RECAP: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 4 – The Last of the Starks

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The fourth episode of Game of Throne’s final season premiered on Sunday. It opens with the burial of all the fallen soldiers and civilians of Winterfell and Jon (Kit Harington) gives a speech with the intent to honor the dead. Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Sam (John Bradley), and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) all have special moments with the people they lost in battle, offering a goodbye.

This entire opening scene does an incredible job with showing the toll that the battle took on the survivors and on Winterfell itself. Seeing the piles of dead bodies captures the sense of dread that will surely follow everyone who fought for a long time after. It makes us, the viewers, realize that the Army of the Living didn’t win the war, they merely survived it. I wish they had gone more into detail about this, but it does make sense as to why they didn’t, focussing instead on how the survivors begin their lives after the battle, which is through celebration of their victory.

During the celebrations, we catch up with certain characters that we haven’t seen since the start of the battle. Gendry (Joe Dempsie), who is looking for Arya, is named the new Lord of Storm’s End, the ancestral seat of House Baratheon, meaning he is no longer a bastard. He ultimately finds Arya and tells her about what Daenerys did, excited to share the news, but also to ask her to marry him and to become the Lady of Storm’s End. However, she rejects his proposal, because that isn’t her.

This was definitely one of the best scenes from the episode. Even though Arya and Gendry were intimate before the start of the battle, she didn’t want to be committed to anyone. This acts as her final statement that she will always be her own person and never fully depend on anyone. I have to give props to the show for not throwing away Arya’s development by making her settle with someone. And beyond that, It’s a nice callback to the conversation she had with her father during season one about not wanting to marry anyone, especially a king.

Elsewhere, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are playing a drinking game. The game goes sideways when Tyrion makes a remark about Brienne’s virginity. Jaime goes after her just as Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) looks on, completely broken hearted. Jaime finds Brienne in her bedroom, where the two get intimate after a short conversation.

I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this scene, even after knowing the outcome of the episode. I’m not big into the “shipping” culture but I always thought that Brienne and Jaime would end up together. Most of the scenes they’ve had together, especially from this season, have suggested some sort of romance being sparked. However, I would be lying if I wasn’t a bit sad to see Tormund heart broken that Jaime got in his way.

As the episode continues, Danaerys’ fears seem to be coming true as she begins to notice that the people of Winterfell, and most likely all Northerners, naturally gravitate towards Jon. Even though he doesn’t try, the people have put trust in him. She walks away from the celebration feeling somewhat upset that they’re all in support of Jon. He goes after her to and tries to explain that he doesn’t want to be the one on the Iron Throne. Daenerys demands Jon that he not say anything about his true parentage to anyone. Jon, staying loyal to his family, does tell Sansa and Arya about who he really is.

This segment does a fantastic job with teasing Daenerys potential following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a “Mad Queen”. The look on her face as she’s demanding Jon is full of desperation. She’s gone through so much all in the name of taking back her family’s place on the Iron Throne. She feels even more threatened by Jon given that he’s the one true heir and people just naturally want to side with him. This is most likely meant to have viewers try to sympathize with her, but I can’t help but feel like she might just become like her father. It’s also very interesting that we don’t get to see Sansa or Arya’s reaction to Jon’s true name. I would’ve liked to have seen how they reacted.

Moments later, they hold a war council meeting. After much tension and debate, Daenerys decides to leave the North and launch a full scale attack on King’s Landing. Several other characters part ways as preparations are made for the upcoming battle. The Targaryen fleet, including Daenerys, travel to King’s Landing while the Northern soldiers, being lead by Jon, travel by foot.

Before the start of this season, I had always been on the side of Daenerys taking over the Iron Throne. The show had done a phenomenal job with creating a reason for me to root for her. Even after the reveal of Jon’s true parentage, I figured that Daenerys would take the throne. However, the interaction between Sansa and Daenerys during the meeting makes me belief that Sansa will in fact be a better Queen than Daenerys .

Sansa mentions that all the remaining soldiers need time to rest and heal after such a devastating battle. Daenerys seems much more concerned with establishing her power and gaining control of the Iron Throne. That is important, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no point in attempt to head into war without soldiers being battle-ready. Is this the show building tension? Or do they want us to take a side. Regardless, I’m getting the feeling that Sansa will at least have an important role in the Seven Kingdoms.

I just have to make a quick note about Jon not having a proper goodbye with Ghost. I understand that he had to give him away to Tormund so he could roam free in the wild, but it was upsetting not to see some sort of final interaction between the two of them. Ghost has saved Jon’s life before and has shown nothing but loyalty to him, when others abandoned him. I would have expected their final interaction to have been handled better. And seeing from people’s interactions on Twitter, I noticed I’m not the only one who felt this way.

As the story moves Danearys and her fleet to Dragonstone, it seems like a triumphant return, with Rhaegal, her dragon by her and Drogon’s side. But, as the Targaryen fleet moves arrives, they’re ambushed by Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) and his iron fleet, outfitted with new and improved Scorpions, the dragonslaying crossbows we saw last season. These new weapons are devastating, killing Rhagal with ease and blowing apart the fleet, leaving some stranded and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) taken as captive.

One of the other main issues I had with this episode was Daenerys ‘s plan to pull off an all-out assault on Cersei and King’s Landing. She completely ignored Sansa’s warning about letting revenge get the best of her. The result of her actions was the loss of another one of her dragons and her best friend was captured. I’ll be honest, this seems like the kind of mistake she would have made during the first three seasons of the show and I don’t like it. Her character developed immensely only for her to revert back to anger.

In the aftermath of the ambush and meeting, where Varys confronts Danarys about the number of civilians who will die, him and Tryion wind up in a debate of sorts in the throne room of Dragonstone. Who would be the better ruler, the Dragon Queen? Or the Jon Snow, who Sansa revealed to Tyrion was in fact a Targaryan, and who has a right to the Iron Throne. As the two discuss this, weighing their options discussing the queen’s current state of mind and whether she’s even fit to rule in the first place, Tryion remains steadfast, while Varys seems to think that she shouldn’t lead.

This interaction between Varys and Tyrion was a bit unexpected, mainly because of the timing. I wouldn’t have expected Varys to have turned on Dany so quickly. It makes sense since there’s only two episodes of the show left, but they probably could’ve done a better job at setting this up in a better way and executing it if they had planted the seeds os dissent earlier. However, I’m glad both realize that marrying the two so they can rule together might not even work. While Tyrion won’t betray her, Varys makes a pretty convincing case.

Speaking of people who are reverting back to old habits, Jaime is officially headed to King’s Landing having heard the news of the ambush. And he leaves Brienne in Winterfell after promising to stay. One of the only upsides to this scene was seeing Gwendoline Christie getting her time to shine. She’s a phenomenal actress who hasn’t really gotten many moments to make her mark on the show beyond her stoicism.

I had such high hopes for Jaime, especially since he was one of the most redeemed characters on the show. For him to just go back to King’s Landing and claim that he’s a “horrible person” in just one episode is upsetting. It makes it seem as if none of the character progression Jaime went through was worthless.

At King’s Landing, Daenerys attempts to reason Cersei with the hopes of people realizing that supporting Cersei (Lena Headey) will turn on her, leaving the impending damage and death on Cersei’s hands. Instead, she demands that Daenerys and her forces surrender or she will kill Missandei. Tyrion makes one last attempt to reason with his sister but fails. Seeing that Daenerys won’t surrender, Cersei has Missandei executed on the walls of the Red Keep, after she gives her last word: Dracarys.

It still amazes me that characters believe that they can reason with Cersei. This scene only furthered my belief that Sansa would be the perfect choice to take the Iron Throne. I really do think that all of this could have been avoided had Daenerys put more thought into her plan. But I’m mostly surprised that Tyrion would think that he could convince his sister to surrender. I understand that they’re siblings, but Cersei has done things that shouldn’t be taken lightly, not even by her siblings including hiring her brothers’ friend to kill them.

Missandei’s death was perhaps what hurt the most in the episode. She has gone through so much trauma throughout the show, only to be used as incentive for Daenerys to find herself becoming more and more like a “Mad Queen”. It would have made much more sense for Missandei to have gone out on her own terms. I just hope that her death does serve to some purpose rather than for Daenerys to get even more upset.

Overall, this might have been one of the worst episodes of the season. I don’t think an episode of television has gotten me this upset about character choices and overall plot since the entire season seven of The Walking Dead. In a way, this is what happens when you have an all powerful villain like The Night King that you’ve been setting up since the start of the show but somehow think it’s a smart idea to somehow have him defeated midway through the final season.

The show set up the belief that “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die”. But I had always thought everything would end up leading to The Night King. It difficult to believe that Cersi would end up being the true villain of the series. I just hope next week’s episode puts work into fixing the plot and character mistakes.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 pm EST / 6 pm PST only on HBO, HBO GO, and HBO NOW.