TV Review: Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

EPISODE 8.4: The survivors plan their next steps; Cersei makes a power move.

THE LOWDOWN (SPOILERS!): It's an episode of goodbyes, celebration and anxiety, as the survivors of The Battle of Winterfell put the torch to those lost in the fight. Everyone is gathered outside the castle as Jon gives a rousing speech about remembering the dead that fell in the battle, before setting the bodies aflame. It's our last glimpse of Jorah, Beric Dondarrion, Edd and Lyanna Mormont and it's a sad moment, to be sure. For some, it's the end of a journey begun in season one of the series and what a journey it's been. And, although I hadn't really thought of it until this episode, I am really going to miss Ser Jorah's voice. Iain Glen's smooth, gravely voice has been such a constant presence and it's truly sad to see him gone now. Thankfully, we also see that Ghost is alive (minus a right ear) and standing by. He's been so shortchanged throughout the show that I tend to cling on any moment we get to see him and thankfully he wasn't killed offscreen to never be seen again.

Back in the halls of Winterfell, it's a time of celebration with lots and lots of drinking. Gendry is busy looking around for Arya, but before he can make any progress, Daenerys calls him out in the crowd, starting with the fact that his father (Robert Baratheon) had initially tried to have her killed. She asks who is Lord of Storm's End to which no one has an answer. Daenerys turns the tide and makes him the Lord of Storm's End, giving him a proper title as Gendry Baratheon. No longer a bastard, Daenerys secures herself an ally for life. It's a smart play on her part, which Tyrion recognizes. "You're not the only one who's clever," she tells him.

Spirits are high, otherwise, as everyone begins to loosen up and revel in victory. But, Tyrion reminds Ser Davos that it's merely a distraction. "We may have defeated them, but we still have US to contend with." It's the most obvious point and one that will leave us all twisted by the end of things. The threat we thought was the biggest since the opening scenes of season one, The White Walkers, are now gone and it's the first time in the series where that threat is eliminated and yet we don't feel any safer as a result. In fact, it's just as bad as ever. 

jon snow, game of thrones, episode 4

Tormund appears to be the life of the party, but it all goes south when Brienne and Jamie walk off together after they play a game of truth or drink and Tyrion suggests she's a virgin and she storms off. After all the sideways looks, it's the end of Tormund's chase for Brienne, who he finally sees belongs to Jamie. But, it's of little consequence, as he's soon shacking up with a local girl. That said, I wonder if a longer season would've seen Tormund fight Jamie for her hand, which would've made for a more compelling love triangle.

At the same time, Tormund champions Jon, while Daenerys looks on, seemingly jealous. Tormund, who early on in the series wanted nothing but Jon Snow dead, seems to view him with the utmost respect and admiration and makes it known to everyone in the room. Daenarys, meanwhile, watches silently as everyone seems happy and celebratory, while she is alone and distant. Varys looks on, suspect of what's happening as she finally stands and storms off. What's going on in Daenerys' head? Could jealousy really lead to her losing her mind, as is common in the Targaryan bloodline? Time will tell.

Arya, meanwhile, enjoys her victory by firing off some arrows away from the party. Gendry finally locates her and, desperate, proposes for Arya to be the Lady of Storm's End. But, of course, that's not who she is anymore. She kisses him and turns him down, much to his shock. But, we all know that Arya isn't someone looking for a man to hook up with and be a Lady at some far away castle. Arya set upon a very distinct journey from the first season and has become someone else entirely. Or did she? Remember, back in season one when we saw Arya trying to be just like all the others; a warrior. And now, perhaps, she may be better than all of them. How do you slide back to being a "lady" after that? "I'm not a Lady. I never have been. That's not me."

arya, jon snow, daenerys, sansa, game of thrones

Sansa sees that The Hound is drinking and eating alone, being his normal belligerent self. She approaches, sitting down, not missing a second of eye contact. The Hound mentions how he heard she was broken in hard by Ramsay, still calling her "Little Bird." She was a naive, innocent child back in her days at Winterfell with The Hound saving her multiple times. He says she's "changed" and that none of the bad things that happened to her would've happened had she left King's Landing with him. She places her hands over his. "Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would've stayed a Little Bird all my life." He has a small laugh, realizing that she's right. Sansa is no longer that scared little girl. She's a force to be reckoned with and I feel like we'll feel that again before this series ends.

Jamie goes to Brienne's room where he makes his move, finally, using the heat of her room as an excuse to disrobe. Brienne gives him a hand (natch) and he starts on her. "I've never slept with a knight before," he says. "I've never slept with anyone before," she retorts. They finally kiss and it's a moment we've been waiting for since Jamie had two hands and they were on the King's Road together on the way back to King's Landing. So much has changed since then. Or has it? Can Jamie really change and become the man for Brienne? Would his true heart let him? My feeling is that Jamie can't be "unlocked" from Cersei at this point. They are linked for life and turning a cheek to her completely just isn't in the cards. He could never rest until she's dead…or they both are. I guess we'll see, but it's hard to imagine Jamie carrying on if Cersei is a corpse.

Jon is in his room, quiet and thoughtful, as Jon Snow usually is. Daenerys enters the room, asking if he's drunk, which he is just a bit. He mentions Jorah and how he died doing the one thing he would've wanted to die doing; protecting her. "He loved me. And I could not love him back. Not the way I love you," she says, embracing him. "Is that all right?" They kiss, getting hot and heavy, but Jon breaks away. The truth hovers between them. "I wish you'd never told me. If I didn't know, I'd be happy," Daenerys says, referencing the truth about who Jon Snow really is. She goes on to describe how she saw the way everyone looked at him and how she'd seen it before in the way people looked at her outside of Westeros. But, Jon doesn't want it. He doesn't want his rightful claim and says he'll refuse it if the issue is pressed.

"It doesn't matter what you want!" she tells him. Jon is conflicted. He swears his allegiance to her again. "I don't know what else I can do!" Daenerys knows, though. "You can say nothing! To anyone! Ever! Never tell them who you really are! Swear your brother and Samwell Tarley to secrecy and tell no one else or it will take on a life of it's own and you won't be able to control it or what it does to people, no matter how many times you bend the knee! No matter what you swear!" She says she wants it to be the way it was between them. Jon says he has to tell Sansa and Arya and Daenerys says that Sansa will want HIM on the Iron Throne if he does. Jon feels he owes them the truth. "Even if the truth destroys us?" Ah, she doesn't know Jon Snow at all, does she?

cersei, euron greyjoy, game of thrones

Daenerys resorts to begging, which is something we've never seen of this character. Ever. It's the most desperate we've ever seen her and it's almost frightening. Jon, as usual, is firmly embedded in his belief that everything will work out, which seems to be his biggest downfall every-single-time. "You are my Queen. Nothing will change that. And they are my family. We can live together." Daenerys agrees, coldly. "We can. I've just told you how." She exits the room, leaving Jon with his thoughts and some lingering sexual desire to deal with. At this point, I just don't see how they resolve their relationship without bloodshed. I can't help but shake that one of them must die in order for this story to come to its rightful conclusion. But, who should die? Who would? Ah, so many questions. The whole series has been building these two characters more than anyone and their journey has no collided. There's so much emotion wrapped up in this. Could any outcome satiate viewers?

At the war council, they take stock of what forces they have left. Surprisingly, there's actually still some Dothraki left, but only half of the Unsullied. Of course, the Golden Company has sent men from King's Landing, too little too late, which makes the odds distractingly even. Sansa speaks up at the council, suggesting the army rest before fighting again. However, Daenerys wants to make her move while they can and she's not happy about making that point. She's practically biting her tongue through every sentence and Sansa is all high eyebrows and in-your-face retorts. It's a fierce back-and-forth, with Jon trapped in the middle, pledging his allegience, once again.

"We have won the great war. Now we will win the last war." Sansa and Daenerys have a sneer, while Tyrion wraps up the plans of Jon and Ser Davos to march on King's Landing, while the rest sail there. Sansa and Arya want a word with Jon and they move to the Weirwood (along with Bran) and confront him about not trusting the Dragon Queen. Under pressure, Jon stands, conflicted. Arya is more understanding, as she knows the price of loyalty, but she doesn't trust Daenerys. Arya tries to plead to Jon's sense of family, but that's where she's misguided. This is the moment where Jon must choose whether or not he shares his new information. Bran sees his dilemma. "It's your choice," he says. Jon asks them to swear they'll never tell if he tells the truth, asking them to swear before him. They reluctantly agree. But, he turns to Bran, rather than confess. "Tell them." The issue here is that you know neither Sansa or Arya would ever keep such a secret when it comes to serving the interests of Winterfell. It's one of the key things that tips the balance of this show; they live in a world where someone swearing an allegiance means both everything and nothing. In the end, it all comes down to what the information best serves.

jon snow, arya, sansa, bran

Jamie and Tyrion share a drink and in the midst of discussion about Jamie's new tryst with Brienne, they're disrupted by Bronn, who enters with the famed crossbow that killed their father. "Your sister offered me Riverrun," Bronn says, but he also confesses that he knew she was dead the second he saw the dragons. Bron is betting on The North, but he wants a deal. And, after all, he's been screwed over by the Lannisters since the get go after saving their asses time and again. If anyone is due something, it's him. However, he's not in the fight anymore and leaves with the promise of Highgarden, which is offered freely by Tyrion. If anything, this shows what we already know; Bronn is on the side of whoever wins and is probably smarter and wiser than all the pieces on the board playing the Game of Thrones. It'll be interesting to see where he ends up. My feeling is that Bronn will turn up at a key moment of the final battle to put his piece on the chess board and it'll be well timed at that.

On the road outside Winterfell another reunion takes place, this time with The Hound sneaking off on his own again only to be confronted by Arya, who is also taking her leave. I find it funny that The Hound acts like he's annoyed by her presence still, when you know that he has an affinity for her that he hasn't had for anyone else in all of his life. But, there's the matter of a zombie version of his brother still existing in King's Landing and the matter of a certain Queen who has betrayed a certain family still residing in King's Landing that beckon's Arya away. In truth, I'd love to see an Arya/Hound series that focuses on their adventures through Westeros, but I suppose there's a few episodes left to tell their final fate. Still, if they're both left standing, why not? For once, it feels like they're both on equal footing.

Tyrion meanwhile confronts Sansa outside the castle, trying to make peace with her over Daenerys. "With Jon in the capital, you'll be the true power in the North." Sansa, however, isn't really after power, is she? She wants what's right and remains completely unconvinced of what Daenerys has to offer. Tyrion continues to try and sell her to Sansa regardless. Perhaps Tyrion has bought too hard into the wrong person? This is odd, considering how smart Tyrion is, but perhaps Sansa has the pulse of it.

"You're afraid of her." Tyrion can't deny it. He asks if she's all right. "She wants to make the world a better place. I believe in her." He walks off, but Sansa isn't unchanged. "What if there's someone else? Someone better?" Ah, and Daenerys' words from earlier start to come true. The deck stacks in favor of Jon, who is also the one person who doesn't want the throne. I've long though that Jon would be key to the Iron Throne (or perhaps The North as the ruling capital) simply because he doesn't want it. But, is that too obvious?

daenerys, game of thrones, dragon

Tormund and Jon have a moment as Jon sets out to ride toward King's Landing. Tormund says he's taking the free folk back home. Jon asks Tormund to take Ghost with him. "He'll be happier up there," he says. "So would you," Tormund replies. I think he's right, too. In many ways, Jon Snow was at his best with the Wildlings. Perhaps that is where he truly belongs. Tormund tells Jon he has The North with him. "The real North," he says. Samwell comes down just after along with Gilly, who is showing that the winter has provided something new for her; a baby bump. They say their farewell, Sam saying, "You're the best friend I ever had." It's a sweet moment and I'm hoping it's not the last one between the two. "You too, Sam." All these goodbyes are really starting to eat me up as I just don't think I can deal with losing Jon all over again, but that feels like the set-up here. Gilly tells Jon they want to name the child Jon if it's a boy. "I hope it's a girl," Jon says, mounting his horse and riding away after a brief nod to Ghost. I felt a little cheated there, as what dog/wolf owner doesn't at least give a goodbye pat or scratch? Maybe it was too expensive…

On the ships heading to King's Landing, Varys and Tyrion talk about the issue of Jon and Daenerys. Varys brings up the fact that The North wouldn't likely accept an Aunt and Nephew marriage if the information was out. "I don't think it matters what he wants. The fact is, people are drawn to him; the Wildlings, Northmen. He's a war hero." Varys is concerned about Daenerys state of mind, but Tyrion is more laid back about that aspect. It feels like he's completely blinded by her stature, which is odd for Tyrion; he usually can see all angles, but I can't help but feel he's not seeing the bigger picture with Daenerys. I always felt he would be the one to pull out the wisest of them all, but it feels like he's staked his trust far too deep to see beyond the facts at this juncture.

Daenerys, meanwhile is in flight with her dragons as they sail toward King's Landing, feeling powerful and free. And, suddenly, out of nowhere, an arrow takes out Rheagal in a shocking, surprising moment. An arrow pierces his heart, wing, then throat, spelling certain doom for the dragon as he plummets to the sea. It's Euron Greyjoy and his fleet of ships, Euron himself at the helm of the giant crossbow that downed the dragon. Daenerys charges after them, but their arrows are too many for her to attack. She flees for safety as Euron turns his arrows toward the approaching fleet and unleashes his fury upon them, smashing the ships and sending Tyrion, Greyworm, Varys, etc. into the water. This is a crushing blow and massive setback to Daenerys plan of attack.

euron greyjoy, cersei

At King's Landing, we see Euron meeting with Cersei, reporting his victory. She is allowing the people to come behind the castle walls for what they think is protection, yet she's using them as a shield. She tells Euron that Jamie's baby is his, which inspires him greatly, of course. He warns her that Deanerys is coming for her, but Cersei doesn't flinch. "If she wants to take the castle she'll have to murder thousands of innocent people first. So much for the breaker of chains." As Cersei walks away, we see that she has Missandei in chains, a prisoner. While this may seem like a great twist, I can't help but feel cheated by the moment, as a longer season would see all of this fleshed out to a much higher degree. I can only imagine the slower scenes between Cersei and Missandei that would delve deeper into Cersei's understanding of who Daenerys is and what that would mean to her, but as we're basically speeding along at CliffsNotes speed, there's no time for such small scenes as we had in previous seasons. Our only hope for such things now rests in the hands of George R.R. Martin, who hopefully can turn out his version of this finale before we all croak.

Back at the war council, Varys advises Daenerys not to press the attack, saying it's a "mistake." Daenerys is emotional and driven. "You saw my child fall from the sky. They took Missandei." Varys warns her that she would have to kill tens of thousands of innocents if she attacked King's Landing. He can see the play and advises her not to fall into the trap. "Do not become what you've always struggled to defeat."  Daenerys is too wrapped up in the "destiny" that's been planted at her feet since birth. "Do you believe we're here for a reason, Lord Varys? I'm here to free the world from tyrants. That is my destiny. And I will serve it no matter the cost." Tyrion suggests they demand Cersei surrender in order to exchange her life for the throne. Daenerys understands this at least, suggesting that she'd adhere in order to show the people that she made every effort to avoid bloodshed. However, it's obvious she doesn't care if it comes to that.

Varys and Tyrion later meet, talking about how Daenerys may be disillusioned with her desire to rule. Varys has shifted to Team Jon Snow at this point, as he feels that Daenerys has lost control. "Who do you think would make a better ruler?" Varys asks. Tyrion brings up that Jon doesn't want the throne. "Have you considered the best ruler might be the person that doesn't want to rule?" Tyrion brings up the solution of Jon and Daenerys as King and Queen, but Varys thinks she's too strong for him. And he's right. "She'd bend him to her will, as she already has." It's a true conundrum. Two of the smartest people in Westeros battling over who is best to rule that realm. Both are convinced of their choice.


Varys makes it clear that he will always serve the realm. "So, what happens to her?" Tyrion asks and Varys stare says it all. Tyrion knows what it means. "Please…don't." Varys, always the one who serves behind the people, is clear. "I've spoken as honestly as I can. Each of us has a choice to make. I pray we choose wisely." This is serious shit. If Varys and Tyrion can't agree then you know the road ahead is uncertain. There's far too much at stake and each of these men have been deeply embedded as it's unfolded since the death of Robert Baratheon. Out of all the characters faced with a choice, I feel like Tyrion and Varys have the biggest hurdle ahead of them and each of them has decided which one they'll back.

Back at Winterfell, Jamie sees Brienne and Sansa talking. He approaches and Brienne informs him what happened with the fleet attack. Sansa turns to Jamie. "I always wanted to be there when they executed your sister. Seems like I won't get the chance." Ouch. This reminded me of how everyone always talked about Robb Stark's inevitable death when his war was going on, Sansa having to hear it day in and day out. How the tables have turned.

Later that night, while Brienne sleeps in his bed, Jamie saddles up his horse, preparing to ride out. Brienne confronts him, telling him that he doesn't need to run off and die with her at King's Landing. She begs him to stay with her. "Do you think I'm a good man? I pushed a boy out of a tower window and crippled him for life for Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands just to get back to Cersei. I would've murdered every man, woman and child in Riverrun for Cersei. She's hateful. And, so am I." He rides off, leaving Brienne in tears. This is a true revelation for Jamie. It's a cold moment, but an honest one. Jamie and Cersei are linked by more than blood and their fates are tied together no matter how you slice it. Those hoping for some kind of happy ending between the two really don't know Game of Thrones at all. In all honesty, can we expect any kind of happy ending here?

Outside King's Landing, Daenerys, Tyrion, Greyworm and Varys, along with a small contingent of Unsullied face off at the castle walls. Cersei, Euron, and the Mountain overwatch, giant arrows pointed at them all, Missandei standing by in chains. Out steps Kyburn, the Hand of the Queen and Tyrion, Hand of the Queen, who must give terms. Tyrion sees he's getting nowhere with Kyburn and walks past him, getting within earshot of Cersei. "I know you don't care about your people. Why should you? They hate you and you hate them. You're not a monster. I know this. I know this, because I have seen it. You've always loved your children, more than yourself. More than Jamie. More than anything. I beg you, if not for yourself, then for your child. Your reign is over, but that doesn't mean your life has to end. Doesn't mean your baby has to die." It's a nice appeal for Tyrion and the best play he's got. But, deep down, I think he knew it was a long shot.

She grabs Cersei. "If you have any last words, now's the time." Missandei looks out. "Dracarys." The Mountain steps forward and Greyworm looks on in aguish as he lops off her head. Cersei stands by, sneering as Missandei's body and head hit the ground. Daenerys goes from shock to rage, walking away toward Drogon. Tyrion stands, defeated, looking up at Cersei. She returns the sneer. And that's all that needs to be said. Death it shall be.

targaryan, fleet, game of thrones


What an emotional journey of an episode. If I had a major complaint, it's the same one that many share in terms of the final season being so short, even with longer episodes. We're missing big chunks of character moments, opting instead for the final moments that we typically get to in the final bits of the season. Perhaps I'm just greedy for more, as this show has just been so damn amazing from top to bottom, that wanting more is a natural complaint. The small character moments that build towards these big deaths and shocking moments feel lost in the shuffle. But, it's not a total loss, as we still get enough to rationalize and compound these moments from seven prior seasons. Still, the end of The Army of the Dead and The Night King feels a little bitter in its closing; almost a ruse to drag us along. Perhaps there's more to it in Martin's as-yet-unfinished books, but I can't help but wrestle with the desire for more; or, better yet, for it to matter more.

Still, there's a lot at play here that stirs anxiety and that's telling of the story that's unfolded for the last eight years. We're in the Endgame (hat tip, Avengers) and the finale was always going to be a bittersweet one, whether they dragged it our or sped it along as they are. This doesn't lessen the impact as much as it robs us of the additonal depth to them. The deaths are still felt harshly and my mouth was hanging open for both Rheagal and Missandei, mainstays for many seasons that have walked and grown with us. They're tragic losses and I know more are to come. That makes me excited and anxious at once to see how the events will unfold in the last two episodes of this brilliant show. I'm as conflicted as ever, wondering what the best overall finale could be and, the truth is, I don't have an answer. I know what I'd like to see happen, but as The Rolling Stones have put it so eloquently; You can't always get what you want.

Two episodes to go! What are your predictions???

missandei, greyworm, game of thrones

Death Count: Rhegal, Daenerys dragon, takes three spears to the body, killing him and sending him to the ocean. Missandei has her head lopped off by The Mountain. Numerous men are killed in Euron Greyjoy's attack on Daenerys' fleet.

SEX/NUDITY: Jamie takes Brienne's virginity, although no real skin or explicit moments. Jon and Daenerys got hot and heated, but break off before taking it any further.

BEST SCENE: Again, like last episode, as this show careens toward the epic final moments, we're left with multiple debatable moments in the episode. The one that had my jaw hanging open was the death of Rhegal, which I did not see coming at all. In many ways, I have always held onto the notion that Jon Snow would always have a dragon going forward, but with the death of Rhegal, that's very unlikely. My first thought upon his death was that Drogon has to die now. It's just hard to fathom a Westeros with only one dragon flying around. Although, Drogon DID spend a lot of time flying around on his own a few seasons ago, so perhaps he found another to mate with somewhere? Guess we'll see.

Other notable moments include Jon telling Sansa and Arya who he really is (or, Bran rather), Brienne losing her virginity to Jamie, The Mountain lopping off Missandei's head, etc. Everything is piling up, so at this juncture you can really pull whatever moment you want as a "best" or most meaningful at this juncture. I can only imagine what this section will look like in the next two episodes…


WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS EPISODE? Let us know in the comments below!


TV Review: Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”




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