The fourth episode in the final season of Game of Thrones is organized into three rough acts: The Funeral, The Celebration and The Sh*t Hitting the Fan.
The first order of business in the wake of The Battle of Winterfell is eulogizing and burning the thousands of dead. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) weeps for Jorah (Iain Glen), Sansa (Sophie Turner) for Theon (Alfie Allen), Arya (Maisie Williams) pauses to gaze for the last time upon Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and Jon (Kit Harington) gives Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) a moment of reverence.
Jon says a few words about the importance of carrying the memories of the fallen forward for future generations, then he and other leaders light the funeral pyres. Among them, Sam (John Bradley) lighting Edd’s (Ben Crompton) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) lighting those of the Dothraki and Unsullied.
When the funeral is over, the living gather for a somber feast. Dany breaks the grim mood by calling Gendry (Joe Dempsie) to her (as he’s about to depart in search of Arya). She announces his Baratheon parentage, throwing some shade at Gendry’s father for usurping her throne before telling him that she is stripping him of bastard status and making him the Lord of Storm’s End. This clever move, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) observes, will give her a new Lord at Storm’s End who will be undyingly loyal to her.
The room toasts Gendry’s good fortune and the Queen who bestowed it, and the mood shifts to a celebration of victory and life. Gendry steals away to find his lovah, and the others get progressively drunker.
In the Hall, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Tyrion, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Portman) play Tyrion’s drinking game that involves making statements about other players and taking a drink if your statement is wrong (and their taking one if the statement is correct). There’s palpable chemistry and many furtive glances between Brienne and Jaime, heightened by the flowing wine. Things come to a head when Tyrion declares that Brienne is a virgin, and she excuses herself.
As she stands, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) arrives aiming to bed the “big woman,” but Jaime jumps up and literally blocks him, following Brienne out of the room. Tyrion empties his wine into Tormund’s horn as a compensation prize, and Tormund is desolate… for a few minutes. As he pours his heart out to an unreceptive Hound (Rory McCann), some Northern girls come offering their company and Tormund is restored.
Sansa and The Hound also share a moment in which he notes that she didn’t used to be able to look at him and she replies that she’s seen a lot worse since then. He tries to shock her by referencing how she was roughly broken in by Ramsay, and then he softens, calling her a little bird and telling her that if she’d left King’s Landing with him she never would have been subject to the horrors that followed her choice. She grasps his hand warmly and tells him that without those people and experiences, she would have stayed a little bird all her life.
While the crowd grows merrier with drink, Dany winds up isolated at the head table, sitting alone while Tormund leads a group in reveling in Jon’s heroic battle feats–including riding a dragon like a king. Varys (Conleth Hill) observes unobtrusively, noting the hardness in Dany’s eyes when she stands and leaves the revelry.
Outside, Gendry finds Arya avoiding the people who now hold her as the hero of the day, shooting arrows at a barrel. He informs her of his good fortune, then kisses her and tells her that she’s beautiful and that his new Lordship won’t mean anything without her to share it with. He declares his love for her, gets down on one knee and asks her to be his wife and the Lady of Storm’s End.
Arya kisses him before telling him that he’ll be a wonderful Lord, but that she won’t be his Lady. She’s never been that, and she doesn’t want to.
Inside, Dany looks for Jon once he’s returned to his chamber. He offers his condolences about Jorah, and she explains that she couldn’t love him the way he loved her… the way she loves Jon. They embrace, kissing passionately until he remembers that she’s his aunt and his prudery kicks in. She begs him to keep the secret of his identity, to swear Sam and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) to secrecy and to let things go back to how they were between them. He promises that he doesn’t want the throne, and that he’s sure everything will be fine if he tells Arya and Sansa. He wants to be honest with his not-sisters, and he wants to keep his knee bent to Dany. She goes cold, telling him that the only way they can be together is if he does what she says. Then she leaves him to brood.
Dany isn’t the only one who’s shown up in a bedchamber. Jaime tracks Brienne to hers, making his way inside with two cups and a tankard of wine and insisting that she drink in response to Tyrion’s statement. She refuses the reason, but accepts the wine as he begins complaining of the heat and removing layers of clothing. Brienne may be a virgin, but she clues into the fact that Jaime Lannister is seducing her in time to help him get both of their shirts off before they start kissing! He comments that he’s never slept with a knight before, and she responds that she’s never slept with anyone. (The audience wonders if he’s ever slept with anyone besides his sister.)
The next day is for strategy and goodbyes. And for the sh*t to begin hitting the fan.
In the war room, the leaders acknowledge that their forces have been halved by the battle with the Army of the Dead. Dany is determined to move immediately towards Cersei (Lena Headey) and her throne, but Sansa advises allowing time for all of the exhausted and wounded soldiers to recover before making them travel and fight again. Dany does not like this at all, and Jon asserts that the North will honor its commitment to her and do as she commands, during which Arya moves closer to Sansa, clearly choosing her side.
Dany’s decision is firm, and Jon will lead one group of troops south on land while Dany leads another by sea.
Jon’s sisters demand a word, drawing him to the Weirwood for a family meeting. With Bran in attendance, Arya tells him she respects his having bent the knee to gain Dany’s support for the battle just fought and won, but that she also doesn’t trust her. Jon struggles with his conscience, then decides he needs to tell them his truth and makes them swear not to tell a living soul before having Bran fill them in.
A series of farewells follows, with Jon creeping on Gilly’s (Hannah Murray) baby bump as he and Sam say goodbye. Tormund tells Jon he’s taking the Freefolk home, and Jon says that he wishes he were also going north and that he wants Tormund to take Ghost, because that’s where a Direwolf belongs. Ghost lost an ear in the battle and has a lot of visible scarring, and although he whines at Jon as they separate, having the two embrace would be too complicated a shot, so Jon just looks at him and leaves.
The Hound rides off alone and acts gruff when Arya shows up beside him. He tells her he has unfinished business in the south, and she says she does, too. He says he doesn’t plan to return, and she says she probably won’t, either. He asks if she’ll leave him to die if he gets hurt again, and she says, “Probably.” They share a laugh and begin a new chapter for one of the show’s two best buddy match-ups.
Jaime decides to stay behind with Brienne, and he and Tyrion go alone to a tavern to share a drink before the latter departs. Tyrion gets in some gibes about his brother’s tall new love and “climbing the mountain” before they’re interrupted by a cagey Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and his crossbow.
Bronn punches Tyrion in the nose and shoots a near-miss arrow at Jaime so they’ll know he’s serious. He tells them that Cersei has promised him Riverrun in exchange for killing them, but that he’s known she’s a dead woman since he first saw Dany’s dragons. He’s come to hold Tyrion to his promise of doubling whatever someone offered to kill him, and Tyrion offers Highgarden. Bronn accepts, exacting their word and telling them he won’t fight with them but that they should stay alive so they can pay up if they win.
Before he leaves Winterfell, Tyrion finds Sansa on the wall. He’s come to beg her to be an ally to Dany since Jon will probably be in the capital from now on and she’ll be the real power in the North. She asks him to explain his allegiance to Dany, and when she finds his answer unsatisfactory she tells him Jon’s big secret. (Which she kept for less than 24 hours.)
As soon as he’s alone on a ship with Varys, Tyrion tells him. Varys asks how many people know, and Tyrion says it’s eight. Varys wisely comments that that means it isn’t a secret anymore–it’s information. Thus begins a series of tense conversations between the two in which they acknowledge a growing concern that Dany may be tending towards tyranny with her fixation on the Iron Throne, and a treasonous curiosity about what Jon would be like as king.
While her two most trusted advisors flirt with treason below deck, Dany and her dragons fly happily above her armada and Grey Worm and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) hold hands and look towards Dragonstone with the kind of relief and optimism that can only mean one of them will definitely die. (TV rules are TV rules, you know?)
Sure enough, the Dragon Queen doesn’t get to just roll up on the ancestral home casually. Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) is lying in wait, and Qyburn (Anton Lesser) has outfitted his armada with dragon-killing ballistas. They surprise Dany by shooting the battle-wounded Rhaegal out of the sky. When this dragon sinks beneath the water, there’s no Night King to bring any version of him back. At first she turns Drogon towards the attackers, but as they begin shooting more bolts at her last remaining child, she veers off and away.
Euron and company lower their weapons towards Dany’s ships and obliterate them all in little time. When the ambush is over, Dany and Drogon are still whole. Tyrion, Varys and Grey Worm swim successfully to shore, but Missandei has been captured and taken to King’s Landing.
In the Red Keep, an elated Cersei welcomes Euron and her new prisoner joyfully. She’s also opened her gates to all of the people in King’s Landing under the pretense of protecting them from the usurper, and in actuality ensuring that if Dany comes for her, she’ll have to kill thousands of innocents. Cersei tells Euron that she’s expecting his baby, and Qyburn confirms with a nod that she’s pregnant. From her perspective, everything’s coming up Cersei.
On Dragonstone, a furious Dany is ready to burn the Red Keep to the ground for the sake of her destiny. She has begun to see the innocents in King’s Landing as necessary collateral damage in the scheme of saving all mankind from tyrants. While she speechifies to that effect, Tyrion and Varys take turns trying to talk her down while serving each other side eye. They succeed in at least getting her to parley with Cersei, which Dany thinks will show the people that it’s Cersei they should blame for their inevitable deaths.
The parley takes place outside the walls of King’s Landing, where all of the parapets have been outfitted with Qyburn’s dragon ballistas. Cersei stands above the gate with Euron, The Mountain and her bound prisoner. It is Qyburn who emerges from the castle gate to speak Hand-to-Hand with Tyrion.
As they cross the distance between Dany and her small company of Unsullied and the archer-covered walls of King’s Landing, Qyburn looks considerably calmer than Tyrion. Looking on, the balance in emotional unrest is echoed in their Queens, with Dany squirming and Cersei practically busting with smugness. Tyrion begs Qyburn to acknowledge that Cersei’s reign has ended and to help him avoid the coming slaughter, but Qyburn is unflinching in his loyalty to his Queen.
Tyrion rolls the dice hard and walks past Qyburn to address his sister directly. As her archers draw their bows, he calls up and begs her to save the life of her unborn child and prove that she isn’t a monster by ending the conflict peacefully right away. Although her eyes tear up while listening to him, she grasps Missandei by the arm and tells her that if she has last words, she should say them. Missandei looks to her Queen and yells, “Dracarys!” before The Mountain steps forward and lops off her head with his sword.
A crestfallen Tyrion turns back towards his enraged Queen and her equally enraged General, his face conveying that he recognizes the potential for disaster in the woman he’s pledged allegiance to.
Back in the North, a raven brings word of the ambush at Dragonstone and the likely next steps. Jaime catches Sansa and Brienne receiving the news and asks for an update. That night, he cannot rest. He packs his horse and leaves a sleeping Brienne without saying goodbye. She hears the door close and confronts him in the courtyard, insisting that he is a good man who is not like his sister and imploring him to stay with her.
Jaime confesses that he crippled Bran for Cersei, that he strangled his cousin because of her, that he’s done innumerable terrible things for her and that he would have done more if needed. He tells Brienne that Cersei is hateful, but so is he, and he rides towards the woman who is his addiction and will likely be his downfall, leaving a sobbing Brienne behind him.
For the first time, I know who I’d like to see on the Iron Throne at the end: Sansa. I think she’d be a great Queen. I want to see Tyrion at one of her sides and Arya at the other. Maybe it’s time to place my bets?