There were plenty of broken hearts to go around Sunday on “Game of Thrones.”
There was Brienne, who realized her longstanding dream of bedding the Kingslayer, only to have all her feelings slain soon after.
Gendry, buoyed by his new nobility, showed how little he knows Arya by asking her to be his lady, and received the predictable reply. “That’s not me,” she said, this season’s latest callback to the earliest chapters of this story. (Seriously, Gendry? You think she saved the human race last week so she could host parties at Storm’s End?)
Then there was Grey Worm, who saw his beloved Missandei lose her head in one of the show’s crueler executions. I knew the Naath love nest they dreamed about a couple of weeks ago would never come to pass, but figured (hoped?) it would be Grey Worm’s end that prevented it.
But it was the other primary witness to Missandei’s death whose broken heart will have the most world-shattering repercussions.
That would be Daenerys, who lost not only her most trusted confidante this week but also her dragon Rhaegal, who had survived to have his wing tattered in the White Walker battle only to get shot out of the sky, thanks to the Euron fleet’s exceptional marksmanship. (I guess while we’ve been in Winterfell for the past two weeks, they’ve been taking target practice on the Scorpion range.)
It was a bad week for the Dragon Queen, the latest in a fairly regular string of tragedy and indignity that began roughly when she started hanging out with Jon and doesn’t suggest much in the way of a happy ending.
Sunday’s episode opened where we ended last week, with Dany weeping over a dead Jorah, her second most trusted confidante. The Long Night over, the sun had risen — insert your own “Battle of Winterfell darkness” joke here — and the survivors paid flaming tribute to “the shields that guard the realms of men,” as Jon described the fallen heroes, in one of his better bits of oratory.
It was time for the healing to begin, and also the refocusing, as the show pivoted from the White Walker clash we’ve been hearing about for a while to the final one in King’s Landing. Soon there would be battle strategizing that somehow involved a glorified Risk board but not the guy — or whatever Bran is — who can warg into U-2 spy ravens. Soon this heroic band of brothers and sisters would scatter, Dany would find new torment and Tyrion would make more faulty plans.
But first, it was time to turn Winterfell into a party house from some ’80s teen comedy.
Tormund sloshed wine everywhere except his actual mouth. Tyrion and Jaime played drinking games with Brienne and Podrick. (Another Season 1 callback.) Attractive young women fawned over schlubs. (Apparently, Tormund and the Hound are irresistible to nubile young Northerners.) Everything — and everyone — got trashed. And, of course, it all ended with someone losing their virginity.
There’s a certain segment of “Thrones” fans who wanted Brienne to pair off with Jaime, but I was not among them. I understand the heightened sex quotient of recent weeks — when you’re squaring off with death, a desire to embrace life seems natural. And Lord of Light knows, Brienne deserves some fun.
But there’s something clichéd and regressive about this apparent need to bend every male-female onscreen relationship toward romance. Brienne and Jaime’s bond was endearing because it seemed to be based more on mutual admiration, a riff on the way some people can urge you toward your better self. Throwing sex into the mix doesn’t necessarily cheapen everything that’s come before, but it does make it less interesting.
It seems to be over, at any rate, which was awkward for other reasons.
Jaime had barely begun embracing his better self and Tyrion’s tall jokes before word of Cersei turned him into a sort of one-handed Manchurian Candidate heading back for King’s Landing.
“She’s hateful, and so am I,”
he told a sobbing Brienne. I know the show needs him to have a final showdown with his partner in twincest, but it felt pretty abrupt.
Also abrupt: Sansa’s spilling of Jon’s secrets. Mere hours after swearing her secrecy and all the rhetoric about “the last of the Starks” sticking together, she was blabbing the most explosive revelation in the Known World to Tyrion, the person closest to the subject of said revelation.
Sansa, no fan of Dany’s, presumably had her reasons. But at least one of those seemed to be “because the show needed the word to get out” — a development that, like Jaime’s departure, distracted by seeming to result from more from narrative necessity than a character’s natural behavior.
Whatever its origin, it’s yet another complicating factor for Daenerys in a season filled with same.
You’ll recall how utterly indestructible Team Daenerys looked as it crossed the Narrow Sea at the end of Season 6. The occasional Loot Train Attack aside, much of the show since then has been about evening the odds between her and Cersei’s forces, with Dany losing Viserion, Greyjoy ships (at least twice now) and a bunch of Dothraki and Unsullied while Cersei gained Euron’s armada and about 20,000 Golden Company mercenaries.
“The balance has grown distressingly even,” Varys noted Sunday, and that was before Rhaegal went down. (Imagine where things would stand now if Cersei’s elephants had come through.)
This season there’s been a parallel effort to strip Daenerys down emotionally and back her in a corner, making her paradoxically more likely to go off even as she continues to lose firepower.
Sansa has openly resented her, even after Dany paused her own aspirations in order to join the White Walker fight. Jon has a better claim on the Iron Throne than she does, and people like him better, too.
She began this week mourning Jorah and ended it watching Missandei get decapitated. Along the way her boyfriend denied her pleas, her dragon baby died, and her Hand hatched yet another plan — ask Cersei to surrender — that blew up in her face.
Daenerys’s messianic qualities and single-minded throne lust have always made her a dicey candidate for realm-ruling. “I have served tyrants most of my life — they all talk about destiny,” Varys said, and he’s not wrong.
But in Dany’s defense, how much more is the woman supposed to take? She seems done listening to anything aside from her own sense of justice. And if that means tens of thousands of King’s Landing innocents have the sky fall down upon them, so be it.
Courtesy of The New York Times.