Clocking in at a whopping 80 minutes, the Game of Thrones Season 7 finale was quite frankly biblical. After a slight dip – in what has been a tremendous spell of viewing – with “Beyond the Wall”, our climatic episode of this brisk visit to Westeros served up a powerhouse of important, insane, and utterly spellbinding moments.
“The Dragon and the Wolf” leaves us perfectly prepped (and no doubts desperate…) for the final season of HBO’s flagship fantasy drama, which could be as far off as 2019. This feature-length juggernaut beautifully tied up loose ends, supercharged narrative progressions heading forwards, and provides the most thunderous ushering for the Great War of the Seven Kingdoms.
The Title: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
What Does It Mean?
One of the most enveloping story arcs of this seventh season has been the partnership of Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. Finally, after a cavalcade of episodes, the twosome were united this year; although under rather shaky terms.
Last week, Jon finally pledged himself to Dany after she rescued he and his ragtag crew from the sinister clutches of the Night King, losing one of her beloved dragons in the process. He has officially bent the knee; putting his patriotism to the North aside, and aligning houses and allegiances in order to secure a future. Jon Snow is, to his knowledge anyway, a Stark. A bastard, but a Stark. The Northern house’s sigil is a Direwolf. Meanwhile Dany, the last remaining member of her house (to her knowledge…) is a Targaryen. Their house sigil is the three-headed dragon.
Numerous fan theories have circulated the origins of those three heads, and indeed that of Jon’s true parentage. One of those was beautifully answered in this thunderous finale…
Most Shocking Moment:
“The Dragon and the Wolf” was simply loaded with shocking moments, far too many to whittle down, so we’re opting for two. Interestingly, both of our choices arrive from the bitter chill of Winterfell; a location which was not the pivotal focus of the action for the most part.
The first sees Lady of Winterfell Sansa Stark call her sister Arya to a meeting. She has previously conversed with Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, coming to the conclusion that Arya has returned home to execute her for treason against the Stark name, and to replace her as the Northern queen. Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the best show on air when it comes to bait-and-switch drama; we think we have something mapped out – our information and thoughts gathered, pushing towards a clear conclusion – and then the rug is pulled from under.
Arya arrives, heavily guarded and isolated in front of all the Northern kingsman who look on angrily. Sansa begins. “You stand accused of murder and treason. Do you deny these claims…Lord Baelish?” Littlefinger’s face drops. He’s been played at his own game; Sansa and Arya working together to outmanoeuvre and overcome his psychological warfare. She continues to relay his many crimes, assisted by her siblings – namely Bran, who can see and recall absolutely everything. He even recites the very words Baelish growled at their father Ned all the way back in Season 1. He falls to his knees and begs for mercy. It is not granted. With his own dagger, Arya slashes his throat, leaving him a quivering, claret-sodden mess upon the cold, dank floor. It was the most glorious of exits for one of the show’s most captivatingly crooked characters.
The second, although perhaps not quite as surprising, was still absolutely epic. Finally it has been confirmed: Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s bastard – he is a Targaryen. Aegon Targaryen, to be precise; the rightful, most legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.
Named after the first Targaryen king, Jon/Aegon (we’re still gonna call him Jon…) is indeed the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and not all a bastard, thanks to the input of Samwell Tarly and Gilly (who sources the information). Sam arrives at Winterfell, and shortly converses with Bran, before we enter a flashback/vision with the Three-Eyed Raven. Jon was conceived in the Tower of Joy, based in Dorne. The Dornish name their bastard-born “Sand” as opposed to “Snow”, but Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly married before falling pregnant. R + L categorically equals J.
Now when you get to the point on a show where you have to reveal something that most people have already figured out, execution is absolutely paramount. The creative choice to confirm this information as a crosscut between a vision, a sexual encounter between Dany and Jon (which is technically now incest; nice…), and a detailed voiceover, was quite frankly superb.
A large portion of this exquisite season finale unfolded in the Southern sun of King’s Landing. Two rival houses, both equipped with those who have wronged one another, have agreed to meet. Dany and her council, including Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Ser Jorah Mormont and Ser Davos Seaworth arrive in the capital to meet Queen of the Seven Kingdoms Cersei Lannister and her forces, including Kingsguard Jaime Lannister, Euron Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, and Bronn of the Blackwater. The two Clegane brothers – Sandor “The Hound” and Gregor “The Mountain” – are in town, too. Cleganebowl is 100% happening people!
The basic topic of the meeting is simple: a temporary truce between two warring queens, for the sake of a common enemy – the Night King. As expected, the pleasantries are almost non-existent, and a clean-cut deal is nowhere to be found. Cersei agrees to support the efforts in the North to defeat the Army of the Dead, as long as Jon pledges himself to her and House Lannister. Seeing how he’s just done this for Khaleesi, he refuses. Ever-noble perhaps, but not the smartest player of the great game, Jon pretty much costs them their chance at survival because of pride. Sometimes lying isn’t the worst thing a man can do…
Tyrion bravely walks into the Lion’s Den and confronts his sister, with the hope of changing her mind now that Jon has cost them a vital ally. The dialogue exchanges between Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey have always been spectacular, but this was among the best. Absolutely sublime writing and performance. Anyway, Tyrion talks around the Lannister queen, and she agrees to send her forces North, aiding the fight against the dead. Everyone breathes a deep sigh of relief and gratitude.
Here’s the thing, though: she’s lying. Catching Jaime strategically planning he and his men’s voyage towards The Wall, Cersei informs him that her agreement with Dany and Jon was purely a bluff; one to protect the valour of House Lannister and a means to reclaim territory whilst her enemies are away fighting an unstoppable force. Meanwhile Euron, who is seen to run at the first glimpse of the dead, is actually allying with mercenary forces in Essos; paying back the Iron Bank in full has it’s perks.
Jaime is stunned and noticeably sickened by the information, even coming close to feeling the wrath of Ser Gregor at her command. We all know Cersei is a master tactician, and that she is strongest when everyone believes she is weakest. Her Targaryen foes are busy setting sail for battle with the mindset that they now have an ally – even if it is a sketchy and non-permeant one – when actually they are blindly walking into artic warfare.
Best Overall Moment:
In “Beyond the Wall”, we saw one of Dany’s dragons, Viserion, fall into the frosty clutches of the Night King after being killed with an ice spear in the heat of battle. The leader of the White Walker army revived the mythical beast, turning him blue and against his Khaleesi. The true power of this asset to the Army of the Dead was unleashed in the finale.
Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion have returned to Eastwatch by the Sea – the portion of The Wall in which they departed to battle the undead. Things seem to be settled, given recent events, but that doesn’t last long. A single White Walker emerges below – trotting upon dead horse – before a platoon arrives. They stand guard and wait, lingering in the ice cold. An alarm is sounded at The Wall, but the undead soldiers do not react. They are waiting for something, and when it comes, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, the Night King swoops in atop Viserion, who begins to blast blue flames from his throat. The fire-breather (well, ice-breather now…) begins to ceremonially destroy The Wall, melting it with electric-blue flame. It was a moment of absolute awe and exhilaration; trademark brilliance from Game of Thrones.
We never see either Tormund or Beric escape the unfolding carnage, leaving us to presume they are dead, but that’ll be answered officially next season. Right now what we do know is The Wall has collapsed, and the undead are finally headed South.
After seven swift, yet stunning, episodes, Game of Thrones draws to a close once again. There is one final season remaining – even shorter than the seventh – but there’s little doubt that a lack of episodes did not mean a lack of quality. “The Dragon and the Wolf” was a spellbinding finale; one jam-packed with spectacular reveals, amazing set pieces, and the perfect closing beat to whet our appetites for its return. It’ll be a long and lonesome wait for Season 8, but one thing’s for sure: Winter isn’t Coming; it’s already here…