Game of Thrones Recap, Season 8 Episode 4: The Last of the Starks
Summary: Jon delivers a stirring speech before he and the rest of the leaders ignite the funeral pyres.
The ensuing feast is quiet, with everyone either mourning or avoiding those who are. Dany stops Gendry, and after some questioning names him Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. The mood in the room shifts, and toasts begin, ending with Dany’s toast to Arya Stark, the Hero of Winterfell.
Tormund encourages Jon to drink and begins praising him for his actions since they met, culminating in his resurrection and eventual defense of Hardhome and Winterfell. Dany looks concerned, but smiles and raises her glass when Jon’s gaze shifts to her. She soon exits the room, followed closely by Varys.
Tyrion talks to Davos and Bran before sitting down with Jaime, Brienne, and Pod to play a drinking game. After a bit of back-and-forth, Tyrion guesses that Brienne is a virgin. Uncomfortable, she leaves just as Tormund approaches, and Jaime stops Tormund before following Brienne. Back in Brienne’s room, Jaime makes his move by fumbling with his clothing until Brienne moves to help. Jaime starts undoing Brienne’s clothes, and the camera cuts away.
Sansa sits down across from the Hound, who she’s no longer afraid to look at after seeing much worse. The Hound says he could have protected her, and Sansa responds that she wouldn’t be who she is today if she had remained protected.
Lord Gendry Baratheon finds Arya practicing with her bow, and confesses his love before proposing a marriage. Arya lets him down gently, saying, “But I’m not a lady. I never have been. That’s not me.”
Dany visits Jon in his chambers, and they break off a kiss to discuss their new circumstances. Dany sees the way Jon is glorified by the people in the North and asks him to keep his heritage a secret. Jon wants to at least tell Arya and Sansa the truth, but Dany issues an ultimatum: have their relationship work, or let his secret spread.
In the war room, Dany announces her intention to move swiftly on King’s Landing. Varys and Tyrion remind her to use caution when attacking a city full of commonfolk, and Jon recommends laying siege to the capitol while Cersei’s alliances wither and her support wanes. Sansa asks for time to let their soldiers recover, but Dany insists. Jon takes his Queen’s side, and the decision is made to move south.
Jon meets Sansa, Arya, and Bran in the godswood and decides to tell them his secret.
Tyrion and Jaime discuss Jaime’s new romance, but Bronn and his Lannister crossbow interrupt. After some one-sided negotiations, Tyrion promises him Highgarden if they win.
Arya finds the Hound riding alone and joins him to wrap up their unfinished business in King’s Landing.
Tyrion approaches Sansa, who questions Tyrion’s loyalty to Daenerys. Sensing an opportunity to propose an alternative, Sansa lets him in on Jon’s secret.
Tormund finds Jon and tells him he’ll be returning north of the Wall with the rest of the Free Folk. Jon gives Ghost to Tormund. Sam and Gilly approach, and Gilly is pregnant again; they say they’ll name the child Jon if it’s a boy, and Jon responds “I hope it’s a girl”.
With the impending war in the south, Jaime leaves Brienne in the middle of the night and resists her pleas to remain in Winterfell, saying “She (Cersei) is hateful. And so am I.”
Analysis: The episode opened with its best material, wherein our characters were forced to find their way back to normal life after a traumatic battle. Dany did a fantastic job reading the room and acting to secure an important strategic ally in Storm’s End by raising Gendry to a lordship, and its ice-breaking effect allowed the rest of the survivors a moment to celebrate. Another toast to Arya Stark, the Hero of Winterfell, pushes the crowd to outright revelry despite yet another vicious side-eye from Sansa.
Most importantly, the scene demonstrated how isolated the publicly-recognized Queen has become. Her face as Tormund runs through Jon’s resume shows a bit of envy, but a large dose of longing as well. She’s now said goodbye to one of her oldest friends and allies in Jorah and almost all of her Dothraki (a self-inflicted wound, but still), and she’s in a remote part of a foreign country. She spent most of her life taking risks and making bold moves to secure a military force capable of capturing King’s Landing, then pledged the same force to a new ally’s cause against a greater threat. Watching her newest and least-trusted allies celebrate each other while she looks ahead has to be difficult. With that in mind, her sudden departure from the room looks downright graceful.
Her later conversation with Jon is similarly touching, especially when she resorts to begging in an effort to solidify and re-establish her path to the Iron Throne. We’ve only ever seen Dany make demands and outmaneuver her opponents to achieve her goals; seeing her ask plainly for something shows how vulnerable she has allowed herself to become. She essentially asks Jon to follow his role model (Ned Stark)’s lead by keeping a secret from his family. The request is too much for Jon, though, who has seen the impact secrets and lies can have and no longer wants anything to do with either.
Jon’s decision to share his heritage with his sisters fits his character, but I have three main issues with their exchange:
Sansa’s reaction to the concept of a promise: “How can I promise to keep a secret if I don’t even know what it is?” How else does a secret between people work? You usually don’t ask someone to keep a secret AFTER you tell them the information, because the idea is to secure the privacy BEFORE expressing something confidential.
Jon’s decision to pass the baton back to Bran after securing their promises is super weird. Just tell them yourself, my dude. You’ve already built up the suspense by going back-and-forth while they sit there watching you, and Bran has to be the worst person to have break serious news to anyone at this point.
The show cutting away from the Stark family’s reaction to the groundbreaking story that has defined the course of the story. The R + L = J story has been at the core of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones since they debuted, and right when the information is about to be shared with the last of Ned’s children, they cut to the next scene? Sure, nothing to see there!
Sansa sharing her newfound knowledge with Tyrion as soon as possible was the only thing in this episode less surprising than everyone getting drunk.
Sansa’s interaction with the Hound has generated a lot of justifiable blowback, and it’s a continuation of the clumsy handling of her story since she left King’s Landing. Her oppression and abuse aren’t the source of her strength, but if we can move past that, I found her acceptance of who she is now and the Hound’s appreciation for it a nice moment between the two of them.
Poor Gendry got crushed by Arya, but at least she let him down gently. I’m sure he’ll do plenty well for himself as the new leader of House Baratheon. I would like to point out, just briefly, that no world exists where he would be named Gendry Rivers; bastards from the Crownlands are named Waters, and unrecognized bastards (like Gendry) don’t have a given surname at all. Cut to the showrunners issuing a massive shrug in response to my complaints.
Speaking of things the showrunners have entirely stopped even pretending to care about: the scene in the war room suggests the Stark-garyen forces were cut in half as a result of their battle against the Night King. Did anyone else watching The Long Night think they only lost half of their troops? Maybe the White Walkers couldn’t make any weapons, and the wights resorted to tackling and attempting to suffocate the living.
Anyway, the remaining 50% of the original Stark-garyen forces are splitting up (what could go wrong?) with Jon leading the Northmen down the Kingsroad and Dany heading to Dragonstone with her dragons, the Unsullied, and any Dothraki who…sat out the charge? Maybe they called in sick.
The general plan to besiege King’s Landing is wise, but again no scouting is done and Dany is ambushed by the Iron Fleet, which her advisors explicitly identified in their planning session. I also don’t fully understand Dany’s sense of urgency here, as she recently took time to endorse the Wight-in-a-box plan and then march her army north; it might make sense to rally the rest of Westeros to your cause before closing in on King’s Landing.
Arya’s final scene in Winterfell brings back one of my favorite pairings, and I’m pumped to watch The Adventures of Arya and the Hound as they move towards King’s Landing to knock off the top targets on their respective lists. Two thumbs up on this one.
Tyrion, Jaime, and Brienne’s drinking game started out as a welcome reprieve and included a warm shot of the Lannister brothers drinking and laughing together. I’m not sure why Tyrion went and murdered the mood by drawing attention to Brienne’s virginity, but I guess they couldn’t come up with a better segue to…
Jaime and Brienne’s hookup! I’m feeling for my guy Tormund, but it seems like he’ll be alright. I was never particularly invested in the Jaime/Brienne relationship beyond their bonding while on the road, but I guess this was a nice payoff for those who were. Otherwise it’s just a bigger reason to hate Jaime when he saddles up in the middle of the night, right? What else did we accomplish in his 80-minute full 360-degree turn here?
My read on Jaime’s exit is that he’s now returning to Cersei with murder on the mind. Between his first visit to Brienne’s room and his departure from Winterfell, the major development is Bronn’s appearance to tell him about the bounty Cersei placed on his head. It may not be his only motivation, but his parting line about being hateful makes me think he’s one small step away from fulfilling the valonqar prophecy.
The final farewell in Winterfell takes place between Jon and his longest-standing companions, and they’re appropriately touching with one major exception: did Jon and Ghost get in a fight over a girl at some point? He’s just going to hand the direwolf who has been with him since he left to join the Night’s Watch over to Tormund and not bother saying goodbye? All Ghost did was save his life multiple times, demonstrate unflagging loyalty, and serve as the single biggest tie to his Stark heritage. What a joke.
Also weird: responding to someone naming their unborn boy after you by saying “I hope it’s a girl.” Hopefully Sam and Gilly are off working on a new list of boy names.
Summary: Varys and Tyrion discuss their options and whether claim to or desire for the throne are desirable traits in a ruler. Tyrion proposes marrying Dany and Jon, but Varys points out their shared family as a potential issue. They decide to focus their attention on King’s Landing for the time being.
Flying above their ships, Rhaegal is suddenly struck with a metal bolt. Dany looks down from Drogon’s back to see the Iron Fleet, and Euron Greyjoy hits Rhaegal twice more, sending him plummeting into the sea. Dany makes an approach, but turns away at the last moment. The Greyjoy fleet turns its attention to the Targaryen ships and quickly tears them to shreds using their oversized arrows.
Varys advises against a direct attack once again, citing the innocent lives in King’s Landing. Tyrion wants to attempt another negotiation, and Dany agrees for the sake of appearances.
Tyrion and Varys again discuss their options, with Varys edging ever closer to treason. He sees Jon as a more stable choice, and more appealing to the realm given his gender. Tyrion sticks with Dany, but Varys reinforces his commitment to the realm above all else.
Analysis: I’m not sure why we needed two nearly-identical conversations between Tyrion and Varys, but their eloquent discussions were a welcome return to form, especially for Varys, who had been all but written out of the show recently. I’ll give him further bonus points for being the first person to suggest on camera that the aunt-nephew pairing might be an issue.
It sounds like Varys is now considering changing sides or assassinating Dany himself, but I’m not sure what’s driven him and Tyrion to such a crisis point. Since arriving in Westeros, all Dany has done is heed their advice, resulting in Wight-in-a-box, the plan to send the Unsullied to Casterly Rock, and choosing to travel north to fight at Winterfell for the good of the realm. Her most questionable decision was burning Randyll and Dickon Tarly alive, and even that was tame by historical standards. Hey showrunners, what dramatically shifted their views of the Queen whose cause they pledged themselves too? Necessity for the Mad Queen endgame and some kind of last-minute betrayal, you say? Great, thanks for that.
Also extremely convenient: Euron Greyjoy’s marksmanship with a giant crossbow from invisible ships! Dude shoots 3/3 on ballista shots at a flying target, then scares off Dany and Drogon before turning his attention to the rest of the Targaryen fleet. I guess Dany just flew off while the Iron Fleet laid waste to her ships, but fortunately they were only interested in capturing her translator (who she no longer needs) and letting the rest of her followers reach shore, including the unconscious Tyrion.
Summary: Dany and a small force of Unsullied arrive outside the walls of King’s Landing, which are now bristling with oversized ballista and archers. Qyburn and Tyrion meet halfway between the Queens to negotiate. Neither side is willing to budge, but Tyrion walks forward to appeal to Cersei’s humanity. He asks her to think of her unborn child, but Cersei doesn’t budge. With no surrender on either side, Cersei orders Missandei’s execution. Missy says “Dracarys” as her last words, and the Mountain cuts off her head.
Analysis: First of all, everything we know about Cersei suggests she would take the opportunity to eliminate her foes at the first available moment (see: Sept of Baelor, Ned Stark). Second, based on the effectiveness of her Giant Crossbows (TM), we know she’s capable of doing so (see: just a moment ago when 10 ship-mounted ballista killed a dragon and destroyed an enemy fleet). Naturally, with Dany exposed and Drogon grounded behind her group of 50 Unsullied, Cersei doesn’t fire a single shot.
Maybe Cersei woke up in a mood to observe societal norms and thought a peaceful parlay made sense. What was the real aftermath of this conversation? With apologies to Missandei, Dany didn’t lose much from a strategic standpoint, and her execution might represent an attempt by Cersei to goad Dany into an attack. In that case, I can only see one potentially substantial development: Tyrion’s comments about Cersei’s unborn baby. It would be absurd for Tyrion to hope an appeal to Cersei’s motherly instincts would work at this point (no more absurd than Wight-in-a-box or the Charge of the Dothraki Brigade, but bear with me), and obviously it didn’t. We cut away fairly quickly, though, and Euron only recently learned about her pregnancy. Tyrion wouldn’t know about Cersei’s pregnancy before Euron unless…Euron isn’t the father. This could be the slight nudge we need to make my prediction of Euron and the Golden Company’s betrayal, a la Tywin Lannister, come to fruition.
Dragonflame Burn of the Week
Thanks for checking out our recap! If you need some more historical context for what you're seeing, you can check out our Game of Thrones Lore series, which details the history of Westeros and some of what we know of Essos. Check back for another recap next week, and until then, remember: just because someone thinks they’re smarter than everyone doesn’t mean they aren’t.