Eammon Jacobs recaps Game of Thrones Season Eight’s fifth episode and looks ahead to the finale…
We’re in the endgame now. After the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season 8 delivered a devastating blow to Cersei’s hold on Westeros, it’s become very clear that this has all been an origin story for the biggest villain that the country has had to contend with so far – Daenerys Targaryen. After her forces had successfully backed the Lannister army into surrendering, it looked as if we were going to see a dramatic showdown between the two Queens – with Cersei and her unborn child getting burnt alive. Instead, the episode decided to change course and deliver us something the show has been teasing since the very beginning – a Mad Queen. In the wake of Missandei’s death in the previous episode, the dragon-riding Targaryen grieves for the loss of her friend – and it’s this that we’re led to believe is the catalyst for her sudden snap into madness. As she incinerates the city and it’s transformed into a desolate labyrinth of smoke and death, we’re faced with another question – so who’s going to be left on the throne?
Well, since Cersei and Jaime both seemingly died in the collapse of the Red Keep, the pool of contenders has become very narrow. Although Daenerys is the invading force, after this horrific display of cruelty there’s no way that she’s going to end up triumphant. As many people on Twitter have pointed out, in Westeros history a Lannister has murdered a mad ruler before – and since there’s one who’s lost everything thanks to his devotion to her, the finger points at Tyrion. It would all come full circle since Jaime was in the Kingsguard for Aerys Targaryen and Tyrion is Hand of the Queen.
Then again, Jon Snow will likely lose his cool with Dany after witnessing the bleak devastation and slaughter that she indulged in after the bells tolled. It would be very poetic if he was the one to put her out of her misery, especially since he’s supposedly the messianic figure ‘Azor Ahai’ in the mythology of the series. Azor Ahai is meant to be the one to save Westeros from ultimate destruction, and with an unhinged Daenerys on the loose, it’s fair to say that she’d be devastating for the entire nation. She’s good at sacking cities, she’s not so good at ruling them afterwards. Jon Snow however? Well, as the Mad Queen herself put it – everyone loves him. How he’ll deal with killing Drogon remains to be seen… Who knows, maybe the dragon’s got a conscience?
Arya was caught in the horror of all the civilians fleeing the dragon fire and witnessed people being burnt alive, crushed and murdered thanks to Dany’s attack on King’s Landing. Luckily, she made it through all of it and survived right to the end. Weirdly, she found a horse to ride away on. Take all the subtext you want with that one, maybe Arya is ‘death riding a pale horse’. She’s definitely a contender for killing Daenerys, and if it was a straight hand-to-hand fight there is no contest on who would win. Obviously if there’s a dragon lurking about then killing the Mad Queen might not be so easy.
But since Jon has a connection to the firebreather thanks to his Targaryen blood, it’s possible he could distract him long enough for Arya to get close. The only other person that could match Arya in a fight now would be Greyworm – assuming he survived the battle and wasn’t caught by literal friendly fire. Admit it, seeing those two fight would really be a spectacle. It’s easy to see that Greyworm will follow Dany to the bitter end, as he slaughtered surrendering soldiers just because he could. So it seems likely that he’ll die in the finale too.
Sansa and the North
Although she’s been slightly irritating all season long, it’s undeniable that Sansa Stark has moved herself into a genuine position of power in the North now. Jon doesn’t want to rule and even if he was offered the position on the throne, there’s no way he’d take it. However, Sansa is Warden of the North and genuinely thinks of the people first instead of the pettiness of a power struggle. Just look at her concerns of feeding the dragons at Winterfell and the numbers of their army in preparation for the King’s Landing battle. Since she didn’t make an appearance in the penultimate episode, it’s not difficult to guess that Sansa will have a role to play in the ending. Don’t forget, Bran is also still up North delivering cryptic messages and staring at people. He’ll likely have some more bizarre sentiments to serve up before the series is over. He’ll probably deliver the explanation for whatever resolution the series decides to go with.
A New Seat of Power
The really interesting part is whether any survivors of the finale decide to rule Westeros from the Iron Throne like every other King and Queen has done for centuries – or whether they decide to mix it all up a little. Since getting Winterfell back from enemy occupation has always been a focal point, maybe Sansa (or whoever ends up surviving) make that the new capital of the country. King’s Landing is in ruins after all, and if Winter is over(?) then the warmer months would be a prime time to forge a new Westeros.
Obviously this is all speculation, and knowing Game of Thrones the finale will probably shock audiences in unexpected ways – and not all of them good.