Whether you were actually able to see what was going on during the Battle of Winterfell or not, last week’s Game of Thrones brought the action and spawned a whole bunch of chaos. In the aftermath, we’re left to wonder about what comes next. We’ve all got our opinions about that, of course, but are you ready to defend yours in a fiery trial by conversational combat? Uproxx’s Kimberly Ricci and Jason Tabrys are very ready to do exactly that, and this week, they’re going to discuss the Winterfell aftermath and the upcoming matchup between Cersei and Daenerys (and Arya!) before turning the discussion over to you in the comments section.
Kimberly: Jason, we’re now halfway through the final Thrones season, and the living have now (allegedly) vanquished the undead. Let’s face it, Arya pretty much saved everyone by killing the Night King, but looking forward, she’s still got names on her kill list, and there’s still much ground to cover for other characters. The last battle at King’s Landing lies ahead, and from a strategic standpoint, it’s not looking good for the forces that fought at the Battle of Winterfell. The Dothraki are essentially gone, Dany’s a mess after Jorah’s death, the dragons are probably weakened. What does this do for Cersei’s side?
Jason: You went back and re-watched, so you’re more prepared than I am. If I want to stare into a dark space in search of meaning, I can stare into my soul. BUT SERIOUSLY… count me among the ranks of those who are a little stunned that we’re just sort of over and done with the “Winter is Coming, Winter is Here, Oh, SNAP, WINTER IS KICKIN OUR ASS!” thing. Now it’s Cersei season. And yeah sure, I love me some Cersei. And yeah sure, Dany and her armies aren’t in the best shape, but do we need a quick and fresh reminder as to how formidable Cersei can be for this to not feel like we’ve already had our dessert? Maybe that means luring Jamie into a trap and stabbing him in the heart. I don’t know. She doesn’t have anyone else to lose or anyone close to her whose sacrifice would mean a thing to the audience because that girl is poiiiiison. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Am I giving Cersei’s villainy and formidability too little respect? Is she a more appropriate end game villain than the Night King despite his frosty coolness and army of the undead?
Kimberly: I do worry that I’ve been underestimating Cersei all along, and maybe she is the true villain. It makes my eyes look like Bran’s warging orbs to think about it that way, but god, she’s so smart to have sat out the Battle of Winterfell. She’s crafty, but her greatest strength now that the Winterfell forces and leadership are substantially weakened, so however you read it, she’s a bigger villain that the Night King ever was. I can’t believe I’m saying this! But who expected the Night King to be taken out so swiftly? No one. And that makes me angry at the writers. Really, it’s a narrative gut-punch to the audience after they played him up so much. My god, they placed so many clues about his origins as a Stark or a Targaryen, and None. Of. It. Mattered. He might as well have been Marilyn Manson (all costumey-shock value) as far as his true threat level is concerned. That’s not as cool as your comment about him flying in on a dragon like he’s on an Axxis album cover, but man, I’m so stabby. The Night King now looks like a pinch-hitting, local opening band before the main attraction. Further, Dany and Sansa don’t trust each other, Jon Snow wants a vacation from leading, and Tyrion’s wavering. He joked in the crypt that he’s ill-equipped to fight for the undead, and I’m reading that as a sign that he’s considered switching sides. Whether that means fighting for Sansa and not Dany, or if he’ll go back to Cersei’s side, I really can’t say. Sigh … should I stop whining and simply be happy that Arya was the one who took out the Night King?
Jason: Forgetting everything I just said, if we’re doing a truthful post-mortem, the Night King’s biggest weakness was his hubris. He wasn’t going to stop, but he also never seemed to respect his enemies, even when they gave him reason to. Cersei, on the other hand, is a master strategist who is similarly driven and cruel. Her willingness to stay the hell out of the fight against the dead demonstrates that she was able to size up the risk and make the smart play to stay home and drink some wine. Which is something we should all do more often, because doing things… eh. Anyway, we’re both sleeping on her skills when we mourn the Night King. As impressive as he was, if you slow down and examine, he was little more than a really cool looking boogeyman with a single exhaust port-style weak spot, which, follow me here, means he’s the Death Star and Cersei is Palpatine? I think that makes sense. But the point is, the Night King was flashy, but yeah, Cersei deserves more respect. As for her ability (or willingness) to bring Tyrion back to her side of things? No way. I can’t see it. His connection to Sansa was unexpected but it also felt right. That connection means it’d be an even bigger portrayal for Tyrion to go back to Cersei. And there’s too much hate for that family reunion and it would absolutely wreck him as a character. I totally see him leaving Dany’s side (when she maybe needs him most), but that’s about it. As for Arya, I love that she dealt the deadly blow and that it paid off everything she has been training for. A colleague did bring up an interesting question, though: are there going to be any after effects to the Night King having put his hands on her throat?
Kimberly: I do wonder about further effects on Arya. Even with her lifetime of training, and as glorious as it was to watch a 100-pound young woman save Winterfell with Littlefinger’s sword, it still seems … I don’t know, too easy? The Night King shattered into a million pieces after being pierced with Valyrian steel, which was one of the only ways he could have been taken out, and there’s no doubt that Arya practiced that move, and it was all down to her drive and skill. Still, part of me believes that Thrones can’t let death evaporate as a threat. “What is dead may never die” is a saying that runs throughout the series, and while it hasn’t been contextualized to the Night King’s forces, it’s still running through my head for this scenario. Did he mark Arya? Perhaps. Will he live again, sort of, through her, and to what capacity? He was able to track Bran through the mark, but does that ability extend to the Night King’s essence (if he has one) after his death? I foresee something bleak here.
Jason: Wouldn’t that be the most surprising end, though? Nothing bleak, just a peaceful resolution and Cersei going off to her own private Elba where she can drink wine, screw pirates, and raise elephants? Maybe someplace where it’s always light so we can see all the action.