The Last of the Starks may have set up things to come but it took a long time to get there. Too much time.
Jorah, dead. Theon, dead (posthumously awarded the title of Right hand to the Lady Winterfell). Lyanna, dead. Eddison Tollett, dead. A lot of Unsullied, Dothraki, and North Men, all dead. Each one was sent off to the next life on a pyre lighted by a character associated with them. It was a touching moment in “The Last of the Starks” that tried to cram a lot of touching moments into a short period of time before setting the stage for the final battle to come.
As I sit here, I’m trying to decide if I liked episode four, “The Last of the Stark” or not. Game of Thrones is notorious for following up a high adrenaline episode like “The Long Night” with a slower paced episode. “The Last of the Starks” was only half of an exception to this rule. Granted the episode clocked in at a respectable 78 minutes, but a lot of the extra time was wasted in order to dedicate time to the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell.
The Funeral Reception
A funeral isn’t quite complete without the reception. What reception isn’t complete without a little drama? Daenerys recognized Gendry as a Baratheon and then named him lord of Storms’ End. Arya turned down Gendry’s marriage proposal. Jamie and Brienne finally bumped uglies only for Jamie to pull a Jamie and head back to Cersei. Finally, everyone knows Jon is a Taragaryn. Okay, not everyone but the secret will be out before the end of the series.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this- The only way to keep a secret between three people is if two of them are dead. Now eight people know Jon Snow isn’t a Stark but a Targaryen. The fact already has Varys plotting treason against Daenerys. It’s a position Tyrion may be drawn into before the final credits roll and a position Daenerys is sure to learn about before it’s all over.
She’s Not Mad, She’s Pissed Off
Let’s say for a moment Varys is killed off before the end of the series. It would only work if it were learned shortly after Sunday’s episode. Fans are saying Daenerys is becoming mad like her father. Fans are using the term “mad” as in crazy or deranged. Daenerys is anything but crazy. She’s mad, but mad as in pissed off. Pissed off people tend not to make the best decisions.
A new story line of Daenerys learning of Varys treachery may have been something to explore a couple of seasons ago, but with two episodes remaining is there enough time to start new story threads? The series has shown it has no problem cutting out characters with little to no explanation or explaining it away by claiming everything happened off screen (See the very cheap death of Petyr Baelish).
Jamie Lannister Backpedals
Showrunners had plotted out a redemption of Jamie Lannister type story line for the past several seasons. “The Last of the Starks” saw this story line come to an end as Jamie left Winterfell to be with Cersei. How did Jamie learn Daenerys was outside the Red Keep ready to burn it and everything inside to a crisp? Weird things happen when you waste time. Time has no meaning when trying to keep the story moving forward.
The Hound and Arya
By the time the next episode airs Jamie, Jon and company, The Hound, and Arya will all be at King’s Landing. There won’t be a Hound and Arya Road Show like there was in season three. There’s not enough time. The series is going to have to teleport them to King’s Landing in record time. Which also means other things have to happen to get the two characters where they need to be in the final two episodes.
Arya has already been set up to kill everything in her path or at least kill everyone on her list. Ilyn Payne, The Mountain, The Hound, and Cersei are still on Arya’s list. It’s going to take some maneuvering and cheap ploys to line up the four of them for Arya to kill. I don’t doubt showrunners would stoop to cheap tactics to make this happen. However, it would be bad story telling and not the natural course of things. For things to come to a natural conclusion The Hound must face The Mountain. Arya fans will have to settle for whatever kills Arya can manage.
The Beginning of the End
“The Last of the Starks” may not have been the worst episode in eight seasons, but given the length of the episode it ranks up there with the worst of them. The episode didn’t even manage to set the stage for the final battle. It’s a battle that has to happen if there is going to be any sort of resolution to the series.
It would have been nice to have seen more time dedicated to setting up things for the last two episodes. For the most part what happened could have been said and done in less than a half an hour. The good byes were touching and full of false sentimentality. We could have done with one or two fewer good byes. Did we need to see Daenerys even more mad at Cersei? And did anyone think Tyrion was going to talk Cersei into doing anything?
Two more episodes, even with an extended run time, isn’t going to be enough to wrap things up. It’s a given no matter the outcome not all the fans will be happy. The possibility of a Jon and Daenerys ruling together is still on the table.