Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne


And now their watch has ended.

In what was supposed to be Supernatural's final episode – but turned out to be a full ten years too early – writer Chuck bemoaned the fact that 'endings are hard'. And they really, really are. I can think of so many finales that have disappointed me in various ways over the years. And just this week, I've watched two endings that have been a long time in the making (the other one was the end of twelve years of The Big Bang Theory, which I quite liked, for the record).

And in the end, I think I'd put this in a fairly favourable spot in my all time Worst - Greatest Finales ranking list. It wasn't perfect (only Sex and the City has managed to stick a perfect ending, and they wrecked that with the movies). But it was pretty good, generally speaking, and there were moments of true greatness.

Danaerys and Jon

So, I didn't hate last week's episode for its developments in Danaerys' storyline. I haven't exactly loved her descent into the Mad Queen, for all the same reasons as everyone else – the show is dangerously close to implying all female rulers are lunatics, Dany's descent into madness and tyranny has been rushed and doesn't quite feel earned, and it's a bit saddening to watch a character we've loved so much for so long become a villain instead of the powerful, wise ruler we all hoped she would be.

Having said that, I do think the seeds for this have been planted since the beginning – it may be rushed, but it hasn't come out of nowhere. Danaerys has been promising the Dothraki that they will pillage the Seven Kingdoms, raping, burning and killing (which we have been told numerous times is what they do) ever since Season One. We all loved Khal Drogo because he was cool, but he was not a fluffy bunny and nor is Dany. She crucified the Masters in Meereen, and while her execution of Sam's father and brother could be justified on the grounds that they refused to bend the knee, it wasn't her only option, nor did she have to do it immediately, on the battlefield, by dragon fire. So while it makes me a little sad – and makes my "I'm not a Princess, I'm a Khaleesi" shirt a bit dubious – I can see that this has been where Dany's story has been heading all along, and I can understand it, and I'm OK with it.

I was a bit disappointed that Jon ended up killing Danaerys though. I was sure Arya was going to do that – it almost feels like their big kills ended up the wrong way around, with Jon the soldier denied the chance to kill the Night King and Arya the ninja assassin denied the chance to kill the dangerous tyrant. But Jon is truly a son of Ned Stark (by adoption) and if he has decided someone has to die he will swing the sword himself – though perhaps it's the tricksy Targaryen side, or the trained undercover agent of the Night's Watch, who does it by taking advantage of her (and Drogon's) trust.

Drogon's reaction was interesting. It felt like perhaps even Drogon thought what he had done with Dany went too far, and that his mother had been corrupted by her desire for this hunk of metal. (When she touched it, I said out loud I thought she should sit in it quickly if she wanted to - we were denied a shot of her actually on the throne, after all that!). Presumably that's also why Drogon let Jon live. Of all the individual character endings we saw in this episode, I think Drogon and Grey Worm's were the saddest - they've both been through so much, and they're both totally alone.

Tyrion and King Bran

I don't like the 'Bran the Broken' title, as appropriate as it might be for a pseudo-medieval society, so I'm just gonna call him Bran.

I have to confess, I really didn't see this one coming. Since he became the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran has been emotionless and rather difficult for either audience or in-universe characters to connect with. His warging ability hasn't really come into play since the death of Hodor, so the power he has doesn't seem to have played much of a role in the last stages of the wars, and the implication that he has some knowledge of the future makes him kind of a dick for letting the entire population of King's Landing get torched (was this a Dr Strange-style one chance in 14 million situation? If so, we haven't been told that).

From a books-reading point of view there's a certain sense to this. The first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, opens (as they all do) with a Prologue from the point of view of a character who immediately dies, then shifts to the first main character point of view chapter – Bran's. Bran, like Jon, is such a traditional fantasy character it almost hurts – a noble but disabled boy who suffers and undergoes lots of hardship, but discovers he has magical abilities which give him an advantage over his enemies and eventually allow him to triumph.

But the television show – oddly, considering Benioff and Weiss have known the ending all along - has never really focused on Bran's story in that way. He's an important character, sure, but not all that significant - he disappears for an entire season! And whatever happened to "I can never be Lord of anything, I'm the Three-Eyed Raven", Bran's statement to Sansa in Season Seven? Now he's King of all the remaining kingdoms? Really? I will defend their attempts to sow the seeds of Danaerys' madness throughout, however clumsily, but the television series really hasn't prepared us for this one, and it really doesn't feel earned.

The most satisfying aspect of the resolution to the leader of the Now-Six Kingdoms, though, is the new Small Council, which is a thing of beauty. The new political set-up – essentially an oligarchy with a lifelong selected leader – is Tyrion's creation, finally fulfilling the political and diplomatic promise he showed way back in Season Two. Tyrion is Hand of the King once again, but this time without dragons or his psychotic family around him, and that gives us hope that he will do a good job. Brienne as head of the Kingsguard makes me very, very happy, almost as much as Bronn, Lord of Highgarden and Master of Coin. Davos as Master of Ships makes perfect sense and it's great to see him survive too, while the only possible objection to Sam as new Archmaester is that Maesters are supposed to be celibate and Sam has a partner and nearly two children to support - but perhaps, as Archmaester, he can change that rule.

The only sad part about this scene is the huge space where Varys ought to be. There is no Master of Whispers for the moment, and his absence is really felt. Plus it would have been awesome to see Varys serving under yet another King as the eternal survivor. Of all the deaths this season, Varys is the one I would change if I had the power. He deserved better, Tyrion.

The Starks

The most satisfying moment of this episode by far for me was seeing Sansa, looking like Elizabeth I (long red hair, white dress), crowned Queen in the North. For one thing, this was absolutely essential to avoid the implication that women with power are all utter lunatics who need to be assassinated. But it was also a truly fitting and satisfying end to not just her character arc, but that of the Stark siblings in general. The Starks belong in the North and Robb's crowning as King in the North was one of the great punch-the-air moments of Season One. Jon kinda made a mess of the job, but to see Sansa take up the reigns was a great moment. And whereas a war with Danaerys would likely have ended in disaster, with her brother on the throne in the South, we can hope the two kingdoms will work closely together from now on.

Arya's ending was probably the least satisfying of the three (Bran is barely human any more, never mind a Stark). There was nothing wrong with it, exactly - she's gone off to discover America, we guess. (Let's hope this universe *has* an America and she's not just going to keep sailing until she starves to death!). It just came a bit out of nowhere, and seemed rather a shame after she went to so much trouble to recover her identity as Arya Stark. Jon's was the most predictable, but no less satisfying for that. He belongs in the true North, with Tormund. I think it's safe to say, from the look on his face as they rode away, that Jon won't be returning to Castle Black (and I don't think he ever intended to stay there – that's why he told Tyrion he would never see him again). He and Ghost will run wild in a land without kings or titles and be much happier for it.

And so there we have it – it's been a wild ride, but now it's all over. Some endings were great (Sansa, the Small Council), some were fine (Jon, Arya) some were baffling (Bran) and some frustrating (Drogon, Grey Worm) but while the series may not have entirely stuck the landing, for me, it hasn't crashed and burned either.

Coming up with an ending everyone was going to be happy with was always going to be completely impossible, so while I may not agree with all their decisions, I want to give a shout out and all our thanks to Benioff and Weiss. They've created a phenomenal series with a great cast, fantastic production values and absolutely amazing music. (Seriously, go back and listen to both the musical score and the sound design on this season. It is phenomenal. Ramin Djiwadi's music is as beautiful and astonishing as ever and the eerie, disconcerting sounds that play as Danaerys attacks King's Landing are incredible. The use of the series' themes has been great too, from playing out Cersei's downfall with 'The Rains of Castamere', to the theme tune playing as Danaerys approaches the Iron Throne in this episode).

Bringing these sprawling books to the screen has been a huge achievement, and carrying on when the books ran out to give us a conclusion to this story is no less an achievement for the fact that it hasn't entirely satisfied everybody. Perhaps it's unfortunate that this aired within a month of Avengers: Endgame, which managed the end of a saga a little better - but Endgame has its detractors too. I'm not sure any of us will really know how we feel about this ending until we've had time to let it sink in, but for now, I say thank you Benioff, Weiss and Martin - thank you for the ride, and thank you for all the gory, sexy fun we've had along the way. More than anything, thank you for making an epic fantasy show one of the biggest on television! For someone who still remembers when reading The Lord of the Rings in school made you a social outcast, that means a lot.

Grumpkins and Snarks:

 - RIP: Danaerys Targaryen, Stormborn, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Mother of Dragons. Sniff.

 - I didn't expect the scene where Tyrion finds Jaime and Cersei's bodies – that was truly heart-breaking (and kudos to Peter Dinklage, as ever). Oh Jaime, my love, I so wanted you to die a hero. At least you didn't die a villain, which is something.

 - Grey Worm was really under-served by this finale, and this whole season. At least he lived, I guess?

 - The final straw that really drove Jon to kill Dany was his desire to protect his sisters, both of whom would have been dragon meat in the long run because he had told them about his parentage. Just how much of what happens on this show has been caused by attempts to protect Arya and/or Sansa? And sometimes Bran. Which worked out, I guess?

 - The two noblest, most honour-obsessed characters (Jon and Brienne) both became Kingslayers (Danaerys and Stannis). Which, unlike rain on your wedding day, is truly ironic.

 - I'm so happy that Brienne didn't turn out to be pregnant. If the most awesome female character on the show ended up reduced to Lannister baby mama in the finale, I'd have been really pissed off.

 - Look how much Robyn Arryn has grown up! I'm absolutley amazed his character made it to the finale, and seeing the kid who first appeared on screen being breastfed as an adult is definitely disconcerting!

 - I was disappointed by the lack of Hot Pie, but choose to assume that means he's still alive and happily cooking pies in the busiest inn in Westeros.

Final analysis: Hey, it's still less divisive than How I Met Your Mother's ending! Three out of four dragons.

Thanks to all who've read our Game of Thrones reviews and articles and joined in the endless conversation and speculation over the years. It's been epic!

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

30 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Thank you so much for this and all of your reviews, Juliette! and thank you too to Mark, J.D., Heather, Logan, Thomas, and Joseph.

And a huge thank you to Josie Kafka, who reviewed the first three seasons on her own, with a little help from Sam T. Cat.

Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

I was happy with this ending. Sure, parts are bittersweet (like the four siblings all going their separate ways), but I don't think I could have ended this any better.

I never really connected with Dany as much as the other characters, and while her turn to the dark side was a bit surprising, it did make sense to me, both logically and emotionally. And it was nice that a show that made a name for itself with shocking unexpected moments (Ned Stark's death, the Red Wedding) still had some surprises for viewers in the last 2 episodes.

Bran as king was a surprise. All this build-up for Jon - but of course the Queenslayer can't rule, no matter how much slaughter was prevented by the act. One has to only look at how Jaime was always treated to know the houses would never accept Jon, rightful heir or not. I thought they would go with Sansa, but after 2 mad queens bent on destruction, I don't think most of the houses would have gone with a woman who had been mentored by Cersei and accused of poisoning Joffrey. And Tyrion really couldn't nominate his ex-wife, could he?

So Tyrion nominated the safe option, the opposite of the power-hungry, emotional leaders that had caused so much strife. Which was a brilliant move. And led to the best small council ever.

Another review mentioned that Arya talked about what's west of Westeros with the actress back in season 6 - I'd forgotten that. She is definitely a character who needs fresh adventures, so while I'm unhappy she is alone seeking them, I'm sure she'll meet others along the way (and with all the great mentors she's had, it is interesting to imagine her training someone else in the years to come).

Matthew said...

your review is the silver lining of the black toxic that the fanbase has been this season

was it rushed YOUR DAMN RIGHT

should cersi have died before the night king yeah i can see that

was i happy overall yeah good season good series

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot that you said. In particular that the music, in this episode especially, was wonderful and added a sense of completeness to the story.

I loved this finale! From the unnerving scenes in the ruins of King's Landing at the beginning right to everyone ending up in exactly the right place for them.

Sansa as Queen in the North is perfect, and probably the most obvious fit of all of them. If they hadn't done this, it would have been the biggest lost oppurtunity of the series.

Jon had to either die or be back in the Night's Watch, that was the only place he never had that tinge of insufferability, in my opinion.

Danaerys could only die, obviously. Having Jon do it made him miserable and Jon is at his best when he's miserable, so that was fine with me. Arya doing it would have been ok, but it would have interferred with her character development. She had always disliked Danearys, so killing her could have felt like an act of vengeance, which is the one thing she was moving away from.

Bran as King was one that surprised me a bit, but seeing him in the role won me over completely. The scene with his small council was marvellous and offered lots of hope for lands that need rebuilding.

Arya has always been my favourite, so seeing her happily go on another adventure was such a pleasure. I know it won't happen, but I really want to see an "Adventures of Arya" spinoff now.

I never cared much for Grey Worm and he didn't really have a purpose anymore, so shipping him off was probably the right choice.

I agree that Drogon's ending was very sad, but I did think it was beautiful in a way. He took his mother's body and went home. (sort of)

One thing that did bug me was the lack of winter. "Winter is Coming" wasn't tied in to the White Walkers, was it? I mean, this world was supposed to have these really long winters even without them, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

Great review, thanks! I've probably left this a bit late, but it's been bugging me for ages and this is probably my last chance to ask: is the constant misspelling of Daenerys's name a typo or a result of never seeing it written? History and us pedants will want to know!

Anonymous said...

For me, the misspelling is a combination of calling her Dany in my head, leading more easily to a Dan(...) spelling than to Daen(...) and the habit of checking the spelling with other Doux' contributions rather than source material. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who does this and it would explain the consistency of the misspelling across these pages.

Anonymous said...

For clarification, I'm the Anonymous who posted at 9:51 and 11:30, not the Anonymous who posted at 10:59. Just in case anyone thought I was having a conversation with myself.

Patrick said...

I think this episode did a respectable job of polishing the turd that was the lead-up to it. Like many, I felt there were character arcs that didn't feel earned, even if that's where they would've eventually ended up anyway. I think Bran was a lame choice for king, even if he was probably the only choice that would've prevented a war. I think Bran took the whole Dr. Strange "I know how this ends but I'm not going to tell you" shtick up to eleven. I think overall the pacing has been terrible this season. They only had six episodes to work with, and two of them were spent standing around talking. Their biggest failing I think was with Cersei this year. Lena Headey had what, one maybe two scenes that mattered(one of which ended up being useless since Bron didn't assassinate her brothers), and several scenes of her just standing at the window looking smug.

All in all, I think the ending to this series could've been a LOT better, but I also think it could've been a lot worse. I doubt this is a show I'll be revisiting very often.

Billie Doux said...

Patrick wrote: I doubt this is a show I'll be revisiting very often.

And that's the thing these days with streaming being what it is. If a huge series like this one doesn't end well, a lot of new viewers won't try it. Right now, it's not looking good.

Re: the spelling issues, let's face it -- if her name had been spelled "Deneris," it would have been spelled correctly. I promise to go through our GoT reviews and fix the spelling. Any other misspelled name I should check out?

Juliette said...

Re the question about spelling - for me, it's just a mistake. I've read the books, but it was a long time ago and I'd forgotten the actual spelling.

Sam T. Cat said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Billie!

Anonymous said...

I remember around season 3 and 4 i was salivating at the prospect of Jon, Dany and Tyrion all meeting up.
How tragic the ending between the characters was. Thought Tyrion should have died though but they needed somebody to give those two monologues.
Jon got punished but ended up where he belongs and probably where he would have gone freely anyway.
Say what you want about the writing an execution but Danys arc was an incredible tale and a unbelievably tragic one. The disappointment because there was so much potential for greatness in her.
The dichotomy of such an evil act with her delusion that she was truly good was well done i thought. She just wiped out a city but was talking about her young girl dreams all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Strangely came to like Danys character alot more than i have since s1. And well done Emilia Clarke who i thought had her best season despite having pretty weak material. She sold the whole thing

Giantdaz72 said...

I'm having an argument with my girlfriend about Jon she says he will be fulfilling his duties as Lord commander of the nights watch I say He's never going back to castle black that he's going to live as the king beyond the wall leader of the Free folk with his bff Tormund by his side living in tents opposite each other for the handy pop in and he'll find a little red head and Tormund will find a big blonde women and they'll have lots of children and live happily ever after in the snow... Who is right?

BrianN said...

I agree with Juliette about Danaerys and Bran...however, I thought Arya's story was quite a happy one...she had turned from vengence and death to explore the world and seemed truely happy. And I completely agree regarding the showrunners...GoT was a gift; and the fans who want a "New" S8 are spitting in their face. I think that alot of the disconnect with people hating Dany's "turn" is that they dont understand the human psyche; id be willing to bet that if Dany had bumped her head on the dragon and bled from the head a little, the masses would have more accepted her turn (but this is not how true psychosis forms). Anon was right...Dany DID think she was doing good; its just that the "the throne is mine" ran into the Targaryan inbreeding and while she tried to be good, it turned into psychosis.
Peter Dinklage to me is a treasure that should be hailed even more than he is...he has been the most consistently best acted character in the show (and while I was hoping he'd end up on top, HotK works for me...even though Bran was confounding). Greyworm gained his humanity back by love...then lost it when that love was killed.
Funny the first comment is And Now Their Watch Has Ended...in that episode I just watched, Josie Kafka commented "it’s worth noting that her willingness to destroy, especially in the context of Varys’s comment about Littlefinger, isn’t a positive thing. I don’t feel particularly bad about the Astapor slavers, but I worry that Dany’s desire for power might wind up making her the queen of nothing but ashes. "...omnipotent comments.
Patrick...give it time...let your emotions die out and then watch it for its merits and judge it as you will then. However, Billie, I dobut GoT will suffer in the annals of time, the haterade that is gripping our nation will subside, and reason will elevate things like GoT back up.
And its my opinion that Jon will be a man of the new Night's Watch...a free agent for all that is good and protector.

Henrik Bennetter said...

I'm...content.

Of course a series like this one, this gargantuan emotional roller-coaster-ride of a series, simply cannot have an ending worthy of its own saga - it's just not possible.

But I'm very happy with the series as a whole, and also happy that it got an actual ending, albeit ambigous. Let the fan-fiction begin! :D

Jon ending up taking the black was so saddening but yet poetic.
Arya getting lost westward the same.
Sansa being crowned felt so justified.

It just felt like everyone ended up exactly where they needed to be.

Thankyou creators, writers, directors, soundengineers, composers, actors, set-designers, costume-makers and everyone that made this come to life.

And thankyou Douxreviewers, you've done a wonderful job.
And now (y)our watch has ended.

magritte said...

The finale wasn't bad, but I still feel the season was badly marred by its failure to adequately represent Daenerys psyche going into the battle. If you look back at the comments on the previous article, it's quite clear that many of us struggled to interpret her behavior. Some people thought she was driven into a murderous frenzy in the heat of battle. I thought it was a cold and ruthless decision because she had decided she would never be loved in Westeros, so she needed to be feared, but was confused by how over the top the destruction was. While Varys & Tyrion talk about her sense of destiny, her sense of a mission beyond claiming the throne didn't come through for me until the end. Prior to Kings Landing, she still appeared to me to be fully rational and operating in the real world; in fact, she was more attuned to political reality than Jon Snow. But in the finale, she's clearly delusional. In retrospect, the Daenerys story arc is a beautiful deconstruction of the classic fantasy arc of the great hero destined to save the world, and ties closely to Stannis' arc (which I felt was bungled a bit at the end too). I just think it needed to be better presented.

As to the other major threads, revenge-driven arcs like Arya's tend to either culminate in the character being destroyed by their thirst for vengeance or letting go of it and granting mercy. Her arc feels a little unfinished to me, since all the objects of her revenge are dead anyway. And I'm not sure white to make of the white horse.

Jon Snow back at the wall made perfect sense to me, and I was a little surprised that when Daenerys started freaking out about his parentage, he didn't offer to take the black again.

Bran as king felt weird. In general, Bran's story never really gelled for me in the books or the show. I actually thought the 7 kingdoms might just go their separate ways, with the iron throne having been melted and no legitimate heir.

While i was glad to see Tyrion survive, I don't really see why Daenerys didn't burn him.

Bronn as master of coin? Really? His season 8 was a weird one.

Was anybody else struck by the fact that everybody at the end of the show was conspicuously single? I guess it's another choice to break with the convention of pairing characters off.

Anonymous said...

I think another mistake they made was not utilizingmore of Danys personality and fears to sell her final descent. She had a longing to 'go home'. her loneliness. Her inability to expand her line. They touched on it a little in ep4 and a conversation with Tyion last season but never lent into it. Nobody discussed or mentioned that John is her nephew. How did Jon feel about being part Targaryean. How did Dany feel, beyond having an incest lover she gained a family member and a way to expand. Alot of this seasons problems started last season. Episode 5 and Beyond the wall were terrible in the same way Battle of Winterfell was.

Raya said...

It took me a while, but I finally figured out what has been bothering me with Game of Thrones lately.

When the storytelling is good, the characters lead the story, not the other way round.
Everything a character does stems from their personality, history, motivations, strengths, weaknesses... and the story is a result of all the characters' actions and decisions.

At some point in Game of Thrones, characters stopped leading the story.

The story needed Daenerys to be evil at this point. Yes, she was headed that way, but she wasn't completely there yet. As a result, it felt like her actions didn't come from her, they were needed by the story. That makes a big difference.
It's like the writers knew where the character was going, but didn't really understand why. So they added a ton of foreshadowing (with every character basically telling us that Dany was going to lose it) so it didn't come out of the blue, but it still didn't come from from her. And that's why it felt off.

And Daenerys is far from being the only character who suffered from this.

The writers should have either spent more time developing the characters so that they naturally ended up where they were supposed to, or they should have adapted the story to match the character's actual development.

Maybe we should just all pretend that we missed a bunch of episodes? And hope that some nice fanfiction writers (and G.R.R.M?) will fill in the blanks...

TheShadowKnows said...

"It's like the writers knew where the character was going, but didn't really understand why."

That probably IS the case. Martin shared how the books are supposed to end with them (and this last episode in particular was pretty convincing to me as probably being close to how Martin would end the story) but not exactly how to get there - because, as should be clear by this point, Martin has no idea how to do that himself. He dug himself and the showrunners into a huge hole, and they just powered through to get out of it. Was everything perfect? No, but they did something the creator of the series has been unable to do to date (to put it as optimistically as possible): they actually finished. I think they deserve our respect for that.

As for me, I'm relatively satisfied. I was a Daenerys fan, but I can't deny that there were warning signs all along. It's a shame it went down that way, but that's the way the dice fall sometimes. And now my watch is ended!

Henrik Bennetter said...

Sorry for repeating myself (from my comment to the previous episode) but this is quite clarifying in regards to the writing of seasons 7 and 8): https://www.wired.com/story/game-of-thrones-plotters-vs-pantsers/

Raya said...

Sorry for repeating myself
Thank you for repeating yourself! (and thanks for the non-twitter link)
This article is really interesting!

sunbunny said...

THE QUEEN OF THE NORTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Just pretend the exclamation points continue to the end of time because that’s how excited I am about this)

My expectations for this were dirt low. Lower than dirt. Like center of the earth low. And I still figured I’d be disappointed. I was not. I don’t like what happened to Dany. They did her dirty this season and I’m a sea cucumber if the showrunners were planning this all along. And even if they were they obviously didn’t tell poor Emilia Clarke and they should have. It should have informed her performance. But they weren’t thinking ahead. I actually would not have minded a Dany turned Mad Queen storyline but they did nothing to set it up. In the space of like two episodes she goes bonkers. Also Dany is definitely coming back as the Night Queen. You heard it here first.

As for the Starklings, a.k.a. the characters I actually care about, I’m reasonably pleased. Jon goes off with his pupper to live an unremarkable life. It’s honestly what he’s always wanted; he never wanted the throne. He wanted to marry Ygritte and have Wildling babies and just be chill. Arya…I’m not going to lie, I wish she’d stayed in Westeros either with Bran or Sansa (who I’ll get to in a minute). Part of me wondered if they’re not setting up potential spin off series with the Starks but they've said they aren't. THANK GOD.

Onto Sansa. My baby. My angel. My one true love. Happy and in power and thriving. She pulled it out. From one impossible situation to the next, she managed to defy the odds and survive and now she’s QUEEN. Words cannot express my happiness. I was pretty confident they weren’t going to kill her, but to see her end up with such a satisfactory ending was beyond my expectations. Also Ghost got pets. Good boy Ghost.

Josie Kafka said...

In one of his books on writing SFF, Card talked about what he calls the MICE quotient. More info about that available here: http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Workshop-stuff/MICE-Quotient.htm

Mary Robinette Kowal expands that understanding of the MICE Quotient in a pdocast from 2011, available here: https://writingexcuses.com/2011/08/07/writing-excuses-6-10-scott-cards-m-i-c-e-quotient/

In her explication of Card's ideas, Kowal focuses on story structure. Her idea boils down to "first in, last out." In other words, if you start your story with ice zombies, you end your story with ice zombies. We might think of this as nesting concepts:

Ice Zombies
-Starks
--King's Landing
---Dany
--King's Landing
-Starks
Ice Zombies

Both Card and Kowal present these ideas as useful guidelines for writers, but we can also think of them as "rules" for how literature works. Not top-down prescriptive rules, but rather descriptive rules that describe functioning stories.

The first scene of Game of Thrones, like the first scene of the book, was white walkers. The second scene was someone being executed for abandoning his post in the Night's Watch because of the white walkers. The white walkers were "first in."

And, for reasons I simply don't understand, they were not "last out." They were "three episodes left and let's finish them off" out.

I had really thought that Martin's books and the Game of Thrones TV show were about how the Westerosi fiddled with politics while the white walkers were going to ice everyone. Questions of kingship, who deserved the throne, and other political considerations were distractions from a larger threat. I thought this was a show about defeating zombies, or--given Martin's predilection for killing characters--failing to defeat zombies.

I was wrong.

It turns out this show (who knows about the books?) was about who the next king would be. I am not particularly interested in that question, especially since the answer--Bran, who no longer identifies as human--is a real let-down.

I have other quibbles, like Dany going rogue (oh, those angry women!), the way that very little of the magic paid off (prophecies schmophecies, and who cares about Nymeria?!), Jaime's arc, Brienne's, etc.

But what it boils down to is this: after Arya solved the white walker problem, I no longer cared enough to spend my time watching the show. I was curious enough about what happened to read recaps online, and I realized that doing so was just as fulfilling as watching the show, which, somewhere along the way, transformed from "complex, nuanced, original" to "look at how expensive that is!" in a way that bored me.

BrianN said...

Josie...thats a very good point...having KL wrap up first with the stragglers recognizing and organizing vs the white walkers would have been a much better way of doing it. I was never really into the white walker thing too much (Zombies have been done,,,TO DEATH) but I think that you hit the one simple thing that would have made the ending better.
Per "those angry women", I dont see it...she was the first female supervillan outside of Cercei(Others being the night king, Ramsay Bolton, Joffrey, Walder Frey, The Mountain, and Littlefinger)...meanwhile two of the biggest "good guys" at the end are Sansa and Arya. Sansa never struck me as angry although she had a ton of great reasons to be.

I think all around people are beginning to let the emotion drain out of their outlook on the end of GoT and seeing it for what it was.

magritte said...

@Josie, you're quite right that from a conventional story structure standpoint it would have made far more sense to end with the battle against the White Walkers, and that is what I was expecting of the final season as well. However, in retrospect I believe that it was another way in which GRRM sought to subvert genre expectations.

A bunch of factions competing for power while there is an external, supernatural existential threat is a standard fantasy trope, and the usual way those stories go is that the anointed hero eventually manages to get everybody to pull together (either by force or diplomacy or both) and fight the real threat. So I think it's quite possibly a deliberate choice to avoid that convention. Not that makes it necessarily a good choice. Conventional story structures are conventional because they lead to endings that usually satisfy audiences, but I understand why some writers like to defy them.

However, I have to say my overall feelings are very different from yours. I never, ever cared about Daenerys or Jon Snow. As far as I was concerned both the books and the show had two parts. The first was a political intrigue with fascinating characters and the second was a fairly dull high fantasy story. Personally, if I had been GRRM's editors, I would have told him to ditch the dragons, the wall, and the Targaryens completely.

Pat Pierson said...

I am tired of everyone forgiving this stories faults with the excuse that it is hard to finish a story this complex and please everyone. But Tolkien did it and no one complained.

So here is your happy ending and you do not even have to pay me $30,000,000
for t.

Jon is the trueKing.

It should have been Jon who killed the NK.

Arya should have killed Cersei and said "Rob Stark sends his regards as she did it.

Dany should not have gone mad after Miessdrawas killed. She should have rationally and coldly destroyed the Great Tower.

Varys should have kept his word to Danny.

Ron and Danny should have gotten married an given the wildlings the north.

ran should have been thrown off another Castle wall.

Tryion would have been a great hand.

No surprises but a great ending.

BrianN said...

Pat:
Except that I find stories that end in this way wholly unfulfilling. LotR had a very weak ending IMO because basically everything ended how you could have expected it to. The most popular works of fiction follow your blueprint, but the very best dont. Its not that you are wrong, its that you shouldnt have expected GoT to do this.
Your ending would have left me very frustrated as it adheres to every trope out there. GRRM and GoT have shown that they arent like this time and again, and its why i started and kept watching it.
"No surprises but a great ending. " IMO, you cant have a great ending with no surprises...what is the point of watching something if you can predict the ending (part of this lies in my analytical overpreparedness so that 99% of 'entertainment' out there has no attraction for me)?
Everyone is different in what they want, but Ill argue that most every story in popular medium (less so in recent years) has the 'great ending' that you want; let us have 1 or 2%...GoT showed that they werent about to adhere to tropes.
You can certainly quibble with some of the surprises, but to expect GoT to suddenly shift course and adhere to tropes was shortsighted.

Logan Cox said...

I guess I'll finally add my two cents as well.

This finale... I won't say it's disappointing, because I do think many things that happened in this final season will occur in some fashion in the books as well: Jon killing Dany and ending House Targaryen, the great council, Sansa ruling the North, the destruction of the Iron Throne, even the last shot -- Jon as an exile beyond the Wall -- is what I always imagined as the final scene in both show and books.

Yet, it felt hollow. Felt like we were just going through the motions, for the most part. Just kinda blah.

Granted, there are a handful of scenes I liked: Jon walking through Dany's scary army and Dany living her epic fascist dictator speech; the conversations between Jon and Tyrion are flawed, but contain a few bits that moved me; and Dany's final scene in the throne room was very impactful, even if it lacked a proper buildup. Jon desperate to appeal to Dany's good nature, and Dany with her starry-eyed conviction that she and Jon -- the scared exile and the lonely bastard -- are destined to rebuild the world together. How he wants to believe her, to believe in her, and how unstoppable her belief in herself has become. Jon telling her that he no longer knows what is good was probably the closest I came to tearing up in this episode.

This, unfortunately, is a series that set such a high standard for itself that when it does have flaws they aren't glaring, they are blinding. And that's what happened here. Even with all the grand spectacle, I was blinded by the rushed pace and the inconsistencies in character and story. As well as the blatant indulgence of fanservice that smacks in the face of all logic: Brienne as Lady Commander of the Kingsguard, the most self-centered character left alive is put in charge of the realm's food and money because he makes cock jokes and threatened a guy with a crossbow, the Starks win everything, lol "A Song of Ice and Fire" never mentions Tyrion. Oh yeah, and not even kidding, the last actual line in the series is going to be Tyrion repeating that "Jackass and honeycomb in a brothel" joke. Yikes.

The show also did something I never would have believed possible. It made the Starks the ones in control in the end, and I didn't care. As much epic window-dressing as they put up in that last Stark montage, I really no longer knew why I should be happy or excited or relieved. Sansa is finally the queen in charge, but she's been robbed of all compassion and empathy for anyone other than her family, and they've all left her. Arya is the ultimate badass who saved the world from death personified, but she hardly seems to care, and she quickly abandons the family she spent years trying to get back to in favor of finding out "what's west of Westeros." And I'm not the only one who has recognized how nihilistic a message it is that the only person deemed suitable for ruling the realm is a creepy, emotionless, living supercomputer named Bran. The only one who gets a somewhat satisfying ending is Jon, but even that's pretty weak since he gets over his angst pretty fast and suffers none of the obvious consequences that would come from killing Dany. Why are these people all sporting that Mona Lisa smile in the end when all of the evidence we've seen would suggest that they are dead inside?

The drop in writing quality as seen in these last couple of seasons certainly does not take away from any of the amazing storytelling, character development, acting and action that we got throughout the series beforehand, but it does sadden me that something I loved and respected for being so raw and hardcore ultimately took a lot of easy ways out in the end.

Patrick Pierson said...

Adding to what I said above


I meant Bran should have been thrown off a tower because I presumable saw what was coming and stopped it.

Jamie and Brienn shoud have become fellow adventurers and ridden off together, never to be seen.

Sansa to King Bran: "the north should be free."

Kinh Bran: "OK."

Sansa back in the North "ALL hail Queen Sasa."

Not liking something because it ended like it should have is crazy. Would it really be better to have things end as they are not supposed to? Both
TLOTR and Gane of Thrones were both fairy tales and I ike mine to end up nicely.

uy the way. someone messed with my first comment by quoting me as saying it was a great ending. I Never said that I SAID IT WAS A LOUSY ENDING. if SOME ONE IS EDITING THESE POSTS TP SAY THING THEY DO NOT SAY DON'T LIKR IT.


pat pierson said...




FOOL OF A TOOK!