Season 7 of Game of Thrones comes to an end with the powerful finale “The Dragon and the Wolf.” Throughout this season we’ve witnessed exciting action sequences created through a combination of well thought-out direction, groundbreaking visual and special effects, and remarkable performances. In “The Dragon and the Wolf,” Game of Thrones focuses on character interaction and storytelling, giving us a strong episode filled with emotion, subterfuge, and grand drama.
Introductions, Reunions, and Resentments
Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady) arrive at the Dragonpit with their key advisors, plus some additional characters that writers DB Weiss and David Benioff included to ramp up the conflict. Many of these characters have complicated histories, some good and some bad.
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) finds that she didn’t quite succeed in killing the Hound (Rory McCann). When he asks who’s protecting Arya, Brienne tells him, “The only one that needs protecting is the one who gets in her way.” Strangely, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) doesn’t ask Brienne about Arya, Sansa, or Winterfell when he sees her. Her purpose at this gathering becomes apparent later when she calls on her former traveling companion Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to do the right thing.
The reunion between Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn) has the banter we’ve come to expect with these two, even if they are currently on different sides. Tyrion asks Bronn to rejoin him, but despite his warm feelings toward the younger Lannister brother, Bronn thinks Jaime is the safer bet. Despite this, Bronn invites Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) to have a drink while the fancy folks talk. Let’s hope that Tyrion sent a team ahead to check for wildfire.
Cersei’s entrance is accompanied by her musical theme, which suits the moment perfectly. With the arrival of Team Lannister, it’s glares all around. The glance between Brienne and Jaime is tinged with regret and sadness. Cersei looks at her brother Tyrion with nothing but contempt. Euron Greyjoy’s (Pilou Asbæk) sidelong glance towards Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) betrays amusement, while his nephew’s stoicism is undermined by the intense energy behind his eyes and in his stature. This scene indicates just how much information these outstanding actors are able to convey without saying a word. The Hound isn’t satisfied with a glare—instead, he walks right up to his brother the Mountain to make a threat:
“Remember me? Yeah, you do. You’re even f*ckin’ uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? Doesn’t matter. It’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
No one on Team Cersei seems particularly interested in Jon Snow, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), or Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). And it seems that Qyburn (Anton Lesser) has no nemeses except ethically sound research practices.
The Trouble with Truces
Much to Cersei’s annoyance, Daenerys arrives fashionably late. Attempting to show the power of her forces, Daenerys brings her Unsullied and the Dothraki armies. Daenerys arrives on Drogon, while Rhaegal circles overhead. After losing Viserion last week, it seems risky to bring both Drogon and Rhaegal. Ultimately the two dragons don’t have the intended effect of intimidation because it’s the one missing dragon that captures Cersei’s attention.
Despite Jon’s usual imploring speech about the dead, it’s the undead wight that makes the point. Even the usually impassive Cersei looks frightened when it races towards her. Euron Greyjoy tells Cersei that he’s taking the Iron Fleet back to the Iron Islands: “I been around the world. I’ve seen everything—things you can’t imagine. And this, this is the only thing I’ve ever seen that terrifies me.” We sort of love this move by Euron, as it feels like part of his rock-‘n’-roll character. But later we learn that this was all an act, because Euron is actually sailing to Essos to pick up the Golden Company. Did Cersei know they were bringing one of the dead, or was Euron always going to find an excuse to storm off? We may never know, but Euron’s exit was still a pretty fun moment.
Jon tells Cersei, “There’s only one war that matters—the Great War. And it’s here.” Cersei actually appears moved by the display. She tells the assembled, “If those things come for us, there’ll be no kingdoms to rule. Everything we suffered will have been for nothing. Everything we lost would have been for nothing.” Jaime looks surprised at her comments, or perhaps a little sad, thinking of their children. Cersei tells Daenerys, “The crown accepts your truce. Until the dead are defeated, they are the true enemy.” Despite the sigh of relief all around, the deal fails because Jon Snow won’t lie about his loyalty to (aka love for) Daenerys.
Tyrion attempts to fix the problems by meeting alone with his sister. It’s not clear why Tyrion believes that he, so hated by Cersei, will be the one to change her mind, but he goes anyway. Tyrion tells Jaime that he knows he’s an idiot to step into a room with the most murderous woman in the world. Jaime tells his brother, “I suppose we should say goodbye—one idiot to another.” Jaime sees that his brother is willing to risk everything for what he thinks is right.
In a very moving scene, Tyrion talks about family with Cersei. She tells him that by killing their father, Tyrion left the Lannisters exposed. He challenges her to kill him if she hates him so much, but something restrains her. In the moment it appears she might still harbor some kind of family connection with Tyrion, but later it becomes clear that she simply needed him for her plan to work.
Tyrion tells Cersei, “I’m more sorry about the children than you could ever know … I loved them. You know I did. You know it in your heart, if there’s anything left of it.” When Cersei talks about her impulse to protect her family when she saw the undead creature, Tyrion realizes his sister is pregnant. Cersei returns to the Dragonpit with a surprising offer:
“My armies will not stand down. I will not pull them back to the capital. I will march them north to fight alongside you in the Great War. The darkness is coming for us all. We’ll face it together. And when the Great War is over perhaps you’ll remember that I chose to help with no promises or assurances from any of you. I expect not.”
Eventually, it’s revealed that Cersei never intended to honor the truce. The plan to convince the murderous Cersei that she needed to help save humanity was weak right from the start. We were initially on guard for Cersei’s dirty tricks, but, strangely, it was the agreement falling apart when Jon refused to stay neutral that somehow made Cersei’s later offer of support believable. We dropped our guard during the second round of the accords, particularly after being reminded of Cersei’s pregnancy. And let’s face it, Cersei’s speech was kind of awesome. Jaime wasn’t the only one fooled by her act.
Weiss and Benioff make us acutely aware of how manipulated Jaime feels, because he serves as the audience surrogate. Jaime wants to do what’s right and honorable while Cersei just wants to murder her enemies and rule the land. The dead haven’t made her list of enemies yet, but once he refuses to join her, Jaime does. Jaime might not have believed that Cersei would kill him, but we sure did. He leaves King’s Landing heartbroken, even though he finally got his redemption arc.
The Fall of Littlefinger
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) learns that Jon has bent the knee to Daenerys. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) begins to talk about Jon being replaced as King of the North, and they discuss how Arya might respond. He tells Sansa that he plays a game of assuming the worst when trying to understand other people’s motivations.
Petyr: “So tell me: what’s the worst thing she could want?”
Sansa: “She could want me dead because she thinks I ruined my family.”
Petyr: “Why did she come to Winterfell?”
Sansa: “To kill me for marrying our enemies and betraying my family.”
Petyr: “Why did she unearth the letter Cersei made you write?”
Sansa: “To provide proof of my betrayals. To provide justification after she murders me.”
Petyr: “And after she murders you, what does she become?”
Sansa: “The Lady of Winterfell.”
Later, Sansa calls for Arya (Masie Williams) to be brought before her and Bran. Littlefinger and some men of the Vale are present. Sansa asks, “You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer … Lord Baelish?” The Stark siblings describe Littlefinger’s many crimes against their family. After learning he was responsible for the deaths of Lord Jon Arryn and Lady Lysa Arryn, the commander of the Knights of the Vale isn’t going to help Petyr Baelish. After learning Littlefinger’s game, Sansa asked herself, “What’s the worst reason for turning me against my sister?” Weiss and Benioff write some powerful dialogue for this scene, including Sansa’s cuttingly accurate comment to Littlefinger: “I’m a slow learner, it’s true. But I learn.”
We learn that the Stark sisters have finally talked to each other about their experiences while they were apart. It’s about time. Arya tells her sister, “I never could have survived what you survived,” and Sansa responds, “You would have. You’re the strongest person I know.” Somehow they have quickly gotten past the mistrust that was so great that murder was discussed. Now they’re best buds. Sharing is caring. As they watch the snow, Sansa remembers what their father said about winter: “When the snows fall and the white wind blows, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
In the “Inside the Episode” video, Benioff says, “So much of that scene is about what happens beforehand and building up the tension between Sansa and Arya in the earlier episodes of the season where you really believe that one will potentially kill the other. It’s one of the benefits of working a show like this where over the years so many beloved characters have been killed and so many characters make decisions you wish they hadn’t that you can believe that Sansa might conspire against Arya or that Arya might decide the Sansa has betrayed the family and deserves to die.”
Despite the Winterfell scenes in “The Dragon and the Wolf” playing out so perfectly, the premise was still lacking. We can believe that Cersei would kill Jaime, but we can’t accept that Sansa and Arya would consider assassinating each other. The Starks as not easily corrupted, which is why Cersei knew she could trust the word of the son of Ned Stark. It goes completely against character for the daughters of Ned Stark to consider the possibility of fratricide. Benioff tries to justify it, but character experiences and plot development don’t support it. Despite the flaws in plot conception, the end of the story is immensely satisfying. The Starks gets some vengeance for their father’s death, and Littlefinger gets his comeuppance.
After having betrayed the Starks, Theon remains conflicted about who he is and what he’s done. He sees Jon as someone who always knows how to do the right thing.
Jon: “I’ve done plenty of things that I regret.”
Theon: “Not compared to me you haven’t.”
Jon: “No, not compared to you.”
Theon expresses the inner conflict about his birth and upbringing. Jon tells him, “You don’t need to choose. You’re a Greyjoy and you’re a Stark.” Jon’s words foreshadow his own Targaryen birthright he has yet to learn about.
Theon heads to the beach, where he calls on the Ironborn to join him in a rescue of Yara. He must fight the captain to gain control of the ship. It’s when the captain knees him that Theon finally gets the upper hand.
As they head off to recuse Yara, how will Euron’s detour to Essos come into play? At this point it’s unknown if Euron is still keeping Yara stowed on his ship or if she’s been imprisoned at Pyke. All of which assumes she’s alive (which we do). Theon’s redemption was inevitable from the moment he jumped off the wall of Winterfell with Sansa, though we feel kind of “meh” about it. As he heads out to save Yara, he may yet be able to do the right thing.
Back at Dragonstone, they plan to head North. Jorah suggests Daenerys fly to Winterfell to avoid angry northerners with pitchforks crossbows. Jon suggests that they sail together to White Harbor to show the North they are allies. Cersei decides, “I’ve not come to conquer the North; I’m coming to save the North. We sail together.” Jorah doesn’t seem happy at Jon’s growing influence.
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) arrives at Winterfell and meets up with Bran Stark. Bran seems happier to see Sam than he was to see his own sisters, but Sam’s humor lifts our spirits too. Sam has come to help Jon in the fight against the dead. Bran shares with Sam what he hasn’t even told his sisters: “Jon isn’t really my father’s son. He’s the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and my aunt Lyanna Stark.” It turns out that Sam was listening when Gilly was reading that book, and adds more information to what Bran already has. Bran is able to see the wedding, and he describes the love story of Lyanna and Rhaegar as we see Jon knocking on Daenerys’s door on the ship. As Bran talks about Jon (aka Aegon Targaryen) not being a bastard, but the heir to the Iron Throne, we see that Jon and Daenerys have consummated their love. Outside Daenerys’s room, Tyrion watches with concern. Is it a wariness of Jon’s growing influence, romantic jealousy, or concern about alliances and lineage?
Attack on Eastwatch-by-the-Sea
And just when you think “The Dragon and the Wolf” can’t get any better, Game of Thrones gives us an undead Viserion attacking the Wall. Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) watches in horror as Viserion’s blue flames collapse part of the Wall. The army of the dead pours though, heading towards the south. In a season of cinematic sequences, we get one more, reminding us why Game of Thrones is so exceptional.
“The Dragon and the Wolf” Review
“The Dragon and the Wolf” includes some great dialogue, moving performances, and fulfilling storytelling. Director Jeremy Podeswa, who opened the season with the well-received episode “Dragonstone,” gives us a finale to remember in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” The storytelling lapses of the last two episodes fall into the background with compelling scenes between characters we love. Game of Thrones ends Season 7 on a high note, leaving us in anticipation of the final season of the series.