This was a mixed bag, for me, if I'm honest. There were some parts I really loved and other parts I emphatically Did Not, and I came out of it with a sense of deep disappointment.
Okay, overall: the way this episode built tension in the first 20 minutes or so was really effective, particularly for the eventual payoff. I am endlessly amused that my old Wispology theory still holds out (i.e. that a character's level of sanity is accurately indicated by the state of their hair), namely the scene where Dany was looking unkempt just before she executed Varys. Even Paul pointed it out so it wasn't just me!
Actually, I'd almost forgotten about Varys by the end, because the rest of the episode was so ridiculous (in both good and bad ways). His death was inevitable, really, and I'm mostly just glad that Tyrion's still alive - at this point he may well be the last one standing. I thought the scene of Varys's execution was really well shot - that chilling moment of Drogon slowly emerging out of the darkness as Daenerys gave the sentence.
I spent the last 45 minutes or so of the episode on the edge of my seat. It wasn’t quite as relentlessly stressful and tense as episode 3 (that would be a hard act to follow, in all honesty; I don’t think they’re going to pull a finale out of the bag which will top that) but after the quietness and slow-burning tension at the start it really brought the drama later down the line.
- Drogon torching Euron's fleet and all the Scorpions - should've happened last episode but still, called it.
- Daenerys torching Kings Landing and causing thousands of innocent deaths - called it.
- Cersei planting wildfire beneath the city - called it.
- Cleganebowl ending with a fiery death - CALLED IT.
- Jaime doing something really fucking stupid - y'know what, I'll deal with Jaime later because it's gonna get long.
Things which I would've liked to see and didn't:
- Arya killing Cersei and/or Gregor Clegane. Sadly didn't happen, though by the end of the episode she was clearly on a mission so maybe she'll kill Dany instead. They made a big deal at the end of the last episode focusing on Dany having green eyes (I'm sure they're supposed to be violet in the books?) and obviously we all just assumed that the green eyes predicted by Mellisandre belonged to Cersei. (TBH much of this season has been the writers going BITCH YOU THOUGHT every five seconds so I don't know why I'm surprised any more.)
- Yara vs. Euron - honestly, I would have preferred this to what we actually got. Yara turning up at all would have been something, to remind us that one of the Greyjoy siblings is actually still alive AND a proper badass to boot. All I wanted was to watch her wreak sweet vengeance on her uncle. The fight scene between Euron and Jaime served literally no purpose other than to make us all think Jaime was dead before the end of the episode – as a reminder, that’s Jamie Lannister, once-greatest swordsman in Westeros, survived the Long Night, dead in a sword fight with a pirate. Come on. I can't believe that Euron's dying words (I mean, we're assuming he's dead, but who fucking knows any more?) were to cheer the fact that he was the man to kill Jaime Lannister. REALLY? Priorities, mate.
- Tyrion predicting the bloody wildfire would be there. I mean, I'm assuming he did and that he informed Daenerys as necessary, but it would have been nice to see him doing it, given how well he’s supposed to know his sister. (And, y’know, wildfire was also his trick when Kings Landing got stormed all those seasons ago – those halcyon days when characters were recognisable…)
- Jaime's golden hand attached to an unrecognisable charred corpse and by that token some proper ambiguity about his death (I'll get to this in a minute). They seemed to focus a lot on the golden hand for no apparent reason (other than him using it to clobber Euron, which, LOL), firstly as a device for him being stupid enough to get caught trying to sneak into the camp (FFS Jaime) and secondly him using it to try and gain access to the Red Keep (and failing).
- Tyrion being appropriately outraged by Jaime leaving Brienne LIKE THAT, considering only one episode ago he was toasting their happiness. In fact, any mention of her at all during their conversation would have been better than what we actually got.
- Confirmation as to whether Cersei was ever actually pregnant, and indeed who the father was. I’m still not convinced she was. If it was Jaime’s then she would have been much further gone, but TBH this show has always been very bad at expressing time in a believable fashion…
I think this is probably a good time for me to move onto my thoughts about Jaime in this episode, and I’ll start with that conversation between him and Tyrion.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED that they got to have that moment as brothers, that they essentially got to say goodbye. Tyrion acknowledging that he survived his childhood because of Jaime was PERFECT, and was one of a few moments in the episode which got me a bit choked up. (The others were the Arya/Hound moment, and the inevitable ending of Cleganebowl; damn, Sandor.) It once again, also, demonstrated Tyrion’s unconditional love for his siblings, even the one who treated him like shit for his entire life, and by extension his nieces and nephews. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Tyrion is TOO GOOD for the bloody Lannisters.
What I did NOT like was the suggestion that Jaime did not care for the lives of innocents (other than one in particular, i.e. his unborn child), because caring for the lives of innocents is EXACTLY WHY HE’S THE KINGSLAYER. What even was the point of that character reveal at Harrenhal if they were just going to ignore a major facet of his personality and backstory? But actually, considering the writers couldn’t even callback a conversation from the PREVIOUS EPISODE, it’s hardly surprising they’d ignore what is ostensibly Jaime’s greatest moment of growth.
Apart from the fact it threw my Queenslayer theory out of the window (damn it, I really wanted to be right), it also leaves a really bad taste in my mouth for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, but which I will try and put into words. Jaime was 17 when he slew King Aerys and he’s now in his mid-40s. It just kind of feels like they’re haphazardly painting an allegory about how young people are liberal socialist snowflakes who mature into conservative dicks when they get older. Which, NO. The ENTIRE POINT of Jaime’s character arc has been about his redemption and I don’t buy that he would simply give up caring for the fate of thousands of people just to save his awful sister and a child that may or may not exist. He’s worn the Kingslayer moniker for his entire adult life without anyone understanding his true motives; which is PRECISELY WHY I wanted the Queenslayer ending to happen, i.e. that this time his deeds were lauded because everyone knew what his motives were (particularly for a hated queen like Cersei and/or a batshit lunatic like Dany.)
I’m actually not even that mad about the Jaime/Cersei ending. Part of me totally understands his motivation to try and rescue his sister and potential child. He’s allowed to love Cersei; she’s his twin; that’s never going away; you can’t erase years of abuse in a few short weeks and it seems inevitable that Jaime would default to Cersei in a time of crisis because that’s what trauma DOES. (There’s also a huge difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone, and it’s a distinction I suspect the writers have no clue how to deal with.) I appreciated that they didn’t fully shove Twincest into our collective faces after the mess they made of Braime in the last episode. What pisses me off is that both Jaime AND Cersei deserved a better ending than that.
Cersei deserved to go out standing off against Daenerys, mad queen to mad queen, with those around them struggling with torn loyalties – Tyrion, for example, who would try to reason with both of them; Jaime, who would struggle with doing the right thing; Arya, having to make a judgement call over which Mad Queen is more dangerous. Cersei deserved to go out fighting, kicking and screaming and causing as much damage as possible. I would have LOVED to have Cersei vs. Daenerys in the throne room, Drogon setting everything alight and Dany emerging from the fire unscathed again like at the very start of her journey; Cersei’s charred corpse sitting proudly on the Iron Throne, stubborn in the face of death. Jaime and Tyrion being allowed to mourn her, as her brothers, whilst understanding that her death was inevitable, and then going on with their lives without the burden of their family name.
And as for Jaime…
Ideally, if he was dead-set on saving her, here’s how I would have liked it to pan out. He could have rescued her, got them both to safety, and then convinced her to give up the throne since it was obviously a lost cause. There’s no way to come back from her fleet, her army, her castle and most of her city being destroyed, and Jaime more than anyone understands that sometimes, discretion is the better part of valour. He could have convinced her to remain under protection at Casterly Rock – protection for her and her child (if it exists), as well as protecting the rest of the world from Cersei - and then quietly informed her that there’s no future for them any more – because it only causes more destruction, because they’re both better than that, because he’s always done everything for her and she owes him a returned favour by now, because he’s in love with someone else. He wouldn’t even need to bring Brienne’s name into it (I mean, she would probably guess anyway), because if Cersei is exiled to the Rock then everyone, including Brienne, is safe.
But no, instead we got both of them getting crushed under a pile of rubble, and a suggestion that Jaime’s wish to die in the arms of the woman he loves has somehow been fulfilled because he’s with Cersei. BULLSHIT. We did not invest seven fucking years of emotional graft into the saving of Jaime Lannister’s soul for this. I’m sorry, but it’s nonsensical.
Again, this boils down to a generalised feeling of unease which I shall now attempt to unravel:
The first couple of episodes of this season gave us plenty of fanservice. Jon and Arya’s reuinion. Arya and Sandor forming a companionship. Gendry/Arya becoming canon and then breaking up in a way which felt appropriate for Arya’s story. Sansa/Tyrion sharing their moment in the Winterfell crypts. FFS, we even had a brief Sansa/Sandor interaction. All of these were tiny, throwaway moments. What we were given for Braime was more than that: episode 2 was heavily focused on them coming back together, Brienne defending him to Sansa and Daenerys, the fact that Jaime had come north for her, that he was doing the right thing. The knighting scene, so lovingly shot and executed, filmed like a moment to be savoured rather than not; the fact that they both survived the Long Night, not just one but MULTIPLE shots framing them saving each other and fighting side by side with their TWIN FORGED SWORDS. Yes, the culmination of their arc was messy, and badly written, but even at the point of Jaime leaving it didn’t feel like the writers had just thrown it in as a favour like they had all the others.
And now it feels like that’s exactly what they were doing, but in a very long, drawn-out way, so we could finally get some pay-off from the years of emotional investment only for them to pull the rug out from under us and laugh in our faces.
The fandom is angry, and grieving, and we have every right to feel betrayed. I am utterly convinced now that we will never see Jaime and Brienne together in the same scene again; after seven years, THAT is how they chose to end their slowly building, beautiful joint character arc. It feels almost deliberately, spitefully cruel. Game of Thrones, I am certain, is one of those shows where the creators are more than aware of what the fans want – which is exactly WHY they crammed so much character and ship-based fanservice into those early episodes. If you look on AO3, Braime is the second most popular pairing after Jon/Sansa. The creators fucking know how invested we are in this ship, and they still decided to do that to us.
I think perhaps it wouldn’t hurt quite so much if they hadn’t ruined Jaime’s character in this episode. I truly, honestly wanted to believe that he was going south to stop Cersei; that he was trying to keep Brienne safe by making her hate him so she wouldn’t follow him. He never thinks anything through properly and his self-loathing is just strong enough for him to think that would be a good idea. The entire fandom has spent a whole week trying to justify his actions in a way that makes sense for his character, and it was literally all for nothing. He only went back to Kings Landing to save Cersei, and whatever his intentions might have been after that are completely unknown because (a) we didn’t even have the courtesy of him explaining it to anyone, even Tyrion, and (b) he’s buried under a fucking pile of rubble. I hate where he ended up so much that I can’t even be upset about his death, because everything that was great about the character already died within the first 20 seconds of him being on screen.
It also, honestly, feels like NCW has been trolling us the entire time by saying he was happy with where his character ended up (because nobody believes for ONE SECOND that he would be happy with this outcome given his consistent, vocal distaste of Jaime constantly going back to Cersei every bloody season), by sharing the photos of where he filmed his last scenes, by saying he acted opposite someone new. He even described Jaime’s arc as “blue” in an interview and everyone jumped to the conclusion that it would involve Brienne. Everyone is just really… confused, and upset, and hurting, because it makes no sense.
The only thing which is remotely giving me any hope is the fact that he was contracted for all six episodes according to a pre-season press release, so potentially he’s not actually dead – yes, despite being stabbed in the chest and having half a building collapse on him. (Strong stuff, that plot armour.) That would be a typical thing from this show, TBH, another stupid u-turn for the sake of Surprising The Audience. But unless they can justify his actions next week in a way which makes fucking sense, I actually don’t even care. He doesn’t deserve Brienne now, and our ship has been soured by this awful writing forever. (I say this, content in the knowledge that if they do get back together I will still cheer, because I’m fickle.)
The thing is, I’ve had ships sink in the past, many times, and it never gets any easier. This particular sinkage is reminding me horribly of my Star Trek: Voyager days when Chakotay/Seven became a thing, a writing decision which destroyed both of my OTP’s in one fell swoop, and which latterly soured my love of Janeway/Chakotay as a pairing because I hated Chakotay so much afterwards. It similarly disregarded six seasons of slow burn build-up which were put in place by the show’s original creator, Jeri Taylor, who left it in the incapable hands of Berman and Braga – we now know how absolutely, dickishly and misogynistically awful they are, but even at the time (this was the early 00’s, when these things were not quite such common knowledge) it was evident they cared little for the fans’ feelings.
I was prepared for the Braime ship to sink, and that’s fine – that’s what fanfic is for. But honestly, if they don’t redeem his character in some way in the next episode, I don’t think I will ever be able to look at this ship in the same way again. And that HURTS, because it had so much potential and all of that has been thrown away. We had a brief few seconds of Brienne finally being loved for who she was, of Jaime finally demonstrating that he could be the person who was capable of that, of them having the happy ending and redemption that they both deserved (off screen, because we don’t even get to SEE the nice things even when we finally have them), only for the writers to screw it up like a mistake and throw it back in our faces.
It also occurred to me whilst I was writing this rant that Jaime didn’t even have Widow’s Wail with him during this episode, presumably because he was disarmed at Dany’s camp when he got caught, and that feels like pouring salt into an open wound. I’m also generally annoyed that they blew the CGI budget on the Battle for Winterfell (presumably), which probably accounts for Dany losing a second dragon (gotta spend money on FIRE and GIANTS!) and also the fact that we haven’t seen Jaime with his missing hand all season (he’s always wearing the gold hand), and the fact that they apparently forgot about Brienne being attacked by a bear and sustaining significant scars as a result. I know, these are really minor plot points in the grand scheme of things, but it points again to the fact that they were never invested in Braime even a little bit, because Jaime’s missing hand and him saving Brienne from a bear, and their twin swords, are the foundations of their relationship. They couldn’t even give us THAT.
On the plus side: I was toying with typing up some of my Best Case Scenarios as actual fics, and I had enough rage after this episode to finish my latest fic (with two different endings in the pipeline!) and probably writing a few more, so that’s… something? Honestly, the best thing to come out of this shitshow is the amount of fic people have been producing lately (myself included). Fandom is awesome, even if the creators are dicks.
Anyway. One episode to go, and I’d like to say I’m not invested after all of this, but that would be a lie. Current theory: Jon sits on the Iron Throne, Sansa is Queen in the North. Tyrion is clearly still alive for the final episode according to the teaser but I can’t predict what will happen there, I’m half-convinced Jaime will emerge from the rubble (as stated) but probably not with Cersei, and Brienne had BETTER get a decent bloody ending even if that’s not with Jaime. (I’m torn on whether or not I want her to be pregnant, because it honestly depends entirely on whether they can repair Jaime’s character…) Oh, and if Euron isn’t dead, can Yara finish him off please? I don’t ask for much.
I wish I’d never started watching this bloody show.