As the end credits roll on the season finale, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss can be forgiven much after delivering an almost movie length episode.
Any annoyance at being made to wait for a shortened season of just seven episodes has been wiped away in 79 minutes of cinematic story telling.
So, what did we get with “The Dragon and The Wolf”?
Revenge, redemption and revelations. There was betrayal and a long awaited hook up. And in the Game of Thrones tradition, we ended with a serious‘WTF’ moment.
Unlike last week’s “Beyond the Wall”, most of the action takes place in Kings Landing.
Tyrion, Jon, the Hound and Jorah arrive to begin ‘truce talks’ with Cersei, who’s becoming more venomous as the season progresses.
To Gregor Clegane she says:
“If anything goes wrong, kill the silver-haired bitch first. Then my brother and the bastard who calls himself King. The rest you can kill in any order you see fit”.
OK, that’s not a good sign.
Eventually, the Dragonstone crew are met by Bronn, who leads them to the Dragon Pit to meet with Cersei, who’s yet to show up. Awkward. But then again, there’s no Daenerys either.
Everything is on a knife’s edge as they wait for Daenerys to arrive. And then right on cue, she rides in on the back of Drogon.
You’ve got to hand it to Cersei, she might be impressed by the grand entrance, but hides it well.
Tyrion begins his address, but a sneer from Cersei shuts it down before Jon Snow steps in.
“This is not about living in harmony. It’s just about living. The same thing is coming for all of us”.
Stupidly, Cersei isn’t buying it at all. She suspects the truce is just a way to allow Daenerys to consolidate her power.
It’s time for the Hound to present her with the gift from beyond the wall.
Maybe that will convince her. And for moment, it would appear the undead soldier has been stolen or let loose in King’s Landing.
Only for a moment though because it rushes towards Cersei with only a chain around the ankle to prevent it reaching her.
That got her attention and Jon delivers what should be the killer blow and put an end to the debate.
“If we don’t win this fight, then that is the fate of every person in the world. There’s only one war that matters, the Great War and it is here”.
It may not have dawned on her what they’re facing, but Jaime gets it. And so does Uren Greyjoy, who decides to quit King’s Landing.
“I’m taking the Iron Fleet back to the Iron Islands. I’ve been around the world. I’ve seen everything. Things you couldn’t imagine. But this is the only thing I’ve seen that terrifies me”.
Greyjoy’s ‘departure’ seems to convince Cersei that the threat of the White Walkers is real.
“If those things come for us, there’ll be no kingdom to rule. The crown accepts your truce. Until the dead are defeated, they are the true enemy”.
But, it’s not easy as that. Cersei make demands of Jon. He’s to stay in the north and not take up arms against Lannister forces.
And this is where the King of the North makes a dangerous mistake. He refuses. He already has one Queen and can’t serve two.
“Then there is nothing left to discuss. The dead will come north first and you’re dealing with them. We will deal with what’s left of you”.
And they’re all left thinking ‘damn Jon Snow and his honour and big mouth’. If only he’d gone along with it, the Lannisters would be on side.
It’s up to Tyrion to try to repair the damage and in doing so, reveals the depth of his despair at being cut off from family. He almost dares Cersei to kill him on the spot and it’s another heartbreaking scene from Peter Dinklage.
“If it weren’t for me, you’d have a mother. If it weren’t for me, you’d have a father. If it weren’t for me, you’d have two beautiful children. I’ve thought about killing you more times than I can count. Do it. Say the word. I’m more sorry about the children than you can ever know. I loved them, you know I did. You know it in your heart if there’s anything left of it”.
And it doesn’t take Tyrion long to realise that she’s pregnant. And who’s the daddy, Tyrion???
In the Dragon Pit, Jon and Daenerys discuss the fate of the dragons and how their absence led to the fall of house Targaryen.
One thing leads to another and they’re discussing children.
“Your family hasn’t seen its end. You’re still here”.
“I can’t have children”.
“Who told you that”?
“The witch who murdered my husband”.
“Hasn’t it occurred to you she might have been a reliable source of information”?
Awwww. Young love. Even if it’s potentially ‘icky’.
Tyrion returns and in walks Cersei who’s seemingly had a change of heart. She’s pledged to fight along side Dragon and Wolf against the darkness coming for them all.
Don’t. Trust. Her. One. Little. Bit.
We finally return to the North where that slime-ball Littlefinger suggests Jon is planning to marry Daenerys to strengthen his position.
Despite knowing how dangerous Arya is as a Faceless Man, Littlefinger suggests Arya wants to be Lady of Winterfell and will murder her to achieve her goal.
The Master Manipulator needs to go.
Back at Dragonstone, they make plans to head north and the bond between Jon and Daenerys grows stronger. Those lingering glances and small smiles; Jonerys is inevitable. Sigh.
Meantime, Theon seeks out Jon. And it’s a measure of the man Jon has become that he can lift some of the guilt from Theon’s shoulders.
“It’s not my place to forgive you all of it, but what I can forgive, I do. You don’t need to choose. You’re a Greyjoy and you’re a Stark”.
With Jon’s words ringing in his ears, Theon rallies the remaining Greyjoy soldiers to rescue his sister Yara.
But not before he fights their leader. Not having genitals actually helps him. His opponent kicks him between the legs with no affect.
Eventually, Theon wins the battle and the Greyjoy sailors pledge their support. He’s a man reborn and with a mission.
At Winterfell, the tension between Sansa and Arya reaches it’s peak but doesn’t end as we were expecting.
Arya is brought to the Grand Hall where all the knights of the North are waiting. Littlefinger is the last to arrive.
It’s a trial of sorts. But it’s not Arya who stands accused of any crime.
“You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges … Lord Baelish”?
They all turn to look at him. He tries to wriggle out of it and Sansa reads out the crimes against him; the death of their aunt and uncle, conspiring with the Lannisters against their father.
He falls to his knees and begs for mercy. But there is no mercy and Arya calmly walks up and slits his throat.
In a story like Game of Thrones, where main characters are killed off without second thought, this is the one death that most fans would be happy to see.
Later, Samwell Tarly arrives at Winterfell where he meets the all-seeing Brandon, who tells him of Jon’s parentage. That he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
In King’s Landing, Jaime is preparing to lead the Lannister forces north to fight in the Great War. But then Cersei drops her little bombshell. She never had any intention of abiding by the truce or to fight with Snow and Targaryen.
Even Euron Greyjoy leaving for the Iron Island was a ruse. He’s actually his fleet to Essos to gather an army funded by the Iron Bank.
And where does that leave Jaime? His honour demands he makes good on their pledge and he begs Cersei to change her mind.
She threatens to have him killed for treason, but as with Tyrion, she hesitates and spares him.
Shattered to the core, Jaime leaves King’s Landing and is presumably heading north to join Tyrion with Daenerys and Jon.
As he rides north, Samwell Tarly rides into Winterfell, where he meets the all-seeing Brandon, who drops his own bombshell about Jon’s parentage.
He is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, who was born in Dorne making him a Sand, not a Snow.
That is until; Samwell reveals he found a parchment showing the Dragon and the Wolf had married.
Brandon dream walks back in time and sees Rhaegar marry Lyanna.
“Robert’s rebellion was built on a lie. Rhaegar didn’t kidnap my aunt or rape her. He loved her and she loved him. He’s never been a bastard. He’s the heir to the Iron Throne”.
And Jon’s real name: Aegon Targaryen.
As we deal with that piece of information, Jon knocks at Daenerys’ door where the inevitable happens.
They finally succumb to their mutual attraction.
But there’s still minutes left in the season finale and we’re taken to Eastwatch Castle, where Tormund and Thoros watch as the army of the dead appear on their doorstep.
There are thousands upon thousands of them with giants among their number. And an ice-dragon.
With the Night’s King on his back, Viserion lays waste to the wall. Blue fire destroys great sections of ice. The wall is breached and the dead march through.
And in King’s Landing, a gentle snow begins to fall. Winter is here.
So, where does that leave us for the final season? The Army of the Dead are on the march and Winterfell and the forces of the north are in their path.
Cersei is like a spider in King’s Landing and may live to regret her decision to go back on the pledge to fight in the Great War.
Jon is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, but will his honour prevent him from laying claim to it.
Where does that leave Daenerys? Will she back down? Will they live happily ever after with a brood of Targaryen babies?
How long do we have to wait?