Image: Sky Editorial Asset Centre/ HBO
Image: Sky Editorial Asset Centre/ HBO

Game of Thrones ‘The Last of the Starks’ review – How to lose a war

The war against the dead is won, and now it’s time to fight the war against the living. But first, there’s time for a celebration. Just as the episode before the battle ended with some excellent scenes of characters waiting for their inevitable death in an unwinnable battle, so this episode begins with some excellent scenes of their shock at having survived, and grief for those who did not.

While the minor characters celebrate all night, the tension between the Starks, Jon Snow and Daenerys is high. This uneasiness is excellently translated into both the dialogue and the performances. The dead may have been almost unbeatable, but they were far less dangerous than the living. As the armies prepare to move south, there are some emotional goodbyes between characters who might never see each other again. The Hound travels south in the company of Arya, raising hopes that the long-awaited rematch between him and his brother will eventually happen.

The dead may have been almost unbeatable, but they were far less dangerous than the living

Unfortunately, the episode goes downhill from there. While the episode naturally can’t come close to the intensity and action of last week, it does come close in its, at times, immersion-breaking incompetence. It is possible to understand that Daenerys, as a ruler barely out of her teens, does not exactly have the firmest grasp of military strategy. However, she is surrounded by the most competent generals and diplomats in the seven kingdoms and from across the known world.

Yet, time and time again, both they and she make stupid mistakes that hand Cersei the advantage. The battle strategy of the last episode was roundly criticised for being poor, and ended up needlessly killing half the army. Without giving too much away, similar mistakes are made this episode, with a deadly cost. While it would be believable that Daenerys and her allies are simply strategically incapable, they have all shown competence before. By this point, it feels as though the writers have realised too late that they have handed Daenerys an almost unbeatable army, and are scrambling to lessen the difference.

There were good performances all round, and some moments of high emotion and drama, but overall there was something lacking

Whilst the previous episode was praised for its scale and visuals (in the rare moments you could see what was going on), it was also criticised for poor decisions by both the writers and characters, and for veering towards the fantasy tropes it has worked so hard to avoid. This episode was similar. There were good performances all round, and some moments of high emotion and drama, but overall there was something lacking. With the next episode apparently even more spectacular than the Battle of Winterfell, it is perhaps the last chance to redeem a final season which thus far has been somewhat disappointing.

Previous Review: ‘The Long Night’

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