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“The Dragon and the Wolf” started in King’s Landing with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) looking down on the Unsullied army. Tensions were high and for the first time in the series you really got the feeling that the Lannisters were the underdogs.

I enjoyed the dialogue in this opening scene because although I don’t think that comedy works particularly well on “Thrones” it’s more effective when it’s used to highlight the fact that characters are nervous and want to talk their worries away. Here you could feel what the characters were feeling and by starting in a subdued fashion the writers eased the audience into an episode which was designed to be incredibly tense.

After two throwaway scenes, (one with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jon (Kit Harington) and the other with The Hound (Rory McCann)), the episode continued in King’s Landing. Cersei (Lena Headey) spoke briefly to Qyburn (Anton Lesser) before giving The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) instructions on who to kill if something went wrong. It was pretty transparent that this was intended to make the audience wonder whether or not there would be bloodshed at the meeting, but this was okay because it was a viable possibility.

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Next Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) entourage delivered exposition about the Dragonpit before bumping into Bronn and a group of Lannister soldiers. Seeing Pod (Daniel Portman) and Tyrion interact again was nice, as was the exchange between Tyrion and Bronn, but neither of these conversations lasted long enough to really excite me. The same can be said for the moment in which The Hound spoke to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) about Arya (Maisie Williams), although in my opinion this worked better because it served to show how far The Hound has come since season four.

With the formalities out of the way the episode finally got going as the main characters found themselves together in the Dragonpit. The first thing to note here is that The Hound got a glimpse of The Mountain and all but confirmed Cleganebowl. I enjoyed this moment because it’s going to be important in the future, but the dialogue that Rory McCann was given was a little on the nose for me.

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Then, after a moment of tension, Cersei broke the silence by asking Tyrion if Daenerys had travelled with them. Tyrion told her that she hadn’t which obviously annoyed Cersei, but it wasn’t long before the real Queen of Westeros made her grand entrance. As usual Lena Headey’s facial expressions were perfect in this scene and throughout the episode, and I think every fan of the show would’ve been excited to carry on watching at this point.

Dany then arrived, bringing both her remaining dragons with her and looking like a woman with a purpose. This moment was cool but it annoyed me slightly because it would’ve been smarter on Daenerys’ part if she’d brought just one of her dragons so as to keep Viserion’s death a secret. Nevertheless, I liked the fact that Cersei was unmoved by the dragons because this made the reveal of the wight more impactful later in the episode, and I thought that Emilia Clarke was commanding when she appeared on screen.

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Euron (Pilou Asbæk) then spoke up and was typically irritating, telling Tyrion that his kind aren’t allowed on the Iron Islands. I’m not sure why Tyrion didn’t respond to this because he’s a quick witted character and I imagine that the writers could’ve got some clever dialogue out of this interaction, but at least Euron was featured in this episode because we haven’t seen him in a while.

Tyrion and Jon then tried to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation, but Cersei quickly put them down. Her logic made sense given that in the South the White Walkers are nothing but imaginary monsters used to scare naughty children before bed, but obviously her resistance was tiring because we know that she’s wrong.

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The wight reveal came next and was brilliantly effective, although it was silly that the wight was chained up just enough so that Cersei was out of its reach. Nobody had the opportunity to test the distance that the wight was able to run and this coincidence broke my immersion. Still, Lena Headey sold Cersei’s fear impeccably and this made her lie later in the episode more believable.

Part of me would’ve liked Cersei to simply accept the truce that Daenerys was offering and get on with fighting the White Walkers because this would’ve been a real surprise and changed the direction of the series, but I concede that this wouldn’t have been fully believable. The showrunners have spent the best part of seven seasons developing Cersei’s character and an act of nobility wouldn’t have made sense at this point given that development.

I’m not going to talk about Cersei’s ultimatum with regards to Jon’s allegiances in any great detail, because although this moment set up later scenes I didn’t think that it was very compelling. This request from Cersei was there purely to prolong the tension and from where I was sitting it felt somewhat forced. Jon was rightly berated for his stupidity and for making the same mistake that Ned (Sean Bean) made in season one, but he also displayed a strength of character which the world will need going forward if the right people end up on the Iron Throne.

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When the episode finally left the Dragonpit we were treated to one of my favourite scenes of season seven, in which Tyrion tried to convince Cersei to fight alongside Daenerys. For the first time in a long time Peter Dinklage was allowed to show off his considerable talents, delivering his dialogue with passion and believability, and as was so often the case in the early seasons he played off Lena Headey beautifully. Both Cersei and Tyrion brought up the past and their hopes for the future and at one point I really did think that Cersei might have him killed for the fun of it.

The presence of The Mountain made the scene almost unbearable to watch because at this point Tyrion’s death would be a real gut-punch, and I thought that the end result of Cersei pretending to side with Daenerys was interesting. When Cersei announced that she was going to fight with Daenerys I initially thought that the dialogue was clunky and too honourable coming from such a detestable villain, but on a re-watch it actually works really well because this type of wording fits with the fact that she was lying.

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At around the halfway point this episode turned its attention from King’s Landing to Winterfell and began to deteriorate in quality. I was enjoying the episode up until this point but once again I found Littlefinger’s (Aidan Gillen) behaviour quite tedious. For someone who has been telling Sansa (Sophie Turner) to fight all of her battles in her mind before they happen he was so overconfident and idiotic in this episode. His strategy was to force Sansa to think the worst of Arya in order to take the latter out of the picture, but surely he must have realised that his advice extended to him as well.

This is an issue with the writing and the characterisation of Littlefinger but it’s pretty obvious that it’s the former which causes the latter. Up until this point Littlefinger has pulled all the strings and has been a master of manipulation so it baffles me that he’s become so lazy late in the game. It seems to me that the writers simply ran out of ideas for what to do with the character and wanted to give the Stark children a moment of triumph, but surely this could’ve been achieved in a more believable way?

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The most effective way to kill Littlefinger off would’ve been to have him survive The Great War and be left in a world that he couldn’t bend to his own liking. Imagine how much more impactful it would’ve been to see Littlefinger out of his comfort zone in a world run by honourable people like Dany, Jon and Tyrion. He could’ve still been executed just as he was in this episode but the difference would’ve been that it would’ve served his arc as much as it served his killer’s. That wasn’t the case here, and all this moment did was make a great character look foolish.

I get the basic idea behind the death because Littlefinger was in an unsalvageable situation. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) knew everything about him so he couldn’t deceive Sansa in the way that he might’ve been able to if Bran wasn’t there, but if this was the plan all along then Littlefinger could’ve at least been portrayed as dismissive towards Bran’s powers. Earlier in the season Bran told Littlefinger that ‘chaos is a ladder’, revealing the fact that he knew more than he was supposed to. This should’ve raised a red flag for Littlefinger because as previously mentioned he fights every battle in his mind before it happens, but for some unknown reason he disregarded it.

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Back at Dragonstone Daenerys spoke to her advisers about how she planned to travel to the North, deciding to make her way there by ship rather than by dragon (mainly so that she could be closer to Jon Snow). Then Theon (Alfie Allen) had the chance to speak to Jon and essentially revealed the conflict at the heart of his character to the audience. This was a redemption scene for the character so it was a shame that it happened so quickly and out of the blue. The writers don’t have enough time to properly explore Theon’s attempted rescue of Yara (Gemma Whelan) at this point so in my opinion they shouldn’t bother. With six episodes left they can leave Theon aside because his arc has been good and although it might not be completely finished there’s no reason to ruin it in the same way that Littlefinger’s has been ruined.

After Littlefinger’s death scene which I’ve already explored “The Dragon and the Wolf” went back to King’s Landing. Jaime and Cersei finally had it out and Jaime’s arc progressed nicely. He wouldn’t break the promise that he made earlier in the episode to fight alongside Dany against the White Walkers and he finally disobeyed Cersei. His reasoning was sound, as was Cersei’s in its own deluded way, and both actors gave powerful performances. You could see the disgust on Jaime’s face and the realisation of what his sister really is, and Lena Headey was as awesome at playing an arrogant bully as she’s always been.

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When Cersei threatened to have Jaime killed I believed that it might happen and I was frightened by the possibility – I thought this might be the token shock moment in the finale and I was genuinely worried that one of my favourite characters was going to die. Jaime’s arc has been building to this point for a very long time and this was a suitably well-executed scene which was topped off by the fact that it began to snow in King’s Landing as he left. I’m excited to see what Jaime does next season – hopefully he’ll team up with Bronn to fight the White Walkers – and I thought that this was a superb scene.

Finally, the season closed with two contrasting sequences. The contrast that I’m talking about is a contrast in quality rather than a contrast of themes, as the Daenerys/Jon sex scene was silly but the destruction of The Wall was magnificent.

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Bran’s narration over the top of the sex scene cheapened it significantly and it felt like it was only there to make sure that less attentive audience members realised the importance of Jon’s ancestry. The fact that Jon and Dany are now an item is great and I’m sure that casual fans were excited by this, but I care about how the episodes are executed rather than whether or not the narrative goes in a direction which suits the protagonists. In this scenario the narrative was fitting but the execution was disappointing, so I didn’t like the scene.

It’s a good thing then that it was followed by a spectacular moment to end the episode and the season. Arya and Sansa had a quick chat before Bran warged into a raven to cast his eye on Eastwatch. There Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) looked out beyond the Wall to see the Army of the Dead marching in formation, followed by the harrowing sight of the Night King (Richard Brake) flying towards him on Viserion’s back.

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From there it was only a matter of time before The Wall came crashing down, and when it did I have to say that I was impressed. Viserion breathing blue fire was a nice touch because the fact that wights can be killed by fire would’ve made a conventional flame a little confusing, and I thought that the CGI in this scene was wonderful. I’m sure that this moment will be played many times on adverts building up to next season and I think it’s one of the best things the series has done to date, so it deserves a lot of praise even if the rest of the episode was fairly underwhelming.

Overall, “The Dragon and the Wolf” was a decent season finale but it certainly wasn’t the best that “Thrones” has had to offer. The final sequence was visually outstanding and season eight is well-poised, but the pacing of this episode wasn’t perfect. I enjoyed every scene in King’s Landing, particularly the interactions between Cersei and her brothers, but events at Winterfell were frustrating. “The Dragon and the Wolf” did nothing to hide the issues that have plagued season seven as a whole but it did leave me excited to see where the story will go next.

7.5/10