Is everyone out there still breathing, or have you all been turned by the Night King? The seventh season of Game of Thrones was an emotional roller coaster for longtime fans of the show, hitting new highs by mid-season, despite some mystifying writing decisions from the team behind the show. The secrets of Westeros are drying up fast, and as we prepare for our own long winter between now and season 8, the path toward the end is clearer than ever.
WARNING: Game of Thrones spoilers will follow.
While season finales tend to be a little more mellow in the Game of Thrones universe—the penultimate episode of each season is usually the peak of destruction and devastation—we were treated to a gaggle of course-altering moments as we stagger toward the finish line like a bunch of overzealous wights. Alliances have been forged and broken, relationships have been consummated, and some of humanity's longest-standing barriers have been thrown to the wayside.
"The Dragon and the Wolf" prepared us for a season 8 where everyone's cards are on the table, leaving little reason for back-alley politics. But before we look too far ahead, let's discuss a few of moments that loom largest from the Game of Thrones season 7 finale.
Cersei has lost everyone, except her future child
For one brief moment during "The Dragon and the Wolf," it looked like Cersei Lannister had finally shelved her evil and focused on the good of the people. Sparing her little brother may have been a tad predictable, but promising to aid the north in the war against the White Walkers was totally unexpected.
Perhaps that's why the truce didn't last through another freaking scene with Cersei. The next time she popped up on camera, she was telling her brother (and commander of the Lannister army) that he was the dumbest member of the Lannisters for believing her intentions were earnest. In the span of roughly 10 minutes, she had pivoted from unlikely ally back to the pure embodiment of evil we've come to know over seven seasons.
This time, that decision came with a cost. Jamie Lannister has stood by his sister and part-time lover through thick and thin, even remaining loyal after she murdered thousands of innocent people in her quest to take the Iron Throne. Finally, after seeing what exists beyond the wall and listening to the pleas of their "foes" to the north, Jamie decided he'd had enough, and this final act of betrayal was enough for him to distance himself from the mother of his future child.
As we mentioned in our Game of Thrones preview last week, in a roundabout way this confirms another step of the prophecy that has loomed over Cersei's life since she was a child. Daenerys has indeed taken all Cersei holds dear, but she didn't have to take it by force: she took it by presenting Jamie with the harsh reality facing humanity, and implored him to leave Cersei on his own terms.
And so, Cersei now faces a predicament she has created for herself. Yes, she has the Iron Bank on her side, and yes, she is one of the most powerful people in Westeros. But she has nobody left that is truly in her corner, and the family she holds so dear has sent a clear message: you're on your own.
The Starks have finally come together
The conclusion of the Arya and Sansa power battle was not as satisfying as it could have been. Game of Thrones tried to present the death of Littlefinger as a big twist at the end of season 7, but really, it just cheapened a lot of the work they'd done up until that moment. What was the point of the "faces" scene one week prior, highlighting real tension between the sisters, other than to serve as a cheap fakeout to set up Littlefinger's execution?
But maybe that's missing the point, because the important thing is the full might of the Stark family finally shining through. Rarely has the family been able to combine forces over the last few seasons, with the house's most senior members (Ned, Robb, Catelyn) killed in some of the series' most gruesome moments. Up until now, the children were mostly unequipped to make any power moves, let alone restore the house to its former place of prominence.
In "The Dragon and the Wolf," the next generation of Starks—Bran, Sansa, and Arya—proved they are a force to be reckoned with when they team up. Sure, all they ultimately accomplished was exposing and executing Littlefinger, but remember: this is a man who faked out older and more accomplished leaders all around Westeros for years. Using Bran's sight, Sansa's logical reasoning, and Arya's throat-slicing ability, the trio showed they can use what little they have between them to get things done.
This is an important development not just for the Stark family, but for the Thrones universe. The theme heading into season 8 is a need for humanity to band together. The Stark siblings have not always seen eye-to-eye, and yet in a moment of turmoil, they were able to sort through real tension and make the correct decision, protecting the family and exposing corruption for all to see. That's the sort of example the rest of the realm needs to follow.
But speaking of exposure...
Jon and Daenerys finally took it to the next level
Bran, while I'm a big fan of you stepping up to help out your sisters, we need to have a nice, long talk about you letting your "brother" down this week.
On the one hand, Jon and Daenerys are clearly smitten with one another, and those two, ahem, coming together is good for the sake of Westeros. Though the show downplayed the idea of good and evil mattering for the first five seasons, Jon and Dany have proven over time that they, more than anyone, care about what's good for the people and not just themselves. If you have the ability to just shrug off the incest angle, seeing two of the show's most beloved (and attractive!) characters finally do the nasty was what the streets were waiting for.
But dear Lord, did we have to let it happen as Bran was narrating the scene and highlighting in giant, neon letters that you were watching incest? Couldn't Bran have warged into someone and said to Jon, "Hey buddy, I know you think she's hot, but that's actually your aunt, so maybe sleep on this one and revisit the decision in the morning?"
It did not make the scene any less powerful, because a number of important theories were explicitly confirmed: Jon is 100 percent a Targaryen, actually named Aegon, and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. On top of all that, we now know for sure that the basis of Robert's Rebellion was a lie. This is information that can change the lives of several of the show's key characters—most importantly Jon, who will have to face an identity crisis at the absolute worst possible time. At the same time, this could also help table animosity between feuding families at a time when humanity needs peace.
For the love of all things holy, though, can Bran get his act together and get Jon on the horn? At least let him know what he's doing before allowing him to continue.
Theon Greyjoy is back with a vengeance
The sort-of-Stark brother went from swashbuckling stud to a castrated coward in the span of a couple seasons, and most people thought Theon was done for at this point. After leaving his sister to die early in season 7, any chance at redemption he had left appeared lost.
And then finally, following an important conversation with Jon Snow, Theon finally snapped to, realizing he had nothing left to lose by standing up for those he loved. He risked his life to lead a search party for his sister, Yara Greyjoy, currently being held captive by their sadistic uncle.
The development of the scene was rather ridiculous—does Theon draw power from being kicked where his dick used to be?—but seeing him return to his old self was exciting all the same. It's not too late for him to make up for the sins he committed against his loved ones, and Theon now has a season left to prove that it's his actions, and not his genitalia, which will define his legacy.
The ice dragon is coming for everyone
After all the moving and shaking by the leaders in Westeros, none of it may matter in the end. The final image in "The Dragon and the Wolf" was a display of the mightiest power we have ever seen on the show: a zombie ice dragon. And it's not immediately clear if there's anything that can stop it.
Chauffeuring the Night King across the border, the dragon formerly known as Viserion took humanity's best effort at a defense—the Wall—and shattered it into a million tiny pieces, opening the gates for the army of the undead. It was a terrifying show of force, undoing generations worth of work in less than two minutes.
The war of the undead vs. humanity inherently favors the former, because they have to be killed in specific ways in order to be kept down and out. There may not be enough dragonglass in the world to supply all of humanity with the weapons necessary to ward off the White Walkers, and now the undead army has a cheat code in the form of a dragon. While he was never the starring member of Daenerys' trio—Drogon is the clear alpha of the group—it's possible he now has a leg up on his brothers.
This spells certain doom for countless citizens of Westeros, but it does add one exciting wrinkle to the final season. There's now a near-guarantee we'll get a dragon-on-dragon battle, the sort of set piece fans have been dreaming about ever since the mythical creatures debuted on the show. The fate of humanity may end up resting on the wings of Drogon and Rhaegal, so let's hope they're up for the challenge.