The eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is April 14th so I thought this would be the perfect time to re-watch 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.
The Story in Westeros
While much of the action in earlier seasons focused on King’s Landing, we have very few main characters left there. Cersei is the main focus in King’s Landing and seems to bounce back from her walk of shame through the city. She is back to scheming and plotting along with Qyburn and the zombie Mountain. If anything, Cersei has become worse and tries to control Tommen as best she can. This backfires as Tommen is dedicated to Margaery and is focused on getting her out of prison.
Margaery recognizes that the only way to get away from the Sparrows is to show that she is dedicated to the Faith. She is able to play the High Sparrow and gain a bit of freedom, and also brings Tommen to her side. Her plan seems to be working until the season finale when Cersei wins the game in King’s Landing. In one of my favorite scenes in all of television, Cersei works with Qyburn to blow up the Sept of Baelor during what should have been her trial. She is able to take out all of the Tyrells (other than Olenna), her uncle Kevan, the High Sparrow, and most of the Faith Militant.
The scene itself is beautifully shot and the music is amazing. The tension that is built as the viewer starts to realize what is about to happen is almost perfect. Then it ends with Tommen walking out of a window when he realizes what his mother has done. This is the only flaw in her plan. She has now lost all of her children, and if Jamie’s reaction to her coronation is any indication, she will also lose Jamie. Cersei now has complete control over King’s Landing and will look to bring the rest of the Seven Kingdoms under her thumb.
Cersei sends Jamie to the Riverlands, with Bronn in tow, to try to take Riverrun. Catelyn Stark’s uncle, whom we last saw leaving during the Red Wedding, has taken back the castle and is set up to weather a siege. A few of Walder Frey’s sons are trying to take the castle but are not having any luck. When Jamie arrives he takes over for the Freys and meets with the Blackfish. Eventually, Brienne also arrives at Riverrun to ask for the Blackfish to help the Starks re-take Winterfell.
The meeting between Brienne and Jamie is a great bit of character building for both of them. Ever since their travels in Season 3, the two have had such a great relationship. You can tell they genuinely like and care about each other, even if they are fighting on opposite sides. When Jamie does take the castle, he sees Brienne (and Podrick Payne) sailing away from the castle but says nothing. He just lets her go. I hope they see each other again in future seasons and are able to end the series on good terms.
Prior to his death in Season 5 Jon sent Sam to the Citadel to become the next Maester of the Night’s Watch. Gilly and Little Sam travel with him with the expectation that they will go to stay with Sam’s family. Upon arriving home, Sam is greeted warmly by all of his family except his father. They get into a verbal spat at dinner the night Sam is there, so he takes Gilly and the baby and leaves for the Citadel. Before leaving, he grabs his family’s Valyrian Steel sword out of spite for his father. Sam and Gilly end the season trying to gain admittance to the Citadel.
The Story in the North
At the Wall and South
After Jon is murdered by a faction of the Night’s Watch, Davos and those loyal to Jon secure his body and Ghost watches over it. Davos appeals to Melisandre to raise Jon from the dead and a few tries, Melisandre is able to bring Jon back to life. While protecting Jon’s body, Davos sends Edd to bring the Wildlings Jon saved in Season 5 back to Castle Black to help deal with those opposed to Jon. When Jon returns to life and faces his brothers, the Wildlings return and turn the tide. Jon then executes the traitors, including Ollie, who Jon rescued back in Season 3.
Sansa and Theon escaped Winterfell at the end of Season 5 and run into Brienne and Pod on their way to Castle Black, who helps them escape from the Bolton men sent after them. After being rescued, they go their separate ways with Theon heading back to the Iron Isles, and Sansa going to join Jon at the wall.
The reunion of Jon and Sansa is the first of many upcoming Stark reunions and is a pleasure to watch. Even though Jon and Sansa did not interact much at the beginning of the series, they seem genuinely happy to see each other and agree to join forces to defeat the Boltons. Jon and Sansa, along with the Wildlings and Davos, tour the North to find bannermen still loyal to them, enabling them to re-take Winterfell. During this time they do not get many, but those they do get to join them are valuable.
Eventually, they are in a position to attack Ramsay and create a plan to draw him out instead of clashing with him directly. This goes down the tube when Ramsay sends Rickon Stark out on the battlefield and kills him with an arrow. Jon rushes out to get him and thus begins the Battle of the Bastards. This is one of the most amazing battles ever shown on TV. The magnitude of the battle is the largest on the show so far and how they show the crush of battle is incredible. I can only hope that the battles in the final season can rival this one. Ramsay is able to use his numbers to whittle Jon’s army down and put them in a dire position until the armies of the Vale show up to save the day. Sansa had secretly been working with Little Finger and was able to save the day without Jon’s knowledge.
After being saved by the riders of the Vale, Jon, and a few others race to get Ramsay as he flees to Winterfell. Jon is able to defeat Ramsay but lets Sansa determine his punishment. She has Ramsay’s dogs, who hadn’t eaten in days, finish him off in what is a very satisfying scene. After the Starks take Winterfell, those who had been loyal to them, name Jon the King in the North.
The Iron Isles
After leaving Sansa, Theon heads home to the Iron Isles where his father is killed by his uncle, Euron. This leads to a King’s Moot to choose a new King, or as Yara hopes, a new Queen. Theon throws his claim behind his sister and it seems like she will win the throne until Euron shows up. Euron ends up becoming the new King while Theon and Yara flee across the narrow sea. The two head to Meereen to ally themselves with Daenerys.
North of the Wall
After a season on the sidelines, Bran and Meera return this season. We re-join them north of the wall as Bran trains with the Three-Eyed Raven. His training consists of seeing the past with the Raven as his guide. This is some of the best stuff of the season as we get to see some of the history of Westeros, including the birth of Jon Snow. Through these visions, we see the past of some key characters, including Ned Stark and Hodor. Some of the things Bran sees are only hinted at in the books so seeing them on the screen is great for fans of the books and show.
One of the more important visions seen with the Three-Eyed Raven is the creation of the White Walkers. We find out that the Children of the Forest created them by shoving Dragon Glass through a man’s heart. Where the White Walkers came from has been an open question throughout the series and seeing their origins is great for fans. We also learn that they were created to help the Children of the Forest in their fight against the First Men. This obviously backfired on them and it’ll be interesting to see how this affects what happens in Season 8.
After seeing several visions of his father’s past, including the battle at the Tower of Joy at the end of Robert’s Rebellion, Bran strikes out on his own while the Three-Eyed Raven is asleep. Instead of seeing into the past, Bran looks to the present and encounters the Night King. The Night King reaches out and touches Bran, finding his location and breaking the barrier the Three-Eyed Raven had created to keep the Night King away. The hideout is attacked and Leaf, the Three-Eyed Raven, and Bran’s Dire Wolf Summer, all sacrifice themselves so the humans can escape. Meera and Bran get out but Hodor is not as lucky.
During the attack, Bran is in a vision seeing a young Ned in Winterfell. A young Hodor is also in the vision and Meera asks Bran to warg into him in the present. Bran does so but stays in the vision and the young Hodor sees Bran – and I believe there is some sort of connection between Bran, young Hodor, and old Hodor. Bran is able to control Hodor in the present while seeing Hodor in the past, where Hodor has a seizure and keeps repeating “Hold the door” until the word slur into just “Hodor,” thus giving him his name. This may be one of the saddest deaths in the storyline, and will surely eat at Bran for the remainder of the series.
After escaping from the Night King, Bran and Meera are rescued by Bran’s uncle Benjen, who went missing north of the Wall in season 1. Benjen takes the place of a character from the books named Cold Hands. He is working with the Three-Eyed Raven and helps Bran and Meera get south of the Wall so they can get to Winterfell. Just before going south, Bran finishes the vision of his father trying to rescue Lyanna Stark at the Tower of Joy. During the vision, we learn that Jon is not the son of Ned, but really the son of Lyanna and Rheagar Targaryen, Daenerys’ brother. This has been long theorized as Jon’s parentage by fans of the books, but is now fully confirmed and will have implications as we finish the series.
The Story in Essos
Arya starts the season as a blind beggar as punishment for killing Meryn Trant. The Faceless Men do not leave her alone out there though. The Waif comes daily to Arya and makes her fight with a staff. At first, Arya has trouble with the daily fights but eventually adapts and is able to keep pace with The Waif. This is enough to allow the Faceless Men to allow her back into the House of Black and White.
Arya is given another chance at fulfilling a contract, this time she is supposed to kill an actress. What should be a fairly simple task is complicated by the play that the acting troupe is performing; one that parodies the events in King’s Landing through Joffrey’s death. This causes Arya to face her past; something the Faceless Men are not supposed to do. She is so moved by her target’s performance that she decides to abort the kill and call out the women who hired her.
Again, Arya is not able to let go of her past to truly join the Faceless Men. This instead of waiting for her punishment, Arya leaves the House of Black and White and retrieves her sword, Needle, (which she hid in Season 4) and finds a place in the sewers. The Faceless Men do not leave her alone for long as The Waif has been given permission to kill Arya for her betrayal.
What comes next is one of the lower points in the season. The Waif stabs Arya repeatedly in the stomach and Arya somehow survives (as well as surviving a fall into the canal) the attack. She then goes to the actress she saved earlier who happens to know how to sew up Arya’s wounds. The Waif eventually finds Arya and kills the actress which initiates a Terminator-like chase scene. The sequence is rough but does have a satisfying conclusion with Arya killing the Waif in the dark and delivering her face to the House of Black and White. After dispatching The Waif, fully embraces her past and truly becomes Arya of Winterfell again. Her arc ends in the Twins where she takes the face of a serving girl and gets revenge on Walder Frey after a feast celebrating the capture of Riverrun.
At the end of Season 5, Daenerys flew off with Drogon and was taken by the Dothraki. She starts off the season dealing with that and is able to bring the Dothraki back to her side by burning most of their leaders. This could have been done a bit quicker but does lead to some entertaining interactions between her and the Dothraki. We also get to see Jorah and Daario Naharis team up to try to rescue her. After rescuing her, she learns that Jorah has contracted Grey Scale and sends him away to find a cure for it.
Meanwhile, back in Meereen Tyrion tries to keep the peace in the city with the help of Varys, Grey Worm, and Missandei. During his brief reign, he frees the two dragons that Daenerys had locked underneath one of the pyramids in Meereen. The scene where he frees the dragons is incredibly well shot and it is great for him to see them up close. Overall, he does an admirable job at first but the armies and navies from the other cities in Slaver’s Bay show up to besiege Meereen. Luckily, it is at this moment the Daenerys returns with an army of her own.
Daenerys uses her dragons to finally free Meereen once and for all in a sequence that shows the full power of her dragons. This is the first time we really see what her dragons can do and it is awesome. We have always known that the dragons are a game-changer, but seeing them reign down fire on the ships of the slavers is fantastic. After defeating the armies, Daenerys finally sets her sights on Westeros. The season closes on her armada, which has been buoyed by the Greyjoys, Dorne, and the forces of Highgarden. The wait to see her in Westeros is almost over.
Final Thoughts and Looking Forward
Season 6 has a lot of ups and downs but ends on a particularly high note. The final two episodes are probably the best up to that point and create a lot of momentum heading into Season 7. The weakest part of the season is definitely Arya’s arc and the way it ends. The idea of her becoming an assassin is great, but the execution is subpar.
One minor arc that I did forget to mention is the return of the Hound. Arya left him for dead at the end of Season 4, but he was able to survive his battle with Brienne. We see him with a group building a sept somewhere in Westeros seemingly at peace. The group is attacked and everyone but him is killed. This spurs him into action and he ends up joining the Brotherhood without Banners, last seen in Season 3. He will have a larger role in Season 7, but I didn’t want to forget his role this season.