‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Episode 4 Recap: “The Last of the Starks”

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4
Kit Harington in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 episode 4 (Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

We’re on the other side of “The Long Night” (season eight episode three) and though we’re left with many, many questions, and almost everyone who we were all so sure would die are still alive (RIP Ser Jorah and your cousin Lady Lyanna Mormont, Edd Tollett, Beric Dondarrion, Melisandre, and yes, even you Theon Greyjoy!), David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are determined to keep us guessing. (And we are just following along. They are Ramsey Bolton to our Reek.) The Night King is toast (or rather ice cubes – thank you Arya!) so it’s time to turn our attention south to King’s Landing and get back to speculating and theorizing about who, after they’ve won “The Last War,” will get to lay claim to the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones.

A week ago, I would have bet the ranch that it would be Aegon Targaryen, 6th of his name, aka Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Not least because I believed that Jon would be the one to end NK. Once the smoke clears, I imagine he (along with a vociferous segment of the internet) will feel a little disappointed that it wasn’t. He had been building toward that end for years. (Though let us remember, Arya [Maisie Williams] spent those same years training to be a killer. “Mary Sue” my Aunt Fanny.)

In episode four, we’ll have to take stock of who is left in the Dragon Queen’s army. She lost her most valuable military strategist, Ser Jorah, all the Dothraki (it seems) who arguably posed the greatest threat (aside from dragons) to the Lannister army, plus a huge portion of the Unsullied. Those who are still standing, including the Free Folk (aka Wildlings), who’ve never been further south than Winterfell, are all exhausted. Now Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) expects them to march down to the capital and fight the Lannister army plus the Golden Company. And Cruella de Cersei (Lena Headey) and her henchman, Euron (Pilou Asbaek), sit there waiting for them just like a spider.

The latest online theory is that the epic Battle of Winterfell that had been hyped for years was all a great big misdirect. And that the really big battle between good vs evil is yet to come. This show started with the War of the Five Kings, but it’s going to end with the War of the Two Queens, which will likely take most of episode five. But we’re not there yet!

“One of my favorite episodes is four because the characters have seemingly got what they needed,” Harington says of the roughly 20 main characters still gathered at Winterfell. “The world is safe now. They’re celebrating and saying goodbye to lost friends. But as an audience you’re going, ‘This is only episode four, something’s going to happen.’ And that’s the cool thing because I think the characters are aware of this as well. There’s something twisted and uncomfortable about it. It’s so Shakespearean.” – Kit Harington to EW

Hey, I’m always down for a little Shakespeare. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends…!”*

Episode four opens in daylight, thank the lord! We can see the body of Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) on his pyre as Dany leans over to kiss him good-bye. Sansa (Sophie Turner) weeps for Theon (Alfie Allen) and leaves him with the Stark sigil. All of the remaining gathered at Winterfell hear Jon say, “Good-bye to our brothers and sister, our fathers and mothers, our fellow men and women who set aside their differences to fight together, to die together, so that others might live. Everyone in this world owes them a debt that can never be repaid…they were the shields that guarded the realms of men and we shall never see their like again.” The pyres are lit.

Arya pauses over Beric, Sam over Edd, Jon over Lady Lyanna. Dany weeps for Ser Jorah.

Later that night, at a somber “victory” banquet, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) asks after Arya. After some encouraging words from the Hound (Rory McCann), he gets up to look for her. Dany stops him and starts interrogating him about his ties to Robert Baratheon. In a twist, she makes him Lord Gendry Baratheon of Storms End.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) share a drink.

Ser Davos and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) discuss Melisandre’s death. “The Lord of Light, we play his games and we fight his war and then he f*cks off, no signs, no blessings.”

Tyrion talks to Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) about his wheelchair and that it’s much cleverer than the saddle he designed for him all those years ago. Bran tells him the chair is just like the one Daeron Targaryen built 120 years ago. He says it as if he was there. “I liked that one.” Bran tells Tyrion that he “mostly live(s) in the past.”

Toasts are being made to the heroes of the battle. Dany raises her mug to “Arya Stark, the hero of Winterfell.” Dany looks happy and smiles at everyone. Sansa continues to be suspicious and gets up from the table.

Tyrion, Pod (Daniel Portman), Jaime, and Brienne are playing a drinking game.

Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) is telling his Wildling compatriots about Jon riding a dragon. “I saw him! That’s why we follow him, that’s the kind of man he is!” Dany looks displeased with this kind of talk. Tormund isn’t done yet. “He’s strong! Strong enough to befriend an enemy and get murdered for it! Most people get bloody murdered, they stay that way! Not this one.”

The crowd, most of whom are drunk at this point, laugh. Even Jon is downplaying it. Ser Davos looks on, wary. Tormund, who loves to hear himself talk, continues. “He comes back, keeps fighting. North of the Wall and back again, he keeps fighting then climbs on a fucking dragon. Only person who does that – a madman – or a king!”

Jon catches Dany’s eye and they share a look. She looks at everyone drinking and enjoying themselves. Varys (Conleth Hill) is watching all. He follows Dany out of the hall.

The drinking game takes a serious turn when Tyrion says Brienne is a virgin. She gets up. Tormund tries to stop her, Jaime follows. Tormund is moaning about his broken heart when he gets another offer. Clegane drives off an offer of his own. Sansa sits down and says, “She could have made you happy, for a little while.” The Hound bites out, “There’s only one thing that will make me happy…and it’s my f*cking business.”

He wants to know why she cares, since she used to not be able to look at him. “That was a long time ago and I’ve seen much worse than you since then.” The Hound says that he’s heard of what happened between Sansa and Ramsey Bolton. Sansa replies, “He got what he deserved. I gave it to him.”


“Hounds.” They share a smile.

“You’ve changed, Little Bird.” Clegane tells her that none of what happened to her would have happened if she’d left King’s Landing with him when she had the chance. Sansa puts her hand over his and tells him that without all those things, she would have “stayed Little Bird all my life.”

Gendry is still looking for Arya. He finds her practicing her archery and almost gets shot with an arrow for his trouble. He tells her of his new promotion, grabs her and kisses her. He then professes his love for her and tells her that nothing will mean anything if she’s not with him. Gendry asks Arya to be his wife and “the Lady of Storms End.” What do we know about Arya? She never wants to be called or to be “a Lady.” She kisses Gendry tenderly, but we see it in her face before she says the words. “You’ll be a wonderful lord. Any lady would be lucky to have you. But I’m not a lady. I never have been. That’s not me.”

Brienne and Jaime are alone now and still drinking. He says he’s warm and starts removing layers. He wants to know if Tormund has grown on Brienne. “He was very sad when you left.” Brienne tells him, “You sound quite jealous.”

He replies, “I do, don’t I?” Again he says, “It’s bloody hot in here,” and starts yanking at his clothes. Thinking him merely drunk, Brienne says, “Move aside” and begins to help him. Then Jaime starts taking her shirt off!

Brienne looks him in the eye and starts unlacing her own shirt! Now she’s taking Jaime’s shirt off! They’re both shirtless! Jaime says, “I’ve never slept with a knight before.” She says, “I’ve never slept with anyone before.”

They’re kissing!! Oh my god, it’s happening!!

Cut to Jon alone. Dany enters, asks if he’s drunk. He stands and staggers, “No. Only a little.” He tells Dany that though he didn’t know Ser Jorah well, he knows that if he could have chosen a way to die it would have been protecting her.

“He loved me and I couldn’t love him back. Not the way he wanted. Not the way I love you. Is that all right?” They kiss. Guess that whole aunt/nephew thing isn’t a problem. Oops. Jon pulls away. Guess it is.

Dany says, “I wish you’d never told me. If I didn’t know, I’d be happy right now. I tried to forget. Tonight, I did for a while and then I saw men gathered around you. I saw the way they looked at you.”

“I told you I didn’t want it,” replies Jon.

“Doesn’t matter what you want.” She thinks that if people know the truth, they’ll force him to press his claim. She wants him to never tell anyone, ever. She wants it “to be the way it was between us.”

Jon believes he has to tell Sansa and Arya. Dany thinks Sansa will want to get rid of her and see Jon on the throne. She insists that Sansa is not the girl he grew up with after everything she’s seen and had done to her. (Second time this point has been made in this episode. We get it.)

Jon says he owes them the truth. Dany thinks the truth will destroy “others” (she means her). Jon (who I suspect still knows nothing) insists that it won’t.

Dany, close to tears, pleads, “I’ve never begged for anything. But I’m begging you, don’t do this. Please.”

Jon thinks they can all be one big happy family. Her reply? “We can. I’ve just told you how.” She is pissed!

Jaime and Brienne are in bed! Jaime looks over at her sleeping form and smiles! They did it! (Oh crap! Now I know one of them is gonna die!)

The next morning and it’s back to strategizing and assessing losses. Varys says the balance is now “distressingly even.” Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) thinks that once the people know what “we’ve done for them…” Dany interjects, “Cersei will make sure they don’t believe it.” She says, “We will hit her hard. We will rip her out, root and stem.”

Tyrion reminds her that the “objective is to remove her without destroying King’s Landing.”

Varys tells them that Cersei is losing allies “by the day.” Yara Greyjoy has retaken the Iron Islands and Dorne is with them. Dany is not impressed. “As long as she sits on the Iron Throne ,she can call herself Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. We need the capital.”

Tyrion thinks that if they feed the people, they will rally to their cause. Jon suggests they surround the city. Tyrion says that once the people see that Cersei is “our only enemy, her reign is over.” Dany and Jon share a look because he appears to still be with her.

Sansa reminds everyone that the men we have left are exhausted. Many of them are wounded. They’ll fight better if they have time to rest and recuperate.

Dany wants to know how long that will take. Sansa can’t say. It’s clear Dany is unwilling to wait. “I came north to fight alongside you at great cost to my armies and myself. Now that the time has come to reciprocate, you want to postpone.”

Sansa tries to make clear that it’s not just their people that need time. Dany won’t hear it. Jon takes Dany’s side. “The northern forces will honor their promises and their allegiance to the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.” He turns to her, “What you command, we will obey.” Arya and Sansa are not pleased.

Tyrion lays out the plans. Jon and Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) will ride south with the remaining Dothraki (yay – some of them survived!) and the Unsullied. Everyone else will sail from White Harbor with the dragons accompanying them overhead. Ser Jaime will remain in the north as a guest of the Lady of Winterfell. (Huh?)

Arya wants a word with Jon. In the Godswood, Sansa, Arya, and Bran are confronting Jon. Though Arya thinks Jon did the right thing swearing allegiance to Dany and she is grateful for the help her armies provided, she and Sansa do not trust “your Queen.”

Jon is still pushing the “you don’t know her” excuse. Arya says she’s not “one of us.” Jon tells her, “If you only trust the people you grew up with, you won’t make many allies.” Arya replies, “I don’t need any allies. We’re family. The four of us. The last of the Starks.”

Jon says he’s never been a Stark. Sansa tells him he’s just as much Ned Stark’s child as any of us. Arya insists, “You’re my brother. Not my half-brother or my bastard brother. My brother.”

Bran, who knows, pipes up with, “It’s your choice.”

Jon decides to come clean and thinks he can get them to swear to never tell another soul. (Oh, this will work!)

Sansa wants to know how she can promise to keep a secret before knowing what it is. Jon tells her, “Because we’re family.” And that is true. Arya and Sansa swear.

Jon asks Bran to tell them.

Cut to Tyrion and Jaime. Apparently, Brienne is going to stay in Winterfell with Jaime. Tyrion insists he’s happy that his brother is happy. “I’m happy that you’ll finally have to climb for it. Do you know how long I’ve waited to tell tall person jokes?” Their bawdy revelry is interrupted by the arrival of Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn).

Both want to know why he’s there, of course. Jaime asks what he’s doing with the crossbow. Bronn says, “That’s for the both you.” They get into a typical Bronn/Tyrion, Bronn/Jaime discussion about how much Bronn has done for the pair of them and how little he has to show for it. I am freaking nervous. Bronn just hit Tyrion in the nose with the crossbow and I swear I thought he shot him! They’re still arguing and he’s still got the crossbow pointed at them!

Bronn lays out what Cersei has offered him if he kills her brothers. Bronn, being Bronn, thinks Cersei is not the best bet because of the dragons. But he’s still negotiating. An arrow flies past Jaime’s head and Bronn reloads. Oh, this is dangerous! Bronn wants High Garden. Tyrion promises but says none of it means a thing until they win the war. Bronn won’t fight for them but he’s not going to kill them, either. Holy crap that was close!

The Hound is joined by Arya on horseback. They’re heading south alone, together. I’m here for the second edition of this roadshow!

Tyrion is with Sansa on the battlements watching the dragons fly overhead. He’s still trying to sway Sansa to trust Dany. Sansa senses that Tyrion is afraid of Daenerys. He counters with “every good ruler inspires a bit of fear.” Sansa does not want Jon to go south. “The men of my family don’t do well in the capital.” Tyrion says, “No, but as your brother once told me, he’s not a Stark.”

Tyrion can see that remark upsets her, but he doesn’t know why. He tells Sansa that Dany “wants to make the world a better place. I believe in her.” Tyrion starts to leave; Sansa calls him back. She asks, “What if there’s someone else? Someone better.”

Ser Davos and Jon are preparing to ride south. Tormund tells Jon he’s taking the Free Folk home. Jon asks him to take Ghost with him. Tormund and Jon say good-bye, though Tormund thinks they might meet again. “You’ve got the north in you. The real north.”

Sam and Gilly (who is pregnant!!) are also saying farewell. Sam and Jon’s good-bye is giving me the feels! As is his last look at Ghost, who whimpered!

On the ship, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei are sharing loving looks while below decks Tyrion (who has obviously been told the secret by Sansa) is with Varys. He wants to know how many others know. Tyrion says, “Including us? Eight.” Varys says that means it’s no longer a secret, it’s information. “He has the better claim to the throne…people are drawn to him.”

Tyrion points out that he loves the Queen and she loves him. Varys points out the whole aunt/nephew thing as a problem. Tyrion muses, “Maybe Cersei will win and kill us all. That would solve our problems.”

Dany is on Drogon flying over the sea. Arrows come out of nowhere and Rhaegal is down! He’s dead! Killed by Euron Greyjoy firing bolts from one of Qyburn’s machines. Why didn’t Dany say “Dracarys” and torch Euron? But they’re not just using them on the dragons! They’re firing giant arrows at the ships! Grey Worm orders Missandei to abandon ship. Tyrion is in the water!

Cut to black! Now we’re on the shore and the survivors are pulling themselves from the water. Grey Worm is searching for Missandei!

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4
Pilou Asbæk and Lena Headey in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 episode 4 (Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

In King’s Landing, Cersei and Euron are gloating over the dead dragon. She’s now telling Euron that her baby is his! (Though it’s clear Cersei can’t stand him.) Euron says, “She’s coming for you.” Cersei is aware. She tells him to keep the gates open. If Dany wants to take the castle, she’ll have to murder thousands of innocent people first.

NO! Missandei is a prisoner in King’s Landing! Grey Worm wants to storm the city.

Varys is trying to talk Dany out of attacking King’s Landing in a rage. He knows there are thousands who will die needlessly. He begs her not to become what she’s said she wants to destroy.

Tyrion says it will be two weeks before Jon gets to King’s Landing. In the meantime, tell Cersei they’ll spare her life if she gives up the throne.

Dany says that it won’t do any good but that the people need to see that “Daenerys Stormborn made every effort to avoid bloodshed and Cersei Lannister refused. They should know whom to blame when the sky falls down upon them.”

Varys and Tyrion look concerned. Varys says all tyrants talk about destiny. Tyrion still wants to believe. Varys reminds him of the “problem of Jon Snow.” He seems to have left #TeamDany and is already heading for Jon’s camp. “Who do you think would make a better ruler?” Varys lists all the reasons Jon would be better.

Tyrion, who is again drinking heavily, wants to resist but can’t ignore the fact that Varys is making sense. He again suggests that maybe the solution is that they should marry. “He could temper her worst impulses.”

“As you have,” Varys quips. “A Targaryen father and a Stark mother. Jon’s the one man alive who might actually be able to keep the north in the Seven Kingdoms.”

Tyrion says he still believes in “our queen. She’ll make the right choice.” Who is he trying to convince? Varys or himself?

Varys reiterates what he has always said, he is “for the realm.” He’s never been about any particular person or House. Whoever is best for the people, he will support.

Tyrion asks, “So what happens to her?” It is now clear, at least to me, that Tyrion is in love with Dany. He pleads with Varys, “Please. Don’t.”

Varys at first appears confused but then replies, “I’ve spoken as honestly as I can. Each of us has a choice to make. I pray we choose wisely.”

Back at Winterfell, Jaime watches Brienne with Sansa. Brienne relays the news about the Euron Greyjoy ambush and the death of Rhaegal.

Sansa says, “I always wanted to be there when they executed your sister. It seems I won’t get the chance.”

Jaime looks at a sleeping Brienne who wakes up to find him gone. He’s saddling his horse. Brienne tries to get him to stay. She tells him he’s better than his sister, he’s a good man who doesn’t need to die with her. (And I’m with Brienne!) “Stay with me. Please! Stay.”

“You think I’m a good man? I pushed a boy out of a tower window, crippled him for life. For Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands, just to get back to Cersei. I would have murdered every man, woman and child in Riverrun, for Cersei.” The anguish on his face is plain, but he’s tearing Brienne’s guts out. (And mine!) He ends with, “She’s hateful. And so am I.” Oh Brienne! No! He’s earned his redemption! He cannot be going back to her! He’s going to kill her! Right? Right?

We’re back to the Dragon Queen and her small guard just outside of the King’s Landing gates. Cersei, Euron, The Mountain, and poor Missandei are on the other side, ready to face them.

Tyrion walks ahead to meet Qyburn. He gives Dany’s terms. Qyburn gives Cersei’s. Tyrion marches to the gates. Archers look about to fire upon him. He stops and looks up at his sister. She raises her hand. Will she give the order?! No. She doesn’t. Both Euron and Tyrion seem a little surprised.

Tyrion is trying to appeal to her better nature (ha!) and talks about her children, including her unborn child. Cersei looks out at Dany and then says something so wicked, so Cersei-like to Missandei, “If you have any last words, now is the time.”

Missandei looks out at Grey Worm, then at Dany and says, “Dracarys.” Cersei looks to The Mountain who raises his sword. He lops off Missandei’s head and her body falls from the top of the gate.

Cersei looks smug and Daenerys looks beyond pissed. Which one is more dangerous? Guess we have to wait until next week to find out! Only two episodes left! Gahhh!

*Henry V, Act III, scene 1

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