After eight seasons, dozens of awards, and a legion of (sometimes disappointed) fans, Game of Thrones has come to an end.
What began with a war of five kings dwindled down to a battle of wills between two. And after the chaos that reigned across this final season, the series finally answered the question of who will rule the Seven Kingdoms.
The bar was high. Game of Thrones is a series overflowing with great episodes and unforgettable moments. How could any resolution possibly live up to what fans had built in their minds? Beyond all reason, the final episode delivered. And in keeping with the show’s tradition of subverting expectations, it surprised.
The episode opens with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) surveying the carnage wrought by their queen (Emilia Clarke). Ash rains down on the ruins of King’s Landing, and charred bodies cover the landscape.
Tyrion simply tells Jon that he’ll find his compatriots later. Jon implores the Imp to take some backup with him, but Tyrion insists on going through the remains of the city alone. The camera pans upward to reveal the Red Keep still burning.
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) has rounded up the surviving Lannister soldiers and is prepared to execute them. Jon and Davos beg for mercy, but Grey Worm declares that Daenerys has already made up her mind. Jon tries to intervene and gets a dozen Unsullied spears pointed in his face. Davos asks for reason and says they should go talk with the queen.
Dude, where were you during last week’s Game of Thrones?
Tyrion makes his way to what’s left of the Red Keep. He walks through the remains of the Small Council Chamber, where he sat just a few years earlier, and heads down into the rubble of Maegor’s Holdfast, where Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jamie (Nikolai Coster-Waldau) met their end in “The Bells.”
There he finds Jamie’s golden hand and then the bodies of his siblings and collapses into tears with the knowledge that he is the last of the Lannisters. And for the umpteenth time, Peter Dinklage breaks my heart.
The Next War?
Elsewhere in the city, Arya (Maisie Williams) is on foot, apparently having left her magic horse to fend for itself. Well, that was a worthwhile shot. A sullen Jon makes his way through the Dothraki and the Unsullied soldiers to the Red Keep, where the banner of House Targaryen awaits Drogon and the conquering queen.
Daenerys declares victory (kind of redundant at this point, isn’t it?) and officially claims the Iron Throne. She names Grey Worm the Master of War. Tyrion walks up from behind and (again, a little late) clearly regrets his recent life choices.
Dany insists that the war isn’t over until she has liberated the entire world. Well, that escalated quickly.
Arya looks on from below at the growing angry mob scene, and she’s less than pleased. Tyrion tosses down his badge, renouncing his position as Hand of the Queen. A new war declared, and five minutes in the new queen already has fresh enemies.
The queen instructs the Unsullied to arrest Tyrion, and Jon (the prince who was promised, the hero of Castle Black, and the Warden of the North) continues to do what he does best, which is not a whole hell of a lot. He meets up with Arya, who’s still annoyed that Daenerys beat her to the Cersei-killing punch.
Jon insists that Daenerys is everyone’s queen now, but Arya reminds him that Dany knows who he truly is and that as long as he’s alive, he’s a threat to her.
Jon goes to see Tyrion in his current holding cell.
Tyrion is resigned to the fact that Daenerys doesn’t keep prisoners for long and laments that, for all intents and purposes, Varys (Conleth Hill) told him so. Despite knowing that he’s betrayed Dany, the Imp is resolute that he would do it again.
Jon tries to offer solace that at least the war is over, but Tyrion is like, “Dude. You were JUST THERE.”
He reminds the Bastard of Winterfell that Daenerys isn’t done fighting by a long shot. Tyrion laments that he couldn’t talk the queen out of her madness, and Jon tries to insist that Daenerys isn’t the same as the Mad King.
And Tyrion continues the old Game of Thrones tradition of trying to talk sense into a moron. Tyrion makes it simple for Jon and asks him if he’d have burned King’s Landing if he’d had the chance. Jon won’t answer out of loyalty, but Tyrion (and Jon) both know that he wouldn’t have.
Tyrion engages in another tradition, laying out everything he’s seen Daenerys do and expresses disappointment that he let her do it.
There’s a long Tyrion speech about love and duty, and Jon remembers the words of Maester Aemon: “Love is the death of duty.” Tyrion reminds Jon of his Night’s Watch duty and that he is the shield that guards the realms of men. And he hints that Daenerys is a threat to those realms.
But because Jon is still an idiot, he’s holding fast to the notion of, “Hey, queen’s gotta do queen, bro.”
On his way out, Tyrion reminds Jon that his sisters haven’t bent the knee to Daenerys. Sick burn. Again, too late. Waaaayyyyyy too late.
The Queen’s Throne
True to the vision Daenerys had years ago, she walks into a throne room that’s been decimated. The only thing left standing is the Iron Throne.
And after her long journey from a stepping stone for her brother to the desolation of King’s Landing, she finally places her hand on the prize she sought her entire life.
Dany pontificates on how awesome the throne is, but Jon brings her back to earth about the destruction she brought with her. He reminds her that she just murdered women and children, and she tries to blame Cersei.
Jon pleads for mercy for Tyrion and for those who stood against her, but as history has shown on Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen doesn’t do the whole mercy thing.
She begs Jon to help her build her new world. Jon declares that she is his queen, now and always, before he embraces her and does what he should’ve done at the start of this season and plunges a dagger into her before she can follow through with her plans.
Drogon immediately senses that his mother has died and flies to the throne room. And after all that’s transpired, Daenerys Targaryen dies before the Iron Throne.
The angry dragon roars at Jon and lets out a heartbreaking cry for the death of his mother. He stands ready to immolate Jon, but instead melts the Iron Throne itself. Even the fire-breathing monster understands that none of this was worth a fancy chair.
Drogon daintily takes his mother in his talons and flies away into the distance.
That might’ve been the most powerful scene of the show.
Judgement And Succession
Weeks pass after the death of Queen Daenerys.
Grey Worm escorts Tyrion to the dragon’s pit to face judgement for his betrayal of Daenerys. There, he faces Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Yara (Gemma Whelan), Arya, Davos, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Unnamed Dornish Prince, and Gendry (Joe Dempsie).
Even Robin Aryn (Lino Facioli) is there.
Sansa demands that Jon also be brought forth, but Grey Worm insists that he and the Unsullied determine what happens with their prisoners. Davos begs Grey Worm to let the Unsullied take a parcel of land for their own, but Grey Worm insists that judgement must be done.
Tyrion tells the assembled group that they need to choose a king or queen then and there, to determine what justice really means for Westeros.
Sam insists that the people have a voice, because a ruler will rule everyone. He suggests leaving the choice up to all of the people of Westeros and gets laughed out of the room.
Again, as is the custom of Game of Thrones, it’s a speech from Tyrion that ties everything together. He tells the assembled council that a good story can conquer anything. And he reminds everyone that Bran has every story ever told within him.
Sansa reminds him that Bran can’t father children. Tyrion reminds her that Daenerys’s goal was to break the wheel of fathers passing their prizes on to their sons. He declares that, going forward, rulers will be chosen by a gathering of Westeros’s lords and ladies.
Bran accepts the responsibility and unanimously becomes King Brandon of House Stark, Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.
Well, almost unanimously. Sansa declares that the North will remain independent. So the council names him Lord of the Six Kingdoms, Bran the Broken. Bran immediately names Tyrion his Hand.
Grey Worm insists that Tyrion deserves justice, but Bran counters that being Hand is punishment enough: He’ll have to spend the rest of his life setting his mistakes right.
His Watch Begins
Justice also waits for Jon Snow. Tyrion informs Jon that he’ll be sent to the Night’s Watch for life as punishment for treason.
Jon questions whether it was right to kill Daenerys. Tyrion reminds him that they both had a hand in the queen’s demise.
The newly reinstated man of the Night’s Watch laments that this is probably his final meeting with Tyrion, but the Imp assures him that their paths will cross again.
Jon makes his way back to the Wall, and locks eyes one more time with Grey Worm, who stands ready to take the Unsullied back to the eastern city of Naath.
Sansa, Bran, and Arya say their last goodbyes to their brother. Sansa begs his forgiveness, but Jon reminds her that the North is free because of her. There’s a beautiful embrace between Sansa and Jon. Arya says that she’s going to set out to find out what’s to the west of Westeros.
And finally, Jon and Brandon the Broken have a final moment together. Jon apologizes for not being there for Bran when the boy needed him, but the new King tells him that all of Jon’s actions were for a purpose.
Back in the Red Keep, Brienne of Tarth, now a member of the Kingsguard, properly finishes Jamie’s entry into the order’s history. There, she recounts the history of his capture by Catelyn Stark, his conquering of Riverrun and Highgarden, and she undoes his greatest crime.
The final note for Ser Jamie is that he died in defense of his queen. Yeah, I wept just a little bit.
In the Small Council chamber, Tyrion surveys the empty room and pushes all of the chairs around the table in.
Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Davos, and the newly-minted Grand Maester Samwell enter with A Song Of Ice And Fire, a detailing of the history of Westeros after the death of Robert Baratheon. In essence, Sam hands Tyrion the entire history of Game of Thrones. Sam informs Tyrion that he isn’t mentioned in the new history.
Bran enters the chamber, and the King notes that there is no Master of Whispers or a Master of War. Ser Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), also now a member of the Kingsguard, enters to escort the King back out, and Tyrion is left to sort out the day-to-day managing of the affairs of Westeros.
Back at the Wall, Jon makes his return, greeted by Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju).
In a montage of the Starks, Sansa takes her place as Queen in the North, Arya sets sail for the unknown world, and Jon — reunited with both Ghost and Longclaw — assumes command of the Night’s Watch.
In the show’s final moment, Jon leads the united Night’s Watch and the Wildling Army into the forests of the North.
And as Game of Thrones comes to an end, the pack survives.
All images courtesy of HBO.