'Game of Thrones' Ends With Bloody Deaths, Bittersweet Victories, and a New Ruler
Game of Thrones is over. HBO’s epic adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire has reached its bittersweet conclusion with “The Iron Throne,” a finale that will certainly keep tongues waggling for years to come.
So let’s dive in. For the last time, /Film’s resident Westeros experts Jacob Hall and Ben Pearson have gathered to break it all down.
Jacob: After the carnage and chaos of last week’s episode, I appreciated that “The Iron Throne” really allowed us to dwell on the silence of a destroyed King’s Landing. Watching Tyrion and Jon walk through the ruins, the expressions of horror on their faces saying more than any words possibly could, was unsettling. How often do we see Tyrion Lannister at a loss for words? How often do we see Jon Snow looking unsettled? Daenerys’ rampage will be a point of contention and conversation for years to come among viewers and fans and critics, but the response to the violence by the rest of the cast sold the horror of it all as well as any visual effect.
Let’s linger on a few key moments. Most notably, the discovery of Cersei and Jaime’s bodies by Tyrion, who weeps over the corpses of his beloved brother and hated sister. Unlike so many series finales, “The Iron Throne” never feels like it’s in a rush, like it wants to sprint to the finish line. Instead, it pauses to tidy up business and remember the dead, friend and foe alike. Everyone knows Peter Dinklage is an incredible actor, but his wordless performance here is just as effective, if not more so, than his many speeches scattered throughout the rest of the episode.
And then there’s Jon watching Grey Worm executing Lannister prisoners, unable to prevent it, and watching Daenerys make her victory speech. A speech promising more war, and even a return to Essos to finish the job she started earlier in the series. The speech walks a high wire – it manages to sound like the unhinged plan of a tyrannical lunatic while perfectly aligning with the Daenerys we have known (and yes, have loved and supported) for eight seasons. Jon’s shellshocked impotence to do anything at first is us. He didn’t see this coming any more than we did.
What did you think of these early scenes, Ben?
Ben: It definitely says a lot about the importance of last week’s devastation that the showrunners chose to devote this much time to having their characters walk through the quiet of the aftermath. This wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill spectacle, it was a character-defining act that will echo through the history books. Tyrion crying over his dead siblings was one of the episode’s most moving moments for me, but I’m disappointed with the way the show handled Grey Worm’s arc. I feel like the moment when he announces he’s taking the Unsullied to Naath is meant to be a triumphant, almost redeeming conclusion for him, but it’s tough to square that with seeing him ruthlessly slit the throats of surrendered soldiers. Maybe giving us a deeper look into his head could have made that sailing away moment land more powerfully, but that was one of the few moments in this episode that didn’t really work for me.
Tyrion and Jon
Ben: “Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer her for it,” Tyrion explains to Jon. But Dany showed the world who she really was when she torched the innocent people of King’s Landing, and though Jon saw the horrible effects of her decision up close last week, the guy still needed to hear Tyrion’s macro assessment of the situation for the full scope to sink in. (Gotta love Jon saying he won’t try to justify Dany’s actions and then almost immediately trying to justify them anyway.) But when Tyrion turns things around and asks if Jon would have done the same thing, you can see the devastating realization of what he has to do start to flicker in his eyes. Jon can be boring and often pretty stupid, but one of his most important traits is how he always knows the difference between right and wrong. Jon may not be Ned Stark’s son, but he was raised by Ned, and those values have enveloped him like a stylish wolf pelt.
“She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believe that…wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?” Tyrion says. He’s talking about Dany there, but he just as easily could have been talking about Stannis Baratheon, the man who burned his own daughter alive because of his own misguided thoughts about destiny. Jon has dealt with both of them, and Tyrion’s question is one of the things that finally breaks through to him, and he slowly comes to grips with the idea that “sometimes, duty is the death of love” – literally, in this case.
Jacob, what did you think about this scene – especially the revelation that Tyrion says he’s in love with Dany? I think some people suspected that since we saw him creeping around on that boat at the end of season seven, but I believe this is the first time he’s said it out loud.
Jacob: I think this scene may be one of my favorites of not just the episode, but in the entire series. Jon and Tyrion have shared an unlikely rapport since the first episode, where they bonded over both belonging to the cripples, bastards, and broken things club. A noble drunkard from the west and a bastard from the north shouldn’t have anything to talk about, but the years have shown that these two, despite having wildly different tastes, outlooks, and skill sets, are often more alike than they are different. They both overestimate the good in their allies, underestimate the evil in their enemies, and work hard to overcome their failings, even as they stumble. And boy, have they stumbled. But they’ve stumbled so far and this, their most important conversation in the entire series, finds them stumbling onto their most difficult decision yet.
So to more directly answer your question Ben: it makes sense that Tyrion would have affection for Daenerys. That’s apparently a trait that runs in Lannister men, after all. Like Jaime, Tyrion has dedicated his life to an “evil” woman, one who would destroy him and the kingdom to achieve her goals. And since Jon has a habit of falling for women who shoot arrows into him or burn down cities with dragons, it’s yet another trait they share. Two very different men, united by a shared soul. I found this all so lovely. And so very sad.
The Destruction of the Throne
Ben: I thought it was cool to hear Dany describe her initial imagining of the Iron Throne as being made of a thousand swords and stretching so high into the air you could only see the soles of Aegon’s feet, because several years ago, George R.R. Martin shared artist Marc Simonetti’s rendering which looks exactly the way she described. Martin called Simonetti’s version “the real Iron Throne,” and I’d encourage anyone who’s never seen that concept art to click over and check it out.
The show’s version of the throne was melted down to molten iron by Drogon’s anger/frustration over his “mother’s” death. In the end, Dany and Drogon ended up breaking the wheel after all, destroying the tyrannical symbol that’s loomed over Westeros for three hundred years. Personally, I was glad to at least see the throne room wall take some of that dragon fire as well, because while the visual of a burning Iron Throne is compelling, the idea of Drogon focusing his rage on that single object doesn’t make too much sense. But the series has earned a huge step into full-on metaphor territory by now, so it didn’t really bother me.
Any thoughts on the throne’s final moments, Jacob? If not, I’d love to hear your reaction to the time jump that happened right afterward, which may have been my biggest surprise of the episode. (Is winter really over in Westeros after just a few weeks?)
Jacob: I don’t think winter is over at all! While I appreciate the time jump, I think winter is only just beginning – it’s just not as obvious down in the south.
As for the scene itself, it’s far more typical fantasy than we’re used to from Game of Thrones, but at this point in the run, I’ll allow it. I’ll allow the tragic romance between Jon and Dany to reach its bloody end (complete with a gutted, literally and figuratively, Mother of Dragons) and I’ll allow Drogon’s vengeful throne destruction because someone had to do it, dragons are smarter than we give them credit for, and no human being was going to make such a momentous decision. Whether the melting of the Iron Throne was a side effect of Drogon mourning or a hint that this intelligent beast knew more about his mother’s hopes and dreams than we could have imagined, I do not know. But I do know that in death, Daenerys did do what she set out to do: she broke the wheel.
Daenerys had to die after “The Bells.” We knew it was coming and we knew it had to be Jon to do the deed. Of course, something being inevitable doesn’t make it any less tragic, and as the death of Cersei showed, we’re allowed to grieve for a monstrous character, especially one whose motivations and hopes are built on a truthful and honest foundation that we watched get constructed piece by piece for years. May Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen accomplish more as a memory than she did in life.
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