Everything You Need to Remember About the 'Game of Thrones' Season 7 Finale
This post contains spoilers for all of Game of Thrones Season 7, including the finale, "The Dragon and the Wolf." Visit our official hub for more GoT recaps, theories, and spoilers.
Game of Thrones Season 7 ended with a horrifying, icy bang a year and a half ago, and the final season is on the horizon. The truth is, no matter how sprawling a story, no matter how many colorful monologues and world-building side-scenes writers can pack into episodes, penultimate chapters are always difficult. Everyone knows winter truly is coming, and hustling at the rapid pace of Season 7 occasionally led to some choppy execution.
Still, last season's finale, "The Dragon and The Wolf," gave viewers one of the show's most important episodes ever, not merely focusing on another major battle, but highlighting the fight for life in Westeros itself. Unprecedented occurrences like an army of undead breaching an impenetrable magic wall are expected to happen in a story of that magnitude. Other plot points, like the end of Littlefinger, feel more like a consequence of only having six episodes of television left until the conclusion of the master story arc.
"The Dragon and the Wolf," regardless of how you felt about a seventh season that plodded along and often seemed more concerned with treading water than advancing a narrative, clarifies and focuses the GoT story. Some of it is thrilling. A lot of it feels long delayed. But the consequences coming out of it direct who is going where for Season 8’s grand conclusion. The is only one war that matters, the great war, and it's arriving April 15. Until then, refresh your memory by reading about everything that happened at the end of Season 7 to set up the finale of one of TV's most important shows ever.
Cannot-Tell-A-Lie Aegon Targaryen (aka Jon Snow) screws up everything because he's too honest.
Just when you think Jon Snow has made the dumbest decision he’s going to make all season with a dozen-person wight-hunting expedition that results in a dragon casualty, he suddenly decides that he can’t tell a lie. So he absolutely must tell Cersei -- who will eventually lie to his face -- that he’s bent the knee to Daenerys, whom he makes loving googly eyes at, therefore he can't guarantee Cersei will remain on the throne when all is said and done. It is a really hard morality line to take for a guy who met his last love while pretending to join her migrant uprising north of The Wall, then got her killed while fighting against those forces in Castle Black. Maybe the whole idea of truth-telling is only appealing to resurrected Jon Snow. Maybe Cersei would've abandoned them anyway, but it certainly couldn't have hurt to promise that she'd stay queen after the White Walkers were defeated.
Jon looks uncomfortable in the sunlight. Maybe because he’s chosen regal Northern wardrobe for the sweltering Southern weather. Maybe because he’s once again in a leadership position, thanks to being Ned Stark’s "son" when nobody gave him the benefit of being anything but Ned Stark’s bastard. Jon brings this up during his conversation with Theon as a double-meaning read so we’ll know that Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s son in spirit even when he eventually learns of his true parentage.
"The Dragon and the Wolf" makes it clear that Jon Snow is the hero of this narrative, in case that wasn't already clear throughout the preceding six seasons. That doesn’t mean he’s going to live up to the title in an instant, but the show reminds viewers that Jon comes from a line of deceased Game of Thrones heroes. Not only has he returned from the dead, but he’s survived two gigantic conflicts since then, pretty remarkable considering one of his favorite battle tactics is charging headlong into an army by himself. It’s called "plot armor," and Jon wears it. While it only keeps him safe into Season 8 -- I still believe anyone can die in the end -- everything that has happened to Jon so far suggests he’ll at least be alive until the final showdown with the Night King.
We may finally see the Cleganebowl in Season 8.
In an episode full of major character meet-and-greets, the brief showdown between the brothers Sandor and Gregor Clegane in the dragonpit of King’s Landing didn’t meet the highest expectations of fans, but did renew hope in a "Cleganebowl" showdown between the two. At least, that’s one interpretation of The Hound’s threat that "it's not how it ends for you, brother. You know who's coming for you. You've always known."
It would be easier to understand what circumstances would bring this conflict about if we knew where Sandor Clegane went after the dragonpit/wight scene. The Hound followed the Lord of Light for a hot second this season, and R'Hllor most likely would want The Hound riding North to fight the Army of the Dead again, so perhaps he's headed North. But he also gets a walk-and-talk with Brienne of Tarth, who knows that Arya is both safe in Winterfell and has matured into a badass. If the conversation with Brienne wasn’t the end of The Hound and Arya’s team-up narrative, but a reminder it exists, who better to get Zombie Mountain away from Cersei long enough for a masked Arya to cross a name off her Murder List?
Speaking of Zombie Mountain, he’s capable of understanding a certain degree of nuance. I thought Mad Queen Cersei’s nod was enough to get Jaime surprised-killed. Instead it was more "brandish your sword menacingly at this brother like you did with the last one I let live." Twice The Mountain has threatened Lannister men without any Lannister men actually dying. No action for Zombie Mountain. You almost feel bad for the guy.
Theon might have a path to true redemption.
Of all the characters to make it into the final season of Game of Thrones... Theon? Really? After jumping off the boat and cowardly abandoning Yara, Theon floated literally and metaphorically through the season until he was needed for one good I-got-no-testicles joke. After witnessing his transformation into Reek, then back to Theon, it’s easier to believe that he would wuss out when Euron confronts him than the idea that all he needs to rescue Yara is Jon Snow's permission.
Right after earning Jon's stamp of approval, Theon beats to death a member of the Iron Born that everyone had forgotten about, because where have they been this whole time the Dothraki and the Unsullied have been fighting this war? Either way, when the guy goes to knee Theon in the balls, it seals his doom. "For Yara!" Theon says. For the audience, it’s all for Theon.
Jon and Dany's hookup will have far-reaching consequences.
It’s unclear what message the show wants to send about House Targaryen, but the foreshadowing is aligning for the distinct possibility that AeJon (we're going to make this happen) hits a hole in one with his aunt while hooking up on that Targaryen boat. Obviously plot-machine Bran confirming that AeJon is the heir to the Iron Throne gives the scene a certain amount of shock. But then there's the baby talk that's been creeping in between Jon and Dany over the past few episodes. First, there was Jorah telling Jon to keep his Valyrian Steel sword and give it to his children. Then there was a talk about succession between Dany and Tyrion where we were reminded she was infertile. In the Season 7 finale we have Jon and Dany bringing up the infertility diagnosis from the witch that killed Khal Drogo with blood magic.
It doesn’t take a doctor to read the baby signs. As a matter of fact, this season might have been the only season of Game of Thrones where we see two sexual encounters result in two pregnancies. The first one is Jaime/Cersei, who produce an incest preg-- oh man. Both of them are miracle incest babies! We saw two incestptions! Too far?
Point being, a baby ups the pressure for Daenerys and provides a living Targaryen heir to lead with Daenerys as Queen Regent. Daenerys and Jon would have to be married by the time it was born for that to happen cleanly, but it could happen. From a purely narrative standpoint, it’s also easier for an audience to emotionally accept the death of one or more parents if they have a love child. If this is the show that doesn’t have the time to give the Stark girls a storyline that makes sense, they wouldn’t be spending all this dialogue on fertility.
We have Dany and Jon’s ride and arrival to Winterfell to look forward to in Season 8. Jon will get to introduce his sisters to Dany, then he'll be like: Oh, damn, Bran’s weird now. Bran and Sam will correct him that he wasn’t introducing his sisters to his queen, he was introducing his cousins to his aunt. Arya will probably freak out, but if we’re lucky everyone will just accept it and move on. The nightmare scenario is one where the Targaryens are set against each other like Stark sisters seemed to be throughout Season 7; Jon and Dany are supposed to love each other, they’re not supposed to mope around Winterfell for an episode coming to terms with the fact that a different Targaryen heir has emerged. The best-case scenario is that the revelation moves so quickly that Jon is instantly motivated to get on a dragon and try proving Bran’s visions to himself.
So the future as set up by "The Dragon and the Wold" seems clear: The Targaryen forces will battle the Army of the Dead up North, then turn South against Cersei. That is to say, don't expect the pace of the show to slow down at all. Thrones spent two seasons dragging out what really happened at the Tower of Joy, and it could have just been one if Bran had the power of hearing Lyanna’s whispers the first time around. What we had to wait for is incest intercutting. If we had known Jon’s parentage one moment before, the boat sex would have even stranger. The intercutting of Jon and Dany being related with Jon and Dany having relations was an adaptation choice that will only exist in the series and it was… certainly a choice.
House Stark pulled off a sneaky, murderous plan, but where does that leave them?
What really happened here? Like, what was this season about when it came to Sansa and Arya? Did we miss a scene where Sansa goes to ask Bran if he knows anything, or are we expected to believe that Littlefinger’s speech actually backfired on him and Sansa actually changed her mind about Arya being against her in that moment? Either way, it’s very confusing and it doesn’t impact the characters all that much. We know that Arya and Sansa didn’t get along before. We saw Sansa be a responsible leader and say she wasn’t going to betray Jon, then we saw Arya confess to being and acting like a killer. Sansa betraying Jon to take Winterfell would feel wrong just as much as Arya cutting off her sister’s face to become Lady of Winterfell feels wrong. Neither player was lusting for more power as much as they were disagreeing with individual decisions being made in context of individual scenes.
The only part that seems to be up for interpretation in hindsight is Arya finding the scroll and not being suspicious of where she got it. If that’s when they started suspecting Littlefinger as a team, then why was Sansa searching through a bag of faces? It was good to have the Stark sisters back home and their reunion scene in the crypts is a series highlight if you take into account the full arcs of both those characters, and it’s great to see them together at the end remembering their father again, it’s just sad that whatever happened in the middle part isn’t tracking as necessary, especially when we could have been spending time at Winterfell seeing better things. Like wherever Ghost is.
As for the final member of House Stark, the Bran bomb went off in "The Dragon and the Wolf" in a big way. It was smart pairing Samwell Tarley with Bran for the big reveal scene because Sam is very good at making exposition dump scenes seem meaningful and Bran is absolutely the worst at it. Sam’s able to coax the best definition of being the Three-Eyed Raven out of Bran that anyone has, and immediately has a grasp of what that is thanks to his time with the weirdo maesters. Sam’s the one who remembers Rhaegar’s annulment, but he’s also smart enough to ask Bran if he can see it. No one besides the Three-Eyed Raven has tried directing Bran to look upon certain parts of history. Is that the key to unlocking the Bran Plot Bombs? Just, like, asking him?
It’s not a horrible workaround to having a confused but all-powerful character on your television show. The Three-Eyed Raven can see what’s happening and what’s happened (he doesn't mention the future, but that's probably to avoid freaking Sam out or so we could sidestep an "always in motion, the future is" explanation), but it’s making use of his focus that turns him from a random time-bomb of usefulness to a possible weapon against the Night King.
Against the Night King, not against himself! There are already tweets suggesting that because we saw Bran warging before we saw the Night King riding White Viserion that Bran is controlling the Night King. Bran is not the Night King. Please let this sink in: Bran. Is not. The Night King.
Littlefinger won't be around to bother the Starks anymore.
Not a great way to go out. Littlefinger’s plot and/or what little hold he had over Sansa couldn’t withstand two power player siblings. It’s a bit unclear just when Littlefinger was foiled, but if we default to Occam's razor, we’re supposed to believe that he brought about his own end by planting the idea of him being bad in Sansa’s mind. First, there was this season’s "fight all battles at all times in your mind" advice, and this episode there was an "always assume someone has the worst intentions" advice. This is playing it loud enough for the cheap seats as far as "causing your own downfall" is concerned.
Just like the show yadda-yadda-yadda'd over Sansa actually figuring out Littlefinger’s scheming, which leads her to question Bran about all Littlefinger’s doings, the show yadda-yadda-yadda'd over the part where we understood what Littlefinger was up to. He was Lord Protector of the Vale and Sansa was going to keep him around. Pressing his luck to stir the pot amongst the Stark siblings makes no sense. Even if his conversation with Bran freaked him out, if he loved Sansa, wouldn’t he be working to ensure Bran’s exposition bomb doesn't go off, not toy with Arya to gain total domination?
It was no way for a character this consequential to go. The actual exit scene was played very well and, yes, it was a satisfying death contextualized with recalling each beat of his previous treachery, but up until this very episode of Game of Thrones, lying wasn’t just OK, it was often the smartest course of action. That era of the show is dead, and so is Littlefinger.
Jaime and Cersei's split leaves a lot of open questions for the Lannisters.
Jaime Lannister finally found his breaking point: zombies. More likely, it was zombies combined with Cersei’s insistence that he couldn’t be trusted. She calls her lover-brother a traitor -- that hurts. Just when it looked like a baby would soften her up, Cersei inches closer to becoming the Mad Queen. We don’t get to see her lie to Tyrion about marching the Lannister forces North after he guesses that she’s pregnant, but we know it's a lie, because Euron Greyjoy has already secretly gone off to get the mercenary Gold Cloaks in Essos. Cersei kept this decision from Jaime and it pisses him off.
It’s a good scene, but Jaime’s logic for leaving and going North doesn’t sound as much like reclaiming his honor or finally rejecting his sister as it sounds like being frightened by zombies. Jaime isn’t very worried about his word, at least he hasn’t been before when it comes to living-on-living warfare (he is the Kingslayer, remember!), and his sister has lashed out and made dumb decisions before; it seems unlikely that he’d leave his sister-lover because she scorned him. No, Jaime is scared of zombies, which is understandable given how shaken he was about dragons. It just isn’t the final schism between sibling-lovers that it we all expected. If Jaime survives the Great War to Come, he still has family in King's Landing. Maybe Jaime’s ultimate purpose is to stop Cersei, but if that’s so (valonqar ho!), he’s heading in the wrong direction on the map.
Cersei looks locked into the plan to let the "monsters" fight the monsters up North, then pick off whomever comes out the victors. It doesn’t stand up against the reason that if the Northern forces are defeated, they’ll be added to the Army of the Dead, but Cersei is fairly confident in dragons. The Mad Queen Cersei will not be stopped now that she has a life in her, and it sounds like once Euron returns with the Gold Cloaks, she’ll be quick to re-take Highgarden and Casterly Rock while the Unsullied and Dothraki are away. We’ve been told the Gold Cloaks are bringing elephants, which hopefully isn’t just a rumor and is actual foreshadowing for Battle Elephants versus Zombie Giants, which is not the latest SyFy original movie.
At least Tormund survived The Wall's collapse.
This cliffhanger, which left Tormund's fate in the balance as Viserion blew up The Wall, is much better than when we were told Jon Snow was "really" dead for an entire off-season. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones decided to reveal the answer in the Season 8 trailer. Glad he's alive!