All week, I’ve been punishing my brain trying to figure out how the game could end, and realizing the nigh-impossible job the show writers had in front of them. Between eight years of story threads, the crushing weight of expectations, and finding that balance between fan service and good storytelling, could the writers find a satisfactory way to end the greatest show in the history of the world?
And the answer is… I guess? Really. The finale was probably as good as it could possibly be, considering the corner they painted themselves into with Dany’s plot-convenient, one-episode descent into pyrotechnic madness. Was it perfect? No, of course not. But it provided a resolution that made some sense, allowed characters to act in ways that fit within their arc and development, and still managed to subvert some of the tropes of the genre. For example:
Dany: Though this crazy-eyed version of the Mother of Dragons still seemed like a bit of an imposter, an alternate reality Kahleesi that had stumbled her way into Westeros after drinking way too many Monster energy drinks, there really was nowhere else to go. She had to die for the story to have resonance. I still can’t help but wonder how much better this arc would have been had Dany built her world-tour ambition over several episodes, giving us some time to watch her transition from Breaker of Chains to true believer in her own press.
Jon: And I guess, if Dany had to die, it had to be by Jon’s hands. We couldn’t have Arya repeat her death from the sky act to take out another big bad. Perhaps the most important reason why it had to be Jon was it allowed us to see the paragon character bloody his hands a bit. Jon’s decision to assassinate Dany – under the pretense of affection and loyalty – was, in many ways, no different from Alistar Thorne’s decision to assassinate Jon way back at the end of season five. They both thought it was the right thing to do for their people.
Perhaps the most important part of that story was what happened off-screen. Once Drogon took off with his mom’s dead body, leaving nothing but a melted throne and bloody stone, he kept his honor. Jon could have lied about Dany’s fate (after all, she’s left for months with her dragon before). He could have claimed the kingship himself. But the writers got it right this time because doing that would have betrayed his character as much as Dany’s too swift heel turn the week before.
Tyrion: I’m just glad the last Lannister had something to do at the end, and his decision to toss aside the Hand sigil, knowing it meant certain death, was right in character. I’m still unsure why none of Dany’s guards seem to understand the concept of eavesdropping on prisoners who seem all too willing to discuss usurpation out in the open, but his counsel to Jon at the end worked. Perhaps though, it was his discussion at the end, as he guided the lords towards the future of Westeros, that was the most important because he finally admitted he doesn’t really know anything.
Bran: Of course, having a King that knows everything might make the most sense. I confess I didn’t see that one coming (though apparently, Bran did). Again, a minor subversion of those tropes, as he really didn’t do much all season (except for establishing that he was beyond caring about human things). Why he’d accept the kingship… or, conversely, whether he manipulated events to ensure he became King, we’ll never know (but will likely provide internet fodder for a decade).
Everyone Else: Yeah, sorry. I need to lump the rest of the cast together, simply because nothing really changed for them. Their arcs were done. Sansa became Queen of the North, but she’s pretty much been playing that role for over a season now. Arya got to go West (perhaps to discover GRRMs version of America?), but her story really ended the moment she thanked The Hound and died twelve times on the way out of Kings Landing. Brienne, Davos, Samwell? Sure, they’re there, but were as important to this story as that pale horse Arya rode last week.
Miscellaneous Musings: Perhaps my only moment I couldn’t suspend disbelief was that Grey Worm allowed Tyrion and Jon Snow to continue to draw breath. He’s not bound by the customs and honor of Westeros, and, by this point, is an unhinged rage machine. From a story perspective, I’m glad they stayed his hand, but it might have made more sense had someone taken out Grey Worm prior to him having to make those decisions.
Exactly why do they need a Night’s Watch now? The Wildlings are friendly, the White Walkers are sharded, and the Wall is half-broken, so what exactly are they guarding? And is Jon the Lord Commander again? Or is he already abandoning his watch and settling amongst the Free Folk?
Do you think the showrunners noted the outrage about Jon’s ghosting Ghost last season and ordered up a quick CGI of the One-Eared Wolf just in time for this episode? I’m certain it takes more than a week to render these things, but it seemed awfully convenient that he got a full fur-face cuddle there at the end.
So, that’s it. Series done and wrapped up in a neat little bow. Nothing left now but a whole bunch of spinoffs, prequels, and a billion more pieces of fan fiction to keep us busy now.