Spoilers to follow for “Game of Thrones.”
Another week, another episode, and this week was no different. “The Last of the Starks,” which aired May 5 and was directed by David Nutter, was an interesting episode. Coming off the back of the intensity of the Battle of Winterfell, this episode had a lot of ground to cover, seeing as there are now only two more episodes in the series. I can hardly believe it. The episode laid out some interesting choices regarding the development of certain key characters while surprisingly still keeping us in the dark about just how the series will conclude. My only question: is the ambiguity of the finale a good thing?
This episode starts with a mass funeral for those lost in the Battle of Winterfell. We get final moments with Theon, Jorah and Lyanna as they are put to rest, with Sansa putting a Stark pin in Theon’s armor, proof of his character arc coming full circle. Next, we transition to Winterfell’s great hall where a party has begun, the living celebrating their victory. Here, Daenerys names Gendry a true Baratheon and the Lord of Storm’s End, the ancestral family castle, in hopes to gain his support in the future. Later, when Tormund praises Jon for his bravery in battle, onlooking Daenerys realizes that the people of Westeros believe in him more than they will ever believe her. Gendry finds Arya and, without much thought, asks her to marry him, but, echoing her lines to Ned Stark from the first season, she responds saying that she’s not a lady and that her place isn’t simply to be someone’s wife. Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne finally express their feelings for each other and, in a moment for which fans have long been waiting, get busy! Actually, there’s a lot of that in this episode.
Later, Dany confronts Jon about his parentage and asks him not to tell anyone because it could cause her claim to the throne to be questioned. Jon decides to tell his family anyway. Despite having them swear to secrecy, Sansa immediately tells Tyrion in an attempt to convince him that Dany shouldn’t be queen. After the celebration, it’s right back to business. It is decided that Dany will sail to King’s Landing while Jon leads the Northerners by land. However, the fleet of Euron Greyjoy intercepts Dany on the way down, and we get our first death of the episode: Raegahl the dragon. Euron, with pinpoint accuracy from the upgraded dragon killing crossbows, hits the dragon in the chest, wing and finally the neck which sends him plummeting into the ocean. Missandei is captured in the chaos. After Dany goes to Cersei to ask for her to surrender, Cersei refuses and executes Missandei.
While I always try to stay positive when talking about this show, I do have to say that this episode was tough to watch. The first half of the episode is spent celebrating not only the victory against the dead but also some of the characters’ best traits finally coming to fruition. We get a few hilarious scenes with drunk Tormund pining after Brienne and pumping up Jon after the victory as well as what seemed to be closure on the arc between Brienne and Jaime. There is also a really moving scene between Sansa and the Hound. Not only that, but from a filmmaking perspective, hidden inside of these scenes are clever details. For example, Dany’s eyes always being lit with a visible flame, possibly alluding to her descent into madness.
However, while I do try to be forgiving with certain choices made by the show (such as characters randomly teleporting across the sea or inexplicably dumb battle plans), something about this episode just fell a little flat for me. Raeghal’s death not only seemed a little out of place, but to just reintroduce the giant crossbows from last season where they could barely put a dent in Drogon, and have them take out a dragon just seems strange. Similarly, if Cersei really wanted an advantage, in the final scene in which Dany confronts her at the gates of the capitol, the last dragon is right there and Cersei has at least twenty giant crossbows on the ramparts. She could have ended the entire war right there and it just doesn’t feel like her character to wait around for some sort of poetic justice.
Finally, perhaps the most egregious offense of the episode was Jaime and Brienne’s goodbye. To pay off one of the most earnest and vulnerable relationships in the entire show but then strip away seasons upon seasons of Jaime’s character development in some throwaway line (which is so confusing that the entire fanbase is split on whether he is going to save or kill his sister) all in a single episode is absolutely ridiculous. It seems as if the only plausible plotline being advanced so far is Dany’s descent into madness, which makes sense as her two most trusted advisors have been killed, but still feels like it could end up being a cheap shock where Jon has to kill her to save the realm.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still very excited for these last two episodes. But from what we saw in this past one, I just get the feeling that they are still rushing this forward and that worries me. I don’t want one of the most masterfully written shows in television history to leave a sour taste in my mouth because they didn’t have the time to do the ending justice. I just hope that when the time comes, they will be able to stick the landing and this week’s episode just didn’t make me believe that would be the case.