The Game of Thrones season 7 finale was epic on all fronts. "The Dragon and the Wolf" was a cavalcade of bombshell reveals. Questions that have lingered since episode one were answered with dramatic flourish. We learned that Jon Snow is not a bastard and not a Stark. Drum roll please, he is Aegon Targaryen, the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. The Wall does indeed come tumbling down, but by a wight dragon, not a magical horn from the books. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) turn the table on Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen). The Lannister siblings reunion goes exactly as expected. We're going to go a bit into the weeds with the books as context. It helps to explain the significance of these titanic events.
Let's start off with the atomic revelation that Jon Snow is Aegon Targaryen. His heritage has been one of the key mysteries. Bran (Isaac Hempsted Wright) tells Sam (John Bradley) that Jon is the bastard son of Rhaegar Targaryen and his aunt, Lyanna Stark. Sam remembers transcribing the secret diary of High Septon Maynard. Jon is not a bastard. Maynard annulled Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell. Then secretly married Rhaegar to a willing Lyanna. This means that Jon, aka Aegon, is the true heir to the Iron Throne.
Robert's Rebellion was based on a lie. Rhaegar did not kidnap and rape Lyanna. Rhaegar had two children with Elia Martell, Rhaenys and Aegon. In the show's lore, they were killed by The Mountain when Tywin Lannister sacked Kings Landing. Why would Rhaegar also name his third child, and second son Aegon? He believed in the prophecies of Azor Ahai, the prince that was promised, and of the three dragon riders. The Targaryen sigil of the Three-Headed Dragon refers to this. Westeros was conquered by Rhaegar's ancestor Aegon, with his two sisters, Rhaenys, Visenya, and their three dragons. It makes sense that he would name his children after them to fulfill the prophecy.
Rhaegar Targaryen was killed by Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident. Jaime Lannister killed his father, The Mad King Aerys II. Years later, his brother Viserys would be killed by Khal Drogo. Daenerys claim to the Iron Throne is based on her brothers and father's deaths. The claim is now void because Jon is Daenerys' nephew, her brother's son.
The season long sexual tension between Jon and Daenerys comes to fruition on the boat ride to the North. Hot and heavy gets nasty and weird when you factor in the incest. Daenerys is Jon's aunt. He's sworn loyalty to her, but doesn't know yet his true heritage. Developments are going to be explosive here. How will the two lovers react when they realize they are related? Let's not forget their conversation about her inability to have children. What if she does get pregnant? All signs point to Jon being Azor Ahai. This means that he will be a dragon rider next season. Fans have long pontificated that Daenerys and Jon were indeed two heads of the dragon. Who is the third? George R.R. Martin has long said it may not be a Targaryen. My guess, along with most people, is Tyrion.
The most satisfying element of the finale was seeing Littlefinger pay for his crimes. He spent the later part of the season slyly turning Sansa and Arya against each other. He planted the note Cersei (Lena Headey) forced Sansa to write. Then attempted to get Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) involved. Sansa saw through his scheme. He's lured in front of the north lords and forced to account for his many crimes. Let's not forget, the whole reason Ned Stark went to King's Landing was to investigate the murder of Jon Arryn. Sansa coldly recounts his other crimes. Betraying her father, killing her aunt, uncle, Joffrey, and selling her to the sadistic Boltons. I'm sure people were cheering at home when Arya slit his throat. He was easily the most treacherous character. The last scene of Arya and Sansa together brings the Starks full circle. They are back in Winterfell and united for the Great War to come.
The meeting at Dragon Pit was purely to convince Cersei to join the fight. The wight walker demonstration proved the threat was real. Cersei feigned anger at Jon for his loyalty to Daenerys. She also tricked Tyrion with her pregnancy. Her meeting with her hated little brother was pure duplicity. She was never going to send her armies north. Cersei allies with the Iron Bank of Braavos to hire the Golden Company of Essos, a mercenary army of 20,000 men. Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) did not return home, but went to pick them up in his ships. Cersei's betrayal is the last straw for Jaime. The scene where he leaves her is a long time coming. She is truly alone without her brother, lover, and best friend. What comes next for these two is up in the air.
The Greyjoy subplot has Theon recovering his nerve. He's insulted by Euron at the Dragon Pit, but given somewhat of a reprieve by Jon for his actions. The scene where Jon forgives Theon is instrumental. He takes a few kicks in the non-existent balls, but rallies the remaining men to rescue Yara. All signs point to a Euron vs. Theon battle on the open seas. I'm betting Theon will be instrumental in dealing with the Golden Company of Essos...if he doesn't get killed.
The Hound (Rory McCann) was at the center of a couple satisfying reunions. His in-your-face confrontation with the Mountain (Hafbor Julius Bjornsson) was awesome. The Clegane death match will certainly be a highlight next season. I also loved the Hound's conversation with Brienne. We got a rare smile from the curmudgeon when he learned that Arya was alive, at home, and fully capable of taking care of herself. Let's not forget dear Podrick (Daniel Portman). His sweet meeting with Tyrion was somewhat spoiled by Bronn's vulgarity. It's fantastic to see the minor characters get their time in such an important episode. The fates of the Hound, Brienne, Podrick, and Bronn are uncertain.
We finally arrive at the big enchilada, the breach of the wall. For years I've been wondering how the white walkers were going to destroy the mythical structure. It's entirely logical that a resurrected Viserion would blast an opening. The Night King is going to be an extremely formidable opponent as a dragon rider. In the books, Mance Rayder searched for the Horn of Joramun. It supposedly had the power to bring down the wall. It was never brought up in the show, so I'm glad they went with a more practical solution.
As an aside for the book readers, it looks like we won't see the characters of Lady Stoneheart (the resurrected Catelyn Stark) or Young Griff on the show. Griff was supposedly Rhaegar's first son, also called Aegon. He was rescued by Varys as a baby and posed as the son of an exiled knight. Their storylines do not fit in the show thread. It'll be interesting to see how these two are handled in the future books.
The Dragon and the Wolf ends on a threatening note with the undead pouring through the gap in the Wall. The end game for the show has arrived. The last characters standing have an army of 100,000 wights, their white walker masters, the Night King, and the undead Viserion to deal with. On top of their personal squabbles, incestuous relationships, and longest winter in a thousand years. Season 8 of Game of Thrones has a lot to live up to next year (hopefully) on HBO.