Man, these short Game of Thrones seasons are brutal, aren’t they? Now that the fantasy series is in its final run, HBO is cramming more action into fewer episodes and making them longer—at nearly 80 minutes, Sunday’s finale “The Dragon and the Wolf” is the show’s most lengthy yet. It’s exciting and all, but sheesh, does anyone else feel like they just did a 12-parsec Kessel Run through Westeros? A lot’s gone down these last few weeks and it’s been tough to keep up.
(Spoiler alert: If you’re not caught up on the current season of this show and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.)
To get you up to speed: Sansa Stark is now ruling the North as the Lady of Winterfell, reunited with her siblings Arya and Bran, who—for reasons that are unclear—seem set on calling her disloyal and reminding her of her abusive marriage, respectively. Their bastard brother, Jon Snow, has teamed up with Daenerys Targaryen to fight the Army of the Dead north of the Wall. (They might be teaming up for something else—Dany looked a little thirsty during last Sunday’s episode didn’t she?—but they’re technically related, so…) Cersei Lannister is queen of the Seven Kingdoms and sits on the Iron Throne, but Daenerys and Jon are (probably) coming to meet her in King’s Landing, presumably to show her the White Walker they kidnapped and make her believe the Dead are coming. Oh, and when they were absconding with that Walker, the Night King killed one of Dany’s dragons, effectively giving him a Zombidragon. Whoops?
All of which means there’s going to be a lot to resolve in the hour and 20 minutes of fantasy TV coming to HBO this Sunday. Will it give fans everything they want? Probably not! This is Game of Thrones—everyone you love will die and plot points will be left out like so many flakes of snow, probably forever. Nevertheless, we got together the WIRED Westeros Braintrust—editors Michael Calore, Peter Rubin, Andrea Valdez, and Angela Watercutter—to hash out what we hope will get resolved in Sunday’s finale. It’s kind of a lot.
Angela Watercutter: OK, I’ll start by saying this season has largely gone the way I expected it to go (though not the way I wanted it to go). I couldn’t have predicted every beat, but I presumed this was going to be the season of great reunions and a general setting up of the chessboard for Dany’s final march to take her rightful seat on the Iron Throne. That said, like most people I’ve been alternately shocked and excited by the vastly accelerated pace of this season. Like our recapper Laura Hudson, I’ve also been disappointed by a lot.
But generally speaking, I’m just glad this show is finally getting somewhere. It’s taken up a lot of my life and I’d like it to pay off. And right now I want that payoff to come in the form of Dany riding into King’s Landing on Drogon and breaking some wheels. (I also want her to free Yara Greyjoy, because they’re my OTP, but I’ve pretty much given up that dream.) The Mother of Dragons is noticeably absent in the promotional photos HBO sent out this week, so I’m guessing that’s because she’ll be making a grand entrance. But who knows?! What are you guys looking forward to?
Andrea Valdez: I am most intrigued by what the title of the show portends. Every episode, I steel myself for tragedy to befall a beloved character (I was completely convinced Tormund would be killed in that last episode), but “The Dragon and the Wolf” suggests at least a couple of things. One: It appears to confirm Dany and Jon Snow will survive the great convergence on King’s Landing (and perhaps may have a great, ahem, convergence of their own). And two: Their familial history is likely to finally be revealed.
But honestly, I’m most looking forward to a Dany and Cersei meeting. There’s a lot of speculation about Cersei morphing into a Mad Queen, but Dany’s recent bloodlust-y behavior suggests she may befall the same fate (the dragon egg doesn’t fall far from the nest, it seems). There are some interesting parallels between Cersei and Dany, of course, not least of which is what catalyst would send them directly into the mouth of madness. Cersei has already lost her three children, Dany has now lost one of hers, and, I suspect, will have lost all three by the end of the series. And while, yes, Cersei says she is pregnant again, if the prophecy is right, her fourth will not survive. Good things do not come of incest, a lesson Game of Thrones shouldn’t have to teach, but here we are. Dany says she cannot bear children, but a surprise pregnancy wouldn’t surprise me. But again, see previous note about children born of incest. So ultimately, what happens when two mad queens spar to win the game? I suspect everyone loses.
Peter Rubin: I’m a card-carrying member of the Tormund Tories, Andrea, but his not dying felt like a total cop-out. In fact, the back half of the season has been virtually free of momentous deaths, save for Viserion. (Lady Olenna met her fate offscreen, as did Ellaria and Tyene.) Were we really supposed to care about Thoros of Myr, or Benjen ex machina, or Dickon? Also, can I just call everyone Dickon from now on? I have a feeling we’re due a Red Wedding-level bloodbath, and I kinda don’t even care who’s on the receiving end.
Given the way the past couple of episodes have gone, concentrating on Dany and Jon’s intertwining storylines—which I and (a few others) assume will get even more intertwined on that boat—I’m actually craving a little bit of of a check-in with the various other plot threads. How’s Yara faring after being paraded through the streets by her meth-kingpin cousin Euon? What does fate hold for Varys and Melisandre? Why is Bran Stark’s warging straight off a prog-rock album cover? And especially, especially, when will Arya and Sansa get to the bottom of Littlefinger and the Plot of the Planted Papyrus? To see him finally get his due after seasons of slimy manipulations would be a Baelishious treat indeed.
Valdez: Yes! And Gilly and Sam Tarly, who will surely make a reappearance, if only to finally unpack the discovery Gilly stumbled upon while reading from the painstakingly detailed diary of High Septon Maynard. As for Bran, will he finally provide the window into the battle of Harrenhall? And what’s going on with Ghost? Is he still waiting for Jon Snow in Winterfell?
Michael Calore: Great questions! But just like the quibbling lords and ladies, you’re all missing the big picture here. The Night King now owns a Zombidragon. Are we going to get to see it deployed in this week’s finale, or will we have to wait until 2019 to witness its wrath? More importantly: What is going to come out of its mouth? I vote for blue ice-flames. Think about it. Real dragons breath fire, but this is, after all, a battle of Fire and Ice. So undead dragons obviously spew ice. Flaming blue ice that turns everything animal and vegetable into brittle icicles. Imagine a hundred firehoses engorged with liquid nitrogen. That’s going to be epic! But also, yes, I bet Sansa and Arya will team up and skewer Littlefinger before we wrap the season, and Yara will break her chains and give Euon what-for, and that the two remaining dragons turn on their sibling Viserion and barbecue him to a reptilian crisp. Because as this show has taught us, there’s no justice like family justice.
Watercutter: Oh man, I cannot WAIT to see Zombidragon sing that song of icy fire. (Is Icee Fire a thing? If not, a lot of crossover marketing potential is just being squandered. Latchkey kids outside 7-Elevens would go crazy for that shit.) My gut instinct, after too many years of watching this show, is that Undead Viserion will show up in the final dun-dun-dun shot of this finale. But that’s just a guess.
Ultimately, I’m with Peter. I’m ready for some bloodbath. Since Arya was acting so weird and out-of-character last week, my feeling is that she’s up to something. She has to know Littlefinger is watching her and is setting a trap. I, personally, want her to put on Catelyn Stark’s face and just ruin him. This won’t happen, but she’s up to something. Littlefinger is about to get his comeuppance.
As for the meeting of the two queens: I think Cersei and Dany will both make it out alive. (Emilia Clarke already told Rolling Stone earlier this year that she has a contract for next season.) But there has to be at least one more sacrificial lamb in this finale and my money is on Theon Greyjoy. After he totally botched saving his sister at the beginning of the season, I think he’ll risk it all fighting Uncle Meth to save Yara when the gang gets to King’s Landing. Reek In Peace.
Rubin: Damn, I’m already pouring out a little Dornish wine for Theon. Couldn’t happen to a more ineffectual eunuch. My only real lingering question for the finale—since we’ll get into larger questions next week—is who will be this season’s Ramsay Bolton? We’re all assuming some of the good guys will perish, and some pawns as well, but the best GoT seasons treat us to some real RAWR-level catharsis. I’m not talking Littlefinger, either; I’m talking Joffrey’s agonizing death-by-poison, or Ramsay getting his allover houndstooth print last year. The Five Kingdoms might need to unite in the face of the threat from beyond the Wall, but there’s still some baddies left to off.
The problem is, no one’s had time to emerge as a true heel. Cersei’s always had a method to her madness, and Euon’s a veritable rookie in this villain game. We might well need a new Big (Human) Bad for next season. In other words, I’m going to head waaaay out on this limb and guess that one of our previously beloved characters might be undergoing a drastic moral recalibration—otherwise who will we have to root against? So does that mean Dany breaks bad, making Andrea’s Mad Queen showdown as inevitable as a Clash of Cleganes? (You can keep the Mayweather-McGregor fight; I’ll take The Hound vs. The Mountain any day.) Does Jaime turn full heel and kill Bronn? All I know is someone is about to stray into some dark territory—and I, for one, am ready for it.