Review, Reaction, Retrospective: GAME OF THRONES Series Finale, “The Iron Throne”

GoT season 8

GoT 8.6 - Tyrion quits.gif - spoilers

Game of Thrones is over. Believe me, I’m as sick of hearing about it as you are. I mostly blame the internet for that, not the show itself. My own passion for this story and these characters has not faded in the slightest. That said, I can’t stand to hear one more thing from every entertainment site, blog, YouTube channel, podcast and blue checkmark on Twitter bitching and moaning about their dissatisfaction with this final season week after week after fucking week. It’s omnipresent. When Barstool Sports, that haven of geek discussion, starts obsessing over every detail of every new episode, you know a shark has been jumped. I’m fed up. I can’t open my laptop, turn on my TV, or check the time on my phone without hearing about somebody’s disappointment with Season 8. Now that the show is over, I can’t wait for the Game of Thrones reaction industry to die the miserable death it deserves.

This is the first pop culture phenomenon where I understood what it meant to truly hate a bandwagon. You see this a lot with bands who hit the big time. “I prefer their earlier work” is the common refrain that’s now basically become a meme. I’ve been watching GoT since the series premiere back in April, 2011 and loved it right away. It began airing right as Entourage was wrapping up and I needed some new HBO in my life. In fact, I was able to dig up the post on this blog where I first reacted to the pilot episode. It’s a one-paragraph quick reaction as part of THIS post, where I was “very interested to see how these characters interweave going forward”, very excited about the potential of R-rated fantasy, and instantly in love with Emilia Clarke.

I think this show means more to the people who have spent 8 years with it; the ones who had to wait week-to-week for every single episode. I didn’t jump in in season 6 and binge watch the previous 50 episodes in 3 days. This is a whole other rant, but I wish the streaming services would consider releasing some of their biggest shows one week at a time. I like being able to talk about individual episodes, not trying to sum up an entire season, which is what we have to do now with all of this newer stuff. This is why HBO remains vital.

Anyway, skipping ahead to present day…I really enjoyed the series finale. We’ll get into the details below, but I do wish it had been longer. Here again things happen really quickly because they have so much story to try and wrap up in one episode. Showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, not HBO, are the ones who insisted on the shortened final two seasons, and it’s the one criticism that I will agree with, because I think it’s been the root of most of the other issues we’ve seen this season. Season 8 needed two more episodes to properly flesh things out. Season 7 could’ve used one more.

I’ll reiterate my position on all this season 8 controversy. I haven’t had a problem with almost any of the character decisions or motivations thus far. My issue is the rush the show has been in to put these people in these positions. Most of the internet rage I’ve been seeing for the last 3 weeks from the petition signers (which is what I’ll call you people from hereon out) has been that they also disagree with what the characters are even doing or where they’ve ended up at the end. I’ll say it again; I hope the petition signers don’t regret this outrage once the books come out and George R.R. Martin puts these characters in the same places. Yes, the books will be able to better flesh out why they make these decisions, but in the end the decisions will likely be entirely the same. And I don’t see anyone writing that or taking it into account when they spew their vitriol at David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (hereafter referred to as D&D).

For more, see my previous post here specifically about the rush to the finish line: I Wish Game of Thrones Would Slow the Hell Down.

WHAT I LIKED

#1 – This fucking shot:

GoT 8.6 - Dany the Drogon

By the way, kudos to Emilia Clarke for speaking both Dothraki and Valyrian effortlessly in that speech to her troops. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to learn either part of that speech on its own, let alone do both for one monologue. At least I think that’s what she’s doing. I don’t think it’s Valyrian the entire way through, but I’ve been wrong before. Overall, she did a great job pulling off the classic “a good villain doesn’t believe they’re doing evil”.

GoT meme 3

Jon Snow killing Daenerys was appropriate and necessary, and I think between witnessing her Hitler-esque speech to her troops and the conversation with Tyrion, we see Jon come to realize that stopping her immediately was the only option, particularly after she makes it clear this may not be the only city she intends to burn to bend to her will. I only wish the moment she died would have been a bit more prolonged. He stabs her, she looks at him (a great acting moment), and dies 10 seconds later without a word exchanged between them. Come on. These are the cornerstone characters of the show. Have her say something as she realizes it’s over. They way he kills her is good. I just wanted a little more from what is one of the most important scenes in the entire show. What followed was handled perfectly…

-I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Drogon deciding on his own to fry the Iron Throne. He may as well have said out loud, “Enough of this fucking shit!” My biggest concern going into the episode was about how they’d deal with Drogon once Jon killed Dany. I think it couldn’t have been handled more perfectly. It was beautifully tragic that even in victory, Dany never got to actually sit on the throne. Drogon picking up her body and taking her back east was also felt right. It’s also more proof that Dany was pretty much the only one among her forces who actually wanted to go to Westeros in the first place.

GoT 8.6 Drogon 1GoT 8.6 Drogon 2

The scene was also a really cool indicator of how intelligent dragons can get and it shows just how strong the bond between Dany & Drogon had grown. He feels that bond severed by her death and goes looking for her. I think he  knew what she wanted, and once she dies after finally getting it, what’s the point? That, and it might also be true he literally can’t kill another Targaryen (theory alert!). And if he can’t kill Jon ‘Ya Boy Aegon’ Snow, he’s damn well gonna destroy something else in the room.

Side note: Drogon is a he, isn’t it? I don’t know if this was ever clarified. If not, I apologize to the dragon for misgendering it.

-I love the council leaders quickly laughing off Sam‘s idea of a democratically elected ruler (if that’s not an oxymoron). It’s accurate that noblemen at that point in human history who are used to their way of life would barely even comprehend the possibility of allowing commoners to determine their leaders.

Although Sansa demanding an independent kingdom for the North is consistent with what she’s been preaching all this time, I agree with those who find it hard to believe that none of the others present would then decide that’s a fantastic idea for their part of the world as well. I think Dorne in particular, with its new prince and recent suffering at the hands of the crown, would be extremely enthusiastic about also remaining independent. And Yara Greyjoy pretty much makes it clear the only reason the Iron Islands were on board with the concept of this new, united world was because of Dany. The Seven Kingdoms could’ve become Five really quick.

-I love Brienne finishing the official account of Jaime Lannister‘s deeds in the Kingsguard history book (The White Book I believe it’s called). Gwendoline Christie did a fabulous job acting with just her face as she wrote and then finished Jaime’s entry. (And yeah, it’s a strong woman reflecting on the deeds of a man, SJWs. Ridiculous, I know. Fucking deal with it.)

GoT 8.6 - Protecting his queen

-At the Small Council scene, it’s a funny gag that Tyrion supposedly isn’t mentioned in the “Song of Ice and Fire” history book, but writing that history without mentioning Tyrion once would make it one of the most inaccurate history books ever written, would it not?

The Lord of the Rings tributes. If you’ve ever heard George R.R. Martin speak about his influences, Tolkien and LOTR are always at the top of the list. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the ending to some of the characters his story in some ways mirrors things that happen to some of LOTR‘s most famous faces:

Daenerys gets a Gollum ending in that they both die basically the instant they get the thing they’ve always wanted. You could also say the burning of the throne is similar to the destruction of the One Ring, both objects representing absolute power. Jon Snow gets a Frodo ending, where our supposed hero no longer has a place in the world he once knew and goes off into a sort of exile. We even get the scene where he’s about to board a boat and sail away forever. And Sam revealing that the title of the books in the real world is now the title of a book within the story is a mirror of Bilbo and Frodo writing “The Lord of the Rings” in that world.

Do I like that Bran was made King? I have to say I’m not passionate about it one way or the other. I certainly don’t think its stupid, as many others do. If you must have another ruler, I don’t see any other qualified options among the remaining characters. Bran would certainly be new type of ruler; one who isn’t thirsty for maintaining or increasing his power and the entitled need to have his children follow in his footsteps. I think it’s a good idea to try avoiding that. They mention that future rulers would be elected by the nobles of Westeros, but how long does a Three-Eyed Raven live? I guess if they didn’t like what Bran was doing, he wouldn’t have minded stepping aside in the future. Personally, I wanted the throne destroyed, but I was also in favor of them eradicating the idea of having one ruler over all the kingdoms. Had it been mine to write, I’d have made King’s Landing its own province but not one that had sway over everybody else. This would make all the other kingdoms independent states within one country. I suppose having them create a senate or some other governing body with representation from each kingdom would’ve been too forward-thinking for those people in that moment.

GoT meme 2

GoT 8.6 Queen Sansa

-I love the bookend of the show ending in the exact same place it began in 2011, with people exiting the tunnel under The Wall and venturing into the far north.

We’ll get to Arya‘s ending below…

LINGERING QUESTIONS/CRITICISMS

-I agree that it’s odd to show Arya get on a horse and apparently ride out of the city at the end of episode 5 and then have her right back in the middle of the city watching Dany’s army celebrate at the start of episode 6. Could we see her riding the horse, then she sees or hears something, which she investigates to find the celebration? Too much to ask for that 30 second scene prior to her just reappearing in the thick of things?

GoT meme 1

-It’s a good moment for Tyrion and I know his motivations work best if he knows for sure his siblings are dead, but when they died it seemed like they were buried under a lot more than just a small pile of rubble. Tyrion moves like two bricks to find their bodies. Come on now. I’m willing to let this slide because Peter Dinklage does some absolutely incredible work in this scene, but yeah…

GoT 8.6 - rubble meme
No. But kinda?

We know where the Unsullied are going, but what happened to the Dothraki? Ignoring the fact that there are suddenly at least two hundred Dothraki alive and present at Dany’s victory rally, it’s not mentioned where the hell they decided to go when all of Dany’s forces vacate King’s Landing. On my second viewing of the episode, I did see some horses and Dothraki down by the docks as the Unsullied are preparing to leave, but that doesn’t tell me much. Did they go with the Unsullied to Taarth? Did they take a couple ships of their own and fuck off back to Essos? Did some of them take their own lands and settle in Westeros? Bad idea if that was on the table by the way. I can’t answer any of these questions, which is a problem. They deserved some resolution.

If Grey Worm truly wanted justice, then why were Tyrion and Jon Snow still alive at the time of the council meeting anyway? If the episode had been as long as it should’ve been, I wanted to see the scene after Drogon leaves where Grey Worm finds out what happened. That’s kind of an important moment to just skip over only because showing it would mean having to explain why Grey Worm doesn’t kill him right then and there. No doubt Jon, being Mr. Honorable, admitted his guilt immediately and surrendered, but are you telling me in that moment, when Grey Worm is still angry at everything, he doesn’t kill Jon in a fit of rage for slaying his queen, the woman who freed him and gave him a new life? I kinda think he would have. And I kinda think he would’ve then immediately gone and killed Tyrion since it’s clear Tyrion had an uprising in mind when he quit as Dany’s Hand and knew his life would soon be forfeit. How George Martin handles this entire sequence of events in the books will be fascinating.

GoT 8.6 - Tyrion quits

Which reminds me, knowing that Tyrion is openly treasonous and Jon is a threat to her power, why in the blue hell would Jon Snow be allowed to speak privately with Tyrion in his “cell” in the first place? Ugh. The Unsullied have a lot to learn about statecraft.

Once the Unsullied are gone, is it still necessary for Jon Snow to be banished to the far north?

A lot of people are asking this, and I understand why, but I’ll give you two logical hypotheses. Perhaps it’s because Bran is unemotional about the whole thing and wouldn’t deliberately deceive The Unsullied as one of his first acts as king? I buy that. It’s (“But the Unsullied would never know!”, they retorted) Even if the Unsullied never found out, everyone around him who agreed to those terms would likely find out. That’s an immediate stain on Bran’s integrity. He no longer has personal feelings towards Jon, so why would he allow that to happen? Or is it that stubborn ass Jon Snow wouldn’t even entertain the idea? I’d buy that, too. Either way, it’s not a huge issue for me. Besides, if he isn’t sent north, you don’t get the long awaited moment of him of petting his fucking wolf. So eat it. You got what you wanted most in the world.

GoT 8.6 Jon Snow Ghost

We are, however, missing a scene where it’s revealed whether or not Jon wants to do this, which would have cleared up any confusion. He’s not very talkative when Tyrion informs him what will happen. He doesn’t seem happy, but he doesn’t resist the idea, either. You could have had Arya suggest freeing him once the Unsullied are gone while they’re all together on the docks and then Bran could’ve shut it down and this wouldn’t even be a talking point. We know Jon doesn’t want to rule Westeros. That’s clear as can be. In reality though, despite having supported Dany all the way up to her King’s Landing massacre and then AGAIN afterwards until Tyrion slaps some sense into him, he did in the end save all their asses by killing her. I kinda like that it’s an impossible situation. There’s no way out of it where everyone is happy.

I didn’t like that Jon tried to have it both ways at the beginning of the episode: “I can’t justify it. I won’t even try. But she’s still the queen, so what am I post to do about it.” As if a ruler can do ANYTHING because they’re the ruler. Has he not seen enough bad leaders to know better by now? God is he dumb. Or is he only saying this because it would be poor drama for him to declare, “You’re fucking right, imp. I’m’a go stab her right now. For the realm!”

You go, Bronn! Boy, is this guy not the biggest winner of them all or what? Good lord. So he gets rule over Highgarden after all and a seat on the Small Council as the Master of Coin?? Wow. Nobody in the Tyrell’s domain who had been loyal to that family has an issue with this? There are zero Tyrells or Tyrell adjacents left alive who would have been a better choice to rule there?

I needed to see the scene where he’s officially given rulership of Highgarden, which is the wealthiest kingdom in Westeros. NOBODY was opposed to this? I understand it’s what he had been promised, but the Lannister brothers did make that promise under duress. Did King Bran authorize that promise to be kept? If so, I definitely wanted to see that moment. What the hell was Bronn gonna do about it if they rejected Tyrion’s promise and simply gave him a smaller castle and lands? They’re certainly not under any obligation to honor Cersei‘s promise that he’d get something for killing her brothers. Did he get bonus points for sparing them? Again, this is a scene I needed to see, and it would’ve had a double purpose because it would’ve shown what kind of decisions Bran is making in his first few days as king. The way it’s presented it’s almost like he had no say in the matter, Tyrion handed him Highgarden and that was that. Is that really the best way to start making amends in his new role?

-I randomly thought of this upon seeing Cersei’s corpse: after that first trip to Winterfell in season one, does Cersei Lannister ever leave King’s Landing again the entire rest of the series? I feel like she doesn’t, which must make her the least-traveled main character on the show.

RESPONDING TO THIS WEEK’S PETTY INTERNET GRIPES

There weren’t enough twists in the finale!

No! There’s no time in a goddamn series finale of a show this massive with this many characters to have a bunch of new twists and turns. I hate to tell ya. Honest to god I feel bad for Benioff & Weiss. They literally can’t win. Have a bunch of twists and the show ends with too many loose ends. End the show wrapping up each of main stories and they played it too safe. I’ll again state what I’ve been saying to everyone who vaguely criticized the show this season; offer an alternative. Give me an example of the kind of twist you wanted to see at the very end of the show that would’ve made any kind of sense. I’ll wait.

A popular one is “Jon Snow should’ve become the new Night King!” WHAT?! Explain to me how the fuck that comes to pass. Please. And then tell me why that would happen.

GoT 8.6 Arya cut throat
I love you.

Why is Arya suddenly a sailor now?! Why didn’t she use more masks this season?! She’s supposedly a Faceless Man!

Oh, fuck you. If you didn’t comprehend that Arya was done killing people for revenge, maybe you’re the dumbass, not the show’s writers. She was never killing people for fun, and everyone she wanted dead is now gone. Also, you forget the fact she’s mentioned previously she wanted to know what was west of Westeros. She has no desires left in her homeland. She’s young and needed to find a purpose. Her going off to explore made complete sense. And it’s pretty clear there were other people on that ship with her, so she isn’t suddenly a master sailor traversing the world on her own.

On the second thing, was it not made perfectly clear she fucking quit the Faceless Men? She literally told the dude, “Nah, I do have a name and I’m outta here” and left his ass standing there. She only used those faces last season as a means to an end (infiltrating the Frey castle and dinner party to kill them all). That doesn’t mean she’s obligated to continue using masks to trick and kill people for the rest of her fucking life. This criticism is so ignorant it’s barely even worth discussing.

Ya know, for a bunch of people whining from your high horses about subpar storytelling, you seem to forget a lot of the details of the stories you’ve already been told.

D&D only rushed the show to its finish because they wanted to get started on their Star Wars movies. That’s awfully convenient for conspiracy theorists to presume if you completely ignore the real-world timeline of events. The idea that these guys would be in a rush to finish the first show they’d ever run, which had become the most popular show on earth, and deliberately sabotage the quality of its ending just so they could move onto something else that’s gonna take them 7-8 years to finish, is to me absurd. Once again, we’ll ignore the fact that it was announced Game of Thrones would have two shortened final seasons WAAAAAAYYYY before it was announced they’d gotten the Star Wars job. Upon doing the research, the Star Wars announcement was made February 6, 2018, a full 8 months AFTER GoT season 7 had aired and while they were in production on season 8. That means the season 8 scripts had been completed and the entire season planned out before the Star Wars deal was finalized. It’s a fucking ridiculous assertion they’d be in a rush to finish Game of Thrones before they even had permission to start writing Star Wars. Stop it.

In Conclusion

Sadly, the plain truth is that we’re not likely to see anything like Game of Thrones again anytime soon, if ever. It requires a level of detail and breadth of characters that is incredibly hard to create for television or for movies. It’s only because of the stunning level of worldbuilding in George R.R. Martin’s novels, created over literally decades, that this was even possible, and from what I can tell there’s nothing else like it in the literary world ready to be adapted, either. The size and scale of A Song of Ice and Fire is incomparable, and it’s inspired me (and many others, no doubt) in my own writing as I develop a fantasy series of my own. It’s something that takes years to craft.

As many others have noted, we may never have a watercooler television show of this magnitude again. Personally, based on the toxicity I’ve seen on the internet the past few weeks, perhaps it’s for the best we don’t all weigh in on a show week after week again. And that’s a shame. It should be a positive experience, but the desperation to get clicks and views while feeding on the negativity this season has worn me out. And it only took 4 weeks for that to happen, starting with the complaints that episode 3, “The Long Night”, WAS TOO DARK. If this season had been 10 episodes and I’d had to put up with this shit for another whole month, I may have moved to rural Montana and become a recluse.

My infinite thanks to the massive cast and crew who made this all possible. From the crew it’s worth naming David Benioff, D.B. ‘Dan’ Weiss, George R.R. Martin, series composer Ramin Djawadi (for the best music ever written for television), screenwriters Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill, directors Miguel Sapochnik, David Nutter, Alan Taylor, Alex Graves, Mark Mylod, Jeremy Podeswa, Daniel Minahan, Neil Marshall et al, cinematographers Anette Haellmigk, Jonathan Freeman, Robert McLachlan, Fabian Wagner, David Franco, Gregory Middleton et al, editors Katie Weiland, Frances Parker, Crispin Green, Tim Porter et al, casting directors Nina Gold and Robert Sterne, genius production designers Deborah Riley and Gemma Jackson, costume designer Michael Clapton, and all the stuntmen, hair & makeup designers, sound technicians, set construction teams and visual effects wizards who helped change what we thought was possible on television. Also a special shoutout to linguist David J. Peterson for developing the Dothraki and Valyrian languages on the show. Bravo all.

Finally, I would not want to be George R.R. Martin trying to write his conclusion to these books. He’s claimed repeatedly that the ending of the show will not affect how he writes the ending to the books and that he won’t write characters’ fates simply to please audience expectations. That’s the correct move, by the way, since we’ve now seen there’s a 0% chance you can please enough people to make placation worth the trouble. At the same time, he’s admitted he regrets that the show passed the books (which I believe happened at the end of season 5), and as a writer myself I think the primary reason is that it would be incredibly difficult seeing someone else finish your story, even if you will get the last word. At the same time, he’s now seeing that maybe his intended ending may not go over very well. It would take a strong-willed person to resist even the thought to change something. I know he has a big presence online and has no doubt seen the vitriol spewed at how the show wrapped up. It’s hard to imagine he sees all this stuff and that it isn’t in his mind now as he writes. It’s an unenviable position. All I can do is wish him luck, but in the end I know the final two books will be able to fully flesh out the climactic events, even if they will be very similar to the way the show ends as everyone involved has claimed all along.

GRRM

Meanwhile, HBO has lost its number one attraction. It’s clear that the network is trying to be the go-to place for big budget television. I think their Watchmen adaptation looks pretty cool, Westworld will continue, and they’re going all-in with another fantasy based on a popular book series with His Dark Materials. Oh yeah, and they’ve got as many as five Game of Thrones prequel series in development, with one shooting its pilot already. We’ve not seen the last of Westeros on television, and we should all be happy about that.

GoT meme 4

 

 

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