How will history (and Twitter) judge the series finale of Game of Thrones? Perhaps they’ll say that the last episode, “The Iron Throne,” would have made a good final season. Let the spin-offs begin…
The finale opens with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Jon (Kit Harington) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) walking through what’s left of King’s Landing in a daze, surveying the aftermath of Daenerys’ carnage as snow falls. They part ways so Tyrion can go see if his brother and sister made it to safety while Jon and Davos go to the Queen.
Tyrion walks into and through the Red Keep without incident, picking up a torch on the way to his secret staircase. He is able to travel a certain distance down his path before reaching the first doorway obstructed by debris from a ceiling collapse. Fortunately, there’s a little light breaking through at the top, so he clambers up the pile of bricks and removes enough to allow him to enter the dungeon beyond. He pauses to regard the damaged skull of Balerion, then looks for the passage Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was to have used to escape with Cersei (Lena Headey) to the sea. It’s completely blocked. Tyrion walks towards it.
As he’s climbing over a pile of fallen stones, he sees a golden hand amongst them. He drops to his knees and digs out his siblings, dead in each other’s arms.
As Jon and Davos continue through the ruined streets of the city, they encounter Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and his men in the process of executing a group of Lannister soldiers. Jon tries to intervene, but when he puts his hand on Grey Worm’s arm, everyone else raises their weapons. Grey Worm tells them that he’s acting on the orders of the Queen to execute anyone who followed Cersei Lannister. At Davos’ urging, Jon moves along so he can talk to the Queen himself.
Travel times and distances in Westeros are super relative. Jon arrives on the parade grounds in front of the Red Keep at the same time as Arya (Maisie Williams), who apparently rode that white horse away at the end of last week’s episode, only to ditch the horse and immediately return to the city? Not using face magic, per usual, she skulks around the perimeter of a gathering of all of Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) remaining troops as Jon walks up the middle, pushing past horses and men to reach the grand staircase leading up to where Dany should be.
Drogon comes swooping in from… somewhere? with Dany on his back, depositing her inside the Red Keep so that she can emerge at the top of the stairs just as Jon approaches her from below and a shockingly speedy Grey Worm can walk out with her. Tyrion joins them on a slight delay, although remarkably quickly considering how far he’s traveled and how much he’s done in the time it took Jon to walk across town.
Dany addresses her surviving Unsullied and Dothraki troops in Valyrian. (Do the Dothraki speak Valyrian? Tyrion kind of does. Jon does not.) She says:
“Blood of my blood. You kept all your promises to me. You killed my enemies in their iron suits. You tore down their stone houses. You gave me the Seven Kingdoms!”
(To Grey Worm) “You have walked beside me since the Plaza of Pride. You are the bravest of men, the most loyal of soldiers. I name you commander of all my forces, the Queen’s Master of War.
“Unsullied. All of you were torn from your mothers’ arms and raised as slaves. Now… you are liberators! You have freed the people of King’s Landing from the grip of a tyrant!
“But the war is not over. We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world!
“From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Quarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea! Women, men and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?”
As her troops cheer their heads off, Tyrion approaches her from behind. She turns to him and tells him she knows he freed his brother, and that that’s treason. He responds in the affirmative, and comments that she slaughtered a city. Then he removes his Hand of the Queen brooch and throws it down the stairs, which stills the excited crowd. Dany has him taken into custody, and Tyrion exchanges a pointed look with Jon as he goes.
Dany and Grey Worm exit behind Tyrion, and Arya pops up next to Jon. He attempts to step into the big brother role, asking her to meet him outside the city gates, but she stops him short. She reminds him that Dany knows his true identity and that he is a threat to her. She tells him she knows a killer when she sees one, then she departs (again?).
Jon goes to visit Tyrion in the room where he’s being held, probably until Dany has him eviscerated by Drogon. After establishing that Jon didn’t bring wine, they share their regrets about this and that and then Tyrion urges Jon to do something about Dany. Jon, loyal to a FAULT, insists that Dany’s his Queen no matter what– even when Tyrion reinforces Arya’s warning about how he’s a threat to her. As Jon goes to leave, Tyrion finally finds a button to push by asking Jon what will happen to his sisters under Dany’s rule. Jon seems sure they’re loyal to whomever is on the throne (despite having met and spoken with both of them), but Tyrion points out that if that were true, Sansa wouldn’t have told him Jon’s secret.
Jon goes looking for Dany, passing a snow-covered, sleeping Drogon on the way. Drogon shakes himself off and sniffs Jon, giving him unspoken permission to pass.
Dany is in the throne room, which is in way worse shape than the one in her vision at the House of the Undying, although similar in its lack of a roof. She walks softly across a carpet of snow to reach the throne that has driven her ambition all these years, and when she gets there, she pauses to touch it almost reverently… but she does not sit down.
Jon enters, and she goes to him, chatting merrily about everything her brother had told her about the throne when she was little and what she’d imagined. When they come face to face, he begs her for mercy for Tyrion and for the people of the Seven Kingdoms. He pleads with her to stop her bloody course and let people see her merciful nature. She tells him they can’t hide behind small mercies, she can’t forgive Tyrion and that she wants him with her, choosing the good for the whole world.
They embrace and kiss, and Jon tells her she is his Queen– always… as he plunges a blade into her heart, killing her. She looks surprised as she dies in his arms, and he lowers her to the snowy floor.
Drogon, sensing something amiss, comes flying in where the roof used to be and lands. He nudges his lifeless mother with his nose, and she does not respond. He screams in agony, then opens his mouth to reveal building flames as Jon backs away.
However, when Drogon lets the fire fly, it isn’t aimed at the cowering man. The dragon melts the throne to nothing. He picks up Dany’s little body with his giant talons and flies away with her.
Cut to some weeks in the future, when… winter is over?
A heavily bearded Tyrion is led in shackles by Grey Worm to a balmy looking Dragonpit, where once we saw a demonstration of the verity of wights. He is guided to a spot in the midst of a semi-circle of the new/remaining heads of Westeros’ great houses:
Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya Stark flank Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in the center. On either side of them are Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), Davos, Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart) and others we don’t know by name but who bear resemblances to dead house heads.
The purpose of the gathering is to figure out what to do with Tyrion and Jon. Grey Worm has chosen not to bring Jon, believing that he belongs to the Unsullied. Somehow, prisoner Tyrion winds up leading the meeting. He makes the point that his and Jon’s fates should be decided by the King and/or Queen of Westeros, and the group acknowledges that there isn’t one. Although Sam suggests something akin to a democracy, he’s laughed down. Instead, Tyrion says that from now on the heads of Westeros’ noble houses will gather to select a ruler when each one passes, breaking the wheel that Dany so loathed by stopping automatic familial succession.
Furthermore, Tyrion names the person best equipped to lead the kingdom as it is…. BRAN THE BROKEN. (Congratulations, Las Vegas! You nailed it!)
Tyrion makes his case, then, as the remaining head of the Lannister family, he casts his vote for Bran as King.
Despite Edmure momentarily trying to get the job himself, he is one of the nearly unanimous votes for Bran. The only holdout is Sansa, who declares independence for the North with no opposition. Bran will be King of the Six Kingdoms, and Sansa will go home to become Queen in the North.
Once the line of succession is sorted, Bran names Tyrion Hand of the King. Tyrion makes a compelling list of reasons he shouldn’t have the job, based on past failures, and Bran basically decrees that this service will be punishment for all his sins. (I’m paraphrasing!)
Offscreen, the new council of nobles decides that Jon’s fate is to rejoin the Night’s Watch, which does in fact still exist. Nobody is 100% satisfied with this solution, but it’s the best compromise they can come up with since half of them see him as a murderer and the other half as a savior.
Tyrion gives Jon the news. There’s a lot of brooding looks. Jon asks if he did the right thing, and Tyrion corrects him that it’s a “we” and says he should ask again in 10 years. Jon says they’ll probably never meet again, and Tyrion responds that he’s not so sure– a few years as Hand of the King will likely make him want to piss off the edge of the world.
In the months(?) that follow, order is restored to the lands after years of war. Sansa goes home and accepts her crown and her destiny. Arya strikes out for whatever is “west of Westeros,” a lone wolf who manages to survive with or without her pack. Grey Worm and the Unsullied sail to Naath to be the strong people protecting Missandei’s people. Brienne takes her place leading the Kingsguard and finishes Jaime’s entry in their book. Tyrion gathers the Small Council for the first time, joined by Archmaester Sam in robes and chains, Master of Coin Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Master of Ships Davos and ultimately King Bran with Ser Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) and Brienne. And Jon goes home to Castle Black, where he is greeted by Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Ghost.
Bran leaves Tyrion to carry on while he goes off to “find Drogon.”
And Jon joins Tormund, Ghost and the Free People as they head North of the Wall, looking back as though to confirm that he will never return to the Night’s Watch or Westeros.
No word on Gilly (Hannah Murray) or Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), although I suppose we can assume that Archmaester Sam has legalized his own marriage and children, and that Ellaria Sand died in the Red Keep’s dungeon either before or after Dany’s siege.
I’m stoked to have gotten the end half right! I called the melting of the Iron Throne, although I was a little off on who would rule.
Spin-offs I’d like to see:
- Arya using face magic as she goes exploring and becoming even more badass
- Sansa of the North
This episode– this season– will likely be the subject of debate and controversy for some time. Did they get it right? Ask again in 10 years.
What would I have done differently? Beyond having Nymeria join Arya on the deck of that ship and having someone comment about how Tyrion and Sansa are technically still married, I can’t say for sure. I do think this episode really would have made a great final season.
Final thoughts: I’m happy to see Tobias Menzies anywhere, so he was a welcome face. I’m interested in knowing what happens next for most of this world. I was so bored by Jon in the end that it was a huge relief to see him riding North where he might loosen up and be happy. I’m glad Sam is wearing the title and trappings of a Maester and hope he will go learn to be a wizard like he is supposed to. It stinks that Arya never used face magic this season at all.
What are your final thoughts?