Game of Thrones, Series Finale
The Iron Throne is no more. The show that changed television forever—and then fell on its face a bit at the end—has concluded with an episode that left most fans unhappy. I took an extra day on this writeup because I wanted the disappointed, annoyed, and/or openly hostile takes to have had their moment, so that I could try something shocking, dangerous, and maybe even appalling to you: to argue that the final episode, “The Iron Throne,” was actually pretty … good? *ducks*
Okay, hear me out. I’m going to try to convince you that some of the most controversial decisions made in the series finale do make sense, if you, like, want them too and squint hard enough. Here we go.
- Bran the Broken was not only the best choice as High King of the Six Kingdoms, but was the ONLY candidate capable of gaining a peaceful consensus. This will get many people angry. Many people think Tree-Man Bran is perhaps the worst character on the show. I get it. But let me try to make sense of it. Bran is a political choice the other houses would support in their own self-interest because it opens a path to the throne for everyone. Prior to the meeting in the Dragon Pit, for three hundred years the only way to become King of the Seven Kingdoms was either be a Targaryen or kill everyone who tried to stop you. Now every house in the Seven Six Kingdoms has a legitimate shot at the big job. This is a massive break for every ambitious house in the realm. The trick is, who should they pick right now?
Brandon Stark cannot father an heir. He is not the ruler of a major house, but is of one and commands respect. He has no grudges or rivalries with anyone. He is known for having special abilities that come without ego or vanity and are specifically suited to thoughtful governance. He didn’t lobby for the job. He’s a safe, neutral, placeholder king while all the other houses jockey to produce the next one. It makes perfect sense if you think about it.
And who else could it be? No way were the southern lords voting for Sansa. Jon was Grey Worm’s prisoner and a Targaryen, so he was both unavailable and the terrible “status quo,” perhaps carrying Targaryen madness within him and certainly not representing a break from the past. No one else came close to having the resume. (“Uncle, please sit,” might have been the best moment of the night. And sorry, Sam, but democracy wasn’t going to happen yet, even if you did find a magical plastic water bottle from the future under your chair.) In the end, Bran made the most sense. I truly believe this.
- Tyrion was making a sales pitch. Of course Bran didn’t have the best story. His two sisters flanking him absolutely dunk all over that idea. But Tyrion wasn’t there to advocate the truth to our TV audience, he was there to sell the idea of Bran as king to the other nobles, for the reasons outlined above. So he fudged the history a bit—he was trying to create a peaceful system of succession to last generations and needed to sex up a vanilla candidate. Cut the man some slack! (And cheers to Peter Dinklage for acting his face off once again and being the best performer in the show’s long run. He did so much quiet work in this episode. It was marvelous.)
- Sansa could bounce because Winterfell beat the Night King and the North had both the military leverage and the ability to break away. The other kingdoms didn’t have that, so they had to agree to a new king. Sansa held very good cards—a deadly track record, the physical distance of her homeland (nobody’s coming through the Neck), and an army at the meeting. She could basically do whatever she wanted. (FYI, Dorne will almost certainly do the same thing, not that anyone remembered it existed, apparently. Bran will be ruling the Five Kingdoms before too long, count on it.)
- Grey Worm leading the Unsullied to protect Naath in honor of Missandei makes sense. I don’t know why he didn’t kill Jon, but I think there might have been a large part of him that really, truly didn’t want to. They had been through the ringer together more than once, and he had to know Jon was an honorable man. And Grey Worm didn’t want to stay in the Seven Kingdoms anyway. So he gave himself a mission and headed back East (I think?). Personally, I cannot believe he survived this series.
- Jon taking the Black was perfect. Full circle is pretty nice. The Wall is where he was happiest, most effective, and most alive (except for that time he was dead). And kudos for giving Ghost some long overdue doggie love, Jon. Even a smile! In my opinion it’s a new era, and Jon’s going to do things differently at the edge of the world from now on. I think he was ranging north beyond the Wall with the wildlings, not abandoning the Seven Kingdoms. He’s starting a new system where people can go back and forth, and was simply providing escort for Tormund and the wildings. I choose to believe this!
- Fan service! I liked it. The dragon wings shot behind Daenerys was incredible. Sansa is a Queen and deserves it. Arya is free of her list and responsibilities. (Come sail away!) Podrick is a Knight of the Kingsguard. Brienne is Lord Commander! Drogon burned the Iron Throne and shook free of masters forever. Bronn is the Master of Coin! That was brilliant. I loved it all, I don’t care.
- Jon killed Daenerys. I saved the show’s biggest moment for last. Much has been rightly said about the sexism inherent here. Or how Dany’s storyline really got cheated, and how the action was fairly abrupt and too rushed, as season eight sped along way too fast. All of that is true. But I want to say this: Jon finally didn’t Ned Stark at a crucial moment, showing some character growth and development that the show sorely needed. Now, Arya and Tyrion had to practically drag him there, but in the end he did the bad thing for the greater good, which was very necessary but not what Starks typically do. I was legit tense during that kiss because I didn’t know who would knife whom, and then I was pretty sure Drogon was going to roast Jon whole. I liked the tension. I liked not knowing what was going to happen. I didn’t think it was that bad.
So now A Song of Ice and Fire is over. The show that changed everything has ended its run. I want to thank Penguin Teen for giving House Reichs this space to rant and cheer, and for those of you who have been reading along and sending all the nice/mean comments. What a ride, but now our watch has ended. See you on the far side of the Wall.