The third betrayal.
The second to last episode of Game of Thrones begins with Varys writing a letter blabbing about Jon’s lineage. One of his little birds enters and explains that her attempts to gain access to Dany have all failed. Her name is Martha. “Why did you say that name?!” is my reaction any time I hear the name Martha. Thanks for that, Batman Vs. Superman. Martha says that Dany has been refusing food, and Varys sends her back to the kitchens. Is he trying to poison Dany?
Tyrion watches a boat arrive. He watches Varys greet Jon at the beach. Varys fills in Jon about Dany, how she’s not eating. Varys is clearly trying to plant seeds of insurrection. He has doubts about Dany, but is sure about Jon. Jon flat out says he doesn’t want the Iron Throne. Varys tries to stroke Jon’s ego, but Jon’s not having it. Unfortunately, from Tyrion’s vantage point, he only sees them talking; he can’t hear Jon turning Varys down.
Unlike others, Tyrion is able to get an audience with Dany. Being the Hand of the Queen has its privileges. Dany’s not looking so hot. Last week definitely took a toll on her. Tyrion rats out Varys as her betrayer, but before he can, she guesses it’s Jon. Dany lays out her reasoning and in a way she’s right. Jon told Sansa his secret, who told Tyrion, who told Varys. She thinks Sansa told Tyrion with the intent of Tyrion spreading the news.
What’s up with those rings?
Varys hears footsteps coming and burns his letter. He also takes off some rings. What’s that about? Grey Worm arrives with guards and chains for Varys. They lead him out to Jon, Tyrion and Dany. When Drogon’s head appears from the black night time background, Varys knows he’s fucked. But what’s up with those rings he left behind? Drogon burns Varys. Oh damn. Point for Billy in the death pool. We get a quick cut to Jon having second thoughts about Dany. But wait, what was up with Varys’s rings?
Dany examines Missandei’s old manacles and gives them to Grey Worm. It’s all they have left to remember her by. He tosses them into the fire and they quickly melt. Apparently, Grey Worm isn’t one for nostalgia. Jon enters. Jon doubles down on his allegiance to Dany, but then she goes in for a kiss and he finds it weird. I mean, she’s still his aunt and is basically pulling a “Kiss me nephew” here. Dany looks spurned. Don’t spurn a dragon queen, Jon. Side note, any of you who are down with Jon and Dany but not with Jaime and Cersei on Game of Thrones, where exactly is your incest line in the sand drawn?
Dany wants to burn King’s Landing. Tyrion begs her to reconsider. Too many innocent people will die. Tyrion pleads with her to call off the attack if their opponents ring the bells and raise the gates in surrender. I hope he’s not walking them into a trap. Dany lets Tyrion know two things: her men caught Jaime trying to pass their lines, and Tyrion is on a short leash. One more strike and he’s another point for me in my death pool.
In King’s Landing, citizens flood into the Red Keep. Cersei is counting on Dany being merciful to the people.
Jon, Grey Worm and Tyrion rejoin Davos and Dany’s army. The rear guard won’t arrive until daybreak but Dany wants to attack now. Jon says they have to wait until daybreak.
Tyrion corners Davos for a favor. It has to do with smuggling.
She has a point, you know.
Arya and Sandor Clegane ride into camp. One of Dany’s men stops him. Arya is up front that she’s here to kill Cersei. Let them pass and he won’t be in the middle of a very bloody battle tomorrow. He says he has to check with his boss. They ride past instead of waiting for an answer.
Tyrion wants to see Jaime. He tries telling Jaime’s Unsullied guardsmen this, but his Valyrian isn’t the best. His misphrasings are the one bit of humor this episode. As Hand of the Queen, Tyrion has the guards stand down. He finds Jaime tied to a tent pole. This seems oddly reminiscent of when Jaime was captured by enemy troops in an earlier season. Sadly, Tyrion doesn’t greet Jaime with “Hello, Brother” Buster Bluth style when he sees him.
Tyrion has a plan: sneak Jaime out and have Jaime convince Cersei to back down. He plays the unborn child card. Tyrion wants Jaime and Cersei to flee the city, escape together and start a new life. Game of Thrones spinoff, anyone? He instructs his brother to ring the bells and open the gates on his way out of King’s Landing. Yeah, this isn’t going to backfire. Something tells me the gates are opening and the bells will be ringing but Cersei won’t be surrendering. Tyrion says he owes a lot to his brother; Jaime was the only one nice to him growing up, and he wants Jaime to be safe and happy. These two hugging and crying feels like the last time they’ll see each other alive.
Archers at the ready.
In Blackwater Bay, Euron Greyjoy oversees the Iron Fleet. Along the castle walls, archers get into position. It’s like the Battle of Winterfell all over again.
Sandor Clegane and Arya made it into King’s Landing and now head to the Red Keep. They’re so suspicious looking because they’re the only ones not panicking, and they’re wearing black leather armor. But no one says anything to them. Jaime also snuck in, hiding his face under a hood but showing off his golden hand. Make up your mind, Jaime. Are you hiding or do you want to be spotted?
The Golden Company stands outside the King’s Landing gates. Dany’s army stands across the field. Tyrion holds out hope for ringing bells. Cersei overlooks a silent city.
I’m Jaime Lannister.
Sandor Clegane and Arya make it inside the Red Keep just before they shut the door. A mother and daughter right behind them didn’t make it in and scurry out of the way before they can be trampled. Jaime also didn’t make it through in time. He flashes his gold hand but everyone is yelling and waving at the guards. I suddenly realize his plan for getting in was basically saying “I’m Chuck Bass” (There’s a good overlap between fans of Game of Thrones and fans of Gossip Girl, right?).
Euron looks to the skies for a sign of Drogon, but only sees clouds. That is, until he see Drogon in a dive coming at this fleet, but from the the wrong direction. Drogon flew high enough to attack their rear unprotected. The scorpions turn in time to fire, but Dany is flying smart, burning the fleet and crisscrossing so they have to keep turning to get a bead on her. Euron’s boat goes up quickly. Goodbye, Iron Fleet. The King’s Landing scorpions fare no better against her. Dany has really level upped in her scorpion fighting skills since last week.
The armies continue to stare each other down. They hear exploding in the distance but don’t know what it is. Then the walls burst outward in fire from the inside. Drogon flies out triumphant. The Golden Company is no more. Dany’s army charges.
What happened to the CGI budget?
The leader of the Golden Company lives long enough to be speared by Grey Worm. It’s nice to see some Dothraki still live. Watching even a small number of Dothraki sweep through here should silence everyone who armchair quarterbacked sending them out against the dead in the Battle of Winterfell. They rout the Lanisters, cutting through them on horseback. Man, the CGI here really looked terrible. I’m really starting to believe they blew the Game of Thrones CGI budget on the Battle of Winterfell.
Cersei watches her city burn. Qyburn tells her all the scorpions have been destroyed and the Iron Fleet burns. Cersei hasn’t given up faith. She won’t surrender.
Dany’s army and the Lannister army stare each other down in a city intersection and suddenly I feel like I’m watching Les Mis instead of Game of Thrones. If doesn’t help that one group is wearing red and the other is wearing black. Someone start singing, please.
Drogon lands atop a battlement and screams. That’s enough to get the Lannisters to throw down their swords. Easy-peasy! Swear in the new queen and start the party!
Ring the bells!
The Red Keep still stands. Dany surveys the city from above as men call for the bells be rung. The bells ring. I don’t think Cersei gave that command, but it’s been taken out of her hands. Despite the city surrendering, Dany rages atop Drogon. She flies towards Cersei. People below flee, soldiers included. Dany burns everyone in her path on her way to Cersei, combatants and noncombatants alike. Grey Worm throws a spear into an unarmed Lannister ahead of him and Dany’s army changes against defenseless Lannister soldiers. Jon tries to stop the men from charging. Grey Worm definitely notices that. The Lannisters take up swords and Jon is forced into the fight. This is vicious and unnecessary. Missandei’s death really changed both Grey Worm and Dany, and neither for the better. Cersei stoically watches her city burn. Tyrion also watches, in horror.
Davos tries getting people to safety. It’s clear that Jon fights only in defense. He’ll kill someone attacking him, but doesn’t go out of his way to fight.
Dany won. Why she’s doing this? It’s horrendous.
One of Dany’s soldiers tries to rape a woman. He meets the end of Jon’s sword instead. Is Jon the only hero left?
Dany finally gives up burning the city to burn the city block by block and flies towards the Red Keep instead.
Euron vs. Jaime
Euron survived the bay burning! He encounters Jaime as Jaime tries sneaking in from the shore. It’s Euron vs Jaime. Euron tells Jaime about bedding Cersei. This isn’t going to end well.
Large sections of the Red Keep fall as Euron and Jaime fight. Jaime is quickly disarmed, but still has a metal hand. That hand really keeps him in the fight. Euron body slams him, but another whack of the metal hands gets Euron off him for a moment. Euron stabs Jaime in the side. Jaime rolls over, seemingly beaten.
Qyburn tells Cersei that the Unsullied have breached the Red Keep and she needs to relocate to Maegor’s Holdfast now. Wyldfire explodes around the city. It looks like both queens would burn the city. Just how different is Dany from Cersei?
Jaime manages to get on his feet and impale Euron with his blade. He leaves Euron to die on the shore with Euron yelling, “I got you” and bragging “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister!”
The Red Keep continues to crumble around Arya and Sandor. Sandor wants Arya to go home. He warns her not be like him. He wanted revenge his whole life and look where it got him. “If you come with me, you die here,” he warns. She thanks him. Sandor heads further inwards towards his brother and Cersei, but Arya doesn’t follow.
The Red Keep crumbles around Cersei’s men as they descend towards Maegor’s Holdfast. The Mountain literally keeps debris from crushing Cersei and Qyburn. Most of her Queensguard dies here, leaving a few soldiers, Cersei, Qyburn and the Mountain. Just in time for Sandor Clegane to show up, kill the remaining soldiers and challenge his brother. Another missed opportunity for someone to say, “Hello, brother” Buster Bluth style.
Cersei commands the Mountain to stay by her side, but that’s a command he can’t obey. Qyburn gets in the Mountain’s way and says, “Obey your queen, Ser Gregor.” The Mountain slams Qyburn into a wall and throws his lifeless body. Did Qyburn’s brain fall out of his head as he hit the ground? Cersei smartly walks past the two brothers and Clegane Bowl finally gets underway, much to the delight of longtime Game of Thrones viewers. Sandor knocks off the Mountain’s Darth Vader helmet. Hey, actually, could you maybe put that helmet back on?
Rubble falls around Cersei as she stands on the map of Westeros. This is good imagery of her reign coming to an end. Jaime finds her here. They embrace. Guys, hugging is great and all, but maybe try to get out of there?
The Hound vs The Mountain is just The Undertaker vs Kane.
Sandor manages to disarm his brother and impale him, but the Mountain completely no sells it. He just takes the sword deep and throws his brother down the steps. Man, the Mountain really is the Undertaker and Sandor is Kane. Undead brother vs badly burned brother. The Mountain pulls out Sandor’s sword and takes off his armor. I really don’t need to see shirtless zombie Mountain. He throws Sandor down the steps.
Arya tries to escape the city but death and panic are all around her. She joins a crowd and almost gets trampled underneath them. The mom of that little girl from before pick Arya up, saving her. But for how long?
Hell in a Cell.
The Mountain beats the crap out of Sandor. He seemingly brains him with his gauntlet, but Sandor still lives. The Mountain choke slams him. I guess this really is Undertaker vs. Kane. I’m hoping for a Kane victory. Sandor stabs the Mountain repeatedly with a dagger, and the Mountain just lets him keep stabbing him. The Mountain does his signature squeeze the eyes out move, but Sandor lands a dagger in his face to get him to relent. The Mountain still stands and pulls the dagger out. I’m trying to figure out how many eyes Sandor has left when Sandor throws them both through a wall to their doom, making my question moot. It’s like they both went through the top of the Hell in the Cell. They fall to their death dying in fire, and I secretly wish JR was screaming “Oh gawd! Oh gawd!” over this.
The city burns around Jon. Green flames. Orange flames. Jon calls for his men to fall back. Dany is burning everyone. No one is safe from her, including her own troops.
Arya wakes, covered in dirt and blood. She’s as white as a walker. A bell tower crumbles around her, but she escapes and lives. She sees people hiding, including the woman and daughter who saved her earlier. Arya tells them to keep moving, but everyone is too afraid to move. She goes full Terminator 2 and basically says, “Come with me if you want to live.” Outside, Dothraki are mowing down people. Arya carries the lady with the help of her girl. Dany burns them all from above, but somehow Arya lives.
Jaime + Cersei: Womb to Tomb
Jaime and Cersei are trapped underground. Their exits have all collapsed. Cersei says she wants their baby to live. But how at this point? There is no way out. Jaime tells her that only they matter. Gotta love true love. He’s “just a boy standing in front of his sister asking her to love him.” They embrace and are crushed under a collapsing city. I have to say, I’m really, really disappointed with this ending for Jaime. He really did throw away years of character growth last week when he ran out on Brienne and back to Cersei. It wasn’t a trick, it wasn’t a ploy to take down his sister. He just wanted to be Cersei again. I would have accepted this from season 3 Jaime, not season 8 Jaime.
Arya looks like the only one alive in King’s Landing. Burned husks of people are all around her. Oh man, it’s the burned bodies of that mom and daughter, embraced in death. Amazingly, she find a white horse still alive! She mounts him and they ride off. Is she riding off to Gendry or will Arya be back next week to introduce Dany to the Stranger?
Dany as the villain.
So much for Dany breaking the wheel. When push came to shove, she became just another tyrant. She broke King’s Landing, but she’s spinning that wheel. Little separated Dany in this episode from Cersei at the height of her power. The breaker of chains is now the burner of bodies. It’s going to be very hard for Dany to end season 8 of Game of Thrones the hero she was going into it. I just don’t see how the show’s creators can possibly paint her as anything but the villain in the finale. Sadly, she’s become a warning against the corruptive influence of both power and pain.
We have one episode left in the entire Game of Thrones series. I wonder if Dany will even get the chance to sit on the Iron Throne. By that, I mean, did the throne even survive this carnage? With so much of King’s Landing crumbling upon itself in a mix of dragon fire and Wyldfire, how confident are we that the throne made it out of all this intact?
Man, if only someone had handed Dany a Snickers bar.
Billy Henehan writes for The Beat. In his free time, he likes to hunt down foreign language reprints of Todd McFarlane Spider-Man comics.