This Sunday, epic HBO fantasy series, “Game of Thrones,” will end its eight-season run. To ensure its place in TV history, the show needs to end with a phenomenal series finale. Though its popularity has exploded in its final year, the program has become increasingly controversial. In particular, critics and fans have chided “Thrones’” writers for resolving long-running plot lines in ways that are abrupt or unsatisfactory.
Consequently, the long-running fantasy drama’s series finale will play a big role in determining its lasting legacy. If the program’s producers bring the song of ice and fire to a fitting conclusion, it’ll be held in the same high regard as “Breaking Bad” and “The Americans.” However, if it wraps up without a definitive or earned conclusion, it’ll be the next “Lost” or “Dexter.”
Less than a week before it airs, here are four questions “Game of Thrones” must thoughtfully answer in its series finale.
Was Daenerys Always Going to be a Monster?
“Game of Thrones” season 8 has featured a number of shocking character turns but none more so than that of Daenerys Targaryen. The last scion of an exiled royal family, Dany has spent her time on the show slowly gathering the resources needed to conquer Westeros. Having achieved that aim in the late sixth season, she’s spent her time watching her plans fall apart.
Dany lost one of her dragons, a trusted advisor, and much of her forces battling the Night King’s army. She’s also faced an unfamiliar resistance from the people she came to liberate. Most devastatingly, she’s faced a legitimacy challenge from her new lover (and nephew), Jon Snow. Though he has repeatedly refused the crown, her allies and advisors have turned on her to support his claim to the Iron Throne.
Dany reached a breaking point when her first engagement with House Lannister resulted in the death of her best friend.
In reaction to her many devastating setbacks, Dany obliterated the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms. By attacking after the Lannister army surrendered, she killed a countless number of helpless soldiers and civilians. In doing so, the Breaker of Chains became the show’s chief antagonist. However, in spite of ample foreshadowing, many fans believe Dany’s turn to the Dark Side was abrupt and unmotivated.
With only one episode left, “Game of Thrones’” writers need to clarify Daenerys characterization. Was she always fated to be a monstrous tyrant or did her experiences shape her into one? The best way the show could resolve the question is by having Dany explain her motivations. One well written, sublimely performed monologue will give the show’s fans the context necessary to appreciate her embrace of evil.
Who will Slay the Mad Queen?
Another big question “Game of Thrones” needs to satisfactorily answer is which character will slay the Mad Queen. Having committed an unconscionable war crime and lost the faith of her allies, Daenerys won’t have a long reign as Queen Regent. But the show can’t have just anyone end the Targaryen dynasty.
One of the most prominent complaints about “The Long Night” was Arya’s killing of the Night King. Though the series laid the groundwork for her to save Westeros, it also suggested Jon as a potential savior. Sidelining the ex-commander of the Night’s Watch in the big moment was surprising and a little unsatisfying. To ensure fans remember the series fondly, the show’s writers can’t pull the same trick with their ultimate villain.
Tyrion, formally Dany’s chief advisor, would work because he set his Queen on her path of destruction. He told her she should join the Northern Alliance, waste valuable men and resources on the Wight hunt, and convinced her to trust Cersei. His monumentally bad advice created the conditions that led to her breakdown. Therefore, Tyrion killing the only monarch he ever believed in would be bitterly ironic.
Arya also makes sense because she lived through the horror of Dany’s assault on King’s Landing. Melisandre also prophesied Arya would kill someone with green eyes and her slaying the Queen would fit the bill. Plus, as the Westeros version of Wolverine, she has the coldhearted determination to do the deed.
Lastly, Jon killing Dany would be incredibly poetic. As her last living relative and recent lover, he is likely devastated by her monstrous recent actions. Also, his saving the world from a genocidal tyrant would explain why the Lord of Light resurrected him.
What will Happen to the Seven Kingdoms?
Once Daenerys is taken out, the show will need to resolve the question of what happens to the Seven Kingdoms. Will Westeros have a singular ruler once again or will it devolve into a series of independent monarchies? So far, “Game of Thrones” has strongly suggested the latter scenario is most likely.
In its last few seasons, the series has destroyed much of its aristocracy. The Houses of the Arryn, Baratheon, Bolton, Fray, Martel, Lannister, Tully, and Tyrell have fallen. In the program’s series finale, the same fate will likely befall the House Targaryen. That leaves Houses Stark and Greyjoy as the continents only great houses, but it’s unclear who will rule the Seven Kingdoms.
The Northern Houses will likely support Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne, but he doesn’t want to rule. Additionally, the people almost certainly won’t support a leader who was involved in the annihilation of King’s Landing. Also, Dany granted the Iron Islands independence so they might not accept a new foreign sovereign. And Sansa, like her brother Robb, wants to establish the North as an independent kingdom.
While “Game of Thrones” covered a lot of different conflicts, including one against the walking dead, its core narrative has always revolved around the politics of the Seven Kingdoms. To keep fans from feeling cheated, the series’ producers will need to bring the Great Game to a fitting end.
Did Bran Orchestrate the Events of Season 8?
There is one lingering “Thrones” plot point that, if resolved correctly, might answer all the questions on this list. In “Winterfell” and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Bran Stark appeared to kick off an elaborate and momentous series of events. He laid out a scenario that put the Night King in position to be assassinated. He also pushed Sam to tell Jon about his true parentage, a revelation that greatly contributed to Dany’s psychological collapse.
The question is, did Bran do those things as part of a master plan? Was his seemingly foolhardy decision to wait for the Night King in the godswood actually an ingenious assassination plot? Did he engineer Dany’s downfall because of his vision of her attacking King’s Landing? While the notion that Bran was a secret master strategist sounds a little far-fetched, it’s not inconceivable.
As the Three-Eyed Raven, he not only has access to all of humanity’s collective memories, he can also peer into the future. His uncanny calmness in the face of the Night King’s invasion indicates he probably knew the battle’s outcome. Additionally, the Bran as master schemer theory explains why he told Jon who his parents were.
At the moment, his actions didn’t make a lot of sense given that Jon’s lineage didn’t play into the Battle of Winterfell. However, if he was playing a long game that involved taking another major threat off the board, it does. Bran might have foreseen Dany future as the Queen of Ashes and worked to prevent a global genocide by setting his family against her.
If the Three-Eyed Raven made that world-shaking disclosure just because, the show really will be as empty and haphazard as its harshest critics claim.