And so they marched for six years, expecting this day. We expected it, too. In a season of crowd pleasing moments — or at least moments the writers believed would be crowd-pleasing — at long last, we saw the culmination of the long march. With it, the Great War finally comes to Westeros. Perhaps it will not be what we expect, because what happens next when all the cards are on the table and all the theories proved true? What happens when the Army of the Dead knocks at the door?
But first, let’s talk about a dagger.
All season long, even before it took shape in a long-forgotten piece of evidence, I spoke of a dagger reaching for Petyr Baelish’s back. For a moment, he convinced me that he had found the upper hand once more. Even as I hoped the daughters of Catelyn Tully were smarter, I thought, perhaps, he’d found one more rung on his ladder and one more way to sit a throne of ashes. Instead, the dagger came for Little Finger face on and he saw death with his tear-filled eyes open. But not before all his plans and ambitions were made public. He arranged for the death of Jon Arryn and the attack on Bran — the events which precipitated the distrust between House Stark and House Lannister. He betrayed Ned at the end, leading to the War of the Five Kings. He pushed Lysa Arryn out the Moon Door, securing his hold on the Vale. So much of Westeros’ strife in the last seven years was his doing. And for what? A chance to comfort a grieving Cat? An opportunity to, perhaps, satisfy his Tully fetish with Sansa? Or did he actually think sowing so much chaos would leave him with a path to the Iron Throne?
These questions are academic, of course, as Lord Baelish finally bled out on the floor of Winterfell’s Great Hall, exposed for all his crimes and unloved by the surviving Tully women. His ladder was, in the end, so much ash.
And in the end, we saw Sansa was smarter than she appeared these last few episodes. Her quarrels with Arya, even if based on some truths, were just show to offer Little Finger some security. In the last few weeks, some even suggested the characters were being written out of character to prop up some out of place sisterly rivalry going into the eighth season. Instead, Ned Stark’s words rang true: the pack survived. Oh, and it was joyous to see the three surviving children of Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully united to defeat a cunning opponent.
Oh, but let’s talk about Ned’s adopted children for a moment. Specifically, Theon Greyjoy. It is interesting that Jon would offer him some forgiveness and highlight Ned was more his father than Balon Greyjoy ever was. It speaks to another issue of fatherhood spelled out later, but also offers poor old Reek some solace. Which, much like the moment with Arya and Sansa on the Winterfell parapet, reminds you of what these two were like as boys all those year ago: the serious Jon Snow and the carousing Theon. Then to see them now, the broken Reek (it rhymes with leak) and the King in the North. That the latter could offer Theon anything but the dagger he deserves was monumental. But I suppose Jon’s words are still a dagger in a way. They led Theon to the only things he has left to do in this life: send Euron to the Watery Halls and set Yara upon the Seastone Chair.
Yeah, I know the show uses another name for the Ironborn’s throne. I just don’t care to use it.
South in King’s Landing, the truce meeting went about as well as you could expect. Old friends and enemies greeted one another. Bronn and Tyrion exchanged more substantial words than they did a few weeks ago. Brienne even offered the Hound some kinds words by letting him know Arya was alive and dangerous. His slight smile was an indication of pride. But then he faced his zombie brother in the eye and all I can imagine anyone thinking at that moment was “Get Hype.” Oh, but not yet. First, the Dead must be confronted.
It is interesting to see that Drunk Queen Cersei played the game about as well as Sansa did. I have to assume the wight genuinely unsettled her and, perhaps, changed part of the plan. But she knew exactly what she was going to offer and how she was going to do it; all carefully staged for maximum impact. Her storming out, her conversation with Tyrion: all of it was crafted to send the Dragon camp north. And you have to appreciate the way she played on Tyrion’s sympathies. Too bad she cannot see that the thing growing inside her will be her undoing. Well, maybe the Iron Bank will be her undoing. You have to imagine they and the Golden Company will have some vested interests in the Great War, too.
Considering she’s bringing the Golden Company to Westeros, does this mean Jon Connington and Little Aegon are on their way?
The Dance of Dragons took a stunning turn this week, moving from my joke about the chaste romance of aunt and nephew to a full-fledged and confirmed incestuous union. And, somehow, we’re okay with that. It’s all finally spelled out thanks to Bran and Sam: Jon is the natural born son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. He’s also the true heir to the Iron Throne. It also looks like he’s going to sire an heir. And again, we’re okay with that. But, perhaps, Tyrion is not. He may see the wheel turning again with their dance.
But isn’t interesting how many fan theories are now text? The ice dragon, R+L= J, the courtship of Daenerys and Jon. It also seems clear that we’ll get Cleganebowl next year. I have to say it gives me a little pause as an Ice and Fire reader. George R.R. Martin could have offered all of these things to the series while reserving something much more traumatizing for the books. It’s not hard to think that Game of Thrones will end in a victorious, crowd-pleasing note while A Dream of Spring, should it ever be published, end with everyone and everything buried in ice.
Oh, and speaking of ice, the breaking of the wall was everything I wanted to see. It was everything I expected to see. But was anyone else more worried about the fate of Tormund Giantsbane? He better emerge from Eastwatch as one of the living when Game of Thrones returns. Although, even if he’s dead, I imagine he’ll still return.