Series finales are tricky beasts and pretty much impossible to wrap in a way that makes most of the fanbase happy. For all the fans that didn’t run screaming in the woods to find a pitchfork or fill out online petitions begging for a redo of this entire season, A Song of Fire and Ice ended in the most satisfying Game of Thrones way possible.
Were there some mistakes? Sure, but overall this episode featured a lot of what’s made this such a must-see series.
One of the bigger complaints of the last few seasons was how Tyrion was made to look like a moron who couldn’t strategize to save his brother (or sister’s) life. Worse, all of the skills that made him such a fascinating player in this game as an ultimate strategist along the lines of Cersei, Littlefinger and Varys were being wasted. Instead of watching the Michael Jordan of GOT go to work, he was being treated like Toni Kukoc.
This episode felt like the writers remembered Tyrion was the focal point of some of the series’ best episodes long before the white walkers started warring up North and before Daenerys was roasting fools who looked at her sideways.
A Sky of Burnt Ash
Tyrion was seething as he surveyed the charred remnants of King’s Landing. This was the magnificent shining city now so many burning embers and falling ashes. Think of how traumatic it would be to see your old neighborhood devastated and knowing none of it had to happen. Tyrion looked at the destruction and saw his perfect failure to influence Daenerys into being a kind, merciful ruler. He thought back on all the times he turned a blind eye to her particular form of justice. How she dismissed his guidance and cruelly burned the Tarleys, a foreshadowing of how Daenerys treated all of her enemies. Now, Daenerys’ ultimate victory left the center of Westeros in tatters.
Seeing every day citizens turned to ash was one thing, but Tyrion had to know. He followed the path Jaime took on his way to rescue Cersei, saw the rock pile and navigated through the cave-in. Maybe there was a chance? Just maybe Jaime was quick enough to take their predetermined escape route. But the dusty metallic hand barely visible through the rubble quickly killed any fleeting hope. Tyrion had to see for himself and slowly moved the rocks knowing exactly what he would see — Jaime and Cersei’s mangled bodies underneath the pile.
There was an interesting fan theory that since we didn’t see a body, perhaps Jaime or Cersei did survive and one of them was going to kill Daenerys. But that didn’t jibe. Jaime and especially Cersei didn’t need some big heroic moment. Jaime’s best acts revolved around Brienne from losing his hand for her to officially knighting her.
Going back to Cersei wasn’t pissing over years of character development, it was an addict getting the final hit that ultimately killed him. Seeing his siblings dead stirred up a new emotion in Tyrion that he hadn’t experienced since catching Shea in bed with his father. A rage that would not subside even if it led to his death. This was a wonderfully performed moment from Peter Dinklage, who hadn’t gotten nearly enough moments to shine. Besides Lena Heady, I don’t think there’s been another actor as consistently great in the series and this episode was the ideal showcase for him.
A Queen’s Victory March
I think the CGI team got overzealous with the Unsullied and Dothraki forces. Daenerys’ Dothraki forces looked like they were decimated in the battle at Winterfell and then Euron looked like he made a huge dent in the Unsullied. Now, it looked like she still had a million soldiers left. And Drogon the City Destroying Dragon. It ruined the illusion of Daenerys as the valiant fighter who overcame all the odds against the face of death with the walkers and the battle for the throne.
Either way, Daenerys looked like a straight BOSS as Drogon dropped her off as she addressed her armies. Originally the plan was to free the world by taking King’s Landing, but now after wrecking shop there, Daenerys thinks the rest of Westeros needs her special brand of protection and chain-breaking services. Walking up the steps to stand by her side, Jon isn’t so sure. She did kill a ton of people, but man she looks smoking in the black outfit. The perils of falling for your aunt who also turns out to be a homicidal, power tyrant.
As Arya slowly walked in that direction, I wondered if she was going to show off her left hand now the right hand stabbing trick. But it was Tyrion who made the decisive action of ripping off his Queen’s hand sigil. After freeing Jaime, this was a pretty aggressive move, but Tyrion is left at 0 Fs and is fine getting escorted to the prison.
Arya warns Jon that Daenerys is ready for more war and isn’t ready to enjoy retirement on the throne just yet.
We’ve been here before in GOT. The fateful moments in the prison before the execution. It didn’t work out so well for Ned. Nor for Oberyn, who fought for Tyrion’s freedom. Cersei had to go streaking to earn her get out of jail card. How would this time turn out for Tyrion?
He had a lone guest — Jon, who clearly is torn between his feelings for Dany and every iota of common sense. Tyrion tries to break it down so simple even a man who knows nothing can understand it. Dany = bad. Killing her = good for everyone…except maybe Lil Jon. Tyrion made all the convincing cases to sell me on why Dany had to go, but would it work for Jon? That last line of mentioning Arya and Sansa’s likely unwillingness to bend the knee seemed to reach Jon. As much as I praise Dinklage and rightfully so, Kit Harington was so good in this scene and this episode.
Forever my Lady and Queen
Jon had a decision to make and it was a tough one. Roll with Dany or ensure the next Westeros clam bake will actually use clams instead of people. Drogo is clearly the most bad a$$ security system ever. He was chilling in the ashes, but gave Jon the once over and remembered he had that special Targaryen strand blood. Time to see Dany.
Daenerys had waited all her life or since her brother’s death for this moment. The Iron Throne was hers for the sitting. She’d wiped out her enemies and besides maybe putting a few walls around that new window, her throne was secure. She was happy to see Jon and despite warnings from everyone, Daenerys still wasn’t viewing Jon as a threat to her throne. Why would she? He loved her and bent the knee for her. Daenerys went in Anakin Skywalker circa final chat with Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith mode talking about her new empire. Everything everyone warned him about was solidified in Dany’s pitch. This wasn’t a betrayal so much as the realization that the woman you’re with doesn’t get along with any of your friends and your sisters hate her and now you know why.
Jon went in for the dramatic kiss and embrace and then stuck it in. Get your mind out of the gutters people. I’m talking the dagger her used to kill the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and Hook-er Up with Nephews.
This was shocking moreso for how early it was in the episode. What the heck is supposed to happen now? For starters, Drogo is going to show his displeasure with his “mom’s” death by melting the Iron Throne. This was better than Jon’s head. It was almost like he recognized this was Daenerys’ obsession, which got her killed. It’s similar to Jaime. Daenerys had it made earlier when she was freeing slaves and was a vital cog of the battle against the white walkers (although in hindsight she kept a slew of troops in reserve). And she had a guy that made her heart flutter. But like Cersei to Jaime, Daenerys wouldn’t settle for good and wanted what she’d always wanted. And like Jaime, it ended with her death.
I understand how divisive this is for all the Team Daenerys stans. This wasn’t the way their hero should go out, but the signs have always been there and this series was ever only going to end with her dead to pay for her horrific crimes.
I Stand for Democracy
Weeks have passed since Daenerys’ death and all of the leaders of Westeros have gathered to decide on Jon and Tyrion’s fate. I’m pretty sure I know which way the Winterfell camp is voting. Yara Greyjoy is not surprisingly down for punishment. After all, she’d lost her brother, Theon, a second time to the Starks and this time for good.
Hey, look the new leader of Dorne is here…and apparently won’t weigh in on anything. Tyrion comes before the court and subtly navigates them into deciding their own ruler. Sam’s suggestion of a democratic selection by the people for the people gets laughed down, but Tyrion ultimately navigates them back on that line of thinking. With a stalemate among the leaders, Tyrion offers a suggestion that the people love a good story and who has the best story of them all? I’d say the bastard of two houses, who united the Wildlings and The Night’s Watch, confronted the Night’s King, died and was resurrected, flew a dragon and saved the realm from the most dreaded threat in history.
Instead, Tyrion nominates Bran. We won’t have to worry about Bran getting overly emotional although I’m pretty sure Sansa’s logic that he’s “crippled” and therefore can’t have children doesn’t fully check out. The leaders support this with one exception. Sansa says the North isn’t bending to any ruler from beyond. Makes sense. Now, the land has a new ruler, Bran the Broken. A lot of folks (Hodor, Jojan, Theon, Osha) and one direwolf (Summer) died to keep Bran safe all now it all comes together. But still, Jon’s story was better.
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The Lord of the Rings trilogy was an immersive experience. Its third film, Return of the King, had what seemed like a natural end point and then went to a series of epilogues. I didn’t hate it as this was the chance for a final farewell to such great characters. This final stage of the episode played out a lot like that where it felt like the writers really didn’t want things to end.
Brienne wrote the final chapter in Jaime’s story going with the non-petty final line of saying he died protecting his queen. That’s better than my suggestion of “Died like a moron because he was still in love with his sister. Really?”
Jon wasn’t going to get away with killing Daenerys. Grey Worm didn’t want to start a war with the North over killing Jon and agreed with the council’s decision to send him to The Wall.
Bran made Tyrion his reluctant Hand, but he quickly took to the chance to make things right with his new council of Davos, Maester Sam, Brienne and Bronn. This seems an odd role for Bronn, who last we saw was threatening to kill Tyrion. A Lannister always repays his debts, indeed.
The Stark kids had their final farewell and began their respective journeys. For Sansa that means getting the best tribute one can have in Winterfell, the Quenna the North chants. Ruling fits Sansa well and I enjoyed her arc (minus Ramsey Bolton) to get to the throne.
Arya’s off to explore beyond the maps as a captain of her own direwolf theme ship. Yes, I would absolutely watch an Arya’s Pirate Adventures spin-off.
Jon took the long ride back to The Wall where he was greeted by Tormund and Ghost. Now, Jon gets to have his moment with his direwolf, mangled ear and all. This was the happiest ending for Jon. Back with the Wildlings, the people who truly adored him and restoring the glory of The Night’s Watch. The shred of grass emerging from the snow signifying the influence of the white walkers has been completely extinguished.
Was this almost too happy an ending for Game of Thrones? Maybe, but after getting screwed over so terribly the first three seasons, the Stark kids ended up doing alright for themselves.
Could we have used more time watching Daenerys become more of this great villain? I’d argue no as it was the loss of Missandei and Jorrah that pushed her over the edge. We knew she had this in her. I wish Cersei just had more speaking time and some sort of plan besides watch the dragon burn my kingdom while I take this wine to the head.
Was this a perfect series finale? No, but the accelerated pacing of the last two seasons wasn’t helpful for this conclusion to work on all levels. I’d still argue it was thee correct conclusion for most of the characters’ journeys. Bran becoming king makes sense, but is the least exciting option for a great payoff, but the other Starks truly got the happy ending they deserved.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Game of Thrones got me into reviewing TV shows and I’m really appreciative of the show for making the TV review grind so much fun and for everyone who read my rants and ramblings. It’s definitely been appreciated.
Photo Credit: HBO