In the end, the “Game of Thrones” was all about the Starks.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) got peace in the far north with the Wildings. Sansa (Sophie Turner) became queen of the north. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) won the Iron Throne. And Arya (Maisie Williams) asked the prophetic question, “What’s west of Westeros?” and decided to find out. She sailed.
The whole world was watching last night as “Game of Thrones” ended and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempsted Wright), chosen weeks ago by oddsmakers to sit on the Iron Throne, became the ruler of the Six Kingdoms. (Why not seven? More about that later.) In a somber yet fitting series finale, “Game of Thrones” chose mercy over war and reason over egomania. Dany’s invasion came to naught. The episode’s one major death — that of the Mad Queen, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) — came early on, but those who expected someone like Arya (Maisie Williams) to take her out were in for a surprise. Her killer was her lover: Jon Snow (Kit Harington). And there was a kiss before he stabbed her to death.
Of all TV shows of the Golden Age, “GoT” was the one with the most global reach and with the most passionate fan base, one that devoured the novels written by George R.R. Martin and drove the ratings from an average of 2.52 million viewers in the United States in 2011 for Season 1 to 10.26 million viewers for Season 7 in 2017.
The “GoT” fever was spread through social media. Fans were so devoted, they dominated Twitter to declare their love for the show and its characters. They created hilarious memes for the show or went so far as to name their children after its characters. (Those little girls named Daenerys may have some trouble in kindergarten in a few years now that she’s the Mad Queen, not the good queen). In the process, “GoT” was transformed into an unparalleled pop-culture phenomenon.
Ah, but be careful what you wish for. Expectations for Season 8 were so high that when executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have been off-book now for two seasons, did not give fans the show they wanted, some became combative, condemning the showrunners as hacks and going so far as to gather 1 million signatures for Season 8 to be refilmed.
It’s difficult to imagine outraged “Sopranos” fans going to the same lengths to ask for a redo of that controversial series finale.
Obviously, Season 8 is not going to be filmed again, but it’s remarkable to note how protective the “GoT” fans are of the show and how they took to heart the producers’ clumsiness — that Starbucks cup was the tipping point — and the wholesale trashing of the female characters. (What can I tell you? The show is largely written by men.) Despite their hurt feelings, these super-fans did not turn away from their TVs or phones. Last Sunday’s fiery episode drew a record 18.4 million viewers across all HBO platforms (linear, HBO GO and HBO NOW).
So how was the finale? Slowly paced.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) surveys the wreckage of King’s Landing and works his way to the basement of the Red Keep, where he weeps openly upon discovering the corpses of Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau). How wrong he was about everything. With Dany’s slaughter of the innocents heavy on his mind, Tyrion resigns his post as Hand of the Queen. Dany seems unfazed and tells her men to take him prisoner for the act of treason of freeing Jaime.
Dany gives a powerful speech to the surviving members of the Unsullied army (who seemed to multiply like loaves and fishes into an impressive horde) in which she promotes Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) to Master of War and calls on her men to help her stamp out evil and conquer the world. As Arya and Jon watch, they look less than convinced. After freezing Jon with an icy glance, Dany leaves with her army and Arya has a stern word with her brother. “You’ll always be a threat to her,” she said. “I know a killer when I see one.”
Jon visits Tyrion in his prison cell and the former Hand of the Queen tries to persuade him that Dany is no longer the woman that they both loved. Jon visibly struggles to maintain his vow of loyalty to his queen, but leaves before Tyrion presses him any further.
Which brings us to the climactic scene of the episode and the series. Daenerys enters the chamber where the empty Iron Throne sits, waiting for its rightful occupant. She touches the throne and a serene expression washes over her face, as if she has this whole thing in the bag. Enter Jon. He is upset and castigates his queen about all the children she killed while wiping out Cersei and King’s Landing. Sure he will come round to her view, Dany encourages him to work with her to break the wheel together. Embracing for the last time, Jon says, “You will always be my queen.” Mid-kiss, the dagger goes in and Dany stares, dumbfounded, at her betrayer, a streak of blood running from her mouth.
As she falls to the floor, Drogon checks out the scene. He nudges Dany’s lifeless body with his head and sees that she is no more. In fury, the dragon fires up a blast of grief and rage and melts the Iron Throne while Jon watches. Then he scoops up Dany’s body and flies her body out to Essos.
The rest of the episode was a series of staff meetings (no SEO experts in sight) and crownings. Tyrion eloquently makes the case for Bran the Broken to be made the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and asks Bran if he minds being nominated. Bran, who works at being enigmatic, says he wouldn’t have come all this way for nothing! Sansa (Sophie Turner)is not in support, saying Bran could not have children. Tyrion argues that maybe it’s time for rulers to be chosen, not born, after all the damage the royals have done to innocent people.
The others present at the meeting, including Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), vote in favor of Bran’s ascension, but Sansa (Sophie Turner) is not a team player. While declaring her love for Bran, she says she would keep the North independent. And in that way, the future begins to unfold. Bran asks Tyrion to be his Hand, so Tyrion gets his old job back.
Although Grey Worm wants to execute Jon, it is decided Jonthat should be banished to the Wall, but he goes north of the Wall with Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and the wildlings. Grey Worm sails to Naath to protect the innocent from slavers.
While fans will quibble with any ending delivered by Benioff and Weiss, who wrote and directed the finale, this one at least seems reasonable.
Although the finale may have been be too quiet for some, it had to be sane and offer some hope. And it’s unlikely we will see a series this ambitious, expansive (and expensive) in our lifetime. Even if you didn’t like the resolution, scenes like the wings of Drogon rising up behind Dany were epic. We will all sail with Arya into the future.