Stars: Peter Dinklage, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Aiden Gillen, Liam Cunningham, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Gwendoline Christie, Alfie Allen, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jacob Anderson, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Jerome Flynn, John Bradley, Hannah Murray, Daniel Portman, Kristofer Hivju, Iain Glen, Richard Dormer, Pilou Asbaek, Hafpor Julius Bjornsson, Anton Lesser
Writer: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, series created by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Network: HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate: August 27, 2017
Contrary to some expectations, the GAME OF THRONES Season 7 finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” has a relatively low major-character body count (we definitively lose one, with two supporting people possibly gone), but a high rate of scenes we’ve been waiting to see for years now. A confrontation between siblings Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)? It’s here. Someone finally decisively proving Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) parentage? Yes. A comeuppance for Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish? Done. These things aren’t rushed, either – “The Dragon and the Wolf” lets events play out in an 80-minute running time, making this the longest GAME OF THRONES episode so far. (Hence this longer-than-usual recap.)
Much of the episode takes place, relatively quietly, in the Westeros capital city King’s Landing, where Cersei has agreed to have a meeting with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), whom Cersei regards as a usurper. Cersei isn’t thrilled about the whole business and gives orders to her undead bodyguard Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane (Halfor Julius Bjornsson) what order to kill people in if the meeting goes poorly.
On the road to the dragon pits where the summit is to take place, Daenerys’ contingent – Tyrion, Jon, Sandor “the Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann), Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) – encounters Winterfell representatives Lady Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and her squire Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman). Both groups are met by King’s Landing escorts Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn).
Podrick used to be Tyrion’s squire; they’re happy to meet each other. Bronn used to be Tyrion’s bodyguard; they’re happy to see each other. Bronn and Podrick are happy to see each other. There is an obscure reference to a scene a few seasons back when Podrick made the employees of a brothel so happy that they didn’t charge him; Tyrion and Bronn still clearly would like to know exactly what he did. Bronn takes Podrick for a drink, getting them both out of the potential line of fire.
Brienne is surprised to see Sandor, since she thought she’d killed him the last time they fought. They exchange wary looks, but bond over discussion of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Brienne tells Sandor that the only worrying that needs to be done where Arya is concerned is for the people who get in her way. They both look pleased. It’s great to know when you’ve contributed to the successful upbringing of a strong self-possessed young woman, or a prolific and unstoppable serial killer, however you’d like to view the younger Stark sister.
Cersei is surrounded by Jaime, the Mountain, Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) and Lord Qyburn (Anton Lesser). Sandor is mildly surprised to see his older brother, but (after dealing with all those wights) seems to have some notion of Gregor’s resurrected state. Since the two brothers hate each other with as much force as anybody hates anybody in GAME OF THRONES, which is saying a lot, Sandor mentions that it makes sense that Gregor is still alive, since Sandor has to be the one to kill him. Go for it, Sandor, but evidently not in this episode.
Daenerys then makes her entrance on Drogon, with Rhaegal bringing up the rear. Cersei looks ever so slightly dismayed. Whatever Cersei feels she has going for her, Drogon up close is quite an asset for the other team.
Euron is immediately awful to Theon, then Tyrion, to the point where even Cersei tells him to shut up. Here’s the thing about Euron – he’s a total bully and an ass, but he seems like kind of a lightweight compared to some of the other villains we’ve seen on the show. Does he honestly think he has a chance of outsmarting Cersei, let alone getting her to honor her promise to marry him when the war’s won? He does have his plot uses (stay tuned), but he’s more irritating than horrifying.
The Hound carries a box to the middle of the dragon pit, opens it and, when immediate results aren’t forthcoming, kicks the container onto its side. Out scrambles a skeletal White Walker, restrained by a chain from attacking the assemblage. Cersei is visibly shocked and horrified. Sandor cuts the Walker in half, and both parts continue to try to attack. Palace mad scientist Qyburn gets hold of a still-moving hand, which he examines with fascination. Jon explains about the Walkers, killing this one with a dragonglass blade.
Euron asks if the Walkers can swim. When Jon says no, Euron declares that he’s taking his ships and going home. He is, for once in his life, scared to death. Cersei acknowledges that now that she’s seen a Walker, she’s convinced that the danger is real. She will agree to a truce until the Walkers are dealt with, so long as the King in the North, Jon, promises not to ally himself with either Daenerys or Cersei. Jon says he’s already pledged himself to Daenerys (as almost everybody on Daenerys’ side thinks, “Oh, no, he has to say this now?”). Cersei says in that case, there’s no truce, and sweeps off.
Brienne approaches Jaime, who gloomily says that they’ll probably next see each other on opposite sides of the battlefield, since she is loyal to the Starks and he is loyal to Cersei. Brienne says a line that stuns both Jaime and the audience: “F*** loyalty.” Now, there are plenty of GAME OF THRONES characters who openly tout this as their personal philosophy, but Brienne of Tarth has one of the most rigid moral codes of any character, anywhere, and Jaime knows it. When he weakly echoes her by way of a question, Brienne explains that, as others have put it, the only sides that count are the living and the dead, and that Jaime should be doing everything he can to help the living.
With the truce seemingly in tatters, Tyrion scolds Jon for his honesty. It’s wonderful that he’s bent the knee to Daenerys, but maybe he could have kept it to himself a little longer or, well, lie. Jon says, “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything, and there are no more answers, only better and better lies.” This true, timeless statement is actually under 140 characters, for anyone who wants to Tweet it.
Tyrion offers to go talk to Cersei and see if he can get her to change her mind. Since Cersei has tried to have Tyrion killed very often, this may result in his death, but the others let him do it. The Mountain is there, and Cersei seems tempted to order him to kill Tyrion, but she doesn’t. Instead, she and Tyrion have it out. She finally acknowledges that he didn’t kill Joffrey (she knows now that it was Olenna Tyrell), but Cersei blames Tyrion for killing their father Tywin, which set in motion the events that led to the deaths of her other children, Myrcella and Tommen. Tyrion says that he regrets killing Tywin, even though Tywin hated him, but Tywin was trying to have Tyrion executed for a crime (killing Joffrey) Tywin knew Tyrion hadn’t committed.
And let’s hold on just a moment, because if Cersei hadn’t done her level best to frame Tyrion for killing Joffrey, none of this would have happened. She can blame Tyrion for Myrcella’s death, since it was Tyrion’s decision to send the princess to Dorne. However, it was Cersei’s actions that drove Tommen to suicide. So Tyrion is taking blame for a lot of mess that’s really Cersei’s.
Tyrion does explain that he’s the one who talked Daenerys out of burning King’s Landing to its foundations. When Cersei asks, Tyrion says he supports Daenerys because she genuinely wants to help people and to make the world a better place. Cersei doesn’t care about other people or making the world a better place. We, and Tyrion, knew this already, but she announces it as though Tyrion’s interest in these things is an especially irritating hobby. She is furious with him, and the whole confrontation drives Tyrion to drink from the flagon of wine that is standing by. (If anyone worried that it might be poisoned, you were not alone, but apparently Tyrion is none the worse for imbibing.)
Tyrion deduces that Cersei is pregnant – she is one fertile person – and Cersei concedes that the White Walker was legitimately frightening. She agrees to the truce for the duration of the war against the dead.
Speaking of fertility, Daenerys and Jon have a chat, where she explains that she’s now unable to have children. How does she know this? Well, the angry witch who tried to kill her told her so. Jon points out that an angry witch might not be the best source of information.
Cersei then reveals to Jaime that she has no intention of following through with the truce. Euron didn’t really run in fear – he’s gone back to Essos to get the fighting men of the Golden Company, paid for with money from the Bank of Braavos that Cersei negotiated for an episode or so back.
Jaime, for once, does not have Cersei’s back in this. First of all, he’s inclined to agree with everybody except Cersei about the clear and present danger of the Walkers. Second, they promised to abide by the truce. He is going North. Cersei says this is treason, Jaime says she can kill him if she wants. Cersei seems to give the nod to the Mountain, but doesn’t follow through, and Jaime rides away as it starts, for the first time in the series, to snow in King’s Landing.
So we don’t know if Jaime is bringing Cersei’s armies north, or just himself, or what he’ll do and say when he gets there. Tyrion won’t be the least bit surprised that Cersei went back on her word, but everybody might be interested to know that the Golden Company is coming to take back the southern parts of the kingdom while our heroes are fighting the Night King and his hordes.
Theon hesitantly approaches Jon. Theon says he thought that Jon did the right thing by stating his fealty to Daenerys, but from Theon’s point of view, Jon always does the right thing. When Jon tries to downplay this, Theon says that Jon has never messed up as badly as Theon, and Jon agrees. Jon says he can’t forgive Theon for everything, but he’ll forgive him for what he can forgive. And Theon decides he’s going to do what Jon would do, which in Theon’s case is rescue his sister Yara Greyjoy from Uncle Euron. However, Theon’s fellow Iron Islanders aren’t having it. If Yara’s not dead yet, she soon will be, and since Theon runs away from everything, they don’t believe he’s the man to lead them. The toughest Iron Islander punches Theon to prove it. Theon keeps standing up to the man, and getting knocked down again, and it looks like the tough guy man win. But then the man makes the mistake of kicking Theon in the groin. Normally, this is a fairly effective fight move, but it doesn’t work very well on a man who no longer has genitalia. While the other guy is still trying to figure out where he went wrong, Theon beats him up, then beats him down and then possibly beats him to death (it’s hard to tell). The other Iron Islanders see that Theon is a changed man and are now willing to sail with him in the attempt to rescue Yara.
Theon not only took over Winterfell (albeit it didn’t last very long) and killed people we actually liked, he killed a couple of children. Granted, his father was awful even by the standards of GAME OF THRONES awful fathers, but Tyrion and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), to say nothing of Sam’s beloved Gilly (Hannah Murray), had similarly rough upbringings and didn’t turn out to be self-serving, cowardly weasels. Theon seems to be the show’s biggest experiment in redemption (Jaime Lannister has done some terrible things, but he was never treacherous), but even with Allen’s excellent performance, Theon’s changes never seem as consequential as intended. Still, the character is heading in the right direction.
At Winterfell, Sansa (Sophie Turner) confides in Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aiden Gillen) that she’s worried about Arya. After Baelish first feigns disbelief that one sibling might want to harm another (he must think Sansa has amnesia if she’s buying that), he tells Sansa that he plays a little game with himself, trying to imagine someone’s worst possible motives and then seeing how they fit, or don’t, with what the person does and says. Sansa says that the worst possible interpretation of Arya’s motives is that Arya thinks Sansa has betrayed the Stark family, is now betraying Jon and deserves to die. Sansa orders that Arya be brought into the Great Hall.
Sansa can’t possibly be this dense, can she? She can’t really be that easily manipulated, can she? Well, as it turns out, no, she can’t. In the Great Hall at Winterfell, with Sansa standing before her, Sansa says that there are charges of murder and treason, and how will these be answered, Lord Baelish? Yep, it’s not Arya who’s on trial here, but rather Baelish, who is astonished. He tries to talk his way out of it, except that Sansa remembers all the things he’s done and said, and the stuff she wasn’t there for, brother Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), now the Three-Eyed Raven, has seen and heard in his visions. Bran knows that Baelish held a knife to the Stark patriarch Ned’s throat way back when (in Season 1) and orchestrated all sorts of killings and betrayals. It’s true that Baelish got Sansa out of King’s Landing when Cersei wanted to blame Sansa (along with Tyrion) for Joffrey’s murder, but since Baelish helped facilitate that killing (not that Sansa or Arya has any objection there), he helped create the danger in the first place. It turns out he’s also the one who gave his dagger to an assassin who failed to kill Bran (also in Season 1). Yes, Baelish did lead the Knights of the Vale to come to Jon’s aid in the Battle of the Bastards, but he was also the one who got Lysa Arryn, sister of Stark matriarch Catelyn, to first poison her husband John (at that time, the King’s Hand), and then write to Ned and Catelyn, claiming the Lannisters did it. Yep, Baelish is the one who got the whole mess going, which resulted in the deaths of Ned, Catelyn, brother Robb and a whole bunch of others. Baelish, in tears, tries to claim that he did it for Sansa. Sansa says she’s learned a lot from him and thanks him for that. Then she gives the nod to Arya, who cuts Baelish’s throat.
And thus we bid farewell to a beautifully played supporting character. However, it seemed like Baelish’s best move was to leave once he realized, several episodes back, that Bran has extremely accurate visions. Baelish’s last gambit – try to alienate the Stark sisters so that Sansa would turn on Arya – seemed extremely tenuous, since Sansa already knew that Arya had the chance to expose her and/or kill her and did neither. Also, had Sansa or Baelish (or anybody else at Winterfell) seriously tried to harm Arya, woe betide them.
Sansa and Arya have a sisterly talk afterwards. Sansa says that Arya is the strongest person she knows. Arya is pleased. Then Sansa says that Arya continues to be strange and annoying. Arya is still pleased. They repeat an old saying about the power of wolf packs. We’re happy to that, for once, there’s some family harmony.
Sam, with Gilly and baby Sam in tow, arrives at Winterfell, hoping to find Jon. Jon, of course, is off with Daenerys, et al, but Bran is there. Sam helped Bran get through the Wall a few years back. Bran explains that he’s now the Three-Eyed Raven and what that means. With the information Bran has from his visions and that Sam has from Gilly (even though he takes all the credit), the two of them work out that Jon is really – well, we all knew this by now, right? – the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Prompted by Sam, Bran has a vision of Lyanna and Rhaegar’s secret, happy wedding. So Lyanna wasn’t kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar, but rather his loving bride. This means a) that Jon is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, b) that his name (given by Lyanna on her childbirth/death bed) is really Aegon Targaryen, and c) that the war fought over Rhaegar’s presumed crime was prompted by a mistake.
Wait a minute on this last one. Wasn’t Rhaegar’s father, the Mad King, running around burning people alive, which is why Jaime felt obliged to kill him? The regicide seems like it would have been necessary due to the king’s insanity, and that incident would have touched off a fight for the throne no matter what. Since nobody can undo the past, let’s move on for the moment.
Right as Sam and Bran deduce that Jon is Rhaegar’s son, which means Daenerys is his aunt, Jon knocks on Daenerys’ door, she lets him in and they make love. It’s a little unclear how their blood relationship, once they learn of it, will affect their romance. The Targaryens were big on incest – Daenerys’ parents were siblings – and it’s not as though they’re brother/sister or parent/child. Stay tuned, because that issue isn’t getting resolved this season. Tyrion sees Daenerys admit Jon to her chambers and is sad. He wasn’t hopeful of becoming Daenerys’ lover, but Jon also seems to be shaping up as her most trusted advisor, and Tyrion is still very smitten with his queen.
It is now starting to feel a little weird that “The Dragon and the Wolf,” as a GAME OF THRONES season finale, hasn’t seen any big action. The ending remedies that. Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) are manning the Wall at the Eastwatch garrison when they see an army of the dead come out of the trees beyond the Wall. The Wall has kept the White Walkers out for thousands of years, but it wasn’t build to withstand a White Flyer, which is what we get when the Night King flies in on the undead dragon Viserion. The poor dragon has holes in his wings, but because he’s undead, that doesn’t matter. Viserion breathes blasts of blue flame at the Wall, until it melts and collapses in a sequence that is impressive and alarming in equal measure.
Logic dictates that Tormund and Beric died, buried in the Wall’s ice. TV tradition dictates that if we don’t see them die (and on this show, even if we do), they may not necessarily be dead. Tormund has been an increasingly enjoyable character, but his fate is unclear.
So, the short version: Cersei plotting against everybody, Jaime going to fight in the North, Daenerys and Jon preparing to fight the dead, Sansa and Arya united, Jon actually the most direct heir to the Iron Throne and the dead moving south. It’s a hell of a place to leave off, but that’s only because it’s been such a great ride so far.
Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 7 – “Beyond The Wall”
Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 7 – “Eastwatch”
Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 7 – “The Spoils of War”
Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 7 – “The Queen’s Justice”
Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 7 – “Stormborn”
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Article: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 7 – “The Dragon and the Wolf” – Season Finale