Game of Thrones, by a Fucking Idiot S8E4: The Last of the Starks

by thethreepennyguignol

We need to talk about Jon Snow.

And trust me, I’ve done a lot of talking about Jon Snow in the years leading up to this final season. But this week’s episode, The Last of the Starks, really gives me no choice but to address the perma-pouty elephant in the room.

Much of this show so far has revolved around convincing us that Jon Snow is the most obvious choice to lead the Seven Kingdoms (is it seven? That feels right, I’m going with it, I just watched nearly eighty minutes of a show I don’t even like very much and I’m exhausted), and this episode is one of the most pointed in that regard. Jon is a great fighter, we’re told, while also being shown him needing rescue in every battle he is back-patted for winning. He’s well-liked by everyone, even though a bunch more people were willing to pledge to Dany than they were him (and not even his own pseudo-family seems to care for him very much any longer). Jon, as the show dedicated a large amount of this episode reminding us, is an All-Round Great Dude and Basically Just The Best. And do you know why the show needs to keep telling us this? It’s because Kit Harrington cannot act it.

The Last of the Starks was a stark (heh) reminder of just how far the rest of the cast has come in terms of acting ability. Sophie Turner is convincingly considered as Sansa, while Arya finds dignity and wit in her exit from Winterfell. Even Emilia Clarke, who I have never been a big fan of in the role, still delivers some solid performance as she begins to unravel completely over the course of this episode. They’ve all grown into their characters, becoming fuller and more-fleshed out as performers as the show allowed for it. But Kit Harrington? Kit Harrington is still just the gruff, chemistry-free, charisma-black-hole that he’s always been.

Performances are a matter of personal taste, of course, but this being my personal taste and my review: I fucking hate it. The constant doe-eyed pout, the awkward gruffness, does a disservice to the rest of the uniformly-great cast. We need to believe Jon as this fearless, charismatic leader, but all the show can do is tell us that, over and over again, in the hopes that it will be enough to convince us in the face of this wet-blanket performance. And, as we round the corner into the end of the show (with only two episodes remaining after this week), I can only come to the depressing conclusion that Jon really might just be endgame. I should have just stopped watching the show for good after he died and pretended that was the actual ending.

Of course, Jon Snow isn’t the only thing going on in Game of Thrones overlong fourth part this week, so it sometimes feels gruellingly like he is. Brienne and Jaime finally get it on in an act of fanservice so egregious I, a fanfic writer, am actually slightly insulted by it – at least Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Costeau-Walder have strong enough chemistry to make it work, even if it reeks of inevitable box-ticking. Christian Greyjoy leads the Iron Fleet against the approaching armies of Dany – this battle takes place in the day, at least, so I wasn’t squinting to figure out what was going on, but Euron himself continues to just be a poorly-conceived and characterised plot device to cause problems when he needs to, a sneering panto villain in a show that still wants us to take it seriously. Oh, and to fit speed-loading bolt guns on to his ships, too. And to look like Pacey from Dawson’s Creek, now I think of it.

It has been easy to forget, in the few highs of the season so far, that I actually don’t like this show as a whole. Because it’s well-made, and it feels huge, and it’s such a cultural behemoth that there was always a voice at the back of my head ticking away saying you just have to be missing something. But taking a deep-dive into these episodes has acted as a reminder that I just don’t like a lot of what Game of Thrones does. Sure, I can appreciate the excellent performances, the ambition, the scale – but the writing, especially as it steps away from the books, has become an increasingly hacky fanservice delivery-machine with more silly dragon-flying shots than I can wave a Valerian-steel sword at. It’s just…not good.

Ending stories like these is always harder than starting them, and Game of Thrones has an enormous amount to tie up here. I always suspected that the final season was going to be kind of a mess, given the enormity of the story at hand – but this is more of a state than even I anticipated. With thin villains, even thinner heroes, and basically just the excellent Lannisters propping up what remains of the prestige, Game of Thrones is on the road to heading out on a lacklustre low.

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more stuff like it, check out some of my other recapping projects – I’ve looked at Stephen King’s Carrie and the first Harry Potter book, as well as writing episode-by-episode recaps of RiverdaleDoctor Who, and American Horror Story. I also run the film site No But Listen, where you can find my musings on movies along with writings from my brilliant co-editor. If you liked this recap and want to support me, you can do so on Patreon!

(header image via Nerdist)

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