The seventh season finale saw three major events that fans have long awaited; the Wall coming down, the meeting of the three major players, and the revealing of Jon’s origin. The Wall falling was awe-inspiring and truly horrific. The payoff was well worth the wait. The other two? Mixed results.
In King’s Landing, the episode starts with an assembling of the largest meeting of main characters in the series thus far. This features several reunions, most of which were very well done. The Hound’s reunions were among the most memorable. He balances subtly beaming with pride over Arya with Brienne while facing off with his brother. Is this a prelude to their possible showdown dubbed “the Cleganebowl?” Rory McCann did a lot of great subtle acting here, a nice change for the character who is normally very outwardly expressive.
The reunion that held the most weight though was Tyrion and Cersei. We can pretty much regard this scene as the Emmy reels for Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey. Tyrion and Cersei discuss the repercussions of his murder of Tywin. We don’t get to see how Tyrion convinced Cersei to change (or rather, pretend to change) her mind, but the meat of the scene was in their emotional dynamic. A powerhouse duo in the second season, Tywin’s death clearly affected this chemistry in many ways. Both characters fight an internal battle with themselves as well as the other. Cersei, who blames Tyrion for the death of their mother, has since added Myrcella and Tommen to Tyrion’s body count. While it’s hard to blame him entirely for Tommen, his actions did directly get Myrcella killed, to which Tyrion painfully expresses regret for.
The episode centered around the remaining powers vying for control of Westeros meeting for the first time. When Dany arrives on Drogon, a little more than fashionably late, we see genuine fear from Cersei. The strength of this parlay was in the little interactions. Cersei, Jaime, and Brienne all exchange awkward glances and Euron taunts Theon. While Cersei eventually reveals her truce to be a ruse, her fear at the sight of the dragons and the wight was certainly genuine. Jon’s speech about the Great War was necessary but it’s gotten old at this point.
Jaime finally shows some long awaited development when he leaves Cersei and heads north on his own. I heard ahead of this episode that Jaime survives. Despite this, tension derived from their final confrontation was strong enough to make me fear for his life. It will be very interesting to see what Jaime does in the show’s final season, given that his arc won’t be surrounded by delusion and half-hearted justifications. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens with Bronn, who, for all we know, has remained behind in King’s Landing.
In the North, Sansa meets with Littlefinger, who advises her to take action against Arya. Sansa summons Arya to the Great Hall. There, the sisters reveal they have been playing Littlefinger all along. It is a fitting end for the character. He has built his career by manipulating and exploiting women for his own gain. It’s refreshing that the younger generation of rulers saw through this and put an end to the vile character. The scene itself was incredibly satisfying and expertly acted by Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Aiden Gillian. We see Littlefinger removed from his comfort zone so quickly that he doesn’t even notice it at first. That being said, I am left unsure as to whether or not the showrunners were playing the audience or Sansa and Arya were playing Littlefinger all along. I like to lean towards the latter.
Jon tells Cersei that he’s bent the knee to Dany, which temporarily breaks up the meeting. He did this because he refused to lie. That leaves me to assume he was being truthful when he forgave Theon for his betrayal. It was a weird sort of faux redemption for him. We have already seen Theon risk everything to save Sansa. Immediately afterward, he relinquished his birthright and named his sister the rightful Queen of the Iron Islands. Theon is redeemed within the context of the story. So why did we get this scene with Jon? Better yet, why did we get this weird scene on the beach? The Greyjoy men refused to go find Yara because of a desire to act against her orders and yet, Theon wins a fight and that convinces them to abandon their convictions and risk everything for a seemingly hopeless cause? We can write it off as the Greyjoys being simple, but these two scenes felt better off being condensed.
Then there is the big “revelation,” which I put in quotations because it’s all been revealed in the past. The scene starts with John Bradley’s Sam giving genuinely hilarious reactions to Bran’s absurd statements. From there, I’m honestly not sure if the showrunners intended to be almost insultingly on the nose. Bran’s wooden and simple dialog plays as a cheesy voice-over as we skip between flashbacks and Jon and Dany having sex. It certainly left no doubt, so if that was its intention then I suppose it was successful. But everything about this scene was lackluster; even the big reveal that Jon’s real name is Aegon Targaryen. There is also the ambiguous tone of Jon and Dany’s relationship. Are we supposed to be against it? For it? The season didn’t do a very good job at building up to this moment, so when it finally arrived I was left a little confused as to what the showrunners wanted me to feel here.
As a whole, the events of this episode are enormous. In its execution though? It lacked identity, the writing fell short time after time, and its only redeeming factor was the resiliency of the show’s brilliant cast, who can power through any sort of material. The episode was very entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but before this year Game of Thrones was always more than just basic entertainment to me. There was nuance and intrigue, and I was inspired to describe each episode as something more than just “awesome” or “kick-ass.” If this is an indication of the final season, I may have to change the way I review this series. With only six episodes left, we are about to see this global phenomenon take its final bow. I wish you all good fortune in the wars to come.