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« Nominations for the 61st Arieles Are Announced | Main | Review: Tolkien »

Game of Thrones "The Last of the Starks" (S08E04)


by Eric Blume

In this season’s best episode yet, Game of Thrones head creatives David Benioff and D.B. Weiss display their astounding aesthetic taste and uncanny ability to know exactly what viewers want to see.  This episode featured one powerhouse match-up after the next, giving us duet after duet of characters we want to see together, talking about what we want them to talk about, in exactly the way we want them talking about it.  The episode also features particularly fine writing, an element of Game of Thrones that often goes unsung despite being one of the show’s strongest features.

The show opened with a funeral segment and an extended banquet scene that paid tribute to last week’s monumental battle...

 The show is always certain to show the weight of death and the consequences of battle, very responsible about the violence.  The episode focuses largely on the waning power of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), seen here in a variety of manipulative scenes that give this character and this actress more to do than in the past two seasons.  It’s fun to see Clarke get to play something more than imperiousness, and she runs with it.

We also get to see the long-delayed hook-up of Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendolyn Christie), as well as their inevitable dissolution.  Benioff and Weiss know what a special actress they have in Christie, and they’ve given her just the right amount of featured material. And Coster-Waldau continues to flesh out Jaime in a series of fascinating dualities…it’s incredibly subtle and intelligent acting, and the Emmy really should be his if there’s any justice this fall.

This episode also gave us a great war room scene where all the key actors are together and a variety of motivations are revealed. Other highlights involved a terrific scene of the remaining Family Stark members and John Snow’s farewells to his closest friends. About Kit Harrington -- he’s often ridiculed, but I’d argue that he finds a surprising amount of flavors within the confines of his role. It’s not easy to play The Hero without being super boring, and Harrington conveys a huge self-doubt and troubling moral weight in his scenes that a lesser actor might miss.

But everything leads to possibly the series’ most compelling actor:  Lena Headey, as our Big Bad, the climax that will determine the outcome of the show.  Headey has been missed this season, completely out of the last two shows (by design), but coming back at the end of the episode in grand style.  Headey and the show’s creative forces have keyed into Cersei so keenly that the actress registers like a silent movie actress: most of what she does is conveyed through silent processing in the actress’ mind, which we somehow see.  It’s a miraculous thing they do with this character: she’s a lightly-psychotic kitten, a deeply sexual woman, a scarily maternal lightning bolt, and a host of other forces that compete with themselves. Her transitions during the scene upon the castle are spectacular… acting can rarely be called delicious, but with Headey it applies.

There’s no guessing what might transpire over the last two episodes of this beautiful show.  Ben will be here to guide you through the penultimate episode, and then we’ll be together to discuss the big finale in two weeks.  Please leave your non-hating thoughts in the comments section to celebrate the deeply fine, hard work these artists are doing this season.



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Reader Comments (20)

Big fan of this episode. First episode of the season that was fully successful, really.

Most impressed with Jamie and Danny’s progression here. Some fanboys are angry and wanted to believe these characters turned over a new leaf or had honorable and selfless motives but thank god the writers remembered these character’s cores and did not just write fan service Jamie’s defining character trait is his devotion and love to his sister, no matter the cost, and he’s returned to her time and time again. Lets not forget this guy has killed countless innocents and shoved a 6 year old boy out of a tower with a shrug and a smirk in episode 1. Sure he has gained something of a (limited) conscience, but to just leave the love of his life to die would go against the very essense of who he is.

Season’s episodes:

Episode 1 - B - decent set-up for season and re-introduction of characters.
Episode 2- C - meandering, a bore. tons of very minor characters reacquainting + battle set up.
Episode 3 - B+ or A- - absolutely thrilling battle episode, undercut by some unbelievable and downright silly moments and the knight king’s disappointing conclusion.
Episode 4 - A. Back to what the show does best. Setting up natural Colliding character motivations and political Intrigue. Dany + Jamie actions being completely in character and natural given recent events, yet devastating to us fans. Can only lead to bad things...

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Totally agree this was the best so far.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

I can't believe what I'm reading. This episode was so basic. At least they had the decency of not showing us Brienne's breasts now that she's reduced to the damsel in love type.

And don't get me started on Daenerys' evolution.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Weird how it is said here that they do "what fans want to see", but this has been, by far, the most critized and negatively received episode in the entire series.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

I dont trust a review who dont takle the problematic elements of this episode. I am gonna read my coverage of GOT elsewhere.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjota

Ugh, you guys, this is one of the worst episodes of eight seasons of this show. It particularly does a disservice to Brienne, Sansa, and Dany, in terms of character arc, dialogue, etc. Clearly not written by Bryan Cogman, who was responsible for one of the best episodes (S8E2).

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Yes, I also thought this was both a place-holder episode and one that torpedoes its female characters. Where has Brienne and Jamie's romantic relationship come from? That felt very much like the last gasp of a show desperate to provide some romantic intrigue in its final stretch.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

AMEN, Peggy Sue!

Quite possibly the worst GoT episode ever created. It knocked me over the head this week that two white men are writing this show, and without source material, they are sinking. This entire season (save "The Long Night") has been awful. The fan theories are better than what has actually transpired. Sad, too, because it used to be brilliant in all aspects.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteroscarsights

I don't think allowing Brienne to show different shades of her personality weakens her in any way. I'm also confused how anyone can say Jaime and Brienne's feelings came out of nowhere. They've been staring longingly at each other for half the run of the series. Cersei called Brienne on her feelings for Jaime way back at Joffrey's wedding. But they were on opposite sides of a war until now and both have, shall we say, complicated romantic histories that would make them reluctant to own up to their feelings.

Nice write-up, Eric. I will continue to read despite your stubborn insistence on having your own opinions.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I cant believe what I am reading. This episode was a disgrace. One of the worst of the series, if not THE worst. Poorly written, plot holes everywhere, no internal logic or coherence, rushed, with ridiculous dialogues and years and years of character development thrown in the trash can.

There were such ridiculous moments I just couldn't believe that was the same show that once gave us "Blackwater", "The bear and the maiden fair", "Baelor" or "The Viper and the Mountain".

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I thought the review was sarcastic. Was I wrong?

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

This has to be satire.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Wait it is. Lmao I’m surprised I could have thought it wasn’t.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

The episode was terrible, and the way it's set up the final stretch does not give me one bit of hope for what's to come. I honestly didn't have as high hopes for the series given how impossibly hard the task of closing a show like this must be and even then I'm stunned at how hard they're flopping it.

Terrible writing all around, from the logical within the universe to the development of its characters to the absolute mistreatment of its female characters. And this is even without getting into the problematic aspects of it lol It's a travesty how they're handling so many things, and (barring a major surprise given where they're headed) I'm crushed with disappointment at the way they will flop the ending.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

What a bunch of ingrates! These people are leaving and you spit on them. Give them some credit for putting on a good show.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

I appreciate your appreciation for the show. We have put it on such a pedestal, that nothing will live up to our ridiculous expectations.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBen

With only 6,5/10 this is by far the worst rated episode of imdb and deservly so. Second worst has 8,1/10. Yes, what a gap between that two. The Whole season is a mess. only 8.2. was good. I am disapointed what they are doing with one of the best series ever. Its gonna be worst than the last season of dexter, rosanne (original rated), heroes, lost, etc.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

My understanding of Brienne is that she wasn't crying because he was leaving her but that he was specifically leaving to go to his doom. Brienne doesn't believe Cersei was will and wants Jamie to stay alive. Maybe romantic feelings are becoming more pronounced but she had respect for him before that developed.

And I also think Dany's reactions are understandable. She was spent almost a decade gathering an army, raising dragons, conquering cities and continents, then is told that all her work is for nothing as someone else is supposed to take her place and this person doesn't even want the prize. Everything Dany has she had to earn. Nothing has been given to her. I do agree with the writers that Clarke is giving a good performance grappling with the fact that her destiny has been a lie.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I do, however, agree with everyone else about the pacing of the last season (and really last season as well)- everything is going too fast. It's like the show is racing to wrap up everything and corners are being cut. Why? I don't see why they couldn't have just done a full season or maybe one more. People are obviously watching and the show is raking in money so this fast pace just confuses me.

May 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

Co-sign what Pam and others have said, I was so disappointed by this episode I can't begin to comment on it. Truly awful, and it left such a bitter taste in my mouth.
The taste of misogyny..
(Of course women in power have to be bitches, and go mad.) And of course they must be replaced by - any male. ?
One interesting note, GRRM has said that the show is ending at the same place that the final book will end at. So if this ending falls flat - ? Will GRRM then change his mind and end his book differently? That's the biggest question I have.

May 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

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