There is only one war that matters: The Great War...and it is here.
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
It is quite fascinating that D&D followed up one of Game of Thrones' most problematic episodes with one of its most important episodes. Normally, it's a low-stakes episode that follows up a masterful episode, but as we're finally at the point where all of our main characters must come together to fight a common enemy, all bets are off. Season seven had already done enough to excite us with long-running characters meeting up, but "The Dragon and the Wolf" triples that excitement, giving us a meeting of main characters in King's Landing that resembles a coming-together of superstars like in the Super Smash Bros. video games. On top of the giant meeting in King's Landing, "The Dragon and the Wolf" closes out several other character arcs, while making it very clear that season eight will be unlike anything we've seen before.
Let's jump right into the events in King's Landing, because, oh boy, is there a lot to take away: The first thing that D&D do is give us all some hype for the proposed Cleganebowl: The Hound walks up to his zombified brother and tells him he's always known who's coming for him. I can't say that it's a given The Hound and The Mountain will have a fight to the death in season eight, but I think this little bit of dialogue is all the proof you need that Cleganebowl is something D&D have at least thought about. So after the brief stare down between the Clegane brothers, Jon and his entourage show their captured wight to Cersei, and well, let's just say that everyone whose never seen a wight before is a little bit startled. There are two reactions I especially love: that of Jaime and that of Qyburn. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has always been terrific with his facial expressions, and I love the genuinely dispirited look on his face when Daenerys tells him there are at least 100,000 soldiers in the Army of the Dead. Qyburn, meanwhile, picks up the severed arm of the wight and observes it like he just fell in love.
The reactions of everyone in Cersei's party should be enough to tell us that the journey beyond the Wall to capture a wight wasn't a complete failure. Jaime, Cersei, and even Euron Greyjoy fully believe the White Walkers' existence, but, as usual with Cersei, there's a catch. She agrees to send her armies North on the condition that Jon remains neutral between her and Daenerys. When Jon admits he has already sworn himself to Daenerys, well, that's the end of the meeting. If you think about it, this moment has some ties back to what went down between Ned Stark and the Lannisters back in season one. Ned had remained truthful, up until he falsely confessed to treason, which still resulted in him being executed. Jon has always done what he could to uphold Ned's legacy, ensuring that there would always be a sense of honor and truthfulness in a world filled with lies and betrayal. How this ties back into what Ned did in season one is that Jon doesn't want to take the kind of risk that Ned did. Even though he knew Cersei would retract her support, Jon will not let others die because of lies and the failure to uphold certain promises. Despite disagreement from the likes of Daenerys and Tyrion, Jon has remained firm on his stance that, if and when he's going to die, it's not going to be because he disgraced Ned's legacy or because he betrayed himself in any way.
We then get what is easily the most critical scene of the season for Tyrion, as he willingly goes to meet with his sister: the one person who wants him dead more than anyone. Oh, how I missed Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage exchanging dialogue with one another. I think the main reason these two have always been so wonderful with their conversations is because Headey and Dinklage have such a deep knowledge and understanding of their respective characters that they both know the exact way to speak their dialogue to one another. When it comes to things like tone of voice and dialogue speed, Headey and Dinklage are perfectly in tune with how to speak to one another. This is an especially memorable conversation, as the two discuss how they both want to preserve their family's legacy, and how different things would have been had Tyrion never killed Tywin. No characters in Game of Thrones have talked about preserving their House more than the Lannisters, and even in these dark times with The Great War looming, the Lannister children will do anything and everything to keep their great House alive. I think this conversation creates a lot of suspense for what the Lannisters, specifically Tyrion, will try to do in season eight. What will be more important to them: the survival of their own House, or risking everything to help everyone survive?
In the end, Tyrion seems to convince Cersei to change her mind and send her armies North, but we know it's not ever that simple with her. Cersei once again shows us that nothing matters to her other than her family's well-being and her own desire for power. Instead of heading North to assist in The Great War, Cersei is going to hang back in King's Landing and await the winner of the great battle, which she plans to confront with the help of The Golden Company. This is the last straw for Jaime. Finally seeing his sister for what a power-hungry, selfish Queen she has become, Jaime abandons her and heads North. Season seven has always teased this separation between Jaime and Cersei, but honestly, I think this separation is rooted way back in season four. Cersei has been driven mad by the loss of her father and her children, while Jaime has become more honorable and sympathetic to those around him. Although the two seemed to have rekindled their relationship from time to time, the two were never going to be fully in sync ever again, and when Cersei chooses herself over helping to fight the greatest threat in all of Westeros, Jaime chooses to follow what has developed him so much as a character over the years.
What a monumental episode for the Lannister siblings. There's still lots of other non-Lannister matters to discuss, one of which is the conclusion to the clash between Petyr Baelish and the Stark siblings. Sansa talks with Littlefinger about Arya and her worries that Arya might try to murder her. When Arya is later summoned to be questioned, Sansa gives us a hefty plot twist: instead of accusing Arya of murder and treason, she accuses Baelish. Panic quickly sets in for Baelish when he realizes he has no allies in the crowd, nor any means of worming his way to freedom. Sansa ignores Baelish's pleas for mercy, thanking him for his lessons before Arya walks up and slits his throat. You gotta love it: Sansa turns the tables on Baelish and has him killed in a way that Baelish would try to have others killed. Getting cornered somewhere I think was the only way that Baelish could go out. Since day one, Baelish has tried to maneuver the game pieces in a way that would work to his advantage. Whatever lies he had to tell or whomever he had to betray, Baelish would do anything and everything to watch the world burn and get every bit closer to one day sitting on The Iron Throne, or whatever would be left of it. The only person he would never dare to have killed was Sansa, although he seemed to have no issues with her getting hurt or abused. Never suspecting that Sansa could plot against him ended up being Baelish's crucial mistake. He figured if he could help and protect Sansa just enough so that he gained her trust, he could plot and scheme to his heart's desire. In the end, the one person Baelish loved and tried to keep by his side at all times, was the one who would catch him in the act and finally take him down.
The one objection I have seen to Baelish's death is how it corresponds with the feuding between Sansa and Arya during the last few episodes. I think Sansa would never even dare think about murdering one of her own family, no matter how much they weirded her out. I think Sansa, having grown smarter and smarter over the years about how the game works, has been secretly planning for a long time on how to take down Baelish. She couldn't trap him in some kind of intervention or trial or what not. She had to catch him when he was expecting the least, and that would be if she did something like bring her own sister in for questioning among all the other Northern lords. I don't think there was any kind of act behind Sansa and Arya's feuding. I think Sansa, deep down, was thinking she could use her feuding with Arya to her advantage, and that's exactly what she does. Baelish, perhaps the most dangerous man in Westeros aside from Tywin Lannister, learned the hard way that you can't keep scheming and plotting without having it come back to bite you in the ass one day.
All is well again in Winterfell, at least until Jon returns with Daenerys and her army. "The Dragon and the Wolf", signifying the union between House Stark and House Targaryen, also signifies the complete coming together of Jon and Daenerys, or ice and fire, if you will. The two finally give in to their feelings for one another and have sex, although Tyrion is standing outside in the hallway and easily deduces what's going on in Daenerys' bedroom. So while we'll have that little bit of drama to worry about next season, Bran explains to Samwell about Jon's true identity, aka: the most important kept secret in all of Westeros. The R+L=J theory is confirmed. Jon Snow's parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. The name spoken by Lyanna Stark that was muted at the end of season six is revealed. Jon Snow is not Jon Snow. He was never a bastard. His real name is Aegon Targaryen, and he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
......and Ned Stark knew it this entire time.
It was theorized to death that Daenerys was not the last Targaryen, and this episode confirms any and all of those theories to be true. Certainly Jon and Daenerys will learn this information early in season eight, and when they do, how will they react? Will Jon still commit his loyalty to Daenerys, or will Daenerys step aside and accept the fact that Jon has a better claim to the Throne than she does? Time will tell. All we do know is that once this secret gets out to everyone else currently in Winterfell, well...it won't be pretty.
To summarize, a lot of emotions going around as everyone not named Cersei Lannister or anyone who has the last name of Greyjoy is heading North to prepare for the battle to end all against The White Walkers. Speaking of White Walkers, where have they been at this whole episode? Oh yeah, that's right: they close out season seven by injecting us with another heavy dose of pure terror. The White Walkers finally arrive at the Wall, which the Night King blasts to smithereens with the help of the now undead Viserion (*insert Donald Trump Wall joke here*). No more, "winter is coming", or "The Long Night is coming". The Long Night is here. The Night King is here. The White Walkers are here. The Army of the Dead is here. The dead have finally invaded the Seven Kingdoms, and the fear that George R.R. Martin and D&D created back in the series' opening scene in "Winter is Coming" is finally realized. The ultimate battle for survival is about to begin. Buckle up, folks. Season eight is finally here.
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