GOT Season Eight: Episode Four Recap and Review

Image Courtesy of HBO

Image Courtesy of HBO

By Ryan Coleman

6.7/10

That, is the current rating on IMDb of the most recent Game of Thrones episode, “The Last of the Starks.”

Before Sunday, the previously lowest rated episode of Game of Thrones sat at a healthy 8.1/10.

Obviously, that has changed.

But it isn’t only episode four that fans ranging from die-hard day one’s to the “just caught up”’s are upset about. Currently, the season is at an 8.0 average and let me remind you, 8.1 was the lowest rating of any episode in the entire series before episode four of season eight.

So what happened?

Well, a lot. After “The Long Night” shocked many and built momentum for Thrones, critics began to pick apart the episode, along with the disappointingly bad battle tactics used and the episode steadily dropped in rating to an 8.4.

Then, episode four happened.

“The Last of the Starks” began with a powerful scene, where characters who were lost in battle were given their final goodbyes in quite the ceremonial burning.

After that, the episode was kind of a shit show. It took an abrupt, 180 degree turn as the tone went from sadness for the fallen to celebration real quick. It reminded me of the scene in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” where there was a viking funeral for Andy Samberg’s character's and turtle then everyone jumped in the pool afterwards. This felt even more like a time waster and a subtle Starbucks promotion to boot. People talked, Danny didn’t feel welcomed, the hound was the hound, Tormund turned in a frat bro and newly named Gendry Baratheon shot his shot, and air-balled.

But there was nothing substantial, I sat watching, waiting for something to happen, wanting to care, but I couldn’t. It was a struggle to watch them celebrate after literally thousands died in the way they did.

Eventually we got to a drunken dialogue between Danny and Jon about how no matter what, she is his queen. But she made a good point: it doesn’t matter what he thinks because as soon as everyone finds out that he is the rightful heir to the throne, everyone will rally behind him.

Of course, Sansa made sure that everyone found out by promising that she won’t tell anyone, then immediately telling Tyrion. Obviously, hot gossip like this can’t stay quiet long and Tyrion and Varys engage in some pretty suspicious conversation. If you remember, Danny did specifically say that if Varys betrays her, she’ll burn him alive, so he better watch out. At the same time, he did follow her out of the common hall in Winterfell and we never saw a follow-up to that. Maybe Varys is testing Tyrion, maybe they will succeed in killing the queen, or maybe they will both be murdered for treason. Either way, I’m expecting both of these characters to die in the end. Varys’ death was heavily foreshadowed last season by Melisandre and Tyrion’s death just seems fitting. If he is caught turning on Danny and goes through another trial, it would be a call-back to his season four experience. But this time, he would be guilty; this time, he’d actually lose his head.

Arguably the biggest disappointment of the episode was Jon’s departure. It is obvious that the showrunners have never owned a dog because YOU DON’T JUST NOD GOODBYE TO THE GOOD BOY TO SAY GOODBYE FOREVER. That has to be, without a doubt, the most unrealistic and disappointing part of the show.

Then there was the Rhaegal death. I don’t want to dive in too deep about what was wrong with that but I’ll just give the basics:

  • How do you not see the Iron fleet? David Benioff literally said in Inside the Thrones that Danny “kinda” forgot about the Iron fleet. How do you forget about the one thing the Greyjoy’s have?

  • I don’t know what happened to the balistes but they have really increased in power. We saw Drogon get hit by one in season seven and it left no lasting impact but Rhaegal got destroyed. It was quite the abrupt death and it was like GOT just wanted to get rid of their CGI budget by saying goodbye to Ghost and killing Rhaegal.

  • Why did they even need to go to Dragonstone? What was the point of having half the army go early? To relax? Maybe hang out a bit before sieging Kings Landing? Not only was it odd that they went early but they didn’t even have to go at all. Are they aware that they have an assassin that can literally turn into someone else, walk up to Cersei and kill her? Don’t you think someone would have told Danny this by now?

Sorry for the tangent, but there was a lot of questionable plot points in the episode, and season as a whole, that makes it tough to care for these characters as we all once have. A reddit user made a solid point in comparing Game of Thrones to a potential Harry Potter ending. Imagine if in book six, Hermione killed Voldemort and then the book seven resolution was Harry Potter beating Slytherin in the Quidditch World Cup. After defeating the lord of death, it’s hard to be impacted by the current plot as fans once were. Even Missandei’s death, while sad, was not as impactful as nearly any other main character's death has been in Thrones so far.

One underrated beautiful part of this episode I did love was the quick seconds shown of Missandei and Grey Worm holding hands and smiling. GOT has been throwing all of these love stories and sex scenes at us, but the simple gesture of holding hands did more for me and my emotions than anything else in the entire series. It was incredibly subtle, yet heightened the importance of their relationship and how much I care for them.

Game of Thrones has dug itself a hole that might be too deep to get out of. While there are roughly two hours and forty minutes left in the series, some fans are already calling this season “unsalvageable” and even a crazy twist in the end, like Jon killing Danny, might not be enough to save the season.

We will see what the showrunners do with these final two episodes. Emilia Clarke has told everyone to grab the biggest television they own, but it’s hard to not take everything the actors say without a grain of salt, especially after this seemingly sarcastic response when asked if she was happy with the ending.

A weird thing to me is how the showrunners have done solid writing/scenes before without the helps of the books.

  • Tywin and Arya scenes back in season 2

  • Littlefinger and Varys convos

  • Hardhome

  • BotB, Cersei burning down Sept

  • Basically all of season six and seven

All of this wasn't in the books so it's not like the showrunners are incapable or writing good content. That's why it is so odd to me why this season just seems so much worse.

Part of it is most likely due to how much this show is in the spotlight now and how crazy critical viewers are. But when Danny “kinda forgot about the Iron fleet” it calls basically the entire season into question.

I hope you can subvert your expectations for the next two episodes, doing your best to enjoy the final parts of the series. While this may not be the Thrones of old, it still is Thrones and the cultural phenomenon that goes along with that is undeniable. Holy shit moment three has yet to come, and who knows what it may be.

FilmSteven Norwalk