‘Game of Thrones’ Season Eight, Episode Four Recap: “The Last of the Starks”
This week’s episode of Game of Thrones is one that hit every emotion possible in just under 90 minutes. It can easily be separated into two parts: the mourning celebration at Winterfell and preparing for the final war.
Mourning Celebration at Winterfell
The episode begins with a slow pan up on the corpse of Ser Jorah Mormont with Daenerys whispering her final words of farewell to him. We then move to Sansa crying over the body of Theon Greyjoy as she places a pin with the Stark sigil on his chest. As Dany and Sansa return to the crowd behind them, we get a look at those who survived the battle: Bran, Arya, Jon, Sam, Grey Worm, Missandei, Lord Varys, Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Ser Davos, Gendry, The Hound, and (most importantly) Ghost.
Jon makes a stirring speech in honor of the many who have fallen, and he, with others, goes to light the funeral pyres. Each character ignites the pyre of someone important to them or their survival. With a heartbreaking score the only sound in the scene, we see the pain and devastation on the faces of the surviving characters as they look upon the extensive loss of life suffered. The scene ends with an aerial view of the many, many pyres burning and it fades into nothing but smoke.
What begins as a subdued feast with each character lost in their own thoughts, slowly begins to turn into more of a celebration, starting with Gendry wondering where Arya has disappeared to. After receiving what only The Hound would consider encouragement (“The dead are dead. You’re not.”), Gendry gets up to find her. He is stopped by Dany, and the entire hall goes silent during her questioning about him being the son of the deceased, Robert Baratheon. She determines that because of Robert and his brothers’ deaths, there is currently no Lord of Storm’s End. Daenerys then uses her power as Queen to officially declare Gendry- Lord Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. A pause, and then Ser Davos raises a glass to toast the new title and everyone begins to offer congratulations. Tyrion commends Dany on her appointment, saying how Gendry will always be loyal to her. She responds with, “You aren’t the only one who is clever,” and a smug smile.
The show then begins to cut from group to group as characters go about their festivities highlighting important conversations. Every scene is full of meaningful glances, side eyes, and posturing as the political undertones make themselves known. First seen is Jaime convincing Brienne that tonight of all nights is one to drink, and she complies to his prodding with a shy smile. Then Tyrion and Ser Davos converse about Melisandre and the Lord of Light. Tyrion ends their discussion with the foreboding, “We may have beaten them, but we still have us to contend with.” The Hound is shown alone and grumpily grabbing another pitcher of wine. Tyrion approaches Bran and comments on the clever design of his wheelchair. Bran says that it is the same as the one Daeron Targaryan made for his crippled nephew. Hearing this, Tyrion mentions that, due to his knowledge of the past, Bran will make a good Lord of Winterfell. Bran states that he is not Lord of Winterfell, and when Tyrion tries to argue that he is, Tyrion realizes that Bran does not want the title. Bran responds with his creepy stare and stoic expression, “I don’t really want it anymore,” before being wheeled away.
The next group scene is much more lively as Tormond and the wildlings, along with Sansa, try to convince Jon to get drunk.
Tormund: We have to celebrate our victory.
Jon: Vomiting is not celebrating.
Tormond: (pauses) Yes, it is. (raising his drinking horn) Ah! To the Dragon Queen!!
Daenerys: To Arya Stark, the Hero of Winterfell!
Everyone cheers louder.
Next, we cut to Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, and Podrick playing a drinking game where they guess facts about each other’s lives. Everyone playing is well on their way to being quite drunk. The scene is interspersed with one of Tormund loudly praising Jon for riding a dragon, befriending the wildlings, and returning from the dead after being murdered. Jon humbly and shyly takes the praise while Dany listens. (P.S. — this is the scene with THAT Starbucks cup.) After she hears Tormund say that they all follow Jon to death and back and call him a king, Dany realizes that though she is queen, she is sitting alone at the table, watching all of her allies celebrate their victory with others. She then gets up and leaves the hall, with only Varys noticing her departure.
Cut back to the drinking game, everyone is having a fantastic time until Tyrion guesses that Brienne is a virgin. The atmosphere quickly becomes awkward and Brienne stands to leave. Her escape is interrupted by Tormund crudely discussing winning the battle. She coldly excuses herself, and Tormund moves to follow her but is blocked by Jaime. Jaime then goes after Brienne himself while Tormund looks on with puppy dog eyes as he realizes what is happening. Tyrion simply refills Tormund’s drinking horn with his own drink and walks away. Podrick, now alone, catches the eye of a lass and settles in for an interesting night himself.
Tormund cries at The Hound in despair over Brienne not loving him while The Hound attempts to ignore him. Two girls come over, and Tormund takes one of them up on her offer to further celebrate. The other attempts to entice The Hound but fails when all he does is drink and growl at her. Alone again, The Hound is approached by Sansa; the two have not seen each other since leaving King’s Landing. He is gruff and stand-offish as always, attempting to provoke Sansa by cursing at her and bringing up the previous hell she had been through. Unfazed, Sansa smugly smiles when she says that she took care of it. In an important scene showing Sansa’s growth and strength of character, The Hound softens his voice and speaks with honesty:
The Hound: You’ve changed Little Bird.
The Hound: None of it would have happened if you’d left King’s Landing with me. No Littlefinger. No Ramsay. None of it.
Sansa: Without Littlefinger, Ramsay, and the rest, I would have stayed a Little Bird all my life.
Sansa regally stands and walks away without another word, leaving The Hound alone with his wine.
Out in the yard, Gendry is searching for Arya. He finds her after he is nearly shot in the head with an arrow. He asks why Arya is not celebrating and then informs her that he has been given the title of Lord of Storm’s End. Arya attempts to congratulate him, but she is cut off by Gendry kissing her. “I don’t know how to be lord of anything. I don’t even know how to use a fork.” He then tells Arya that he loves her and kneels to ask her to be his wife and Lady of Storm’s End. Arya, too, kneels and embraces Gendry with a loving kiss before staying 100% true to character and breaking Gendry’s poor heart by saying, “You’ll make a wonderful lord and any lady would be lucky to have you. But I’m not a lady. I never have been. That’s not me.”
Back in her room, Brienne is tending to the fire when Jaime knocks on her door and comes barreling in, heading straight for the wine. He pours her a goblet of wine and takes off his coat complaining about the heat in the room. As always, the back and forth between the two is full of tension, especially when Jaime brings up Tormund and that the man was sad when Brienne left the hall. Brienne, seeing through the remark, calls Jaime out by giving him a knowing look and stating, “You sound quite jealous.” Jaime only nods and says, “I do, don’t I?” He complains again about the heat and struggles to try to unlace his shirt. Brienne gets fed up watching him struggle, and goes to help him. As she does that, Jaime begins to attempt to unlace Brienne’s shirt. After a moment, both are shirtless and staring into each other’s eyes. Jaime says, “I’ve never slept with a knight before.” Brienne responds with, “I’ve never slept with anyone before.” THEN…. KISS KISS KISS!!!!!! HOORAY YIPPEE WOOHOO!!!!!
The following scene cuts from the very entertaining action of Jamie and Brienne to Jon and Dany. Jon, stumbling, approaches Dany after she enters his room, giving her his condolences for Ser Jorah’s death. They begin kissing before Jon remembers why he should not interact with Dany like this anymore. She laments that Jon told her his true parentage and wishes she could forget, but is unable when his people treat him like a king and not her as their queen. In fear for her throne, she pushes Jon to not tell anyone the truth, even Arya and Sansa. Jon insists that none of that will matter since he has declared himself a subject of Daenerys but also insists on telling his family. Disappointed, Dany leaves the room.
In what seems to be a transition between parts of the episode, we see the major players discussing their losses from the Battle of Winterfell. Half of the northern army, half the Dothraki and Unsullied, and half of the men from the Vale have all been wiped out, while Cersei’s army only increased with the arrival of The Golden Company. Tyrion, Jon, and Lord Varys push to remove Cersei without eradicating King’s Landing and everyone in it. Sansa requests for the men to have a chance to recuperate after the previous battle. Daenerys pushes back against her plan saying, “The longer I leave my enemies alone, the stronger they become.” Jon declares, yet again, the northern army as the Queen’s to command, therefore silencing any further arguments. The plan is now for Jon and Ser Davos to lead the northern army and the majority of the Dothraki and Unsullied down the Kingsroad to the capitol. Everyone else will sail to Dragonstone with Dany and the dragons flying above.
This is where the episode turns from celebration to preparation as Daenerys says, “We have won the Great War. Now we will win the Last War. In all seven kingdoms, men will live without fear and cruelty under their rightful queen.”
Preparation for the Last War
Arya, Sansa, and Bran intercept Jon and lead him to the Godswood for a family discussion. They say how they understand why Jon pledged his loyalty to Daenerys, but they do not trust her. Arya states that Dany will never be like them, their family. “It’s the four of us. The last of the Starks.” (Hello, episode title.) Jon then tries to hint that he is not like them without giving away his secret, but Arya and Sansa catch on and demand to know what he is hiding. After making both girls swear to not tell a soul what they are about to hear, Jon has Bran explain his true parentage. (Stupid Jon!! You know Sansa is going to spill!!)
Sitting in a cabin drinking wine are Tyrion and Jaime discussing Jaime’s decision to stay in Winterfell with Brienne. Tyrion is congratulating Jaime and making jokes when Bronn of the Blackwater barges in with a crossbow. Tyrion and Bronn immediately start with a charged banter, ending with Bronn punching Tyrion in the nose as he keeps the crossbow aimed at Jaime. Bronn then states that Cersei offered him Riverrun to kill both Lannister brothers and asks what they can offer him instead since he is betting that Daenerys will win. Bronn to Tyrion: “If anyone offered me money to kill you, you’d pay me double. What’s double Riverrun?” Tyrion offers him Highgarden in exchange for their lives. Jaime doubts this whole set up and is almost shot in the head with an arrow. Eventually everyone agrees, and Bronn leaves still threatening to kill the brothers if Cersei manages to win in the end.
Both attempting to sneak off alone, The Hound and Arya meet on the Kingsroad just outside Winterfell’s gates. After a conversation full of brief sentences confirming that they both are headed to King’s Landing for unfinished business, and neither intent on returning to Winterfell, the two agree to accompany each other in a way that perfectly describes their relationship. The Hound: “Gonna leave me to die again if I get hurt?” Arya: “Probably.”
Dany, preparing to leave, proudly watches as Rhaegal with an injured wings successfully takes flight before mounting on Drogon’s back.
Sansa is seen staring at the dragons from a parapet when Tyrion approaches her to say goodbye. He offers her advice on maintaining a good relationship with Dany since she is to likely be the ruling power in the North. Sansa continues to question Daenerys and her intentions, and as Tyrion turns to leave, Sansa shares the secret of Jon’s parents with him.
Jon continues his goodbyes, starting with Tormund who tells him that he is taking the wildlings back north past the wall. Jon, sad to see his friend leave, wishes him safe and asks Tormund to take Ghost with him, stating that a direwolf has no place in the south. Tormund agrees and also says that Jon does not either — that Jon “has the north in [him]. The true north.” Jon then goes to say farewell to Gilly and Samwell. After hugging Gilly, he realizes that she is pregnant and an ecstatic smile crosses both his and Sam’s faces. Then, realizing that it is time to truly say goodbye, both Jon and Sam try to hold back tears as they hug. Sam: “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.” Jon: “You too, Sam.” Jon walks away to go and mount his horse to leave and a heart-wrenching whimper is heard. Jon looks over to see Ghost still watching, and he gives Ghost a nod before turning to leave. (JON SNOW HOW DARE YOU NOT GIVE THAT GOOD BOY A PET BEFORE YOU LEAVE!! HE LOST AN EAR FOR YOU!! HE IS THE GOODEST BOY!!)
Dany and team are sailing to Dragonstone. Grey Worm and Missandei share a silent but soft moment on deck while Tyrion and Lord Varys discuss the situation of Jon’s rightful claim to the throne. Tyrion insists that the best course of action to keep the peace would be for Jon and Dany to marry and rule together.
Varys: “She’s his aunt.”
Tyrion: “That never stopped a Targaryan before.”
Varys: “No, but Jon grew up in Winterfell. Is marrying your aunt common in the north?”
The conversation ends with no solution in sight, except, “Maybe Cersei will win and kill us all. That would solve all our problems.”
Just as the Targaryan fleet is anchoring at Dragonstone and beginning to go to shore, Dany and her dragons fly overhead. Adoringly watching as Rhaegal continues to fly though injured and enjoying spending the time with her dragon children, Daenerys (AND EVERYONE ELSE) is shocked to see a large arrow come out of nowhere to pierce the chest of Rhaegal. Dany and those on the ships watch in horror as two more arrows hit her dragon and the body crashes into the sea below. Daenerys, filled with fury, charges Yuron Greyjoy’s ships on the back of Drogon until she realizes that all ships are equipped with the Scorpion weapon and all are aimed at her. She turns Drogon away and heads toward Dragonstone.
Yuron, realizing that the last dragon is out of range, turns his powerful weapon on the ships in the harbor. Grey Worm realizes what is about to happen just in time to tell Missandei to get to a skiff. With giant arrows crushing through the boats, Tyrion makes a run across the deck in an attempt to reach safety before having to jump into the water. The survivors, thankfully including both Varys and Tyrion, struggle onto the beach. Grey Worm, not seeing Missandei goes back out into the water searching for her.
In King’s Landing, Cersei is shown watching as the people filter into the Red Keep to “be safe from the Dragon Queen.” She receives the news of the dragon’s demise from Yuron and rewards him by saying that she will rule the Seven Kingdoms with him by her side ruling the sea, and their child (how many different guys are you claiming as Baby Daddy now, Cersei?) will one day rule over all. Cersei, knowing that Dany would hate to murder so many innocents, orders for the gates to be left open to the people. As she walks away, we see Missandei in chains shivering.
Back at Dragonstone, Dany is murderous and immediately wants to torch the city and everyone in it. Tyrion and Varys manage to convince her to at least wait for Jon and Davos and the rest of her army before initiating the battle with Cersei. To attempt to save the lives of innocents in the capitol, they also get her to agree to demand Cersei’s surrender instead of simply torching everything.
Tyrion and Varys speak in vague conversation about Jon being a better ruler than Daenerys. The treasonous talk shows that, while Tyrion believes in Dany and supports her, his loyalty might be beginning to waver; Varys’s loyalty has always been to The Realm, and his choice will always be to protect the realm.
Back in Winterfell, Sansa receives news of ambush at Dragonstone. She shares the information with both Brienne and Jaime. Jaime is shown to be very contemplative and, later that night, sneaks out of his room with Brienne to saddle his horse to ride south. Brienne goes to confront him and beg him to stay with her. Jaime, undoing seasons of character development in a single moment, shares all of his worse moments with Brienne and then leaves her to go to his sister.
Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys, and the small company of Unsullied goes to confront Cersei in an attempt to parlay and have Missandei returned. Cersei, Yuron, The Mountain, and Missandei are all atop a platform on the Red Keep which has been outfitted with many Scorpion weapons and archers. The Hands, Tyrion and Kyburn, meet in the middle and both demand each other’s surrender with Tyrion asking for Missandei’s return and Kyburn saying that she will die today if demands are not met. Tyrion continues to attempt to reason with Kyburn in order to save the city, yet Kyburn remains determined to do as his queen commanded.
Frustrated, Tyrion pushes past the other Hand and approaches Cersei personally. Cersei calls off the archers (though she desperately did not want to), and Tyrion speaks directly to her. He implores her to think of her unborn child, to save their life by saving her own and surrendering. He brings up the only redeeming quality Cersei has — that she fiercely loves her children and will do anything for them — and he begs that she look at this from a mother’s point of view.
Cersei turns towards Missandei, and all can tell that Tyrion’s words did not leave her unaffected; however, instead of releasing her prisoner, she tells Missandei to speak now if she has any last words. Furious and devastated, Missandei says only one word: “Dracarys.”
In a long and intense moment, we see everyone — particularly Daenerys and Grey Worm — realize what is about to happen. In a single stroke, The Mountain executes Missandei. Unable to watch her fall, Grey Worm turns around. The episode ends with Daenerys, full of wrath and anger and pain, turning to walk through her soldiers back to Drogon and preparing to do as Missandei said with her single word: Bring the fire down upon them all.
Game of Thrones returns next Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.