The eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones premieres in April so I thought this would be the perfect time to rewatch the series. I will be writing about each season as I finish watching them with what is going on and some tidbits on what I noticed this time around. Warning: There will be spoilers for all seasons of Game of Thrones and these articles assume knowledge of future events.
Season 2 ends in a very different place than Season 1. Stannis has been defeated at King’s Landing, Joffrey has set aside Sansa in favor of Margery Tyrell, Arya has escaped Harrenhal, Bran and Rickon are fleeing Winterfell, the Night’s Watch is about to be attacked by the White Walkers, and Jon is trying to convince the Wildlings he is one of them. Season 3 moves things forward more and has some shocks in store.
The Story in Westeros
As with the other seasons, most of the action is in Westeros but is split among several stories. Eventually, these stories will converge but that will take a few seasons.
King’s Landing was saved from Stannis through a combination of Tyrion’s planning and Tywin saving the day with the help of the Tyrells. Tywin spends the season as the Hand of the King while Tyrion is relegated to the Master of Coin. A lot of the season is spent focusing on the wedding of Joffrey and Margery during which we see a lot of political maneuvering. Margery’s grandmother, Oleanna, enters the fold and it is clear she really knows how to play the game. She helps Margery navigate the politics of King’s Landing and helps her play off of Joffrey’s weaknesses to gain his favor. We also see how Oleanna tries to protect Sansa from the Lannisters.
Cersei is still up to her tricks and political maneuvering. She sees what Margery is doing to Joffrey and tries her best to stop it, but with little success. Joffrey eats out of Margery’s hands and seems to really listen to her. Tywin also gets in on the action as Hand of the King. Tyrion was able to exhibit some control over Joffrey but Tywin took it to the next level. He repeatedly talks down to him and at one point “sends him to bed without supper.” It’s great to watch and Tywin is one of my favorite characters every time he is on the screen.
Sansa is in a precarious position after Joffrey decides to marry Margery instead. She is free from having to marry him but is still a prisoner in King’s Landing. Joffrey still tries to humiliate her whenever he can including during her wedding to Tyrion. Early in the season, it looks like Sansa will marry Margery’s brother, Loras, but Tywin ends that plot by forcing her to marry Tyrion. Sansa has a really tough story throughout most of the show and never seems to catch a break. As viewers, we know how Tyrion really is, but all Sansa can see is that he is a Lannister. You really start to feel bad for her during this season since she gains some glimmer of hope that is taken away from here, again.
By the end of the Season, Joffrey is as happy as we have seen him due to the death of the Starks, Sansa is married to Tyrion, and the Lannisters are poised to be in control of the Seven Kingdoms with Joffrey’s impending marriage to Margery.
For most of the Season, Robb Stark and his army are holed up in the Riverlands. He attends the funeral of his grandfather, Hoster Tully, and stays in Riverrun for most of the season. Not a lot happens to Robb for the majority of the season, but the end of the season brings the Red Wedding.
In order to cross south at the Twins, Robb promised to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters but Robb fell in love with Talisa and married her instead. Walder Frey saw this as a slight towards his house and asked for Catelyn’s brother, Edmure, to marry one of his daughters instead. Edmure agrees to this (with a little push from his uncle the Blackfish) and everyone heads to the Twins for the wedding which will be forever known as the Red Wedding.
Walder Frey was so upset by Robb’s breaking of his oath that he conspires with the Lannisters (and Roose Bolton) to murder the Starks during the wedding. The Red Wedding may be one of the most brutal scenes in the show to date. After an evening of drinking and merrymaking archers turn on the guests in the hall and murder them all. Catelyn is able to cut the throat of Walder’s wife, but Robb, Catelyn, Talisa are all killed. The Red Wedding will have reverberations throughout Westeros and all but end the War of the Five Kings. This also puts an end to the Stark rebellion and also sends Arya, who arrives at the Twins during the Red Wedding, on a dark path.
Arya and the Hound
After escaping from Harrenhal with Gendry and Hot Pie, Arya and the others are captured by the Brotherhood without Banners. This group is led by Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr and have been causing trouble for the Lannisters throughout Westeros. They plan to sell Arya back to the Starks to help fund their crusade but this doesn’t go as planned. The group runs into the Hound who has fled King’s Landing and they capture him as well. At this point, Arya is still angry at him for killing her friend in the second episode of the series and has him tried by combat against Beric.
The Hound actually kills Beric to win his freedom but Beric is brought back to life by the Lord of Light through Thoros. Beric is able to still lead the Brotherhood who gives Gendry to Melisandre to take back to Stannis. Arya escapes from them and is taken by the Hound. This starts one of the greatest pairings in the history of this show. The Hound just wants to escape from everything and will do what he feels is needed to get to that goal. Arya tries to keep him more moral and the two end up respecting each other by the end of the season. This relationship will continue in Season 4 after the two escape the Red Wedding.
Stannis suffered a humiliating defeat when he assaulted King’s Landing and ran back to Dragonstone to lick his wounds. Davos (who is one of my favorite characters on the show) makes his way back to Stannis but is thrown in jail when he tries to kill Melisandre. He blames her for their failures and thinks she is putting too many bad ideas into Stannis’ head. We also get to meet Stannis wife, Selyse, and daughter, Shireen. Stannis is very cold with his wife, who is a devout follower of the Lord of Light, but truly loves his daughter.
Like Robb, Stannis is fairly stationary and stays on Dragonstone for the duration of the season. He does send Melisandre to get Gendry, who is Robert’s bastard son, and attempts to use his blood to win the war. As a test, Melisandre puts three leeches with his blood into the fire and asks the Lord of Light to kill Robb, Joffrey, and Balon Greyjoy. Stannis sees the Red Wedding as proof that the Lord of Light is on his side and plans to sacrifice Gendry. Davos does not agree with this plan and frees Gendry by sending him away on a rowboat. We won’t see Gendry again for a few seasons, but he will play a role in the war to come.
Jamie and Brienne
Brienne has been charged with taking Jamie to King’s Landing to trade him for Sansa and Arya. The pair spends the season trying to get back to King’s Landing but runs into some trouble. They are captured by Roose Bolton’s men and brought to the Dreadfort. Here Jamie loses his right hand but also saves Brienne from a couple of bad situations. During their capture, you can see the two form a bond of mutual respect (especially after Brienne beats Jamie in a sword fight). They eventually do get back to King’s Landing, but you can tell both have changed. Their return also brings Qyburn, a disgraced maester, to Cersei and we will see the effects of his presence in future seasons.
This may be one of my favorite plots in this season and going forward. Jamie starts the series as an uncaring villain but is transformed into someone you want to root for. Over the next couple of seasons, we will also see him break away from Cersei’s grip and hopefully become one of the heroes of the story.
Bran and Rickon
With Winterfell destroyed by Theon, Bran and Rickon run north with the help of Hodor and Osha. They meet up with Jojen and Meera Reed, who help them as they go north. Jojen is a green seer and is able to see bits of the future. He is drawn to Bran due to Bran’s visions of the Three-Eyed Raven. Jojen helps Bran with his powers as they head north, although he wants to go north of the Wall while Osha wants to stay south of it.
During the season, Bran wargs into his wolf Summer more and more as he becomes discontent with his own body. This starts to worry his companions but also leads Bran warging into Hodor to calm him down. This is is the first time we see anyone warg into another human, and as those who have seen through Season 7 know, will ultimately lead to Hodor’s condition and death.
At the end of the season, Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor agree to keep going north to find the Three-Eyed Raven (and run into Sam Tarly) and Osha and Rickon agree to stay south of the Wall. We won’t see Rickon and Osha again for a few seasons so we don’t know exactly what happens to them during that time, but we do know that Rickon does not learn to zigzag…
Theon and Ramsay
The final major storyline in Westeros belongs to Theon who is fresh off of his failed attempt to hold Winterfell. Ramsay Snow (Roose Bolton’s bastard son) has taken Theon and let’s just say things are not pleasant for Theon. This is the hardest part of the season to watch. Theon spends the whole season being tortured by Ramsay and it is brutal. Ramsay tortures Theon both physically and psychologically. He takes parts from Theon, taunts him, and on multiple occasions lets him think he is going to be freed only to be captured again. I think this part of the season could have been toned down or cut down to make room for more interesting stories. It will be important later though as it breaks Theon down so he can be redeemed and sets Ramsay up as worse than Joffrey.
The Story in Essos
After rescuing her dragons from Qarth, Daenerys and company head to Astapor to buy an army of Unsullied warriors. While in Astapor, Daenerys again wants to end slavery and set them all free. She does this in one of my favorite scenes of the season.
So Daenerys is able to get her soldiers, who become even more loyal to her now that they are free, and keeps her dragons. This scene shows how Daenerys is compassionate, but at the same time is not afraid to burn her enemies. After Astapor she turns to Yunkai and again is able to free the slaves of the city. Next season she will head to Mehreen to free that city but will be stuck there for a while until heading to Westeros.
Daenerys picks up a few new allies this season in Ser Barristan Selmy, previously of Robert’s King’s Guard, and Grey Worm and Missandei who came from Astapor. Barristan will become one of her most trusted advisers and lead her guards. Grey Worm commands the Unsullied and Missandei is her main translator.
The Story at the Wall and Beyond
Jon has joined the Wildlings and hopes to convince them that he is one of them. He meets with Mance Rayder who believes that Jon has switched sides and has him accompany a group who are going south of the Wall. The Wall climb is a great episode and one of the more thrilling parts of the season. Jon and the wildlings, including Ygritte who Jon falls in love with, make it across the Wall and head towards Castle Black. Mance’s plan is to have them attack from the south while the main Wildling army attacks from the north. Jon is not able to stay with the Wildlings and flees towards Castle Black as Ygritte shoots him with several arrows. It’s clear that Ygritte does not want to kill him and Jon is torn between his love for Ygritte and his duty to the Watch. This is also when we are introduced to Tormund, who becomes a fan favorite in later seasons.
Elsewhere north of the Wall, the men of the Night’s Watch have been attacked by the White Walkers and are fleeing back to the Wall. They stop at Craster’s Keep where everything goes wrong. Several in the Watch don’t trust the Lord Commander and during a brawl kill him. The mutineers also kill Craster and keep his home for themselves. Sam escapes with Gilly and they head towards the Wall with her newborn. On the way, they are attacked by a White Walker and Sam is able to kill him with a Dragonglass dagger, setting up a hunt for more Dragonglass in later seasons.
Final Thoughts and A Look Forward
This was another great season and changes the landscape of the show going forward. The Red Wedding alone killed off several major characters and wiped out an army vying for the throne. We also see some of the greatest pairings on the show start to form with Arya and The Hound, and Jamie and Brienne. The show does the moments between characters so well and it is a joy to see these moments again with the knowledge of what is coming.
Season 4 will keep up the momentum with more great moments between Arya and The Hound, the death of Joffrey, and the introduction of new characters like Oberyn Martell.s