The only voice I can hear running through my head after watching the Game of Thrones series finale is Jeremy Irons as Scar in The Lion King: “Long live the king.”
I won’t speak for our Three-Eyed Raven readers who guessed the series’s conclusion weeks or even months ago, but it’d be an understatement to say I was caught off-guard. Bran Stark, King of Westeros! Elected to the Iron Throne (well, Iron Slagheap) through a democratic process of a few elite wealthy white people secretly choosing who should lead! It’s progress, sort of!
It’s not exactly the battle of the Mad Queens that we were promised. Neither Daenerys nor Cersei ended up on the Iron Throne. The throne, and all it represented, was melted down into a pool of lava by an emotionally distraught dragon. No one said symbolism had to be subtle.
Regardless of how people felt about the episode (the next big battle is playing out on Twitter right now as people defend why they liked the outcome or rage about how they hated it), the reality is that it’s over. Game of Thrones has ended. It feels surreal to type those words. If you’ll forgive me, I’d like to take a second to say goodbye.
Game of Thrones was the internet’s show. It became a weekly communal and interactive affair. I’m not necessarily going to miss the fiercely loyal Starks or dysfunctional Lannisters, but I will miss tweeting, reading, and writing about it every week. I will miss bickering about plot points and reading fan theories. I will miss everything about Game of Thrones that made it special, and that ironically has less to do with Game of Thrones as a show and more to do with the community that grew around it and took ownership of it. Frankly, I am sorry we’re moving past this cultural milestone. Maybe it’s corny to admit, but as the meme says, Game of Thrones was about the friends we made along the way.
I’m so thankful I was given the privilege of spending time with you, dear readers, who came back week after week to see how points were assigned and talk with other fans in the comments section. I hope we can do it again soon with three different Game of Thrones prequel series. Until then, let’s get into the final Game of Thrones recap and hand out some points.
Note: Each drafted character who survived the finale gets an additional 20 points.
“The Iron Throne” starts with everyone walking around sullenly. It’s understandable. Thousands of people are dead, and there’s a new tyrant trying to take control of the Seven Kingdoms. Dany’s reign of terror is only just beginning. Loyal supporters like Grey Worm are still killing random people (+5 for the soldier whose throat he slits on-screen) and getting rewarded with powerful new titles. (+25 promotion points) It’s not exactly awe-inspiring.
Daenerys was supposed to be the breaker of chains, but her fascistic entrance as the next Westerosi queen suggests she’s just another dictator. Her grand plans of walking into every Westerosi city and “freeing” the enslaved isn’t exactly well-thought-out. Daenerys likes to use the word “liberated,” but other people might describe her mission as a cataclysmic massacre. Her inner party knows this. That’s why Tyrion and Jon sport such sad eyes while watching Daenerys embrace her inner General Hux and address her militant base.
There’s a fine line between queendom and fascism, and Daenerys is sliding quickly into the latter. It’s too much for Tyrion. His face is sunken, his beard is scraggly. He’s broken. He’s picked the stones off his dead siblings’ bodies. He thought he saved them, but instead, he helped them die together. He thought they broke free. He was wrong. It’s too much to bear. Tyrion doesn’t want to carry the weight of everything on his shoulders anymore, so he won’t. He tells Daenerys this, ripping the pin marking him as the Hand of the Queen from his chest. He’s ready to deal with the consequences of his resignation. (The main consequence: -25 demotion points.) Nothing Daenerys says can change the truth of their reality, but she tries, pointing out that he committed treason by freeing Jaime.
“I freed my brother. You slaughtered a city,” Tyrion responds. (+10)
Tyrion’s act of betrayal should cost him his life. He’s brought to prison (well, a pottery shed) to become an example of what will happen to anyone who crosses Daenerys. She made her career breaking chains, but her time in King’s Landing proves she’s willing to also kill the people in them. No one knows this better than Tyrion — except, perhaps, Jon Snow.
I’ve had no trouble voicing my issues with Jon Snow these last few episodes. Whether it’s because he yelled at a dragon from behind a wall, made out with his aunt, or acted on his worst impulses (see: yelling at a dragon behind a wall), he hasn’t exactly lived up to his Targaryen heritage. At first, those poor decisions continue in this episode. He isn’t ready to turn on his queen, even though he knows she’s a mass murderer of civilians and children. He doesn’t have Tyrion’s guts. And he’ll waste no time in reminding anyone who will listen that Daenerys is now everyone’s queen.
Fortunately, there aren’t that many people left after his beloved aunt’s maniacal attack on King’s Landing. Those who are left also aren’t going to let Jon get away with being his dumb self. Arya runs into her big brother, allowing him to finally change the one facial expression he always sports into something resembling a grimacing smile. He asks what she’s doing so far from home.
“Came to kill Cersei,” she says. “Your queen got here first.” (+10)
Well then! This is why I love Arya. She has no time for long, winding speeches, half-thought-out lies, or petty excuses. Nothing but the truth. It’s a handy skill. One Arya uses on Jon again when he insists Dany is now queen over everyone. “Try telling Sansa,” she deadpans. (+5)
In the infinitely wise words of Nelson Muntz, “HA-Ha!”
But Jon Snow isn’t about to give up on proclaiming his undying adoration for Daenerys. He pays a visit to the last living Lannister in the makeshift prison where they’re keeping him, not even offering a slight chuckle when Tyrion asks, “Brought any wine?” (+5) That’s just the type of frustrating guy Jon Snow is. He can’t even laugh at a prisoner’s exhausted attempt at a joke. Even without the wine, or a sense of humor on Jon’s part, the two comrades have an intense talk about doing what’s right. We don’t have much in this world; people come and go, jobs are swept out from under us. All we have is what we know to be right and wrong.
No one should know this better than Jon Snow, Tyrion says. He’s basically Westeros’ Harry freaking Potter, and he needs to act like it. Tyrion, imprisoned and without alcohol to dull his overthinking, brilliant mind, says he’ll be executed by dragon soon, and then “Varys’ ashes can tell my ashes, ‘See, I told you.’” (+5) Tyrion can’t do anything about their situation. He’s trapped in a room, anticipating his final breath. This is his punishment for aiding and abetting a mad queen. But Jon — a righteous, damn near perfect Gryffindor of a man — can do the right thing. His actions can change the future for the better. What he does next “matters more than anything,” Tyrion says. (+10) Even if that means betraying the person he loves most.
“Sometimes duty is the death of love,” Tyrion reminds him. (+10)
Game of Thrones has always been in love with a romanticized ideal of love, but nothing is sacrificed more often on this show. Jon and Daenerys’ last scene is a reminder that acting on behalf of the greater good means sacrificing the individual need. He needs her, and she needs him. They’re two lost children trying to figure out this messy world. They’re scared. They’re unsure of what happens next, but Dany knows as long as Jon’s next to her, she’ll be okay. Jon knows they can never be together again.
In their final embrace, in this moment of undeniable vulnerability and his last proclamation of eternal devotion to Daenerys, his queen, he kills her. (+25) Even worse, he betrays her. (+15) Daenerys’ entire life was full of men constantly betraying her, using her, and abandoning her. Jon was supposed to be different. As she gasps, staring at Jon with a look of total ruin, Daenerys is, once again, totally alone. The mad queen is silenced. (+25 to Dany for a memorable death)
In an otherwise lackluster episode (I’d appreciate if you’ll hold the tomatoes you’re aching to throw at me until I’ve put on my smock), the scene following Daenerys’ death is particularly good. Drogon’s emotional reaction to losing his mother, his angry melting of the Iron Throne, is evocative. It’s obvious — again, no one said symbolism has to be subtle — but it works. Watching Drogon carefully pick up his dead mother with a giant-taloned foot and soar across the sky was staggering. Tangentially, it reminded me of the scene in The Incredible Hulk where the Big Guy picks up Betty Ross and carries her to a cave in the middle of nowhere. Look, I’m not saying Game of Thrones would be better with the Hulk, but I’m also not not saying that.
Daenerys and Jon’s final encounter isn’t the only intense meeting happening in King’s Landing. After a time-jump, a council of all the powerful leaders convenes to talk about Tyrion, a now-imprisoned Jon, and what happens next. Picture a G20 summit, but with more leaders wearing leather and fur. Tyrion and Jon are the Unsullied’s prisoners, and it’s a topic of concern among the Stark children. They don’t want to see their brother killed. Especially since he just officially picked their side over Dany’s. Other members of this ragtag group of quasi-leaders and random strangers who stumbled into power, however, are fine with Jon being killed.
“Say another word about killing my brother, and I’ll slit your throat,” Arya tells Yara. (+10)
No one’s handing out biscuits and tea at this gathering. There aren’t any icebreaker questions or catching up with old relatives. No one even pauses to comment on Robin Arryn’s glow-up! The focus is entirely on Jon. The Unsullied want to kill him. The Starks want to save him. Robin Arryn just wants to show off how hot he got. Everyone has their priorities! The one motion they can all agree upon is that Westeros needs a new ruler. Tyrion, forever the voice of reason, reminds everyone seated that they are incredibly powerful and should just choose a new person, who should not be Edmure Tully.
“Uncle,” Sansa starts when Edmure tries to apply for the job. “Please sit.” Live from King’s Landing, it’s Shutting Men Down, Live! (+5 for an unfailingly polite but definitively brutal one-liner)
Choosing a new ruler is difficult. It’s not something people usually do. They’re either born into it or they forcefully take it. This isn’t a regional manager’s position at Dunder-Mifflin. You can’t dance your way into being king or queen. But you can apparently just sit there quietly and wait for someone to say, “What about Bran?”
Tyrion nominates “Bran the Broken,” which is both a terrible nickname and a phenomenal Myspace username, as king. Bran smirks, in that way that suggests he’s thriving on this messy Bravo-like drama, and nonchalantly replies, “Why do you think I came all this way?” (+10) The cheeky bastard! Or wait, I suppose that would be Jon. The cheeky monkey! The rest of the group decides to vote on it — essentially creating a democratic plan of action — and they decide, “Bran is our guy.” Even Ser Davos wants Bran! “I’m not sure I get a vote,” he says wryly, “but aye.” (+5)
After eight seasons, a couple of different royal families, and multiple battles, Bran Stark is now the King of Westeros. (+200) No, it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, it will probably come up in therapy.
Bran’s not the only one getting promotions, either! Sansa takes over an independent North (+25), and Tyrion, a prisoner only a couple of minutes ago, becomes the official Hand of the King (and he gets that +25 points back). As much as he doth protest the king’s decision, Bran shows no signs of backing down. Tyrion, he argues, has “made many terrible mistakes. He’s going to spend the rest of his life fixing them.” (+10) Take that, Tyrion! You’re about to have a lifelong career earning a sizable income in a heavily desired position of power people would literally, probably kill for — and you’re going to hate it. Justice!
Tyrion’s first task as new Hand is to tell Jon Snow that, fortunately, he’ll live. Unfortunately, he’ll have to go back to spending his days in the Night’s Watch. (-25) The irony — a job he once willingly gave his life up to take is suddenly a punishment — isn’t lost on him. Jon Snow could have used his Targaryen name and declared himself not just King in the North, but the all-encompassing King of the Seven Kingdoms. He could have, but he didn’t. He’s the anti-Simba. It’s the best move Jon Snow ever made.
After an emotional goodbye to his family, and even managing to smile as Arya asks, “What’s west of Westeros?” (+5), Jon Snow is on his way to the place where it all started. Sansa is heading home to reign over her Northerners. Arya has set sail to discover what, exactly, is west of Westeros — and while it’s inspiring, it does elicit a Pirates of the Caribbean feeling. Please, Arya, don’t become like Jack Sparrow or Will Turner. They’re even more useless than Jon.
Bran isn’t going home. He lives in King’s Landing now with Tyrion, the freshly knighted Podrick (+25 promotion points), and his newly appointed Small Council. Congratulations to Bronn, Brienne, Davos, and Samwell (+25 to all) on their much-deserved promotions. Westeros’ Breakfast Club (a womanizer, a smuggler, a nerd, a jock, and a self-proclaimed imp) is a little rough around the edges, a little inexperienced, but that’s okay. They more than make up for it with charming banter, wicked one-liners, and all-around playful bullying. For example, when Ser Davos tries to poke fun at Bronn’s grammatically incorrect way of speaking, Bronn asks if he’s the “Master of Grammar, too?” (+5) Delightful! I want a spinoff based on this group. Think The West Wing meets Veep. We can call it “Chamber of Secrets.”
It’s one of the episode’s more fun scenes, but it’s also a reminder of how far so many of the characters have come. Especially Tyrion, who experienced the highest highs and lowest lows around Westeros. Tyrion isn’t a perfect man. He isn’t even a good man. He’s performed awful deeds and lived a wicked life. But Tyrion ended up making the right decisions. He turned away from his family and fought for himself, eventually becoming the Hand to a queen he believed in. He risked his life to save his brother and sister, a woman who tormented and hated him his entire life. He publicly rejected his queen, knowing it would mean his death, when he realized she was just as full of bloodlust as the leaders before her. And in his final moments as a prisoner, he helped Westeros’ noblest lords and ladies decide who should govern their seven kingdoms.
Tyrion walked the hard path and managed to come out a better man because of it. As Bran said, he’ll spend the rest of his life rectifying those mistakes, but he will do good on that promise. He’s essentially Game of Thrones’ Severus Snape. For that, he’s the MVP of this final episode. (+20)
Tyrion, in many ways, represents the best of Game of Thrones. He’s a difficult character, facing a tumultuous life, and he just wants to be accepted. He just wants to be okay. He just wants to be better than his father. He wants so desperately to be good, to accomplish his goals, and to make it in this world. It’s a theme so many of us connect with. I know I do. Tyrion has always been the heart of the show for me. He lives according to an eternal hope that life is much bigger than their own predicaments. As Tyrion once said, “A wise man once said the true history of the world is a history of great conversations in elegant rooms.”
If Game of Thrones gave us anything, it was certainly great conversations in elegant rooms.
THE VERGE FANTASY LEAGUE STANDINGS
The Victor: Andy Hawkins, 860 points
Top scorer (season): Euron Greyjoy, 290 points
Note: I turned around at my desk while writing this to tell Andy, “Wow, your team was so stacked!” Tyrion Lannister! Jon Snow! Even Harry Strickland came through. But Andy’s most valuable player, and my favorite problematic boy, was Euron Greyjoy. Play a HIM record in his memory today.
Tasha Robinson, 835 points
Top scorer (season): Bran Stark, 360 points
Note: If this was a Real Housewives season, Bran would be the background character watching from afar in the first season, only to come around as the main cast member in the last season. You didn’t think he was important, but here he is — a newly crowned king.
Chaim Gartenberg, 775 points
Top scorer (season): The Hound
Liz Lopatto, 770 points
Top scorer (season): Daenerys Targaryen, 470 points
Note: Yowza! Dany may not have become Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but she was certainly a key player for Liz. 470 points!
Shannon Liao, 595 points
Top scorer (season): Sansa Stark, 190 points
Sarah Bishop Woods, 575 points
Top scorer (season): Arya Stark, 375 points
Note: If I could name an overall series MVP and award an additional 1,000 points, it would go to Arya Stark. Arya, who became an assassin and saved the entire world from ice monsters, doesn’t even have “the best story,” according to Tyrion. Blasphemy! Sarah, know that, in my heart, you won.
Julia Alexander, 480 points
Top scorer (season): Beric Dondarrion, 210 points
T.C. Sottek, 395 points
Top scorer (season): Drogon, 240 points
Adi Robertson, 285 points
Top scorer (season): Jorah Mormont, 125 points
Note: Adi came into this not wanting any points. Although she managed to collect a few along the way, I think coming in last still means she accomplished part of her goal? Congratulations, Adi!