WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 EPISODE 6 “THE IRON THRONE” AHEAD
The feeling that a TV Series’ final episode should leave its audience with is a subject open to debate, but whatever your view, it’s fairly certain that ‘indifference’ is not the correct answer. That’s not to say that The Iron Throne was a bad episode by any means, just that for a show that has been so uncompromising, the ending felt like a compromise – of both its characters and of logic. There are a few high points worth discussing, but let’s start by looking at the episode’s most head-scratching moments.
First of all, what have they done to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)? For someone who has been so measured and calculating for the seven seasons, the circumstances around her death just made her seem stupid. After braying for two weeks about how Jon Snow (Kit Harington) had ‘betrayed’ her, and knowing that he is a benevolent man who was disgusted by her actions to the point where he tried to prevent her soldiers from continuing their attack on King’s Landing, she still allowed herself to be alone with him without a guard in sight. Even though he entered the room furious and shaking with emotion, she still left herself vulnerable – an easy target.
You could argue that this is a result of her being mad with power, believing that she was untouchable and that no one would dare turn against her, but this doesn’t really stand up when you consider that her closest adviser had turned his back on her for the same reasons just minutes earlier.
Also, the events that bridged the gap between Jon’s murder of Daenerys and the meeting to decide a new ruler? Did Jon just walk out, find the nearest Unsullied busy slaughtering people who happened to live under the rule of Cersei and say “Hi, you know the queen who freed you from slavery, who you then pledged your life to? Yeah, I just killed her.” to which the Unsullied replied “I’m outraged. You should be executed, I want to kill you as does every other one of the thousands of Unsullied who have complete control of this city. But what we’ll do instead is take you prisoner while we call in some Lords and Ladies whose authority we have never recognised – a group largely comprised of your friends and family – then they’ll give you what for…”.
Another lapse in reason came in the form of the meeting itself. The group of Westeros’ most powerful leaders gathered to make a decision on its new ruler, which involved them releasing Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) from capture and having them make the decision for them. Tyrion’s logic in choosing Brandon Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was that ‘nothing’s more powerful than a story and no one has a better story than Bran Stark’. What’s curious is that everyone just accepted this. Even taking away all other factors and looking at it as a competition for the best story, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) certainly has him beat. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has been lusting for power from the beginning and even she could have made a decent argument that her journey tops Bran’s.
It was noticeable that even before Tyrion suggested eradicating the tradition of children taking over the throne from their parent, no one mentioned Jon Snow as a possible candidate for the crown, despite his true parentage being common knowledge. While it was never addressed on screen, it makes sense that he was never considered. The main reasons being the need to appease the Unsullied and that the leaders of Westeros were likely wary of allowing another Targaryen to take the throne, regardless of how honourable they may seem.
Of course, as the final episode of one of the most well put together shows in TV history, The Iron Throne hit a home run in many aspects: The return of Bronn (Jerome Flynn) as Master of Coin and his banter with the rest of the Small Council (here’s hoping for a spin-off that just follows Bronn poorly managing Westeros’ treasury), performances that were top notch throughout, especially the emotional, heavy performance from Peter Dinklage, the music (and lack thereof) complimented the episode splendidly, with the choral adaptation of the opening theme utilised as the perfect background music as the show rode off into the sunset, and the imagery was spectacular on so many fronts, including:
- The sight of Daenerys’ apparant dragon wings was such a fitting image for the character that it seems made for fan art and marketing campaigns.
- The scene where Daenerys delivered her speech to her legion on the steps of The Red Keep in the fervent, self-righteous manner we’ve seen from so many real world dictators was completely unnerving.
- Perhaps most memorably of all, Drogon’s outcry of rage and despair followed by the melting of the much sought after Iron Throne, which was one of the episode’s most intense scenes as well as an aesthetic marvel.
The much anticipated ending to had a lot to live up to, having to combat years of speculation, fan theories and enticing possibilities, and the way the writers decided to go was perfectly acceptable. Each of the surviving major characters got their own happy or hopeful ending; Bran as ruler of the Six Kingdoms, Sansa as Queen in the North, Jon starting a new life with the Wildlings, Arya following in the footsteps of her childhood hero Nymeria, setting off to discover new lands and Tyrion, who managed to use his guile, cunning and persuasion to outlive his enemies and wield power in Westeros as the Hand of the King.
The only problem was that it all felt a little underwhelming, the episode had potential to hit its audience hard, but there was no emotional offensive nor a decisive ‘winner’. Instead, we got a compromise – each major player took a slice of the pie so few fans can say that they really got what they hoped for their favourite character. The effect of this ending is summed up nicely by Tyrion in discussion with Jon Snow toward the end of the episode when he wryly says “No one is very happy, which means it’s a good compromise, I suppose”.
So that’s it. The final Game of Thrones. There will surely be a lot of debate now and in the foreseeable future about the show’s place on the pantheon of great TV dramas and, whether you believe that G.O.T. is the G.O.A.T or whether you think the stumbles as the show neared its end tarnished its legacy, one thing that’s for sure is that this was a cultural phenomenon like nothing else. It has gripped its audience with excellent characters, an incredible world and a gripping story, turning millions into passionate fanatics that delight in discussing the intricacies of every installment, and as sad as it is to see it end, it’s been one heck of a ride and we appreciate the work of everyone who made this phenomenal program a reality.