I’ve been procrastinating on writing my final thoughts on the final, yes final, episode of Game of Thrones. I think that it’s not so much that I can’t think of what to write, but that I don’t really want to admit that it’s over. This show was epic, and although I have loved some, or hated some, of the episodes, the end of the series has left me wondering what to do now. How, or what, can I replace this magnificent show with?
George R. R. Martin introduced me to these characters close to twenty years ago. The books started off from the perspective of Bran, and the Stark family. I always thought the ending would be about them, and their perseverance. The shock of Ned getting his head chopped off, Robb and Catelyn murdered, and Sansa’s ordeal at the hands of the Lannisters were stepping stones to the family’s journey of beating the odds. Bran’s journey in the books, becoming the three eyed raven, is better explained than in the television adaptation. If I had to make a complaint, it would be that the writers did not do justice to his story.
Some have said that Bran knew what was going to happen and did nothing to stop all the destruction, and deaths, from Daenery’s final battle to conquer Westeros. Was he power hungry, striving for the throne all along? I think he saw what was coming, and believed in order for the wheel to be broken, events had to run their course. From the ashes, a new world would be built. Will it work? Will Westeros start their infighting once again after Bran is gone? Who knows? From our own history, nothing is clear cut.
From the very beginning I had my favorites. Arya was number one on my list. I loved her spunk, and her loyalty to her family. Jon came in second. In the books, he has yet to find out who he is. Who knows if George R. R. Martin will make Jon a Targaryen, or not. I’ve waited it seems like forever for his next book The Winds of Winter. Jon’s story made me ache for him. His treatment by Catelyn, while at Winterfell, his being the bastard son of her husband, was abysmal. He saw no way out of his predicament than to join the Night’s Watch. My third favorite character from the books was Tyrion Lannister. I must have a thing for “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”. Just like Jon, Tyrion had to deal with his family’s hatred for what he was. Tyrion made me laugh, had me angry at those who made fun of him, and had me rooting for him from the start.
One final thought on the most controversial part of the final season. Daenerys, as much as some people were rooting for her, and I must admit myself to a certain point, always had that element of megalomania, of viciousness, in her. Her go to reaction when faced with anyone not bending the knee, agreeing with her point of view, or simply acquiescing to what she wanted, was always to Dracarys them. How may innocents had she killed by crucifying, or burning? She never stopped to ask if any that she killed were actually innocents. I’m re-reading the books, and see many instances of her evolving into how the show portrayed her at the end.
Also, maybe because I had read the books, I was willing to accept her turn to the dark side. For the first time in her life, she was in a land where no one welcomed her. Even after postponing her plans for Kings Landing, and joining Jon in defeating the Night King, no one was thanking her. There were no slaves in Westeros to call her Mhysa (mother). Losing Jorah had left her isolated in the land of the north. Tyrion was off having a good time with his brother Jaime, and the Wildlings were placing all their praise on Jon. She saw enemies everywhere and even Varys was showing his wariness. And Jon, the man she loved, well, he was actually the rightful heir to the throne, and her nephew to boot. Her need for being seen as a liberator would not work in Westeros. The final straw was Missandei getting her head chopped off by Cersei. At that moment, she must have realized that Kings Landing, and all its residents, were not waiting for her to free them. None would stand with her. Was the story rushed? Yes, it was. Did it make sense to me nonetheless? Yes it did. Dany was not a Mad Queen, but was angered, feeling isolated, having no one effective enough to temper her, and possessing a dragon to boot.
The final episode had its great moments, and some really bad ones. I would count Tyrion’s finding Jaime and Cersei dead, the realization of what he has unleashed in supporting Daenerys, one of those great moments. Peter Dinklage did an amazing job in the scenes of him walking through the destroyed city, looking for some sign that his brother and sister managed to escape the carnage. As he descended down the Red Keep, into the caverns below, you could see on his face that he knew what he would find. The last of his family were gone, and he had a hand in dealing them the deathly blow. His anguish once he located them, the guilt and anger that overtook him, were well displayed by the actor. You could tell he was ready to die himself, when he walked up to Daenerys, and threw his pin down those steps.
Peter Dinklage’s next scene was just as masterful. His fear of dying, as Varys had done, by being burned by Drogon, showed on his face, and his body language. Even knowing that his end was near, he still asked Jon, the most honorable man he knew, to do treason. It did not stop him from trying to talk Jon into doing what must be done for the better of Westeros. And, this is another one of my favorite scenes for the way Kit Harington displayed his own mixed emotions. Jon loved Daenerys, had committed himself to her. She was his queen. At the same time, he could not refute what Tyrion was telling him. The danger to Jon, and his Stark family ties were real. His being torn, and anguished over what to do, had broken him. Jon looked like a man who had lost his best, and only friend.
The best visual of the entire episode was Daenerys walking to make her speech with the dragon wings spreading behind her. I won’t get into her speech, which further emphasized how far down the rabbit hole she had fallen, except to say, Jon must have had a wake-up call. Next we saw, he was on his way to see the mother of dragons, who was only being protected by Drogon. The dragon saw him, (beautiful how he rose from under all that snow by the way) and I guess smelling his Targaryen blood, let him pass. Inside Dany touched the throne, the one that could kill you if you fall on it by accident, or have someone toss you on it, but never got to sit on it.
Jon walked in just as she was about to take the seat. He had come looking for any sign that the woman he loved had a sense of remorse over how many people she had killed. Dany gave him no hope. In her eyes, craftily displayed by Emilia Clarke, he saw conquests, wars, and more deaths to come. No one would be safe from the woman before him. What must it have felt like for Jon, in that moment, to realize what he must do? Dany never saw it coming. Kit Harington though gave us a glimpse into Jon’s psyche. His eyes tearing, his resolve on his face, he gave his love a final kiss before stabbing her. And here I thought of Shakespeare’s Et tu, Brutus.
Emilia Clarke, for her final scene alone, deserves an Emmy. In her dying moment, we saw her as we first came to know her. Her eyes showed us a young, innocent, childlike, woman who was once full of love and hope. We mourned her not for was she became, but for what she could have achieved. Jon holding her in his arms, exactly as he once held Ygritte, while she died was painful to watch. The tragedy of this love story echoes others we have read in the past. How does Jon ever get over this?
I’ll skip through to the end, to the montage of the Starks, who are off to their individual journeys. This is another part of the episode that I loved. Sansa rightly takes over the North, becoming queen and leading her people. I saw no other ending for her. Would I have preferred her taking over the Seven Kingdoms? Not really. She said she would never go to Kings Landing again, and I believed her. She got as far as the Dragon Pit, and that was far enough for her.
Arya finally grew out of a list of names, and revenge plots, to emulate her hero, Nymeria, the Princess of the Rhoynar, who led her people from the brink of destruction to conquering and ruling Dorne. It was no coincidence that Arya named her direwolf Nymeria. I would love to be on that ship and follow her to wherever she ends up. Although HBO has said they are not planning an Arya series, maybe someone else can pick up the tale. I loved her ending, believing in her I’m not a lady.
Bran. What to say about Bran? I know a lot of people are astounded that he ended up on the throne. I’m not one of them. I truly believed from the beginning that it would be Bran to rule over the Six Kingdoms. O.K. at the time I thought it would be the Seven Kingdoms. George R. R. Martin would not have devoted so much story to a character that was inconsequential. Bran getting shoved out of a window had to count for something. His journey had to be for more than just filler along the way. Prince Bran, as he is called by Jojen Reed in the books, was always meant to take the throne. Love it or hate it, there it is. That’s the ending I believe Martin will write. It will probably be better explained, before fleshed out, and better received.
Jon Snow, still going by that name, is banished to the wall to rejoin the Night’s Watch. As explained by Tyrion, it will now be a place for bastards and criminals. I guess it has become a prison of sorts. Jon does not stay there for long. Reunited with Tormund and Ghost, Jon leaves his prison to venture further north. Did he look sad to you while he petted his direwolf and rejoined the Wildlings? Jon is exactly where he wants to be. No one will know what has become of him. No one will know if he has fathered children. No one will know if he takes a wife. I think being sent to the wall was a blessing to him. Where else did he ever feel like he belonged? That patch of grass peeking out from the snow was a also a great way to herald the final book of the series, A Dream of Spring.
The time jumps, the fast pacing of the final two seasons, I admit, have been badly done. Why the rush? Why decide on just 13 episodes to tie up the series. There were seven episodes in season seven, and only six in season eight. Even though they were longer episodes, we were left with so many unanswered questions. What were the spirals of the White Walkers all about? What was the Night King’s true motivation for going after Bran? Where did Drogon go with Daenerys? What happened to the Dothraki? Who was the Prince/Princess that was promised? Azor-Ahai?
The scene in the Dragon Pit could have been better executed. Grey Worm allowed Tyrion to make a speech? The prisoner gets to decide who should rule? They could have explained who Grey Worm reported to once his queen was murdered. Didn’t Daenerys free them? Shouldn’t they have free reign now? I guess they needed someone to order them about, but who would that be? Still, I guess it drove the story forward to its conclusion. Loved Sansa ordering her uncle to sit down, by the way.
As much as I would like to have answers to my questions, I can patiently, and patiently, wait for the final books by Martin. The series was rushed, story-lines fell by the wayside, but all in all I have loved Game of Thrones too much to ask for a rewrite, as some fans have done. The ending may not be what everyone wanted, but in our real life, we nonetheless have to deal with what we get. This is the end, so we either accept it, or we get ulcers from stressing over it. I prefer to take it for what it was the greatest show on television to date. For now our watch has ended. I could go on and on, but I’d like to read your thoughts?