Where on Westeros do we start with that Game of Thrones season finale?
In a shortened season of seven episodes there has been very little excess fat. Every scene has served a purpose. The finale is no different. There are nice moments early on as characters cross paths once again. These are helped by an extended running time provided to ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’. Although the episode is largely short on the epic action sequences, it is crammed full of drama. Certain scenes and revelations left the dedicated viewer gasping in surely one of the greatest season finales ever delivered on television.
The Season Finale opens with a great summit in King’s Landing. There are some great moments. The look that Cersei gives Tyrion, for instance. The Hound and the Mountain squaring up to each other. Daenerys makes a suitably impressive entrance, to prove a point more than anything else. Then of course the Wight breaks free from the box, just as you wonder if it has survived the journey south. Now if you want to make a point, terrifying your audience is the way to do it. In technical television terms the Wight is very well delivered. A detached torso scrambling around on the floor. It’s hand twitching despite being separated from the source. It convinces not only the audience at home but also those in the Dragonpit.
Cersei appears to be visibly shaken by the experience. Euron Greyjoy exits with his tail between his legs back to the Iron Islands. Or so we thought. Jon Snow makes a very admirable gesture, sticking to his word which is given more weight as Ned Stark’s son. Or so we thought. As he rightly says, “When enough people make false promises words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers only better and better lies.” The political connotation of that statement seems particularly apt now. Recognising that the current state of affairs must be rectified, Tyrion bravely ventures into the Lion’s Den. Having refused to agree to the truce, Tyrion confronts his sister for what may yet prove to be the final time.
Cersei and Tyrion
This particular confrontation scene is absolutely electric. In acting terms Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage are the shining lights of the show. Both have wracked up more acting award nominations and victories than the others in this ensemble cast. However this is the first opportunity in a long time that they have crossed acting chops. From Cersei’s side there is a lot of anger. She blames Tyrion for the loss of her children, her father and of course their mother. Cersei’s restraint in not giving the order to kill him is surprising. Is this personal growth?
Not really. She is the same Cersei Lannister that she has always been; defender of her children. She was at her most dangerous when she lost her children. With a new one on the way her priorities have been reinforced. Cersei Lannister is nothing but consistent. So she agrees to march her armies north. Or so we thought. This makes for the even more extraordinary later scene between the Queen and her other brother Jaime.
Cersei and Jaime
Jaime is planning the journey north for his troops. Enter Cersei. Just like Jaime we have been had. The Queen never planned to help defend the North. She proves her observational skills, noticing the missing dragon, and reveals her plan to acquire the Golden Company’s services. Then it all turns scary. From the moment Jaime turns to leave the audience held their breath. It looks like Cersei will execute her own brother and father to the child she’s carrying. She gives the nod. For all her consistencies we never saw that coming. Fortunately Jaime calls her bluff and leaves King’s Landing unscathed, just as winter falls. If their relationship can recover from that moment will have to wait for Season 8 but perhaps they might not be provided a reconciliation? How Cersei will respond to losing Jaime will be fascinating and may turn her dangerous once again.
Theon Greyjoy; the eternal sufferer. Although a largely subsidiary character his personal journey has been pretty traumatic. He and Jon have a discussion about their histories which reminds you that Theon has been short on honour. Whether that warrants a loss of his male genitals is for others to decide. However that absence of anatomy proves surprisingly useful in a physical confrontation. This episode will hopefully prove to be a turning point for the character as he seemingly abandons his cowardly ways. Spurred on by the words of Jon, he finally recognises that he must help his sister Yara. This neatly sets up an additional plot thread for the final season.
Jon Snow’s identity
Now to the BIG reveal. Thanks to Bran ‘The Three Eyed Raven’ Stark and Samwell Tarly we finally get the resolution to perhaps the most theorised and debated aspect of Thrones, Jon Snow’s real identity. When first introduced he was simply Ned Stark’s bastard. Then Bran saw that he was instead the son of his sister Lyanna Stark. This made him a Sand rather than a Snow given the birth took place in Dorne. Samwell’s discovery that Rhaegar Targaryen’s marriage had been annulled posed a question regarding his relationship with Lyanna. In one of the most dramatic pieces of dialogue Bran sees that the rebellion was built on a lie. Rhaegar married Lyanna with their son, Aegon Targaryen, being born and given to the care of Ned Stark.
This is huge. Well, to dedicated Thrones fans it is. Although a mere continuity reference it has major significance in story terms. As well as making Jon a legitimate Targaryen it also makes him the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Awkwardly it also makes Daenerys his Aunt. The revelation plays out against the backdrop of Jon and Daenerys becoming intimate with each other. How their relationship will develop once both are made aware of this news will be one of the more intriguing elements of the final season.
The Judgement of Sansa
In what I thought was the most shocking moment of the Season Finale, Littlefinger FINALLY got his commuppance. For the last few episodes viewers have been frustrated at seeing Petyr Baelish worm his way into Sansa’s confidence. We even get one of those scenes in ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’. Perhaps we should’ve had more faith in Sansa but when she says his name after the accusations of murder and treasons it delivered a huge gasp.
Viewers saw Littlefinger’s manipulative ways over all seven seasons. But for once he is caught off guard. Leaning confidently against a wall as has been customary, a smirk on his face, thinking that he has successfully turned sister against sister. Over the course of a few minutes he is reduced to a desperate man, on his knees, begging for mercy. Even once his throat cut. It is a momentous moment. Sansa proves that she has learned and demonstrates that she is in fact a leader and a worthy Lady of Winterfell. Bran’s gift also proves useful once again, crumbling Littlefinger’s defence. After such a long build-up the Three Eyed Raven is finally proving not only useful but vital to the story.
The Wall is Breached
Those who saw Viserion dragged from the frozen lake recognised that it would be significant. However we probably didn’t realise that the significance would be so immediate. Having acquired a dragon the Night King spent no time putting him to work. Seeing the Wall being brought down was a spectacular visual feast to end on. Whilst the episode opened with the summit discussing the White Walkers, it was logical to conclude it with them. Seeing them break through the Wall emphasised the threat. Cersei might not appreciate the scale of the problem but the viewer is left with no doubts. The Army of the Dead are coming. With only six episodes and the final ever season left to come, the resolution of this battle between the living and the dead will surely become one of the biggest moments in television history.
Best Season Finale yet?
Lena Headey steals ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ with some incredible scenes. From her simple looks, to razor blade dialogue, Cersei dominates. The Season Finale also provides spectacularly crafted misdirection to leave the viewers gripped by shocking moments. Jon Snow’s true identity is confirmed. Littlefinger’s luck finally runs out. The Army of the Dead break through the Wall. Questions are answered, the plot moves forward and excitement is built for next season. It is utterly flawless television drama.