Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7: The Dragon and the Wolf
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the most recent episode and past seasons of Game of Thrones.
Remember the scene just before the end of Episode Three with the storming of Casterly Rock? Show-runners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss (hereafter named D & D) may not, but the North remembers. “The Dragon and the Wolf” begins showing the Unsullied being led by Greyworm standing in front of a stone fortress looking as if they were never ambushed by Euron Greyjoy just off the coast of Casterly Rock. Since they are confronting what viewers can only assume is a fortress on the wall encircling King’s Landing with Jaime Lannister and Bronn of the Blackwater standing on the ramparts, D & D are leaving Euron’s fate ambiguous. After some banal dialogue between Jaime and Bronn, the Dothraki charge through the organized ranks of the Unsullied, as if their horses could topple stone walls, and just as it seems a monumental battle is about to take place, the scene shifts away to focus on Jon, Tyrion, and the rest of Dany’s war council arriving at the docks of King’s Landing, never to reference these opening moments or Greyworm again.
After some similarly forgettable dialogue between Tyrion and Jon, the Hound goes below deck on their ship to rap on the silent crate holding the wight. It immediately erupts into a symphony of angry protest inside its wooden prison. Shortly thereafter, the group is escorted to the ruins of the Dragon Pit where Cersei and the rest of the main cast of the show who aren’t in the North meet them. Oddly enough this group includes Euron Greyjoy, acting like his last appearance in the show was when he captured Yara. Cersei wonders aloud why Dany did not travel with the rest of her cohort, seemingly forgetting that she has a few dragons. Then as Tyrion is about to start the negotiations, Euron starts mouthing off to Theon. Cersei then channels the thoughts of most viewers and tells Euron to stop talking. Eventually the wight is brought in front of the queen of King’s Landing. Oddly enough it doesn’t react when the box is opened. Instead, the wight pauses for dramatic effect to trick anxious viewers. However, Cersei is not convinced and declines the offer of a truce since Jon cannot promise to her that he will not aid Dany after the dead are dealt with.
Tyrion then goes alone to treat with his sister. Despite an empty threat about having The Mountain cut Tyrion in half, Cersei and Tyrion have what may be the best dialogue of the episode, talking about their emotional insecurities. Eventually Tyrion discovers that his sister is pregnant, and the scene transitions back to the Dragon Pit with Cersei offering her own truce independent of their earlier offers.
Back at Dragonstone Jon and Dany briefly discuss if they should travel together. After deciding that they should do so as a show of unity, Theon catches up with Jon who gives him a pep talk. With pep in his step Theon tries to convince the other Ironborn to help him rescue Yara and gets into a ham-fisted fistfight where his lack of male anatomy allows him win in the end.
Cue Jaime talking to Cersei about preparations to march north where Cersei reveals that she was lying the whole time and never intended to fight with Jon or Dany. She has instead instructed Euron to ferry the Golden Company, a mercenary army from Essos to Westeros so she can be ready for the Dragon Queen after she is done with her fighting in the North. Oddly this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, causing Jaime to denounce Cersei and leave her service to fight for humanity. This move on Jaime’s part inspires Cersei to again threaten to have the Mountain kill one of her kin, but like before, this threat fails to bear fruit.
The season ends with a scene from the North. Sansa is talking with Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish about how she dislikes Jon’s decision to throw in with the Dragon Queen and how Arya wouldn’t like it if she took control of the North from Jon as a result. Littlefinger goads her on to distrust her sister in a way that wouldn’t seem out of place for a Disney villain. The tension culminates as Sansa, alone enjoying some fresh air, tells an armed northman to escort her sister to the great hall. Bran and Baelish are present as Arya struts into the room with her knife. Petyr looks delighted as Sansa starts listing off crimes, but his smirk quickly disappears when Sansa names him as the one on trial. Apparently Westeros’ master tactician who orchestrated the War of the Five Kings did not see any of this coming. As he helplessly tries to squirm his way out of being punished, Arya slits his throat at the behest of the Lady of Winterfell. While slightly more dignified than when the supposed “best swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms”, Ser Barriston Selmy was unceremoniously offed in season five, Littlefinger’s death never felt satisfying. As Sansa and Arya share a sentimental moment, Sansa says one of the highlighted lines from the Season Seven trailer, “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” Then Sam and Bran have a discussion revealing that Jon is actually Aegon Targaryen, lawful son of Rhaegar and Lyanna Targaryen.
Ravens sweep north toward the wall as the Night King and his army descend on The Wall. Wight-Viserion, bearing the Night King on his back, makes quick work of The Wall. The blue flames make quick work of the 700ft. tall ice wall, making a clear, unobstructed path into the southern lands of Westeros. With the army of the dead finally transitioning from a looming threat to an active threat, the last episode of season seven fades to black.
This entire episode is predicated on viewers not remembering what has happened in previous seasons, episodes, and scenes to sell almost all its high-impact moments. The show has never been so obviously a product of television and not one of a grand narrative. The wight waited to react instead of instantly snapping into action as it had been shown to do earlier; the audience was made to believe that Sansa thought Arya wanted to be Lady of Winterfell, even though her entire character in the first season centered around her not wanting anything to do with ladyship; the audience is expected to believe that Littlefinger wouldn’t expect betrayal. While there were some interesting and even at times well-written moments that echoed the quality of seasons long gone, the finale failed to end in a satisfying way. It has nothing to do with story lines wrapping up or with the show transitioning from low fantasy to high fantasy and everything to do with how D & D choose to handle their characters and their world.
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