Unsullied Recap—Game of Thrones, Episode 804—“The Last of the Starks”

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

Spoiler note: “A girl says nothing. A girl keeps her mouth closed. No one hears.” — Girls, boys, and everyone alike, Jaqen H’ghar has spoken, so please remember: Spoilers don’t make friends. Feel free to take book discussions over to our book-reader’s recap here at WIC, but keep all spoilers to yourself. Thank you!

Coming off the heels of last week’s war, we open this episode with a mass funeral. Daenerys kisses Jorah’s forehead and whispers unintelligibly into his ear. Sansa sobs over Theon’s body, and bestows upon him her direwolf pin, declaring him a Stark even in death. (And I know this isn’t really the time, but I am living for Sansa’s braided updo so much that it almost distracted me from my own tears.)

Jon speaks on behalf of the dead, reciting his Night’s Watch vows when he declares that “They were the shields that guarded the realms of men.” Indeed, they did what the Night’s Watch had been sworn for centuries to do, and what they couldn’t after the Wall fell and Castle Black was overrun by the White Walkers.

Arya, Sam, and Jon all have one last moment with the dead who played a significant role in their respective stories: Arya with Beric, whose purpose had been to ensure she lived to fulfill her’s; Sam with Edd, brothers in arms; and Jon with Lyanna Mormont, who named him King in the North.

Then it’s onto the revelry, as the survivors gather in Winterfell’s great hall to celebrate their victory despite the losses. As the Hound tells Gendry, “The dead are dead. You’re not.”

Emboldened by this fact, Gendry heads out in search of Arya. But Daenerys stops him on his way out to tell him that his father took her family’s throne and tried to have her murdered. Gendry defends himself, because that’s not really his business. Wars have been waged in Westeros for the past several years; everyone’s trying to kill someone else.

In a bid to patch things up and gain another alliance, Daenerys legitimizes Gendry and names him Lord of Storm’s End, to many cheers from the gathered crowd.

"TYRION: “A fitting reward for a hero, and a Lord of Storm’s End who will be forever loyal to you.”DAENERYS: “See? You’re not the only one who’s clever.”"

Well, at least she didn’t burn him alive the way she did the Tarlys. Rather than give him the alleged choice between subjugation and death, she gave Gendry a title with the unspoken expectation of his subsequent loyalty. It’s a smarter political move than setting people on fire, though I wouldn’t call it “clever” so much as “reasonable.” But, hey, maybe I’m nitpicking.

Elsewhere in the hall, Davos and Tyrion discuss Melisandre, the Lord of Light, and what’s to come for them now. Tyrion offers perhaps his most enlightened summation yet when he says, “We may have defeated them, but we still have us to contend with.”

The supernatural threat was just one slice of the pie. In the end, their narrative purpose was to bring the remaining characters together, so that their final scores could be settled. The Night King and his army were merely stepping stones to reveal another evil, one much more multilayered and nuanced than ice zombies. Because even with them gone, the true threat to humanity remains humanity itself. There is no more “good versus evil”; now, it’s all a matter of grey areas and personal perception.

Tyrion moves on to another short-lived conversation, this time with Bran regarding his political position and magical abilities. Just as Bran told Sansa last season, he doesn’t want to be Lord of Winterfell, and now he tells Tyrion he doesn’t want anything at all. There’s a hint of real human emotion that still lives within Bran, as he says that he’s not to be envied, for all he can do now is live in the past. The scene leaves me praying that Bran will be able to find his way back to his old self by series’ end, or at least be heading in that direction.

Toasts are made, Tormund and Sansa jokingly try to peer pressure Jon into binge-drinking, and Tormund is, true to form, rather hilariously snockered. But his drunk words pack a mean punch to Daenerys’ sense of self-worth.

"That’s why we agreed to follow [Jon]. That’s the kind of man he is. He’s little, but he’s strong. Strong enough to befriend an enemy and get murdered for it! Most people get bloody murdered, they stay that way. Not this one. […] He comes back and keeps fighting. Here, north of the Wall, and then back here again. He keeps fighting — he keeps fighting. He climbed on a fucking dragon and fought. What kind of person climbs on a fucking dragon? A madman, or a king!"

I’d just like to redirect for a hot second here to remind everyone that Jon didn’t do these things on his own. Melisandre brought him back to life, and Sansa encouraged him to take back Winterfell in their family’s name. Good on Jon for the follow-through, but the audience shouldn’t forget the vital role these women played in making Jon a war hero.

To get back to Tormund’s words, his last sentiment rings a bell. It plays into what Ser Barristan once told Daenerys of her family: “King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.”

A madman or a king. Madness or greatness. As the last two Targaryens, where do Daenerys and Jon land? It is perhaps a thought that crosses Daenerys’ mind in this moment, and almost certainly concerns Varys as he keeps an eye on her reaction.

At a less tense table, Jaime and Brienne flirt shamelessly, even as they play a drinking game with Tyrion and Podrick. It’s all laughs and some rendition of “Never Have I Ever,” right up until Tyrion uses the opportunity to call Brienne out for being a virgin. Which is so not cool for an abundance of reasons, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Brienne excuses herself and, before Tormund can follow to make more awkward sexual advances, Jaime does the right thing and goes after Brienne himself. Tormund’s infatuation with her might be good comic relief for the audience, but it’s always been clear that Brienne wasn’t on board. In any case, Tormund manages to find a willing woman. And an honorable mention goes out to my man Podrick, who gets a come-hither smile from the single cutest extra I’ve ever seen. I ship it, on virtue of adorableness and enthusiastic consent.

We get one more reunion that we hadn’t yet seen when Sansa joins the Hound at his table. It’s been a few years since we last saw them onscreen together, but their relationship was important to them both. The Hound has heard of all that happened to Sansa since he last saw her, and he tells her none of it would come to pass if she would have left King’s Landing with him way back in season 2. She replies, “Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a ‘Little Bird’ all my life.”

Like Bran, just without the supernatural hindsight, Sansa understands that things happen for a reason. They may be cruel and traumatic, but in the end it’s about how you survive those things, and how you can take control of your story afterwards. She’s not a little bird anymore, not docile or downtrodden or forced to keep her mouth shut unless bidden to speak on behalf of her captors. I point this out because these are factors of Sansa’s character that have been coming into play the past couple of seasons, and even more so in this episode.

Arya is also thrust into a moment from her past, one that seemed to pinpoint her own identity, when Gendry finds her outside. He tells her of his newly appointed legitimacy, and then delivers the most romantic proposal. If I weren’t sitting down, I would have collapsed thanks to some major knee-buckling.

"I don’t know how to be lord of anything. I hardly know how to use a fork. All I know is that you’re beautiful, and I love you, and none of it will be worth anything if you’re not with me. So be with me. Be my wife. Be the Lady of Storm’s End."

It was the heartbreak heard ‘round the world when she refuses him. They share a kiss first and she looks so happy, but then she tells him, “That’s not me.” This harkens back to season 1, when her father promised to make her a fine match one day and she told him the same.

Now, if it had been smooth sailing between these two, I’d worry that one of them would die before the finale. But in the case of this romantic angst, I’m betting on a heartfelt reconciliation instead. I’ll be hosting a prayer circle for the next two weeks.

In other romantic news, Brienne and Jaime finally, mercifully, have their day in the sun. Their love scene has it all — belligerent sexual tension, Jaime’s touch of jealousy over Tormund, mutual undressing, and a mid-sentence first kiss. I never expected this ship to sail beyond all that meaningful eye contact, but here we are, blessed.

Later, Jaime and Tyrion talk about the former’s new entanglement with Brienne, knight of the Seven Kingdoms and babe of our hearts. Before we can have too much fun, though, Bronn interrupts, crossbow in hand and murder on the brain. Straightforward as ever, he lays out the facts: Cersei wants them dead, he doesn’t expect her to survive the dragons, and he’s sick of doing the Lannisters’ dirty work with no reward.

Cersei offered him Riverrun, and Tyrion raises him Highgarden. I don’t know that either of them could make good on those promises, but when the politics are this war-torn, who’s to say? Bronn’s always been loyal to the highest bidder, so he ensures them that he’ll be back to collect when the war’s over. It’s unlikely they’ll all survive it but, then again, Game of Thrones has surprised me before, so we shall see what we shall see.

Daenerys goes to Jon’s room, where he’s drunk enough to stumble but still pretend he has all of his wits about him. Been there. He offers his condolences for Jorah’s death, which Daenerys doesn’t accept so much as she twists to make the conversation about something else entirely. RIP Handsomest Man On the Planet Ser Jorah.

"DAENERYS: “He loved me. And I couldn’t love him back. Not the way he wanted. Not the way I love you. Is that alright?”"

I mean, not really, because Jon’s your nephew and that’s weird, even by Westerosi standards. But they make out for a second, anyway, because… Well, I don’t know. I think this show just has a “two hot people need to kiss” quota.

Jon pulls away, presumably because he remembers the incest. I don’t mean to harp on about it, I just think it’s something they should discuss. You’d think the conversation would go something like, “We can’t be together because we’re related and this family’s long history of inbreeding has caused enough problems as it is,” but no. Instead, it’s all about the Iron Throne.

You know, it’s really too bad that La-Z-Boy doesn’t exist in this universe. I bet no one would be clamoring to sit on that nasty sword chair if they had a selection of recliners to choose from instead. Sure, the Iron Throne is all about the power that it represents, but who cares about that when you have the option to lounge?

"DAENERYS: “I wish you’d never told me. If I didn’t know, I’d be happy right now. I try to forget. Tonight I did for awhile, and then I saw them gathered around you. I saw the way they looked at you. I know that look. So many people have looked at me that way, but never here. Never on this side of the sea.”"

So it seems that Daenerys’ issue is that she’s not universally admired. Girl, you have bigger problems right now than not being voted most popular, time to gain a little perspective.

Jon insists that he doesn’t want the throne, and Daenerys insists in turn that he tell no one else the truth of his birth.

"JON: “I have to tell Sansa and Arya.”DAENERYS: “Sansa will want to see me gone and you on the Iron Throne.”JON: “She won’t.”DAENERYS: “She’s not the girl you grew up with. Not after what she’s seen, not after what they’ve done to her.”"

Daenerys is right — Sansa doesn’t want to bend to any southern ruler after what it’s done to her and her family. If these women had shared goals, they might be able to strike up some sort of understanding based on their shared experiences. As it is, though, they’re both their own people apart from those experiences; there is more to them than their traumas. Daenerys wants the North to bend, and Sansa wants Northern independence.

Jon is then reduced to some groveling creature that’s unrecognizable to the Jon Snow I once respected. I’m about to Ouija board Ygritte to come kick him in the teeth, but it’s too late for that now, as he tries to reassure Daenerys, “You are my queen. Nothing will change that. And they are my family. We can live together.”

Jon, the last time you thought people with opposing ideologies and blood feuds could “live together,” you literally got murdered. Let’s learn from our mistakes.

Here’s the problem with these two (incest notwithstanding): Does Daenerys love Jon as an equal, or only if he remains subservient to her? When Daenerys tells him, “I want it to be the way it was between us,” she wants to be queen, and he her subject. What Jon wants at this point is anyone’s guess, but I’m not impressed with his behavior.

My agitation is only exacerbated during the next war council. The Stark and Targaryen forces discuss how best to take King’s Landing, now that their troops and Cersei’s have more or less evened out. There’s no guarantee that they’ll have the support of the common people, either, as they can’t definitively know how the North stopped the White Walkers from marching any farther. This isn’t exactly the age of “pics or it didn’t happen,” after all.

The plan is to surround King’s Landing without destroying it. The Stark/Targaryen armies will defeat the Golden Company in the field, while the dragons take out Euron Greyjoy’s fleet.

Sansa wants to give their men time to rest and recuperate, and she won’t make a decision on the necessary time frame without first conferring with the officers.

"DAENERYS: “I came north to fight alongside you at great cost to my armies and myself. Now that the time has come to reciprocate, you want to postpone.”SANSA: “It’s not just our people. It’s yours. You want to throw them into a war they’re not ready to fight?”"

Here, Sansa articulates what is perhaps Daenerys’ greatest shortcoming: that she did not consider the war against the White Walkers her war, even though she wants to rule the Seven Kingdoms and people who would have been destroyed by it. If she wants the queenship, she needs to learn that a threat against Westeros is hers to fight, end of story. This is not a case of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

Enter Jon, because he hasn’t disappointed me enough this week:

"JON: “The Northern forces will honor their promises and their allegiance to the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. What you command, we will obey.”"

Hey, Jon, remember last season when you said “[T]he North is my home, and I’ll never stop fighting for it”? I’m wondering where that guy is. He’s got two more episodes to show up before I attach your Funko Pop figure to a firecracker. (Not really. That was a Christmas gift, and also dangerous. But it’s the principle of the thing.)

With the war council adjourned, Arya sidesteps Jon before he can leave, because it’s time for an intervention in the godswood. Jon, Sansa, Arya, and Bran gather to discuss the tension and air their grievances.

Arya admits that Jon was right in one respect: that they couldn’t afford not to bend the knee to Daenerys, because they needed her armies and dragons. “You did the right thing. And we’re doing the right thing telling you, we don’t trust your queen. […] She’s not one of us.”

Cue Jon’s latest personal crisis, as he doesn’t consider himself a Stark, either, especially now that he knows his true parentage. Which, by the way, is half-Stark, anyway, but since it’s the father’s name that gets passed on, Jon is a Targaryen. So it’s the patriarchy’s fault that his name is Aegon.

Before the big reveal, Jon makes his sisters swear not to repeat to anyone what they hear. Then, he asks Bran to tell them, and the scene cuts before the audience can see the aftermath. Perhaps this was a stylistic choice, but the next two scenes make me wonder if there might be something simmering beneath the surface.

The Hound is on horseback, heading for King’s Landing, when Arya joins him. They both have “unfinished business” there, and they don’t plan on returning. The Hound is likely going after his brother, the Mountain, but what awaits Arya? The last time she mentioned going south, it was in season 7 when she told the Lannister soldiers that she was “going to kill the queen.”

But which queen? Bear with me for a moment while we dive into Sansa’s next appearance. She and Tyrion meet on the battlements, and once again discuss what Daenerys’ rule would mean for the realm. Sansa is not shy in her distrust of the Dragon Queen, which prompts Tyrion to say, “You seem determined to dislike her.”

The tension between Sansa and Daenerys isn’t some shallow, Mean Girls drama. As Sansa says, we’ve all seen what happens to Starks when they go south: “I don’t want Jon to go down there. The men in my family don’t do well in the capital.”

This calls back to what Sansa told the Hound earlier, that she’s not the person she was when she was imprisoned in King’s Landing. Now, she has the freedom to speak her mind about those who declare themselves monarchs. She is not willing to lose the rest of her family, nor is she prepared to force the North into subjugation again. The Starks have been made prisoners and corpses by southern rule.

"TYRION: “With Jon in the capital, you’ll be the true power in the North.”"

But Sansa doesn’t want power, exactly. Back in season 1 when she dreamt of being queen, it wasn’t for the power that accompanies the title; it was because being queen meant she could have her storybook romance with a dashing prince. That dream is long gone — now, she wants safety, security, and independence, for herself and for her family. She’s fighting for the North, just as Robb did before her.

She believes that Jon would make a better ruler than Daenerys. Later, we’ll hear Varys voice the same opinion with an explanation, but for the moment Sansa tells Tyrion that Jon is the true heir to the Seven Kingdoms.

Considering Arya and Sansa’s scenes, the question becomes: did the Starks hatch an offscreen plot to ensure their people’s independence? Is Arya heading south to kill Daenerys, and is Sansa sowing discord among her advisors in order to make her an easier target? Why didn’t we see the girls’ reaction to Jon’s parentage and his consequent claim to the throne? Was it meaningless, or is there a reason behind it?

All I’m saying is, something is rotten in the state of Westeros, and I want to know what it is. So those are some potential theories — maybe tinfoil, maybe not — to chew on until we know for sure.

In the courtyard, Jon and Tormund say their farewells. Tormund is taking the Free Folk back from whence they came, as even the North isn’t north enough for them. Jon asks that he take Ghost north with him, because the budget’s run out and HBO can’t afford the CGI effects necessary to keep a direwolf on set. Or maybe Jon’s just having some sort of self-loathing existential crisis and doesn’t believe he deserves to keep his direwolf, as the animal is a symbol of the Starks.

"JON: “I wish I was going with you.”TORMUND: “You’ve got the North in you. The real North.”"

So what do you want, Jon? To go south to keep your promise to Daenerys? To stay at Winterfell to keep your promise to your people? Or to go beyond where the Wall once stood, and not have to worry over who rules what? No matter the choice he makes, Jon will be abandoning some part of himself. I guess I can’t blame him for the existential crisis.

He says his goodbyes next to Sam and Gilly, who we learn is pregnant. If it’s a boy, they want to name him Jon, to which Jon replies, “I hope it’s a girl,” probably because his self-loathing knows no bounds. Calm down, Jon, at least they don’t want to name him Aegon.

En route to Dragonstone, Tyrion tells Varys what he learned about Jon’s true origins. He continues to push for a marriage between Jon and Daenerys, but Varys pokes holes in this supposed solution: 1) aunt/nephew marriages aren’t exactly all the rage; and 2) Daenerys won’t want to share her power. Personally, I’m just glad someone’s talking about the incest.

That’s about as far in the conversation we get before the action strikes. The Targaryen fleet is ambushed by Euron Greyjoy’s, who uses Qyburn’s ballista to shoot and kill Rhaegal. I’m not much of a dragon enthusiast, but Euron could use an arrow to the chest, too, so I’m at an impasse.

On a still-flying Drogon’s back, Daenerys charges the Greyjoy fleet, then seems to think better of it and turns tail. A smart move, since she could have lost her last dragon and her life with it. Her ships are attacked, and when the troops wash up on shore, Missandei is not among them; she’s been kidnapped and taken to King’s Landing.

There, Cersei, Euron, and Qyburn talk personal affairs as well as strategy. Cersei tells Euron that she’s pregnant with his child, though as far as the audience knows, the child is in fact Jaime’s. The motivation here is unclear. It may be simply that Jaime left and Euron has proven himself a competent enough ally, so Cersei is playing the cards she’s been dealt.

They’ve opened the gates to the Red Keep to allow the public safety from the coming invasion, the plan being that Daenerys will have to kill scores of innocent people if she wants a shot at Cersei. Doing so would undermine Daenerys’ assertion that she would make a better, more peaceful ruler, thereby making Cersei look the part of the benevolent queen who gave her people shelter. It’s nothing but a ploy, a means to an end to the war that both parties want to win. Now, we see how either outcome could be to the detriment of the people, something that is discussed at length in the next scene.

Safely ensconced within the walls of Dragonstone, Varys makes good on his season 7 vow to be honest with Daenerys when he tells her plainly what he thinks of her plan to invade King’s Landing.

"I promised you I would look you in the eye and speak directly if I ever thought you were making a mistake. This is a mistake. […] [T]ens of thousands of innocents will die […] These are the people you came here to protect. I beg you, Your Grace, do not destroy the city you came to save. Do not become what you have always struggled to defeat."

Daenerys says that it is her destiny to rid the world of tyrants, no matter the cost. This extremist thinking doesn’t do much to mollify Varys. Even when, in the end, Daenerys agrees to offer Cersei her life in exchange for her surrender, Varys has lost faith in her ability to rule justly.

He and Tyrion pick up their conversation where they left off earlier. Varys says that Jon has the better claim and temperament to rule, and he adds that “cocks are important, I’m afraid.” There’s little discussion of the fairness of that, only the reality that the Westerosi lords are more likely to support a man’s birthright.

Again, Tyrion proposes a marriage alliance, but Varys rebuffs it: “She’s too strong for him. She would bend him to her will, as she already has.” The power imbalance in their relationship is striking, and so a marriage between Jon and Daenerys would prove pointless.

"TYRION: “At a certain point, you choose a person you believe in, and you fight for that person.”VARYS: “Even if you know it’s a mistake?”"

Varys poses a fair question. We’ve seen this happen on the show before — a ruler who seems promising, but ultimately isn’t the right choice. For example: Davos learned this the hard way when he served Stannis, who became so consumed with his desire to have what he believed was his by right that he sacrificed his own daughter. When ambition becomes someone’s sole objective, human lives become expendable. But those are the people whom Varys serves — not one aspiring monarch, but the realm as a whole.

"TYRION: “What is the realm? A vast continent, home to millions of people, most of whom don’t care who sits on the Iron Throne.”VARYS: “Millions of people, many of whom will die if the wrong person sits on that throne. We don’t know their names, but they’re just as real as you and I. They deserve to live. They deserve food for their children. I will act in their interest, no matter the personal cost.”"

I know it’s not gonna happen, but… Varys For King 2019.

Back at Winterfell, Sansa and Brienne tell Jaime of the goings-on in the south. Sansa remarks upon the likelihood of Cersei’s execution, a possibility that has Jaime spiraling backwards in his character development. That, or the toxic bond between the Lannister twins remains strong. Either way, Jaime readies his horse for the journey to King’s Landing, even as Brienne implores him not to go: “You’re a good man and you can’t save her. You don’t need to die with her. Stay here. Stay with me.”

Whose declaration of love hurt you more: Gendry’s to Arya, or Brienne’s to Jaime? Cast your votes now. I won’t count them, as I’m too busy melting into a puddle of my own feelings, but it’s important that we all hug it out right now.

In an attempt to convince himself and Brienne that he’s just as irredeemable as Cersei, Jaime tells her of all he’d done for his sister — pushing Bran from the window, strangling his own cousin, how he would have killed all of Riverrun in her name. It seems as though Jaime hasn’t forgiven himself for his past, and so he leaves Winterfell. To do what, exactly, we don’t yet know, only that it involves Cersei.

Speak of the devil, we head back to the Red Keep for the episode’s final scene. Daenerys, Grey Worm, Varys, Tyrion, and the Unsullied face off with Cersei, Euron, the Mountain, Qyburn, and the Golden Company at the gates. Missandei is front and center, used as bait in the war between the two queens.

Qyburn and Tyrion meet in the middle to discuss terms. Not surprisingly, both Cersei and Daenerys want the other’s unconditional surrender, so this discussion of terms goes nowhere.

Tyrion then tries to appeal to Cersei’s one weakness: her children, namely the one she’s pregnant with now, as the others have all been lost to her. Interestingly, this draws a parallel between these warring queens. They both have one child left (Daenerys’ being Drogon). As they lose their children, they lose their compassion.

And so it is with Cersei. Despite Tyrion’s plea, she turns to Missandei to seal her fate: “If you have any last words, now is the time.”

Missandei proves her loyalty to Daenerys in her last breath when she says, loud and clear, “Dracarys.” When she’s beheaded by the Mountain, Grey Worm averts his gaze in anguish, and an enraged Daenerys turns her back on Cersei and marches away.

Now that Cersei has made this war more personal than a power struggle, how will Daenerys proceed? What business do Arya and the Hound have in King’s Landing, and what trouble will they find along the way? How will Grey Worm process his grief for his lost love? Will Jon find his backbone, and be redeemed as the hero he’s meant to be? Can Bran ever be Bran Stark again, or is he fated to remain the Three-Eyed Raven forever? Will Jaime switch allegiances again to protect Cersei, or will he sever their relationship at last? And, dear god, please, will Arya accept Gendry’s proposal so we can end this series with a wedding and a choreographed dance number?


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Los Angeles Dodgers Cody Bellinger Game Of Thrones Iron Throne Bobblehead /

Los Angeles Dodgers Cody Bellinger Game Of Thrones Iron Throne Bobblehead

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Remember — speculation is encouraged, spoilers aren’t! Thanks, and see you next week!

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