Game of Thrones – 8.06 “The Iron Throne”

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Synopsis: First off, we get our last ever opening credits change, showing Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing in the previous ep. As the actual episode begins, Tyrion wanders through the streets, surveying the damage. Charred bodies are everywhere. Shellshocked survivors wander around. Jon and Davos catch up to him. Tyrion says he’ll join them later, and Jon cautions it isn’t safe, but Tyrion keeps it solo. In the streets, Grey Worm and some Unsullied have captured Lannister prisoners and he sentences them to die. Jon and Davos try to stop them, the war is over they say, but Grey Worm maintains he is following his queen’s rule. Before another fight breaks out, Davos pulls Jon away to speak with the queen, but Grey Worm slits the prisoners’ throats regardless. Tyrion continues through the remains of the Red Keep. He continues on to the dungeon where he finds a pile of rubble and a golden hand. Under the rocks, he unearths the bodies of his brother and sister, and cries. Jon moves through the (seemingly growing) Unsullied and Dothraki armies at the entrance to the Red Keep. He marches up to the top of the steps where Grey Worm waits. Drogon flies overhead dropping Daenerys down in front of the armies. She gives an impassioned speech, thanking her men for helping her take the seven kingdoms. She appoints Grey Worm her new Master of War. She tells the armies that the war is not over and they will continue their liberation beyond the seven kingdoms all over the world. Tyrion arrives to catch the end of the speech. He approaches Daenerys cautiously. She says he freed his brother, committed treason. Tyrion says he did, but she slaughtered a city. He rips off his hand pin and tosses it aside. Targaryen has her men take Tyrion into custody. Dany and Jon share a look before she walks off without a word.

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Arya finds Jon. She warns him that he will always be a threat to her since she knows his real identity. Jon visits Tyrion. The dwarf knows that his time is short, and admits that Varys was right. Tyrion suggests that Dany’s battle isn’t over, but Jon continues to defend her. Tyrion asks pointedly if Jon would’ve burned the city down. He says he doesn’t know, but Tyrion says that he does. Tyrion pressures Jon that he is the only that can make a difference. He recaps for Jon (and really, the audience) all of the men that Daenerys has killed and had everyone cheering along because they felt she was right, but now it’s not the same. Jon recounts what Maester Aemon told him that “Love is the death of duty.” And Tyrion pushes Jon to fight against the greatest threat to the people now. Jon sets off to find Daenerys. Drogon stands guard, but lets Jon pass. In what’s left of the throne room, Daenerys sets eyes for the first time on the iron throne. She moves in close, gently touching it, but before she takes a seat, she sees that Jon has arrived. They have a tense but cordial reunion. Dany is happy to see Jon, but her smile fades when he asks her about the dead children in the street. He begs her to show mercy now, to Tyrion. She refuses. They move closer though and she admits her love for him, begging him to join her in her new endeavor. He kisses her, but then he plunges a knife in her heart. Daenerys falls to the ground, dying in in Jon’s arms. Outside we can hear Drogon’s screams as Jon weeps what he’s done. With the keep in shambles, Drogon flies into the throne room, staring down Jon. Jon slowly backs away, while Drogon nudges Dany’s lifeless body. Drogon screams and bears down on Jon, his throat showing signs of ignition, but instead of Snow, Drogon blasts the iron throne, melting it down to liquid. He takes Daenerys’ corpse and flies off.

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Sometime later, Grey Worm arrives for Tyrion. He marches with him to the dragon pits and Tyrion sees a council of the remaining Lords of Westeros: Bran, Sansa, and Arya from the North, Yara from the Iron Islands, Samwell Tarly, Yohn Royce and Robin Arryn from the Vale, Gendry, Edmure, and representatives from Dorne and a few nameless others, along with Davos and Brienne. Sansa asks where Jon Snow is, but Grey Worm says they will decide what happens to their prisoner. Threats are thrown around, and Davos interrupts trying to broker peace. Grey Worm refuses to let Jon Snow go free, but Tyrion says it’s not up to him. It’s up to the King or Queen. They don’t have one, someone is quick to point out, so Tyrion tells them to pick someone. Grey Worm concedes. Edmure gets up, begins to make the case for himself, but Sansa tells him to sit down. Tarly throws out the idea of democracy, but is quickly laughed down. The people ask Tyrion who he would choose and he gives a drawn-out reason why Bran would be the logical choice. Sansa notes that Bran won’t have kids and Tyrion says that’s good, that rather than biology determining succession, the Lords and Ladies will decide. Tyrion tells Grey Worm this was the wheel Daenerys was determined to break. He asks Bran if he will rule if chosen, and he suggests that he will. A vote then. Everyone says “aye,” except for Sansa. She declares that the North will remain free of the seven kingdoms. Tyrion declares Bran King, lord of the six kingdoms. In turn, Bran appoints Tyrion his hand. Tyrion says he’s made too many mistakes and Bran agrees, saying he will spend the rest of his life fixing them. Tyrion visits Jon telling him that the only compromise they could make on him was to send him to the Night’s Watch. Tyrion concedes it’s a bad compromise, but it’s all they could manage. Jon asks if what he did was right, and Tyrion is quick to correct him, “what we did.” As to whether or not it was right, he says to ask him again in ten years.

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With the Unsullied boarding ships heading for Naath, Jon finds himself back in his black Crow’s uniform. Before returning to the Wall, he says goodbye to his Stark siblingcousins. Sansa apologizes and asks forgiveness, but Jon appreciates her position. Arya says she’s going to sail out to see what’s west of Westeros. Jon bends the knee for Bran. Jon apologizes for not being there when he should’ve been, but Bran says he was exactly where he was supposed to be. They all say goodbye. Brienne, now captain of the Kingsguard, finds the book of knights and Jaime’s lackluster page. She adds to it, recounting his oath to Catelyn, his rescue of her, his fight against the army of the dead, ending it with “he died protecting his queen.” The small council room has been cleaned up, and Tyrion takes his place as Hand of the King. He’s been here before, but only as a sub, this is his first full-time gig. He awaits the others, Grand Maester Samwell Tarly, Davos, Master of Ships, and Bronn, the new Master of Coin. Samwell drops a large book on Tyrion’s desk, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the arch maester’s retelling of the wars since Robert’s death. Tyrion asks how he’s referred to in the book, but Sam doesn’t think he’s in it. Bran arrives with Brienne and (Ser!) Podrick. Bran asks about Drogon, and thinks he may be able to find the dragon himself. At Castle Black, Jon arrives and reunites with Tormund and his old buddy, Ghost. Sansa is crowned Queen in the North. Arya sets sail for the West. Jon and Tormund with the remaining Wildlings ditch the wall and head out beyond. A small sprig breaking through the ice gives the hope of spring.

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Comments: And now our watch is ended. It’s a bittersweet finale, as most long-running series’ endings are. It’s hard to isolate the disappointment in never being able to follow the adventures again with resolutions that don’t quite jibe. But I’ll give it a shot.

The Good:
While I have no issue with Daenerys’ turn, or more accurately, evolution, it did feel like it wrapped up too quickly. The right thing happened. Jon killed her in a moment where he was finally able to make a decision. But we really only got two scenes with Daenerys after she burned King’s Landing down and one was her death scene. I liked that they didn’t lean in on the crazy, oh she just snapped theory, and showed that conquest and destruction (and more of it to come) was in her plan. She’s the result of believing your own hype a little too much. And honestly, I enjoyed so much that none of the prophecies really meant anything. It was all how humans built up these stories and bent these old tales to suit their needs, which were mostly destructive (sound familiar to any tales in an old book in our world that a lot of people use to further their destructive needs while wrapping themselves in a cloak of trying to do right?).

Tyrion and Jon’s conversation where the imp pushes Jon to not only murder their queen, but murder the woman he once (and still?) loves. Tyrion’s side definitely felt like a spotlight to the audience-we all cheered along as she murdered these bad guys because we thought they deserved it, but we couldn’t put that genie back in that bottle. Jon killing Dany was the right culmination to the series, it just felt rushed. I wanted a bit more breathing room between that conversation and Jon’s decision. Still, Jon’s fate was perfect. He made the hard choice, he did what had to be done and in the end he was no better off for it, even if he did save a lot of people. Again, Tyrion’s comment about sending Jon to the wall was a comment to the audience – no one is very happy with it, so it’s a good compromise. Ultimately, Jon becomes Mance, the king beyond the wall, eschewing the Night’s Watch because it’s unnecessary now anyway, and finding home and connection with the first people that never cared, and still don’t, about birthright, bastards and everything he was saddled with throughout his life. That was great Arya’s setting sail to see what’s west of Westeros was also a nice call back. She’s finally in charge of her own destiny and she chose life over revenge and she’s going to find it. Sansa becoming Queen in the North is also fitting. She found her place, the only place she ever felt safe and she will take the lessons learned at the feet of tyrants and will apply them to good people. She is smarter than Littlefinger, and probably Cersei, because she will take their cunning, but not their destructive nature. Clearly, the best moment was Jon and Ghost reuniting. I’m jaded enough to think it was filmed a week ago after the uproar when he hardly even said goodbye to his faithful direwolf. It’s easy to assign meaning to the direwolves, at least their names. Sansa is Queen, royalty like Lady. Bran, like Summer, is the symbol of the end of winter. Like Ghost, Jon died and is no longer a part of the world he saved. Arya has separated from her pack and is carving out a new path, like Nymeria. Robb is headless like Grey Wind, and Shaggydog shows why you don’t let four-year-olds name pets. Okay, those last two don’t really work, but whatever. Lastly, the music was once again on point. Hearing bits of “The Rains of Castamere” as Tyrion discovers Jaime and Cersei, the theme playing throughout, all of it was in great service to the episode and series and I will continue to seek out Ramin Djawadi’s work. I also really, really liked Drogon in this episode. They’ve always maintained dragons were smart, and he had a connection to Daenerys. The small shouts in the background when Dany dies were a nice touch, and his gentle nudging of her lifeless body was sad. His destruction of the iron throne, heavy symbolism indeed, was poignant because it was the obvious source of every shitty thing that ever happened since it was built. All of Daenerys’ drive was to sit there and it was her quest for the power that she sought in that chair that led to her demise. Dany’s dream was to break the wheel and his own way Drogon offered a solution to that plan by destroying the very thing that symbolizes that old world order, the thing that reduced him to nothing but a nuclear weapon in service of his master, who was not inherently evil, just misguided in her quest. I also want to believe there’s a little Iron Giant thing going on where the weapon decides he’s more than just a weapon. He won’t again be used in service of these silly goals of humanity. But that’s just me.

The Bad:
I don’t have an issue with the idea of Bran as the King, but there are too many issues around it. He’s spent the better part of two seasons saying how he’s not Bran anymore, he’s something else, something beyond what he was. He withdrew himself for consideration as Lord of Winterfell for this reason, and yet, he just accepts being King. Then what exactly is he? A malevolent force that was conspiring for this all along? That makes no sense either. I just can’t reconcile the need for him as a surprising choice and the execution of how they got there. Tyrion’s speech didn’t sell me as an audience member, I don’t know how it was able to sway independent thinkers like Yara. (I do appreciate Sansa’s powerplay here and don’t think enough attention was paid to it. She was smart enough to know that without succession plans, even with a Northerner in power now, there would be another King/Queen chosen after Bran, likely not from the North and thus they would be bending the knee again to another Kingdom. Her Brexit plan was definitely solid long-term thinking). That whole scene in the dragon pit just felt off. I really was hoping for each of the kingdom’s to go back to independence and some form of leader to be working with the intention of merely maintaining alliances. And the democracy joke from Sam was a dumb joke that was done for the audience and didn’t feel natural to the characters. Why wouldn’t anyone give this a second thought as they all just got out from under the thumbs of several tyrants. Also, the overall ending for the Starks really bums me out. Individually, I like it, everyone getting their individual peace. But it flies in the face of the oft-repeated line of “individually the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” The tacit promise of the pilot was this family getting back together, and they did, and they saved the world, and in the end they all separate in ways that feels unlikely to reunite. It’s a bummer. It reminds me of Party of Five (I know, I know), how the entire series was based on this family of orphans struggling to stay together and in the series finale there they all separate pretty extensively. It kind of betrays the premise of the show. I get it, it’s definitely in keeping with the true nature of the series, that in subverting expectations and twisting fantasy and general storytelling tropes, but it was just a bummer. I also have trouble with the idea that Tyrion didn’t warrant a mention in the “Song of Ice and Fire” book that Sam presented. In a way, it’s poetic that being the guy behind the scenes manipulating everything for the past decade and being the catalyst for so many actions, up to and including choosing the new king, that he wouldn’t warrant a mention, but it doesn’t make sense. I’m choosing to decide it was a joke Sam was making and he’s in there. 

The Ugly:
Again the idea for Daenerys’ end was sound. I buy her eventual foray into conquest and the need for her to be brought down. I just think we deserved more than the two scenes we got. I wanted more of an argument that she believed what she did was right. I wanted Jon and Tyrion to call her on her bullshit, have her double down on it, show everyone that it wasn’t true madness but a warped and misguided sense of purpose. And then stabby stabby. She was a complicated character, and really the de facto lead of the series behind only Tyrion really in terms of her presence. The first, what, five years she had to do the heavy lifting all on her own in storyline Siberia, never fully tied into the rest of the series but building interest in her mission. It was too uncomplicated of an ending, even if all the points were hit. I also really, truly hated Bronn’s return. Fine, he got Highgarden. Seeing him on the small council was unnecessary and made no sense in the context of the show. This guy didn’t understand what a loan was a few years ago and now he’s Master of Coin? That was done in service to the actor and nothing else and it was cheap and stupid. So was Yara in the meeting of the Lords and Ladies. She was faithful to Daenerys, she had always supported an independent Iron Islands, and she wasn’t around for the army of the dead or the destruction of King’s Landing, so she didn’t get to see the full scope of everything. I don’t buy she would not pursue independence especially in the wake of Sansa’s withdrawing of the North. If we got a line or something where she said she supported because her brother died fighting to save him, I could’ve gotten there a bit, but she was reduced to a plot contrivance.

All that said, I’m not as disheartened by the show as a number of the fandom. I don’t feel it was all for naught. The show maintained its purpose throughout and I really feel they did the best they could. The two battle episodes this season are right up there with “Blackwater” and “Battle of the Bastards” for truly epic television and I was engaged and anxious throughout watching the finale, something not many shows can do. It’s sad to say goodbye to these characters, ones that we’ve watched grow up and evolve, but that’s the nature of television and the nature of fiction. I’m grateful we had as much time with them as we did.

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Quotes:
Tyrion (to Daenerys): I freed my brother. And you slaughtered a city.

Tyrion: Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer for it.

Tyrion: Love is more powerful than reason, we all know that. Look at my brother.

Tyrion (to Jon): Sometimes duty is the death of love. You are the shield that guards the realms of men, and you’ve always tried to do the right thing, no matter the cost. You’ve tried to protect people. Who is the greatest threat to the people now? It’s a terrible thing I’m asking. It’s also the right thing.

Sansa: Uncle, please sit.

Tyrion: No one is very happy, which means it’s a good compromise I suppose.

Title: The symbol of what the entirety of everyone fighting and dying for the entire series and years before has been about.

Deaths: Jon stabs Daenerys through the heart, the final boss defeated.

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