Reply All: A Game of Thrones Email Exchange – “The Dragon and the Wolf”
If you missed last week’s email exchange, you can read it here. If you missed Matt’s top moments from this episode, you can see them here. More importantly, why would you miss this stuff in the first place? Be sure to check back for our podcast episode review before the week is out.
NICK: Keith, this episode is the longest in GoT history but it sure didn’t feel that way. Though the only action was the Wall falling (and Jon and Dany!) the revelations and schemes filled this episode to the brim. There’s much to talk about of course, but the Jaime and Cersei storyline is one that stuck out to me.
The separation of Jaime and Cersei has been long in the making and long awaited by fans of the “Jaime is the Valonqar” theory. Cersei promising Jon the Lannister army then revealing to Jaime behind closed doors that she has no intention on sending their forces to the north is truly troubling for Jaime. Let’s keep in mind that Cersei BLEW UP A SEPT and he still stood by her side. Jaime promised Jon he would ride north, and he is holding himself to that oath even as Cersei deep-sixes the plan. Jaime’s entire legacy has been based on the fact that he swore an oath to protect his king and then turned around and stuck a sword in him. Jaime sees a chance at redemption, for his own peace of mind if nothing else. It also didn’t help that Cersei and Euron had a secret plan from which they purposefully chose to exclude the Queen’s brother. Jaime Lannister has long been one of the more interesting characters in the show, and his arc has just taken another turn.
There’s so much more to dive into, so I’m going to let you take the dragon reigns and steer this exchange to one of the many other captivating moments.
KEITH: You’re right—there’s so much to talk about. So much, in fact, that I’m a little overwhelmed by this. On one hand, I loved the episode for offering some of this season’s most interesting scenes in the form of the meeting at the Dragon Pit and every conversation between the three Lannister siblings.
I think opening on the arrival of the Targaryen armies (because really, that’s what they are at this point) is the logical place to start. Dany has always been one for spectacle, and she hardly let the opportunity to directly intimidate Cersei pass her by. By bringing her Unsullied troops, Dothraki horde, and two remaining dragons, she was attempting to impress upon Cersei just how overmatched she is in this war. It doesn’t quite work as she plans, of course, as Cersei’s unfazed response to Drogon and Rhaegal’s arrival. Heck, she even tries to wrest back control of the situation by chiding Daenerys for arriving late.
I was worried throughout much of this scene for a couple of reasons. First, I’m pretty sure most of us were experiencing at least a little bit of Red Wedding PTSD, wondering just when the betrayal was going to come, where Cersei’s lie was. Second, I was moderately skeptical about how the sequence was going to be executed. This is the first time that all of these major players are sharing a scene together and it would have been so easy to botch it. A few missed shots or a poor edit could have totally broken this apart. Fortunately, this was beautifully executed and all of the various relationships between these characters was acknowledged in such a way that it made for a really satisfying experience. I particularly enjoyed both of The Hound’s moments (talking about Arya with Brienne and confronting his undead brother). Heck, I even believed Euron Greyjoy’s bluff about deserting.
How did you feel about the diplomacy in the Dragon Pit?
NICK: I too fell for Euron’s anxious exit, but we should’ve known better, Keith! In the nervous quietness of the Dragon Pit, I was preparing for what could possibly one of Tyrion’s greatest monologues before Euron decided to steal the spotlight and inform everyone how the Iron Island deals with those of Tyrion’s ilk. I was a huge fan of the suspicious glances back and forth prior to Dany’s arrival between Cersei, Brienne, and Jaime. Talk about awkward moments. Tyrion tries to push the fact that there’s something bigger coming. He reminds Cersei that they wouldn’t be there if they were only going to attack Cersei. They weren’t there to allow her to surrender, because they know she wouldn’t do it. They’re legitimately asking for her help.
Cue the Hound with the box o’ wight.
Cersei’s face as the wight was screaming towards her was spectacular. For the first time in a long time, she was terrified. After Euron peaces out she offers assistance, but only if Jon stays in the north after they defeat the Night King. She knows Jon is a man of honor and uses that try and get him to submit. She uses Ned’s name as a point of proof for integrity, even as she asks of others what she refuses to do herself. When the wight was closing on her, I thought maybe, just maybe she might actually agree to the temporary truce, but this is Game of Thrones, and this is Cersei Lannister.
What came after this was heavy. The verbal showdown between Cersei and Tyrion was fantastic, and I honestly thought in a quick bout of panic that Tyrion might die right then and there in Cersei’s chamber. We could see on Cersei’s face the struggle of wanting to kill her brother, but not being able to give the command. What does this say about Cersei’s feelings toward Tyrion? She obviously still has hatred for him, and he reminded her of the people she loved that he killed through association, but something was stopping her from lopping his head off. Does Cersei have something bigger planned for Tyrion, or is she too busy with the Grand Scheme that she feels will end Tyrion’s life one way or another?
KEITH: Dude, both scenes between Cersei and her brothers were fantastic. Lena Headey very rarely gets the credit she deserves for making Cersei as despicably compelling as she has. It’s some truly masterful acting on her part as she struggles with the desires to kill not only Tyrion, but Jaime as well. But I digress.
As far as whether or not she has any larger plans for Tyrion, I’m not sure. I would absolutely not put it past her to be planning perhaps her most horrific punishment for her youngest brother. It definitely wouldn’t be out of character for her. But I’ve also seen something floating around the waves of the internet suggesting that—perhaps—Tyrion cut some sort of deal with her, which was why he was creeping on the Jon/Dany hookup session at the end of the episode. That creep could have been for other reasons as well (I’ve also seen some folks suggesting that he, like every other man on the planet, apparently, has fallen madly in love with her), and I’m not sure which I’m more aligned with.
Speaking of Jon, you mentioned Cersei’s repeated dropping of Ned Stark’s name. She said he was “Ned Stark’s son” so many times that there was absolutely no way in hell we were getting out of this episode without an “official” reveal of Jon’s true parentage and his real name of Aegon Targaryen. It was nice to finally have that happen, as all of the soft reveals and hints have kind of worn on me over the past year or so. Weiss and Benioff seem to have danced around this reveal for so long that, despite the hardcore in the audience who have been trumpeting R+L=J and who simply knew this was coming, it was almost anticlimactic when that reveal was made. Couple that with the fact that Bran—for whatever reason—didn’t know about Rhaegar and Lyanna’s marriage? What kind of Three-Eyed Raven is this kid?
How did you feel about the episode’s big reveal?
NICK: I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed with Bran and Sam’s fireside chat. Bran offered that Jon is Rheagar’s son which caused Sam to perk up and discuss the annulment and secret wedding (GIVE CREDIT TO GILLY, YOU JERK!). I don’t know why Bran didn’t know that. He’s always bragging about how he knows everything about everything, but that escapes him. Is it because he knows SO MUCH that he can’t keep things straight? Does he needs someone to say “hey Bran, go into your cloud-storage mind and see if _____ actually happened”? When he was in training the then Three-Eyed Raven took him. Would Bran have known to go to the Tower of Joy if he wasn’t first led there? My guess is that while Bran has access to everything that’s ever happened, he still has to know where to look. He knows from the Tower of Joy that Jon is Rheagar and Lyanna’s son, but he didn’t think to go a step back further to confirm that this birth was legitimate, and not of rape as prior stories alluded to. Perhaps we as fans have been exaggerating Bran’s powers and assuming he just knows everything about everything, when in fact he simply has access to it. You know, like we do with the Internet. Except Bran doesn’t have to sit through ads about car insurance.
This begs the question: why did Bran wait until now to tell someone? The second he comes back to Winterfell he tells Sansa he has to speak with Jon. Does he only wait to tell Sam because he knew Sam would have some information (GIVE CREDIT TO GILLY, YOU JERK) of his own? Or is it simply because Sam helped him go north of the Wall and he’s Jon’s closest confidant? Either way, I give credit to Bran’s timing that the reveal was intertwined during intertwining bodies. Jon and Dany finally hooked up, and since George R. R. Martin has spent five books and six years of television desensitizing fans to incest, no one seems too upset about this union. I guess it helps that the two don’t know they’re related at this point. Ignorance is bliss!
In the petrifying cold of the North, a plan comes together when the remaining legitimate Stark children use a web of lies deceit to take down the king of lies and deceit in front of a crowd of witnesses. Were you satisfied with Littlefinger’s demise or were you expecting a different end to his life?
KEITH: Ever since Petyr Baelish gave Bran that dagger we knew it was going to be used to kill him, we just didn’t know when or how. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’d say that I’m a good 70% satisfied with the way that he went out. It was nice to have the reveal that the Stark sisters were actually working together (or that they somehow managed to work out whatever differences they had) and manipulated Baelish into thinking that it was Arya’s trial he was attending. I had imagined something slightly more epic, especially considering the truly profound role that this man had in getting the realm into its current precarious state. Imagine what the world might look like had Littlefinger not murdered Jon Arryn or betrayed Ned Stark. What a world it might have been. Overall, though, it was pretty satisfying seeing him show his true—unbelievably cowardly—colors.
One of the issues that I did take with the scene, though, is the fact that so much of it relies on Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven powers. Are his visions admissible in court? It doesn’t really seem like they have any hard evidence on Baelish (let’s face it, he was way too smart to leave any), so we’re really just going on the word of this psychic dude who nobody really seems to understand. Do Sansa and Arya totally trust him now when he says that he knows everything. Do the Lords of the North simply dislike Baelish so much that they’re willing to accept this human going around and telling everybody that he’s actually a bird? Seems like orc mischief to me.
You’re right in that incest has largely become something that Thrones viewers are desensitized to—we’ve been seeing Jaime and Cersei going at it since the very first episode—and we know that this is kind of just what Targaryens do. I’m not sure if this is going to play out well, though. On one hand, I think the marriage of Jon and Daenerys makes the most political sense: they’re the world’s two largest powers and their union would join the disparate parts of the realm and make for a true powerhouse against the dead/all future living opponents.
On the other, I can’t help but wonder how the revelation of Jon’s identity is going to shape their reactions. It could very well be that, for all intents and purposes, he’s not really Aegon Targaryen. He’s lived his entire life as Jon Snow, and this revelation about his parentage does absolutely nothing to change who he is as a person. But it does bring in some wonderful questions of succession and how Daenerys is going to take the fact that she’s not actually the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. My heart says that there’s no way that Jon would take the throne and would be more than happy to let Daenerys take it, but we did see him accept the title of King in the North despite his sister having a better claim. Does that set us up for him accepting the larger throne? Does it drive a rift between these new lovers? I need answers!
NICK: The more answers we get in this show, the more questions we have for what’s coming next. It’s a vicious cycle.
Sansa, Bran, and Arya had zero physical evidence of Littlefinger’s crimes. It was their word against his, and that was it. What pushed Baelish over the edge was Bran’s reveal of what only Littlefinger knew, such as what he said to Ned as he held a knife to his throat. Had Littlefinger kept his composure he may have had a shot at staying alive for a little while longer at least. My initial hope for Littlefinger’s death was for something more gruesome, but at a second glance this makes the most sense and works well. The Stark children played his game better than him, and catching him by surprise in a room full of sworn swords gave him no chance of a last ditch escape. He had to be seen admitting to the charges by the other houses so there was no question to his guilt and potentially lose the Vale or other houses. Sansa really is smarter than she lets on.
I’m with you in the belief that Jon doesn’t want the Iron Throne, and will remind everyone of such once it comes to light that he’s the heir to the Mad King. As you mentioned, Jon reminds us multiple times that he never asked to be King of the North, but he could have very, very easily passed that duty on to Sansa (who was the whole reason they won the Battle of the Bastards). If the kingdom wants to put Jon on the Iron Throne, is he really going to say no? I’m curious to see if Dany takes a step back after learning the truth and becomes Jon’s Queen. Or maybe something completely out of the blue happens and throws this whole thing off course. I don’t see Jon and Dany being at odds over it though. There’s been so much build up to their new relationship that I don’t see it being thrown away over the course of the final episodes.
You make a good point about Jon “not being” Aegon, and it’s driven home when Jon and Theon have there little tete-a-tete. Theon is distraught over the things he’s done–namely turning against Robb—and questions his Greyjoy and Stark roots. Jon boldly reminds Theon that Ned was more of a father than Baelon ever was to Theon, effectively talking about himself without even knowing it. What Jon does when he eventually learns the truth might be one of the biggest moments of the show’s history.
Speaking of big moments in the show’s history, how about that Wall breaking down? We’ve been expecting it for some time, and once the Night King got Viserion under his control he had what he needed to bust through the wall at Eastwatch. Seeing the blue flame of the undead dragon was stunning and terrifying at the same time, and watching the army cross the threshold was heart-stopping. I think I may need until 2019 to prepare for what’s to come.
How are you feeling about this final scene and watching part of an 8,000 year old wall come tumbling down?
KEITH: Despite the fact that, like you mentioned, we’ve all been expecting this to happen for quite some time, I was absolutely mesmerized by seeing the Wall fall. Not only was it nice to see the dudes in Mastodon again (this time as part of the army of the dead) after spending some time earlier in the season with Ed Sheeran, but watching Viserion take down the Wall with only a couple of passes did a whole lot for impressing just how overwhelming the Night King’s forces are. Not only do they have overwhelming numbers and lieutenants (generals? majors? whatever rank we’re assigning the other White Walkers) who need specialized weaponry to kill, but there’s a giant undead dragon who breathes electric blue fire and can burn down the single most imposing structure in the world in a matter of moments.
So I guess to answer your question: I’m worried. I’m really really worried that this isn’t going to have a happy ending. I’m worried that, despite the best efforts of Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Jaime, Sansa, Arya, and the rest of team humankind, the Night King is going to win out at the end here. I’m worried that at the end of Season 8, Episode 6, we’re not going to be seeing Mastodon done up in undead makeup, but we’ll be seeing Kit Harrington et al.. I really want it to go the other way. I really want Game of Thrones to end on an at least moderately pleasant note. Heck, I’d even be okay with Cersei on the Iron Throne, everyone else dead, and the Night King defeated. But as Tyrion reminded us way back in Season 4, “If you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place.” Thrones viewers want justice, but we may have come to the wrong place.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back as more Game of Thrones news pops up between now and the final season.
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