Last week’s episode of Game Of Thrones was quite possibly the most shocking to date, as The Night King — not to mention his Army of the Dead — was met with a swift death at the hands of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). It was a huge twist, and it highlighted the power of great storytelling in regards to Arya’s arc over the course of the last eight years. For the most part, this thrilling third instalment righted many of the problems that have plagued the HBO series’ final season — but unfortunately, plenty of these issues made a return in ‘The Last Of The Starks’.
While much of ‘The Last Of The Starks’ is nearly as heart-racing as the previous episode, the
excellent special effects, the goose-bump inducing sequences and overall sheer scale of production simply cannot make up for the writing inconsistencies — which are perhaps more prevalent in this instalment than they’ve been before. Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) characterisation is more problematic than ever, and it appears as if the writers are hell-bent on assassinating her character entirely. The words which she spoke in regards to how ruling was her destiny — and that the costs of such a task were not important — were contrived, and completely out-of-character for the silver-haired queen. It’s as if the writers have made an executive decision to throw her under the bus now that the truth about Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has come to light so that all the protagonists — and the viewers — will flock to Jon’s side instead. Sorry, but not buying it. Dany is a good person, and no amount of forced madness can undo what’s been written in the past.
It’s hard to ignore such a big character assassination considering it plagued much of the episode. However, that’s not to say that the entire episode was a let-down because there’s a lot to celebrate too. The opening scene — which saw all those who fell during last week’s battle laid to rest — was nothing short of stunning. Clarke and Sophie Turner gave brilliant performances, as their respective characters bid farewell to the loved ones they’d lost. Ramin Djawadi — who is quite possibly the greatest composer on the planet — delivered yet another stunning piece of music which accompanied this heart-breaking scene.
The shocking demise of Rhaegal was unpredictable and a little panic-inducing — I’m not crying, I swear — and it provided Dany with even more ammunition to remove Cersei (Lena Headey) from the throne. It also gave her a moment to contemplate whether she should act irrationally and fight back — but risk losing her last remaining dragon in the process — or act rationally and retreat — to give her time to form a proper plan of attack.
The real stinger was Missandei’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) death, which I don’t think anybody saw coming. Yes, the Mother of Dragons’ confidante was slain by Cersei — but not before uttering “Dracarys” as her final word. What a hero. It’s safe to assume that she was giving Dany the go-ahead to light up King’s Landing — regardless of the consequences.
While you must commend David Benioff and D.B Weiss for opting for fewer episodes this season so that they didn’t overstretch the narrative, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the final season is feeling a little rushed. One minute our protagonists are burying their dead after the Great War, and the next they’re heading into another. Sansa promises to keep a secret, only to betray Jon the next minute by spilling the beans, therefore removing any gravity that either of these scenes — the promise or the betrayal — may have had. Characters are jumping around Westeros quicker than The Flash, and quite frankly, it’s getting a bit frustrating. In short, it’s all moving too fast. The events at the beginning of this episode felt like they belonged in a separate instalment to the events at the end.
Between this rapid narrative progression and the plot contrivances throughout, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the writing this season simply hasn’t been as strong as it’s been in the past. However, with the battle for King’s Landing the focus of the next episode, hopefully, the show will be able to get back on track and deliver a satisfactory conclusion. All men must die, yes, but can we please keep the standard of the show alive while it’s still on the air?
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Game of Thrones continues Monday at 2am on Sky Atlantic with a more regular showing at 9pm.