Warning: spoilers, duh.
Winter came and went Sunday, as did all our hopes and dreams for the series finale of “Game of Thrones.”
In Episode 6 of Season 8, “The Iron Throne,” Daenerys Targaryen is killed by Jon Snow, who rejoins the Night’s Watch and is reunited with Tormund and Ghost. Also: Drogon incinerates the throne, Bran Stark (now known as Bran the Broken) is elected king, Tyrion Lannister becomes Bran’s Hand, Sansa is crowned Queen in the North and Arya sails off to discover what is west of Westeros. It’s all very surprising, considering most of us watched 73 episodes of “Thrones” expecting to witness Dany, Jon or even Sansa take the throne.
As for our friends Brienne of Tarth, Davos, Samwell Tarly and Bronn, they join Bran’s small council alongside Tyrion. And dear Podrick is the king’s squire! Hear, hear!
During its lackluster final season, the HBO series drew record highs in viewership, and record lows in ratings. (A petition to remake the entire season got more than a million signatures.)
But now our watch has ended. And HuffPost reporters Leigh Blickley, Sara Boboltz and Bill Bradley are here to assess the damage.
Bill Bradley (entertainment reporter): In “Game of Thrones” Season 8, winter finally came. Unfortunately, it was the winter of our discontent.
The show capped off its most divisive season yet with what will perhaps go down as one of the most controversial and talked-about series-enders ever. So much happens, so little is explained. Dany’s dead, Drogon decides to topple the patriarchy starting with a metal chair, the JV Dragonpit meeting decides Bran is king, he gets the worst nickname ever, Sansa rules the independent North but the Iron Islands are strangely now part of the kingdom again, Brienne fills out Jaime Lannister’s page on the “Game of Thrones” Wiki, Arya takes over for Euron as the show’s resident pirate and Jon heads north of the Wall with the Wildlings ― possibly going all Justin Timberlake as a “Man of the Woods.” Now that our watch has ended, what did you think of the series finale?
Sara Boboltz (reporter): Thank the gods for the memes, is what I think.
First, though, I’d like to point out that there were some aspects we can all totally appreciate: The cinematography was gorgeous, and it felt like the actors did what they could with the material they were given. Plus this was a ridiculously hard season to shoot, with all the night shots and battle scenes. Peter Dinklage deserves an Emmy. (I guess it was too much to think George R.R. Martin would kill off his favorite character?) And I’m so happy for Ghost! And, you know, I feel like this will probably get some mixed responses, but I appreciated the basic symbolism of Drogon melting down the Iron Throne and therefore the power structure that his momma wanted to break.
I wanted Daenerys’ death scene to come as more of a shock, though. I can’t count the number of times this show has done that kind of “stab, gargle, pan-out-to-show-knife-in-chest” thing.
Leigh Blickley (senior entertainment reporter): Agree with you there, Sara. Also, all I could think about was Jon holding Ygritte’s lifeless body as well. Two women he loved; two women he, sort of, killed. (Fuck Olly!)
I think the toughest break for many people was Jon Snow’s end, and how, despite being outed as Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, he ends up rejoining the Night’s Watch after murdering Dany. What was the point in us knowing his true identity? Sigh.
He’s still the last living Targaryen, though, and Drogon is clearly a fanboy of his. So I have hope for Jon Snow’s future. (They did say Bran can’t father children, so maybe Jon could take over as ruler after his little brother-cousin’s death?) Bill, what was your take on Jon Snow’s conclusion?
Bill: Here’s where I’m at: The final season was a visual masterpiece, water bottles be damned, and a lot of conclusions in the finale make sense. As a viewer, I just wish there was more explanation of how we got there. Cue the Drogon meme where he contemplates the symbolic meaning behind the Iron Throne:
Jon goes north to the Night’s Watch. Great. Ghost and Tormund are there, it’s cold, his last name’s Snow. He’ll fit in. But why is there a Night’s Watch in the first place? The Wildings aren’t a problem, and the White Walkers aren’t a problem. Is it just going to be like that reality show about game wardens in Maine, “North Woods Law”? They’re just patrolling to make sure people have their dire-moose tags?
Like Jon, we know nothing.
In addition, I think there’s a very dark interpretation of this finale that the show doesn’t really get into. Are all the other highborns of Westeros just going to be cool that the Starks have basically taken over? Yara ran an independent Iron Islands under Dany. Now, they’re just not free? Everyone’s going to accept a new ruler being decided by Edmure Tully and friends if Bran dies? Robin Arryn is fine with eating only solid food?
What we do know is there’s definitely going to be a war very, very soon. Jon’s still the last Targaryen, and even if he [Jon Snow voice] “don’t want it,” rebellious lords could take up a fight in his name.
Also, Jon ends up just being a pawn in Tyrion’s game. He kills Dany, but that was Tyrion’s plan. Then, Tyrion is curiously fine with him being sent north for it, while he becomes Hand of the King, ruling the Six Kingdoms while Bran wastes his life watching a Drogon livestream all day?
Ramsay Bolton did say that if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention. But to kind of figure that out, you need to pay a hell of a lot of attention. How did you all feel about the loose ends in the story?
Sara: The Night’s Watch thing really irritated me. Do [showrunners] David Benioff and Dan Weiss really think it’s enough to stick in a line like “Oh, well, bastards and broken things will always need a place to go! Ta-da!” Uh, no? The Wall has no purpose now. Even the most casual viewer can see that. The White Walkers are gone. The Children of the Forest, by all appearances, are gone. I guess it still serves as a useful punitive arrangement, where people who’ve committed crimes can go and work and have all their sins be forgiven. But surely they could come up with something else to fill that purpose.
And come on, Jon’s watch ended back in Season 6. What happened here was that the showrunners didn’t know what to do with Jon, so they stuck him back up north with his doggo and his ginger friend. He should have been allowed to retire in peace, wherever he wanted. His punishment was having to kill the woman he loved, end of story.
Leigh: Yeah, clearly that duty was heartbreak enough. Speaking of Dany, I did feel for Khaleesi in her final scene as she’s reminiscing on hearing about the Iron Throne as a child. It sort of reminds you where she came from, and how her innocence and good-hearted nature was taken from her along this journey. But her post-battle speech put her reign into perspective: She was never going to stop until she conquered all. It truly harked back to the aftermath of the bombings of World War II.
That’s war, though, right? Making destructive decisions at times to eventually, and hopefully, reach peace. In Dany’s case, peace under her rule didn’t seem like an option for Jon.
Well, scratch that: It didn’t seem like an option for Tyrion, who’s clearly running the show here. Like you mentioned, Bill, he’s the one who convinces Jon to take out Dany. He’s also the one to campaign for Bran’s rule. And he’s the one who decides Jon should go to the Night’s Watch. Dude is like a cat with nine lives! What are your thoughts on the youngest Lannister’s finale moments?
Bill: I’m conflicted. I like Tyrion. He’s my favorite character in the books (besides the dragons), and I think Peter Dinklage made him perhaps one of the best characters on television in the early seasons. That being said, like he tells Bran, he doesn’t really deserve to be Hand of the King. Over the past few seasons, he’s made poorer and poorer decisions. It’s almost like he’s a completely different character at this point.
I would’ve given the job to Sansa and just sent Tyrion back to be Lord of Casterly Rock. In a way, it’d be a final bolt in the gut to his dead father, Tywin Lannister, who once said he’d let himself be “consumed by maggots” before letting Tyrion become heir to his ancestral stronghold. Well, spoiler alert, dad!
It was so bananas that Tyrion, a prisoner, was able to decide the fate of Westeros at his own tribal council. Props to him for that. Sara, what’d you think of how that plays out?
Sara: Tyrion’s always been able to talk himself out of tight spots — he’s done it the whole series — so I wasn’t too bothered by that at all. The argument that Tyrion’s sort of purgatory is continuing to serve as Hand in order to make up for all his mistakes sat well with me, although I always saw it more as a series of well-intentioned miscalculations as the stakes got so dizzyingly high. As much as I would have liked to see Tyrion live out his days on his own vineyard uncorking an Imp’s Delight, there’s no one else alive, aside from Davos and maybe Gendry, who understands King’s Landing like he does, and the plebs need some real allies.
One quick thing I want to bring up: What was the point of Sam almost inventing democracy, when everyone just laughed it down? Just to remind us that the lords and ladies of Westeros are inherently dicks? What?
Anyway, a tribal council seems like the next best thing for these guys. Again, it breaks the wheel Dany kept talking about.
Leigh: Sam, maybe the only non-dickish member of that tribal council, knows best. Yet, yes, it’s the power players, not the people, who end up deciding who will rule the Six Kingdoms. It would’ve been interesting to see who the common folk elected as king or queen, especially in light of Dany’s rampage and Jon’s Targaryen bloodline. At least show some reactions to Bran the Broken being named the Protector of the Realm? Is he too, um, robotic for everyone?
Sure, most people who lived in King’s Landing died by dragon fire, but there’s always the Dothraki!
And as for the small council, well, I have to say I’m pleased by the choices so far. (Although was it Bran or Tyrion who made the selections?) Davos is Master of Ships (and Grammar!), Bronn is Master of Coin, Brienne is Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and Sam is the Grand Maester. My bets for Master of Whisperers, Master of War and Master of Laws would be… no one? Maybe Jon Snow could’ve been forgiven and given an honorary title? Who’s even left, Bill?!
Bill: I don’t want to tear Bran away from his Drogon-cam too long, but the dude who sees and knows everything should probably be his own Master of Whisperers. As far as who’s left, not many.
There are so few recognizable lords and ladies left alive that one of the final moments of the show, Tyrion’s trial council, had a bunch of randos, like the Prince of Dorne we’ve never really seen before.
I’d make Drogon my Master of Whisperers. Or bring back Meera Reed, please. #JusticeForMeera. Hot Pie would be Master Baker, of course.
Sansa is a solid choice for whispers. She’s great at getting the hot goss and then spilling that tea (as she showed by spreading the news about Jon’s real parentage). But she’s too busy being Queen in the North.
How did you all feel about the “where are they now” montage?
Leigh: It definitely gave me “Lord of the Rings” vibes. After he bids farewell to his Stark sibling-cousins, I was waiting for Jon to nod his head like Frodo does before he boards the ship to the Undying Lands in “Return of the King.”
Sara: Bran would have been the ultimate Master of Whisperers. His one true calling! I’m very glad Sansa got to hitch a ride up north and stay there, though ― maybe she could advise from afar or something, but our girl only has traumatic memories of King’s Landing. Keep her far away from there.
Leigh: Absolutely. Nothing gave me more pleasure than to see my girl Sansa be crowned, while Lord Glover (that had to be his voice, right?) and co. shouted “The Queen in the North!” I do wish she had a little more support, though, now that Brienne is in King’s Landing and Arya is in full Christopher Columbus mode.
By the way, what do we think Arya’s goals for her expedition are?
Bill: Does Arya know what the goals of her expedition are? She’s just taking a year off to study abroad. Goal should probably be “don’t die.” Everyone who tries to see the lands beyond the Sunset Sea tends to never return.
I only know that because after discovering “Game of Thrones,” I immediately went out and binge-read Martin’s novels and other texts. No other show ever inspired me to do that.
Whatever you think about Season 8, “GoT” was the shield that guarded the realms of men. We shall never see its like again… until the prequels.
Leigh: What I liked about the finale was it isn’t a fairy tale ending. The show is known for its unexpected twists and turns, so I appreciated that it didn’t wrap everything up perfectly. Either Dany or Jon needed to die. Sansa needed to rule, one way or another. Tyrion needed to give one last charged speech. And Arya needed to leave Westeros behind.
But did anyone really think Bran would become king??? (Just Gwendoline Christie, apparently.)
Would I have liked to watch Dany’s slow descent into madness? Yes. Would I have teared up when Jon Snow was named Ruler of the Seven Six Kingdoms? No doubt. Would I have clapped with delight at one last White Walker spotting? Yup.
But this is “Game of Thrones.” Not everyone is going to be happy with the conclusion. What I can say is this: Season 8 wasn’t great, and that’s a bummer. The scripts failed die-hard fans. But we got a pretty solid finale to a show we’ve spent years devouring. It’s not perfect by any means, but what would’ve been?
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