'The Last of the Starks' might not have hit the highs of last week's episode, but it stoked the fires of hype for next week's Battle of King's Landing, and effected emotional farewells for several series regulars.
After last week’s epic War for the Dawn, it was perhaps natural that this week’s instalment of Game of Thrones would take a much-needed breather, catching up with our survivors and advancing a few plotlines to natural conclusions as the show ramps for its final pair of episodes. ‘The Last of the Starks’ picks up right where Episode 3 left off, with the White Walkers and their undead armies dispatched, but a considerable death count for the good guys to contend with. The opening scene is an emotional farewell to series mainstays such as Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont and Beric Dondarrion, and a stark (geddit?) reminder that although the war for the living has concluded, the stakes remain higher than ever.
The episode clocks in at 74 minutes, and each one of them feels meaningful. Fan-pleasing moments such as Gendry’s legitimization as a Baratheon, the reveal of Jon’s true heritage to multiple characters, and Jaime and Brienne finally shacking up, bring a joy and a hope to an episode that feels a bit colder around the edges. From Daenerys’ worried glances to Varys and Tyrion’s duplicitous politicking, it’s clear that the world of Westeros will never be the same again as we hurtle towards the conclusion. We’re in the endgame now, fellas. The storylines of fan-favourite characters like Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) feel wrapped up now, so it would surprise me if we saw them again outside of a ‘Where are they now?’ compilation in the final episode. The focus has been put squarely on our main characters, with Cersei (Lena Headey) and Euron (Pilou Asbaek) emerging as the show’s final villains.
The show proves it still has the potential to shock us even after that moment last week, with a third act ambush by the Greyjoy fleet causing the deaths of Rhaegal and, ultimately, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). Dany can come off a bit overpowered at times, but she’s never seemed more vulnerable this week as she loses a second scaly child, as well as her long time friend and advisor. Emilia Clarke absolutely excels in every scene this episode, as we see her actually beg as part of her desperate attempts to keep her mitts on her claim to the Iron Throne. Kit Harington has less to do this week as Jon, but the admiration showered upon him by his allies makes his possible ascension to the Throne even more tantalising. I only wish we’d had the time – and CGI budget – to see a proper farewell belly rub for Ghost, Jon’s loyal doggo companion. #PetTheDamnDogJon.
So, what can we look forward to next week? Well, Miguel Sapochnik is back in the director’s seat, which pretty much guarantees an excellent episode, as well as scenes of epic conflict. The Hound (Rory McCann) and Arya (Maisie Williams) are headed to King’s Landing, so the long-anticipated Cleganebowl seems to be on its way. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is also headed that way for a final confrontation with his sister/spurned lover, so could we see the Valonqar prophecy finally come to fruition? Only time will tell – let’s just hope the days fly by!
Game of Thrones Season 8 airs on Sky Atlantic/Now TV in the UK.