A Song of Ice and Fire
Directed by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
And here we are, folks! The very end of Game of Thrones! Hard to believe that it was just seven months ago that I began my series of reviews of each and every episode, but what an experience it has been getting to watch this terrific show! I do not change my stance in saying that I have not at all been disappointed with season eight, although I certainly agree that the season would have benefited so much more from being given a full ten episodes, particularly so that the pacing could have a slower, more natural feel to it. Nevertheless, this is where we are, and now it's all about who takes the Throne, and how does the series wrap up so many long-running character arcs and stories. I think, no matter how long Game of Thrones had decided to run, the ending was going to be divisive: something that D&D and many of the actors warned us about well before the season premiered. And seeing all the divided responses from audiences and critics, D&D and the actors turned out to be exactly right. A lot of people were not going to be satisfied with the ending. Many were going to deem it disappointing and a finale that belonged on the list of worst TV series finales of all time .
You might have guessed by now, but I am not one of those people who was disappointed with the finale. In fact, I was very happy with the way that D&D brought this engaging, long-running story to an end, even if the road to getting us to this finale was pretty rocky at times. Before I start talking about the specifics of the episode, I do want to give one final statement on something that these final two seasons of Game of Thrones have taught me: here in 2019, we live in a time where bitterness and hatred are sky high, where social media plays a huge impact on not only our day to day lives, but also our right to freedom of speech and how we generally communicate with others. Why do I say this? Because nowadays, no matter where you go, whether it's Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or anywhere where pop culture is a huge thing, it is impossible to surf through videos, posts, etc. and not quickly find yourself in a sea of hatred. Just go on Youtube and type in "Game of Thrones finale". I guarantee that nine out of ten videos you will find are videos of people saying that "The Iron Throne" was one of, if not the worst, TV finale of all time, which I honestly have a hard time believing to be true. It's a world of extremes where either something is amazing or terrible. There is no middle ground. Honestly, I feel that a lot of the 1/10, 1-star ratings that people are putting on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, and elsewhere are very lazy, immature reviews (as are a lot of critics' reviews too honestly- USA Today's Kelly Lawler and BGR's Chris Smith were especially bad with their reviews of the final few episodes-, but everyone is entitled to their opinion). Comment sections are even worse, and I'm not going to bother talking about why comment sections should be avoided at all costs. To many people, posting a hateful comment about why D&D are horrible writers and that they're going to ruin Star Wars next is their way of "getting revenge", despite the fact that D&D are never going to read said comment and said comment does absolutely nothing to stop the two from pursuing other projects. By the way, I forgot to mention in my review of "The Bells" that that petition to redo season eight is one of the most embarrassing things I've seen in a long time.
The way I see it, every comment that berates D&D as bad, incompetent writers is only reinforcing the idea that they are very talented writers. Berating them as bad writers obviously means people are angry, and being angry means that you care, that you feel something. If D&D aren't talented writers, how were they able to make you care in the first place? "But it wasn't their writing! It was George R.R. Martin's writing!" True, and D&D were able to mix their own writing ideas with those of Martin's and translate them in a way on-screen that became an international TV sensation. Game of Thrones has never followed the novels verbatim, just an FYI. Also, it's not like it's D&D's fault that Martin was not able to finish the final two novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and thus, left the two to approach the finale with just check marks and not a full-blown road map. This to me should always be part of the conversation if there is to be any debate about how Game of Thrones had seemingly declined in quality after season four, because D&D are not George R..R Martin. They did not create these characters, nor did they originally think up this story. Plus, you have to take into account other variables: D&D suffering burnout, the actors growing tired and wanting to leave to pursue other projects. None of this is to say that D&D made all the best choices imaginable with how Game of Thrones came to an end. I think, instead of calling them incompetent writers and saying nothing more of it, I'd say that, if you're going to criticize their writing, do so with a mindset that having to finish the story largely on their own was certainly not the way they envisioned bringing the series to an end.
With all that said, let's now get into the episode itself. Just a heads up: this will likely be another lengthy review, so buckle up. So King's Landing is now in ruins: buildings destroyed, corpses lying in the streets, ash (and snow?) falling from the sky. Daenerys addresses her troops with a speech about how, now that they've taken the Iron Throne, they will now liberate the entire world, which obviously doesn't sit well with Jon, Tyrion, and Arya. If we can universally agree on one thing in this finale, it would be the visuals and the cinematography. The charred remains of King's Landing are shot beautifully with a darker color palette, like it's the prettiest post-apocalypse site you've ever seen. There's also a really neat shot of Daenerys walking forward, with Drogon's wings flapping right behind her, as if to signify that Daenerys is a fallen angel. It's all so lovely to look at, that I think the less I say the better. Tyrion is given quite a lot to do in the early parts of the episode: finding the bodies of Jaime and Cersei, leading to him resigning as Hand of the Queen. As much as people have criticized that Tyrion has been relegated to useless side character these final few seasons, I think that criticism isn't as legitimate as many people think it is. For starters, Tyrion has been a part of nearly every important conversation that has taken place during seasons seven and eight, and it's pretty easy to point to the fact that he has had no shortage of dialogue in the time he has been serving under Daenerys. Everyone wants to think that Tyrion was a super smart and wildly successful politician during his time in King's Landing, coupling his astute political maneuvering with a series of wise-cracking remarks that only added to his gift of knowing how to use words.
When it came to governing, no one was better than Tyrion, and this is where a lot of people get confused. Governing is one thing, but when it comes to warfare, now that's a whole different ball game: a ball game that Tyrion was never very talented in. Despite the fact that Tyrion was able to rally his troops to defend King's Landing during "Blackwater", the battle ended with Tyrion nearly being killed, and Tywin Lannister coming to the rescue. From there, Tyrion spent his time in a cellar, alone, and forced to do things against his will: marrying Sansa, and going on trial for a murder he didn't commit. Tyrion's attempt to escape with trial by combat backfired: a failure as heart wrenching as his failed relationship with Shae. Tyrion's skills in war didn't improve at all while under Daenerys, and when the plot escalated such that the action took center stage, people were upset thinking Tyrion became "useless", when in reality, he has been making mistakes and failing for far longer than people realize.
In the end, Tyrion Lannister survives, and does so by being granted a position where his skills are best put to use: governing. Before that though, Tyrion has an engaging conversation with Jon that basically boils down to him saying Jon needs to make the choice to either kill Daenerys or let her tyrannical rule live on. Jon keeps insisting that he bent the knee and thus, he is loyal to her, but we can see it in Jon's face (kudos to Kit Harington's great acting): he knows it's stupid to think otherwise. There's only one choice to make, and he has to make it now. The dialogue that Jon and Tyrion exchange is essentially the conversation that everyone was having after "The Bells", about how Daenerys killed evil men during her rise to power, and how she chose to burn an entire city to the ground. Did people forget that characters have been asking very logical questions and making very logical remarks during the entire show, including through season eight? This should not be confused with plot points that seem to be at least slightly illogical.
From here, we get to the episode's climax, and this is the one part of the episode that I wish could have been done differently. Daenerys walks up to the now vacant Iron Throne, mirroring the way she walked up to the Throne during her vision in the House of the Undying back in season two. Jon confronts Daenerys, and after the two share a passionate kiss with Jon reaffirming to Daenerys that he is her Queen, Jon doesn't hesitate. He kills her: driving a knife into her heart. There's nothing graphic or prolonged about it. It's quick, simple, and straight to the point. We don't even get any time to breathe as Drogon emerges shortly afterwards and discovers that his Mom has been killed. When it looks like Jon is surely a goner, Drogon doesn't burn him. Drogon burns the Iron Throne and flies away, taking Daenerys' body with him.
The first inclination is to ask why the hell did Drogon not kill Jon? The symbolism of this moment isn't too difficult to decipher, and it honestly makes a lot more sense than if Drogon just incinerated Jon. Characters have previously told us about how dragons are magical creatures, which is sort of a fancy way of saying they're very smart. Drogon gets it: the Iron Throne and the desire to take it was what led Daenerys to her death. The Iron Throne has seated many tyrannical rulers during Westeros' history, and had Daenerys taken the Throne and started her quest to liberate the world, it would just be starting the cycle of chaos all over again. By burning the Iron Throne, Drogon is breaking the cycle that took his mother from him, permanently. In a way, Drogon is fulfilling Daenerys' claim to break the wheel. Jon Snow did the literal killing, but it was the Iron Throne that signaled Daenerys' true cause of death.
When we see what happens the rest of the way, "The Iron Throne" looks like two episodes crammed into one 80 minute marathon. The transition from Daenerys' death to the discussion of who should be the new King is pretty abrupt, mostly because the episode doesn't allow us enough time to digest what we saw moments before, nor do we get to see any major reactions from other characters. The emotional weight of such a significant death is not given the time nor the attention it deserves, and no, I am not trying to speak bad about the way Drogon nudges Daenerys' body after she's killed. No one was ready for that moment. Jon being the one to kill Daenerys was the right move, and the way he kills her shouldn't be anything to cause widespread debate. The problem however, is that with Daenerys being one of the series' most pivotal characters- having been present since the first episode- it's a bit frustrating that her death is treated as a bit of a, I hate to use this word, but...an afterthought. It's as if D&D wanted to get to the, "everything is coming to an end" parts of the episode as quick as possible, and they tried to figure out what was the best way they could wrap up Daenerys' story line, while giving it as little screen time as possible. The rushed pacing struck pretty hard at times during seasons seven and eight, and boy did it strike hard this time. I wholeheartedly believe that there was an entire episode's worth of material dedicated to just the aftermath of "The Bells", and the episode would end with Jon killing Daenerys. Then, we would have the final episode focused purely on picking a new King and seeing how every surviving character's story comes to an end. We would get the full emotional payoff of Daenerys' death, and we wouldn't have a slightly awkward jump from the death of the Mother of Dragons to deciding on a new King.
So, since I've said, "picking a new King" about five hundred times already in this review, it's time to talk about who does get to be ruler of Westeros at the end of the day. Drum roll, please. The winner of the game of thrones is.....
Wait, what? Bran Stark? Yep, that's right. Bran Stark is chosen to be ruler of the Seven, er, sorry, the Six Kingdoms. Sansa declares that the North will be an independent kingdom, and she will rule there as Queen. Tyrion makes an impassioned speech to everyone gathered at the Dragon Pit, believing that no one has a better story than Bran the Broken and that he is the right person to take Westeros and its people into the future. This is really what sold me over about the finale. I loved this decision, and thought it was the best choice. Many people, however, hated this decision, upset that Westeros would now be ruled by, "a cripple who creepily stares at everything" (yet another lazy and immature way of viewing things). Bran Stark has always been a puzzling character in terms of how well others have received him. Understandably, a lot of people found him to be a very boring character, especially after he became the Three-Eyed Raven and showed basically no emotion the rest of the way. If you want to take it a step farther, some have argued that Game of Thrones was never very interested in Bran as a character, pointing to evidence such as the series shelving him for an entire season (season five). By process of elimination though, Bran is the best choice among all possible candidates. Jon Snow? He's the rightful heir, but he killed the Queen and has stated numerous times that he doesn't want to rule. In addition, he has spent almost all his time in the series up North, so why would they want to entrust the Throne to a man who only knows one of the Kingdoms? Tyrion? He is excellent at governing, but there's more to being a King than governing. Sansa? Her place is in the North. Plus, King's Landing was a nightmare for her for several seasons, so she probably would prefer not to spend the rest of her life there. Arya? She knows next to nothing about ruling multiple Kingdoms. Who does that leave us with then? Actually, I think that's about it.
There are many things that irked people about Bran ending up as King: he's boring, he's never done anything to earn such a title, the question of if he has a better story than everyone else. I think all along though, Bran has been one of the series' most important characters, and this is truly what his Three-Eyed Raven arc has been building towards. The entire chain of events that is the game of thrones likely never would have started had Bran not been pushed out of the tower. Bran's fall was the catalyst that put everything into motion, and had it never happened, well, Game of Thrones might have never been a very interesting series to begin with. How would the Starks have escalated their conflict with the Lannisters, which in turn, escalated so many other conflicts across Westeros? If Bran was the one who opened the flood gates for Game of Thrones, well, it's only fitting that he be the one who closes them for good. Bran doesn't want to be King. He doesn't want to hold titles, lands, or a throne. He is incapable of wanting and having desires as the Three-Eyed Raven. As the Three-Eyed Raven, he sees all. He knows all of Westeros' history: all its memories, all its triumphs, all its travesties. He sees things, and he knows things. Nothing more, and nothing less. That is exactly why he is the perfect fit to rule the Six Kingdoms. Every ruler that came before him only served to continually spin the perpetual wheel of chaos, the wheel that plagued Westeros and turned it into a hateful, fearful country that prided itself on power and corruption. Perhaps the only thing that could break Westeros out of this seemingly endless cycle was a mythical power like that of the Three-Eyed Raven: a power that was completely immune to narcissism, jealousy, and anger.
So what does this mean in the context of Game of Thrones' overarching themes, and what then was the point of watching this story all along? Some felt that Bran ending up as King was a betrayal and a failure to the series' realistic take on the fantasy genre (which is ignorant, because saying this fantasy series is "realistic" is not accounting for the plethora of high fantasy elements the series has displayed since day one: dragons and White Walkers being the ultimate two examples). Others simply deemed it anticlimactic, especially because there was seemingly no build-up to Bran becoming King. Through all the tragedy, all the death, and all the violence, Game of Thrones has been a story about finding hope, honor, and goodness in a world full of nihilism and every other evil known to man. Bran becoming the Three-Eyed Raven and becoming King of Westeros assures that Westeros has finally found that hope, honor, and goodness that it has craved for so long. It's not a completely happy ending. It's absolutely the bittersweet one that George R.R. Martin promised all along. Westeros is finally in good hands, but all our loved ones (mostly the surviving members of House Stark) are forced to go their separate ways. In addition, it speaks significantly about the story arc of Daenerys Targaryen, and why it's wrong to think of her story as nothing but an ill-fated tragedy. Daenerys' efforts weren't for nothing in the end. She promised to break the wheel, and she did: by turning herself into the one person she swore to never become. By doing so, Daenerys put the final nail in the coffin of Westeros' endless cycle of chaos. She herself was the final nail. Her story was a bittersweet success, because she helped bring an end to Westeros' suffering, but it was her own tragic death that marked the official end.
What about everyone else who survived? Jon Snow is sent back to the Night's Watch to live out his days with Tormund, the wildlings, and Ghost (oh my gosh, Jon did get to pet him after all!). The biggest question I've seen get thrown around about Jon is what was the point of him being a Targaryen? More than anything, Jon being a Targaryen contributed significantly to Daenerys' downfall: her own allies turning against her, and also contributing mightily to Westeros finally figuring out how it could make peace. The problem is because the season felt so short, it didn't have enough time to fully gel. Jon got his bittersweet ending too. He may not be able to be with his remaining family, but he's back in an environment that he's very comfortable and perfectly happy to be in. Arya decides to see what's west of Westeros, cause there's basically nothing else for her to do at home now that all this craziness is over and done with, and she's grown used to travelling, so why not? Others like Tyrion, Brienne, Bronn, Ser Davos, and Samwell Tarly all now enjoy serving Bran and leading on the Small Council. Sansa is Queen of the North. After all this time, the Stark children can continue their father's legacy: one that has been so important and so vital to many of these characters. It finally worked out in the end. Westeros can finally begin a peaceful, happy future.
"The Iron Throne", in the end, is a quiet and meditative conclusion to Game of Thrones, and even if a lot of it seems to fall along the lines of, "happily ever after", it still manages to leave that bittersweet taste in your mouth to ensure that you won't be able to remember this story as, "a fairy tale for grown-ups". It seemed for so long that this story would end with The Living vanquishing the Dead, and yes, that did happen, but many were stunned by how much earlier it happened. The more I think about it though, the more I feel that killing the Night King and the White Walkers earlier was the right move. If season eight and Game of Thrones' ending were about nothing but the White Walkers, there would be no sufficient way that the series could bring closure to so many long-standing storylines. What would be more nihilistic than to have so many meaningful story arcs end in, "death by Walkers?" We shouldn't assume that all these characters have to die. Some of them have to live in the end, because Game of Thrones has always promised a better world, a better tomorrow, and it just wouldn't feel right if the series ended with a shallow story-line in which its characters turn into the fantasy equivalent of superheroes and spend a full season facing off against a supernatural entity, meanwhile checking off all the boxes of prophecies and theories that fans believed the series needed to fulfill. Believe it or not, but the White Walkers did serve a great purpose to the series in the end: they united so many divided factions of the world, and Westeros' future is all the better because of it
Alas, folks, but this is where it comes to an end with my Game of Thrones' reviews. Chances are pretty good that I will be watching the prequel series when they come out, although I don't envision doing reviews for another television series anytime soon. No matter how this final season rubbed off on you, don't let it diminish all the great experiences you had watching this terrific series. If you hated the ending, that doesn't mean you should never go back and watch all the other parts you enjoyed so much. Game of Thrones' ending was pretty much doomed from the start: the series became so popular, that its ending was always going to divide people and have many screaming that is ending worse than the endings of the likes of Dexter, Lost, and How I Met Your Mother. Frankly, I don't think Game of Thrones' ending belongs on any "Best of" or "Worst of: lists. It takes the safe route with its ending, and doesn't try to do anything too out of this world. Better to go out quietly than to leave your audience with something like a dumb, last-second twist. There were certainly things that could have been done better in "The Iron Throne", and part of me wishes that D&D would have just swallowed their pride and give these final two seasons the full ten episodes they deserved. But it's all in the history books now, and no stupid petition by a bunch of self-entitled brats is going to change that. Instead of making ridiculous complaints about how the ending ruined the entire show, be grateful. Be grateful that you live in a time period where Game of Thrones exists, and you get to watch it. Be grateful that this series ever got to be made in the first place, and be grateful that, no matter what issues these final episodes may have had, that you had so many great memories and conversations, watching how the series played out. Ignore any and every article you see telling you about shows that could, "be the next Game of Thrones." They're all bullshit. Game of Thrones is a one of a kind series that broke new ground for what television is capable of. We never saw anything like it before, and we'll never see anything like it ever again. Farewell to one of the greatest television series ever made. We don't know what we'll do without you!
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