Breaking The Wheel
Game Of Thrones this year has been one of the most tumultuous seasons of TV I think I’ve seen in quite some time. From relative optimism early on to sudden disbelief and outright anger, the mood toward HBO’s flagship show has been fascinating to say the least. With over 1 million people signing a petition to remake Season 8 (as a protest vote against the writing) and countless more dissecting the exhausting number of plot holes and character inconsistencies this year, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a fanbase turn on a show as badly as Game Of Thrones.
So here we are, the season finale of the biggest TV show phenomenon in history. With 90+ hours of episodic content up until this point and 80 minutes left to wrap up the story, Game Of Thrones’ last episode begins with Tyrion walking silently through the ruins of Kings Landing. As snow falls lazily to the ground, the fragments of Dany’s alliance wander through the streets. Against the advice of Jon, Tyrion walks alone toward the smoldering ruins of the Red Keep. Despite most of the building collapsing last episode, Tyrion walks through largely intact rooms, descending to the basement. There, he spots Jaime’s golden hand sticking out from the rubble. Brick by brick, he removes the pieces before seeing his dead siblings and breaking down into tears.
An admittedly beautiful shot of Dany walking with the black wings of Drogon in the background follows as she looks out among her subjects, addressing them after their win. Following a passionate speech about liberation and word dominance in a mix of Dothraki and Valyrian tongue, Tyrion approaches Dany and throws his pin for hand of the king to the ground. Enraged, Dany throws him in prison before Jon goes and visits him.
Tyrion tries to convince Jon of Dany’s tyranny in a decent bit of dialogue, explaining her motivations and how she’s always been descending down this path. Despite seeing Kings Landing burn, Jon continues to defend her actions until an impassioned speech from the remaining Lannister almost changes his mind.
As snow falls harder in Kings Landing, Dany steps forward and touches the throne in a throwback to her earlier visions. Jon confronts her about her actions but she pleads with him to join her and conquer the world together, breaking the wheel. Unable to deal with this, he kisses her passionately before stabbing her in the heart. Following one of the quickest deaths in Game Of Thrones history, Jon holds her in his arms and begins weeping as Drogon appears from the shadows. In a fit of rage, the dragon burns the Iron Throne, unable to deal with the death of its Mother and grabs Dany in its talons, flying off into the distance.
We then suddenly jump forward in time a few weeks to the Dragon Pit in Kings Landing with Grey Worm ruling and clear, sunny skies overhead. With all the remaining leaders left to discuss who rules in the future, Sam proposes a diplomatic vote for the people which everyone laughs off. Except Tyrion. He proposes that “Bran The Broken” rule the realm, claiming he can’t have kids so he’ll make the perfect King. The other Lords and Ladies agree to his reign and it’s settled, Bran rules and he picks Tyrion as his hand.
Tyrion releases Jon who heads North to lead and reform the Night’s Watch again while Grey Worm, the Dothraki and the remaining Unsullied sail toward the Isle Of Naarth, determined to continue liberating the lands. Arya travels West while Sansa heads back North to rule over Winterfell. Meanwhile, Bran forms his small council including Bronn as Master of Coin (despite no prior knowledge of economics, finances or politics) while Brienne fills in the history books, twisting the truth to say Jaime died protecting his Queen.
The episode then ends with one final montage of our Stark siblings as they finish their respective journeys, leaving plenty of room for the inevitable sequels and spin-offs to follow. Jon finally pets Ghost though while Sansa rules over Winterfell which is now an independent state.
It was always going to be a difficult job wrapping everything up in a way that satisfied fans of the series. I’ll admit, I came into this with very low expectations, especially given the recent leaks that were swarming around. Despite some serious plot inconsistencies and unsatisfying finishes for most of the characters, Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote themselves into a corner here and only have themselves to blame in the end. Given the cultural significance of this show, a Disney happy ending for all of our characters feels out of context, especially given the way this has always subverted fantasy tropes for so long.
For all the talk of Breaking wheels, seeing Bran ruling over Westeros with a small council made up of Bronn and Ser Davos with Podrick as a King’s Guard feel like fan service rather than actual thought out ideas. Alfred Hitchcock coined this term the “Fridge Logic” which simply means an enjoyable watch in the moment but as you start to think about the various plot points, everything comes undone and feels very unsatisfying. This, I’m afraid, will be the legacy of Game Of Thrones in the coming days and weeks as people get a chance to digest the various plot lines and really think about what this means for the realm.
With so many characters left standing at the end, it was always going to be difficult to end on a satisfying note but the real irony here is that A Song Of Ice & Fire leaves with the worst written ending for both Daenarys and Jon whom the show revolves around. While Dany’s death always felt like an inevitability, the writing this season has made it so difficult to actually believe in their troubled romance and this finish feels awkwardly contrived, especially with the way Drogon burns the throne. That goes for most of the characters too, especially Brienne who may well have been given the worst possible ending out of all the characters.
I could go on and talk about the pointless endeavour of the Night’s Watch and Grey Worm’s meaningless character arc but there’s only so much I can write here without it turning into a novel. I’m looking forward to debating and discussing this with people both online and in person in the coming weeks and of course, feel free to comment below with your thoughts on this one!
There will of course be those happy with this ending and satisfied with the way everything’s wrapped up and that’s great. For me, I have fond memories of this series, dating back to reading A Storm Of Swords in the middle of the night and unable to put the book down, audibly gasping at the Red Wedding and genuinely believing Arya was killed by The Hound, only to have her show up hundreds of pages later. This series has changed the landscape of fantasy fiction, no doubt about it, but its legacy will be mired in controversy given the rushed and poorly thought out ending.
Perhaps this is the ending George envisioned but if it is, I’m sure the journey there in the books (if they’re ever written) will feel less inconsequential and with more emotional weight than what we receive here. It certainly doesn’t feel like the same gritty fantasy epic it begun as back in 2011 and the ending feels rushed and undeserved as a result. A disappointing end for sure, Game Of Thrones bows out on a whimper rather than a roar, delivering an ending that’s going to annoy and disappoint a lot of people.