Tales from Westeros: The Last Logs of Grand Master Zed Season 8 Episodes 3 & 4 “The Long Night” and “The Last of the Starks”
Hello and welcome again to the Evil Geeks Citadel, I as always am your esteemed chronicler, Grand Master Zed, giving you the prints that were promised, the re-watching of them all, and the keyboard that guard the realms of men. These last two weeks, at least I’ve found, should be looked at one after another because these episodes unfortunately have major ramifications for how the last two episodes are going to go. If you haven’t yet watched “The Long Night”, its pretty much all battle scenes with very few plot consequences and while sad, inconsequential character deaths, so I’m gonna mostly gloss over every “oh no that person’s going to die ohhhhh wait they’re fine”. I do this to then dedicate most of my energy to “The Last of the Starks” which I believed to be a bit of a dud episode. Lets hop into them both!
The Long Night begins with the army of the dead in obvious encroachment, but we don’t actually see them for a little while once the episode begins. There’s a feeling of terror, uneasiness, and uncertainty.
The Winterfell forces, despite some questionable battle tactics seem to be ready for the coming darkness, but not until a bit of light comes out of it. Melisandre, the Red Priestess arrives, and has the Dothraki lift their arakhs, which as I’ll remind you aren’t dragon glass or Valyrian steel, but Mel casts a mass fire buff on them and their arakhs light up in flames, now able to do some damage against the dead. Melisandre’s arrival isn’t taken too well by Davos who is still upset about that whole “immolating a child” thing, but Mel tells him that she’ll be dead come the morning. The Dothraki charge, and thus begins the most horrifying shot of the episode, of lights flickering out one by one. Looking into that darkness must have been jarring. The show runner said that this was the end of the Dothraki, but spoilers, some of them are still fine next episode, so no worries about the extinction of an indigenous culture. Jon tries to stop Dany from reacting with emotion, but Dany is their Kahleesi, and has more importantly had enough. Her and Jon bring the dragons into play early instead of waiting for the Night King.
When Jon tries to attack, the Walkers summon an obfuscating ice storm which causes them trouble for pretty much the rest of the episode. The Unsullied begin to hold the line against the waves of crashing dead, and we lose Eddison “Dolorous Edd” Tollet, the 999th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Everybody dips back into the castle while Grey Worm and the boys protect the retreat. Sadly, Grey has to pull the trench and sacrifices a majority of the Unsullied. They then try to wall off the dead by lighting the trench, but everyone who tries, dies. They bring out Mel who starts to pray and pray and pray and soon begins to realize she may die before Rhollor the Lord of Light gets off his godly ass and the trench begins to burn, blocking the wights. For now.
In the Godswood, Bran says he’ll “Be going now” and wargs into a group of ravens for the rest of the battle. Theon and the Ironborn watch over them in an archer’s circle around the Weirwood, protecting him. The wights, presumably under the orders of the Night King, begin to fall into the trench and die, only to form a bridge of corpses. This allows them to breach the trench and begin to finally attack Winterfell. From here, everything divulges into chaos and we’ll basically be going in bullet form from here on out.
-Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of Bear Island, dies charging a wight giant, but ends up killing the giant in sacrifice
-Arya has an awesome Assassin’s Creed sequence in the Winterfell library
-Due to this she is overwhelmed by wights, and Berric Dondarrion dies basically forming a barricade or….Berricade with his body, being stabbed by wights repeatedly
-The dragons fight in the sky, which is important because it hasn’t happened for literal hundreds of years. Rheagal gets injured fighting the Ice Dragon.
-Drogon tries to burn the Night King, but he is unaffected and apparently cannot be killed by dragon fire. (Gonna rant about this a sec. Valyrian steel is only effective against the wights because it was forged in dragon fire but OK SHOWRUNNERS.)
-Drogon gets covered in wights, Dany falls off Drogon, and Jorah rushes to help her; eventually dying in the process of protecting his Kahleesi
-THE CRYPT WAS NOT! SAFE!
-Jon tries to fight the Night King, but he summons all of the wights and casualties to secure his path to the Godswood
-The Walkers reach the Godswood, with only Bran and Theon left alive. Bran forgives Theon for being a shit dude those couple of times and thanks him, tells him he’s a good man. Theon charges the Night King anyway, and goes out like a boss. But out he is, RIP Theon.
Okay so this next sequence we can talk about in detail. The Night King now approaches Bran, and just as he begins to draw his icy sword to finally blot out the memory of the world, a whisper of wind passes through the hair of one of the White Walker generals, causing him to look behind him. In no time, Arya leaps out of nowhere, Valyrian steel dagger at the ready. The Night King turns and catches Arya in an Undertaker-like choke grip, but the Cat in the Canals thinks too quickly, and drops her dagger into her off hand, plunging it into the Night King. The wound around it crystallizes into ice, and the Night King bursts, as do all of the White Walkers, wights, and ice dragon, shutting off and dying, like the Phantom Menace. The knife, once used in an attempt on Bran’s life back in Season one, now is being used to defend him all the way here at nearly the end of the road.
Satisfied with her part in this war, and with her service to her god, Melisandre walks out into the snow. She removes the necklace that had been extending her life, reverts to her older form, and then dies in the snow.
The Long Night, while some people may have had their problems with it, represents the ending of a conflict that was introduced to us in pretty much the opening frames of the first season, and while there are still more threats to deal with, the ever present threat of the White Walkers, and the Night King, is finally over. Sure, the episode does kinda have a high survival rate, and does undercut the threat that is the White Walkers, but as I’ve been told when I complain about this show a lot: “That’s showbiz baby.”
This episode represents the ability to finally exhale, knowing that at least one ice queen is done with. Onto the next queen and the next episode!
“The Last of the Starks” definitely tries to use the same showbiz excuse but since we don’t get any fun fighting or triumphant moments to distract us, we focus a little too hard on this episode’s poor writing and strange motivations.
We open things up as you might expect, with the mourning of the loss of the dead. The pyres are full of those that fell and more specifically we get a once over of the important characters who are no longer. Dany laments Jorah again, Jon has to look at Lyanna Mormont’s corpse, and Sansa puts a Stark pin on Theon’s armor, representing that he died defending Winterfell, and that with his last act he was accepted as one of them. If I may, it reminded me of the recent Les Miserables remake, where the anti-revolutionary Inspector Javert puts one of his medals on the body of Gavroche, a very young boy who died on the barricade. This idea of giving people symbols of honor or bravery in death show how the horror of war can sometimes force us to look inward when we can see what it does. Sansa remembers everything that Theon did to her family, and then what he did for her as Reek and helping her escape. As Jon said, he is a Greyjoy, and he’s a Stark.
Speaking of Jon saying things, he busts into a speech about the sacrifices of the dead and how everyone put aside their differences to fight, before the bodies begin to be burned. In the North, bodies are burned to stop them from turning into wights, and something tells me this is a decent measure just in case we haven’t heard the last of the Night King. Doesn’t make it not heartbreaking though.
In a lighter mood, the living celebrate life, with toasts to Dany, Arya, Jon, and good drinking all around. Dany pulls Gendry aside and reveals what his father, Robert Baratheon, planned to do to her. Gendry reveals to her that he has never met his father, and she chooses to, in the absence of any living Baratheon’s, legitimize Gendry into Gendry Baratheon; making him the lord of Storm’s End. Everyone cheers to Gendry, and he seems grateful but probably internally screaming. Tyrion has a little chat with Bran that leaves me about as confused when it begins as when it ends.
Back at the High Table, Tormund, who was the first to toast Dany earlier in the evening, starts telling tall tales about Jon’s role in the battle, leaving Dany a bit left out of the glory chat. Dany makes a bit of sense here, because she did most of the same stuff as Jon and is commanding very little loyalty or praise because of it. It can be interpreted as jealous or immature only if you don’t consider how much Dany has on the table and how much got taken away from her, she’s down a significant number of Dothraki and Unsullied, a dragon, and no closer to feeling like the North is on her side in her eventual quest to rule. I’ve seen this compared to Viserys being jealous of Dany being Kahleesi back in season 1, but I categorically deny that. Viserys was a prick who was jealous Dany commanded more power and respect than he did and weren’t willing to immediately start the war for his ascension. Outta here with that.
Jaime, Brienne, and Tyrion play the True or False drinking game and they manage to get Brienne to drink a few times by guessing things she’s told them. When Tyrion guesses that she’s a virgin, she gets upset, leaves, and is followed by Jaime. Poor Torment has a whole little speech about how sad he is and it really hurt me you guys, especially in retrospect. However, Tormund and Pod seem to find dates for the evening.
The Hound shares a chat with Sansa, and he says that none of the bad stuff that happened to her wouldn’t have happened to her had she escaped with him during the Battle of the Blackwater. And here is where I was talking about one of the three most unconscionable movements of this episode, and perhaps of this show’s poor writing as a whole. Sansa says that without the horrible events and personal violations that have happened to her, she wouldn’t have become the person she is. Which is abject bullshit and showcases how very poorly this show handles its female characters, that for whatever reason they have to be subjected to intense personal trauma and suffer character debasement season after season as some hackneyed justification for a “character arc” as if you didn’t have to commit two seconds of thought to think of ALMOST ANYTHING ELSE to serve as catalyst for a character’s journey. Super disappointing. Its making Sansa out to have learned from Cersei and Littlefinger and Ramsay how to be a bit more ruthless and while in part Sansa now is a lot different from Sansa in Season 1; she is A. Nowhere near the level of these three characters and B. Did not have to be subjected to what she did in order to get there.
Arya is off training while everyone else parties and gets found by Gendry, who asks her to be his wife and to be the lady of Storm’s End. Gendry loves Arya and after their night together, he thinks Arya loves him too. But Arya says, “That’s not me.” This is important because Arya said the same thing to her dad, Ned Stark, back in Season 1 after she started training with Syrio Florel, who is no doubt the beginning of Arya’s journey to the master assassin she is today. Ned said that Arya would grow up to marry a lord and be the lady of a keep and have children who are lords and ladies, but Arya replied the same, “That’s not me.” The last time a Stark lady rejected a Baratheon’s proposal for marriage, the whole realm was thrown into chaos, so, break the cycle Gendry, rise above. Take it on the chin man, she was out of your league.
So Jaime comes in to bring us our second moment of complete bullshit this episode by following up on Brienne’s refusal to answer the virginity question as a way to get into her bedchamber, and the classic “its too hot” in here idea for their clothes. Jaime and Brienne finally get on with it after seasons of tension, and for a moment we could feel suspicion mounting. We get it validated when Jaime, apparently terrified of a healthy non-familial sexual relationship, packs up to leave Brienne without even saying goodbye. When Brienne tries to get him to stay, Jaime pulls his whole “I’m too damaged, I deserve her” speech and rides off back to the capital and back to Cersei, leaving poor Brienne in tears. This is a major back turn on Jaime’s positive character development, but a massive emotional blow to Brienne, perhaps the most undeserving bystander of all this. Despite all, Brienne loves Jaime, and has been the subject of ridicule, insult, and rejection from men her entire life. She’s able to give herself completely to the man she loves for a very special evening together and then has her heart broken. Jaime feels too defined by the things he’s done wrong that he can never accept himself as good or worthy. Too bad, don’t make that Brienne’s problem Jaime. Tormund never would have done this.
Dany and Jon try to get it on before remembering they’re related now. Yes, that is a sentence that you had to read today. The question of keeping Jon’s identity under wraps seems to be the main thesis of the conversation, because Jon may have a better claim to the throne that Dany does, and is more well liked among the people. Jon refuses to not tell Sansa and Arya, which makes Dany worry that they will try to install Jon or rally behind his claim to the throne somewhere down the line, even if Jon refuses to rule. The scene ends tensely between them, and we are left to wonder what the implications of this will be for the last two episodes.
In the war room, we realize that half of the Dothraki, Unsullied, and Northmen are now dust in the winds of winter, leaving the good guys with not a whole lot of options. Cersei has the numbers, with both the King’s Landing army, the Golden Company, and Euron’s Iron Fleet, but now she is also bringing civilians in behind the walls of the Red Keep as a dare to let Dany burn her to death along with thousands of innocents; effectively making an all out dragon assault useless. Basically, there’s some hare brained idea that Dany has to do this gently, but that’s more of a smoke and mirrors effect to shoehorn the character into having to choose between being a peaceful ruler and a mad queen, whereas I never remember Jon’s numerous battle follies having any of his mental state put into question. hmmmm. Why doesn’t Arya just get smuggled in by Davos and take out Cersei again?
Arya, Sansa, and Bran confront Jon in the Godswood to tell them that Young Starks don’t trust his new queen/gf. Jon planning to march South upsets Sansa bc Stark men have a history of the trip south being a one way trip. Jon says, “I’m not a Stark” like he did back in season 1, but for a much different reason this time: he reveals the truth about his Targaryen heritage. They’re upset, sure, but Jon swears them all to secrecy, which in the Godswood is a pretty big deal. Everyone swears, but Sansa pretty much tells Tyrion at her next possible convenience, in order to try to make the case that he should be on the Iron Throne instead of Dany.
Arya rides South with the Hound, apparently claiming she has some unfinished business, and doesn’t plan on returning home to Winterfell. The Hound seems pleased to have his favorite Murder Niece back and the two begin their companionship again. Arya is presumably going to King’s Landing, in order to kill the Mountain and Cersei, the last two names alive on her famous hit list. The Hound and The Mountain are set to come into conflict in what fans call Cleganebowl, or as I affectionately refer to it, the Clegane Cage Match, but there could be a chance that Arya and Sandor fight his brother together, in order to both come to the conclusion of killing someone who’s done them great harm.
Retroactively, before Jaime left for Winterfell, Bronn shows up brandishing the crossbow that Qyburn gave him to put an end to the Lannister Bros at the behest of Cersei. Cersei offered Bronn his most prized possession, a castle, for killing them, but Tyrion cool as you like offers to sweeten the pot for mercy. Highgarden: former seat of House Tyrell and capital of the kingdom of the Reach. Its known for its ridiculously fertile land and natural resources, and would be wasted on someone like Bronn. But the sellsword agrees not to kill them for it. This seems more towards the direction of a ploy than a promise, but we’ll see what happens. We do only have two episodes left.
Jon and Tormund say farewell to each other, and in a downright outrageous turn of events, pawns Ghost off onto him under the pretense that Ghost the Direwolf would be happier to run and hunt in the forests of the Real North, and is meant to act as a symbol of him breaking away from his Stark identity. Or, that the CGI budget needs more crowdfunding for the direwolves. Ghost, seemingly damaged during the Long Night, doesn’t even receive a goodbye good boy pat on the head from Jon, safely securing the fact that I don’t care what happens to him from here on out. You screwed up Aeggy!
Continuing the goodbyes is Jon saying goodbye to Sam and Gilly, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child. They intend to name the child after Jon, which he takes warmly, before having to bid his best friend goodbye. Its sad, but happy.
Varys seems to be more into supporting Jon’s claim than Dany’s which is weird considering how he dedicated his life to supporting her claim to the throne, so…..cool. He says that the Westerosi will prefer Jon because he’s a good leader, more even tempered, and a man. Tyrion suggests their best course of action would be to marry the two, but that gets quickly dismissed as too happy of an ending, which is honestly fair.
Euron Greyjoy, apparently so good at being an annoying plot device, shoots some harpoons and kills Dany’s dragon Rheagal, who falls into the sea. Dragon 2, down, Dragon 2 down! Euron also does some damage to Dany’s ships and captures Missandei (which in turn leads to the final and most horrific miscarriage of justice in this entire series). Euron is really starting to annoy me, he seems overpowered in situations where he shouldn’t be and caused more trouble in this one sequence than he feels worth. Dany very obviously wants to retaliate, but is eventually and rather inadvisably convinced to treat with Cersei at King’s Landing. The Hands of both Queens, Qyburn and Tyrion meet to discuss who is going to surrender. When no progress gets made, Tyrion tries to get to Cersei by talking to her directly, but she in the end remains unmoved and pulls her ace in the hole.
Cersei calls for Missandei’s last words. Missandei, born a slave and subjected to being chained; who eventually was freed to become the most prominent advisor to the Dragon Queen, who found love in someone like herself even if it was unconventional, is seen wearing chains once again. Her last words are “Dracarys”, in a silent plea to burn her killer alive to her Queen and her best friend before Dany and Grey Worm watch her as she is beheaded. Now this, this is a low one. Cersei at one point makes the joke, “So much for the Breaker of Chains.” Which when talking about Missandei, and after establishing just how different she is as a person of color, a “foreigner”, this season, is entirely shameful. To put a freed slave back into chains and then execute them after teasing a resolute and happy life for them just to ONCE AGAIN prove “bad character is bad”, is horrific at my most generous and part of a larger part of this show; and American media in general’s tenure of treating its people of color as plot devices and killing them as a way to further the plot of white savior characters. This is something I do not and could not endorse or abide. This episode and the past few seasons have had some moments of writing similar to the moments I have described, and is the single worst part about being a fan of this series. RIP to Missandei of Naath, you deserved to see those beaches again. And you certainly deserved better.
Grey Worm is obviously furious and heartbroken, and we get a shot of him turning away from the sight of Missandei’s head and lifeless body tumbling from the parapets of King’s Landing, unable to process that his love is gone. Dany on the other hand, has lost a child and a dear friend all on the advice of her Hand, who may have just committed his final act in the position. Dany storms off looking furious and angry, and we’re supposed to judge her for being a “Mad Queen” when she suffered such massive personal loss. I got a little too angry at dropping a book on my foot this morning, and no one questioned my ability to rule. This episode sets up for the final boiling over of the Westeros pot, the penultimate episode of Thrones, and if we’ve learned anything over the past few seasons, the second to last episode is more often than not the “shit goes down” episode. Emilia Clarke herself told us to “Find the biggest TV” we can to watch, so hopefully we get to see something spectacular. Or at least anything better than this episode.
To think that we are two installments away from our conclusion, brings me hope for the future, but sadness at the end of a journey. I hope to share good news next time, because our finale and last Tale from Westeros is fast approaching friends.
As always I’ve been Grand Master Zed, and this has been Tales from Westeros. Valar Morghulis.
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