When the third episode of the final season for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” reached its denouement, it had just pulled off a major subversion of audience expectations in terms of plot progression. In fact, the surprisingly anticlimactic turn was comparable to the outcome of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in 2017, where the heroic Resistance failed to successfully escape the First Order and was whittled down to just enough survivors to fit in the Millennium Falcon. Season 8 Episode 3 of “Thrones” ended with the world-ending army of White Walkers and undead wights destroyed when Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) killed their leader, the Night King.
Writer George R.R. Martin developed his “Song of Ice and Fire” series, from which “Game of Thrones” is based, as a brutally deconstructive subversion of medieval fantasy storytelling. While its last two books have yet to publish, his plot points which have been taken into consideration by show-runners Dave Benioff and D.B. Weiss does have the threat of the White Walkers about to revisit the Long Night on Westeros and the world. With that threat neutralized, the existential crisis has ended and the fragile alliance of the living seems about to fall apart again, with the last remaining major enemy being a very human one. This is now the setting for season 8 episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”
Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) gambled on letting the alliance of the North and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) soak up the Walkers while she waited in King’s Landing. That has paid off handsomely leaving her with an intact army against the alliance’s tatters. Dany will not let her losses deter her from marching immediately to claim the Iron Throne, but not before she confronts Jon Snow (Kit Harington) again about his true legacy as the closer claimant to her family’s rule. That is why she is travelling by sea back to Dragonstone while Jon marches the Northern army by land.
Jon however has the honorable attitude of his late father figure, in that he is obliged to come clean about himself to the last members of House Stark. From there, the secret leaks to the alliance’s advisory figures, Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) to argue who may be the better ruler to support. As it turns out, Varys’ foreboding regarding Daenerys might have a point later on.
The advantage of Cersei’s military strength becomes plain when her fleet, commanded by her new consort Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) ambushes Dany’s ships, abducting her handmaiden Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and seemingly killing the wounded dragon Rhaegal. When Daenerys confronts Cersei at the walls of King’s Landing, the Mad Queen coldly demonstrates that her ideal of ruling consists solely of killing and destroying everyone and everything she might consider her enemies.
Other parties are converging on King’s Landing, too. Arya is going there to kill someone. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is also apparently headed there to reunite with his sister, despite finally becoming intimate with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Whether this turn is genuine or something else has yet to be revealed.
Again “Game of Thrones” has toyed with expectations by swiftly eliminating an inhuman threat and leaving behind a human one. With only two episodes left before the series concludes, there should just be enough time to throw yet another surprise twist or two, if Benioff and Weiss think it appropriate.
“Game of Thrones” season 8 will run for two more Sundays this May, on HBO.
Image courtesy of Daily Mail