REVIEW: Game of Thrones – “The Last of the Starks”

The following is a spoiler-filled review of the fourth episode of the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Expect spoilers for the episode in the review.

In the fourth episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, the characters in Winterfell mourn the dead and drink to their memory, Varys (played by Conleth Hill) and Tyrion (played by Peter Dinklage) lose faith, Jaime (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) makes a decision, and Daenerys (played by Emilia Clarke) prepares for battle with Cersei (played by Lena Headey).

I fear that ‘The Long Night’ has soured me on Game of Thrones because I did not at all love this episode. Were there moments in the episode that I loved? Absolutely. As someone whose favorite characters at this point are basically just Jaime and Brienne, I loved that we saw them in each other’s arms. But that might’ve been the last good moment in the episode. This episode let the dust settle on last week’s epic disappointment, and then it fast-forwarded through a lot to make sure the penultimate episode will be bloody, firey, and hectic. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It all started quite well with the characters burning their dead and weeping over their bodies. I liked that they cut from Dany crying over Jorah’s body to Sansa crying over Theon’s. However, I have to say that this moment would’ve played better if the writers of the show hadn’t decided to have Brienne cry over a character decision later in the episode. But I digress. Then they all started drinking and it was a lot of fun.

Jaime followed Brienne as she exited the room much to Tormund’s disappointment, which I liked in the moment but now feel sort of ambivalent about, Podrick and Tormund still had a lot of fun it seemed, and Gendry received the title I’ve wanted for him for a long time. Giving him the Baratheon lordship was smart of Dany, but it also makes me a little bit confused, why hasn’t she done this more? Why haven’t we, over the course of this season, had these great scenes of Dany gifting territories and lordships to those who pledged to fight for her. Anyway, these scenes, of course, led to Jaime and Brienne sleeping together, which put a smile on my face, but it also led to Gendry overreacting and prematurely proposing to Arya — Ted Mosby would be proud of him. Arya, of course, declined.

Meanwhile, Jon promised Dany that his sisters would understand and accept his secret and still support her. This was another moment where Jon Snow showed how idiotic he is. The writers of the show later proved that they aren’t really interested in his parentage-secret since Jon and Bran told Arya and Sansa off-screen. Audiences love the Starks and to rob us of the reveal is absurd. We didn’t wait all this time to have Arya go from learning the parentage-secret off-screen to riding off with the Hound. The writers are failing Jon Snow and the Starks. They are also completely failing Ghost. The show has mistreated the Direwolves and that trend continued in ‘The Last of the Starks.’ Jon Snow let his Direwolf rush into his likely death in last week’s episode, and here he gave away his Direwolf and didn’t say goodbye to it at all when he left.

The show didn’t just say its goodbyes to Ghost. It also seemingly said its goodbyes to Tormund and Sam, it seems. If the last two episodes are dedicated to the battle for King’s Landing, then they likely won’t have time for Tormund or Sam, unless it is in a montage. I also wonder if this is the last we see of Brienne. In this episode, the writers of Game of Thrones gave us the Jaime and Brienne moment we’ve wanted to see for so long, only for it to not matter at all. Jaime Lannister’s redemption arc took a contrived turn when he accepted that he was Cersei’s and rode towards her castle.

I’m assuming that they are setting up Jaime Lannister to fulfill the Valonqar prophecy which, I believe, has never been brought up on the show. If Jaime Lannister indeed goes to Cersei’s side to eliminate her once and for all, then that’s perfectly fine by me. But if that’s the case, then why would he be this cruel to Brienne in this episode? He would surely tell her. It serves no other purpose than to fool audiences into thinking he’s breaking bad. Unless, of course, he actually did break bad, which would then also feel forced. Cruelly, the show then turned Brienne into a weeping woman crying over her lover who has rejected her, which does not at all feel like Ser Brienne to me. The Jaime-Brienne conclusion might’ve felt more earned if we had spent more time with them. If their scenes had lasted long enough to matter. This is just one of the moments wherein the episode signaled how accelerated the plotlines are this season.

Moments before this, the show fast-forwarded to the battle of King’s Landing and accidentally fast-forwarded through what should’ve been an exciting battle at sea between Euron’s fleet and Dany’s. Firstly, did the writers just keep Rhaegal alive through last week’s episode to toy with us today? They did. Secondly, did we just go through another big battle without losing one of the main characters? We did. Honestly, this one is so confusing to me. How did so many people survive that ambush? How didn’t Daenerys spot Euron’s fleet from high up above? The moment is obviously meant to surprise us and it did, but that was all it was — a moment designed for its shock-effect.

Of course, we did lose someone other than Rhaegal this episode. In tonight’s episode, we said goodbye to Missandei, the last person who is loyal to Dany and also the only woman of color with speaking lines on the show. This won’t go over well online and it shouldn’t. Someone is going to write a very good article about the problem with representation on this show and it will include some discussion of the fact that Missandei literally dies in chains. I don’t feel good about this move and others will likely be furious and rebel. Missandei’s death leads to the battle between the Mad Queens and next week’s episode is going to be firey.

Of course, it’s nice to be able to say that we could see everything going on in this episode. Nothing was too dark in ‘The Last of the Starks.’ But I feel pretty much as underwhelmed by this episode as I was with the previous one. This time around I am very critical of the writing and pacing of the episode and the way character development is rushed or thrown away entirely. This is a truncated and accelerated season even though some episodes are super-sized, and I am confused about many of the decisions made here. Like, what was the point of Bronn being sent to kill the Lannisters if it ends like it did in this episode? What is the point of the parentage secret if we don’t see the reactions? I’ve questioned many decisions over these last two weeks, and it pains me to say that it doesn’t look like the writers of Game of Thrones will conclude the series satisfyingly.

C+

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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