Despite a circulating online petition to remake the final season of Game of Thrones in accordance with fan specs (it has since been signed by more than a million people), the long-running HBO series will be missed, not least for its ability to gather viewers around a screen at the same time to watch the same thing. (To those fans who would see the show’s conclusion rewritten, Jacob Anderson says that “sucks,” and Kit Harington, of critics generally, says “they can go fuck themselves.”) For sure, there have been some odd and occasionally downright bonkers developments this season, from the soap-opera first episode to Gendry Baratheon totally misreading the room to, yeah, Daenerys Targaryen deciding to level a city she previously wanted to rule over.
Regardless of the outcome, some people were bound to be upset—which is why showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff made plans to be far away from the Internet. “No one is very happy, which means it’s a good compromise, I suppose,” Tyrion says in the last third of the final episode—which is probably as good a thesis statement for the season as can be found.
Coming into the final 80 minutes of the show, there were a lot of loose ends to tie up and the issue of succession still to resolve. We open with the aftermath of Daenerys Targaryen’s murderous rampage, trudging through the streets of King’s Landing alongside Jon Snow and Ser Davos Seaworth. The bell—which was, as Tyrion pointed out, to ring if the city surrendered—lay cracked in a pile of rubble; the Lannister sibling-lovers, Cersei and Jaime, lay under a heap of rubble. And all that falling from the sky—that’s ash, not snow, flakes of burnt King’s Landing tumbling down over the charred city. It starts slow and mournful but quickly picks up the pace, wrapping up one and then another and then another plot point, and inventing democracy along the way. So for those of us who remained online to the bittersweet end, here’s who won the Game of Thrones—and how everyone who lost slipped up.
Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the game of thrones: Brandon the Broken, who is somehow the first of his name despite having a name that must be more common than, say, Daenerys or Cersei, King of the Andals and the First Men, et cetera, et cetera. (He is, however, ruler of only six kingdoms, not seven.) As several people have pointed out on social media, Bran Stark did not contribute to the group project but still got all the participation points. He did come all this way, though—and why else, except to be crowned king for having contributed nothing more than a flyby via raven during the biggest battle of all of winter?
Arya’s odyssey out of King’s Landing in the previous episode was “the longest, hardest journey anybody has to make in the entire episode,” D.B. Weiss said during last week’s “Inside the Episode” feature. Now she’s going past where all the maps stop, which is probably even longer and harder. We are here for pirate Arya.
The elder Stark sister stayed far away from last week’s drama; nevertheless, her suspicions about Daenerys Targaryen proved true—perhaps even in part due to her own machinations. She did, after all, tell Tyrion Lannister about Jon Snow’s true parentage, despite his pleas to keep things on the DL. Apparently, Sansa is the real arbiter of power around here; when Jon Snow says Daenerys is everyone’s queen now, Arya scoffs, “Try telling Sansa that.” Later, when all the lords are trying to figure out who gets to rule over the Seven Kingdoms, she tells her uncle Edmure Tully to pipe down when he seems to volunteer himself for the throne. She might not get to rule all of Westeros, as one might have wished, but she does get to rule the North—and she creates a small secession movement in the process. (That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you run on a political platform.) In the series’ final moments, she even gets a fancy diadem twisted into the shape of a wolf (R.I.P. Lady, still, eight seasons later) and an upgraded wardrobe with some fancy sleeves, more Valentino than Hot Topic.
An aside: The Starks started the series losing their dad at the hands of one mad king; they ended the series jointly presiding over all of Westeros. If we were to pick a whole lineage of winners, we’d have one here.
Tyrion, as he admits, has done a lot of bad things: strangled Shae, shot his father with a crossbow, betrayed Varys. Now, after telling the assembled lords and ladies that they should just get on with it and pick a king or queen, he’s got to spend his life doing what Bran Stark determines to be atoning for his sins. (It’s not clear whether that’s a win or a loss on its own terms, but it beats death by dragon fire.) And he’s become hand to his third Westerosi monarch—after his nephew Joffrey Baratheon and the late Daenerys Targaryen. Here’s hoping this one isn’t so mad. (Bran does think he’s a raven, but that seems harmless enough.)
The dragon named for Khal Drogo is the last one standing. Drogon has done more to “break the wheel” than any other human, thanks to his fire belch that took out the Iron Throne. If Daenerys doesn’t get to sit on it, then no one does.
Invented democracy, and then everyone laughed in his face. (That sounds right.) Ends up Grand Maester—so who’s laughing now?
Ser Bronn, Lord of Highgarden, Master of Coin
Got his castle—and a few other titles while he was at it. All that’s left is to rebuild the brothels.
Breast milk served him well.
He was right.
They rang the bells; they raised the gates. Nevertheless, Daenerys incinerated them in a blitz of dragon fire. “She grows more powerful the more sure she is that she is good and right,” Tyrion tells Jon Snow, moments before the younger Targaryen goes and stabs his aunt mid make out. (But recall, everyone was so convinced that Jon Snow was “good and right” too, and then they made Bran Stark king. A fickle lot, those Westerosi voters.) In any case, with a nasty stab to the chest, Daenerys Targaryen loses the game of thrones. And that’s why love is the death of duty, folks. Don’t trust your nephews.
In return for killing his aunt, he gets to return to the North, where he’s reunited with his direwolf, Ghost, and with Tormund Giantsbane, which is probably what he wanted the whole time. But for someone who for a really long time was widely believed to be the Prince Who Was Promised, this is very how-the-mighty-have-fallen. (A small victory: Daenerys and Jon Snow avoid further incest, except for some brief light tongue action.)
You know how Beto O’Rourke said “I’m just born to be in it,” with regard to his presidential run? That’s Edmure Tully. It’s not a winning look.
After losing his true love and his queen, the only thing left for Grey Worm is to set sail for Naath, despite a generous offer to preside over the Reach.
The Lannister army
Summarily executed, despite their surrender.
Ser Brienne of Tarth
It cannot be comfortable, doing calligraphy in your battle armor. It’s also not clear why she’s writing a glowing Wikipedia page for a guy who ghosted her.
The Iron Throne