We watched over the North. We celebrated battles won. We cried over loves lost and heroes fallen. And now it is over. The Game of Thrones was finally won this Sunday evening, and as suspected no one (not in the Faceless Men sense of the word—unfortunately) sits upon the Iron Throne.
That’s not to say there is no ruler of course.
After last week’s devastating show of power by Daenerys Targaryen, there was no real question as to her fate. She would have to die, but at whose hand? The answer came pretty quickly.
After finding the corpses of Jaime and Cersei buried in the rubble of the Red Keep (and looking remarkably perfect of facial construction and ridiculously beautiful in death), Tyrion the brave just couldn’t cope anymore. He thought he’d helped them escape. Instead, he helped them die together, leaving him as the last remaining Lannister. Crushed, he turns against his Queen when it becomes clear that her destruction of King’s Landing—and all the men, women, and children who lived there—was, in Daenerys’s mind, just the first step of a world takeover. She who was once a freer of the people, the breaker of chains, had become a tyrant and dictator. Believing in her mission whatever the cost to innocent lives was not the Khaleesi he had vowed to serve.
Despite all Daenerys had done, Jon Snow still loved her and wanted to believe there was some good behind her actions. Tyrion, now arrested for treason for freeing his brother, pleads with Jon to do the right thing and take her out for the good of the people. For a very short while it seemed Jon might not actually complete the task he was reborn to do. Tyrion reminds him that what he does next matters more than anything, even if it means betraying the person he loves the most.
“Love is the death of duty.”
These words, spoken by Jon, were first said to him by Maester Aemon at the Night’s Watch. In a moment foreshadowing the events about to take place, Maester Aemon told Jon that one day in every man’s life there will come a day that it won’t be easy, that he would have to choose.
Daenerys finally set her eyes on the prize she had been fighting for: the Iron Throne. The premonition she had of herself entering the throne room with snow falling around her back in Season 2 now came to fruition. But it wasn’t snow falling around her; it was ash. Sat now in the tower so obliterated by fire, it was symbolic in the sense of what is the point of a throne if there’s nothing to govern? Daenerys was excited for her future; she was nonchalant about what she had done, blaming Cersei for her actions. Jon embraced her, told her he would always serve her, and he wasn’t lying. Even as he stabbed her through the heart, he was doing her a service: taking her dreams for a brighter future for everyone and making them more likely without her in the picture.
Drogon had been keeping watch over his mother in the Keep, sleeping in the ashes of the dead, but awoke when Jon arrived. The dragon allowed him to pass, and this, I believe, is a crucial moment. Drogon was very smart, but did he know what Jon was there to do and allow it to happen anyway?
Drogon sensed when his mother took her final breaths and came to her, sadly nudging at her lifeless body, dagger still speared through her chest. I think he knew Jon did it and knew precisely why Jon did it. The melting of the Iron Throne with his fiery breath showed a deeper understanding that it was the greed for power that turned his mother into something she was not. In the end, Daenerys was killed by three of the most important males in her life: her Hand, her lover/nephew, and her son.
Why didn’t Drogon turn Jon into a ball of flames? Well, maybe because he knew he was the last remaining Targaryen (and he may not have burned because of that), but I don’t believe that was the reason. Drogon knew that her sacrifice was warranted. Annihilating the Iron Throne was the least subtle moment of symbolism we could expect. Nobody is able to reign and do a perfect job. All men and women are flawed, and their hunger to sit on a chair of swords destroys lives.
Grey Worm continued to serve his Queen past her death, but it was only upon her death that the Unsullied army were truly free. Their slavery finally came to an end when they were awarded Naath as a place they could call home and live freely. Dany may have broken their chains initially, but they were only free to live under her control.
A few weeks later, with Dany gone—her body carried away by Drogon to who knows where (we here are all hoping she was taken to lie next to her first love, Khal Drogo)—Tyrion wakes from what I first thought was a fever dream. Everyone was there at King’s Landing: Sansa, Arya, Bran, Ser Davos, Samwell, Gendry, Brienne, Yara Greyjoy, the new Prince of Dorne, Robin Arryn, Yohn Royce, Ser Edmure Tully, and several other random Lords of ally Houses who had stumbled into power. Jon was noticeably absent, having been imprisoned for murdering Dany. Tyrion does what he does best: talks his way out of death once again.
In a persuasive speech, he not only saves his own bacon but changes history. The rule of the Seven Kingdoms will no longer be down to blood and there will be no heirs to the throne. Instead it will be voted upon by the highest lords and ladies of the land.
So who is up for being king? The only person to put himself forward is the somewhat bumbling (but kind of attractive) Ser Edmure Tully: brother of Catelyn Stark, and uncle to Sansa, Arya, and Bran. As he painfully puts forward why he’s the man for the job, Sansa brutally yet politely shuts him down in the way only Sansa can: “Uncle, please sit.” She’s so awesome.
Before I go on, we need to talk about Robin Arryn. Having been missing for several seasons, he’s only gone and made himself hot! If you’re into foppish, Disney-style public school boys that is. He’s like the poster boy for “Breast is Best,” along with Tormund. Carry on…
Samwell Tarly, a man ahead of his time, suggests that the people should get to vote, and much guffawing ensues. Darn, I actually thought we were going to get a majorly uplifting moment of a real step towards freedom for the people. But eh, who am I kidding? The people shouldn’t get to vote. Just look at what happens when they do: Brexit and Trump. I am being facetious, of course. Mostly.
Who could it possibly be then? Not Jon—you can’t award a Queen Slayer with the top job. I am not going to lie; I am so pleased it wasn’t him. It would have been without a doubt the most predictable and dull of decisions. Tyrion had spent his time locked up without wine, growing a large beard, and thinking about who it could be and came up with a surprise…
“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?”
Bran the Broken. What a terrible name. I am an advocate for disability rights; I founded my own charity because I feel that strongly about it, so when those present at this council meeting agreed that Bran should be made king it was a powerful moment. The new Iron Throne is a wheelchair, and that is glorious. But Bran the Broken? Crippled he may be, but broken he is not. I am not getting my knickers in a twist about this by any stretch, but naming him Bran the Unbroken would have made so much more impact. Instead of defining him by his disability, define him for his strength despite it.
It was a surprise to see Bran made king, though he’s not really in charge. He didn’t want it or even warrant it, but that doesn’t matter. He is a figurehead; the others on his council will do the leading and he does have a genuinely brilliant/ridiculous team of survivors around him. King Bran pays back the favour to Tyrion by awarding him the role of Hand of the King. This means he’s got all the hard work to do, so I guess in a sense a Lannister still runs the Seven…no wait, Six Kingdoms.
Six Kingdoms because, as I said before, Sansa is awesome. She decides to go full Scotland and declares the North’s independence. Bran agrees immediately and declares her Queen in the North. Hurrah!
Jon’s punishment for Dany’s death is somewhat ironic. He has to return to the Wall: the place he willingly gave up his life to serve many moons ago—not that there is much left of it. The Night’s Watch is a somewhat pointless job now that there are no White Walkers left. It’s kind of cute, though. I don’t think Grey Worm realised that this wasn’t really a punishment. No, Jon’s not meant to leave, find love, or have children, but who would know if he did really?
When he arrives North of the Wall he’s greeted by Tormund and the Wildlings—people who truly believe in him as their warrior King. This is where he found his first and purest love with Ygritte. It feels like a true home to him. Jon even smiles!
Probably the most important scene in Game of Thrones history happens, too: Jon and Ghost have a snuggle and a tickle. Ah, it’s almost as if the writers put this in for fan service last minute. I can imagine the HBO Executive table: “We’ve got enough cash left for either Bran to warg into Drogon or Jon to pet his direwolf. What will it be?”; “The people want the dog.”
But why not both?
Arya announces that she isn’t returning to the North but leaving to find what is further west than Westeros. This was satisfying. Back when Jaqen had given Arya the task of killing the actress Lady Crane in Season 6, Arya told her she would like to explore what was further west. She was always destined for great things. She will no doubt find new lands and new people, and will be a great leader in her own right. Arya sails away with a smile on her face, knowing that she saved many lives and won the war. All the people she had wanted to die are dead. She is a warrior, a highly skilled assassin, and a legend.
The Starks won. All of them. Between them they rule everywhere and beyond. With Bran governing the Six Kingdoms, Sansa The North, Jon the even further North, and Arya leading forth into the further West, they have it all—and they deserve it.
They have no enemies either (yet). Grey Worm takes the Unsullied army to Naath to live as free men. This was the place Missandei was born and the place he had promised to take her after the war was won. It is tragic that she did not survive to feel the sand between her toes again, but they are both free and they found love in the most unlikely of circumstances—one for the history books.
The team around the table in King’s Landing is preposterously great. With Tyrion at the helm, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (or Lord of Highgarden and Lord Paramount of the Reach, as he’s now known) was named Master of Coin. It is likely he inherited much of the wealth of the now extinct House Tyrell, who were the second wealthiest family in Westeros. It is logical then that he is the man in charge of the money, though whether he’ll be wise with it is another question. Brothels appear to be his priority, but at least he knows what makes the people happy.
Ser Davos Seaworth was made Master of Ships. What else could he be with a name like that? Another brilliant choice, though; he had long fought for the people, wisely waved a flaming torch around a lot, and didn’t die. I chuckled at Bronn also naming him Master of Grammar after correcting his speech; it was a sweet nod to the fact that he was taught to read and write by Shireen Baratheon (and was the closest I got to any of my finale predictions coming true).
Samwell Tarly gets a happy ending and is named Grand Maester, a role that was made for him and a far cry from his original job as a brother of the Night’s Watch. Just how he survived all he did is incredible. Sam is easily the most thoughtful and well-read character on the show. He’s now the King’s personal Maester, the most senior member of the Order of Maesters, and a highly valued source of counsel for the crown. He also brought a very special book to the small council meeting. Written by Maester Ebrose (the one played by Jim Broadbent), Sam gives Tyrion A Song of Ice and Fire in a callback to Season 7—when Sam and Ebrose quarrelled about the title being a bit too long, and Sam suggested that The Chronicles of War Following the Death of King Robert the First should probably be called something “more poetic.”
Ser Brienne of Tarth becomes Lord Commander and Writer of Words. In the only moment of the finale that made me cry, she sat wearing the golden armour that Jaime Lannister once wore (as she is now head of the Kingsguard) to finish Jaime’s story in The White Book that records the deeds of all who have served in the over 300-year history of the Kingsguard.
As painful as this is due to Jaime and Brienne’s tragic relationship, this is a nice callback to Season 4, when Jaime and Brienne are looking at The White Book and Jaime states, “It’s the duty of the Lord Commander to fill those pages, and there’s still room left in mine.” Brienne finishes his story by writing, “Died protecting his Queen.” I am glad she was given back some of the dignity removed from her when she stood wailing outside in Winterfell in her nightgown after Jaime left her to return to his sister. Brienne is not the first and certainly won’t be the last strong woman to fall for a man she definitely shouldn’t have done, but we all survive to live and fight another day.
The story came full circle in the very last scene as we watched Jon, Tormund, and the Free Folk walk further North than the Wall. In the very first scene of Game of Thrones (Season 1 Episode 1, “Winter Is Coming”) we saw three brothers of the Night’s Watch leave through the Castle Black gate at the Wall and ride off into the forest. This time there are no White Walkers. Winter had come and gone. They fought it and won.
Whatever people think of the way the last season of Game of Thrones was handled and written, there is no denying this has been the most epic television series of all time. It broke boundaries, it broke records, it broke hearts, and most of all the surviving characters did break the wheel. It may not have been in the most satisfying fashion (I mean Jaqen could have been sailing on the boat with Arya at the end—give a girl something to hold onto dammit), but here we are still talking about it, debating what could have been done better, and fondly remembering the bits we loved the most. There are not many television shows that can boast that these days. Game of Thrones got the world talking about the rights of women, made us reflect on our own governing powers, and even made us look forward to Sundays (and for that, I salute you). There may never be something as big as this again.