We've recapped the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. Spoilers, of course, abound.
I mean ... sure?
I am prepared to die on the ashy hill of They Didn't Lay The Necessary Track To Justify Daenerys' Heel-Turn, but that whole contretemps seems soooo last week. I've made my peace with it and am prepared to dissect the show that they made, not the one we expected/wanted them to.
In the show they made, Daenerys became the monster. Jon slayed said monster, as he was evidently fated to do, and got sent to the Wall without his supper. The Iron Throne got turned into a slag heap, and after briefly flirting with the notion of representative democracy, Bran MacGuffin became King of the Six Kingdoms, Sansa became Queen in the North, and Arya ... went on a cruise. (If you were waiting for her Bag O'Faces to come back somehow, you were disappointed. So let's you and I pretend that she's using it to entertain the ship's crew with her convincing impressions, two shows nightly in the Lido Deck Lounge. Maybe a one-woman deal called Walder Frey: King Leer? Or Heaven Can Waif?)
We're all born naked; the rest is dragon
After a very short "Previously On" — essentially, just Daenerys' decision to serve up the citizenry of King's Landing en flambe, and the deaths of Jaime and Cersei — we get the credits map, one last time. The only thing of note is that clockwork King's Landing is looking a bit worse for wear, and the throne room window is missing its Lannister sigil.
For all the talk about how rushed this last season has seemed, this final episode contains a lot of scenes that feel ... unhurried, let's say. Reflective. Contemplative.
Case in point: Tyrion's looooong halftime walk through the charred and smoking ruins of King's Landing. He looks pensive, a lot. He looks sad, a lot. He meets up with Jon, who as you likely expect is way ahead of him on the whole "looking sad" tip (as it's both his vocation and his avocation!).
Jon comes across Grey Worm, who's fixing to execute some Lannister soldiers on Daenerys' orders. This fact causes Jon to look sad (drink!) and plead for mercy, but Grey Worm is unmoved. Jon's all, "Well, I'm telling mom," and Grey Worm's like, "Yeah well she told me you're adopted, so," and proceeds to execute them.
Tyrion enters the ruined Red Keep and heads down to the catacombs, which are a lot less collapsed than they seemed at the end of last week's episode. He finds the bodies of Jaime and Cersei with, it must be said, remarkable ease. (He must have taken "Locate Jaime Lannister In A Wildly Unlikely Way" lessons from Euron Greyjoy.) He weeps over the body of Jaime, and Dinklage sells it well, though I'm less convinced than the show seems to be that we need this scene to justify Tyrion's next step. (They look hilariously pristine for being crushed under tons of rock. Cersei's Carol Brady wig is barely mussed.)
Jon walks up the stairs of the crumbling Red Keep, which now sports a huge Targaryen banner (evidently the King's Landing Party City escaped the flames unscathed). Arya's here too, for some reason, though the last time we saw her she was Hi-Yo-Silvering her way out of the city.
As Jon reaches the top of the stairs, we get a great visual: Daenerys stomps the runway toward him in a new black leather number while Drogon spreads his wings behind her. She is serving you Dragon Queen/Maleficent realness, and I remain resolutely here for the proverbial it.
In a speech to the assembled Unsullied and Dothraki (with Drogon throwing in the occasional screech, acting as the Joe C. to her Kid Rock), Yaaaas Queen Daenerys vows to continue her war, freeing the entire world from tyrants. "Will you break the wheel with me?"
They answer in the affirmative, while Tyrion confronts Daenerys about her recent dabbling in wholesale slaughter. He removes his Hand of the King brooch (but does not attempt to stab her with it) and is taken into custody, while Jon ... looks sad some more. Again. Still.
Arya sneaks up on him, and warns him that Daenerys will see him as a threat. ("I know a killer when I see one," she says about a woman who just turned thousands and thousands of people into ash. I mean, yeah. Well spotted. Insightful input, there.)
Jon visits the imprisoned Tyrion, so that the writers can have Tyrion patiently explain to the maddeningly slow-on-the-uptake Jon about the danger Daenerys represents. Which is to say, to deliver even more exposition about how she will convince herself what she is doing is right. Jon gets defensive (and gets a look on his face like he's trying to do long division), but we're meant to register that Tyrion's swayed him.
Kiss kiss stab stab
Jon walks past Drogon (who regards him warily) on the way to the throne room, where Daenerys is busy experiencing wicked déjà vu. Her vision, back in the House of the Undying, of a throne room in ruins and covered in snow/ash is realized. But before she can actually park her keister on the Iron Throne, Jon enters, shouting about the "Little children! Tiny, tiny babies!" that she burned up just now.
Daenerys is cool and calm, refusing to pardon Tyrion, despite Jon's pleas. She entreats him to join her in her whole wheel-breaking endeavor, because she knows what's right, and that's enough. That certainty — and her acknowledgment that she and Jon, and no one else, get to choose the way forward, for everyone — are the things that the writers want us to register as red flags. She's not breaking the wheel, they seem to say, she's just changing a tire.
They kiss, he stabs her, she dies. Just another wacky episode of Keeping Up With The Targaryens.
Drogon senses the death of his mother and lands in the ruined throne room. He gives her corpse a few tentative, inquisitive pokes and then fixes Jon with a hard stare, like Paddington with eczema. If he roasted Jon in dragon fire right now, it'd make a kind of inevitable sense — but he doesn't. Why he doesn't isn't clear. Maybe Jon's Targaryen blood acts as a kind of universal Get Out Of Jail Free card? Maybe the Targaryens of old were always getting up to slaughtering each other, so their dragons became inured to it? Or maybe Drogon had some unresolved mommy issues, all this time?
Whatever the reason, Drogon spits fire not directly at Jon, but past him — at the Iron Throne. Which was, you'll recall, originally forged by dragon fire from the swords of Aegon the Conqueror's enemies — and is now reduced to a slag heap, 300 years later, as another Aegon Targaryen looks on.
Drogon picks up Daenerys and peaces out.
Some unspecified amount of time later, Tyrion is taken to the dragonpit by Grey Worm, where the lords and ladies of the remaining Great Houses of Westeros are assembled.
Among them: Samwell Tarly, Edmure Tully, Arya, Bran and Sansa Stark, Brienne, Davos, Gendry, Yara Greyjoy (yay!), some dude lounging around in an ornate, brightly colored dressing gown who must be the prince of Dorne mentioned a few episodes back, Yohn Rocye and Robin Arryn.
Sansa asks about Jon. Grey Worm says he's still a prisoner.
This stopped me for a second — after all, there was no one else in the throne room when Jon killed Daenerys, and Drogon left with her body. How, I wondered, would anyone know what happened to her?
I wondered this for exactly two seconds, when I remembered that this was Jon we're talking about. Mr. Truth and Honor. He probably marched right up to Grey Worm after doing the deed all like, "I killed your queen yep it was me with my dagger which was still in her body when Drogon took her so you'll just have to take my word for it but yep I did it me I'm the murderer."
Yara and Sansa get into a back-and-forth over which tyrant — Cersei or Daenerys — was better. Davos, peacemaker he, attempts to reason with Grey Worm by thanking him for helping against the army of the dead (remember them, guys? Remember that?). He offers the Unsullied land of their own, but Grey Worm rejects the offer and insists that Jon remain prisoner.
Tyrion then pipes up, urging the assembled lords and ladies to choose their king. Just like that.
And just like that, Grey Worm is mollified. "Sure, go nuts with that," he seems to say. "We're occupying your city, but I'm weirdly A-OK with this whole 'elect your own king' plan, all of a sudden, for no reason I can point to."
Inexplicable? Sure. But coming so fast on the heels of Daenerys Burns King's Landing Instead Of Just The Red Keep, to say nothing of Drogon Spares The Life Of The Mopey Dude Who Murdered His Mom, inexplicable seems to be the new normal, so let's hurry past it.
Edmure Tully, hilariously, puts himself forward as a potential king, only to get shut down by Sansa. Samwell, bless him, suggests establishing a representative democracy, which is greeted by chortling. (If you're scoring at home: The Wheel? Still unbroken. Barely dented.)
Davos asks Tyrion who they should choose, and Grey Worm looks down at him, too, like "yeah, who?" which still doesn't make any sense – and Tyrion gets a nice little speech about the power of ... stories.
"What unites people?" he asks. "Stories."
(If he's talking about this particular story, he hasn't been hitting the same websites I have.)
Ixnay on the oken-bray
He puts forward the name of ... Bran MacGuffin himself. "Bran the Broken," he calls him, as he ticks off his LinkedIn page. Tyrion's logic, here, is that Bran would make a good king because "he is our memory. The keeper of all our stories."
Sansa points out that Bran can't father children (how does she know that, exactly?) And Tyrion's like "Bonus!" because he's got a plan: From now on, rulers will be chosen, not born. And they'll start with Bran, who doesn't want to rule — except it turns out he does!
Over the course of the series, both Tyrion and Varys have espoused the philosophy that the best ruler would be someone who doesn't want to rule — this was why Jon seemed to them such an excellent candidate. Here, though, Tyrion is taking that rubric to its logical extreme. Jon didn't care about ruling. But Bran doesn't care about, well, much of anything anymore. He has said it himself – he's barely present, and spends his days stuck in the past. Dude is not just impassive, he's nearly catatonic.
But that's the plan: Long live King Bran the Broken, I guess. (Not the most inspiring of epithets. Bran the Steel-Cut sounds cooler, but I didn't get a vote.)
Speaking of voting, the lords and ladies assent to King Bran the Perpetually Distracted, but Sansa stands up for the North, which will remain independent.
They stand, the music swells, they shout "All hail Bran the Broken!" — really rubbing it in — and Bran just stares into the middle distance like he's trying to remember the lyrics to "Friday I'm In Love."
Bran chooses Tyrion as Hand of the King, of course. Grey Worm's like "No way!" and Bran the My God Man Will You FOCUS is all like "Yes way!" and that, remarkably, is that.
Except not quite. We cut to Jon, who by the look of his lustrous locks, has been a prisoner for a while. Tyrion informs him that to placate the Unsullied, Jon is being sent to the Night's Watch.
Jon, speaking for the viewer: "There's still a Night's Watch?"
Fair question. With the Night King dead and the Wildlings markedly less wild, what does the Night's Watch have to watch, exactly? Are they just so many surly beardy park rangers who smell like ripe cheese?
But that's where he's headed — back to Castle Black. "No one is very happy," Tyrion says, having lurked on Reddit.
Jon asks if killing Daenerys was right. "Ask me again in 10 years," Tyrion says, which at this rate is what George R.R. Martin should say when anyone grills him about The Winds of Winter.
The Winterfell Four come together one last time. Jon and Sansa share an emotional moment. Arya informs everyone that she's headed west of Westeros, past where the maps stop. She and Jon embrace, another emotional moment.
Jon and Bran the I'm Sorry Did You Say Something I Was Miles Away look at each other. And then Jon takes off.
Brienne leafs through the book listing Westeros' knights and their noble feats. She comes to Jaime Lannister's page, which is largely blank, and proceeds to update his wiki with noble deeds.
Talk to the hand
In the Tower of the Hand, Tyrion repositions chairs (callback!) as he waits for the rest of the Small Council to show up. Soon they arrive — Ser Bronn, who's finally gotten his castle (Highgarden), Davos, and — clutching a tome called (wait for it) A Song of Ice and Fire, Sam Tarly, in a maester's robe. The book, we learn, is the one Archmaester Ebrose was writing during Sam's brief stay at the Citadel — a history of the recent wars. ("I helped him with the title," says Sam.)
Tyrion is a bit put out that he doesn't merit a mention in Ebrose's book, but the Council gets onto the business of running a kingdom. Ships, food, sewers and — because fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Thrones gotta Throne — brothels. King Bran the Glassy-Eyed shows up with Brienne, and we learn that Podrick has gotten himself a knighthood as well.
At Castle Black, Jon reunites with Tormund and — finally, as if to quiet one particularly vociferous corner of the internet — with Ghost, who's looking a bit worse for wear.
In a brief montage, we see Jon, Arya and Sansa go about their new lives. Sansa takes her position as ruler of the North, Arya stands on the prow of a ship flying Stark sails, gazing forward ... well, Westward, anyway.
And Jon leads a party of Wildlings north of the Wall. This bit puzzled me, at first. I wasn't sure what we're supposed to take away from such a mundane walking scene.
But I think it's meant to act as a positive mirror-image of the threat that dominated the show for so many seasons. Instead of Death, inhuman and inexorable, marching south to massacre humanity, this is Life, walking north – humanity moving forward, into a hostile, unforgiving terrain.
And that is that. Gotta say this episode felt more like a season finale than the series finale it was, if only because this last season seemed so isolated from what went before.
Thanks for reading these things, which were pounded out in the wee small hours. It's been fun, but I gotta admit that for the past few weeks I've been looking forward to typing the following words:
And now my watch is ended.