In Defence Of The 'Game Of Thrones' Finale
Alright, folks, here it is: we're going to defend the divisive 'Game of Thrones' final episode.
The most watched episode in history is now the worst rated in 'Game of Thrones' history. The finale -- titled The Iron Throne -- might have drawn in nearly 14 million views on the live HBO channel alone, but was quickly met with anger. At the time of writing, it has a rating of 4.5 out of 10 on IMDb.
"They massacred the show," one reviewer complained.
Showrunners David Weiss and D.B. Benioff butchered the show so badly, according to the internet, that 'Dexter' -- a completely unrelated show which famously went off the rails in its last episodes -- was trending on Tuesday morning.
Since everyone is so raging mad about the ending to a show we've spent eight seasons and nine years obsessed about, I'd like to offer another take: that finale was (almost) as good as it could be.
Book author George R.R. Martin told Weiss and Benioff years ago how he planned to end the series. Presumably, he told them crucial details like "Jon kills Daenerys after she burns King's Landing", "Bran is elected king of a new oligarchy", and "the North secedes from the Seven Kingdoms".
The ultimate plot points that needed to be reached were always set in stone, and to argue with them is to assume Martin owes you -- a fan -- the outcome you wanted.
So, it comes back to the show's writing, which has been widely -- and fairly -- criticised. (That's the deal with making art: people get to have an opinion about it.) Season 7 gave us "jetpacking", where characters were able to move around this map at ludicrous speeds; Season 8 gave us super-fast storylines, where we had foreshadowing for key plot points the show needed to hit, but not the character development to 'earn' them in the eyes of fans.
HBO's decision to condense the final seasons may be savaged by fans for years to come. It made us as an audience place a higher value on each second of airtime, knowing every moment included meant there was possibly another one out there, left on the cutting room floor.
But given how the last two seasons played out, the series finale was as good as it could possible have been -- with a few, minor gripes.
Tyrion's desolate walk through the utter devastation gave us time to comprehend just what in the hell just happened to King's Landing. Jaime and Cersei buried and entwined in the rubble, made up for -- in my mind -- the disappointment of their death. Daenerys' speech revealing her unwavering belief she was on the path of good, despite incinerating thousands of innocents, showed she was still true to her character.
And yes, we got the really cool shot of Dany with dragon wings unfurling behind her.
Jon being the one to kill Dany was the perfect moment of growth for his character. All his life, he'd acted with the utmost honour, even when it went against his strict moral code or the interests of those around him. Murdering his queen for the betterment of Westeros was proof he'd learned from his mistakes.
"Love is the death of duty," he said, repeating to Tyrion the words of Maester Aemon (as it turns out, his great-great uncle), and giving up his ties to Dany to ultimately perform his duty to the realm. Unlike Ned Stark, Jon did not choose honour over the greater good.
Which brings us to the Dragonpit meeting.
It makes perfect sense for Tyrion to nominate Bran as King, but not for the reasons he outlined in his soaring speech: who cares if he 'has the best story' (when Jon was literally brought back from the dead, and Arya 'The Night King Killer' is sitting RIGHT THERE)? Tyrion values knowledge, and Bran knows pretty much everything.
And to quote much of Twitter, Sansa points out that Bran's "dick don't work", meaning producing an heir to the throne would be a bit difficult. Tyrion rightly reasons this is perfect, setting Bran up as the first democratically-elected (at least by the other lords of the realm) king, without any pesky issue of succession to make the next transition of power run smoothly.
Here's my only (other) gripe: I would like to know why the other high-born members didn't immediately also ask to secede, once Sansa requested the North be an independent kingdom. This particularly rings true for both Yara Greyjoy and the new Prince of Dorne, both of whom fiercely value independence.
A bit more conversation, or even a quick "sorry, you already said 'aye' to King Bran, no going back now" line would at least attempt to answer this question. As it is, it felt messy and unfinished.
Next, the Small Council meeting. Plenty of Game of Thrones fans are mad about time being given to Tyrion arranging the chairs. This moment communicated his anxiety about his new role faster and more succinctly than a bit of of dialogue ever could.
As for the rest of this scene -- nothing could have given us a better glimpse of how the new world will look more than Bronn relishing in his power, Davos being sensible, Bran using his Three Eyed Raven ability to help him rule, and Ser Brienne becoming Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
Also: my boy Podrick was finally knighted.
Finally, to the Starks.
This show was always about the Starks. Jon being banished gave us the 'bittersweet' ending we'd been promised, perhaps indicating that an exiled Targaryen was good of the realm. (At least he reunited with Ghost.) Sansa took the role she'd proven perfect for: leading the North. And Arya reconciled her humanity with her vengeful bloodlust, heading off on the adventure she'd always wanted.
Say whatever you want about the finale, but it gave us Stark closure and a vision for the future. The best finales are the ones that put the entire series in a new perspective. This one pulled that off.
It wasn't perfect, but I'll defend it to the death.
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