The Dragon and the Wolf
|"The Dragon and the Wolf"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
The Night King attacking the Wall
with the now-undead Viserion
|Episode no.||Season 7|
|Directed by||Jeremy Podeswa|
|Written by||David Benioff|
D. B. Weiss
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Gregory Middleton|
|Editing by||Crispin Green|
|Original air date||August 27, 2017|
|Running time||80 minutes|
"The Dragon and the Wolf" is the seventh and final episode of the seventh season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 67th episode overall. It was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
The episode's plot includes a negotiation between Cersei and Daenerys, and a rift between Cersei and Jaime; Theon rededicates himself to Yara; Sansa and Arya unite against Littlefinger; Jon Snow is revealed to be the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen; Jon and Daenerys's romantic relationship comes to fruition; and the Army of the Dead penetrates the Wall.
"The Dragon and the Wolf" received a positive reception from critics, who listed the meeting at the Dragonpit, the full revelation of Jon Snow's lineage, Cersei's lack of cooperation to defeat the White Walkers, Aidan Gillen's final performance as Littlefinger, and the demolition of the Wall as highlights of the episode. The pacing, however, was met with mixed reviews, and criticism was also leveled at the resemblance of Rhaegar Targaryen to his brother Viserys Targaryen. In the United States, the episode achieved a viewership of 12.07 million in its initial broadcast, making it the second highest rated episode of the series. Furthermore, it received several nominations at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, including for its writing, Podeswa's direction, Djawadi's music and was submitted by Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey to support their nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actress respectively, with Djawadi and Dinklage winning in their categories.
The title of the episode refers to the sigils of House Targaryen (the Dragon) and House Stark (the Wolf) and their newfound alliance.
In King's Landing
Cersei, Daenerys, and their entourages meet. The Hound and Jon successfully use the captured wight, an animated corpse, to prove the existence and nature of the threat posed by the White Walkers and their undead legions. Cersei agrees to help in the "Great War" against the dead on the condition that Jon remain neutral between the queens; Jon affirms he has already sworn himself to Daenerys, and Cersei retracts her support. Tyrion goes alone to confront Cersei, who has rejected Jaime's urgings to reconsider; Tyrion and Cersei discuss their family, and Tyrion lies in claiming that Daenerys wanted to destroy King's Landing until Tyrion persuaded her not to. During their conversation, he realizes Cersei is pregnant. Cersei returns to the parley and agrees to send her entire army north to fight the White Walkers.
Jaime prepares to mobilize the army: however Cersei reveals she lied and will not join Daenerys and Jon's cause. Euron (who departed the summit early, seemingly intending to hole up on the Iron Islands against the undead) left for Essos to transport the Golden Company, the finest mercenary army for hire, with which she will fight the presumably weakened faction that wins the Great War. Jaime is disgusted at her callousness and refuses to break his word; despite Cersei's threat to have the Mountain kill him, he abandons her and rides north alone as snow begins to fall on King's Landing.
Daenerys's party returns and plans to travel to Winterfell to unify her and Jon's forces against the White Walkers. Jorah advises Daenerys to fly a dragon there to avoid any potential assassination attempts, but she decides to travel by sea and land with Jon, in hopes of garnering popular support. Theon seeks guidance from Jon, who calls him both a Greyjoy and a Stark, and declares they both preserve Ned's legacy. Theon decides to save Yara but a leader of the remaining Ironborn objects. Theon defeats the man in a brutal fight and the others join Theon.
Sansa and Littlefinger discuss Arya's actions. Littlefinger advises Sansa to always assume others have the worst possible motive; Sansa suggests Arya will murder her to become Lady of Winterfell. Sansa summons Arya before the lords of the North and Vale, then stuns Littlefinger by accusing him of murder and treason, which Bran corroborates. Finding no allies in the crowd, Littlefinger begs for mercy; Sansa thanks him for his lessons, and Arya executes him, slitting his throat with the Valyrian steel dagger. Later, Sansa and Arya compliment each other's strength but affirm they are strongest together.
Sam arrives at Winterfell with his family. Bran tells him that Jon's real parents were Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Sam reveals information from the High Septon's journal: in secret, Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell was annulled and he married Lyanna. Bran views the wedding and Jon's birth, learning the name Lyanna gave him: Aegon Targaryen. Bran determines that, as Rhaegar's legitimate son, Jon is the heir to the Iron Throne.
In the Narrow Sea
Tyrion witnesses Jon Snow entering Daenerys's cabin. Jon and Daenerys give in to their feelings for each other and the two have sex.
The undead army arrives at Eastwatch; when the Night King appears, riding Viserion, Tormund orders the defenders to evacuate. Breathing blue fire, Viserion destroys Eastwatch and a section of the Wall, allowing the White Walkers to finally invade the Seven Kingdoms.
"The Dragon and the Wolf" was written by the series' co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. In the "Inside the Episode" featurette published by HBO following the airing of the episode, they described the meeting at the dragon pit as one of the most challenging scenes in the episode to write, as they felt it was important to give each character their due. Weiss described the many different interactions between various characters as "deceptively difficult", and the necessity for the actors to be "playing off the person they're supposed to be playing off of" for the scene to be properly translated during the filming process.
For the culmination of the Winterfell storyline, and the death of Littlefinger, Benioff and Weiss stressed the importance of the scenes leading up to the finale, which they described as a realistic threat of harm between Arya and Sansa, with Benioff saying "It's one of the benefits of working on a show like this, where over the years so many beloved characters have been killed, and so many characters make decisions you wish they hadn't that you can believe Sansa might conspire against Arya, or that Arya might decide that Sansa has betrayed the family and deserves to die." Benioff continued by revealing his excitement in seeing Aiden Gillan's performance as Littlefinger, as it was the first time that they had written a scene in which the character was caught unaware, saying "He's imagined every conceivable eventuality except this one." Isaac Hemsptead Wright, who portrays Bran, described a scene that was originally written between his character and Sansa, but it was later removed from the episode.
Another challenge involved with writing the episode involved the presentation of the information regarding Jon Snow's lineage, as it mostly consisted of details that had already been revealed in prior scenes. As such, the inclusion of a montage, of Rhaegar and Lyanna, and Jon and Daenerys, was one of the ways that Benioff and Weiss stated they were able to go about this problem. Weiss noted that it was important to make it clear "that this was almost like an information bomb that Jon was heading towards." Benioff continued by describing Jon and Daenery's intimacy as a complication "on a political level," and "on a personal level," due to the two being related, with Weiss adding "Just as we're seeing these two people come together we’re hearing the information that will inevitably, if not tear them apart at least cause real problems in their relationship."
In writing the final interaction between Jaime and Cersei, Benioff felt it was important to convey Cersei's refusal to confide her plan to abandon the agreement to fight the White Walkers and subsequent alignment with Euron and the Iron Bank, and its effect on Jaime, saying "He's realizing that his loyalty to her is not reflected in her loyalty to him. I think that's absolutely what informs his decision to leave King's Landing."
Leading up to the seventh-season finale, Benioff and Weiss revealed that it was always planned for the penultimate season to end with the destruction of the Wall, and the White Walker army crossing into the Seven Kingdoms. Weiss noted, "The wall's kept these things out for eight thousand years and there's no real reason it can't keep doing that unless something puts a hole in the Wall. There's one thing on the board from the beginning that is now big enough to do that and that's a dragon." They also felt it was essential for the seventh-season finale to contrast well with previous season finale episodes, particularly the sixth-season finale, "The Winds of Winter", which Benioff stated had a more "triumphant ending" as opposed to something "much more horrific" with the conclusion of "The Dragon and the Wolf".
"The Dragon and the Wolf" was directed by Jeremy Podeswa. He joined the series as a director in the fifth season, his first episode being "Kill the Boy", which was followed by "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. He further directed two more episodes in the series' sixth season, and also directed the seventh season's premiere episode, "Dragonstone". This would be Podeswa's final episode as a director for the series, as he would later reveal that he would not be returning for the series' final season.
In an interview with Variety, Podeswa described the tone in filming the scene at the dragon pit as "laden with tension," and that he was very excited to film the sequence due to several characters meeting for the first time and others reuniting after a long absence from each other. According to a separate interview with USA Today, shooting of the dragon pit scene took place over the course of six days, and was first rehearsed in Belfast, and later on set in Spain. The Italica ruins near Seville, Spain stood in for the dragon pit. Podeswa revealed that the sequence was "40 to 50 pages" in the script, which he felt was a lot of material to work with, saying he had to "make sure everything landed," and that "every look in that script and every moment that needed to be there was actually going to end up on screen."
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Podeswa described filming the death of Littlefinger and Aidan Gillen's performance, saying "It was moving and difficult to see somebody get to the end of their role on the show, but it was an amazing scene to go out on. The mood when we were shooting it was incredible, actually. Aidan's performance was so, so passionate, and so surprising in a way." The filming of the scene took place over the course of an entire day, with the conclusion being filmed later, with Podeswa noting, "We didn't really shoot the end until a certain point, and [Gillen] was very ready at that point."
Podeswa also described the process behind filming the sexual intimacy between Jon and Daenerys, saying, "In the script, it described the fact that they were love-making, but it didn't go into great detail in terms of what was going on between them as characters in that moment." He went on to state that he "built in a moment between" Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, who portray Jon and Daenerys respectively, where they "stop for a moment and look into each other's eyes." He continued, "The intention from my point of view, and their point of view too, is that they're driven by passion into this. They don't even fully understand what it's all about and what the consequences of it are. They really can't stop themselves. It's almost destiny that's bringing them together." In regards to the similarity between the appearance of Rhaegar and Viserys Targaryen, Podeswa stated that the brothers were meant to look similar.
Podeswa's first reaction to the final scene of the episode, with the destruction of a portion of the Wall, was "This is an enormous, spectacular sequence. How are we actually going to pull it off?" In order to piece together the sequence, Podeswa was required to work with several different departments, including Benioff and Weiss, the visual effects department, storyboard artist, the set designers, stuntmen, the cinematographer, and the actors themselves. All of the scenes that were filmed on top of the Wall, with Kristofer Hivju and Richard Dormer as Tormund and Beric respectively, were on an actual set in Belfast, along with filming of the stuntmen falling, which would be later transposed by visual effects. He continued by describing the process of creating the non-practical shots by saying, "All of the more panoramic spectacular shots are visual effects, but they're designed by me working with the visual effects department from storyboards that I created with storyboard artists." There were also several interactive elements involved, which Podeswa noted by saying, "When we were shooting the Wall set, we had the lighting effect on the Wall that was caused by the flame, but we hadn't created the flame yet." He continued by revealing the process that went into Viserion's appearance, saying "Everything comes from a sense of logic, so I guess in this particular instance with Viserion, what were the wounds that he suffered before he died? What happened to him underwater and when he was dragged up? All of those kinds of things folded into the discussion of what he should appear to look like when he's resurrected."
"The Dragon and the Wolf" was viewed by 12.07 million viewers on its initial live broadcast on HBO, and an additional 4.4 million viewers on streaming platforms, for a total 16.5 million viewers. This set a ratings record for Game of Thrones as the highest rated episode of the series to date, surpassing "Eastwatch", which previously held the record. The episode also acquired a 5.7 rating in the 18–49 demographic, making it the highest rated show on cable television of the night. In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 3.54 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, making it the highest-rated broadcast that week on its channel. It also received 1.02 million timeshift viewers.
"The Dragon and the Wolf" was praised by critics, who listed the meeting at the Dragonpit, Cersei's lack of cooperation to defeat the White Walkers, Aidan Gillen's performance as Littlefinger, and the demolition of the Wall as highlights of the episode. The episode has received an 87% rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes from 47 reviews, with an average score of 8.7 out of 10. The site's consensus reads "While much slower in pace than the season that preceded it, 'The Dragon and the Wolf' delivered satisfying conclusions to several story arcs, and masterfully set up the series' final season."
The pacing of the episode received mixed reviews, with Matt Fowler of IGN praising its ability at, "Delivering lengthy meaningful scenes filled with dialogue, deception, revelations, twists," and assembly the dragon pit. He gave the episode a 9.3 out of 10. On the other hand, Erik Kain of Forbes believed the episode to be too rushed, but praised it nonetheless for being one of the most "ultimately satisfying episodes HBO has given us to date." He listed the reveal of Jon Snow's lineage as one of the most important moments of the episode, and praised it for paralleling Jon and Daenerys's intimate sexual encounter.
Myles McNutt of The A.V Club wrote that the episode returned to the slow pace of the premiere and criticized its pacing and some of the characters motivations, but gave it a B+ overall. Jeremy Egner of The New York Times also gave praise to the episode, albeit with some criticism towards the episode's predictability, stating that while there were "Plenty of enjoyable moments and blue fire-fueled spectacle, and effectively set up next season’s culminating clashes, it didn't offer much in the way of surprise."
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