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Game of Thrones S8, E4 “The Last of the Starks” review: Firmly reminds us why we love this show

An episode with a lot of character moments and a little war.

We’re all still reeling from the intense “The Long Night” episode that filled the screen with dragons, zombie killing action, and a conclusion we did not see coming. But we probably should have! Or at least, Game of Thrones enthusiasts have been saying as much. It was the kind of episode this show needed to close the door on a little more magic in Westeros and open the door to the literal game of thrones before these characters.

Episode four opens with the camera slowly panning over those who have fallen. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) gives a deeply moving and heartfelt speech; this speech isn’t long, but it feels the most important to the show yet since it’s about those who die making the world a better place. You owe something to those who have fallen, but with the impending war with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) looming it’s fair to say many more will die for potentially nothing at all. This opening scene is shot well giving us a reaction from every major character and reminding us these are the good guys. Even Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is upset and some might think she is hellbent on power.

The funeral scene is short, but effective leading into a celebration scene that allows the characters to let down their hair a bit. Once again, the episode is checking in with characters and getting the temperature of the room. A bit of politics is afoot here which includes Gendry (Joe Dempsie) becoming a lord by the will of Daenerys, Sansa (Sophie Turner) not being so happy with that, and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) reflecting on how there is a battle brewing within that room itself. It’s a bittersweet moment since these characters just saved the world and many are trying to celebrate the best they can. This sequence is well-shot thanks to how it sets Daenerys apart and literally removes Sansa when she gets frustrated. One could argue kingdoms are won on the battlefield, but the crown isn’t placed until after all is said and done.

There are many key smaller moments in the celebration sequence, but all point towards a war between these characters brewing. While some are celebrating others, like Sansa, are plotting and preparing for what is to come. In a key moment where she speaks to The Hound (Rory McCann), Sansa says, “Without Little Finger and Ramsay I would have stayed a little bird all of my life.” It seems to suggest the only way to succeed in the world is through pain and hardship. It feels like foreshadowing as if to say many more hardships are coming.

It’s not all about scheming and sorrow though. There’s love too. We find out Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) is a virgin (thanks to Tyrion figuring it out during a game) which ends in a hugely satisfying turn of lovemaking. I won’t spoil with who. Daenerys has a passionate scene with Jon laying her heart out for him. This, much like the revelry sequence, is bittersweet. She loves Jon and he loves her, but if anyone finds out he is the true heir to the throne all is lost. Jon’s too moral to not tell his siblings, but as Daenerys puts it when people want to follow you they will no matter what. Jon can’t avoid it if anyone finds out he’s a Targaryen. It’ll be interesting to see how loyal Jon can be to her, though.

There are a few surprises in this episode that make it feel above average. Jon and the remaining Starks all have a key scene together that really mixes things up. Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn) has a visit with the Lannisters seemingly to give him a moment in the new season. The Hound and Arya even share a nice moment together. Sansa and Tyrion even have a moment of reflection before these characters go back to war. Even the dire wolf Ghost gets a check in. There are a few goodbyes too, even, although this is more about preparing for what is to come. I suppose now that the Night King is gone the characters who do say goodbye aren’t necessary right now.

 

There is a surprising bit of action in this episode although it’s short. We’ve always known Cersei would be formidable, but this episode establishes it will be very hard to take King’s Landing. This leads to a war sequence on the water, dragons being involved, and characters scrambling to stay alive. The show is starting to feel like it used to thanks to Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion being the advisors we know and love. They are playing a bigger part in communicating secrets and preparing for war. They have a key scene near the end of the episode that begins to spin a new layer of backstabbing and conniving you won’t see coming. The show was always best when deception was in play and it appears it’s setting up quite a doozy.

This is an episode that helps build toward eventual confrontations and a new direction for many characters. If you thought saving humanity would give these characters a chip on their shoulder just watch this episode. All is not well, the heroes are in big trouble, and a new fight for the crown is in play. I finished the last episode thinking the air was taken out of this show due to the Night King being killed, but this episode does a great job setting up what will be an epic battle that may be unwinnable. Every character has something to fight for but most will not win.

This episode firmly places the show back into its sweet spot with characters conniving, those with power making poor decisions and lucky ones, and all the drama building towards a fight that’ll surely burn everything to the ground. Let the battle for the Seven Kingdoms begin!

Game of Thrones S8 E4
Is it good?
This episode firmly places the show back into its sweet spot with characters conniving, those with power making poor decisions and lucky ones, and all the drama building towards a fight that'll surely burn everything to the ground. Let the battle for the Seven Kingdoms begin!
A strong episode that begins the political game of characters learning things, gaining trust, and imploring a bit of fear
An exciting, but quick, war scene
Ser Bronn kind of just shows up and then checks out
Another strange strategic moment where Daenerys could have done some damage but just flees
9.5
Great
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