In my lifetime I have seen the endings of some pretty ground-breaking media franchises from Harry Potter to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I doubt I will see an ending that will match the hype and expectation given to that of Game of Thrones. The show that singlehandedly pulled Fantasy media back into the mainstream. The show that has broken almost every television record. The show that helped push geek culture from its resting place in the shadows. The show that…kind of let everyone down.
Yeah, it’s true. Game of Thrones, the once legendary juggernaut of the domestic screen, has proven to be yet another television show that cannot fulfil its promise of a strong and satisfactory ending. Arguably, the signs were there from the show’s outset, with the series promising more and more with every passing year. And in those years the show has delivered epic battles, undead armies and fire-breathing dragons – basically all the components needed to making the most badass show in the world. So what went wrong? Why has the show’s eighth and final season proved to be the lowest rated one since the show’s initial airing? Why are millions of fans petitioning for the final season to be completely remade? (No, seriously, there are people actually doing this!) Well, there are definitely some clear reasons. But for now I want to focus on just summing up my thoughts on the show’s final episode, poorly dubbed “The Iron Throne”, which has already proven to be one of the most controversial finales in television history.
Now, before I start anything, can we all agree that this episode title is just weak? I was adamant that they would call this final episode “A Song of Ice and Fire”, absolutely adamant. And yet they went for the blandest title I have ever heard. I understand the significance of the Iron Throne, I do, but it still sounds so dull when compared to the titles it could have received.
Anyway, let’s move on from the title and actually start looking at the finer details of the episode, shall we?
The episode picks up directly after the fiery events of the previous episode, with the ruins of King’s Landing being slowly covered in a snowfall of ash. Tyrion walks through the leftover carnage in disbelief and disgust. It isn’t long before he also discovers Jon and Davos also examining the carnage with frowns on their faces, prompting them to go in search of their queen. Right from the get-go this episode’s pacing is very slow, with very little dialogue or movement helping to quicken the pace. The first ten minutes alone seemed entirely dedicated to Tyrion and his leisurely stroll through the city, not exactly the most exciting beginning the writers could have given us. However, the narrative begins to pick up when he see Dany and Drogon land within the wreckage of The Red Keep, in a shot that, for a brief moment, gives Dany dragon wings of her own.
Admittedly the direction in this episode is a saving grace, with some of the shots being almost transcendent in their visual eye-candy. From Dany’s wingspan, to the broken map of Westeros, to the final shots of a snow-laden forest, David and Dan deliver some of the best direction the show has ever seen. Honestly this makes me wonder why they even bother writing when they can tell a story so much better through their visuals. But write they must, and sadly this is where the episode truly begins to fall short.
Following Dany’s arrival, Tyrion is captured for treason and thrown into a cell, while Jon contemplates his own safety and future with the Mother of Dragons always by his side. Leading him to confront the Targaryen queen as she walks through the rubble of the throne room. Although there isn’t anything overtly terrible about this sequence, I found myself scoffing aloud at Daenerys’s comment on the Iron Throne and it’s size. For those of you who have yet to pick up the books the show is based on, you may be surprised to learn that in the books, the iron throne is literally described as being a mountain of swords, built to tower over the nobles of the court. So when I heard Dany’s little comment, I couldn’t help but cringe at what sounded like an obvious dig at George R.R. Martin and his literary vision.
But any qualms or comments I may have had were suddenly stopped in their tracks by the sight of Jon stabbing Dany through the heart. In one instant, the show’s strongest and most engaging character was reduced to a whimpering child, as she falls to the floor, literally bleeding from the mouth.
I know I am not the only one to be downhearted by Dany’s turbulent downfall this season, but watching her fall to the ground , with a dagger in her heart, truly was a heart-breaking sight. It felt so rushed, so unwarranted, as if it was an ending suited for a completely different character. Daenerys deserved so much better than what she got, however I can also say the same for a majority of characters in this show – so I guess those tears are well and truly wasted. Although Dany’s death did allow for another visually striking shot, as her body is carried away in the claws of a mourning Drogon, his silhouette fading into the cloudscape.
What follows this is what can only be described as an hour-long epilogue, with all the surviving characters returning to finally wrap-up their lingering storylines. Some of these endings are perfect, with Brienne joining the Kingsgaurd and Davos being made Master of Ships on the small council. While others leave you with a foul taste in your mouth, such as Bron also being a small council member, even though he should have retired as a character on this show back in season four. And then there are the baffling moments that will leave the fanbase questioning all that they once believed in. In the end, it is Bran who is given the throne of Westeros, while Tyrion is made to become his Hand has penance. At first I had no issues with Bran claiming the throne, until I remembered that he became a literal god just so he could rule over a broken continent, what a waste of five years that turned out to be!
Overall, the Game of Thrones finale simply couldn’t live up to the hype that it created for itself. There were no epic battles, no hard choices and no undead armies. There was simply a bastard with a dagger, and an ending that didn’t really make sense. I’m sure this show will continue to live on in memory as the global success it was, but I do wonder if it ever will live on in anyone’s heart.