The finale of Game of Thrones season 7 has arrived — along with snow in King’s Landing — and with it a level of anticipation unrivaled by any other series on television. For each episode this season, we’ve been analyzing the episode’s true winners and losers, creating an evolving list of power rankings to help you prepare for your next trip to Westeros. Even though we might not get an eighth season for 18 months or more (seriously), there’s no point in turning back now. The Great War is here, and we’re here to tell you who holds all the cards. Read on for our picks.
1. The Night King
Back-to-back like he’s on the cover of Lethal Weapon! For the second consecutive week, our ice-blue baddie sits atop our power rankings — in no small part because he now sits atop the dragon Icerion (name still a work in progress), who bit the dust via a ridiculously powerful ice javelin in episode 6. The Night King didn’t get much screen time in the 90-minute finale, but the few minutes he did get were spectacular. As his nefarious troops approached the Wall at Eastwatch — and as both Beric and Tormund (what are they even still doing up there?) watched in horror, the big bad swooped in on his newly resurrected dragon and melted the wall down with blue flames until it collapsed. Though we’re not certain why the icy flames would melt ice (maybe its fire that’s even hotter? Hmm), it’s of little consequence. The army of the dead is on the move once again, and now with an epic zombie weapon of mass destruction.
2. The Starks
Now that we officially know that Jon isn’t a Stark, the only three remaining members of the family (apart from the honorary Theon) are all at Winterfell, and they had a hell of a time closing out season 7. The episode began with a bit of misdirection as Littlefinger tried to further turn Sansa against Arya — unsuccessfully, as it turns out — teaching her one final lesson about discerning your enemy’s motives in the process. Thankfully, Sansa and Arya had a few tricks up their own sleeves, proving that Sansa isn’t as frustratingly bewitched by Lord Baelish as we were lead to believe. With Bran’s timely assistance, the pair lured Baelish into a trap, where Sansa levied charges of murder and treason against the slithery snake before allowing Arya to slit his conniving throat. Later, Bran meets with Sam, and the two discuss Jon’s legitimate birthright (let’s not concern ourselves with Bran’s inexplicable lack of knowledge about the Rhaegar-Lyanna marriage — there’s a lot of past to look through). Rarely does true justice raise its head in Game of Thrones, but when it does, it’s oh so sweet.
Cersei may be entirely insane and (in our opinion) the truest human antagonist in Thrones, but she did learn to channel her late father’s cunning. She masterfully conned the Targaryen alliance — and even Tyrion (shame on you, Tyrion!) — into believing her promise to fight against the Night King’s armies. Meanwhile, our deceitful queen coyly sent Euron and his fleet to Essos, under the guise of fear (“This is the only thing I’ve ever seen that terrifies me,” he says of the wight), to escort the massive Gold Company mercenary army. Unfortunately for Cersei, her forthcoming child looks like it might not have a father figure, as Jaime seems to have seen the light and abandoned his murderous twin/lover for good. Still, for a woman with more enemies than Balerion the Black Dread had scales, she seems to be doing well for herself. Never bet against the gold.
It’s difficult to tell whether Dany came out of this episode better or worse for the wear. To be fair, she does still have two dragons, but on the other hand she concluded the episode by engaging in sexual congress with her nephew (unbeknownst to both of them). Sure, incest is pretty much par for the course in the Targaryen bloodline (and, we suppose, in Thrones as a whole), but it’s not a good look for our two favored protagonists. Plus, she’s now sailing north with the misguided belief that the Lannister armies are marching up to join hers. Jaime might be on his way, but he hasn’t shown much aptitude for battle in a long time.
The good: Jon’s getting his second taste of love, and this time it doesn’t involve a cave and a seriously fiesty wildling woman. He’s also the true heir to the Iron Throne, although he doesn’t yet know it. The bad: As previously mentioned, he’s getting down with his aunt, who also happens to be his queen, who also happens to be the primary threat to the throne he is rightfully owed. Jon might be honorable, but he’s kind of an idiot, as we’ve seen time and time again. We don’t know if Cersei’s first truce offer was legit — survey says no — but he still couldn’t tell a little white lie when he really needed to. Somewhat related: Where the hell is Ghost? We were pretty excited when we read the episode’s title (The Dragon and The Wolf), thinking it might herald a return for our shaggy white floof, but no. Is anyone going to be surprised when he appears suddenly in season 8 to save Jon’s neck? Remember when Thrones was unpredictable?
It’s been a difficult seven years for Theon, who led a misguided betrayal of his adopted family on behalf of his actual (terrible) father, before getting his … kraken unceremoniously removed and sent to said father as a threat. He later panicked and fled when his badass sister needed him most, further damaging his already-poor self esteem. This was a good episode for Theon, though, who received forgiveness from Jon (“You don’t have to choose,” says Jon. “You’re a Greyjoy and a Stark”) before proving his determination by beating an unruly Greyjoy soldier and rallying the remaining soldiers to his cause of rescuing Yara. Was this scene realistic? Not in the slightest! Still, it appears there may be some Theon remaining under the layers of Reek.
7. The supporting cast
OK, we realize this is kind of a cop-out, but seriously: We needed some more people to die in this episode! There are six episodes left, and about a bajillion fates to reconcile before the series’ conclusion. Grey Worm and both Targaryen armies have been reduced to set pieces, Bronn and Podric disappeared together for no reason (fine, whatever, to get a drink) before the big meeting, the long-awaited Clegane Bowl was postponed yet again, and we have no clue what happened to Beric and Tormund as the Wall came down. Brienne got a little bit more screen time than the rest of the peanut gallery — just so she could deliver the heavy-handed line “F*** loyalty!” to Jaime, inspiring him to desert his sister — but if we don’t get to see a steamy scene between her and Tormund, everyone loses. They are all still alive, so they probably don’t deserve such a meager showing in our rankings, but we want blood, damn it!
In one of the most satisfying on-screen deaths in recent television memory, the scheming Petyr Baelish finally met his end, bleeding out on the stone floor of Winterfell’s great hall after having his throat cut by Arya (using, symbolically, the dagger he gave Bran earlier this season). After being responsible for many of Game of Thrones‘ most memorable demises — Ned Stark’s beheading, Lysa Arryn’s descent through the moon door, Ramsay Bolton’s dog-food death — Littlefinger gave us one more gift, proving that the Stark children aren’t so easily corrupted. To be honest, we think he played his game pretty well; not even a man as well-connected as Baelish could’ve predicted that Bran would return as a magical, all-seeing warg. Well, you live and you learn! Oh, wait …