Television Reviews

REVIEW: Game of Thrones – Season 8, Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”

“Do not become what you’ve always struggled to defeat.”

*SPOILERS*

In “The Last of the Starks,” Daenerys, Jon, and everyone else burn the dead. At dinner, Daenerys dubs Gendry Lord of Storm’s End and the lawful son of Robert Baratheon. Bran tells Tyrion that he doesn’t want anything, not even to be Lord of Winterfell. Tormund tries to follow Brienne to her room, but Jaime cuts him off; Tormund ends up with a random girl. Sansa tells the Hound that without people like Littlefinger and Ramsay Bolton, she would have remained the same little bird forever. Now a trueborn Lord, Gendry proposes marriage to Arya. She declines, stating that she isn’t a lady. Brienne and Jaime hook up. Jon and Daenerys discuss Jon’s parentage again. She says he has to swear himself, Sam, and Bran to secrecy, but he wants to tell Sansa and Arya. Daenerys wants to attack King’s Landing now, but Sansa wants time for the troops to recuperate. Jon allows Bran to tell the girls who he truly is.

As Jaime and Tyrion discuss women, Bronn shows up. He tells them what Cersei offered him, and Tyrion counter-offers him the lordship of Highgarden. Arya and the Hound leave Winterfell. Sansa posits the possibility of a better ruler to Tyrion. Jon bids farewell to Tormund, Ghost, Sam, and Gilley. Tyrion and Varys discuss Jon’s claim to the throne, as well as the possibility of their marriage. Rhaegal is shot down on the way into King’s Landing, prompting Daenerys to swerve Drogon away. Everyone is forced to swim ashore. Missandei is shown to be a prisoner of Cersei. Varys advises Daenerys to spare the innocent people in King’s Landing, and Tyrion suggests they offer Cersei her life for the throne. When the two are alone, Varys suggests that Jon would be the better ruler, but Tyrion states that that would be treason. Tyrion believes that Dany will ultimately make the right choice, but Varys isn’t sure and says he will always act in the interests of the people. Upon hearing the news of what happened to Daenerys’ forces, Jaime leaves Winterfell despite Brienne’s pleading. Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys and the Unsullied arrive to talk to Cersei. The two factions are unable to make terms and Missandei is killed.

Alex: “The Last of the Starks” is a pivotal episode, but the most important thing about it is clearly a misplaced Starbucks cup.

Virginia: I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I know I’ll be sending my therapy bills to HBO. Life ruined.

A: Did you even notice it before the internet busted them? I didn’t.

V: I don’t recall seeing it. This reminds me of people freaking out because of set photos where you could see Ian McKellen’s wrist watch when he was filming Lord of the Rings. It’s the biggest non-issue ever. That being said, I have seen a couple of funny memes about it.

A: Game of Thrones memes are relentless at the best of times; this one will last as long as that endless winter the Night King wanted. It’s funny, but nothing to lose your mind over.

V: What used to be the stuff of blooper reels is now enough to ruin popular shows, it seems.

A: Other than lattes, “The Last of the Starks” is a great episode. The opening scene is note-perfect. After an underwhelming battle against what was supposed to be the ultimate evil, they had to sell that there was a cost to defeating the White Walkers. That funeral pyre made it feel like they lost something. The music is beautiful, and Daenerys crying over Jorah’s body is crucial to showing that, despite her recent actions, she still has some humanity in her. And, as we’d come to see, it was a good bookend to the episode.

V: I agree that the loss of the dead felt more pronounced this week. Last week it was hard to care about much of anything. The smaller amounts of violence and action in “The Last of the Starks” are also a marked improvement of any we saw in “The Long Night.” In fact, this week’s episode is an improvement in just about every way. There are a couple of moments I didn’t much care for, admittedly, but we’ll save that for later. Did you have a favorite scene or moment?

A: That’s really tough. Outside of that amazing opening, I liked Tyrion’s discussions with Varys about whether Daenerys is the right person to sit on the throne. It felt like Tyrion mostly sat out last season, and I’m glad he’s back to being a major character like he should be. I also like that he and Varys are a bit at odds about the right play, though based on his expressions when defending his queen, Tyrion may not be as convinced as he’s letting on.

V: I agree; those bits were great and some of the most thought-provoking moments. For the sake of variety, mine is probably an odd choice. I liked it when Jaime told Brienne about all the awful things he’s done and that he’s just as hateful as Cersei. Personally, I really didn’t want these two together. Jaime is beyond redemption in my book, as was Theon. As strange as it sounds, I felt vindicated in his ultimate cruelty. That being said, it’s entirely possible that he’s going to kill Cersei, either because of her present situation with Euron, or that it’s Jaime’s plan from the outset. It could go either way. Anyway, I didn’t like the flirting between Jaime and Brienne, and their eventual coupling was a pretty big disappointment for me. I feel like it’s a weird thing to care about, but she’s too good for him. She’s an honest, honorable person and he is not.

Game of Thrones, The Last of the Starks

A: That was an excellent scene, and I think you’re right about it. They’ve been pursuing this redemption arc for Jaime, but along the way they’ve also reminded us that Jaime is guilty of, and capable of, great evil. The scene with Edmure Tully from a couple of seasons ago made that point very well. Here again, Jaime has the choice between staying with Brienne and leading a noble life from here on, but he can’t let go of Cersei, and ultimately chooses evil. It’s an admonishment to the audience and Brienne not to gloss over the darker elements of Jaime Lannister.

V: I felt bad for her, but ultimately I just can’t understand her choice. She even remarked a couple of episodes ago that Jaime has always berated her and made fun of her. Meanwhile, Tormund has worshipped the ground she walked on since the two first met. Oh well. Another thing I wasn’t thrilled with was Sansa breaking her promise to keep Jon’s secret. This isn’t a flaw with “The Last of the Starks” or anything like that, but it was really disappointing coming from my favorite character. The information probably should be out there, but she swore not to tell anyone. I guess she learned even more from Littlefinger than we thought.

A: She definitely did, though unlike him, she wants to use it for the benefit of others. I understand why she broke the oath, and I think it’s indicative of her growth as a leader. She had to balance her loyalty to her brother with what she thinks is best for her people. And the scene in “The Last of the Starks” where they plan the strategy for dealing with Cersei showed her, accurately or not, that Jon is more loyal to Daenerys than to the North right now. His insistence on keeping his lineage quiet just reinforced that for her.

V: I think Jon is incapable of seeing the pros and cons of the situation because of his feelings. I did like the little moment where he and Daenerys stop hugging and kissing, unable to put their secret out of their minds. I can’t believe they wanted to kiss at all, but I digress. Sorry to jump to another subject, but I really didn’t like the way Missandei went out, specifically that she says “Dracarys!”indicating that Daenerys and her forces should burn the city. Like, really? Missandei wasn’t among my favorite characters anyway, but she really wants them to kill everybody to avenge her? That’s a tad self-absorbed.

A: I liked that scene too, even though I could really do without them getting their Lannister on, especially now that they know they’re related. Daenerys actually seems to want to just ignore it, which I hope is more indicative of her increasingly unstable frame of mind rather than how she rolls. I wasn’t sure if Missandei meant she wanted her to burn King’s Landing to the ground or just to get Cersei; it reminded me of “AVENGE ME!” from Red Dawn. I thought it was a cool way for her to go out, but that depends on what she meant by it. I wonder if Daenerys and Grey Worm will have different interpretations of it.

Game of Thrones, The Last of the Starks

V: That’s a good point about how it could be taken in different ways. I guess time will tell; by next week, we’ll know what has been made of her final word. It’s interesting that you were right in that Missandei’s relationship with Grey Worm wasn’t long for this world. I figured he would be the one to die if either, so I was surprised he survived the Battle of Winterfell.

A: I was surprised that almost everyone survived the Battle of Winterfell. “The Last of the Starks” seems to be paying that off; they got past the apocalyptic battle with the undead hordes mostly intact (I love Jorah, but he’s not really a main character or anything, and they couldn’t have him throwing salt in Jon’s game), but before they even reached King’s Landing, Cersei’s forces killed a dragon and crippled Daenerys’ navy, then Missandei gets executed. I still think downplaying the White Walkers was a mistake, but this is boosting my confidence in the last couple of episodes.

V: I’d take “The Last of the Starks” over “The Long Night” any day. Even as she teared up, I knew that Tyrion trying to play on Cersei’s emotions was a mistake. She hates him, and she’s shown how ruthless she can be. Besides, right now at least, she’s in a position of power and advantage. She wouldn’t negotiate right now for the world. I also disagree with him saying that she loved her children more than herself; I don’t think that has been displayed in her behavior.

A: No, she always put herself first, like when she aligned herself with the Sparrows to stick it to her daughter-in-law, despite what it did to Tommen, and even more so when she killed Margaery. She did love her kids, but attaining power has always been Cersei’s priority. I think Tyrion was hoping her pregnancy would have her swimming in enough hormones that appealing to her maternal nature would work. Cersei also probably knows that Daenerys isn’t likely to let her live if she wins, so surrendering wouldn’t behoove her any way you slice it. She is demonstrating just how ruthless and formidable she is, and that Daenerys and the Starks underestimate her at their peril. If Daenerys had listened to Sansa and let their soldiers recuperate, they might have been better prepared for Cersei.

V: Nobody wants to listen to Sansa because they think she’s dumb or mean, except for Arya of course, who says she’s the smartest one she knows. I admit I’m biased because Sansa is my favorite character, and she did some things I question in this particular episode, but she makes a lot of good points. Unlike either Jon or Dany, Sansa has a head for strategy.

Game of Thrones, The Last of the Starks

A: The Stark ladies both have good heads on their shoulders right now. I liked that Arya said Jon was right about them needing Daenerys, but Sansa is right about her not being particularly trustworthy. Jon’s judgment is compromised right now, and his sisters have his back, even if they have to betray his confidence to do it. This moment in “The Last of the Starks” shows how much both of them have grown. Sansa is no longer an innocent child, and Arya isn’t an impetuous tomboy. This is even more reason to have it end with power being spread out among the different kingdoms; the Starks are perfectly capable of running the North on their own.

V: I think you’re very likely right and that’s exactly what will happen. What’s the point of freeing the people, just to crown another leader most of them don’t know and trust? I’m very interested in seeing where this all goes in our final two episodes.

A: If Ghost comes back, it’s all over for Cersei.

Game of Thrones - "The Last of the Starks"

Plot - 9.2
Acting - 9.7
Progression - 9.3
Production Design - 9.1
Intrigue - 9.6

9.4

Great

A marked improvement over its disappointing predecessor, "The Last of the Starks" shows the straining loyalties among the Stark-Targaryen alliance, as well as the ruthlessness and determination of Cersei. Secrets come to light, characters come to various crossroads, and surprises leap out at us as the war for the throne begins!

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