‘Game of Thrones’ Saved Plenty of Heartbreak for After Winterfell (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4.]
Last week’s Battle of Winterfell might have been heartbreaking, but Game of Thrones has saved the true tragedy for the calm after the storm.
Though there’s time for celebration in the opening moments of this week’s installment, things are never quite stable. Everything descends into chaos quickly… and once it does, the characters we’ve grown to love (and even hate) will never be the same. Dracarys!
For as Long as Men Draw Breath
The episode opens with a funeral for the fallen in the Battle of Winterfell, in the style of the Night’s Watch. Dany weeps over Jorah’s body, Sansa weeps over Theon’s body and gives him her Stark symbol pin. Jon gives a touching eulogy: “It is our duty and our honor to keep them alive in memory, for those who come after us, and those who come after them, for as long as men draw breath.” They burn the bodies, and Dany cries as Jorah is set aflame.
Since there’s no gigantic army to feed anymore, it seems reasonable that the living have a plentiful meal. Gendry goes to find Arya, but Dany stops him — and silences the hall — and recognizes he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard. “I think you should be lord of Storm’s End,” she says, and she legitimizes him. The hall raises a toast to him, and Dany smiles; legitimizing Gendry was an emotional move, but it was also a power play to get him to be loyal to her. The group also raises a toast to Arya, but it seems there’s still tension between Sansa and Dany… and Dany watches on in envy and anger as Tormund and the rest of the hall praises Jon. She walks out.
A Plea for Silence
Meanwhile, Tyrion, Jaime and Brienne are playing a guessing drinking game. Things get awkward when Tyrion guesses Brienne’s a virgin, and rather than answering the question, Brienne leaves. Jaime follows her. Sansa and The Hound have a conversation; they talk about Ramsay and she says “he got what she deserved, and I gave it to him.” “You’ve changed, little bird,” he says.
Gendry manages to find Arya shooting arrows, well away from the festivities… where he tells her he’s been legitimized, that he loves her, and he proposes. Arya rejects him, saying she can’t be a Lady. Jaime meets Brienne in her quarters, and they drink. He asks her about Tormund, and she notes that he sounds “quite jealous.” This devolves into Jaime trying to take his shirt off and also trying to take Brienne’s shirt off, but she takes care of both. “I’ve never slept with a knight before,” he says, and she replies, “I’ve never slept with anyone before.” They kiss. After, as they lie in bed, Brienne sleeps but Jaime lies awake.
Jon goes to talk to Dany, where they discuss Jorah. She tells him she didn’t love him the way he wanted him to love her — “Not the way I love you,” she says. They kiss, but when Jon leans away, things turn ugly. She wants him to tell no one about his lineage, so it can go back to being the way it was between them. He tells her he needs to tell Sansa and Arya, but Dany says the truth will destroy them. “I’ve never begged for anything, but I’m begging you,” she says. “Don’t do this. Please.” Jon doesn’t relent, and Dany grows angry.
The next day, they discuss battle strategy for King’s Landing. The objective is to remove Cersei without destroying King’s Landing, and Tyrion says the people will rebel against her, given the opportunity. “Once the people see that Cersei is the only enemy, her reign is over,” Tyrion says. When Sansa suggests the soldiers need time to rest, Dany again grows angry. Jon reassures her the Northern forces will honor their promise.
In the Godswood, Sansa, Arya and Bran confront Jon about his allegiance to Dany. Arya tells him she doesn’t trust Dany, and reminds Jon that they’re family… which gives Jon the perfect opportunity to reveal his lineage. He swears them all to secrecy before he tells Bran to tell them.
Jaime and Tyrion discuss Jaime’s decision to remain in the North with Brienne — or rather, that Jaime’s not willing to gossip about his night with Brienne — when Bronn walks in, crossbow in hand. He lays down the law, so to speak: she’s offered him Riverrun, but he’s willing to change sides if the odds shift. Tyrion offers him another Lordship if they win: Highgarden. He gives Bronn his word.
The Hound runs into Arya on the road, where they both say they’re going to King’s Landing. “Will you leave me to die again if I get hurt?” he asks. “Probably,” Arya smirks. Sansa watches Dany with Drogon and Rhaegal, and Tyrion approaches her. He notes that Sansa seems determined to hate Dany, and Dany eventually retorts that he’s afraid of her. Tyrion says he believes in Dany, but as he walks away, Sansa stops him with a loaded question: “What if there’s someone else? Someone better?”
Jon says farewell to Tormund, who’s going back to his home beyond the wall — or rather, beyond the ruins of the wall. They agree Ghost should go with him. Next Jon says goodbye to Gilly and Sam, and he realizes Gilly’s pregnant. She tells him that if it’s a boy, they want to name him Jon. “I hope it’s a girl,” Jon says with a smile. They say a touching farewell, and with one last look at Ghost, Jon rides away.
On the boat ride to King’s Landing, it becomes apparent that Tyrion’s told the secret to Varys, and Varys says if a handful of people know now, more will know later, meaning Dany will lose the North. Varys says he worries about Dany’s state of mind, referencing that famed Targaryen madness. In a shocking moment, as Daenerys rides Drogon with Rhaegal by their side, Rhaegal is shot down and killed. Euron meets their fleet with a fleet of his own, equipped with ballistas. Their ships under attack, Tyrion jumps into the water. A pillar falls on top of him, and when he comes to, he’s been dragged to shore. Grey Worm shouts for Missandei.
In King’s Landing, Euron tells Cersei about his victory. Qyburn confirms Cersei is pregnant, and she says Dany will have to kill thousands of innocents in order to get to the castle. “So much for the breaker of chains,” Cersei smirks, and as she walks away, a captured Missandei trembles in terror.
Dany meets with Tyrion and Varys, and they try to talk her out of burning King’s Landing. They tell her she can try to talk Cersei into surrender, and eventually Dany agrees. “The people should know who to blame when the sky falls down upon them,” she says. Later, Tyrion and Varys discuss Jon and Dany, and who would be a better ruler. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it,” Varys says, of whether Jon is better than Dany. Tyrion says he’s discussing treason, and when he tries to say they could marry and rule together, Varys says she’s too strong for Jon. “Jon’s the one man alive who might be able to keep the North in the Seven Kingdoms,” Varys says. Still, Tyrion says he believes in Dany and that she’ll make the right choice with the help of her advisors.
Varys then invokes his series-long mission: to help the people of the realm, and it seems Dany’s no longer acting in the people’s best interests. “Then what happens to her?” Tyrion asks, and it seems pretty clear nothing good happens to Dany if Varys has his way. “Each of us has a choice to make,” Varys says. “I pray we choose wisely.”
News travels to Winterfell that Daenerys has lost a dragon and several ships on the way to King’s Landing. This Cersei-related news strikes a nerve with Jaime, who, in the middle of the night, leaves the room he shares with Brienne and starts readying his horse. Brienne goes to him and tries to beg him to stay with her, to no avail. He tells her about the terrible things he’s done for Cersei, and makes it clear he’s going back to her. “She’s hateful, and so am I,” he says, and leaves a sobbing Brienne in the Winterfell courtyard.
Dany stands outside King’s Landing to negotiate with Cersei: atop the wall, Cersei watches with Missandei as her prisoner. Qyburn and Tyrion meet in the middle, and both sides demand the other’s unconditional surrender. If Dany doesn’t relent, Qyburn says Missandei will die there and then. Tyrion tries to argue that they need to try to save King’s Landing and the people in it, but Qyburn reminds him that their armies are better than Dany’s. Determined, Tyrion walks toward the wall.
The archers ready their arrows, but Cersei doesn’t command them to fire. Tyrion tries to reason with her, saying he knows she’s not a monster because she’s loved her children. “I beg you,” he says, “if not for yourself, then for your child. Your reign is over, but that doesn’t mean your life has to end. It doesn’t mean your baby has to die.” Cersei, instead, tells Missandei that if she has any last words, now is the time. “Dracarys,” she says, and The Mountain beheads her. Dany glares at Cersei and storms away, while Tyrion and his sister share a hate-filled look.
- Poor Dany. It looks like she has her hair down in the promo for next episode, similar to her father’s hair in the “Mad King” flashbacks we’ve seen on the show. Awful foreshadowing? Let’s hope not.
- Speaking of awful foreshadowing, how sad that Grey Worm and Missandei won’t get their trip to the beaches of Naath. Though I called it when they talked about their lives after the battle, I thought maybe they’d both be safe now that they’d survived the army of the dead. That was my mistake. In terms of notable Thrones deaths, though, Missandei went out like a badass. Dracarys!
- RIP Rhaegal. It’s a good thing Jon wasn’t riding him when he went down, but the poor guy had just started stepping into the spotlight. And now Dany has only one dragon, which can’t bode well for her in the battle to come.
- What did this episode do to Jaime Lannister? His progression toward being an honorable man, and his romance with Brienne, had been built up over the course of many seasons. Yet he chooses to go back to Cersei — and break Brienne’s heart — in the span of one episode? Whether Jaime’s going to King’s Landing to kill Cersei or join her, he should’ve worded his farewell to Brienne better. Yes, this parallels Tyrion breaking up with Shae to keep her alive, but Brienne’s no Shae. Jaime could’ve at least been honest with her about his intentions, unless his intentions really are only to defend Cersei. He might have been trying to protect Brienne by concealing the truth with hurtful sentiment, but he hasn’t protected her from repeating her painful history with men and relationships. Brienne — and the relationship between Jaime and Brienne — deserved better.
Game of Thrones, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO