Game of Thrones: 707 “The Dragon and the Wolf” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
‘Winter is Coming’
– Ned Stark, Season 1 Episode 1
To truly appreciate the finale, we need to go back to where it all began, there’s a lot of important parallels and moments of note that become much better when viewed through the lens of what has gone before. The obvious starting point is the Stark Motto, introduced at the beginning of the show and repeated ever since. The phrase is one that has become synonymous with the White Walkers whose assault on Westeros literally brings winter to the land. This is obviously pertinent here as the dénouement of the series finally shifts that from Winter is Coming, to Winter is Here which ultimately changes the course of the show. There’s a definitive sense that everything that has gone before was leading to this point, that this was always going to be the end game and the Game of Thrones for the Iron Throne itself was always going to be secondary in the long run.
Coincidental then that this drastic change in the show comes in an episode where the man who was responsible for the events of the last seven seasons finally had justice served in the very same episode. However, that’s not the only key revelation that the narrative delivered this week with the more prominent one being the fact that Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie. The finale does in fact take its name after this scandal with ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ referring to Rhaegar and Lyanna and the story of their love. For something that plays such a small part in the episode itself, its significance to the wider story is not something that should be underplayed. Coupled with the death of Littlefinger, you can begin to get a picture of what the true message of this story was. As the orchestrator of most events that we have witnessed over the past seven years, Littlefinger is essentially the author of the story. So wide was his influence and scheming that virtually every main character has crossed paths with him, or been directly affected by his scheming. It’s not too big of a stretch to say that The Game of Thrones is Littlefinger’s story, and that’s very important in context of the finale. We now know that the story has been built on false premises, which is something that can also be said of the show. For the past seven years we’ve been watching a battle for the Iron Throne, only to be told here that that no longer matters and the show is really about the war that is yet to come. This of course is something we have known all along, but the way the show affirms that here is done so in a very metatextual way through the story of ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ and the death of the orchestrator.
Of course, there’s another Dragon and Wolf that play a key part this week as Jon and Dany’s relationship heats up. Again, it’s interesting how we were always headed this way from the start as likely hinted at by the fact the show opened with an episode where Jon acquired Direwolf, and Dany got her three dragon eggs. Neither of the two protagonists could have reached this position if it were not for those two events. Throughout the course of this series it has been evident that these two were moving towards the spot of primary protagonists, this week all but confirms that fact as it repositions them as the leaders of the new key story, the fight against the White Walkers. This is a change that places newfound importance of the identity of Azor Ahai, the one who is destined to defeat the Night King and his army. This is something I suspect the show will make a key plot point as it accelerates into its final series.
What I loved the most about the episode was how self-aware it was delivering a lot of fan indulgence without detracting from the story itself. For example, the scene where Brienne and the Hound discuss Arya, or the tease of Cleganebowl. There’s some lovely framing to of the quote on how the pack can survive whilst the lone wolf doesn’t cut against the ever-isolated figure of Cersei. There a nod to Ned Stark’s proclamation that he who passes a sentence should carry it out as his daughters do so in a combined effort with Littlefinger. There’s lots of key moments for characters too as events push them into situations where they become emotionally charged, the extra run time is extremely effective here as it allows the narrative the time to explore these. The result is an episode with an epic feel to it whilst still being to source material that it feels like the quintessential Game of Thrones episode where everything just feels right.
Arguably this was one of the most important episodes of the show to date, this is obviously something that the showrunners were aware of and have obviously dedicated the appropriate time to ensure that every single detail of the episode served a purpose. To review each in detail would be an arduous task and it would not surprise me if people are able to pick out new things for the foreseeable future. This should provide something for the fans to think about during the hiatus and will hopefully have provided lots of talking point. My finale verdict was never going to be anything other than full marks as the episode ends as strong season on the strongest note possible.