It was always going to be the Night King. Sure, the main event of the season 6 finale was Daenerys, her dragons and her Really Big Team riding off to her homeland to fuck shit—and Cersei—up. But the real endgame is front and center on the season 7 poster. The White Walkers are charged up and they’re about to render all mortal squabbles over a ceremonial seat irrelevant. The question was just when and how. Would Dany defeat the Lannisters only to realize the realm she just reclaimed is now in danger of extinction? Or would Cersei wipe the Dragon Queen out at a time when firebreathers would really come in handy?
It appears, after last night’s episode, the White Walkers may force a truce. Titled after “Eastwatch,” the Night’s Watch castle that the Night King and his gang are currently marching towards, a call to arms from Bran forced Jon’s hand and in turn, everyone around him, leading to the speediest episode of a very time efficient season yet. Just one week after Dany showed Jaime a mere sample serving of Drogon’s power, it seems like we won’t get any more, bigger displays of dragon warfare yet. Two-and-a-half weeks of accidental incestuous flirtation was enough to sway Khaleesi’s entire camp to believing Jon’s inconvenient truth, so much so that she and Tyrion are ready to talk armistice in favor of giving the North the manpower it needs to fight the dead. But, I’m not so sure Cersei has any intentions of honoring it. In fact, we should all be very worried that Cersei is about to kill off the most beloved character on the show, for the same reason many beloved characters on the show have died: being too trusting and assuming of the common decency of others.
There are a lot of red flags in Cersei’s last scene of “Eastwatch.” She’s just wrapping up a hushed meeting with Qyburn, her oily right hand who co-schemes all of her double-crosses. She knows evvvvery detail about Tyrion and Jaime’s reunion before Jaime confesses to it, down to Bronn being the one to set it up. And most of all, she’s, remarkably, open to hearing Team Dany out. But it doesn’t sound like she’s coming from a true place of uniting for the greater good, which, shocker:
“I’ve come to believe an accommodation with the Dragon Queen could be in our immediate interest. She has the numbers. If we want to beat her, we have to be clever. We have to fight her like father would have.”
As in, the same father who orchestrated that notoriously unsportsmanship-like move of having his biggest enemy slaughtered at a wedding. Let’s not forget the biggest bombshell of that scene too: Cersei’s pregnant, and fierce love for her children is one of her defining character traits, the motivation behind some of her nastiest actions. With none left to care for, Cersei became an even more sadistic, rudderless wild card. But a new bun in the oven brings with it renewed hope: for the Lannister family legacy and for Cersei to literally beat fate, trumping the prophecy that doomed all of her children to die before her. But her nurturing side was always reserved solely for her children (and sometimes Jaime). A new chance at motherhood and a new brood to fight for will only make her more dangerous.
Watching this season has been an exercise in anxiety—Hodor may hold the title for most tragic death on this series, and it always sucks extra to see a direwolf and/or Stark go down, but season 6 being the last chapter before the endgame meant automatic protection for a lot of beloved characters. It’s been awhile since we’ve had to endure a fucked up, depressingly unfair death of a trueblue fan favorite (Oberyn, maybe?). With literally 8 episodes left in the entire series, though, all bets are off and it feels like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over every other scene. Literally every scene at Winterfell, for example, has been borderline unwatchable for the sheer fact that Littlefinger is on some balcony, in some castle crevice, plotting a way to rot the Stark reunion we’ve waited all series for from the inside out. But while I’m frantically nervous for Arya, after tonight I’m even more concerned that Tyrion, or, dare I say it, The Dragon Queen herself, may be riding for Jon Snow’s cause too hard in assuming that Cersei of all people can rise above her pettiness and self-preservation to give a flying fuck about a Night King.
Single-digit episodes notwithstanding, the idea of going into the final season without Daenerys seems wild and untenable. I’m sure we all thought the same thing even as Ser Ilyn Payne raised an axe down on the protagonist’s head. Or when, instead of rightful vengeance, his son got a knife in the heart as his pregnant wife, mother and men were slaughtered around him. Or when The Mountain’s hand kept twitching even after Oberyn seemingly defeated him. After all, last night’s episode also revealed that Dany’s entire campaign is, albeit unknowingly, built on a lie—she doesn’t have the most uncontested claim to the throne. As the legitimate, decidedly non-bastard son of a married Prince “Raggar” and Lyanna Stark* (thanks, Gilly!) her nephew Jon Snow Targaryen does. And judging from Drogon’s real-recognize-real moment, it seems like the dragons will happily respond to “dracarys” from cousin Jon just as easily as they do Mom. We all want Daenerys to win. (Most of us, anyway). So, with this being a George R.R. Martin story, it might be time to prepare ourselves for the idea that she might lose. Badly. Fuck.
*For the non R+L=J nerds: Basically while last season confirmed Jon is indeed the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, Gilly’s discovery proves that they were actually wed, dispelling a widespread misconception that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna, which started Robert’s Rebellion, the event that bore many of the seeds to start this series in the first place. Not only were they in love, but Rhaegar had officially, secretly, made their union legal and everything. Big fact.