Saturday, May 11, 2019

GAME OF THRONES (S8E04) : "The Last of the Starks"

This episode begins with a funeral for all the dead who fell in the previous epic episode "The Long Night." We see all the survivors, looking sombre, about to set alight the pyres of their friends, lovers, brothers, sons, fathers, etc. However, afterwards, we see a huge feast occurring in the great hall of Winterfell, with everyone  (except Arya, who is called "the hero of Winterfell" in her absense) drinking and eating and making merry. Everyone in attendance is happy except for Dany, who notices how people seem to gravitate around her nephew/lover Jon Snow, even though an objective analysis would show that he did not acquit himself with much impact in last night's battle between the living and the dead. You can see the realization on her face that she could very well lose her claim to the Iron Throne to this guy. So she calls out Gendry Rivers, gets him to confirm in front of everyone that he is indeed Robert Barratheon's "bastard son" and declares that he is now Gendry Barratheon, Lord of Storm's End (the Barratheon homestead). It's a nice moment and everyone in the hall applauds the new Lord's good fortune. Lord Gendry, continues his search for Arya, who he finds alone, practicing her archery marksmanship. Being the silly dude he is, Gendry gets on one knee and asks Lady Arya Stark to marry him. She lets him down easy. "You will make a great Lord and you deserve to have the love of a great Lady. But I am not a lady. I never was, and I don't intend to be." Although we see the end of one couple in this episode we also see the consummation of the relationship between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, two episodes after he knighted her in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms."

The title of this week's episode is "The Last of the Starks," presumably because of the scene with Jon, Sansa, Arya and Bran (the four surviving Stark children) meeting in the Weirwood, where Jon defies Dany (as everyone knew he would) and reveals the secret that only 4 people in the world know: his real name is Aegon Targaryen, so in fact he is not their adopted brother, he is their cousin (the son of their father's sister Lyanna Stark). Before he tells them he makes them swear not to reveal what he is about to say and then he tells Bran "tell them everything." Curiously, the reveal happens off-screen, as does the second reveal when Sansa tells Tyrion, who has come to try and convince the Lady of Winterfell to trust in his judgment that the Dragon Queen will be a just ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. "What if there were someone else?" Sansa asks him.

This cuts to the first of two pivotal scenes where Tyrion and Varys debate who should be the ruler of Seven Kingdoms that would benefit the most number of people. Tyrion, as one would expect from the Hand of the Queen, makes his case for Daenerys, while Varys, who having reached the inner corridors of power without ceding his connection to the common folk, wonders aloud if it wouldn't be better to have someone sit on the Iron Throne who has to be convinced to do it, instead of someone who believes it is their (her!) birthright. It's an interesting philosophical question which has echoes of modern day politics.

However this is a brief respite from the mayhem of the rapidly approaching battle for the Iron Throne. Many of our heroes set off by ship and Dany and her dragons are flying above them. Suddenly they are ambushed by Euron's fleet of ships and we see huge flying spears whizzing through the air, barely missing Dany on Drogon and connecting with Rhaegal in the wing. Two more spears come by and they catch the dragon in the throat, and he falls into the ocean, suddenly dead. Could Drogon and Dany be next? Happily they survive but it means that Dany is now down to one dragon. The new weapons by Qyburn not only can take dragons out of the sky, they can blast ships from several hundred feet away as well. Tyrion and Grey Worm barely survive and it turns out that Missandei is captured by Euron's company.

The inevitable showdown between Dany, Varys, Grey Worm, Tyrion outside of the walls of King's Landing as they watch Cersei, Qyburn, Euron, and a captured Missandei occurs at the very end of the episode. Even though it was very clear there was no way she would survive the situation, it was still shocking to see Mountain chop her head off as her lover watched. The look on Dany's face as she stormed away from the scene where one of her closest confidants was murdered as she mourns the death of one of her children was enough for us to know that the penultimate episode of the season (and show) next week will be the epic battle for the Iron Throne we have been waiting for since the show debuted in 2011.

The highlights of this episode were:
  • The best line of the episode (and maybe the season so far!) is Tyrion's response to Varys as they debate who they think really would be the best ruler of the Seven Kingdoms: "I don't think a cock is a true qualification." 
  • The second best line is probably Jaime's "I've never slept with a Knight before." Of course Brienne's response is "I've never slept with anyone before."
  • Most valuable player of the episode is Tyrion, who risks his life by trying to speak directly with his sister, Queen Cersei, to attempt to reach some human compassion at her core in order to try and avoid the bloodshed and horror he knows will result if the two Queens of the Realm battle for supremacy. He fails (of course), but the attempt was valiant. I was quite surprised he survived the effort. A close second would probably be Qyburn, who of course designed the new weapons which were used to devastating effect by Euron's navy to not only kill half of Dany's surviving dragons, but also obliterated a significant fraction of her existing naval power as well.
  • The love scene between Jaime and Brienne was great, because it was a payoff for a relationship that has been in existence for several seasons. However the sight of Brienne in tears, dressed only in a nightgown, begging Jaime not to give in to his "bad" side and return to his evil sister/lover was heartbreaking. 
The primary lowlight was the fact that Rhaegal was taken out of the game so abruptly and brutally. There's no question that 6 episodes is simply not enough time to wrap up a story as complex and complicated  as George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

Grade: 9/10.

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