Quick Game of Thrones update for you: Theon's dead, Missandei's dead, the dead are dead. What now? Last week's episode set some tables neatly for storylines and totally botched others (cough suddenly turning Brienne of Tarth into a character who begs a man not to leave her in the dead of night while she's wearing a bathrobe). Now that Daenerys's forces are ready to sack King's Landing, the question must be asked: Do Game of Thrones fans have another exhaustive, feature-length battle episode in them? Yes! David Benioff and D.B. Weiss unequivocally decided. Here's what we learned during the great "battle" of King's Landing, and some completely scattershot speculation about what it could all mean for next week's season finale.
Daenerys Targaryen Is a War Criminal
This six-episode truncated season of Game of Thrones has led to some clumsy storytelling, but perhaps the most obviously mishandled journey is Daenerys's from well-meaning yet naive ruler to full-on war criminal. Director Miguel Sapochnik (who also helmed "The Long Night") quickly establishes that the show's most prominent female character is coming apart at the seams by giving her slightly messier hair than usual in the opening scene, and a subsequent sexual rejection at the hands of her nephew seems to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Once the King's Landing bells toll and the Lannister army lay down their arms, we still have a good 50 minutes of the episode to go. It was never going to be that easy, and so eight years of measured character work go out the window as Daenerys finally snaps and lays biblical waste to the streets (and peasants) of the city she's spent the better part of a decade vowing to save: thousands of innocents burned to a crisp, the Red Keep all but razed. A bad look for Westeros's queen-elect, and a bad look for this show's past commitment to patient, long-form storytelling.
It will be nice, if I ever inexplicably decide to rewatch this entire show, to track the story of Varys "The Spider," now firmly established as one of the show's most consistent "good guys." While he was creepy as all hell and never one for fealty, he was unwavering in his own beliefs and rarely picked a losing horse in the name of self-interest. Who'd have thought, all those years ago, this soft-spoken bald weirdo who talks about his "little birds" all the time would end up being one of the purest and most interesting players in this entire game?
The Valonqar Prophecy Was Fulfilled
Game of Thrones has rarely traded in mystics who actually know what they're talking about, but the witch Cersei visited in her childhood certainly seemed to know her shit, predicting that the future queen would have three children, all of whom she'd outlive. Not only that, but that the Lannister sister would die at the hands of one of her siblings. Let's revisit that final part of the prophecy:
"When your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you."
Valongar being High Valerian for "little brother," of course. For a long time, we took this to mean that Cersei would literally be choked to death by either Tyrion or Jaime, both of whom were born after Cersei (Jaime by only a few minutes, but nevertheless). Turns out it's Jaime who wraps his hands around her throat, but in a loving embrace as the two are crushed beneath the caved-in ceilings of the Red Keep basement. Goodbye, Lannister twins. You deserved each other.
What We Need to Know
Where to even start? Next week, Game of Thrones ends for good until the clown car of spinoffs, sequels, and J. K. Rowling–style retconning on Twitter by Benioff and Weiss starts unloading. No doubt all manner of storylines will be lost to the great abyss of "Wait, whatever happened to ____?" Here are my most pressing questions ahead of the big ending.
Does the Iron Throne Even Matter Anymore?
Tyrion once warned Daenerys against a full-on assault of King's Landing, reminding her she may as well not be a queen at all if she's sitting atop a pile of rubble and ashes. Well, that's exactly what's happened. How many allies can the Khaleesi count within her roster now? Her most loyal followers in Jon and Tyrion seem outright horrified by her merciless torching of the citizens of King's Landing, and there are only so many people Grey Worm can throw a spear at until he gets tired. We seem to be heading in a "STATE'S RIGHTS" direction for the future of Westeros. The North is unlikely ever to forgive the Dragon Queen (The North Remembers, remember), and what of the other Westeros strongholds once they get wind of the Mad Queen's actions? There's barely a kingdom left to rule, and I doubt many people will let Dany even have the chance.
Who Gets to Kill Daenerys?
The Dragon Queen is, in my humble estimation, toast. Will Arya make a beeline for her, or will Jon be forced to do the deed? As cathartic as it would be to see the smaller Stark ice Dany, she already got her big moment in dispatching the Night King. Thematically, it's only right that the ever-loyal Jon Snow finally break his oath and become the Queenslayer.
What's Next for Westeros?
I might be giving this show too much credit, but the amount of time we've spent fretting over King's Landing these past few weeks has me thinking there's a nastier twist in the works before all's said and done. This was never a straightforward show in which "good" will get to triumph once and for all. I'm mostly concerned with Tormund Giantsbane and his relocation North of the Wall. The White Walkers may be gone, but as we know, there's all kinds of dark magic in this world, especially at the top of the Westeros map. What might Tormund come across, awaken, or even create as he settles down to a life of assumed peace? This is Game of Thrones, and there's always going to be death waiting for even the best of men.
Originally Appeared on GQ