Welcome to our Game of Thrones recap corner! As one would expect, the following article contains spoilers. (It is a recap, after all.)
Season eight, episode four begins with the burning of the dead after the Battle of Winterfell. Their friends mourn; Daenerys kisses Jorah on the forehead and Sansa leaves a Stark cloakpin on Theon’s pyre. Then Jon gives a touching speech, saying of the fallen, “They were the shields that guarded the realms of men, and we shall never see their like again.” Then the pyres are lit.
After the mass funeral, the survivors gather in Winterfell’s great hall for a banquet. Gendry finds the Hound and asks after Arya, and the Hound, predictably, sasses him but does not help. Gendry gets up to leave the hall, but before he can, Dany calls his name. She observes to all present that Gendry is Robert Baratheon’s son, and declares him a legitimate Baratheon and Lord of their hall, Storm’s End. Davos leads a toast in Gendry’s honor while Dany congratulates herself on her cleverness in gaining a potential rival’s loyalty.
Tyrion and Davos speak about the death of Melisandre, and Davos laments that the Lord of Light, Melisandre’s god, seems to be out of the fight. Tyrion next finds Bran, who tells Tyrion he won’t become Lord of Winterfell, and speaks very fatalistically about his own role in the world to come. Ominous. Meanwhile, Tormund and Sansa are encouraging Jon to drink a horn of ale, and he is refusing. Tormund makes a toast “to the Dragon Queen,” and Daenerys passes the toast on to Arya, who is hailed as a hero as everyone drinks (though Tormund gets stuck with the horn of ale).
While Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, and Podrick sit together and play a drinking game, Jon’s friends among the Free Folk and former Night’s Watch gather around him and praise him. Tormund talks him up, particularly his ability to ride a dragon, and calls him a King. Daenerys, the original dragon rider, is understandably perturbed. She walks out of the hall, watched by a concerned Varys.
Tyrion’s drinking game involves characters guessing facts about each other, and Tyrion guesses that Brienne is a virgin. Understandably affronted by his prying, she walks away. Tormund approaches the table, blocking her exit, but Jaime blocks him and goes after Brienne. Tyrion expresses his sympathy for Tormund’s rejection by pouring the rest of his wine into Tormund’s horn. Tormund sits next to the Hound and complains, but he is soon comforted by a northern girl expressing her interest, and they leave together. The Hound continues to be unamused. Another girl hits on him, but he turns her away.
Seeing his misery, Sansa goes to sit with him. She says the girl might have made him happy for a while, but the Hound insists that there is only one thing that can make him happy–possibly foreshadowing his much-anticipated face-off with his undead brother, the Mountain. The Hound then refers back to a time when he offered to take a young Sansa away from King’s Landing, where she was a prisoner, and return her to Winterfell. He observes that her suffering with Littlefinger and Ramsay could have been avoided that way. Sansa says that if none of that had happened, she wouldn’t be the person she is now. This seems like an odd thing for Sansa to say, but we move on.
Gendry finds Arya practicing her archery, and points out to her that everybody else is celebrating their victory. “I am celebrating,” she says as she fires another arrow. Gendry tells her that he has been made Lord of Storm’s End, then tells Arya he loves her and asks her to marry him. She kisses him and says, “You’ll be a wonderful lord, and any lady would be lucky to have you. But I’m not a lady. I never have been. That’s not me.” So at least one person is in character this episode.
Jaime finds Brienne in her room. He asks her pointed questions about Tormund, and Brienne observes that he sounds jealous. In one of the more awkward scenes of all time, they take each other’s shirts off, and the notoriously smooth Jaime Lannister somehow comes up with nothing to say but, “I’ve never slept with a knight before.”
Daenerys finds Jon in his room, and in the course of their conversation tells him she loves him. He kisses her but doesn’t say it back. Dany tells him she wishes he hadn’t told her about his Targaryen heritage, because it casts a shadow over what would otherwise be a happy moment. Jon swears he is loyal to her as Queen and would never challenge her, but Dany points out that the people could still end up supporting him as King, whether he wants them to or not. She asks him not to tell anybody else he’s a Targaryen, and Jon says he has to tell his sisters, as they have a right to know. ”You are my queen,” he says. “Nothing will change that. And they are my family. We can live together.” “We can,” Daenerys replies. “I’ve just told you how.”
The next day, the war council discusses how best to take down Cersei. Tyrion observes that they don’t want to destroy King’s Landing, but rather to take Cersei out with the city still intact, and gives Dany a pointed look. We learn that Yara has successfully retaken the Iron Islands in Dany’s name. Tyrion says the people of King’s Landing are likely to turn on Cersei, and the group agrees that they could achieve the best results by laying siege to King’s Landing. Dany is ready to go at once, but Sansa protests that their men, both the Northerners and the remaining Unsullied, need time to rest and recuperate. Dany sees this as an attempt to shirk the promise that the North would aid her once the Night King was defeated, and Jon responds by pledging his undying loyalty to her yet again. Sansa and Arya share a look. It is agreed that Jon and Davos will lead the bulk of the troops in a march down to King’s Landing while a smaller group takes the fleet and the remaining dragons to Dany’s castle at Dragonstone to regroup.
Arya and Sansa catch Jon on the way out of the council and lead him to the godswood, where Bran joins them. Sansa expresses her doubts about Dany, and Jon defends her. Arya says that Jon made a good decision in allying with her, but that she and Sansa are also right to distrust her. Both women describe Jon as their brother, just as much Ned Stark’s child as they are, while Bran looks on knowingly. “It’s your choice,” he says to Jon. Jon makes Arya and Sansa swear to keep the secret he’s about to tell them, then informs them of his Targaryen heritage.
Tyrion and Jaime are sitting together, drinking and discussing Jaime’s new relationship with Brienne, when Bronn bursts in with the crossbow Qyburn gave him in episode one of this season — the same crossbow, you’ll recall, that Tyrion used to kill his father Tywin. Bronn hits Tyrion, threatens Jaime, and explains the deal that Cersei offered him. He says he believes Daenerys will win the war, leaving Cersei unable to fulfill her offer to grant Bronn the former Tully castle of Riverrun, but that he will assassinate as many of Dany’s higher-ups as he can if he doesn’t get a better counter-offer. Tyrion offers him Highgarden. Jaime objects, but is overruled. Tyrion offers Bronn a command in their armies, but he refuses, saying, “My fighting days are over. But not my killing days.” He promises to collect on their bargain when the war is won.
Beyond the castle walls, the Hound is riding a horse, apparently finally having found the solitude he was craving, when Arya joins him, also on a horse. She asks if he’s headed to King’s Landing. He is. So is she. They ride off together.
We see Daenerys with her dragons. Rhaegal’s wing is injured, but he is still able to fly. Sansa is watching the dragon flight from the ramparts when Tyrion finds her. Sansa asks, “why her?” in reference to Tyrion’s choice to back Dany as Queen. Tyrion counters that Sansa seems determined to dislike Dany. When Sansa continues to express her distrust, Tyrion becomes increasingly upset at the idea of Sansa refusing to make nice with Dany, and Sansa observes, “you’re afraid of her.” His face shows that she is right. Sansa says she doesn’t want Jon to go to King’s Landing, that the Stark men don’t do well there. Tyrion agrees, but says he believes in Dany, then walks away. Sansa calls him back, asking, “What if there’s someone else, someone better?”
Just inside the gates of Winterfell, Jon is making his goodbyes before starting the march south. Tormund tells him he’s taking the Free Folk back up north, and Jon reiterates that they’re welcome in Stark territory, but Tormund says they belong in their own lands. Jon asks Tormund to take his direwolf, Ghost, with him, as he doesn’t belong in the south either. Tormund agrees, and they express their mutual wish that Jon was going with them. Next, Jon says goodbye to Sam and Gilly. Gilly is pregnant, and says that if it’s a boy they’re going to name it after him. Jon and Sam share a very emotional hug, expressing their best-friendship and generally being sweet. Ghost cries as Jon walks to the gate, but Jon doesn’t even give him a pat on the head — which, what? He just leads the troops out, looking thoroughly downtrodden.
Grey Worm, Missandei, Tyrion, and Varys all ride out on ships with the Targaryen fleet, Dany flying with Drogon and Rhaegal above them. Alone, Tyrion and Varys are discussing Jon’s Targaryen blood, making it clear that Sansa told Tyrion. Varys expresses a preference for Jon as a candidate for the throne, but Tyrion won’t budge from his support of Daenerys. Varys believes that Jon would be a better ruler, and hints that he will support him for the throne to protect the people who Varys believes would be better off under Jon’s rule.
They don’t have much time to discuss it further, though, because there is a commotion: Rhaegal has been struck and killed by the same anti-dragon bolts that almost killed Drogon last season. Euron’s fleet has arrived, and when Dany realizes she can’t safely get close enough to burn the ships, Euron turns the bolts on the Targaryen fleet, destroying the ships. Tyrion dives into the water and is knocked out by a fallen mast. When he comes to, he is on the beach, and everyone is alive, but Missandei is nowhere to be found.
In King’s Landing, Cersei watches the people of the city pour inside the walls of the Red Keep, where she has invited them to shelter during the upcoming battle, hoping to use their innocent lives as a shield to prevent Daenerys from storming the castle. Euron approaches her and confirms the death of the dragon, and Cersei responds by promising that the two of them will rule together and telling Euron she is pregnant with his child. (Recall that Cersei’s pregnancy is probably a fiction employed to manipulate her enemies, and that if it is real, the baby is definitely Jaime’s.) Cersei shares a knowing look with Qyburn as Euron hugs her. As the shot pans away, we see a captured Missandei in chains.
Back on Dragonstone, Daenerys expresses a desire to attack the city with full force, but Varys points out that its people still need to be protected. Tyrion suggests that they demand Cersei’s surrender and offer her a chance to live in exchange for giving up the throne. Dany points out that Cersei will certainly refuse, but agrees that it will look good if she appears to have attempted peace before attacking the city. Once they are alone again, Varys tells Tyrion he fears Dany will become a tyrant, and that he is going to support Jon. “Please don’t,” Tyrion begs, but Varys only says, “Each of us has a choice to make. I pray we choose wisely.”
Jaime finds Brienne and Sansa talking in a courtyard, and asks them what happened. They explain that a dragon is dead, and Sansa heavily implies that Dany will kill Cersei in almost immediate retaliation. Later, brooding by the fire while Brienne sleeps, Jaime gets up and leaves. Brienne wakes and follows him out, only to find him saddling his horse. Brienne tells him that King’s Landing is going to be destroyed, and that Jaime is a good man and she wants him to stay with her rather than facing almost certain death there. Jaime denies that he is a good man; he tells Brienne he pushed Bran out of the window, causing the fall that lead to his being paralyzed, and that he has done other terrible things for Cersei. “She’s hateful,” he says, “and so am I.” Then he rides away, leaving Brienne sobbing.
Yeah, it’s…not great for feminism.
Meanwhile, Daenerys has reached the gates of King’s Landing, along with Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, and a small legion of Unsullied. Cersei is on the ramparts above the gates, with Euron and the Mountain at her side, Missandei in chains in front of them. The gates open, and Qyburn walks out; Tyrion meets him, and asks him to help prevent the loss of innocent lives by convincing Cersei to surrender. Qyburn refuses, saying he is just a mouthpiece for his queen, and Tyrion bypasses this nonsense by walking straight past him and up to the gates. Tyrion looks Cersei in the eye as she raises her hand to give the order to fire at him, and she changes her mind. Tyrion tells Cersei he knows she doesn’t care about her people, but that she does care about her children, and that if she surrenders she and her baby can live.
In response, Cersei asks Missandei for her last words. “Dracarys,” says Missandei, and the Mountain beheads her. Cersei will have her war. Daenerys, even as she grieves for her best friend, grows resolute, and Tyrion walks away from his sister in disgust.
What does it mean?
First, the good news: with the Hound headed back to King’s Landing, it looks like Cleganebowl is a go! Arya is headed there too, probably to kill Cersei; so is Jaime, either to rejoin Cersei or kill her. Missandei’s and Rhaegal’s deaths mean that Dany is ready, in a very literal sense, to set things on fire. Sansa, Arya, Tyrion, and Varys learned of Jon’s Targaryen heritage, and this has caused a rift between Varys, who wants Jon to be King, and Tyrion, who still supports Dany. Finally, it’s pretty safe to say that the writers of Game of Thrones hate their female characters. That is all.
There weren’t a ton of good moments in this episode. The funeral for the fallen soldiers at the beginning was dignified and touching, so we’ll go with that.
Rhaegal. The second of Dany’s three children to die in the North, Rheagal was named for Dany’s brother, Rhaegar, also Jon’s father. Recently, Jon learned to ride on dragonback and formed a bond with Rheagal, but really, Rhaegal’s closest relationship was with Daenerys. He will be missed by the Khaleesi and also by the many, many people who are going to die when she goes on a vengeance rampage.
Missandei of Naath. Once enslaved and forced to translate for a slave trader, Missandei found freedom and power when she met Daenerys. After Daenerys killed her master, Missandei joined her in her quest to take the Iron Throne and free every slave she saw along the way. Over time, Missandei became Daenerys’ best friend and one of her most trusted advisors, making her a valuable captive for Cersei. Her death will, like Rheagal’s, probably be avenged in the most elaborate way possible. She is survived by her boyfriend, Grey Worm, leader of Daenerys’ Unsullied troops, who is also unlikely to let bygones be bygones in this case.