***Spoiler Warning – This recap article has spoilers from the episode.***
With an official running time just over 1 hour and 20 minutes, “The Dragon and the Wolf” is Game of Thrones’ longest finale – and episode – to date, and it is certainly packed with content at that! The episode opens to King’s Landing surrounded by the Unsullied, as the Lannister army prepares themselves from the walkways above the Red Keep. Bronn approaches Jaime, who is observing the Unsullied below; after some banter between the two, a horn sounds to signal the arrival of the Dothraki, who join the Unsullied on the ground.
At sea, Euron’s fleet is docked to one side of the Red Keep, while a small number of Targaryen ships approach from the other side. Jon, Tyrion, Davos, Jorah, Missandei, Sandor, Varys and Theon are all on board – though Dany is notably absent. As Jon comments on the small size of the city, Sandor goes below the deck to check on their “precious cargo” – AKA the captured wight. It’s still undead. Yay?
Inside the Red Keep, Cersei questions Qyburn about Dany’s whereabouts, since the word has spread that she is not traveling with her court via boat. She turns to the Mountain and commands him to kill Dany, Tyrion, and then Jon – in that order – if anything should go wrong during their meeting…though he can kill everyone else in whatever order he pleases (as Jaime looks on with quite a baffled expression on his face). They then exit to head to greet their “guests.”
As Tyrion, Jon and Co. walk into the city, the group discusses the dragon pit that they are heading to for their meeting. They are soon greeted by the Lannister army, headed by Bronn…and Brienne and Podrick, who previously arrived in the capital.
Accepting their escort, Tyrion takes the opportunity to catch up with Podrick and Bronn. Meanwhile, Brienne hangs back to speak with Sandor; having not seen him since their fight back in the season 4 finale, she believed him to be dead. She is apologetic, explaining to him that she was only trying to protect Arya; Sandor states that he was doing the same. Brienne lets him know that she is alive and well back in Winterfell; “The only one that needs protecting is the one that gets in her way,” she tells him. At this, Sandor kind of smiles, confirming that he wouldn’t do such a thing. Brienne smiles back at him.
Ahead of them, Tyrion continues to talk with Bronn and Podrick. He tells Bronn that his old offer of paying double of whatever he’s making now still stands, though Bronn confirms that he’s still playing on his own side by reinforcing the fact that he’s currently bringing traitors to Queen Cersei. Still, both men agree that it is good to see each another again.
As they reach the dragon pit, the group leaves the donkey wheeling the “precious cargo” at the entrance, and Sandor threatens to kill anyone who touches it in their absence. As they head inside, the group gathers around the seating arrangement that has been prepared on a platform above the pit (and, in typical fashion, Bronn and Podrick head off for a drink). Cersei’s court enters soon after, headed by Jaime, Qyburn, the Mountain and Euron (and this is the exact point where it has occurred to me that everyone attending this meeting either hates or has an incredibly complicated relationship with someone else who is attending this meeting. That certainly doesn’t bode well…).
As the members of Cersei’s court take their places, Sandor approaches his brother, observing his current state and asking what they did to him.
“Doesn’t matter,” Sandor decides. “That’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” Wait, does that mean that 2019 is going to be the year of Cleganebowl?!?!? HELL YES!
As Sandor takes off and heads below into the dragon pit, Cersei asks Tyrion where Dany is; Tyrion confirms that she didn’t travel with them but will be arriving soon. And sure enough, after a pause, Drogon and Rhaegal fly in, with Drogon landing nearby. He crawls to the ground before everyone, allowing for Dany to dismount before flying off with his brother (though I’m assuming neither of them will be too far away in case trouble should arise).
As Dany sits with her court, Cersei comments on how “long” they’ve all been waiting for her, to which Dany apologizes. She then turns and nods at Tyrion, who gets up from his seat and begins to speak about why they are all there…but he is quickly interrupted by Euron, who apparently needs to voice at exactly this moment that he has Yara and will kill her unless Theon submits to him.
“I think we ought to begin with larger concerns,” Tyrion says.
“Then why are you talking?” Euron taunts. “You’re the smallest concern here.” He then approaches Tyrion, telling him that the Iron Born kill dwarves at birth. At this point, Jaime firmly suggests that Euron sit down – and since Cersei and the Mountain both reinforce this idea, Euron complies (and leaves me wondering how much more of this guy we have to tolerate as viewers).
Tyrion restarts his speech with the understatement of the year: “We are a group of people who do not like one another.” He goes on to state that waging war on one another would really just be more of the same, and that wouldn’t require a meeting such as this. However, he agrees with Cersei that they will never settle their differences permanently.
At this, Jon rises and states, “This isn’t about living in harmony. It’s just about living.” He then proceeds to explain about the Night King and his undead army, but Cersei seems to think the whole thing is a bad joke. Dany is asking her for a “truce,” which would require her to pull back the Lannister forces; how, then, will Cersei know if Dany isn’t simply solidifying her position within Westeros? And while Dany answers by promising that the capital will be safe until the Night King is defeated, Cersei still doesn’t trust her.
Tyrion then speaks up again, knowing that words won’t do them any good in this instance; visual evidence is needed instead. Sandor soon emerges from beneath the dragon pit, struggling with a large crate on his back (because apparently, the “precious cargo” was moved under there at some point). He puts it down in the center of the platform and opens it.
Nothing happens…until Sandor kicks the crate over. The wight charges forward, almost reaching Cersei – but Sandor pulls it back by the chain around its neck just in time. It falls to the ground, gets up, and charges at Sandor, who cuts it in half. However, it is, of course, still moving, to the surprise of Cersei and Co.
Naturally, Qyburn gets up and walks to its now severed hand, picking it up to study it briefly before handing it to Jon. With Davos’ assistance, Jon then demonstrates how the wights can either be burned or killed through the use of dragonglass, destroying the “cargo” in the process. He drives home the point that everyone in Westeros will turn into one of these things if they don’t work together to defeat the Night King and his army.
“There is only one war that matters: the great war,” he says. “And it is here.”
Noticing the shock on the faces of Cersei and her court, Dany speaks up, confirming that she didn’t believe in the undead army either…until she saw them with her own eyes. Jaime asks how many of them are in the army and, to his horror, Dany states that she saw at least 100,000 of these things beyond the Wall. Euron then asks if they can swim and, once Jon confirms that they can’t, states that he is taking his fleet back home. Apparently, this is the only thing in the world that has ever truly frightened him (which makes me think that he’s either a HUGE coward, or that he’s playing some angle that is currently unknown to the audience).
As Euron departs, Cersei seemingly confirms that she now believes that there will be nothing to rule over if the Night King marches south. She accepts Dany’s truce…but only on the condition that Jon remain in the North and not choose sides while the truce remains active. As Ned Stark’s “son,” she believes Jon will be “true to his word.”
Slowly, Jon confirms aloud that he is an honest man, as Ned was…and he states that he can’t do what Cersei has asked of him, since he has already pledged himself to Dany. Simultaneously, the expressions on everyone else’s faces make it clear that they all think Jon is being an honorable idiot – save Cersei, who is clearly angered. Stating that there will no longer be a truce, she exits. Her court follows, with the look on Jaime’s face making it clear that he is heavily considering the severity of Cersei’s decision.
As they are exiting, Brienne calls to Jaime, stopping him. She tries to reason with him regarding Cersei’s call; Jaime responds by saying that while he isn’t looking forward to seeing more wights, they are fighting for opposing sides, which seems to indicate that he doesn’t believe there is anything he can do.
“Oh, FUCK loyalty!” Brienne says loudly. “This goes beyond houses and honor and oaths. Talk to the Queen.” Way to call Jaime out on the bullshit, Brienne!
Jaime considers this as Cersei looks on from ahead, pausing to observe their interaction briefly before continuing on. “And tell her what?” he asks, following (though something tells me that Brienne’s words have definitely gotten to him and that he’s bound to do something about this later in the episode).
Back on the platform, Davos, Dany and, Tyrion all voice their disagreement with Jon’s decision to refuse Cersei’s conditions. Tyrion states that Jon should’ve simply lied, but Jon argues that digging themselves into a web of lies won’t help them in the war against the Night King; it would just be more of the same, which is kind of what got them here in the first place.
“That is, indeed, a problem,” Tyrion says. “The more immediate problem is that we’re fucked.” His solution? To head into the Red Keep and try to discuss the situation with Cersei on his own. After all, being her brother and knowing her as well as he does, Tyrion thinks that he’s the only one of them who has a chance of speaking to Cersei without being murdered (which isn’t saying much, considering the fact that she probably hates him more than the rest of Dany’s council combined).
Inside the Red Keep, Tyrion is brought to Cersei’s quarters by the Mountain. Outside her door, he is greeted by Jaime, who has apparently tried speaking with Cersei already (clearly, it didn’t go very well). After speaking with each other briefly, Jaime hangs back while Tyrion enters Cersei’s quarters, the Mountain following and closing the door behind them.
Unsurprisingly, things don’t start off well inside, as Cersei accuses Tyrion of allying with Jon and Dany to fulfill his “lifelong goal” of destroying the Lannister family. Tyrion argues that their death is exactly what he’s trying to prevent; after all, he was the one who convinced Dany to have the meeting instead of bringing destruction upon the city in the first place. And he admits that while he did kill their father, Tywin was going to have him wrongly executed for a crime he didn’t commit. However, Cersei argues that by killing Tywin, Tyrion left their family vulnerable to attack, which resulted in the deaths of both Tommen and Myrcella.
As Cersei refuses to hear his apology for their deaths, Tyrion argues that she should just have him killed now if he is always going to be a threat to her. He attempts to goad her into doing it by running through the list of all the ways in which he’s wronged her…but somehow, Cersei can’t bring herself to give the Mountain the order. As Tyrion pauses to take a drink of wine after this ordeal (and passes Cersei a glass, naturally), he tells Cersei that she knows how much he loved Tommen and Myrcella…but Cersei claims that it doesn’t matter anymore.
Tyrion then asks her what she hoped to get out of the meeting with Dany, but Cersei quickly turns the question on him instead of answering it. Tyrion responds by saying that he believes that Dany will improve the world and that even though she tends to have destructive impulses (i.e. her desire to burn down King’s Landing), she chose him as her hand to keep these in check. Touching her stomach, Cersei states that she doesn’t care about the world or controlling her own impulses; after all, when the wight came at her earlier that day, it wasn’t the world she was thinking about. Rather, she thought of her family and keeping them safe – and it is at this point that Tyrion realizes that she is pregnant.
“A dragon is not a slave,” Dany says, arguing that by locking their dragons below the ground, the Targaryens lost their strength; both they and the dragons “grew small.” She then states that while she is the last Targaryen, she cannot have children, indicating that she believes the family ends with her; however, Jon states that perhaps the word of the witch who killed Khal Drogo isn’t completely accurate when it comes to fertility (which, one must admit, is a pretty sound opinion). Regardless, both agree that the situation surrounding the Night King doesn’t look good.
Suddenly, Tyrion re-approaches the pit, Cersei and her court following shortly after. Apparently, whatever Tyrion said worked, as Cersei announces that she will be sending the Lannister armies North to fight alongside Dany, Jon and Co. in the fight against the undead.
At Winterfell, Sansa and Littlefinger discuss a raven from Jon, which states that he has pledged the North to Dany. Sansa voices her frustration, as Jon never discussed the matter with her; Littlefinger claims that perhaps they are considering marrying, stating that an alliance between the two makes sense because they are both young, unmarried and represent strong forces. However, he does suggest that Jon be unnamed King in the North; Sansa responds by stating that even if she wanted to overthrow Jon, Arya would never follow suit and would kill anyone who conspired against him.
“Would Arya really murder her own sister?” Littlefinger asks. Sansa states that Arya was, indeed, a Faceless Man for a time – and the Faceless Men are killers before anything else.
At this, Littlefinger tells Sansa about the “game” that he plays in order to understand a person’s motives: he assumes “the worst.” He then pulls Sansa into this game, asking her what the worst thing Arya could want is; Sansa responds that it would be to kill her…which would, therefore, result in Arya becoming the Lady of Winterfell. As Sansa considers this, Littlefinger seems to think they have come to a conclusion (though at this point, I’m betting this is a red flag for Sansa; after all, when has Arya ever wanted to be lady of anything? I think Sansa knows her own sister well enough to seriously question this train of thought).
At Dragonstone, Dany and her court meet in the small council room to discuss travelling to Winterfell. Though Jorah argues that her flying North on Drogon would be safer, Dany agrees to sail to White Harbor with Jon in order to present themselves as allies to the Northerners rather than to make herself look like their “conqueror.”
As they depart from the meeting, Theon calls to Jon in the throne room, asking him to talk. He speaks of Jon’s honesty back in King’s Landing and how it seems like Jon has always had a good moral compass – though Jon states that he has done “plenty of things” he regrets. Theon then voices his struggle with doing the right thing throughout his life, since it always felt like he was battling with himself; was he a Stark, or was he a Greyjoy? Jon says that Ned was more of a father to him than his own and that he betrayed Ned’s memory, and Theon agrees with both of these statements; however, realizing that Ned never really left Theon, Jon forgives him for what he can.
“You don’t need to choose,” Jon says. “You’re a Greyjoy, and you’re a Stark.” And based on the title of the episode, something tells me that we’re going to cross a similar bridge with Jon himself later on. But, moving on…
Taking in Jon’s words, Theon explains how Yara was the only one who tried to save him back when he was imprisoned by Ramsay. He feels that he owes his sister the same.
“So why are you still talking to me?” Jon asks.
On the shores of Dragonstone, the Iron Born prepare for departure (they are planning on sailing east to escape the impending doom of the undead army). Theon approaches them, proposing that they head out to rescue Yara instead; after all, they chose her as the queen of the Iron Islands before everything else transpired with Euron, Dany, etc. However, the men are reluctant to follow Theon, arguing that Yara is likely dead…and they haven’t forgotten that he showed cowardice when Euron captured Yara in the first place.
Still, Theon refuses to back down – so Harrag, the de facto leader of the Iron Born, punches him in the face. They fight, and though Harrag continues to get the better of Theon, Theon refuses to stop getting up…even when Harrag threatens to kill him if he rises. The second time he makes this threat, Theon gets up again. Harrag attempts to knee him in the groin – which does NOTHING, because Theon’s lack of genitalia had to come in handy at some point (hey, this is Game of Thrones, after all!).
With Harrag in shock, Theon takes the opportunity to gain the upper hand and beat him. The rest of the men agree to follow Theon and rescue Yara (and I can’t help but notice the irony in the fact that his missing genitalia actually helped Theon to – ahem – grow a pair).
Inside the Great Hall, Sansa sits at the head of the table with Bran, the Northerners standing on either side of the room; it is clear that they are having some sort of council. Arya is soon brought in; she stands before her brother and sister calmly as Littlefinger watches creepily from the sides (because Littlefinger does everything “creepily”). Stating that honor calls upon her to defend her family from harm and the North from betrayal, it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t a council; it’s a trial. Arya calmly tells Sansa to get on with it.
“You stand accused of murder,” Sansa says. “You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges…Lord Baelish?” OH. MY. GOD. YASSSSSS!
As Littlefinger blinks and looks at Sansa in shock, Arya turns to smile at him, telling him to answer her sister. He states his confusion, and Sansa runs down the list of everything he’s pulled on the Stark family throughout the course of the series: murdering their Aunt Lysa, conspiring with Lysa to murder Jon Arryn, having Lysa send a letter to Ned and Cat placing Jon’s murder on the Lannisters and thus causing a rift between the two families, and – of course – conspiring with Joffrey and Cersei to betray Ned (which led to his untimely death).
While Littlefinger will admit that he killed Lysa to “protect” Sansa (pfft, more like to gain control of the Vale), he denies the rest of the charges, stating that there is no proof of any of the accusations; after all no one in the room was there. Right?
Wrong! Bran, who can see everything as the Three-Eyed Raven, speaks up. “You held a knife to his throat,” he says, in reference to Ned. “You said, ‘I did warn you not to trust me.’” DID THIS SCENE JUST GET BETTER?
Littlefinger begs Sansa to speak privately, but Sansa refuses his request; after all, this is the man who sold her to the Boltons. Instead, she throws his little “game” from earlier in the episode right back in his face: what’s the worst reason he could have for turning her and Arya against one another? She answers the question by stating turning people against one another is what he’s always done; he did it to Cat and Lysa when they were younger, and he tried to repeat the offense with Sansa and Arya.
Allowing Littlefinger the chance to defend himself, he begs Lord Royce to escort him back to the Vale…which Lord Royce promptly refuses. He then turns to beg Sansa for his life, stating how much he loved both Cat and Sansa. However, Sansa notes that his “love” for them didn’t stop him from betraying them. Nodding at Arya, she thanks Littlefinger for his many lessons…and Arya promptly slits his throat. FINALLY! Please excuse me while I cheer.
Back in King’s Landing, Jaime meets with the commanders of the Lannister armies to discuss their journey north. They are interrupted by Cersei, the Mountain trailing behind her; the commanders all leave so the brother and sister can share a private word. Cersei tells Jaime how stupid he is; didn’t he realize that she only “said” they’d be traveling north to help Dany, Jon and Co.? After all, their armies will make no difference if dragons and Dothraki can’t stop the Night King. Uh oh. This doesn’t bode well.
Furious, Jaime states that he made a promise to aid in the battle of the living vs. the undead. As Cersei insists that their unborn child will rule Westeros one day anyways, Jaime tries to reason with her, saying that their child won’t even be born if the Night King’s army marches south. Cersei doesn’t take this seriously, saying that the “monsters” – AKA, the dragons, the Dothraki, the undead, etc. – will all kill one another in the North (and I suppose she may have a point there…but still). Jaime responds by arguing that whoever wins in the North will march south and kill them all; it’s a lose/lose situation if they don’t keep their promise to fight (…and there’s the “still” that I was referring to).
However, Cersei states that they have the Iron Bank now, which has bought them the Golden Company in Essos – and Euron Greyjoy has actually gone to retrieve them for her, since his little “outburst” at the meeting earlier in the episode was apparently just a ruse (I guess he really was playing an angle after all). Jaime is hurt that Cersei planned this with Euron without involving him, but Cersei accuses Jaime of conspiring against the crown by meeting with Tyrion in secret earlier in the season (which, the viewer may recall, Jaime didn’t even have any knowledge of until the meeting was actually taking place).
“I pledged to ride north,” Jaime says, fed up. “I intend to honor that pledge.”
At this, Cersei accuses him of treason, and the Mountain stops him from leaving. Jaime argues that he’s the only person she really has left, but she disagrees; after all, she is pregnant. Jaime tells her that in that case, she should give the order to kill him. With a nod of the head, she seemingly does – and the Mountain pulls out his sword, but he does nothing.
“I don’t believe you,” Jaime says, disgusted. He leaves without looking back.
On the road, Jaime heads for the North on horseback, pausing to cover his golden hand with a glove. As he does so, he sees precipitation fall onto the glove; it is snowing in the south.
That night, the snow falls over King’s Landing, signaling the further spread of winter.
Back at Winterfell, Sam, Gilly, and baby Sam arrive in the evening. Inside the castle, Sam visits with Bran by the fire; Bran immediately trusts him, recalling his help in allowing him beyond the Wall back in the season 3 finale. He explains to Sam how he became the Three-Eyed Raven north of the Wall and asks why Sam came to Winterfell; Sam responds that he has come to help Jon in the upcoming fight against the Night King. Bran then states that he’s received correspondence (via raven) that Jon is currently heading back to Winterfell with Daenerys.
“He needs to know the truth,” Bran says…and he explains to Sam how he “saw” that Jon is really the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and his Aunt Lyanna, though no one else knows this. Bran believes that this means he’s a Dornish bastard rather than a Northern bastard; however, Sam, who apparently was listening to Gilly back at the Citadel earlier this season, recalls Rhaegar’s annulment – and secret second marriage – from transcribing the High Septon’s diary. Using this as a guide, Bran puts his skills to work…and he “sees” the Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding.
“Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie,” he says. “Rhaegar didn’t kidnap my aunt or rape her. He loved her, and she loved him.”
As Bran says this, we see Jon knock hesitantly on Dany’s door at sea; she answers, letting him in as they stare at one another. Jon closes the door behind him – but down the hall, Tyrion stares at the door, clearly worried about what is about to transpire.
As Bran “goes” back into the Tower of Joy, he hears Jon’s real name: Aegon Targaryen. The scene cuts back to Jon and Dany, who…are now having sex, because apparently Game of Thrones will NEVER BE DONE WITH THE INCEST! Sigh (I suppose it would have been too convenient for Jon to find out about his true parentage before this happened…?).
“He’s never been a bastard,” Bran says via voiceover, as Jon and Dany stare into one another’s eyes. “He’s the heir to the Iron Throne.”
The next morning at Winterfell, Sansa and Arya stand on the walkways above the castle, staring out into the snow. The sisters discuss their killing of Littlefinger and agree that it was the right thing to do; in fact, Sansa is impressed that Arya carried out the deed of cutting his throat, while Arya is impressed that Sansa used her status as the Lady of Winterfell to pass the sentence of his execution. Sansa then asks if the fact that she is Lady of Winterfell bothers Arya at all.
“I was never going to be as good a lady as you,” Arya says, “so I had to be something else.” She states that Sansa was correct in the previous episode; she couldn’t have survived what Sansa did. However, Sansa takes her own words back.
“You would have,” she says. “You’re the strongest person I know.” Aww! The two joke about this being the nicest thing Sansa’s ever said to Arya.
“In winter, we must protect ourselves,” Arya says, quoting her father. “Look after one another.”
Sansa responds with another quote from Ned: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” As the Northern theme plays in the background, both sisters states how much they miss him.
At Eastwatch, Tormund and Beric help to man the Wall with the men of the Night’s Watch. On the ground below, the undead army approaches from the forest slowly – and then in mass numbers. The horn blows to signal this as Tormund and Beric observe from atop the Wall. The undead army comes to a halt, pausing…and then…
The Night King comes flying in on undead Viserion (or “un-Viserion,” as I will now be calling him), who blows blue fire at the Wall! Tormund commands the men of the Night’s Watch to run as un-Viserion continues to aim his fire, beginning to break through the ice. As the men run, some fall to their deaths on the ground below…but Tormund and Beric are seemingly able to make it to a point where un-Viserion isn’t aiming his blue flames (though we will have to wait until season 8 to 100% confirm that they both survived).
Un-Viserion lets out one more long stream of blue fire – and the entire section of the Wall comes crashing down. With nothing in between them and Westeros any longer, the undead army marches south, the Night King flying forward on un-Viserion.
Once again, I had mixed feelings about this episode. For example, I thought that the visuals were stunning, as always – particularly in the scene when un-Viserion knocks down part of the Wall down using his blue flames. Moreover, I loved that fact that Jaime finally separated from Cersei; the moment has been a long time coming, and it finally feels like he is back on track with his book counterpart for the first time since season 4. And finally, I loved the fact that the Stark siblings used their individual skills to team up and take down Littlefinger. This was another moment that was a long time coming, and it was immensely satisfying to watch. I also have to commend Sophie Turner’s performance here; it really reminded me of this quote from a Sansa chapter in A Storm of Swords: “My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.” I feel like this scene is the perfect culmination of Sansa having become hardened over the years, and Turner has emulated her transition from a naïve young girl to a strong, smart and capable woman perfectly throughout the course of the series.
However, I don’t think that the season finale did much to rectify the issues that I felt the show had throughout the the season; in fact, I believe that it exacerbated them even more. For example, the episode did nothing to explain Arya’s out of character behavior from “Beyond the Wall,” since it appears that the siblings met in private only after Sansa’s discussion with Littlefinger about Arya’s motives during this episode; in other words, Arya wasn’t playing an angle when she threatened Sansa last week, so we are to assume that she was merely acting out of character…but we are left with no explanation as to why. This leads directly to my main criticism of season 7 as a whole in that the pacing was far too quick for my taste; after seeing the finale, I can now safely say that I 100% believe that the season would have benefited from 10 episodes far more than it did from 7. Additional exposition would have helped to greatly explain moments like these, as well as to keep the timeframes of travel consistent with the earlier seasons. But, of course, this isn’t enough to draw me away from the series, and I do greatly look forward to the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones.
Click here to join the Game of Thrones discussion on the FoCC Forum.