Remember last week on Game of Thrones, when we all braced for the unbearably cruel death of everyone we know and love? Oh, sweet summer children. Season 8 Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks,” may not match “The Long Night” for body count, but it packed an emotional wallop. Let’s take a deep breath, compose ourselves, and honor the fallen from this week’s episode.
For many fans, Viserion’s death last season was one of the most upsetting in the show’s history. But at least he got a second act as the Night King’s terrifyingly fast undead war machine that spits blue fire. Rhaegal met an ignominious end, crashing into Blackwater Bay at the hands of a guy wearing eyeliner. Euron Greyjoy’s scorpion bolts came out of nowhere (guess the “Silence” is more than just a name for his ship), striking Rhaegal point blank in the belly and neck. Deaths are always shocking on this show, but when a dragon goes down, it seems as impossible as the fact that dragons are there in the first place.
After Rhaegal’s crash-landing outside the Battle of Winterfell, it’s worth questioning Daenerys’ load management strategy. Maybe he needed more time to heal after his tangle with undead Viserion and his talons. Or maybe he should have had Jon riding him. Either way, Euron proved to be an incredibly good shot, and now he’s the only man alive to kill a dragon.
It feels like we were just getting to know Rhaegal. He wasn’t the biggest dragon (that’s Drogon), or the coolest (that was undead Viserion, technically), but he was perhaps the most beautiful, his green scales gleaming in the sun until the end. And when he bonded with Jon—perhaps sensing the Targaryen connection from Jon’s father Rhaegar—it seemed like he’d usher in a second age of dragonriders. But, like his namesake, Rhaegal fought nobly, Rhaegal fought valiantly, Rhaegal fought valiantly. And Rhaegal died.
In Episode 2, when Missandei and Grey Worm took a moment in the calm before the storm to dream of the beaches of Naath, many assumed it wouldn’t be long for the happy couple. In the last episode, Grey Worm risked his life against the undead, while Missandei was barricaded in the crypts. If anything were to happen to one or both of them, surely it would be during the Battle of Winterfell. Right? Right?
During the surprise attack that claims Rhaegal’s life, the Iron Fleet captures Missandei as she flees for Dragonstone. At the episode’s end, during a parley between Tyrion and Qyburn, Cersei orders the Mountain to cut Missandei down in front of the entire city—including Daenerys and Grey Worm. Missandei always knew what to say and when to say it, so it’s fitting that she’d inspire them with a final “dracarys.” Light ’em up for me.
Missandei was smart, kind, insightful—basically, far too good for Westeros. She joined up with Daenerys Targaryen as basically a throw-in from slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz in the trade that gave Dany the Unsullied, but proved a valuable asset to Dany’s cause in her own right. As an interpreter and adviser, she was a source of reason and comfort to her queen, and helped keep the peace in Meereen during Daenerys’ absence. But she was more than a chief of staff; in many ways, Missandei was Dany’s best friend (and certainly the only other woman in her inner circle), and one of the very few people the Khaleesi could relax or share a smile with.
She also taught Grey Worm the Common Tongue (just one of 19 languages she spoke fluently), and later, the two of them got up to, uh, “many things.” As with many romantic connections on the show, their love was born in part by being uniquely able to understand one another’s circumstances and motivations. They survived slavery, war, and after risking their lives for a continent that would never accept them, almost made it out. If anyone deserved a happy ending, it was these two. But it was Missandei who gave us the literal meaning of the phrase valar morghulis, and her death is another one of Thrones’ brutal lessons.
Daenerys has lost one of her “children” and two of her closest friends and counselors in back-to-back episodes. After her genuine efforts to minimize casualties, it’s a good bet Dany will finally bring vengeance, justice, fire and blood to King’s Landing next week.
There are just two more episodes of Game of Thrones left. Tune in Sundays on HBO and DIRECTV to see who survives.
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