Game of Thrones: The Last of the Starks review S8 E4

The Last of the Starks was the first episode this season that really felt like there’s a time and episode crunch. We’d barely gotten to catch our breath, celebrate and see from the triumph against The Night King and his walker army before the next great war is underway. Some questionable decisions and poor military strategy once again had disastrous results that left heads rolling.

At first, this was a fun-filled and fan-pleasing episode before things took a dark turn…albeit with much clearer and brighter lighting.

While the Night King’s crew is literally ice cubes, old traditions die hard so all the dead get burned. Then again, waiting on the reconstruction of the crypts would probably take too long anyway.

game of thrones - the last of the starks review - tormund, jon and daenerys

Drinks were flowing heavily at Winterfell as now it’s party time. Jaime and Brienne flirt a little before finally consummating their relationship. Tormund is upset for about 2.5 good minutes before he finds a new flame.

Tyrion’s happy about Jaime being in a relationship with someone who loves him who’s not his twin. It’s not even a big deal that Jaime wants to stay behind with Brienne, who’s vowed to keep Sansa safe.

This moment is interrupted by Bron, who’s slipped through the non-existent guards while toting a crossbow. True to his agreement with Tyrion from long ago, Bronn is presenting the good deal he got from Cersei — killing her brothers — to Tyrion to give him the chance to double it. Jaime thought he had a bond with Bronn, but the crossbow bolt that comes thisclose makes him reconsider. Tyrion doesn’t lose his cool and offers Bronn stewardship of River Run. Bronn is a simple man and Tyrion knows how to deal with guys who have a price.

Danerys read the room and realized Jon’s enjoying the kind of love she’d never have in The North. Sansa peeped Dany too and is beyond over it. Sansa shredded her membership application for the Daenerys fan club. Thing is Sansa is a self-made woman who endured a series of horrific traumatic experiences and came out tougher and better for them. It’s probably grating to her to hear Dany proclaim herself some superwoman queen because she’s got a couple of dragons and an army and a half.

Dany tries to make some headway on the political front declaring Gendry a lord. This is an interesting play since Gendry has just as legitimate a claim to the throne as she does. And then there’s that awkward matter of Dany’s nephew. Gendry wants to make a housewife out of Arya, but she has no intention of retiring after ending the greatest threat to humanity. Granted, it’s going to be hard to come up with an encore, but there was zero chance Arya was going to start settling down now.

Jon has all the claim he needs in triplicate, but the only thing working on Dany’s side here is Jon doesn’t want the throne. What he wants, however, is to tell his “sisters” the truth about their relationship. Dany might be a piss poor strategist, but she knows the sound of a destiny-defeating decision when she hears it and begs Jon not to tell them. The problem here is Dany could have continued wrapping Jon around her finger, but forcing him to play Fredo and take sides against the family wasn’t the best play for someone as loyal to family as Jon.

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Still, Dany gets a small win when Jon sides with her when Sansa says the North soldiers need rest before fighting Cersei and the Golden Company. Granted, Sansa is basically begging to start a pissing match with Dany, but she’s not wrong. There’s no need to rush into a new war so soon after barely surviving the first one.

Arya and Sansa want a word with Jon and Bran tags along because Bran relishes uncomfortable moments and this one promises to be a doozy. Arya understands Jon’s position of pledging allegiance to Dany, but neither she or Sansa trust her. This is becoming an increasingly common theme among Dany’s allies. Jon is reluctant, but he can’t hold back this secret from his dear sisters/cousins and has Bran tell them the truth after making them swear not to tell anyone else.

I really wanted to see how this conversation played out, but the fallout is pretty good all the same. Arya heads out with The Hound to head to King’s Landing with no plans to return to Winterfell. This checks with her traveling assassin role, but would she never visit Bran and Sansa again? Sansa gives it a somewhat fair shake, but when Tyrion questions why she won’t play nice with Dany, she drops the bombshell on him.

Tyrion is conflicted and chatting with Varys isn’t making things any easier. Varys hasn’t said a lot, but he’s observed Dany being a less than ideal leader who ignores wise counsel and keeps going on about her destiny. Varys has seen enough awful leaders to know when the d-word comes out, it’s not good for the people. Tyrion wants to believe in Dany even though he knows Varys is making sense especially when he suggests Jon would be a better ruler because he doesn’t want the throne.

Preparing for the next great battle, Jon says his farewell to Tormund, who’s staying at Winterfell until the storm breaks so he can return home. He’s not going along as Jon asks him to take the slightly battled scarred Ghost with him. Jon also says goodbye to Sam and Gilly, who’s pregnant with Baby No. 2. Thankfully, Gilly stops Sam from breaking down the exact time and date when they conceived. Jon is acting like a guy who doesn’t expect to survive this upcoming battle…

In record speed even for this back end of the series, Dany and the Unsullied have reached King’s Landing. The welcoming party, led by Euron isn’t exactly the most gracious, but they did offer up some dragon killing spears. The first salvo brutally kills Dany’s spare dragon. Dany seems to have a smart plan of baiting Euron into unloading his next salvo and then swooping in from the side with her Dracarys special move. Instead, Dany just rushes blindingly for one more dive before retreating. Euron then sics the spears onto the Unsullied fleet.

game of thrones - the last of the starks review - dany and her dragon advance on euron's fleet

Grey Worm sees what’s about to happen and orders Missandei to the life boat. Euron’s attack wipes out the Unsullied fleet in short order and Grey Worm pulls his men onto the shore. There’s definitely a lot less than started out. It sure seemed like Dany’s advisors knew about Euron’s fleet, but they ran right into them. And how was Dany so amazingly unprepared for another anti-dragon spear defense?

Sansa gets the word on the botched early mission and tells Jaime it doesn’t look like she’s going to enjoy seeing Cersei executed after all. Jaime can’t sleep  over this news and starts to head out, but Brienne pleads with him to stay. Jaime breaks down all the crummy stuff he’s done, but I don’t think this is for some foolhardy effort to save Cersei, but rather to be the one who frees his chain by killing her.

game of thrones - the last of the starks review -jaime and brienne

And she’s really going to need to get killed after this episode. Cersei orders all of King’s Landing’s citizens to come into the gates. Not to offer sanctuary from the pending invasion, but to offer some buffer between her and Dany’s army. It’s a surprising similar strategy to Dany when she let the Dothraki and Unsullied wear down the white walkers. That didn’t work out so well for Dany, but at least Cersei doesn’t offer the pretense of caring for her people.

Cersei does have Missandei, who’s boat washed out way too close to Cersei’s forces. This won’t end well. Dany agrees to have a talk with Cersei to try and end this war before it starts, but she’s fine burning everyone to take out Cersei. This is a similar mindset as The Mad King, which greatly concerns Varys and Tyrion. But nobody’s gonna be crazier or madder in this camp than Cersei.

Time for a face off! Hopefully Jon is bringing everyone with him as Dany’s forces look broken down and depleted. Tyrion tries a conversation with Qyburn, but sees it’s going nowhere and advances further to the gates to talk directly with Cersei. She threatens to have her archers strike him down, but allows him to speak. Tyrion pleads with Cersei not to do this. There’s no need for another war. If she won’t do it for the people at least do it for her unborn child.

This gives Cersei a momentary pause where something vaguely approaching humanity seems to pass by. It’s gone though and she tells Missandei it’s time for her last words. Missandei only has one — Dracarys — and The Mountain lops off her head. Yeah, I knew there was no chance the black couple was going to walk off into the sunset at the end of this series, but geesh that was rough. I’ve always pulled for The Hound to kill The Mountain, but now I want to see Grey Worm land the killing blow and not get his head squeezed in for his trouble.

game of thrones - the last of the starks review - missandei, the mountain and cersei

Dany isn’t going to take the loss of yet another longtime and loyal friend calmly. It was the perfect move for Cersei and it’s going to take a long time to clear that burning stench out of King’s Landing.

The Last of the Starks ironically put the focus on other characters for most of this episode as the next great war gets underway with some immediately tragic results. The only problem this issue was the accelerated pacing of celebrating one major victory and then rushing to the next big battle. Next week marks the penultimate episode of the series, which should have some major action. Hopefully we can see it all.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: HBO

 

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