Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 7: The Wolf and the Dragon

Ok… I’m actually kind of disappointed by this season finale… in much the same way I have been by this whole season. Because there have been moments of epic and moments of awesome but then you into a moment of sheer blithering stupidity and I’m just “WHY IS THIS HERE?!” This is season 7 in microcosm - awesome and silly mixed together

The good parts are the big epic meet up as everyone gathers at the old arena where the Targaryens used to keep their dragons (something Daenerys disapproved on since she thinks this is what made the dragons weak and, in turn, made the Targaryens themselves weak). There we have another moment where Bronn and Jaime look at the sheer number of Unsullied and Dorthraki (who are terrifyingly well co-ordinated together) and say “oh shit we’re screwed”. Bronn also puts all war down to cocks. Which I’m choosing to interpret as a reference to narrow patriarchal structures of violence, control, competition and ownership constantly leading to conflict

This is also Jon’s first visit to Kings Landing introducing him to a city with 1,000,000 people in it - more than in the entire North. While Jon is playing countryboy, Cersei is giving instructions on who to kill while Jaime looks on all disapproving

Time for reunions! Pod and Tyrion is awesome. Brienne and the Hound kind of fun since last time they tried to kill each other. He wonders who is protecting Arya. Brienne laughs that Arya is pretty much someone you need protecting from now. We have Tyrion and Bronn bantering back and forth and a brief attempt for Tyrion to try and recruit Bron

Until we get to the arena where everyone makes Significant Eyes at each other. Brienne and Jaime. Euron and Theon. Cersei and Tyrion. The Hound even has a stand off with his monstrous mountainous brother.

Daenerys arrives late. On dragonback. This is the first time Cersei and Euron have seen her dragons and are visibly… concerned.

Time for formal proceedings, but first Euron has to stand up and be pretty much an arse to everyone. He ignores Jaime and Cersei when they tell him to sit down - it’s only when he’s threatened with the Mountain that he obeys. Again, this is why the Lannisters cannot ever rule - no-one respects them. They only ever have fear, no allies, no friends, no respect; their reign could never be stable

That taken care of it’s time for Jon to make an epic speech about the living and the dead - and to show off the Wight. Which nearly eats Cersei and shows everyone just how horrifying and awful it is. It’s very convincing. Cersei is shaken. And when Daenerys confirms there’s at least 100,000 of them Jaime is completely terrified.

Euron checks if they can swim and learning they can’t he officially declares “fuck that” and heads off to his island with his fleet. He’ll be back next Summer.

Cersei seems to actually be convinced and says yup, she’s totally in for the truce. So long as Jon promises when he finishes fighting in the north he stays there and doesn’t get involved in the war afterwards. Jon says actually he can’t because he’s totally sworn to Daenerys, sorry and he’s never heard of the concept of lying. Cersei storms off.

What nonsense is this?!


Ye gods Jon’s repeated refrain for the whole season is “killing the dead matters more than anything else” that includes your own stupid honour, Jon! It is not noble, it is deeply selfish to put your own integrity over the survival of the human race

Hey don’t even lie - say you won’t join in - and don’t. As we’ve just discussed the North has a lower population than King’s Landing. It has also had its armies in the field being massacred for several seasons now and is likely to have them further massacred in the war against the dead - Daenerys will NOT MISS some fur clad northerners overheating in the sourthern battles when she has the Unsullied (about 8,000), the Dorthraki (Khal Drogo’s khalasar was 40,000 strong and she has many many more) and this is assuming she has no Highgarden or Dornish or Iron Island troops left, the dragons and anyone else she can muster. Hey your oath doesn’t even cover sending the Vale Knights down (who actually seem to have a larger army than the North at the moment).

Daenerys doesn’t need north-men.

Or, y’know, you could JUST LIE

Tyrion, Daenerys et al are all duly frustrated by Jon’s Stupid Good Alignment. Brienne also appeals to Jaime and, shockingly for her, tells him to drop honour and loyalty because it’s all MEANINGLESS when it comes to fighting the undead. I think this is especially powerful coming from Brienne because she has always been the epitome of what a knight should be (and failed constantly because such idealism is going to get torn apart when confronted with actual reality)

Jon makes a pretty speech about ideals. And it is pretty. But, as Tyrion points out that is a nice long term goal but here and now they’re fucked.

He opts to go see Cersei alone, an apparently suicidal task but who else can speak to her? He already finds Jaime has failed dismally to change her mind

Needless to say, Tyrion and Cersei’s reunion is stormy. She can’t forgive him for killing their father and finds Tywin’s treatment of Tyrion a poor excuse. She considers the death of Tywin the cause of Mycella and Tommen’s deaths - because it left the family leaderless and weakened and exposed. She’s not entirely wrong. Tyrion tries to say how much he loved the kids and how much he regrets their deaths but she shouts him down and adds how little she cares about his feelings. It doesn’t change the results. There’s a moment where it looks like she’s going to order the Mountain to kill him when he pushes her… but it passes. With more wine of course

Cersei asks why Tyrion follows Daenerys - because all she can see is Tyrion’s desire to destroy her family. And yet another reason why Cersei will be a terrible queen - everything is personal to her. Her family, her feelings, her losses, her gain, her advantage. The entire 7 kingdoms could burn for her so long as she is advanced and her family is safe. Cersei does doubt the idea that Daenerys is better since he already said Daenerys was planning to burn Kings Landing. Tyrion’s response is she didn’t - because she has an advisor who countered her. Unlike Cersei, she picks advisors who counter her worst impulses, not feed them

It’s a good point - and one that will stand if she listens to them. Which is why I think Daenerys and Jon married with Varys and Tyrion as advisors will work so well - we have knowledge of the system, cunning, aggression, compassion, common sense, nobility all linked and balanced well. Daenerys is too inclined to violent, arrogant, power rages, Jon too impractical, Varys too cunning and twisty, Tyrion perhaps too political. Together they work

Tyrion also realises his sister is pregnant

Tyrion manages to bring her back to the negotiation to pledge her soldiers north - yes, Cersei claims to be on side and his sending her teeny tiny forces to help. She hopes that in doing so they will remember that she offered to help without any promises, guarantees or necessity.

I can actually see why they’d believe this. After all, if Cersei is entirely focused on her family she has to realise she’s facing a losing situation here. Either she wins (increasingly seeming impossible) or she relies on the compassion of Daenerys to spare her, her child and House Lannister (which means earning that because Daenerys isn’t exactly merciful).

Which is all good and Daenerys and Jon can discuss travel arrangements. This includes Daenerys and Jon sailing together to show unity - rather than arriving on a dragon and looking like an invader. It also give us chance for the inevitable to happen - Jon and Daenerys have sex. Incest for everyone

Before they go, Theon checks with Jon about how not to be a complete arsehole. Jon gives some trite advice and forgives him (he can’t forgive Theon of everything, but everything that is his to forgive he does) because Jon is just Too Damn Good. Theon goes to recruit his Iron Island stragglers to rescue Yara (he does this by being beaten up repeatedly, impressing everyone by his stubborn endurance before finally winning).

While Jaime makes his plans to take the Lannister forces north only to have Cersei say “duh I was lying!” The difference between a Lannister and a Stark.

And I don’t think this is entirely ego - I think this could be Cersei playing the odds. As I said above, her choices are Daenerys compassion (sooo slim) or winning the war (which seems impossible). She’s opting for the latter which is a long shot - but isn’t everything a longshot for her at the moment? Short of taking the option of fleeing to exile while everyone’s north, what else can she do (and her ego will never accept exile)? She can hope that the monsters beyond the wall will suitably decimate Daenery’s forces that she has a chance.

Jaime isn’t having it. Partly because he gave his word now and that kind of thing matters to Jaime since he’s always trying to run away from that label of Kingslayer. But also because between Daenery’s huge army and the dead’s huge army, whoever DOES win in the north will then come south and slice and dice them to teeny tiny bits. Even with the mercenaries she’s bringing with Euron (who, no, has not abandoned her). That’s nice and all but those 20,000 men don’t exactly even the odds

He leaves… Cersei tries to threaten him to stay but he still leaves. And Cersei is all alone

Time to go to the north for a storyline which is kind of awesome but also slightly annoying. First Sansa learns that Jon has sworn loyalty to Daenerys without consulting her which extremely annoys her, as it should. And then Baelish is there trying to convince Sansa that Arya is an evil evil person of evilness who is going to kill her and become Lady of Winterfel…

I mean, really? Baelish is too cunning to think that this is a remotely likely motivation for Arya

So Sansa responds by gathering everyone into the Great Hall, including Arya, and announcing it’s time to charge someone with crimes of treason, murder et al. Lord Baelish. Yup - they recite his crimes. His many crimes. Killing Lyssa Aryn, lying about the knife belonging to Tyrion which had Catelyn imprison Tyrion and start the war. Betraying Ned Stark. Killing Jon Arryn and then accusing Cersei to Ned which, again, started the war. Basically everything that is terrible is all Baelish’s fault. Some Sansa witnessed… the rest? Bran saw with his three eyed raven powers, eerily quoting Baelish’s own words.

He appeals to Sansa. She tells him that this kind of attempt to turn sister against sister is exactly what Baelish does. He goes to the Vale Knights and demands they protect him and gets a firm “hell no” from them (“As High As Honour” is the Aryn words. This weasel isn’t going to win their loyalty). He begs on bent knee, appealing that he loved their mother and Sansa herself… only to have his betrayal of both thrown back at him

Sansa then quotes his words: “no justice in this world unless we make it” before adding the awesome line that she may learn slowly, but she does learn (oh yes she does). And then she thanks him for all his many lessons

And Arya stabs him in the throat. No more Baelish! Oh this has been a long time coming

So why am I frustrated? I’m annoyed because we had to have 2 episodes of the sisters apparently faking it for Baelish without any real development of this - and it could have been so good!

Afterwards the sisters both acknowledge that they’re awesome, united and very very very very different people. But finally there’s a sense that they’re ok with that. We needed more sister time here

Also in Winterfell using the excellent teleportation system, is Sam, who talks to Bran who is duly creepy about everything. As we get scenes of Daenerys and Jon getting it on, between Sam’s studies and Brann’s visions we have a true sense of his parentage:

Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenery’s elder brother) annulled his married and married Lyanna Stark - willingly on both sides (which undermines King Robert’s entire rebellion since it started on the idea that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna). They had a son - a legitimate son. Jon Snow isn’t Jon Snow, or Jon Sand (the name for bastards in Dorne) but Aegon Targayen. Daenery’s nephew. And, technically, rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

I’m not going to yell about incest here. Because we knew it was coming - and even aside from Game of Thrones Happy to have siblings getting it on, aunt/nephew is not exactly unknown among actual European royalty. Shallow gene pool and all that

What does frustrate me is that the Cersei storyline is still open because I really hoped we could focus on the next big threat of the dead. Especially since we close with a dramatic scene of the King of the Night and his Undead Dragon burning down the Wall. We don’t need the Cersei distraction any more! Embrace the new epic!

And this season has had some awesome epic moments. It’s also had a lot of really good human moments. Game of Thrones is beginning to contract. Lots of people have died off, lots more are now returning home and gathering together. This episode underpinned that which was really wonderful to see - all these characters coming together, all these reunions, all these people who have been apart and living such different lives now uniting again. It was powerful and long anticipated

But among the good we have some bad - including some clumsy storylines (like Sam - why why why did we have Sam?) the awkwardness of Arya and Sansa (despite the excellent ending). We also had some frankly broken world building - from Euron’s impossible thousand ships, to Jaime’s psychic battle plans, to the Reach suddenly having no soldiers at all and, of course, everyone positively teleporting up and down Westeros like it’s their mother’s back garden (and don’t tell me it’s a matter of time compression and skipping. If it is then the Night King stopped to have a picnic while marching south). It made a lot of the plot line drag out further - especially keeping Cersei on the throne.

I will say Game of Thrones has really toned back the sexual violence this season - compared to its past. We had moments like the capture of Yara and Ellaria Sand where I honestly expected the worst and Game of Thrones decided to tone it down considerably compared to what they've thrown out before. The same app;lies to nudity - we've had very little gratuitous nudity and Sexposition this season - and even Jon and Daenerys finally having sex showed us far more of Kit Harrington's naked body than Emilia Clarke's

That said - we also have Ellaria and Yara and Ollenna, strong, fascinating female characters all written off quite casually and convolutedly. Equally annoying, Yara and Ellaria are the last LGBTQ characters on this show and after some quick "yes it could happen" both were cast aside. It now looks like the strong, capable Yara is going to be reduced to Theon's redemption quest