Game of Thrones
“The Iron Throne”
May 19, 2019
BURNED CHILDREN! BIG DRAMATIC SPEECHES! JEWELRY TOSSING! LOOSE DOTHRAKI! BETRAYALS AND STABBINGS! DESTROYED THRONES! PISSED OFF DRAGONS! PISSED OFF EUNUCHS! QUESTIONABLE DECISION-MAKING! AND YES, GHOST! IT’S THE DEEPLY UNSATISFYING SERIES FINALE OF THE BEST SHOW OF THE DECADE!
Sigh. Alright. Let’s go.
When we begin the end, King’s Landing has seen better days. Tyrion, Jon, and Davos survey the aftermath of Daenerys’ (literal) meltdown and begin to have second thoughts about the horse they backed.
After a full two minutes of silent stalking through the streets and surveying the burn victims, both alive and dead, Tyrion announces that he’s headed to the Red Keep to go have a chitchat with their queen. Jon offers to send some men with him to keep him safe, but Tyrion is like, “Nah, I’ll take my chances.”
Inside the Keep, Tyrion heads to the dragon skull basement where he finds a pile of rubble with a golden hand sticking out of it. As he pulls the bricks away, he reveals his dead twin siblings, and cries, I guess because he feels responsible for Jaime’s death, since I know he’s not crying over the woman who spent HER ENTIRE LIFE TRYING TO MURDER HIM DEAD.
On their way to the castle, Jon and Davos stumble upon Grey Worm who is sentencing some Lannister soldiers to death, and Jon is all, “WHOA WHOA WHOA, these guys surrendered! They are prisoners! You can’t just KILL them!” But Grey Worm is like, “Bitch, watch me.”
And then there’s Arya who last we saw was hightailing it out of King’s Landing on a white horse. But now she’s back? hanging out? and warily watching all the Dothraki celebrating having somehow survived the Battle of Winterfell despite appearing to be completely snuffed out.
As for Daenerys, she has gone full First Order.
After a super cool shot with her, that will remain one of the most iconic images of the entire series …
… Daenerys shouts her victory speech at the Dothraki and Unsullied, about how they promised to kill the men in their iron suits and tear down their stone houses, and sure enough, that’s what they did! Daenerys then makes Grey Worm her Master of War … which … wasn’t he … that … already? But whatever, she needs one in the official position because she has BIG PLANS to “liberate” all the people of the world with her dragon: from Winterfell to Dorne; Lannisport to Qarth; the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea. In short: Daenerys has
gots lots of people to burn to death a wheel to break.
But then here comes Tyrion to ruin her good-time conqueror mood. Daenerys growls at him that he committed treason by freeing Jaime, but Tyrion grumbles back that she slaughtered a city before taking off his Hand pin and throwing it down the stairs. He is forced to sashay away.
While Jon’s little chipmunk brain struggles to comprehend what is happening with his girlfriendaunt, Arya slides up next to him and is like, “Dude. She’s a fucking killer.” Jon tries to argue that she’s their queen now, but Arya’s like, “OK. Tell that to Sansa.”
Jon visits Tyrion in his cell (because I guess traitors receive slower justice than surrendered soldiers?) where Tyrion is all, “WELP, VARYS WAS RIGHT. WHOOPS.” Jon is all, “She’s our queen and besides, I think she’s done genociding now.” Tyrion points out that it certainly didn’t sound like she was done, and that he was a fool to forget that her very nature is fire and blood. I mean, IT SAYS SO RIGHT IN THEIR FAMILY WORDS. Jon grouses that they aren’t their fathers, but Tyrion counters by noting that Jon has ridden on a dragon, he knows what that power felt like — would he have slaughtered an entire city?
Tyrion then reminds us that we’re all responsible for Daenerys breaking bad: we cheered her on when she killed the slave masters and the Dothraki Khals and every time she killed “evil men,” she grew more powerful and more confident in her own righteousness. And Tyrion, he gets it! Jon loves her! He loves her too! She’s super hot! But DUDE, SHE’S A MONSTER. Jon sighs that, “love is the death of duty,” and Tyrion is like, “obviously you didn’t come up with that,” (he didn’t — it was his Targaryen great-great-uncle Aemon) before noting that sometimes duty is the death of love.
Jon is like, “OH HELLS NO,” and goes to leave, but before he can exit, Tyrion asks Jon about his “sisters,” whether or not he can see Sansa bending the knee to Daenerys. Jon is all, “maybe?” But Tyrion is like, “COME ON, DUDE. Why do you think Sansa told me about you? Let me spell it out for you, dum-dum: she doesn’t want Dany to be queen.” Jon counters that Sansa doesn’t have a choice, but Tyrion points out that Jon does.
So Jon decides to talk this over with Auntie Dany, walking past Drogon who gives him a sniff before letting him pass. Inside the destroyed throne room, Daenerys is thisclose to finally sitting on the Iron Throne when her nosy nephew interrupts. Daenerys starts yammering about how she always heard about this throne made from one thousand swords of Aegon’s enemies and she imagined it to be a throne too high to climb (as did George R.R. Martin).
Jon asks her about the Lannister soldiers being executed, and Daenerys is like, “had to be done.” And what about all dead innocents? “Well, I TRIED to make nice with Cersei. It’s her fault for using them as a human shield.” And Tyrion? “He’s a traitor, so.” Jon pleads with her to forgive Tyrion — forgive all of them! — and show them that they made a mistake. “We can’t hide behind small mercies. The world we need won’t be built by men loyal to the world we have. The world we need is a world of mercy. It has to be. And it will be. It’s not easy to see something that’s never been before. A good world,” Daenerys argues. And what about those people who have a different idea of what a “good” world looks like? (You know, like Sansa?) “Yeah, they don’t get a vote,” Daenerys responds, before inviting Jon to break the wheel with her.
Jon answers by telling her that she is his queen now and always, and then stabbing her in the heart.
R.I.P. Daenerys. You deserved more and better writing.
AND HERE COMES DROGON. Drogon nudges his mother …
… and when she does not wake up, he takes his grief out not on Jon, but the Iron Throne, melting it down in the process. Drogon then carefully picks up Daenerys’ body in one of his giant talons and flies away, because FUCK YOU, WESTEROS, WE DIDN’T LIKE YOU ANYHOW.
Fast forward … weeks? months? oh, who even knows how long later. Tyrion is still, improbably, alive and a prisoner of the Unsullied, and is brought in front of the Council of People We Know and Some We Do Not. Sansa, Arya, The Three-Eyed Bran, Samwell, Brienne, Gendry, Davos, Yara, Uncle Edmure, that literal titty-baby Robin, Royce, some Dornish kid, and a couple of guys we don’t know (although interestingly there is some light speculation that one could possibly be the long-absent Howland Reed), they’re all there.
When Sansa demands to know where Jon is, Grey Worm growls that he’s the Unsullied’s prisoner and they’ll decide what to do with him. Sansa points out that outside the city are thousands of Northern men who would be very unhappy were anything to happen to Jon. This leads to much sniping and grumbling until Davos tries to make peace, suggesting that the Unsullied take the Reach as Westeros’ gratitude for their sacrifice. But Grey Worm doesn’t want property, thankyouverymuch, he wants justice, namely Jon Snow’s head.
Tyrion argues that Jon’s justice not for Grey Worm and the Unsullied to decide. Grey Worm snaps, “You are not here to speak! Everyone has heard enough words from you,” and then steps back to allow Tyrion to deliver a ten-minute monologue.
Tyrion’s argument: Jon’s fate is up to the King or Queen of Westeros, so the Council of People We Know and Some We Do Not should just choose one.
WAIT. HOLD UP. I THOUGHT WE DONE BURNED THE THRONE. NO MORE KINGS OR QUEENS. THAT WHEEL IS BROKE.
But apparently not because, Uncle Edmure jumps up to volunteer himself, until Sansa stops him.
Sam suggests a democratic vote, allowing all of the people of Westeros to have a say in who rules them and everyone laughs and laughs and laughs because what a fucking joke.
Tyrion shoots down the idea of himself becoming King: half of the country hates him for being Daenerys’ hand, the other half hate him for betraying her.
He then proceeds to suggest the WORST POSSIBLE CANDIDATE: The Three-Eyed Bran, because — and get this — the thing that unites people more than any other force is stories (questionable) and who has a better story than The Three-Eyed Bran?
Also, too, he can’t have children, so they won’t run the risk of creating another Joffrey (which is a better argument), and the people (or the Council of Characters Who Had Lines, rather) will instead be forced to choose their ruler every time they are in need of another (which considering Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven, and some sort of maybe immortal bird wizard, may not be all that often).
And then everyone laughs and laughs and are like, “So Edmure, you were saying?”
Tyrion asks Bran if he’ll accept this challenge, and this bird bitch is all, “WHY DO YOU THINK I CAME ALL THIS WAY?”
Uh, I don’t know, MAYBE TO TALK THE WAR EUNUCHS OUT OF KILLING YOUR BROTHER, FOR STARTERS?
But apparently not, apparently they pushed The Three-Eyed Bran all the way to King’s Landing because he knew he would be King all along. And then everyone votes Aye for King The Three-Eyed Bran, BECAUSE SURE THAT JUST MAKES SENSE, except for Sansa who is all, “Hold up, I want the North to be free, can the North be free?” And The Three-Eyed Bran is all, “Yeah, of course the North can remain free!” And no other representatives are like, “WAIT WAIT WAIT THAT WAS ON THE TABLE? We can just ask to be free? We want to be free, too!” and The Three-Eyed Bran is now King of Westeros.
Oh, and his name is “Bran the Broken” now because shit, why not.
The Three-Eyed Broken Bran declares Tyrion his Hand because that’s his punishment, and he sends Jon to the Night’s Watch which has LITERALLY NOTHING TO DO NOW but twiddle their thumbs and pray for firewood. Tyrion delivers the bad news to Jon who wonders what they did was right, because it doesn’t feel right, and Tyrion tells him to ask again in 10 years.
After a little shave and some hair gel, Jon takes his leave of King’s Landing for presumably the last time, stopping to say goodbye to his cousin-siblings on his way out. Sansa apologizes for sending him North; Arya explains that she won’t be visiting Castle Black anytime soon, as she’s going on a cruise; and he apologizes to The Three-Eyed Broken Bran for letting Arya kill the Night King, but The Three-Eyed Broken Bran is all, “Nah, it’s all good, you were exactly where you were supposed to be.”
Oh, and the Unsullied are setting sail for Naath, Missandei’s home island where they will be greeted by poisonous butterflies that will most definitely kill them all. As for all those Dothraki? I guess they are just hanging out in Westeros now? Raping and pillaging? Cool cool cool.
In the Red Keep, Brienne completes Jaime’s entry in that Kingsguard book.
And Tyrion holds his first Small Council meeting, where we learn Bronn is Master of Coin instead of, oh I don’t know Master of War?, Davos is Master of Ships, Samwell is the Grand Master and has helped write the story of the wars after Robert’s Rebellion, “A Song of Ice and Fire …”
The Three-Eyed Broken Bran is rolled in, looks around for a second and then is like, “I’mma gonna go look for Drogon. PEACE OUT,” and has Podrick, who is now a knight, push him out of the room so that we don’t have to endure that whole eye-rolly thing. Oh, and Tyrion begins telling that whole jackass and honeycomb brothel joke, but we still don’t hear the punchline because the writers aren’t half as clever as they think they are.
Up North, Sansa is made Queen in the North, FINALLY; Arya sails for whatever is west of Westeros; and Jon returns to Castle Black where he is reunited with Tormund and Ghost, whom YES, HE PETS because I swear to God if he did not pet that fucking wolf …
Then he and Tormund lead a bunch of wildlings back into the zombie-free wilderness, the end.
Where to begin … or really, rather, how to end — because writing about a series finale is a very different animal than writing about an average episode. There is no more to speculate on, there is no more untangling what the story is actually about — this is where the story was going, the book is literally closed, and we just have to accept that this was always our final destination.
But you can accept that final destination while still being critical of how we arrived there.
There is not a whole lot for me to explain about this episode; in terms of narrative, it was maybe the most straightforward episode of the entire series. In short: a group of “good” men realizes that the queen they have loved and have been backing has been a blood-thirsty conqueror all along and they conspire to kill her to save their kingdom — the kingdom they brought her to “liberate” in the first place. Then these same “good” men choose from amongst themselves another leader — SINCE THEY’VE SHOWN SUCH GREAT JUDGMENT IN THE PAST — and everyone has a tidy and happy ending. The end.
I’m not necessarily unhappy with any of those individual points. For instance, it always made sense that Daenerys would go mad and burn the city that her father was prevented from destroying. And it always made sense that if she were to go Full Mad Queen, Jon would be the one to have to stop her. They were never going to have a happy ending, these two, the only question was really who would kill whom — and that was pretty much settled when Daenerys started burning children alive.
And Jon killing Daenerys for the greater good has been foreshadowed since the beginning of the series, namely in the discussion of The Prince Who Was Promised. I’ve talked A LOT in these posts about this fabled hero and his analogues, namely The Last Hero and Azor Ahai, and I speculated in an earlier post that though they often become conflated, they might, in fact, be three separate persons.
But because I am apparently obsessed with books, what I had not realized until this very moment was that the name “Azor Ahai” is never mentioned on the show — the only glancing allusion to the character who is Azor Ahai that is mentioned on the show is this “The Prince Who Was Promised,” and his sword, “Lightbringer.” On the show (and in the books), Lightbringer was a sword that would be pulled from the flames and wielded by The Prince Who Was Promised, a reincarnation of Azor Ahai — which is why Melisandre and Stannis had that whole ceremony on the beach with the statutes of the Seven and the fire and the sword. What the show never shares, however, is the legend of the creation of Lightbringer:
“Do you know the tale of the forging of Lightbringer? I shall tell it to you. It was a time when darkness lay heavy on the world. To oppose it, the hero must have a hero’s blade, oh, like none that had ever been. And so for thirty days and thirty nights Azor Ahai labored sleepless in the temple, forging a blade in the sacred fires. Heat and hammer and fold, heat and hammer and fold, oh, yes, until the sword was done. Yet when he plunged it into water to temper the steel it burst asunder.
“Being a hero, it was not for him to shrug and go in search of excellent grapes such as these, so again he began. The second time it took him fifty days and fifty nights, and this sword seemed even finer than the first. Azor Ahai captured a lion, to temper the blade by plunging it through the beast’s red heart, but once more the steel shattered and split. Great was his woe and great was his sorrow then, for he knew what he must do.
“A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.”
— Excerpt From: George R. R. Martin. “A Clash of Kings.” Bantam Books, 2003-01-01.
So, while Jon was ultimately not The Last Hero/The Prince Who Was Promised who would destroy the “darkness” brought down by the Night King, he does become something of an Azor Ahai figure, killing the woman he loves to end a different kind of darkness, his last words to Daenerys mirroring Azor Ahai’s to Nissa Nissa. And I’m fine with that ending! It was long foreshadowed and made sense within the mythology of the series. I just wish, as I wrote in my last entry, that we had an entire season of watching Daenerys descending into madness before Jon had to make this terrible decision.
As for Drogon destroying the Iron Throne and not killing Jon, I know that there are people who are bothered by this particular plot point, but it was one of the few things I felt they got right. I had long believed the show would have to end with the destruction of the Iron Throne, that if anyone actually took the Iron Throne in the end, it would just be perpetuating the cycle — and this felt like a story about the end of a cycle, breaking the proverbial wheel. So having a dragon destroy the Throne in a fit of grief and rage, a throne that was forged by one of the dragon’s ancestors hundreds of years before, it felt fitting. (As for then turning around and choosing another King to rule over a united kingdom … that felt less fitting.)
But how did Drogon know to destroy this inanimate object in this grand symbolic gesture and not turn his fire onto the person who murdered his rider? A couple of things about that: first, I’m not even sure that Jon could be killed by fire; he is a Targaryen, after all. And while other Targaryens have died by fire, including Jon’s great-uncle and great-great-grandfather, it’s not clear if Jon, like Daenerys, can’t be destroyed by fire. Maybe Drogon knew something about Jon that we did not.
But more than that, one of the things that is hammered home in the books in a way that is not as much in the show, especially in these later seasons, is the intelligence of these animals. While the dragons, particularly Drogon, were shown to have an intelligence and internal motivations separate from Daenerys in the earlier seasons, they seemed to lose some of that individualistic personality in the later seasons. It is made very explicit in the books that not only are dragons highly intelligent animals, they are also tied to magic and have a very deep psychic bond to their riders. For me, Drogon destroying the Throne and not harming Jon was not an act of forgiveness, per se, but more this avatar of Daenerys acknowledging that Jon wasn’t her downfall, it was her desire for power, it was the Throne itself. So while I understand the complaints about Drogon’s moment, I found it a really beautiful and powerful symbol even in its heavy-handedness.
In terms of the Stark children’s fates, for the most part I’m fine with them. For narrative purposes, I still believe that Arya and Jon probably shouldn’t have survived the story. Arya is a murderer who broke the God of Death’s rules and owes him several lives (for all those Freys she killed as a freelancer, in particular); and Jon is a zombie, brought back to the world of the living by the Lord of Light for a purpose, and like all the other zombies, including Beric Dondarrion and the dead raised by the Night King, he should have returned to the dead once that purpose had been fulfilled.
But if Jon was going to live, returning to the North was a fitting ending — it’s very Aemon Targaryen-esque, the Maester at Castle Black when Jon was a member of the Night’s Watch originally. I just wish it had been more Aemon Targaryen-esque, meaning, I wish Jon hadn’t been banished to the North as a punishment, but rather had made the conscious decision himself to go there so that others wouldn’t rally around him as the true heir to the Throne and threaten his brothercousin’s rule.
As for Arya, if she was going to live, hers was a fitting ending, too; she was never going to be a homebody. I am only irritated that we know that Arya is out there having adventures, and we will never be able to share them. I JUST HOPE SHE USES THAT FACE TRICK, THOUGH, CONSIDERING HOW MUCH TIME WE SPENT ON THAT.
The best, most satisfying ending for the Stark children is, of course, Sansa’s as her journey was always leading her to becoming Queen — the question was merely where she would rule. I still feel that if the people of Westeros are going to insist on sticking with that whole King/Queen thing despite the wheel having been supposedly broken, Sansa would have been the best choice to be Queen of Westeros — better than Daenerys, better than Jon, better than anyone with some sort of “claim” to the throne through their lineage. Sansa combines Ned’s goodness with Cat’s practicality, but with a sharper, wilier edge, honed by her time with Cersei and Littlefinger: in short, she will suffer no fools while making sure shit gets taken care of and justice is mercifully served. Additionally, making Sansa Queen would solve Benioff and Weiss’s lady problem they created by having the only two queens of Westeros be too emotionally unstable to rule. BECAUSE I DAMN SURE KNOW THEY DID NOT INTEND TO SUGGEST THAT WOMEN ARE INHERENTLY UNFIT TO RUN COUNTRIES.
That said, I also agree that it makes sense that the North would become independent at the end of this story, and someone would need to run it. In fact, with all the talk of the wheel being broken and the image of the Iron Throne being destroyed, I had long assumed this series would end with the seven kingdoms of Westeros splitting from one another and becoming independent kingdoms again; that the actual story of A Song of Ice and Fire was about the end of the Targaryen line and their rule over Westeros. So I find it utterly nonsensical that Sansa would be the only Lord or Lady that would ask Bran for their freedom — especially since the deal Yara made with Daenerys in season 6 was explicit: if she allowed Daenerys to use her fleet to transport her armies to Westeros, the Iron Island would be free. YARA KEPT HER SIDE OF THE BARGAIN, SO PONY UP, BIRD BOY.
And what I am saying is that BRAN SHOULD BE KING OF NOTHING.
As you might have guessed from the calm and reasonable thing I posted in the last entry, and I quote: “I SWEAR TO GOD, IF THEY CHOOSE BRAN, I’M GOING TO DRACARYS SOME MOTHERFUCKERS MY DAMN SELF,” I am not too happy with the King Bran the Broken twist. Let’s discuss why.
At the root of the problem with King Bran the Broken is just bad writing, just pure shite lazy-ass didn’t give any more fucks writing. It’s not that there isn’t a path to which The Three-Eyed Bran becomes King of Westeros, it’s that these writers did not forge it.
After being one of the most boring characters on the show, Bran became MUCH more interesting in season four when he arrived in the North and met the Three-Eyed Raven. But then, and this is absolutely true, he completely disappears for an entire season. Bran didn’t appear at all in season five. Not once. In season six, we catch back up with Bran in the midst of his training with The Three-Eyed Raven, and we discover that not only can Bran time travel, but he can interact with the past. This was clearly building towards Bran becoming a MUCH more interesting character, and one who would have some sort of serious impact on the events that were about to unfold.
As it turns out, Bran’s ability to time travel has been used mostly to reveal the fact that Jon’s not actually a bastard and as the rationale behind making him King, because … he has seen the past and shit? As for his ability to actually interact with the past, the only thing that it was good for was getting Hodor killed. That’s it. That’s all they did with it.
So, Meera dragged this monotone lump of boring back to Winterfell where all he does all day is stare at trees and occasionally warg out in the least convenient moments, and everyone is like, “You know who should rule all of us … ”
And before I go back and draft a more interesting story for Bran, I have a few questions about how any of this works. FIRST OF ALL, when this asshole returned to Winterfell, Sansa is like, “Welp, since you’re the only true born son of Ned Stark, I guess you’re Lord of Winterfell now,” he replies, AND I QUOTE: “I can never be Lord of Winterfell. I can never be lord of anything. I’m the Three-Eyed Raven.” And in the next episode, when Meera tells him that she’s leaving, she calls him “Lord Stark,” and he corrects her, “I’m not Lord Stark.” When she later calls him “Bran,” replies, “I’m not really. Not anymore. I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but I remember so much else now.” Oh, but the moment the job of King of Westeros becomes available, all of this Three-Eyed Raven bullshit is out the window and we’re suddenly “Bran the Broken?” It’s not that you can never be lord of anything, it’s that you think you’re too good to be lord of anything?
Second of all, if the reason they chose him to be King is that he is a time-traveling weirdo who can’t have kids, will that be the criteria for future leaders? Will they all have to be able to warg and have had vasectomies? Because this seems to be a lot to ask of potential candidates.
Third, what is this “NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN STORIES AND THE BEST STORYTELLERS SHOULD BE OUR RULERS” bullshit other than some TV writer masturbatory material? BUT FOR REAL THOUGH.
And finally, fourth, we need to talk about the fact that The Three-Eyed Bran might be evil. The question of whether or not Bran can see the future had previously been a murky one. In one of his visions, he saw both the Iron Throne covered in snow and the shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing. We now know that both of these things were to happen (and that the snow was actually ash). And then, in this episode, when Tyrion asks The Three-Eyed Bran if he will wear the crown if they choose him, this fucker’s response is, “Why do you think I came all this way?”
WAIT, YOU KNEW?
YOU KNEW ALL ALONG THAT DAENERYS WAS GOING TO BURN THE WHOLE DAMN CITY TO THE GROUND? INNOCENT WOMEN AND CHILDREN WERE GOING TO DIE IN THE MOST TERRIFYING AND HORRIFIC MANNER, AND YOU DIDN’T THINK TO WARN ANYONE? AND YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT YOU KNEW THIS WHOLE TIME THAT YOUR BROTHERCOUSIN WAS GOING TO HAVE TO KILL DAENERYS WHICH WOULD HAVE TWO DISCRETE EFFECTS: 1. IT WOULD CREATE A POWER VACUUM? A POWER VACUUM THAT YOU WOULD FILL? AND 2. THAT IT WOULD EFFECTIVELY REMOVE THE ONE TRUE HEIR TO THE THRONE AND YOUR ONLY REAL COMPETITION? AND YOU CHOSE TO SIT BACK AND WATCH ALL THIS UNFOLD INSTEAD OF SAYING ANYTHING TO ANYONE?
Y’all, Bran the Broken is fucking evil.
And this ultimately complicates the point I think the showrunners were trying to make about power and human nature and corruption. I’ve pointed out before that Martin has always been very interested in these questions of leadership, and what makes a good ruler when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day stuff. And I think what he and the showrunners are trying to say here (if the rumors are correct and Bran does become the King of Westeros in the books, too) is that there is no such thing as a “perfect” King because we’re human, and humans fuck up, humans have egos, and ultimately, no human can see the Big Picture, not really, not in the way an omniscient god can. But The Three-Eyed Raven can, and so in the end, the ideal ruler is one who is removed from those petty, small, shortsighted things that make us human.
And that’s great and all, but MAYBE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER EXPRESSED ON THE SHOW. Having Tyrion yammer on about Bran’s amazing story — as if no one else on the dais had an amazing story, himself included — it drew the attention away from Bran’s actual supernatural powers as being the most compelling reason he should be King in favor of making some TV writers’ navel-gazing point about the endurance of storytelling. And having Bran interject that he knew it was going to be him this entire time? It adds an unintentionally sinister layer to his motivations that detracts from what their point actually is.
Because I know it’s not enough to just complain, if they are going to stick with the idea of a king of a mostly united Westeros and if they are going to stick with Bran being that king here’s what they should have done to make Bran worthy of becoming King and supposedly having the “BEST STORY EVAH”: make Bran an actual, working part of Westeros’ history. He can time travel — so have him time travel and be the instigating force in Westeros’ most pivotal moments.
For starters, after he learned how the Night King was created, Bran could have done the timey wimey wibbley wobbley thing to try to prevent the Night King from being created in the first place. He could have gone back to the Children of the Forest to try to talk them out of shoving the Dragonstone in the man, only to give them the idea in the first place (an idea I’ve floated in here somewhere before). This does a couple of things: it gives Bran’s ability to influence events in the past an actual purpose, it ties him personally very deeply to the history of Westeros, and it gives the Night King an ACTUAL REASON to come after Bran: for personal revenge.
Then, Bran realizing his mistake, travels back to the time of Bran the Builder — because maybe somehow he is Bran the Builder? — and he designs the Wall as protection against the very monster he created.
Finally, possibly, Brandon uses time to go back to the reign of Torrhen Stark, the King Who Kneeled, to convince him (perhaps in the form of Torrhen’s half-brother, Brandon Snow) to surrender to Aegon Targaryen, and thereby prevent the entire Stark line from being reduced to dust by three angry dragons. This would be particularly interesting because Bran would then be the person who brought the North into the kingdom of Westeros and the one who gave the North its independence from Westeros.
And look, I will concede that this last suggestion is not maybe the strongest, but Westeros’ history is littered with Brandon Starks, and it might have been interesting to have learned that some of them were the very same Bran Stark who we knew. Also, weaving Bran into the history of Westeros not only makes him a more dynamic and active character than the zoned-out non-entity that we were given on the show, it also gives him a more interesting argument for why he should be King: because he is Westeros, he helped shape the nation’s history, and it gives Westeros a reason for being a unified country after the Iron Throne is destroyed.
Of course, making Bran a more active character and actually using his ability to time travel would require the writers to, you know, actually write, and they were clearly not interested in doing that anymore, so.
As for the series as a whole, and WHAT IT ALL MEANS, etc., now that the book is closed, we can see that more than just being about tits and dragons (although it is a lot of tits and dragons) when you really dig into the show’s myriad themes, the series at its heart really was about this question of power. And by that, I don’t just mean power in the grand sense of what makes a great leader or ruler, but power in the most minute and intimate sense, in how we interact with one another, how we function in our interpersonal relationships. It explored questions of the power of faith, the power of wealth, and the power of brute physical force — the dragons were the literal embodiment of that — and how when one has none of those particular sources of power available to them, how important the power of cunning and manipulation becomes.
For a long while there, the series was an interestingly subversive feminist tale, a story about how in this world, where women have so little power, a group of women were able to use distinctly women’s weapons, including sex, social graces, being underestimated and sometimes a little bit of poison, to not just protect themselves but to rise above the “clever men” who would otherwise oppress them. But while Sansa earned her feminist happy ending, the other women in the story who deigned to desire power were destroyed by their lust for it, ultimately creating a complicated message regarding what this series really believes about women, leadership, and power.
Of course, I’ve already explained how they could have fixed that.
As I have said again and again, I am profoundly irritated that the writers chose to rush these last two seasons, to abandon all of the character development that they had so carefully built over the first six seasons, and to not explore more deeply the world they created. I genuinely believe, as I have laid out in these last two entries, that there was a way to arrive at this same ending — including an imperfectly feminist one — that would have been immensely more satisfying had the writers wholly invested in it.
But as for the series itself and how I feel about it now that it is all said and done, the truth of the matter is I loved this series. Considering how irritable I have been about the last two seasons, it might surprise you to hear that I am currently researching different Game of Thrones tours to drag my family on during our upcoming vacation to Ireland, tours that I’m pretty sure I am the only one interested in. I want to go on a tour because I loved this show — not just the books, but the show itself. In fact, I would have never read the books, which I adore, if not for this series. Benioff and Weiss made George R.R. Martin’s vision and his universe manifest, they made these characters real, they made this world come to life. It was terrifying and hilarious and thoughtful and it changed not just television, but entertainment as a whole. I’m sorry Game of Thrones is over, and though I am disappointed there will never be another new episode, and I am sad I won’t write another recap about this series (unless I go do a rewatch of the first five seasons …) I will continue my holiday tradition of binging the entire series in the week between Christmas and New Years, and I sure as hell will write about the prequel series.
And the truth is, I refuse to walk away angry from this show because I have been here before, but on the other side. I know my way around series finales and people being angry and disappointed. As of May of next year, I will have spent a decade of my life defending the final season and series finale of Lost — AND IT HASN’T BEEN EASY. I believe Lost is a valuable point of comparison, one that a friend made crystal clear for me recently. Ahead of the finale, my friend Robert emailed, writing: “Just wanted to submit this as food for thought. From a friend … and I thought it would resonate with you. Regarding the forced nature of GoT’s last season, with plowing ahead with plot points to get to the finish line: ‘It’s the opposite of the Lost finish. Lost did justice to the characters at the cost of the plot. This is the reverse.'”
And he’s not wrong! Lost’s final season, if you didn’t watch or if you pushed it out of your memory out of frustration and anger, featured a strange alternative timeline in which the characters never crashed on the island. Meanwhile, in the original timeline, on the island, the characters raced to both save the island from destruction and to get off the island. The alternative timeline, we learned, was actually the afterlife, and that though these characters didn’t meet because of a plane crash, ultimately they still found each other because they are somehow cosmically connected to one another — and once they found one another, they were able to move on, to go into the light, together. As for the events of the island … there was some energy on the island? And it was escaping? And so one of the characters had to shove a giant rock into a hole? to stop the energy from escaping? Look, it was unsatisfying. If you watched Lost because you wanted to finally learn the answer to the mysteries of the island and what was up with those polar bears or whatever, this was always going to be a frustrating ending, because in the end, the writers cared about the characters, and not enough about the mysteries themselves. For those of us truly invested in the characters, it was a beautiful, and moving ending. For the rest of the country, it was a disappointment.
Here, the writers had someone else’s list of bullet points about how this series was going to end, and anxious to arrive there, they rushed through all of the careful character development — undoing it altogether in some instances — needed to arrive at this place in a believable and satisfying fashion. It would have required at least another season and a half — maybe even two or three — to do justice to Queen Cersei, to bring Daenerys to madness, to give Bran a connection to his history, but it could have been done. And had they done that character work, I believe Game of Thrones would have cemented its place in television history as one of the three or five greatest shows of all time. In the end, Game of Thrones will still be remembered as one television’s best shows, but for many people, including your trusty blogger, it will always be included on that list with a wistful sigh about what could have been.
And so, for now, my watch has ended.
But before I close this particular (hold the) door, I’m serious: what happened to the Dothraki? Are they just riding around, terrorizing Westeros? Raping and enslaving the Riverlands? Stealing everything they can in the Reach? And if so, can we get a whole series about that, please?
Game of Thrones aired on HBO. HBO is currently filming a prequel series set 5,000 years before the events in this show and if you think I won’t try to stalk that set when I go to Ireland, we’ve never met.