And so we come to the end… my sweetest friend…
I haven’t done a Game of Thrones write-up for a few weeks for lots of reasons; mostly personal (work has been incredibly stressful and the last thing I wanted to do was put myself out there for people to immediately leap on with OPINIONS), but the big reason is that I just wanted to wait for the end to see how it all shook out.
Well, I have.
Anyone who has drank from the internet recently knows that the series finale, and indeed most of the last season, have disappointed many, many people. There are infinite Hot Takes, raging debates, scads of memes delightful and otherwise, and even a petition to ‘fix’ the show.
I am not one of those people. I was satisfied.
For my thoughts, Read More.
There will definitely be spoilers so if you care, avoid!
First, I will explain a bit of my background and why I think the things I do. Then, I’ll add some thoughts on the characters, starting with the more minor ones and working my way up to The Big Ones. Sound Good? Let’s get started.
I’ve read all the books (multiple times!), Fire and Blood, the tales of Dunk and Egg, and I’m working my way through A World of Ice and Fire right now. I’ve been watching the show since season 2, however I could – through cable subscriptions I cancelled once it was over, through downloads, through friend’s subscriptions. It’s the only show on television I have watched in real time since HBO’s Deadwood ended.
I have a BA in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. I’ve studied story and character in books, short stories, movies, video games, and television. I’ve self-published two novels and am working on a third, and have also written several nonfiction articles for magazines and websites. I am not telling you this because I think I’m smarter than you. I’m telling you this so you know how I orient to the show.
Podrick Payne – Podrick becomes a Knight of the King’s Guard, and well he should. It looked like Daniel Portman couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he pushed in Bran’s wheelchair and it warmed my heart to see. This hard-won honor is also proof that Pod and Brienne’s journey was always a parallel for Duncan the Tall and Aegon the Unlikely’s adventures from A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Nobody has a problem with Pod’s ending. Except people who want to know. You know.
Tormund Giantsbane– Nobody has a problem with Tormund’s ending, either. Except maybe he deserved a castle. And a Westerosi Fastpass so he can make visits to King’s Landing now and then.
Davos Seaworth – Davos surviving everything was both surprising and delightful. The Knight of Onions and unofficial Show Dad was raised from a humble origin in Flea Bottom to be Master of Ships. This was a smart and perfect choice on Tyrion’s part. Davos is a master of sailing and Getting Shit Done, and has first-hand knowledge of smallfolk life. This is a sign that things are changing in Westeros.
Samwell Tarly – The long-held theory that Sam was the Maester who was recording all of The Song and Ice and Fire is confirmed, in-show at least. I tried to figure out why he was wearing white robes; I thought it might mean he was an apprentice, but I couldn’t find anything confirming this. Maybe one of you knows! But I took it as a sign that while he was a maester, things within that profession would be changing. Hopefully he can continue his relationship with Gilly (who was noticeably absent from the episode).
Grey Worm – Although Grey Worm deserved a happy and peaceful ending, the decision to show him as insanely loyal to Danaerys’s commands to kill all enemies was unnecessary. In fact, the way the scene was shot, I thought he was going to wait for Jon to come back with word from Danaerys because it wasn’t true to his character. Grey Worm has shown himself to be a thoughtful person in the past, and on board with the idea of bringing peace to the vulnerable peoples of the world. I don’t buy him as a starting out a mindless killing machine for the Masters only to end up a mindless killing machine for Danaerys, even if they did kill Missandei in front of him. I hope the beaches and butterflies of Naath are good to him.
Brienne of Tarth – When Brienne opened the Kingsguard Book I knew what was coming, and the tears came forth. Not only did the scene reveal her as Lord Commander, which she earned fairly after all she’d been through, it brought back memories of all the things Jaime did for good or ill. Brienne is a paragon of honor, but she was never judgmental of her friend’s failings, even when he broke her heart. She’ll also prove a sensible voice on the Small Council, which until now has been a total sausage party.
Arya Stark – Arya Stark can go wherever the hell she wants and do whatever the hell she wants, and she will. She’s fulfilling her destiny as Nymeria, the Princess of Dorne who burned all her ships, who she named her direwolf after. She’ll live fierce and free, and fill in some of those big empty areas on the Citadel’s Maps – the ones where even the Ironborn dare not go. The Painted Table will need an extension once she’s done.
Sansa Stark – Queen in the North. Earned. I appreciated Sophie Turner’s hairstyle in the scene of double braids calling back to her appearance in season 1 as a scared little girl – and for a moment when all eyes were on her, she was… until she remembered herself. I didn’t like her calling out her uncle at first, but if Davos had done it it would have been hilarious, and she’s certainly been through as much as he has.
Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion’s end felt earned if you consider what being Hand really is – a life sentence of service. Bran even mentions this during the appointment. Oh, maybe he ran a little wild in the 2nd season when he was acting as Hand, but his whoring days are behind him and ahead – sewers. The man is going to be attending to the incredibly boring business of real government, which has nothing to do with sword fights or ice zombies and is ten times as hard as either. Peter Dinklage really put in the work on his scenes in this season. I didn’t care for him going down to ugly cry over Jaime and Cersei (especially because people killed in rockfalls are… well, generally less picturesque and more mooshy) but whatever, let him have another Emmy over it. The really important work he did was the talks he had with Jon about who Danaerys really is. Sure, the pacing was clumsy, but the clues were all there.
Also – Tyrion not being mentioned by Archmaester Ebrose was played for laughs, which is why I think a lot of people missed the point – Tyrion has a blank slate, as far as history goes. This is his opportunity for a fresh start, the one he’s been trying to achieve since first waking up after the Battle of the Blackwater. Tyrion has been subdued since that episode, and almost every one of Dinklage’s lines, delivered in his exquisite voice and questionable accent, has had a subtle note of melancholy. Seeing him fool with the chairs and hearing him perk up during the discussion of sewers and brothels was the first time he’s been fully himself in a long, long time.
Bran Stark – Yes, the memes are hilarious. But logically, Bran as king makes sense. He will never, ever put aside the needs of the realm for his personal wants because he doesn’t have any. Yes, he’s a bit weird and creepy and I wonder if he can love the realm the way he can’t love a single person, but when it comes to objective decisions, he’s the all time grand champion. And anyway, it’ll be the Small Council doing all the hard work, he’ll just look majestic and be a tie-breaker now and then.
The Iron Throne was never a prize to be won or taken. It was a responsibility. Ruling means making hard decisions that are for the good of everyone, not just you or your friends and family. It means making decisions in the best interest of people you’ve never even met.
People say he used Meera and Hodor to survive. I can see that. Still makes him much less ruthless than other people who were actively pursuing the throne.
Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen VI) – Jon was at his best in command of the Night’s Watch. At first, I didn’t see him heading north of the Wall as abandoning the NW, I saw him as leading a group of Wildlings to find a new place to settle since the threat of Others was now mitigated, with the intention of coming back. This is one of those points where the show frustrates me – ineffectively showing character motivation through action. A man on a horse doesn’t tell me what the man’s plans are in this world. Hell, the show starts with a ranging north of the Wall, it’s fitting that it ends the same way. But I think he probably was abandoning his duty. Unpopular Opinion Time: Jon twice broke his vows for love. He may not have wanted to be King in the North, but he bent the knee to Danaerys and then convinced himself that her actions were just. He even begs Tyrion for help justifying her actions after the massacre of King’s Landing, because deep down he knows it’s wrong. Love is the death of duty, and Tyrion throws it right back to point out Jon’s failings. But he was reunited with Ghost (whose ear for some reason was still bloody, weeks later), renewing his connection to the north and its spirit, so that’s the happy ending I wanted.
I won’t lie, when Drogon’s throat lit up I was full of feelings – sadness for Jon that his life should be so short after so much turmoil; anger; fear; and wonder if he would survive – and then the one thing happened that I KNEW had to happen, the end of the Iron Throne.
Danaerys Targaryen – The entire death scene was beautiful. Her touching the Iron Throne (but not sitting on it!), her face beatific in victory as the ash falls around her… and then Jon appears, framed in the dark doorway behind her. When I saw his weapons I knew what was coming. But oh, it still hurt. Drogon nudging her, and then tenderly lifting her to fly away – born into legend, that’s where she returned in death. Magnificent.
Watching the outrage at Danaerys’s character arc is straight up fascinating. People feel betrayed. I’m not going to say they shouldn’t feel that way – in fact, I think that’s the beauty of what the show wrought (I say that with the massive caveat that the show is not the books, and that I think the books will handle her arc with much more nuance). What we watched was nothing less than the development of a villain, even if we didn’t want to believe it. That’s the whole point! I’m not saying this to gloat or to say anyone’s anger over Danaerys’s actions is wrong – I’m saying this because I was fooled, too!
The concept of ‘villain’ puts a little box around a character and keeps you at an emotional remove from them. It reduces complex character motivations to simple ones, and worst of all implies a character is doing something they know is wrong, as if they wake up cackling and twirling their mustache. Introduce a character as a villain from the start and you don’t connect the same way as you would with a ‘hero.’ You enjoy watching a villain’s triumphs, failings, character moments and such, but always as if you’re observing through the glass at the zoo. There’s a protective filter in place that doesn’t allow you to sympathize too much, lest you start to see their point of view. Think about some of the speeches Tywin Lannister made, especially to Arya when she was pretending to be his cupbearer – and you’ll see what I mean. Introduced as somewhat villainous from the start, it was easier to keep him at arm’s length, even when he was making sense.
As the show wore on the villains became laughably one-dimensional – Ramsay Bolton, Euron Greyjoy, an increasingly unhinged Cersei – so as to misdirect the viewer from the real threat.
That’s why this cultural event is so important. We began with Dany as a vulnerable young girl, we were with her through all her triumphs and torments, we watched her hurt and heal and hurt again, and we fell in love with her, all against a backdrop that showed immolations, battles, and crucifixions.
And that’s the lesson: the most painful betrayal of all comes from the one you love.
This scene has been called cheesy, but I thought it was perfect. Danaerys has been a Dragon all along, and the audience, through Jon, is finally seeing her as such.
Thank you for reading this long ramble of mine. I know you have opinions, so please, let me know in the comments!