"The Last of the Starks" is the fourth episode of the eighth season of Game of Thrones. It is the seventy-first episode of the series overall. It premiered on May 5, 2019. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter.
At the Winterfell feast
Following the final battle against the White Walkers, Winterfell has been cleared of the thousands of corpses in and around it. The fallen are gathered into dozens of funeral pyres, and Jon Snow gives a eulogy that it is the duty of those who survived to keep them alive in memory for generations to come. Quoting the funeral speech used for members of the Night's Watch, he announces that they were the shields that guarded the realms of men, and they will never see their like again: now their watch is ended. The assembled leaders go forward with torches to light the pyres: Sansa Stark weeps over Theon Greyjoy's body, taking a pin with the Stark direwolf sigil off of her own gown and adding it to his chest, to show that he was a Greyjoy and had redeemed himself as a Stark. Daenerys lights Jorah Mormont's pyre, Jon lights young Lyanna Mormont's pyre, Arya lights Beric Dondarrion's pyre, and Samwell lights the pyre of Dolorous Edd.
That night, the survivors hold a victory feast in the great hall of Winterfell, though so many died that the mood is somber at first. Gendry gets up to go look for Arya, but as he passes the high table, Daenerys calls on him, noting that he is Robert Baratheon's son - the man who overthrew her family. Gendry humbly responds that he didn't even know that Robert was his father until after he died. Daenerys then asks him who the Lord of Storm's End is now that Robert is dead: he says he doesn't know, then she asks the entire hall, rhetorically, who the lord of Storm's End is now (with both of Robert's brothers, Stannis and Renly, also dead). Daenerys declares that she will make Gendry the new Lord of Storm's End, as a reward for his heroism. Gendry is shocked, and says he cannot be, as he is only Robert's bastard son. Daenerys quickly addresses this by announcing that in her power as queen, she legitimizes him as "Gendry Baratheon", rightful son of Robert - nominally the new lord of Storm's End and head of a revived House Baratheon. Davos Seaworth, from the Stormlands, toasts the newly made Gendry Baratheon, followed by the rest of the hall. Quietly at the main table, however, Tyrion notes to Daenerys - with approval - that this wasn't an altogether altruistic move, but politically wise: this props up Gendry as a rival claimant to rule of the Stormlands instead of Cersei, while at the same time pacifying what could have been a rival claimant to the Iron Throne by making him dependent on her favor. Sansa looks over at the exchange between Daenerys and Tyrion, silently distressed.
However, despite any lingering resentment, the mood is lightened and the hall becomes more celebratory, as everyone starts drinking heavily and boasting about their deeds in the battle. Tyrion talks to Davos, who tells him about Melisandre's death: he was going to kill her, but then she died, "Or her god did it to her." Davos wonders what this all means: he hated Melisandre, but she had a real connection to some sort of higher power - which she called the "Lord of Light", but whatever it was, their last connection to it ended with her. Why, he wonders, would this divine power directly intervene in their affairs - only to then leave them after the great danger passed? With the White Walkers defeated, what are they supposed to do now? Tyrion says he doesn't think pondering this subject will make him any happier. Davos says he's not trying to be happy and Tyrion remarks that's good, "We have defeated them but we still have us to deal with." Tyrion then speaks to Bran Stark, pointing out that as Ned Stark's last trueborn son he should be the lawful heir to Winterfell and the North - but Bran says he won't ever be a lord now (as he is the magical Three-eyed raven and removed from human affairs). Tyrion says he envies Bran for his powers, but Bran says he wouldn't - he mostly just lives in memories of the past now.
Tormund and Sansa encourage Jon to chug an entire horn of wine in one go. Jon declines, "Vomiting is not celebrating," but Tormund replies, "Yes, it is," and raises his horn, "To the Dragon Queen!" As the hall cheers, Daenerys stands up and makes her own toast, "To Arya Stark, the hero of Winterfell!" prompting more cheers and getting a smile from the Hound. Jon and Daenerys share a smile, which is noticed by Sansa who leaves the table. Meanwhile, Tyrion settles into playing his "I Have Never"-style drinking game with his brother Jaime, Brienne of Tarth, and Podrick Payne. Jaime and Brienne playfully argue over whether or not she told him she was an only child but Brienne ends up having to take a drink. Then Jaime tells Brienne she danced with Renly Baratheon. Brienne looks at Pod, who smiles and shrugs, and Tyrion simply tells her, "Drink!" Meanwhile, a drunken Tormund laughs and drinks, praising Jon and going over their history: he made friends with an enemy (Tormund himself), got himself killed for it but didn't stay dead (which everyone seems to laugh off as just drunken boasting), and that he keeps fighting. Daenerys watches this exchange despondently and when Tormund declares, "He climbed on a fucking dragon and fought. What kind of person climbs on a fucking dragon? A madman or a king!" Jon turns around to look at Daenerys, who gives him a smile and raises her glass. However, after Jon returns her smile and turns back to the conversation, Daenerys becomes more and more downcast as she looks around the hall at the groups of people - first to Tyrion, Brienne, Pod, and Jaime playing their drinking game and then to Jon, Tormund, Davos, who are joined by some wildlings. Varys notices Daenerys's mood and isolation, quietly becoming concerned. Daenerys gets up to leave the hall.
Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, and Pod continue their drinking game. Brienne correctly guesses that Tyrion was married to someone else before his forced marriage to Sansa. She takes another guess that Tyrion is drinking wine but prefers ale. Tyrion yells, "No!" and Brienne must take another drink. Brienne and Jaime exchange smiles and Tyrion, now very drunk, tells Brienne, "You're a virgin." Brienne's smile fades and Pod takes a drink. Tyrion drunkenly guesses that Brienne has never slept with anyone. Brienne doesn't answer, gets up, and says she must relieve herself.
Tormund drunkenly propositions Brienne, whom he is smitten with (unlike southern knights, he respects a warrior woman) but is rebuffed by her and the intervention of Jaime. Comically heartbroken, Tormund commiserates with Sandor Clegane, but soon Northern serving girls start hitting on Tormund, an impressive hero of the battle, and they leave. Sandor, however, stays drinking alone - shooing away another serving girl who seemed surprisingly interested in him. Seeing him, Sansa Stark comes to his table to sit with him: the last time they spoke was the Battle of the Blackwater, he offered to try to sneak her out of the city as he abandoned his post, but she felt it was too risky and declined. He says he heard that she was taken by Littlefinger. After that, Sandor comments that she was "broken in rough" - marrying Ramsay Bolton, who raped and imprisoned her. Sansa says that without Littlefinger and the rest, she'd have just stayed a "little bird" her whole life, but the abuse she suffered from Ramsay made her strong. He asks how she had Ramsay executed, and when she says she killed him with "hounds" he laughs (as he is commonly nicknamed "The Hound").
After the feast at Winterfell
Slipping out of the hall, Gendry finds Arya practicing archery alone in the stables. He happily announces to her that he is no longer a bastard, but has been officially made "Gendry Baratheon" and the new lord of Storm's End by Daenerys. She is very happy for him, but then he says that he doesn't know how to be a lord, and it won't mean anything to him if she isn't by his side: he then gets down on one knee and begs her to marry him, and become the new Lady of Storm's End. Arya is deeply moved and pulls him in for a passionate kiss - but saddened, she says that while he deserves a wonderful wife, she doesn't think she'll ever be a proper "Lady" at a court or ever get married. Gendry is left crestfallen.
Hours later, after the feast, a very drunk Jaime Lannister shows up at Brienne's chamber in the castle. He starts undressing and so does she, as she admits she's never slept with anyone before.
Daenerys Targaryen then arrives at Jon Snow's bedchambers. He says that he regrets that Jorah died, but if he could have chosen a way to die, he would have chosen to die defending her. She observes that Jorah did love her - but not the way that she loves him. The two of them proceed to passionately kiss and are on their way to having sex, starting to undress but Jon stops himself. Daenerys laments she wishes Jon never told her the truth about his parentage, "If I didn't know, I'd be happy right now. I try to forget. Tonight I did for a while, and then I saw them gathered around you. I saw the way they looked at you. I know that look. So many people have looked at me that way, but never here. Never on this side of the sea." Jon replies that he told her he doesn't want the throne but Daenerys argues it doesn't matter what Jon wants - he didn't want to be King in the North either but people will press his claim and take what is hers. Jon gets down on one knee in front of Daenerys and insists, "I'll refuse! You are my queen. I don't know what else I can say." Daenerys tells him he can say nothing, never tell anyone who he really is. She holds his hand as she says she wants it to be the way it was between them. Jon clasps her hand in his and says he must tell Sansa and Arya (as Bran and Samwell already know) because they are still his family. Daenerys is certain Sansa will press Jon's claim over hers. Jon says Sansa won't do that but Daenerys warns him that Sansa isn't the same girl he grew up with. Jon believes he owes Sansa and Arya the truth but Daenerys begs for him not to tell them, saying the truth will destroy [Jon and Daenerys]. Jon insists it won't, "You are my queen. Nothing will change that. And they are my family. We can live together." Daenerys tells him, "We can. I just told you how."
The Winterfell war council
The next day, Daenerys, Jon, and their remaining leaders hold a war council around a large map of Westeros. Apart from the destruction of most of the Dothraki, Grey Worm says that about half of the Unsullied were killed in the battle; Jon says that about half of the Northern/Vale armies were destroyed as well. Varys updates them on the situation in the south using map markers: the Golden Company has just arrived in King's Landing, delivered by Euron Greyjoy's fleet, reinforcing Cersei Lannister's position.
Daenerys says that they must attack King's Landing, and rip out Cersei root and stem. Tyrion warns her that a direct assault on King's Landing would result in so many civilian casualties that it would make the Smallfolk hate her, and they must once again try to encircle Cersei - starving out the city until the commoners revolt against her (as they did against Joffrey not too long ago). Varys points out that Daenerys is gaining allies in other places as well: the "new Prince of Dorne" has formally declared for her and against Cersei, while they have received news that Yara Greyjoy has successfully retaken the Iron Islands themselves while her uncle Euron's fleet has been away in the east. Daenerys insists that they must attack Cersei, as the only reason she is considered a "queen" at all is because she physically controls the greatest symbol of power: the Iron Throne itself. They must take the capital city in order to defeat Cersei, as without it she is nothing.
Sansa counters that they are not in a strong position to immediately mount a new full-scale offensive, "The men we have left are exhausted. Many of them are wounded. They'll fight better if they have time to rest and recuperate." When Daenerys asks how much time, Sansa says she needs to talk to the officers first. Daenerys tells her, "I came north to fight alongside you at great cost to my armies and myself. Now that the time has come to reciprocate, you want to postpone," but Sansa pointedly reminds Daenerys that this is the same for both the "Northern" armies and for Daenerys's Unsullied. Daenerys tells Sansa that the longer she waits, the more time Cersei has to gather new strength and new allies, just as she recruited Euron and the Golden Company. Jon interjects that the North will honor its allegiance to Queen Daenerys, whom he has bent the knee to, and they will just have to leave the badly wounded back home and march south with a smaller army. At this, Sansa and Arya exchange a look. It is decided that Jon and Davos will lead all of the surviving Northmen/Vale forces and the bulk of the surviving Dothraki/Unsullied forces south down the Kingsroad, while a smaller force of Unsullied return via ship from White Harbor to Dragonstone, island along with Daenerys and her two remaining dragons. From Dragonstone, just across Blackwater Bay from King's Landing, Daenerys can blockade Cersei by sea and ultimately stage a final attack. Brienne of Tarth wishes to stay at Winterfell to defend the Stark sisters, and Jaime Lannister will stay with her as well. Daenerys declares to the war council that this will be the last war they have to fight in the Seven Kingdoms - adding "all of them". Daenerys and Sansa exchange a tense look. Daenerys and her advisors leave, but Arya asks Jon for a word in private.
In the godswood, the four surviving Stark children gather in private. Jon is irritated with his sisters, "You understand we'd all be dead if not for her. We'd be corpses marching down to King's Landing." Sansa replies that Arya is the one who killed the Night King but Jon reminds Sansa that Daenerys's men gave their lives to fight the undead. Sansa says she won't forget that but this doesn't mean she wants to bend the knee to Daenerys. Jon says he pledged allegiance to her. Arya says that she respects Jon's decision, he did the right thing, but she doesn't trust Daenerys. Jon tells Arya she doesn't know Daenerys yet but Arya insists she'll never know Daenerys, "She's not one of us." Jon replies, "If you only trust the people you grew up with, you won't make many allies," but Arya says she doesn't need allies, they're family. She stresses that they are the last of the Starks, the last of Ned Stark's children, and they must remain loyal to each other. Weighed down by the truth, Jon grimly says that he has never been a Stark. Sansa urges Jon that he is as much Ned Stark's child as they are while Arya lovingly insists that she is her brother - not a "bastard brother" or a "half brother" to her, she loves him completely. Unable to bear the lie, Jon looks at Bran, who only quietly says that it's Jon's choice to tell them. Jon urgently makes both girls swear, truly swear (before the weirwood heart tree) they will never tell anyone else this secret. Sansa and Arya swear and then, at a loss for words, Jon gives Bran permission to tell them.
Later that night, the Lannister brothers are drinking at a local inn of the Winter town outside the castle. Jaime has told Tyrion of his new relationship with Brienne, and the very drunk Tyrion says he's happy that now he can finally be the one mocking a brother for being with a taller woman. Suddenly, Bronn bursts through the front door, pointing Joffrey's crossbow at them. Bronn tells them that Cersei hired him to assassinate both of them. Tyrion, too drunk to care, does not take Bronn seriously as if he was going to kill them he would have without announcing it - only for Bronn to punch him in the nose so hard he nearly breaks it. Bronn sits down at the table, still pointing the crossbow at them, and says he indeed would have just killed them already - if that was his only option. Bronn says that he realized Cersei probably wouldn't win this war when he saw for himself what Daenerys's dragons can do, and he would prefer to bet on the winning side. Tyrion says he realizes Bronn is referring to the offer he made him when he first entered his service that if anyone ever offered to bribe Bronn to kill him, Tyrion would double it. Bronn says that Cersei offered him the rule of no less a castle than Riverrun as a reward, and asks Tyrion what "double" Riverrun is. Tyrion casually suggests Highgarden itself. Jaime says that no "cutthroat" like Bronn would ever be accepted as the lord of Highgarden - but Bronn scoffs that all of the Great Houses started out when some cutthroat or another managed to seize some land and castles, after which their sons called themselves "lords" and their grandsons called themselves "kings". Tyrion assures Bronn he will be granted Highgarden, and he leaves - promising that if Tyrion doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, the next time Bronn will simply come back and shoot first, with no more warning or negotiation. After he leaves, Jaime asks if they're seriously going to give Bronn Highgarden, to which Tyrion only says he won't worry about it for now, as that assumes they will all survive the final war against Cersei.
Some time later, Sandor Clegane rides away from Winterfell down the Kingsroad, and he soon realizes he is being followed by Arya Stark, who rides up to his side on her horse. He says that he still has unfinished business in the south (his brother, Gregor Clegane), and Arya only says that she does too (killing Cersei). Sandor says he doesn't think he'll be coming back to Winterfell - and Arya says she doesn't think she'll return either.
Sansa stands on the castle walls, still in shock from the revelation of Jon's parentage. She gazes at Daenerys's dragons flying in the distance. Visibly teary-eyed, Sansa is only half-aware of Tyrion as he approaches her. Still numb, Sansa asks, "Why her?" - but Tyrion insists that Daenerys will be a good queen, and if not, Jon Snow will still be Warden of the North under her, which is a good arrangement for the Starks, "With Jon in the capital, you'll be the true power in the North. I'd feel much better about the future if I left here today believing that you and Daenerys were allies." Sansa wonders what Tyrion is worried about as their armies are going down south and Daenerys still has her dragons. Tyrion says Sansa doesn't have to be her friend but doesn't see the need to provoke Daenerys, at which Sansa accuses that he is afraid of her. Tyrion can only respond that all capable leaders must inspire some fear in their followers. An anxious Sansa says she doesn't want Jon to go to King's Landing, because the men of her family "don't do well there" (her father, grandfather, and uncle were all killed in the capital). Tyrion weakly says he believes in her, but with a pained look, Sansa then asks him what he'd say if there was "someone else, someone better?"
In the castle courtyard, Jon Snow is getting ready to leave south with the army, while Tormund and Samwell Tarly come to say goodbye. Tormund says that he is also leaving, returning north with his people: the surviving Free Folk will travel to Castle Black, then after the winter snows have cleared, they will return to the lands Beyond the Wall. Jon says that the free folk are welcome in the North, but Tormund says that the lands north of the Wall are their home. When Jon says this is farewell, Tormund says, "You never know. You've got the north in you. The real north." They hug good-bye. Jon's direwolf, Ghost, is also present: he was badly wounded in the battle, having lost his right ear, but managed to survive and is up and about. Jon tells Tormund to take Ghost with him: a direwolf has no place in the southern kingdoms, and would be happier in the northern forests (where other direwolves still live). Gilly then says goodbye to Jon with a hug, and he realizes that she is pregnant again, now with Samwell's child. She says that if it's a boy, she hopes to name it "Jon" - having no way of knowing all the issues this raises, as it isn't his real birth name. Jon sadly responds that he hopes it's a girl, without further explanation. Jon and Sam share a long hug and tell each other they were the best friend each other had. Jon then rides out of the castle as Tormund, Ghost, Sam, and Gilly look on.
As Daenerys's fleet sails south, Tyrion meets with Varys in a chamber below decks, having just repeated what Sansa told him: Jon Snow is really the secret legitimate son of Daenerys's older brother Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and thus the true rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Tyrion wonders aloud at how the past twenty-odd years of wars - from Robert's Rebellion to the War of the Five Kings - all in one way or another reverberated from Lyanna choosing Rhaegar instead of Robert Baratheon. They wonder what would happen if the truth came out: Varys acknowledges that the North would obviously switch support to Jon as the rightful heir, and Sansa would make sure that the Vale would as well - instantly losing Daenerys two of the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion asks why they don't just pursue the easy solution: a marriage-alliance. Varys rebukes that Daenerys is Jon's aunt: Tyrion counters by pointing out that incestuous marriages never deterred a Targaryen before, but Varys insists that Jon grew up in the North, and would never agree to it. Varys says he is starting to worry about Daenerys's state of mind, with her growing isolation.
Above deck on the same ship, Missandei and Grey Worm hold hands as Dragonstone island comes into view. Daenerys soars over the fleet on Drogon, accompanied by Rhaegal. Daenerys is happy to catch sight of her birthplace, but her joy turns to horror as a gigantic scorpion bolt appears out of nowhere, burying itself deep in Rhaegal's chest: Euron Greyjoy's fleet is mounting a surprise attack, his ships now equipped with huge ballistas - upgraded versions of Qyburn's scorpion launcher that previously wounded Drogon. These new weapons are more numerous and much more powerful, punching deep through Rhaegal's iron-hard scales. The first bolt in his chest is soon followed by a second to his wing. The injured dragon's blood-curdling roar of agony is silenced when a third bolt impales him through the throat. Overwhelmed by shock and blood loss, Rhaegal plunges into the sea, where he sinks beneath the surface of the water and drowns. Distraught and enraged, Daenerys tries to make an attack run with Drogon on Euron's ship, but all of the scorpions start raining bolts at her, and she barely manages to turn away and escape with her life.
Euron's ships then target their ballistae at Daenerys's fleet, smashing them to splinters. Grey Worm urges Missandei to flee to safety by taking the skiff to shore, but they are soon overwhelmed and separated in the chaos. Tyrion barely manages to dodge ballista bolts on the ship's deck as it is blown to pieces, and only manages to survive by jumping overboard, where he is hit in the head and passes out. Some time later, the survivors of the destroyed fleet drag their way onto the nearby shore of Dragonstone, including Tyrion and Varys. Grey Worm stands ashore, only to realize in horror that Missandei isn't with them.
After the ambush
In King's Landing, Cersei Lannister gloats with Euron over their victory. From the Red Keep, Cersei watches the city gates as thousands of refugees flood into the city. Qyburn acknowledges that Cersei's true intention is proceeding as planned: thousands of commoners are coming into the city to seek "protection" behind its walls from Daenerys's army, when in truth Cersei wants them there as human shields. She knows that Daenerys doesn't want to be seen as a tyrant, and the risk of heavy civilian casualties will deter her from making a direct assault. Cersei feels that the Northern and Targaryen armies are so exhausted after fighting the White Walkers that she can regain the upper hand, gaining strength by the day with new allies such as the Golden Company, who helped crew Euron's ships in the attack. Cersei proudly declares that the Lion (of Lannister) will rule the land, while the Kraken (of Greyjoy) rules the sea - and their child shall rule it all. A surprised Euron looks to Qyburn, who nods in acknowledgement that Cersei is pregnant (Euron presumes, with his child). Cersei then turns to Missandei, taken captive by Euron in the attack and brought before her in chains, and sarcastically gloats that Daenerys is "the 'Breaker of Chains' indeed."
At Dragonstone, the furious and bereaved Daenerys meets with her remaining advisors in the Chamber of the Painted Table. Grey Worm grimly says they should storm the capital city at once. Varys says this is a mistake, as Cersei has not kept it a secret from them they she has swelled the city with refugees to use as human shields. He pleads that trying to remove Cersei's tyranny like this would itself be an act of tyranny, and turn the people of Westeros against her. Daenerys says she knows her purpose in this world, to remove tyrants, and she will tear out Cersei root and stem. Tyrion agrees with Varys, and insists that they must offer Cersei the option to flee Westeros with her life (ignorant that Ned Stark once offered Cersei the same option, but she is convinced that "either you win or you die" with no middle ground). Daenerys, barely restraining her tears and her rage, nonetheless relents: not because she thinks Cersei will ever surrender, but because she would look bad if she didn't at least go through the motions of offering it to her - and that way, she feels, everyone will know that Cersei is the one to blame when Daenerys brings the sky crashing down on King's Landing. Tyrion and Varys offer no other military option.
Later, Tyrion and Varys meet alone in the throne room. Varys outright questions if Daenerys is fit to rule, and if perhaps Jon Snow would make a better monarch: he's more temperate, appealing, and also a man - which to many lords in Westeros makes him an inherently better candidate (even ignoring that by simple birth order he outranks Daenerys). Tyrion weakly tries to argue that Daenerys has to be strong, and instill fear in her enemies. Varys says that he will always act in the interest of the people as a whole, and thousands of innocents will die if Daenerys tries to attack Cersei now. Tyrion pointedly asks if he thinks Daenerys will accede if Jon says he wants to sit the Iron Throne instead of her - but Varys silently shoots him a look, obviously implying that he means they should assassinate Daenerys if she chooses to attack King's Landing. Horrified, Tyrion can only mutter that Daenerys will make the right choice.
At Winterfell, Jaime Lannister arrives in the courtyard to see that Sansa Stark and Brienne have just received a messenger-raven from Varys, informing them of the attack on Daenerys's fleet and the situation in the south. Cersei killed one of the dragons that Daenerys loves like children, and took her close advisor captive: Sansa wryly notes to Jaime that they will execute his sister for this, there is no way Daenerys would let her surrender with her life now. Later at night, Jaime gets up from the bed he now shares with Brienne, and thinks long and hard. Brienne awakes to find him gone, then rushes to catch him outside as he saddles a horse, to return south to Cersei. Brienne starts crying, and pleads that he doesn't need to go to her, he is a good person now. Jaime bitterly tells her that he isn't: he threw Bran out a window for Cersei, killed his cousin Alton to get back to her, and nearly killed every man, woman, and child in Riverrun for her. Brienne says that Cersei is hateful - to which Jaime responds, "So am I" - and rides out of the castle, leaving Brienne weeping.
At the gates of King's Landing
A small contingent of Unsullied escort Daenerys Targaryen and her advisors to approach one of the gates of King's Landing (on the landward side, opposite the docks). They see that the defenses have been drastically improved: each of the city wall towers now has one of the improved anti-dragon ballista weapons that Qyburn developed. Drogon, Daenerys's last remaining dragon, hangs back behind them on the ground, stalking back and forth in anger. Cersei Lannister stands atop the gatehouse, with Euron Greyjoy, Gregor Clegane, and the chained Missandei.
Tyrion Lannister approaches the gate to parley, and Qyburn comes out alone to speak with him. Tyrion says Daenerys asks for Cersei's unconditional surrender - Qyburn counters that this is ironic, as Cersei sent him out to asks for Daenerys's unconditional surrender. He points out that the Northern/Targaryen armies have been badly depleted and exhausted by fighting the White Walkers, while Cersei has reinforced King's Landing with the Golden Company. Their new defenses mean that it would be a risk to attack with the dragon, and kill many innocent people.
Despite Cersei's earlier betrayal in the Dragonpit Summit, Tyrion nonetheless walks closer to plead with his sister again. Cersei's archers get ready to shoot him, but after a long pause of consideration Cersei motions for them to stand down. Desperate, Tyrion begs that she is not the monster she thinks she is, and that her one redeeming feature has always been her love for her children, Cersei might prefer to go down in flames dragging Daenerys with her, but it would be condemning her unborn baby to death as well. Cersei pauses, thinks on it, and then quietly tells Missandei that if she has any last words, now is the time.
Defiant, Missandei shouts "Dracarys!" (the command for dragon-fire). With a nod from Cersei, the hulking Gregor decapitates Missandei with a single swing of his sword, her head falling onto the ground below. Grey Worm is horrified and turns his face away. Daenerys, seething with rage, silently turns away and withdraws from the city.
- 21 of 21 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- This episode is the final appearance of starring cast members Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) due to the death of their characters, and of Hannah Murray (Gilly), as her role in the story ended.
- Boian Anev, George Appleby, Mark Archer, Richard Bradshaw, Yusuf Chaudhri, Nick Chopping, Jonathan Cohen, David Collom, Matt Crook, Dom Dumaresq, Dan Euston, Bradley Farmer, David Grant, Richard Hansen, Nicklas Hansson, Rob Hayns, Lyndon Hellewell, Mike Homick, Paul Howell, Radoslav Ignatov, Rowley Irlam, Troy Kenchington, Leigh Maddern, Kai Martin, Leona McCarron, Carly Michaels, Nikita Mitchell, Camilla Naprous, Chris Newton, David Newton, Jason Oettle, Oleg Podobin, Josh Ravenscroft, Andrej Riabokon, Zach Roberts, Doug Robson, Paul Shapcott, Jonny Stockwell, Andy Wareham, Calvin Warrington-Heasman, Belle Williams, Will Willoughby, Leo Woodruff, Ben Wright, Andrew Burford, Theo Morton and Sam Stefan were stunt performers in this episode.
- The episode title refers to Arya's statement "We're family. The four of us. The last of the Starks".
- Similar things have been said about other houses. In "Winterfell," Euron says that he and Yara are the only remaining members of House Greyjoy, while Cersei had previously said that she and Jaime were the last Lannisters in "The Red Woman."
- This fits into a pattern where many houses both major and minor have been decimated by decades of war and political machinations. In the course of the show, several major houses have gone extinct or face uncertain statuses, including House Bolton, House Mormont, House Umber, House Frey, House Karstark, House Tyrell, House Martell, House Baratheon. Other houses have been reduced to a few members (some only one), including House Arryn, House Targaryen, House Tully (at least its male line), etc.
- This also provides an interesting insight into the differences in family dynamics among these three great houses: the Starks make sure to include Jon as one of their number even though he is an alleged bastard who doesn't share their name, while Euron discounted Theon as a Greyjoy and Cersei excludes Tyrion as a Lannister.
- Within the episode, Gendry is legitimized as the (nominal) new lord of a revived House Baratheon - making him quite literally "the last Baratheon".
- Similar things have been said about other houses. In "Winterfell," Euron says that he and Yara are the only remaining members of House Greyjoy, while Cersei had previously said that she and Jaime were the last Lannisters in "The Red Woman."
- Originally, the showrunners wanted Miguel Sapochnik to direct episodes 3, 4, and 5 of Season 8 - as they see them as one storyarc (comparable to how Season 6's "Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter" complemented each other). Sapochnik, however, warned that the battle scenes in episodes 3 and 5 were already so massive that there physically wasn't time for him to direct episode 8.4 - so David Nutter was reshuffled to direct this episode as well (after directing episodes 8.1 and 8.2).
- These last minute scheduling changes may explain some of the continuity errors in this episode (see "Errors" below).
- All the cast members whose characters died in the preceding episode return to "play" their corpses during the funeral scene at the beginning of this episode: Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont), Bella Ramsey (Lyanna Mormont), Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion), and Ben Crompton (Eddison Tollett).
- The fates of a few missing characters from the Battle of Winterfell is revealed. Ghost and Rhaegal did, in fact, survive though injured (Ghost bloodied and missing an ear and Rhaegal with holes in his wing). Yohn Royce and Maester Wolkan also survived. Less clear is the fate of Alys Karstark, who is neither seen amongst the dead nor the living. Her actress has hinted on Instagram that the character did in fact die.
- Despite the Night King's defeat in the previous episode, the title sequence still starts at the hole in the Wall where Eastwatch used to be and still shows his army's approach to Winterfell - the visual idea is that the ground is still covered in ice from their advance. Winterfell has been updated to show damage from the battle, and the funeral pyres from the beginning of the episode. Dragonstone does not appear in the title sequence despite being a major setting for the episode. Conversely, Last Hearth still appears in the sequence despite not appearing in the episode.
- Cersei returns in this episode, after being absent for two episodes, as she was last seen in "Winterfell". This is the first and only time her character has been absent for two consecutive episodes.
- Tyrion convinces Jaime and Brienne to play the "I Have Never"-style drinking game he originated in Season 1's "Baelor", in which you have to take a drink if someone can accurately guess something about you. Brienne refers to Tyrion's first marriage, which he mentioned in the aforementioned.
- During his encounter with Bronn, Tyrion begins to say "Power resides where men believe it resides" - before getting cut off with a punch in the nose. This echoes what Varys told him in Season 2's "What Is Dead May Never Die": "Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow."
- Jaime mentions the horrible things he has done for Cersei, including pushing a boy out of a window and crippling him for life ("Winter Is Coming") and strangling his own cousin ("A Man Without Honor").
- Daenerys asks Gendry whether he is aware that his father tried to have her murdered, presumably referring to the first attempt to poison her ("You Win or You Die").
- Davos says that the last time he saw Melisandre, he warned her he'd kill her if he ever saw her again ("The Winds of Winter").
- Tyrion says that Bran's wheelchair is better than the saddle he designed for Bran ("Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things").
- Jaime states that Renly once danced with Brienne, what she told Podrick in "High Sparrow".
- Tormund says that Jon is "strong enough to befriend an enemy and get murdered for it", referring to the mutiny at Castle Black ("Mother's Mercy").
- Tormund says "Most people get bloody murdered, they stay that way - not this one", referring to Jon's resurrection ("Home").
- The Hound tells Sansa "Heard you were broken in rough", referring to her rape by Ramsay ("Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken").
- Sansa says "he [Ramsay] got what he deserved. I gave it to him", referring to Ramsay's death ("Battle of the Bastards").
- The Hound tells Sansa "Used to be you couldn't look at me", referring to their first meeting, when she was frightened by his burnt face ("The Kingsroad").
- The Hound reminds Sansa that he offered her to escape from King's Landing with him ("Blackwater").
- Sansa says "The men in my family don't do well in the capital" - referring to the unjust executions of her father ("Baelor"), uncle, and grandfather, all of which took place in King's Landing.
- Tyrion says "I watched the people of King's Landing rebel against their king when they were hungry", referring to the Riot of King's Landing ("The Old Gods and the New").
- Gendry tells Arya "Be my wife. Be the Lady of Storm's End", a reference to his words "You'd be my lady" in "Kissed by Fire"; Arya declines Gendry's proposal, saying "I'm not a lady" - a reference to the words she told her father in "Lord Snow" - "I don't want to be a lady"; she also says "That's not me" - a reference to the words she told her direwolf in "Stormborn" - "That's not you".
- The Hound reminds Arya that she left him to die ("The Children").
- Bronn reminds Tyrion for the second time (following "Mockingbird") what he said in "The Pointy End" - that if anyone offered Bronn money to kill Tyrion, he'd pay Bronn double (actually, Tyrion promised "whatever their price, I'll beat it" - not "double it").
- Tyrion says that Daenerys is "a girl who walked into a fire with three stones and walked out with three dragons" ("Fire and Blood").
- Jaime says he would have murdered every man, woman and child in Riverrun for Cersei, referring to what he told Edmure Tully in "No One": "The people in the castle don't matter to me. Only Cersei. And if I have to slaughter every Tully who ever lived to get back to her, that's what I'll do".
- Jaime tells Brienne "She's [Cersei] hateful". In "Breaker of Chains" he told Cersei "You're a hateful woman".
- Tyrion tells Varys "Please, don't" - the same words and in the same tone he told Shae in "The Laws of Gods and Men".
- The Hound calls Sansa "little bird" - the nickname he occasionally called her in Season 2 ("The Old Gods and the New", "Blackwater").
- During the feast scene at Winterfell, what appeared to be a modern Starbucks paper coffee cup was clearly and prominently visible in front of Daenerys when the episode premiered. It happened when Tormund is boasting about Jon and how "who most people get bloody murdered, they stay that way". On the HBO Now streaming service, it was visible in the episode from 17:38 to 17:41. Though originally thought to be from Starbucks, art director Hauke Richter confirmed the coffee cup was from a local shop in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, where the scene was filmed. The cup has since been digitally removed from HBO Now - but has yet to be removed from several international streaming services.
- As far as we know, "coffee" does not exist in the A Song of Ice & Fire novels, as it has never been mentioned. Some New World crops, which exist in Westeros, didn't exist in medieval Europe (corn, bell peppers, etc.), but this is a moot point because coffee is actually an Old World crop. However, coffee was only first brewed in Arabia around the 1400s, so it is more of an "Early Modern" foodstuff than a medieval one. For all we know, people in Qarth and beyond might drink coffee, but so far the novels have not introduced it at all.
- Following his legitimization, Gendry says that he is no longer "Gendry Rivers" - which is wrong on two points. First, he was never an acknowledged bastard, and only acknowledged bastards can even use the special surnames used for bastards of the nobility (with the exception of Mya Stone, the elder of Robert's bastards in the books). Within the TV show, no one ever referred to him as anything other than "Gendry" before. He even points out in dialogue that he didn't even know Robert Baratheon was his father until after Robert died, so Robert could never have legally acknowledged him. Second, "Gendry Rivers" is simply the wrong bastard surname. Bastards from the Riverlands use the surname "Rivers", just as bastards from the North use "Snow". Gendry is from King's Landing, however, and bastards from the Crownlands use the surname "Waters". A simple Google search could have revealed this, and the line is apparently in error.
- It would even been loosely accurate if Gendry had assumed his bastard surname was "Gendry Storm", given that Robert was lord of the Stormlands (in the books, Robert's one recognized bastard is named "Edric Storm"), but bastard names usually follow where someone was born, rather than where their parents come from (i.e. in the TV series, Bran at first assumed Jon's name would be "Jon Sand" as he was born in Dorne).
- The line was so clearly in error that several major foreign language dubs simply refused to accept it. The official German language dub, for example, outright changed the line to "Gendry Waters".
- The error was particularly obvious on Game of Thrones Wiki itself, where for the past eight TV seasons the administrative staff have habitually had to stop editors from retitling the "Gendry" article to "Gendry Waters" - not "Gendry Rivers". It's a moot point now given that Gendry has officially been renamed "Gendry Baratheon".
- A possible in-universe explanation is that as a commoner, Gendry himself isn't very familiar with the rules of bastard surnames, and Gendry himself mistakenly told Arya the wrong surname.
- The sails of Daenerys's fleet very prominently display House Targaryen heraldry inaccurately depicting a four-legged dragon - even though two live dragons with only two legs are literally flying along with them. George R.R. Martin felt that a six-limbed dragon, with four legs and also two wings, was a little too unrealistic even for a magical creature (the basic physics would make it ungainly in the air) so "dragons" in his fictional universe only have two legs and two wings - the same body plan as a bat or a bird.
- Actually, the sails of Daenerys's fleet have contained the inaccurate four-legged dragon sigil since Season 6, even though all other on-screen banners have two-legged dragons. In all this time no one bothered to have the CGI ship models updated to fix the heraldry.
- In Season 1, Viserys Targaryen's heraldry inaccurately displayed a four-legged dragon - though this may have been meant as a mistake in-universe. All of Daenerys's banners since becoming queen of Meereen have prominently displayed two-legged dragons.
- When Brienne of Tarth takes her clothes off to have sex with Jaime, the camera only views her from the shoulders up - but she should have prominent scars on her left collarbone from when a bear clawed her at Harrenhal in Season 3. The scene in this episode doesn't depict any scars.
- Jaime states that he strangled Alton Lannister to death with his own hands. This is false; he beat Alton to death, and strangled Torrhen Karstark. Neither kills were strictly speaking "with his own hands", but with his chains.
- Gendry proposes to Arya on one knee, the same way one would in real-life modern times. In actuality, there is no such thing as "marriage proposals" in Westerosi society. For Gendry to marry Arya, he would need to consult with the head of the Stark household (either Jon or Sansa). At the least, getting down on one knee to propose is a somewhat modern custom for the setting.
- Using the crossbow, Bronn shoots an arrow, then quickly reloads, as Tyrion did in "The Children". It is impossible to reload a medieval crossbow so quickly and easily; the books make a point of that, when Tyrion arms himself with a crossbow before confronting his father.
- Bronn tells Jaime and Tyrion "I knew your sister was dead the second I saw those dragons", referring to the Battle of the Goldroad ("The Spoils of War"). Yet, he continued serving the Lannisters, and has even gone out of his way to save Jaime from death. If he really thought Cersei was doomed, why didn't he switch sides back then?
- Oddly, every character in the funeral pyre scene is buried in their full armor - even those parts of their armor that are undamaged. Given that there is still a war to fight in the south, and armor is very expensive, it is bizarre that no one would recover their useful equipment.
- Allegedly it is still winter in Westeros, and it was even snowing in King's Landing at the end of Season 7. Throughout Season 8, no snow has been visible around King's Landing or Dragonstone - nor have the movements of Daenerys's large army been badly hindered, even though they were a significant obstacle in Season 5 when Stannis Baratheon's army was snowbound. Season 5 wasn't even "winter" yet, as the announcement that the season changed happened prominently at the end of Season 6.
- Tyrion/Peter Dinklage's final plea to Cersei imploring her to surrender is framed so emotively that he resorts to a furtive near-whisper to her - even though she is on top of the city walls and there is no possible way she could hear him without shouting.
- During the drinking game, Tyrion correctly guesses that Brienne is still a virgin, much to her embarrassment. She had no reason to be embarrassed, on the contrary: in a medieval society like Westeros, an unmarried noblewoman is supposed to be virgin, else she would shame her house.
- This is the second time that Daenerys lights a pyre of a significant man in her life. The first was Drogo ("Fire and Blood"); in this episode, it is Jorah Mormont.
- Jon states that the deceased "were the shields that guarded the realms of men"; clearly this is a reference to a line from the oath of the Night's Watch "I am the shield that guards the realms of men". Jon saying that "We shall never see their like again" also comes from the traditional eulogy delivered for a fallen member of the Watch. Although that most of the deceased were never members of the Watch, they were killed for the purpose that the Watch was founded from the beginning - to guard the Seven Kingdoms from the army of the dead.
- Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss made cameos in this episode, as the pair of unidentified wildlings who stand behind Tormund during the feast at Winterfell.
- The first time in the show that Lannisters, Targaryens, Starks, and Baratheons share a scene. For that matter, it's the first time that Starks, Lannisters, and a Baratheon have all been in the same scene since Season 1.
- Queen Daenerys Targaryen officially legitimized King Robert Baratheon's bastard son Gendry as "Gendry Baratheon" in this episode, making him the new Lord of Storm's End, and thus the new head of a revived House Baratheon.
- It goes unsaid in the episode that as Robert's son, Gendry actually has some Targaryen blood in him. In the books, Robert's grandmother was a younger Targaryen princess, making him the second cousin of Rhaegar and Daenerys - thus Gendry is Daenerys's second cousin once removed, and Jon Snow's third cousin. The TV continuity might have moved this around a little to make it Robert's mother instead of his grandmother (statements on this have been vague).
- According to how royal inheritance law works in the books, legitimizing Gendry would - at least in theory - put him ahead of Daenerys in the line of succession to the Iron Throne. After the Dance of the Dragons, royal inheritance law was altered to put female candidates behind all possible male ones. For a regular lordship, the lord's daughter would inherit ahead of her own younger brother - but the opposite is true for royal inheritance. Even in Season 1, characters listed off that Renly was "fourth in line" to the throne, behind his older brother Stannis and Robert's two sons, but not including Robert's (alleged) daughter. Thus any male carrying Targaryen blood, such as Gendry, would rank ahead of Daenerys - though Gendry would still rank behind Jon Snow, who is the lawful son of the main branch of the family. It's possible that in-universe, Daenerys hopes that legitimizing Gendry will at the same time make him grateful to her, or that she doesn't consider a legitimized bastard to be a serious candidate for the throne (many lords would still feel uneasy about backing him for the throne itself). Yet even within this same episode, Varys later points out that many lords of Westeros will consider Jon Snow a better candidate simply because he is a male, regardless of his technical rank compared to Daenerys. Of course, an officially weaker claim to the Iron Throne didn't stop Robert from taking it in the first place.
- In the books, Robert has at least three surviving bastard children: Gendry, Mya Stone (a mountain guide at the Eyrie), and Edric Storm (and maybe a prostitute named Bella, who claims she is Robert's daughter), neither of which exist in the TV series. Gendry's storyline was somewhat condensed with Edric in Season 3 - meeting Stannis for the blood ritual, then being sent away by Davos. In the books, Edric is sent away to safety in the Free Cities. It is unknown if Gendry will be legitimized as Robert's heir at some point in future books, or if perhaps this might be condensed from what might happen to Edric.
- Additionally, Gendry notes that he cannot be Lord of Storm's End because he is a bastard. Despite it indeed being true that bastards cannot hold any lands or titles, Jon was named King in the North and Warden of the North despite still (albeit only by public knowledge) being a bastard himself. This exception to Jon is never fully explained, although it is heavily implied that he was named King simply because the Lords of the North chose him to lead them. Despite this, Daenerys named Jon the Warden of the North after he bent the knee, so it isn't clear why Gendry needed to be legitimized to hold a similar position. However, because Sansa was named Lady of Winterfell, it could be assumed that she is the ruler of House Stark, with Jon simply governing the North as a whole. Despite this, Jon is still referred to as "My Lord" by Daenerys during their initial meeting in Season 7, and has been discussed by Varys and Tyrion as being a potential match for Daenerys in marriage before they even knew he was a trueborn Targaryen, which is also strange, considering that even if Jon held the position of Warden of the North based on his merit as a leader, as a bastard he still wouldn't be considered a viable match for anybody, much less a Queen - as there would be no political advantage to marrying a bastard who holds no lands or titles.
- Daenerys asks Gendry accusingly "You are aware he took my family's throne and tried to have me murdered?". She has the right to resent Robert regarding the attempt on her life; regarding the first part of her question/accusation, however, she herself admitted in Season 7's "The Queen's Justice" that her father was a literally insane tyrant, and she commented to Jon two episodes ago at Lyanna's tomb that she thought Rhaegar raped Lyanna (until Jon revealed the truth). Apparently in-universe she'd already decided to legitimize him, and just threw out the accusation to judge how he would react to it.
- A misconception has been circulating about Gendry and Baratheon Heraldry. In Season 1, a scene prominently stated that the Baratheon heraldry only became a crowned stag after Robert became king - but this line was in error, as the first Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel novella (released a decade before the beginning of the TV series) made it clear that the Baratheons always used a crowned stag, even before Robert became king. The World of Ice & Fire sourcebook made it clear that their founder Orys Baratheon directly copied the heraldry of the old Storm Kings of House Durrandon, which was a crowned stag (there is no rule against having a crown in your heraldry even if your family are not kings). Thus "Gendry Baratheon" should adopt the full heraldry of a crowned stag, but it's possible that the TV series might double-down on the erroneous statement from Season 1.
- Arya Stark's polite declining of Gendry Baratheon's offer of marriage in some ways parallels how Arya's aunt Lyanna Stark didn't really want to marry Gendry's father, Robert Baratheon. The main difference is that Lyanna chose to marry Rhaegar Targaryen and not with Robert because she didn't love him (she strongly disapproved of his philandering, as she told Ned); Arya, on the other hand, loves Gendry but rejects him, because she has no interest in being a lady, and maybe for other reasons (she has taken upon herself a mission that may cost her life).
- During their drinking game, Brienne gets Tyrion Lannister to admit that he had another wife, before Sansa, referring to his first wife Tysha. This is bizarre, given that Tysha is a major plot element that was suddenly cut from the TV series in Season 4:
- In Season 1 ("Baelor"), Tyrion explained as he did in the novels that Tysha was a commoner girl he and Jaime saved from some rapers on the road, who afterward fell in love with him and married him without his father's knowledge. When Tywin did find out, he forced Jaime to tell the truth: he staged the whole attack, and Tysha was just some whore who didn't really love him, and but Jaime paid her to pretend she did because he wanted his little brother to think his first time with a woman was real. Tywin then proceeded to have his guards gang-rape Tysha while forcing Tyrion to watch.
- Tyrion's first marriage was still referred to in Season 2 and in Season 3.
- At the end of the third novel, corresponding to the end of Season 4, when Jaime frees Tyrion from the dungeon he is overcome with guilt and tells him the real truth about Tysha: she was not a whore, the whole incident wasn't staged, Tywin just forced Jaime to say that - out of petty cruelty, to deny Tyrion even the memory of Tysha's real love. This is what directly motivated Tyrion to return to the Tower of the Hand, confronting Tywin with a crossbow and demanding to know what he did with Tysha. Tywin said he let her go, then tried to assert his dominance over the situation by calling Tyrion's bluff and calling Tysha a "whore" again - at which Tyrion promptly shot him in the belly, killing him.
- The TV show cut all of this out, so that Tywin's death at the end of Season 4 simply falls into place in almost dream-like fashion. Tyrion returns to the Tower of the Hand to confront Tywin for no stated reason, and it is unclear why he would be so motivated to outright kill Tywin and be called a kin-slayer. This was a massive departure from the novels, as it is the climax of the Tyrion-Tywin story arc, and indeed the climactic ending of the third novel. The TV showrunners have never attempted to provide an explanation for why they changed this - raising the baffling question of why they would attempt to remind the audience of it after three intervening seasons have passed, and there are only two more episodes left after this in the entire TV series.
- As Tyrion points out, according to succession law Bran Stark should by rights be the lord of Winterfell and the North, due to being Eddard Stark's last surviving trueborn son - and as it turns, out, actually his only surviving son, as Jon Snow is really the son of Ned's younger sister Lyanna. Bran is younger than either Sansa or Arya, but they follow male-preference primogeniture. Complicating matters is that as the new three-eyed raven, Bran doesn't feel he can be a lord, and has essentially abdicated (as he said when he returned last season, but repeated here). With Bran abdicating, rule of House Stark would lawfully fall to Sansa, as the elder sister.
- Bran Stark says that his wheelchair is the same design as the one "Daeron Targaryen built for his crippled nephew, 120 years ago". This is apparently a reference to King Daeron II Targaryen, known as Daeron the Good, who was a prince around that time. It is an invention of the TV series, however, that Daeron ever had a nephew who needed a wheelchair. All Targaryen family members are accounted for and none needed a wheelchair - but Daeron II married outside of the family, to Myriah Martell, as did his sister, Princess Daenerys, who married Prince Maron Martell, so it isn't impossible that he could have had an unknown handicapped Martell nephew.
- Notice that in the background of the feast, when Podrick Payne departs he leaves with two Northern girls enamored of him, to have a threesome - a callback to how he had sex with three prostitutes back in Season 3's "Walk of Punishment", and was apparently quite good at it.
- Brienne of Tarth says during the drinking game that she is an only child. This is technically incorrect, as she had two older brothers who died in childhood. She has acknowledged this in the TV continuity before, by phrasing that she is Lord Tarth's only "surviving" child. Due to the high infant mortality rate in Westeros, however, it is not uncommon even in the books for characters to only count surviving children.
- Jaime and Brienne have sex in this episode: when the scene begins, just before Jaime arrives at the door, note that it starts with the camera pointed at Brienne's sheathed sword - a frequent visual metaphor for sex.
- Gilly is revealed to be pregnant with Sam's child, confirming rumors that she was pregnant after fans noted that Gilly appeared to be visibly chubbier in the season premiere compared to the previous season. There are actually unconfirmed rumors that actress Hannah Murray is pregnant in real life, but she hasn't wanted to talk about her private life in recent interviews.
- In any of their scenes, neither Jon nor Daenerys voice the notion that he doesn't feel he can marry her because she is his aunt. In cast interviews, separate from the TV show, it has been made clear that she doesn't have a problem with that, while their incest makes Jon uncomfortable. In their private scene at Winterfell in this episode, Jon only insists that he doesn't want to claim the throne, but even Daenerys doesn't bring up what would be the obvious solution for her: a marriage-alliance. Tyrion and Varys do explicitly bring this up later on, when Tyrion points out that an incestuous marriage never stopped the Targaryens from ruling. The only counterpoint Varys offers is that Jon wouldn't accept it because it isn't the custom in the North. While the showrunners, writers, and actors explain Jon's discomfort with incest is the reason why he avoids Daenerys in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" and halts their love-making in this episode, he never directly expresses this onscreen.
- In the books, avuncular marriages (uncle-niece, aunt-nephew) marriages are usually considered incest, but clearly not to the extent of brother-sister marriages. There has actually been some variation in time and place regarding it. Right after the Targaryen Conquest, the High Septon vocally opposed any betrothal of Maegor Targaryen to his half-niece Rhaena. In the North, however, there were two major examples in the past 300 years in which a lord of Winterfell married his niece - though both of these cases were half-nieces, and a distinction might be drawn between that and a full-blooded aunt or uncle. There was also a point where, leading up to the Kingsmoot, Yara Greyjoy's uncle Victarion (omitted from the TV show) misconstrued that she was offering to marry him as a political alliance, which he considered shocking but not impossible. The Targaryens, of course, could marry their aunts. If Jon accepted a marital union with Daenerys, it could help preserve the peace of the realm. If he refuses on the basis of incest, it could risk a succession war.
- Tyrion says that eight people know the secret about Jon: Bran, Samwell, Jon, Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, and Varys. Technically, Gilly also knows the secret about Jon, as she was the one who discovered the diary entry about Rhaegar's marriage to Lyanna Stark, but it's unclear if Sam ever fully explained to Gilly just how important this information was.
- As stated in the war map scene, apart from most of the Dothraki dying in the battle against the White Walkers, about "half" of the Unsullied are dead - which would put their current numbers at roughly 4,000. Jon said that half of the North (and Vale) army was killed as well.
- The exact strength of both the North and the Vale armies by this point is somewhat unclear: in Season 7, Jon mentions that he only has around 10,000 men left in the North, but it's unclear if he's only referring to the armies of the North itself or the North and The Vale. Before the War of the Five Kings, the North was able to field an army of 45,000. However, due to the North's vast size, gathering the full military strength of the Starks and their vassals was a difficult process, requiring months of travel time and the ability to supply and feed the host even before it set out. Thus, when Robb marched south in Season 1, he only took 18,000 men with him. By Season 3, Robb was said to have only around 6,000 men left, and when Robb executed Rickard Karstark and the Karstark forces marched home, Robb was said to have lost half of his army, meaning the Karstark forces numbered around 3,000. Robb's remaining 3,000 forces were then massacred at the Red Wedding, leaving many of the Northern Houses severely depleted. In Season 6, when Jon and Sansa are planning to take Winterfell back from Ramsay, Jon claims that all the other Northern Houses combined equaled the same as Ramsay's Bolton, Karstark and Umber force, which numbered at 6,000 at the Battle of the Bastards. This insinuates that the total of the North's forces, before the Battle of the Bastards, numbered at around 12,000. However, Jon was only able to rally a few northern houses to his side, giving him 62 Mormont soldiers, 200 Hornwoods and 143 Mazins, and 2000 wildlings. Both Jon and Ramsay's armies suffered heavy losses during The Battle of the Bastards, with Jon having only 800 men left and Ramsay's 6,000 strong army completely annihilated. Thus, The North would presumably have only around 6,000 men left, which were then bolstered with the remaining Wildling forces and newly arrived Arryn forces, raising it to 10,000.
- In the case of the Vale, the exact number of forces left is also unclear: before the War of the Five Kings, House Arryn able to field a force of around 20,000 men, and due to Lysa Arryn's decision to remain neutral, the Arryn forces were not affected by the War of the Five Kings and remained at full strength, until they broke their neutrality and joined with House Stark. It is unclear, however, just how much of the Vale's forces were sent to Winterfell: only 2,000 men are mentioned to be at Winterfell under the command of Yohn Royce, presumably the same force that arrived during the Battle of the Bastards, which suffered very few, if any losses. However, is unclear where the rest of the Vale forces are. Presumably, as King of both the North and the Vale, Jon would have sent a raven to Robin ordering him to send the rest of the Vale forces north in preparation for the upcoming battle against the dead, but Jon never mentions this, and Robin is never even mentioned once during Season 7. It's possible that the rest of the Vale forces, presumably around 18,000 strong, still may be in the Vale, and could potentially join with Jon on his march south to King's Landing.
- Bronn gives a short speech remarking on how he may be a cutthroat, but all of the Great Houses started out as cutthroats, who gained lands and titles, then their sons and grandsons declared themselves kings. Given that he is saying this to Tyrion and Jaime, this may be specifically a reference to the legendary founder of House Lannister, Lann the Clever - who allegedly swindled House Casterly out of Casterly Rock using only his wits.
- It is possible that Bronn bringing up the humble (brutal) origins of the Great Houses might loosely be an attempt by the TV writers to hint at the potential prequel TV series about the Long Night, whose pilot was set to begin filming about a month after this episode aired. Then again the line was so vague that it might have just been a nod to the books (if they really wanted to "set up" a prequel, they would probably have mentioned Lann the Clever by name).
- When Bronn hits Tyrion, the latter complains "You broke my nose!"; Bronn responds he didn't. This is perhaps a reference to the difference between the books and the show about Tyrion's nose: in the books, it was cut off by Ser Mandon Moore during the Battle of the Blackwater; in the TV show, he was just badly slashed but kept his nose. The decision to keep his nose was due to a combination of CGI budget, pragmatism, and affecting the actor's performance.
- The Hound and Arya head for King's Landing. They do not reveal their plans to each other; the Hound only says "I have some unfinished business", and Arya curtly responds "Me too". It can be assumed the Hound wishes to settle the score with his brother, what he has always wanted, while Arya intends to assassinate Cersei, as she declared (maybe not seriously) in "Dragonstone". Cersei and Gregor Clegane are the only people who are still in Arya's hit list.
- In "The Climb", Melisandre told Arya "I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you'll shut forever. We will meet again". This could be a foreshadowing of the killings Arya has made so far and will make: the Night King had indeed blue eyes, and Cersei's book character has green eyes (while Lena Headey's eye color is blue).
- Jaime does not say explicitly why he decided to go King's Landing, whether to fight for his sister or against her. If he decided to kill her, he might turn to be the "Valonqar" Maggy referred to; in the books, Cersei has always assumed it would Tyrion, forgetting that Jaime is also younger than her.
Political control in the Seven Kingdoms
The war planning scene at Winterfell, plus a few other scenes, bring up the issue of the current political geography in the Seven Kingdoms:
- Daenerys raises the question of the current lordship of Storm's End - touching upon a meta-narrative issue, given that the TV show itself hasn't specified who has been holding Storm's End since the end of Season 2. In the novels, the lordship of Storm's End is a lot more clear: After Stannis seizes the castle, he leaves two hundred men to hold it under the command of Ser Gilbert Farring. After Stannis's defeat at the Battle of Blackwater, the garrison continues to hold Storm's End in Stannis's name. In the fourth novel, Storm's End is besieged by a Tyrell force led by Mace and Lord Mathis Rowan. However, Mace soon abandons the siege to return to King's Landing after the arrest of Margaery by the Faith, leaving a token force with Lord Rowan to continue the siege, but the castle continues to support Stannis's claim to the throne. In "Arianne II" sample chapter from the sixth novel, it is reported (but not confirmed) that the Golden Company, hired by a new contender (who has been omitted from the show) has taken Storm's End, and Mace Tyrell's army is currently descending on the castle from King's Landing.
- In the TV show, Storm's End was never depicted on-screen for budgetary reasons in Season 2. It was tacitly assumed that Stannis's forces were holding it "off-screen" since Season 3, and after Stannis died in Season 5, that Tommen was at least the nominal lord of Storm's End through his death at the end of Season 6. After Tommen died, however, it wasn't clear what happened to the title - i.e. if Cersei just claimed it with no right to do so (as she did the Iron Throne) or gave the title to some subordinate.
- The question of who physically controls Storm's End at this point is of course still unanswered. The TV writers haven't made much attempt to keep track of such things: consider that in Season 7, it was stated that Dragonstone was simply left abandoned after Stannis withdrew to the Wall in Season 5 - when it would be ridiculous for Stannis to not at least leave a skeleton defense force in such a strong fortification (as he did in the novels). Thus, like Dragonstone, the TV writers might just have not thought out who has been holding Storm's End since Season 5 (or even Season 3).
- While planning the siege of King's Landing, the Riverlands, the Reach, and the Stormlands aren't mentioned at all. It is especially strange that the Stormlands aren't mentioned, especially since Daenerys had just legitimized Gendry and restored House Baratheon.
- During the war map scene, it is mentioned in passing that the new Prince of Dorne has declared for Daenerys, without explanation. The TV show utterly changed the Dorne storyline from the books, without clear explanation: in the books, Doran Martell is a Targaryen loyalist who wants to side with Daenerys when she invades Westeros, while Ellaria Sand doesn't want to perpetuate the cycle of revenge. Doran's daughter and heir Arianne Martell joins with the Sand Snakes to attack the Lannisters immediately but fails - only for Doran to reveal to her in captivity that he only opposed her immediate strike, as he also wanted to fight the Lannisters but was biding his time. The TV show changed this to have Ellaria kill Doran and his son Trystane, who apparently just wanted peace with the Lannisters - and in order to somehow avenge the death of Doran's brother and sister by killing Doran himself. Arianne Martell was simply omitted. The Dorne storyline was quickly abandoned in Season 6 and only given minimal attention afterwards.
- Showrunners Benioff and Weiss bluntly admitted in the DVD commentary for the Season 5 finale that they rewrote the entire Dorne subplot to revolve around Ellaria Sand purely because they really liked actress Indira Varma and wanted to show her off more, or as they put it: "We reconceived the role to make it worthy of her talents".
- We have no idea who the new "Prince of Dorne" is and it would be a mistake to assume the TV writers even have a coherent, in-universe intention for it. Plausibly, it might be some member of a younger branch of House Martell - or even, perhaps, a different Dornish family such as House Yronwood that seized control.
- The TV show never bothered to address that while Ellaria was captured at sea with three of the Sand Snakes, Oberyn already mentioned in dialogue that he had eight bastard daughters in total, by various women, and the other five simply haven't been mentioned.
- The TV show has never addressed that while Ellaria and the on-screen Sand Snakes were taken out in a sneak attack on Yara Greyjoy's fleet, that fleet was heading too Dorne to pick up their armies, and that logically, Dorne's armies should still be unbloodied and at full strength, because they never took part in any of the other wars in the TV series up to this point. The TV writers, however, seemed to have just wanted to abandon all mention of Dorne as quickly as possible, without explanation.
- The TV show could have used this as an opportunity to establish on-screen for the first time that Dorne follows gender-blind inheritance, by making a new "Princess" of Dorne, but chose not to. At prior points in Season 4, the TV writers without explanation gender-swapped several major female Dornish rulers into male characters - such as for House Blackmont, and Oberyn talking about his father instead of his mother visiting Casterly Rock. In the books, Dorne is the region with the most female rulers as a result, but in the TV show, not a single female has ever been shown to lawfully inherit rule (disregarding whatever Ellaria's junta was, given that as Oberyn's unwed paramour she had no legitimate claim to the title of "Princess", and indeed was never shown to use it).
- Actor Toby Osmond was cast in a new role for Season 8, and while the details are unclear he said that it was a "royal" part. Given this combined with his physical similarity to the other Martells, he might appear as the new Prince of Dorne in the last two episodes. It would be a fanon assumption, however, to label him as Doran's other son from the novels, Quentyn: the TV writers are being intentionally vague and avoiding even thinking out what the Martell/Dornish succession is at this point.
- It is mentioned that Yara Greyjoy succeeded in retaking the Iron Islands. She explained in the Season 8 premiere that while she didn't have many forces left, the bulk of Euron's fleet was off in the east at King's Landing, so she could probably retake the isles from the skeleton defense force he left behind.
- In the books, under different circumstances, Asha (Yara's name in the books) also maintains some hope of retaking the Iron Islands by allying with the Drowned Men, as the priests of the ironborn have come to loathe Euron as an "ungodly" and honorless man (even by ironborn standards), and thus they might be able to rally a general insurrection against him. However, her hopes are shattered after being defeated by Stannis. Asha knows well that the ironborn are not a forgiving people, and she has been defeated twice: once at the kingsmoot, and again at by Stannis - more than enough to stamp her as unfit to rule in the eyes of the ironborn. Moreover, Stannis intends to wed her to one of his subordinates, Ser Justin Massey; being married to a "green land lord" will make her a laughingstock among the ironborn, and totally destroy her political ambitions. Whatever happened in the TV continuity happened off-screen, however, without specific details.
- Varys and Tyrion remark that if it came to conflict between Jon and Daenerys, the North would instantly side with Jon, and the Vale would also side with him as well, because "Sansa would see to that". There is no logical, in-universe reason why the Vale lords should feel particularly beholden to Sansa in the TV continuity. In the books, Littlefinger plans to marry Sansa to Sweetrobin Arryn's cousin and heir Harry Hardyng, thus making her the new Lady of the Vale through marriage-alliance, after which she can manipulate the loyalty of the Vale lords to attack the Boltons in the North. The TV show omitted all of this, instead marrying off Sansa to Ramsay Bolton, a well-known sadist and rapist, who rapes her on their wedding night. Nor did the TV show coherently explain what Sansa was supposed to politically gain from marrying Ramsay other than Littlefinger's vague direction to "make him yours" - i.e. undermine the Boltons from within somehow...even though the Lannisters weren't worried about that when they forced her to marry Tyrion. As the TV show presented it, it was Littlefinger who manipulated the Vale lords into sending their armies against the Boltons, by urging Sweetrobin that he had to defend his captive cousin. Now that the Boltons are defeated and Sansa freed, she doesn't have a special connection with the Vale lords in the TV show, as her entire storyline of building alliances with the Vale was cut.
- The episode leaves it unclear if the Lannisters even control all or most of the Westerlands at this point, as Casterly Rock was sacked by the Unsullied in Season 7.
- The episode leaves unclear who, if anyone, controls the Riverlands at this point, or if Cersei pulled back all of her forces to King's Landing. After Arya assassinated the remaining male members of House Frey at the beginning of Season 7, the devastated Riverlands seem to simply be in disarray. Similarly, it is not at all addressed who controls the Reach at this point, given that the Tyrells at least sided with the Targaryens, and while the Tarlys sided with the Lannisters their army was defeated and their lord executed.
Therefore, political control and claimants in the Seven Kingdoms on the eve of the final confrontation in the TV series should be something like this:
- Formally sided against Cersei
- Held by Cersei as far as her armies can march
- The Westerlands - nominally challenged by her own brother, Tyrion Lannister
- The Stormlands - nominally challenged by Gendry Baratheon
- The Reach - ?
- The Riverlands - (nominally challenged by Edmure Tully?)
- The Crownlands / King's Landing - held by Cersei's concentration of what's left of the Lannister armies, plus Euron Greyjoy's fleet, and the Golden Company.
The episode also gave no clear reason why Samwell Tarly didn't leave south with Jon Snow - with the White Walkers defeated, the Night's Watch may cease to exist: this would free Samwell from his vows, enabling him to reclaim his birthright as the new head of House Tarly and ruler of Horn Hill (it's possible he doesn't want to make the journey with Gilly pregnant). Last season, Cersei was going to reward House Tarly with overlordship of all of the Reach after House Tyrell was wiped out. There is an increasing chance that Jon or Daenerys may end up declaring Sam as "Lord Tarly" the new Lord Paramount of the Reach, just as Daenerys already declared Gendry the nominal new lord of the Stormlands. Strangely, it's unclear why no one thought of this during the war planning session, as this move could have potentially secured the Reach for Daenerys' side as well as further bolstered Daenerys' depleted armies.
At Dragonstone and King's Landing
- Given that the TV show has surpassed the current novels, we don't know if the deaths of Rhaegal and Missandei will happen in future books, or are purely an invention of the TV series. Another scenario is that they will die, but in different circumstances. The answer will, of course, await the next book.
- There is no Grey Worm and Missandei romance in the books because she is only ten years old in the novels. The TV show cast an older actress due to the larger dramatic weight needed for a screen role, then decided to turn her relationship with Grey Worm into a romance.
- Missandei's death means that there is no longer a single non-white female member of the TV show's recurring cast. After Ellaria Sand was sentenced to death in Season 7, Missandei was also the only non-white member of the Starring cast. Grey Worm, however, was promoted to Starring cast for Season 8 - meaning he is now the only non-white recurring cast member out of the entire large cast of the TV series. The entire Dorne subplot from the novels has been abandoned, and only a single vague line was given about the current status of Dorne (see above). Multiple major review sites reacted to this negatively.
- Actress Nathalie Emmanuel was actually digitally inserted into Missandei's death scene: it was filmed on-location at a great physical height, so the production team (accurately) feared that spy photos would easily reveal the identity of the major character that Cersei has executed. Emmanuel filmed her scenes separately on a sound stage, which were then added in by green screen.
- During the war map scene, the markers used for the Golden Company use a new heraldry design, a cluster of gold skulls hanging from a red spear on a black field. Preview images from next episode confirm that this same design is prominently displayed on their soldier's shields. It is apparently a reference to how the Golden Company has the skulls of its former captain-generals dipped in gold, and carried before them as their battle standard. In the books, however, their actual "banners" are said to be a solid gold field, with no devices on it.
- In the Inside the Episode featurette, David Benioff says that Daenerys simply "forgot" about Euron and his fleet, due to dealing with the threat of the White Walkers. He doesn't attempt to explain it by arguing that they knew Euron was on the prowl but didn't know exactly where, or by arguing that she simply didn't know that Euron's ships now had improved anti-dragon ballistae mounted on them.
- This would mean she simply forgot that Euron at a single stroke knocked out her allies from Dorne and the Iron Islands last season.
- Moreover, it wouldn't be just Daenerys, as a personal failure, forgetting about Euron, but all of her advisors, including Tyrion and Varys. For that matter, the Starks were present in the war council as well, but none of them brought it up either.
- Most relevant is that this isn't even consistent within the episode itself: in the preceding scene at Winterfell, Daenerys and all her advisors go over a map of Westeros, and Varys points out in dialogue that the Golden Company have just arrived at King's Landing "courtesy of the Greyjoy fleet". This not only means she was reminded of Euron's existence, but that they were all specifically aware that Euron's fleet was within Blackwater Bay itself, which separates King's Landing from Dragonstone.
- Varys also points out in the same scene that they have received news that Yara Greyjoy has retaken the Iron Islands - clearly bringing up the issue of who she had to retake them from.
- This is indeed the second surprise attack on Daenerys's forces in the vicinity of Dragonstone island. Early in Season 7, he wiped out Yara's original fleet as they were leaving Dragonstone, and now he attacked her fleet as it was arriving.
- Euron has taken a great risk by using the same tactics for the second time; moreover, this time it was under tougher conditions - in broad daylight and in presence of the dragons. It was hardly a calculated risk: had Daenerys and her advisors not acted so carelessly and negligently, but taken precautions, the outcome might have been different.
- Euron's fleet manages to accurately hit Rhaegal three times, despite being a moving target. Then when Daenerys tries to fly Drogon in a bombing run headed directly at them, which should make her easier to hit, the entire fleet nonetheless somehow misses her.
- Euron is the second character who killed a dragon in the show (the first was the Night King), and the first living person who did that.
- Dragon-scales are as tough as iron, and it shouldn't be possible to penetrate them with scorpions and ballistae. Historically, this has only worked when shooting a dragon through the eye, piercing its brain. On the other hand, in the Inside the Episode video, Benioff stresses that Qyburn has drastically improved his anti-dragon weapons in size and strength since last season.
- Indeed, the bolts used by Euron differ from those used during the Battle of the Goldroad. The ones fired by Euron have a much broader edge than those fired by Bronn, which were thinner, which can at least partly account for the greater strength necessary to pierce through Rhaegal's scales.
- In the books, Euron wants to bind Daenerys's dragons to his will, not kill them, so he can conquer all of Westeros, as he states in the kingsmoot. After his crowning, he sends his brother Victarion to Meereen, to bring him Daenerys and the dragons; he gives Victarion "Dragonbinder", a horn that can allegedly control dragons. So far, it is unknown if the horn has such properties.
- With the death of Rhaegal, it is unclear if this means that the race of dragons is doomed for extinction once again, as Drogon no longer has any potential mates with which to breed with. The process of reproduction for dragons is shrouded with mystery in the novels: Although it is established that dragons are born from eggs, the process itself by which dragons breed is unknown. Some, like Maester Aemon, believe that dragons have no fixed gender, but simply fluctuate between male and female. It is unknown if this means that dragons require pairs to breed, or are asexual and can breed individually. There is some slim chance that off-screen, Drogon turned into a female and mated with Rhaegal, to lay eggs later - but increasingly it appears that Drogon may be the last of its kind.
- It is impossible that Cersei isn't visibly pregnant by this point, thus insinuating either that Cersei lied to Jamie about being pregnant with his child in order to manipulate him, or lost the child to a miscarriage. The timeline of events the show runners have presented is that Jaime impregnated Cersei before he left King's Landing to attack Highgarden. A generous estimate of travel times from book-Westeros would mean that Cersei has to be at least three or four months pregnant during the Season 8 premiere episode. Furthermore, when factoring in the additional time that Daenerys spent traveling down from Winterfell to Dragonstone, several weeks to a month, Cersei would have to be at least five to six months pregnant by this point, making it physically impossible for her not to be showing by this point - especially with her wearing tight clothing that makes pregnancy hard to conceal. An example of this can be seen with Gilly, who, according to Sam, was impregnated while they were in Oldtown. This occurs relatively around the same time during which Cersei was supposedly impregnated as well. However, while Cersei has not visibly changed physically at all, Gilly was noted by fans to be visibly pregnant in the premiere episode.
- When the Targaryen ships are destroyed, the survivors swim their way to the nearby shore of Dragonstone, including Grey Worm, Tyrion, and Varys. Back in Season 2's "The Night Lands", Varys gave his famous remark from the books that in the ruthless intrigues of the royal court, "Storms come and go, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling". In this episode, therefore, Varys literally kept "paddling" and survived.
- Cersei mockingly refers to one of Daenerys's titles "Breaker of Chains", which she assumed after the sack of Astapor; Cersei thinks that if Daenerys conquers the city by force, thousands of innocent people will die, and this will cost her that title.
- Tyrion saying the last 20 years of warfare, murder, and misery were all because Robert loved a woman that didn't love him back is a vast oversimplification. While Rhaegar's "abduction" of Lyanna might have been a major factor in the outbreak of Robert's Rebellion, it was really Aerys's brutal and unjust executions of Rickard and Brandon Stark, along with calling for the heads of Eddard and Robert that started the war.
- Tyrion has been acting in a surprising foolish manner in respect of Cersei, ever since the finale of the previous season: as both Daenerys and Sansa noted, he actually believed her false promise to send armies to fight the army of the dead; in this episode, he attempts to reason with her - even after she already betrayed them. Moreover, appealing to her unborn child's safety is specifically what Tyrion thought won her over to join them in the fight against the White Walkers, so this clearly didn't work before. Of all people, Tyrion should know better. He knows well how treacherous, untrustworthy and selfish Cersei is, how she acts and thinks, and that she lacks any common sense. What reason did he have to believe she has suddenly changed, pregnant or not?
- It is very unlikely that Tyrion's book counterpart would act so foolishly. In the fifth novel, he declares that "Cersei is as gentle as King Maegor, as selfless as Aegon the Unworthy, as wise as Mad Aerys. She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honor, for love" - an extremely accurate description of Cersei.
- A point Tyrion prominently brings up again is that "Cersei's only redeeming value is that she loves her children": this is an invention of the TV series and in total contrast to the books. Book-Cersei is a malignant narcissist, and it only appears that she loves her children in the first novel, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that she only obsesses over them as essentially possessions, extensions of herself. She did spoil Joffrey rotten, but falling in love with the idea of him as the perfect son, while enabling his psychopathy. Meanwhile, she basically ignored her younger two children - ironically, playing favorites with her children just as her father Tywin did by ignoring her for Jaime. She does have some moments of expressing concern for them - worried that Tommen might have been poisoned, upset at Myrcella's departure to Dorne, etc. - but these usually came down to her being upset that people were harming something that belonged to her. Her uncle Kevan Lannister even outright told her after Joffrey died that she was an unfit mother; Tywin and Jaime have also thought so, and all three of them planned to separate her from Tommen, before she could turn him to another Joffrey. Complicating the issue is that Cersei genuinely thinks she loves her children.
- Showrunners Benioff and Weiss have admitted in the DVD commentaries and interviews that they simply like that actress Lena Headey can perform "motherly", or that Peter Dinklage can perform "sympathy". There is no in-universe reason for their behavior, they just wanted to push the actors into big scenes to show off their range - as they openly admit. This is not simply a difference between books and TV series: even within the TV show, "Cersei" will randomly switch from psychotically violent to motherly concern, depending on how the writers want to show her off in a given episode ("We reconceived the role to show off the actor's talents").
- Cersei's decision to kill Missandei actually does have some logic to it: most of Westeros outside of the capital has turned against her, and Daenerys's advisors are discussing plans to starve her out with an encirclement. It is in Cersei's favor to goad Daenerys into an immediate attack, as time is not on Cersei's side. Incidentally, this was what happened at both the Battle of the Bastards and the battle at Winterfell against the White Walkers: the enemy killed friendly forces to goad the heroes into abandoning their strong position and rushing in to attack.
- If Cersei really wanted to goad Daenerys into attacking, she could also have ordered her archers to kill her hated brother Tyrion while he was in range. Killing Daenerys's Hand of the Queen would knock out a major enemy advisor and do even more to goad her into attacking. Cersei considers it, but stops apparently just at whim - and because the plot requires Tyrion to survive; obviously, it was not the taboo of kinslaying that stopped her, since she had her uncle and cousin killed.
- The TV writers seem to be trying to set up that Daenerys Targaryen is slipping into rage-filled insanity, fueled by isolation and the deaths of her loyal advisors and another dragon. If this is their intent, the end product does not logically support it. In Vox.com, Alex Abad-Santos wrote an article saying that trying to depict Daenerys as a "Mad Queen" at this point didn't make much sense in the context of the last seven seasons, and that even if the TV writers did intend to present her as becoming an insane tyrant in Season 8, they failed, because as presented her actions were still all rational and the fears of those around her seemed groundless:
- They seem to intend to portray that Daenerys feels isolated that the Northern lords care more about Jon Snow than about her. Nonetheless, even though Jon halts their love-making, he still openly opposes his own sisters by supporting Daenerys as rightful monarch over all of the Seven Kingdoms including the North. This also means that the Vale lords side with Daenerys.
- Far from being "isolated" and unloved, during the war council scene Daenerys is informed that the new Prince of Dorne just declared for her instead of Cersei, and Yara Greyjoy - who already supports her - just retook the Iron Islands in her name.
- Varys and Tyrion start acting as if Daenerys is behaving too harsh when she wants to storm King's Landing despite heavy civilian casualties that Cersei is using as human shields - but neither of them offer up a viable alternative. All they suggested was to try to encircle the capital and starve her out - which is exactly the same plan they suggested in Season 7, which ended in disaster. Moreover, it failed in exactly the same way: Euron Greyjoy used his fleet to stage a damaging attack on her forces, and gain naval dominance. Daenerys couldn't enforce a naval blockade last season, and has even less chance of doing so now that Euron's fleet is armed with anti-dragon scorpions.
- Most major wars in the history of Westeros involved cities and towns being sacked by rational commanders who were not considered literally insane tyrants. Tywin Lannister himself carried out the Sack of King's Landing at the end of Robert's Rebellion, which successfully overthrew Daenerys's own family and put Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne. Daenerys isn't suggesting to do anything that Tywin didn't - less so, as Tywin's armies used mass rape as a terror tactic when they took the city.
- While angered, Daenerys even grudgingly agrees to make a final peace offering to Cersei - which she correctly anticipates Cersei will reject, but relented to purely because she wants the world to know that she went through the token gesture, and it's Cersei's fault for rejecting it.
- Daenerys has no ulterior motives with the Starks, but the episode plays it up as if the Stark sisters are correctly second-guessing her, and that Daenerys is paranoid that they don't support her. Daenerys isn't "baselessly paranoid" if the Stark sisters actually want to undermine her. In the Inside the Episode, David Benioff even spells out that Sansa told Tyrion about Jon because she correctly anticipated he would tell Varys, and Varys would use this information against Daenerys.
- Moreover, the TV writers don't coherently explain why the Stark sisters would be suspicious of Daenerys, as if she had some hidden ulterior motive: she openly stated that she wants to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, including rule over the North. There is no hidden plot waiting to be revealed. The only verbalization of their motives that Sansa and Arya have given, in the godswood scene, is that Daenerys "isn't one of us".
- Thus the TV writers seem to be trying to play up that Daenerys is isolated and paranoid even though she isn't, her suspicions are grounded, and while she is angered her reactions are still rational. Even so, they present that this somehow makes her so unstable that Varys would try to assassinate her. For that matter, Tyrion's insistence that they must parley with Cersei itself failed, and no amount of mercy would have saved Missandei.
- Another interpretation is that the writers are showing that madness takes many forms, which is true in both the real world and in-universe (particularly among Targaryens who exhibited many forms of madness). Things like isolation and the deaths of her friends may be contributing factors, but not the main reasons for her actions. The showrunners have mentioned multiple times that there is a ruthlessness and cruelty that exists even in the good Targaryens. They could be trying to show that when these traits are allowed an almost free reign, they become dangerous because no one can tell the king/queen no. Even though some of her actions may be justifiable, that does not make them right. In real life history, there have been rulers who have taken actions that may be justifiable, however, they were needlessly cruel. For example, kings like Richard I (the Lionheart) and Charlemagne are widley acknowledged as kings who embody chivalrous virtues. However, both committed mass slaughter against their enemies, in Richard's case Islamic soldiers who had surrendered and in Charlemagne's case, he massacred Saxons who had rebelled against him and killed several of his advisors. So the show's depictions of Daenerys and her madness are not that unbelievable. It is also important to note because both the showrunners and Martin have made it clear that Targaryen madness often doesn't fully manifest until later in life. In the case of Daenerys's father, it was the slight faults of his youth that eventually morphed into his insanity, which seems to be the case with Daenerys herself.
In the books
[This section will be updated with comparisons when the sixth and seventh novels are released.]
Daenerys: "We'll rip her out root and stem."
Daenerys: "I've never begged for anything. But I'm begging you, don't do this. Please."
Bronn: "You boys are a pair of gold-plated cunts, do you know that?"
Bronn: "I've never hit a dwarf before, but say another word and I will belt you."
Tyrion Lannister: "See, I don't believe you'd do that."
[Bronn punches Tyrion hard in the face, nearly breaking his nose]
Tyrion: "Ah, you broke my nose!"
Bronn: "I did not break your nose."
Tyrion: "How do you know?"
Bronn: "Because I've been breaking noses since I was your size, and I know what it sounds like."
Bronn: "Kill a few hundred people, they make you a lord. Kill a few thousand, they make you king."