Game of Thrones: “The Last of the Starks” delivers on the action, but at a cost to its women


This week’s episode of Game of Thrones delivers on the shocking moments and devastating moments fans were looking for during the Battle of Winterfell—but the writers could have given more thought to the execution of it all.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. 

If fans thought the episode following the Battle of Winterfell would be slow or quiet, they were in for a surprise this week. “The Last of the Starks” takes the series back to its earlier seasons, showing Cersei with the upper hand—and taking no mercy when it comes to killing off major characters. (Did anyone see Rhaegal’s death coming?) 

“The Last of the Starks” also contains quite a few touching character moments, particularly during its earlier scenes. The funeral following the Battle of Winterfell is without a doubt a tearjerker of an affair, as are all of the farewells before Daenerys’ army sets off for King’s Landing. (Well, all of the farewells except for Jon’s nonexistent one to Ghost. Not cool, Jon.)

But even if this week’s episode delivers when it comes to action, intensity, and character interactions, there’s one problem with “The Last of the Starks”: It takes ten steps backward when it comes to the women of the series.

Game of Thrones has always been praised for showcasing powerful women, but fans are beginning to criticize the showrunners for their treatment of their female characters. In fact, droves of fans took to Twitter last night and this morning to complain about the direction the show is headed in.

The most controversial moment of “The Last of the Starks” is, of course, the unexpected death of Missandei. Fans have pointed out that the decision to kill Daenerys’ closest friend and advisor was unncessary and most likely done for mere shock value. But viewers are already well aware of what Cersei is capable of, and we didn’t need her to kill the only black woman on the show to further Daenerys’ Mad Queen arc. And speaking of problematic…

The entire eighth season of Game of Thrones has taken Daenerys to a much darker place, one that’s left fans questioning whether her character is meant to be a hero or a villain. At this point, it seems clear that she’s becoming the Mad Queen, but what message does that send viewers? How are millions of watchers supposed to feel that the only two women with any chance of ruling Westeros are depicted as irrational, tyrannical and unfit to lead—and that a level-headed man is the solution to all of Westeros’ problems?

We’d also be remiss not to mention the sailing and crashing of the ship that is Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. Fans were excited to see these two finally own up to their feelings for one another, and it seemed that Brienne would get a much-deserved happy ending… that is, until Jaime decided to take off for King’s Landing, probably to put an end to Cersei and her cruelty.

And while this move is definitely in character for Jaime, having Brienne sob and beg for him to remain at Winterfell was not in character for her at all. Also, why did it seem like her virginity was used as a plot device for this entire setup? Did it really matter, in the long run, whether she’d slept with anyone before?

Brienne’s storyline, paired with Daenerys’ begging and weeping about Jon’s claim to the throne at the beginning of the episode, suggests that the writers were determined to highlight the “weeping woman” stereotype as many times as possible during the 90-minute episode. Because, really, when has Daenerys Targaryen ever begged for anything?

But according to Sansa, all of this weeping will make them stronger. At least, she tells the Hound as much when he suggests that he would have protected her from the Littlefingers and Ramsay Boltons of the world had she left King’s Landing with him back in season two. And while there’s no denying that Sansa’s struggles have turned her into a political force to be reckoned with, there’s just something about her outwardly stating that her abuse has made her better that just shouldn’t sit well with anyone.

Overall, this week’s episode highlighted one thing for certain: We still have a long way to go when it comes to writing women in fantasy stories. And giving them a seat at the writer’s table would certainly help us make those strides.

15 shows to watch if you like Game of Thrones. light. Related Story

Game of Thrones continues next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

Watch Game of Thrones for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels.