Previously on GoT: The Night King was defeated and a very impatient Daenerys Targaryen turned her sights southward. Jaime Lannister got naked with Ser Brienne of Tarth, but then felt the call of incest and headed right back to King’s Landing. Sansa Stark got the wheels turning on the “get rid of Dany” train by spilling the beans about Jon Snow‘s lineage. And Cersei Lannister killed both Rhaegal and Missandei, sealing everyone’s fates.
We open on Varys, already hard at work committing a whole lot of treason. He’s writing a letter to whomever will read it, revealing a dark truth that needs to come to light.
One of his little birds comes in, telling him she hasn’t been successful because “she won’t eat.” Varys is trying to have Daenerys poisoned! This bitch doesn’t do things halfway.
Jon Snow reaches Dragonstone and is intercepted by Varys, who comes right out with it: he knows and he wants him on the throne instead of Dany.
Jon won’t hear it—he’s not interested in the crown.
Tyrion Lannister, realizing the events he’s accidentally set in motion, has to do the right thing. He goes to Daenerys and tells her Varys is committing treason. But Dany has already pieced it all together. She knows Jon caved and told Sansa, who told Tyrion, who told Varys. They’ve all let her down—but Varys, for being the only one (within her reach) who’s doing something with the Aegon Targaryen secret, will be the one to pay.
Also: Dany looks like shit.
Varys is still hard at work writing his naughty letters when he hears them coming for him. He burns the letter he was working on and surrenders, accepting his fate. He is brought down to the beach, where Tyrion admits he turned him in. Varys forgives him, saying he hopes he’s wrong about Daenerys and bidding his friend goodbye.
With the quickest trial in the history of Westeros out of the way, Dany orders Drogon to torch Varys.
Later, as Daenerys and Grey Worm are commiserating over Missandei’s death, Jon visits his queen. Daenerys is furious at Sansa, but more importantly, she feels very alone. There is no one left in Westeros who loves her. She is only feared, nothing more. Dany tries to initiate some sexy times with Jon regardless, but I guess the aunt/executioner thing just doesn’t do it for him, ’cause he’s not really into her anymore. He pulls back.
In the throne room, Daenerys discusses battle plans with Tyrion. Tyrion is adamant that the people of King’s Landing must be spared, and bloodshed in the city itself should be as minimal as possible. But Dany, in her elaborate way, tells her Hand she doesn’t give a shit about bloodshed.
Still, Tyrion asks Dany to at least stop the assault once the Lannister forces surrender and ring the city bells. She agrees. But once the planning is done, Daenerys has a plot twist for Tyrion: her forces captured Jaime trying to get back to King’s Landing… and they’re holding him prisoner. Also, if Tyrion fails again, he’s totally dead.
Jon and Tyrion make landfall on King’s Landing’s coast and meet Ser Davos Seaworth, who receives a new top-secret mission from Tyrion. It has to do with smuggling.
Arya Stark and the Hound, the last two stragglers in our penultimate episode, finally make an appearance, intending to squeeze right past the soldiers and into the city for a sneak attack.
Tyrion has the honor of having the only comedic scene in the whole damn episode, with a case of Valyrian gone wrong. Tyrion speaks some complete gibberish in an attempt to get the Unsullied to let him see Jaime—but those dudes understand the good ol’ common tongue just fine.
Tyrion has plans for Jaime. He’s going to break him out, let him reunite with Cersei, and make him convince her to surrender. Then, they can escape on Davos’s smuggly rowboat, Gendry style, and go live on a beach in Essos somewhere. Tyrion is willing to take the fall with Dany so King’s Landing can be spared and his siblings can have a second chance at a peaceful life. The two of them say their final farewells, with Tyrion telling Jaime he’s been the only person in the world who ever truly loved him.
Daybreak has come, and it’s time for some battling. Euron Greyjoy and his fleet are ready for what’s coming.
The people of King’s Landing are all rushing to get to the Red Keep for protection. Hundreds of people are walking through the streets, and among them, some intruders are headed to the Keep for different purposes.
Jaime Lannister has also managed to get inside. On the other side of the gates, Captain Strickland and his Golden Company are facing Jon’s army.
Up in her tower, Cersei Lannister watches, as she’s been doing this whole season.
Arya and Clegane push past a mother and daughter trying to get into the Red Keep; the doors close right in front of the pair.
Jaime Lannister is also too late. He pulls his golden hand out to try to get recognized, but he’s lost in a sea of people.
On the coast, Euron spots something in the sky… Drogon. It’s time.
Dany has learned from Rhaegal’s death—and also Drogon is much stronger. She dodges the Giant Dragon-Killing Crossbows of Doom and torches the entirety of the Iron Fleet within minutes.
The soldiers on King’s Landing’s coast, too, try to shoot Drogon down, but they all miss and are taken down very horribly.
Over on the other side, Captain Strickland is in a very serious staring contest with Jon Snow and Grey Worm until something happens behind him: that entire side of the battlements blows up with dragon fire.
Dany has crossed right over and exploded the gate Strickland was guarding, killing half his men and giving Jon and Grey Worm’s army an opportunity to strike. Strickland attempts to run, but he’s immediately killed off by Grey Worm.
Daenerys’s Dothraki lead the charge into the city, taking down soldier after soldier. There are apparently a shitton of Dothraki horsemen left after the battle against the Night King, which… okay.
The Unsullied, the Dothraki, and the Northmen fuck shit up on the ground while Drogon fucks shit up on the walls. The city’s already looking a little messed up.
Cersei Lannister is convinced they’ll be fine, that Drogon just needs to be taken down like Rhaegal was and they’ll be Gucci. But the giant crossbows are all gone. The Iron Fleet then—nope also gone. The Golden Company? Lannister soldiers are better anyway.
Jon Snow, Grey Worm, and Dany’s soldiers reach a stopping point in front of a large number of Lannister soldiers. Drogon perches himself on a fort, ready to fuck more shit up. Realizing how screwed they are, the Lannister captain in front of Jon Snow surrenders.
One by one, the Lannister soldiers drop their weapons. The city begins to echo with cries of “ring the bells!”
And then… the bells ring. King’s Landing has surrendered.
Daenerys gave Tyrion her word that if the bells rang, she would stop the assault. But it’s all been too easy. Daenerys sits there, on her dragon, watching the symbol of everything horrible that’s ever happened to her and everything she’s ever fought… handed to her without a fight. There it is. After everything she sacrificed, she’s made it, and… nothing. She’s still enraged.
So here’s where everything changes.
Daenerys takes flight again, and atop her weapon of mass destruction, she wordlessly declares: Fuck the bells. Fuck King’s Landing. Fuck them all.
Grey Worm, seeing his queen drop the bells thing, decides to do the same. Because he’s been itching to murder some entitled white people.
Grey Worm impales the Lannister captain, initiating an absolute bloodbath on both sides.
All hell has broken loose. The soldiers catch up to the townspeople and start to butcher them too.
Jon snaps out of his daze to save a woman being assaulted by a soldier—one of theirs. Jon hesitates for a second, then kills him.
Jaime Lannister has reached the bottom of the cliff, where Ser Davos’s boat is ready as promised. He’s about to head inside the caves when Euron Greyjoy, who survived the Iron Fleet’s destruction, confronts him. He’s here to kill Jaime and keep Cersei for himself.
Cersei Lannister was insisting the Red Keep had never fallen, but… it falls apart like Jenga under dragon fire.
Jaime and Euron struggle, tossing each other back and forth… until Euron stabs his sword into Jaime’s ribs.
Qyburn comes back to convince Cersei to give up her precious window post and go hide deeper within the castle. This time, there’s no room for delusional optimism—it is very clear Cersei has lost, and she’s realizing that.
She agrees to go hide with Qyburn and the Mountain as King’s Landing’s old caches of wildfire below the ground start to explode.
Euron has brought Jaime down, but the Kingslayer crawls to his sword, taking another stab to the side on the way there. In his carelessness, though, Euron pulls an Oberyn—thinking he’s won, he drops his guard and ends with a sword through the gut. Jaime twists the sword around a few times for good measure.
Somehow still standing (let’s call it adrenaline), Jaime leaves Euron behind and heads into the castle. Euron dies, celebrating being “the man who killed Jaime Lannister” with his last breath.
Sandor Clegane and Arya Stark have reached the innermost part of the Red Keep, just a few floors below Cersei. Everything is crumbling.
Realizing the extent of the damage, Clegane has an epiphany. Cersei is fucked no matter what. There’s no need for Arya to keep trying to infiltrate the castle and kill her because that’s basically already taken care of at this point. He pulls Arya into a semi-embrace, telling her she shouldn’t follow his path to revenge—the only destination it leads to is death.
Arya realizes he’s right and lets him go, but not before calling out to him: “Sandor. Thank you.”
Side note: Remember Syrio Forel, Arya’s dancing instructor from Season 1? “What do we say to the God of Death?” The sacrifice he made to allow her to run and live another day?
Upstairs, part of the ceiling crumbles onto the stairway, exposing everyone to some fresh(ish) air and crushing a few of Cersei’s Queensguard. The rest are immediately decimated by Sandor Clegane. All that’s left to protect her is Ser Gregor Clegane—the final destination of Sandor’s path to revenge. Cersei attempts to order her giant zombie bodyguard to stay with her, but undead Gregor ain’t havin’ none of that.
Qyburn, the Mountain’s personal Dr. Frankenstein (and Cersei’s last ally), tries to get Gregor Clegane to follow Cersei’s orders… but Gregor squishes his skull against some bricks and throws him like a dirty sock.
R.I.P. His Fabulous Cleavagedom.
Cersei, realizing the Hound and the Mountain are clearly here for each other, takes a chance and heads right down the stairs past Sandor.
Finally, after eight long seasons, we’re getting what we’ve all been waiting for: Cleganebowl!!
The battle begins, and Sandor whacks the Mountain’s helmet off, revealing his face for the first time.
Cersei, alone and terrified, reaches the map room Arya and the Hound were in minutes ago. But lo and behold: Jaime has found her. They embrace, beyond relieved to have found each other again. And you guys, despite the incest, despite poor Brienne getting dumped for this, and despite the fact that they’re both pretty awful people… it’s actually kind of a moving reunion.
Cersei realizes Jaime is gravely injured… But at this point, that’s just one more brick among the crumbling remains of her life.
Sandor runs his sword right through Gregor, but it don’t do much. Gregor’s a good ol’ zombie, so not much is gonna kill him at this point. His armor falls off, though, revealing even more of his nasty rotten body.
Arya has made it out of the Red Keep and rejoined the city… But it’s out of the frying pan and into the dragon fire. The whole city is covered in blood and ash, people dying everywhere, buildings falling down… And a whole lot of burn wounds.
Arya resolved to let go of revenge and live thanks to Sandor, but now that decision is being put to the test—surviving the fall of King’s Landing is not going to be easy. She tries to run through a crowd, falls, and gets trampled.
But a kind stranger gives her a hand and saves her.
They’re immediately separated, though, and things blow up again.
Up in the Red Keep, Gregor has slammed the Hound against a pillar and is choking the life out of him. Sandor tries stabbing him a bunch of times, but it doesn’t help. Gregor’s hands move up to Sandor’s eyes to pull off his signature move: the Martell head squish.
Sandor manages to stab his dagger right through Gregor’s head.
With one eye gone and his chances of survival down to zero, Sandor ends things once and for all: by taking Gregor through the wall and into the flames below with him.
There’s no longer any need for fighting—dragon fire has consumed the entire city. Jon Snow orders his men to retreat and get out of King’s Landing.
Arya Stark wakes up from a loss of consciousness, covered in blood and soot, and has to immediately run from a crumbling bell tower.
She reunites with the mom and daughter from earlier, as well as some other people hiding in a corner, and tries to encourage them to keep moving or they’ll die. But the moment they attempt to run, the mother is injured by a Dothraki horseman and can’t run any longer. She tries to hand her daughter over to Arya, but the girl refuses to leave her mama.
Jaime and Cersei have gotten to the crypts under the Red Keep that lead down to the boat on the shore… but their escape route is buried under rubble.
Faced with the reality of the situation, Cersei lets go of her strong exterior and becomes just another woman trapped in the middle of a burning King’s Landing, terrified for her life. Jaime takes her in his arms, calming her and holding her until it ends for both of them.
And so, Jaime and Cersei Lannister leave this world the way they came into it: together.
Arya Stark gets up again, a miraculous survivor of a devastated city.
As if sent by a prayer, a horse appears just nearby. Climbing on, Arya gallops out of the fallen King’s Landing.
If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around all of this, you’re not alone. As rushed as this season has felt, this episode delivered in every possible way, wrapping up some beloved characters’ storylines and changing everything just as we thought the show was wrapping up nicely.
R.I.P. (This one’s a doozy): Varys. Captain Strickland. Euron Greyjoy. Qyburn. Sandor and Gregor Clegane. Cersei and Jaime Lannister. THOUSANDS of soldiers and innocent townspeople. And any hopes of this show having a happy ending. (I mean, what did you expect?)
MVPs: Varys, for predicting what would happen and going down like a badass. Sandor Clegane, for saving Arya and delivering a hell of a fight. And on the actors’ side, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Maisie Williams (Arya), and Lena Headey (Cersei) for providing us with seriously haunting performances.
Next week for the series finale: Daenerys goes down! (Hopefully.) Can’t wait.