Game of Thrones is over. Until the prequels start. Team Dunk, anyone? Arguably the most epic television program ever produced, Game of Thrones engaged fans unlike anything else in this modern age of splintered audiences and countless viewing options. And the final season had many of those engaged fans crying, Shame! Shame! Shame! For a few episodes, I was one of them. Not anymore.
It’s true the final season felt inexplicably rushed. There was probably a sound logistical reason for that, but it’s still a disservice to the fans and the story. Which is especially ironic, given how it ended. Extending the final season would not have changed the finale. Weiss and Benioff knew where Martin is going with the books, and he’s said several times the finale stays true to that spirit. While not “perfect,” the central message of the Game of Thrones finale was essentially satisfying, especially when viewed through the lens of someone who loves and makes his living writing stories.
There are so many reasons why I enjoyed the GoT finale, and I find myself appreciating it even more as I wake up the morning after. If you’ll allow me, I’ll walk us through some of those reasons in a way that befits this story, through the eyes of its characters…
A lot of fans hated Dany’s heel turn in the penultimate episode of Thrones. Those fans had, like Lord Friendzone and the Imp, allowed Dany’s inspiring vision, her doe eyes, beauty, and triumphant journey to cloud them to reality. Dany has always been a killer. She has been Ambition wreathed in flame ever since she whipped Viserys across the face and realized It. Felt. So. Good. We don’t need to recount her atrocities, because Weiss and Benioff gave that chore to Tyrion in the final episode. Dany’s the Greek tragedy running through this incredible, multi-layered story, but that doesn’t change her inevitable end. Dany needed killing.
Dany’s childhood trauma always guided her. The girl who spent her childhood pining for a house with a red door only to be sold off like property was given Ultimate Power, and she used it. Power like that is intoxicating. Dany was blinded by it. She was so blind that she actually told a guy who she knows took a knife in the heart for doing The Right Thing, that she fully intended to burn the entire known world. Dany was never the Messiah. She could have been, but she chose, instead, to be Ronan the Accuser. Which Tyrion should have realized the moment she told him “I said farewell to a man who loves me, a man I thought I cared for, and felt nothing. Just impatient…”
Her little speech at the Conclave revealed that Yara (nee Asha) shares a bit of her father’s delusions of grandeur. You’re a Greyjoy, Yara, stop trying to posture. No one is buying it.
Speaking of delusions of grandeur… Sit down. Shut up. Hahahahahahahahahahaha… although Edmure’s presence does make me wonder who let him out of the dungeon in The Twins, what with everyone dead. Maybe his Red Wedding wife really does love him?
SER BRIENNE OF TARTH
One of the best possible endings for any character on this show. Brienne not only gets to be a knight, she gets to be The Knight. Lord Commander of the Kings Guard. She gets to write Jaime’s history in the White Book, and begin a page of her own. First act, knighting Ser Podrick Codpiece and naming him to the Guard. No one has earned her Place in the World more. Here’s hoping Brienne’s life is long, exciting, and full of valor.
If HBO doesn’t immediately order umpteen seasons of Dread Pirate Arya exploring the Unknown in her ship Nymeria, they have spilled the wildfire. After an inspiring Season 1, in Season 2, she could swing by Hardhome to pick up Jon and Tormund so they could all go a-viking.
Every pirate needs a ship’s cook, but I’m betting he stays at the Crossroads to open a chain of Inns all along the Kings Road.
Oh Sam, (Frodo voice) my dear Sam. There was a part of me that wanted you to retire to Horn Hill to live out your life with Gilly in the opulence of your horrible father’s palatial palazzo. But you are much more comfortable wearing robes and a chain… although how you got to be Grand Maester with only two rings smacks of cronyism. But I won’t quibble, Slayer. You have been consistently right, while no one else deigned to listen. You earned it.
Speaking of, one of the more endearing dagger jabs to the short ribs in the final episode was the none-too-subtle reminder that powerful people ignore realities that threaten a status quo that supports their power. Remember that, next time you hear a pundit or a congressman berate or dismiss a scientist or a historian.
From an “idiot girl” who dreamt of being a pretty decoration on the arm of a king, to queen of the largest kingdom and de facto ruler of everything north of The Trident. Sansa is the real power in the realm. She has the North, the Eyrie, and the Riverlands. Meanwhile, the king of “the more or less six kingdoms” rules the West and the South, an area which, possibly, has an army of Dothraki filling the donut hole at the center.
In the end, no one played the Game better than Sansa. She got what she just recently realized she wanted, and the entire world is better for it.
He lost the sister he hated and the brother he loved. His ancestral home is vacant and possibly ruined on his orders. On the flip side, the guy who began his career building sewers is back at it, building a city from the ground up. And, as all good builders should, he starts with the plumbing. Better still, Tyrion gets to do what he was born to do: administrate. He’s a terrible war counselor, but an amazing prime minister. His was a bittersweet ending; but, in typical Tyrion fashion, he signs off with a great story.
For a guy who wants even less than he knows, this was the best possible ending. Jon “Don’t Call me Aegon” Snow has been adrift and bereft ever since Olly put an arrow in his favorite wildling. Every day thereafter, all Jon really wanted was to have never left That Cave. There’s a great call-back moment in the finale where Tyrion tells Jon, “duty is the death of love.” Jon broods, because he understands. It’s played like he was thinking about Dany. He was… but not just Dany.
Jon’s foray into the true North with Redbeard Dribbleglass is a fitting tribute to who he truly is: He’s the son of a warrior poet and a woman who defied her family in every conceivable way. He grew up defined by duty. He continued to wear that cloak even after “duty” murdered his father, his lover, and himself. Brooding, dutiful Jon would make a terrible king. The lesson Martin, by way of Weiss and Benioff, is conveying is that leaders should not be chosen by dint of their bloodline. Jon’s bloodline is impeccable, but he would still be a terrible king.
And, honestly, who would you rather see ruling the (more or less) Six Kingdoms, a man who knows nothing or a man who knows everything? Speaking of…
BRAN THE BROKEN
First, a bit of housecleaning. Twitter, of course, if flipping out over King Bran. Saying he “planned all this” or that he “knew he would be king.” Y’all are not paying attention. They’ve only said it umpteen times. Bran cannot see the future. He sees the past. He is the world’s memory. Melisandre was the prophet. Bran is Westerospedia. Of course, he’s also much more than that…
The mythos of Westeros begins with Bran the Builder, and it’s more than poetic symmetry that brings us to Bran the Broken ruling over the ruins of a world he sees more clearly than anyone else alive. There is a trove of imagery and symbolism and historical call-backs in the figure of King Bran the Broken, but I’ll skip all that to get to what I love most about the finale.
They put Story on the throne.
Martin has referred to ASOIAF as his magnum opus. And the payoff, apparently, is a paean to the art and power of story. We may not have gotten the ending we wanted, but we got a story that gripped us, pulled us in, and made us love and hate figments of someone else’s imagination.
Story is the eternal undercurrent that drives humanity forward. In many ways, and most ways that matter, it’s what makes us human. GoT recognized that… the series takes that ideal and put a crown in its proverbial head.
Tyrion’s nomination speech for Bran was the most meta moment in the entire run of Thrones. A way for Weiss and Benioff, by way of Martin, to celebrate the power, majesty, and magic of a good story.
That, more than anything, is why I love the finale of Game of Thrones. This season offered some rough sledding to get us there, but the characters all met with reasonable fates, and some even got their heart’s desire… In the end, the Throne was gone, and only Story remained. Even crippled, imperfect, and forced to be carried along by others, story reigned.
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