Game of Thrones: The Ending of ‘The Last of the Starks’ Explained

As the long night comes to an end, the war for the throne begins. If next week’s episode is the major showdown between Cersei and Dany that the show’s been building up to for seasons now, then this was the calm before the storm. Except it wasn’t so calm, especially not that ending. So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Spoilers through this week’s episode of Game of Thrones.

Winterfell

Before we get to King’s Landing, Brienne catches Jaime riding off, seemingly to go protect Cersei now that Dany’s forces are vulnerable and her patience is thin. She tells him to stay because he’s a good man, but he denies this and rides off anyway. The scene is ambiguous enough to where it appears that Jaime is going off to fight for Cersei because their relationship is just that toxic and he can’t change, no matter how close he gets to being out of her grasp. Unfortunately, this is most likely the case. It’s a heart-breaking scenario considering Jaime’s entire character arc up until this point as well as he and Brienne’s recent romantic closeness. RIP to all of that I guess.

But Jaime’s speech about how he’s not a good man could also mean something else. There is a slight chance he could be setting himself up for his final redemption path, to reverse that perspective of himself as an evil man, which would be to help take down Cersei once and for all. The scene is played to where either outcome wouldn’t be too surprising at this point.

The “valonqar” prophecy from the books, which Maggy the Frog tells Cersei, says that the “little brother”—valonqar—will “wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Though never explicitly mentioned in the show, not even in season five when we saw young Cersei learn her terrible fate, it could still be a plot twist yet to come. Cersei seems to always have thought it would be Tyrion that would kill her, but perhaps it is Jaime.

However, Cersei has always seemed to be Arya’s to kill, no matter how tragically poetic it would be for Jaime to do the deed. The way the show sent Arya off to King’s Landing earlier in this episode heavily foreshadowed this outcome, with her telling the Hound she has unfinished business and doesn’t plan to return to Winterfell afterward. So, at this point, Cersei’s got much more than just Dany and her army to look out for.

King’s Landing

The standoff between Cersei and Dany begins with a chat between Qyburn and Tyrion, in which Tyrion pleads with Qyburn to save King’s Landing. Qyburn says he is simply a mouthpiece for the Queen and this conversation really proves that since he seems to have no feelings whatsoever toward the prospect of screaming children dying by fire.

Tyrion’s next move is to go straight to Cersei herself. Foolish? Definitely. I think we all knew how little that was going to do. Let’s not forget though that in doing this, Tyrion just outright admitted to knowing about Cersei’s pregnancy. Most importantly, he did so in front of Euron, who Cersei just told was a dad-to-be. Tyrion hasn’t been shown to have any contact with Cersei or King’s Landing since last season and Euron would know that. Tyrion’s knowledge of her pregnancy should come as a shock to him and should imply that Cersei’s been pregnant long before they began their physical relationship, but will it?

Probably not, but it is something to consider. There was no reaction shot of Euron’s face throughout Tyrion’s speech so perhaps this flew over his head. There are other pressing concerns at the moment. If he did catch this bit of info though, maybe he just assumes that Qyburn or someone else mentioned it to Tyrion recently.

Or, maybe he did put all the pieces together. In that case, that would mean future trouble for Cersei; more so than is on the way for her already. Euron doesn’t seem like someone who enjoys being duped, especially from someone who he sees as an ally and who he has devoted lots of time and resources to. At this point, his army is essential to her success. It directly helped to get Cersei in the position she is in at the end of this episode. A last-minute departure from Euron’s fleet would be extremely destructive to her forces.

“Mad Queen” Daenerys

After Tyrion’s pleading fails, Cersei tells Missandei to say her last words, and Missandei chooses to say one word: dracarys. The word has been used time and time again throughout the show since Dany first taught her dragons how to roast their own food in season two. Since then, it has become her power move, which often means fire and blood and are coming, as it is a command for her dragons to unleash their fire on the enemy nearby.

It didn’t work with the Night King last week, but maybe she can give it another try with Cersei. Missandei delivers it quite powerfully in this episode as if to encourage Dany to move forward in her goal to take down these monsters and not let her death be in vain. It’s her last call to action, and from the look of things, Dany seems to heed the call.

It is a very striking last word for Missandei to choose and she says it with strength and courageousness.

Did we need more proof that Cersei is an evil and ruthless individual? Especially at the expense of Missandei, simply to motivate Dany further, who’s already fired up enough, and Grey Worm, who’s also ready to fight? Not at all. This great piece from Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson breaks down why more in-depth.

But the show clearly seemed to want to set in motion the events for next week, amping up Dany’s emotional stake in this war by literally stripping almost everyone but Drogon from her; events that foreshadow Daenerys finally becoming the “mad queen” that has been theorized for years now.

Daenerys has always been framed as one of the two primary “heroes” of the series if there is even such a thing in Game of Thrones. Simultaneously, however, the show has also encouraged a reading of Daenerys as constantly walking the line between justice and madness. We’ve seen it all the way from season one “The Golden Crown,” when she stoically looks on as she has her brother killed, even if that was an order we could definitely all get on board with. And we’ve seen it again since then as she’s rallied her Khalasar with ruthless battle speeches and continued to plainly warn everyone “I will take what is mine, with fire and blood.” It is an interesting dynamic for a character–someone with conflicting destiny and villainy at her fingertips– even if its a difficult fate to accept as a Dany fan.

This theory has never been more prevalent a possibility than it has been this season so far, particularly through this episode. Whether that’s because of the high stakes game of telephone that was going on regarding Jon’s parentage (which seems to be setting up Varys and all the rest for a coup to get Jon on the throne) or because she is actually going mad as the shot below implies, it’s not looking too good.

Despite years of sneaking in Daenerys’ more bloodthirsty tendencies though, beyond just this ending, this entire episode attempted to plant these tendencies in a way that makes her intentions in the final shot of “The Last of the Starks”  undeniable. We’ve seen Dany out for vengeance before, but never out for vengeance having just lost practically everyone meaningful to her and with the knowledge of Jon’s claim to the throne. There’s always been some semblance of hope and solace for her that seems to be almost gone now, perhaps even the faith in herself that she says she relies on. It’s tragic as she realizes in this episode how lonely she now is now, and perhaps how alone she has always been.

There is, of course, also somewhat of a sexist double standard here at play too, which this episode emphasizes.

During the beginning, Tormund and others celebrate Jon saying, “What kind of person climbs on a fucking dragon? A madman or a king!” The dragon queen gets no such acclaim, despite her years riding and fighting on dragons because, in this case, everyone in Winterfell perceives Jon as king and Dany as a madman.

The episode begins and ends with her anger and grief, while throughout she begs Jon for help, something she’s never done before, and let out a primal scream of anger after Rhaegal is killed, another reaction we haven’t really seen from her either. She appears to be at her breaking point and there’s really no going back now, which presumably we will see the outcome of next Sunday with only two episodes left in the entire show.

Natalie Mokry: @NatalieMokry Film lover and pop culture enthusiast.