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Game of Thrones S8E4 ‘The Last of the Starks’ review | GoT back in its groove

An image from Episode 4 of Game of Thrones’ Season 8, ‘The Last of the Starks’   | Photo Credit: HBO

You thought Death was the ultimate chimera? Well, think again, said the showrunners. And with a nonchalant flick of their wrist, the greatest threat ever faced by humans, living or fictional, was swatted away like a blind fly on the wall. But after having spent the past week trying to stomach this ‘Benjamin Button-isation’ of the show, viewers got some solid solace in the form of a resumption of the game of thrones they’ve been so starved of. Game of Thrones is back to its forte — dealing with forts, and people backing as well as turning their backs on each other.

It can’t be easy organising kitchen supplies for a feast after the larder (read: the entire town) has been ravaged by an army of the dead and run roughshod over by undead dragons. You wish the showrunners had respected the Night King’s army, as well as those who survived the battle, by giving some characters a punctured organ or two — the odd severe dismemberment — as a war memento. But no. It’s nothing short of magical that none of the warriors, who fought with blades, tooth and nail for an entire night, were maimed besides the odd scabby bruise. I guess the plot would suffer from heavily tilted scales if, in addition to large cohorts of the anti-Cersei army having already been decimated, its main commanders were any less than 100% going into the last war.

I feel really sad for Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Her hard-accumulated army is heavily depleted (how are there actually any Dothrakis left at this point?) before she has even reached King’s Landing. Her queenly aura is barely flickering in the North. Her dragons are dying every alternate day. Her loving lieutenant is dead. Her faithful advisors are already talking treason before they have even sat her on the throne. Her true love (read: hot nephew) seems to value his foster family more than he cares to uphold the glorious Targaryen tradition of incest. All she really seems to have is this inborn notion of destiny (sound like Stannis Baratheon?) and a fantastic grimace. It will be interesting to see her responses to Cersei’s strategic supremacy, which is ridiculously bolstered by Euron Greyjoy’s (Pilou Asbaek) fleet-footed fleet.

Jon Snow (we should really call him Aegon Targaryen, though I don’t quite agree with Varys’ logic about ‘8’ being the magic number at which a secret is eligible to be exploited) really is way too naïve to be a part of the Game of Thrones world. First, he believes that all it takes for Dany’s dream to be realised is that he recuse himself from being a candidate for the throne. And then he believes, even after Sansa Stark’s (Sophie Turner) plain-faced disdain for Dany, that his sister will not use this information to her political advantage. The trouble with Jon is not really his steadfast integrity; it is his tendency to expect it of people who have trained under Littlefinger.

Her sister Arya’s (Maisie Williams) training in equanimity is unparalleled. Her refusal to attend a banquet in honour of her saving the world has its real-world equivalent in Jean-Paul Sartre’s refusal of the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately for Gendry Baratheon (Joe Dempsie), though, he joins Brienne of Tarth (Gwendolyn Christie), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), that girl who tried to seduce Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), and Dany in the list of lovers spurned or rebuffed in this episode. And once again, Tomboy Stark is off to King’s Landing with her former captor, who is, one feels, overdoing the Gloomy Gus act. Hopefully, this time, if the Hound asks for a mercy killing Arya will oblige. For old time’s sake.

Finally, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) seem to be coming back into their own as Kingmakers (and alternatively Queenslayers?). All political machinations of the GoT world seem to be triggered by one of the Spider’s schemes to “save the realm”. It’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s because of Varys’ meddling/mischief that Westeros is such a hotbed of regicidal volatility. His cold-blooded hard-hearted approach to politicking sticks out next to Tyrion’s romanticism — Tyrion’s politicking is governed by a sort of faith in his chosen leader, whereas Varys’ style, for all his advocacy of a stable regime, is marked by a capriciousness bordering on anti-incumbency and teetering over treachery. My money’s on Dany turning the tables on Varys and killing him, thus, “breaking the wheel” like she set out to do in the first place. Now, wouldn’t that be a nice thing for her?

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