Monday, August 28, 2017

Game of Thrones 7x07 Recap: “The Dragon and the Wolf” (A Song of Ice and Fire) [Contributor: Melanie]


“The Dragon and the Wolf”
Original Airdate: August 27, 2017

The dreaded season finale break of Game of Thrones is upon us one final time. And of all the breaks, this one might be one of the most painful. We know the end is nigh with next season closing out the story, we watched the Wall come down, we finally got confirmation of Jon’s true parentage, and Jon and Dany solidified their allegiance in more ways than one...

This episode was not only the longest one in the history of the series, clocking in at 79 minutes, but also was the most-watched episode and highest-rated episode of a show for HBO ever. 12.1 million people watched live, and as many as 16.5 million could have watched in total with streaming and DVRs taken into account. That’s two million more viewers than the previous episode, four million viewers up from this time last year, and nine million more than the highest-rated episode of the first season. Game of Thrones has come a long way, and will likely top out huge for its final season.

I’m not going to weigh this intro down too much, so let's jump straight into the recap.

IN KING'S LANDING


The Unsullied, the Dothraki, and Daenerys’ retainers have arrived at the Dragon Pit outside King’s Landing to meet with Cersei and her loyalists. Everyone arrives to tense atmosphere, with Dany arriving last on Drogon. The meeting begins with Euron calling out Theon for his cowardice and insulting Tyrion. Order is restored and Tyrion attempts to plead their case. They show Cersei and Jaime the wight and Jon demonstrates the only ways to kill them. Dany asks Cersei only for a ceasefire — for them both to recall their forces and focus on the threat to the North.

Cersei eventually agrees to offer some aid, in exchange for Jon’s ambivalence in the matter of the Iron Throne. He reveals that he already pledged himself to Daenerys and cannot “serve two queens.” Outraged that her enemies conspired in an alliance behind her back, Cersei storms out of the meeting. Tyrion goes after to speak with Cersei while the others criticize Jon’s decision to openly endorse Dany without consulting anyone first. Euron Greyjoy says he will take his fleet to the Iron Islands and wait out the war.

Tyrion and Cersei meet privately where they have a long-awaited argument over past crimes and the very nature of their relationship. Tyrion surmises that Cersei is pregnant and appeals to her maternal instincts to protect her child.

At the Dragon Pit, Dany explains to Jon how her family lost their power when they lost their dragons and explains that her family ends with her, as she can’t have children. Jon argues that the curse of the witch may have been a lie. They’re interrupted by Cersei returning with Tyrion where she pledges her armies to Dany and Jon’s fight. The parties exit the summit — not without Brienne telling Jaime off for his obsessive loyalty to Cersei first, shaking him.

Later, Cersei reveals to Jaime that she had no intention of helping Dany and Jon and instead intends to wait it out while the Night King destroys them both, with Euron still secretly backing her. Jaime is shocked and storms out of the palace, despite Cersei’s threat that she would have him killed for treason. He rides North as the first winter snowfall comes to King’s Landing.


IN DRAGONSTONE


Dany, Jon, and the rest of the council are working out strategy for setting up defenses in Winterfell. Though Jorah suggests Dany fly in on Drogon, she decides a show of unity, by arriving with Jon, is a better approach. They adjourn and, later, Theon speaks with Jon about his past misdeeds and his poor track record of decision making. Jon absolves him of guilt and tells him he is “a Stark and a Greyjoy.” Theon says he wants to save his sister because she was the only one who came for him when the Boltons had him prisoner. Jon agrees and Theon goes out to convince his men to sail for the Iron Islands against Euron. They refuse and beat Theon on the beach. But when one of the men tries to wound him with a well-placed kick between the legs, Theon — a eunuch — is unharmed. He turns the tide of the fight and convinces his men to sail with him to free Yara.

IN THE NORTH


Sansa receives a raven from Brienne informing her of the content of the summit and that Jon has bent the knee to Daenerys. Littlefinger talks with Sansa about the possibility of Arya plotting to betray her and take the title of Lady of Winterfell for herself. Sansa seems to consider this. Later she has her men, Bran, and Arya gathered together in the great hall, seemingly ready to put Arya on trial. But instead, accuses Baelish of treason against their family as the one who orchestrated the entire war between the Starks and the Lannisters. The Starks find him guilty sentence him to death, with Arya carrying out the punishment.

Sam and Gilly arrive and meet with Bran. They discuss what they have mutually discovered about Jon — that his father was Rhaegar Targaryen, his mother Lyanna Stark, and that his birth was legitimate.

Meanwhile on the way North, Dany and Jon consummate their attraction to one other while Tyrion looks at the closed bedroom door with worry.

BEYOND THE WALL


At Eastwatch, Tormund, Beric, and the men manning it watch as a White Walker army approaches. Their defenses are useless, however, when the Night King appears on Viserion and uses his firepower to destroy the Wall, allowing the army of the dead to begin a march south.

UNPACKING IT ALL


I’m going to save the theorizing for a follow-up post later this week and try to keep focus just to this episode. I will say this much: This was probably one of the greatest examples of how rushed the seventh season has been. Don’t get me wrong — this episode was amazing and, compared to last week, it allowed breathing time for virtually every reunion and drawn out political debate you could want. In fact, the entrance to the Dragon Pit scene was probably the most soap opera the show has ever gotten and it was handled perfectly with poignant eye contact between characters, quick bits of dialogue, and excellent shots showcasing an ensemble cast of over ten main characters, managing to make them all an important player in the scene.

But the reveal of Jon’s lineage seemed like a bit much to cram in a minute and thirty second sequence, especially since we spent all of last season trailing around Lyanna in Bran’s greendreams just to get a glimpse of baby Jon. Then suddenly it’s an info dump right at the end of the episode when Sam magically appears in Winterfell — having crossed the entire continent — and immediately talks about family trees with Bran.

Moving along from the rushed delivery, we have to ask the question: What does this information mean? For starters, it means in the Targaryen line, Jon’s claim is better than Dany’s as the rule in the Targaryen dynasty is “sons of first sons come before second sons.” But are Dany and Jon going to really care all that much when they find out? One thing Game of Thrones has always been about is the factor of nurture and what you believe about yourself above the truth of your nature and what others tell you.

For example, Dany fought tooth and nail against the possibility of becoming her father. Tyrion even pointed out this episode that she chose advisers who would stop her from doing something cruel, even if she could not stop herself. Tyrion himself has been told all his life he’s a drunken freeloader when, in actuality, he’s silently worked to ensure his family survives in the face of every insult that could be thrown at his stature and birth status. Jon Snow — a Targaryen by birth — was raised to believe he was Ned Stark’s son and acted accordingly with loyalty and honor, was granted a direwolf by the powers that be in the their world in season one, and is fiercely loyal to the North.

Jon’s identity does not change with the reveal of his true given and family names. Just as he told Theon in the throne room of Dragonstone, he was raised a Stark and that’s enough. Though he knows he has an emotional connection to the Targaryen dynasty through Dany (and his future dragon Rhaegal), I don’t seem him pursuing his claim to the Iron Throne. I don’t see Dany pursuing her claim either. I foresee the scene we saw in season two when Dany was in the House of the Undying and she turned from the Iron Throne to go north. The capital was decayed and covered in snow (winter did come to the capital last night), and Cersei will be left alone, queen of the ashes.

That being said, there is also an element of fate here. After all, Emilia Clarke said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that Dany — who has been fighting her family traditions and the traps they cause — may not be so happy to find she managed to walk right into a traditional Targaryen incestuous relationship with literally the last person on earth one would have thought was an immediate family member to her. And it does seem like some seriously fateful events that they survived firepits, mutinies, sieges, and treks across vast continents to meet. It was revealed by director Alan Taylor that George R.R. Martin informed him the major plot point of the series was going to be Dany and Jon meeting.

One last bit I want to talk about on this side of things (before shifting gears to the North clapping back hard at Littlefinger) is Tyrion. This episode featured an amazing scene between Tyrion and Cersei where they spat all their problems at each other and, when given the chance, Cersei did not order Tyrion murdered — as she always boasted she would do. While she didn’t plan to help, she had a personal and revelatory conversation with Tyrion that was years in the making and was delivered beautifully by Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage.

Jaime, meanwhile, showed some spine against Cersei by walking away from her (another brother she could not order to kill) and heading north to aid in the fight against the dead. One thing about Tyrion in the episode, however, was odd. It harkened back to a 1993 pitch George R.R. Martin submitted for the series which outlined a plot thread where Tyrion falls in love with Dany and it causes a rivalry between him and Jon Snow.

This seems farfetched. I thought it was a tossed plotline when I read it. However, Cersei does comment that Dany is Tyrion’s “type” and the original outline of this episode featured Bronn noticing that Tyrion was attracted to Dany. The scene of Tyrion watching, unnerved, as Jon enters Dany’s cabin in the middle of the night seems to push this idea that their relationship doesn’t sit well with him — despite the fact that it would be a politically advantageous relationship for everyone. Further credence for this comes from the book, as a friend reminded me. Aegon the Conqueror (Dany) and Rhaenys (Jon) were in love while their third sibling, Visneya (Tyrion), was also in love with Aegon but her feelings were not returned. (He eventually married both his sisters to spare Visneya embarrassment.) Following the cyclical nature of the show and the recurrence of the Three Headed Dragon, there’s narrative precedence for Tyrion developing feelings for Dany. It’s something to watch.

Meanwhile up North, Littlefinger’s gambit to drive a wedge in the Starks finally ran its course. We’re not sure exactly when Sansa, Bran, and Arya got their nonsense together. It could have been after Arya and Sansa’s game of faces. Maybe Bran finally shared what he knew about Littlefinger. Maybe none of them were as dumb as we were feared and knew all along. But Littlefinger is dead, I got another point in my deadpool, and order is restored to Winterfell (only to be massively upset when Jon arrives back and the news comes out). But this is a momentous death for the series. As pointed out by Sansa, Littelfinger was responsible for it all. He had Jon Arryn killed, he planted the idea the Lannisters did it, he ordered the attempted assassination of Bran, he betrayed Ned at King’s Landing. He’s the reason Ned left Winterfell in the first place and sparked the War of Five Kings.

With Littlefinger gone, the “game” is over. It’s incredibly fitting, as winter arrives, the Wall comes down, the wights move south, and the last player in this childish game for the Iron Throne is gone. So, as Jon says, the war is here. And it is real.

Be on the lookout for my follow-up theories post coming this week. I'll delve more into what Jon’s lineage means, if it’s possible Bran inadvertently helped the White Walkers, if Dany’s five million reminders this season that she’s barren is foreshadowing, and who — if anyone — will get that throne in the end.

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