Welcome to Just a Game of Thrones, the column singing backup vocals on the Song of Ice and Fire.

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The Finnish Line

There’s a popular, self-effacing joke Finnish people like to tell that pokes fun at their culture’s well-known tendency towards introversion:

“An introverted Finn looks at their shoes when talking to you. An extroverted Finn looks at your shoes.”

Though, as knee-slapping as that wisecrack is, let’s be honest with our non-Finn selves; that kind of taciturn behavior doesn’t apply exclusively to the inhabitants of the Land of the Midnight Sun. No matter where one is from, no matter their background, to look someone, or something, dead in the eye, unflinching, feels almost aberrant.

It may even be one of the most heroic things one can do, to look truth in the face…

By now, we Game of Thrones devotees are fully, inescapably aware that Dany, the overprotective mother of three, is giving Cersei, the overprotective mother of three, a run for her Iron Bank-loaned money when it comes to earning the title of Mad Queen:

And that her current constituents are worried about it:

“We needed her. We needed her army, her dragons. You did the right thing. And we’re doing the right thing telling you we don’t trust your queen.” — Arya
 
“You know she loves your brother.” — Tyrion
“That doesn’t mean she’ll be a good queen.” — Sansa
 
“I worry about her state of mind.” — Varys
 
“She’s a girl who walked into a fire with three stones and walked out with three dragons. How could she not believe in destiny?” — Tyrion
“Perhaps that’s the problem. Her life has convinced her she was sent here to save us all.” — Varys

Discerning viewers should have also picked up by now that Arya will be present for/involved in CLEGANE BOWL!!! in some fashion or another:

And that it might not end well, for one and/or both of our favorite protagonists:

“I have some unfinished business.” — The Hound
“Me too.” — Arya
“I don’t plan on coming back.” — The Hound
“Neither do I.” — Arya
“Gonna leave me to die again if I get hurt?” — The Hound
“Probably.” — Arya

The most astute individuals in the audience may have even noticed that there’s an ever-more-likely chance Sansa and Tyrion could be the ones in charge after all is said and done:

And that the realm should pray for such an outcome:

“Tyrion, what if there’s someone else? Someone better?” — Sansa
 
“Have you considered the best ruler might be someone who doesn’t want to rule?” — Varys
 
“Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it.” — Varys
“Of course I’ve thought about it.” — Tyrion

But let’s face the truth; there are far more existential and impactful unresolved matters that still need to be unflinchingly faced down by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss before the final note of their Song of Ice and Fire is plucked.

Namely…

In the remaining two hours and forty minutes, can they find a way to stress the major themes of the story (e.g. everything happens for a reason, history is dangerously malleable, freedom is choice, we don’t pick who we love) without having their characters sound grateful to have been raped, tortured, tormented, etc.? Can they formulate a battle plan for our heroes that won’t be thoroughly mocked by military experts in real time? Can they compose emotional moments that don’t bring to mind Ryan Phillippe’s dismissal of Reese Witherspoon in Cruel Intentions?

Can they take Bronn’s honest advice from the fifth episode of season six and recognize that despite the unfathomably brilliant journey they’ve taken us on so far, “this song really is all about the ending?”

Sunday’s episode, “The Last Starks,” may have been full of its own set of unanswered questions — how did Bronn get in and out of Winterfell; how did Euron hit a moving dragon from a moving boat without first being seen by said dragon; how did Missandei’s skiff get captured without anyone noticing; how did it take Bran eight seasons to get a wheelchair if the technology’s been around for 120 years? — and, at times, it got mired in its own refractory period. Its “distinction between cutthroats and kings” monologue may have been a bit graceless, and the fact Cersei didn’t simply unleash a barrage of arrows at her amassed enemies was completely out of character for her. However, this third-to-last episode of Game of Thrones also served as a poignant, incisive, necessary reminder to we the apprehensive audience that “the great war” and “the last war” are two completely different beasts that need to be slain with two completely different contrivances.

Benioff and Weiss may have made it past the grand transcendent conflict of the series, but they still have themselves to contend with.

The finish line is in sight.
 

Break The Wheel of Hot Takes

After “The Last of the Starks,” there is only one name from me and my wife’s Death Watch list remaining…

  • Jorah Mormont
  • Grey Worm and/or Missandei
  • Beric Dondarrion
  • Theon Greyjoy
  • the women and children “safe” in the crypts

    * Notable absences:

  • The Hound (because if I don’t write it down it won’t happen/CLEGANE BOWL!!!)
  • Gendry (because he’s the last Baratheon)

  •  

    “It Is Known”

    To keep quoting myself, “Holy crap how are we going to tackle the litany of remaining prophecies, conspiracies, and far flung fan theories in only five four three two episodes?!?! Even with extended running times, I just don’t see it happening.”

    I do think some loose ends are more likely to be tied into bows than others, though…

    HAS to happen:
  • Jaime = the valonqar
  • Bran = the Night King and/or the voice inside the Mad King’s “Burn them all!”-filled head
  • An appearance by Howland Reed
  • An explanation as to why Bran was in warg mode throughout the entire battle
  • CLEGANE BOWL!!!
  • The end of Tyrion’s “honeycomb and jackass” joke
  • SHOULD happen:
  • A Night King defeat by no later than Episode 4
  • A Valyrian steel sword and/or dragonglass spear through Bran’s chest
  • A Valyrian steel sword and/or dagger through Dany’s back, courtesy of Tyrion
  • A Daario update
  • An on-target shot by Chekhov’s Scorpion
  • An off-target shot by Bronn that leads to SER Brienne’s death, cementing Jaime’s resolve to valonqar Cersei
  • An explicit acknowledgement that a throne you can ride (e.g. a horse, a dragon, a ship) is better than a stationary one made of iron
  • COULD happen:
  • Tyrion = a Targaryen
  • Syrio Forel = Jaqen H’ghar
  • Harry Strickland = the wielder of Blackfyre
  • The Hound = the valonqar
  • Euron Greyjoy = the valonqar
  • PROBABLY WON’T happen (but it would be cool if it did):
  • Varys turns out to be a merman
  • The Hound turns out to be the Lord of Light (and The Mountain is The Great Other)
  • Sam kills one of the big bad bosses, Neville Longbottom style
  • Westeros becomes so uninhabitable all surviving Westerosi are forced to join Arya in exploring “what’s west of Westeros,” thus becoming a mysterious Other ‘invading’ a foreign land via a once-impenetrable barrier
  • Elephants
  •  

    A Raven from Maester Yglesias

    For all you history nerds out there…


     

    Ba Dum Tssshhh

    “Have you seen Arya?” — Gendry
    “You can still smell the burning bodies, and that’s where your head is at?” — The Hound
    “I just want to thank her for…” — Gendry
    “I’m sure you do.” — The Hound
     
    “We did it! We faced those icy fucks. Looked right into their blue eyes, and here we are. Now, which one of you cowards shit in my pants?” — Tormund
     
    “I’ve never slept with a knight before…” — Jaime
     
    “Are you drunk?” — Dany
    “No. Only a little…” — Jon
     
    “Rhaegal needs to heal. He doesn’t need me weighing him down.” — Jon
    “You weigh as much as two fleas fucking.” — Tormund
     

     

    Light Roast

    I wish I could come up with something especially witty or uniquely biting when it comes to the whole Starbucks cup gaffe, but, to look truth in the face, thinking about how many editors missed that one just makes me upset.

    That being said, props to whomever runs Starbucks’ Twitter account:
     


     

    The HoF of GoT GIFs

     * My fellow recappers/reviewers, feel free to pilfer from these, or any other GIFs from the Just a Game of Thrones archives, anytime

    In addition to the multitude of GIFs in the first section…

    Down In One:

    Cupid’s Arrow:

    You Didn’t Drink:

    Your Hand In Mine:

    Dragon Meet Scorpion:

     

    Sword to my Throat, I’d Bet _____ Wins the Game of Thrones

    (this is subject to, and will most likely, change each week)

    A Poorly Thought-Through Installation of Democracy, Instituted by Sansa and Tyrion!

    If Westeros really is going to suddenly transition into some sort of quasi-democratic collection of nation states after eons of adherence to a feudal system, as many speculate it will, then Sansa and Tyrion (fingers crossed) should expect a realm’s worth of unforeseen repercussions.

    There is a reason even the United States didn’t provide for the direct popular election of senators until 1913.