Season 8, Episode 4 - ‘The Last of the Starks’



‘The Last of the Starks’ is an episode of mixed emotion and momentum. It’s sporadically satisfying, although it certainly delivers as a suspenseful prelude in the war to come next episode. It delivers well on drama, if not for some woeful writing in places and character deaths solely to deliver shock. One thing however is certainly looking likely. The final two instalments are lining up to be one gore laden cataclysmic final standoff between the Mother of Dragons and the Mother of Madness.




We use a simple “out of 5” rating criteria for all reviews.

3 out of 5 is GOOD.

Something with this rating is absolutely worth checking out, but it’s flawed with a couple of mis-steps.

Following on from what can only be defined as a gargantuan behemoth of an episode (‘The Long Night’), Season Eight’s 4th instalment ‘The Last of the Starks’ starts of as somewhat more sombre affair. The episode begins outside the walls of Winterfell where Jon, Daenerys and the rest of the main cast are saying farewell to those felled in the previous battle with the dead. Jon perpetuates a pretty impressive and poignant eulogy referring to those fallen as “the shields that guard the realms of men”, a throwback to his days as a man of the nights watch and effectively honouring them all as men and women of the nights watch. It is also in this scene that Sansa pays tribute to Theon Greyjoy pinning her stark broach to his body upon a funeral pyre, ultimately bringing his story arc full circle after he fought to defend Bran against the Night King. Jon also mentions how those who fought set aside their differences to unite against the dead. However, given the events of this latest instalment, I fear things will be much, much different going forward.

A degree of awkwardness seems to dominate the feast inside the great hall to commemorate the battle. Daenerys is seen to single out Gendry (the bastard son of the man who usurped her father’s throne) and names him Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storms End. It’s interesting here that she seems to do this to display her power, in that only a monarch can legitimise a bastard whilst also solidifying him as an ally in the wars to come. It’s fair to say the melody and momentum of this episode shares its DNA with the 1st and 2nd episodes of the season as once again, most of this episode is focused on quieter character relations. The feast also serves to remind Daenerys, and the viewers, that she is simply tolerated in Westeros due to her power (now most of which is greatly depleted) and is not respected, or even particularly well liked, unlike Jon snow who everyone respects deeply and seem to gravitate towards.

Daenerys states brazenly to a room full of onlookers during the post battle feast that “they have won the great war, now we will win the last war”. If anyone viewing the show thought that by losing her most trusted advisor, half her unsullied, and an entire hoard of Dothraki screamers would somehow quash her insatiable need to plant her arse on a chair made of swords, you’d be urinating in the wind…

I hope they do a better job of adapting the Phoenix storyline from the comics... Wait. Sorry. Wrong franchise. - Ed.

The episode has a frank sense of finality to it, littered with various farewells from character to character. Another obvious reminder to the viewer that there are in fact only 2 episodes left of the season and the show in its entirety. However, a lot of the goodbyes feel rushed and not particularly will written. I for one was not amused at how casually ghost was brushed aside when Jon asks Tormund to take him north as he states the south is no place for a dire wolf. It seems he is cast aside with not even so much as a “good boy” pat on the head, considering he’s missing half an ear and clearly got stuck into the thick of the battle. One of significance is the embrace between Jon and Samwell Tarly. Sam, who birthed into the show a disgraced tubby coward and throughout has matured into a man. Their presumed final embrace mirrors that of Frodo and Sam from the Lord of the rings and one that fans will soak up for all its worth. It’s a rare moment on Thrones, one that actors Kit Harrington and John Bradley deliver with perfection and authenticity.

The next phase of the Episode seems to emphasise on Jon revealing to his family (Arya and Sansa) his true parentage, against the command of Daenerys, and where Bran monotonously states “It’s your choice”. These words seem ominous from Bran, as if he wasn’t creepy and brooding enough already. In addition to probably coming back to haunt Jon spectacularly, I’ve always felt a degree of foreshadowing whenever Jon does something honourable. He was after all raised by Ned stark who was an honourable man (“He who passes the sentence should swing the sword”). This again was evidenced when he let the Wildlings south of the wall so they wouldn’t be added to the army of the dead, and paid the price for it. This latest issue may play out in a similar fashion. It’s worth pointing out that Daenerys is on the literal war path this episode. Even when she is trying to be sincere her words seem harsh and unforgiving which only serves to isolate her further from those she means to rule. This is verified when Sansa suggests giving the men who are weary from battle a chance to rest before commanding them to literally march 1000 miles to Kings Landing. Daenerys simply reacts implying she cares little as to the welfare of her army.

It is however by the end of the Episode easy to understand her Blind rage and associated deterioration of her mental state. If it were me I’d be positively frothing from the mouth. After Euron Greyjoy’s medieval, naval version of blitzkrieg, Rhaegal is impaled (with accuracy that is frankly laughable considering both dragon and naval vessel are moving at speed) by a volley of ballista delivering fatal results to both her dragon and her fleet. The simply pitiful military tactics implored in this season has been very hard to ignore, especially as a gamer and somebody with a keen interest in military history. Cue the rage of all those who play Total War. The fact Daenerys doesn’t retaliate or even see them coming 1000 ft up in the air a top a fire breathing super weapon at this point cannot be easily ignored.

The episode closes with climatic events. A series of exchanges are made between Tyrion and disgraced ex maester Qyburn. Tyrion implores him to help prevent the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, something you’d think most people would be eager to resolve. An intense monologue is delivered by Tyrion as he pleads with his sister to bend the knee to save herself and her unborn child. Her reply… she simply orders the mountain to execute the captured Missandei of Narth by cutting off her head in front of a horrified Daenerys and to a visibly grieved Grey worm. Alas they will never see the beaches of Narth again as Grey worm had so affectionately promised her in Episode 2 of the current season.

She is not a nice person. - Ed.

It’s an emotional scene and one that produces a sense of forthcoming doom and tragedy spectacularly. As Daenerys simply turns and walks away with fury, no doubt awash with dreams of fire and blood, Missandei’s final words also mirror this. When Cersei states if she had any final words, she simply bellows the word “Dracarys”. A word we’re all too familiar with and its incendiary implications. I take no issue with this scene; it’s delivered well and genuinely fills you with a sense of dread for what is to come. The issue specifically being her death and her subsequent final words. I feel she only met her simply to drive Daenerys further into despair. A character that spent all of her time on the show as a loyal subject to her queen and one who always cautioned aggression towards the common people. I find it hard to believe she would utilise her final word to empower Daenerys into burning hundreds of thousands of people. I also wonder why she didn’t look Cersei square in the eyes and throw herself from the platform, instead of letting the Mountain ceremoniously behead her to provoke those she loves.

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