Game of Thrones Review: “The Last of the Starks”

Daenerys sits on the back of a red dragon screaming, presumably going into battle
Daenerys sits on the back of a red dragon screaming, presumably going into battle

Author: Cameron Fairchild

Howdy Westerosians, but also:

Uuuuh, what?

I have to admit, starting out, I was kind of into this episode. Maybe it’s just that with “The Long Night” over, the sharper focus on Daenerys and her increasingly tenuous position of power grabbed me in a way the three hundred little tangential useless character interactions running rampant through the first half of the season could not. But in that first half (the Winterfell half, to be clear) signs of irreversible damage were already starting to crop up.

We have to talk about the women. I remember reading this piece a bunch of years ago and it was one of the major things that, from an earlier age, turned me way off wanting to engage with GOT. That feeling was only reiterated when a bit later I watched the first season at my dad’s behest, and an extensive scene where Joffrey straight up sexually tortured two prostitutes pretty much sank the show like a stone for me. Sansa Stark has, in lieu of a consistent character arc, been routinely abused and degraded for years. Actress Emilia Clarke famously (and successfully) called for an end to Daenery’s nudity on the show.

Game of Thrones is, first and foremost, a spectacle, and a popular one. The draw of CGI dragons and grounded fantasy storytelling have always driven the appeal of the HBO show. Benioff and Weiss (let’s name some names) have, in the later seasons, leaned more and more on spectacle, while veering away from a grounded tone to instead focus intrusively on subverting audience expectations. One of the major expectations I have heard voiced frequently about this show is that it is, and will result in to some extent, a feminist narrative- that’s an expectation that GOT really shouldn’t have tried to work around. While I’m not going to roundly dismiss a feminist reading of the show, this season—this episode—is really kind of doing that work for me. “The Last of the Starks” brings every sh*tty thing this show has ever done to women into the cold light of day. Sansa handwaves away years of abuse as a thing that made her “stronger.” Brienne of Tarth is reduced to a spurned lover when Jaime rides away from her. Daenerys’ madness is becoming a frequent topic of discussion, especially amongst all of the male characters who are framing her as such. It’s incredibly disappointing to see a show- or at least, a source material- that once posited that the most degraded and outlying members of an unjust society could navigate and potentially thrive in that setting with cunning and bravery, has now boiled itself down to a conflict between two women it keeps calling crazy, and the one boring-*ss, newly-of-royal-blood white man (Jon) who is going to save the realm from them.

When the Mountain chopped Missandei’s head off, any notion of progressivism this show once pretended vanished for me. To murder the one woman of color on the show to heighten the emotional reaction of its 99% white ensemble is cheap and gross, and Benioff and Weiss should have known better. As the writers of this episode, which also veers wildly between tones and egregiously strains plausibility in timing and third act kidnapping plots(??), and as the showrunners for a show that has frequently been called into question for the way it depicts women, this is an absolute low point, so misguided and ugly in its suggestions about how useful women are to the show’s endgame that it’s going to take a whole lot to get the last two episodes of the season to resemble anything close to a satisfying finale.

RIP Corner:

Rhaegal, one of Daenerys’ dragons, got bit by Euron’s big spear gun. Then Daenerys drove her other one right at the fleet without telling it to breathe fire? I don’t get why she would do that, speaking of:

Missandei, a character that to the best of my knowledge kind of just stands around, was pretty unceremoniously… kidnapped by Cersei? Why? To what end? And then she gets beheaded in front of Daenerys’ army, right before I guess Daenerys’ army just walked away without getting killed by Cersei. Missandei didn’t do much this season but she’s the only black woman on the show, and the way she went out sucked. Also, Word recognizes “Rhaegal” as a word but not Missandei. Figure that one out.

Theory Corner:

  • With two episodes left, Game of Thrones really isn’t going to stick the landing.
  • Now Sansa might indirectly get Daenerys killed. My Daenerys/Sansa death predictions keep flipping around but now it seems like Dany is marked for death now.
  • Cersei will be dealt with by the end of next episode, and then Daenerys will be deposed so that Jon can mope on the Iron Throne. I kind of don’t think this show has any surprises left in it. Boo.
  • Meh

 

CAMERON FAIRCHILD | Dead Dragon | KXSU Arts Reporter

 

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