Was the Game of Thrones finale good? It depends on who you ask. Three superfans weigh in on the last episode, from Daenerys’ death to Edmure’s last stand to, well, to bloody Bran.
The night is dark and full of spoilers, everybody. If you haven’t watched the sixth and final episode of Game of Thrones season eight yet, now is your chance to save yourself from learning more than you wish to know. Otherwise: read on. We’re in the endgame now.
And just like that, Game of Thrones is over.
The series’ last episode, The Iron Throne, aired on Sunday in the US and Monday in the UK, wrapping up the last nine years of this epic television series. Bran was crowned King of the Six Kingdoms, Sansa declared the North as an independent state with herself as Queen, Arya hopped on a ship bound for whatever is West of Westeros and Jon, racked with the guilt of stabbing his lover/aunt Daenerys, was banished to the Wall forever.
While there was some good to be found in the episode, especially in how both Sansa and Arya’s storylines ended on a note of hope, there were a lot of problems, too, problems that are indicative of the way this season has approached certain characters and modes of storytelling thus far. And we reckon you felt those problems too.
There’s only one thing to do about it: the Three-Eyed Raven must fly once more. Here we are, for the final time we promise – Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray, Kat Poole and Hannah-Rose Yee. Let’s talk Thrones.
What is the point of Bran Stark?
HRY: I laughed last week when Kat went off about her Bran theory and yet here I stand before you, a chastened woman. Bran is King. Yippee.
I mean, seriously, what the fuck? First of all, why does Tyrion get to choose who is leader, and second of all, if we’re going to go for the person who has the best ‘story’, then who has a better story than Jon Snow, the secret son of Rhaegar Targaryen who came back from the dead? Or Sansa, sold off to the highest bidder and manipulated by all? Or Arya, who killed the Night King and got off with our leather-bound boyfriend Gendry?
Ugh. I’m mad, you guys.
KFP: I don’t want to say I told you so, but… well, I did. And I’m really sorry about it, because I tempted fate (or destiny, that seems to be a hot word at the moment) by suggesting there might be more to Raven Guy than any of us suspected.
There’s a small bit of me that gets the thinking behind it; make Bran king and you protect the history of Westeros, gain a (slightly creepy) Raven Surveillance System™, stop the family squabbles over heirs and place more importance in ruling on brains over brawn. But… WHAT? Bran is ACTUALLY the king, after everything everyone else went through to protect the kingdom and its people?
KD: I think Bran is the worst possible option for a newly-meritocratic world that is hoping to regularly elect its rulers. Why? Because, as Bran himself failed to mention, the last Three-Eyed Raven lived for well over a thousand years. Who needs royal sprogs when you’ve got an immortal on the throne?
Also, he admitted he can warg into dragons and… well, I’m not gonna say he definitely did warg into Drogon and destroy King’s Landing so that he could become the new ruler of Westeros, but we’ve all got to admit it’s a possibility. “Why else would I come all this way?” says the very same boy who said he had no interest in ruling whatsoever. The very same boy who forced his half-brother/cousin to acknowledge his true parentage, sparking Dany’s madness and leading to Jon’s banishment from Westeros and politics all together. The very same boy who had a mysterious and unseen conversation with Tyrion, the man who nominated him to be king, before the Battle of Winterfell. The very same boy whose psychic powers meant he would absolutely have known Dany was about to go OFF ON ONE. The very same boy who had the power to warg into her dragon and STOP THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE DYING.
Yeah. That boy doesn’t look such a good king prospect now, does he? In fact, he looks like a manipulative little shit, and I imagine that’s why the Night King had it in for him in the first place. We just… well, we just never learned his motives because Arya stabbed him before he could tell us what they were. Stabbed him at Bran’s behest. With the knife that Bran gave her.
You see what I’m saying, kids? Bran ain’t right.
HRY: But who would have been better? Who should have been King? Jon? Sansa? Or maybe a democracy like Samwell Tarly (sensibly) suggested?
KFP: I know this is an unpopular opinion in some parts but I mean it and I’m not sorry: it should have been Jon. Regardless of him being the rightful heir to the now non-existent throne, ignoring the fact that he got absolutely fucked over by Tyrion, I still can’t quite believe that the question of “who would be best at ruling this land?” was asked and no-one’s answer was “Lord Snow”. His entire story has been about how he wants to protect the people, break down barriers between the wildlings and those who have bent the knee, represent the underrepresented, help the bullied and downcast, do what’s right… and time and time again we have seen people follow him because they trust him, like him and think he’s the right man for the job.
Of course he’s made mistakes, but he made them for love. And when he realised that duty was more important, he killed the woman who had his heart, to save the realm and everywhere else from her tyranny. Why weren’t people thanking him if they hated her so much, and were so scared of what she could do? And before anyone gets up on me about him murdering the queen and that being treason and blah blah: yes, obviously. But Tyrion all but drew the dagger that killed her and he was quite literally rewarded for it. Don’t have rules for one man and another set for another.
Serious question: how is Tyrion still alive?
HRY: Tyrion has done so many things wrong, and yet he managed to get out of Game of Thrones not only alive but as Hand of the King.
I know that Bran thought it would be a punishment but, let’s be real, Tyrion loves being Hand. He loves the power. He loves the intrigue. And he loves telling Bronn what to do. (Seriously, you’re gonna have to hold me back from going OFF about Bronn. Are the shades of Highgarden to be thus polluted? I’m fine with him getting his grubby hands on Master of Coin but Lady Olenna’s house? Her ghost better be haunting the fuck out of that castle for the rest of time.)
It’s frustrating to me that Tyrion made so many mistakes over the past few seasons and yet there wasn’t that much fallout for him. I’m not just talking about killing Shae and his father. I’m talking about completely failing in his role as Hand of the Queen. There are other problems with Daenerys too, sure. But in part the reason she ended up where she was was because she listened to Tyrion’s bad counsel.
Also, Tyrion told Jon to kill Daenerys and yet it’s Jon who has to bear the burden, something that has clearly damaged him. And when Jon asks Tyrion if what he did was the right thing, how does Tyrion respond? “Ask me again ten years.” Um… What?
KD: Tyrion survived because he somehow scored the plummy roles of judge, jury and executioner at his own goddamn trial. And because he nominated the king who would undoubtedly show him mercy. Why? Probably because they were in cahoots from the very beginning of it all.
Yes, Tyrion has suffered. His brother and sister were crushed to death under the rubble of King’s Landing, after he brought ‘Mad Queen’ Daenerys down on their heads. He encouraged Dany to make a bafflingly huge number of her biggest mistakes. He betrayed his BFF Varys, knowing our favourite Master of Whispers would get burned alive as a result, and managed to somehow make it all about him (“Woe is me, my best friend is dead and he will be all ‘I told you so’ when I meet him in the afterlife”). And he couldn’t come up with a solution to Dany’s “infertility problem”, contributing significantly to her downward spiral, yet sussed a solution to Bran’s inability to have kids in mere moments.
Did Tyrion love Daenerys? Well, yeah: in fact, he said he loved Dany “less successfully” than Jon Snow – which means that, basically, the dude got friend-zoned and didn’t like it.
To back this theory up, Peter Dinklage recently revealed that Tyrion was 100% jealous of Jon and Daenerys’ relationship.
“It’s complicated,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “A lot of the time with Tyrion, it’s professional and personal. Obviously, he has feelings for Daenerys. He loves her – or thinks he does. She’s awe-inspiring. He’s questioning that because he doesn’t have a good track record for falling in love. There’s jealousy wrapped up in there.
“And he loves Jon Snow, too. They’re the two people he has the most in common with, in a way. They’re both outsiders in their own families who have refused to follow the path their family has taken, and hopefully for the better.
“He’s wondering how smart of a move [Jon and Dany getting romantically involved is], because passion and politics don’t mix well. He knows the two of them getting together could be very dangerous.”
Am I saying that Tyrion’s own feelings of hurt and rejection directly contributed to his persuading Jon to kill Dany, and then later act as if it was all Jon’s idea? Yes, actually. Yes, I am.
KFP: I didn’t think it would end this way for Tyrion, truly, but I have to agree with Kayleigh. After all Tyrion has been through, the number of times he has escaped death and evaded true punishment and found himself in a position of leadership… maybe his MO this whole time was actually just to survive? Either way, I feel sad about it. I thought he was better than this.
What is Jon Snow’s future now?
HRY: I keep going back and forth on Jon Snow. I think, ultimately, that he wants to be in the North – the true North, as Tormund put it – living with the wildlings and the free folk, the people who love him. I think that killing Daenerys was enormously traumatic for him and, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, he needed to get away from King’s Landing.
But I don’t think it’s fair that Jon has to bear the brunt of punishment for something that other people were involved in. Jon is now cut off from his family unless they choose to visit him north of the Wall, he is forced into a vow of chastity as part of the Night’s Watch, and doesn’t get to have a family of his own. Whether or not he’ll stick to that vow is another thing. We know that Samwell Tarly played fast and loose with his. But it just doesn’t seem fair! What do you think about Jon’s ending?
KD: Jon got the harshest ending of all time ever. This guy was dense, sure, but is it a crime to be stupid? Absolutely not. And we’ve all done our best to paper over the cracks when a relationship starts falling apart: that’s not exactly a sin. Yes, he killed Dany but he was told to do so by both Tyrion (even if the Imp pretended otherwise later) and Arya. And probably Bran via an extra chatty and intense horse at some point.
It’s an incredibly disappointing arc, to be honest. They brought Jon back to life for a “purpose”. They made such a big deal of the R + L = J theory. They shattered his and Dany’s happiness with the revelation about his true parentage. They suggested that male-biased inheritance laws were the only way forward in Westeros.
And then, when they tore our two lovebirds asunder and had him kill her before she wiped out THE ENTIRE WORLD, they stripped him of his titles, forced him into a life of celibacy and sent him somewhere he would probably never see his family again. Does that seem fair? Absolutely not. I hope he goes beyond The Wall and stays there, starts up a new wildling faction and becomes the King in the North-North. It worked for Mance (for a while), after all… and it would be quite fun if Aegon Targaryen, Last of His Name, started his own little kingdom away from the corruption and greed of King’s Landing.
KFP: I think the real question we should be asking here is: “WHY DOES NOBODY CARE?!” Ok, I’m leaning into the dramatic here, but the guy is a legend. As in, he’ll go down in legend. And he’s now a legend who has been sent back to the place he went willingly in Season 1 - to guard the realm - as punishment for… guarding the realm. I can’t tell you how delighted I was that Tormund, his best big mate, was there waiting for him to give him a cuddle and tell him to forget about those losers down in the South. What I can’t help wondering is why Bran/the showrunners chose appeasing the Unsullied over giving Jon an ending that befitted his story. Thanks for all the hard work mate, but we don’t need you anymore.
My dream for Jon is that he moves in with Tormund beyond the Wall, they open a bar together and knock a football around. And that he gives the tiniest fuck you to Bran by never, ever going back to Castle Black. Apparently no one is going to miss him anyway. *Weeps*.
Did Sansa get exactly what she wanted?
HRY: Yes, she did. Sansa played them all like a fucking Stradivarius! She got to be Queen of an Independent North, she got her brother installed on the Iron Throne, she got her other ‘brother’ sent north of the Wall where he probably wanted to go in the first place (but it would have been nice to be asked), and she got to do it all without getting her hands dirty.
Sansa Stark played the game of thrones like it was her job which, let’s face it, it probably was. She learnt from the best after all. And now she gets to be crowned in a beautiful ceremony in a dress hand-stitched with Northern iconography and Wolf-themed crown. By the way, there was a powerful symbolic energy in that scene, with many noting that Sansa chose to be crowned with her hair down like Queen Elizabeth I, who chose to do so as a symbol of her sexual independence.
Sansa got exactly what she wanted. Did everyone else enjoy Sansa telling Edmure to sit the fuck down? Probably my highlight of the episode, other than that milk boy Robin Arryn’s glow-up.
KD: I very much enjoyed that moment. Edmure Tully, as previously mentioned, has now been rendered utterly meaningless to me… although I give him 100% effort for taking his chance and running with it, obviously. I imagine this moment was included solely as a way to show us a new Sansa: she doesn’t let men speak for her anymore, and she refuses to be sidelined by anyone – uncle or not.
As you’ve mentioned her hair, Hannah, I’d also like to take a moment to talk about her dress. Fish scales to represent her mother Catelyn Stark’s family, House Tully? Check. Sleeves emblazoned with weirwood trees, to represent the North and her father, Ned Stark? Check. A breastplate emblazoned with tree branches, to represent a strong and peaceful Winterfell? Check. A wolf-embossed crown, because the North fucking remembers and don’t you ever forget it, bud? Check and check.
All hail, Sansa.
KFP: What I love the most about Sansa was that she was never really in the running to rule in King’s Landing – because she took herself out of that race. She’s been there, done that, knows that’s good for her and her people and knows she can lead them in her own way. Her stunning takedown of uncle Ed was exactly what we needed in that moment; as was her polite pushback on bending the knee to her brother.
Who would have thought way back in season one that Sansa would turn out to be one of the best — if not the best — character on the show? It’s a credit to Sophie Turner but also something we can all thank the showrunners for. She had some wobbly moments but ultimately, we’ve seen an uncompromising queen rise from the very worst personal circumstances and remain calm, composed and cunning. And now with a kingdom who love her.
HRY: We stan a legend!
Was Daenerys’ ending fair? Why did Jon Snow kill Daenerys?
HRY: It had to be Jon. People thought it might be Arya but it had to be Jon – their tragic love story had to come to its inevitable conclusion, and Jon had to make this difficult decision in order to move forward. Daenerys had to die. And Jon had to do it.
Was it fair? Well, how long is a piece of string? We could argue about this days and days and never reach a right conclusion. I think that the Mad Queen storyline in and of itself is fine, but getting there felt so rushed that it didn’t make sense. Jon and Daenerys never had the time to revel in their love story like Jon and Ygritte, for example, so seeing him kill her didn’t have a huge amount of emotional impact.
Kayleigh, do you think that Jon was the best person to kill Daenerys?
KD: I don’t, actually. And, before you get on your high dragon about it, hear me out…
Ser Jorah Mormont and Dany’s love story was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful in this whole goddamn show. He promised to protect and serve his Khaleesi for as long as he might live, and he did so: at the Battle of Winterfell, he succumbed to his wounds only after he knew Dany was safe from the armies of the undead.
“You have a gentle heart,” he once told her. “There are times when I look at you and I can’t believe you’re real.”
Now THIS guy believed in Daenerys. He schooled her in the art of war and diplomacy, he encouraged her to be a better person, and he challenged her to be a more peaceful ruler.
“It’s tempting to see your enemies as evil, all of them,” he informed her once, “but there is good and evil on both sides of every war ever fought.”
Well, quite. With that in mind, wouldn’t it have been far more impactful to see Jorah – who has always believed that Daenerys is a perfect queen – forced to confront the fact that she is a mass murderer? That she does not have the best interests of the people at heart? That the only way to save her from herself?
That scene, with Jorah plunging a sword into the heart of the woman who he loved more than anything, would have shattered hearts all over the world. With Jon, though? Well, they’ve slept together a handful of times and have never seemed that interested in one another: I wasn’t shooketh.
KFP: Kayleigh, what a tragic thought! And such truth! Dany and Jon always seemed to be clinging on to each other because there was no one else to cling to as they headed into their fight against the undead. Did Dany ever actually love him? It’s hard to say. She certainly didn’t trust him in the end.
Ultimately, the murder served Jon’s storyline far more than it did Dany’s — though what it served to do exactly, I’m still not sure. Make him utterly convinced that love is pointless and you should always listen to Sansa when she’s speaking to you?
HRY: Thank you for putting that cursed image of Jorah stabbing Daenerys into my brain, Kayleigh. I rebuke this in the name of the Lord!
What about Arya? Will she get a spin-off?
HRY: I’d watch it. West of Westeros. Arya the Explorer. Aside from Sansa’s masterful manipulation, the other character’s ending that I was happy with was Arya’s. I like the idea that she turned away from vengeance and chose life, and she’s going to go off on an adventure that doesn’t involve murder. (Or maybe a little bit of murder, you know, the girl has skills.)
Do I wish that she made an agreement with Gendry to stop into Storm’s End periodically for sex and new weapons? Sure. Do I believe that Gendry is either draped over her bed in the cabin below deck waiting for her, or else rowing as hard as those biceps can row in pursuit of Arya? Of course! Did you like Arya’s ending? And where do you think she’s going?
KFP: Oh, Arya, what a way to go! I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many times I thought about her possible ending when the end finally came, and too many of those times thought it was going to be death. She has seen death in so many guises throughout the course of GoT and where do you go from there: it was never going to be the happy ending with Gendry, or sitting in a court somewhere bored out of her mind.
We should have seen this coming in season six, when she tells Lady Crane she wants to know what’s “west of Westeros” and that she’d like to see the edge of the world, if it’s that. She’s always been a traveller, an explorer, but all too often it has been a means to escaping or hunting someone down. What a poetic way for a woman who has seen so much death to begin her next chapter - by seeking out new life. And yes: would 100% watch the spin-off. As long as Bran’s not in it.
KD: Roll on the spin-off: we need to know what lies west of Westeros. Presumably Essos, because maps aren’t globes and so the far edge of the page usually leads directly into the corresponding far edge of the page (if you head east of Russia, for example, you end up somewhere near Alaska, you don’t sail into an entirely new map), but… well, y’know. It’s Thrones, isn’t it? Maybe there’s a dragon-infested island just out there waiting for our favourite scrap of a girl to turn up with her Needle and wreak some serious havoc.
HRY: Cartographic humour! Happy thought indeed! And on that note, our watch really has ended. The Three-Eyed Raven won’t fly again, at least not until the prequel starts up.