For eight seasons, Game of Thrones has been showing us the ascension of Daenerys Targaryen to the Iron Throne. She believes it’s her destiny to rule the Seven Kingdoms and rid the world of ruthless tyrants, and we’ve believed it right alongside her. In this final stretch, however, the show decided to throw a wrench into the works and ask us a difficult question: just how good are her intentions really? Would she be the peaceful ruler she claims she’d be? Or, like most revolutionaries, will she effortlessly succumb to the lure of absolute power she fought so desperately to take away from others?
Season 8, episode 4, “The Last Of The Starks,” begins with a somber tone as we say goodbye to all those who we lost in the Battle for the Living. Daenerys and Sansa get one last chance to mourn Jorah and Theon (both of whom have inexplicably vibrant red hair post-death). The scene played out slightly hollow for me, when faced with the realization we didn’t really lose that many people at all. Even Ghost somehow survived, despite charging ahead on the front lines in the previous episode. Thank God we still have one (one-eared) Direwolf left.
Everyone is covered with bruises and scars from the battle, with the notable exception of Daenerys. This was no doubt intentional, considering the fact that she was almost entirely useless in the last episode; her only contributions were to get lost in a snow storm and fail to kill the Night King. But that doesn’t stop her from trying to make the feast scene all about her. She makes Robert Baratheon’s bastard, Gendry, 'Lord of Storm’s End' in an entirely transparent attempt to get people to like her. It works for about five minutes before she’s forgotten in a wave of cheers and celebration the Northerners lavish upon Jon Snow. She leaves the feast scene trembling: is her father’s madness and paranoia beginning to set in? (Side note: I love Bran’s lines, “I don’t really want anymore” and “Mostly I live in the past”. God, is he me?)
The episode lightens up a bit when the characters get drunk at the feast and realize no one who really mattered died. Brienne, Jaime, and Tyrion all play a drinking game where Tyrion calls out Brienne for being a virgin (thanks, Tyrion). Brienne respectfully excuses herself with the line: “I have to piss.” While Tormund Giantsbane pines for Brienne, Jaime follows her out and they finally consummate their “will they won’t they” relationship.
Sansa has a walk down memory lane with the Hound, who tells her that she could have saved herself a lot of pain if she’d just come with him the night of the Battle of the Blackwater. Sansa retorts that her experiences have made her stronger, which sounds less like something a victim of extreme trauma would say and more like a thinly devised character arc. Meanwhile, newly Lord-ed Gendry proposes to Arya and asks her to be Lady of Storm’s End (has he met Arya?). She unsurprisingly declines, telling him she’s never been a Lady. She rides off with the Hound, back to King’s Landing to continue her unceasing revenge tour.
Dany and Jon argue about telling people the origin of his birth, with Jon wanting to tell his sisters and Dany insisting the word will spread and his claim will overshadow hers. She’s proven right almost instantly when Jon tells Arya and Sansa, and Sansa immediately tells Tyrion (thanks Sansa!). We really start to see the cracks in Daenerys here, as she begins to make decisions based upon emotion more than strategy. She’s held back from her preferred “burn everything” decision and instead a plan is devised to surround King’s Landing and peacefully remove Cersei from the throne. Everyone says their goodbyes and begin the journey to King’s Landing.
Tyrion and Varys discuss Jon Snow’s birth and debate who would be the better leader, with Tyrion remaining loyal to Dany and Varys questioning her sanity. They discuss the possibility that Jon and Dany could rule together, but this is dismissed by Varys (she’s his aunt). Meanwhile, as Dany flies above on Drogon, Rhaegal gets shot out of the sky by Euron Greyjoy in a scene more shocking than every (minor) character death this season combined. Watching Rhaegal flounder in the air and crash beneath the waves was too much for Daenerys, who begins to officially lose it. Their ships are attacked, Missandei gets captured, and Dany is out for blood.
Cersei smartly allows all of the common folk into the Red Keep to act as a human shield, knowing that Dany is going to want to burn it all down after the death of her dragon. Varys talks her down, and Tyrion suggests they politely ask Cersei to step down (brilliant!) Tyrion and Varys have another treasonous heart to heart, where Varys insists Dany is unstable but Tyrion is unwilling to abandon her.
Back in Winterfell, word of Cersei reaches Jaime and causes him to succumb to his addiction to her. He reveals all of the atrocities he’s committed for Cersei and returns to her, leaving Brienne sobbing in the cold (and me sobbing as well, only not so cold). It’s a fitting piece in Jaime’s character arc, though hopefully not the end for him and Brienne.
The final scene is a negotiation between the two Hands of the Queens, Tyrion and Qyburn. Tyrion sidesteps Qyburn to make a personal appeal to Cersei on behalf of the life of her unborn child; this works about as well as we thought it would, with the beheading of Missandei (but not before she utters her final word: Dracarys). Daenerys officially snaps, and her death seems all but inevitable. The show has always teased the possibility that she could inherit her father’s madness, and I think we’re about to see that prophecy come true. Let’s just hope we don’t lose another dragon.