The Last of the Starks
If there’s a criticism to be levied against Game of Thrones, particularly in the post-GRRM era the writers found themselves in, it is pacing. Too much is happening too fast, especially this season.
I commented last week about the lightning resolution of the Night’s King plotline. A ninth season, even truncated at six episodes, would have allowed all this to breathe a little better, but alas, these are the cards we’ve been dealt.
I have made my peace with it and appreciate it for what it is. Despite its flaws in storytelling and pacing, it is still brilliant television and I am thankful for it.
“The Last of the Starks”, while still steamrolling ahead like a runaway locomotive, is my favorite episode of the season so far. While I feared there would be a tremendous letdown after the climax of the Night’s King’s threat, the simmering political intrigue, emotional entanglements, and looming showdown with Cersei was tremendous and felt very much like a return to early seasons form.
There were a couple of low points for me. I would have preferred a more emotional goodbye between Jon and Ghost, but I think that all came down to cgi costs. We never saw Ghost interact with anyone, meaning he was completely shot in green screen and worked into the scenes in post production. I get it, but it still didn’t ring quite true, but I understand. They needed that bit of coin for an even more impressive visual later.
There were so many stellar moments though, big and small. Jon’s rousing speech was well done as they set the honored dead to light and Sansa placing a Stark pin upon Theon was extremely moving.
The feast hall sequence was well played. You had great character moments throughout as tensions brewed between Sansa and Daenerys. Gendry’s elevated status and gifting of Storm’s End was a bright spot, as was his proposal to Arya.
The consummation of Brienne and Jaime’s attraction felt natural and poignant, and Jaime’s subsequent exodus was a very moving moment played beautifully by Gwendoline Christie.
There were two huge deaths, the most impressive being Euron’s sneak attack on Dany’s fleet that saw Rhaegal skewered by one of Qyburn’s ballista bolts. The other, of course, being Missandei’s beheading by Sir Robert Strong aka the Mountain on Cersei’s command.
Daenerys is losing it. You can see her unraveling, and her most trusted advisors see it too. With Varys plotting with Tyrion against her in favor of Jon, who has the stronger claim to the throne, well, it’s setting everything up for two very exciting final episodes.
But before we close this post off, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss my favorite moment in the episode, Arya joining Sandor Clegane as they both headed south for King’s Landing — each with unfinished business. Arya still has her list after all and the Hound has the Cleganebowl to attend.
Rory McCann was really outstanding in this episode. His scene with Sansa was a great call-back to their connection from season two. We saw how far Sansa has come since those days, but also Sandor’s journey has been one equally as captivating. McCann’s gruff demeanor as the Hound has always been a treat but I don’t always feel like he gets enough props for the emotional resonance he is able to convey through that tough exterior.
I hope we get some roadside banter with these two before they fulfill their ultimate show destinies. I fear they both might shuffle off their mortal coils before the end credits roll for good.
My predictions for the series endgame?
- Arya will be killed by the Mountain as she tries to assassinate Cersei. He cannot be killed in conventional fashion as he is undead.
- The Hound will kill the Mountain and he will die in the process as they both go up in flames.
- Jon will be forced to kill Daenerys as she is as mad as her father.
- But not before she has Varys executed for treason.
- Jaime will be unable to kill Cersei as I hoped, and he will be cut down in the process, however Cersei will die by Tyrion’s hand.
- Jon will turn his back on the Iron Throne and return to the North to live out his days with the Wildlings and Ghost.
- Sansa will be crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
There we have it. Only two episodes remain. As Daenerys said, the Great War is over, only the Last War remains. Let’s hope the showrunners give us a satisfying conclusion.