TL;DR – While there has been patchy moments this season, I do think they stuck the ending.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Well, here we are, the final ever episode of Game of Thrones (if you don’t count the multiple prequels in preproduction at the moment). I can still remember that day when I first watched the very first episode as a group of men from The Watch go north past The Wall and discover there was something worse than wildlings waiting for them. A lost queen forced to marry into a barbarian horde to secure her ungrateful brother an army to retake their throne. A drunkard ruling a kingdom though all he wants to do is hunt and joust and fornicate with people who are not his wife. A family of noble people trying to do what is right, especially when it is hard, and being woefully unprepared for the mess they were walking into. Also, the things we do for love. All of those years of story have been building to this final episode, and I wonder can they stick the landing?
So to set the scene, during last week’s The Bells a lot of things happen and a lot of people died. After the death of Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) in The Last of the Starks, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) had become inconsolable, and Missandei’s final word Dracarys sat in her mind so that even when she heard the bells of surrender Dany decided to burn Kings Landing to the ground, not really caring who or what got in her way. The complete slaughter of the capital is something she has threatened since she arrived and finally showed what damage even one dragon can do, insert the nuclear weapons analogies. The capital is in ruins, Jon (Kit Harington) tried to do the right thing and failed, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) had their whole worlds crash down on them, oh and Euron (Pilou Asbæk) is finally gone. We open with the aftermath as ash and snow still fall in the ruins of Kings Landing and the dead and dying lay among the wreckage. Here Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Jon (Kit Harington), and Davos (Liam Cunningham) walk and see the damage their actions have wrought and the potential hell that they have unleashed. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
the outset, this is an episode that really followed two characters and what
they do to respond to their own guilt and that is Jon and Tyrion. For a good
ten or so minutes at the start we follow Tyrion without any music as he makes
his way up to the Red Keep, hoping against hope that maybe his siblings made it
out, only to be confronted with the horror that not only did he betray his
Queen, he didn’t save anyone, and condemned himself and them to death. There is
that moment when he realised that everything is lost and all of his life work
is for naught and that hits you like a weight. In this episode, after being a
bit of a foil for the last couple of seasons Tyrion gets to take centre stage
both before and after the stab and Peter Dinklage gives one of the best
performances in his career.
On the other side of the coin is Jon Snow/Targaryen, who had watched in horror as the women he loved turned into a monster. If there has been one thing throughout Jon’s story is that he has always tried to do the right thing, indeed it is the Stark curse that lost a couple of them their heads. He said he was loyal to the Queen, so that is it, but what do you do when that same person destroys a whole city of innocents. There is this great scene where Jon and Tyrion are talking, but the subtext (and sometimes the text) was about who is the greatest threat and given Dany’s many veiled threats about the north he had to choose between his love and his family and after a history of not knowing, Jon finally knew what he has to do. This creates this interesting parallel between Jon and Jamie, both of them are guilty of regicide, but in both cases, it was actually for the greater good.
Which of course leads us to Dany who now takes the frame as a very tragic character in the show’s history. She lived all her life hearing about the stories of this land across the sea, being abused by her brother, used as a pawn in many people’s plans. She lived in a world that was very much trying to get her at every opportunity. However, as the show has gone on, she has been shown to be able to deliver significant cruelty to people, people that usually have it coming. All the way back in Season one she burnt the lady who betrayed her trust, and it didn’t stop there. The difference is that last week she finally went after people that didn’t deserve to die. It was interesting to read that many people felt that the moment from last week was out of character and while there was a lot of unearned character moments last week that was not one of them. So she finally got her Iron Throne, it only cost her soul, and she only had it for a fleeting moment.
All of this lead to this sequence which had me on the edge of my seat. From the moment they walked through the streets of dead you knew there was going to be only one outcome, the only issue would be if it would work or not. The moment as Jon, Tyrion, and Arya (Maisie Williams) are slowly approaching Dany had me sitting on the end of my seat. Would one of them make their move, will it get stopped, will the dragon intercede. Then nothing happened, but before you have time to process everything, it builds again, and that is the moment Jon kills Dany. It is here where you expect him to die as Drogon’s cries echo out, but no, because Drogon is a big believer in symbolism over action.
was a lot I really love about this first half of the episode, I liked that they
took their time this week to build and let the weight of decisions sit with the
characters. It would have been nice to get more of that this season but I am
glad it is here at the end. We got some great character interactions and some
simply beautiful shots. However, they could have dialled back a bit on the Nazi
iconography, though given the Hiroshima iconography from last week maybe they
were just in a WW2 mood, also some consistency about sized of armies would be
The second half of the episode was an episode of goodbyes as the future king of the seven, no six kingdoms are crowned, and it is Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and if you listen you can hear the sound of a lot of people crying out because they just lost their office betting pool. Of course, it would have been nice if this had been its own episode but there were still some great moments like Sansa telling her uncle Edmure (Tobias Menzies) to sit down or Sam (John Bradley) trying to instil democracy to a bunch of monarchs, I mean A+ for effort Sam. It is here that it is decided that the kingship or queenship would not be hereditary. Instead, it would be a for life position that would get renegotiated at the death or abdication of the current ruler, so the Vatican City/Holy See model of political construction. If there was one moment that you could point to and go that ‘this is indulgent’ it is Tyrion’s speech that stories are important which was a message directed more to the audience watching the show than the rogue’s gallery of important lords and ladies left standing in the Dragonpit. Including Yara ‘you probably should not antagonise Arya’ Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), some unnamed Dornish prince (Toby Osmond), and also Robin ‘look I grew up’ Arryn (Lino Facioli).
It was this point the four Stark siblings all go their separate ways. Jon is banished to the Night’s Watch only to go north with Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Ghost, and watch everyone jump for joy that he finally got the head scratch he deserved. Arya is crewing a ship and is heading west to see what if anything is there on the other side of Westeros. Bran is the King in the South, but Sansa (Sophie Turner) is now the Queen in the North and long live the queen. All of this was intercut beautifully as they go to lead their new lives. We also get to see a bit of the aftermath in Kings Landing with Bron (Jerome Flynn) getting to be the lord of Highgarden, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) being the head of the Kingsguard and having to write Jamie’s story, Pod (Daniel Portman) being Pod, and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) who of all the characters I was most surprised survived the story heading to Naath. Now it is time to take a look back as to who the season worked as a whole and while there were some clear issues in how it stuck the landing, there were parts of this season that I really loved. I have a lot of love for Winterfell, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and the first half of The Last of the Starks, because it is here that the show focused in on the characters and their relationships. Some people have argued that it was a bit too fanservey and I can see where they are coming with that. But there is this joy you see in Tormund striking out spectacularly, or completely not reading the room. In seeing Podrick be his charming self, in getting to see Brieanne have a moment of complete joy when she was made a Ser. However, while these episodes were great, the fact that we have a truncated final season (at the showrunner’s request) means that one of the core things that has made the show great is missing going forward from here. There is the moment in The Last of the Starks where it feels like that smashed three or four episodes of dialogue into 15 minutes. From that point onwards it was narratively just what was the absolute minimum of the story that we needed to show to get people to the Battle of Kings Landing. This meant even the bits in The Bells that worked, like Arya and Sandor (Rory McCann) lost their impact because we saw them leave Winterfell and arrive in Kings Landing and nothing of their reconnecting in-between. This meant what should have been the crown jewel of the show was a mess of missed opportunities and forced character contrivances that did not have enough time to develop naturally and while you try to push that aside, you can’t help but feel that it had an impact on how this show ended. Well overall, I do think they stuck the landing in the end, though of course, it would have been nice if they had taken the time to build it naturally.
the end, do we recommend The Iron Throne?
Yes, yes I do. I came into this very cautiously, but I think they did everything
they needed to here. I would have like to have seen more of the goodbye at the
end, but then I am one of the few people that really liked how they ending The
Return of the King. Were their missteps along the way, yes, will it be
interesting to see how the books line up when and if they are finished, yes.
But at this moment I am happy with how it got to here. Now we have the prequels
coming and I would not be surprised if a couple of sequels are also being
thought about at the moment, because as we saw in the last shot beautifully
scored by Ramin Djawadi,
summer is coming.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Game of Thrones
Directed by – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Written by – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Based off – A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin
Created for TV by – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Music by – Ramin Djawadi
Production/Disruption Companies – Home Box Office (HBO)
Starring in Season 8 – Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Carice Van Houten, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, Joe Dempsie, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, John Bradley, Hannah Murray, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Jacob Anderson & Iain Glen with Pilou Asbæk, Anton Lesser, Richard Dormer, Vladimir Furdik, Gemma Whelan, Ben Crompton, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Daniel Portman, Bella Ramsey, Rupert Vansittart, Marc Rissmann, Richard Rycroft, Megan Parkinson, Ian Whyte, Staz Nair and Tobias Menzies, Lino Facioli, Gabriel Akuwudike, Noel Harron, Toby Osmond, Andrew Bicknell, Michael Benbaruk, Frank Jakeman, Niall Bishop, Padraig O’Grady, Eoin Duffy, Shane Whiskers, Lorcan Strain & Ella-Rose Sands.