That was a hell of an end to season 7. In almost every storyline, artifice was dropped. Many metaphorical walls – and one literal one – came down. The truth was not often pretty, but at least cards are finally on the table. Everyone knows the truth, and everyone’s true character is open.
Sansa finally cuts herself free of Littlefinger’s hold over her. I was beginning to worry that he would survive, but I’m glad he didn’t. My one criticism of the episode, though, is Littlefinger’s really weak and not-at-all-convincing begging to be let go. He could have just gone stoically, even a little proud that Sansa had grown so much. Or he could have just been stunned into disbelief until the knife was at his throat. Or, he could have really fallen apart into a blubbering mess of tears. Any of these would have been preferable and more in keeping with his character than a sort of perfunctory kneeling and begging with no real tears. But, at least he’s gone, and his true villainy is known.
One side note: many people read a lot into Arya’s conversations with Sansa last week that I still don’t think was there. Arya didn’t play Littlefinger and bring her sister along. Sansa applied Littlefinger’s own logic back on him and found that the worst possible motives explained his actions perfectly. That storyline isn’t about Arya being a badass, super-stealthy assassin that out-thinks Littlefinger, but about Sansa finding her own wisdom and power. Maybe now they can get back to writing Arya’s character properly.
Alas, it looks like Tormund will never get to scale his Everest, Brienne. No half-Wildling monster babies in our future. I would love to assume that both Tormund and Beric are dead, but we never actually saw the bodies hit the floor. Another consideration: would they be too mangled to be useful if raised by the Night King? That would be kind of a bitch for Beric, to get raised again, but this time as an undead warrior. Either way, he will now suffer a true and permanent death. Also, Gendry appears to have disappeared again. Is that the end of this mildly important but inexplicably fan-favorite character? Who knows.
Cersei found a way to reveal an even greater level of depravity than she had previously shown. We should have known something was up when she refused to kill Tyrion. She played him like a Stradivarius and got Dany’s armies and dragons to head north to deplete themselves in the fight against the Night King. She even made him think he figured out that she was pregnant. She lead him to that conclusion by the nose and he didn’t see her manipulation at work. She accepted the truth of the danger they face once she came almost face to face with a wight, but she seeks to turn the situation to her political advantage.
Jaime also realized that she only uses him as a tool, not a partner. Not only is she evil, but she’s cold and loveless. Her twin is just another pawn she can use. Because of this realization, Jaime finally turns on his sister/baby mama. That was kind of unexpected, and it more or less kills my theory that he would kill her as he did the Mad King. What it does prove, I think, is that Jaime is actually among the most honorable characters on the show. And the genius of Mr. Martin’s universe is that, after casting him as the bad guy and Jon Snow as the good guy, you now have Jon Snow about to be confronted with his own incestuous desires. Will he decide differently that Jaime? Or will these two honorable men share a similar flaw? I’m excited to find out.
Now both of Tyrion’s siblings have outmaneuvered him. Either he is not as smart as he pretends, or he severely underestimates his enemies. Either way, he is not proving to be an effective Hand. Will he get his groove back? Lord, I hope so.
Like Sansa, Theon finds a little bit of his true power as well. He used to be a bold, decisive warrior, until Ramsay broke him. But, after an open and honest conversation with Jon, he overcomes his timidity to rally a crew to rescue his sister. His fight against the other Ironborn captain proves that you can apparently find your metaphorical balls by being repeatedly kneed in your non-existent balls. After beating his opponent to death, he washes his face with sea water. This marine baptism is in keeping with the religion of the Iron Islands. Cleansing in sea water is supposed to kill your weakness, and you rise up stronger. After that battle, he has washed Reek away, and Theon remains.
During his conversation with Theon, Jon discusses Theon’s position as a child in the Stark household, and Jon tells him, “You don’t have to choose,” to be Stark or Greyjoy. According to Jon, Theon is both, meaning a powerful, bold sailor and military leader, AND honorable and honest. That lesson applies to Jon, too. He is both Targaryen AND Stark, as Bran and Sam figure out together and describe in detail for any audience member who might not have put two and two together. He is both ruthless and honorable. And also,capable of incest.
As we saw Jon fuck, I mean make love with his own aunt (while Tyrion creepily leers in the hallway), I was reminded of another literary king who had a loving, sexual relationship with his relative before he knew his true lineage: King Arthur. King Arthur has a consensual romantic relationship with Morgause, the wife of one of his vassal kings, before his ancestry is fully revealed. Morgause turns out to be his half-sister. The resulting son, Modred, ends up delivering the mortal blow to Arthur after Arthur runs him through with a spear. Not that this means anything for the show, except that unwittingly banging your mystery relative has a precedent.
And yet, the main lie that is destroyed is the illusion of safety provided by the Wall. The maesters will be forced to face their hubris. All of humanity will face the same threat. While the kingdoms of men argue and manipulate and kill over borders and loyalties, this global threat went unnoticed. And, even now, as the danger is literally arriving on humanity’s doorstep, some still seek to turn the situation to their advantage. Will humanity’s short-sightedness be its downfall, or will clear-eyed honesty finally overcome and beat back death. I suspect some of each, but we have a while to wait before we find out.