Game of Thrones
Image: HBO

For the next two weeks, Thronespotting will pour over every episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones” looking for hints on how the iconic series will conclude.

Last week, the program brought the series-long Great War to an epic and underlit conclusion. “The Last of the Starks” showed the aftermath of that devastating conflict and set up the show’s endgame. The episode also pulled the trigger on many long-awaited connections, brutal heartbreaks, and tragic plot developments.

If you don’t like spoilers, you definitely shouldn’t be reading this article.

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War Changes People

The first half hour of this week’s extra-long installment dealt with the fallout of the Great War. The Stark family buried their dead, mourned their lost friends, and considered how the war had changed them. Sansa admitted her nightmarish experiences after leaving Winterfell made her into the woman she is now. Arya turned down (now Lord) Gendry’s marriage proposal because she’s an assassin, not a lady. Jon told Tormund he wanted to return to the North and leave the Great Game behind.

In addition to being very bittersweet, “Last of the Starks” confirmed things will never go back to how they used to be for its central family. The peaceful, united version of House Stark seen in “Game of Thrones” season one is gone forever. Once again, the family was scattered across Westeros, this time by choice. Though the four siblings love each other, they’ve changed too much to live in the same home. Their various obligations and commitments have set them on courses that make another reunion unlikely.

Presumably, Arya will become a mercenary to satiate her unquenchable bloodlust. Meanwhile, Sansa and Bran will watch over their family home because there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. In the “Game of Thrones,” you win or you die but there is no accounting for happiness.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

One of this episode’s biggest developments was a lot of the main cast discovering Jon’s secret. Despite Daenerys’ pleas, Jon had Bran confirm his true parentage to Sansa and Arya. In turn, Sansa told Tyrion and he spilled the beans to Varys. By doing the morally correct thing, Jon effectively destroyed the Northern Alliance and set a major conflict in motion.

The Stark sisters already distrusted Dany and wanted to see the North secede from the Seven Kingdoms. Now that they know their brother is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, they’ll never accept her rule. Moreover, Jon and Dany’s heartbreaking unofficial breakup conversation confirmed she won’t accept an independent North. Before the program’s finale, the conflict between the two sides will have to come to some sort of resolution, which will be bloody.

The conversation between Tyrion and Varys also suggested the Dragon Queen has lost the support of her closest advisers. Varys made it plain he wants Jon to rule instead of Dany and that shift in allegiance will play out next week.

He didn’t come out and say it, but Tyrion also has serious doubt about a new Targaryen dynasty. His conversations with Sansa and Varys made it clear his support is eroding. His consistent inability to answer her critics’ assertions about her unsuitability as queen was proof of that. Plus, with his failure to broker peace with Cersei this week, Dany has justification to…remake her inner circle.

“The Last of the Starks” had fewer echoes to the past as the rest of this season but it did play one familiar note. Though Jon isn’t Ned Stark’s son by blood, he is in every other respect. Both are good men who doomed themselves and their family in the name of honor.

Divided Loyalties

In “Winterfell,” Varys quietly outlined the season’s theme when observing Jon and Dany talking. The sagacious ex-spymaster noted the couple’s love and happiness will not last. This week’s episode underlined that theme by effectively ending the royal romance. Jon can’t overlook the whole incest thing the way Dany can. On a deeper level, he also isn’t sure if he can continue to support her quest for the Iron Throne.

The last male Targaryen made it clear he doesn’t want to rule and doesn’t want to challenge his aunt. But he was also unwilling to hide his actual lineage from his family. Jon is desperate not to pick a side and as he told Tormund, he’d rather return to his peaceful life beyond the Wall. Sadly, events are conspiring to force him to make a choice and no matter what he decides, emotional devastation will follow.

Jamie ended the episode in a similar place to Jon. Understanding that Cersei is unlikely to survive the Battle of King’s Landing, he left Winterfell to join his sister. However, his intentions are somewhat ambiguous. He might be going to the Red Keep to help his house fight off the Northern Alliance. But he could also be going there to kill his now irredeemable sister before Dany and company do. Either way, Jamie won’t get to enjoy the happy ending he earned with Brienne.

Lastly, Euron’s loyalties may also change in the coming weeks. In “Starks,” Cersei told him her unborn child was his. However, Tyrion revealed his knowledge of the child in the episode ending standoff. Unless he’s a complete idiot, the Pirate King should know that means Cersei lied to him about him becoming a father. As a committed mercenary, he might leave the Queen Regent to her fate now that she’s betrayed him.

The Rage That Turns Good Women Cruel

This episode of “Game of Thrones” was rather cruel to Daenerys. She lost her lover, one of her dragons, her fleet and some of her forces, and her best friend. All that loss would take a toll on anyone and Dany wasn’t in a good place to start with.

As most of the Northern Alliance enjoyed the post-Great War party, the would be Queen strewed in resentment. She plainly disliked the Northern Lord’s muted reception to her appointing Gendry Lord of the Stormlands. She was angered by everyone’s effusive praise of Jon for doing things she’s done better and she was incensed by Sansa’s continued resistance. Cersei defiantly murdering Missandei was the last straw.

Next week, Dany will invade King’s Landing. Despite her advisers’ pleas, she won’t spare the city’s civilian population. Indeed, she will live out her father’s dream of turning the capital of Westeros to ashes. She’ll also keep her promise to Varys about burning him if he turned on her. The Khaleesi will, at long last, sit on the Iron Throne but not for long.

Jon, seeing that his lover has turned into a tyrant, will kill Dany. Or following Melisandre’s prophecy, Arya will close another set of blue eyes forever. Either way, the Stormborn will break the wheel next week but at the cost of her own life.

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Here are the most heartfelt, intriguing, and funniest Twitter reactions to “The Last of the Starks.”

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