Game of Thrones – “The Last of the Starks”: The fires of Winterfell
Season 8, Episode 4
Aired: May 5, 2019
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
It seems like, in this final season of Game of Thrones, I’m destined to be underwhelmed by every odd numbered episode and love every even numbered episode. Much like episode two “A Night of the Seven Kingdoms” (which, like this episode, was directed by David Nutter), I really enjoyed this quieter, more character-driven episode to the spectacle of last week’s massive Night King battle.
As I predicted two weeks ago, the show is going full-steam ahead with Dany resenting Jon Snow. Personally, I’m not super invested in their relationship or either of the characters individually at this point, but I do like how the dynamics are playing out among those around them. Seeing Tyrion and Varys openly debate which of the two of them they should back was a nice callback to the earliest “game of thrones” plotting and adds a layer to this conflict that makes me much more invested in the outcome.
Also, Sophie Turner continues to put on an acting clinic week after week. I loved the Stark intervention hosted by her and Arya, where they all told Jon, “Nobody likes your girlfriend, bro.” There’s still power in seeing the last of the Starks huddled together and it was intriguing to see how that scene played out with Jon finally dropping the bombshell that he’s actually a Targaryan and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
One of the other character moments that shined was Bronn getting the drop on Jaime and Tyrion. Everyone played that scene perfectly. I liked Bronn asserting himself just enough to make it clear he could – and would – kill them both if he had to while using that power dynamic as a bargaining chip. That’s exactly how that scene should have played out.
It was a real roller coaster if you’re invested in the show’s other romantic relationships. Gendry, fresh off being made Gendry Baratheon, proposed to Arya, only to be shot down. Ser Brienne and Ser Jaime began a whirlwind romance (much to Tormund’s chagrin) that ended with Jaime leaving her to head back to Cersi. And Grey Worm, who improbably survived last week’s battle, was forced to watch as Cersi had Missandei beheaded. Jaime and Brienne’s romantic arc seemed super rushed and how and why Cersi’s army was able to separate Missandei from the rest of the people on her ship in the chaos of that battle was completely glossed over, the end result of both stories feels narratively rich.
I loved the tension of that final scene. Tyrion making the move to address Cersi directly was great, especially given her open hatred for him. Also, while last week’s episode felt underwhelming, they did well thinning out Dany’s army to the point where it does feel like Cersi has the upper hand, especially with her dragon-killing crossbows.
(Side note: I wonder if they overdid it with those crossbows. Cersi seems to have an infinite amount of them and they shoot arrows rapid fire, which really nerfs Dany’s dragon to a point where it feels almost useless in the coming conflict. It feels like they swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. I think I would have preferred if the weapon was powerful enough to kill a dragon, but they only had one and it was a bit more labor-intensive to load and fire.)
There was a lot to love in this episode. I liked that the extra run time allowed them to linger on the feast in Winterfell’s hall in a way that really spotlighted the various characters and their interpersonal dynamics. I loved that a lot of these lingering romantic relationships came to a head in various ways. This season has had its ups and downs, but the show has positioned itself well leading into these last two episodes.
And another thing …
Goodbye, Ghost. It seems like the show never had the time, CGI resources or desire to devote to the Starks direwolves. Here’s hoping you find a fulfilling life as Tormund Giantsbane’s new BFF north of the wall.
It feels like the show wants us to believe that Jaime is going to rejoin Cersi, but I still believe he’s going to kill her.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time/energy talking about it, but the whole Sansa “I’d still be a little sparrow if I wasn’t raped” bit was cringe-worthy. It’s just not a great notion anyway, but it also doesn’t make much sense considering all of the other trauma she had already endured before the Hound offered to save her, like watching her father be beheaded by her sadistic future husband.
For me personally, the deaths this week felt much more impactful than the ones last week. Watching Rhageal go down from multiple crossbow shots felt really raw and terrible. And Missandei’s death, obviously, was horrific.
I’d love to see a Buzzfeed quiz asking “Which character at the Winterfell feast are you?” Me, I’m Arya, the one who avoids the whole party to go do something more fun alone.
Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org