So there’s this cardinal rule of filmmaking (or storytelling in general but let’s stick to filmmaking for a moment): Show, don’t tell.
After showing (sort of, it was a little murky) for 80 minutes of battle last week, this week’s “Game of Thrones" was 80 minutes of telling, not showing.
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People told secrets, people told lies, people told each other they loved them, people talked about strategy and death and life. It was one of the most exposition-heavy episodes in a series that doesn’t exactly lack for them.
It was ... underwhelming.
Also, Dany got to learn about the idea of an arms race. Not to mention the fact that they knocked off one of the most beloved black characters to motivate a very white one.
We open with pyres being lit, as there are a lot of dead to dispose of and the ground isn’t exactly all that forgiving in the winter. Dany cries over Jorah. Sansa cries over Theon. Hey there’s Ghost, what a GOOD BOY YES YOU ARE.
Jon gives a little memorial talk, seemingly lowering his voice a bit, as if he is ... trying to sound presidential?
Jon: We will never forget those who died here. Vote Dany!
Dinner is a little grim that evening, at least until the wine starts flowing.
Gendry: You seen Arya?
Hound: The dead are literally still on fire.
Gendry: That’s not what I —
Hound: J/k. They’re dead, you’re not, whatever, man.
Dany: You’re a Baratheon.
Gendry: Technically yes.
Dany: How about a bribe of Storm’s End so you don’t contest my claim to the Iron Throne?
Gendry: Uh ... sure?
Davos: Good call, Dany.
Sansa: *EYES EMOJI*
We check in with just about everyone, cutting back and forth to various conversations at dinner.
Davos: So I didn’t have to kill the Red Woman and I still don’t get monotheism.
Tyrion: We have met the enemy and he is us.
Tyrion: I dig your ride.
Bran: It’s a vintage design because I am that sort of hipster.
Tyrion: You’re Lord of Winterfell.
Bran: Ehhhhh I’d rather be warging tbh. Also I am free of earthly desire and am a living font of pure nostalgia.
Tyrion: ... Hipster is right.
Jon: Vomiting is not celebrating.
Tormund: Man, you ARE kind of a pill, huh ... TO THE DRAGON QUEEN!
Dany: (think fast) To Arya Stark!
Sansa: *EYES EMOJI*
Tormund: Everyone loves Jon Snow! He fights until he’s dead and then quite a while after.
Dany: *EYES EMOJI*
Varys: *EYES EMOJI*
"Game of Thrones" writers: See, Jon’s a hero! People keep telling you over and over! Wait, where are you going?
Tyrion and Brienne and Jaime and Pod are getting hammered. The game is truth and drink. If you answer truthfully, you have to drink.
Tyrion: You’re a virgin.
Pod: *glug* (confirming that maybe he really did just sing to those prostitutes and didn’t have to pay them).
Brienne: …. BRB.
Tormund: *EYES EMOJI*
Tyrion, wine in hand: Lemme top you off, Tor.
The Hound refuses the advances of a young woman.
Hound: I prefer to get wasted, thank you.
Sansa: She could have made you happy,
Hound: Only one thing that’ll make me happy (is my undead brother dead).
Hound: Also you used to be scared of me. Also (REALLY DISTASTEFUL DESCRIPTION OF SANSA’S LIFE FOLLOWS).
Sansa: ... Yeah, see, I have seen literally every man who raped, manipulated and/or abused me dead. (One I fed to his own dogs. My sister cut another one’s throat. And then there was that guy who was poisoned in front of me by an actual queen.) You aren’t too scary.
Hound: ... Fair. (Also the hounds thing is funny.)
Arya is off shooting arrows when Gendry shows up, all excited about being a newly minted lord.
Gendry: *cues up David Bowie’s “Be My Wife”*
Arya: You’re a great guy but absolutely not.
Gendry: *TEARS EMOJI*
Jaime and Brienne are about to get naked. Brienne has had quite a week: She’s been knighted, survived a terrible battle and is about to lose her virginity to a man she adores.
Jaime: I’ve never slept with anyone who wasn’t my sister.
Brienne: I’ve never slept with anyone at all so I definitely win.
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Jon is off listening to the Smiths when Dany arrives.
Jon: About Jorah ...
Dany: How about you not do this about him ... but I do love you.
You can feel their total lack of chemistry through the screen — neither actor ever looks like they want to be there. For two years, I have struggled to come up with an on-screen couple I care about less.
Dany: About you being a Targaryen.
Jon: I don’t care about that.
Dany: Have you met the common folk? They like dull white guys in power A WHOLE LOT.
Jon: You’re my girl and ruler.
Dany: Well, just keep that “you’re my nephew” mess to yourself.
Jon: I have to tell Sansa and Arya.
Dany: HELL NO, YOU WON’T.
Jon: It won’t break us up, we can all live together as one big —
Dany: WHAT DID I JUST SAY?
He’s dumb as a rock and she has zero interest in ruling with anyone else. The speed with which I don’t care about these people anymore is faster than the speed of exposition in this thing, which no longer remotely resembles the laws of nature.
Cut to one grim war council. Half the North’s army is gone, Cersei has the Golden Company.
Dany: The people will listen to the truth about their rulers.
Tyrion: We don’t wanna destroy King’s Landing.
Dany: I am into titles.
Jon: Surround the city. We will fry the boats with OUR TWO, COUNT THEM TWO, dragons.
Sansa: As the only rule of conscience here, how about we give our half an army a break.
Dany: Yeah, no. We march now.
Jon: I’m with my girlfriend on this.
Sansa: *EYES EMOJI*
Arya: *EYES EMOJI*
Dany: Here is my stump speech. Vote Dany OH WAIT I’M ALREADY THE QUEEN AHAHAHHAHA!
Arya: ... Jon, you got a sec?
And here are the Starks, outside, in coats, as the Seven intended.
Sansa: You gotta be kidding me, bro.
Arya: Actually, S., I respect that we needed her army and her dragons. But other than that ...
Jon: Allies, fam. We need ‘em.
Arya: ... have we even met?
Jon: I’ve never been a Stark.
Arya: You’re our brother.
Bran: Leave me outta this.
Jon: So about that … gotta pinkie swear you won’t tell a soul.
Arya: OK fine.
Jon: … Nope, can’t do it. You’re up, Bran.
Jaime and Tyrion are hanging out, talking about Brienne, when Bronn rolls up with that revolting crossbow.
Audience: How did he even get in there?
"Game of Thrones" writers: Doesn’t matter.
He tells them he’s there to kill them, per Cersei’s orders.
Bronn: She promised me Riverrun.
Tyrion: About that old deal we made that nobody remembers: Highgarden is double Riverrun. Yours if you let us walk.
Bronn: Done and done. All of you absolutely suck, btw.
Tyrion: This is academic until Cersei loses.
Bronn: Not my problem. PEACE!
The Starks have managed to stay all in once place for about 30 seconds, as who should be following the Hound out of Winterfell but ... Arya Stark.
Hound: They all love you now.
Arya: I know what I’m about and that isn’t it. Looks like we’re going in the same direction.
Hound: So ... have you heard of the Clegane Bowl?
Arya: Don’t care, gotta kill Cersei.
Sansa and Tyrion meet up.
Tyrion: You know she loves your brother.
Sansa (looking a little like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” when Jack notices Demi Moore outranks Tom Cruise): Tyrion, it just hit me. You’re afraid of her.
Sansa: Men in my family don’t do well in the capital.
Tyrion: Oh word?
Sansa: (Ah, BEEP it.) So ... about Jon being a Stark ...
Tormund, rejected by Brienne, is ready to head back North.
Tormund: Crazy Jon Snow followed me, and he caught me in the fog
Said, "I will watch you leave, if you'll take Ghost, my dog"
I said, "Wait a minute Jonny, you know, I'm a Free Folk man"
He said, "That's OK, Tor, won't you feed him when you can"
Samwell : Somehow we’re not dead, also my girl is pregnant.
Samwell: Yr my best pal.
Audience: WHERE THE HELL IS LITTLE SAM?
A small fleet sails South to Dragonstone. Most are on ships; Dany is riding her dragon with the other close behind.
Varys has just been told about Jon’s secret by Tyrion, who is completely incapable of keeping a secret (which Sansa absolutely knew).
Varys: He has a better claim to the throne because patriarchy. Also people like him.
Audience: So you keep telling us.
Tyrion: He loves our queen.
Varys: SHE’S HIS AUNT! What is WITH you people? Also, she’s a solo act and I’m getting worried about the whole Mad Queen thing, tbh.
Tyrion: Let’s kick this can down the road.
Meanwhile, the small fleet finds out the hard way what Cersei has been spending her money on: enormous, dragon-busting crossbows, mounted on the least appealing man’s a.k.a. Euron’s (completely badass-looking) fleet.
A whole mess of them fire at the dragons. Rhaegal takes three shots and drops like a rock.
Rhaegal, seeing Euron took him out: Not like this ... not like this.
Dany: ... welp.
The crossbows destroy the small fleet. Most of the principle cast, except Missandei, makes it to safety.
Grey Worm: I knew both of us weren’t going to both make it very far — the Unsullied have seen TV before.
Cut to Cersei, looking smug and regal.
Cersei: Did they get our message?
Qyburn: ... what? Sorry, I was thinking about what would happen if you replace a baby’s blood with motor oil. OH! Yes. Yes they did.
Cersei: Boy I out-thought all of them, huh?
Euron: I still want to put a baby in you.
Cersei: You’re SO gross.
Cersei, looks at Missandei, now her prisoner: “So much for the breaker of chains,” amirite?
Audience: So rude.
This is beginning to feel legitimately exhausting. Varys is trying to talk Dany off the ledge.
Varys: YOU ARE DOWN A DRAGON AND YOUR ARMY IS A MESS, LET’S NOT GO STRAIGHT AT CERSEI.
Dany: They have Missandei.
Audience: Wait, how do they know that?
"Game of Thrones" writers: Qyburn just said a message was sent.
Audience: ... that wasn’t an allegory?
"Game of Thrones" writers: We have literally two episodes to wrap this up, what do you want from us?
Tyrion: Offer Cersei her life if she surrenders.
Dany: *EYES EMOJI*
Dany: OK fine. We will try to spare the innocents in King’s Landing. They should know who to blame when the sky falls down upon them.
Varys: How do you solve a problem like Jonny Snow?
Tyrion: Can they rule together as king and queen?
Varys: ... she’d crush him like a bug, man.
Tyrion: I believe in the queen.
Varys: I believe in the realm.
Tyrion: What even is that?
Varys: The commoners? You know, the extras on set? They deserve lives, too. I worked for like four trash fires WHO ALL SUCKED IN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAYS and you know what? I have always been about harm reduction.
Speaking of harm, Brienne tells Jaime about the ambush and the dead dragon.
Jaime mopes while Brienne sleeps. She wakes up, Jaime is gone.
Jaime is fixing to get out of Dodge.
Brienne cues up Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”
Jaime: Let me list my crimes. They are all for my sister. “She’s hateful and so am I.”
A very small army rolls up on King’s Landing with Dany and Varys, an extremely angry Grey Worm and Tyrion.
On the King’s Landing parapet, we see Euron, Missandei in chains and Cersei, and oh, yeah, like a billion of the dragon-busters. Cersei knows exactly what she is doing.
Qyburn comes out the door. Tyrion walks toward him, Hand versus Hand.
Qyburn: You first.
Tyrion: I don’t want to hear the screams of burning children.
Qyburn: Have we met? Also, what she says goes.
Tyrion: Oh *BEEP* this, just put her on the phone.
Tyrion approaches the wall and looks at his big sister. She aims a whole lot of arrows at him.
Cersei: Don’t think I won’t.
Tyrion: I know you don’t care about your people, but you’re not a monster.
Tyrion: Won’t someone please think of your children? Your baby doesn’t have to die.
Maury Povich: Euron Greyjoy, you’re ... NOT the father!
Cersei looks shook for about half a second. Then she grabs Missandei.
Cersei: Any last words?
Zombie Mountain: *LOP*
Missandei’s head topples down the wall.
Tyrion: Welp. (I am so fired.)
Grey Worm: Welp. (I am officially joining team Hound in the Cleganebowl.)
Dany: Welp. (I am burning that city to the $#@#$%^#@ ground.)
A few quick notes:
This episode was roughly a month long. Does the Republic still stand (more or less)? Are the Astros still ruling the AL West?
For an episode that was 80 minutes long and contained about 79 minutes of exposition, the story was advanced. Jon’s secret is out, Jaime dumped Brienne, we lost a dragon and, again, a black woman was killed to motivate a bunch of white people (and her poor boyfriend).
Y’all know the Maya Angelou quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time?” How many times does Cersei get to pull this stuff?
Has Euron realized he’s being played? Does he even care?
Dany is down to one extremely vulnerable dragon and half her forces. What does she bring to the table?
Will we be able to keep track of all the betrayals about to take place?