The penultimate episode of the series proves to be the deadliest of the season, but also includes some long-awaited reunions and confrontations.
No seriously ... this was probably the most challenging episode of "Game of Thrones" to sit through since the Red Wedding, and fans are absolutely turn.
The hour-plus episode was a veritable bloodbath of fan-favorites and villains as Daenerys took the battle to King's Landing, straight up to the Red Keep and everything in between.
And we do mean everything. It looked like she was determined not to leave a single stone, house or citizen of King's Landing unburned as she made her way to the Red Keep in her efforts to destroy Cersei and claim the Iron Throne.
On top of that, we got the long-awaited Cegane-Bowl as The Hound and The Mountain finally came face to undead face and it was beautifully epic, ending in really the only way it could. It also kind of proved that there was still a bit of The Mountain's original personality in there as he went into a blood-red rage upon seeing his brother.
Honestly, Daenerys' evolution this season has been the hardest thing to watch, as she was set up as the better alternative to Cersei and the Lannisters for the entire run of the show, only to prove that she's far worse. She fulfilled her father's dying to "burn them all" and appears to be every bit as mad as he was.
How is this better than the Night King? Fire over ice?
Dany has always been harsh and she's always had that royal sense of entitlement, but she also had compassion, and especially for the oppressed peoples of the world. She cared about the small folks crushed under the ambitions of the lords and ladies above them, but now she has become the heel that crushes them all.
But hey, "Game of Thrones" has made it it's business to not give us what we want, so we can respect that we're happy with her evolution. It's hard to watch the ones we love become the villain, but only because we once loved them.
What's harder to swallow is just how much of a one-sided bloodbath this was. Euron Greyjoy and his scorpion-enhanced Iron Fleet were a huge problem when Dany had two dragons, but now she laid waste to them by herself like they weren't even there.
All this talk was made about how even this battle was between Cersei's forces -- including the much-ballyhooed Golden Company -- and Daenerys' reduced numbers, but it wasn't even close. Everyone basically lied down and died, putting up as much resistance as all the innocent women and children did to Drogon's flames.
Nevertheless, the endgame is upon us. Daenerys has made her biggest move, and it was a doozy. There's one episode left to pick up the pieces and see who gets to sit on the Iron Throne (if they can find it in the rubble) and rule what's left of King's Landing and Westeros.
After witnessing from the ground what Dany's air strikes did to the people of King's Landing, whose support does she still have? Jon and Tyrion both look pretty horrified, and might be questioning their loyalty to this apparent mad queen, as well as their role in her first kill of the night.
In the "Game of Thrones" you win or you die. For this final season, we're going to track the biggest game moves each week from the remaining players, and then break down what went wrong for each player that loses, i.e. dies. And then we'll declare our "Player of the Week" until we declare the ultimate winner next week. Who will it be?
BIGGEST PLAYER MOVES
Varys Confronts Jon
It may have not mattered in the short run, but something tells us the whispers of the Master of Whispers are lingering in Jon's ears after seeing what Daenerys has done to King's Landing. If this is within her capacity to win the throne, what would she do to keep it? What if her ambitions grow beyond the seven kingdoms? Daenerys didn't honor the surrender of the city, so does she have honor? We know how important that is to Starks. Plus, how long before she doesn't like the idea of someone with a stronger claim to the throne than her being alive ... whispers become rumors become revolution.
Tyrion Betrays Varys
At this point, Tyrion was still very much a believer in his queen, and so he did what he should as her hand and loyal subject. He turned in Varys for talking treason. And he quickly learned how far she'll go to keep the secret of Jon's lineage, which is an incredibly selfish thing. Daenerys no longer wants the throne because it is hers by right of law, because it isn't. She just wants it. That makes her no different than Cersei.
Daenerys Sentences Varys
It was inevitable, once the truth was out, that Daenerys would execute any and all who betray her. But by killing Varys in fire moments before she killed King's Landing in much the same way, she may have planted the seed of doom in the minds of those loyal to her. "I hope I deserve this. Truly, I do. I hope I'm wrong," Varys said. Turns out he wasn't wrong at all. The man who cared most about the people in this realm died the same way those very same people would die the next day. It was symbolic of how Dany will take care of anyone she sees as against her or in her way.
Jon Rejects Daenerys
This was a huge one, because it effectively leaves Daenerys with no one to temper her darker tendencies. She's always had the capacity for ultimate violence and anger and retribution, but she's had advisers holding her back. Now, she has just Tyrion, but she doesn't respect or trust him. He advised her to stop the assault if King's Landing rang the bell, signifying surrender, but she didn't listen. She's gone completely rogue and shown her full capacity.
Tyrion Frees Jaime
This ultimately just turned into a kindness, and we never heard any fallout from Jaime's apparent escape. Nevertheless, it emphasized Tyrion's humanity. Again, he was attempting to minimize bloodshed. But it also showed his weakness for family, as he was willing to help Jaime and Cersei escape what was definitely coming to his sister, and only because Jaime was decent to him over the years.
Daenerys Wipes Out Iron Fleet
To kick off the bloodbath, suddenly the Iron Fleet and all those scorpions were no match for Daenerys and her one dragon. The scorpions seemed so threatening not so long ago and suddenly they're no big deal. Drogon easily dodged bolts and Dany simply wiped the fleet off the map, before doing the same to anything and everyone within the city's walls.
Cersei's Soldiers Surrender
When is a surrender not a surrender? When you drop your swords but they charge you anyway. Daenerys' army took as dark a turn as she did, leaving Jon to have to defend the citizenry from his own soldiers. Surrender meant nothing in this battle, as Dany employed a scorched earth mentality.
Daenerys Burns King's Landing
The bells tolled, announcing surrender. The swords dropped. The battle was won and the war was over. But Daenerys didn't care, her bloodlust wasn't sated. And so she proceeded to enact one of the most cruel and brutal sequences in the history of the show. There is no redemption from this deed. This is her villain turn fulfilled. Daenerys is a monster.
Hound Turns Away Arya
At the key moment of the whole series, The Hound showed Arya the greatest kindness he could in convincing Arya to turn away from the path of vengeance, lest she become him. Now, she does kind of hate-love him, but we're not really buying that this would work. She's had a vengeance list going for years now; you think you can just turn that off. But after watching her harrowing escape from King's Landing -- including bonding with a mother and daughter, only to see them die -- there may be a new name on her list.
Hound Fights Mountain
It was a battle several seasons in the making, and there was really only one outcome. This is what The Hound was trying to help Arya avoid. With the Mountain effectively undead now, he proved almost as impossible to kill as a wight. The Hound "won" that battle several times over before realizing there was only one way to end it, and that was with a fall into fire.
Jaime Finds Cersei
It may have facilitated for them a happy ending, for whatever time Jaime might have had left after two gut wounds by Euron Greyjoy, but the passage out of the Red Keep was blocked. So all it afforded them was the opportunity to be together in the end. And just like that, Cersei proved as ineffective in the final battle for King's Landing than her fleet or her army. Where was the powerful woman who would do anything. She just stood there, then fled and then died. A bit underwhelming overall.
Varys fell to dracarys for betraying Daenerys, and with him apparently went the last hope for the people of King's Landing. Could he have made a difference from within her loyal advisers? Possibly not, but by betraying her and getting caught, he only darkened her even more.
Euron Greyjoy proved a delightful lunatic until the end. An agent of chaos more than anything else, he fulfilled that role to the last, forcing Jaime into a pointless swordfight that would ultimately prove both of their undoings. But he was fun while he lasted, right?
Qyburn had the most shocking death of the episode, and the kind of violence that used to be a signature of the show. This is a brutal world and people can die at any moment. Still, when The Mountain smashed him into a wall and tossed him down the stairs, we gasped.
The Hound and The Mountain died together as inevitably they would. The fact that The Hound let Cersei escape by him to focus on his brother said everything about the game they were playing. We suppose it could be argued The Hound won this one because he got his vengeance and killed his brother, but honestly, they both won ... and lost.
Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister lost the game and their lives fleeing from the inevitable. Based on how the sacking of King's Landing went, Cersei never really had a chance. As a consolation prize for both of them, it was nice -- we guess -- that they got to go out together. But considering Jaime's whole arc this episode, it makes it even more infuriating that they even bothered with having him sleep with Brienne. What was the point of that other than to weaken the character of Brienne?
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Well, Daenerys was obviously the biggest player of the week on the surface, as she wiped out her enemies almost single-handed. But there's a better choice, even if he isn't alive to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Or at least better if we want to hope that goodness has a chance in this world.
In a cold-hearted, cold-blooded world, Dany won. Hands down.
On the other hand, Varys has always argued that he serves the realm and the people of the realm. By speaking with Jon Snow about his heritage and his temperament over Daenerys, he planted a seed that had to have grown in the fires of King's Landing. That seed tells Jon that Dany is unfit to rule over people, and her actions proved it.
Jon is a man of honor and integrity. He cares about doing the right thing, and doing right by the people under you. In his own way, Tyrion has those capacities as well, as evidenced by his efforts on behalf of the citizenry. Varys knows this, and he's told both Jon and Tyrion who the better choice would be.
There are roughly 90 minutes left of this saga. Will honor and integrity and decency win? Or will the world burn next?
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