Thoughts on Game of Thrones S08E04 – “The Last of the Starks”

Not much happened, but a lot happened in season 8, episode 4 of “Game of Thrones,” “The Last of the Starks.” And if I’m honest, I didn’t like any of it. I find myself with more questions than answers, and not the sort of questions the showrunners wanted me to have.

This is your spoiler warning!

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Yes, it was better than last week’s Battle of Winterfell (“The Long Night”), but that’s a low bar to clear. The showrunners’ baffling decision making continued throughout this week’s episode.

I didn’t like that Jon decided to give up Ghost, and sent him away with Tormund. Ghost and Jon haven’t had much screen time together in a long while. It was such a sacred bond that Ghost waited by Jon’s dead body, mourning until Jon finally woke up again. But because it’s less expensive for HBO, Jon doesn’t care about his lifelong direwolf buddy anymore, I guess. Ghost was injured fighting Jon’s war, and Jon didn’t even bother saying goodbye. It felt wrong, and I hated it.

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I didn’t like that both Arya and Jamie convinced someone to go to bed with them only to leave them the next morning (and in Arya’s case, after Gendry confesses his love for her). The fact that they left, and the reasons they left, retroactively made the scenes of love making come across as exploitative. For both Gendry and Brienne’s sake, it felt wrong.

But Jamie leaving felt the most wrong. He essentially chose to ignore all the character growth he’d made over the 7 seasons of this show. He left Cersei because she was the driving force behind all of his worst deeds. She was also keeping secrets from him and she threatened to kill him. She even sent an assassin to murder him. Yet he still couldn’t just sit idly by while enemies advance against her? What was the point of him leaving if he was just going to go back to her? I know the showrunners wanted to get him moving toward King’s Landing so viewers could keep speculating whether or not he’d would kill Cersei (and maybe he still will), but the way they’ve written it, he’s going for all the wrong reasons. It felt wrong, and I hated it.

As much as I hated that Jon discarded Ghost without so much as a pat on the head, I hated it even more when we didn’t get to see the conversation between the Stark family that unveiled Jon’s true identity. I mean the name of the episode is even “The Last of the Starks,” but they spend a relatively small amount of time together on screen before cutting away to let us imagine what that conversation was like. Isn’t Jon’s parentage, and the implications of it, a pretty huge deal? It might have been nice to see the look on Sansa and Arya’s face when they found out. It might have been nice to hear what they had to say about it. But we didn’t get to see it. That felt wrong and I hated it.

Why did Dany and her forces return to Dragonstone? Were they all foolish enough to assume that Cersei wouldn’t have set some sort of trap? What plan did they agree on that decided that they even needed to go back to Dragonstone in the first place? How did Cersei’s forces end up with Missandei? How would they even know that she’s an important figure to Dany and Grey Worm? Did they only capture Missandei?

I didn’t like when Rhaegal was killed so quickly, abruptly and unceremoniously. Did the showrunners honestly expect us to believe that Dany, Drogon and Rhaegal, while flying high up in the air, wouldn’t see Euron’s fleet down below waiting for them? There were only three dragons in the show, but the showrunners are now discarding them as quickly and unceremoniously as they once discarded direwolves in earlier seasons. It bothered me then. It bothers me now. I guess it was meant to be shocking, but come on. The dragon could have at least been killed in a battle of some sort. No time was set apart for Dany to reckon with Rhaegal’s death. Jon wasn’t even there, but I guess that’s the theme of this season – keep Jon away from every significant thing that’s going to happen this season. The showrunners are quickly getting rid of all fantastical, magical element in the show. And it feels wrong and I hate it.

The biggest trump card Jon and Dany have on their side is Bran, but they didn’t even consult with him about what to do next? Seems like Euron’s trap could have been easily avoided. But the writing this season and last season have turned just about every character into a bumbling, inconsistent idiot. Things are moving at such a breakneck pace that nothing feels as well done as it once did.

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Going from Rhaegal dying, Dany barely escaping, and then being at the wall where Cersei’s forces have already kidnapped Missandei felt so abrupt and poorly developed that it reeks of the showrunner’s desire to quickly wrap things up at the expense of good storytelling. Ever since season 7, episode 6, “Beyond the Wall,” the show has been feeling more and more like the cliff’s notes version of the story. In this week’s episode, they packed what would have previously been half a season of plot into the last 20 minutes of the episode. The showrunners have basically resorted to filming only the major bullet points from the outline of the story rather than taking the time to properly flesh things out, in order to race to the finish with what little time they have left.  

That whole scene at the wall felt wrong. Cersei has no honor. There’s no reason to believe she wouldn’t just open fire on Dany, Tyrion and the few forces Dany had remaining while she had such a golden opportunity. Let’s not forget Cersei thinks Dany is the younger woman mentioned in her prophecy coming to steal her throne, and she’s been trying to kill Tyrion for some time now. She even sent an assassin to murder him.

I also don’t know how I feel about the fact that the show appears to be heading down a road to a dual mad queen killing. Neither Cersei nor Dany are the rightful leaders. They’ve both gone mad with power, and they will both likely have to die before the end.

At this point, I’m wondering whether the green eyes Arya is destined to kill will be Cersei or Dany. If it ends up being Dany, that frees up Cersei to be killed by Jamie in order to complete the Valonqar prophecy (a prophecy from the books conspicuously missing from the show). But lately it’s hard to believe that any of the prophecies have any meaning for the show anymore. Also, now that they’ve let Cersei order the Mountain to kill Missandei, if the Hound kills the Mountain (in the long awaited Cleganebowl) and Jamie or Arya kills Cersei, there will be no justice for Grey Worm. So no matter what happens, it’ll be disappointing for someone.

There’s just two episodes left, and I have already given up on the showrunners being able to give us a satisfying ending to what was once an epic series.

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Also, the production has just gotten sloppy. Apparently no one noticed this Starbuck’s cup sitting on the table…

 

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