In “The Dragon and the Wolf” we got the longest episode of Game of Thrones to date, and to my mind, one of the most satisfying. It may not have had the great action sequences of Hardhome or the shocking twists of the Red Wedding- but what it lacked in the sensational it made up for in the emotional. We were treated to an episode of lengthy scenes with excellent dialogue, important revelations, and the conclusion of several nuanced character arcs. I’m drawn to the adjective “satisfying” for this episode, and I’ll explain what I mean. None of the events were too unexpected, but what made them so great is that they nonetheless made us feel tense and on edge. Did any of us really think that Cersei would cooperate? Or that Arya was out to murder her sister? No. I predicted Littlefinger’s demise in my episode 3 review, but I didn’t need the conclusion of his storyline to be a sensational twist in order to enjoy it. What’s important is how the show handled these arcs, and I think they were well crafted and satisfying in their emotional payoff.
The scene where Littlefinger is sentenced to death was made all the more powerful by the fact that Aiden Gillen is such a fantastic actor. The character of Petyr Baelish is one of my favorite characters on the show because he is so well-written and so well-portrayed, and I’m glad he met his end trying one of his schemes rather than gradually becoming less relevant and getting written out of the show- which could easily happen in a narrative as large and sprawling as this. Here we see a character whose very nature is forged out of lovesick passion. Everything that is important about Littlefinger comes from his deep-seated obsession for Catelyn Stark as a child- his ambition, his cunning, his every agency and advantage. It all stems from love. I know it’s a stretch to compare Littlefinger to Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff- but here we similarly see a beaten down man who will seemingly move heaven and earth to get the acceptance and respect he wants. He can’t let his humiliation go and that’s what makes him such a tragic and sympathetic character. In season 1 he denies Ros’ offer of a threesome with a prostitute because he is trapped in the happy memories of his childhood, telling her “I’m saving myself for another”. And I find it so fitting that the same passion that drove him to become so powerful is the same thing which unmakes him; his obsession for Sansa blinds him to the fact that she’s playing him. One can imagine a story of the events entirely from Littlefinger’s point of view, and it would be a Greek Tragedy. I was very satisfied with the way they ended his storyline. He tried one last scheme and it failed. Seeing him cry made myself and a lot of other fans feel sorry for him, before remembering what he did to Ned in season one. Even though I like Ned more, I find Littlefinger so much more interesting. Ned did the standard, noble hero-thing by saying to Cersei “You think my life is some precious thing to me?” whereas Littlefinger crumpled to the floor, choking on the utterance of the name of the woman he loves, as he fights for breath. He’s a villain, but he’s a human villain, and the show was that much richer for having him in it.
Another character who fascinates me on this show is Jaime. He has all the instincts of an honorable man, and yet he has continued to adopt the persona of the cocky, backstabbing coward that the public has given him- until now. In the finale we got to see the breaking point which fans have long been looking forward to. I don’t think this event was particularly surprising, as we have been watching the erosion of that cocksure, amoral façade ever since Locke amputated his right hand. And of course Cersei was never going to honor any kind of deal. I feel like the series is shaping up into a more traditional good vs evil dynamic now, as Jaime follows the Hound and Tyrion in the abandonment of House Lannister. The scene where he walks away from Cersei was especially tense, and one of the many character-driven scenes in this episode. Earlier we see the Hound and Brienne burying the hatchet, which was such a great interaction because it showed just how far he’s come. In Sansa we see the culmination of everything she has been through and everything she has learned from Littlefinger about playing the Game of Thrones. And in perhaps my favorite scene this episode, we see just how far Theon has come and what a tragic character he is. It was easy to hate Theon when he sacked Winterfell, but now we see just what a toll his decisions and his guilt have taken on him. All Theon has ever wanted is to belong. He thought he was doing the right thing by siding with his father Balon in his invasion of the north, and he has been tortured by his decision ever since. Much like Jaime, he has undergone some horrific things that, while horrible, helped him gain perspective. The loss of Jaime’s hand was the best thing that could have happened to his character. They took away his primary mode of character agency- his swordsmanship- and by its removal allowed him to reevaluate himself as a person. He can no longer hide behind it, or allow it to define him. As for Theon, it’s a little different, but in a culture that values the machismo, the removal of his prick represents to him the peak of his failure. They didn’t chop it off just for a bit of meaningless torture-porn. His cock n’ bollocks have a greater, metaphorical meaning. At that point he can see nothing beyond what a disappointment he is. But that ended with this episode. Theon had one of his best ever moments when he refused to be weak and ineffectual any longer, and save the one person who has always believed in him.
In “The Dragon and the Wolf” we saw a return to the slower, more deliberate pace of seasons past as it looked to tie up loose ends and highlight all these character arcs, with its only rushed moment being the scene where Bran and Samwell discover the true extent of Jon’s heritage. However I liked how they intercut the flashback with Jon and Dany’s sex scene, because of the sense of history repeating itself. It was a revelation that we all knew, but so badly wanted to be discussed, and it sets it up nicely for next season. And finally we are left with the image of a reanimated Viserion melting the Wall with blue fire, which I think was pretty inevitable. But that didn’t detract from the spectacle of it, or the intended sense of dread with which we will be approaching the final season.
What did you folks think about the episode? Let me know in the comments! If you enjoyed this piece and want to see more content like this, then please consider giving me a Like or Subscribe. Thanks for reading!