What comes next? While those watching Game of Thrones may be waited with bated breath for each new hour or so, for the characters time marches on regardless. Despite conquering their greatest supernatural enemy, they still need to clear the bodies from the fields, tend to their wounds and revel in their victory. After fighting for their lives, they now need to work out why the hell they want to be living in the first place.
‘The Last of the Starks’ is an episode of two halves. The first is devoted to the aftermath of the battle for Winterfell, the second the set-up for the battle for King’s Landing. The interplay and dynamics between the characters in the first half were a delight; the plotting and political manoeuvring of the back half were a refreshing change of pace, albeit one blighted by some head scratching choices.
The episode’s elongated running time allowed these two contrasting segments to be brought together, but an argument could definitely be made for splitting them up into two longer episodes with additional scenes that would help flesh out some of the plot points and allow space and time to digest the events.
‘The Last of the Starks’ is by no means perfect, but it is a solid transition between two action packed set piece episodes. It’s become apparent though that many people are not seeing it that way.
Currently, for example, this episode has the lowest IMDB score of the show’s entire history. Was it really that bad? Absolutely not. Perhaps with a gap of two years since the last season, some people have forgotten the missteps of season 7 (and IMDB voters have overlooked season 5’s ‘Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken’).
The presence of a Starbucks coffee cup sitting on a table during the feast scene is an all too obvious metaphor for the slipping standards and attention to detail.
Many of the issues and problems have could have been overcome with some fairly simple additions of changes to help guide the viewer, but their absence makes the story feel hasty and piecemeal on many occasions. The presence of a Starbucks coffee cup sitting on a table during the feast scene is an all too obvious metaphor for the slipping standards and attention to detail.
While the closing moments of the episode were devoted to the failed parlay between Daenerys and Cersei, then the execution of Missandei, the most impactful death was that of the dragon Rhaegal. It seems as though the only real reason Rhaegal was shot down was to try and level the playing field and give Cersei some sort of hope.
The logistics of Euron’s fleet being able to ambush a flying dragon, shoot from behind a mountain and seemingly have pin point long distance accuracy from the deck of a moving ship are mind-boggling, but at least there’s been enough work done to establish Qyburn’s scorpions as a legitimate threat to the dragons.
While the dragons are one of the show’s calling cards, it’s never quite worked out how to use them effectively to tell the story. When a single piece on the board is so overwhelmingly powerful, it’s hard to actually establish tension and stakes between two opposing forces. Without Cersei having some kind of viable path to victory, there would be little intrigue over who would remain victorious.
Few would believe that Cersei really has any chance of ending the series perched on the Iron Throne. But the far more interesting aspect of the confrontation between Cersei and Daenerys is the idea of how far will Daenerys, Tyrion and co go to win. Are they willing to incinerate an entire city and all of its inhabitants to win? Are they willing to burn it all down to be the ruler of a kingdom of ash and bone. And if they do so, what comes next?