Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Finale Review: The Dragon And The Wolf
Enemies come face to face in the longest episode of Game of Thrones to date.
Enemies come face to face in the longest episode of Game of Thrones to date.
It’s hard to believe how quickly seven weeks have flown past. And we’re at that point where we now have just one half-a-season to go before Game of Thrones winds up for good. As we near the end game, plot threads have been winding up and converging for a much narrowly focused narrative involving only a few parties. Nowhere is this as evident as in the Season 7 finale which touched upon almost every character and sub-plot that was left dangling in the episodes before and brought some level of closure to all of them.
To the obvious eye, it may be clear that this review comes in rather late. That’s because a lot of things in life have kept me rather busy in the past one week. But of course, in continuing with the tradition of weekly reviews, if wouldn’t be justified if the mighty Season finale itself went without one. And so, after settling down and carefully mincing my words, I proceed to review what was arguably the longest episode of Game of Thrones to date.
Most of the action in The Dragon and the Wolf centers around three key plot pieces. The first of these is the longest and the most tense of them all and involves the much-hyped meeting of several characters (as many as 17 I believe) at the Dragonpit. It’s nicely set up by a small conversation between Jaime and Bronn that reminds us that despite the recent spate of events, they still retain their dry sense of humor. This leads to the characters setting foot on Kings Landing and marching ahead together for their important presentation.
At this stage, several characters have a long drawn history with one another, leading to some interesting one-on-one interactions and reunions. Whether its the bittersweet exchange between Tyrion and Bronn, the awkwardness between The Hound and Brienne after they both almost stabbed each other to death over Arya who is now alive much to one’s delight and the other’s chagrin, or even Tyrion and Podrick’s lighthearted exchange, the entire walk gives us bits and pieces of what Game of Thrones done best: characters talking. We also get a much salivating verbal confrontation between the Clegane brothers keeping that spark of Cleganebowl very much alive heading into the last season.
It’s strange though for Cersei to have agreed to grant an audience to her enemies after much was made out of it in the discussion in Eastwatch, which had led to the outrageous plan to capture a walker alive from Beyond The Wall and present to her as evidence. Somehow, a lot of the important things and plot points have been resolved off screen to account for a speedier passage of time and it seems Cersei was somehow convinced to agree to meet just in time for this historic gathering to bear fruit in a grand season finale. But as the characters assemble at the Dragonpit and exchange plenty of awkward glances at each other, there’s one member still missing from the setup.
Cue the arrival of Daenerys who, being the royal show-off that she is, makes a grand entrance arriving on Drogon’s back as Rhaegal flies over in circles. Beloved Viserion is highly missed and absent from the proceedings, a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by the cunningly sharp and observant Cersei. As Dany walks to the gathering and takes her seat, we can almost smell the palpable sense of tension in the air imagining all sorts of ways this could go down. The writers probably thought as much, and would have been surely intimidated by writing this sequence that is highly difficult to do justice to.
And so they resort to small talk wherein Cersei berates Dany for being late. Tyrion, the diplomat stands before the two queens attempting to diffuse the situation but it doesn’t seem to work in anyone’s favor. That is until the scene stealer Jon Snow arrives and gives a chilling demonstration of the threat that lies before them. As he signals The Hound to get a box containing their prized possession, The Hound kicks the crate to have the walker march towards a terrified Cersei and Jaime. In that moment we’re almost convinced that they’re convinced that the threat is serious. Turns out that was only a false alarm, as we find out later on.
As Jon explains the different ways in which the walkers can be killed, Qyburn is intrigued at this strange undead creature, the likes of which he has never seen before. Could we end up with Qyburn manufacturing his own walker army? Highly doubtful at this stage although it’s an interesting tidbit the writers play with. Distractions notwithstanding, Cersei comes straight to the point and agrees to offer her armies for assistance under a condition: that Jon Snow bend the knee to her. Seriously what is it with these Queens and bending knees? Jon being the honest child raised by Ned Stark, refuses stating he won’t be able to do so as he has already bent the knee to Daenerys. I guess he was equally flabbergasted that of all things Cersei could’ve asked for, she’d request something that he has already been so much pestered for by another queen. And just like that, the deal falls through and Cersei storms off to her royal palace, leading Tyrion to try and talk to her alone.
Which then brings us to a brilliant scene between Tyrion and Cersei where the dwarf of Casterly Rock attempts to coax her into seeing rationale while the Queen of Kings Landing plays him by very subtly implanting the idea of her pregnancy in his head. At one point, Tyrion even pledges his life to Cersei and in an extremely tense moment, outright dares her to give the order to kill him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey were to submit this episode for an Emmy Nomination; it’s easily some of the strongest acting they deliver this season. And much like some important plot developments happening off-screen, Cersei agrees to support the King in the North and the Targeryn Queen in The Great War although what exactly caused a change of heart remains to be seen.
Of course it may not matter that much for all of this is merely a ruse for Cersei to buy some time to allow Euron to summon the Golden Company. Jaime is angry and rightfully so; he’s a man of honor and has put in his word to fight in the war in the North. Cersei’s treachery puts his word in jeopardy and so, in what was building up in Jaime for long, he explodes and leaves Cersei to join the battle in the North. While the development is jolting, for Jaime leaving Cersei is the last thing that ought to happen more quickly, it was also something the show was gradually setting up. The accelerated pace meant it had to happen this season’s close.
That brings us to the other key development and the conclusion of one of the show’s largest sub-plots, the one involving Littlefinger. Since the past few episodes, Littlefinger had been slowly poisoning Sansa’s mind with the intention of turning the Stark sisters against one another. This came to a head last week when Arya handed Sansa the dagger in an almost chilling fashion, as if meaning to stab her with it. Sansa today makes up her mind and holds a meeting with the Northern houses, summoning Arya to seemingly account for her crimes. And pat comes the twist when she singles out Lord Baelish instead.
In that moment, it’s clear what’s about to unfold. With the all-seeing all-knowing Bran seated beside Sansa, the trio of Stark siblings recall some of Littlefinger’s quotes that he said on moments he knew none of them could’ve possibly heard it. As we rightly predicted (or rather suggested) last episode, Bran helped the Stark sisters understand Littlefinger’s scheming intentions. The result is one more person getting added on Arya’s list and immediately being executed. Satisfyingly, Arya slashes Littlefinger’s throat as he falls to the ground.
And that’s one of the problems I had with this episode. Supposedly, this important plot development where the Starks teamed up and realized what Littlefinger was up to all happened off-screen. For there was absolutely no hint in the last few episodes of the fact that Arya and Sansa could possibly be on the same side. Sure we got Bran quoting “Chaos is a Dagger” in Episode 2 but it essentially means the rivalry that went on between the two sisters was kind of feigned. The conversation that the sisters have after closing this chapter only showed the respect they still have for each other, making all prior misunderstandings moot. In a rare instance on Game of Thrones, the need for suspense and surprise overtook the need for a logical revelation unfolding. To the credit of director Jeremy Podeswa and the performance of Aiden Gillen, the scene played out really well. But it was, in the language of TV, too generic for Game of Thrones’ sake.
With Littlefinger dispatched, the final key moment the show-runners had to address was Jon’s lineage. As if not wanting to waste any time at all, the scene begins by Sam riding straight to Winterfell with Gilly and the baby. Sam then walks in directly to Bran’s room, starting a conversation with the lad. And in a matter of seconds, Bran reveals rather coldly who Jon is – the son of Rhaegar Targeryn and Lyanna Stark. Just like that, the revelation is made. It’s as if writers David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, now aware that the entire fandom already knew of this moment, just decided to throw it in their face instead of building up to it any further.
The new piece of information though is Jon’s name which, while predicted as being Jaeherys or Azor Ahai in the past, turns out to be Aegon. Yes, Jon Snow is Aegon Targeryn (of course, not the ancestral one). Let that sink in for a bit. Sam adds to Bran’s knowledge stating that Jon is not really a bastard but a legal heir to the Iron Throne, a plot point that could have huge ramifications going ahead. Gilly’s ad-hoc reading of a paragraph plays a role in explaining how Rhaegar and Lyanna were legally married. Again, it’s a shame how the scene plays out in that it really doesn’t bother to delve into how Sam actually remembered Gilly’s quote even though he had dismissed it back then as being a random piece of trivia.
The revelations are intercut with Jon and Dany finally consummating their relationship and Tyrion wandering outside, with a look of concern on his face that is now the subject of countless fan theories already. It seems the conversations he had with Daenerys about her successor could now hold a different meaning altogether. Other theories doing the rounds have to do with Tyrion somehow having betrayed Dany or Jon to Cersei in their discussion which got Cersei to pledge her forces in the first place. Regardless of how those theories pan out, it gives fans enough to talk about for an entire year before the next season nears its air date.
Our own Theon gets a small scene or two to shine as well. He and Jon finally get to have a moment and Jon truly proves he has a heart of gold when he forgives Theon for all the horrendous stuff he did as much as he can. Either that or with the show’s time running out, the writers realized there’s no point on stretching this rivalry any further. Meanwhile Theon finally grows some balls and beats up the leader of a small group of the Iron Borne and takes them to save Yara who, in case you forgot, is still in Euron’s custody. At this point, so much of the plot has been streamlined that this seems to be the only diversion remaining.
And finally, the episode ends on a high when, in a breathtaking display of icy visuals and downright epicness, the Night King rides Viserion who he turned last episode and brings down the centuries old wall. Tormund and Beric Dondarrion are still on the wall and their fates are left intentionally hanging although seeing as only half the wall is broken for the walkers to march ahead, I’d put my bets of them being alive. Besides, the show is succumbing to fan desires a lot more these days and Tormund and Brienne need at least one more interaction before either of them departs the show.
That about wraps up the Season Finale and what has been a rather eventful season on the whole. Sure, timeline issues abounded here and lots of plot developments occurred off-screen but one can’t take away from the fact that this is still the most entertaining show on Television right now. And as it inches closer towards its inevitable conclusion, the end game has tightened and things are bound to move rather fast.
What concerns me, aside from the show’s ramped up pacing, is the Night King’s mysteriousness even this far into the end game. I’m worried that with just six episodes left, the writers may not really bother delving too much into who the Night King is which is going to make this entire fight a one-sided war. And I have time and again, yearned for more insight into who the Night King really is and what’s his play here. Fingers crossed that a sequence the length of the Dragonpit scene would at least be devoted to understanding the Night King’s motivations.
Rating an episode as important as the finale is already a tough task, and tonight’s hits and minuscule misses only make it all the more difficult. On first thought, I considered giving this a 9.0 but I’m going to be a little more lax seeing how much of a fun time I’ve had and settle on half a point more.
Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10.0