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Fantasy-Faction Game of Thrones Discussion: Season 8, Episode 4 – “Last of the Starks”

It was the best of times and the worst of times in episode four last Sunday. The show opened with tear-jerking goodbyes and some sorely needed joy and relief from the long strife that has plagued the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately, it included one of the most poorly staged battles in the show’s history. Nevertheless, the episode whetted the appetite of Fantasy-Factioners for what comes next.

The Recap

The episode opened with a bittersweet funeral sequence as the survivors of the Night King’s assault on Winterfell said goodbye to the fallen, allowing the audience a moment to mourn beloved supporting characters like Jorah, Theon, and Lyanna Mormont. The victory celebration that followed gave us the rare pleasure of seeing the Lannister brothers laughing together, and the fun of watching them entice Brienne into a drinking game. Sansa and Dany cast each other the stink-eye while Jon stood between them, knowing nothing of the Mother of Dragon’s tall latte still in the frame.

Daenerys gave Gendry the Baratheon’s castle, Storm’s End (sparking speculation that he will eventually inherit Robert Baratheon’s place on the Iron Throne), and newly made Lord Gendry bent the knee to Lady Arya, proposing marriage in one of the sweetest moments we’ve seen on the show. Our favorite assassin politely turned him down and joined up with the Hound to head south and resume her murder spree. Jon and Daenerys led separate forces away to prepare for the siege of King’s Landing, but not before Jon informed the Stark sisters that he’s not their brother, he’s their cousin. Although sworn to secrecy, Sansa promptly spilled the beans to Tyrion, who told Varys, and it won’t be long before everybody in Westeros knows.

The rest of the show set up the chessboard for episode five. Euron Grayjoy ambushed Daenerys’s forces as they arrived at the island of Dragonstone, killing Rhaegal and capturing Missandei, whom Cersei publicly executed in an effort to goad Daenerys into prematurely attacking the capital. A giant “will she or won’t she” question mark hung over the final shot.

The Discussion

The Factioners almost universally agreed that Euron’s ambush was ridiculously easy and plot-convenient, though some blamed Daenerys’s poor planning and hubris, while others blamed showrunners D. B. Weiss and David Benioff for lousy execution. We had a spirited debate about whether Daenerys is insane, a power-hungry tyrant in the making, or simply making tough calls that have unforeseen consequences. A lot of the group expects her and Jon to battle each other before the end.

Divinations: Predictions for Episode Four That Came True (or Close Enough)

Christopher Deal: I am hoping for a great sea battle and explosions.

There was a sea battle with explosions (sort of), but it wasn’t “great.”

Sarah McGinn: We probably will see the battle for the Iron Islands? I also imagine Bronn will make an appearance with the crossbow. I don’t think he’ll kill Tyrion, but Jamie might be fair game.

Yara retook the Iron Islands off-screen (might have been more exciting than Euron’s cheap shot ambush), but Bronn and the Daddy-killer crossbow did turn up for a highly amusing convo with Tyrion and Jamie, in which Bronn, true to his character, switched sides after Tyrion promised him Highgarden.

LM Towton: After that sheer adrenaline overload of episode three, I’m imagining episode four will be a bit more sedate. Unless someone blabs Jon’s true identity to more people, it might be more a grieve/remember the dead and prepare for the next battle, in amongst Cersei plotting and scheming. Although, maybe we’ll have a nice cliffhanger with Bronn appearing.

Wins a Crystal Ball for being on-point with so many predictions!

Abby Goldsmith:

  • Jon Snow + Daenerys’s army takes leave of Winterfell and marches south. Nobody mourns the Dothraki or even mentions them.
    • True, although Greyworm mentions that about half the Dothraki and half the Unsullied survived and will fight at Kings Landing.
  • Jaime speeds towards King’s Landing to try to talk Cersei off the Iron Throne.
    • Jamie did leave Brienne and Winterfell to go to Cersei, though we don’t know whether it’s to reunite with her or kill her.
  • The Hound gives Gendry a stern talking-to, making sure he’s good enough for Arya. Yes, I know it’s out of character for the Hound, but I’ve lost all faith in these showrunners to care about character consistency.
    • The Hound did talk to Gendry about Arya. Personally, I thought it was entirely in-character for him to play foster-dad to the murder-moppet.
  • Tyrion exchanges some witty dialogue with Bronn and gets Bronn to reveal that Cersei ordered the execution of both Tyrion and Jaime.
    • Ding ding! Another winner!

Shoulda Seen It Coming a Mile Away: Euron Grayjoy’s Ambush

AM Justice: Forget the lousy battle tactics last week, but DAMN why didn’t Dany circle Drogon back around and burn Euron’s fleet from the rear?

Clélie Rich: Exactly. She really doesn’t think like a fighter.

Abby Goldsmith: I blame the showrunners.

AM Justice: I think the directors needed them to lose that battle against Euron, and they just didn’t stage it effectively.

Caroline Reid: I’m getting a bit sick of people making stupid decisions as an easy way of furthering the plot. This is not like Robb Stark making one silly decision that he reasoned he could get away with. It’s non-stop out-of-character stupidity.

Sam Hawke: Unforgivably bad, that call. She’s nimble enough to dodge all of their arrows at the last minute when flying directly at them, but she can’t circle around and torch their ships to protect her own? And why didn’t she see them, she was in the AIR, she knew there was a fleet waiting. Land doesn’t block your view from the air! Infuriating.

John Kang: The utter stupidity of knowing Euron is out there, and not scouting ahead with the dragons, had me shaking my head. THEN, when they do get ambushed, why the hell doesn’t Dany use Drogon’s superior mobility to go around back? Jon and Dany are STUPID, so it leaves me with little confidence that they can beat Cersei.

Jochem Willemstijn: I think it was quite obvious why she didn’t let Drogon circle back around. She just lost her second dragon and he was killed pretty easily. It was close or Drogon would also have been gone. It would have been stupid to put him back in danger. Also, she probably wasn’t thinking rationally, but out of instinct because out of the shock that Rhaegal just died.

S.D. Howarth: I’d have thought a flying object would spot a fleet before they would see beastie at distance. Dragon sniping feels like it has bells attached.

Parley at King’s Landing

Jorge Sacio: How is it that Tyrion was talking at a normal volume to his sister who was on top of the wall? Did they think that Cersei would surrender with what, 100 unsullied and 1 remaining dragon behind them? Not very menacing anymore. And knowing Cersei, why didn’t she attack with her scorpions and be done with it once and for all?

Three Men and a Crossbow

John Kang: Bronn scenes always have me smiling with his snappy dialog.

Jochem Willemstijn: I am still hoping/waiting for a twist here. I was right that he was morally able to kill them but wouldn’t for the money. Didn’t think he would switch sides that quickly, but he’s a mercenary, should have expected that.

LM Towton: I don’t know if Bronn will get his castle in the end though.

Krista Heiser: Went exactly as I had expected it to. I think Bronn stayed true to his nature, bartering for the most lucrative payout.

Abby Goldsmith: I predicted the Bronn scene, but I failed to predict how stupid it was. I figured Bronn would attempt to assassinate the Lannister brothers, get stymied by an army of protectors, and then switch sides out of desperation, aware that his life is forfeit. Instead, he went for a worthless verbal contract for a bigger castle. If he was as smart as he used to be, he’d know that castle promise is a lie.

Kenneth Øster: I was hoping for more to be honest. Bronn is a great character and the scene had some funny lines, but it felt pretty anticlimactic.

The Once and Future Bran

LM Towton: Bran’s line about living in the past was either a hint that the White Walkers will rise again (as they did before) and events are doomed to repeat themselves, or it’s just a reference to his arc ending.

Kenneth Øster: Hopefully he’ll take a backseat for now. I’d hate for the show to be resolved with some weird time travel mumbo jumbo.

Little Bird, Littlefinger’s Protégé: Does She Have Her Own Master Plan?

John Kang: Sansa better have a master plan, because Jon and Dany are idiots. There, I said it again.

LM Towton: Sansa has learnt everything she knows from Cersei and Littlefinger, so the idea of her NOT having some kind of agenda would feel off. She doesn’t trust or like Dany and she realised the same thing as Tyrion about Gendry.

ML Spencer: I think Sansa intends to help put Jon on the throne by sending Arya south. Maybe to kill Dany?

Lynn Fowler: Sansa means to see Jon on the Iron Throne and herself ruling the North. She was always self-interested. Now she is channeling her mother in becoming single-minded and manipulative.

Krista Heiser: [Sansa’s goal is] to put Jon on the Iron Throne.

Kenneth Øster: Sansa definitely has a strong dislike for Dany and now she knows that Jon is a viable alternative, I don’t think she’ll move directly against Dany, but I could see her throw a wrench in the system by withholding support.

The Reluctant Anti-Hero

John Kang: Is Jaime going to kill Cersei? I hope so, because that’s been prophesized and foreshadowed.

LM Towton: If Jaime isn’t going to Kings Landing to either kill her himself or, at least, pave the way for someone else to do it then I will be furious with the writers because it would feel like ruining his character arc. I think Jaime said the things he did to Brienne to push her away and stop her following him (because she would have)—again there was a point; almost a throwaway line; of Tyrion asking about Brienne staying with Jaime at Winterfell. Not to mention, Jaime was fine to stay in Winterfell knowing they were likely to kill Cersei but he only chose to leave after Sansa and Brienne told him what had happened. Jaime has always been good at knowing what to say to people to hurt them, push them away and make them angry with him. And if not, damn you bloody writers.

Krista Heiser: Jamie’s going to try, and I think he’s got a fair chance of accomplishing it. The witch said she’d be killed by a younger brother, and I do believe Cersei is the firstborn twin.

Abby Goldsmith: Jaime will kill Cersei. It’s the last gasp of the brilliant storyline that GRRM set up. But Cersei needs to do something unforgivable to him, first. She will either have Brienne killed or she will have Tyrion killed. Or she will abort the baby and rub it in Jaime’s face.

The Internet Debates: Is Daenerys Fit to Rule?

Clélie Rich: We’ve really seen her make bad choices in seasons seven and eight and earlier too. I really hope she doesn’t get to rule. Really poor ruler for Westeros. She was fine in Essos.

Robin Pollack: She wasn’t a great ruler in Essos, either. She freed slaves without first devising a solid structure for those countries to thrive. She acts too much on emotions without thinking things through.

Lynn Fowler: We are seeing the leading edge of madness with Daenerys’ character, where she increasingly makes impulsive, emotional decisions, rather than rational ones and she is increasingly propelled by her own self-interest. The part of last night’s show where she reasoned out loud that if she first made the doomed effort to get Cersei to surrender, the people of King’s Landing would blame Cersei for their slaughter was telling. It showed that she did not care who she had to kill, she only cared that they would appreciate her, and she is incapable of recognizing that the decision would be hers, not Cersei’s.

John Kang: I think she’s being set up to be the villain.

Abby Goldsmith: She will go mad with power and turn into the typical women-in-power-can’t-be-trusted trope. Clearing the way for Jon Aegon Snow.

AM Justice: I think she does the best she can, but she is in a no-win situation every time. It looks like she’s made bad decisions in hindsight, but there never is a good option. Everyone around her, including lots of viewers, expect her to fail, but I don’t think she will.

Colby M Zampa: I feel like everything we’ve seen leading up to this season says Dany prevails; they’ve set her up to grow and show she can rule (and show her grow into being capable of various aspects of ruling). If they sweep her away now, it’ll feel to me like so much set up was wasted. That said, I fear it’s possible it’s what’s happening. I also don’t think her being mad about all this bad stuff has to be her becoming “mad.” I’d be angry, too, if somebody just beheaded my best friend. I think she can just be angry and not necessarily crazy.

AM Justice: My thoughts exactly. Every time I see someone say how “unreasonable” or “power-mad” she is, I think, her responses don’t seem out of proportion with the challenges she’s faced or her goals, which have been her goals all along.

Susan Mercer: I’m starting to think she’ll sacrifice herself for someone in the end. Most likely Jon. I’m thinking she’ll start to turn “mad”, but in the end do something selfless in a moment of clarity or something.

AM Justice: Or, it occurred to me this morning that Jon may end up killing her to preserve the peace, the way he did Ygritte.

Monique Quarles: Sad to see the wedge between Jon and Danny. She is becoming a soft villain on the brink of full blown. She is becoming suspicious and jealous of everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if the last battle will be between the two.

Lynn Fowler: Daenerys has never been able to overcome her own ambition. As she herself says, she cannot win support or love in Westeros. Jon can. If she had been willing to lead with Jon, she might have had a chance. But she is too far gone for that.

Krista Heiser: Daenerys is her own worst enemy, in my opinion. I think her cruel and ruthless tendencies will cause her to harm not just those who oppose her but those she’s meant to protect. I don’t want to see either Cersei or Daenerys on the throne. I am hoping they both are killed off, leaving Jon and Gendry staring at each other like “you take it!” Unfortunately, with the dire wolf being banished north, I expect Jon’s unlikely to be breathing at the end of this thing. That saddens me as he has my vote when it comes to who should sit on the Iron Throne.

Tyrion and Varys Channel the Internet and Debate: Is Daenerys Fit to Rule?

John Kang: I like Tyrion’s [argument]: Get them to marry. BUT BY THE OLD AND NEW GODS, let them rule in name, while letting the smarter people do the actual dirty work.

AM Justice: I liked how Tyrion and Varys basically had the same conversation about Dany that I see all over this page and others. Is she power mad? Is she mad-mad? Can her better angels prevail? Personally, I’m with Tyrion. I believe in Daenerys.

Jochem Willemstijn: The discussion about Dany was very interesting and I am glad to see that people around her are realizing she might not be the best option and is quite dangerous. I am definitely on Varys’ side. All she wants is the throne and she’s blinded by it. It became extra apparent in her conversation with Jon, where she basically forces him to choose between loving her or announcing himself as Aegon.

LM Towton: Leaning more towards Varys, but at this rate, I wonder if what’s best for the realm is nobody on the Iron Throne. Varys made a point to state that [Jon’s real identity] wasn’t a secret, it was information. I think Varys still has some little birds flitting about, so he may very well start spreading this newfound information.

ML Spencer: I side with Tyrion. Still would like them to marry and rule together, although it is a pipe dream. As for Varys, to protect “the realm,” he will have an assassin at work.

Lynn Fowler: Tyrion did not have an actual argument. Varys wins the point and I think Tyrion grasped that the minute Missandei’s head became separated from her body. Varys will use his argument on Jon and may turn to Davos for support.

Krista Heiser: I side with Varys. He’s got the good of the common people in mind at all times. His allegiance is to the greater good and who can most closely deliver on being a just and fair ruler. I expect him to use his network to spread the word that Jon is the true heir to the throne and gather support from across the land.

Abby Goldsmith: I side with Varys, and I’m sure Tyrion will side with Varys before the end, as well. In the next episode, Varys will whisper to the people of King’s Landing that Jon Snow is Aegon Targaryen and the rightful king of Westeros. Daenerys will execute Varys when the people start chanting “Jon Snow!” and booing her.

Kenneth Øster: I side with Tyrion. At some point you gotta pick a plan and stick to it and not switch horses mid race. Varys keeps talking about the small folk and the good of the realm, but that guy has done his fair share to prolong the conflict.

The Longest Gestation: Cersei’s Fake (?) Pregnancy

LM Towton: I’ve always said I don’t think Cersei is pregnant and considering they made a point of being able to tell Gilly is pregnant, it makes me think this even more. But who knows with the way the believability is going lately.

Lynn Fowler: Cersei lied about being pregnant. That lie will stop Jaime from being able to kill her.

John Kang: If she really is pregnant, it’s probably not Euron’s. I bet in her reunion with Jaime, she’ll say it’s his. It’s just another tool for her to use.

Sarah McGinn: My feeling is that Cersei has not slept with Euron yet, and so I wonder if Tyrion mentioning the pregnancy at the walls was a way of spreading discord between Cersei and Euron? He won’t want her to have Jaime’s baby. And he’s pretty ruthless.

Krista Heiser: How is she not showing yet? She’s had three children already and the body remembers what it’s supposed to do. She’d have a baby bump!

AM Justice: Considering how long it should take to travel the 1000 or so miles between Winterfell and King’s Landing on foot (or even by horse), and that people have gone back and forth at least three times since we learned of Cersei’s pregnancy, that baby should be born by now. At minimum, Cersei should be showing. So, is she faking to manipulate Jamie and Euron, or are the showrunners just ignoring the laws of biology?

Jochem Willemstijn: The show has done an awful job with time. Especially last season with Gendry running all the way to Daenerys from beyond the wall in what seemed to be a few hours. Also, Sam’s child is way too young. It’s 100% just the writers not paying attention to time.

Clélie Rich: Gendry ran to the maesters at the Wall who sent a raven to Dany. Didn’t run to Dany.

Jochem Willemstijn: Yeah, that still takes a long time, haha, and for Dany to fly back. Time is a mess in this show.

Abby Goldsmith: The showrunners clearly believe that the distance between King’s Landing and Winterfell is one day.

Adam Huff: Our characters leveled up and unlocked fast travel after season six.

“Dracarys!”: Factioners Say Goodbye to Rhaegal, Missandei, and Ghost

Editor’s note: Ghost left Winterfell with Tormund to hunt happily north of the Wall, and almost everyone expects we’ve seen the last of him on screen. Goodbye Ghost.

Krista Heiser: Grrr. I hate how the dire wolves have been completely disregarded in the show.

John Kang: Missandei’s death hurt maybe a tad more, but I always get sad when something bad happens to the dragons.

Monique Quarles: Really sad to see Missandei and Torgo Nudo not have a happy ending.

LM Towton: Rheagal deserved better, it was a pathetic, weak death just to what, show us they had the weapons? Could have been done by either injuring or just near-missing. I just didn’t like it; it was stupid and unsatisfying. (NB: I really thought Rhaegal was going to go with Jon and snub Dany).

Krista Heiser: Rhaegal’s death hurt the most; it was quick and brutal.

Abby Goldsmith: Rhaegal died too quickly and easily, and stupidly. Daenerys has Varys on her side; hasn’t he provided her with intelligence about the mega-harpoons? We’ve seen the last of Ghost.

Kenneth Øster: Missandei’s death hurt the most. The relationship between her and Grey Worm was really sweet and tender and some of the best character writing in recent seasons.

Queen Takes King’s Landing: Predictions for Episode Five and Beyond

John Kang: Dany will Burn King’s Landing to the ground.

Sarah McGinn: The Hound is headed to King’s Landing to kill the Mountain. Arya is heading to KL with The Hound, to kill Cersei. I’m not sure she will succeed but it sure looks like they’re setting up that scenario.

Gogs Herriott: Feel like Cersei will be dealt with in the next episode and Dany will be cast as the final villian.

Lynn Fowler: I think Arya will sneak into the Red Keep, kill Qyburn and use his face to kill Cersei.

Krista Heiser: I think Arya killing Cersei is ideal. I think she has the best chance of infiltrating the Red Keep by assuming various identities until she’s within striking distance of Cersei. That being said, she’s already had her big kill in the series and I don’t see this actually happening. But I want it. So very, very much.

Lynn Fowler: If she does not kill Cersei, she may be the one to kill Daenerys. I think there are two things in play here. Jaime is the “king killer” because he has already removed one bad monarch who trusted him. He may do it again, but I don’t think Cersei trusts him and we know Daenerys doesn’t. Arya is going to King’s Landing for a reason. I don’t think they’ll just kill her off. She is one of the most resourceful survivors in the series.

Christopher Brandel: I love the idea of Arya killing Cersei and then the Mountain killing her, causing the Hound to finally give us the Clegane Bowl.

Lynn Fowler: That could happen. I’d like to see Arya survive this whole thing. I hate to think of Sansa as the only functioning Stark left standing.

Linda Åkerman: I feel that Dany will burn it to the ground. The series ends with her sitting on the throne. Her last dragon dead. Jon dead. Varys dead. Tyrion dead. Everyone she listened to dead. The people hate her because she killed everyone at King’s Landing. Doooom.

Clélie Rich: I like the way you think. Doooom.

Finally, Abby Goldsmith predicted what we’d never learn:

  • The Iron Bank of Braavos never tries to collect on its Lannister debt and is never mentioned again.
  • We never learn how Qyborn was able to bring the dead Mountain back to life.
  • We never learn what Bran was doing with those ravens. We never learn why he hasn’t tried to warg into dragons or dire wolves.
  • We never learn what eternal struggle was going on between the Night King and the Three-Eyed Crow, or why the Night King was so offended by humans.
  • We never see Ghost again. He’s written out of the story and there’s not enough budget for dire wolves.

Contributors

Linda Åkerman, Christopher Brandel, Christopher Deal, Lynn Fowler, Abby Goldsmith, Sam Hawke, Krista Heiser, Gogs Herriott, S.D. Howarth, Adam Huff, John Kang, Sarah McGinn, Susan Mercer, Kenneth Øster, Robin Pollack, Monique Quarles Caroline Reid, Clélie Rich, Jorge Sacio, ML Spencer, LM Towton, Jochem Willemstijn, and Colby M Zampa.

If you’d like to be a part of the discussion, you can join our secret GoT Facebook group here!

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