This season of Game of Thrones is moving so quickly — we’re already halfway through! — that our characters are zipping right through life at breakneck pace. For instance, we’re only a week past the deadly Battle of Winterfell, and Daenerys has already reached the sixth stage of grief: world domination.
Sunday’s episode answers the questions, “Exactly what does one do with a googolplex of corpses?” and “Am I as emotionally attached to Missandei as I think I am?” and “Is eight seasons of fighting-as-foreplay really worth the payoff?” (The answers to those last two, by the way, are sniff yes and HELL yes.)
Read on for the highlights of Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”
HOUSE STARKGARYEN: EAT-DRINK-AND-BE-MERRY EDITION | The episode opens on Jorah Mormont’s corpse, laid out on some kindling in front of Winterfell. Daenerys looks down at him, weeping, then bends to kiss his forehead. She whispers something to him, but we can’t hear it. For the record, in my head, it’s going to be, “I loved you, too.” Sansa cries over Theon’s body (cough he tried to burn your brothers and couldn’t even get that right cough) and slips her Stark family pin onto his chest before she returns to the assembled mourners — including Ghost, thank goodness — outside the castle walls.
There are SO many dead. “We’re here to say goodbye to our brothers and sisters, to our fathers and mothers, to our friends, our fellow men and women who set aside their differences to fight together and die together so that others might live,” Jon shouts. “Everyone in this world owes them a debt that can never be repaid. 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.” He’s being a good leader but he’s nearly overcome himself, and I can’t help thinking how proud Ned would be at this moment.
Then he, Tormund, Arya, Sam, Daenerys and a bunch of others take torches to light the dead ablaze. (Side question: Did they drag all the Dothraki back from where they perished? Did anyone see one?) As the flames kick up, the torchbearers return to the crowd, and I cannot imagine how terrible that billowing smoke must smell.
The mood in the great hall at the meal afterward is subdued. Gendry wonders where Arya is, and The Hound immediately assumes the blacksmith is thinking with his hammer and tongs. Not that he begrudges him. The dead are dead, “and you’re not,” he says. But Gendry’s fun doesn’t end there: Daenerys holds him accountable for Robert Baratheon’s Targaryen killing spree, then wonders aloud who is lord of Storm’s End. Oh wait, she has an idea: She’s going to legitimize him and make him the official heir of Storm’s End. “To Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storm’s End,” Davos says, standing and toasting the gobsmacked but rather pleased young man. “A fitting reward for a hero,” Tyrion says, noting that she’s forever bought Gendry’s loyalty. “See, you’re not the only one’s who’s clever,” she shoots back, and the look that Tyrion and Sansa share in response is an encyclopedia, so many volumes does it contain.
Davos can’t believe that Melisandre is dead, and he wasn’t the one to kill her. He and Tyrion process the battle’s aftermath in a corner of the hall. “We may have defeated them, but we still have us to contend with,” Tyrion reminds him. Then the youngest Lannister strikes up a conversation with Bran, whom he realizes has no interest in being the Lord of Winterfell. “I don’t really want anymore,” Bran says. “I envy you,” Tyron replies, but Bran shuts him down, saying that he really only lives in the past.
Now that the meal has gotten significantly more rowdy, Daenerys continues her subtle politicking. “To Arya Stark, the true hero of Winterfell,” she says, raising a glass and getting a cheer from the crowd. Sansa, who’s totally onto her, stalks off. Then Tormund goes on and on about Jon’s heroism, and Daenerys realizes that Tyrion is getting very cozy with his brother, and she’s rather pissed. She leaves in a huff, and only Varys notices. THIS IS NOT GOOD.
HOUSE LANNISTER: BRIENNE’S-KING-GETS-SLAYED EDITION | You’ll have to forgive me if the details about the rest of the party are a little fuzzy, though, given that I am devoting all of my attention to the drinking game Jaime and Brienne are playing in the corner with Pod and Tyrion. They’re positively giddy from Not Dying in battle, and they’re cute as they play some ancient version of “Never Have I Ever.” But stuff gets real when Tyrion points out that Brienne is a virgin. Jaime tries to intervene, saying that it’s a statement and not a question, but she merely stands and says she has to pee, then leaves. Jaime follows her. (Tormund is in there for a moment, too, but he’s all DRUNK ARRGH GINGER and then crying to The Hound about losing Brienne to Jaime.)
Tormund gets over his rejection quickly, scuttling off with a woman who claims not to be afraid of wildlings, but The Hound doesn’t want anything to do with the lass who wants to warm his bed. Sansa watches the entire exchange with a degree of interest, then sits down for a little catch-up. None of the terrible things that happened to her along the way “would’ve happened if you left King’s Landing with me,” he says, calling her “little bird.” But she gently puts her hand on his and corrects him: Without the torture Ramsay and Littlefinger put her through, “I would’ve stayed a little bird.”
Gendry finds Arya shooting arrows outside. He wonders why she’s not celebrating, but she says she is. Then he fairly vibrates with excitement as he announces his new title, then kisses her and says, “I don’t know how to be lord of anything. I hardly know how to use a fork. All I know is I love you, and none of it will be worth anything if you’re not with me.” He drops to his knee and proposes, telling her that she will be the lady of Storm’s End. She’s so kind as she kisses him and simply notes that she’s not a lady. “That’s not me,” she says, echoing Ned’s words from Season 1 as she goes back to shooting, leaving him broken on the ground.
Jaime arrives at Brienne’s room with some spirits and notes that she actually didn’t drink during the drinking game. He also notes how warm it is in her room, and takes off his coat. Then he goads her about Tormund, “He was very sad when you left,” and she notes that he sounds jealous. “I do, don’t I?” he answers, trying to loosen his shirt. Then she helps him. Then HE helps HER with her shirt. GUYS. THIS IS HAPPENING. After a long, fraught look, she helps him off with his shirt, then doffs her own.
“I’ve never slept with a knight before,” he says softly. “I’ve never slept with anyone before,” she whispers. “Then you have to drink,” he answers. “Those are the rules.” And then he’s kissing her and it’s glorious, and I think I might have dreamed it into being. Did you guys see this scene, too? It wasn’t just my ‘shippy mind run amok? Later, Brienne sleeps while Jaime stews. (Hear what the show’s bosses had to say about the Jaime-Brienne sex scene here.)
HOUSE STARKGARYEN: IT’S-NOT-YOU-IT’S-YOUR-GENES EDITION | Daenerys finds Jon, who’s a little drunk but not so far gone that he can’t reassure her that Jorah died the way he wanted: protecting her. She says that the fallen knight loved her, but “not the way I love you. Is that all right?” They start making out and it gets a bit hot, but then Jon remembers that she’s his aunt, and breaks it off. She’s distraught on several levels, but mainly she’s worried that Jon is so popular, and “What happens when they demand you press your claim and take what is mine?” She wants him to make Sam and Bran swear an oath of silence and not tell anyone else, but he says he needs to tell Sansa and Arya. Daenerys warns him that Sansa will put him on the throne above all. “I owe them the truth,” he maintains. “Even if the truth destroys us?” she wonders. “You are my queen. Nothing will change that. And they are my family. We can live together,” he says. And that’s when Daenerys makes up her royal mind. “We can,” she answers coldly. “I’ve just told you how.”
The next morning, Daenerys and her advisers assemble to talk strategy. “The objective here is to remove Cersei without destroying King’s Landing,” Tyrion reminds his queen, whose rhetoric sounds rather violent. He points out that if they can get the people on their side, Cersei’s reign is over. Sansa suggests a little rest for the troops that survived, and it gets heated between her and Daenerys. After, Arya, Sansa and Bran ask Jon for a word in the weirwood: Basically, they’re glad he allied with Daenerys because it helped them defeat the army of the dead, but they really don’t trust her and won’t back her. After all, they’re all Starks, right?
So that’s when Jon swears his sisters to secrecy and then has Bran tell them that he’s really Aegon Targaryen.
Jaime fills in Tyrion on what’s happened, and that he’s going to stay at Winterfell with Brienne, who is charged with protecting the Starks. Then Tyrion makes some tall/sex jokes, and they’re interrupted by Bronn, who revels in his rightness and then sits with the crossbow pointed at them. There’s a lot of quick talking, then Tyrion reminds him of his promise to pay double whoever puts a bounty on the dwarf’s head offers. “What’s double Riverrun?” Bronn says. “Highgarden,” Tyrion replies, trying then to recruit Bronn for the Targaryen army. But the sellsword says heck no, then promises to find them when the fighting is done. “Until then, don’t die,” he says as he departs.
The Hound sets out alone, but Arya soon joins him on horseback. She correctly surmises that he’s on his way to King’s Landing. “I’ve some unfinished business,” he says. “Me, too,” she says. Neither of them plan on coming back.
Daenerys visits with Rhaegal and Drogon, both of whom apparently survived the battle. As they fly, Sansa watches them from the one castle wall that wasn’t destroyed in the big fight. She’s chilly with Tyrion, even when he points out that she’ll hold all the power in the North when Jon goes south. “You don’t have to provoke her,” he says, and that’s when Sansa realizes, “You’re afraid of her.” She confesses that she doesn’t want Jon to go south, because the men of her family don’t tend to do well in King’s Landing. “She wants to make the world a better place,” he says. “I believe in her.” He doesn’t think he’s gotten through and turns to leave, but then Sansa says, “What if there were someone else? Someone better?” OH IT’S ON.
THE MEN OF THE WALL: SO-LONG-FAREWELL-GOODBYE EDITION | As Jon prepares to leave, he and Tormund have a little goodbye in which Jon invites the free folk to stay in Westeros, but Tormund says he’s got to go back beyond The Wall. THEN JON GIVES GHOST TO TORMUND. C’mon, guys. I know the CGI budget for the pup was high, but Ghost was Jon’s ride or die. That’s just not right.
When Jon hugs Gilly goodbye, he notices that she’s pregnant. “If it’s a boy, we want to name him Jon,” she says. “I hope it’s a girl,” he replies. Then he hugs Sam and the former Night’s Watch brothers both cry a little. “You’re the best friend I ever had,” Sam says. “You, too,” Jon replies. So I assume you’re going to give him to the wildlings, as well?
As Daenerys’ fleet sails south, Missandei stands next to Grey Worm on the deck of one of the ships. She holds his hand. They both smile. Belowdecks, Tyrion has told Varys about Jon’s true parentage. “The fact is, people are drawn to him. Wildlings. Northmen. He’s a war hero,” Varys points out. Tyrion suggests marriage and a joint rule, but Varys rightly points out that she’s his aunt and (probably more telling) she’s never gonna share that throne with anyone. “We still have to take King’s Landing. Maybe Cersei will win and kill us all,” Tyrion says. “That would solve our problems.”
While Daenerys is triumphantly riding Drogon into King’s Landing, Rhaegal suddenly is hit with gigantic arrows. Euron fires a few more into the beast, which cries and bleeds as it plummets into the bay. Aw, it looks like that’s the last we’re going to see of that dragon. (Read his obituary here.) Then Euron and his men aim their giant projectiles at Daenerys’ ships, and things go south (pun intended) rather quickly. Grey Worm orders Missandei to the skiff. Tyrion winds up in the water, and a mast comes down on top of him. Then everything goes black.
But he eventually comes to and, like Varys, Grey Worm and a bunch more of Daenerys’ team, washes up on shore. Bad news, though: Grey Worm can’t find Missandei.
HOUSE LANNISTER: CERSEI-DON’T-PLAY EDITION | Cersei gloats from her perch in the Red Keep… where she glowingly tells Euron he’s the father of her baby. When Qyburn nods in confirmation, Greyjoy can’t contain his excitement. Cersei says the castle gates will remain open: That way, Daenerys will have to kill thousands of innocent civilians to get to Cersei. Oh, and she has Missandei as a prisoner.
Grey Worm is all, “Let’s go get her!” But Varys warns khaleesi not to do so. “I’m here to free the world from tyrants. That is my destiny, and I will serve it, no matter the cost,” she replies. So… that’s a no? Tyrion tries from another angle: Jon and the allied armies won’t arrive for a few weeks, and can’t she maybe try to talk to Cersei in the meantime? She sees it as giving the people time to see that Cersei refused to deal with them, but potato, potahto. Afterwards, Varys all but calls her a tyrant while he and Tyrion are mulling their rather effed position. Varys point-blank asks his fellow counselor who’d be the better leader. Spoiler alert: Though Tyrion doesn’t want to admit it, they both think Jon is the answer. With his parentage, “Jon’s the one man alive who might actually be able to keep the North in the seven kingdoms,” Varys says. But Tyrion still thinks that Daenerys could do the right thing with the right help from the right advisers. Things get dark when Tyrion begs Varys not to be part of Daenerys’ murder; the eunuch merely points out that they both have a choice to make, and “I pray we both choose wisely.”
Word of the dragon’s death and the fleet’s casualties arrives at Winterfell, and Jaime’s wheels start turning. That night, Brienne wakes up to find him gone from her room. When she finds him, he’s packing his bags and saddling his horse. “You’re not like your sister. You’re not,” she says, calling him a “good man” and crying as she grabs him by the face and begs him to “Stay here. Stay with me.” He reels off a litany of the awful things he’s done for Cersei, starting with pushing Bran out the window. “She’s hateful, and so am I,” he grits, swinging up on his horse and riding out into the night while a heartbroken Brienne cries in the courtyard. Oh honey, we all wanted it to work.
Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys and Grey Worm, with a handful of Unsullied, approach the Red Keep to talk to Cersei, who’s assembled Euron, The Mountain, a bunch of her soldiers, a chained Missandei and a LOT of those huge bolt-throwers to meet them. Qyburn and Tyrion approach each other. The hands each demand unconditional surrender on behalf of their queens. Shocker: It doesn’t work. Eventually, Tyrion brushes past Qyburn and walks up to the wall his sister is perched upon. She sneers and raises her hand, but does not give the order for her men to shoot him. “I know you don’t care about your people. Why should you? They hate you, and you hate them,” Tyrion says. (Side note: How could she possibly hear him? He’s not even shouting.) But he reminds her that she’s not a monster. “You’ve always loved your children more than yourself, more than Jaime, more than anything,” he continues. Her eyes fill with tears. He begs her on behalf of her unborn baby to stand down. “Your reign is over. It doesn’t mean your life has to end. It doesn’t mean your baby has to die.”
She turns to Missandei and takes her arm, then whispers something to the translator: “If you have any last words, now is the time.” Missandei looks up, right into Grey Worm’s eyes, and suddenly Daenerys knows what’s going to happen. “Dracarys!” Missandei yells. But there’ll be no dragon saving the day this time. The Mountain lops off her head with his sword, and Grey Worm is so overcome, he has to turn away as his lover’s body falls from the wall. (Read Missandei’s obituary here.)
Daenerys says nothing, but turns and marches back the way she came. When Tyrion looks back up at Cersei, there’s nothing but hate in her eyes.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Grade it via the poll below, then hit the comments!