The final episode of Season 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” paid off several important plotlines: the question of Jon Snow’s parentage; the drama between Sansa, Arya, and Littlefinger; and Cersei’s continued isolation. And with that, yet another season of Game of Thrones has passed. But it’s not really over until The Ringer does an exit survey, so let’s get to it.
1. What is your tweet-length review of “The Dragon and the Wolf”?
Paolo Uggetti: The season was an exercise in scarfing down plotlines at lightning speed; this episode was one of the few that didn't make me feel awful afterward.
Well, they blew the horns
And the walls came down
They’d all been warned
And the walls came down
They stood there laughing
They’re not laughing anymore
The walls came down
(This one works, too.)
Andrew Gruttadaro: An episode full of satisfying outcomes and dissatisfying buildups.
Sean Yoo: The only things that matter are the facts that (Ae)Jon Targaryen is the true, rightful heir to the throne, and also that he made love to his aunt.
Zach Mack: “Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this ... and totally redeem yourself!" —Harry, Dumb and Dumber
Kate Knibbs: Where is Lena Headey's Emmy?
2. What was the best moment of the episode?
Lindbergh: The poignant, fraught reunions: Bronn and Tyrion, Pod and Tyrion, Brienne and the Hound, Brienne and Jaime, and yes, even Cersei and Tyrion.
Knibbs: If I'm being honest with myself, my favorite moment was the incest.
Rubin: Watching Chekhov’s Wall fall was truly remarkable, and a much-needed reminder that Thrones can still shock us even (often especially) when it’s masterfully doing the thing we’ve long anticipated. But respectfully: Y’all saw Jon and Dany fuck on the boat, right? While light incest intercut with the long-awaited conclusion of Jon’s parentage reveal might make you queasy, I popped my Oedipal Dramamine long ago.
Gruttadaro: Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey going toe-to-toe (that wine pouring!) just edges out the Jon Snow reveal, which was amazing and gross.
Yoo: Sam and Bran’s R+L=J (or, A) highlight mixtape [air horns x3].
Mack: Any and every moment with Cersei Lannister. Her mere presence on screen makes my stomach constrict. Lena Headey, the Queen I chose.
Uggetti: I loved The Bronnversations™ with both Jaime and Tyrion because they are the very type of dialogue that makes this show so much more than dragons and White Walkers. From the opening scene’s funny back-and-forth with Jaime to the tender moment between Bronn and Tyrion in the face of confrontation at the Dragonpit, both of these conversations are part of the personality plaster that fills in the crucial gaps in between the episode’s large bricks of plot.
Michael Baumann: Bran telling Sam, “I’m the Three-Eyed Raven,” and Sam being the first person all season to appropriately respond, “What the hell is that?”
3. What was your least favorite part?
Knibbs: When Theon got into a 28-minute fistfight.
Danny Heifetz: Remember the Red Wedding? Apparently Dany and Jon Snow don’t. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? LEAVE KING’S LANDING!
Uggetti: Theon’s scrap on the beach shore. Especially after a good Theon moment with Jon.
Lindbergh: Theon’s latest redemption arc. (And how does he still get a VIP pass to the summit?)
Mack: Get that Theon arc out of here. What did you need to talk to Jon about again? Why was it satisfying to see you beat up that random guy who had every right not to support you? Why do Yara and Theon still matter to the larger story?
Rubin: Not getting Cleganebowl! The Mountain and the Hound shared a moment, but a dis track that doubles as a promise for Actual Cleganebowl at a TBD date—“Remember me? Yeah, you do. You’re even fucking uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? Doesn’t matter. That’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”—isn’t good enough once the white winds blow.
Baumann: We spent, like, years on Theon. Who’s begging for Theon’s story to get resolved at this point? Can he even be redeemed? Would we even care if he were redeemed? Would we notice? If he’d been beaten to death on that beach would we have felt anything but relief?
Yoo: The five worst moments of the episode: Theon, Theon, Theon, Theon, and Theon.
Gruttadaro: I’m no eunuch, but I feel like just because you’ve been castrated doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt to take a knee to the groin.
4. Who won the summit at King’s Landing?
Lindbergh: Bronn and Pod, for bailing at the beginning.
Mack: The dude who walked out on two queens and a king dressed like Billy Idol.
Heifetz: Jon Snow. It was biblical: The Messiah told the truth when all of his disciples wanted him to lie.
Uggetti: Cersei. She fooled everyone even if in the long run, she’s fooling herself.
Gruttadaro: Showing up late to a business meeting is a move straight out of Jack Donaghy’s playbook, so props to Dany. But once Dany actually showed up, Cersei proved to be the real master. She’s going to need to start negotiating against herself if she doesn’t want to get bored.
Knibbs: It seems like Cersei won through treachery, but she also lost Jaime, so I'll go with the Hound—at least he got to sass his brother.
Baumann: Euron. That dude has so much swagger I can’t handle it. He’s the sexiest man alive.
Rubin: The wind wasn’t responsible for lifting Qyburn’s robes, if you know what I’m saying, and I think you do. Runner-up: Drogon, for that formidably graceful Dragonpit entrance, dwarfing the structure that once caged his kin.
5. Is the valonqar prophecy a given at this point?
Baumann: Well, Cersei does have two younger brothers with good reason to kill her now, but she does strike me as the kind of person who could find a creative way to get herself killed.
Yoo: Current Vegas odds on Jaime fulfilling the valonqar prophecy: -7000
Rubin: Nothing’s a given on Game of Thrones—well, other than Jon riding Rhaegal; and Melisandre returning from Essos; and Ghost remaining off screen for far too long—but it feels like we’re damn close to seeing the valonqar prophecy fulfilled. I truly thought we were going to get it in the finale! (That I was equally convinced that we could have had it wrong this whole time, and that Cersei would in fact be the one to kill Jaime, is a testament to the show rediscovering its subversive form during the finale’s last 30 minutes.) The Jaime-Cersei divide is now as wide as the red smile that Joffrey once promised to give Stannis. Jaime need only reach across that divide—you know, with the GOLDEN HAND THAT THE CAMERA LINGERED ON HIM DELIBERATELY COVERING AS HE RODE OFF FROM HIS SISTER—to close it and Cersei’s throat alike.
Lindbergh: It’s even more certain than the outcome of Cleganebowl. Cersei had her chance to kill both brothers, and for once, she wasn’t brutal enough (although she had strategic reasons to spare Tyrion). Next season, one of them will kill her. My money remains on Jaime.
Mack: Wouldn't the valonqars—plural—prophecy be more satisfying? She's got two younger brothers both armed with a reason.
Heifetz: It was over when this Reddit post went up.
6. Speaking of incest! Let’s talk about the Jon-Daenerys/Rhaegar-Lyanna scene.
Rubin: Which employee of The Ringer got to question no. 6 on the “The Dragon and the Wolf” (a.k.a. “The One Where Jon and Dany Fuck”) exit survey without having talked about this 12 times already? That person is fired.
Uggetti: I would have liked for the show to cut the 10 minutes of Theon and give me 10 minutes of Jon wrestling with himself about whether or not he should knock on Dany’s door. Here’s how it should have gone:
[Extremely Jon voice]
“I shouldn’t.” [Walks away.]
[Stops] … “But I’ve looked into her eyes!”
[Turns back and knocks.]
Lindbergh: Bran’s big reveal wasn’t one to the viewer, and the Rhaegar-Lyanna scene was no Tower of Joy, but the Icy Hot incest made up for the exposition-y summary.
Knibbs: Look, I loved it. I LOVED IT. Yes, the only way the cutaways emphasizing that Dany and Jon are secretly related could've been less subtle is if they just put a "THIS! IS! INCEST!" ticker at the bottom of the screen, but I've never really watched Game of Thrones for the subtlety.
Mack: Love is love is love is love is love is incest.
Yoo: Incest has been part of the Targaryen family since basically forever, so why stop now?!
Baumann: I guess we’ve decided we’re OK with banging your relatives? Is that where we’re at as a television-consuming society?
7. How do you think Jon will react to this, uh, tidbit of information?
Mack: Get ready for some next-level brooding.
Rubin: Er, not well. Finding out you unknowingly boned your aunt on a boat is a tough thing to hear, even in Westeros. But Jon is no stranger to forbidden love: He gave his heart (and his tongue) to Ygritte even when he couldn’t give her his life; he can give Dany everything if he’s bold enough to try. Dany seems much more likely to struggle to come to terms with this, not because Jon’s her nephew—again, on the Targ incest scale, this barely rates—but because he’s a threat to her claim, even if he doesn’t want to be.
Uggetti: Confused and filled with regret, he will go mad, just like his, uh, grandfather. Welp.
Baumann: If he’s still the same guy he’s been for seven seasons, he’ll put his eyes out and walk into the sea. I cannot wait to see how he talks himself into being OK with it.
Knibbs: It's Jon Snow. His no. 1 habit is brooding. He's gonna brood.
Gruttadaro: I’m looking forward to this more than “the Great War.”
8. Finish the sentence: “Littlefinger’s death was …”
Baumann: … satisfying. And not just that he died, but that he died because he was hoisted on his own petard.
Heifetz: … tragically missing ladder symbolism of any kind. Also, uh, why didn’t they draw out the whole “he tried to murder Bran, who’s in the room” thing more?
Mack: … too soon. I wanted to see him sit atop the Iron Throne as the world burned for like a half an episode.
Gruttadaro: … difficult to process! Because while I was unspeakably thrilled that the whole “Sansa and Arya wanna kill each other” thing was a ruse, there was no dramatic weight behind Littlefinger’s death. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss put themselves in a lose-lose situation once they decided they were going to try to trick us with this plotline: They either had to go through with it, which would have ruined the seasons-long development of two main characters, or they had to do the obvious thing and kill Littlefinger, which was the obvious thing. I was happy with the result here, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
Rubin: … poetry. They call Varys “the Spider,” but Littlefinger spun just as many webs, and the catharsis of seeing his protégé Sansa tangle him up in them so expertly was a high point in an often-rocky season. That said: The satisfying nature of the death itself was undone in part by the puzzling (and that’s putting it charitably) series of events that led to that moment. I still don’t buy Arya, Sansa, or Bran’s behavior in recent episodes, and I’m also a bit let down that the man who set our story in motion by killing Jon Arryn, kept it going by killing Joffrey, and made it fresh by teaching Ros and Armeca went down over some middle-school level “Did you hear what your sister said in the hall today?!” gossip.
Yoo: … worth sitting through painfully bad Arya-Sansa plotlines because we now have this GIF.
Uggetti: … manufactured satisfaction.
Knibbs: … satisfying, but they should've cut literally everything with Theon and given that scene a little more attention. I would've liked to have seen more of Sansa and Arya planning their attack and more of Littlefinger groveling.
Lindbergh: … not the result of due process.
9. Which character had the best season?
Gruttadaro: Jon. He was named the King in the North, he made friends with a dragon, people now believe him about the White Walkers, and he had sex with Daenerys Targaryen, which as of right now probably seems totally awesome to him and not extremely messed up in any way.
Mack: Let’s review that mission beyond the Wall now that the ice has cleared. At the end of the day, Team Living received important information, proof of the army of the dead, and Jaime Lannister’s allegiance. In exchange, Team Dead received one ice dragon, safe passage into Westeros, continued assurance that the living are content to squabble amongst themselves, plus cash and unlimited future dead draft picks. The Night King won this season.
Heifetz: Jon Snow, dragons, and the Night King are all correct answers, but we have known their importance to the story for a while. The Hound, meanwhile, has gone from prime comedic relief to not-so-gentle giant to bona fide role player in the war to come. He’s funny, honest, and now, righteous. Sandor is the Most Improved Player of the Year.
Yoo: Most people will give Jon the love, but if we're looking strictly at the numbers, the Night King takes the crown. He was super efficient—my man killed and revived an ice dragon in one episode, while it took Jon nearly an entire season to convince people that he saw the Night King.
Baumann: The Night King. He got a dragon that shoots blue lightning. That’s pretty rad.
Rubin: Jon. Our boy made mistakes, yes, but he looked great making them. And, crucially, he never lost sight of his primary objective. Jon’s “Great War” mentions became the stuff of drinking-game legend, but that’s ultimately a testament to his unfaltering conviction. And crucially, when Jon acted foolishly, he still acted in a way that felt true to his character. Jon wasn’t perfect this year, but he never has been. He also learned that more of his siblings (“siblings”) are alive, which is a real boon. He hasn’t yet learned that he’s the true heir to the Iron Throne, but we have, and that has to count for something in a season light on major movement and heavy on water-treading. Oh, and have I mentioned that he fucked Dany on a boat? If Jon had kept Ghost by his side, he’d earn close to full marks. As it stands, he’ll have to settle for being a man bun ahead of all the people who messed up left and right this season, and never had sex with Dany.
Uggetti: In a vacuum, I’m going to make a case for Cersei, who had lost all emotional connection that rooted her to this world, yet still ended up on the Iron Throne, has an heir on the way, and got rid of the baggage of Jaime while keeping her bodyguard in the Mountain.
Lindbergh: Cersei. She’s still alive, she got a lot of looks off, and her staying-at-home streak is intact. Everyone traveled to her!
10. Snap decision: Where does this season rank among the rest?
Knibbs: It goes: 1, 6, 7, 3, 2, 4, 5
Rubin: Last. Season 5 had its problems—You know who I never miss? The Sand Snakes—but it also had incredible highs. Season 7, in part because of its truncated nature, didn’t hit enough moon shots to cancel out the whiffs. Plus, Season 7 had the unenviable task of following Season 6, an astoundingly adept season of television that ended with the best episode in Game of Thrones (and, in my opinion, TV) history. None of that makes Season 7 bad; we’re harsh when Thrones lets us down because we love it so sincerely and desperately want it to be meaningful and great. It can be meaningful and great again in Season 8, but it wasn’t always in Season 7, which too often felt like a three true outcomes game. Yes: Characters have always done dumb things—we miss you, Ned and Cat!—but they rarely if ever acted contrary to their own natures until this stretch.
Lindbergh: It was one of the weakest seasons, both because of its brevity and because of its questionable character decisions, but at no point was I not entertained. It’s going to be a Long Night until Season 8.
Mack: I rank it above only Season 5. Season 7 was highlighted by major spectacle but was severely undercut by compressed timelines, inexplicable schemes and plots, odd character behavior, and the sudden invention of teleportation. Sure, the dragon battle against Jaime’s army was thrilling, and the ice dragon’s display in the finale was jaw dropping, but the reasons that brought us to these moments felt equal parts rushed and forced, as well as cheapened by the show’s decision to pull punches in order to save beloved characters. Past seasons seemed to almost delight in taking our favorite characters from us, but now our biggest deaths of the season are the guy who inefficiently schemed in underlit rooms all season and the dragon no one can name.
Uggetti: As someone who binged everything the past two-three months in order to have normal conversations with my coworkers, it’s hard for me to distinguish clearly between seasons, but this one was very inconsistent. High highs and low lows put it in the middle of the pack for me.
Yoo: Bottom of the pack. I still think the seasons that went off G.R.R.M.'s material were way stronger, and this season didn't have an episode better than last season’s “Battle of the Bastards” or “The Winds of Winter.”
Baumann: Dead last. Despite the season’s breakneck pace, it felt like throat-clearing, and either steered so directly into book lore or self-inflicted narrative cul-de-sacs that a show that thrives on unpredictability felt like something that had already been spoiled.
Heifetz: It’s so different from every other season that it can’t be reasonably compared to the others, but the truth is this season didn’t really matter. If the showrunners nail the ending, this season will be relatively forgotten, minus the five or six standout scenes. If they screw up the ending and next season sucks, the show’s legacy will be that it went south as soon as the White Walkers did.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.