybe, Theon will finally get his moment next season. I know people hate Theon and see him as irrelevant, but I can’t wait to see Theon truly redeem himself.

And, while I’m on this topic, I also think that Alfie Allen should get nominated for an Emmy the next time Game of Thrones qualifies (presumably 2018). Alfie didn’t get a nomination in 2016, but he should have. He has had to make us believe in not only sexist, arrogant jerk Theon but also in beaten, castrated Reek and the person he is becoming now. I’m not the only one who thinks he deserves an award.

The Wall

Now, the best scene in the finale was the Wall falling down. Although it’s unlikely this surprised any long-time fans, watching the Night King ride the ice dragon was cool as hell.

When the scene is over, it’s not clear whether Tormund is alive or dead. It’s also not clear how long it will take for the army to reach Winterfell. Let’s hope it’s not two years.

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."

6 Comments

  • Reply September 5, 2017

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    I engaged season 7 on the whole though I appreciate there is a different style to the telling of the tale now that we are heading for the “home stretch” as it were. I know people have found the speed of the travelling and other points clunky this season. I guess Euron had to be established as a baddy.

    POSSIBLE BOOK SPOILERS AND SPECULATION ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IN THE BOOKS

    Also, I’m presuming that when Dany does eventually get to Westeros in the books she will have to contend with (f)Aegon so she won’t be going straight up against Cersei and co, so possibly in the show Tyrion not planning as strategically as has been his wont was the way to level the playing field between Team Dany and Team Cersei (says she stating the obvious). I didn’t like the Griffs in the books or a lot of the Mereneese characters (in that I could have done without them being in the books but it’s Mr Martin’s story and his choice how to tell it – in the books at least). I’ve wondered and I know I’m not the only one whether Victarion (I don’t miss him in the show either) will be Dany’s “one to dread” in the books. Then I’ve been wrong about lots of things – I kept hoping Shireen’s death would be one of Mr Martin’s red herrings (it has been hinted at in the books but I didn’t want it to be true so I wanted it to be a red herring) but apparently Mr M did tell the two Ds that it would happen. I didn’t mind book Dorne but I did feel it was a bit late in the day to introduce the Dornish in the fourth book.

    It’s been hinted that book Sansa will become savvy by observing Littlefinger in the Vale (and as book Sansa is “hiding out” as a bastard maybe she will realise what Jon had to put up with growing up). (I can’t buy that NOBODY would have thought of looking for Sansa in the Vele where her aunt lived; though of course the Vale, especially in the books, is not an easily accessible place) I’ve a nasty feeling that Harry the Heir might turn out to be a Horrid Harry but then I’ve been wrong before. In a medium constrained by time I didn’t mind the way the show handled LF getting his comeuppance, though I’ve read that there was a scene where Sansa sought counsel from Bran which would have made her “catching on” to LF’s game (in the show) a little less as though it came out of left field.

    For my tuppence worth, I thought part 7 wrapped up the season well – if people dislike the season that is their prerogative. To misquote Maggie Thatcher, “You hate if you want to, the lady’s not for hating”.*

    *The original was in a 1980s speech of Maggie Thatcher’s (not that she wrote it herself) referring to making “U turns” and there was a play on words “You turn if you want to, the lady’s not for turning” (taking inspiration from the title of a Christopher Fry play “The Lady’s not for Burning”).

    A bit off topic – of course there were a few ‘Rhaegar wasn’t hawt enough’ whinge-bags – for a character who was on screen for a minute if that – as there was mention of Peter Brook’s version of “The Mahabharata” on other threads, if GoT had been made in the late 1980s/early 1990s young Nolan Hemmings might have made a suitable Rhaegar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n7iiF-SG_w though his hair might have needed to have been lightened (or they could have gone “wiggy”).

    • Reply September 6, 2017

      Jamie Adair

      Strangely enough, I kind of liked Book Dorme and would have liked to see more of it in the show. You make an interesting point about when it was introduced. I think I liked it because it added texture. I was a bit disappointed about not seeing more book Dorne. I also liked the book Riverlands sequence with Jaime, and the Jon Snow chapters in ADWD. I found the latter quite suspenseful. But I digress…

      I loathed the casting of Rhaegar. Not hunky at all IMO. I thought he looked WAY too much like grotty Viserys. 🙂

  • Reply September 5, 2017

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    My broadband cut out when I was correcting my comment above – should have said I “enjoyed” season 7 and not used the word “engaged”. I also think Alfie Allen is worthy of praise.

    • Reply September 6, 2017

      Jamie Adair

      I strongly agree about Alfie Allen. Many critics were whining that Theon was irrelevant at this point but I’m telling you Theon is going to have his moment. I’m convinced. After all that suffering, he is due. 🙂

  • Reply September 7, 2017

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    Possibly the actor who played Rhaegar was chosen because he did somewhat resemble Harry Lloyd (Viserys). One factor about book Dorne I liked was the fact that the ruler’s eldest child could inherit irrespective of his/her gender. My head fancast for Rhaegar was Bradley James (Arthur in “Merlin”) or Tom Hopper (Perceval in the same show) but he ended up playing Dickon Tarley mark 2, but for a character who was on screen less than a minute I’m not going to whinge about who was chosen.

    • Reply September 13, 2017

      Jamie Adair

      I wondered about the casting. I agree Watcher. I think castong somebody who looks like Viserys was quite likely their goal. The actor who played Viserys is decent looking but the blond wig + nasty character creep me out, so I don’t tend to think of Viserys as attractive.

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