And now all of our collective watches have ended…but that doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it? Look, as I made very clear last week, your expectations for this final season set you on the path for whether you would enjoy it or not, regardless of what happened. My thoughts were made up the minute David and Dan announced they needed only 13 more episodes to tell the story. With no actual source material off of which to go, they swung wildly for the fences, and in many areas over the course of the last two seasons, they made some miscalculations. However – and this is a big however – The way they tied it all together, the way the plot threads climaxed, the way they sent off so many of our major characters, I…absolutely loved. I thought it was a truly sensational finale that did justice to the 5/7ths of a book series on which it is based. It quickly dispensed with the plot people thought would happen, and then charted a path forward in ways no one seemed to know about. There’s nowhere else to go but to dive in headfirst, so for one final time…who’s with me?
We get back to slow and boring Game of Thrones again, you guys! Tyrion walks among the ruins of King’s Landing, surveying the death and destruction Daenerys has wrought. He ultimately finds his siblings and crumbles under the weight of their fate, with Peter Dinklage selling every last minute. When I was watching this, I wondered if this was more or less going to be all we got from Tyrion throughout the episode, but as it turns out, he had seemingly half of all lines of dialogue for the finale. But you know what? He’s the talkiest man in Westeros, and he talks a good talk. With Grey Worm fully consumed by the death of Missandei and ever loyal to his queen, he executes the surrendered captives much to the dismay of Jon and Davos. This brings us to Daenerys on the steps and what might be the best visual in the history of television:
The storm is brewing and winter has come. Daenerys Targaryen, first of her name, is no more. Darth Daenerys has emerged and she is victorious. But a personal win does not a kingdom make, and the seeds of her demise are beginning to sow. With Tyrion arrested, Jon and Tyrion have a heart to heart, and this scene cuts to the heart of what so much of this series has been about. You don’t get into a position of absolute power without facing the consequences of owning that power. I know I always comment on acting, but Kit Harington flipped a switch these last two seasons from being an OK actor to being such a standout. You can see the gears churning in Jon’s head as Tyrion is reasoning out what needs to be done. It’s so perfect, which brings us to the pivotal moment…
If I had to add a criticism, it’s unfortunate that it comes during the Daenerys/Jon scene. The scene itself was OK, but I couldn’t help but feeling that there was a prior scene missing. It went from Arya and Jon, to Tyrion and Jon, to Dany and Jon, to his killing Dany. While the dialogue was fine, it just felt like there was a missed opportunity for a little more buildup. Call it yet another casualty of a season whose fate was decided three years ago. But the culmination of this scene shook me to pieces. Drogon instinctually knows what happened to Dany, and he’s hot on the case. Now – Jon is a dragon, and fire cannot kill a dragon, so, even if Drogon had unleashed fury on him…would it work? In the end, Drogon decides that if his mother can’t have the throne, then no one can. The final shots of him soaring off to who knows where (well, Bran) are haunting.
Weeks later, Jon is a prisoner, and Tyrion is put on trial in a way only he knows how to best: both escape successfully with his life, crown a king, and somehow wind up that very king’s hand. One of the things I loved so much about this finale boils down to this scene. It was a scene no one expected (Tyrion on trial in front of the Starks and other lords of Westeros), it was a scene that felt so different to everything that came before it, and it had an outcome that very few people were talking about. There’s certainly been lots of chatter about Jon ruling, or Sansa, or even Tyrion…but because I do my best to avoid theories, I had not myself heard about the possibility of Bran becoming king. But I kind of…love it? It pays off the conversation from earlier this season, when Tyrion sat down with Bran to hear his life’s story. Tyrion is a consumer of information who dispenses it wherever he goes, even if his mouth sometimes gets him into trouble. The best ruler is one who doesn’t want it, but can dispense justice justly. In his first act as ruler of the seven kingdoms, Bran the Broken, first of his name, grants secession to his northern territory without a drop of bloodshed. Long may he reign. And Sansa Stark, first of her name is crowned Queen of the North. Long may she reign.
The last 15 minutes or so of the episode were largely coda to the main events, setting our characters on their paths for their various spinoffs (kidding). Let’s examine where each of the characters ended up:
Ghost: Ends up back in Jon’s arms. Fans still not happy. Nothing pleases them and they are joyless.
Drogon: Flies off into the great unknown carrying his dearly departed mother.
Ser Yohn and Robin: Are alive and existent.
Yara: Ruler of the Iron Islands, and Dany stan to the end.
Edmure: Alive and visibly shaken by his 5-season long imprisonment. Thinks that your whole family getting killed at your wedding gives you the story worth being kick, and throws his hat in the 2020 Democratic race because why not, everyone else is doing it. Is the John Hickenlooper of Westeros.
Bronn: Finally gets his fookin’ castle, and all very many titles that follow suit. Succeeding Littlefinger as Master of Coin is not an easy feat, but if anyone’s up to it, it’s Bronn. I also think that Tyrion realizes that with the debt finally paid, Bronn has largely been more loyal to him than anyone.
Davos: From Smuggler of Onions, to Stannis’ Hand of the King, to Jon’s Public Relations Manager, Davos has himself held a lot of titles, but settling for Master of Ships seems fairly apt. I get the feeling that as time went on, the writers realized that Davos had hardly any impact on the plot, but just liked him too damn much to get rid of him.
Ser Brienne: Probably has my favorite arc of any character – she gets to write the storied history of Jaime Lannister, and she colours it with all the complication that comes with being Jaime fookin’ Lannister. She also becomes a member of the Small Council. I’ve seen some hot takes on her already online and I am DISPLEASED. She is a human person who is allowed to experience things she’s never experienced before, like the horrible terribleness of someone breaking up with you. It doesn’t undo Jaime’s character any more than it undoes hers. I get that people have this feeling of what they think Brienne should be, but that doesn’t make it right. I love her character and I think she was served well.
(Ser!) Pod: Knight to the king – yes, Pod!
Tormund: Has to return his adopted pet to his former owner. Returns home to forest.
Grey Worm: Is loyal to his queen to the bitter end, and even turns into a bit of a villain by the end. He also *sniffle* sets sail for the Isle of Naath to buy a condo and live his days out, dreaming of Missandei for all eternity.
Sam: After getting laughed off the stage at Open Mic Night at the Dragonpit, he resigns to his fate of Grand Maester of Westeros. Seems a better choice than Maester Pycelle tbh. He ultimately writes A Song of Ice and Fire, and many theorists the world over pat themselves on the back.
Gilly: Gets the short shrift and doesn’t show up. Sorry, Gilly. #JusticeforGilly #Gillyforspinoff
Bran: Spends years getting into place for what he ultimately knows will result in a boy who can’t walk becoming a king no one asked for. This was so far away from anything I’d ever imagined but hot damn if I didn’t laugh at Bran smugly enjoying everyone realize that he’d known this all along. Even if you didn’t like it can we agree that the Bran memes that follow will make it worth it?
Sansa: My favorite character of all those remaining becomes the queen of her own people. She is her mother in the flesh, although has the fashion of Cersei. I almost cried when they said she would be queen.
Arya: I’ve called this many times over. She was never going to go home to Winterfell. That was just never going to happen. She is the lone wolf, and her journey lies beyond the realms of (hu)men. That final montage of her, Sansa, and Jon gearing up for their charted destinies works so well for me. Shout out to the costume department and Michele Clapton.
Tyrion: Crowned Hand of the King for the third time in his life. Hands don’t seem to last long, so let’s hope he sticks this one out. The ultimate wordsmith, it’s no wonder GRRM always saw himself in Tyrion.
Daenerys: Hoisted by her own petard, her ambitions get the best of her, and she becomes the true queen of the ashes. The glints in her eyes say it all as she walks through the throne room, ever the image she once saw as she walked through The House of the Undying. I don’t know what I’ll do without Emilia in my life every week.
Jon: This threw me so hard. I had no idea he wouldn’t just end up not on the throne, but on the other side of the continent. It was so brilliant in so many ways. Jon goes home to Castle Black, even though The Wall doesn’t really exist anymore. He continues the cycle of Maester Aemon, as a Targaryen who lives out his days on The Wall. “Love is the death of duty,” indeed. He killed a burgeoning tyrant and goes back to the only place where democracy actually reigns. He meets up with Tormund, he (yes, Internet fandom) pets Ghost, and sets off north of the wall with the wildlings. It matches the opening scenes of episode 1, season 1 – A gate opens as snow falls. Several riders set forth and go off into the great beyond. Only this time, the table is resetting, and in what must be one of the great TV finale moments of all time (don’t @ me, Internet), The Children of the Forest are born once again. They were here long before the imperialists of Westeros ever fought a silly war over a silly iron chair, and they’ll be here long after. Valar Morghulis. But they are not men.
It’s been a pleasure and a treat writing for you all these last 8 years. Thank you, and I’ll see you around the corner for the spinoffs.