***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGH THE SERIES FINALE OF ‘GAME OF THRONES’***
***SERIOUSLY, LIKE THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH***
***TO THE VERY END***
In the end, it was all about the Starks.
This series began and ended with the members of House Stark. Sure, the prologue introduced the Night’s Watch and what we’d eventually discover were the White Walkers, but we really dove into this series when Ned and his boys found a dead dire wolf and a litter of pups in the woods beyond Winterfell.
As we open the series, Bran Stark longs for adventure, as does his little sister Arya. Their older sister Sansa dreams of being a noble lady. Everyone’s older “brother” Jon Snow just wants a place where he fits in.
As we close the series, Bran Stark has come and gone beyond the Wall, passed through time and space to become the Three Eyed Raven and ends “Game of Thrones” as King Bran the Broken, First of His Name, Ruler of the Six Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. Sansa is crowned Queen in the North, which is back to being its own independent kingdom. Arya is heading to… whatever is west of Westeros. Jon Snow passes beyond the Wall once again, only this time it looks as though he’s headed to make a new home with Tormund and the Freefolk in the True North.
We watched this family be broken, divided and slaughtered. We watched them cry, embrace and triumph, only to fall again harder. We watched them reunite and pull together to protect not just their home but their entire country.
In “The Irone Throne,” we watched them finally get a little peace.
It’s almost enough to make me forget that I’ve spent much of this season shaking my head, with the reason alternating between confused shock and hearty disappointment.
It’s almost enough to make me forget that before he could get the sweet reprieve of an untroubled life in the woods, Jon Snow had to assassinate his auntie/ex-girlfriend in what I’m pretty certain is the most peaceful transition of power Westeros has seen in a few decades.
Daenerys Targaryen’s first official speech during her roughly 45-minute reign as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms/Queen of the Ashes had all the hallmarks of a conqueror’s military rally… a rally that’s necessary because the conquerin’ ain’t done.
It’s interesting that the same basic speech sounded very different when Dany gave it in Astapor as she took command of the Unsullied. It sounded different when she gave it to her Dothraki bloodriders before taking them across the sea to Westeros.
Her drastic and violent actions were always couched in her liberating philosophy, and mitigated by the fact that she was being merciless toward people far more villainous than she. That philosophy doesn’t look the same when applied to Westeros. She was talking about liberating Dorne and Winterfell, and they don’t really need liberatin’. That sounds like she just wants to go burn Sansa’s house to the ground.
I agree with Jon’s sentiment that killing Dany doesn’t feel like it was the right thing to do, but he must know that it is.
None of this excuses the show’s mad rush toward Mad Queen-dom for Dany, which is ultimately my biggest gripe with this final season. Our “Thrones’n’at” panel had plenty of complaints about plenty of things during the stretch run, but not laying the groundwork for Dany’s heel turn to feel earned is a tough thing to forgive. What makes it a tougher pill to swallow is the showrunners knew pretty far in advance that they were going to do shortened seasons as the end drew closer. Blowing through plot and casting aside the show’s previous realistic depiction of travel is alright in service of the grand storytelling that the show has been aiming toward. But that’s an even better reason to make sure you’re building a sturdy structure of character development, and plot to reinforce it, as you lead one of the main “hero” characters of your story down a dark road to tyranny.
But even that lack of proper groundwork could’ve been mitigated a little: imagine if Cersei had waited to kill Missandei until Dany and Drogon were sitting at the gates of King’s Landing waiting for the bells to ring. If Cersei, in a final act of pettiness, murdered Missandei and tossed her off the Red Keep, you could at least make an emotional argument for Dany’s choice to burn the city down. If anything, it would make Jon and Tyrion’s plot to assassinate her that much more tragic.
Speaking of that plot, it’s kind of hard to imagine that the Unsullied would let Jon get so close to Dany with a weapon. There weren’t any of them guarding her as she wandered the ruins of the Red Keep? When Drogon picked her up and took her away, I thought Jon would just walk out to Grey Worm, shrug his shoulders and be all, “I dunno man, she just jumped on the dragon and took off. Weird, huh? Well, let’s pick a king, I guess.”
It’s hard to end a great television series. Not many of them do it in a way that equals their past greatness. Not even my personal favorite, “The Wire,” was able to really stick the landing. Its series ending was fine, but there were plenty problems with the final run of the show. It’s not an easy thing to do. Certainly not when your source material has inspired legions of conspiracy theories and rabid fans who all have their favorite characters and their guesses for what might happen.
I don’t imagine that “some old guys sit around with the Stark kids and decide Bran can be the king” was a real popular one.
And yet, that didn’t stop me from getting a little of the warm-and-fuzzies to see the Stark children pretty much all get a happy ending. Tyrion’s meeting with the King’s Council gave us all the proof we need that the freshly shorn Six Kingdoms (“Yeah, give me the Westeros cut, but take everything off the top.”) will keep chugging along just fine. Sansa not only has grown into her childhood dream of becoming a queen, but looks as though she’ll be a formidable one at that.
I really liked seeing Jon get a little dap from the Freefolk. He’s certainly earned it, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that murdering his queen and being gently retired as punishment nicely continues Jon’s series arc of failing upwards.
Was it perfect? Nope. Was it everything you ever wanted out of “Game of Thrones”? Nope. I’m going to need to go back and watch this entire season over again before I make a final decision about it, but after taking a couple seasons to detour us into the fantastic, in the end, the show returned to the core of what made it great: weaving an intricate saga of families, politics and power.
Not a bad run, “Game of Thrones.” Not a bad run at all. A lot of people, myself included, had some issues over the years. But as Littlefinger once said, “If you ain’t got haters, you’re doin’ it wrong.”
I might be wrong about that quote.
I probably should rewatch the entire series to double-check.
• • •
A FEW STRAY RAVENS
• GOOD BOY, GHOST! GOOD BOY! I feel like there may have been a few low-key meta trolling moments by the showrunners in these last few episodes. Jon’s anti-goodbye to Ghost was one of them. Another was Euron Greyjoy pretty much looking directly into the camera and saying “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister,” as though he knew how stupid everyone thought it was for this Judas-Priest-cover-band-pirate to off one of the series’ main characters. Two involved Samwell Tarly: first when suggested a general election, and was roundly laughed back into his seat by the lords of Westeros. Tally ho, good jest, young man! The second was when he literally became George R.R. Martin in front of our eyes presenting Tyrion with his copy of “A Song of Ice And Fire.” (“I helped with the name.”)
• SANSA: “Sit down, cousin.” TRANSLATION: Who in tarnation do you think you are, Edmure Tully? Your main contribution to “state-craft,” as you say, was being a coward and handing your family castle over to Jaime Lannister.
• If Tyrion had really given Highgarden and the Reach to the Unsullied, I fully expected the last scene to be Bronn shooting him with the crossbow. Instead, Bronn’s the new Master of Coin. Not too shabby for a guy who got his start by giving up an inn room to Tyrion for a single gold coin.
• Look at you go, Gendry! Dany made you lord of Storm’s End like a week ago and you’re already sportin’ some spicy duds? Guess you figured out to use a fork too, little buddy!
• No mention is made of Tyrion in Archmaester Ebrose’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” It echoes exactly what Varys told him way back in season two after the Battle of the Blackwater: “The histories will not mention you, but there are many of us who know that this city would have fallen without you.”
• Speaking of the maesters, shouldn’t Sam probably be spending at least an hour a night sitting with King Bran, double-checking the accuracy of the Citadel’s history books?
• I mean… “West of Westeros” is gonna be one of the spinoff shows, right? Surely.
• Be sure to check back later this week for our “Throne’n’at” panel’s look at the finale.