Well, as we hoped would happen, Game of Thrones celebrated the coming of winter by bringing some serious heat. At nearly 80 minutes, “The Dragon and the Wolf” was the series’ longest to date, and it packed in what it could from the very beginning. Most of that was revelation rather than spectacle, but by the time the credits rolled, much of the show’s ambiguity had fallen away, leaving viewers with a clear view heading into the show’s eighth and final season.
(Spoiler alert: If you’re not caught up on the current season of this show and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.)
To run through things in the simplest fashion: The Snow/Targaryen caravan brought their wight to King’s Landing, and after some precarious intra-Lannister negotiations, Tyrion finally persuaded Cersei to stand alongside the others against the army of the dead.
After Euron turned tail and fled to the Iron Islands (or so we thought), the man we came to know as Reek really put the “Theon” in “The only thing this guy has done right in three seasons is get kneed in his nethers enough times to rally his countrymen to go find Yara.” But after the plodding diplomacy of the episode’s first half that things began jumping off all over Westeros.
Up north, Littlefinger seemed to have duped Sansa into believing that Arya poses a threat to her role as Lady of Winterfell—the operative word being seemed, of course, as Sansa pulled a grand okey-doke and sentenced Lord Baelish to death by Arya. Then, of course, we got…well, we got #boatsex, intercut with the confirmation that Jon Snow isn’t a bastard at all, but a full-blooded Targaryen, and thus the true heir to the Iron Throne. And finally, we got a peek at Zombidragon in action earlier than we’d expected, as Viserion blue-flamed Eastwatch into rubble and the army of the dead marched into Westeros.
But what does it all mean? While they’re all still reeling from that final scene, WIRED’s diehard Thronies—editors Michael Calore, Peter Rubin, Andrea Valdez, and Angela Watercutter—got together to hash through the episode and think about what’s next.
Angela Watercutter: First off, let’s just get this out of the way: Daenerys made exactly the entrance we all wanted, yes?
Andrea Valdez: Absolutely. Though, I’ll go ahead and admit it: offline to my cohorts, I doubled down on a Cleganebowl, so I was preoccupied waiting for a battle to occur. I suppose we’ll have to wait until 2019 for that.
Peter Rubin: On the plus side, Andrea, when it goes down it’ll be even better than we’d hoped. What did the Hound say to his reanimated brother? “You know who’s coming for you, brother. You’ve always known.”
Watercutter: Speaking of the Cleganes, I would just like to raise a glass to that look between Brienne and the Hound. I don’t know what face I would make if I saw someone I thought I’d left for dead, but I’m pretty sure that one was spot-on. Anyway, continue…
Michael Calore: Yes Angela, we all got the Dany entrance we were hoping for, with her riding into the pit atop her giant, flying kitty cat. But the thing I wasn’t prepared for was the sight of the Night King riding the blue-flame-spewing Viserion, who sent the wall tumbling in less than two minutes. Impressive! But the mystery still stands as to whether that was destructively hot blue fire or nuclear-winter blue ice coming out of its mouth. Now, did anyone expect Littlefinger to get the axe this episode?
Rubin: I’d hoped for it last week, and even assumed it would be due to the Stark sisters getting wise to Baelish, but the particular setup—Sansa informing Arya of the charges of murder and treason, only to name Littlefinger as the accused—packed the exact cathartic frisson everyone needed. The only thing better than Arya’s matter-of-fact throat-slicing, for me at least, was watching the guy exhaust his entire arsenal of manipulations in a single panicked flood: from denial to bluster to threats to groveling. “I’m a slow learner, it’s true,” Sansa said. “But I do learn.” Just in time. But meanwhile, what exactly transpired between Jaime and Cersei down in King’s Landing? After she revealed her plot with Euron, she certainly seemed to give Gregor Clegane the go-ahead to kill her brotherlover, but he just breezed out of there.
Watercutter: Peter, you’re right. But actually, Cersei passed up the chance to have Gregor kill two brothers in this episode—Jaime and Tyrion—and she didn’t have the heart to do it. I’m always amazed at her ability to be so completely stone-cold but retreat from the edge when it comes her fellow Lannisters. (We’re all in agreement that Jaime is going to join Tyrion et al now, right?) But I’d like to go back for one quick note on the fingering of Littlefinger: I can’t believe I was right about that. OK, I didn’t predict it exactly, but didn’t I tell you guys last week that I thought Arya was up to something? Her and Sansa just laid the trap and sat back and watched him play himself. I loved it. (I also couldn’t help but notice they broke their father’s rule that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. Then again, in the words of Daenerys Targaryen, they are not men.)
Calore: You so called it! But the way it went down was diabolical. Just when we thought Sansa and Arya were getting sloppy, BAM, just like that, Baltimore needs a new mayor.
Valdez: So let’s address the big news. It was confirmed: Jon is a Targaryen. And not just any Targaryen, but one named after both his own deceased half-brother and the first Targaryen to hold the Iron Throne. One of the questions bothering Twitter tonight was why name the baby Aegon if his half-brother already held that name? And if Jon/Aegon’s namesake is actually Aegon I, the first Targaryen to rule Westeros, why has the show set up Daenerys as the character who appears to be most closely following the path of their ancient heir—coming from Essos with a plan to unite the seven kingdoms, and, well, a penchant for incest (they are Targaryens, after all)?
Watercutter: Would it be awful if I said the answer was “patriarchy”? That a woman can survive terrible things, be the most qualified for the job, and still lose out to some dude in the end? Game of Thrones just wants to reinforce the patriarchy.
OK, not really. I’m actually very curious about the naming thing. Maybe it’s some way of saying “Jon” (this is going to get confusing, isn’t it?) is the true Aegon? I just don’t know. But can we also talk about the fact that the big news was delivered in voiceover of Bran as Jon and Dany were hooking up? Bless this show for just never being afraid to go there and say “Yes, seriously, you’re going to find out they’re related and falling passionately in love in the same 45 seconds. You’re welcome, Tumblr shipppers.” (Side note: I’m pretty sure Tumblr was actually in the process of melting down when I went in to grab that link.) Can/should we also talk about that shot of Tyrion looking on as Jon/Aegon walked into Dany’s quarters? Was that worry or jealousy? I’m sure I’m not alone here, but I’ve often thought Tyrion had some kind of feelings for his queen. Will her budding relationship with her nephew (shhhhh, she doesn’t know!) upset her Hand?
Valdez: Tyrion had a strange reaction to that, no? But I had a different thought. Perhaps, as Cersei told Jamie, “no one walks away” from her—and that would include Tyrion. What if Tyrion struck some sort of deal with his sister? I would say it was in the name of self-preservation, but we did see him offer his own head and brace for a blow from the “Mountain.” But as we saw in this season, alliances shift easily and quickly (Jon bent the knee, Euron’s men switched back to Yara after Theon’s display of loyalty and heroism).
As for looking ahead to Season 8, I’ll go out on limb and predict two things. 1) There will be a Cleganebowl; and 2) The Night King is a Stark. Maybe even Bran (I’ll drink the Game of Theories Dornish wine). This would set up the heartbreaking twist we’ve come to expect from GOT. If the Night King is a Stark—specifically Bran—and Jon/Aegon loves Dany, somehow, the writers will set it up so Jon/Aegon, a Stark/Targaryen—and a figure deserving of a Song of Fire and Ice—will have to choose between them, I imagine in an epic battle that requires he must either kill the Night King or save his queen.
Watercutter: Oooooh, I love this. If the Night King is a Stark, I can imagine Jon/Aegon going through a lot of the same emotions (although slightly in reverse) that he had watching Rickon die during the Battle of the Bastards. After everything, he’d be smart to stick with his queen. But, you know, Jon Snow knows nothing. (Maybe Aegon Targaryen v2.5 knows more?) What do you guys think? Is this possible?
Rubin: Considering how much has been made of Bran and the Night King’s shared fashion sense, I’m at least wearing to hear out the theory that Bran is the Night King. Not that it would make sense, exactly, but if it gets us to a series showdown in which the “Song of Fire and Ice” is embodied in a dragon battle to the death? Hell, that sounds like the best Brandon—sorry, brandin’—that the show could pull off.
Just to wrap up, though: last week we were wondering who might die besides Littlefinger. The answer, as it turns out, was no one. (Well, maybe Tormund and Beric in the great Eastwatch collapse, but I’m guessing the Lord of Light will smile on Beric yet again.) We haven’t answered too many questions, but we’re heading into the final season looking at the best kind of endgame: the one with lots of pieces still on the board. Too bad we have to wait until 2019 to see how it all plays out. See you all back here in two years!