So, there we have it. After eight years, 73 episodes and eight seasons, Game of Thrones has finally met its grisly end. And, much like the fashion of some of its iconic characters, that ending wasn’t exactly picturesque. As Ramsay Bolton once infamously said, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Spoilers ahead, obviously. So if you haven’t seen the finale episode ‘The Iron Throne’ I advise you to step away from your screen, dive in for one last trip to Westeros and return when you’re all caught up. Otherwise, let’s get started…
The 73rd and final episode of Game of Thrones opened with a distraught Tyrion, wandering the ruins of the once bustling King’s Landing. Strewn with ash from Daenerys’ descent into full-on Mad Queen mode, it immediately set the tone for the rest of the episode. The damage is done, and now these characters are left to pick up the pieces of a fractured kingdom. The characters we’ve come to love over the past eight years are left to grapple with the same questions as the audience after the end of last week’s episode, ‘The Bells’. Dany’s seemingly impulsive (and, arguably out of character) decision to roast King’s Landing to the ground was met with resistance from pretty much everyone that was once an allay to the Mother of Dragons. Jon pleaded with her armies to stop the bloodshed, Arya got to witness the carnage and destruction first-hand, Tyrion desperately tried to save his siblings… all to no avail. Dany did as Dany pleased.
Apparently, the Mad Queen thought she was acting with the kingdom’s best interests at heart. She gives a rousing speech to the seemingly infinite leagues of Dothraki and Unsullied, claiming that she will liberate the entire world. I think she may have got the words ‘liberate’ and ‘conquer’ confused, but hey, nobody wants to argue with her. I mean, she has a dragon, man.
Nobody, that is, except from Tyrion Lannister. Hand of the Queen. The smartest man in Westeros. He confronts her, ripping off his pin that showed his allegiance to her, sending it clattering down the stairs in front of her army of devout followers. Probably not the smartest of moves to do it in front of literally everyone Tyrion, but hey.
Tyrion is imprisoned, because, well, she couldn’t let him show her up in front of her swords like that, and dear, sweet Jon gives him a visit. Tyrion stands by his decision, saying it was for the good of the kingdom (echoing a similar statement from Varys last week). Jon, frustratingly, irritatingly, infuriating still drones on that “she’s ‘is queeeeeeen” which apparently gives her free rein to do whatever the hell she likes, including burning children alive. Who knew? Finally, Tyrion hits the message home when he brings up his two sisters, who would literally rather have a wild night out on the town with Joffrey than ever bend the knee to the psycho queen.
Cut to Dany in the throne room. She approaches the Iron Throne, hand outstretched, and cradles the swords lovingly – almost a mirror of the vision she’d had all of those seasons ago. Jon swings by with a last-ditch attempt for Dany to see the error of her ways. The Queen tells her lover/nephew that she’d always pictured the throne to be bigger, much bigger, but Jon isn’t interested in swapping childhood stories. He goes straight in for the punch, challenging her views as a leader. She tries to get him on board, saying that they can liberate the rest of the known world together, and leans in for a kiss. Jon kisses her back, and for a moment of hideous confusion, we’re not sure who stabbed who but oh my god someone is definitely dying right now. Dany falls to the floor, the stern face of a ruler now gone, replaced with a look of betrayal.
Drogon swoops in, looks as if he’s gonna crisp Jon up for killing his mother, but instead melts down the Iron Throne to nothing. So, I guess no-one is sitting on the throne, now? Neat.
The time comes for the rest of the cast to pick a new ruler. Sam, bless him, suggests a democracy, which is met to nothing but laughter. Please, Sam, I haven’t heard such a ridiculous idea since the Dothraki charged in head-first at the Battle for Winterfell, killing most of their cavalry in one fell swoop. Tyrion, imprisoned for treason by Grey-Worm, for some reason suggests that Bran takes up the throne, and Bran is all like “sure thing, all those years playing raven flight simulator finally played off.” From here, Sansa stakes her claim to rule the North, Arya decides to travel the world, Tyrion becomes the Hand to Bran, the remaining cast of side characters form a new council and Jon gets exiled to the Wall for treason. (Wait? Wasn’t Tyrion about to be killed for that too? Okay, whatever).
The show’s closing shot is Jon going north of the Wall with a band of Wildlings, disappearing beyond the trees forevermore. George R R Martin said it would be bittersweet, and it certainly was. Believe it or not from my sarcastic tone, I actually liked this episode and I’m somewhat pleased with how it ended.
With a show building momentum towards a grand conclusion – having hyped who’ll eventually sit on that throne for months before its release – it’s hard to actually live up to that hype, which is why some fans are left with a bitter taste in their mouths. I get it, I do. Bran was waaaay down my list of candidates to sit on the Iron Throne (or, rather, the melted throne), and when I watched the episode bleary-eyed and caffeine-deprived at 2am I couldn’t believe what was unfolding before my eyes. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Bran can essentially see all of history, he can see all of the wrong and hurt that the rulers have inflicted upon the land and its people since the dawn of time, and be the best ruler he can possibly be, armed with more knowledge than anyone else in the entirety of Westeros.
Does this mean that the decision for Bran to rule is exempt from criticism in a narrative perspective? Absolutely not. Bran’s essentially been useless for the entire season; his only use being to lure the Night King out so his far more useful sis could shank him and literally save the friggin’ world. Of course, it’s likely that Bran knew how everything would pan out and purposely sat about lecturing Tyrion about his awesome new wheelchair knowing that the evil would eventually be defeated, but it’s disappointing to see as a viewer. We could have had Bran travelling through time, ensuring that everything worked out as it should. We could have seen him warging into Dany’s dragon and bringing about her end that way! We could have seen him do a hundred and one things that would have been better than seeing him sit there doing literally nothing at all. For him to end up as the victor in all of this, while our hero, Jon, is banished despite the fact that he saved the world from yet another tyrant isn’t a particularly satisfying ending.
Sansa’s character arc, on the other hand, is essentially perfect, at least in my humble opinion. She’s gone from being a naive little girl who was only interested in marrying a prince and having her happily ever after, to a strong force to be reckoned with, and a queen in her own right, all whilst bringing about the North’s independence.
Arya, too (though I might be being biased here because that little badass is my absolute fave), choosing to give Gendry the boot and instead wanting to travel the seas to discover “what’s West of Westeros” is perfect. Can we get a spinoff with the faceless assassin fucking shit up on the other side of the world, please?
Outside of this episode, though, I can see why some fans are disappointed. There didn’t appear to be that much of a point for Jon being the heir to the throne, only serving to drive a wedge between himself and Dany. While it did serve a narrative point in that regard, it just feels as though it could’ve been explored further, if only we had a few more episodes to watch it take place. Likewise with the Mad Queen arc itself. Although there have been points leading us to this point along the way, a more gradual descent into actual insanity as opposed to rash anger would’ve been more satisfying to watch. And, as stated, Bran was a bit of a… random choice to end up on the throne, really. At least in the world of conventional story-telling. It relies on us to focus on the lore of his character rather than his actual characterisation to appreciate the choice, which is… odd.
Having said this, though, I really don’t think the show has been quite as disastrous as a lot of fans have been saying. Certainly not enough to create an actual petition to remake the season (honestly, that’s kind of insulting to everyone who’s worked on this show for the past year. Not just the writers but every crew member and every actor, too).
Personally, I’ve actually enjoyed Season 8 the most out of every season. Never has there been a show that’s made me feel so anxious every time a character has appeared, wondering if they were about to get suddenly beheaded or incinerated in the blink of an eye. I’ve never seen such beautiful cinematography, nor a battle as epic as the one featured in episode 3. The acting, too, has been superb, with Emilia Clarke in particular doing a phenomenal job portraying Dany’s hurt and angst and determination. The music has given me goosebumps, and the plot has had me swearing and cheering and in disbelief.
Does that mean I think that this season has been the best, objectively? Definitely not. You can see that the writers (and, at times, the directors) haven’t taken as much care with their show this time round. From rushed, forced character arcs to Starbucks cups and water bottles being littered about the set. This season and the finale definitely do have their flaws, but, honestly, what show doesn’t?
I’m not saying that show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss should be exempt from criticism, of course. If they’d have handled the writing as delicately as they did in the show’s glory days it would’ve been even more phenomenal than it already is. But perhaps a mixture of overtaking Martin’s plot and general fatigue led us to the path we have now.
Was the long-awaited finale to Game of Thrones perfect? Absolutely not.
But did I enjoy it? Hell to the yeah.
To fill that violent-sized hole in your heart, check out my spoiler-free review of Netflix’s show ‘Dead To Me’.