Historically on Game of Thrones, the second to last episode packs the biggest punch of the lot - both emotionally and in terms of plotline. We’re talking episodes of Red Wedding proportions here, and this is the LAST EVER penultimate episode.
It’s the episode that Emilia Clarke said would be the biggest of them all, and look, are we prepared? Do we feel ready for this? Are we crying already? Who’s to say?
Last week saw the show setting up for a serious showdown between two power-hungry queens, we lost ourselves a dragon, Sansa was a bad arse and Jaime was a fool.
Deep breaths, people. Let’s see what is yet to come.
This post has been sponsored by Telstra.
We open on a letter - and while we can’t see all of it, there’s just enough to note that in the (surprisingly neat) penmanship there contains details of Jon Snow’s true parentage. And who does it belong to?
Varys. One of his little birds comes in - she’s been keeping an eye on Daenerys since the death of her best friend and dragon (RIP Missandei and Raeghal). Turns out Dany isn’t eating, and won’t let anyone in.
Martha, the little bird, is worried that they’re watching her watch Daenerys (confusing but okay), and Varys assures her that yep, absolutely they are. Really reassuring bloke, he is.
“The greater the risk, the greater the reward,” he tells her. Big “hmm”.
Tyrion loves a bit of high ground, and we see Jon Snow and Ser Davos arriving on the beaches. Tyrion watches as Varys approaches him, telling him of how Daenerys hasn’t admitted anyone or eaten any food.
He confesses that he’s worried - not just for her, but for everyone.
“They say every time a Targaryen is born, the Gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath,” he says. “We both know what she’s going to do.”
SHE GON’ DESTROY EVERYTHING. Obviously.
And despite Jon’s dedication to his queen, Varys is already convinced.
“I still don’t know where her coin has landed, but I’m quite certain about yours,” he says. Whether or not Jon wants the throne or not, it seems.
“You will rule wisely and well, while she-,” he starts, before being bluntly interrupted by Jon.
“She, is my queen.”
Tyrion approaches a clearly suffering Dany. Her usually smooth and braided hair is all over the place like a blonde haze, and it’s reminiscent of how she wore her hair way back in the first few seasons, before she became queen.
He is here to tell her of Varys’ treachery, but she already knows - kind of. She’s aware that someone has betrayed her.
But even faced with that knowledge Daenerys attributes it all back to Jon and Tyrion for feeding the information about Jon’s true parentage to Varys in the first place. And sure, it probably wasn’t super smart of Tyrion to have a gab about it with everyone, but still.
“I’m glad Sansa told me,” he says. “I’m your hand. I need to be aware of any threats.”
But Daenerys, as batshit crazy as she is in general, knows just as well as Tyrion does that deep down Sansa absolutely wanted the news to spread. But just as Dany says as she stares creepily out the window: “Doesn’t matter”.
Later, Varys is in his chambers, and as he burns the papers and removes his jewellery, he knows the end has come for him, as the Unsullied pour into his room.
They lead him to the beach, where Daenerys, Tyrion and Jon are already waiting. Tyrion approaches him and tells him that it was he who had told Daenerys of his betrayal.
“I hope I deserve this, truly. I hope I’m wrong,” says Varys.
He looks down at Tyrion, resigned.
“Goodbye old friend.”
Daenerys rattles off all her names again - breaker of bones, ruler of everything apparently, general psychopath. And she sentences him to die, as Drogon looms up behind them from the darkness.
In a seriously unfeeling and cold tone, all she does is utter the word, “dracarys,” and her last remaining dragon rears up and spits flame onto Lord Varys, burning him alive and leaving him charred. Jon watches, looking worried at her actions.
After returning to the sanctuary of the boats, it’s clear to see that Daenerys is still ruminating more on the death of Missandei than on the (probably still smoking) corpse of her former advisor. She speaks to Grey Worm about the collar that Missandei brought with her.
She holds it in her hands, and bestows it upon him. But Grey Worm (shockingly enough) doesn’t want a collar that was the symbol of his now-dead lover’s slavery, so he casts it into the nearby fireplace. As gifts go, probably not the sweetest thing to give him.
Jon approaches, and Daenerys whispers in High Valyrian that Grey Worm can leave her with him, so they are left in private. Gonna get awks, if you ask me.
Daenerys still hasn’t forgotten that he spilled the beans on the secret that she practically commanded him to take to the grave.
“What did I say would happen if you told your sister?” she says. “She killed Varys as much as I did.”
First of all, don’t you sully my precious angel Sansa’s name here. Dany, gal, you definitely are the only one who’s responsible for roasting a man alive here.
But she’s concerned about her following and it’s clear that paranoia is setting in. “I don’t have love here,” she says. “I only have fear.” Probably because she’s a psycho maybe?
Jon is still a devoted broody boy though, and he tells her that he loves her, and that she’ll always be his queen. Naw, it’s cringey as all hell. Can’t get much worse than that.
Except now she’s asking if that’s all she is to him, and is trying to kiss him again. Upping that cringe ante just a dash more, it seems, and honestly I don’t blame Jon for being reticent.
Sorry Aunty D, your nephew actually doesn’t want to bone the crazy out of you on the regular - which is not a sentence that anyone thinks they’ll be writing when they graduate from a journalism degree with their eyes full of hope and excitement. But here we are.
Daenerys is not fond of Jon pulling away (I can almost sympathise here, to be fair - I’d probs wanna keep kissing him too), but for her it’s a symbol of something more.
“Alright then,” she whispers.
“Let it be fear.”
In Daenerys’ throne room, Tyrion is making a case for the innocents of King’s Landing - and he’s basically one of the few people in the show is actively fighting for them.
Daenerys DGAF though, because to her, it’s showing mercy to future generations to ensure that nobody else is ruled by a tyrant. Weird logic, but okay.
Tyrion pleads, saying, “If you hear the bells, call off the attack.” Reluctantly she nods, and tells Grey Worm to wait for her outside the city and hold off for her signal.
“You’ll know when it’s time,” she says, and he walks out leaving her with Tyrion.
He starts to leave too, until she stops him cold with her words.
“Your brother was stopped trying to get past our lines,” she says. “It seems he hasn’t abandoned your sister after all.”
“Next time you fail me will be the last time you fail me.”
Tyrion then heads out to meet Ser Davos outside King’s Landing and tells him of their queen’s plan to attack by daybreak at the earliest. But that’s not all that he’s there for - Tyrion wants a favour from the ‘greatest smuggler alive’.
“I’m not gonna like this favour, am I?” asks Ser Davos.
Like it’s absolutely no big deal at all, Arya and the Hound just rock up to the army.
“I’m Arya Stark, I’m here to kill Cersei,” she says. Honestly, you kill one Night King and you think you can just show up anywhere? Yep, seems fair, do go on.
Tyrion however has a bit more trouble getting past the Unsullied guards, attempting High Valyrian and utterly botching it until they tell him they speak the Common Tongue after all.
He wants to be alone with Jaime, and he sends them off immediately. Jaime isn’t doing so great, having stupidly left his literal solid gold hand on the whole time which was a spectacularly unsubtle way to point out to everyone that he’s Jaime fucking Lannister.
Tyrion wants to change that though, and begs him to get himself and Cersei out of King’s Landing. To convince her to start a new life in Pentos - even telling him how to gain entry and exit into the Keep from a tunnel near the shore.
His only condition? “Give the order to ring all the bells and open the gates in King’s Landing” before they go.
But Jaime is hesitant, knowing that by freeing him, he’s pretty much guaranteeing himself to be accused of treason and put to death (in a similarly crispy fashion to Varys, no doubt).
“Tens of thousands of innocent lives,” says Tyrion. “One not particularly innocent dwarf. Seems like a fair trade.”
They share a sweet moment of brotherly affection, as Tyrion confides in Jaime that he was the only person he had as a child who didn’t treat him like a monster. The only reason he survived his childhood.
And so if it keeps Jaime alive, even despite his own burning hatred for her, he’d find a way to let him leave with Cersei. Or kill Cersei, preferably, so he can scurry on back to Brienne.
One of these boys is gonna die though, so don’t get too complacent. There’s no way they won’t, now that they’re being all huggy.
We’re in King’s Landing now, and there’s a bunch of people scurrying about trying to get in formation, pop a hefty crossbow bolt into the Scorpions, or just straight up trying to get to safety.
The music is ominous as we scan across the sea, where the Iron Fleet is waiting for Daenerys to show up with her dragons so they can play clay pigeons again.
Euron’s on deck wearing some extra flamboyant clothes today and oh god I’ve just realised that he’s basically a mix of all the emo-looking boys that I had crushes on growing up - Bam Margera’s face (I KNOW, major #regret), Gerard Way’s stare, Brandon Urie’s fashion sense. COOL THIS IS FINE.
Editor’s Note: Bam Margera!? You’re fired - Tegan.
While I’m having this crisis of identity, Arya and the Hound just straight up walk into the Red Keep. Literally nobody notices or stops them. IN THEY GO.
Tyrion is with Jon and his men, and warns him that if the bells sound, it means Cersei surrendered and that he should pull back his troops to avoid mass carnage. This sounds like it’s going to go just peachy, don’t you think?
Inside, the keep is packed and they’re closing the doors, turning people away. Jaime doesn’t make it, even when he chucks his fancy gold hand in the air, waves it like he just don’t care, and tries to get the attention of the guards.
He scurries away, trying to find another way into the Keep with the rest of the common folk.
Outside, everything is quiet as Euron’s eyes scan the skies.
All too late, he sees the dragon, dive-bombing from directly above them and jettisoning fire from its maw in gigantic destructive plumes. Whilst I’ve never really pondered the science behind the dragonfire, if it’s got anything to do with lung capacity then Drogon has some serious air control to be able to spurt so much for so long.
(Utterly irrelevant note: I had to stop writing this for a hot second because the idea of a dragon essentially just going “HOOOO” around the battlefield made me lose it entirely.)
Euron is frantically trying to move the crossbows into a position where they can actually shoot the dragon, but he and Daenerys are just too quick for them. They can’t reset in time - they’re all inflamed.
On the other side of King’s Landing, Grey Worm and Daenerys’ army await the signal, staring down the Golden Company with gruff looks on their faces.
It feels like an eternity, just locking eyes with the opposing forces, but then a noise comes and the entire wall of the city explodes with forceful flames.
Drogon made short work of the Iron Fleet, it seems, because your boy just destroyed pretty much all of the Golden Company. The Prince Charming looking bloke who lead them though? That was all Grey Worm, who flung a spear right into his back as he fled.
The Dothraki, Unsullied and Northern forces sprint into the city.
THANK YOU NEXT.
From above in the Keep, Cersei is insistent that all they need is one good shot. Qyburn tries fruitlessly to convince her otherwise, stating that all the crossbows have been destroyed. That their allies are dying rapidly.
But she doesn’t want to hear it.
“The red keep has never fallen,” she says. “It won’t fall today.”
Mmm, methinks you might be wrong there, love.
Jon and the Unsullied stride into the city below, and come face to face with a group of Lannister soldiers, decked out in the red and looking pretty unconvinced that fighting for Cersei is a good idea after all.
Daenerys sets Drogon down upon the barricade, and the sight of the dragon is enough to convince them that yep, they’re on the wrong side. They lay down their weapons and Jon sighs in relief that lives will be spared.
Tyrion’s eyes are still fixed on the bell tower, hoping it’ll ring out and now that the army has surrendered, this can all be over.
The bells start ringing, but Daenerys is too far gone. Her breathing is already ragged and her eyes are looking more crazy than usual.
The bells mean surrender. Apparently Daenerys either didn’t get that memo or just doesn’t give a shit, because she launches Drogon into the air and careens towards the Red Keep, spurting fire onto the innocent people below as she goes.
She’s destroying the city, sending buildings crumbling and peoples’ bodies flying in crisps with each exhalation from the dragon.
The Lannister army that laid down their weapons have turned to watch the dragon, and in an incredibly dickish move, Grey Worm takes his cue from Daenerys that it isn’t over yet. He flings his spear yet again into the back of one of the soldiers and all hell breaks loose on the battlefield again.
The battle rages on as they clamber to pick up their swords again while defending from the Unsullied. Jon tries desperately to command them to stop, but nobody listens.
Grey Worm notices though.
Everything is on fire, and the people are screaming. My only note here was “Daenerys, what the fuck?” - and really, I stand by that.
Tyrion looks aghast as he watches from a distance, while Ser Davos is on the ground directing people to safety. Or at the very least, the best safety they can find.
Everything goes quiet and we see Jon realising how futile the situation is. He’s fighting right now for the woman/Aunty he loves, but she’s been driven so mad that nothing will stop her.
The sound returns in time for us to hear a soldier dragging a screaming girl away to have his way with her. Jon stops him, stabbing him through the gut and telling the girl to hide.
Cersei watches from her tower as the dragon looms closer, circling the Red Keep and flaming down towers as they go.
Meanwhile, Jaime finds an entrance on the beach - though it seems Euron survived the flamethrower breath on the boats and has got himself there already.
And Euron’s no fool. He can hear the sounds of destruction above, so he knows exactly what Cersei’s chances are. “Listen,” he says. “That’s the sound of a city dying.”
Apparently all he wants though, is to kill Jaime. And look, after the dick move he pulled on Brienne last week (pun mostly unintended), I don’t really blame him. But I’m not quite sure this even needed to happen?
There’s so much subtext in them whipping out their swords to fight over Cersei that I can’t handle it - it’s genuinely detracting from the plot and I wouldn’t be mad if they both just stabbed each other at this point.
“If I win, I’ll bring your head to Cersei so you can kiss her, one last time,” says Euron.
Shots of the dragon destroying the Red Keep, turret by turret, are interspersed with Euron and Jaime fighting, and with Cersei looking on as debris falls.
The boys are fighting hard - Jaime whacks him with a seriously solid throat punch but Euron stabs Jaime in the side at the last second.
“You fought well, for a cripple,” says Euron, but Jaime isn’t quite finished with this battle yet. He impales Euron with his sword, stabbing him straight into the gut.
And despite Jaime hobbling off into the depths of the tunnel, Euron actually seems to be in good spirits.
“I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister,” he sighs, with his last breath.
In the Red Keep, Qyburn tries convincing Cersei to go. She’s still stubbornly insisting that she stay in the Red Keep, which is just frankly architecturally unsound at this point even without the looming threat of a dragon. She agrees, crying, and they leave.
The Hound and Arya are reaching the Keep roughly the same time, and the Hound moves forward to go find his brother for the showdown we’ve been waiting for.
But he doesn’t want Arya to come, despite knowing how badly she wants to kill Cersei herself. “You think you’ve wanted revenge a long time?” he asks. “It’s all I care about and LOOK AT ME. You wanna be like me?”
“You come with me, you die here,” he says. He cares for her, in his own strange way. He’s cared about her like a daughter ever since she left him for dead.
And she cares about him too, trusting him enough to leave. With a couple of parting words.
“Sandor. Thank you.”
With that, he moves up further towards the keep, as the dragon destroys it from above. Cersei, Qyburn and the Mountain are on their way down with their guards, and they make it almost to the bottom of the staircase before Arya’s unlikely friend and father figure, Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane, blocks their path and throws a challenge.
“Hello big brother,” he says.
STRAP IN, FOLKS. IT’S CLEGANEBOWL TIME.
The Mountain motions forward to attack him, but Cersei insists. “Ser Gregor, stay by my side,” she says. He ignores her, causing Qyburn to repeat her command - except he’s not the queen, so the Mountain has absolutely no qualms about picking him up, smashing his head into the wall and then throwing him down the stairs to land on a pile of rocks that smash him up even further.
Having seen a man’s skull literally just get smashed, Cersei sidles on past as though whistling that there’s nothing to see here, anyway.
The Hound goes for the swing, slashing at his brother in deeply angry and aggressive strikes. One of the strikes smashes the Mountain’s helmet off and reveals the monster underneath - a strange cross between Varys, Gothmog and some soggy cheese.
You didn’t think I’d let another recap go by without another Lord of the Rings reference, did you?
Cersei is slowly trying to escape, but with pieces of ceiling falling everywhere it’s proving harder than she’d like. Suddenly she emerges into a room and locks eyes with Jaime, who’s finally made it into the Keep.
She cries as he holds her, and it’s almost humanising to see her actually care about someone else - even if we’re all still kind of hoping he stabs her. Did he take Euron’s long dagger with him?
Except he isn’t doing that just yet, she’s holding him and commenting that he’s hurt - she sounds concerned and notices the blood through her tears. Homeboy WAS stabbed twice in the sides, to be fair. His organs are not, shall we say, flourishing at present.
The Hound and the Mountain are still at it above, and though the former manages to finally get his sword straight into his brother’s torso, stabbing him deep, he just won’t die. The Mountain picks him up, throwing him to the ground and taking off his own chest armour.
God, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is a huge human.
Below in the city, Arya’s movements echo the Hound’s. As he gets thrown to the ground, she falls. As he struggles to get up, so does she. A woman raises Arya up and she sprints off.
Above however, the Mountain is the one lifting the Hound up, by the throat. He presses him against the wall, hands strangling him hard as the Hound desperately stabs at him with a dagger to no avail.
He’s taking a beating, and despite struggling for breath he keeps stabbing.
“FUCKING DIE,” he screams, as the Mountain moves his hands from his throat to the Hound’s eyes. It’s Oberyn all over again, and my entire body is cringing at having to watch another eye gouging.
Feeling with his hands, the Hound finds the Mountain’s face and stabs the dagger through his eye too. The eye for an eye adage is played out quite literally on screen.
The Mountain has now been stabbed through the torso with a sword, multiple times through the upper chest with a dagger, and once through the EYE SOCKET, yet no death.
The Hound slowly opens his blooded and disgustingly gooey eyes, and realises that there’s only one way to end this. His own eye goo is literally painting his cheeks as another plume of dragonfire shakes the Keep, and with a great yell he propels his body forward, crashing into the Mountain and bursting them both through the crumbling wall.
They fall, hundreds of metres in the air down into the crackling flames that make up the burning city, and Cleganebowl is over.
On the city ground, Jon is surveying the destruction. He sees the damage they’ve caused and yells at the men to fall back. Finally they listen to him and withdraw - even though it’s too late for the city and the innocents within.
And he doesn’t even know that one of those innocents is his own sister (cousin? Can’t keep track of this family). Arya lies covered in ash, but choking on the dust. As she gets up, seeking respite, she stumbles across the woman who helped her up earlier, who’s hiding inside a building with her daughter and a bunch of others.
Arya knows that if they stay, they die, so she drags them out and tries her best to get them to safety. The woman falls, and though they try to lift her out with them, she insists that Arya get her daughter to safety.
Except the daughter refuses to leave her mother, and Arya tries to keep them all moving, until she leaps out of the way at the last second and flames erupt around them. Anyone else kind of confused as to why Arya had to be here at all? No? Just me?
Underground, Jaime is trying to lead Cersei back to the shore - but the exit has been blocked by the rubble of the falling city and they’re trapped underground.
She’s panicking, as the roof starts caving in around them. “I want our baby to live,” she repeats over and over again. “Please don’t let me die, not like this.”
She’s a mess, crying all over the place and it’s clear that Cersei’s finally realised that there’s no escape from this. They are going to die in this tunnel.
“Nothing else matters,” he says. “Only us.”
SAY THAT TO BRIENNE, MATE. SAY THAT TO SER BRIENNE OF TARTH.
They clutch at each other, looking into each other’s eyes as the roof caves in on top of them, and honestly, I’m mad.
I genuinely thought he was going to kill her, but nope - everything he said to Brienne was true, which means his entire redemption arc and character development may as well have been collapsed under rubble too.
Editor’s Note: Jaime Lannister is a heinous fucc boi who deserves to be bitch slapped with his own solid gold hand.
Brienne deserved better than a drunken one nighter with a bloke with a localised Midas complex that’s clearly there to compensate for something. Nobody wants your golden touch, my dude.
I’m glad he’s dead. - Tegan
Ash fills the air and we see Arya wake up (because apparently she’s also unkillable). The sound of destruction is dampened, and all we hear is strings as she looks around at the devastated city. In front of her, the body of the woman and her daughter lie charred, almost resembling the preserved skeletons of the people of Pompeii.
Ahead, a white horse is somehow miraculously there? I don’t know if this is meant to be a symbol of hope but horses are crafty and I don’t for one second believe that it wouldn’t have run away. But it doesn’t matter because it needs to save Arya so pop a leg over, girlie.
She rides out slowly, leaving behind a smoking cauldron of a city - the remains of King’s Landing. Wonder what happened to the Iron Throne in all that dragonfire - just saying.
Overall though? I’m annoyed.
I’m annoyed for Jaime, I’m annoyed for Daenerys (WHAT? ME? WHO AM I ANYMORE?) and I’m annoyed because I should’ve seen this coming.
I can see what everyone meant when they said it’d be a huge episode - the simulated dragonfire budget alone must have been colossal - but it took us ten steps backwards in character development for so many of our favourites.
Next week has a lot to answer to. If Sansa doesn’t end up on the throne, I’m going to revolt.