Sunday, May 5, 2019

REVIEW: 'Game of Thrones' - Daenerys and Cersei Stick to Their Convictions in the Latest War for Power in 'The Last of the Starks'

HBO's Game of Thrones - Episode 8.04 "The Last of the Starks"

In the wake of a costly victory, Jon and Daenerys look to the south as Tyrion eyes a compromise that could save countless lives.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's Game of Thrones.

"The Last of the Starks" was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter

The Night King represented a threat to all human existence. He wasn't concerned with the trivial pursuits of mankind as they fought amongst themselves for power. He had the impulse to wipe out history and humanity. Granted, that was always an empty tease that gained so much power and traction over the course of the series because of how ominous and looming the threat always was. And yet, the Night King is dead now. He was killed not by one of the power players making a play for the Iron Throne but by the one person who sees no value in the recognition. Arya doesn't want to join in on the celebration. She mourns the tremendous losses suffered at Winterfell. She holds true to her identity as a Stark. She saved her family in their time of need. But she's an independent person who still has a mission to complete. She isn't defined by one identity. She isn't the lady of Winterfell. She views Sansa as the perfect person for that job - despite how awful the writing is when Sansa claims everything that happened with Ramsay and Littlefinger allowed her to be in this moment. Arya doesn't want to be Gendry's wife either. He is recognized as a Baratheon here in order to give Daenerys another ally in the North who can align with her. The attraction and love is real between Arya and Gendry. But she doesn't want to fall into a specific role. She is much more comfortable riding down to King's Landing by herself. She partakes in the strategy sessions with the rest of Daenerys' advisors. But she heads down to complete her personal vendetta. She does so alongside The Hound. They are once again traveling companions. That's a very rewarding moment because it's so personal. They went on a journey together before. They would make the exact same choices now. They have changed from the experiences since then but their core missions are still the same. They need to find personal vengeance in King's Landing. The Great War is over. They have personal business to attend to. It's just odd how they tell no one about their plans. In fact, this overall hour points out just how lethal it can be when marching with a tremendous army against a vicious threat. The episode opens with the North mourning the dead. It's a stunning image that eventually makes way for a celebration over still being alive. They defeated the odds. The world will still exist. It just means attention once again falls back to the familiar trappings of man and the search for power. Varys articulates it best in saying that he has served many rulers and all of the tyrants have talked about their divine destiny. That's what has him so concerned about Daenerys moving forward. She may no longer have the support of her people and the strength to take the Iron Throne from Cersei. She is so desperate for the crown because she views it as rightfully belonging to her. And yet, she is so isolated in the North. People only feel comfortable celebrating once she shows her approval. But people aren't looking at her as a leader they trust. She is a woman they fear. She may be no different from Cersei in that respect. They are both willing to go to war no matter the human cost to it. Sansa is right to be concerned about her army not having time to recover after the last fight. And now, they are marching to a new battle because Daenerys has pledged to fight in several wars.

But all of this is leading to Daenerys and her forces once again underestimating Cersei and her troops. It's startling the moment the arrows start flying and kill a dragon. It means Daenerys has lost another child. She is down to just one dragon. That is a stark image from the portrait of power she has long wielded. It means her latest plan has failed. She wanted to exert her strength so that Cersei would cede her power without any more bloodshed. But it only seems inevitable that this war will have massive casualties to it. That's the way that these people view the world. The citizens of the realm have to choose a side. They either support Cersei or Daenerys. Any other option would be considered treason. Tyrion and Varys discuss whether or not Jon would actually make a better leader. He wasn't raised with the belief that he deserved it. The best ruler may be the one who doesn't want the power that it controls. Perhaps that's the best person to rule over the Seven Kingdoms. It's a theory that goes untested at the moment. Varys voices his concerns over Daenerys' plans while Tyrion remains loyal to her. Tyrion wishes to extend one last offer for peace and surrender. Cersei was never going to accept that deal though. She believes there is only one way she can ensure her survival and those she cares about. She has to win and remain seated on the Iron Throne. Daenerys feels the exact same way. The show is just really putting her through the ringer by taking away all of the allies she has gained over the course of the show. She sailed to Westeros with a sense of power and numerous allies. They have systematically been wiped out. It's gotten more and more personal as the battles have gone on. She lost Jorah in the battle against the Night King. And now, her dragon and Missandei are killed. Missandei's death was heavily foreshadowed the moment that she and Grey Worm started planning their future together. She dies once again as a prisoner. That's a brutal image. She enjoyed this time fighting by Daenerys' side. Daenerys was a leader she believed in and served with honor and compassion. She understands that fire may be the only way to end this conflict. It's just brutal because it may all be completely pointless in the end. The characters are dividing amongst themselves. The fate of the realm may not be decided by these epic battles but by the deeply personal stakes. Jaime could have such a happy life with Brienne after they finally act on their love. And yet, he doesn't feel he's deserving of that kind of forgiveness and happiness because of the horrible and monstrous actions he has done for Cersei. Sure, it's crazy that he's returning to King's Landing to be with her. It's unclear if he's doing that to save her or kill her. That muddies that moment. The show is clearly establishing the ending for numerous characters as they prepare for their lives after war. The only open question is will who rule. It's a complicated question because the person who emerges victorious in battle may not even want the recognition. It may be up to the people of Westeros to decide. In that regard, Daenerys may have a seriously hard time making her case that she deserves it the most.