As the dust settles on scores of fan theories and speculation and one of the biggest TV shows to have ever existed comes to a close, it seems difficult to feel anything but terribly underwhelmed. Sure, the ‘Game of Thrones’ series finale manages to pull on the heartstrings at key moments and knows just when to get the waterworks going, but the show ultimately fell victim to its rushed writing and setting aside of a decade-worth of character building.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is dead, slain by her lover and kin Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington), and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) finally sits on the Iron Throne.
For a series that’s constantly subverted expectations and tropes to create powerful characters and high-stakes political play, the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ muddled it all up in favour of taking the safe, middle ground. Yes, Dany had to die and, yes, the Mad Queen storyline perhaps couldn’t have been avoided, but it beggars belief that all of this couldn’t have come to pass in a more thought-out and lived-in manner.
What hurts the most is how little you feel when Jon does what he does. Some chemistry between the show’s title characters — Jon and Dany, if you’re still wondering — would have helped. As Jon stabbed his Queen in the gut, it felt jarring to feel absolutely nothing. Of course, the moments that immediately follow elicit some reaction, especially Drogon’s mourning of the death of his mother as he melts down the Iron Throne, effectively “breaking the wheel”, as she once wanted.
And with the Iron Throne gone and the only man alive who’s heir to it in chains for murder, there comes the question of choosing the next ruler. A time jump of a few weeks later, we see a small council of lords and ladies come together to decide the fate of Westeros, and a corny but Emmy-winning speech by Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) about the importance of stories is enough to convince a bunch of medieval people that a crippled Northerner with a penchant for looking stoically into the distance should be the ruler of the Seven, wait, Six Kingdoms. (Turns out you can opt out if you’re big sister to the King of Westeros. Ten points to Sansa (Sophie Turner) for always speaking her mind. Why nobody else followed suit is a question for another day, it seems.)
But if this episode had to belong to one person alone, it has to be Tyrion, author George RR Martin’s reportedly favourite character. From the opening moments where he finds Jaime and Cersei’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey) dead bodies to his moving monologue that lays the foundation of a new dawn for the people of Westeros, it’s gratifying to see that the once wisest man in all of the Seven Kingdoms has been humbled but is yet unstoppable. Three cheers to that!
It’s also impossible right now to not think of the several narrative arcs we’re yet to see close: What about the Lord of the Light? Was Jon Snow resurrected only to kill Dany and then disappear beyond the Wall? Why did Arya (Maise Williams) train for years to become a Faceless Man and never actually use those powers this season? What happened to the Dothraki? Whose green eyes will Arya shut? And, most importantly, why is there still a Night’s Watch?
It would be difficult to please everyone for a show that’s followed by millions around the world, and ‘Game of Thrones’ came very close this week to a fitting conclusion. The wheel has been broken, the Stark kids are alright (all hail Queen Sansa) and Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is Master of Coin (whatever sense that makes).
And if you don’t particularly care for the endgame or who sits on the now non-existent Iron Throne, it would be easier to digest the hard pill that was this season. The journey has always been the point, and in the last almost-decade, the show has meant many different things to many different people. The characters will always outlive the story, and while our watch has ended, may the show itself never die.