*For one last time: SPOILERS*
Snow and ash falls onto the bodies and rubble that once was Kings Landing, as the weary, dejected Tyrion makes his way to what’s left of his family and grieves. Jon and Ser Davos, grimly picking their way through the eerily quiet streets, try to prevent more slaughter but Grey Worm, if he ever cared, doesn’t now. Lannister soldiers on their knees isn’t enough for him or his Queen: the Mother of Dragons will not hide behind small mercies any longer.
“How much more defeated do you want them to be?” asks Ser Davos, but it’s the wrong question. “How many more defeated do you want there to be?” turns out to be more apt, as the First of Her Name proclaims, Targaryen banner and Drogon flying by her side, that this victory isn’t enough either, it will never be enough: “From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea”, she will never stop.
Because they have been raised to fight and to kill / because GOT‘s racial optics have always been problematic (you choose) the Dothraki and the Unsullied cheer her on, while the two white men who fell blindly in love with her look on in horror. This is the Queen they chose. This is the liberation they fought for? Tyrion gives up on the dream, surrendering his pin and his freedom but Jon can’t quite let go yet: not when Arya tells him what Daenerys is, not when Tyrion tells him what Daenerys is, not till Daenerys herself tells him what she is. “You are my Queen”, he vows, “Now and always”, and I don’t understand at first – did you hear her, Jon? Do you understand? – but then I do. As Tyrion says, Jon Snow has always tried to do the right thing, no matter the cost. And in this game, at least, duty really is the death of love.
If you believe Jon Snow did love Daenerys Targaryen, that is. I was never quite convinced by their relationship, but he told us enough times and Jon has never been able to lie, so I suppose we must accept that he did. Drogon certainly did, though, so he destroys the Iron Throne that brought her to this, and flies away with his mother’s body, leaving her nephew alone to face whoever’s justice comes next.
Like the ending or loathe it, the first part of the series finale is visually stunning. Grey, cold, snowy, with the increasingly unreachable Daenerys atop an endless series of stairs, now almost wholly detached from Jon, from righteousness and from all those small mercies that might have made her a good Queen instead of a power-crazed one. The part which comes next, then, while shot perfectly well too, is jarring in its contrast: prisoner Tyrion, dragged blinking into the courtyard bathed in sunshine where the lords and ladies of Westeros are to decide where they go from here. Or really, as Tyrion decides where they go from here.
There are perfunctory threats amongst the arguing, of course, but Ser Davos has had more than his fill of violence: “we’ve been cutting each other’s throats long enough”, he says, and they all know he’s right. There must be a better way. Sam’s suggestion of Westeros’s first mass elections is laughed at, as it should be, because polls and campaign posters would be a fine idea in a 21st century world but a profoundly boring ending for this one. Edmure, who hasn’t been seen since the Red Wedding and is only being seen at all now because Arya is exceptionally good at assassinations, tries to take charge but Sansa’s “Uncle, please sit” is a joy. Olenna may be gone, but she taught Ned Stark’s daughter a thing or two before she went. Sadly, she didn’t get to teach Tyrion much, though, or I suspect his choice for King might have been different.
“Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” About three quarters of the cast, since you’re asking, T, and at least three or four people in that one scene, including yourself. All the people railing at the show runners do need to remember though that this must have been GRR Martin’s choice: he told them how the Song of Ice and Fire is meant to end, and he, like Tyrion has “a tender spot in (his) heart for cripples, bastards and broken things” (his words, not mine, apologies) so I assume he chose to crown King Bran the Broken, First of his Name. I can see why, I suppose. If you want to subvert reader/audience expectations, you can’t give the Throne to the handsome, virile “rightful heir”. If you want to break the wheel, birth and “birthright” are to be disregarded. If you want to give it to the person with the best story….. well, I remain unconvinced that the boy who spent years mired in mystical guff in the snow and now speaks almost exclusively in riddles is the right choice, but you do you, GRRM. You do you.
The rest of the finale’s choices are just about perfect, though. Bran will be King in name only: he will warg about doing not very much, while the real ruling is done by Tyrion and his bantering, buoyant Small Council made up of former outcasts Brienne, Davos and Sam who not only made it this far but proved their worth along the way, and Bronn who apparently lands on his feet, no matter what. Their cheerful teasing made me smile, while Brienne writing Jaime’s entry in the book made me cry. And the rest of the Starks? Arya is off into the unknown, to seek the adventures she’s always wanted. Sansa is the Queen in the now independent North, exactly as she should be. And Jon Snow comes full circle: back to Castle Black (“there’s still a Night’s Watch?”), back to Tormund and Ghost (sob) and back to the free folk, who’ve never cared who his parents are, to be King Beyond the Wall. It might not be the ending everyone wanted but, other than King Bran, I thought it was the right one after all.
So that’s it for Game of Thrones, then, the biggest tv show in the world, except of course for the debriefs, the petitions, the memes and the spin-offs: a cultural phenomenon like this is never really over, these days. It’s been eight seasons of very high ups and crushingly low downs, with the show’s uncompromising brutality, somewhat erratic pacing – a few years of treading water in the middle, a headlong rush at the end, entire seasons of Ramsay Bolton torturing folk along the way – and troubling attitudes to women causing me all sorts of distress and frustration, but I kept coming back, as did millions of people all over the world because, as Tyrion says, “there’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story”. And Game of Thrones, for all its many flaws, was a rich, sprawling tapestry of a tale, spread across years and continents, with a host of iconic characters brought to life by an enormous, often magnificent cast. How could I resist?
Of course, I’ll miss talking about it as much as I’ll miss the show, so thank you so much to the online and offline friends who read or commented on these posts and indulged all my ramblings. Who knows if there will ever be another show with the global reach this one had? As one Petyr Baelish once said, the past is gone for good, and a lot can happen between now and never, so I’m just glad we got to share this one: we loved the characters we loved, hated the characters we hated and had the best time swapping them round every now and again. Now Winter has been and gone, goodbye Game of Thrones. You know there’s no other way to finish this post: Our Watch has finally ended.