Game of Thronesas season finale
Image: HBO

For the past five weeks, Thronespotting has chronicled the epic final season of “Game of Thrones.” While previous installments have examined how different plot developments might inform the show’s ending, this week’s article will look at how its producers wrapped their eight-season long story. Here’s a look back at the most heartbreaking, shocking, and infuriating moments of the program’s series finale.

As a recap of the show’s last episode, this article is full of spoilers.

The Dying of the Light

Whereas the series’ penultimate episode featured hundreds of thousands of deaths, “The Iron Throne” featured just one. Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing horrified her advisers but left the Queen of ashes feeling eerily optimistic and confident. Her mass slaughter of countless innocent people was cathartic for the Mother of Dragons. Moreover, if Dany felt any guilt for killing a city, it was buried underneath a terrifying new sense of certainty.

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The character solidified her turn to evil by explaining she planned to follow her conquering of Westeros by launching an apocalyptic global war. As such, it wasn’t a huge surprise that she died soon after announcing her embrace of megalomania. Jon killed the Mad Queen after receiving sobering lectures from Arya and Tyrion.

Now that it’s over, Dany’s journey is undeniably one of “Game of Thrones’” strangest. For whatever reason, the show’s producers chose not to explain why she so abruptly changed from savior to tyrant. Dany’s ultimate fate had been foreshadowed but not adequately established. Her character-defining mercy and compassion inexplicably evaporated as soon as she caught sight of the Red Keep.

In the end, it’s hard to identify the point of Dany’s story. “The Iron Throne” took pains to stress it wasn’t a narrative about genetic destiny. With a squint, one could argue it was a story about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Or that her arc was a parable about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Though there was a strong sense of inevitability to Dany’s demise, its ambiguity made it feel bitterly unsatisfying.

The Lone Wolf

While Daenerys’ ending was disappointing, her killer’s fate was not. Honoring his Night’s Watch credo, Jon did his duty even though it killed his love. After doing what he had to, he ended up in the same place he was in season one. To prevent a war between Dany’s forces and the armies of Seven Kingdoms, Jon agreed to a life sentence at The Wall.

Jon’s story ending where it began felt wholly appropriate. Despite being a capable warrior and a good man, he would’ve made a poor King. Having killed the second love of his life and participated in a massacre, there was no happy ending for him. Spending the rest of his life in the true North with his friend Tormund and his direwolf Ghost is apt. Jon was a good man and a true hero but he never should’ve become king, regardless of bloodline.

Jon’s story was satisfactory, except for one narrative thread. Early in “Game of Thrones” season 6, Melisandre resurrected the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. The Red Woman believed her God brought Jon back because he was a mythical prince destined to stop a great darkness. “The Long Night” indicates that prophesied figure was Arya. So why did the Lord of Light resurrect Jon? Was it so he could recapture Winterfell to act as a stronghold in the Great War? Was he the prince and Dany his great darkness?

Ultimately, the series provided no definitive answers regarding Jon’s return to the land of the living. However, his ending was so emotionally and narratively fulfilling, that loose thread is excusable.

The Wheel is Rebuilt

One aspect of “The Iron Throne” that did not end on a satisfactory note was the election of the new king of Westeros. After being jailed for betraying Dany, Tyrion was made to face the judgment of the continents remaining noble houses. However, the last Lannister talked his way out of execution and back into the heights of power.

Tyrion suggested Bran be made the new king after Samwell’s suggestion of democracy was hilariously rejected. The Imp gave the passionate speech explaining that the youngster’s tenaciousness and omniscience made him an ideal sovereign. Tyrion argued that if the Lords and Ladies of the land chose him as ruler, it would represent an effective breaking of the wheel. Surprisingly, most of the continent’s rulers agreed and Brandon Stark became the new King of Westeros.

Though Tyrion’s speech was eloquent, he was wrong. Drogon melted down the Iron Throne, but everything it represents still stands. Despite his unusual circumstances, Bran is the scion of a noble house. He immediately named Tyrion as his Hand and reaffirmed the Night’s Watch even though winter has come and gone. Bran also made plans to rebuild King’s Landing, the stronghold of the absolute monarchy Daenerys sought to overthrow.

Given the way things shook out in his favor, it’s almost like Bran orchestrated the events of the series’ last season.

The Game of Thrones that began with Robert Baratheon’s death did end in “The Iron Throne.” Throughout the program’s eight seasons, the Seven Kingdoms have been repeatedly reshaped. But for the average person living in Westeros, very little has changed.

A Queen in the North

Bran’s ascension to the throne was an affirmation of the status quo, but his reign will be different than his predecessors in one significant respect. During Tyrion’s “trial,” Sansa made the case that the North earned its independence given at sacrifices in the Great War. Bran agreed, and when she returned to Winterfell, the Northern Lords proclaimed Sansa Queen in the North.

Of all the show’s main characters, Sansa was one of the few to get an unqualified happy ending. She began a journey of immense agonizing self-discovery after witnessing her father’s death and being betrothed to the monstrous Joffrey. But in the end, she used her pain to make herself stronger and became a great leader.

In “Game of Thrones’” eighth season, Sansa repeatedly asserted that the North would never bow to another king. Given the monstrousness of Queens Cersei and Daenerys, that was a risky proposition. But she held true and won freedom for her people, which honored the wishes of her mother and late brother Robb.

Plus, aside from feeding Ramsey to his dogs, she has been a kind and wise leader. Sansa knew Dany wouldn’t make for a good queen long before anyone else and passed judgment on the devious Littlefinger. She also resisted the temptation to betray her family to consolidate power or go to war over Jon’s sentence. Given her track record, Sansa might become the greatest monarch in the history of Westeros.

The End of the World

Finally, Arya exited the series in bittersweet fashion. Thanks to a last-minute speech from the Hound, she was unable to cross the last name off her kill list. Despite some ominous foreshadowing last week, she also was not the one to shut Daenerys’ eyes forever. Aside from telling Jon he needed to kill Dany before she killed him, the youngest Stark didn’t have much to do. Still, her exit from the series was incredibly heartening.

Early in “Game of Thrones’” first season, Arya told her father that she would never marry and become a princess. She expressed a desire to escape Winterfell and visit the capital city. Though King’s Landing is a ruin, Ayra seems primed to realize her dream in a different way. She ended the series sailing on a ship headed west of Westeros, keen to discover what lies beyond the ends of the known world.

With her quest for vengeance over, the explorer’s life seems fitting for Arya. Like “Lord of the Ring’s” Frodo, she is changed too much to return home. Similarly, her house restored to power and her enemies are all dead, so her destiny is open. Plus, as HBO is currently producing three different “Game of Thrones” spin-offs, her story might continue sometime next year.

Twitter Reactions

Though far from perfect, “The Iron Throne” was a solid series finale and one of the best episodes of the show’s eighth season. However, the episode prompted a wide variety of entertaining responses from Twitter, some of which are noted below.

 

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