Executed in an old school Game of Thrones manner, 'The Dragon and The Wolf' brings Season 7 to a close in emphatic fashion. The end is coming, and goddamn is it a daunting prospect.
Season 7 of Game of Thrones has certainly been a strange one. Whilst the quality of the individual episodes in and of themselves has undoubtedly been high, there’s been a slightly off feeling to the season as a whole. With less episodes, the whole season has felt a tad rushed and, in the minds of some fans, “Hollywoodized”. Gone, apparently, are the subtleties, nuances and tension that Thrones made its name on. As such, the show has faced backlash from some; given that everyone on the internet these days is Roger Ebert, lets just take it all with a pinch of salt before we dismiss TV’s juggernaut as a sub-par drama. To those criticising the show and brandishing it as a shell of its former self, I present to you exhibit a ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’, aka possibly Season 7’s best episode and a reminder to all of us as to what makes the show so great.
The big talking point heading into this week’s episode is the meeting of the monarchs; finally, finally, we were promised the face-to-face-to-face of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). With nearly all of the show’s major characters converging on one spot for the first time in Thrones history, including Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) and Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), sparks are sure to fly and the tension is sure to be palpable. And boy, is the tension palpable. In a superbly crafted scene filled with venomous dialogue, excellent acting and wonderful pacing, Westeros’ finest come together to discuss the fate of the world. Whilst they enter and leave round one on different pages, the terrain has shifted with the dead becoming a very real prospect to Cersei, Jaime and Euron, and Jon finding himself bound by his influences to pledge undying loyalty to Daenerys and snub the offer from Cersei. These leaders could never mesh without compromise, so it falls to Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) to force the shift. Largely falling under Daenerys and Jon’s shadow this season, Tyrion has had little chance to shine or prove his colours, his role being largely to occasionally spout wisdom to his Queen; however, when the time came, Tyrion and Dinklage stepped up to the plate. In another tense and incredibly powerful scene, Headey and Dinklage deliver a monumental collision between two of Westeros’ most passionate and intelligent individuals; seven seasons worth of frustration, bitterness, anger and pain seep out of the duo as they attempt to bring balance to this seemingly never-ending game. It’s fantastic to watch, a reminder of the capabilities of these actors; say what you will about the story or the pacing, the acting on Game of Thrones remains the best on television.
But Cersei Lannister wasn’t going to just give in and fight alongside those that have evoked such paranoia in her for so long. In a callous move she unceremoniously dumps Jaime, turning her back on the one person who has stuck by her, and announces her intentions to join forces with the Golden Company of Braavos with the aid of Euron to secure her rule over Westeros. Ultimately, Cersei Lannister proves that she is in this for herself and her family, and her heir takes preference to her jaded brother/lover. Speaking of family, the Starks make a couple of significant moves in this episode. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) place their differences and disputes to one side to rally against the real enemy, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen). In an ambush on the parasitic Lord of the Vale, the Stark girls, with the help of the all-seeing Three Eyed Raven Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), eliminate the master manipulator, exposing all of his horrific betrayals to everyone; the swipe of Arya’s knife at Baelish’s throat is a moment of pure revenge. Again, this is a measured approach – we thought that Baelish was firmly in Sansa’s ear, controlling her, and the scene is allowed to breathe and bubble before it boils over in old school Game of Thrones manner. There are few logical betrayals left that can be made within this rapidly narrowing cast of characters, but count on the Starks to deliver us another barn burner of a twist. Elsewhere, the Stark’s mercurial peer Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) finally, for lack of a better or more accurate way to describe it, found his balls again. ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’ is all about family, Theon reminds us of the importance of his imprisoned sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) to both himself and his people. Once a cocky (again, pardon the pun) and arrogant lad, Theon has had his fair share of torment over the seasons, but he seems to finally be fronting up again when it matters most.
But alas, we can’t talk about family in ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’ without discussing Daenerys and Jon. This season has been built on the backs of the Mother of Dragons and The King in the North, their relationship has subtly been developed episode on episode. The two had to learn to trust one another and become allies; the immediate understanding that many thought they would have was not to be, as it wouldn’t in this world, and as such this has developed into the season’s strongest storyline. Let’s face it, in the world of Game of Thrones this story culminated logically, however questionable it may be. The two need each other and have been destined to meet and combine their power for a while now. Daenerys will think that she has herself a King, and Jon himself a Queen. Little do they know that in truth, Daenerys has herself a potential usurper. Bran ripped the plaster off to Samwell Tarley (John Bradley); they’re aunt and nephew, and Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne. What this creates above all is a tremendous amount of intrigue going into Season 8; right now the two of them are the strongest of allies but the truth could shatter all of that. I in no way support incest, despite the inescapable shipping of the two from most of the fans (curse you Benioff and Weiss for making us root for them!), but this relationship is currently the most intriguing thing the show has going for it. Happy ending or not for the two, Daenerys and Jon have destined themselves for a steamy conclusion.
And then it happened. We thought that somehow it could be avoided, we prayed that someone would stop it, we cowered in fear of the prospect and put it to one side, but it’s no use anymore; the Wall came down and the army of the dead marched into Westeros. Holy f*cking sh*t, it’s on. It’s a close to the episode, and the season, that feels earned, and is executed perfectly. The most detestable and feared villain in the show’s history (no easy feat) is marching towards victory and no one is one the same page to stop him. Again, say what you will about the show, but I think that few could deny that right now the Night King is one of the best TV villains of all time.
To the haters, you see what they can do? With a measured and meticulous, yet explosive approach, Game of Thrones takes it old school with excellent writing, acting and rapidly elevating stakes. It’s been an odd season, but ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’ caps it off as it should; this is to the point, logical storytelling that works a treat. The end is coming and it’s never felt this epic.
Game of Thrones Season 7 has come to a close, but you can catch up on Now TV and Sky On Demand.