Monday, May 6, 2019

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Final Season Episode 4

There were some story advances towards the endgame in this episode, some losses, some seemingly inexplicable events, a few callbacks towards earlier seasons, and of course a few characters acting in ways opposed to everything they had been before. 

It was uneven by the high standards of earlier seasons but I thought all in all it was better than the previous episode. Clearly the writers were eager to wrap things up and finish the story. It is a shame in some aspects that the story end will be on screen before it's in print but on the other hand the demands of budgets, television, and actors who want to do other things mean that we get an ending, which I am not sure will be the case with the original author, regardless of his good intentions.

There were three or four thematic elements to this episode. (1) We remember those who are gone. (2) Life is for the living so we celebrate that by engaging in life affirming activities: eating, drinking, and loving. (3) We attempt to deal with our internal conflicts-Jon and Daenerys try to square the circle about incest and claims to the throne. (4) We face external threats and new loss. 

There is a John Sayles movie titled Lone Star which has as one of its major plot points the discovery by a man and a woman that they are half-siblings. They share the same corrupt, deceptive, now deceased, father. Unfortunately they discover this after they've already had sex and fallen in love. They knew each other as teenagers but never got it together back then.They decide to continue the relationship despite the incest. That outcome is probably not going to be a possibility for Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. The episode opens up with a long shot from above of Jorah Mormont's corpse. Daenerys is losing it over him.



Everyone, well at least all of the named characters mourns over someone. Sansa places her wolf pin on Theon's body. Jon, who has apparently rediscovered his full authoritative baritone voice, gives a moving speech about the sacrifices the dead men and women have made and how the story must be remembered and told to generations not yet born. 

Ghost is alive, burned and wounded, but alive. The living burn the dead on the biers. There is impressive somber music for this scene. But as the saying goes life is for the living. It's party time. People are happy to be alive. That is everyone except the Hound. He just eats and snarls at people, including Gendry, who is looking for Arya. Tormund and company are very impressed with Jon Snow. They hug him, shake his hand, pound his back. Tormund is telling everyone how he knew Jon way back when. Tormund says Jon is a king. 


Feeling a little bit out of place and taken aback by how much attention Jon is receiving, Daenerys decides to assert her authority by singling out Gendry and initially making him think that she blames him for his father's actions. But instead she decrees that he will be the new Baratheon Lord, master of Storm's End. Gendry is ecstatic. Sansa's thoughtful.

People cheer Daenerys. Gendry goes to find Arya, who is practicing archery. He says he never wanted to be a Lord and knows nothing about it but could do it if he had Lady Arya by his side. He goes down on one knee to ask her hand in marriage. Arya kisses him but turns him down, repeating what she told her father and others in previous seasons--"that's not me", "I'm no lady". 


Tyrion is very talkative and outgoing and of course a bit buzzed. He presses the flesh, talking with Davos and Bran. Tormund talks about Jon coming back from the dead, which gets even more acclaim. Daenerys isn't happy to see that. Daenerys is also a little put out to see Tyrion, her Hand, so chummy with his big brother Jaime. Daenerys can't take it any more and leaves. Varys watches.

Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne and Tormund (though he may have just been watching Brienne) are playing a drinking game-basically truth or dare. When Tyrion correctly guesses that Brienne is a virgin, she gets embarrassed and leaves. Jaime follows her. It finally gets thru Tormund's thick head that Brienne is not interested in him. He complains to the Hound but the Hound has no sympathies for anyone, except maybe the Stark women. 

But as Jimi Hendrix sang, "If my baby don't love me no more, I know her sister will!". There are other women around who are eager to see if what they say about wildling men is true. Tormund isn't going to sleep alone tonight.So it all worked out for the best. Tormund didn't get his big woman but when God made one woman he also made a few more.

Sansa comforts the Hound. He bluntly says he heard about her rape and other horrors. He reminds her that if she had left with him he could have protected her. She reminds him that everything she's been through has made her who she is. After some wordplay Jaime and Brienne finally do the do. It was an atypically tasteful scene for this show. No nudity or toplessness from either actor or actress.


Daenerys goes to Jon's room. She wants him. It's up to the viewer as to whether this is real need or her attempt to bind him closer. They kiss, but apparently Jon can't go through with it because of the incest thingie. That doesn't seem to bother Daenerys. 

What does bother her is that Jon is more loved than she is and has a better claim to the throne. Leaving aside the erotic Jon says that Daenerys is his queen. Period. Full stop. 

That's not good enough for Daenerys. She admits she's jealous of Jon and has never before loved a man as much as she loves him.But business is business. Jon must swear to never ever tell anyone of his true heritage. That's the only way this will work. Jon says he must tell Sansa and Arya because they are his family. Putting some real threat in her voice Daenerys says I just told you how this will work. She angrily departs.

At the next war status meeting Daenerys talks of ripping out Cersei root and stem. Tyrion disagrees, and speaks of the human cost. He thinks surrounding the city and encouraging a revolt against Cersei is the wiser move. I have had a few bosses look at me the way Daenerys was looking at Tyrion. It never means anything good. Sansa interjects that everyone needs rest. King's Landing isn't going anywhere. Daenerys  gets mad and speaks of the cost to her forces of coming to save the North. Jon undercuts/overrules Sansa and says the North will assist. The plan is that Jon will lead North, Vale and a few Dothraki troops down the Kingsroad while Daenerys, Varys, Tyrion, Missandei, the dragons, and most of the Unsullied will sail south and regroup at Dragonstone. Daenerys smirks at Sansa. Arya demands a private meeting with Jon.


The Stark sisters don't trust Daenerys  and don't like Jon's infatuation with her. They also think big brother is acting really odd. Care to explain? Jon looks at Bran but Bran says it's Jon's call. Jon makes them swear not to tell anyone what he's about to tell them. Arya swears immediately; Sansa does after some argument. Jon tells Bran to tell them.

Tyrion has noted that Jaime slept with Brienne and wants details, which Jaime refuses to provide. Bronn bursts in to threaten both Lannister brothers.He wants Highgarden in exchange for not killing them. The Hound leaves for King's Landing. He notices Arya following him. He says he has unfinished business and isn't planning on returning. Arya says neither is she.

Tyrion continues his futile attempt to get everyone to get along. He asks Sansa why can't she play nice with Daenerys. Sansa points out that her grandfather, father, uncle, and brother were all murdered after going south. And now Jon is going South. She accuses Tyrion of being afraid of Daenerys, something he can't deny. But she is their queen. Sansa looks at Tyrion and asks him what if there were someone else, someone better.

Tormund and Jon say their goodbyes. Tomrund says Jon is of the real North. Tormund declines Jon's offer to let the Free Folk stay south of the Wall, saying they need their space to roam. Jon releases Ghost from his service and asks Tormund to take him.Saying goodbye to Sam and Gilly, Jon sees that Gilly is pregnant. Tyrion tells Varys about Jon. Varys is cooling on Daenerys. 


Daenerys and her two dragons are flying above their ships when the dragon Rhaegal is hit by multiple ballista bolts and falls dying into the sea. Yes it's Euron Greyjoy and his radar equipped Iron Fleet again. They have intercepted Daenerys' fleet. Daenerys starts to attack but there are so many ballista that it would be a suicidal effort. Tyrion and Varys survive, as does Grey Worm. Missandei is missing. Some unknown portion of Daenerys' fleet is sunk. We see in King's Landing that Euron takes the opportunity to cop a feel off Cersei as he explains that he's killed a dragon and sunk many ships. Cersei is bringing people into the Red Keep to use as human shields. She also has captured Missandei.

On Dragonstone Varys drops his normal deferential tone and tells Daenerys that attacking now is a mistake. Too many innocents will die. Daenerys responds that she's here to free people from tyrants regardless of the cost. That was evidently the last straw for Varys who later tells Tyrion that his (Varys') first loyalty is to the realm, not any particular ruler. He thinks Daenerys is too strong for Jon. It's time to make a choice. And Tyrion will need to make some tough decisions. Varys knows what he has to do. Tyrion doesn't want to hear this. Jaime hears of the sea incident and decides he has to leave for the end fight, despite Brienne's pleas and tears.

In front of King's Landing Tyrion and Qyburn each deliver their respective Queen's demands for unconditional surrender. Qyburn points out that Daenerys' forces seem to be dwindling pretty quickly. He also says that they will kill Missandei, right here right now if Daenerys doesn't surrender.

Ignoring Qyburn, Tyrion walks to within earshot and bowshot of Cersei. After a long sibling  staredown, Tyrion appeals to her love for her children-including the one she now carries. He begs her to stand down and says that not ruling need not mean death. Given that Cersei said that in the game of thrones you either win or you die, Tyrion's statement had no effect on Cersei. Cersei, who gives every indication of getting sexual pleasure from hurting people, snarls at Missandei that now would be a good time for last words. Missandei yells to Daenerys the command for a dragon to fire. At Cersei's nod, the Mountain casually beheads Missandei. Grey Worm is sickened. Daenerys is shocked and grim. She turns and walks away.



Impressions

I thought this was a more emotionally engaging episode than last week's. I thought it was a little rushed for Varys to seemingly so quickly decide that Daenerys had to go. I mean did anyone really think that they weren't going to have to fight Cersei? Innocents always die in battles or sieges. Starving a city out isn't more humane than attacking it. 

Similarly it doesn't make any sense for Jaime to leave Winterfell only after he heard about the dragon dying. His admission of his attempted murder of Bran to Brienne seemed gratuitous. Blubbering Brienne also seemed out of character. She may have been a virgin but she was still quite well acquitted with meanness and evil in the world. 

The fact that Jon shared a secret and then people blabbed about it shows that Ned Stark was right to keep his mouth shut. People can't disclose what they don't know. Daenerys was also right that even if Jon doesn't want the Iron Throne there are other people with agendas that will force it on him.

Euron is so happy to have bedded Cersei that he doesn't seem to notice that Tyrion has knowledge of Cersei's pregnancy, something which shouldn't be possible, given the timeline and distance involved. Distances and timelines this season and last were quirky.

I thought Daenerys was giving off a vibe from someone from our recent elections. Snicker. Daenerys thought she was the most "qualified" and had put in the most work. But she didn't have the likability factor. And out of the blue some man shows up to outshine her.


Speaking of the dragon dying I still hold some hope that maybe the dragon survived somehow? That's probably silly though. It got hit in the head and throat at least twice. I was sad to see the dragon go. Someone (Varys?) has to be providing intelligence to Euron and Cersei of Daenerys' plans and tactics. This is at least the second time his fleet has managed to be in the right place at the right time and surprise people.

It was a little more believable than the night time attack on Yara's fleet but just barely. There's no radar, sonar, tonnage displacement estimation devices, no easy way to communicate between ships or between sea and land. How did Euron know where and when Daenerys would appear? The sea is a big place.

The whole advantage of having flying dragons is that you can see things before they see you. With Daenerys providing air cover it should not be possible for her or her fleet to be taken by surprise. The ballista shouldn't have come as a surprise since Bronn used one before. We are emotionally invested in Missandei but in truth anyone who's a non-combatant should have remained at Winterfell and relative safety.

Even if everything went as planned it doesn't seem that Jon and Sansa have worked out between them who is in charge of the North. This goes back to Catelyn's fears that Jon would dispossess her children. 

At least Ghost survives.
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