Our Watch has Ended:
Game (of Thrones) Over
Warning! Major Spoilers.
There is a lot to say isn’t there? I am not sure if I have the bandwidth to even attempt the sort of appraisal that it all really deserves. After the (now) series highlight of Season 6 E 9 & 10, we started to see (much to our collective disbelief) a steady yet gradual decline in story. This decline ranges from mild annoyance due to personal preference, all the way to sheer internet hive mind bafflement.
Instead of pouring over the many negatives, I would rather focus on the good things and the character pathos that left me overall satisfied with both the series as a whole and its conclusion.
13 vs. 20
Before I dive in, I think the single biggest piece of criticism to note is the extreme condensation of seasons 7 and 8, particularly 8. A friend on Facebook made this egregious error slightly more digestible by suggesting that I think of seasons 7+8 as one 13 episode final season. It is not a bad way to look at things, but it doesn’t help when considering that these 13 episodes are packing in 20 episodes worth of story?
67 vs. 6
Another friend on Facebook noted this: Those final 6 episodes abruptly derail/subvert the overarching story being told in the previous 67 episodes. It happens in a way that almost makes watching HUGE chunks of that 67 hour story completely unnecessary. It is hard to ignore the blatant truth of 13 vs. 20 and 67 vs. 6.
One of my biggest gripes (despite the scene/symbolism itself being good) was the choice of ending for Jaime and Cersei. Seeing their corpses gave that symbolism far more impact and for the sake of positive closure with the series, I’ll take it.
Tyrion uses Jon to kill Dany.
This five minute scene really makes the whole episode. It solidifies the choices and arc that the show runners were aiming for. It feels like there was a lot of G.R.R.M in this thinking/plotting and it was enough (for me) to process the quickness of Dany’s swing and what ultimately comes of it in the next scene. I also really appreciated Tyrion finally admitting his love for Dany, as well as their discussion on love being the duty of death and duty being the death of love. It applied to both of them in their actions. It was profound, and spoke to great truth - both within the show and in real life.
Jon still is the Prince who was promised. Duty is the death of love.
Building on the previous scene, Jon ultimately does what the Lord of Light brought him back for: He vanquishes the death that had come to Westros and saved the realm from more by plunging a dagger into the one he loved. It’s not perfect, but it works in the same way the Jaimie Lannister/Tyrion ultimately complete the Valonqar prophecy. Not on the money, but close enough. I am satisfied.
Death came from the other side of things.
Despite the 67 vs. 6 idea criticism, there is some noteworthy sleight of hand here, even if it wasn’t intended. Death was indeed coming for the realm, but it wasn’t just from the White Walkers! It was also from the “Fire & Blood” side of things: “A Song of Ice and Fire.” She was planning similar campaigns across Westros, from Dorne to Winterfell. Dany also completed her father’s last wishes, truly making her the “Mad Queen.” All of it a prophecy untold, that no one could see until it was too late - except for one… More on that in second.
Dany does smash the wheel.
Nothing happens the way we expect it, especially in Game of Thrones. Even though Dany kills just as many (if not more) as the all the other big bads, she still does smash the wheel in causing her own death. The best antagonists don’t think what they are doing is evil or they can at least justify it in some way. She destroys King’s Landing and what it represents, which in turn leads Tyrion to persuade Jon Snow to kill her. Drogon then melts down the Iron Throne, ending the 300 year legacy created by her family’s house. I’d like to think that Drogon knew what he was doing and understood that nothing good comes from the Iron Throne and that it is for the best to burn the thing that lead to his mother downfall and death.
Did Dany really die?
Ok, she probably died, but put on your tinfoil hat for a second. Does Drogon spare Jon Snow because Dany is BARELY alive?! Targaryens have been killed by dragons in the past. Why didn’t Drogon roast Jon? I like the way things ended for Jon, but I would have been equally satisfied if Drogon’s flames also roasted Jon with the throne. A satisfying death/end for the “hero” of the story. But maybe Drogon resists because Dany is not dead, and he will carry her off back to Essos and away from all this mad conquest. It is fun to think about.
A wooden throne, not an iron one.
The best part about the Iron Throne melting down is its replacement with Bran’s wooden one, along with a pseudo “Parliamentary Monarchy.” It would have been silly and far fetched if they switched to true democracy. I loved how they all laughed at the thought, but it really spoke to the truth of the phony democracy of antiquated electoral college in the United States. Iron bloodlines no longer determine the next link in the chain and the throne of power is made of materials that need to be replaced over time.
Bran is lazy evil.
Bran is kind of a bad dude. He seems to keep his mouth shut about A LOT of things that could help/save A LOT of people. In the end he admits that he knew where this was going. Why else would he travel all the way down to King’s Landing? Bran was playing the Game of Thrones all along. He only opened his mouth when it would benefit him. In this way, the 67 vs. 6 idea ends up being an incredibly long con that ends with him being on the “Wooden Throne of the Six Kingdoms.” I hate this, but I also love it.
Arya sails away.
It was so wonderful to see Arya’s story end in this perfect way. It made The Hound’s words mean so much more. Arya realizes that revenge is empty and meaningless and will destroy you in the process. So she rises above it all and chooses to follow life instead of death by journeying into the unknown. She had no place in Westros, and now with no one to kill, it was time to go. Godspeed Arya, wishing you well.
Jaime on the books.
I loved seeing Brianne updating the Kings-guard record, it was the perfect call back from the end of their first journey together. But the moment is made less pure by the gross, unnecessary need to spoil the glorious platonic love they had for each other. Let’s just pretend that never happened, K?
There and back again: A Song of Ice and Fire.
This was very on the nose and even a bit groan worthy, but I like it the Lord-of-the-Rings of it all.
A small council of good.
Bran’s new small council of good felt like an extension of season 8 episode 2 with everyone bonding around the fire. Sans Bronn of the Blackwater, I can’t think of a better small council to leave in the hands of the Realm. Bran being wheeled out as discussions begin makes me think that he will have a hands off approach in his rule, which might be for the best.
Jon ends up in the North.
Jon’s arrest was frustrating after all the good he has done - he did not deserve this. And although I didn’t like that he was on the hook, I loved that he is sentenced to take the black. It just makes sense for the character. It felt like something that would have happened in the early seasons of the show. Jon was never going to sit on the throne, even if he was pushed to do so (even if it was the obvious solution to being with Dany). He didn’t care about his lineage, and he didn’t even want the honor of Sam name his child after him. All of his hopes and dreams died when he killed his Queen. All in all, it is very tragic and sad, especially when Jon is not sure if it was the right thing to do. One thing is for sure, it was the Bran thing to do...
A dream of spring?
How can Jon take the black when there’s no more wall and no more Night’s Watch!? It is all a trick, instead he meets up with Tormund and the free-folk to go north of the wall and live in peace. As they walk into the trees (that look similar to where the series began), we can see a lone green plant sprouted out of the snow. With the White Walkers gone, perhaps the permanent winter is at an end and the North will go back to what it was when the Children of the Forest lived there.
It is the perfect end for Jon Snow and the Targaryen bloodline.
Follow up in 10 years?
It is a miracle that Deadwood is getting a film 10 years after it unceremoniously ended. Is it out of the possibility to consider that we will get some sort of follow up mini series or film in a decade or so? With the endless TV show revival renaissance and GOT being one of the most popular TV series of all time, I would bet my last gold dragon on it.