Who’s ready for the next installment of NGN’s Game of Thrones finale roundtable? To recap, I gathered some fellow writers and beloved members of the NGN Family to join me in sharing our feelings on “The Dragon and the Wolf.” In Part 1, we gave our general thoughts on the finale, and in Part 2, we broke down some of the show’s most important dynamics.
Today, it’s time to start playing favorites!
Littlefinger’s death was a huge “OMG!” moment, and this finale was filled with others, too. What moment produced the biggest reaction from you?
Katie: I was spoiled for quite a few of the episode’s biggest moments (because I have no willpower), but I think the part that still managed to genuinely shock me was Bran finally putting his powers to good use and proving that what Sansa said about Littlefinger was true. And even though I knew the Wall was going to come down, actually seeing it happen still made me freak out. There are no spoilers you can read that will accurately prepare you for the visual of the Night King riding an ice dragon and using its flames to bring down something that has been a constant in this universe from the very beginning.
Shauna: Again, I cheated and read spoilers, so nothing here was too much of a shock for me. There were a few little moments that still got to me though—Jaime challenging Cersei to kill him, the undead army emerging from the haunted forest, that first shot of the Night King on the back of the undead dragon, Tormund in danger—I was definitely holding my breath during those scenes.
Maii: For me, it was Littlefinger’s death. I knew it was probably coming, but it still got me so hyped. Just know it’s the scene I’ve rewatched the most from the finale, other than the final Stark Sisters scene, of course.
Runner Up: Theon coming into his own and achieving the point of half Stark/half Greyjoy. It was fantastic and everything that was needed. The way he kept getting up and used what they saw as a weakness to his advantage, culminating in his rebirth in the Greyjoy fashion (baptising himself). Theon was one of the few that had a clear arc in this season and Alfie Allen was just so good. This is the rebirth of Theon Greyjoy (Stark), and I can’t wait to see what Allen has in store for us in the last season.
Heather: Since I was spoiled, nothing really shocked me, but lots of things made me strongly react. The biggest was Sansa and Arya taking down Littlefinger. Not even his death necessarily, but the moments leading up to it with Sansa verbally taking him down with Arya smirking at him. I was so proud of these girls and happy that they would finally be free of the toxic presence Littlefinger had been in their lives for so long. It was taking all of my willpower not to scream at my computer screen (and I didn’t want to miss things), but I did nearly leap of my bed.
Lizzie: I wasn’t spoiled, so yay me! My biggest reaction came at the Jaime/Brienne conversation and also at Jon being so stupidly noble and good, which both made me want to strangle him and hug him. I imagine that’s a good thing, that something so predictable—Jon being honorable—can still get me riled up. Also, the Theon/Jon scene gave me unexpected feels, which I think speaks more to the acting than anything.
Gissane: Yeah, I wasn’t spoiled either, so essentially, a lot surprised me, but other than the scene with Littlefinger, it was definitely the ending. I feel like I had been holding my breath for a solid 10 minutes (seemingly forever) at that point where the dragon brought the Wall down. That was it. It’s the finale that showcases the fact that everything we’ve ever known about Game of Thrones is changing and the end is near.
Dalissa: I didn’t see Littlefinger’s comeuppance coming in the moment it did, especially his death. So it was a definite OMG moment. But the moment that made me hold my breath was when Tyrion calls Cersei’s bluff to have him killed and she doesn’t do it. Peter Dinklage had me convinced he wasn’t getting out of that room alive—Cersei killing off her last Achilles heel. The ending, while spectacular, was anticlimactic for me because frankly, I still wasn’t over pulling the dragon from the water and resurrecting it for the army of the dead. Of all the things for this show, that was one I never saw coming.
Sometimes the moments that surprise us the most are our favorites, but sometimes others stand out above the rest for their own reasons. What was your favorite moment in this finale—was it an epic twist or a smaller character beat?
Katie: Arya and Sansa provided both the episode’s most satisfying “big” moment for me and also the most beautiful “small” moment. Their scene after Littlefinger’s execution moved me to tears because it was the perfect reminder of what has always brought me back to this show—even when it’s bothered me so much that I’ve had to stop watching for periods of time—and that’s watching these characters, who are part of such a fantastical world, reflect very real truths about people and our relationships with each other. Sansa and Arya have always reminded me of my little sister and I as we were growing up. So to watch them come to a place not just of understanding, but also of respect as my sister, who has become my best friend, sat next to me on the couch was a pretty perfect moment. All I’ve wanted for seasons was for these two young women to reconnect and learn about what the other has gone through—for them to see the strength in each other and to appreciate what the other has gone through. And this moment gave me exactly that. It gave me two young women acknowledging different kinds of strength and different ways to survive, and seeing each other in a new light because of that.
And then when they started quoting Ned’s words, the tears got even worse. Ned’s little girls made it back home—and no matter how bad their lives got or how much pain they endured, they never forgot where they came from. They never forgot who they really are—no matter how tempting it was to forget. They’re Starks, which means they’re part of a pack. “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” That was the theme of the finale. Finding a pack can save you—finding people to trust, to team up with, and to fight beside gives you a much better chance of surviving the winter than trying to stand alone. This episode showed us a variety of characters finding where they belong and choosing to align themselves with people they trust, and that was represented so beautifully in Arya and Sansa choosing to face the coming winter with an ally they never would have expected to be leaning on all those years ago—each other. Ned’s daughters took his words to heart, and for the first time, I felt real hope that this pack might actually survive the coming storm.
Shauna: The scene between Jon and Theon is the one that really got to me. It was fabulously written and acted, and completely unexpected. And the implications for Jon moving forward when he learns of his true parentage really gave this scene an incredible amount of weight to it. Out of all the great little moments we got this season, I think this is by far one of my favorites and the one that is going to be in the front of my mind moving on to Season 8.
Maii: All the scenes revolving around Theon were my jam (trust me I’m as surprised as you are), and I won’t go into them because I’ve gone into both of them already, as have the lovely ladies with me. I agree with Lizzie that I was waiting for Sansa to say that iconic quote, and the fact that they had both my girls say it makes it even more iconic. I love that they parallelled it to Season 6 (my favorite season so far) and that finale scene between Jon and Sansa: “I’m not a Stark. You are to me.” Jon and Arya are the two people Sansa got along with the least growing up, so it makes sense they would be who she’s closest to now. This is what Ned always wanted; the pack is stronger than ever and I would not want to be on their bad side.
Heather: I have to agree with Shauna here; Theon and Jon’s conversation really stood out to me. So much of this episode centered around the idea of legacies, both the ones left for these characters to uphold and the ones they are leaving behind, and the legacy of Ned Stark loomed the largest. For those who grew up admiring him, his honorability is a lot to live up to. It’s the pull Theon feels now, between the Iron Islands and Winterfell, each representing a different philosophy. He always felt like he had to chose one or the other, and Jon tells him that he is both. He is Ironborn and Stark all in one. That will clearly become more relevant when Jon finds out his true parentage, but it’s true of all the characters on this show. All of their parents are gone; it’s now on them to decide what they will stand for and what their name will represent.
Lizzie: My answer can’t be anything but Jaime and Brienne, but since I already went on about that, I will admit that the Theon/Jon conversation got me in unexpected ways, for I loathe Theon and haven’t had one good feeling about him since like, Season 1. Plus, was I the only one just waiting for Sansa to utter the line, “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives”? That felt like the whole point, and hearing it gave me the chills,
Gissane: I agree with the moment between Jon and Theon—especially because you know some point in the future someone’s going to have to tell Jon that he is both a Stark and a Targaryen. It was sweet and unexpected. And because I’ve always gone back and forth with Theon, it was a great place to leave the character. But also, I agree with Lizzie, the moment between the Stark sisters and that quote is the moment where I actually got a little teary eyed. And for me, if it makes me cry, then it’s the best thing in the episode.
Dalissa: While I felt the foreshadow weight of Theon/Jon’s conversation, my loathing of Theon and indifference for Jon could not be overcome to make it my moment. However, I think the looming presence of Ned Stark threaded throughout all the conversations from Westeros to Winterfell felt powerful to me. It was the best of Ned on display in those he left behind. Which is what resonated for me especially on second viewing. But I’ve been invested in House Stark since day one, so to see the sisters come together in mutual respect at the top of Winterfell was the moment most satisfying for me. Not merely because of the great line that Sansa closes with, but because we see Ayra come full circle to a place of admiration for Sansa and in doing so, she has fully returned to being a Stark after many seasons of being completely severed from that identity.
Who gave your favorite performance in this episode?
Katie: I could sing Lena Headey’s praises until the end of time, and I’ll do it again because she is the very definition of controlled power, and I hang on not just her every word at this point—but her every look. It would have been so easy for her to play every single reaction in that Dragon Pit scene as one-dimensional hatred of basically every person there, but she added so many layers to each look—the death glare she gave Tyrion, the possessive way she watched Jaime and Brienne, the twinge of jealousy in her reactions to Daenerys, the attempts at manipulation with Jon. It was a masterclass in nuance. Even if she didn’t say anything in this episode, her eyes alone would have captivated me completely. But luckily for us, she also said plenty of things in this episode, and each moment of dialogue had me wanting to give her an Emmy right now. There were so many small moments that stood out to me—her chastising Daenerys for being late with barely-controlled fury in her voice, the brutally condescending tone she used to call Jaime stupid, the way she made me sincerely believe she might kill either of her brothers while also making me sincerely believe why she couldn’t do it—but the cream of the crop came in her scene alone with Tyrion. When Headey and Peter Dinklage get together, all you can do is sit back and marvel at them. There was a beat when Tyrion shot back at Cersei that he did love her children and Headey closed her eyes, steeling herself against his words, that devastated me because it showed that Cersei is still in so much pain but will never deal with that pain in a healthy way. Instead, she poured all that denial, all that anger, all that grief into her escalating delivery of “I will not hear it!” Cersei’s pain makes her human—it keeps her from being pure evil incarnate—and it’s all because of Headey that I can never quite hate Cersei as much on the screen as I did on the page.
Shauna: I could never just pick one actor, so I am going to cheat a bit and give my MVP award to the score. The music has always been fabulous on this show, but that one scene where Jaime is leaving King’s Landing and the snow falls on his glove as the clouds are rolling in, and that slow haunting version of the theme starts playing? That scene honestly gave me goosebumps. It was absolutely beautiful.
Maii: This is a three way tie between Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and Alfie Allen. That scene between Cersei and Tyrion was truly impressive, I’d missed their scenes; they are just so good. I complain about the show, but damn do they understand the complicated relationship between the Lannisters. Cersei could have killed Tyrion, she could have killed Jaime, and goodbye Valonqar prophecy—and yet she didn’t; she couldn’t give the order. It’s a particularly poignant set of scenes that reminds you that no matter how much they hate each other, they are still family. Where is Lena’s Emmy? We’re waiting!
And Alfie Allen never gets the recognition he deserves, and this episode was just wonderful for him. I was screaming during that scene in the end I was so proud. He deserves all the awards. I mean he managed to turn me into a Theon fan, which is a feat because I wasn’t big on Book!Theon.
Honorable mention: Sophie Turner, the way she handled the scene with Littlefinger’s death shows how much she’s grown as an actress.. She was firm and powerful in that scene, and yet you knew that despite everything, this was not an easy thing to do—as shown by her tears.
Heather: There were a lot of performances to love in this episode as characters reunited and fell apart, but my favorite belongs to Lena Headey. She is always extraordinary but especially so in this episode in her scenes with Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Cersei’s relationship with her brothers is not simple by any stretch of the imagination. But there is common history and most importantly, their name, that binds them together. Their family pride was instilled in them from birth; it meant something to be a Lannister. And it still does, even as everything is falling apart. The relationship in Cersei’s mind between family and power is tangled and complicated, and we get to see all that play out in her expressions and tone. It gives a depth to her character beyond her hunger for power and control that makes Cersei so compelling even as she does awful things.
Lizzie: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau played Jaime’s feelings for Brienne, his recognition of Cersei noticing those feelings, and then his utter disgust, shock and pain at realizing who she really is perfectly. But then again, he always does, which is why a character like Jaime Lannister, who, on paper, should be anything but a favorite, has wormed his way into the hearts of so many.
Honorable mention goes to Alfie Allen, who made me feel for Theon Greyjoy, something I never, ever expected to happen. What I needed from his scene with Jon wasn’t to feel pity; it was to somehow understand why, and even if his reasons don’t seem valid enough, I finally got a chance to hear him explain what those reasons were, and Alfie sold it. He really and truly did.
Gissane: Peter Dinklage. He gave us a wide variety of emotions that I was both expecting and not expecting. And naturally, Lena Headey, who manages to creep me out in ways no character’s ever done because I’m never ever sure of what Cersei will do.
Dalissa: Oh this one is hard for me. Lena Headey had so much to do this episode it’s hard to not put her first. From the waiting on Dany to the instinct to run after Jaime but then stop short of doing so and everything in between (especially with Tyrion), it was simply astonishing the bases she covered and all punctuating the underlying theme of children taking up the legacies of their fathers. Because of the Lannister children, this episode proved in spades that Cersei is in fact her father’s daughter and the son neither of his sons ever could be. But my honorable mention goes to Aidan Gillen. Littlefinger’s final scene trapped in his own lies and his varied attempts to get out of it was masterful.
Don’t forget to join the discussion in the comments! And tune in tomorrow for the fourth and final part of our roundtable!