The seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones concluded with a bang last night—or more like a sizzle and a gush. Along the way, we got several of the major players sharing the screen for the first time in the show’s history, longtime fan theories were confirmed (and then some), and more than one character pulled the old “switcheroo.” It was long, talky, and confusing, but mostly pretty fun, sorta! As the last two episodes have shown us, the show’s numerous plot threads are starting to become snarled in their own twists and complications. But “The Dragon and the Wolf” gave us plenty of crowd-pleasing moments even as some of the larger arcs continue to break down. So what if it was more of a junk-food high than a deep, thought-provoking exercise of the long-form-storytelling arts? Just ride the waves (even if they rock us to a really disgusting place). We’ve only got six more episodes of this thing left—might as well get our jollies while we can. Maybe it really is all cocks in the end.
There will be spoilers and unsettling boat sex, ahoy!
The first half of the 79-minute episode takes place entirely in King’s Landing, a city of a million, give or take. From Tyrion’s description, it sounds a lot like New Seattle—sure, the traffic sucks, but there’s more work in the city, and the strip clubs are far superior. With the Unsullied surrounding the city and the Dothraki swooping in to mess up their rigid formation, it looks like we might get a battle. But no—instead, we get a diplomatic summit in the busted-ass Dragonpit, Westeros’ answer to the Kingdome. To be fair, the build-up to this is all great fun, as our beloved characters hesitantly march forward trying to keep their cool like teenagers at a haunted house, muttering to each other, “You cool? I’m cool.” We get some ace reunions: Tyrion and Bronn (again), Brienne and Podrick, Tyrion and Podrick, Brienne and the Hound. It’s heartwarming and charming and delightful… and also kinda weird that no one is killing each other.
Once Jon and Daenerys’ team finds their assigned seats in the pit (the calligraphy on the namecards must have been exquisite), the show rachets up the suspense by doing, quite literally, nothing at all—simply inserting a few patient moments of uneasy quiet. Bronn and Podrick, wisely, go off to have a drink, and Cersei approaches with her retinue. The Hound, for some reason, has been deputized as Wightminder General, but he also has some words to say to his zombified older brother. “That’s not how it ends for you, brother,” he growls. “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
HOT PREDICTION: Is the Hound referring to himself? Or to the Lord of Light? Or to something else? We don’t get the much-anticipated Clegane Bowl this episode, but these few lines of dialogue almost make up for it. (Almost.) Over the years, the Hound has become my favorite Thrones character by far, and I’m probably more invested in his future than in Jon’s or Dany’s or Cersei’s or Arya’s. With his season-six detour into McShane Valley and his newfound power of flame-o-vision, it seems possible that he’s going to become a Red Priest, but he doesn’t seem especially interested in helping out his fellow man. He also has a thing for Sansa (yeah right, Hound, I’m sure you really “hate” gingers), but I suspect a romance is a stretch too far. When the Great War is over (and the Piddling Little Ones are, too), is the Hound in a position to be some sort of religious leader, a replacement for the High Septons and High Sparrows and such? Westeros is going to need some religious reconstruction in addition to its political reconstruction in the post-Night King, post-Cersei aftermath. I hope that, among other things, the show’s final season gets to the bottom of all of its various conflicting faiths and magics. This might be asking too much.
Daenerys, of course, is fashionably tardy, and does a big showboat-y entrance on her flashy, oversized ride. Look, I know this is not a real Dragonpit and is actually a crumbled-down Roman amphitheater outside of Seville, but there’s no way we can realistically believe this dinky little arena could ever hold a dragon of Drogon’s size. I realize the dragons got smaller over the years, but they started big before the Targaryens started chaining them up, right? Nevertheless, the meeting kicks off, as all the best diplomatic summits do, with a wild-eyed seaman shit-talking his nephew in front of everybody. Never change, Euron.
Then the Hound brings in his box o’ secrets, and things get tense. The wight is snoozing on the job, but a quick kick from the Hound gets it going. The Hound chops it up, Jon torches its hand, and then shoves a wodge of dragonglass into it, and the exciting presentation is over. Tim Cook could learn a lesson or two from these dudes. Euron, for his part, wets his pants and splits. (Euron’s comings and goings in this episode don’t really make a whole lot of sense, but in the moment I didn’t mind. Adios, Euron.) Cersei also seems legitimately freaked out.
Then this episode’s hard-to-follow game of badminton begins, with Cersei quickly (too quickly) accepting the truce—under the condition that Jon calls her queen. This shuttlecock of Cersei’s cooperation will bounce around too many times to count in the next few scenes, but for now, we think Jon has totally blown it and Cersei huffs out all mad. Tyrion says to Jon, “Have you ever considered learning how to lie now and then? Just a bit?” But of course Jon is Ned Stark’s son (in spirit!) and cannot tell a fib. Are there cherry trees in Westeros? Jaime Lannister, the Hamlet of the show, is visibly lamenting his lot, and yet he sticks with his queen… for the time being.
HOT PREDICTION: Things are about to get a little dumb, plot-wise, but can we quickly talk about Qyburn? When the wight is revealed, you can practically see the spittle foaming excitedly at the edges of his lips. Qyburn looooves this thing. I expect he’ll keep busy trying to replicate the Night King’s superior corpse-animating technology.
Okay, this next bit is where the logic of the episode falls apart—Tyrion decides to stroll on into his murderously evil sister’s chambers and reason with her. I don’t understand how or why this is possible, or even a remotely good idea, but I guess we later learn it was all part of Cersei’s grand plan? Or not? It’s hard to keep track. Anyway, Tyrion pops in to have a word with her (running into Jaime on the way in), and they seem to have a heart-to-heart, Lannister-style. Cersei seems genuinely vulnerable here, not her usual cold self. Whether this is real or by design is still difficult for me to say—perhaps, like all great liars, Cersei knows the secret to telling a good lie is to believe the lie yourself. Anyway, it seemed clear to me that Cersei hasn’t really had the chance to talk with an intellectual equal in quite some time (sorry, Qyburn), and, as much as she hates Tyrion, she finds the experience cathartic, even invigorating.
Tyrion urges his big sister to kill him, once and for all, but she can’t do it (rather, she can’t have the Mountain do it). This is not the only time in this episode that she’ll be unable to kill one of her brothers when the situation presents itself on a platter. Instead, Cersei drops a belly-patting bomb—“you’re pregnant,” Tyrion notices, a fact that is further confirmed by her refusing to drink the delicious glass of wine Tyrion’s poured for her. (Westerosi obstetrics are quite advanced if they’ve already discovered that drinking is bad for babies.) “I don’t care about making the world a better place,” Cersei says, with all the maternal instincts of a nest of vipers. “Hang the world.”
Back at the Dragonpit, Daenerys and Jon are getting more familiar with each other. Ah, nothing’s quite as romantic as fondling a tiny dragon skull and talking about curses from Lhazareen witches. Tyrion ambles back, to the surprise of all, and Cersei follows, agreeing to send her forces to the North to fight the Night King alongside them. As we will see, however, this Cersei shuttlecock will be batted around a bit more until we no longer have any clue which side of the net she’s on.
HOT PREDICTION: I no longer have an opinion on whether Cersei is pregnant or not. There were times in the episode where I was certain she was, and other times I was positive she was lying about it, sometimes in the same scene. After having thought about it a little bit, I guess I’ve concluded she actually is pregnant, but that it was not some fortuitous brother-boning-related accident but rather part of her grand scheme to do whatever the fuck it is she’s doing. I think Cersei without a baby is too unsympathetic a character, and completely untethers her from any kind of motivation to survive, let alone win. In order to keep us invested in the character, we need to believe she is pregnant, and I think it would be a mistake if the show reverses this on us.
Speaking of reversals, however, we get a big one in Winterfell. We first see a raven struggling to get through a snowstorm, further evidence that ravens take time, despite what Episode 6 wanted us to think. There are some scenes with Sansa and Littlefinger, with Littlefinger being Littlefinger and Sansa seeming to be Sansa (at one point I thought maybe she was Arya wearing Sansa’s face, but then Sansa would have to be dead, or maybe not, and who knows the damn rules at this point, and anyway it probably was Sansa all along, so lord only knows why Arya was acting so creepy in her bedroom last week, and thank god we are only a few scenes away from moving on from this stupid annoying plot development). Sansa says some bad stuff about Arya, and Littlefinger gives her the stupidest smirk in television history. Fortunately, it is about to be wiped off his face.
In the Great Hall, the show wants us to think that Arya is on trial, but hey, switcheroo! It is, in fact, Littlefinger who stands accused, and as silly as we all knew this twist was, we also breathed a collective sigh of relief. Lord Baelish’s confusion is enjoyable to see, and Bran is probably the most devastating eyewitness in the history of the Westerosi criminal justice system. Sansa plays Littlefinger’s “game” of assuming the worst, and throws the book at him—the book, in this case, being Littlefinger’s own Valryian steel dagger, which Arya uses to open up his trachea.
HOT PREDICTION: This was a satisfying way to shake loose the show’s most annoying subplot. Good riddance, Littlefinger—I lost track of all the ways you were a jerk, but there were many. Let’s hope this is the last contrivance the show puts up as an obstacle between the Stark siblings, and that they’re a functional team from here on out. We have seen them, all and individually, go through too much for them to move backwards again.
At Dragonstone, there are Battle Plans! Logistics! Tactics! Army-Moving Strategems! Jon and Dany decide to sail together to White Harbor because it sends the right message and not because they totally want to fuck on a boat (not to mention how it cuts down on travel expenses). And then Jon has a really awkward with Theon, who is still a character for some reason. Theon snivels a bit, and Jon forgives him, partly, but seems as uninterested in stupid dumb Theon as we are. As much as the focus is on Theon, I guess it’s a somewhat important scene for Jon, who may soon have a choice presented to him which family he is a part of, much as Theon did. “You don’t need to choose,” Jon sagely imparts, suggesting that the eventual reveal of his true parentage will not alienate him from the Starks.
Then Theon tries to enlist his men to save Yara. The one Iron Islander who has a speaking part spits on him, and lo, fisticuffs. Theon gets the holy shit beaten out of him, but when his opponent tries to knee him in the balls, Theon is all like, joke’s on you, knee-boy! The ball-less Theon then downs him with one punch (huh? okay, whatevs) and smashes his face with his fist, instantly winning over all the other Iron Islanders, who have the developmental group maturity of those kids in Lord of the Flies.
HOT PREDICTION: Oh yay, this means we’re gonna get a bunch of Theon next season. If this also means we get some of Euron, too, then I’m on board—although isn’t Theon about to discover that Euron is not where he says he is?
Back in King’s Landing, the Cersei plot thickens… like a film of brown rubber on a lukewarm cup of hot chocolate. Jaime gets an entire army ready to leave, but then Cersei wanders in and is all like “psych.” She’s kinda nonchalant about this double-cross, and Jaime is understandably a little pissed. We learn that everything that happened before was a lie: Euron did not go to the Iron Islands, and Cersei has no intention of sending her troops north.
Cersei, you see, has taken on some VC investors for her disruptor start-up of Evil Queendom of Westeros (this is really just an old idea, but rehashed and rebranded for 2017), and has enlisted something called the Golden Company to help her do it. They have elephants! All the best start-ups have elephants now. “I made a promise,” Jaime whines, and then challenges his sister to have the Mountain kill him. She almost does… but then doesn’t—the second time she couldn’t manage to kill one of her brothers this week. Jaime huffs out, Cersei accuses him of treason, and things are going swimmingly for Team Lannister. As Jaime leaves the city, he covers up his hand (does this have something to do with the witch’s prophecy? fuck if I know) and it starts to snow.
HOT PREDICTION: So Jaime is presumably going to ride north to join Brienne and Tyrion and save the world. Or maybe, by covering his hand, he’s trying to conceal his identity and is going to slink off into the Westerosi countryside, never to be seen again (or, alternatively, board a ship to Essos). It looks like the Golden Company are going to be a factor in Season 7—hey, what if Daario has infiltrated their ranks and already turned them into Dany supporters? That might be fun to see. Anyway, elephants! Oh, and good luck, Jaime. Sorry your sister’s such a b.
In Winterfell, Sam arrives and immediately meets with Bran for some reason. Are these two going to be best buds for the rest of the show? I kind of hope so—Sam’s reactions to Bran’s bullshitty proclamations are pretty fantastic. The two get each other, and us, up to speed, and Bran confirms that Jon’s parents are indeed Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Then Sam somehow remembers the VERY IMPORTANT FACT that Gilly read offhandedly a few weeks back, even though Sam talked right over her as she read it. Turns out Jon is not a bastard, but in fact a Targaryen by name, and Bran mind-crashes their wedding to prove it. Hey, look, it’s a guy who looks just like the guy who played Viserys, only not! I bet that was a weird casting call.
As all of this is happening, Daenerys and Jon are having Incestuous Boat Sex, which is just like regular sex, but on a boat, and oh, you also have to be AUNT AND NEPHEW to have it. This was genuinely icky, and yet I think the show wanted it to be all hot and romantic? Tyrion creeped around in the background, embodying our unease. I was kind of flabbergasted by this, to be honest—not that it happened, but how the show delivered it like a scene from Red Shoe Diaries. If you did not feel weird witnessing this, you are either lucky in your ability to gloss over the surface of what you’re watching, or you probably should see a shrink.
Then Sansa and Arya have a chat on the Winterfell battlements. They are sisterpals again, hooray! They remember Ned—a recurring theme of this episode, and this entire season—and we are reassured they will be a good, tight team going forward. Then Bran wargs into some ravens, but before then…
HOT PREDICTION: I don’t know how the show is going to walk it back from the superhot incest scene. I also can’t imagine the looks on Jon’s and Dany’s faces next season when Bran and Sam casually inform them what they’ve done. This is all so weird and gross and bluahhhh! Oh, Game of Thrones, how you continually undermine every feel-good storytelling trope your audience has come to rely on. Anyway, I hope than Bran and Sam are going to be bestest buddies from now on, and that Sansa and Arya remain tight, and that the good guys win and so on and so on. What I hope for more than that? That there is no more incest on this show.
Bran’s ravens take us to Eastwatch, where the Wall looms over the ocean. This is pretty fucking cool to see. Our boys Tormund and Beric are busy little beavers in manning the Wall—you know, going up to lookouts, climbing ladders, doing all kinds of Night's Watch-y stuff and not, say, any activities like, I dunno, sending out scouts or preparing for battle or shoring up defenses. Sure enough, the army of the dead strolls out of the woods without warning. There are White Walkers and wights and giants, oh my.
Soon enough the Night King crashes the party with his newly zombified ice dragon, which breathes blue death-fire and burns down the Wall. One would suspect that it would melt the ice and turn it into a tidal wave of water, and yet things basically remains dry. I guess zombie-ice-dragon-fire makes matter disappear instead of changing its chemical properties. Such are the laws of Westerosi physics! Anyway, Eastwatch is destroyed and the dead drily hop over what remains of the Wall into the land of the living. The end!
HOT PREDICTION: This was a pretty tight way to end the season, tying a bow on that weird, far-fetched, long walk of a subplot of kidnapping a wight in order to give the Night King his own dragon. There’s stuff to be baffled by, and stuff to complain about, but after that really bumpy penultimate episode, I was more than willing to let this ridiculous fantasy stuff just be fun. I think I’m willing to hang up any qualms and just ride with this show from here on out. The Cersei back-and-forth was irritating and hard to follow, but it would be worse to have her radically transform into a sweetie-pie and be all nice and helpful in fighting the Night King. And the Littlefinger bullshit sucked, but it was super-fun to watch it end! I kind of don’t ever want to see Jon or Dany again, but I guess we’ll be forced to deal with their grossness next season. As long as we get plenty of the Hound, and more Sam/Bran banter, and maybe some cool dragon stuff, I’ll be good. Oh, and I hope Jaime Lannister finally turns into the interesting character the show’s been insisting he is ever since he got his hand lopped off.
There’s so much in this show that it’s like a salad bar of storytelling. Grab plenty of croutons (the Hound’s crunchy-dry quips), skip those expired, soggy-looking red onions (that’s you, Theon and Yara), and pile on the ranch dressing (mmm, the creamily tangy promise of a Tormund/Brienne union). Even as the show narrows its focus, there’s enough going on that we all get to pick and choose what we like. Bac-Os for all! And with that, I’m ready to say goodbye to Game of Thrones for 18 months, or however long it’s gonna be. I know it feels like this season just got started, but remember Ed Sheeran? Christ, that was a lifetime ago. Hey, maybe by the time Season 8 starts, Martin will have finished another book. And hey, maybe we’ll have a new president, too! In other words, lots to look forward to. Now let us never speak of Jon and Dany boatfucking again.