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The ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 4 Exit Survey

Discussing Sex Night in Westeros, the questionable effectiveness of Big Crossbows, and Daenerys’s increasingly shaky path to the Iron Throne

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Spoiler alert

After every episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, staff members at The Ringer will gather at the nearest weirwood to discuss the most interesting moments, developments, and theories. Without further ado, here’s the exit survey for the fourth episode, “The Last of the Starks.”

1. What is your tweet-length review of “The Last of the Starks?”

Zach Kram: This episode was acres better than last week’s battle, and everyone who disagrees can @ me.

Michael Baumann: The first half, when everyone’s acting out that one Lady Antebellum song, was way better than the second half, which packed four episodes’ worth of plot into half an hour.

Kate Knibbs: A heel turn by everyone was an interesting choice, but I’m into it. I’m pretty sure the title of this ep should be “Dracarys,” but “Breaking Bad” would’ve also been apt.

Victor Luckerson: The show about schemes and plots has been depriving its heroes of a successful scheme or plot for way too long.

Chris Almeida: Dragons—they’re useless combatants just like us!

Bobby Wagner: Game of Thrones is in the “Playing the Hits” stage of its career.

Julie Phayer:


2. What was the best moment of the episode?

Baumann: Gendry gets named lord of Storm’s End—WHICH CERTAIN PEOPLE PREDICTED—then proposes to Arya.

Knibbs: Drunk Hookup Westeros night!!!! I loved it so much.

Kram: Pick an intimate conversation: Jaime and Brienne (the first one), Varys and Tyrion, the four Stark siblings, and so on. The character moments in this episode crackled.

Luckerson: Jon and Dany’s trying to hash out what to do about his Targaryen lineage. This is by far the most interesting complicating factor introduced all season, and I’m more interested in watching how this plays out than I am another dragon battle.

Wagner: Tyrion’s looking Cersei in the face and making one final plea for her to surrender, knowing damn well it wouldn’t work. Spiritually, it felt very similar to his desperate speech in Season 4, when he was on trial for his life and demanded a trial by combat. It didn’t have quite the emotional resonance, with Tywin now out of the picture. But it had the same quivering, powerful desperation that the trial-by-combat speech had. It was riveting.

Phayer: Varys! He finally got off the bench and put up a respectable 10-8-5.

Almeida: The most shocking moment was Rhaegal’s getting Big-Crossbowed. The best was Varys and Tyrion’s chatting about treason. The war plot is entirely nonsensical at this point—in between, we may as well enjoy the moments of scheming that have always made the show great.

3. What was the most frustrating part of the episode?

Luckerson: The rehashing of narrative beats. Tyrion makes a final plea to Cersei’s humanity, which he already did in Season 7. Jaime and Brienne reenact the hot tub scene. Tyrion and Varys have the same conversation about Jon vs. Dany in the span of half an hour. I thought we were trying to break a wheel here, folks.

Kram: I’ll let my colleagues talk about Rhaegal’s death and Ghost’s inexplicable departure. For me, the most frustrating moment (maybe) was Jaime and Brienne’s final interaction, when the Kingslayer’s long arc seemingly flipped. For years, Jaime had veered away from Cersei’s arms toward Brienne’s—and right after consummating that relationship, he reversed course to (he claims) return to his sister’s side. I suspect some misdirection might be involved for valonqar purposes; perhaps Jaime said what he thought he had to to convince Brienne they had to split, like Tyrion previously tried with Shae and Arya did with Nymeria. But if we’re meant to take his parting words at face value, then the long arc of his history bends ... back on itself?

Knibbs: Uh, when did Euron take a break from doing stick-and-pokes in the break room at the Iron Islands’ Hot Topic long enough to become the world’s greatest dragonslayer? These dragons survived so much, and to see Rheagal get taken down by an ordinary weapon by a Pirates of the Caribbean knockoff was disappointing.

Baumann: I’m all for leveling the playing field with the dragons, but did Qyburn install the goddamn Exocet missile on Euron’s ships? Those things shoot tree-sized bolts and can hit like a 6-foot-wide moving target from two miles away, and carry enough kinetic energy to sink a trireme? Get the fuck out of here.

Almeida: Everything involving Big Crossbows was awful. We’re really supposed to believe that dragon scales can be pierced by tech that existed on earth before the year 0? And also that nobody thought to build these weapons at any earlier point in time? How did the Targaryens manage to conquer the Seven Kingdoms if all anybody needed to stop them was a machine Qyburn could think up while dicking around in the Red Keep?

Wagner: The final realization that the show isn’t interested in tying up the loose ends they’ve left from previous seasons. Something as small as Dany’s overhearing about Jon’s death and resurrection has been completely glossed over—even after there was a series of moments in both Season 7 and Season 8, when she seemed interested in learning more about the Night’s Watch’s mutiny.

Phayer: HOW COULD JON DO THAT TO GHOST?! NOT EVEN A HUG OR A PAT ON THE HEAD?! I have more emotional goodbyes with my two cats when I leave for work every morning.

4. Grade Gendry’s proposal. Now grade Jaime’s.

Baumann: Gendry: A-minus. Way to put yourself out there, the only way it could’ve been better is if instead of saying, “I want you to be the lady of Storm’s End,” he’d told Arya something like, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a lady or not as long as we’re together.” Worst she coulda said was no.

Jaime: D-minus. I’m not sure anyone, including Brienne, actually believed he loved her and wouldn’t break her heart eventually. Huge bummer.

Knibbs: Jaime proposed? When? Gendry gets a C for Cersei—as in, wait until Arya kills her to pop the question next time!

Kram: The nicest assessment I can offer of Gendry’s proposal is that he took The Ringer’s advice and shot his shot.

Phayer: He should’ve known Arya is already married to the game.

Almeida: I’ll give Gendry a B for effort. He should have known he had no shot, but I respected the earnestness and directness. Jaime gets an incomplete because I still have no idea what he’s actually doing.

Wagner: I’ll be as generous as I can. Gendry can get a B-minus. His marriage proposal to Arya was rushed, ill-conceived, but genuine. It reminds me of a lot of the B-minuses I got in college. For Jaime, I have to hand out a D. His drunken … proposal, if we’re calling it that, reminded me of something that would happen with a popular guy in a rom-com while the girl was still “finding herself,” before a Prince Charming type swooped in to show her how to be loved.

5. Would Tyrion betray Daenerys?

Almeida: Our guy hasn’t done anything smart in years so … no.

Baumann: Probably. His scene with Varys really seemed like he was trying to work up the courage (or at least the buzz) to do it.

Knibbs: Probably, but I don’t feel like I can accurately predict any of the characters’ motivations at this point. It seems like Varys is definitely going to betray her, though.

Luckerson: No, because the entire idea of Daenerys being the new Mad Queen hasn’t been sold nearly well enough. Roasting the Tarlys was rough, but she hasn’t actually done anything particularly rash or sadistic this season (and moments when that side of her seemed to be coming out, like the banquet hall encounter with Gendry, turned out to be savvy graciousness). If anything, Daenerys should betray Tyrion. She agreed to more of his dumb plans, which led to one of her dragons getting killed and Missandei being publicly executed.

Wagner: No. I think Tyrion is in love with Daenerys. He’s mentioned more than once that he hasn’t been with a woman for years (since before he knew her). He’s stared longingly at her on many occasions as she’s been swept off her feet by Jon. And he has backed her against his better judgment and the judgment of others like Varys, whom Tyrion has always respected.

Phayer: If he could find a way to do it without getting himself killed, then probably. As much as I love him, I can’t picture Tyrion sacrificing himself for others.

Kram: I’ll answer the question with a question: If Tyrion had been trying to betray Dany all along, could he have done a better job than almost losing her Meereen, losing her the Greyjoy fleet, losing her not one but now TWO dragons, convincing her that Cersei would honor a behind-closed-doors agreement, and every other foible and strategic error he’s committed since joining her cause? That’s not to say he’s going to betray her, or already has, but maybe if he did try to betray her, something would go right for Daenerys for a change.

6. With Tormund heading north—with Ghost!—do you think anything will transpire there? If so, what?

Phayer: The Adventures of Tormund and Ghost is the spinoff we deserve after the mess known as seasons 7-8.

Kram: The optimistic view is that Tormund’s conversation with Jon sets up a symbolic ending for the latter, who will make his way back north before the series concludes. The pessimistic view is that a show that has for so long now tried to hide the giant direwolf off-screen found an excuse to dispense with him once and for all. Jon didn’t even pet the good boy goodbye. With fantasy genre elements disappearing at an accelerating pace, unfortunately, the pessimistic possibility seems more in tune with the current direction.

Baumann: I hope whatever transpires, Tormund treats Ghost better than Jon, who just rehomed his telepathically bonded dog that risked its life to save his stupid ass last weekend.

Wagner: Yes, I think Jon will return there in the final episode to rule an independent North, after King’s Landing has been wasted away. Sadly, because of true cowardice on Jon’s part (and the seemingly insurmountable task of animating direwolves), I think Ghost is gone for good—off to roam beyond the Wall with Nymeria.

Almeida: It seems like it’s too late for any more fantasy elements to be introduced to the story, so I doubt there will be any action in the North. Perhaps Tormund and the free folk will ride south to fight alongside Jon and unexpectedly save the day.

Luckerson: Nah, the show just likes having heartwarming moments between popular characters now. Don’t overthink it.

7. Why were Dany et al. so unprepared for an engagement at Dragonstone?

Wagner: Because viewers like to root for plucky underdogs. The showrunners have made the calculation that the only way to drum up interest in the battle for King’s Landing is if it is—on its face—a fair fight. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t invent a plan to make the fight fair without making Daenerys look like the unprepared teenager she was at the beginning of the series.

Luckerson: Because the show is too busy trying to make sure the faceoff with Cersei is “fair” to care whether any of the circumstances that deplete Dany’s forces are fair.

Knibbs: Because this show is not very believable or well-written. I also don’t get why Cersei didn’t just kill them all on the spot? I love Game of Thrones, but the only way to love it at this point is to let it be silly.

Baumann: Hubris. It’s pretty clear by now that Euron is the best tactician on the show. It’s equally obvious that Daenerys is so high on her own sense of destiny she thinks she’s invulnerable, so at this point why wouldn’t she walk into an ambush?

Phayer: A mix of terrible strategy, everyone still being hungover from their big feast, and …

Kram: You’d think they would have learned after her navy was ambushed by the same enemy fleet in Season 7! And with two dragons theoretically providing airborne reconnaissance this time! But remember—Theon successfully infiltrated Euron’s ship to rescue Yara without any trouble earlier this season. Maybe everyone on this show simply doesn’t know how to defend a boat.

Almeida: If seasons 7 and 8 have taught us anything, it’s that there will be absolutely no good reason for it, and the show will not attempt to explain it.

P.S. If the Big Crossbows are really as powerful and freakishly accurate as they’ve seemed on the show … wasn’t it completely within Cersei’s capabilities to impale Dany, Drogon, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and the rest of the Unsullied in an instant? We’re just supposed to accept that the woman who blew up the Sept of Baelor is just going to let her enemies walk away to get ready for an ... Honorable Battle?!

8. At this point, how can Dany win?

Baumann: Ditch Jon and hook up with Horny Post-Punk Horatio Nelson.

Knibbs: I don’t really see a way for her to win and not be Queen of Ashes. I am an on-the-record normie Jon-and-Dany shipper, but at the same time, I don’t think this show is meant to end with either of them on the Iron Throne. Dany’s fucked, as I’m sure GRRM intended.

Luckerson: Build a new Night King real quick, have him resurrect an ice dragon, lay waste to all that would deny her titles (titles titles). What could go wrong?

Kram: If she wins the Iron Throne, she’ll probably do so in a fashion that swings her character all the way to villainy. If she stays a hero, she probably won’t win the Iron Throne. “The battle between good and evil,” George R.R. Martin once wrote, “is fought chiefly in the individual human heart.” So forget the Red Keep and forget the Blackwater Rush; Daenerys’s heart is the true battlefield next episode.

Wagner: I’m actually a little more bullish on her chances the more I consider this question. Watching the episode, I felt like she was pretty much backed into a corner. The human shield technique, though despicable, is effective. But, thinking bigger picture, almost too many times to count, this show has hinged on a plot arc in which Dany seemed completely defeated, only for her to rise from the ashes (on one occasion, literally), triumphant. It would be tonally consistent with the rest of the show for her to improvise a way through this, but I’m not certain she’s that character anymore. She might have already turned full Mad Queen.

Almeida: Take a trip to the Quantum Realm?

Phayer: Call the league office and beg for Draymond to be suspended for Game 5.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.