We're recapping Season 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones here on Monkey See. We'll try to turn them around overnight, so look for them first thing on Mondays. And of course: Spoilers abound.
Be honest: You were waiting for that two-shot. We all were.
The previews, the promos, they showed you Dany on the Dragonstone throne, they showed you Jon and Davos gazing up at it, and the only way this episode could have spent more time keeping them sep-a-rate-ed was if its director of photography were Dexter Holland.
Cruel, is what it was. Postponing joy like that. Denying us what it knew we wanted.
But then she steps down from the throne. And walks toward him, monologuing all the way. She finally steps into a two-shot, and for the first time they share the screen. Boom: The thing this show has always been about — Ice and Fire — finally happens. It's here. At last!
It doesn't happen like you want it to. They don't click. It's kind of like when you invite your one friend out to drinks and you also invite your other friend, because they have exactly the same sense of humor, and you know they'll get along — it's not a setup, exactly, you just think they both would really, you know, get each other — but then one of them says something snide about a TV show that it turns out the other one maintains one of the Reddit boards for, and they spend the rest of the evening sniping at one another. But you're not dispirited. You've seen enough rom-coms to know this could still count as a meet-cute. You hold out hope.
You poor, deluded fool.
But let's back up.
"I'm not a Stark." "SCREEEEEEEEEE!"
Credits Map! No stopovers at Casterly Rock or Highgarden, weirdly enough. What gives? Does this mean we won't be returning to those locations, so the producers didn't feel it was worth it to add them to the map?
Jon Snow and Davos arrive on the shores of Dragonstone, where they are greeted by Tyrion, Missandei and a host of buff, kohl-eyed Dothraki who seem really remarkably chill, all of a sudden, with hanging out by the Poison Water; at some point they've shaken off their deep-seated fear of the sea and are now basically the Thunder From Down Under.
Jon and Tyrion greet each other like old friends. Missandei, solicitous but officious, issues the marching orders: Surrender your weapons! And your boat! And your claim to the North — oops, no spoilers, just your weapons and your boat will be fine for now, thanks.
Davos tries to make small talk. Missandei rebuffs his halting efforts. Let me tell you: Stickler for rules of grammar and protocol, lousy at chitchat? I am warming to Missandei, guys.
Tyrion and Jon catch up on the long walk up to the castle. A nice moment when Tyrion mentions how poorly Starks historically fare when they travel south, and Jon reminds Tyrion that as a bastard, he's not a Stark. Cue low dragon flyover/producer's meta-commentary.
*[Translation: "No, honey, you're a Targaryen. A dragon knows. I can smell it."]
Melisandre spies Jon's approach to the castle from a nearby windswept promontory. She's joined by Varys, and they stand there trading barbs cliffside, like some weird medieval episode of Broadchurch.
"I've done my part," she says. "I've brought ice and fire together."
Varys does not say to this, as you, or I, or any sensible person would, "So you've ... you've made tepid water, then? Awesome. Great. What a feat. Go, you."
Melisandre evinces remorse for the things she's done, and while she does not explicitly mention kiddie-flambe, you can see it in her eyes. The show has put her on a redemption arc for a couple of seasons now, but I get the sense that her story is done. She's headed to Volantis, but will, she says, be back to die. She mentions that Varys will die in Westeros as well, which visibly upsets him — a sign that this prophecy will come true.
Jon and Davos enter the Dragonstone throne room, where Dany waits for them. She looks small on the dramatically art-directed obsidian seat of power, and small is definitely not the look she's going for here. So Missandei ticks off her many, many, many titles to make up for it, tellingly throwing lots of "rightfuls" into the mix. Davos, after some urging, offers up Jon's one title. Heh.
Dany feigns ignorance at first, but then Khaleesi-splains to Jon some nuggets of Westerosi history he knows very well, which have to do with the sovereignty — or lack of same — of the North.
Jon points out that Dany's father, the Mad King, was ... well, mad, for one thing.
"My father was an evil man," she says. ("My name ... is FRAHNKensteen.")
But Jon never looks back, darling, it distracts from the now. And the now is what he wants to talk about — the White Walkers, the Night King, all of it. Some nice shots of Tyrion narrowing his eyes worriedly — he so wants these two crazy kids to just kiss already!
But they're coming at it from different places. And the show is now making explicit the disconnect between those who still concern themselves with squabbling over the Iron Throne (Dany, Cersei, Sansa, pretty much everyone else) and the looming existential threat that's fixing to destroy them all (Jon).
SHE: "I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms. And I will."
HE: "You'll be ruling over a graveyard."
Tyrion then asks why Jon's request is so urgent. Surely they can deal with Cersei first, and then turn their attention to the threat from beyond the Wall?
(This is a question the show hasn't adequately addressed up to now, so it's good we're putting it in the mouths of characters.)
Jon simply repeats that we don't have time for squabbling over the Iron Throne. Davos lets slip the whole "Jon died and came back" thing, but recovers, sort of. And just when Dany and Jon seem like they're about to throw down, Varys enters on little cat feet with some bad news.
Dorne is done
A waterlogged Theon Greyjoy gets pulled from the briny deep by a friendly Iron Islands vessel — though given the grizzled nature of the Ironborn, we're gonna have to define the term "friendly" down.
Meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy — Ol' Johnny Depth himself, who at some point plundered Davy Jones' Locker and found a year's supply of MAC Modern Twist Kajal Kit eyeliner — leads his prisoners Ellaria, Tyene and Yara through the streets of Kings Landing into the Red Keep's throne room. He offers Ellaria — who you'll remember killed Cersei's only daughter Myrcella with a poison kiss — as a gift. (Ellaria glimpses The Mountain, who killed her beloved (and let's be honest, our beloved) Oberyn, and blanches.)
Euron proceeds to sleaze his leather-panted self all over the Iron Throne and says various rude things to Jaime Lannister, who clenches that eminently clenchable jawline in response.
In the dungeons of the Red Keep, Cersei gets another opportunity to dish out revenge on those who've wronged her — in this case, Ellaria and Tyene — and it plays out a lot like — I mean, a lot like — another scene in the same dungeon in the Season 6 finale, where she turned the tables on the septa who "Shame! Shame! Shamed" her. Some oversharing taunts, some scenery chewing, some cruelly fitting punishment (a poison kiss for Tyene). It's well-acted, but it's also one-note, and it's making me worry that Cersei's reached the end of her dramatic usefulness, and will soon be taken out.
Cersei storms into her brother Jaime's chambers and they proceed to deflower one another's attic, if you follow me. The next morning, she allows a servant to see them together. "I'm the queen of the Seven Kingdoms, I'll do as I please." That is not the kind of thing a character who's gonna be around much longer says.
A banker of Braavos meets with Cersei, and he's played with a species of posh unctuousness at which an actor like Mark Gatiss excels — so it's a good thing they've brought him on board. Braavos is trying to decide whom to back in the war for the Iron Throne, and Cersei, unsurprisingly, makes a good case for herself. It's here we learn that Cersei's cover story for the explosion of the Sept of Baelor is that it was "a tragic accident" — and learn, from Gatiss' expression, that she's not fooling anyone.
Dudes in a broody mood
Tyrion comes across Jon on one of Dragonstone's many windswept cliffs — though this one seems not so much windswept as windblasted — and they engage in a brood-off. It's the show winking at us, but I'm OK with it.
Tyrion's failure to foresee Euron Greyjoy's routing of Dany's fleet strongly suggests that while he's an excellent diplomat, he's not necessarily an effective general. He's a man of peace, not war. Jon, however, is a general first and foremost — a man who comes alive in times of war, but who's lousy at politics, and persuasion. (Which are, we learn, Sansa's strengths.)
Jon asks Tyrion how he can convince people who don't believe in the White Walkers to band together with him. This strikes me as the central question the show needs to answer this season.
The answer we get from Tyrion: Don't bother. Don't try. They won't believe you, so don't expect them to — just get what you need from them, and be on your way.
It's a politician's answer, not a general's one. It's opportunistic. In this case, it's about securing Jon the dragonglass he needs, whether or not Dany understands or agrees with his mission.
"Daenerys could have sailed for Westeros long ago but she didn't," says Tyrion. He's talking to us, not Jon, by the way. To all of us us who rolled our eyes as she spent six seasons schlepping across Essos and having endless circular conversations in dramatically lit conference rooms. "Instead she stayed where she was and saved many people from horrible fates." He does not add, "Temporarily."
Sage counsel from Tyrion sends Dany out to meet Jon on yet another promontory overlooking the sea. She tells him she will allow him to collect all the dragonglass he needs.
I don't know what I was expecting in these last few episodes, but I certainly did not have "Extended Discussion About a Mining Permit" in the pool.
Sansa is walking and talking through the West Wing of Winterfell, giving orders to vassals who peel off to attend to her bidding. We are meant to believe she's good at this. Littlefinger moons about, as is his wont, offering her advice, as is his wont, about preparing for every eventuality.
But I think it's safe to say that even he would not have forseen "Your Dead Little Brother Turns Out Isn't Dead, Or, For That Matter, Little Anymore, But What He Is Is A Kind Of Creepy Psychic Know-It-All Who Keeps Wanting To Rub Trees."
Because that's what happens: Bran finally arrives at Winterfell, prompting an emotional reaction from Sansa, and a cool, detached "What is this thing you humans call ... hugging?" non-reaction from Bran.
The siblings head to the godswood to catch up, but Bran is being all Luke in Jedi — above it all, and condescendingly "It's difficult to explain."
"I'm the three-eyed raven," he says.
There is, as you'd imagine, a pause.
"I don't know what that means," says Sansa, because 1. "I'm the three-eyed raven" is objectively a weird thing to say to a person, and 2. You and me both girl.
He brings up her wedding night in the same aloof manner, which is meant to underscore how detached he's become, and she, rightly, bolts.
White meat, cured
Back at the Citadel, the Arch-Maester is surprised to learn that Sam's treatment of Jorah has proven effective. (We, however, are considerably less surprised.) Jorah decides to head back to Dany's side, because fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Jorah's gotta moon over fireproof platinum-haired dragon queens.
Sam gets off lightly, all things considered, because the Arch-Maester is so darned sensible. He's given a task to transcribe moldy old books and scrolls — which I suspect will contain information Sam will find highly useful — but it's only a matter of time before he's kicked out, right? Dude's got a Valyrian steel sword that's going to waste, after all. What's he gonna use it for at the Citadel, a letter opener?
After still! another! brief scene in the Dragonstone map room (in which Dany once again claims her dragons are invulnerable — so they're definitely anything but), we head to the oft-mentioned, but never heretofore-seen Casterly Rock. Most of the Unsullied attack the castle directly — but a faction led by Grey Worm infiltrate the place using a secret entrance known to Tyrion.
It's a bloody rout; the Unsullied are victorious — but Grey Worm rightly worries that it was too easy. Most of the 10,000 Lannister soldiers they expected to face weren't there. Plus, Euron Greyjoy's fleet has arrived and is going to town on the Unsullieds' ships.
Turns out, most of the Lannister forces, led by Jaime, have headed to Highgarden (oft-mentioned! Never heretofore-seen!), the seat of House Tyrell. There, Jaime meets the beaten but unbowed Olenna Tyrell in a well-appointed room, and she proceeds to offer her resigned congratulations. Diana Rigg gets a nice moment here, facing her end with the clear-eyed cynicism that's been the character's hallmark — and getting a few barbs in for good measure.
Jaime takes the opportunity to explain to her — and to us — how he's able to rationalize Cersei's barbarism. It's a means to an end, he's telling himself. The world she's building will be a peaceful one, so what does it matter how she built it?
Olenna could give him the speech about the ephemeral nature of peace that she gave Dany last week, but instead dutifully swallows the poison Jaime's provided. She's not finished with him yet, however.
She reveals that it was she who poisoned his son Joffrey, and that she wants Cersei to know. It's a hell of a way to go out, but a character like Olenna — and an actress like Rigg, who always let you see the danger flashing behind those eyes — deserves nothing less.
It's a loss, yes, but that's the new normal. From here on in, the cast list will continue to dwindle — the show basically just told us, for example, that we're going to see the ends of Varys and Melisandre sooner or later (sooner, I'd wager.) Olenna tells Jaime that Cersei will be the end of him, so put him on the list. And Cersei herself. And at least one of Dany's "invulnerable" dragons.
About the only one who's pretty much guaranteed safe, for the time being at least, is Jon. You can't kill a guy you just killed a season ago. Doesn't make any narrative sense.
Plus, it's just tacky.