GOT Bronn's Big Plan

Bronn’s Big Plan

Ben: Leave it to Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, a sellsword who only cares about getting paid, to be one of the most logical people in this episode (right behind Sansa, naturally). Cersei wants Bronn to murder the Lannister brothers, but she can’t pay him if Daenerys burns her to a crisp. So Bronn, a betting man, looks for better odds elsewhere. Instead of killing the pair and risking not being able to collect his prize, he punches Tyrion in the face, takes a few sips of wine, and gets Tyrion to promise him Highgarden.

There were several great little micro-moments in this scene that made me laugh: obvious things like Bronn knowing the sound of a broken nose, and more subtle ones like Jaime practically rolling his eyes when Tyrion clumsily attempts to recruit Bronn into their ranks as they march on King’s Landing. Jaime knows Bronn is too smart to ever put himself in harm’s way again, and sure enough, Bronn declines the offer, promises to find them after the dust settles, and then slips out of the room like the Joker after the pencil trick scene in The Dark Knight.

I remember you being worried about this plotline when it was introduced in this season’s premiere. What do you think about how it’s progressing?

Jacob: I’m still not sure I love it, but I’m also glad they didn’t decide to soften Bronn in the homestretch. He was introduced as a total bastard who would do anything for a payday and he’s still a total bastard who would do anything for a payday, even if the payday is now one of the biggest castles on the continent. While this scene was amusing, I do think it was weirdly stilted at times and it still feels like Bronn is being kept around not because he has any story left, but because we expect him to be around. I’m increasingly convinced he should’ve died last season.

Still, I enjoyed his brutal honesty and his logical assumption that all powerful families were founded by criminal scum like him. He’s not incorrect. If he lands Highgarden, his descendants will be as wealthy, privileged and snobby as the Lannisters were in season 1. How appropriate.

GOT Dragon Down

Dragon Down

Ben: Good thing Jon decided to ride a horse to King’s Landing, eh? RIP, Rhaegal – but honestly, what was Dany expecting? She saw Bronn fire that scorpion at her in season 7, so you’ve gotta be going into that situation ready for the worst. That lack of preparation is yet another way Dany’s impatience to sit on the Iron Throne has clouded her judgment, and now she’s lost another one of her dragons because of it.

I like the duality of these two women vying for power, both of whom have lost multiple “children” and are willing to do monstrous things because of the rage manifested by those losses. Dany has been especially suffering lately because Viserion, the Dothraki, Jorah, and now Rhaegal and Missandei have all been taken from her; frankly, another dragon death felt inevitable as she continues to teeter on the edge of sanity.

Jacob, were you moved at all by Rhaegal’s death? I think any emotional attachment I may have had for that character was overshadowed by the feeling that, unlike so many in Game of Thrones, this death seemed so preventable.

Jacob: I wasn’t moved by the death, but I was certainly shocked. With so many dead heroes, it makes sense that the most vicious characters would start to get ahead of the “heroes.” And Euron Greyjoy, for all of his obnoxious faults, is a seasoned warrior, skilled at setting up ambushes, and currently funded by the Queen of Westeros. Still, I wasn’t expecting him to take down a dragon in this episode, even if it makes perfect sense in retrospect. It’s just another reminder of Dany’s inexperience and Cersei’s ruthlessness. As the Mother of Dragons gets closer to everything she has ever wanted, she continues to lose everything she has ever needed.

Still, you’ve got to hand it to Team Cersei. When one of those giant crossbows didn’t get the job done, she went ahead and commissioned a couple dozen more. Jon and Dany may be tactical buffoons who think pluck and dragons will get them out of any fight, but Cersei actually knows how to utilize her forces. And Euron knows how to hide a small fleet behind the island that has always been the Targaryen base of operations.

GOT Meeting at the Gates

A Meeting at the Gates

Jacob: Last week, I wondered if Game of Thrones had gone a bit soft on us by sparing so many characters in the Battle of Winterfell. And then “The Last of the Starks” reminded me that it can be as cruel and nasty as ever when it wants to be, especially when Cersei Lannister is involved.

First, I love how Daenerys only agrees to this meeting at the gates of King’s Landing because she wants to at least create the illusion of having fought for a peaceful resolution before she roasts everyone. Second, I love the meeting between Tyrion and Qyburn because you can’t imagine two more unlikely players in this game and these two men, one ruthless but kind and the other ruthless but vicious, have become unsettling mirror images of each other over the years. Third, I loved Tyrion approaching the gate and Cersei’s wordless response to the whole situation. She’s in a position of power and she knows it and she shows it. This whole sequence left me nauseous and unsettled before the execution of Missandei, which was upsetting but inevitable – the moment she discussed post-war plans with Grey Worm, we knew one of them was doomed. I can’t remember the last time Game of Thrones left me this distressed by a sequence and, well, I’m going to go ahead and call that a good thing because Game of Thrones is at its best when it’s making my stomach churn.

Ben, I’m prepared to call Cersei Lannister one of the greatest television villains of all time at this point. Few antagonists have filled me with so much rage while also allowing me to understand the source of their cruelty. In a show that has increasingly proven itself to be about women stepping up and succeeding where men have failed, she feels like the natural successor to her father – if she doesn’t do everything in her power to defend her name, her family, and her life, she will be cast aside, married away, and forgotten. In other words, I get her, Ben. I hate her, but I get her.

Ben: Cersei is a brilliantly-written character, and Lena Headey has been delivering an A+ performance from the very beginning. She’s absolutely one of the MVPs of the entire show. The subtle changes in her face during Tyrion’s speech…that little flicker of recognition and memory when he talks about how much she’s always loved her children…it’s masterful stuff. And this may seem a little silly in retrospect, but we’re so close to the end of the show (only two episodes left!) that I honestly thought Tyrion was going to be pumped full of arrows right then and there. The tension was off the charts.

As for Missandei, I don’t want people to feel like we’re avoiding this topic, so I’ll address it right now: yes, this was Game of Thrones brutally killing off one of its very few black characters. And yes, the show immediately cut to Grey Worm’s reaction after her murder, which left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. (The implication being that Missandei’s death could ultimately serve as motivation for a male character’s storyline.) But while Grey Worm gets the reaction shot in that moment, it’s Dany’s reaction that matters more. Missandei’s last word was to Daenerys, not Grey Worm, and the snarl on the Mother of Dragons’ face says everything you need to know about what’s going to happen from here.

To be clear, I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s complaints with the way the show has treated its female characters or handled issues of diversity over the years, because there are valid discussions to be had about those topics. We’ve all written time and again on this site about the importance of representation on screen, and I realize this might make me #problematic, but personally, I don’t think anything that happens in the final three episodes of this eight-season series should necessarily be dissected in those terms first.

If the entire next episode is just Grey Worm rage-killing people, I’ll gladly change my tune. I just think a “wait and see” approach might be best here. But that’s just me.

GOT Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Jacob: Hey, welcome back nihilistic, brutal, intrigue-heavy, morally grey Game of Thrones! After half a season of our favorite characters putting aside their differences to battle a force of Sauron-esque darkness, it was almost, well, a relief to see the petty backstabbing and plotting begin immediately. “The Last of the Starks” doubles down on all of this ending in blood and tears. You can defeat the Night King, but you can’t defeat human nature, and our lust for power, that easily.

Ben, I’ve been seeing lots of mixed reactions to this episode online, and while we can quibble all day about characters teleporting around Westeros, I found this to be a supremely satisfying hour of feel-bad television. What say you?

Ben: I’ve seen lots of negativity around this episode, but this might be one of my new favorite episodes of the series. I found its balance of awful, stomach-churning moments (Missandei’s death) with laugh-out-loud moments (The Hound not giving a shit about Gendry being named a Lord) to be just about right for this point in the series, and while it appears another battle might be imminent, I’m already thrilled that this season has taken the time to come full circle and get back to basics with its political intrigue.

Currently Winning the Game of Thrones: Cersei Lannister

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