Major spoilers ahead for the Game of Thrones finale.
So it was Bran all along? Can honestly say I didn't see that coming.
When the council of the most powerful people in Westeros (a.k.a. any major characters left alive) decided that the next king would be "Bran the Broken" (ugh) could anybody really say that they predicted it? Was the boy who spent most of the series on a mystical quest, only to return less of a person and more of a raven, and also disconnected from his Stark lineage, ever a frontrunner for the Throne? If showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wanted to go straight for the surprise factor, then the Game of Thrones finale was a complete success. But it's not enough.
In the end, Game of Thrones left us with a definitive ending that wraps up the series and maybe leaves some people satisfied. However, it all raises more questions than it answers.
Does it make sense that for eight seasons, Game of Thrones positted that politics among humans didn't matter when there was a serious, global threat ready to destroy it all, only to have that erased in the final episode by reinstating the monarchy anyway (albeit a modified version of that system)? Why would a council of nobles let a prisoner decide on the fate of the kingdom? Why would Jon get sent to the Night's Watch when there's no reason for the Night's Watch to exist? Does this set up that Arya spin-off that George R. R. Martin always wanted? How can people lose a giant dragon? Did they really just pull a "I should write a book about this?"
Eight seasons of build-up and planted material and this is the best they can come up with?
Game of Thrones has been a lot of things, simultaneously an example of the heights television as a medium can reach while also showcasing some of its worst tendencies. It's been exhilarating and exhuasting, confounding yet satisfying. Considering all those emotions, the series finale was in line with what the show has been all along. There were a few moments that felt earned and cathartic, but it was mostly confusing. Eight seasons of build-up and planted material and this is the best they can come up with?
This episode is mostly dialogue and slow, meandering shots set to a silent audio track. We open with Tyrion walking through the ruins of King's Landing. He slowly, and I mean slowly walks over to the Red Keep and starts trudging through the rubble. That's where he finds Jamie's golden hand. He removes some rocks and reveals the bodies of his siblings — yes, Cersei's too. He's heartbroken and gets a moment of grief, but it's never brought up again. We have conquerers to catch up with.
Jon is at the steps leading to the Iron Throne along with scores of Unsullied and Dothraki that somehow survived the battles at Winterfell and King's Landing. Drogon is flying around and lands behind Daenerys, giving her the illusion of dragon wings. It's one of the best shots in the series and showcases the technical talent behind the show. It reminds us that this show is beautiful. Even as ash and snow fall on King's Landing, reminding us of the scores of death that Daenerys left in her wake, it's hard to not be captured by the beauty of it.
But all of that highlights just how poor the writing has been this season, and that continues here. Daenerys gives a speech to her followers in front of a giant Targaryen banner (her likeness to other tyrants throughout history isn't lost here). She says that they'll continue to free people throughout the world now that they've freed the people of King's Landing, which is odd coming from somebody who slaughtered only when she found it necessary and left innocents alone.
Tyrion finally does something smart and tears off his Hand of the Queen pin in front of Daenerys. She accuses him of treason. He goes to jail.
Next, we get a painfully long scene where Tyrion, now a prisoner, tries to convince Jon that he can't keep following Daenerys. What's problematic about this scene, besides its length, is that it's the only time we get any "insight" into Daenerys' mindset. The show wants us to believe that Tyrion is right about her and that everything he says is truth, but what about Daenerys? The dragon queen is so disconnected from the rest of the show that she gets almost no point of view. The moment where she walks up to the Iron Throne, runs her hands over it, and tells Jon about how she dreamed about it as a child is the only bit we get from her this episode. Everything else is from Tyrion. Like Cersei last week, she's been tossed aside, her narrative given to somebody else, which only makes the next scene tougher to watch.
When Jon approaches Daenerys at the Iron Throne, we can guess what's going to happen. At this point, Daenerys needs to die, and she does. They kiss, but Jon stabs her, which I think we're supposed to see as an ultimate betrayal. Drogon flies up and finds his mother's body and just starts roasting the place. However, instead of burning Jon, he burns the Iron Throne, melting it away before picking up Daenerys' body and flying away. I didn't know that dragons had a great sense of narrative irony, but apparently, they've been following the series closely and are really into the symbolism.
I didn't know that dragons had a great sense of narrative irony, but apparently they've been following the series closely and are really into the symbolism.
Things jump into conclusion territory after this. Tyrion is led out to the pit where he sees a council of familiar faces. All the heads of the houses left in Westeros — and main characters that aren't actually important but are here anyway — are deciding what to do with Tyrion and Jon, but also what to do about government. Grey Worm is still vengeful and wants them both dead. Obviously, the Starks don't want Jon dead, but they decide that it'll be up to whoever is the new king (not queen, of course) to put out the punishments. At one point Edmure Tully, who's been a Frey prisoner for seasons now, speaks up and Sansa tells him to sit down, which might be the highlight of the episode (more on Sansa being the only winner here later). However, Tyrion, who I will remind you is a prisoner, decides that he'll nominate Bran and constitute what is essentially an electoral college for monarchs and everybody agrees. Jon will be sent back to the Night's Watch and everybody else gets to live their lives. Bran's council gathers for a meeting, Arya goes sailing to the west to see what's there, Brienne writes down Jamie's legacy in the Kingsguard book, and Jon goes beyond the Wall with the Freefolk. Happily ever after, right?
A lot of the conclusions make sense in theory. Bran is one of the few people left that has no need for power or vanity, so him becoming king is a logical choice. Jon being sent back to the Night's Watch is a full circle, sending him back to where he had felt the most welcome and out of the way of the Westerosi politics that were above him. It being revealed that the "Song of Ice and Fire" from the book series' title was actually a book that will chronicle the war for generations to come harkens back to the idea that stories are what tie people together. It ties in with the idea that the series' (more the book than the show) emphasis on myths and legends as actual history that we should learn from and work to not repeat.
The North becomes an independent kingdom and Sansa becomes Queen in the North, in what is definitely the only earned moment in the show's finale. The North has always done its own thing and Sansa's sense of loyalty to her home and her dedication to keeping it safe means that she deserves the title. Arya decides she's going to sail west of Westeros to see what's there, echoing a query she had in Season 6.
However, even with some decent moments, the Game of Thrones finale leaves me wanting. Sure there are pieces here that seem like they would add up to satisfaction, but characters feel skipped over and opportunities are completely wasted. Brienne gets to be a knight in the Kingsguard, but her big moment in the finale involves her writing lies in Jamie's entry in the Kingsguard's history book and then not bothering to start her own entry. Brienne is a character that's been about honor and knighthood and her arc this season, which involved her becoming a love-stricken puppy all about Jamie, is insulting.
Then there's Jon, who finds out that he's not only a trueborn Stark, but a Targaryen and that's never brought up again, nor does it have any implications beyond Daenerys' threat towards the Starks. He returns to the Night's Watch, but there's no Night's Watch and no reason for a Night's Watch to exist at this point. The Wall is down, the Wildlings are allies, and all the wights are gone. What was the point of the move then? Symbolism?
The Unsullied and Dothraki are sent back to Essos to continue what Daenerys started, but does that mean they're just going to slaughter a bunch of innocent people now? What about "Bran the Broken" as a god awful moniker for the new king? Reducing Bran to his injuries when he's literally a magical creature with all-knowing abilities is simplistic at best.
Game of Thrones has been an almost all-consuming idea for all eight of its seasons, but especially this last one. It's tough to say if it would ever have lived up to the potential planted in the first episode, but now we know it never will. Sure plot threads are tied up in adequate ways and some characters get proper sendoffs, but the disservice it did to many of them is hard to forgive. Daenerys, who became the series' big bad despite never earning that, went down unceremoniously and was just carried off. Jon ends up back where he started. The Westerosi monarchy is barely better than it was before and there's little to justify that Weiss and Benioff were trying to make a point with that.
But this is the Game of Thrones we're stuck with, for better or worse.
Who died in this episode?
- The idea that anybody would learn their lesson.
- Any hope that maybe the showrunners also learned their lesson.
- It's over now. IT'S OVER.
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