7 shockingly nice moments from the season finale of 'Game of Thrones.'

Welcome to “A Song of Nice and Fire” Upworthy’s weekly series recapping one of the most brutal shows on TV. Since brutality is not really in our wheelhouse, Eric March has taken it upon himself to dig deep, twist and turn, and squint really hard to see if he can find the light of kindness in all the darkness. He may not always succeed, but by gosh if he won’t try his best.

Here’s what he found on this week’s "Game of Thrones."


Welp. Image via HBO.

All nice things must end. True to form, this season of "Game of Thrones" concluded as all seasons must — with kindness, empathy, and respect.

Also, one hilariously brutal murder. But that's not why we're here!

Let's get to it.

1. The King's Landing grounds crew does a great job installing the chuppahs for the big meeting.  

"We could get married under one of these things behind me. Just saying." Image by Macall B. Polay/HBO.

With basically all the surviving main characters in town for a powwow, it's important to set up the right outdoor decor. What could be better than a series of traditional Jewish wedding canopies clearly stolen from the Rosenstein-Kaplowitz ceremony down the block?

It is a marriage of sorts, after all — in this case, a marriage of a few dozen people who really, really hate each other.

Luckily for the fate of humanity, what begins with a series of tense reunions (Bronn and Tyrion! The Hound and Brienne! Pod's penis and jokes!) eventually climaxes with a predictably distressing main event: the releasing of a zombie that sends Euron screwing off back to the Iron Islands (so it seems anyway, more on that later), Cersei into a terrified bout of conscience (so it seems anyway, more on that later), and Jon into his best Ned Stark impression, and then ends in a shockingly composed alliance of formerly bitter enemies.

Through it all, the discussion remains remarkably civil! And the participants deserve lots of credit for not slicing each others' throats.

But more importantly, big ups to the staff for setting the mood for all of our favorites to make a home together. Mazel tov!

2. Littlefinger teaches Sansa a fun game!

Winterfell takes playtime seriously. Two weeks ago, Arya and Littlefinger challenged each other to an epic round of hide-and-go-seek. This week, it was Littlefinger's turn to teach Sansa his favorite game: Always Assume the Worst in People and See How Their Actions Match That Assumption!

Honestly, it sounded kind of boring at first, but when they finally got to play, it was really exciting! "What's the worst reason you have for turning me against my sister?" Sansa asks Littlefinger to kick things off. Considering all the things Littlefinger did over the last seven seasons, the newly minted Lady Stark determines that, whatever his reason was, it's not good!

Oh, and you die if you lose, apparently. Sorry, Littlefinger.

Game, set, match. Image via HBO.

I'd say get 'em next time, but there will be no next time. Them's the breaks.

Meanwhile, it's become something of a begrudging love-fest between Stark sisters, who have found something like respect for one another amidst the secret multi-episode plotting to murder their enemies. "I was never going to be as good a lady as you," Arya admits. "You’re the strongest person I know," Sansa replies. Yeah, she still calls Arya annoying and strange, but sisters.

Speaking of...

3. None of the Lannister siblings can bring themselves to kill each other.

Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

After talking a big game about offing Tyrion for the past three seasons, Cersei hesitates when the opportunity finally presents itself (his apologizing to her for the deaths of her kids and pouring her a glass of red wine probably didn't hurt). Later, she refuses to sever Jaime's head from his body, despite his defying a direct order to stay and help her re-re-re-re-conquer the continent. Family first!

Honorable mention to Ser Gregor for ominously pulling out his sword a couple of times but failing to use it. That guy is mercy incarnate.

4. Theon kinda, sorta, totally wins a fight thanks to none other than Ramsay Bolton (RIP).

Miss u buddy. Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Fresh off a get-right-with-yourself pep talk from Jon, Pyke's large adult son actually stumbles into something resembling a win, beating the crap out of a burly Ironborn dude to convince a bunch of other burly Ironborn dudes to sail after his sister — all thanks to "Game of Thrones" reigning MVP of kindness and excellent source of nutrition for dogs, Ramsay Bolton.

For a while, the brawl appears pretty one-sided, particularly when the random reaver starts viciously kneeing Theon between his thighs. Thankfully, Ramsay had the foresight to cut off anything in that general area that could be injured. Sure, Theon didn't much appreciate it at the time, but sometimes we don't realize the gifts our friends have given us until it's too late and we're punching a beardy sailor to death on the beach.

5. Cersei does what's best for the realm for ... 37 minutes.

Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Near the end of DragonPitCon 2017, Cersei surprises everyone by announcing that Team Lannister is on board with the plan to nail the Army of the Dead to the wall before dealing with the thorny question of who should sit on the Iron Throne.

It's surprising, in part, because it's a total and obvious (to everyone but Jaime) lie. As usual, instead of helping save humanity, Cersei is secretly scheming to bring 20,000 heavily armed mercenaries across the Narrow Sea to retake the rest of the Seven Kingdoms while the rest of the living and dead are busy tearing each other to pieces.

Still, for a little more than half an hour, she remained outwardly committed to doing the right thing.

For Cersei, that's got to be some kind of record.

6. Sam and Bran idiot-proof this (and last) season's biggest revelations about Jon Snow's true parentage.

"Hey, Sam, thanks for helping me get to the other side of the Wall so my friends could die and I could learn to be a sullen psychic wizard. By the way, did you know Jon is actually the bastard son of dead Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and my aunt Lyanna Stark, which I am now telling you even though I have already showed you?"

"No, actually, I didn't, Bran. But I recently discovered that Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly married. Actually, Gilly discovered that and I ignored her at the time, but somehow I know that now and am not giving her any credit for it because that's what men have done throughout history and also do in fiction."

Get it? Geeeeetttttt ittttt???? Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

"Right on. So everything the audience thinks they know about all this is double super mega confirmed, Robert's Rebellion was based on a lie and Jon is actually the true heir to the Iron Throne and has been this whole time."

"Seems like it. But what about the Dragon Queen?"

"She is his aunt. Right now they are having sex on a boat."

"Weird."

"Yeah. Oh, Jon's name is actually Aegon Targaryen."

"Wow, thanks. That actually is a new piece of information."

"Cool! Good talk. Thanks, bud."

"Same! Good luck conveniently knowing everything at all times."

7. The ice dragon generously proves that walls don't work.

Image via HBO.

Obviously peeved by the current state of the immigration debate, Viserion provides a real-life simulation of what people from China to Berlin to El Paso have known for years: A wall might intimidate some, but if someone is determined enough to get to the other side, they will — whether by scaling it, flying over it, or with knocking it down with magical fire-ice breath.

Of course, immigrants are people seeking a better life for themselves and their families and the white walkers are ruthless godlike monsters who want to see all Westerosi life extinguished, but hey, it's complicated. Thanks to Viserion for urging us to start a conversation.

We might have to wait two freaking years 'til next season after all.

Random Acts of Niceness

  • Everybody respects Brienne! Even the people (cf. the Hound) she's tried to kill respect her. At least we've got that.
  • Some comedy club in King's Landing clearly gave Euron some time at an open mic to work on his material. It's still not really there, but with practice, who knows?
  • George R.R. Martin does British history nerds a solid by setting up a pretty clear parallel between Jon and Dany's quest to take back the Iron Throne and the Glorious Revolution of 1689. See, it's all about Aegons and Williams. If the first Aegon Targaryen — Aegon the Conqueror — is William the Conqueror, who sailed from Normandy to become King of England in 1066, then Aegon/Jon has gotta be William of Orange who, along with his Queen Mary, invaded Britain from the Netherlands and initiated some democratic reforms, passing a Bill of Rights that greatly curtailed the Crown's power! Obviously, that's what he's going for, right? It's not just me, right? Hello? Anyone still there?

That's a wrap, folks! See you next season when, presumably, Tormund and Beric totally survived that fall, Jon and Dany learn that genetic sexual attraction makes their union completely healthy and normal, and the Night King learns that offering free ice dragon rides to local kids can be an invaluable tool of soft power.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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