Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 review: The Last of the Starks shows the living are a greater threat than the dead ever were

Rohini Nair

May 06, 2019 10:14:41 IST

For a recap of Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3, click here; and here for the review.


Back in Game of Thrones' season 2, there is a moment when Daenerys stands outside the splendid gates of Qarth. She has spent days wandering with the remnants of her khalasar and Ser Jorah Mormont through the great Red Waste. Her dragons are infants, they refuse to eat. Rakharo, the most loyal of her bloodriders who had been sent ahead to scout for food or shelter, is sent back to her by a rival khal — in pieces. If Viserys was taunted as "the beggar king" then Daenerys is at this moment, a "beggar queen".

When the 13 leaders of Qarth deny her hospitality, she threatens — despite her bedraggled state — to rain vengeance on them. They simply turn their faces away, except for Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who champions her cause and takes her in.

The ending of Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 is strongly reminiscent of that season 2 moment. Daenerys has landed at the gates of King's Landing. Her antagonist — Cersei Lannister — stands atop her high walls and looks down at the Targaryen queen's pitiful strength. A few Unsullied. A dragon she cannot use against her enemies without putting him in grave danger. And her loyal aide Missandei, a captive.

For a full recap of how this episode — 'The Last War' — gets to this moment, click here.

There are similar callbacks throughout this episode, most of them recounting less than pleasant aspects of the past.

Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 review: The Last of the Starks shows the living are a greater threat than the dead ever were

Still from Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. Image courtesy Helen Sloan/HBO

Briefly, the survivors of Winterfell have bid adieu to those who fell in the battle against the Night King. Jorah, Theon, Lyanna, Edd, Ser Beric, the Dothraki. There are some attempts to celebrate later that night, but all around there are undercurrents of anxiety and dread.

Daenerys can't but fail to see that Jon enjoys the same love and devotion here in the North that she did in the West. As Viserys once looked on at Dany being cheered by the Dothraki after eating a stallion's heart in front of the Dosh Khaleen, now it is Daenerys' turn to watch Jon receive the love she hasn't, in Westeros.

Sansa is keeping a close eye on Daenerys, especially after the latter legitimises Gendry as a Baratheon and makes him Lord of Storm's End. Sansa also has her own throwback moment with the Hound, who calls her "Little Bird" as he used to in his days as Joffrey's henchman. He tells her she should have left the Red Keep with him the night of the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and then none of what happened to her would have taken place. But Sansa says that had she not had those experiences, she would have remained the "Little Bird".

Lovers meet, lovers part. Arya turns down Gendry's proposal in a bittersweet moment, telling him what she once told Ned Stark: "I'm not going to be a Lady. That's not me." In a moment that harks back to their time in Harrenhal (and that also has tones of the drinking game Tyrion, Shae and Bronn play the night before the Battle of the Green Fork), Jaime and Brienne end up in each other's arms, and not platonically this time — much to Tormund's chagrin. Daenerys and Jon struggle to come to terms with what his Targaryen parentage means for them. She pleads with him to keep it a secret, but Jon tells her that he won't hold back the truth from Sansa and Arya at the very least.

Still from Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. Image courtesy Helen Sloan/HBO

Still from Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. Image courtesy Helen Sloan/HBO

When it's time to take stock of their losses, it emerges that their forces have been more than halved. Plans for their campaign south are quickly etched out — but not without some disagreements, which Jon tries to assuage by reassuring Daenerys of the North's fealty to her. When his sisters later confront him under the weir tree, about his unswerving obedience to Daenerys, he allows Bran to reveal the truth of his parentage to them.

The reveal sets off in motion a chain reaction: Sansa tells Tyrion, Tyrion tells Varys, and Varys now has knowledge that he can use to drum up support for a man he believes is a better alternative to rule Westeros than Daenerys. If the disclosure of his Targaryen lineage was played down in episodes 1 and 2 of season 8, then in 'The Last War' it takes on all the consequences it should have, right from the start. Varys has nursed disquieting apprehensions about Daenerys' ability to bring peace to the Seven Kingdoms for a while now, and in Jon, he sees a solution. Daenerys' talk of "freeing the world of tyrants" and it being her "destiny" further fuel his certainty that she wouldn't be the best ruler for Westeros.

Even as the Targaryen and Northern forces move towards the South, Cersei has not been sitting idle. She attacks and with force: Rhaegal is slain, Daenerys' remaining fleet of ships is destroyed in an ambush by Euron Greyjoy. Worse, Missandei is Cersei's captive.

And it is thus that Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, stands outside the walls of King's Landing, with her small squadron of the Unsullied, Tyrion, Varys and Grey Worm by her side. Missandei is executed before her. Drogon is as good as dead if he flies over the city walls, where deadly scorpions wait.

Still from Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. Image courtesy Helen Sloan/HBO

Still from Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. Image courtesy Helen Sloan/HBO

Qarth was among the first of Daenerys' many triumphs as she conquered parts of Essos. Whether or not her attack on King's Landing will have the same ending remains to be seen.

What 'The Last War' establishes particularly well, is that the Night King — for all his near-invincibility — doesn't have half Cersei Lannister's stature as a villain. The dead, it turns out, weren't the biggest threat after all; it was the living who had to be feared all along.

With only two more episodes to go before our watch ends, the game of thrones has finally reached its last act. And what a last act it promises to be.

Rating: ★★★ and a 1/2

Where everyone is at the end of this episode:

At Winterfell — Sansa, Bran, Brienne (for now), Pod (for now), Sam with Gilly and their unborn child and Little Sam

Headed to the Land of Always Winter — Tormund, the surviving Wildlings, (possibly) Ghost

At the Iron Islands — Yara Greyjoy

At King's Landing — Cersei, the Golden Company, Euron Greyjoy, Qyburn, the Mountain

Outside King's Landing/at Dragonstone — Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys, the Unsullied, Drogon

Headed South — Jon, Ser Davos, the Northerners, a few Dothraki, the Hound. (Possibly) Arya Stark and Jaime Lannister

Headed to parts unknown — Ser Bronn of the Blackwater

Possibly headed to Storm's End — Lord Gendry Baratheon

Dead — Missandei, Rhaegal, Varys' faith in Daenerys

Watch the trailer for Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 here:


While you're here, check out our Game of Thrones season 8 coverage. From opinions to analysis, reviews and recaps, news and photos — we've got it all. Oh, and also our podcast — GoTCast.

Updated Date: May 06, 2019 19:04:58 IST

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