The following is a spoiler-filled review of the final episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Expect spoilers for the episode in the review.
In the series finale of Game of Thrones, while King’s Landing is covered in ash, Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke) becomes the ruler of Westeros. However, both Jon Snow (played by Kit Harrington) and Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) have second thoughts about their queen who slaughtered those she swore to protect.
The biggest television show ever made has come to an end. The winds of winter are over, dragons have danced, kings have clashed, thrones have been fought over, and we are ready to sing the song of ice and fire. In the age of binge-watching, shows that we all collectively watch together week-to-week are extremely rare and Game of Thrones may be the last of its kind. The sure-fire water-cooler show is no more. Unfortunately, this last season of the show proved more difficult than expected. Fans petitioned for changes, and critics were displeased. This episode will be divisive as well, as series finale’s often are, but I’ve seen much worse than what we were given by Benioff, Weiss, and HBO here. Those who watched Dexter know that series finales can ruin a show completely.
To recap, the episode started with the ruins of King’s Landing. Watching Tyrion and Jon take in just how disastrous the battle was really worked, especially because the show took it seriously. There was a feeling of despondency over the first half of the episode. We saw Dinklage react with great emotion to the bodies of his siblings, which I thought worked really well.
Afterward, the episode gave us some of the most chilling shots of the series. Seeing the Targaryen sigil on the broken castle, with hired armies cheering for a tyrant was a sight to behold. Seeing Drogon expand his wings behind Daenerys was jaw-dropping. The first half of the episode had a lot of outstanding qualities.
I do have some questions, though. First, how come the collapse that killed Jaime and Cersei was so insignificant once Tyrion was there? Seriously, the series finale made it seem like they would’ve been fine if they weren’t standing in that one spot. On top of that, Tyrion has to remove, what, one or two rocks to be able to see it’s Jaime and Cersei lying there? Tyrion’s moment was nice, so I shrugged this inconsistency off initially, but the more I think about it the more it annoys me. Secondly, why is there suddenly snow in King’s Landing? The long night is over, there was no snow in the previous episode, and there was no time-jump at the beginning of the series finale. Don’t tell me it was all ash. Finally, how are there so many Unsullied and Dothraki soldiers? Surely some were lost last week, and there were already barely anyone left after The Long Night. I guess, the show kind of forgot about the size of her armies.
This leads to Tyrion being taken by Dany’s army for treason. Tyrion’s conversation with Jon was fairly interesting up to a point. I think it went on for too long and while the Master Aemon line was great, I don’t think they should’ve had Jon say where he first heard the saying. That is a nitpick, though.
Influenced by both Tyrion and Arya, the latter of whom somehow made it up the stairs to talk to Jon unscathed even though Dany’s army was right there, Jon Snow went to the throne room hoping to convince his Queen to change. That didn’t happen and so Jon had to commit regicide. Here’s the thing, though. This is a moment that, much like most of the season, would’ve worked better with stronger pacing, additional episodes, better execution, and all that. But the way the scene ends is silly. Seeing Drogon nudge his mother to see if she’s alive was heartbreaking, but having him then destroy the Iron Throne and do literally nothing to the person who killed his mother doesn’t make a lot of sense. Drogon should’ve attacked Jon.
Drogon should’ve done something. Really, Grey Worm and Daenerys’ armies should’ve done something. It makes absolutely no sense that Grey Worm, who had no problem following his mad queen’s tyrannous orders, didn’t just arrange for Jon Snow to be executed for regicide. That, however, may be somewhat of a necessary character inconsistency to move the plot forward similarly to how George R. R. Martin intends the plot to move forward in the books (i.e. Jon Snow must not die at the very end). But that is, of course, nothing more than speculation. We may never know.
One thing led to another, a few weeks or months went by, and suddenly a council was assembled to pick a new ruler. However, it’s clear that they were all incompetent because they literally call for a prisoner to settle their argument. After they laugh off Sam’s democracy idea, Tyrion says they should pick the guardian of stories to rule. So they went with the blank slate that is Bran Stark. Are there justifications for making him the king? Sure, I guess, but it is just such a silly thing to present us with in the series finale. The character that the show failed to make compelling or interesting won the game of thrones by warging into ravens and telling people random secrets of the past. The blandest character won it all.
It was then decided that Jon Snow was to be sent to the Wall and the Night’s Watch (even though the Unsullied, who were basically the only ones who wanted him to be punished, left Westeros before they knew for sure that he was punished), Arya decided to leave her family to find land to the west of Westeros, Bran became the ruler and Tyrion became his Hand. Also, Sansa Stark also somehow became the Queen of a liberated, independent North, which is a thing that doesn’t quite make sense. How did the council of the seven kingdoms agree to the idea that a Stark was to rule them all as King, while another Stark should get her own independent territory? Surely, someone would have a problem with that. Surely, someone would’ve asked for independence as well.
In the end, on a show that had so many well-written female characters, only Sansa Stark was left to rule. Someone is going to write an excellent article about the fall of the female characters that had previously made much of the show so thrilling. It’s also a little bit sad that Brienne’s final role is to write about and protect the legacy of the man who left her to cry in Winterfell. That said, though, seeing Brienne write about Jaime Lannister in the White Book almost broke me. I love that moment, and it almost made me emotional.
In the final moments of the episode, the show seemed to set up new stories and new adventures for the Stark children that we grew to have complex feelings about. However, in the end, the series also had an oddly comical King’s council scene that had me absolutely baffled. In a way, the first and second halves of the episode felt like two different episodes or eras of the show. For example, the comedy was mistimed and misfired as a result. Again, structurally the series has suffered near the end, and it’s so absurd to me how comically Tyrion and Bronn’s exchanges were at the end of the episode when compared to the despondency of the episode’s opening. Would it really have been so bad if they had opted for a traditional ten episode season? I think that would’ve helped enormously. Benioff and Weiss never let anything breathe this season.
I think this series finale will be just as divisive as the season as a whole, but, as I work through all of my emotions right now, I think I’m much more positive than I expected to be after last week’s episode. Though I certainly don’t have a favorable opinion of the episode, I can say that I feared much worse from a beloved series that had started to make me terribly worried about its legacy. This season, arcs were rushed or thrown to the wayside, characters were changed in the blink of an eye, other characters changed the course of their arcs inside a single episode.
I have plenty of problems with the series finale, and I don’t think Benioff and Weiss stuck the landing, but the series finale was not as problematic as it could’ve been, even though I was surprisingly emotionless throughout the episode. At the end of the season, the thing that I am the saddest about is the fact that the series lost me at the end. Except for a couple of moments, I was basically passionless as the show came to an end.
All things considered, though, I’ll miss Game of Thrones. I’ll miss it for the dialogue of the first half of the series, I’ll miss it for the scheming outside of throne rooms, I’ll miss it for the great characters, phenomenal actors, the outstanding production and costume designs, and the equally great composer. But even though I’ll love the series as a whole, I have to admit to myself and others that the final season — including the final episode — slightly tarnished the greatness that came before it. Not because of the visuals, the designs, the musical compositions, or the acting, this season the writing, pacing, and the overall structure of the needlessly truncated season failed the series. With that my watch has now ended.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.