Game of Thrones S8E4 RECAP 'The Last of the Starks'
Four down, two to go.
After last week’s divisive spectacle, The Long Night, many fans were putting a lot of pressure on episode 4 to deliver the answers they felt they didn’t get during the Battle of Winterfell. What we got was another divisive, if not thrilling, episode of Game of Thrones that forsook a debrief on last week’s events and sent us speeding full throttle toward the conclusion of the show. For some, it was a welcome relief to see characters that were mostly sidelined during the Great War plot regain their previous form. Several people I talked to said this episode was one of the best they had seen. For others, this episode felt like what made season 7 so disappointing to so many. Critics ripped the haphazard pacing and plot logic of the episode, and for good reason. I mean, there was a f*cking Starbucks cup left in a scene. Not a great look to say the least.
But after a few days of reflection, I found myself somewhere in the middle.
Here’s my take: It was a very good episode of television, but a meh episode of Game of Thrones. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. It was funny, emotional, dramatic, and shocking, but there was a lot that didn’t make sense after the initial thrill had subsided.
I’m not as nit-picky as a lot of the other self-proclaimed Game of Thrones experts. I’ve loved just about every minute of season 8 so far, but I do feel like this episode was the worst one of the season. Game of Thrones gets held to a higher standard than just about any television show (and some movies *cough* Endgame *cough*) ever. We need to acknowledge just how hard it is to land a plane this big this fast with the perfect execution and grace that you all expect. Especially when you’ve been flying without the map that guided you for the first 5 seasons. I’m of the belief that 100% of the issues we’ve had with the last two seasons could be fixed if they were standard 10-episode seasons, but alas, they’re not.
I think everybody needs to calm the f*ck down and enjoy this shit while we still have it.
People are so worried about what the show is getting wrong for some reason they’re not realizing that they’re getting 97% of it right and crushing it out of the park.
With that said, let’s get into this episode.
Let It Burn
We kick things off with a mass funeral for everyone who fell during the Battle of Winterfell. It’s an emotionally stirring scene and Jon’s speech is the most compelling thing he’s done all season. People may say that nobody of consequence died in the last episode but I’ll be damned if seeing those people burn didn’t put me squarely in my feelings. BUT THANK GOD THE ROYAL HAIR-BRAIDERS SURVIVED! Anyway, it was a great tone-setter for the rest of the episode and did a good job of conveying the somber mood going into the next scene.
We jump directly into the post-long night victory feast and it’s not as lit as it should be. Brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and friends are dead and it’s having an effect on the overall mood. Dany, ever the host, decides to try and liven things up a bit by legitimizing Gendry and making him the Lord of Storm’s End. Congratulations pal, you deserve it. Dany’s announcement succeeds in brightening up the mood and that’s when the party starts. Tyrion is playing his favorite drinking game with Pod, Brienne, and Jaime. Tormund is chugging wine out of a horn with Jon and the Free Folk. Sansa is shooting eye daggers at Dany, and Dany is in complete isolation, save for a fake smile and glass raise at Jon as he’s being praised for riding a dragon and being a hero. In her head, Dany’s like “I been riding dragons. You wasn’t talking this shit when I saved y’all’s asses north of the wall.” But with Jorah gone and Missandei probably off with Grey Worm somewhere, she has no friends in the Great Hall to talk to. She’s alone with her jealous thoughts and we can tell it’s really eating at her. I want to take some time here to acknowledge Emilia Clarke’s performance this season. She’s been outstanding. She was a bit of a weak link in earlier seasons, but she’s really come into her own as an actress over the last 10 years and it’s been a thrill to watch. Meanwhile, Tyrion’s drinking game has escalated. He asks Brienne if she’s a virgin and she has to go to the bathroom. Jaime follows her and... We’ll get to that. The Hound and Sansa have a controversial conversation about “being broken in rough” (woof) and Sansa implies that she’d still be the same helpless little girl she was in seasons 1 and 2 if she hadn’t suffered at the hands of Ramsay and Littlefinger. I’ll let y’all come up with your own takes on that one. All in all a solid scene though. Maybe we could’ve used this time a little more wisely and seen some other happenings in King’s Landing to make the end make a bit more sense, but it’s whatever. It was good.
A Girl Is Independent and Don’t Need No Man
Poor Gendry, but man Arya is really the only character that’s doing what the hell she’s supposed to do. Gendry should’ve known better. Arya was never going for that lady shit and she told you that. We love an independent queen. “That’s not me.” Also, Gendry is from King’s Landing right? His last name would’ve been Waters, not Rivers. Come on, guys. That’s easy. I wasn’t really buying the show-runners phoning it in, but that’s pretty lazy.
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
This was probably the most dramatic scene in the episode, and if you listen carefully you can hear “Can’t Be Friends” by Trey Songz playing faintly in the background. As we expected, Jon doesn’t want to press his claim to the Iron Throne (for now), but that’s not enough for Dany. She admits her jealousy and BEGS him not to tell anyone. Jon, being the honorable fool he is, says he has to tell Sansa and Arya, but why? Ned Stark kept a damn secret, why can’t you? Part of me thinks Jon told because he secretly does want to rule, but I guess we’ll have to see.
Cool cinematography note: Notice whenever they do a close-up on Dany you can see the reflection of the fireplace in her eyes. Burn them all? Excellent stuff.
One Knight Stand
Jaime and Brienne shippers have been waiting for this moment for 5 years. I’m happy for you all, I truly am. I was hyped while it was happening in real time, but days of reflection have led me to ask was this really necessary? I think it was understood that these two have a great deal of love and respect for each other. Jaime knighting Brienne was one of the most beautiful moments of the entire series. Why not leave it at that and use this time to clear some other things up instead of complicating the plot further with Jaime’s ambiguous late-night exit from Winterfell? Sure it was fun and it’s what the people wanted, but I don’t think it was necessary to show the love Jaime and Brienne have for each other in this way. Jaime leaving for King’s Landing could end up being good or bad depending on what he does down there. I would truly hate to see them unravel his whole arc this late in the game, so I’m assuming he’s going down there to end Cersei, not defend her, but I wish they were a little more clear about it. I get wanting to build suspense but I’m not buying it.
The Last War
So apparently half of Dany’s forces are gone. Seems like it would be more, but I’m fine with half. I don’t want her to be THAT undermanned going into what she calls the last war. At this point Dany just wants to get this shit over with, but her advisors insist on taking their time and committing to a blockade of King’s Landing, allowing the people of King’s Landing to turn on Cersei themselves. Sansa suggests waiting a bit for their soldiers to recuperate, but we really ain’t got time for that. Jon shuts all that down and the meeting adjourns with Dany promising better days in the Seven Kingdoms. Let’s go.
Oh no… Jon’s gonna tell them.
Don’t do it, Jon.
Oh, Bran’s gonna do it?
WHAT TF HAPPENED?
Come on, mane, you gotta show us their reaction to the news. Like bra. WHY?
Anyway. Sansa IMMEDIATELY tells Tyrion. Apparently, promises mean nothing to her. What’s her deal, here? Like, what’s her endgame? It feels like she’s just being difficult for the sake of being difficult. Does she want the throne? Does she want Jon on the throne? It’s not clear. They still have time to show us what her motivations are but she’s just annoying at this point. She’s trying to be Littlefinger, but without the charisma and I’m not entirely sure it’s working. Imagine someone who sat in the crypts during the battle for humanity trying to tell you anything about the Mother of Dragons LOL.
Naturally, Tyrion immediately tells Varys and the treason commences. Yikes.
The Bronn Scene
On rewatch, I discovered that the Lannister bros were NOT in Winterfell when Bronn pulled up on them. So you can quit asking how he just strolled into the castle with a crossbow. They were apparently at some inn or tavern in Wintertown, and that’s verified with an establishing shot of a small little cottage outside the castle walls. How did Bronn get to Winterfell so fast? Dude it’s been 3 episodes. Relax. I enjoyed this scene. We get horny Tyrion and anytime Bronn is in a scene it’s great stuff. You think he’s really going to get Highgarden? Apparently Bronn is a student of the history of the Great Houses of Westeros, because Lannister patriarch, Lann the Clever, did, in fact, finesse Casterly Rock from the Casterly family back in the Age of Heroes. #KnowYourHistory
On the Road Again
Damn, I wish this season was longer so we could get two episodes of Sandor and Arya on the road. But unfortunately, they’ll probably already be in King’s Landing by next episode. Hopefully they’ll make a stop at the Inn at the Crossroads and see Hot Pie one last time.
Giving Up the Ghost
First of all, let’s address how BAD Rhaegal looks. My man needs to rest, he can barely fly. We cut to Sansa and Tyrion talking, but we’ve already addressed that so let’s get to the good stuff. A lot of people were mad Jon didn’t pet Ghost goodbye. A lot of people need to shut up. Ghost is beat up, man. He doesn’t need to fight in any more wars. He needs to go be free up north. How many times have we seen people in movies or tv shows say goodbye to beloved pets? They’re always like “Get outta here mutt! Scram!” We’ve seen it time and time again. I know y’all seen Air Bud. I have a puppy and I don’t care that Jon didn’t give Ghost one last scratch behind the ear. Pet owners are weird. It’s still an emotional moment without it. Oh yeah, Gilly’s pregnant. Smh. I guess Dany’s not pregnant huh? Bummer.
Meanwhile, at Dragonstone…
Tyrion and Varys are below deck discussing the implications of Jon’s parentage and Dany is soaring through the air without a care in the world. Question: Why didn’t you send anyone to scout and make sure Dragonstone hadn’t been taken while you were gone? Where is Varys’ network of spies? It seems like common sense that Cersei would have taken Dragonstone while Dany was gone. As they’re gliding along, Euron and the Greyjoy fleet shoot Rhaegal out the sky with a new and improved scorpion, and damn that shit hits. It’s bigger, it’s badder, and it’s not to be trifled with. In the Game Revealed featurette for this episode, they say this version of Qyburn’s scorpion is 65% bigger than the original. It makes sense that it could smack a dragon out of the sky. I’m not mad at it. The Greyjoy fleet set their sights on Dany’s ships and tear them apart, leading to the capture of Missandei :( Oh and Cersei tells Euron that the baby is his. You’d think she’d be showing by now, but that’s not my business.
Burn This MF DOWN
Dany, Tyrion and Varys debrief and they implore her not to do what she should’ve done as soon as she stepped foot on Westerosi soil. Just burn this shit down, Dany, please! You’re losing too much listening to these bums. Do what Olenna told you to do and BE A DRAGON! Varys is tripping, hard. This ain’t even Mad Queen territory, it’s Justifiably Upset Queen territory. Dany isn’t a tyrant, she’s pissed that Y’ALL keep failing her. This is literally all you guys’ fault and you’re discussing treason. Okay.
What a tense scene this was. Tyrion tries to appeal to Cersei’s humanity again, but guess what buddy, it doesn’t exist. He mentions her baby, and I was expecting Euron to say something. But maybe they’re saving that for the next episode. Tyrion stinks man, but we’re not here to talk about him right now. We’re gathered here today to honor and pay our respects to the beautiful Missandei of Naath. What a sweet and gorgeous soul she was. Sold into slavery as a child, Missandei came from nothing to become one of Dany’s most trusted advisors. She found love. She gave counsel. She was the finest woman on the show. I hope Dany cremates the entire city in your honor. Dracarys forever babygirl </3.
So yeah, this wasn’t the best episode of Thrones, but i’m not sure it was the worst either. It was thrilling to watch in real time, but in hindsight, there are a lot of holes that you really just can’t ignore. The coffee cup really messed me up man. That’s truly disappointing. Yeah it’s just a cup, but damn man. It's an 80-minute episode. How about instead of watching Winterfell's version of a Dunder Mifflin Christmas party, we see some game planning in King's Landing. Maybe Jaime and Brienne don't hook up and we see Qyburn describing the improvements he's made to his scorpion? Idk man, I'm not director, these are just ideas. Anyway, I do think this episode, plot holes and all, did a good job of setting up the final conflicts. Dany vs. Cersei and Dany vs. Everybody. I’m really excited about Dany’s heel turn. If you think this is coming out of nowhere you really haven’t been paying attention. She’s not crazy, but she’s always had a propensity to burn the shit out of people and I can’t wait to see it happen. I think someone will stop her before it goes too far. Probably someone on her side. Jon? We’ll have to wait and see.
Arya - Hasn’t done any wrong this season. The Hero of Winterfell.
Cersei - She’s in the driver’s seat. She’s got Dany right where she wants her.
Jon - Whether he likes it or not, the streets are talking.
Dany - She’s losing everything. She needs to bounce back, fast.
Bronn - Highgarden?
Jaime - Do what you gotta do, King.
Sandor Clegane - *airhorns*
Tyrion - Is that conversation w/ Bran from episode 2 gonna pay off? No? Welp.
Varys - Squarebob.
Sansa - Why are you like this?
Gendry - Always tough getting curved. But you’re a High Lord now. Buck up.
Brienne - BooBoo the Fool
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit my line and let's talk. Be on the lookout for another podcast with the guys from man Gossip next week. We're probably gonna talk about the highly anticipated, Miguel Sapochnik directed, episode 5. We should be in for a good one. Until next time.