SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Game Of Thrones Season 7 finale.
Like most of Season 7 itself, tonight’s sprawling Game Of Thrones penultimate season finale can be best encapsulated in five terms: betrayal, bloody, bullion, battle and big. Very big.
Only rivaled in the rarefied pantheon of the current Peak TV era by The Walking Dead in many ways, the two-time Best Drama Emmy winner tonight fought off a summer of hacks, leaks, hype and repeated record viewership to deliver not only its longest episode yet in “The Dragon And The Wolf” but also certainly one of its best.
However, amidst the unsurprising but beautifully rendered death of the perpetually scheming Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), and the dragon-enabled Night King’s army breaking through the Wall at the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, one once vital term that cannot be used more in the series based on George R.R. Martin’s books is bastard. As the flashback envisioned by Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) to the secret marriage between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark makes at last clear, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is not illegitimate. In fact, as current King of the North, Snow makes love to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who is actually his aunt as well as the Queen to whom he has pledged to bend the knee. It is also clear that Jon, born with the name of Aegon Targaryen, is the true heir to the Iron Throne.
After relatively few fatalities this year, the death of Littlefinger and the long-feared and blue-flamed advance of the Army of the Dead will likely fill the first wave of fanbase jaw-drops tonight. However, it is Snow’s true lineage and the implications of his now romantic as well as political relationship to the throne-aspiring Dany that sets the board for Season 8. Fulfilling the job of a good season finale (not as often accomplished as it should be), GoT’s seven-episode crescendo in this penultimate cycle has more than effectively brought all the forces of nature that make up the main characters of Westeros and Essos into direct collusion.
To that end, swooping and burning towards next year’s six-episode finale like one of Dany’s dragons, tonight’s David Benioff and D.B. Weiss-penned “The Dragon and the Wolf” finale at nearly 80 minutes was ultimately, absolutely, and appropriately epic. With overlapping storylines of revelations, revenge, sibling allegiances and dissolution — underhanded and otherwise — and a seemingly unwinnable war that sees the still-bickering factions in diabolical disarray due to the double play of everyone including Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the savvy Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, the brothers of Queen Cersei Lannister (a truly top notch and again Emmy-nomination deserving Lena Headey) as the Army of the Dead advance, the GoT season ender cunningly blurred whatever line remains between the small and big screens in a way that may be as game-changing as the HBO blockbuster’s plot itself.
As a deep admirer of the infamous Red Wedding “Rains of Castamere” episode of Season 3, the praise for tonight’s Jeremy Podeswa-helmed finale comes in the context of a season that has seen several strapping episodes. It is also a season — in which which Emmy winner Podeswa helmed the ambitious “Dragonstone” opener July 16 — that has seen a new scope emerging in GoT, as scene after scene of Sunday’s finale displayed. It has richly brought the previously, mainly visually imagined 67-episode series to life – and yes, I am talking in great part about those grand battle scenes with dragons Drogon, Rhaegal, and the now Night King-serving Viserion, White Walkers and Dothraki hordes.
Heaping more praise on the well-praised GoT, I say that too of tonight’s finale, as the hundred thousand strong Army of the Dead truly bring winter here and the tens of thousands of those in service to the rich Iron Bank of Braavos stand ready to back up Cersei’s power play after the King’s Landing summit of principals ended with the duplicitous Queen aiming to see all her enemies destroy themselves. The scale of melodrama seemed almost shrewdly sparse in an episode that was actually jam-packed.
All of which simultaneously streamlines and layers the upcoming final season to what lurches toward no less than a figurative and literal battle royale (to employ an overused term), as a final ending of the often profane Game Of Thrones has to be at this point.
Discussing the August 20 “Beyond The Wall” episode, director Alan Taylor said last week that “now everything’s converging, and that’s going to get only more so in Season 8 when really, all the storylines come together.” Or as The Hound (Rory McCann) said to the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) in tonight’s finale, “You know who’s coming for you brother, you’ve always known.”