Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4, "The Last of the Starks" Review

Last time we left off with Game of Thrones, the incredibly epic Battle for Winterfell sure seem to divide the fandom. Either you find people praising the episode’ technical accomplishments, or you could find people complaining at some weird creative decisions or the anticlimactic way it seemingly wrapped the long gestating Night King conflict.

The big question after the big battle was: what now? Where could the series go after seemingly wrapping up what was supposedly the “be all, end all” war to end all wars? How could it possibly do something in the next three episodes that could potentially surpass the Army of the Death in both danger and tension? Based on what we see in “The Last of the Starks”, the answer to that makes me both curious and worried to how the final season will ultimately shake up.

The episode begins the only way it could: dealing on the aftermath of the people that lost their lives in the Battle for Winterfell. What was supposed to be a powerful, mournful moment of loss was a bit undercut by the fact way too many people of importance didn’t lose their lives in last week’s episode (even good ol Ghost managed to survive the initial zombie rush off screen, despite having lost an hear and other battle scars. To think it isn’t the last time he’s been done dirty…). Yes, Jorah and Theon were big players that went down, but their stories had become incidental at best for their deaths to not feel like the classic Game of Thrones knife twist. Still, it was still a well-done scene that set quite the interesting mood for the rest of the 78-minute run time.

Having survived the battle, most of the episode is of course a celebratory look at the hard won victory, with many character dynamics and conversations that harken back to the Game of Thrones of old. This was always the strength of the series before it became technically proficient to do dragons and large-scale battles, so in a way it was nice to have an episode entirely focused on conversations. Whereas last week eventually made me doze off for a bit at the repetitive nature of the tension less battles, this felt closer to the show I know and love. It all was accompanied by a subtle sense of foreboding doom that made you think “with things going this well, something’s gotta give right?”, which pays off in the last thirty minutes.

But for all conversations happening that would harken back to the series’ behind the scenes politicking, there was just something just a bit off about this week’s countless conversations that reminds you it is TV writers doing their thing now other than adapting the richness of George RR Martin’s work. It feels like characters are being drawn a bit more in black and white strokes than the show’s usual shades of grey, which in a way makes this less compelling than the good old days. The way some characters were portrayed, like Jaime and Brienne who consummated years of sexual tension only to be undercut later in the episode, it’s starting to be a symptom of the show’s mad rush to the finish with the lower episode count, despite the longer run times.

Also, you have to start questioning some of the character logic, especially in characters like Jon and Daenerys. After all these years, it seems unfathomable that Jon would be this stupidly naïve to do the right thing instead of trying to play it smart, especially with his secret as a real Targaryen. Daenerys even went as far as to beg him to not say this secret, which he refused to do with his family, something that now seems like it will backfire now that Sansa divulged his secret to Tyrion. This is clearly forced setup to what is all building to a final confrontation between Jon and Daenerys, especially with the dragon queen suffering a huge blow this queen with the death of both her second dragon Rhaegal and Missandei (which got a death harkening back to when Ned Stark lost his head) which is leading her now to go all Mad Queen, and potentially undercutting her journey so far. It all seems like its heading towards a clumsy and very messy conclusion.

As a side note, Jon not even petting Ghost as he leaves him on Tormund’s care was just all wrong, and a continuation to the complete disregard to the importance of the Direwolves in this series, especially one that has lasted this long and protected Jon’s body when he was dead.

Despite all this issues that creep up the more we are getting close to the endgame, the episode at the very least was effective in showing there still are stakes to be had even with the Night King been gone. For one thing, Rhaegal’s death really came in as a complete out of left field surprise, which underlines that we can’t ever underestimate Cersei Lannister. And with the last-minute beheading of Missandei at the hands of the Mountain, some of the danger to the series has been somewhat restored heading to the final two episodes of the season. With the Last War seemingly taking place next week, the hope is that David Benioff and DB Weiss gave everyone plot armor in the Battle of Winterfell so they can surprise us like they did here.

For all my misgivings about some plot developments and character portrayals that seem at odds with what’s been happening, “The Last of the Starks” at the very least returns a bit of unpredictability to the series. But the clumsiness of some of what was on display makes "The Last of the Starks" another stumble for  Game of Thrones. With only two weeks to go, here is hoping the last two episodes end this sprawling saga on a fitting (if not messy) note.

With fandom seemingly more divided about the quality of the show than ever, it sure feels like we’re in for a crazy, bumpy ride in the next two weeks.


Written by Alejandro Segovia.

All opinions expressed are exclusive to the writer and do not represent the entirety of Stat X Media.

TV Scoring rubric:

★ : 1 point  ☆ : 0.5 points

★★★★★: Essential. Excellent episodes. Close to flawless. Transcends any minor flaws it may have. 
   ★★★★: Great/Highly recommended. Great episodes. Some flaws worth mentioning, but nothing to worry about.
      ★★★: Okay/Recommended. Good episodes. Contains things worth watching & experiencing, but flaws can hinder the experience.
         ★★: Caution/Questionable. Mediocre episodes. The flaws start to significantly hinder anything good the episode has.
             ★: Avoid. Bad episodes with nothing redeemable about them (some enjoyment as "so bad its good). Preferably don't waste your time. 


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