A Post of Ice and Fire: The Dragon and the Wolf

28 Aug

Although I had some complaints about last week’s episode, “Beyond the Wall”, I was completely satisfied with the season 7 finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”. The three main plot points of the season- the Lannisters, the Starks and the White Walker menac,- featured great action pieces, compelling character development, or some combination thereof. I shrieked, I cheered, I was thrilled. And now I am just disappointed that there may be a wait of 18 long months until season 8.

Lena Headey deserves all the acting awards for her portrayal of Cersei Lannister. She had two scenes in this episode where she showed her fine acting skills, one with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, and one with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as her brother Jaime. She digs her feet in and becomes more ruthless, and more isolated, than ever, to the point where her brother/lover Jaime is finally repelled by her duplicity and the callousness with which she orders Sandor Clegane to kill him. Jaime walking out on Cersei wasa relief, showing one character’s long evolution from servility at his sister’s side to honoring his knightly ideals of nobility and honesty. One of many things I’m looking forward to in the final season is seeing how he meshes with the Northern/Targaryen alliance, and with his brother Tyrion.

Another character who had a truly satisfying transformation was poor Theon Greyjoy. In a scene reminiscent of “Fight Club”, he received blow after blow, but as he kept rising to his feet after each one, he left fearful Reek behind and finally reclaimed his identity as Theon. We also haven’t seen Alfie Allen flex his acting muscles in a while, since he’s been playing a scared, tortured soul for a while now, but when he finally learned to be brave for the first time in a long time, he reminded us why this minor character can still be compelling. I hope he succeeds in rescuing his sister Yara from the prison under the Red Keep.

I previously wondered why Sansa and Arya seemed to be acting uncharacteristically throughout the season, with Sansa distrusting Petyr Baelish one moment then trusting him the next, and Arya going from brave, cheerful girl to cruel, distrusting sister killer in the blink of an eye. It didn’t make sense. And yet we learned in one well-crafted trial scene that it was all a ruse to manipulate the master manipulator. I thought Bran had been spending his time at Winterfell just being morose and sulking, but no, he was sharing his visions with his sisters. It is especially satisfying that Littlefinger, former brothel keeper, who murdered Lysa Stark and sold Sansa to Ramsey Bolton, got his comeuppance from two formidable women whom he underestimated. I told friends I didn’t want to see him die because he is so deliciously diabolical and fun to watch. Well, I didn’t realize how delightful it would be to see Arya murder him with one expert slice of her blade.

Perhaps most enjoyable seeing the King in the North, Jon Snow and the Khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen, consummate their growing love for one another. New York Magazine noted that season 7 has not only featured fewer sex scenes than in the past, but rather than be gratuitous and only serve to titillate the audience, the sex scenes were infused with tenderness, first with Missandei and Grey Worm, and then with Jon and Dany. I was not disgusted by the incestuous nature of the scene. They don’t know they’re related, which is important. But I foresee a future where Jon, always bound by honor and never hungry for power, cedes the throne to his wife Daenerys, who has become quite a good leader over time. And actor Kit Harington looks a-okay in his birthday suit!

So what threats loom in season 8? Dany and Jon finding out that their budding romance is with a family member (ick); Dany finding out that Jon has a more legitimate claim to the throne than she does; Cersei unleashing the Iron Fleet and the Golden Company on southern Westeros; Theon’s rescue mission to King’s Landing; Jaime integrating himself with the Northern forces; the Stark children running Winterfell, and of course learning if Beric Dondarrion (he of the mellifluous speaking voice) and Tormund survived the wall’s collapse. Oh yes, the wall collapsed when the Night King breathed icy blue fire on it, sending it crashing to the ground. It was scary. Either Dany will need to incinerate the army of the dead with her remaining two dragons, or the dragonglass mining operation at Dragonstone needs to speed up significantly. The monsters are within reach. “The Dragon and the Wolf” was a thrilling conclusion to a thrilling season. I can’t wait for season 8.

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