Not long left now, so the show’s got to make up its points anywhere it can find them. Luckily, with the army of the dead decisively wrecked two episodes ago, it’s left plenty of people to kill, have sex with, or have a dragon dropped on them.
The Fall of King’s Landing has the edge on the Battle of Winterfell off the bat, since both sides are alive. This episode’s kill count has its numbers swelled by the sea of extras requisite for any decently-sized battle scene, and this is clearly the show’s last great hurrah. If we ticked off every uncredited actor who got half a second of screen time on fire, we’d be here until Christmas, so as ever this will lean towards the named characters.
Varys: Executed for crimes he absolutely did commit. The show seems to be selling this as a tyrannical excess on Daenerys’s part, rather than what would happen to anyone who attempts a coup against their monarch.
Homeless Harry Strickland: Speared from behind, dying as uselessly as the rest of the Golden Company. Probably an interesting story behind their skulls-on-spears iconography, huh? Well, forget it, they’re gone now. I hereby grant him the ‘why did they bother’ award.
Unnamed Lannister officer: Killed by Grey Worm after surrendering (recipient of the ‘only following orders’ award) before he can try doing anything stupid, like defending himself.
Qyburn: Gets his head smashed in when he foolishly attempts to order around a murder-zombie three times his size, and catches the ‘Frankenstein was the monster’ award for succumbing to his own creation.
The Clegane brothers: The long-awaited Cleganebowl flops over the line from ‘battle’ into ‘wacky comedy’, at about the time Cersei just wanders off to let them have it out. It’s got all your favourite hits: the Hound swearing, the Mountain trying to pop someone’s eyes, and a ‘taking you with me’ bonus at the end.
Euron: Run through by Jaime, finally resolving that tedious love triangle, although without learning that it’s not his baby that Cersei’s carrying, and talking up his own importance right to the end. Call that the ‘days of our lives’ award.
Jaime/Cersei: Crushed in the bowels of the Red Keep, each apparently having learned absolutely nothing.
None – these days, the show seems to be making a straight choice between sex scenes and any serious combat. Daenerys tries to get something going with Jon, but there’s too much plot happening for him to get in the mood.
You could arguably put in a word for Jaime vs. Euron resolving their little love triangle like men, although Euron always seemed to be under the impression he was Cersei’s boyfriend, not her politically convenient bit of fun.
Yes, yes, oh dear God yes, and not before time. Of the unsung extras listed under the ‘killings’ category, the vast, vast, vast majority of those are down to dragonfire or dragonfire-related causes. Most of those are also unarmed civilians, but, y’know, war’s hell. Rather than this being a dragon-fight in an open field, like season 7’s ‘The Spoils of War’, this is Drogon turned loose on a city – finally bringing home the recurrent metaphor about dragons being the swords-and-sorcery equivalent of the atom bomb. And, also, finally demonstrating how the Targaryens were able to take over Westeros in the first place.
Dragonfire does now appear to be making things not simply burn, but also blow up (much like the scorpion bolts in the last episode), but that slight logical lapse is forgivable for how well it conveys just how destructive a dragon is. You could even call it fantastical, and the dragons are the only fantastical element the show’s got left – other than them it’s just people waving swords and arguing, and you can still get that today in certain inadvisable tourist spots.
All the dragon action provided in this episode is precisely the reason Rhaegal and Viserion dying so easily was quite so tragic. Seeing them all in action again would, quite simply, have been a spectacle other shows – and hell, most cinema – simply couldn’t match.