After the dust settles from the fallout, find out who lives, who dies and who sits on the Iron Throne as we say goodbye to Westeros ... for now!
The most anticipated television event of the last many years finally came home to rest as HBO bid a fearful farewell to "Game of Thrones."
You could feel their terror as they tried to desperately shill their other shows in hopes viewers don't shed the premium service in numbers higher than Daenerys' body count in last week's penultimate episode. But as nervous as HBO might be feeling, it's nothing to the survivors of the burning of King's Landing.
For that matter, it's nothing compared to the immediate reaction from fans online, who weren't shy about sharing their feelings about all that went down in these final 90 minutes. Let's just say their feelings have been consistent this season -- and we chime in with our own final thoughts at the bottom here.
The episode opened with a slow trek through the carnage for Tyrion, Jon and Arya (who inexplicably lost her horse as fast as she'd found it ... but what's internal plot logic between friends at this point, right?).
Right away, we are faced with some of the tough moral quandaries of war. With the city in ruins, Jon is horrified to find Grey Worm executing prisoners. But he's just following orders. Grey Worm is loyal to his queen, for better or worse. But is he following a mad woman? And if so, is he wrong for doing so? Or justified as a loyal soldier?
In war, innocents die. Many innocents died so Daenerys could take her crown. Does this make her evil? Were these necessary deaths? She certainly seemed to think so, and she wasn't done there. "We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world," she told her assembled armies.
She started rattling off key cities in Westeros and Essos as suddenly her aspirations expanded to the entire globe. They will bring goodness to the world; and the people don't get to choose what that means. Perhaps the most ironic statement of the night was when Daenerys declared they had "freed the people of King's Landing from the grip of a tyrant."
Which people is that, dear? That one guy with the burned back stumbling through the ash? Not too many people left there, turns out.
And yet, Jon still struggled with his loyalties, even as Tyrion stood up to her and threw his Hand pin down the stairs of the Red Keep. Sure, he got arrested for it and was set for execution, but at least he stood on his principles. Meanwhile, Jon tried desperately to justify Daenerys as not only his queen, but everyone's queen.
Too little, too late for the people of Westeros, Tyrion again overestimated his cleverness and influence and thousands of people paid the price for his hubris. At least, in the end, the high lord of House Lannister did the right thing. Maybe there's still time to change the legacy of the Lion?
Arya Warns Jon
It was a subtle thing, but monumental because of how much family means to Jon. Words from Tyrion may fall on reluctant ears, but words from his sister carry far more weight. And while he doesn't know her full story, Arya does know killers and she was looking at one. Tyrion wisely referenced Arya and Sansa when trying to get Jon to listen to reason -- what? No love for Bran?
Jon Kills Daenerys
Honestly, it had to be done. And at this point, he was the only one who could do it. No one else could even come close enough to her to consider it. And even still, he gave her a chance to show him that she could be a good and benevolent ruler, even after this carnage. Instead, she said she would spread this type of love and peace to the entire world. A sad turn, but one that was set into her character from the beginning.
It was ugly and it was a symbol of so much death and hatred. The "Game of Thrones" had come to dominate Westeros and the people suffered for it. None moreso than the people of King's Landing as Daenerys brought her father's dying wishes to flaming life. It's appropriate it's gone, though no reason is given for why Drogon would do this. Do dragons have a greater understanding of human affairs than we realize, or was he just grieving but unable to kill Jon because he, too, is of the Targaryen bloodline.
Tyrion Selects Bran
A pivotal moment, and one that changes the face of Westeros. While they laughed off the idea of a true democracy, the lords of Westeros were willing to accept the idea of choosing their king or queen, rather than let bloodlines dictate and create more war. And almost randomly, Tyrion chose Bran, because he doesn't want it. He probably would have chosen Jon, but considering the whole regicide thing, Jon wasn't the best candidate. Especially with the Unsullied ready to kill them both.
Sansa Chooses the North
In a bold move in front of the lords of Westeros, Sansa again stands for a free and independent North. Her people have fought and died for it, and she's never wavered from this desire. It helps that her brother is now going to be the king. Easiest negotiation ever, and now the Seven Kingdoms are Six.
At some point, Tyrion has to gain the wisdom everyone has attributed to him all these years, right? Bran seems to think that point is now, giving Tyrion tremendous power in rebuilding King's Landing and shaping the future of Westeros. It is also a penance of sorts as Tyrion wants to be Hand less than Bran wants to be king, but perhaps people reluctant to take power are the best choices.
Bran Saves Jon
He saved everyone and for recompense, Jon gets banished in the same way that he did to start the series. Once again he is to join the Night's Watch, though it should be a much safer position now. The wildlings are no longer a threat, having become allies, and the Night King is dead. So really, what's the point? Will they even bother to rebuild the wall? Tyrion said it's just a safe haven for the unwanted of the world. Or maybe a new threat will emerge?
Daenerys Targaryen went from the woman we all wanted on the throne, to the woman we needed to see die for any sort of satisfying ending. It was a tragic character arc, but one earned in cruelty, blood, violence, death, destruction and rage from her earliest days. Without proper guidance and a calming presence, Daenerys always had this woman inside of her. She was broken and so she set out to fix the world by breaking it.
The Iron Throne was the symbol of the "Game of Thrones" and thus a symbol of power, and the coveting of power above all else. It was a symbol of ambition and greed and everything base and disgusting about humanity. Even it's construction was all about conquered enemies and lives crushed beneath the heel. A better world is possible without it.
It's easy to say that Bran is the winner, but he never asked to be the king. Arya is off to find out what's west of Westeros, just as Jon joined the wildlings in a trek back north, now that it's safe again for them to go home. Sam is now the grandmaester, which is the culmination of his life's work.
Brienne achieved a great honor in becoming Captain of the King's Guard, while Podrick is a proper knight. Bronn is all kinds of powerful now, including being Lord of Highgarden and Master of Coin. Even Ghost reunited with Jon -- minus an ear -- in a sweet scene where Jon finally gave his direwolf the love everyone wanted to see in their last encounter, show budget be damned.
One person achieved what they sought, and emerges as the true winner of this wicked "Game of Thrones." But before we get into that, we'd like to point out one of the show's biggest losers. Poor Tormund never got to hook up with or properly court the "big woman," and honestly, that's a relationship that would have been absolutely adorable. He seems okay with it, heading back north of the Wall, but shippers are not happy.
Sansa is really the only person who got everything she wanted. The North secures its independence and she honors the men and women who died for her brother's cause. She has also grown comfortable and confident in her own leadership, securing her own crown. So while she's not sitting on the Iron Throne, she is sitting on a direwolf throne and she is a queen.
This final season, like the one before it, was a muddled and rushed mess in many places. Logic didn't always seem to follow and character development fell to the wayside in favor of plot. Everything that happened isn't necessarily problematic, it just wasn't earned through the plotting and writing.
The Battle for King's Landing wasn't a battle at all, it was a massacre. Cersei -- who had been so powerful and ruthless and awesome to watch for all these years -- did nothing, and then died under a pile of rocks. This week, Jon simply stabbed Daenerys.
It's as if the writers just needed to get to these beats and eliminated any real obstacles along the way, but that also ruins any dramatic tension or fear or anxiety in the audience. It all just kind of happens and we're disappointed.
The main problem seems to be that this is a massive story that probably needed another full season or two to properly end the battle with the Night King and the battle for the Iron Throne without sacrificing logic, travel time, and existing character arcs.
Also, the show lost its edge, offering fan service and genuinely creating "sacred" characters based on popularity and Q-ratings and all that other network nonsense that can ruin a good show. Never let numbers people dictate over creative people. Each should stick to their strengths.
It was the fearlessness of "Thrones" that made it a phenomenon. Otherwise, we would still have Ned Stark running around, because he tests well in the Midwest markets or some such nonsense. Look at all the people who didn't die in the Battle of Winterfell and then recall who did die at the Red Wedding.
It's a shame the show couldn't end as strongly as it began, but it stands as an important lesson for anyone seeking to adapt a book series. Book writing is very different than television writing, and the difference was felt immediately when the show moved beyond the books. George R.R. Martin's meticulous details and efforts to make his massive world feel real and lived in fell to the wayside as excitement and plot began to take over.
The stories weren't as bold, for the reasons mentioned above, and the creators even admitted to ignoring things like realistic travel time for the sake of their story ... because at that point, it was their story. In contrast, Martin would have built the story around the grounded realism he'd already established.
Never again should a book series be commissioned for movies or television if there is any chance it won't be finished by the time it is adapted, even if the author is involved. This is the cautionary tale; one of the most beloved television series of all time tarnished by rushed and sloppy end chapters.
Could this hurt HBO's chances with those "Thrones" spinoffs? That remains to be seen, but fans might need time to let this one settle for a bit first.