Game of Thrones Series Finale: The Pack Survives
BY KAITLIN KONECKE
Game of Thrones Series Finale
The Pack Survives
Episode Grade: D+
The final season of Game of Thrones was an exercise in waiting. Waiting for the new season. Waiting for the Night King’s arrival at Winterfell. Waiting for a big twist. Waiting for something, anything, to happen. And watching the deeply disappointing and underwhelming series finale left me waiting for someone to tell me this is all a big joke.
But, unfortunately, it is all too real and no one is laughing. The epic, sprawling, and groundbreaking 8 seasons of Game of Thrones finished with an anticlimactic conclusion that was widely hated.
This episode was excruciatingly slow, with a lot of walking (slow walking) and not a lot of talking. It was quite possibly the least exciting episode of the entire series, and it was a baffling one, too. I hate to harshly criticize something that has been worked on by so many, that has had so much love and dedication poured into it. And so it pains me to say that the writing of this episode was just...terrible. It felt nothing like Game of Thrones. The dialogue read like a 14-year-old girl’s very first fanfiction. Much of the narrative choices did not make sense. And at the end of the day, this past decade of storytelling felt like it was all for nothing.
The Hand of the Queen
The episode opens with Tyrion and Jon slowly walking through the remains of King’s Landing, following Daenerys’ complete annihilation of the city in the previous episode. Tyrion goes searching for his brother and sister, going down the hidden stairwell that was to be the means of their escape. What he finds is a great heap of rubble, with Jaime’s golden hand poking through. He uncovers the bodies of Jaime and Cersei and sobs, truly heartbroken over the loss of his brother.
Up above ground, Daenerys swoops in on Drogon in perhaps the best shot of the series (yeah, I said it): she lands seamlessly, and Drogon’s wings stretch out behind her, making it look as though they are the wings of the dragon queen (and they kind of are). It was poetic.
Daenerys gives a rallying victory speech to her army, declaring the war won as they whoop and cheer. But she doesn’t stop there. She declares that they’ve freed King’s Landing and it’s time to free everyone. They will go to Dorne, Storm’s End, Casterly Rock, Winterfell, everywhere, and Daenerys will rule over them all. (We can assume that she means to torch those places too, if the people don’t bend the knee...or maybe even if they do.)
Jon and Tyrion look on in alarm, and yet Jon is still ride or die for the queen. Tyrion walks to stand beside Daenerys, who looks at him and remarks that he freed his brother and committed treason. Tyrion admits to freeing Jaime, but shoots back that she torched a city. He then rips his Hand of the Queen pin from his chest and tosses it on the ground. Daenerys has her soldiers seize him and lock him up before she turns and heads in to her new castle. It’s hard to believe that this is the same queen who, just two seasons ago, pinned Tyrion, naming him Hand of the Queen while being open and vulnerable and honest. Now there is only contempt, betrayal, and disgust.
Suddenly Arya is by Jon’s side, warning him. She knows Sansa won’t bend the knee. What will Jon do?
Jon visits Tyrion in his cell (where he delivers a classic Tyrion line, “Did you bring any wine?”). They talk about what has happened and what must be done. Tyrion admits that he loves Daenerys (“though not as successfully” as Jon) but she must be killed and Jon must do it. Tyrion explains that Daenerys ruled across the sea unquestioned--she freed slaves, killed slavers, inspired hordes of armies (both Unsullied and Dothraki) to follow her--and no advisor complained or challenged her because what she was doing was in the best interests of those she liberated. But she came to King’s Landing with an arrogance of her right to rule, and when it came time for her to be challenged...she pushed back and made the wrong decision with devastating consequences.
This is all fine and good. But the show could have showed us that, over time, throughout the season or the past two seasons. Instead, Tyrion tells it to us at the 11th hour, after we are already baffled by Daenerys’ aggressive character shift.
The dragon queen’s fate
Meanwhile, beyond Tyrion’s cell of assassination schemes, Daenerys slowly walks through the throne room, with snow-white ash falling everywhere. (Y’all thought it was snowing in the House of the Undying prophecy and it probably was, but the showrunners now want us to believe it was always ash.) She touches the Iron Throne, finally. Then Jon is there. Daenerys says a bunch of crazy, zealot-y, dictator-y crap to Jon about how she will liberate the world and who cares what the people want? She wants Jon by her side. They make out and then Jon stabs her. Daenerys dies very quickly, and very anticlimactically.
Drogon, who was snoozing outside, senses something is up. He flies into the throne room, perplexed at Daenerys’ corpse. He nudges her to wake up, mommy, wake up, and when he realizes she won’t because she is dead, Drogon screams and dramatically melts the Iron Throne with his dragon fire. Then he gently picks Daenerys up with his talon, and flies away to, presumably, never be seen again, while Jon looks on, surprisingly unharmed by a dragon who can apparently understand symbolism but not murder.
Bran the Broken
With Daenerys dead, and Tyrion and Jon arrested for treason and murder, the Lords and Ladies of the various houses in Westeros (including Robyn Aran, who went from breastfed pre-teen to madeover borderline hottie?) convened to discuss the fate of the prisoners. Instead of the Unsullied and the Dothraki enacting bloody vengeance on behalf of their slain queen, the Dothraki were nowhere to be found. And while Grey Worm demanded justice, when Tyrion said what justice would look like was for a king to decide, Grey Worm was, bafflingly, fine with that?
But who would be king and bring justice? Sam made a case for democracy, which was promptly guffawed at by everyone present. Then Tyrion made the case for Bran the Broken to be the king, to which Bran replied, “Why do you think I came all the way here?” What? There is no Bran; he’s the three-eyed raven and he can’t see the future. Ugh, fine, whatever.
Everyone agrees that it should be Bran, and that inheritance would no longer be passed down from father to son, but the rulers of each great house would be chosen democratically (even though they all laughed at that idea literally a moment ago). Only Sansa disagreed, saying the North will never bend the knee again, and she declares them an independent nation. Everyone was just like, “Yeah, okay, whatever” and declared Bran ruler of the six kingdoms, and Sansa queen of the North. The one thing, the only thing, this show was ever about was the fight for the iron throne. In the end, everyone gives it up so apathetically, it’s truly frustrating.
As Tyrion’s “punishment” for his bad decisions, Bran makes him Hand of the King. #justice. And I prayed for a quick death for myself because anything would be more merciful than this.
Game of chairs
The brilliant Peter Dinklage, whose performance in this series was unmatched by anyone, began his final scene in Game of Thrones with an agonizingly long take of him straightening chairs awaiting the king’s council. In walk Bronn (Master of Coin and Lord of Highgarden), Brienne (fresh off of updating Jaime’s Wikipedia page in the book of knights), Davos (always a voice of reason and humor), Sam (proudly displaying his tome of the story of Westeros, entitled “A Song of Ice and Fire” because of course it is), and Bran (on wheels). Bran rolls off to see if he can warg around looking for Drogon, though to what end was never clarified. The rest begin negotiating on behalf of the kingdom, quickly bickering about the importance of brothels, and launching into lewd stories. All was well.
But me? I actually cried literal tears of frustration at this ending. The whole thing felt like a joke. The episode opened with destruction and a queen on the verge of dictatorship, and then it very jarringly pivoted to light-hearted banter. Daenerys died so quickly there wasn’t any time to truly soak it in. Drogon’s mourning of his mother was a little sad, but instead of killing the only other person there (and therefore obviously the harbinger of her death), he screamed in anguish and torched the Iron Throne, before gently picking Daenerys’ corpse up by his talon and flying away to do no one knows what. The show began with the rebirth of mighty dragons and ended with a dragon just doing nothing and nobody cares. And the reason for each season (the literal GAME OF THRONES) was just shrugged off like, “Yeah, give it to this guy, whatever.”
The pack survives
The story concludes with Tyrion coming to a lightly bearded Jon Snow, who has been a prisoner for who cares how long and informing him that the best deal they could make with the Unsullied and the Dothraki as justice for his slaying of the queen was for Jon Snow to head to the Wall and take the black...again. (Why is there still a Night’s Watch if the Night King has been destroyed?) Then Daenerys’ last remaining soldiers all climb aboard a boat for Naath, as Jon walks by in his black fur cloak to be taken to the Wall.
Waiting for him on the docks are his family: Arya, Sansa, and Bran. The last of the Starks. They say a tearful goodbye. Arya will be sailing to where all maps end, exploring new worlds. Sansa will be queen in the North. Bran will be the king of everywhere else, I guess, although his first meeting with his council he peaced out to go warg-hunting for Drogon. And the final montage of this series was the only thing worth watching in this entire episode.
We see the Starks moving forward. Sansa is crowned queen of the North. Arya has set sail. Jon arrives at the wall to Tormund and Ghost (!!!) who finally gets the pets he deserves. And then Jon, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, most likely the Prince Who Was Promised (back when the show cared about prophecies), heads north of the Wall with Tormund and all the other Wildlings, with his direwolf by his side. He looks back towards Westeros one last time to see the gate of the Wall close. Then he rides on with the freefolk, in the North where he belongs. He has been both a bastard and a king, forced to play a game of thrones he never wanted any part of. Now he’s free, and the rules that had stringently dictated his life no longer matter.
The remaining Stark children, who have been through severe trials and traumas since the execution of their father all the way back in season one, have made it. They spent nearly eight seasons apart as lone wolves, and were brought back to one another, a pack again. They survived. It was beautiful.
I didn’t survive. And I hate everything.