‘Game of Thrones’ season 8, episode 4: The stakes are higher. What now?
** SPOILER ALERT**
** This article recaps and discusses important plot points from the episode. **
“We have won the Great War. Now, we will win the last one,” said Daenerys Targaryen.
But what is left in the embers of the funeral pyres given to the war dead? Aside from the Dragon Queen and Winterfell’s diminished army, there are broken spirits and boiling (not even just simmering) tension. (IN PHOTOS: What happened during 'The Last of the Starks')
The worst is far from over, as seen in this harrowing episode, titled “The Last of the Starks.” It’s because – as Game of Thrones has always reminded us from the start – of people’s worst impulses.
In this last stretch before the big finale, the drama and the stakes have been amped up. There are some crucial points we need to unpack:
Daenerys: Breaker of Chains or Mad Queen?
Since sailing to Westeros, things are no longer the way they were for Daenerys. After suffering recent tragedies, the Mother of Dragons has plenty to be upset about – not to mention her persistent tendency to be kind of a loose cannon.
In the midst of their victorious revelry, Tormund Giantsbane exclaimed to Jon, “What kind of person climbs on a f*cking dragon? A madman or a king?”
This made Dany uneasy and echoed where we stand with and feel about the acclaimed Breaker of Chains, vis-à-vis Jon Snow-suddenly-Aegon-Targaryen.
After a major detour fighting the undead, the Targaryen queen set her sights back on the Iron Throne in the south. The episode reexamined her claim, interrogating how worthy she is to take back the Seven Kingdoms – even with her best intentions to build a better Westeros.
Problem is, she wants the power back now, and going south to take back King’s Landing is an urgent task for Daenerys – thin fighting force and wounded dragons be damned.
She has also been deeply troubled by Jon revealing his Targaryen heritage to her. Here comes a succession crisis if the secret gets out: she, against a much-loved war hero and a male one at that, considering the Westerosi patriarchy (Tyrion, however, rightfully proclaimed that being a man isn’t a just “qualification” to become a good ruler, citing Joffrey as an example).
Daenerys fancies herself as a sort of liberator – a reputation she has built in Essos. She also thinks she is destined to rule because she’s a descendant of Aegon the Conqueror, her dynasty’s progenitor and first conqueror of all of Westeros.
Several times throughout the series, she has tried to detach herself from her own father, the Mad King Aerys, who was deposed in Robert Baratheon’s rebellion. However, with mounting insecurities and suspicions about the loyalties of those who surround her, as well as her grasp on power, it seems that she is no better than Cersei Lannister.
She has proven to be the opposite of what Jon is, too: “temperate and measured.”
Given these (re)emerging traits, Daenerys Targaryen just might end up the big baddie… the final boss.. the ultimate villain.
Starks and secrets
Jon Snow tried to assuage Daenerys’s fears, saying that he doesn’t want the Iron Throne for himself and she is still his queen. This is inconsequential to Daenerys, who is rightfully outraged not just because of her heritage, but because she fought long and hard for her ultimate goal. Once known as the Beggar Queen, Dany begged his lover-nephew to not let the secret out.
But as much as Jon values his honor, his family comes first. He felt he owed his sisters the truth about his identity, which was quite a choice to play in the endgame (Jon Snow truly knows nothing).
Arya is now the Hero of Winterfell, having stuck the pointy end into the Night King and annihilating the entire Army of the Dead. Sansa survived yet another tumultuous episode in her life, as she remains a chill, voice of reason in Winterfell – a counter to the stern but unreasonable Daenerys in the war room.
While Arya admitted that Jon did the right thing to ally with Daenerys against the Army of the Dead, she said point-blank to Jon’s face, “We don’t trust your queen.” Jon shot back, saying they can’t be allies with only those close to them – until the confrontation leads him to swear his sisters to secrecy and tell them about his Targaryen blood with the help of his brother Bran, now the Three-Eyed Raven.
Sansa was perturbed when Tyrion confronts her about her hostility toward Daenerys, and she didn’t keep the secret she just learned to herself. Eight people now know about Jon being Aegon – information with repercussions in this game of thrones.
“It’s not a secret anymore. It’s information. If a handful of people know now, hundreds will know soon,” Varys correctly said.
Far from being a slip of the tongue from a blabbermouth, it was actually Sansa impressively displaying her cleverness and political savvy, which she honed from meeting and living with several nasty people. This especially includes Petyr Baelish a.k.a. Littlefinger, who once used and plotted political chaos for his own benefit.
“She’s a student of Littlefinger, and she knows how information travels. She can think many steps ahead into the game,” explained co-showrunner and episode writer D.B. Weiss in a behind the scenes featurette.
“I’ve served tyrants most of my life. They all talk about destiny,” said Varys as he and Tyrion discussed what was essentially treason – albeit in agreement about Daenerys’s despotic proclivities and lust for power.
Dany’s Master of Whispers argued for Jon, a son of both the houses of Targaryen and Stark, as an alternative. Meanwhile, her Hand talks vague apologia in defense of the unwieldy Dragon Queen.
Daenerys doesn’t mind collateral damage in overthrowing Cersei, and her true colors are showing, as she becomes more volatile than ever (as past Targaryens have shown, including her own father). This obviously doesn’t sit well with both her advisers, and Varys absolutely wants her out.
Meanwhile, the Lannister brothers Jaime and Tyrion have to make crucial choices after surviving the apocalyptic war with their sister still on the Iron Throne.
Tyrion has his aforementioned concerns about Daenerys’s increasing unmanageability. On the other hand, Jaime had turned his back on his twin sister to fulfill his promise to fight with the living in Winterfell, but he already completed this mission – honorably.
After a redemption arc spanning seasons that made him an improbable hero and a heartbreaking parting of ways with Brienne of Tarth, Jaime, too, seemed to fall back on his old ways when he departed Winterfell for King’s Landing.
“You always knew exactly who she was, yet you loved her anyway,” Tyrion said in this season’s second episode, pertaining to the Lannister twins-slash-lovers.
Now here comes Bronn, the sellsword and the brothers’ so-called friend, sauntering in to tell them about how he was hired by Cersei to kill them both with gold and a promise of a lordship over House Tully’s former seat of Riverrun. But Tyrion also promised to give him double that offer to not kill him: the wealthy but now extinct House Tyrell’s Highgarden.
Whoever will make good on their promise hinges on who triumphs in this “last war.” Bronn, having calculated the odds (considering dragons and the Targaryen side’s mettle in battle), bet against Cersei – who hasn’t been sitting idly, even before the Battle of Winterfell.
Will the walls of King’s Landing tumble?
After some time off the air (but definitely not the power radar), Cersei Lannister came back strong and ruthless as ever.
As the decimated Targaryen fleet made its way back to their home base of Dragonstone, Euron Greyjoy’s armada ambushed them from behind its jagged rocks. They launched harpoons towards the sky, taking down Daenerys’s dragon-child Rhaegal who plummeted into the sea. They also fired at the boats, and then took Missandei hostage.
Euron’s attack, however, is just a part of Cersei’s shrewd but atrocious tactics. She herded in as much commoners as she can into King’s Landing. This guaranteed that if Daenerys pushes forward with an all-out war, it will definitely be the slaughter of yet another Mad Queen and turn the people against who could have been their liberator.
Daenerys’s Hand and Cersei’s brother, Tyrion, pleaded for a tenuous case to bargain with Cersei: her life in exchange for her surrender. Cersei, on the other hand, wanted Daenerys’ surrender in exchange for Missandei’s life.
Tyrion appealed to her redeeming quality, her mother’s love, but this didn’t sway the cold-hearted queen. Defiant, Missandei’s last words were “Dracarys,” which, in their mother Valyrian tongue, is pretty much the green light for Daenerys to raze the capital to the ground.
Already teetering on the edge of madness and backed into a corner, Daenerys might just inevitably spiral down into rage and madness and destroy everything.
The final season of Game of Thrones returns on Monday, May 13, airing at 9 AM in the Philippines exclusively on HBO and HBO GO with a primetime encore telecast at 10 PM. – Rappler.com
Paolo Abad is a film/television editor and motion graphic designer. He is also a self-confessed concert junkie.