Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 recap: Cersei Lannister evens the odds

And you thought the White Walkers were the real monsters...

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Claire Reilly
10 min read

"Your mouth is moving, but I still haven't heard anything about MY ELEPHANTS."


The battle of Winterfell is over, the Night King has said his last good night and everyone is ready to get back to normal life in Westeros. What's that? There's still a lot of messy stuff that still needs to go down? Sounds like Game of Thrones is ready to deliver in episode 4! 

This week we're recovering from last week's bloodbath and things are still kind of hectic. So hectic, in fact, that someone left a very modern, very Starbucks-looking coffee cup in the middle of Winterfell's dining hall. C'mon guys, who's running the joint here?

But if you thought the action was over, you're wrong. It's time for a very pressing threat: negotiating the byzantine machinations of patrilineal monarchy in a region where everyone wants to just kill the crap out of each other!


If the start of season 8 got off to a slow start for you, then episode 3 delivered on the carnage. (If you still haven't watched that ep, then now's the time to stop reading and go and catch up on the action). We lost old favorites -- you were a good man, Theon -- and it all culminated in the most explosive ending since the Red Wedding. Arya taking her dagger (the very dagger that was dispatched to kill Bran all those years ago -- TWIST!) and stabbing Ol' Man Winter right in his frosty zone. Ice, Ice Bye-Bye. 

So, what's next? Like, we've literally been building to this moment for years and now the dead are buried -- how do we build the stakes from here? 

All that's left to do is cue up the episode, switch your TV to moody dark mode and get ready for a good old-fashioned game of "Who gets the knife chair?!" It's episode four, and it's on.

🚨🚨🚨Sound the spoiler klaxon -- and abandon all hope, ye who enter here🚨🚨🚨

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Recovery breakfast

With the battle of Winterfell behind us, it's time to bury the dead. Some poor sod has been up all night chopping wood for the funeral pyres so we can farewell our fallen heroes, like Theon, Ser Jorah and Beric (though I'm putting money on Beric getting torched and waking up like he was taking a cheeky nap. Fire is like a warm bath for him).

But once those bodies start burning, the general consensus seems to be "Hey guys, are we hungry?" Thankfully someone had the forethought to cook up a load of bacon and eggs (hopefully on a different fire) so everyone retires to have a much needed brekky.

In the halls of Winterfell, everyone is trading stories and returning to the general busywork of trying to hook up with each other. Except for Jon and Dany, who have gotten over the inconvenient disruption of wight-slaying to get back on their bullshit. Who should rule the Seven Kingdoms? Are we, like, related related? Their silent staring at each other says it all.

Having finished her breakfast (she loves eggs cooked over a fire), Dany decides to play her next hand, anointing Gendry as Lord Gendry of Storm's End -- ensuring she will forever have the allegiance of the folks at Storm's End and giving Gendry a good excuse to get new business cards.

Meanwhile, Jon is getting some solid backslaps for his dragon-riding skills. "What kind of man climbs on a fucking dragon? A mad man, or a king!" cries Tormund. Dany, just like every woman who's watched a male colleague get credit for their projects in the team all-hands meeting, rolls her eyes. But not for long, because let's not lie, she also wants to tap that.

Meanwhile at Makeout Point...


Gendry has big hopes for a future with Arya, but Arya's got things to do.

Helen Sloan/HBO

Gendry has a sweet new last name and he wants to share it with the woman he loves. He bails up Arya, who's steered clear of all the drinking in her honor and is off working through her PTSD with a bow and arrow. After one night of prebattle passion, Gendry declares his undying love for Arya and proposes marriage (we've all definitely been on that Tinder date). But Arya is super chill now, and pulls the classic Danny Zuko Grease move on Gendry and is all "sorry that hookup didn't mean we'd be together forever." Classic Arya.

"Any lady will be lucky to have you," she says. "But I'm not a lady, I never have been. That's not me."

Gendry is left to cry it out, quietly sobbing, "What happened to the Arya Stark I met at the beach?"

But tonight isn't just about relationships ending!

After admitting her armor still very much has its V-plates intact, Brienne leaves the party in the hall of Winterfell. But not before Jaime follows her out, ready to put on some of those sweet moves he's learned down south. (How someone can have so much game when they've only made out with their sister, I'll never know.) In Brienne's quarters, Jaime is ready to try his fake hand at wooing someone he didn't share a womb with. Crazy.

"I hate the North," he says, by way of a confused pickup line (see: picked up my last date at Family Games Night).

"It grows on you," Brienne replies, proving once and for all that the North is a grower, not a shower.

Speaking of... let's leave those two for now.

Daenerys has come by Jon's room for a booty call (booty raven?) and while they try to make out, Jon can't get that aunty taste out of his mouth. Dany isn't feeling it either ("I try to forget," she says, speaking the words that all of us Jon-and-Dany shippers constantly say to ourselves as we watch this show). Also, she's sad because power gets her motor running and no one in the North is bowing down to her like she wants. Except Jon, but... y'know. She tells Jon they can be together, but only if he swears to keep their Family Ties a secret.

"I owe them the truth," Jon says of his sisters.

"Even if it destroys us?" Dany replies.

As far as Daenerys sees it, Jon needs to bring his family in line behind Dany as the one true queen. Meanwhile Jon is no doubt yearning for the days when loving someone meant being shackled to them in a Wildling camp before having sex in a cave spa. Simpler times.

A very awkward secret


"You were a Targaryen all this time and you didn't tell us? You. BASTARD."

Helen Sloan/HBO

It's time for a reccy in the war room for actual postbattle talk, and Grey Worm doesn't have good news. The big battlefield mahjong table before us, we learn that half their armies are dead (let's remove those tiles from the game board) and Cersei's armies have been bolstered by mercenaries.

Jon pledges the Northern armies to Daenerys, and they will join the Dothraki and the bulk of the Unsullied to march on King's Landing (let's move those tiles on the game board, just so we all follow along and to give some visuals to this very talky scene). The rest of the crew will sail to Dragonstone (because the VFX team have already made the CGI renders of that castle and it would be a pity to waste them).

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"We have won the great war," Daenerys says. "Now we will win the last war."

Despite this Churchillian call to arms, Arya and Sansa are still powerfully suss on Jon's new girlfriend. It's time for an intervention in the godswood.

Out by the weirwood tree, Jon reveals to his sisters that he has a big family secret. And in classic gutless fashion, he makes Bran tell it. But then we cut away and don't actually get to hear stone-faced Bran drop this mad gossip?! I was living for that!

Chekhov's crossbow

Remember when Cersei gave Bronn of the Blackwater a crossbow and a price on her brothers' heads and Bronn was all, "That's convenient because I like money and killing people"? Well, it's payday!

Jaime and Tyrion are having a brotherly chat about conquests (Tyrion is so freaking thankful that he can finally do that without hearing about his naked sister) and Ser Bronn busts in. He's been paid to kill the brothers, but savvy Tyrion offers to double the offer, promising High Garden to Ser Bronn if he lets them live.

Having dodged that arrow, Tyrion meets Sansa on the battlements (fresh from her debrief on Jon's family tree). Tyrion tries to convince Sansa that Daenerys is the horse/dragon to back in this race and that she, Jon and the rest of the Starkgaryens should pledge to her.

"What if there's someone else? Someone better," she asks. Thanks, Sansa, you kept that secret for, like 12 minutes.

But don't worry, Tyrion already knew.

While Jon goes on his extended farewell tour of old friends in the courtyard of Winterfell ("See ya, Tormund! Take my beloved direwolf with you and I won't even PAT HIM GOODBYE!"), Tyrion and Varys plot.

They both know Jon's secret (so that's eight people all up who know), and as Varys puts it, "It's not a secret anymore. It's information."

There are a few options on the table and, like the puppetmasters they are, these two are going to nut it out. Varys reminds us that Jon has a better claim, and people are drawn to him as a war hero. Tyrion suggests they could marry Jon and Dany and have them rule together. "She's his AUNT!" as Varys rightly points out ("I try to forget"). And then there's the fact that Daenerys is not exactly good at sharing. But before we even get up to all that, we still need to take King's Landing. Speaking of...



Darnerys' dragons are truly her children, as we see again in episode 4 when tragedy strikes.


Daenerys' small fleet is sailing on Dragonstone when Euron Greyjoy emerges from behind some rocks (you're riding a dragon and you didn't see that, Dany?) -- with one quick strike, Euron dispatches his dragon-killing mega crossbow and shoots Rhaegal out of the sky.

That's it, folks! We're down to one dragon! (Considering it was the dragon Jon rode, the symbolism is powerful). And worse news, Euron is about to ignore the instructions on his Dragon Crossbow warranty and use it to smash some ships. Daenerys' fleet is obliterated, Missandei goes missing in the hubbub and the rest of the crew are washed up on the shores of Dragonstone, defeated. 

What's this? Euron's back in Kings Landing? (Gone are the slow-travelin' days of season 3, folks!) Cersei is preparing to fight, and in classic supervillain form, she's filling her castle walls with innocent citizens of King's Landing to act as a human shield.

Watch this: Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4: The good, the bad and the coffee

"When the war is won, the Lion shall rule the land, the Kraken shall rule the sea and our child shall one day rule them all," she tells Euron. Take your pink and blue helium balloons, chumps. THAT is the most badass birth reveal of the year.

Back in Dragonstone, Varys already knows about Cersei's human shield plans, but that's not stopping Daenerys. She wants to win this game of Musical Knife Chairs and she doesn't care who she has to kill on the way. She's talked into a peace offering, but her wild eyes say she wants the throne more. Somebody get a copy of Cosmo, because if Dany did the "Which Game of Thrones character are you?" quiz, she's starting to look more and more like a Cersei.

With Dany out wandering the halls of Dragonstone somewhere, Varys and Tyrion have more time to play "Would you rather" over kings and queens.

Varys is pro Jon, because we all know Westeros is dude soup when it comes to choosing a rightful heir.

"I don't think a cock is a true qualification," says Tyrion.

"And he's the heir to the throne because he's a man, cocks are important I'm afraid," replies Varys with enough self-loathing to keep psychoanalysis undergrads watching this show for at least another two years. (Theon, meanwhile, sheds a tear in the afterlife.)

So that's it then. Dany won't share and Jon is rightful heir. So what happens to the mother of dragons? Varys' face tells us it won't end well for her. But Tyrion is still faithful to his badass boss. "Please. Don't," he says.

Goodbye seems to be the hardest word


One of those tiny figures on the castle ramparts is Missandei.


We've well and truly cracked the hour mark now so I hope you didn't have a load of washing in the machine.

In Winterfell, Jaime is ruminating by the fire while Brienne sleeps in the background (Hollywood code for "They've set up shop in Bone Town"). But nek minnit, Brienne is awake and Jaime has bounced. Out in the yard, the pure and beautiful Brienne is about to get her heart broken and she is too sweet and kind and how could you?!

"You think I'm a good man," says Jaime, using Brienne as a surrogate for the entire Game of Thrones audience. "I pushed a boy out a window and crippled him for life, for Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands just to get back to Cersei. I would have murdered every man woman and child in Riverrun for Cersei. She's hateful and so am I."

Don't worry Brienne, I'll bring some wine over when this ep is done.

And with that, we're off to see Her Hatefulness. Above the gates of King's Landing, Cersei has Missandei in shackles and a dozen of those dragon crossbows trained on Dany, Tyrion, Grey Worm and the rest of the slim-pickins Unsullied below (guys, the crossbow instructions very clearly state they are designed for dragons only).

Tyrion goes in to negotiate Cersei's surrender with Qyburn, Cersei's mad scientist. Neither one will budge, and so we all realize we're about to lose our last pure hope in this world as Missandei is given one last chance at final words.

With that, she growls the word "Dracarys" (which is High Valerian for "make dragon go now") before being beheaded by The Mountain.

If you thought The Mountain was Qyburn's monster, you'd be wrong. The real monster is the one wearing the crown.

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Originally published May 5.