Obvious Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t caught up on Season 8 of Thrones yet come back later.
Full disclosure, I know this aired two weeks ago, but my cube life has been consumed with more work than your average bear so lets just roll with it…
After 73 episodes and nearly a decade of television, Game of Thrones came to its long awaited conclusion, after reaching a critical mass in pop culture (to its own detriment) this season.
Name a show that ran as long as Game of Thrones did that ended well. Its not easy to do after years of growing fandom and the expectations that come with it. The Sopranos? I thought my TV died. Lost? Nope. Dexter? *shutters* Hell even Seinfeld’s finale was a disaster.
So a show that started out as a weird fantasy world with politics intertwined into every scene became a media juggernaut and with that came the weight of expectations from not only the diehard fans but now the people that binged the first 7 seasons out of peer pressure just to catch up in time. I did the same exact thing with Lost and it made it so much easier to rip on the show’s missteps and banish it to “garbage tv” when the finale didn’t satisfy my expectations. I think we saw a lot of that this season in Thrones as twitter and Facebook were overflowing with criticism. While I think the show earned plenty of deserved criticism (the goddamn pacing), it also was getting roasted for minutia like a Starbucks cup that nobody noticed until an eagle eye viewer tweeted about it. I’m not here to apologize to disappointed fans, but people need to put their experience into perspective.
You can love a show and criticize it at the same time.
Game of Thrones was an incredible series and probably my favorite show of all time. Thrones has a 9.4 rating on IMDB overall, but the final season was rushed and it will forever bug me how this show could have gone down as the GOAT if they just took the time to work in a few more episodes (or even another season) to properly justify certain character storylines (the Mad Queen) and motivations (Jaimie returning to Cersei).
My only complaint with the final season is that most of the character’s final scenes make sense, but how we got there doesn’t necessarily fit. So lets break down some of the key highlights from the last episode of Game of Thrones.
The shot of Khaleesi with the outstretched dragon wings behind her was just an incredible visual and devilish cinematography.
— 𝖌𝖍𝖔𝖘𝖙 ⎊ (@Yazzy2102) May 20, 2019
Jon Snow battled with his love, his honor, and his duty to finally kill Khaleesi and officially become the Queenslayer. Tyrion threw one reason after the next at Jon trying to convince him why Khaleesi needed to die, but even though he knows Tyrion is right Jon can’t bring himself to say it. The only thing that gives him pause is when Tyrion asks what he thinks will happen when his sisters refuse to bend the knee. In the end Jon had to hear it from Khaleesi directly and hear her delusions of grandeur growing as she spoke. Khaleesi, as Tyrion said to Jon, believes she is just and good and is destined to make the world a better place. She doesn’t see it as murdering innocents, she sees it as freeing the people and starting a new world void of tyrants. It kiiiind of sounds a lot like ethnic cleansing as George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones is rife with criticisms of war and what often comes with it. Once he hears the delusions from Khaleesi he knows that she can’t leave that room.
Small criticism here. I know that Jon has been alone with Khaleesi plenty of times and Drogon was laying outside the front door, but where are her guards? Theres not one soldier protecting the new Queen of the Seven Kingdoms? I think that scene would been a little more convincing if Jon had to kill a couple of guards while struggling with his moral guilt, but I suppose its such a powerful reverse course because he has to kill her and *only* her.
In the ultimate irony, Khaleesi never actually sat on the Iron Throne. Tough break.
Visions Are Never Wasted
A+ foreshadowing from the show that became known for never wasting a word or a shot as Khaleesi’s vision from Season 2 of her walking through the Throne room was dead on. Except what we all thought was snow falling for the better part of a decade, was in fact ash.
Drogon melting the Iron Throne was one of my favorite moments in GOT’s long history. Theres a scene from early in the series when Tyrion talks about how dragons were once though to be smarter than people. This was an emotional moment as Drogon senses something is wrong, after Jon stabs her, and flies to the Throne room only to see whats happened before heartbreakingly nudging the lifeless Khaleesi.
Preparing for death by fire Jon readies himself, but Drogon looks at him and then at the Iron Throne before unleashing hellfire on the throne as if to say it was this damn chair that killed her. Pretty brilliant distinction for a dragon to make in that moment.
You want to talk about breaking the wheel, this is how you break the wheel.
Another callback was how they actually decided on the new King because before the episode I was talking with the Mrs. about how Khaleesi never decided on a plan of succession. Back in Season 7 Tyrion tells her about how the Iron Islands pick a leader, how the Nights Watch votes on a leader etc. and she blows him off saying we’ll figure it out once I have the throne. Well they had to break out that plan of secession a lot sooner than Khaleesi would have ever expected.
Tyrion’s Faith Waivers
After following Khaleesi blindly for multiple seasons, Tyrion had begun to waiver a bit in Season 8. He saw the Tarlys burned alive, he learned of Jon Snows true lineage, and he had those treasonous discussions with Varys (before he too was burned alive). Despite all that, Tyrion still felt Khaleesi would “do the right thing.” Well after she went the other way on that one and burned down Kings Landing, Tyrion finally reaches his breaking point when he sees the buried bodies of his siblings underneath the Red Keep. It’s a pretty powerful moment because despite all their flaws, despite the fact that his sister literally wanted him dead, he still breaks down and weeps when he sees what has happened to Jaime and Cersei. They died because of him and breaks him.
I Can’t Believe They Made the Backpack King
In a scene that seemed more Benioff and Weiss than it did Martin, there was a council meeting comprised of the most important lords and ladies of Westeros. There were the Starks, the Vale (including an older Robin Arryn whom the internet got a little too excited about – he’s 18), the unnamed “New Prince of Dorne,” even Yara Grejoy. They all give their thoughts on who should be King, but its a speech from the best actor on the show in Tyrion that unites them all. Rather quickly I might add…
Whether it was a character decision made by the showrunners or a directive from Martin himself I don’t know, but Bran’s transformation into an emotionless (read: sociopath) and largely boring character the past two seasons has been a head scratcher. This massive point in the story would have been a lot more powerful if Bran had ANY sort of character development or at least on screen relationship with any of the other characters. Instead it looks like a guy drawing the short straw to lead the group project that nobody is eager to take on. We never really get a true understanding of why Bran is the Three Eyed Raven, why it matters beyond the fact that he remembers neat history tidbits, or why anyone should really even care. Sure, he is the memories of men, but why does that matter? Why did the Night King want him dead so badly? As The Ringer puts it:
The purpose of Bran’s position as the Three-Eyed Raven, moreover, is only shallowly explained, which seems important when the basis for his assumption of the throne rests on his ostensible role as storyteller. Earlier in Season 8, Bran tells the assembled war council at Winterfell that the Night King wants to kill him because he is the world’s memory. But his predecessor lived isolated from the world, huddled in a cave far beyond the Wall, not sharing that memory with any living human. He’s not the first Three-Eyed Raven, either, Bran reveals, but rather just the latest in a long line of memory holders, The Giver–style. How can we square one Three-Eyed Raven who lives apart from humans and one who rules them, and assume they fulfill the same strategic function?
It is odd for Bran to have gone through so much yet have it mean so little in the grand scheme of things. And I’ve watched enough time travel movies to understand why he can’t just come out and tell everyone what will happen in the future. So when Bran responds to Tyrion’s offer to be King “Why do you think I came all this way?” I don’t really quarrel with that. The people that died to get him there though miiight feel a little different.
“Why do you think I CAME all this way?”
— Denča (@DeniBartova) May 20, 2019
Pivoting to perhaps my least favorite character on the show in Bran after years of build up for a sudden twist fell a little flat for me. This is something that required a more thorough build up of Bran’s character and motivations (not someone who literally wasn’t in Season 5) in order to justify. The Ringer again summarized this frustration perfectly:
More importantly, for a show that has disregarded or downplayed so many elements of the fantasy genre since surpassing Martin’s books, the turn to the character most connected to those very fantasy elements at the end underwhelms. If Bran were to become king, why cut him from a full season of the show?
I will say this show is the ultimate when it comes to misdirection. How many times did people mention how Bran was now the Lord of Winterfell only to have the Three Eyed Raven reply he didn’t want it? And how many times did we hear Tyrion and Varys talking about how the best ruler is the one who doesn’t want it? We always thought they were talking about Jon Snow when it turns out it was Bran the Broken.
We all knew Khaleesi had to die one way or the other and I think it would have been a little too predictable for Jon to be made King at this point. So while I don’t like Bran being named King, I would have been just as mad if he did nothing this episode and literally served no purpose for 8 seasons.
It was a little too clean how quickly we went from Jon murdering Khaleesi, to Jon being the Unsullied’s prisoner, to Grey Worm 1.) letting the lords and ladies vote to choose a new King and 2.) immediately listening to Bran because he’s been king for all of 90 seconds.
I will say the show did a great job of wrapping up most of the character’s storylines for better or worse. While the final season was ill paced, every character’s final actions all made sense, just not necessarily how and when they got there. Grey Worm taking the Unsullied to Naath to tell stories of Missandei and retire to a place where the people are peaceful, Arya taking a Stark ship to explore the unknown, Sansa becoming Queen in the North, and Jon going back north of the wall with Tormund and GHOST!
Must have been a tough couple of weeks for the writers to swallow their pride after everyone on the internet ripped them for not having Jon pet Ghost when he left Winterfell. “Just wait two weeks you morons!” Although, after seeing how quickly the Starbucks cup was digitally removed, it would not surprise me if Benioff and Weiss just filmed that scene and threw it in there last minute to appease the masses.
Sansa is and Forever Will be a Boss
They name her little brother King of Westeros, and her first reaction is basically “I love you, I think you’ll be a great ruler, but…No, we are the north. We’ve seen all the nonsense thats come from the seven kingdoms.” Think about it. Sansa’s entire life has been filled with hardships all because of that damn iron chair. Her grandfather and her uncle died at the hands of the King sitting on the Iron Throne. Her father died because he wouldn’t take the Iron Throne from Joffrey (and Cersei). Her brother Robb died trying to avenge their father and overthrow the King from the Iron Throne. As they say, the Stark men don’t fair well in the capital. So it doesn’t matter if the King is her own brother now; the North gained it’s independence, it rebelled against the Baratheons/Lannisters, it overthrew the Boltons, and it resisted Khaleesi. The North will remain independent as it was for thousands of years before the Targaryens landed in Westeros.
I don’t know about you, but I’m turning my attention back to the Game of Thrones books now to fill the hole in my life. I’ve only read the first one so hopefully by the time I finish whats left George RR Martin will have finished at least one new novel. I have to see how Martin decides these same characters get to these decisions or whether they go in an entirely different direction.
Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s Short Lived Romance
What made the whole Jon and Dany story feel a bit stilted to me really had nothing to do with the writing or the show runners; the two actors just seemingly lacked chemistry. Especially when compared to Jon’s first love interest on the show, Ygritte, which I guess isn’t necessarily fair to compare since Jon and Ygritte literally got married in real life. But hey thats what actors do; they pretend
You could really feel the passion between Jon and Ygritte and all the trials they went through from Jon taking her prisoner, to Ygritte saving his life, to Jon breaking his Nights Watch vows to her untimely death. When Ygritte was killed at the Battle of Castle Black it crushed Jon Snow and changed him forever. I just never felt that passion between Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington. Obviously it was a storyline that wasn’t too hard to see coming with their romance, their conflict, and her ultimate death, but I never felt like the two characters really dug each other. It had to just be a chemistry thing too because Khaleesi’s scenes with Khal Drogo and even with Daario Naharis felt very real. I know Jon Snow is the brooding, stoic character from the North, but so was Ned Stark and his early scenes with Katelyn Stark just laying in bed together showed a couple truly in love. So I didn’t truly feel that “love is the death of duty” in the finale of Thrones, but thats not necessarily the show runners’ fault.
- What was the point of the Night King at all?
- Why did the weirwood trees allow Bran to see visions?
- The symbols that the white walkers used to seemingly taunt the children of the forest with; what was that about?
- What ever happened to Jaquen Hagar?
- Why didn’t Aria ever use her Faceless Men tricks after killing all the Freys?
Soo while no show will ever approach Lost territory in terms of unanswered questions, Game of Thrones left me with a lot of loose threads that I though would have at least been referenced. In the end, this whole GOT world shows us just how great of a television series an 800 page novel can become, but the wheels certainly came off a bit when Martin’s guidebooks dried up. Once he stopped plotting the hows and the whys (and a lot of the dialogue word for word), Bennioff and Weiss lost a bit of the shine. It also will forever piss me off that these two hit the Wrap It Up Box on one of the most successful shows of all time so they could write a couple Star Wars movies.
All in all, Game of Thrones started off strong, became one of the most influential shows in television history, and staggered a bit to the finish line, but will forever be remembered as a series that changed television forever.
PS – Peep the poster for Season 1 below… The answer of who would sit on the Iron Throne was IN FRONT OF US THE WHOLE TIME!