After serving 8 seasons of subverting expectations and genuine shock and awe moments that rivaled the best of what entertainment has had to offer for years, Game of Thrones finally came to an end tonight.
Following an uneven season, the series had the daunting task of coming up with a conclusion that could satisfy both hardcore and casual fans. Does it achieve it? It might be a debate for the ages. It’s hard not to sympathize with Benioff and Weiss (also directors this episode), and while the show clearly tries to pull off an ending that is both true to the concept of the show and true to the characters that inhabit Westeros, it more or less succeeds in a minor way.
We open up with a much more fierce and ruthless Dany now that she’s Queen, giving no mercy now that she’s taken what she has fought for these past seasons. While the decision to turn her “mad” has been a topic of extreme controversy over the past week (I personally like the idea although I agree could have been executed with much more care) it’s mostly, for me, explained in a very fascinating and true to herself manner that makes Daenerys seem much more sympathetic than previously thought. She actually thinks she has done the right thing, freeing the Realm of a plague that supported Cersei Lannister, and it’s time for her to break the wheel. Despite Jon’s clear intentions to follow her no matter what, it’s Tyrion who finally convinces him to put an end to her for the good of everyone. As Dany tries and for a moment believes Jon will rule alongside her to “make the world a better place”, he stabs her tragically as they kiss. Drogon’s following reaction and burning of the Iron Throne (which I interpret as Drogon killing what he truly believes killed her mother) is a sequence for the ages, and one that will probably be remember as one of the most heartbreaking moments of the show. It perfectly gives an end to Dany’s character.
It’s only after that moment that we get an unspecified time jump that, for me, weakens the finale as a whole. We jump straight into a meeting with the main Lords of Westeros, which at best seems random, and at worst true to what D&D’s rushed execution have brought us this season. They ultimately decide that Bran is the best choice for King. While I appreciate the writers for trying to come up with a different ending than expected, I still don’t buy it: Bran has shown no desire for wanting a position of power in any form for the past seasons, even stating a few episodes back how he doesn’t specifically “want” anything. While doing it only because he know it’s the best Westeros can hope for might be a good explanation for this, it still doesn’t seem genuine to me and robs the show of another character taking the role much more effectively.
What saves it at the end for me is that Sansa does end up ruling the North as a separate entity altogether, proving her effectiveness at leading and fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a Queen. Arya’s arc also comes to a beautiful ending true to her adventurous aspirations, as does Tyrion’s desire to hold a position of importance. Jon, on the other hand, ends up right where he started, and while at first it seemed a tad bit underwhelming a conclusion for who is arguably the protagonist of the show, it quickly becomes apparent that this is where he has always belonged. His objectively good-natured personality and honor might have not taken him to being a King, but he never really wanted it, and he chose to do the right thing knowing what the consequences could be. It’s fitting to end the show with him, once again, venturing beyond-the-wall, only this time it almost seems like unknown territory after the Wights’ attack, which might hold the door open for many questions about him. Was he really brought back from the dead in order to kill Dany, or is something else waiting for him in his future? We’ll probably never know, as Jon probably won’t either, but I like that the writers chose to leave it up to interpretation.
In the end, the episode, as usual with Game of Thrones, had incredible direction, cinematography and acting, and while some rushed writing and disappointing choices almost bring the show down, it’s the way our main characters end their journeys, or in some cases venture into new ones, that I can find satisfaction with the ending of what is arguably one of the best TV series in history.