The Game of Thrones Finale Was Actually Perfect
Last night, after eight seasons, 73 episodes, and some of the most insane battles television has ever seen, Game of Thrones took its final bow. Though fans have seen this season as rushed and wrought with destroyed character development, there was only one way for the show to end after Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) burned King’s Landing to the ground last week. And that’s exactly how it did.
When the series began, Daenerys was already set up for her inevitable end. After spending her life in exile, she was sold to Khal Drogo by her brother as a means to gain a Dothraki army. That army would sail across the Narrow Sea and take back the Seven Kingdoms for House Targaryen.
She said that she would take back what was rightfully hers by fire and blood. Not once, not twice. She said this at least every episode since Drogo gave Viserys the golden crown in Season 1. So, why were we shocked when the bells rang out in King’s Landing marking their surrender and she still torched the city?
We shouldn’t be. She followed through with her plan of taking back what was rightfully hers with fire and blood. In an after show interview after episode 5, creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff explained that she saw the Red Keep and all that this place had taken from her family and sought to destroy it. She wanted to make a point and she did. Again, with the fire and blood she was constantly talking about. But there was no way Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) — who spent the series fighting for what’s right (or, in Tyrion’s case, learning what that is) — could let that stand.
Tyrion reminds Jon that if Jon had that power, he never would have burned the city after they’d surrendered, and that that matters more than anything. He explains Dany’s precarious position, saying, “Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer her for it. And she grows more powerful and good and right. She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believed that, if you truly believed it, wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?”
It’s with that conversation that her fate is sealed.
Jon leaves Tyrion and heads up to the throne room and confronts her about Grey Worm and the Unsullied killing men in the streets. “It was necessary,” she says. He asks her one more time to show mercy and allow those who have wronged her to live and fix their mistakes. She refuses, and tells him that both of them know what’s good, but that everyone else doesn’t get to decide. These are not the answers he is looking for, so Labrador-like Jon Snow steps up and plunges a knife into Daenerys Targaryen’s heart, killing his aunt, whom he loved — because “love is the death of duty,” he says. He had a duty to save the realm, and he put that before his own feelings.
This was the right and only way for Dany's storyline to end. Despite nearly every fan of the show believing that her character development was slashed in the last six episodes, it really hadn’t been. She had shown early on that she was never concerned with the lives she thought she had to take in order to reach her goal. Daenerys knew, as she told Jon in Winterfell, that she doesn’t have the love of the people, but the fear. If it had been love she were after, she would have changed her approach long before crossing the Narrow Sea. But she didn’t. She continued on her path and used that fear (combined with Drogon’s flames) as her power. With that mentality, becoming the tyrant instead of the hero was the only development possible for Dany.
Tyrion’s speech explained that though she may have deserved to sit atop the Iron Throne at some point, power is intoxicating. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, in other words, and it warped her perception of where the greater good stops, and Good for Dany begins. This was a natural progression meeting a fitting end.
Now, just after she dies, another important and fitting moment happens. Drogon comes to check on her and when he notices his mother is no longer moving, he revs up to seemingly torch Jon. Instead, he blows right by him and melts down the very Iron Throne everyone was so set on sitting upon — most especially his mother. Heavy-handed metaphor though it may have been, it cleverly foreshadowed the show's ending.
Weeks later, Tyrion is brought in front of the most powerful Lords and Ladies of Westeros, including the remaining three Stark children. Sansa (Sophie Turner) asks where Jon is, and Grey Worm states that he’s their prisoner and his justice will be met. Tyrion pipes up and says that that’s for the king to decide. It’s pointed out that they have no king, so Tyrion replies, “So, pick one.” The Lords and Ladies are befuddled by this suggestion and lob it right back to Tyrion. As if to say, “I don’t care, what do you want for dinner?”
And then he offers…Bran.
It’s easy to ask yourself, “Uh, what? That guy has literally just been hanging out all creepy for the entirety of this season, but we’re supposed to accept him as KING?”
This is where Drogon burning the throne comes in. He made it clear, as much as a dragon can make something clear, that the throne itself is toxic. It’s a symbol of tyrannical bloodshed. It’s symbolic of Tyrion’s speech that stories connect us and that is, ultimately, what the Night King feared about Bran: He feared the past, the present, and how the future is connected to both through stories and memories, which Bran possess more than anyone else.
Bran saw everything for what it was, is, and will be, and that that makes him the right choice. He wasn’t invested in the Game of Thrones the way others were; he hung back and let it play out (doing nothing to stop Dany’s bloodshed, as critics of the finale have pointed out). As king, his knowledge and abilities will give him the tools necessary to avoid war, create peace, and be a just and courageous leader. It felt like a slight letdown when there could have been a more climactic moment (Arya slitting someone else’s throat, for example; or there being more of an uproar rather than a casual election of king). But in the end, it made sense. It carved the path for the future leaders to be chosen not on their birthright, but on their abilities, to carry on what Bran will now start: a reign of caring for the people rather than caring about power.
However, it was the silent win for Bran that was problematic. Sure, he did see everything unfold and knew that in the end, he would sit on the throne; was it because of that that he did nothing to prevent the body count that piled up in the process? When Tyrion asks if he’ll take the throne, he simply says, “Why do you think I came all this way?” This could be interpreted as a sign that his future leadership will be selfish and reckless, similar to a Dany rule — but that open-endedness contributes to the finale being a great end to a series that has kept us guessing all along.
It also seemed fitting that Jon would be sent back to the Night’s Watch, to settle into a slower life (they don’t need to watch anymore, after all). It was where he started and it shows him coming full circle. It also meant that he could be reunited with Ghost, which was clearly just throwing a bone to the fans who couldn’t handle them parting ways earlier this season.
Even Arya’s finale made sense, if you think about it. While she’s House Stark through and through, she’s never been afraid to forge her own path. After fleeing King’s Landing after her father’s death, her sole purpose was to learn how to survive and take care of herself. Arya learned to become a warrior and a Man of Many Faces (a skill that she spent literally all of Season 5 learning and was entirely overlooked this season) and she killed the freaking Night King because of that survival instinct. She did her duty and now she has no problem finding a new land to discover, a new path to forge — especially now that she’s given up a life of vengeance-seeking. While we’d hoped she’d stay with Bran or even Sansa, her going off into the great unknown makes sense. If she wasn’t going to marry Gendry, she wasn’t going to stay comfortably in the North. Arya can and always will know how to take care of herself, and how to find her way home when she’s ready, or senses she’s needed to come kick some ass.
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Sansa, who has grown beyond measure, fully comes into her own and, while supporting her brother Bran as king, declares the North as a stand-alone kingdom. Sansa had arguably the most difficult storyline to watch. She was forced by Joffrey and watch him behead her dad then married off to Tyrion. Then she falls under the wing of Lord Bailish and is lied to and coerced into marrying Ramsay Bolton; the only character worse than Joffrey. When she had Ramsay tied up and fed to his own vicious dogs, Sansa broke the pattern and became the woman who stopped taking everyone’s shit. She learned from all of the wrong ways she watched those men rule and did the exact opposite in the North, which rightly crowned her as their queen. It was the ending someone who had suffered — and learned — so much deserved.
Though fans complained that this season felt slapdash, we have to understand that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss knew the general ending of the series from George R. R. Martin himself. Without the final book being written, they were allowed some artistic license in how to get there. In a recent interview with RollingStone, GRRM said, “I think the major points of the ending will be things that I told them, you know, five or six years ago. But there may also be changes, and there’ll be a lot added.”
Sure, it could have been two episodes longer to allow for slightly more explanation (what happened to Arya’s face-changing powers? What DID Bran learn while he was hanging out in the past?), but the ending that we were given by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss is not, as Martin told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, “going to be that different from my ending.” Perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the book for those last details to become clear.
But as far as the show’s final act goes: Did people on Twitter hate that Brienne’s story ended with her recording fuccboi Jaime Lannister into the annals of history as a hero? Sure. Was it kind of lame that we never heard any of the secrets Bran was collecting while he was being a bird? Okay, fine. Does it require more suspension of disbelief than usual to accept that the Lords and Ladies decided to do away with the blood right to the throne after that was all we had been talking about for 8 full seasons? I mean, yes. But it works. And the show couldn’t have ended any other way.