‘Game of Thrones’ 8×04 Review: We Played Ourselves

To be fair, we should have known. To be fair, we played ourselves.

We always knew this story wasn’t likely to have a happy ending, and yet the first three episodes of season eight had lulled us into a false sense of security. We always knew this predominantly white-male written/directed show had no idea what to do with female characters, much less POC, and yet, we let ourselves believe they’d do right by them, because we wanted them to.

Joke’s on us, I guess.

Or maybe joke’s on good storytelling. Because the show seems poised to deliver the bland, boring Daenerys turns into the Mad Queen, Jon has to kill her, and OMG then he’s too distraught to rule even though he’d be so good at it so he walks away from the Throne he never wanted to live out his days in the North, all while the Iron Throne as it stands is disbanded and oh yes, a Council OF MEN takes over.

Talk about the opposite of breaking the wheel.

And it’s poised to do that while giving the real forces behind this show, the women, the most cliched endings ever.

So let’s talk about “The Last of the Starks,” as we discuss the dumbass choices, the ship moments, the Mad Queen parallels and the Cersei of it all.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

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Look, Game of Thrones has been many things for 8+ years, but a place for nuanced female stories it has never been. And yet, for a moment there, they almost tricked us into thinking they were. Brienne’s knighting ceremony, Arya being the one to take out the Night King, for a moment there, the show allowed it’s female characters to shine bright, and we almost thought huh, maybe they do know what they’re doing.

We were wrong.

Or maybe, we were just looking at it the wrong way. They don’t know how to tell female stories, they never have, so the only times they have succeed with female characters is by using those female characters to tell, well, what they would consider “male stories.”

That is why so many people hate Sansa, that’s why her growth and her character arc is always so divisive – because she’s a woman who doesn’t fight with swords, but with cunning, with words. And the same thing the show, and it’s viewers, not just accept but revere when it comes to Tyrion, is frowned upon when Sansa does it. And I’m not talking just by the viewers, no, I’m talking about the way the show consistently frames Sansa as if she’s being unkind and/or a difficult just for asking common sense questions and protecting her family at all costs.

Ah, the male gaze. Such a powerful thing. The white male gaze, in this case, of course, because we also get to see in this episode how disposable characters like Missandei are to these writers. Her only value is on the pain she can cause a man and another woman. Her only value is in suffering. Same as Sansa, back in season 5, same as Brienne, who they treated like a hero just an episode ago, and is now reduced to sobbing woman, watching a man leave her.

Because that’s what women are on this show, that’s what they’ve always been, pieces in a game that is rigged against them, much like life. And we never, ever win.

A TALE OF TWO DOOMED SHIPS?

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I never thought Braime was going to give me what I got, and I absolutely never thought we were going to get a happy ending, but I’m this close to revolting if Jaime is really going back to Cersei to, I dunno, go back to Cersei. Because why? Because he thinks he isn’t worthy of Brienne? What kind of none-sense is that?

He had everything. Happiness was within his grasp. And he threw that away to go back to King’s Landing, I ask again, why? The show doesn’t give us a good reason, and though this is the same show that gave this man a wonderful redemption story, it is also the same show that thought haha rape in the middle of that redemption story was just something to be hand waved away, so forgive me if I don’t fully trust them when it comes to his arc.

Jamie walking away from Brienne to go back to Cersei hurts. Jaime doing it for any other reason than to end Cersei? That’d be nonsensical. So be very, very careful, Game of Thrones. VERY, VERY CAREFUL. You can still make it so he’s going back to kill her, which, of course, has a big chance of ending with his death, but hey, at least it wouldn’t betray the character. So please, I beg you, don’t destroy one of the best redemption arcs in the history of television just for the shock value of it all.

And then we’ve got Gendrya, following a more likely path to …whatever it is they’re going to end up being if they both survive. Right now my gut tells me they both will, and it tells me that Gendry, just as he accepted Storm’s End because he thought he had to be a Lord to be with Arya, would be willing to give it up if it meant actually being with her.

She’s never been a lady, after all, and he’s never been a lord, and they’ve loved each other anyway. That’s all that matters.

THE MAD QUEEN?

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Look, this is going to sound insane coming from me, because I have always, always been a Jon fan, and never a huge Daenerys one – even when I read the books I found her POV’s incredibly slow – so, of course, you’d think I’d be all like yay Jon is better suited to be King, and he does have the better claim, and Daenerys has, you know, some anger issues that she sometimes can’t control and all that, because that’s what the story is telling me, and yet, I find myself incredibly angry.

Because I have suddenly realized they always set up Daenerys to fail. She’s spent 8+ seasons working to be the best ruler she could be, making herself into a Queen, learning and fighting, and is she perfect, hell no, but then again, Jon isn’t either, and in fact, if you think about it, Jon isn’t even a leader, Sansa has led the North most of the time, all he’s done is fight losing battles and have women save him from clear defeat, over and over again.

Yet he’s better suited to be a King? Fuck that noise.

No, really, fuck it. I don’t even care that the actual narrative points towards this being true, because the writers control the narrative and they decided that Jon, the typical hero type, was going to end up being, well, the typical hero, even after they promised me they were going to tell me a different story. After they promised this was a story that was going to subvert the genre. After they promised these female characters were different.

But then again, as I said before, maybe it’s on us for having believed it. How can different stories come from the same type of writers, after all? Maybe we need to go out there and write those stories ourselves. If not, well, we’ll just end up again with the same old, same old.

MAD QUEEN 2.0

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I’m even starting to resent the fact that Cersei has acquired an edge of madness, though that makes a little more sense, because OF COURSE THE TWO STRONGEST FEMALE CHARACTERS HAD TO GO MAD AND THEN FACE EACH OTHER AND WHEN THEY TAKE EACH OTHER OUT, WHO WINS? THE MEN! Real groundbreaking storytelling there, Game of Thrones.

That’s not even going into Euron Greyjoy, the man with the most unearned wins in the history of unearned wins. He killed Rhaegal after the Night King and his army couldn’t? Just like that, bam, dragon gone? I cannot even, I swear to God. Absolutely every plot that has to do with someone named Greyjoy in the past 3+ seasons has been rushed and nonsensical, so I shouldn’t be surprised, and yet I am. This show has had some great villains in its time. Euron Greyjoy is not one of them.

But he gets to be there, at the end, next to a Cersei who’s clearly manipulating him, but who still has to sorta bend to his will and lie to him about being pregnant because haha the wily ways of tricky women, you know.

Allow me to roll my eyes.

Honestly, at this point, I wouldn’t even mind if Daenerys and Cersei managed to kill everyone and everything in their path before taking each other out. At least then I wouldn’t have to suffer through the most predictable ending in the history of television.

Things I think I think:

  • Someone please write me the Gendrya fic where Arya says yes, even though it’s not even in character. I need it.
  • Also, his surname is WATERS. WATEEEEEEEERS.
  • I’m not going to say that’s not a Starbucks cup on the table at the feast at Winterfell, because boy, it looks like one.
  • The Braime scene was the perfect culmination of the journey these two have taken, separately and together. So much of their journey has been about respect, and that was paid off in episode two, and so much has been about being a team, and that was paid off last episode. This was about the thing they never dared to say: that they loved each other, that the only way to truly love someone is to respect them, and that’s why their love was true.
  • If Jaime dies and he doesn’t make it back to Brienne, I’m making that scene my ending.
  • That’s what they both deserved.
  • Jaime Lannister did not go through one of the best redemption arcs in the history of TV for you to make him go back to Cersei, Game of Thrones.
  • Jon being like: I don’t keep secrets from my sisters is a MOOD. It’s also completely in fucking character, I’m not even sure why Daenerys is surprised, this is the man who wouldn’t lie to Cersei when that would have been the smarter play.
  • Getting mad at characters when they act in character is dumb.
  • Did Arya say goodbye to anyone? I mean, fine, maybe not Gendry after what he said, but Sansa?
  • I hate about 97% of this episode, I’m not gonna lie.
  • I miss the days where I was angrier at Avengers: Endgame than I was at Game of Thrones.

Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.



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