Burning up and moving on
Burning up and moving on Helen Sloan/HBO

Last night's episode of Game of Thrones was called "The Last of the Starks," but it just as easily could've been called "Stopgap," since we got a huge battle last week and we seem to be gearing up for another big battle next week. Things this week were relatively low-key, but there were mass funerals, a lot of drunken hookups, and some really big crossbow thingies! Also there was death and double crossing and motives and politics and plotting and basically all the stuff we've come to expect from HBO's big show.

How did it all go, and how did our team of Thrones pundits feel about it? Read on, and be spoiled.

This was a (GOOD/BAD) episode of Game of Thrones because…

JASMYNE KEIMIG: This was a SLIGHTLY MORE THAN FINE episode of GoT—it is one that is very much setting up a bunch of pieces to fall next week, in what looks like the Great War episode. A lot of characters reunite and say goodbye, perhaps for forever. [Show runners] David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' characterization of all the women characters has been horrible, ever since writing beyond the books. This was especially apparent when Sansa talked about being “broken in rough,” her attitude towards being tortured and abused being a bit too… flippant? I shuddered. I was surprised at how quickly the Jon, Dany, et al’s gaze turns southward after what seems like an absolutely devastating loss of manpower at the Battle of Winterfell. Her dragons were just barely healed! Also, how is everyone not totally traumatized by experiencing a zombie war?! I guess there’s only two episodes left, so we’ve got to get to stepping.

ERIK HENRIKSEN: This episode started out great—I could watch these characters getting shitfaced at Winterfell for hours. But then, you know, plot happened, and it was clumsy plot: Bronn showed up to threaten Tyrion and Jaime, not because it made any sense to do so at that moment, but because this show is running out of time to fit these scenes in. This show is also running out of time for everything else, so we've got a return to last season's instant teleportation of characters across a massive continent. And we have Missandei meeting a very shitty end, with Cersei/Benioff/Weiss casually killing off one of Game of Thrones' few characters of color in order to... uh, prove something everybody already knows? That Cersei is mean? Yes. We know.

SUZETTE SMITH: This was a BAD, boring episode. We return to Winterfell where all the bodies (we last saw our heroes standing on PILES of bodies!) have been cleaned up and tidily arranged on perfectly symmetrical pyres. Allegedly only half the Dothraki died, but we don’t see any of them so it could be propaganda. This episode’s job was to make us care about what happens in Westeros on the other side of the epic and exhausting Battle of Winterfell. Instead we got an 80-minute housekeeping reset that swapped out surprises for engagement. Why doesn't anyone write good lines for the Hound anymore?

NED LANNAMANN: This was a WEIRD episode that I am still having trouble processing. I think it was mostly BAD but the whole time I had no idea what was happening, why it was happening, or what was going to happen next. So in that sense it was fascinating? It almost felt like the actual show aired its final episode last week, with the death of the Night King and everything, and this was some weird fan fiction to pick up the threads after the fact. So many hookups! Such unclear motives! I guess Thrones has technically been fanfic ever since it lapped the books.

LEILANI POLK: Goddamnit, BAD. Look, I’m expecting people (and dragons) to die, but the way they took out Missandei, and Rhaegal, what the fuck was that all about? Not the ambush, but the point of the ambush? Kill a dragon, take a prisoner? Why not take out everyone, you have them right where you want them, you obviously have the weaponry and the manpower. (I realize there are two episodes left, one of those being a big battle, but it still felt ill-thought-out.) Also, Cersei took a prisoner, just to kill her shortly after, in front of her people, to make an example of her? That’s some cold shit, even by Cersei standards, though it just feels like they’re purposefully making her a worse villain than she already is, if that’s even possible, so when she's killed later, it will feel even more sweet.

Also, all the stuff between Jon and Dany felt so soap opera. Like, she demands he hide his heritage from everyone, including his family, when he is the most honest person on this show, to his own detriment? As if he’s going to hide it from the people he loves the most? Can’t they just get married, auntie and nephew, already and stop all this inane BS?

My favorite interaction was between...

NED LANNAMANN: I have never ’shipped Jaime and Brienne, but their merger (ew, sorry for using that word) was pretty satisfying. It was less satisfying that Jaime skulked off into the night immediately afterward, ostensibly to go back to his sister? Was Brienne really that disappointing in the sack? Of course she wasn’t; it’s a blatant misdirect for us to think he’s rejecting Brienne to go back to Big Star’s third album, when of course he now loves Brienne and is actually going south to kill his babymama for good.

LEILANI POLK: Sansa and the Hound. While we’re on the subject, my least favorite interaction was between Jaime, Tyrion, and Bronn. Like, he just walked into Winterfell, found the Lannister brothers, threatened them with death until he was promised Highgarden, left? Yawn. We all knew Bronn wasn’t going to kill anyone but the way they inserted him in there was kind of stupid.

SUZETTE SMITH: Was the implied sex scene between Jaime and Brienne fan service? Will it be in the books? All I know is that Jaime drinking nervously and talking too much while Brienne stares at him quizzically is the only scene in this episode that felt messy and human.

ERIK HENRIKSEN: Brienne and Jaime! I've been waiting for those two weirdos to hook up ever since... A Feast for Crows, I think? I did not predict that Jaime was going to be a shitbag afterwards, probably because Jaime has grown significantly as a character and... oh. Okay. Anyway, I'm hoping Jaime's contrived "Uh, gotta go, bye!" will pay off if and when he kills Cersei, but as of last night, his bailing on Brienne felt like a reversal of every step he's taken. So there you go: My favorite interaction was between Brienne and Jaime, and my least-favorite interaction was between Brienne and Jaime.

JASMYNE KEIMIG: Jaime and Brienne of Tarth. Finally. FINALLY. “Bri-aime” became a thing! As soon as Podrick, Tyrion, Jaime, and Brienne began playing that drinking game, I knew her virginity would be an excuse for the two knights to finally fuck. I love how these characters who aren’t used to having their guards down, let their guards down and get down ’n’ dirty with one another. This relationship has been building for quite sometime and I thought the fleeting tenderness of it was sweet. This union was so brief that it barely registered before it was all over. At least give us a two-episode arc!

My heart hurt for Brienne once her one-handed paramour ran off to be with Cersei, but Jaime is still the Kingslayer, still the man who fathered four kids with his sister, still the man who pushed a child off a tower ledge. Though I am partial to a “bad boy” redemption, Jaime playing house with Brienne is a bit silly for them both. Jaime played his return to Cersei a bit ambiguously but I have a hard time believing that he’ll return to her and be by her side in the way he was before.

Helen Sloan/HBO
The scene that deserves to be turned into a million memes was…

LEILANI POLK: The most awkward hook-up in all of Winterfell: Brienne and Jaime. The opposite of hot.

JASMYNE KEIMIG: When Sansa ratted on Jon almost immediately to Tyrion (though, as Hand to the Queen, Tyrion should have already known imho!).

SUZETTE SMITH: The sitcom-like succession of Daenerys saying to Jon that—if he doesn’t want to step to her—he shouldn’t tell anyone about his mildly unprovable, confusing heritage, which he immediately tells everyone about.

NED LANNAMANN: Not a super meme-able episode, so I’ll choose the meme that’s already going around—of the Starbucks cup accidentally left in the shot. How the fuck did that happen? I understand that making TV shows is hard, and making one as big as Game of Thrones is super hard, but getting 21st-century garbage out of the line of sight has to be one of the easier parts of the job... right?

The character that annoyed me the most this week was…

ERIK HENRIKSEN: RoboBran, who, to be fair, has annoyed me ever since he crawled out of his magic tree. I know everybody's hoping Bran will pull some pivotal, reality-altering shit for the big climax, but at this point, I don't even need an "Oh damn! Bran's the reincarnated Azor Ahai!" or an "Oh damn, Bran McFly will change Westeros' past and thus alter its future!" I'd be satisfied with an "Oh damn! Bran is doing literally anything other than being the world's surliest teen who just learned about nihilism."

LEILANI POLK: Pretty sure I was annoyed by everyone this week, save Sansa and Arya, the latter of whom had too little face time.

SUZETTE SMITH: Why did Jon give away his huge wolf that loves him? Why can’t the record-breaking show with a huge budget afford this very big dog? Ghost hasn’t done anything cool in the entire season and it breaks my spectacle-demanding heart.

JASMYNE KEIMIG: Cersei. Why did she do my girl Missandei like that?

NED LANNAMANN: Ugh, they kind of all annoyed me this week. I’ll go with Dany for making Jon promise not to tell anybody about his birth parents, but Jon gets second place for immediately breaking that promise, and then Sansa gets the bronze for doing exactly the same thing. It’s pretty close between all three. I hate the TV trope of friends/allies lying to each other in order to manufacture conflict (see every episode of Friends ever) and this isn’t exactly the same, but it’s pretty close. So, Dany, but this could be a Kentucky Derby situation where it gets overturned after the fact.

The most confusing part was when…

JASMYNE KEIMIG: Rhaegal was taken down in a matter of seconds—he survived like hordes of zombies trying to eat him or whatever and the Night King was shooting ice lances at him, but Qyburn’s scorpions were no match apparently. He went down so fast! That’s Death, I guess. But when Dany and company are making these kinds of moves, I don’t understand why they they don’t have some sort of eyes or ears on the ground, scoping out their enemy. Benioff and Weiss say that Dany “forgot” about Euron. What! Write that shit down—every great leader has a journal of some sort, Dany! This was a silly strategic mistake that… didn’t need to happen. Tyrion!! Where’s your head been? Why do you keep giving your sister the benefit of the doubt, like she’s not some type of poisonous snake?!

SUZETTE SMITH: Bronn just walked into Winterfell with a crossbow like NBD, MY DUDES, WHAT’S UP?

ERIK HENRIKSEN: I will never be a medieval battle strategist for many reasons, and here is one of them: It never occurred to me that Cersei would build more than one giant crossbow. But I'm an idiot, and of course she would build more than one, and of course she would put them on her shitty boyfriend's boats and along the walls of King's Landing. Doing so must have been a monumental task, but Cersei probably pulled it off because she's a queen, and she knew doing so could help her win a war, and so she made a lot of people work very hard to make it happen. Queens should take precautions like this when it comes to building giant crossbows, or, I don't know, when it comes to making some fucking dragon armor.

LEILANI POLK: THEY KILLED OFF RAEGAL, WHY? Also, why did Jon leave Ghost behind? Aside from the obvious issue of inserting a direwolf into the plotline? I guess he outlived his usefulness, after losing an ear? AND HE DIDN'T EVEN PET HIM GOODBYE. What the hell, Jon?

NED LANNAMANN: Anything dragon related. Namely: 1) That Euron was able to hide a gigantic fleet from two airborne dragons. 2) That he was able to go three for three in his giant arrows when aiming at Rhaegal, but somehow missed Drogon every time. 3) That Drogon did not torch Euron’s fleet after his brother took an arrow to the windpipe. 4) That Drogon was just hanging out in the background of the peace talk at the castle gates. 5) That Drogon did not torch the castle, and 6) That nobody tried to fire a giant arrow at him, either.

Oh. And why did Cersei kill the hostage? If she had kept Missandei alive and by her side in the Red Keep, you can be sure Dany would hesitate before torching the place. Seems like a bad strategy move, unless Cersei has, as I have suspected, a serious death wish.

MVP of the week goes to...

ERIK HENRIKSEN: Gendry! Congrats, Gendry, on becoming lord of Storm's End and... oh. Arya just ripped out your heart and then stabbed it a billion times with Needle? Oof. Sorry dude. In that case... Ghost! Congrats, Ghost, on not only surviving the Battle of Winterfell but also going on to faithfully accompany your beloved Jon on his final and greatest adventu... oh. Jon just heartlessly abandoned you with the least-reliable dog-sitter in Westeros? Oof. Sorry dude. I guess there are no MVPs this week.

JASMYNE KEIMIG: Arya, still. She’ll forever be the MVP until she can prove to me she doesn’t deserve it. This Stark makes consistently great decisions like: securing some dick before a deadly battle, ensuring she had several weapons on her to make killing the Night King easier, turning down Gendry’s rather ridiculous marriage proposal, and heading to King’s Landing to (hopefully) kill Cersei.

SUZETTE SMITH: No one. But let’s give it to Varys for trying. I have been a show-long supporter of Varys because Varys thinks of the realm. Maybe it’s just something he says, but he says it a lot.

LEILANI POLK: Sansa. She took that information about Jon being a Targaryen and owned it like a Littlefinger. Also, Sophie Turner was luminescent in this episode; the subtlety of her acting was brilliant. She said so much with the rise of an eyebrow, the purse of a lip, a quick side brood before letting the Targaryen cat out of the bag.

NED LANNAMANN: I’m just going to pick the Hound because he’s been my favorite character ever since he helped Sansa back during the Battle of the Blackwater, and he got two decent scenes this week, one with Sansa and one with Arya. (The one with Sansa took a turn at the end, though, huh?) Sandor Clegane has maybe gotten a little too emo recently, but I love the trajectory of his character and still get a kick out of how every word out that comes out of his mouth is a tear-off-your-head-and-shit-down-your-neck, scorched-earth-style insult.

The character I am most worried about is…

JASMYNE KEIMIG: Dany! This episode she lost a (dragon) child and her devoted companion Missandei while also learning that she has less of a claim to the Throne now that her latest love actually turns out to be her nephew and legitimate heir. Furthermore, she has been receiving some wack counsel from Tyrion, got bested by Cersei and Euron, and has no real friends. Shit is getting tough for our fair-haired queen. I hope things line up for her better in this so-called Great War.

SUZETTE SMITH: Our beautiful son Drogon.

NED LANNAMANN: Anyone who’s not in King’s Landing or the immediate surrounding area. Not because I think the Winterfell folks are going to die or anything—but because I think they’ll be sidelined for the remaining two episodes. It’s totally bizarre that after bringing almost everyone to a single location (excepting Team Cersei, of course), they’re now splitting everyone up again for the home stretch. Anything that’s not happening in relation to the final battle at King's Landing is probably stuff we won’t get to see.

LEILANI POLK: Fuck all the humans, I am worried about my dude Drogon, the LAST SURVIVING DRAGON.

ERIK HENRIKSEN: Uh, I'm worried about multiple characters? Not because I think they're going to die or whatever, but because things are going all Flowers for Algernon, with everybody getting stupider as the show nears its conclusion. This episode not only dumbed down Dany's motivations (sure, those crazy eyes might have been "I'm wired from that double-shot latte," but more likely, they were "Oooh, look at ol' crazy eyes here, goin' all crazy like her dad!"), but it also dumbed down Jaime, and Tyrion, and Jon. (Yes, I know they're trying to parallel Jon's self-defeating morality with Ned's self-defeating morality, but come on, Jon—don't tell Sansa.) Somehow even Euron Greyjoy seemed dumber, and he's the dumbest character on this whole show.

My crazy prediction for the rest of the show is…

JASMYNE KEIMIG: The unnamed new prince of Dorne turns up at the most opportune moment to claim the Iron Throne for himself (and wins).

SUZETTE SMITH: They’re going to avert roasting the children of King's Landing somehow, because the show has lost its nerve.

LEILANI POLK: Whatever happened to Ellaria Sand? I don’t have a prediction per se, except that it seems like that it’s gonna be Jaime who strangles Cersei to death, or maybe Arya wearing Jaime’s face.

NED LANNAMANN: Tormund and Ghost find love in a hopeless place (i.e., north of the Wall). I would gleefully watch an entire spinoff series of Tormund and his new white wolf bestie just wandering winterscapes and hunting beavers and stuff.

ERIK HENRIKSEN: I don't even know anymore. I'll readily admit I've always been far more interested in the stories and characters of the North than with the game of musical chairs down in King's Landing, but I'm feeling pretty deflated now that it really does look as if Game of Thrones truly, quickly, and neatly wrapped up its existential, metaphorical, world-ending threat, and is now just about who ends up with a piece of furniture.

Read our earlier discussions of Game of Thrones' eighth and final season!

Episode 1: "Winterfell"
Episode 2: "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms"
Episode 3: "The Long Night"