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'Game of Thrones' review Episode 4: Daenerys is left vulnerable

Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington appear in a

Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington appear in a scene from "Game of Thrones." Credit: HBO via AP / Helen Sloan

Well, at least no one will complain about the darkness in this latest "Game of Thrones" episode — the third until last, before the glorious end arrives. It was all as clear as day, but, oh, what a day that was.

After last week's "The Long Night," there seemed to be only one place for Daenerys Targaryen and allies to head in "The Last of the Starks" — and no chance of that to the North and Castle Black or what's left of it. No: To the South from Winterfell they went, "We will rip her out" — Cersei Lannister, of course — "root and stem," Dany promised Sunday.

And of course so much for promises. There were two huge deaths, along with half a dozen scenes that ranked among the most momentous of the entire series (that's right — entire).

Where to begin? At that tragic end:

While Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) might not seem like a "major" character in the overall scheme of the series, that's probably misleading. She appeared in fully half the episodes beginning back in the third season, as steadfast ally to Daenerys Stormborn, and in an obvious sense, the one true ally who symbolized more than anyone else the righteousness of Dany's Iron Throne quest — certainly more than Dany herself.

A former slave freed by the Dragon Queen, Missandei joined the cause and by her presence alone ennobled it. Thanks to Missandei, Daenerys' quest was no longer just about Dany, but it became in part a humanitarian mission. Missandei saw to that, and so did Jorah Mormont. And with them, in just two weeks, Dany's two most important allies have fallen.

So yeah, Missandei, you'll be missed but methinks your vengeance will be sweet — even if you're not around to witness it.   

Then there was the dragon Rhaegal, certainly Dany's other treasured ally — shot from the sky by Euron in one truly shocking moment that went a long way toward evening Cersei Lannister's odds in the coming fight. By stripping Dany of Rhaegal and leaving her just Drogon, Daenerys is now officially vulnerable, or more than at any point over the last 60-odd episodes.

That vulnerability was in a real sense the big overall theme of Sunday, with Dany's claim to that wretched piece of hardware, the Iron Throne, no longer a certainty and perhaps far from a certainty. Among those momentous scenes, this one: Tyrion and Varys, plotting the future of postwar King's Landing as calmly, or urgently, as FDR and Churchill planned the future of postwar Europe at Yalta in 1945.

It was an amazing encounter, reduced to a single proposition: Who would make the greatest ruler of Westeros after Cersei is deposed? "Who would make a better ruler?" asked Varys, rhetorically because he had clearly cast his lot with Jon Snow by this critical point. "He's temperate and measured. He's a man."

Tyrion's comeback was Tyrionesque: "I don't think … [male genitalia] is a true qualification. I'm sure you would agree." Siding with Jon, Varys pushed back, then ended with this pronouncement: "Each of us have a choice to make. I pray we choose wisely." Tyrion does a double-take because he is wondering as are we: Did Varys just say what I thought he said?

One consequential scene followed another Sunday night. Dany — for example — demands that Jon keep the secret of his true parentage to themselves, and then, a beat and a scene later, Sansa, then Arya, pressure Jon about his blood ties to them. He then is forced to reveal that secret (or asks Bran to do so), which now calls into question his loyalty to Dany.

All of which leads me to what seems like another obvious point to be made about Sunday night. With just two episodes to go, "Game of Thrones" suddenly doesn't feel like a series that's getting ready to wrap, but a series on the threshold of something new, something thrilling.

(Just how exciting? Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. Well, is that exciting enough?)

After the brilliant "The Long Night," "Game of Thrones" returned with an episode possibly even better, and certainly richer, and — in those two deaths — an episode every bit as tragic. Oh lord of the Seven Kingdoms, how we're gonna miss this show.

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