'Game of Thrones' Season 7 finale recap: Death, betrayal and fire close the penultimate season

Let it never be said that Season 7 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” didn’t pack a wallop in the end. When the finale was said and done, nearly every character was together, the house was cleaned of the most vile of bad guys and the tide of the war against the dead shifted in peril’s favor.

[SPOILER ALERT: The remainder of this article will discuss “Game of Thrones” Season 7, Episode 7]

There is a lot to cover with this episode, but it’s worth mentioning that it started off as one of the slower outings for this season. For a while there, it almost looked like fans would be disappointed. However, the highly teased armistice negotiations ended up being the worst part of an all-around great episode.

We open in King’s Landing, where every leader of every faction is on the scene to convince Cersei Lannister to agree to a truce and help fight the ever-growing army of the dead. While it was grim business, it allowed Tyrion to reunite with Podrick, The Hound to show Brienne of Tarth that there’s no hard feelings for… well, killing him and much more.

They all met at an old Targaryen fighting pit in King’s Landing, and out of all the important people there, it was The Hound that spoke first. For the first time in years, he was in the same location as his brother, the newly zombified Mountain. He goads his brother, joking that he looks better than him for the first time in their lives. However, in what was surely a disappointment for those hoping for an epic throw-down amongst the Clegane brothers, The Hound told The Mountain that he wasn’t there for him, and that he knows who is coming for him. Sadly, that mystery doesn’t get an answer as the younger sibling storms off to fetch Jon Snow and Daenerys’ big bargaining chip.

Cersei and the rest are reluctant to even consider a truce since they don’t trust the foreign invader, but having a member of the army of the dead rush headlong at her really seemed to change her tune. That wasn’t the case for her husband-to-be, though. Euron Greyjoy took one look at the wight and asked if they can swim. When Jon responded in the negative, he told everyone that he was done and would be sailing back to the Iron Islands to wait out whatever was to come. He stormed off, and took his offer to free Yara Greyjoy if Theon submitted with him.

Cersei, on the other hand, agrees to the truce assuming Jon Snow will remain neutral and lead the north to do the same. It would have been simple, and even smart, for him to lie. Instead, he confesses that he’s pledged himself to Daenerys already.

“When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything,” he says. “Then there are no answers just better and better lies.”

While the action was noble, it kind of shot all the negotiations in the foot, as Cersei said she wouldn’t agree to a truce and would rather see the north fall to the army of the dead than fight them on two fronts. This forces Tyrion to make a bold move and have a one-on-one with his sister.

Escorted by The Mountain, he joins her and removes the elephant from the room. He brings up their father, her fallen children and every other grievance she may have with him before directly shouting for The Mountain to cut him down. However, his sister never gives the order, prompting Tyrion to take a hearty gulp of the wine nearby. In what soon became one of the most tense moments in the show, he realizes what he’s done and offers Cersei a glass, which she does not accept. Could the hero of Blackwater Bay and countless other, smaller, victories have been poisoned? -- No.

Instead, Cersei tells him that her goal is not necessarily sitting on the Iron Throne, but ensuring that her loved ones are safe. Between that and the wine, Tyrion pieces together that she’s pregnant. The group returns to the fighting pit, where Cersei agrees to fight alongside the living against the dead in a temporary truce. Despite the tension, it all felt a little too easy, which it was, but let’s put a pin in that.

In Winterfell, things are finally coming to a head between Arya and Sansa. All season-long, Littlefinger has been driving a wedge between the two sisters. So far, neither of them has been clever enough to figure him out -- or so it seems. While counseling Sansa about Arya’s strange behavior, he walks her down a line of reasoning that suggests she’s out to steal the title of Lady of Winterfell from Sansa. After some consideration, Sansa tells a guard to summon Arya to the hall.

When she arrives, it looks like Arya has shown up to her own execution -- and likely that of a few guards as well. However, with Brandon in the room, things take a turn. She tells Arya that they’re there for a matter of honor, to stop any that would seek to betray her family or home. With that, she lays charges of treason and murder against… Petyr Baelish. Boom!

That’s right, after skulking behind every major event that’s happened in Westeros this past decade, Littlefinger is finally on trial for his ascent up the ladder of chaos. Thanks to Bran’s powers as the Three-Eyed Raven, the remaining Stark children know everything about his betrayal of their father, the plot to kill Joffrey, how he betrayed Jon Arryn and their aunt Lysa Arryn -- everything.

He makes a half-hearted attempt to defend himself, but with all the evidence stacked against him, his goose is cooked. He falls to his knees to cry and beg. He tells Sansa that he loved her mother and her, but she reminds him that he betrayed them both nonetheless. At long last, after a lifetime of using other people in Westeros as pawns in his larger game, his throat was mercilessly cut by Arya Stark in Winterfell, the last great bastion of honor left in the realm. It seems the animosity between the Stark sisters is over. Executing old family enemies has a way of doing that.

Goodbye Littlefinger, you had no redeeming qualities in the end.

Meanwhile, with a truce at hand, Jon, Daenerys and their respective courts return to Dragonstone, where they begin drafting battle plans. Jon and his queen will sail together to Winterfell and prep the front lines against the army of the dead. As he leaves, he’s confronted by Theon. After all his many screw-ups, he asks how Jon managed to have so much of Ned Stark in him, while he had so little. Jon tells him to embrace the part of him that was raised to be honor bound, and apply it to the part of him that’s a Greyjoy. Funny enough, it was Jon giving someone advice on embracing a diverse background of family heritage -- but more on that later.

Theon, emboldened by Jon’s advice, confronts the Iron Born that followed him and Yara. He tells them that they’re going to go rescue her, but they don’t seem interested. One calls him a coward, spits in his face and decks him right in the head. Despite taking a severe beating, Theon gets up. After all, what’s a few cracks to the skull compared to the years he spent with Ramsay Bolton? His opponent tries to knee him in the crotch to finish him off, but that doesn’t work on Theon anymore. He bests him in combat and, just like that, the fleet is ready to follow him against his crazed uncle. Having said that, it’ll take a lot more than a failed kick to the groin to stop Euron, especially since they don’t even know where he is.

Yes, he said he’d be going back to the Iron Islands, but that’s revealed to be an elaborate -- and we’re talking really elaborate --plan hatched by he and Cersei.

Back in King’s Landing, as Jaime prepares the Lannister forces to march north and combat the dead, Cersei puts a stop to all that. She makes it clear that she was doing exactly what Jon wouldn’t do, lying through her teeth. Cersei tells her brother that she’s got an ace in the hole. Now that she’s secured favor with the Iron Bank, she’s got access to the Golden Company. It turns out, the Iron Bank has access to 20,000 soldiers, and Euron has just gone to pick them up.

"No one walks away from me," she says.

Whoever wins, the dead or Daenerys, Cersei plans to fight whatever is left with the Golden Company. Jaime, however, is not on board. After starting out the series as a guy who would push a kid out of a window to protect his relationship with his sister, she proves that she’s now more loyal to her unborn child than him. Meanwhile, he proves that he’s more loyal to his word than he used to be.

He attempts to leave but she has The Mountain block his path. He tells her that she can give the order to kill him if she has to. In a moment way more tense than anything else that’s happened this season, possibly in the series in general, she gives the order. The Mountain draws his sword, but Jaime calls her bluff, and leaves anyway without incident. Stripped of his Lannister garb, Jaime rides north just as snow starts to fall over King’s Landing for the first time in the series. Cersei is alone, and Jaime might just get to join the cool people in the fight to save the world. Perhaps it's time to start forgiving that whole King Slayer boy-crippling guy we met in Season 1?

Back at Winterfell, Sam Tarly arrives to help out Jon. Since he’s not there yet, he drops in on his other favorite Stark, Bran. The new Three-Eyed Raven then proved that his powers of insight don’t make him significantly smarter than the bookish Sam. Brandon believes that Jon is actually Jon Sand, a bastard born between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark in Dorn. However, Sam reveals what he (mostly Gilly) learned at the Citadel. Lyanna and Rhaegar were married in a secret ceremony. Robert’s Rebellion was, therefore, built on a lie and Jon Snow’s real name is revealed to be Aegon Targaryen… but we’ll keep calling him Jon for now.

In a moment that carried a heavy “ick” factor, as all of this is being revealed, Jon knocks on the door to Daenerys’ chambers and the two have sex. They’re technically aunt and nephew, but maybe we can give them a pass for not knowing this bit of information about each other? Then again, Jaime and Cersei’s incestous relationship started literally all of this, maybe we can’t pass pardons for incest willy-nilly?

In any case, the politics of family in Westeros are hardly the biggest concern. At The Wall, the army of the dead made its biggest move yet. After securing a dragon last week, the Night King rode it headlong at the magical structure, specifically designed to keep him from passing, and burns it with blue fire. That’s right, with just his dragon, he manages to take out an entire section of The Wall. The Night’s Watch is utterly powerless to do anything about it, and the episode ends with the army marching unencumbered, and without taking a single casualty, south.

Perhaps we’ll find that Arya and Sansa did Littlefinger a mercy when Season 8 rolls around. It’s not a great time to be a resident of Winterfell.

With that, as quickly as it began, the penultimate Season of “Game of Thrones” finished. What will happen next? When will it happen? Who will survive? With just six episodes left, the floor is open to wild speculation.