—————————> CONTINUED FROM PART ONE <—————————————-
We now cut to the bell tower of King’s Landing and use a drone shot to establish it for — no shit — 22 seconds. Holy foreshadowing Batman! Music of a foreboding nature starts to pick up. We’re around the thirty minute mark and if I’m not mistaken, it’s GO TIME PEOPLE!
Now we cut to a bunch of scenes of the scorpions. First on the Iron Fleet and then on the walls of KL.
Errybody ready to kill themselves a dinosaur!
ANY MAN WHO SHOOTS DOWN THE DINOSAUR GETS TO FUCK THE QUEEN! Euron Yells.
A rousing cheer comes up from the Ironborn, the rats of the sea.
Urine smiles, thinking that it’s just a joke. But he did get to fuck the queen! Ha ha! That’s awesome! A FINGER IN THE BUM.
Now Drogon comes, and hell comes with him.
Drogon’s dragonfire now has mass when it needs it and laser cutting when it needs it. The sound of a jet engine is now intermittent. Scorpions, which went 3 for 3 vs Rhaegal on the undulating bosom of Blackwater Bay last week now are slow and useless.
Now we see the pre-way hubbub in KL.
There’s a shot of The Hound, hooded, and I had no idea how awesome he’d look in a hood. Jesus it’s amazing.
He and Arya are walking through KL, trying to get to the Red Keep.
Now, I won’t dwell on this, but Gregor Clegane was alive before the show started. He was alive until The Mountain and the Viper and he’s been alive-ish ever since.
And never once has The Hound decided to take a stagecoach to KL and murder him.
There’s one more spell left. It’s the most enticing spell in the creative necromancer’s playbook and resides among the unforgivable black spells of the scriptomancer.
Example: The Arya and Sansa plot last season was made possible through LYING spells. Their motivations were fake. Their interactions didn’t actually happen. Pivotal scenes where one of them threatened the other were visible not to a target character for the purpose of moving a trick plot against that character along, but purely for the goal of misleading the audience. LYING is like avada kedavra. The use of it is indefensible.
We now know, because of this episode, that the show used a LYING spell last season during the wight mission to King’s Landing.
During the parley, The Hound walks right up to the Mountain and says
“You remember me? Yeah, you do. You’re even fucking uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? Doesn’t matter. It’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
LYING, plain and simple.
It’s one thing to be creative with language. Melisandre tells Arya when she’s little that she sees her darkness and that she’s going to close many eyes forever. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Then when Arya kills the Night King, The Red Witch stresses the blue part. That is not LYING spell. That is clever. You’re allowed to repurpose words like that.
But this? This is fabricating a subplot or character that doesn’t exist. No one would ever say YOU KNOW WHO is coming for you meaning THEMSELVES. That’s asinine, and it’s a LYING spell meant to take probably the most engaged, knowledgeable fanbase for any show ever and send them off on a wild goose chase.
I’m not even mad anymore. I’m just bummed. So much pipe laid for nothing. So many kick ass reveals wasted.
But here we are. So now, with all things coming to an end, The Hound has to kill The Mountain. Maybe he’s worried the dragon will get his brother first. But anyone could have done that all these years. Whatever.
It has to be now.
And Arya left Winterfell for good.
We never saw any decision or interaction with Sans. We never saw any planning session with Jon. She’s just going to give her two cents about how the dragon queen is the enemy, and nothing beats the good ol fam, but by the way I’m going to kill myself and/or never return?
How does that jive again?
And remind me again why now? Why now is it so important to kill Cer-SAY? When she was at the crossroads with Hot Pie, she already made this choice. She turned away from her quest to prioritize family.
But now that’s no longer the priority? Did she just want one really kick ass Thanksgiving back east before she moved to Seattle for good?
I don’t get it.
Cer-SAY is gonna die. Everyone is headed to kill her. Arya’s hit list isn’t exactly written in blood, either. She’s probably forgiven or befriended as many of the people she’s actually killed. Let’s see: she was Facebook friends with Melisandre, The Hound, Beric and Thoros, all of whom were on her list and she killed Meryn Trant, Polliver and Rorge and Walder Frey.
That’s not exactly an unbreachable imperative. By those stats she’s as likely to watch RuPauls Drag Race with Cersei as she is to killing her.
So forgive me if I’m not as sold on either of these must-happen scenarios.
I have never been an advocate of the Cleganebowl because it seems so petty and such a fan-led movement. I love all the get hype comedy around it and what is hype can never die and all that shit. That’s a blast. But of all the payoffs I really needed to see, it wasn’t anywhere near the top.
But that’s just me.
The Mountain isn’t real to me on any level. The end of his arc would have been fine if he succumbed to Oberyn’s poison. I didn’t really care about him then and I certainly haven’t thought or cared about him since he entered the ZERO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT ZONE of a screamless wight.
If memory serves, when Tywin Lannister turned on Aerys and betrayed him, becoming the last family to hedge their bets during Robert’s Rebellion, he instructed Ser Gregor to rape Ilia Martel, the wife of Rhaegar. Then he chopped her in half with his sword and also killed her children to end the Targaryen line.
Daenerys was in her mother’s womb in the Red Keep at the time, but she managed to run down to the basement, down through the deep hidden stairways and out to a boat where she escaped and sailed to Pentos.
Book readers can spot check that for me.
So yes, The Mountain is a hideos, disgusting person. But that was when he was a person. How many people actually want to see him die for his crimes against an innocent daughter of Dorne and her babies? Because just typing that made me kind of lightheaded it’s so abhorrent.
But that’s not really part of his known arc anymore.
It’s just Cleganebowl.
ITZ BRUDDER VERSUS BRUDDER IN THIS EPIC MATCH OF SOLOMON GRUNDYS. ONE BRUDDER? BURNED IN THE BRUDDER FACE! THE OTHER BRUDDER? A ROTTING FETAL PIG IN A SILLY RICK MORANIS SPACEBALLS DARK HELMET GETUP. TWO BRUDDERS ENTER ONE BRUDDER LEAVE! MAYBE! ORDER NOW ON PAY PER VIEW FOR THE LOW LOW COST OF EIGHT SEASONS OF HBO, DURING WHICH, AT ANY POINT, BRUDDER COULD HAVE FOUGHT BRUDDER IN THE ULTIMATE BRUDDERBOWL CAGE MATCH. BUT THEY WAITED UNTIL PEAK BRUDDERGRUDGE. NOW YOU CAN BE PART OF HISTORY AS BRUDDERS FROM ANUDDER MUDDER SQUEEZE UDDERS AND SHUDDER!
And while that is fun in a cool featurette kind of way, it’s not plot integral. No matter how it goes, it doesn’t really matter.
Unlike the Mountain and the Viper, when there were crazy stakes.
First, we were madly in love with Oberyn. His ‘I will be your champion speech’ was one of the greatest TV moments ever. And he was fighting for justice. True, unadulterated justice porn. On a show where it seemed like good characters always got dead, here was this bisexual thing of everlasting beauty who was lethal with his spear and even though it was a longshot to beat the most feared man in the seven kingdoms, he had a shot. So we cared about the Red Viper.
And if the Red Viper lost? Then Tyrion was dead as well.
HOOOO BABY THEMS SOME PRIIIIIME GRADE A STAKES.
But a Clegane revenge plot where we never witnessed the original sin, nor were we ever really introduced to Gregor outside of him cleaving through paupers for some reason? I mean, it’s cool in a Godzilla vs Mothra kind of way, but we’re so pressed for time.
There’s not enough time to give us everything we need, so even though it might be something we want, perhaps it shouldn’t have made the cut.
But it did.
And we’ll get to it.
Interestingly, I went to sleep after writing this and that night I dreamed that Sandor Clegane was talking to me. And this is what he said:
“You can’t dream the Lannisters back on the board, boy.”
Lady C always maintains that in my heart of hearts my favorite character was Tywin Lannister. No matter how much I love the Starks and the Targs. No matter how my heart bleeds for any of the characters we love, the Briennes and Sams and Tormunds. She says that I rightly maintain that everything in Westeros changed once Tywin was killed. It was tantamount to the death of Zeus. Everything downshifted to a lower tier. Everything became dirtier and less hopeful and not a single person in the next generation, man or woman, had his ferocity, his command of people, infrastructure, family and wealth. He saw the whole field better than anyone except Olenna. He was more sly than all of the Littlefingers and Varyses of the world. He was a comparable military strategist to the Stannises and Bobby B’s. He was a better political creature than all of them put together. So I’m not sure I ever truly liked him, but boy did that fucker have Westeros on lock.
And I guess, while I slept, The Hound figured me out.
So we’re following a Hooded Hound in all his Sherwood Forest glory as he and Arya approach the Red Keep. These dummies are so understated and laconic with each other that I’ll bet they never once broached the topic of WHAT’S OUR PLAN IN KL or SHOULD WE EVEN BE DOING THIS.
After all, this was their conversation last week:
HOUND: I’ll bet it felt good to murder a god.
I’m watching them walk through the crowd in King’s Landing. He’s shrouded, lest anyone recognize his scarred face.
Arya wears no hat. Nobody knows who she is.
And I’m just wondering why we never got Sandor in a hood before because it’s amazing. The Hooded Hound makes a thousand plot lines jump into my brain. I want to see a whole show with him and Arya called THE SOUTHBOUNDERS where it’s just them doing various tasks together.
It always starts with a knock in darkness and a door opens. And standing there every single time is a Hooded Sandor Clegane. And he’s like 5% more polished and not as pissed. And he tells you the A plot right away.
GOOD MORNING. I’M SANDOR CLEGANE AND I’M HERE TO ESCORT YOU SAFELY TO RIVERRUN. YOU HAVE FOUR MINUTES BEFORE RIDERS SENT BY THE KING ARRIVE TO MURDER YOU. BEST HURRY.
GOOD DAY. I’M SANDOR CLEGANE. I’VE BEEN INSTRUCTED TO READ THIS LETTER ALOUD TO YOU AND DEPENDING ON YOUR RESPONSE I’M EITHER TO PROVIDE YOU WITH THIS TREASURE MAP OR EXECUTE YOU ON THE SPOT.
And if the person ever tried to jet out the back door, obviously Arya would be there, leaning casually against a wheelbarrow, picking her nails with that Valyrian Dagger that still has no goddamn name because Brahn Not Bran is a shitfarmer.
And she’d say.
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
So that would be a ‘Sandor episode’. But eeeeeevery once in a while, the knock would come and the door would open and Arya would be standing there and everyone would shit their pants because ‘Arya Episodes’ are the craziest shit you’ve ever seen and the stakes are usually much higher.
“Hello. I’m Arya Stark. I’m looking for my friend. He’s about seven feet tall, smells like day old beer, and has the manners of a whip-scarred mule. I can see by your reaction that you know this man, and that he’s here. Hear me very clearly: If he’s still in this house thirty seconds from now, every single one of you will die.”
Why can’t we just have a buddy cop show with Arya and The Hooded Hound? Goddamnit!
Now we see that a hooded Jaime has entered the chat.
IT’S FAHKIN HOOD DAY, Y’ALL
He’s a little bit behind them. Far enough that they don’t see each other.
MAKE WAY FOR THE GOLDEN COMPANY.
A cohort of pencil carrying Jafars in circus pants march past him. Ohhhhh The Golden Company!!!! Nice branding you guys! What’s your logo, a slaveowner pushing dollar bills up your butt? Fucking trash.
As of now, we don’t know who the Golden Company is. We’ve heard internet whispers that they may be secretly loyal to the Targs and might do a reversarooni on Cer-SAY.
The only man on Dany’s team with the type of long term, extensive connections in Essos enough to make that plot happen iiiiiiiiiis currently a pile of ash on a Dragonstone beach. So.
So we’re getting some beauty shots of the Golden Ones. Cersei really got her money’s worth. I guess the Iron Bank really knows which horse to back!
Now the leader of the Golden Dandies, Lieutenant Colonel Horseface McGillicuddy, rides his white steed to the front of the formation. Sure, he could wear a helmet, but Horseface McGillicuddy is runnin’ a dippity doo factory up north and no amount of gold would seem appropriate to squash it.
Now we get an interesting matching shot. We rise up and over Horseface McGillicuddy to see where he’s looking. In the distance, standing in a motley, unformed line like a bunch of William Wallace’s finest, are the Northmen.
It’s the same shot we had at the Battle of the Bastards, when we pushed above Jon to see Ramsay’s forces.
So wait: IS HORSEFACE MCGILLICUDDY THE NEW JON SNOO? DOES HE, TOO, KNOW NOOTHIN’?
We shall see.
Jon, Tyrion and Davos stand on a raised, shitty little hill with Grey Worm. I chuckled seeing that. So, that’s what leadership amounts to. The little hill to stand on. None of them talk to Grey Worm because they’re all a bunch of entitled bigots and he is possibly the worst conversationalist in the Seven Kingdoms.
Grey worm! What up, dude! Do you watch The Expanse?
I SERVE THE QUEEN.
Riiiight. Right. Cool cool cool. We alll serve the queen. But I was wondering if you know when The Expanse is starting up because I heard they shot the whole season but I can’t find a premiere date and I’m really worried about my mental health when Game of Thrones ends.
I BURN MISSANDEI’S COLLAR IN FIRE.
UUUUUUHHHHH. Cool. So that’s a negative on the premiere date? It’s fine. I’m just going to 100% go back and play the Mass Effect Trilogy to feel safe again the second this ends.
UNSULLIED KNOW NO FEAR.
Yeah! Right on! But I think the Illusive Man might fuck you up a bit. Just kidding. Good chat.
Tyrion instructs them to stop attacking if they hear the bells. Jon hears him but is like whatever dude, we’d be lucky to get that far.
The music is picking up. Blood is starting to pump. DIS GON BE LIT.
Now we see Cersei Lannister, First of Her Name, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, of the Andals and the First Men, and I notice three things right away.
No war apparel.
When Cersei BLEW THE FUCK out of the Sept of Baelor, she was decked out in full battle maiden platinum epaulets. Chains and shit. Black. And she wore a crown to say fuck you to the world. I TOOK THE IRON THRONE BECAUSE I COULD.
And she was drinking.
And she won.
But now? CERSEI LANNISTER WHO ARE YOU WEARING?
It’s just this crushed red velvet smock from T.J. Maxx and an heirloom bronze chain with the Lion of Lannister pendant which rests perfectly on the empty womb that I’ve used to manipulate two different morons with.
Okay, maybe she’s pregnant. You say yes, I say hard maybe.
And now she looks over her domain. The gorgeous city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. I don’t know much about Croatia, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed by the scrappiness of their world cup team last year. Luka Modric, man! Dude runs for years without tiring.
But Cersei doesn’t care about the world cup. Cersei cares about power. People who love her have good reason: they’re terrible, terrible people.
Cersei is an amazing character. My god the job Lena Headey has done with this character. It’s astounding. Now you’ll read a thousand think pieces that claim she isn’t evil. I think she’s straight up evil. Like, old school evil. But always with a goal in mind. She is the daughter of my favey fave, after all.
And so you know that she has a plan here.
I want to bring you back to a moment you may have forgotten, when a much younger Cersei gives Petyr Pettigrew Baelish a lesson in power dynamics.
Hot damn that’s a great scene. And you have to marvel at where she’s put herself after her walk of atonement. What a titan. Certainly a worthy foe for the Mother of Dragons.
Now they close the Red Keep.
The last two people in are The Hound and Arya Stark.
Dumbass Jerry Lannister doesn’t make it in.
YOU HAD ONE JOB.
Now the braintrust that is Jerry Lannister holds up his golden hand.
SOLDIER! He yells.
Soldier! Look at my golden hand! It used to belong to Cecil B. De Mille himself! Soldier!
He’s not getting in this way. Boy. Tough out there for prep school princes on the streets of King’s Landing.
Now we have the last moments before the storm. Something is in the air. Everyone can feel it.
A moment gazed adown the dale
A moment snuffed the tainted gale
A moment listened to the cry
That thickened as the chase grew nigh.
From ‘The Lady of the Lake’ by Sir Walter Scott
(I love that poem and maybe the greatest thing I’ve ever done is recited that canto by heart)
And then, as Urine is looking up to see if he can identify pornographic images in cloud shapes…
Daenerys Stormborn has been reading, this time about the Battle of Britain where the RAF flew out of the sun.
If it was Jon doing this we’d be patting him on the back and yelling JOLLY GOOD OLD BOY.
But there is no such credit for the Mother of Dragons. Modern eyes on an iron age show and women have shit visibility in the workplace in both.
The Kraken Fleet gets off a bolt that Daenerys and Drogon dodge, but it misses them both by inches.
It will be the closest anyone gets to them all day.
Vavoom! We hear the jet engine sound as Mighty Drogon torches the first ships. Damn, son! Drogon ate his Wheaties this morning. He’s got his game face on.
It takes fifty six seconds for Drogon and Daenerys to destroy the entire Iron Fleet.
Fifty Six seconds.
Makes you wonder how well she might have done with two dragons. Or three.
This is what we call in the world of gaming: OP.
Obviously, we’re casting a few spells here. This is not the dragon that fought the dead or the one who went up north to save Jon and the gang. This is like that dragon times five and on steroids.
He’s blowing not just fire, but full-on rolling explosive mass.
Now the only weapons left that pose any threat to Drogon are the mounted scorpions on the outer walls of the city.
So that’s what they attack next.
I’ve been reading a lot of think pieces about nitpicking. WHY IS EVERYONE NITPICKING GAME OF THRONES? NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER IS A PROFESSIONAL MEDIEVAL BATTLE STRATEGIST!
There’s a reason for that. It’s because battles have been done so well in the past. Stannis’ pincer maneuver? Robb dividing his force and feinting? Tyrion’s wildfire ghost ships? The Umbers’ shield wall that had Jon’s army in a killbox? These were perfect. Just like now, when Dany takes out — immediately — the only weapons that can beat her.
THAT MAKES SENSE.
WHICH IS WHAT WE DEMAND OF THIS SHOW.
Not using catapults, placing them in the wrong place, having your elite troops ride into the dark, etc DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
Not using your dragons to fly strafing missions when you have complete air superiority DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
The bar is not excellence. It never has been. The bar is sense. That’s it.
The water facing side of King’s Landing is a burning nightmare. All the ships are toast, all the scorpions are destroyed.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, twenty thousand golden genies stand at attention.
UNTIL THE FUCKING GATES BEHIND THEM EXPLODE.
Horseface McGillicuddy is knocked off his horse. As he stands, we have another iconic matching shot of the JON IS SO FUCKED moment from the Battle of the Bastards.
But this time, the man in the foreground doesn’t square up like a hot P.Y.M.P.
He turns and runs for his life.
Which ends when Grey Worm’s javelin hits him between the shoulder blades.
Dude never even draws his fancy, skull-hilted sword.
The Dothraki blast through the destroyed gate and FUCK UP the Lannister soldiers there.
As the Northmen come screaming into King’s Landing, Drogon takes out all the remaining Ballistae in one strafing run and then napalms the stunned Golden Company.
We never see The Golden Company even kill a single person.
Samwell Tarly at Winterfell had a higher body count than the ENTIRE Golden Company at King’s Landing.
Maybe they SHOULD have brought them ellyfants!
Now here’s where you get a lot of dissension in the ranks of watchers. Because this is spectacle. And spectacle is great. You watch the behind the scenes to see the herculean effort it took to make this battle happen and it’s jaw dropping. Truly a marvel of modern filmmaking.
Because the audience for Game of Thrones has surged in size to tens of millions of people, there is a broader goal set for it. More people to please in a broader way.
Some of us just want the spectacle. Some of us want to be knocked on our asses and go HOLY SHIT THAT’S A LOT OF FIRE.
But some others of us are here FOR THE STORY.
And as long as the spectacle informs the story? WE GOOD.
Tyrion leading a troop outside the walls to defend the mud gate? Great! It informs the story. Ramsay drawing Jon out to the middle of the field with Rickon? Amazing. It informs the story.
Fifty thousand Dothraki dying in the dark, having never been ordered to charge?
Wait, what? Huh?
The Night King using magic javelin throwing to down a dragon? Fine by me. It’s magic. Pulling dead Viserion out of the water and having his eye go blue? Awesome. That same undead dragon burning down the Wall with blue fire? Great. It all informs the story.
Rhaegal being shot out of the air AT ALL when even the dumbest person understands how improbable that math is? Stupid. That’s the tail wagging the dog.
These concepts are not difficult. Which is why, wherever you look, you see people re-editing video to make the battles make more sense. Just regular folk. And the stories are better. Some of the commenters here on Pajiba have casually written endgame scenarios IN THE COMMENTS that are so much more well conceived than what we’re actually seeing.
And of course, there’s a vast difference between spitballing a few ideas and writing an award winning show. But that’s what the nitpicking is about. How are redditors and eloquents and youtubers coming up with ANYTHING rivaling what this show offers? That’s where the frustration comes from, because it feels like we have this smorgasbord of awesomeness and someone either didn’t have the desire or the skill to wrap it all up.
So the scorpions are now all gone.
“All we need is one good shot.” Cersei says.
But Qyburn informs her that all the scorpions are destroyed and the Iron fleet is burning. The golden company is routed.
“Our soldiers will fight better than any sellsword ever could. They will defend their queen to the last man. The Red Keep has never fallen. It won’t fall today.”
How you feeling now, Cersei die hards?
Seems to me there is a mad queen after all, but she’s wearing golden lions and imagining a loyalty among her troops that she’s never, ever fostered.
Meanwhile, Daenerys has systematically taken out all the anti aircraft batteries. It’s something Chester Nimitz himself would marvel at.
This shit is over, folks.
The battle, or what can be construed as one, is over in minutes. It’s a complete rout.
And not a single innocent person has been killed.
(Kinda makes you wonder why Dany didn’t like, rain hell on them last week, before they killed MY-sundy. She HAD THE DRAGON LAST WEEK. It’s the same dragon.)
Jon Snow, Grey Worm and Davos Seaworth stand at the front of the northern column. I don’t know why Grey Worm isn’t masked like in every other battle and with the Unsullied, but minor details.
They stand there, facing off against the bulk of the Lannister army, or what’s left of them. Both sides unsure about what happens next.
A volleyball court of distance between them. That’s it.
I’m looking at the scuffing on the Lannister armor. I mean, holy shit it’s amazing. If this show doesn’t win the Costume Design Emmy I just don’t know anymore. It’s a staggering accomplishment. Production design. Casting. Music. All A+ work. Lest we forget how much we love this show and how badly we all want it to succeed.
But none of that means much without the story to support it.
So where is this story about to take us?
There is a lull in the battle.
Daenerys has landed on a bailey, looking in toward the city.
Jon is facing the Lannister troops.
In a gorgeous shot, Tyrion re-enters King’s Landing, a conquering hero, burning gate on either side of him.
Cersei looks out over the burning walls.
Tyrion looks for the bells to signify that the battle is won.
The Lannister troops try to decide whether or not to fight or to surrender and live another day.
Drogon ROARS. The music builds.
And the Lannister commander realizes he’s lost.
He drops his sword. The music stops. The other Lannister soldiers follow suit.
Goddamn those Lannister swords are good looking swords. Lion on the pommel? Nice lines? Hoo daddy. What has two thumbs and will overpay for one of those bad boys online? THIS GUY.
Cersei has lost.
Whew. That was hairy. Okay, who wants a sno cone? Sno cone anyone? What flavor? Blue? Purple?
RING THE BELLS people shout. RING THE BELLS!
TELL THE QUEEN TO RING THE BELLS!
Now we cut to Jaime, who is still trying to get to Cersei.
He picks up a sword from a pile on the ground.
WAIT! WHERE’S WIDOW’S WAIL? They must have disarmed him when he was captured but did some Unsullied snag it? Hmmmm.
Now the music kicks back on.
Everyone is waiting. But it’s a long wait. Like at the DMV or to board a plane. An anxious wait.
And this is when we get our first look at Daenerys. She has a sneer on her face. She’s amped up. Full of bile. Adrenaline surging.
Some people will tell you that this is the look of madness taking hold.
The show runners themselves will tell you that this is when she pops.
It’s reductive, I say.
We hold. Hold. Hold.
And the bells start to ring.
Jon sighs with relief.
Cersei closes her eyes. She has lost.
Daenerys has won. But there is no victory in her eyes. There is no joy. Her life has been pointed, eternally, to this very moment, and now her goal is complete.
She has won. She will sit on the Iron Throne.
And die shortly thereafter.
Because love is gone. She has never known love on this side of the Narrow Sea, and guess what? That’s not going to change now.
She has already chosen fear. It’s already her decision.
And she didn’t win this battle with fear. If this is it, she’s a dead woman. If this is it, she will be seen as a peaceful liberator, talking over with as little damage as possible, and no one will fear her.
We all know this aphorism: what do you do on your first day in prison?
Pick the biggest person and fight them.
Why? Because then people will know you won’t be fucked with. Sure, you’ll lose, but everyone will know you’re not a pushover, or so the story goes.
But let’s amend that.
What if you pick the toughest five people and kill them? What message does that send?
It can be so difficult to even discuss this type of carnage with our modern sensibilities because we are more evolved and have things like the Geneva Convention. But this is sword and board diplomacy.
Let’s look at another example.
Sun Tzu, one of the most brilliant strategists to ever live. We learn from his lessons to this very day, thousands of years later. THOUSANDS.
But do you know the story of the Army of the Concubines?
I’ll truncate it as much as I can.
Sun Tzu had written his book and was basically on a job interview for King Helü of the State of Wu. He was challenged to make a functional army out of the king’s concubines, which they thought would confound Sun Tzu.
Given full autonomy, he was sent 180 concubines. In plain view of the King and many laughing courtiers, Sun Tzu divided the group into two units and placed the King’s two favorite concubines at the head of each.
Then he gave every concubine a spear and carefully instructed every them how to turn, about face, etc.
Once that was done, amidst much giggling, he gave the two head concubines the order.
His order went nowhere. It was met with a wave of giggles and laughter.
So Sun Tzu’s code is if the command is given and not clear it must be the general’s fault. He took great pain to re-instruct, drill the concubines and make sure they understood.
Now he gave the next order.
The same thing happened. Laughter. A wave of giggles.
So now Sun Tzu says that if the orders are given and the general is certain they ARE clear, then it must be the officers fault.
Sun Tzu ordered for the two head concubines to immediately be beheaded.
That’s right. Executed.
And you’ll never guess what happened immediately after that when he replaced them with two new concubines.
There wasn’t a giggle to be heard. The army functioned perfectly. They turned when they needed to turn. They marched when they were told to. They stood at perfect attention.
To our ears, yes, it’s barbaric. But we’re trying to isolate the measurable effectiveness of fear.
But Sun Tzu, The Geneva Convention…these are things from our world, not Daenerys’.
Is there possibly an example we can use in Westeros to establish the role of fear as a tool?
Of course there is.
There is the greatest example of them all.
House Lannister defeating House Reyne. We may not have seen it in the show, but we know the Rains of Castamere and we know
And who are you? The proud lord said That I must bow so low Only a cat of a different coat That’s all the truth I know
In a coat of gold or a coat of red
A lion still has claws
And mine are long and sharp, my lord
As long and sharp as yours
And so he spoke, and so he spoke
That lord of Castamere
But now the rains weep o’er his hall
With no one there to hear
Yes, now the rains weep o’er his hall
And not a soul to hear
And so he spoke, and so he spoke
That lord of Castamere
But now the rains weep o’er his hall
With no one there to hear
Yes, now the rains weep o’er his hall
And not a soul to hear
Tywin Lannister killed every man, woman and child in House Reyne, soldiers and innocent non-combatants alike and wiped them off the face of the Known World.
And no one ever stepped to him again.
Was he then considered mad? Did he go crazy? No sir. This was business. This was tactical. This was Tywin’s statement move. House Lannister murdered innocent people and by Westerosi standards, it was so memorable that it became the Lannister Fight Song. It became their very identity. You never ever ever fuck with the Lannisters.
And that worked because Tywin Lannister understood the power of true fear. Not imagined fear. Real fear. Imminent death fear. A trackable fear that says, if you dare cross us, we guarantee a certain level of response and we’ve proven that we’re capable of that type of violence.
Tywin Lannister had the will to do it.
Again, it’s barbaric to us. But this ain’t us.
It comes down to will. The very thing that Colonel Kurtz marvelled at in Apocalypse Now. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness itself.
“I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God… the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”
That’s where Daenerys is on that bailey as she summons up the courage to do the unthinkable and make her case to never again be crossed. They will tell you that she’s mad. But to my eye there are exactly two people in Game of Thrones who have actually learned from their mistakes.
Sansa and Daenerys.
Dany has the will. Something Jon doesn’t have. Something Tyrion doesn’t have.
Cersei sure as hell has it, she just doesn’t have a dragon or she would have climbed on it after her walk of atonement, still naked, and killed every fucker in the city.
As Daenerys urges Drogon off that ledge, she knows that every single person, man woman and child alike, will choose Jon Snow over her.
EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
She knows this.
And every one she kills, won’t.
She knew it when she begged Jon — BEGGED HIM — not to tell anyone. She knew it when she executed Varys like she was ordering a Pepsi. She knew it when she told Tyrion it doesn’t matter anymore and she knew it most of all when Jon couldn’t kiss her and she realized that she was truly, inescapably alone in the world.
Just because the bells ring doesn’t mean the war for the hearts and minds of Westeros is over.
Just because the bells ring doesn’t mean Cersei doesn’t have another trick up her duplicitous sleeve.
Dany knows the people will love Jon, and never love her.
But she also knows that the second she calls for the first Dracarys, they will fear her. Every man, woman in child who hears her name from this day forward will understand her will and the lengths she will go to.
Because she will have proven it.
This is self-preservation. This is seeing the writing on the wall, and by god it’s a choice.
If this is Tywin or any man, we would see it as strategic. But even with our modern eyes, possibly because of our modern eyes, we cannot believe that someone would choose this who was not truly ill.
It is terrifying.
Heartless and unforgivable.
But in her mind, clearly necessary. The deck is so stacked against her that it’s the only chance she has. You can’t call it paranoia if three of the four closest people in the world to her are either betraying her or actively plotting her downfall. If that’s where they are, where must everyone else be?
Dracarys, Missandei said. Her final request. Dracarys.
So Daenerys launches from the bailey, finds a nice street of innocent people, and starts to burn.
Grey Worm, seeing this and still raw from the loss of Missandei, throws a spear into the defenseless Lannister captain.
Yes, he saw that his queen hadn’t stopped. But even in Westeros, there were some basic rules of surrender.
But he didn’t care. His choice was worse for me than Daenerys’ was because his was based in madness. Unrepentant rage. They call him the angel of death in the script and that’s what he becomes, slaughtering unarmed soldiers.
His action sets off the Northmen, and they start to pillage.
Jon just stands there in shock.
People like to pick on Jon because he’s such a potato but I love him and will always love him, despite his spud like reasoning. He is, I think, a good man. About as good a man can be found in Westeros anyway. And this shit doesn’t track with him. In the blink of an eye everything goes from sorted to insane. His men go from quiet and unmoving to murderers and rapists.
He has to kill his own man to stop him from raping! We don’t even know his name, but let’s call him Robert Paulson.
In death, members of Prjoect Mayhem have a name. His name was Robert Paulson.
Jon is in shock. The everliving fuck is happening?
Davos is trying to help civilians on one side, a Lannister soldier is trying to help civilians on another.
Jon is yelling stop but is forced to keep fighting and killing as Lannisters attack him.
My favorite shot of the whole episode is a little girl, maybe five or six years old, back to a brick column, trying to stand still as she hyperventilates in fear as her mother is murdered next to her and people are slain on all sides of her.
It makes me want to cry forever.
War is hell, now and forever. At home and abroad. In Westeros and on Earth. Anyone angling for war is a devil. Eisenhower knew it best.
And it takes your breath away to see it up close like this. Such a towering, horrifying rendition of the chaos and depravity of a battle to the death.
Then a beautiful, silent montage of Jon assessing all of this, realizing that he just became a bad guy.
Drogon is banking effortlessly above the city, calmly painting the canvas of King’s Landing with row upon row of orange death.
It almost looks peaceful from Cersei’s vantage point.
We still don’t see Daenerys’ face while she’s firebombing. In fact, they never show her face again in the episode, which is a cop out to me.
But we see Cersei and she’s rattled as Drogon banks and turns toward the Red Keep.
It has never fallen.
Drogon’s laser jet fuel blast slices the head off an ancillary tower and the rubble falls to earth behind the Red Keep where Jerry Lannister, the dumbass who missed getting to the gate, is still trying to find a way in.
That’s when he spots the dinghy, so the way in must be close.
I mean IT WOULD MOST CERTAINLY BE LOCKED FROM THE INSIDE, but details details.
That’s when we hear Urine Greyjoy.
YES! THIS IS AWESOME! THE BATTLE WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR. THE BATTLE OF THE BUM!
I’m not sure there’s any beat more tone deaf in the entire series than thinking the audience would want to see a glorious endgame battle for Euron. With Jaime.
He’s a terrible, forced, ridiculous character.
Maybe he’s good in the books. Maybe Pilou Asbaek is a kick ass actor in other stuff, but this role sucks and this character sucks and WE ARE WASTING PRECIOUS TIME.
This is the tail wagging the dog again. Because it doesn’t make any sense.
Every Ironborn is dead except for the King, who pulls up on shore in the exact hidden cove where The Kingslayer is and Euron’s first thought after swimming a mile and drinking six gallons of seawater is LET’S DANCE KINGSLAYER!
Now we cast FUCKIT again because Euron is Iron Man powerful. He took each Sand Snake and beat them individually at their own area of martial expertise and they were among the most deadly killers in the Seven Kingdoms. Supposedly. And he did it easily, on a burning ship, on the high seas, while laughing his head off. And he did it while beating Yara Greyjoy too.
He cannot be beat. One on one he could take Barristan Selmy. He might beat Arya. He’d be too much for Jon.
So this shit is over, right? Because his expertise and level of skill has been ESTABLISHED.
Except that today, apparently, he forgot to eat a balanced breakfast.
So he’s having trouble besting a dorky, one armed man. The Gerry Gergich of the Lannisters.
And then after some stupid posturing
I FUCKED THE QUEEN
And some rolling around in the hay, he lands a killing blow into the Kingslayer.
That side stab? That’s curtains, everyone. Pack it up here. We’re done. Herpes Jack Sparrow just killed Jaime Lannister.
Or did he? Because — and stay with me here — if you cast FUCKIT, then you can just say it missed the primary organs! Yeah boi!
Or we can be led to believe that Jaime’s will to get to Cer-SAY is so powerFUL that he reFUSes to die.
E is crawling to ze sard in de sand!
Aaaaaaand we cut to Cersei. Qyburn is asking her to leave again but she refuses. The Red Keep is the safest. Cawww! The Red Keep is the safest! Rrrrawk!
But the Unsullied have breached the Red Keep gates.
The Red Keep, for the first time ever, will fall.
On her watch.
Now a tear rolls down her lovely, fucking evil face.
She turns and takes Qyburn’s hand in both of hers and they share a moment. He is kind and grandfatherly. It’s a lovely beat between two repugnant mass murderers.
As the camera pivots off of them, we can’t see any houses any more. The wide beautiful city is just smoke and random pockets of exploding pots of wildfire.
Was that Cersei’s plan B?
Or were they left over from a certain Mad Targaryen who wanted to Burn Them All?
We don’t really know because like the Battle of Winterfell, this is a bit of a rudderless ship, story wise.
That’s not a knock on the directing at all, which is great.
As Cersei and Qyburn and whatever the creature in the stupid hat is scurry away, we cut back to Urine.
YES! MORE URINE!
CUE THE DUKES OF HAZZARD THEME
Just a good ol’ boys, Never meanin’ no harm, Beats all you never saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they was born..
Straight’nin’ the curve,
Flat’nin’ the hills.
Someday the mountain might get ‘em, but the law never will
WAIT! THE MOUNTAIN MIGHT GET ‘EM? SO THE MOUNTAIN WINS? WHAT IS THIS FUCKING SHIT?
I’ll tell you what it is, it’s the undercard match.
It’s like, oh man, in an episode where we’re inextricably headed to the two best fighters in the world fighting to the death, I totally want to see how the JV team does first. Next time I go to see The Fast and The Furious I hope they first show me a little kid pushing matchbox cars across a table for ten minutes!
But back to Jaime’s character arc, which is literally being pirated before our very eyes.
“You fought well, for a cripple.” Urine says.
OH WELL THANK YOU MY GOOD MAN! I HAD HEARD ABOUT YOUR FIGHTING PROWESS BUT I NEVER KNEW YOU HAD SUCH A PURTY SPEAKING MOUTH.
But little does the dingleberry that threw his own motherfuckin brother off the rope bridge at Pyke know, but Jerry Lannister isn’t done yet!
Yes, his labored wheezing prrrrrrrrrobably isn’t great. That’s probably a lung filling with blood. But y’know, that’s why R’hllor gave him two lungs!
He crawls like one of the skellingtons on the roof of the barrow where Hodor held the door and gets to his discarded sword, but not before Euron obliterates his kidney with another direct hit!
YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!!
Or wait…did someone really just cast FUCKIT again?
Trash Lannister somehow turns, pushes Trash Greyjoy back and impales him through the chest, twisting the blade to gape the wound. It’s widely considered kind of a dick move.
I’m just at home watching the seconds of precious Game of Thrones screen time pass by. I seriously cannot believe the shit I’m watching to the point where I start to laugh at the pain.
Trash Lannister pulls out the sword that’s not Widow’s Wail and a pool of blood spills out. Now here’s the thing any fantasy dork knows from reading fantasy since you were a kid. Or war books. Or detective novels. Or science fiction.
Stomach wounds aren’t insta-death.
They’re painful, and you die slowly as you bleed out. The wine dark blood means you’re fucked, but you die slowly, like the farmer Sandor mercy killed in season 4 who was slowly bleeding out.
So it begs the question of how Robert Paulson, whom Jon Snoo stabbed in the exact same spot, got snuffed out immediate-like. That dude was dead before he hit the turf.
Euron stops trying to win. He congratulates Jaime on another King notch for his Kingslayer belt. But he yells that he got Jaime.
But I got you! I got you!
I actually really liked this beat. No bullshit. That and Euron smiling and saying that he was the man who killed Jaime Lannister was very true to form for him. You get the sense that the worst thing for his ADHD is to be bored, and unlike everyone else, death is just the next experience.
So yes, this is all pure hell, but I can at least give credit for what felt like a moment of honesty inside a horrible scene.
Now we cut to the map room where Arya and The Hound have finally arrived.
Shit is coming down all around them.
That’s when Sandor reviews the situation and sees that it’s not really necessary for the world’s greatest assassin to be her to take out Cersei. She’s done. The fire or the ash or hell some filthy Dothraki will get her.
MAYBE MY GUY? THE FUNNY DOTHRAKI!
Silly Lord Castleton! They don’t give personalities to brown actors. You’re adorable though.
Quick spot check on POC’s…
They’re all murderers killing civilians now. Grey Worm broke the most basic rule of war and the last thing Missandei did was request a massacre. Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ skellyton still presumably rotting in that empty Qarth vault for being a lying shithead. Cool cool cool cool cool.
WHERE THE FUCK IS COOL ASS SALLADHOR SAAN WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
Dear The Old Gods and The New,
It’s Me, Lord Castleton. You might remember me from such predictions as The Three Night Kings and Jaime is DEF GONNA WASTE CERSEI.
I know we don’t talk much, but that’s only because I don’t believe in you. At all. But if I can ask a favor? Can we please make Ser Davos survive the series? So he and Salladhor Saan can go back to sellsailing together and drinking grog and shit? And they can get into wacky adventures together and like old man run on wharves and laugh as they sail out of the Free City of Braavos and then maybe sail too close to the doom of Valyria and Davos can say OH FOOK.
That would be nice.
Careful of R’hllor. Pretty sure he’s legit.
So Sandor says “Go home girl”
And Arya doesn’t really hear him at first. She’s on a mission and can’t be called off it without explicit orders from the president himself.
So The Hound fucking grabs her and yanks her back so she hears him. All he’s ever cared about is revenge.
LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ME. YOU WANNA BE LIKE ME?
Then he puts his hand around the back of her neck. He’s not a kind man and he’s not a gentle man, but the action somehow feels both kind and gentle.
YOU COME WITH ME, YOU DIE HERE.
Something about his tone gets through and the intensity washes out of her face. She looks younger, more vulnerable. And with that, he’s off.
“Sandor” she calls. She’s never used his name before. “Thank you.”
He gives her one final look and leaves.
It’s quite lovely as a final scene for them. It didn’t quite tug on my heartstrings the way I hoped it would but it worked on the level that it was supposed to. His last gesture to her was caring and protection. I mean, he could have maybe done that 6000 leagues ago when she wasn’t at ground zero in Chernobyl, but okey doke.
AND NOW, THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN HYPING FOR.
Cersei, Qyburn and The Mountain are coming down the circular stairs with like eight or ten of the Myrmidons sworn to protect the queen.
Most of them are killed by falling rock. The mountain uses his bod-ay to shield The Hand and The Queen from debris. He takes a fucking massive cornice to the back and it doesn’t buckle him. But he lets out a grunt of pain.
That’s heroic to protect Qyburn that way!
Then at the bottom of the stairs appears…
ARF ARF ARF
Sandor looks at Cersei politely with a nod and says “your grace.”
SEE? HE CAN BE 5% LESS SALTY!
Instantly, I’m not sure why because he doesn’t appear to be a threat, but the four remaining Myrmidons attack him.
HE FUCKS THEM UP SO FAST.
My god, it’s like a joke. It’s like in The Princess Bride when Count Rugen sicced four guards on Inigo in the hallway and Inigo killed them instantly, finishing with a no look backwards stab.
Fast like that.
“Hello Big Brother.” Sandor says. My heart bleeds for him. Such a broken man. My god.
Biggun takes a step toward Sandor.
“Ser Gregor stay by my side.” Cersei says.
He eyeballs her. Red, bloody eyes.
He takes another step down.
“Ser Gregor, I command you!” Cersei screeches.
“Ser Gregor,” Dr. Frankenstein commands. “Obey your queen!”
With that, The Mountain, freak of all freaks, grabs Qyburn by the neck, smashes his head in and yeets his body down the stairs where his skull further cracks open on a corner of debris.
Goddamn that’s funny. Holy shit. The quickness of it. Jesus. What a way to go. Yoost like that.
Qyburn the Dark Sorcerer, the upside down Da Vinci of the age. Would that the good/bad balance of your impressive worldly achievements have matched your endless approachability.
Cersei sees her Hand dead, that her bodyguard has rebelled and decides to just shimmy the F outta there.
“Well, you gents look like you have it all under control here, so I’m gonna just…”
And with that she shuffles off to Buffalo…
You can say a lot about Cersei, but never say she can’t read a room.
And now we’re at it.
THE FINAL BATTLE TO DECIDE THE FATE OF WESTEROS!
Is that right?
Not really. Let’s try again.
THE BATTLE TO SEAL THE FATE OF THE QUEEN ONCE AND FOR ALL!
Hmmm. But she did just piss off a second ago there.
When she walked by Sandor I was hoping he’d kind of notice her and punch her and say
ARYA STARK SENDS HER REGARDS.
But he doesn’t see her.
Also my left arm just went numb and I have hives for suggesting violence against a woman.
What if he just said to her:
I’D BE CAREFUL YOUR GRACE. THERE’S A STARK GIRL WITH A DAGGER DOWN THERE WHO’S BEEN WAITING TO KILL YOU HER WHOLE LIFE.
I mean, come on! Right?
Can you imagine the fucking scenery Lena Headey would have chewed with her face parsing that quandary out as she walked past?
But no, she just gets away. Damn that Cersei LanNISter.
AND NOW WE’RE BACK TO THE BATTLE TO SEE WHO CONTROLS THE STAIRS.
Yep. That’s the one. And to be honest, if you have a brother? That’s pretty much every battle.
This can only go two ways as I see it.
#1. Sandor kills him.
#2. Sandor kills him but dies in the process.
The way this is all being wrapped up, I have my money on a HARD #2. Wait, are we not doing phrasing anymore? I can hear the Pajiba War Room in my brain.
NO WE’RE NOT DOING PHRASING ANYMORE.
I’ll say this: I’m proud of The Hound. I think win or lose, his redemption arc is actually complete. Like Jorah. The only two men who made it there. And Beric, sort of, maybe. But in the show he never really had too much to come back from that we saw.
And I’m proud of how he found some peace. Remember when Arya left him for dead. I suffered in that offseason, lamenting that we would never see The Hound again. Then we see that he’s been patched up by friendly Al Swearengen on a library day pass from Deadwood and all of a sudden he’s sort of a different guy. You watch a The Hound all scenes on Youtube and Rory McCann’s performance is stunning. He holds up next to anyone. And he never loses the thread. His acting is so subtle that even inside his hardness we find moments of sorrow and moments of peace. And moments of love, whatever the version of love Sandor Clegane is able to feel when he’s not always in a foul mood from experience.
I FOUGHT FOR YOU, DIDN’T I?
One thing I wanted from this fight that I didn’t get was more Qui-Gon Jinn. I wanted Sandor’s hard earned zen to play a role in this fight. Or the fact that he could see the future in the fire so that he may have known something the Mountain was going to do. But, sadly, none of that was there.
There was a callback to The Mountain’s signature move of the thumbs in the eyes head smash, but THANK FUCKING GOD that didn’t happen because I might have exploded with him if The Hound died that way.
I’m not going to do the whole play by play other than to say that Gregor had the high ground. I would have loved for the faster Hound to shoot past him, under one of the Mountain’s endless, mighty swings and say
HA! NOW I HAVE THE HIGH GROUND YOU STUPID FUCK!
And if I didn’t know better, I’d say this scene was heavily influenced by the 1986 movie ‘Highlander’. In one of the most powerful scenes, there’s a swordfight on a circular stairway where the walls are falling down around it. The good guy, Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, played by Sean Connery, is dueling a monster on Earth, a freak of nature named The Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown.
As they fight on the stairs, lightning storms outside.
Ramirez is the better swordsman. He impales The Kurgan several times but the bigger man just refuses to feel the pain. He slays Ramirez and fourteen year old me cries for like ten years over it.
And that’s much the way Cleganebowl went.
I’ll say that I enjoyed it much more the second and third time I watched it because I didn’t have to worry about Sandor. I knew how it would end.
Might the fight have been better, say, if Sandor had to face his personal terror of fire and overcome it? Like, to get to the move where he comes at The Mountain like a strong safety he first has to run through a gauntlet of fire?
I mean, it’s not graduate level ornithology here. It’s just closing the obvious loop.
But, okay, in the end, The Hound dies doing what he loves best, Hans Grubering his rotting corpseflesh brother off the forty fourth floor, and disappearing forever into fire.
Goodbye, Ser Gregor Clegane. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. A vile killer with no redeeming qualities. Tywin’s personal whore. You stole several of the most beloved and important people in Westeros from us and should have died years ago. May the sorrow of your evil deeds and the cries of the murdered ring forever in your ears.
R.I.P. Ser Sandor Clegane, The Hound. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Mightiest son of the Westerlands. Fire-seeing chosen of R’hllor. Slayer of Wights. Protector of Wayward Starks. Best friend, mentor and surrogate father of Arya. Brother of the Brotherhood, passionate lover of wine and chicken. More than any other character, you came out of left field and stole our hearts. You died as you lived. Determined. Powerful. Laconic. You are one of the greatest characters ever drawn, and we will never forget you.
And R.I.P. House Clegane, prime banner of House Lannister. And now the rains weep o’er your hall, and not a soul to hear.
(Cleganebowl and Jaime and Cersei and Arya’s escape are all cross cut in the show, but I’m separating them here because one kicks ass and has no stakes and the other has crazy stakes and is important to the greater story and the third is Arya Stark, who always matters.)
So after scooting away from the Battle of the Stairs, Cersei arrives alone at the map room. I can’t say enough about Lena Headey’s performance because I detest Cersei and I felt so badly for her here as she turned and looked around.
That’s the doom of fools like me! We should RELISH her misery and fear. We should laugh at her righteous comeuppance. But it’s still a human being, stumbling, alone and afraid. Whew that’s hard to watch. Cersei never knew how truly alone she was in the world until that moment. The moment where she needed Jaime most.
But he isn’t there.
Until, magically, he is.
NOTHING, I mean NOTHING would have made me happier than hearing the TWANG of a crossbow at that moment and seen a bolt catch Jaime in the chest and then hear Bronn yell
And Cersei would run to Jaime and catch him as he fell and know that SHE DID THIS. The suffering would be brutal, in theory, although I think we’ve established that I’m too soft to really enjoy it.
But that’s just the comedy talking. And we know that Bronn and Cersei can’t contractually be on the screen together, so there’s that, too.
But her face when she sees Jaime is there! When the other half of what she is joins her? Man oh man. It’s powerful stuff. And his face when he MAKES IT? When he GETS TO HER after all that? After winning the Battle of the Bum? My god. Amazing. Great acting by both of them. They always had effortless chemistry on the screen, and apparently on the day they shot that NCW was all emotional and soft and weepy. What a peach.
They stare at each other. It’s so true. I don’t know how else to describe it. Yes he’s a devil for leaving Brienne. We will never forgive him for that. But when you spend your life with someone, and that someone is family? And your twin? I mean, there’s a world of shared memory and mutuality there that no one else could possibly know. I didn’t like this move on my first watch through. I was still so pissed at Jaime for being such an asshole.
But it does make sense. This is his person. Right or wrong. For richer or poorer in sickness or in health. This is his person in the world. And he is hers.
So there was something quite lovely about them reuniting.
And boy did they sell it. Tears are streaming down her face. Every shred of Tywin in her has vacated the premises. She is tired and scared and vulnerable. She realizes that Jaime is in pain.
“You’re hurt.” She says. She pulls back her hands from him and they’re covered in blood. “You’re bleeding.”
“It doesn’t matter.” he says.
Because he knows death is coming. It doesn’t matter.
Which is what Jon said in the moot about giving up his crown. It doesn’t matter. Because death is coming.
And that’s what Daenerys said to Tyrion at Dragonstone. It doesn’t matter.
All that matters to Jaime is that he and Cersei are together. That’s it. That’s the feeling he had in that little room in Winterfell with his musk still on the empty pillow next to Brienne. I MUST GET BACK TO CERSEI. I MUST GET BACK TO CERSEI.
That was all that mattered.
And I thought he was going to kill her. Bah! Never in a million years. He doesn’t have the spine for it. He’s always been her puppy.
This is not the way I wanted any of this to go, not even remotely. And I won’t defend the choice except to say that it’s a choice they had every right to make. There was plenty of pipe laid. But it was a bit of a let down for me, saved mostly by the impressive skill of the actors.
Now the walls are crashing around them and he steers her away, down down, keeping his word to Tyrion, trying to get to the dinghy and what would 100% be the still alive body of Euron Greyjoy spitting barbs at them.
HEY! GOLDEN BOY! I FUCKED THE QUEEN! ASK HER! TELL HIM, HONEY! OLD URINE HAD SUNNY SIDE UP, SUNNY SIDE DOWN AND SUNNY SIDE ALL AROUND! YEAAAAAAAH BOY! ASK HER! ASK HER WHO WAS BETTER, KINGSLAYER! I WAS! I WAS BETTER THAN YOU! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
“He wasn’t.” Says Cersei.
“Wait you actually had sex…with that?”
HAHAHAHAHA! Yells Euron.
“Of course not.” Says Cersei. “What a vile thought.”
“I knew he was lying!” Jaime says in triumph. He really is the stupidest Lannister.
WAIT WHAT? NOOOOO! I REALLY FUCKED HER! OH CRUEL FATES! WHY CAN’T THE POLAROID HAVE BEEN INVENTED YET! SHIIIIIT!
And Cersei would smile as she and Jaime rowed out to sea, to Pentos, and a new life at the edge of the world. Raising a Lannister who would return to Westeros and take it.
But they never made it there to endure the barbs of a dying Kraken.
Because all the exits were blocked with rubble.
“I want our baby to live.” Cersei says. “I want our baby to live.”
Man, goddamnit. I’m not enjoying her demise the way I wanted to. Tywin died on Fathers Day. Cersie dies on Mother’s Day. I said this about Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes a while back: never let trolls have the mic or you deserve what you get.
“I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die, Jaime. Please don’t let me die. Not like this.”
God. Humans are so broken and so frail. To see this student of power dynamics laid so low? It’s devastating.
But Jaime has the right idea. He forces her to look at him and then he says
“Nothing else matters. Nothing else matters. Only us.”
A sentiment that got a lot of people killed over the years, but one that’s apt for the situation. It’s like forcing her to meditate and live in the very seconds of the now.
They embrace, holding each other as the end comes.
The music grows loud as the foundations of the Red Keep buckle and give. The Rains of Castamere plays. A dirge. Slow and pointed. Strings. Rolling over them as the final stones above them give way and bury them forever.
Cersei and Jaime Lannister are no more.
R.I.P. Jaime Lannister, The Kingslayer. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Knight of the Kings Guard. Brother. Murderer. Sun kissed Dbag of The Rock. Father of kings. Maker of Knights. Fooler of me. Twin.
R.I.P. Cersei Lannister, First of her Name. Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, of the Andals and the First Men. Schemer. Murderer. Betrayer. Ruthless Mother of Kings. Ruthless Murderer of Husbands. The Golden Jewel of Casterly Rock. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Twin.
R.I.P. Ellaria Sand, Bisexual bastard lover of Oberyn. Mother of Snakes. Be at peace, finally, as the Red Keep falls down upon you.
I thought I would feel more at the passing of the Lannister twins, but then I remember how nauseating they are. What a scumbag Jaime always was, despite his recent path toward redemption. He was always an entitled frat boy hedge fund scumbag. And like a dog returning to its vomit, so he comes back to the root of original sin.
And Cersei. Human only at the end. A global pariah and doer of evil. Just a week ago, remember how thrilled she was to put Missandei back in chains? Fuck her. Never forget how she twisted Tyrion’s penis when he was a baby. Never forget all the horrors she engineered. Never forget that she killed Margaery. Never forget that she made a mother slowly watch her child die and sleep every day and night with the rotting corpse. Never forget that she had Ned arrested. Never forget that she engineered Robert’s murder and that she had her men scour the region to kill all of Robert’s bastard children.
Fuck her eternally. Her and the dummy she rode in on. The dummy we had such high hopes for. The known world is better without both of them.
And now, at long last, we’re with Arya as she tries to make it out of danger.
There’s not much to say about this. It’s one of the most well blocked, well staged, realistic nightmare-of-human-suffering scenes you will ever see. I’m not sure, at this point, the stakes are quite right? But okay.
I know some people felt like she should have died several times. For me it seemed perfect. She luckily turned when she had to, rocks missed her, and she kept going. She was nearly trampled like Jon in the crush, but that wonderful short haired woman with the daughter pulled her out and saved her life. I loved the instant team that happened between them.
Loved loved loved it.
Like, now we’re a unit.
But Arya couldn’t save them. When the mom went down, she couldn’t save the little girl.
But it’s important to remember that this is not Pompeii, even though it looks like it. This is not a natural wonder of mother nature.
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
It’s the Mother of Dragons. Plying her trade in horseflesh. Teaching the world a hard lesson. This is Tokyo. This is Dresden.
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Kit Harington looks up, having flashbacks of starring in the motion picture Pompeii.
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills, bringing darkness from above
He cannot believe what he’s seeing. He closes his eyes and sheathes Longclaw.
But if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?
YES! BECAUSE YOU’RE IDIOT NED STARK SQUARED AND A POTATO. UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY START TO UNDERSTAND COMPLEXITY AND NUANCE YOU WILL ALWAYS BE HERE. IT’S FINE TO COPY HIS HAIRDO. BUT WISE UP.
How am I going to be an optimist about this?
How am I going to be an optimist about this?
How is he going to see the good in this? How will he ever be able to look at Dunny again? This is an atrocity. In the history of Westeros, they will never forget this. The Massacre of King’s Landing. This anthem of Fire and Blood will be sung for a thousand years.
The Capital is destroyed.
The Red Keep will never rise again.
The Iron Throne is lost. Probably.
And Jon Snow was there in the streets, fighting for the wrong side as the people burned. Blindly loyal. Stupid.
He was there as his own men raped and pillaged with a bloodlust that isn’t really congruent. Why so angry? They just fought to save life from death itself and then this is the next logical move?
Defeat death…to become death?
I mean, man. I don’t know. Maybe men are just straight up trash in wartime. Put a sword or a gun in their hand and morality goes out the window. But it feels like such a shame. For the Northmen, at least, this just doesn’t even feel like their war. Who gave the order to kill civilians? Who said slash the throats of mothers? All I heard was Jon yelling stop.
Jon and Davos lock eyes. We have to get the hell out of here. Is she trying to burn them, too? Does she even care? It’s an apocalyptic hellscape.
He yells to his men.
“Fall back! We have to fall back!”
Oh, where do we begin, the rubble or our sins?
Oh, where do we begin, the rubble or our sins?
Jon and Davos, who is still alive thank the old gods and the new, hightail it out of there. Presumably before Dunny can get them, too.
OBLIGATORY: I say it every week. Daenerys rode into the vale of death itself to save Jon. She lost a child to do it. It can never be taken away from her.
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
Eh, eheu, eheu
And now he’s gone and we settle on Arya Stark.
If you kill her, George R.R. Martin’s wife is going to divorce him.
But she’s not dead. She also has Ned’s hairdo, but it’s covered in ash. A head wound that knocked her out has dripped blood across her face. This is superlative makeup work. Straight up outstanding. I will never forget the way she looks in this scene. The lines are pronounced, and eerily reminiscent of the lines from Good King Joff’s nose as he purpled to death.
She stands and surveys the area. It’s quiet now. The danger has passed.
Everyone is dead.
Fires burn around her.
Ash covers everything.
It is a vision of hell.
THE HORROR. THE HORROR.
She looks down to see her teammates, the woman and her daughter, nothing more than a pile of ash, the horse toy the girl carried still clutched in her blackened hand.
She stumbles up and standing there, a vision in the dust, is the King of horses himself, Shadowfax.
I mean, it could be any horse. It could be Horseface McGillicuddy’s horse. The pink marks on the muzzle seem to match. But it doesn’t matter. This shot either works for you or it doesn’t. It does feel like a bit of a storytelling style departure, but I happen to like Excalibur-y moments like this so I was fine with it.
And I want Arya out of there.
We don’t see Daenerys as she rests after her slaughter. I assume we will on Sunday.
We watch as Arya rides away, down a street with no signs of life, framed by the husks of burning buildings and the silhouettes of what once were living humans.
And as we cut to the end credits, Ramin Djawadi blends The Light of the Seven AND the fucking Rains of Castamere. It’s magical. Holy god he’s talented.
So there we are. Seems such a shame to fight back death in the north only to bring it wholesale to the south.
But Daenerys has made her choice.
Fear it is.
Oh, and remember when I said that somebody would break down one of the seminal Benioff and Weiss moves on the show? That somebody was me. I already did it. I just said that to throw you off. Feels kind of crummy, doesn’t it?
In the words of the amazing Cecily Strong, it’s like NO and like DON’T.
Nevertheless, we soldier on to the end of all things! And now we have the spells to fight back!
Gather round this campfire with me, friends old and new. Summon the lurkers from the shadows. Call forth the thunder and let it rain down upon us. Because though this season has generally disappointed us in so many ways, there’s still fun to be had. And perhaps the best thing to come out of all of this is to see the undercurrent of wonderful creativity in the masses, the mutuality we feel in these deep dives, and the thoughtfulness and unity that permeates the comment section.
Life isn’t perfect, and neither is television, but as long as we keep our sense of humor, read books, and treat each other with kindness and respect, we can get through anything.
Thank you all for being part of this unexpected and bizarre journey with me. Holy shit has it been weird.
UND ME FINGERS ARE ALL BROKE! TOIM TO LEARN ME SOME TEXT TO SPEECH FOR FUCKSAKES. FOOKIN ELL!
The final episode of Game of Thrones and one deep dive remain.
As always, I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.
Header Image Source: Images courtesy of HBO