At almost 80 minutes long, The Dragon and The Wolf still only just manages to cram in everything needed to tie up all the season’s loose ends. It was managed thanks to a dialogue-driven episode that saw reunions, revelations and resolutions galore, but still left enough questions to leave us in a state of perpetual anticipation until season 8 comes out.
After a presumably long and treacherous journey, the Unsullied have set up shop right outside King’s Landing. They’re soon joined by the aptly named Dothraki screamers, as the main party (sans Dany) arrives via boat. Right away the reunions begin; Tyrion, Bronn & Pod – or the heroes of Blackwater Bay, as Tyrion refers to them – provide us with a few nice moments, but perhaps more heart-warmingly we see Brienne & The Hound discuss Arya’s wellbeing, with the former almost smiling (!!) when he hears how she’s progressing as a warrior.
After a few tense moments where we start to wonder if this isn’t just the world’s most obvious trap, Cersei arrives with The Mountain, Jaime, Euron & Qyburn beside her, plus a LOT of Lannister soldiers. Many lingering glances are exchanged here; Brienne/Jaime, Tyrion/Cersei and Euron & Theon all share some intense eye contact. It is Sandor Clegane who steals the show again though, marching right up to his now-zombified big brother and delivering a characteristically devastating speech, ending with the threat/promise “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known”. Bring on Clegane-bowl.
After seats have been taken and Dany has arrived suitably late, proceedings get under way. It is the first time Cersei has seen the would-be usurper, and she fires her very best murderous eye-lasers in Daenerys’ direction. Tyrion begins but is interrupted by the extremely dislikeable-and-not-even-in-a-cool-Ramsay-Bolton-way Euron Greyjoy, who is promptly brought back into line by Cersei. Good. Cersei doesn’t seem at all convinced by Tyrion or Jon, but the captive Wight seems to genuinely scare her – along with Euron, who basically says “Forget this, I’m off” and leaves – and the severity of their situation appears to be acknowledged. Could this plan have actually worked?
Not quite. Cersei has one condition; that Jon Snow promises not to get involved in the inevitable war between Cersei and Daenerys once the truce is over. Considering his recent oath to Dany and his absolute unwillingness to lie, Jon can’t accept Cersei’s conditions and she leaves instantly, in a fury. As her party follows, Brienne reaches out to Jaime and begs him to reason with his sister, to which he responds, hopelessly “and tell her what?”
All hopes of a truce seem lost, so Tyrion decides to try and reason with his sister, “the most murderous woman in Westeros”, totally alone, save for her undead queens-guard, Ser Gregor. Lena Headey & Peter Dinklage are two of the show’s most talented actors and it’s great to see them sharing the screen again, their fiery exchange over the deaths of Cersei’s children is particularly sharp. We suddenly become painfully aware that hardly any main characters have met their end this season as Tyrion goads his furious sister, but for reasons which become clear later, she doesn’t rise to his taunts. Instead they pour a drink and Tyrion pleads with her to see reason to which she reveals her pregnancy.
Back outside, Jon Snow seems to have forgotten all about how he’s just ruined their grand plans, and is really amping up the flirting with Dany. He seems to be not-so-subtly implying that he could put a baby inside her, despite her cursed-womb. Cersei, apparently convinced by her brother, returns to announce that not only will there be a truce, but she will fight alongside her lesser enemies against the true enemy; the dead.
For the sake of brevity in an already near-feature length episode, we can forgive the instantaneous travel between Kings Landing and Dragonstone, where Daenerys and her advisors are planning their next move. When Jorah suggests that it would be dangerous for his beloved Queen to journey north due to her family’s history, Jon steps in and disagrees. If the people of the north are to accept Daenerys they must see her, as an ally, he says. Oh, and they will also have to sail together, which he’s totally not thinking about, at all, and he’s only saying it because of the seeing her as an ally thing. Dany agrees with Jon, she will sail north. Everyone seems to instantly understand the romantic implications of this, especially poor Jorah.
It’s easy to forget after all that’s happened to both men that Jon & Theon are basically brothers. It’s almost touching seeing Jon forgive Theon for his wrongs, and reassuring him that Theon is as much a Stark as he is a Greyjoy, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Honestly though, this could have ended here as far as I’m concerned; Theon’s road to redemption via fist-fighting and getting kicked where his penis used to be, just doesn’t seem worthy of the 5-10 minutes it’s given in the episode. Theon’s had plenty of chances to be interesting, or at least bearable; there are more important things we could be doing with this time.
Aside from all the parleying and negotiating, we also see the resolution to the Wintefell situation, involving Sansa, Arya and the insufferable Lord Baelish. Earlier we saw Baelish apparently getting his way with Sansa, increasingly turning her against her younger sister. Arya is later brought in front of the acting Lady of Winterfell in the Great Hall, which is crammed full with guards. Littlefinger’s plotting would appear to have gone perfectly, Sansa reading the charges as he stands to the side wearing his textbook smirk. “You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason, how do you answer these charges…Lord Baelish”
Maybe chalk it up to a particularly intense personal distaste for Baelish, but this scene is up there with my all-time most satisfying in Game of Thrones. It was perfect; Baelish’s begging and pleading, the Knights of the Vale refusing to help him, Brann totally shutting him down with his omniscience and then Arya, refusing him a last desperate plea, swiftly ending it with his own blade. Ahhhhhh, that’s the stuff. The sequence mirrored the moment in season one, quoted by Brann, where Littlefinger reveals his betrayal of Ned Stark. Then, in our naivety, we believed that Ned was going to triumph, and were totally taken aback by Baelish’s masterfully-orchestrated trick. This time we were almost certain that Baelish had once again managed to connive his way to power, only to have the Stark sisters’ plot revealed so theatrically. It’s a strong finish for a storyline which did feel a little flawed at times.
In King’s Landing Cersei reveals to an exasperated Jaime that she has no intention of honouring her word and that instead she will let her enemies kill each other and then wipe out whoever is left. Admittedly, this seems like an incredibly sensible plan. Not only this, Cersei also reveals to Jaime that she has agreed a deal with the Golden Company of Essos, a notoriously deadly mercenary army, who will be ferried back to Westeros by… dun dun dunhh… Euron! Did we really believe that big bad Euron was that scared of a little Wight? Or, more crucially, that Cersei would have allowed him to just walk away?
She never had any intention of honouring a truce, only going to the meeting and saying she would, probably in a bid to scope out her enemies and bide some time. Again, this feels like a pretty good plan, Cersei is certainly her father’s daughter. Jaime is, understandably, less impressed with Cersei’s plotting. He makes one last futile attempt to reason with his batshit-crazy, evil-genius, sister/lover and queen, then decides it’s time to give up on her. For the second time in the episode we really fear that Cersei will have one of her brothers killed by The Mountain, and for the second time in the episode we are incredibly relieved that she doesn’t. Jaime leaves King’s Landing as snow begins to fall. This is not a common occurrence in the south (Gendry, a southerner, tells Jon that he has never seen snow before when they journey north of the wall) and is a sure sign that Winter is indeed coming.
It’s interesting that one of the biggest and most important revelations in the entire Game of Thrones series is revealed by two characters that have often been seen as supporting acts, as Samwell Tarly arrives in Winterfell and seeks out Bran. The Three Eyed Raven tells Sam that Jon is really the illegitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Without hesitation, Sam takes credit for Gily’s discovery last episode – which he seemed to totally miss at the time – telling Bran that Rhaegar and Lyanna were actually married after his previous marriage was annulled in secret. Only now does Bran think to actually use his ability to see literally everything that has ever happened. We are treated to an odd montage of Bran explaining Jon’s heritage over flashbacks to Rhaegar & Lyana’s wedding and Jon entering his auntie Dany’s chamber. Do we care that it’s incestuous? Less than we did about Jaime and Cersei certainly. And anyway, Targaryens are noted for their tendency to keep it in the family, so maybe this actually makes a relationship more likely? So, he’s not Jon Snow, bastard and King in the North, but in fact Aegon Targaryen, rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. That’s going to be quite the conversation when Bran reveals what he knows.
Finally, at Eastwatch, Beric and Tormund stand atop the wall and look out upon the frozen wastes. The army of the dead are here; this is more than enough to prompt panic, but when Tormund realises that the Night King has acquired Dany’s fallen dragon, all hell breaks loose. The dragon’s blue-flames melt away at the wall, eventually bringing it crashing down in a spectacular scene which must have eaten a huge chunk of the show’s FX budget – perhaps explaining the otherwise dialogue-driven nature of this episode – and ends with the White Walker army advancing into the North. We don’t see death scenes, and we have to hope against hope, but it’s hard to see how Tormund and Beric would have survived the wall falling, and even if they did, how could they escape the hordes of undead beneath them? Take Beric if you must, oh GoT writers, but save Tormund, for the sake of his and Brienne’s giant children, save Tormund!
And that’s it. It’s over. Another season of Game of Thrones ends and now all we can do is try to remember what on earth we did with our lives when it wasn’t on. Some of the episodes earlier in the season have felt a little rushed maybe, or seemed to rely on convenient (bordering on implausible) plot devices, but all that now seems necessary and justified to have brought us to this; a spectacular, satisfying and fairly all-encompassing end to the season, that sets us up perfectly for the series finale in err…, 2019?! Enjoy the wait!
Words by Ethan Stone.