Unlike most of the Internet, or at least the most visibly boosted tweets and comments, I liked how Game of Thrones ended. This isn’t meant as a controversial statement nor as an excuse for the bad parts of the last two seasons. This article is, in part, for me to process what has happened and to counter some of the arguments I’ve seen put forward that the ending was bad or wrong for the characters.
I saw one of two things happening in the final episode. Either an ending with the death of Dany or everyone bending the knee to her. It’s a simplistic choice of what could happen and of course, which doesn’t explain how all of the characters fit into those two narratives, but that’s what I had. In some ways, Daenerys sitting on the Iron Throne after the realisation she is the ‘Chosen One’, and everyone’s acceptance of that would have been a little too easy. Some characters would have struggled with closure. Jon would be conflicted, Tyrion would probably be dead and Sansa wouldn’t have an independent North. Or maybe she would have. There is nothing to say that the constant wars Dany is involved in couldn’t slow down, that she’d start to see diplomacy as a better way forward. We’ll never explore that path though and that’s fine. It wasn’t to be.
Now, down to what happened. Like season 7 the final one felt rushed. I still feel a full 10 episodes for each season or three shorter seasons would have allowed more scope for character exploration with the new dynamics of certain characters recently coming together.
Firstly then, Dany. Daenerys’ descent into ‘madness’ would have been telegraphed better with more screen time. This is possibly the part of the show I dislike the most. There are moments before the battle of Kings Landing where she makes questionable decisions. Of course she does, she’s made questionable decisions throughout the show. Her pulling these decisions off though has shown us that growing messiah complex. What we saw this season, the death of Rhaegal (her Dragon), Messandei’s execution and Jon emotionally pulling away from her wasn’t enough to make her decision to destroy Kings Landing believable. Things were falling apart for her yet she was quick to go from Chosen One who frees people to the Chosen One who will stop at nothing because my vision is the right one. I think this turn was more to show that war and destruction would be her only means of liberation; that the Chosen One comes atop a Dragon to remove enemies rather than free people. It wasn’t madness but instead power and despair that turned her. The burning of Kings Landing was also the moment which made Tyrion and Jon question her methods leading to her death. This death, whilst predictable was a little lacklustre. It didn’t quite have the emotional impact I think they sought. Danys’ character had changed too quickly to make me feel anything other than it being the right decision. A final thought on Daenerys, I’d like to know where Drogon took her. More on that perhaps in another article.
Arya heading west was a great ending for her. She didn’t have much to do in the final episode after the previous two. By being an absolute badass stealth assassin and killing the Night King her arc through the show was wrapped up. I thought this was amazing. She’d trained in the last few years to move unseen, to fight fluidly and to strike swiftly. A lot of story elements, such as Bran giving her the dagger had lead up to this moment. Whilst it’s questionable that she made it through those surrounding the Night King this is a fantasy show where the dead have risen, get over it. In the penultimate episode, I think by then experiencing the harrowing burning of Kings Landing she’d had enough. This represented a need to leave the continent for both inhabitants and viewers. She stayed only until the imprisonment of Jon was resolved remaining true to her family. This new explorer direction keeps Arya’s curious nature open and appeals to her sense of adventure. What I really like about this is that it allows for a new TV series to start. If Maisie Williams wants work as Arya in the future I’m sure she could walk into it. We can then experience a new continent with Arya at the head of an expedition into uncharted territory. She’ll be unknown somewhere new and can be who she wants to be or no one at all.
Sansa’s arc was one of the best through the show. After experiencing cruelty at the hands of many different people she was finally able to break free and choose her own path. Sort of, she was still second fiddle to Jon in the North and then Daenerys when she arrives as Queen. Events through the show have put Sansa is in a good position to see what’s really happening, to see who Daenerys is turning into and to mention Jon’s heritage to Tyrion. She uses the skills she has learnt at the hands of Littlefinger, Cersei and Ramsey to position herself and others as she sees beneficial. With her becoming Queen of the North, it’s a great payoff and a deserved one. I don’t think she’d have ever been Queen of Westeros but her loyalty to her house and those under that banner is faultless. It would be interesting to see her in action in this role and how she uses both up front diplomacy and cultivated back channels to benefit the North. I almost want a show in around 10 or 15 years where we return with Sophie Turner to the character. A pure political drama as Westeros has evolved under Bran, the North under her, the East after Daenerys liberation and newly discovered players to the west.
Bran. Was he playing the long game when he told Jon about his heritage? Did he know that setting these events into motion that he’d be crowned King? Sly if so. Bran does and doesn’t represent the wheel Daenerys wanted to break. Whilst he knows the history of the world, or as far as the Three-eyed Raven has seen, he should be in a position not to repeat it. He does seem best placed to be a fair ruler not doing anything for family ties but for the people, seeing how to resolve conflict and better the Kingdom. However, in his last scene he seemed happy to allow the small council to make decisions. This is a throwback to the way it was before, allowing those with something to gain to rule day to day. I think Tyrion, Sam, Ser Davos and Brienne would help to the best of their abilities but they are not infallible. Bron however, I’m not sure how long he could remain there. Bran though seems like the right person to head the state as King and not allow personal gain of any of them to come first. He could mix it up and throw a few more women into roles on the small council to again, break the wheel, but we’ll perhaps never see that step. Bran also seemed like the only one who could free Jon and send him north without kicking off another war. Those present know, or at least believe, him to be neutral and working for the greater good of man so this decision would have little resistance.
Jon Snow has seen a lot of death throughout GoT so what’s one more, ehh? As much as I expected him to be crowned King, without a full-on battle to defeat Dany’s forces that wouldn’t have been possible. Not wanting any more bloodshed Jon wouldn’t have wanted this and took the heartbreaking but easier way to get rid of Daenerys. Being banished and ending up back at the wall is a nice nod to where this character started his journey. The bit I specifically like about this is the little look back at the wall. A knowing “I might not come back” as he ventures north with the Tormund and the free folk, the King in the North. This character has gone through so much. Instrumental in building the forces to repel the Night Kings army, from the free folk to King in the North and allying with Daenerys his story was almost finished with the destruction of the Night King. His heritage revealed, however, was too much for him and Daenerys. Possibly knowing he would live in fear for the rest of his life, and almost suggested by Daenerys, he didn’t want this. Neither for himself or the people of Westeros. It was a bit of a limp final act for me that didn’t have the emotional weight behind it that I’d felt at other moments. It served the story neatly though. Not wanting to be King, not wanting to kill Dany he will be able to find some peace north of the wall.
I hope I’ve conveyed why I think these characters endings worked for them. I’m looking forward to how these characters get to these places in the books if they even do. There are so many other plotlines not touched by the shows and characters who are in very different places all of this to come to the same point. It’s an intricate and interesting way to consume a story, knowing the end but discovering more of the journey. Maybe I’ll rewatch the entire series several times whilst I wait for the conclusion in book form.